Yours first, holy Lord, Your voice and teaching. Then I’ll go help Martha in the kitchen.

My Dear Lord,

I have felt great sympathy for Martha (Luke 10:41) over the last week. I tried to take the time to sit at your feet as Mary did, listening for Your voice, and reading Your daily word. But our time here, where You sit beside me as I write — such precious time — was sacrificed to serving our out-of-town guests.

The week left me exhausted, spent. The 24-hour presence of others to serve and to enjoy wore heavily, as we two couples shared our meals, our housing, our time, stories, music, travel.

I was left feeling incredibly inadequate as a servant and host, not because I did not serve our friends and make them welcome, but because rather than being uplifted and enlivened in my service, I was often left grumpy, stressed, frustrated by one thing or another, then, disappointed with my own behavior or words.

I think my sin-filled humanity dimmed, maybe even extinguished, the light of Your divinity in me.

I am sorry, Father. No wonder You choose to have me spend so much of my time in introspection and writing, where you give me time to consider with greater care my words and thoughts. I’m not yet well equipped to represent You as You deserve in real time with others. I don’t yet retain the calm and peace of Your spirit, allowing it clear passage to shine through my interior darkness.

Forgive me, Father. And bless me with Your gentle direction. Only with Your help and grace may I remember how to be, no matter my circumstances; whose I am, first and always; and only then, the holy purpose You have for me, when You place others on my path.

As St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata would pray, help me to give what You ask and to accept what You give, all with joy and a big smile.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Meditation 10 – Make me worthy to be called a friend

Are there about you friends who seem less kind than formerly, who neglect you through indifference or forgetfulness, without your having consciously done anything to wound them? Pray for them, and I will restore them to you, if their companionship is good for you.

For me this might just as easily read, ‘Are there about you friends to whom you have been less kind than formerly, whom you’ve neglected through indifference or forgetfulness, without their having done anything to wound you? Pray for them, pray for their forgiveness and I will restore them to you, if your companionship is good for them.

The list is long one — if I’m really honest with all the possibilities — of all those throughout my life to whom I’m indebted, from whom I received some gift, to whom I owe some level of gratitude. If they didn’t try hard enough to hold onto my hand — to our relationship — how much responsibility is theirs alone? How much blame do I share for having not been present and available, cognizant and caring. How much better might I have listened to their story, rather than relating and reveling only in my own?

If they moved on to greener pastures, what did they leave behind? Just a dry and barren field? Or was our relationship like a grasping viney jungle, overwrought, humid, strangling, preventing all but the very strongest to reach the light?

You know their names, Father. Bless each of them with Your loving grace. And in the fullness of time, if Your way for each us should cause us to meet again, make me worthy to be named their friend. Amen.

Meditation 8 – Forgive, forget, move on, be blessed

Have you nothing to annoy you? My child, tell Me your annoyances, with every detail. Who has pained you? Who has wounded your self-love? Who has treated you contemptuously? Tell Me all, and then say that you forgive and forget; and I will give you My blessing.

We’ve just rounded the half-way mark in our 14 meditations before the Blessed Sacrament. I’m curious to hear your reactions, your feedback. Do they give you comfort? Make you think? Make you uncomfortable?  I treasure hearing from each of you and learning what these meditations prompted for you.

In today’s eighth meditation we’re asked to search our hearts for annoyances. Hurts and pains that others might have caused us. Opportunities to forgive and forget and be blessed.

I’ve written recently about a situation in our family that we are still working to heal. And, I wrote a poem, Take My Anger, a while back in which I work through some “righteous rage” as I called it then.

But, I have so much to be grateful for and so little that pains me currently — thank You, Lord — that it feels awkward to speak of the few issues that might have once existed, ungrateful somehow for all the good fortune in my life. Even the most egregious offense toward me, which I describe here, was a blessing in so many ways.

I was raised by a mother whose first question almost always, when I told her of some offense that I felt I’d endured during my day, was, “Well, did you do anything, say something that might have caused that person to do that?” She (infuriatingly, at the time) always figured there were two sides to a story.

Similarly, one of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings was, “There is never a coin so thin that there aren’t two sides.” She was quoting her mother.

Her son’s standby question for our children when they brought grievances home was, “Well, you have choices about how you’re going to feel, how you choose to react to this situation.”

Still, when we’re in the middle of a painful situation, most of us at some point want to defend our positions with righteous indignation. Some people get satisfaction from retaliation — responding to harm with harm — or by dreaming up verbal retorts filled with hurtful, sarcastic words.

But the sooner we’re able to give all our pain and anger and ‘righteous rage’ to God, to describe it as though it were a real live organism, to pull it out of ourselves, relinquish it and lay it at His feet, the sooner He can relieve us of its burden — whatever those reciprocating feelings are that build up in us —  hate maybe, or helplessness or guilt or shame. He’ll take them all, if we’ll allow Him to, and He’ll help us begin to heal.

Meditation 7 – How do you lead?

Confide to Me your failures; I will show you the cause. Whom do you wish to see interested in your work? I am the Master of all hearts, My child, and I lead them gently where I please. I will place about you those who are necessary to you; never fear!

Failures…me? Please! (Editor Angel – Oh boy…this is could be a challenge!)

This task is either really easy…as in, ‘failures? what failures? Those little missteps were just necessary learning points along the way, right? Or really hard…as in, do you have all day?

Let’s see if I can break it down some. In this context failures, like forgetting someone’s name or being late to an appointment, while distressing at the time possibly, fall into the ‘relatively trivial’ basket.

Stepping up the scale a bit, I would call my ignoring God for so long a failure. I repented of this long ago, though, and have strong sense that God has forgiven me. That we’ve moved on. Plus, this failure mostly only affected me. Or, did it?

My failures of greater concern these days are those that might have hurt others in the past, or that personal demon that might still have some potential to threaten harm to others, now or in the future. These failures are those where I, in my ignorance or self-interest, may have led someone else astray or influenced them to make choices that were wrong or sinful in any way.

I think this is a burden we all bear, often without knowing or appreciating how important our behavior or our words are in another’s world, how much effect they might have on another’s decisions.

Might the strength of a young person’s personality or charisma encourage other young people to go out and party rather than to stay home study for an upcoming exam? What impression might the otherwise successful, fun-loving, articulate professional, who chooses divorce and the single life, make on another person struggling with marital challenges. How might a parent’s behavior, the example they offer day-in an day-out, affect their children? Or the children of their friends? Or the friends of their children?

These all fall into the ‘leadership’ bucket and are of continuing concern as we mature and grow into the person God intended us to be.

Chris Lowney in his new book,  Pope Francis, Why He Leads the Way He Leads, rightly asserts that all of us are called to be leaders

…whether we live that call as chief executives, parents, or, who knows, as someday a pope.

He says in order to lead we to need to be comfortable in our own skin.

Know who you are, the good and the bad. And find the courage not just to be yourself, but the best version of yourself. These are the foundations of self-leadership, and all leadership starts with self-leadership because you can’t lead the rest of us if you can’t lead yourself, if you haven’t done the work to know who you are.”

So, it’s these failures — failures of self-leadership, failures to realize (or to care about?) the critical roles we might be playing in others’ lives — that I would confide in God. Begging His forgiveness. Seeking His redemption.

Meditation 5 – Pray for us

Have you no plans to interest you? Tell Me all about them. Do they concern your vocation? What do you think of? What would you like? Are you planning some pleasure for your mother, for your family, for your guardian? What do you wish to do for them?

This fifth mediation before the blessed Sacrament made me oddly uncomfortable. Do I have plans about which I’m concerned? Some event I’m planning for family?

I found I didn’t want to think about it. I moved instead to clean some dishes left over from an earlier dinner with friends and put them away. I noticed the silver probably needed to be cleaned and polished it before the next weekend’s company. I fixed myself a cup of coffee and began reading others’ blog postings, hoping for some inspiration. I re-read the meditation once or twice and began a couple of sentences about something that seemed mostly unrelated.

And then it struck me.

Well, yes, I do have an upcoming event that concerns me…that dinner party next weekend. And no, I have not yet asked for God to take my apprehensions into His care. In one part of my mind I uncharitably figure God’s to blame for getting me into this situation to begin with. (Editor Angel – Oh, dear!)

A bit of back story will probably help. Even as I write, I can feel my own resistance to the whole subject. How to describe this? (Editor Angel – Stop this procrastinating, Just write; edit later!)

My husband and I have been estranged for several years from his brother. There wasn’t anything in particular that prompted the estrangement — no triggering argument or incident. Just years of this sort of competition of wills.

Just one example: An atheist, my brother-in-law nonetheless always participated in our family Christmas and Easter gatherings, especially after their father passed and their mother was most-often with us for the holidays.

For several Christmases he would decorate the tops of his gifts to us and our children with little rubber ducks. Potentially cute, but instead of the yellow, smiling duckies that we all remember fondly from our childhood, his rubber duckies would be red and black, sporting a devious smile and devil horns. Better yet, they came in varying sizes, so my pre-teen daughter at the time could make little families out of them.

Whoopee! I had a choice of being a wet blanket or acquiescing in a pretty aggressive, but non-verbal tug-of-war in my own home.

The duckies quietly disappeared.

After their mother passed a few years ago, it just didn’t seem we had enough in common to bother getting together with him and his partner. It was a relief for me, actually, to be able to forgo gatherings, where I would have to work to avoid being pulled down by the undercurrent of tension that always seemed to threaten.

So, I guess my resistance is laced with equal parts guilt and simmering righteous indignation. Even I can detect the not-so-latent hostility I’m still carrying around.

As I have been called over the last year to a different level of commitment to Christ, though, I have felt a need, if not yet a desire, to make more of an effort. One minister I heard preach years ago said God has given certain of our family members to us as sandpaper gifts; they’re there to help smooth our rough edges. Still, I don’t know if a real relationship is possible or even a good idea.

But, maybe he’s evolved somehow over the last couple of years. Maybe my prayers for him and his partner to be touched by God have found some traction. Or maybe we can enjoy a simple evening just discussing our favorite new recipes, how all the kids are doing, our travel plans for the year, our favorite new books. Safe topics. Non-personal topics. Maybe.

But, is there something further I would pray for if I had real, honest-to-goodness faith that God was a mighty God, capable of any and all things?

I know I can’t give up God in order to satisfy my brother-in-law, so I guess I could pray for Him to take all of us and our relationships into His care and to show us His way. To make us a miracle.

Oddly (maybe), this following prayer was what I wrote at the beginning of this reflection, those words that I earlier didn’t think were related to this topic:

Our God — father, brother, companion — who walks with us, sits next to us, patiently awaiting our attention, who is always available to comfort and guide and protect us, who understands our humanity — hold my hand. Lead me. Steady my steps when I falter. Strengthen my heart when fear and anxiety creep in. Help me to know Your love so fully that I cannot keep it in.

I’d appreciate your prayers for us this week, too, as we all prepare for this upcoming visit. (Editor Angel: There now. Was that so difficult? Well, yes, actually, I feel just a bit naked, all things being equal!)