Here I am, Lord

Holy Father,

Here I am, Lord. Please be here with me.

Even though my heart is burdened with the minutiae of my day and the continuing onslaught of evil in our world, please help me to quiet my mind and my heart, so I might experience Your presence here, so I might hear Your voice.

You are my only audience, my first and only love. Help me to keep my eyes and my heart fixed on You, and on Your purpose. Always grateful. Always faithful. Always Yours.

When the errands and the chores and the service to others call out for my attention, help me, Holy Lord, to turn first to Your beautiful face. Help me to pause to receive the gracious blessing that I know awaits me from You.

Be with me, Father, as I go and do today. Guide my thoughts and my words and my actions. Prepare them, strengthen my trust in You. Build the muscle of my knowingness — certain that You are everything I need, confident that You will provide everything I need to go about the tasks You given me to do today.

And wherever evil lurks, Holy Lord, lead me away, or so surround me with the light of Your Holy protection that I might find swift, safe passage. Or if is Your will, heavenly Lord, for me to act as one of Your defenders as I go, strengthen me to Your purpose that I might respond to hate with love, to false accusation and recriminations with understanding and forgiveness, and to despair with hope.

In Christ’s name I pray. Amen

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Speak God’s truth. Leave the rest to Him.

Dear Holy Father,

I come to You in this place most often not having any idea what I want to say or what to focus on.

I’m never quite sure how to know if You have something You want to say to me. Eventually, You seem to speak, after I’ve quieted my mind and my heart a bit from the demands of my daily routine.

Yesterday, I began my writing with what I thought was purpose and direction. I was anxious to capture the lessons I’d learned about prayer and, in particular, the message I heard from our priest in his Sunday homily.

But maybe my clue to the problem that unfolded is captured in the word, ‘anxious.’

The words I wrote struggled to do justice to the message or to the feelings I had as I experienced Your message.

Listening to our priest speak felt like I was hearing directly from You.

Now, our priest is a nice guy. He’s young, not particularly polished yet as a speaker or as a homilist. Or at least I’ve never perceived that about him. He’s a bit awkward and seems like he’s reading his words rather than speaking Your truth.

Well, that was what I used to think, until his two most recent Masses. ‘Extraordinary’ isn’t too big a word for my reaction. Maybe not even ‘transcendent.’

I found myself, twice now, transfixed and hanging on his every word.

Thank You, Father. I guess it isn’t necessary to feel those feelings whenever a priest speaks, but to feel them at all — to sense Your presence in real time, at work through our priest speaking directly to me — was sublime. Thank You.

And maybe it demonstrates something more.

I struggle with my words here…working to make them just right. I feel frustrated when I can’t seem to capture in them the transcendent quality that I so often experience when I’m talking with You. If I can’t find words to communicate that most sublime sense of Your presence, I end up not wanting to share anything at all with others.

And yet, it wasn’t our priest or his words that was key, was it?

The fact is, I’ve heard the same lessons he was preaching on from several other priests in different situations, through different media.

Rather, it was Your grace that took his words as he spoke them and somehow, breathed Your own breath of love on them as You delivered them to my open heart.

The lesson? We need to speak Your truth, Holy Father, and leave the rest to You. Just as You gave all the right words in all the right languages to Your disciples at Pentacost, You can work with our words, our heartfelt expressions of Your truths.

So long as we express them out loud to others in love, You can bless them with Your grace and make of them the transcendent, sublime messages other open hearts are waiting to receive.

Waiting and Watching for God

In the past I have often become agitated and grumpy with congested driving, slow lines and waiting. Thankfully, these times have diminished somewhat in recent decades, due to two main reasons I think – one mundane, the other somewhat more enlightened.

On the mundane level, my family moved to an Island from which many commute by ferry to work and play in the city. Alternatively we can drive off the ‘backside’ of the Island over a two-lane bridge to communities even more rural than ours.

It can be a bucolic life, but it has its challenges. Getting where one wants to go can at times be congested, interrupted, or completely blocked (if the ferry runs into the dock, for example, shutting down all service, or an earthquake shakes our world). Islanders necessarily grow accustomed to waiting and eventually find productive ways to spend what would otherwise be wasted downtime. I learned early on to always have something in my purse that I could read or write on (praise God for electronic devices that have replaced notepads and heavy books).

More recently, as I have learned to allow God into my life more fully and more often, I have begun to (almost) look forward to those times when circumstances require I stop my activity. It’s now in those times that I often notice our Lord sitting next to me in the car or waiting next to me in line. His presence — or more accurately, my acknowledgement of His presence — immediately alters my outlook.

What I initially perceived to be an imposition caused by some idiot driver up the road or the forces of evil thwarting my schedule, suddenly dissolves and I find my Lord there. Often He’s grinning and looking like He’s thinking, “I wondered what it would take to get you to notice me….Nice you could join me today.”

Now, imposition, waiting, longing, frustration, irritation all seem to be His call for me to join Him…or better, to realize He’s already with me just waiting for me to acknowledge His presence.

I pray that this season of Advent–this watchful waiting for our Lord–is blessing you in just the ways you need to carry you on your journey into His loving presence.

If God is everywhere equally present, then…

He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, St Ignasius, and countless others, past and present, tell us how and where to find God, to hear His directions and desires for our lives.

This morning I was reading Nouwen’s book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. In today’s passages he was discussing finding God in the books that we read and in nature.  These venues can be especially helpful, often making it easier for us to hear His voice, see His beauty, feel His presence, taste and savor His many blessings on our lives.

Still, another message hit me as I read. As clearly and as demandingly as if it were flashing in neon atop a tall billboard I was struck by the certainty that:

If God is everywhere equally present, then He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

If God is everywhere equally present, as I believe and have been taught, then, simply being conscious of Him in our midst is the key … and the challenge.

No matter where we are, who we’re with, what is occurring, God is there. Walking down the street, on a treadmill at the gym, on a forest path, along the water, in a line at the grocery store, driving down the road.

To be sure, some places are more conducive to feeling our Lord’s presence, but He’s everywhere, just waiting for us to join Him in His holy purpose. Waiting for us to walk with Him along the way He has planned for us. Waiting for us to acknowledge His presence with us.

No matter the circumstances of our surroundings — whether beautiful, natural, sanctified and holy; or man-made full of industry and technology, metallic maybe, full of cold hard surfaces, filled with loud noisy people of all sizes and shapes; or even places polluted, foul, and rank with the discarded, the misused, the abused — He’s there, waiting for us to beckon to Him, waiting for us to cry out to Him maybe, that Now is the time we need to draw near to Him.

Our first steps toward Him may be shaky and feeble, but as with any new endeavor, practice helps us remember Him more and more often. We will soon learn to call upon and recall those ways and places where we discovered Him earlier. Deep in our hearts we remember the warm blessing of His love as He showered it upon us. We remember (or maybe realize for the first time) that He was with us no matter where we were or what we were doing. We remember over and over again, if we are searching for Him, that He is constantly sending us messages – through the words of people we encounter, the material we read, the sites and sounds that draw our attention. He’s there loving us, waiting to participate in close relationship with us every minute throughout our day.

How did I deserve such goodness, I wonder?

That’s easy. I didn’t. I don’t.

He is simply there for me – for each of us – waiting to bless us, waiting to take each part of us, no matter how broken, or even fetid it may be, and wash it clean. With His blood He prepares and purifies us to be His, so that we may become a blessing to share with others.

The breath of God?

I recalled just now my time at the gym yesterday. As I try to do each day when I’m on the treadmill, I prayed and tried to open my consciousness to God’s presence in that place, in each person, even in all the technology of the aerobic machines.

It mostly started as a hypothetical quandry: If God is in all things, then He must be in this place, this gym, as well…even amidst all the sweat and the noise and the busyness of the rooms full of people working hard to be healthy and fit.

The opening of my spirit to the sense of His presence made my time lighter and, at once, more alive with possibilities. The sense that others there with me, engrossed in their own music or stories coming through their earphones, were His children too led me. Is that woman there aware of her holy lineage? Does that gentleman contemplate anything beyond what he is hearing, how his muscles begin to ache, how much longer he has before he can move on? Am I just projecting my own sentiments on to others? Probably, though we’re all similar in so many ways.

I thought to talk about all this with God as I alternately walked and ran on my machine. I asked Him where He was in this space.

And as I was becoming increasingly steamy myself from my own exercise, I felt this cool breeze blow gently on my face. I know the air conditioning unit just in front of me and overhead had kicked into a different gear, but its breeze gave me the momentary sense that God had answered me with a cooling breath of air.

What a gift I received this morning…from God…through Andy Otto at dotMagis

What a gift this blogosphere is or can be. I have struggled in my recent months of busy-ness, feeling guilty about not spending more time in prayer and contemplation, not spending more time here. I’ve asked for God’s help and insight about how to find better balance in my life. I’ve written about it here and here.

Then, this morning Andy Otto at dotMagis shared these words in his piece, Opening Our Eyes to Contemplation.

When I told my spiritual director that I had not been praying, he asked me what I was doing. I told him about the journaling, the talking with others about my patient visits, how the experiences and people in the hospital were often on my mind, and the bit of spiritual reading I was doing. “Sounds like you’re praying quite a lot,” he told me. My director helped me open my eyes to the reality of God all around me. I was indeed being attentive to my reality, but I had failed to recognize fully God’s presence there.

Many of us have practiced contemplation without even realizing it.

He reminds us that the key is sharing the experience with God…recognizing that He is in all that we see, being present with Him as we take in His wonderful creation all around us.

 

Being present with God in the world

Upon awaking today I intended to focus on ‘being present.’ It is challenging for me. I can be adept for a while at a sort of consciousness that acknowledges God in my midst and then find that, little by little, I’ve fallen away. Busy schedules, spiritual laziness, life’s distractions. But few of us really are called to be full-time contemplatives or to spend all our days studying the Word of God.

Still, I have found myself longing for more quiet and alone time again after several months of deadlines, difficulties, and demands that have pulled me from my solitude into ‘the world.’ After a flurry of inner excitement and an obsession almost with exploring my spiritual/blogging world, I found I’d set a pace for myself that I could not maintain…especially when life’s challenges intervene to shake things up a bit.

So, for some time now, I’ve been seeking balance. Some routine that acknowledges my need to connect with God and to focus here in this blogging space on the spiritual lessons and challenges with which my life is blessed, as well as to cope with all the calls – the critical, the social, the trivial – of a normal day of being who I am – wife, mother, friend, worker, helper – well, you know.

A normal day in my life of late most often starts with a ‘good morning’ to God, coffee and contemplation on some commendable text. Today, I’m in the middle of A Year With Thomas Merton. In the meditation I was reading this morning Merton wrote:

I find more and more the power – the dangerous power – of solitude working on me. The easiness of wide error. The power of one’s own inner ambivalence, the pull of inner contradiction. How little I know myself really. How weak and tepid I am. I need to work hard, and I don’t know how – hence I work at the wrong things. I see that the first two months I got off to a nearly false start with too much excited reading of too many things, and my life has been grossly over-stimulated for a solitary (in community, all right). Especially I worked too hard, too obsessively on the book, to frantic a pace for a solitary (again, in community solitude seems crowded and hopped up to me).

The parallels with my recent experience thrilled me. I’m not the only one to struggle with this. Praise God!

Merton continued:

Everything has meaning, dire meanings, in solitude. And one can easily lose it all in following the habits one has brought out of common life (the daily round). One has to start over and receive (in meekness) a new awareness of work, time, prayer, oneself. A new tempo – it has to be in one’s very system (and it is not in mine, I see).

And what I do not have I must pray for and wait for.

Prayer and waiting. Yes. Then, I think I would add…

  • Patience and faith.
  • Preparation and practice.
  • Progress and growth.
  • Recognition and thanksgiving.
  • And, at the last, acceptance of myself as God’s divine creation.

 

 

Life is very, very good. Life with God in charge is….heavenly.

It has been so long since I’ve written substantively here…so long since we’ve talked…that it’s hard to know where to start.

And, isn’t this always the way where there’s separation, disconnection, distance? We lose our place. We miss important events in one anothers’ lives. We fall out of touch.

The “project,” I’ll call it, was to help our daughter move 2500 miles across country to a new home and a new job…a new life, really. The opportunity was a true gift from God. There were so many miracles, so much euphoria. I feel certain it will be a while before I understand all the lessons and discern God’s handiwork with any real clarity. The time has been both exhilarating and exhausting.

I asked God early on how to handle my blogging while I was engaged with ‘the project’ (it was really 6 or 7 major projects in one as it turned out.) I didn’t feel that I could reflect thoughtfully or write insightfully — heck, I wasn’t sure I could even write grammatically with the pace we were keeping — about much of anything until my part of the work was done. This place, this communication, I felt, needed more, deserved more, than I could give.

Still, where communication is suspended, relationships suffer. It’s true for friends and couples and between ourselves and God.

I’d welcome your thoughts about this whole subject. I know several of you have written in the past about this and that my feelings of undifferentiated, amorphous disappointment in myself are not unique or even unusual. How do you make time for this blog space, how do you do it justice, during times when life’s demands become…well…demanding?

And yet, I asked for and felt the comfort of your prayers. Thank you so very much. You first deserve an update:

  • My daughter has a new job, a new home, and a whole new community of friends. I thrill when she tells me nearly each day for the last 2 months that she feels everything about this total change in her life is right and exactly where God wants her to be right now;
  • Her old home near us is on the market and we’re currently praying for a quick sale (late breaking news: we just received our first offer!);
  • In the meantime our son and daughter-in-law (about whom I have written before here and here) went to the hospital with labor pains in early May…our new baby grand daughter arrived 7 weeks early. She stayed in the Neo-Natal ICU for several weeks. She is, nonetheless, perfect! (This is just simple fact and has nothing to do with my grandmotherly status!) She has over the last month gained weight (she’s over 7 lbs) and lung capacity and she’s now home with mom and dad and they are all thriving in every way. We celebrated Father’s Day together in their home last Sunday. I’d forgotten what 7 lbs. babies are like to hold…there’s just no feeling like it in the whole world.
  • We are so very blessed by God’s amazing grace. The abundance of His love over the last couple of months was everywhere and in every encounter:
    • He helped us carry our burden by sending us the kindness and charity of so many wonderful friends and family who sent their good wishes and prayers to me and made sure my husband was feted with good food and company during my absences.
    • There was our mover, who together with his wife, the dispatcher, held our hand during the long move, as they transported all our daughter’s belongings, arriving right on time with everything in perfect condition, and with no last minute surprises in price.
    • There was the HVAC expert, who gave up his Saturday morning to help us vent a portable air conditioner; and
    • The appliance repair guys, who made themselves immediately available to fix a washing machine; and
    • Our realtors, who offered their friendship and their own personal resources to help us; and
    • Our financial wizards, who just wouldn’t give up, even in the face of fairly complicated transactions; and
    • The hardware store clerk, who spent nearly an hour helping me figure out how to secure a dog kennel; and
    • So many thoughtful drivers who let me cut in when I missed my turns in unfamiliar country.
    • There were, of course, all the caring and competent neo-natal staff taking care of our grand daughter…and her parents; and
    • The fact that our grand daughter joined us during one of the short windows when I was in town was a true personal blessing; and
    • We enjoyed a full complement of joy-filled family communicating with parents and all the rest of us with abundant use of the “reply all” feature on their email and texting. We were, as a result, able to share across family lines and across geography and time zones in one another’s experiences of wonder and joy with the new and precious baby girl in our midst.

The list seems almost endless…right down to some unknown young man who was standing in front of me in line at the airport, who paid for my water bottle as he was purchasing his own. It turned out he was sitting across the aisle from me on my flight home and before I even realized I needed help lifting my carry-on bag, he was up out of his seat, man-handling it into the overhead bin, assuring me as he did so that he would get it down for me when we landed…WOW! The good Lord had me surrounded with his angels.

Life is very, very good…life with God in charge is heavenly.

 

 

 

 

Composition of Place in House of Cards

A fine example of finding “God In All Things.” Great post from Andy Otto.

God In All Things

House of Cards Zoe Contemplation

I’ve recently gotten addicted to the Netflix political drama

House of Cards

, starring Kevin Spacey. Spacey’s character Frank Underwood is a congressman who plays all the political games of bribery and self-interest. It’s not the most ethical or moral storyline, but it is intriguing. Underwood befriends a young journalist named Zoe Barnes who works at a Washington newspaper. Zoe’s getting famous for some juicy political news she’s helped leak courtesy of Underwood. In episode 3 of season 1, when Nightline offers her an on-air job she’s not sure whether to take the job or not so she calls Underwood.

Underwood, despite being a totally unethical and immoral human being, seems to lead Zoe through an Ignatian composition of place, one that Saint Ignatius would be proud of:

Underwood: Close your eyes.
Zoe: Okay.
Underwood: It’s 11:25. Nightline is about to come on. Millions of people are watching. Where…

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Be a FROG – Fully Rely On God

FROG-Fully Rely On God

FROG-Fully Rely On God

Merton speaks today of  “paradox”…of wisdom manifest and yet hidden. He says

The words God utters are words full of silence, and they are bait to draw us into silence…If we hide the precepts of God’s wisdom in our heart — precepts of humility, meekness, charity, renunciation, faith, prayer — they themselves will hide us in God.

I can just barely relate to these words. I read them and I understand them intellectually (I think), but they kind of make my eyes glaze over.

I figure that Merton was at a different place on his journey than I am…further along, surely. And that these words, the concepts that they communicate, require a greater understanding that I have currently.

What they remind me of is the story of Martha and Mary when Jesus is visiting. Martha is busy cleaning and cooking, while Mary is sitting at His feet listening to Him, fully captured by His presence. Jesus told us that Mary has chosen the better part.

Luke 10:38-42 tells the story:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I’m still more like Martha than Mary. I’m still making preparations for Our Lord to live fully in me (Editor Angel: Probably suggesting that He direct everyone around me to do what I think they should be doing, too! …Ouch!).

I think it’s why peace rests beside me rather than within me. It’s why I still feel such excitement when I discover some lost aspect of my true self — the perfect self that God created — which I’ve bound up in fear or insecurity or bitterness over the years.

When I discover one of these nasty bits hiding in a back corner of my being, it’s like finding a tarnished piece of fine silver. I want to clean it up, polish it, find it’s original beauty. I want everything cleaned out and perfect for my Lord’s presence (Editor Angel: Fully relying on yourself still? What’s left for the Lord to perfect?).

What all my Martha-like busy-ness misses is that just as my close friends and family probably prefer my complete attention to my clean house, Our Father longs to just be with me. He wants me to rely totally on Him, to surrender to Him, to be cleansed and set free by the Light of His grace.

Hmmmm. What do you think? Are you putting off letting the Lord past the doorstep of your house until you’ve made everything perfect? Or, do you greet Him, invite Him into the mess of your life, and allow Him to help sort it…allow Him to shine His light on the you that He most wants you to become.