Loving heart to heart

The killing of George Floyd, the righteous anger, the protests against allowing whatever caused this awful murder to stand, the dark forces of opportunistic riots and looting, the hatred and loathing — it all makes me so sad, Father.

Where are You in all this?

How did we get here? What now? What can we do? What can I do?

You’ve placed several suggestions along my way in the last few days:

o Find ways to bridge the divide, to walk with others, to listen, and to help them carry their crosses;

o Erase the margins separating us from those other ones that You love, Holy Father;

o Stand in awe of their strength, not in judgement of the burdens they carry;

o Focus not on how awful things are, but on how I can help make things better for just one other of these other ones;

o Learn to feel a deepening sense of gratitude for the gifts and graces You’ve already given us — by way of our birth, of our country, of our neighborhood, of our circumstance — gifts we did not earn or deserve, and through this;

o Strengthen our conviction to share these gifts to help others where they are right now…where we are right now;

And what about all the government programs created to help people less fortunate, families in need, the homeless, the addicted, those living in alone and in fear, those living without hope?

Help me to remember that government can never be the whole solution. Well-intended social aid is both a demonstration and a reminder of the generous spirit of this country, an example of what we want to stand for as a nation.

But the exchange, too often, tarnishes the mutual love of a gift freely given and graciously received. Maybe not always, but too often — and almost by its nature — such public aid preempts heart touching heart. The personal charity that blesses both the giver and recipient, too often, goes missing. And in our increasingly secularized world, aid programs erect a barriers between giver and recipient. Instead of love offered, love returned, love passed on to others, we are left with a cold, dehumanizing transaction where the dignity of the recipient is stripped, the giver feels extorted and coerced, and the life-giving breath of God’s grace is choked out.

Without Your participation, Holy Lord, evil enters and upends the beauty of our intent. More and more fingers of corruption and agents of self-dealing insinuate themselves, stealing the essence of the gifts and passing on only foul, despoiled remnants of Your original love.

And the demons dance with glee. As they sew chaos and confusion on our streets, disdain and division into the hearts of Your innocent, unsuspecting ones, they delight in our impotence and misunderstanding.

We need You, Holy Father. I pray that You send Your firm, but gentle touch to heal us, Your steady hand to guide us. Send us, I pray, the healing light of Your love. Make it shine so brightly in our world that evil quivers in submission, releases its hold on us, and yields way to Your hegemony. Oh Lord of all things, unite us into one body, one love, in and through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lived and died that we might live in the fullness of Your glory.

In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.

Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

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

Good afternoon, Father. Thank You for this beautiful day that You’ve given us in Your mercy and Your delight.

My daughter continues to be sad about her favorite pet’s and other’s recent deaths in her life and she’s still suffering from the flu. Now upon her return to work, she is feeling as thought she’s still ‘running on empty,’ emotionally, and very unappreciated and taken for granted.

And she probably is being taken for granted. Poor sweet girl. You know what’s going on, don’t You, Father?

So, what is the message You’re sending her? Can I help carry it to her for You? I felt at Mass this morning as though I had an insight from You that might be helpful for her. If it is Your will that I should talk with her about this, please help me to recall and recapture the thread and then, to find a way to express it to her that is pleasing to You and that resonates with her.

I tried to think about what You want for her to understand. It seems as though life has been piling an extraordinary number of challenges on her lately. At the same time, I feel as though there’s always a message from You somewhere in the midst of our strife — similar to the pony in a room full of horse manure — and maybe that’s the analogy that will resonate with her. She’s familiar with this story from childhood.

Where’s the blessing for her in all that has gone on in her life over the last several weeks?

I considered this morning that if I were to name my daughter’s greatest passion in life (so far), it would have to be service and caring for those too weak to care for themselves…animals being somewhere near the top of her list. She has always wanted to do things for people and she has always cared about rescuing people and animals in trouble.

I don’t think her motivation starts out being service or rescue in order to be recognized as a server or a rescuer. But like so many of us, when the recognition of our good works doesn’t come, the gratitude for our help isn’t expressed, we can become disappointed, dis-spirited. Not only that, but later, when we need others’ help in return or the understanding of another or just someone’s patience while we make our way through our own misery and sorrow, then, when our favors are not reciprocated, resentment and anger can well up in us.

Often, since we didn’t give or serve or rescue or exercise patience for the sake of recognition in the first place, the anger and resentment are followed quickly by guilt for being the one needing another’s understanding,…and yet…sigh.

It’s a nasty circle of neediness and dependence, Father. You understand. You’ve watched this tendency in us humans to look to other humans for our sense of well-being. It’s been like this ever since You created our first parents and they failed You in the garden. But today, even as You promised them back then, we have only to lift our eyes to You to find You watching us. We only have to call on Your name to be reminded that You know and see everything we do — each act of kindness, each act of forgiveness, each act of patience, each act of service in aid of another — You see it all and You bless us each time with Your love and Your comfort.

So why, right now, are You allowing her to feel so unappreciated, such sadness?

Is it Your way of helping her to lift her eyes to You? To seek only Your appreciation, Your blessing. To recognize that the only faithful, constant, true love we will ever experience is Your love, the love You have for us. To know, with everything that we are, that it is You who sends us out into the world, to serve You, Lord, as You bless others through our actions and our words.

Yours is the blessing, not ours. It is You who gives, You who serves, You who forgives. We are only Your vessels through which You act here on earth. So often, Father, others whom are blessed by You through us do not even realize they’ve been blessed. They may even think they deserve all that they’ve received from us. But still it’s Your blessing, Father, not ours. Yours to give. Yours to judge. All Yours.

So, are we to simply act to allow Your blessings to flow through us without any attachment to the quality of others’ reception, any expectation of a favor returned?

Yes, I think so. If they appreciate us, so be it. Glory to You, Lord.

If they do not, no worry, no shame. We have already received our reward by virtue of allowing You to break into our lives and to use us.

Our reward is Your presence here with us as we follow our passion — in M’s case to serve and to rescue.

In Your compassion, Father, — literally translated as You being with us in our passion — You are with us, around us, walking next to us, helping us to carry our burdens (all the elements of our passion — our fervor, our joy, our rage, our misery, our sorrow, our ecstasy, our suffering), helping us to carry the crosses of our passion.

What I sense You wanting her to understand — because she is so close now to lifting the veil that obscures Your beautiful mystery — is that You’re right there with her. All the time with her.

She has only to look up with her spiritual eyes, to clear the film blurring her spiritual vision and there’ll You’ll be: arms out-stretched, longing to enfold her in Your warmth and Your loving embrace, excited to explain to her all the ways in which You are calling her to Yourself, all the ways in which You envision using her here on earth in service to You, aching to share in her pain — for that’s what passion is really, isn’t it, Father? pain? When others ignore her or disregard her service or her contributions or her insights or when they scold her for her goodness or try to entrap her in their lies and misrepresentations, just as they did with Jesus, Your Son, when he walked here on earth with us — aching to help her know how very good and beautiful she is, how beautiful her heart is in Your sight — both in our physical reality and in Your spiritual sight.

Your way is so simple, Father, yet so difficult: Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

And when people here on earth don’t respond or worse, respond in hurtful ways, we must turn to You again and again and yet again. Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

All is Yours, heavenly Lord. All goodness, all righteousness, all beauty, all truth. Thank You for allowing us to share in this spiritual reality with You, Father, and to come finally to rest in You, to come finally to find our peace in Your grace.

I pray all this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank You, Father.

Impeachment anxiety

Thank You, Lord, for being here with me — waiting for me to be here, too — as I come to You.

The chaos and cacophony of our time — so troubled, so troubling — so wearying, so worrisome — sends me into flurries of activity.

As the storms rage around me, little blasts of energy, like whirling dervishes — those little devils — seem to pick me up, insist that I do — do anything, just do — no real plan or intent, just action.

“He’s corrupt and evil,” they scream, “immoral and bloodless.”

“But he’s our guy, doing our will,” the others yell back, “so, sit down and shut up.”

Or, switch channels to find yet another school shooter with victims and casualties in the process of being counted.

Or pause for a moment. Turn to a whole other source only to learn that Your beautiful bride here on earth has been — is being — raped and ravaged, her pure white garments bloodied and torn. It’s happening today, right now (still?), in front our of eyes, as we all look on stunned, impotent, each of us frozen and captive in our own bubbles.

And we’re left wandering like lost sheep, wondering what can I do? What should I do? Where is our worthy leader in this age to show us our way back to You? Where are our priests, our prophets? Your Magisterium has become so riddled with corruption, which of them can I trust?

Only here, Father, in this quiet place with You — the calm center of my soul — where Your Light radiates out, Your Holy Spirit warms my being, and soothes the frenzied and frayed edges of my mind — only here do the storms cease, the waters still, and I can find the faith (even if just for a moment) to step outside the security of my own little boat and walk with You on the water.

Steady my way, Holy Lord. Strengthen my faith. Be my Solid Rock, that I might strengthen others You place along my way.

Divine anticipation

That feeling.
That sense of excitement.
Of an inexplicable, almost physical knowingness.
Signaling something momentous is about to happen.
Something extraordinary.

I have naught to do but wait
In the full incredulous knowledge that
You are at work and
About to reveal Yourself
In my life,
In the world,
In Your perfect answer to prayer.

Your answer will be thrilling.
Filled with such beauty and perfection.
A tapestry.
So complex
So vivid
So complete
Surpassing any of my dreamy fantasies.
Fulfilling desires I didn’t know I had,
Confirming dreams, I’d not dared to dream.

Thank You, Father.

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.