Meditation 9 – What we ask in faith, God provides

Do you dread something painful? Is there in your soul a vague fear, which seems unreasonable, and yet torments you? Trust fully in My providence. I am here, I see everything; I will not leave you.

I’m such a weenie! I’m still concerned about that dinner party. It’s tomorrow night and it has me losing sleep worrying about silly stuff. Have I put out new hand towels in the guest bath? Did I remember to get new candles? I need mercy from my own silly self! There must be something more worthy in my world to be concerned about than having dinner with an atheist family member?

[Well, and it’s much less him and his belief or non-belief. I’m probably more concerned about my behavior. My words and actions. Is it possible that relaxing some might produce better results? Or that I should be more concerned about his soul than my words? But they might be connected, right? (Editor Angel – Lord, can I come home now?)]

Also, my personal thanks to W. Ockham over at Teilhard de Chardin for this post on our discussions with atheists.]

Still, our gracious Lord, asks that we bring Him even our little worries, so that our faith will be bolstered each time we see His hand at work in our lives. I’m looking forward to a having a wonderful miracle to report soon!

Here are a few more of today’s musings…in no particular order:

I try to say a little prayer each morning for our grown children that they will have a safe commute to and from their work. My daughter reported that she was almost run over as she was crossing in a fully lit crosswalk earlier this week. The driver was looking directly at her as he sped through. Later in the same dark walk to her off-site parking, she was concerned about a man who was lurking around the parking lot. I try to think of these occurrences not so much as evil and harm lurking about, but as God’s loving protection surrounding us everywhere.

I worry that our grandson’s parents have not yet had him baptized. I pray the Lord watch over him, understand his innocence, and regardless of his formal baptism, call him to be His own. I worry, too, that I might have some active role to play in this. If I do, it has not yet been made clear to me. So I pray for guidance.

I worry that I don’t understand why so many of the saints sought out suffering and pain in an attempt to feel closer to Jesus, to share in His suffering. I understand a bit better others who do not pray for relief from suffering, but rather ask for strength sufficient to endure the suffering given them.

I worry about how to respond to street people who ask for money. Police and retail owners caution against giving them money, saying these intended acts of kindness only encourage more aggressive and, in some cases, more threatening behavior. How does one discern the difference between a truly needy person and a healthy person preying cynically on the good intentions of the rest of us?

We have a friend who carries a pocket full of coins and small bills in order to give a little something to others each week. If we don’t carry around a bit of cash, won’t we too often end up missing an opportunity to help someone in need when God touches our hearts?

We can always lift our fears and worry up to God. And relief is directly related to our level of faith in Him, in His greatness, in His judgment of what’s good for us and those we love.

This lesson was most potently demonstrated for me over time as our children were learning to drive and taking the car out by themselves for the first time. As they were leaving for their first date. As they ventured out on their own lives, insisting, right or wrong, to make their own decisions. No longer could I be with them 24/7; no longer was I in full control.

But, with some situation presenting itself on a near-daily basis there for a while, I got lots of opportunities to practice, and as my prayers were answered, small and large, and as I learned to pay attention, to be conscious of His answers to my prayers, my faith grew. Through it all He’s taught me that my relief can be nearly immediate. I ask; God provides.

The question is not how great God is. The key is the strength of my faith in Him.

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 6 – Call us to You, Father

And have you no thoughts of zeal for Me? Are you not anxious to do a little good for the souls of your friends, for those whom you love, and who, perhaps, forget Me? Tell Me who interests you, what motives urge you, what means you wish to take.

In reflecting on this sixth meditation before the Blessed Sacrament several friends and family members come to mind, who have forgotten about God or who have never been introduced to Him. I name them often in my prayers, asking God to touch them, to touch their hearts.

My heart aches for them. God wishes so much to love them, but, recognizing we seldom really know others’ inner-most desires, they mostly seem, if not hostile to Him, then indifferent, uncaring.

If they were only open to His call, their hearts could be so much freer; they could go about their daily lives with lighter burdens and with so much more clarity.

And yet, outside of my prayers and the occasional invitation to church or suggestion of a new book or a class or an inspirational writer, I feel helpless to know what to do.

My heart aches for me, too, since the understanding between us, me and each of them, could be so much deeper, richer. We would have a greater ability to share the most important part of our lives with one another.

And my heart aches for God, who waits patiently while we all take our sweet time coming to Him. I imagine Him yearning for our oneness with Him and watching each day as so many pass Him by unnoticed.

Call each of these people to You, Father. Help each of us to find our way. Allow me, Father, if it is Your will, to help them, that my walk with them might be lit by Your holy purpose. Wash us clean, O God, of all our sins, that we may offer ourselves to You as empty vessels to be filled only with the love You pour out upon us. Allow us to commit ourselves again and again until, at the last, we walk hand in hand with You on the journey You’ve planned for each of us.

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!)

Meditation 4 – Bless us to Your purpose

Today’s meditation, the fourth from the Catholic “Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament,” says:

Do not hesitate to ask for the good of your body – for health, for memory, for success. I can give you everything, and I always give when the gifts make souls more holy. What do you want today, My child? Oh, if you knew how I long to do you good!

I find as I’ve gotten older that my prayers for myself are more often for others — children, parents, siblings, children, friends, children, our soldiers, the poor, children (Editor angel – okay, we get the point! You’re a mother and a worrier!).

My first thought here, especially, with regard to my prayers for our children, is that their well-being is directly related to my well-being. So when I pray for them, my prayers are pulling double duty and helping both of us. When I put their care into God’s hands, I can often quit worrying about outcomes. My time and my energy — sometimes, my sanity! — are eased; the time required for other responsibilities in my life is more productive.

I’ve been blessed with exceptional health so far and as I near retirement, my career success is mostly what it’s going to be. Thank You, Father!

What I have talked with God about, long and often, in the last year is for guidance in how I might “re-purpose” myself now that my children are mostly grown and work work is slowing down. There’s a whole baby-boom generation, I imagine, asking themselves a similar question: “what now?”

I’ve asked how I might use my gifts for doing something pleasing to God. This blog is part of the plan He and I devised together a few months back.

Now that it’s getting underway, I pray I remember who’s in charge; I pray for His guidance, that He will whisper the right words — heck, I ask Him for the right thoughts — to express here. This whole effort would be kind of the ultimate plagiarism, if I were to take credit for it. None of these ideas or words is mine. Or, at least, I pray that I can get myself and my ego out of the way, so He might have clear passage, a blank page to speak to others through me in this space.

Wow! And EVERY time I say something like that I feel so incredibly arrogant, so very unworthy to be considered by God for a task so important.

And yet, here we are, me and God, working together to tell others how very much He loves them; how He wants them to accept His love; how much He wants them to grow closer to Him. Because, He reminds me over and over again, it’s not about being good enough or smart enough or worthy enough. I’m not. We’re not.

But, God is. And He’s ready to bless us and our work and make it good. We only have to be willing.

Meditation 3 – He said, “Put your hand in mine, let me lift you up.”

Have you no favors to ask for yourself? Write, if you like a long list of all your wishes – all needs of your soul – and come and read it to Me. Tell Me simply how self-indulgent you are, how selfish, how cowardly, how idle; ask Me to help to you improve. Poor child! Do not blush! There are in heaven many saints who had the same faults as you; they prayed to me, and, little by little, they were cured.

I wrote a prayer a couple of years ago (almost to the day oddly) that I’m reminded of when I read this third meditation before the blessed Sacrament. It’s called Thank You, Lord.

In it I began by listing all of things I was thankful for. While I was writing it I felt like I could go on forever (Editor Angel – and you often do).

Still, as I was wrapping up all the things I was thankful for, I realized there was more yet that I wanted God to help me with. I continued on like this:

…And yet, I ask for more.

How can I come to You;
With my hand so brazenly outstretched;
Offering You only my begging bowl?
My sins have added again and again,
To the burden born by Your Son for my sake?
Your Son, My brother,
My Lord.

How can I not cry out continually
for Your forgiveness?

And yet, gracious Lord,
You ask me to bring to You
All my cares and sorrows,
And You mend them with Your perfect solutions,
Taking my brokenness and making me whole once again.

Why me, Lord?
How have I possibly been worthy,
Or worth it?

If I have a need this day, Lord,
Beyond the beauty and bounty and wonder
With which you’ve already blessed my life,
It is this:

Bless me Father,
Help me to bring You my joy
And my strength;

Help me to commit each day to You;
To live a life worthy of Your love.

Remove my sin, O Lord,
Or, if you find me wanting still,
Take my sin,
Make it a blessing for another’s willfulness.
Refine my misdeeds into golden examples,
For others, if You see fit, of how not to be.

Direct me on Your path, Father,
Make it clear and straight.

But when I stumble, O Lord,
As I will in my humanity,
Help me always to come to You first;
To enslave myself only into Your debt.

Meditation 1 – God loves generous hearts

The Catholic Church has a pamphlet that I find tremendously comforting.

It’s titled “A Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament.” Consisting of 14 meditations, it encourages our prayers and meditations. (Your local church likely has copies available).

I’m going to reflect on one meditation from this pamphlet each day for the next couple of weeks. As I do, I’ll post each one on my Meditation page.

The first meditation says:

My child, you need not know much in order to please Me; only love Me dearly. Speak to Me as you would to your mother, if she had taken you in her arms. Have you no one to recommend to Me? Tell Me the names of your relations; of your friends; after each name add what you wish Me to do for them. Ask a great deal: I love generous hearts that forget themselves for others.

The first consolation I received from this meditation is the message that I need not know more than a little child in order to be pleasing in God’s sight. What a relief! I think little children have an easier time pleasing God than we grown-ups — or “grumps,” as adults were called on an old episode of Star Trek back in the 1960s.

Here, God encourages us to be generous to others in our lives and reminds us of others we might consider, who may be in need of His favors.

It reminds me that God can’t work miracles through anyone who has shut him or herself off from family or friends or community. It’s through our own generosity — of wealth, certainly, but also of our talent, time, affection, and spirit — that God blesses us and through us, our world.