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.