Feeling small in isolation

I’m feeling very little in this time, Lord, as though You in a holy chastisement have sent all us squabbling children Into a sort of global time-out,

Restrictions, like when I was a child and someone else was in control of my life.

I gave in back then to my parents authority. I wasn’t one to talk back or rebel.

That came later.

Back then, though, I submitted to their authority. And there were some important lessons even though they wouldn’t adhere until later.

What do You have in mind for us now, Father? What lessons are we to take from this time suspended, alone, with You, centered on You?

Will we find You waiting patiently for our attention?

Will You run out to meet us who have been lost for so long? We, who now want to return home?

Will we run to meet others with You? Embrace them as You would do? Clothe them as You would with the finest robes? Place jewels upon their hands?

Or will we shun them still? Awaiting their submission, demanding first that their penitent hearts seek forgiveness,

Will we withhold the mutual giving love of Your Holy Spirit?

Until when, Father?

When do we move on from the little things of our smallness, from the pettiness of our human ways,

How do we learn to reach out for the greatness of Your Being? How do we learn to love, to do great things, in any other way, but through You?

Be with all of us, now, Holy Lord.

In our aloneness, take our eyes, as we watch and await Your triumphant entry into our holy city this Palm Sunday,

Take our hands, Holy Lord, and teach us Your ways.

Take our hearts and show us Your humility.

Take our strength that we might know Your authority,

Take our pride that we might seek Your forgiveness,

Take our being, Father, that we may be one again with You.

Then continue to hold our hands along the Way. Show us how to accept Your forgiveness for our sin. Guide us we grow strong in Your ways. Teach us to love through You. Show us how to be Yours first.

And, when we find again that small, tender child, Father, the child You created us to be,

Lead us through the Cross of Your Son, our brother, Jesus Christ, to once again embrace the world.

In this time, send us Your Peace

Good morning Father.

As with the whole of the last week, You have blessed us here with clear skies and warm weather. These blessings have been appreciated by everyone in our community and all our neighbors who are clearing and cleaning up debris, recovering after the treacherous tornadoes that attacked our area. So much devastation. So many lives lost. So many lives altered forever. I pray that You have them all in the palm of Your mighty hand.

My needs are so small by comparison. We were spared from the storm’s damage. But in its aftermath, I have had trouble concentrating on anything for long, trouble concentrating on You, Father.

You know. You’ve watched my struggle to be present with You in my Rosaries, at Mass, in my daily time with You. I’m sorry. My thoughts seem to have a mind of their own. How I should I act? How I should be helping? Who? Feelings of inadequacy, as I have tried to find ways to offer my help, ways that are relevant to others’ needs, ways helpful to their circumstance.

And I’ve worried for myself. Such a miserable worthless bit, am I, Father. Better to ask, how do I still my own chaos and neediness and simply be in Your presence?

I should be here on my knees with You praying for everyone. It’s always been my most useful work, yet it feels so small, such a little an offering, given from such safe and protected surroundings.

Still, You’ve already instructed me on this over and over in the past. My desire to offer big things, to help in big and tangible ways is my own ego whispering in my ear. You have most often wanted my prayers, been most responsive to my spiritual caring for others.

In this, too, Father?

So be it.

For whom do I pray? Where do I start?

I pray, Holy Lord, for all those poor and wretched human beings, who were homeless and outside when the storm passed through. Those who were terrified and lost and without a hand to hold or another’s heart to love them through the storm. I pray they felt then, and sense even now, Your loving spirit protecting them and consoling them in their confusion.

I pray for those who died, who sheltered as best they could, but still were crushed by the fury of the storm. I pray for their families and friends, who grieve and mourn their loss, I pray that You are with them and comfort them in their pain and loss. I pray for the souls of those departed, that You accept them into Your presence and loving care, as they find their way to You and Your peace.

I pray for those fearful and frightened, those terrorized by the rage and fury of the storm, who lost their homes, were ejected from the comfort of their shelter into the fury and the danger of the night, barefooted, bedraggled, newly homeless. I pray they draw closer to You as they receive Your love through Your Holy Spirit in their faith and their hope for the future; and through the loving care, the charity, of this community and their friends and neighbors and loved ones. I pray that You bless them with the knowledge and comfort of Your grace through the storm of their lifetime; and with the knowledge that, if through this storm, then surely, through any storm they may face.

I pray and give thanks for those whose immediate response was to act; those in whom You have placed gifts of knowledge and ability to act confidently and quickly in emergencies to protect people and property, identify needs, work immediately to board up windows, cut up downed trees, clear roads, disconnect downed power lines, if possible, until other professional emergency responders could be dispatched for the work of replacing power poles and transmission lines, restoring power, covering buildings whose roofs were ripped away, organizing debris for pickup and disposal. Those who came with chainsaws and trucks and bulldozers from hundreds of miles away and from next door to help, those receiving pay and those literal tens of thousands receiving only the comfort of knowing they acted through Your compassion.

I give thanks for the reporters who, at more personal risk than is often advisable, worked to let everyone know and understand what happened, what we could do, what we should not do, what is helpful, what is not…who reported the overwhelming abundance of Your love.

I give thanks for all those who took charge and organized the community response. There was such an outpouring of love and help and caring and aid that it was, at times, chaotic and confused, but it was out of the abundance of Your love, holy Lord. Even those who don’t know You well, yet, were acting from the Holy Spirit that You have given them. There has been no blue nor red, no Christian or Jew or Muslim, no Democrat or Republican, no hipster, rocker, or country crooner or, precious Lord, any ones other than those You created and loved into being. Those who, as a phoenix rising literally from ashes, stand strong. Hold us all close to You, Holy Father. Help us, I pray, and mold us into Your one perfect body here on earth, pleasing in Your sight, worthy of Your love.

I give thanks to You for all the generosity of businesses and celebrities who have given so generously of their resources — their time, their treasure and their talent — to rescue efforts. This is a special place. So many have said so. That the response here has been so overwhelming. Practically no one sat by watching, waiting for someone else to act. Everyone found something to do, some help to offer, some way to love.

I give thanks that You allowed us a chance to give and offer our helping hands. So little to offer; so much need; and yet, part of the larger body of benevolence and loving spirit of service.

And I give You thanks, Holy Lord, for helping me articulate these prayers, for placing them in my heart, for the grace of loving You and being loved so bounteously in return.

I give thanks that You have called me to prayer and time and again You have gently guided me to the knowledge that it is not my job to sort out the details of who and how and what and where, to be at the center, or to be the do-er of great things, but only to listen, to do what You ask, to love You and entreat You to do great things on behalf of those other ones whom You place in my heart through Your grace.

In this time, Holy Father,

This time of tornado destruction and recovery,

This time of plague of coronavirus Covid 19,

This time of global economic collapse being experienced worldwide,

This time of corruption and evil, which is overwhelming Your Church here on earth,

This time of Satan so skillfully and so deeply embedding his lies and deceit into the very fabric and sinew of Your creation, the creation that You named ‘good,’ even, ‘very good,’

This time which is described so completely by Your son, St. John the Apostle in Revelations, I pray that You come, Holy Lord, and save us this one last time for all time.

Reveal to everyone Your Most Beautiful Face, be our one and only true King, and bring peace — the peace that passes all our understanding — to our world.

It is in Your power, Holy Lord. Only Your power can heal and mend and put everything right again, that we might walk with You in the garden You planned for us from the beginning, that we might love You, delighting in all of Your creation, that we might know true contentment — even in our knowledge of good and evil — that we might know what it is like to live and love and have our being in the comfort and security of Your loving kindness.

The storm of our life

So many thanks to each of You who has thought to check in on us here in Nashville after the tremendous tornado that blew through our lives early Tuesday morning — super Tuesday 2020 will forever have a different meaning for us.

We’re safe…now. But there are so many others — people who live just blocks from us here in East Nashville, people who live just across the Cumberland river to the west of us in Germantown and Buena Vista, people just across the river to the east of us in Donelson and Hermitage and Mt. Juliet, and still further east on the Cumberland Plateau in Cookeville — people we see at the gym and in the grocery store, along Shelby running trail, the coffee shop down the street — not just the few whose names we know or to whom we’ve spoken at some point, whose dog we may have petted along the way, but thousands of people — we’re all neighbors now. We all shared in the fury of the storm. We’ll all share — in ways I don’t think I can even imagine in just this minute – we’ll all share in the recovery.

Before dawn on this super-Tuesday — a redefined and repurposed super-Tuesday — people were posting on social media, ‘My truck and my chainsaw are both fully gassed. My hands are ready to help whoever needs them.’ And the immediate responses came, ‘I’m with you. I’ll be over at … I’ll meet you at…’ Or another questioned, ‘How can I help? I have extra room for you to stay, a shower, towels, clothes..PM me.’

So many people affected directly, personally — those who died or lost a loved one, those missing, and their grieving families, surely. Those, too — newly homeless, wandering the streets in the dark in their pajamas and house slippers, many carrying a pet, a few belongings, maybe, that they were able to salvage before being evacuated from their homes, before broken glass and boards with upturned nails and gas leaks further wounded their lives, before the nearby Farmers’ Market opened to offer them shelter.

And those too, also newly homeless, sitting dazed in their front yard as the sun dawned to reveal the leavings of the storm’s fury — roofs stripped from their houses, homes lifted from their foundations and planted yards away, brick siding hanging, threatening, and the trees, all the trees, across roads, atop houses, through windows; cars upturned, crumbled, one lifted and shot through the third story of a building; broken glass, nails, slivered wood and debris scattered and everywhere downed electric lines and poles and water from broken water mains and the smell of gas from broken gas lines and the flashing red and blue lights of police and fire and medical responders.

And the reporter, trying to capture it all for the world to see, standing in front of a local mural, mysteriously preserved from the devastation all around — a favorite, on a different day just 12 hours ago, for tourists taking memory photos — saying, “We Believe In Nashville.”

Already music concerts — fundraisers to help pay for the clean up and rebuilding — are happening, More are being planned in nearby living rooms and studios and by musicians throughout the region. Hope. Prayer in action everywhere around us.

Personally, it’s only in the storm’s aftermath that we realize the bliss of ignorance. As we were awakened to the roar of what we would only later learn were 165 mph winds circling continuous blasts of lightning with their immediate claps of thunder, just over our house, we wondered what was happening. After a few moments we heard what must have been delinquent sirens wailing in the distance, barely audible through the raging roar of the wind. And we wondered, amazed by the force of the storm’s fierceness, what was happening.

What is happening? What now? Who to help? How to help? How to give thanks that we were, in our bliss, passed over by a furious and awesome force? How to pray? For whom to pray?

We’re okay. Praise God, we’re all okay. Those of us who were passed over are each finding our way to be a prayer in action. Fears of the coronavirus seem a distant memory, a silly, self-indulgence. The other super-Tuesday, a nearly irrelevant after-thought.

We’re all neighbors now, all members of one body, all needed and all pleasing in His sight. He was very close last night and very Superior. He’s walking among us today on this Holy ground, working through us, as we begin the labor and love of restoration and repair.

Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the Evil One

Father, I pray that You protect me from the temptations of Satan, the evil one.

Guide my path and give me such insight — Your sight — to see beyond my earthly desires.

Help me to understand and long for Your heavenly desire for me.

Help me to follow where You lead and to pitch my hearing to Your Word and Your Way for me.

Let me don Your heavenly eyes that I might see the signs and sights You have prepared for me.

And most importantly, heavenly Lord,

If I wander to close too the thorns and snares of the evil one,

Shelter me, lend me an angel to cover my eyes and protect me under her wing.

Then, sweep away temptation from my path.

Conquer it, oh Holy Protector,

Remove its weight from my heart, and

Reorder my desires again and again to long only for You and Your desires for me.

I pray these things in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And the Holy Spirit answered in return,

Do not fear, little one. I will never leave you.

When I’m feeling restless and dissatisfied

What should I do, Holy Lord? How should I be, when I’m feeling restless and dissatisfied?

1. Turn around, retrace your steps, figure out where you lost your way, where you lost sight of My love for you.
2. If you search and search to no avail, do as Mary and Joseph did when they lost sight of Jesus. Make your way to the temple. Seek Him in prayer.
3. Listen for Him. Wait for Him to speak. Do what He says.

In the meantime …

Pray for sight.
Plant a flower;
Feed the birds;
Go for a walk in the country;
Go to a market with fresh food and flowers;
Smile and greet those whom I have placed along your way.

Give away that which you wish to receive.
Pray for a friend;
Go to a movie;
Cook a new recipe;
Share it joyfully, maybe with someone in need.

Make a list.
What makes you happy?
What makes you sad?
Who makes you happy?
Who disappoints you?

Pray for ears to hear.
Call a friend;
Make a date;
Listen for My voice;
Do as I say.

Pray…
For all those things and people that make you unhappy.
Pray…
That I show you how to love them, just as I love them;
Pray for their good,
Will their good,
In your prayers to Me and through your action.

Pray…
For all those things and people that make you happy.
Pray…
That they are strengthened and renewed by your prayers;
Pray…
They are led deeper,
More meaningfully
Into their relationship with Me, their loving Father.

Pray for yourself,
That you learn to love all things as I love them,
That you learn to love yourself as I love you,
Unceasingly and without hesitation.

Pray.
Then breath.
Then pray some more,
Confident in the sure knowledge that I hear every word.
Certain that My peace,
Which passes your understanding,
Surrounds you,
Enfolds you, even now in this moment.

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.

Love Song

Words don’t flow the same way, Father, when I speak to ones other than You.

The point of my story is too easily lost, when I lose sight of You. And my purpose dims, when my eyes turn from You.

I only want to write to You, Father, My Heart.

My words are meaningless and so much cacophony without You as their recipient.

I have no value, I offer no value, Father, that does not originate with You…

That does not long to return to You.

I love You, my Holy Lord, and ask only that You show me how to love You always and more completely.

Learning to pray

Today’s reading is on prayer…how to pray and the story of how You taught Your disciples to pray.

I pray I’ve learned to pray, Father, to come to You, turn to You with complete trust in Your perfect love for me. It’s similar to that feeling a small child has for a parent. You’re so much more, Father, but it’s a way into that transcendent feeling in which You seem to take over and carry me and my thoughts and inspire my mind and heart to places I’d not otherwise find as I go about my day.

My thoughts become ordered, more clear. My feelings, which can seem a chaotic mass of confusion, loosen and separate from one another. They become unknotted, pliant, subject to an order that eludes me on my own. And my sight begins to clear, my ears unclog, my nerve endings, at times so frayed (so afraid?), and finally my breathing calms in a deep sigh and I know You’ve found me and entered that holy place that You’ve begun in me.

I pray that through Your grace that I may be made worthy of Your love, that I can be the ark here on earth that You created me to be. I pray that through the storms that surround and threaten our lives You have a safe haven in me through which to bring peace and light to others You will place on my path. And I give thanks, Holy Lord, that You’ve chosen me to be Your own.

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.