A place of our own

If there’s one thing amiss here in this house, if there’s one little spot I have longed for — it’s that one obvious place where I can go to be with You. Just a corner of calm, where I am away from — at least off to the side of — the bustle of other daily activity.

We’ll find it soon, You and I, won’t we, Father.

But even beyond our place, Father, I believe and pray that You will help us begin to make — of both the community in which we live and the community where we worship — spaces in which we can feel a integral part. Places where our presence is a blessing and our absence is noticed — even missed by some. A home filled with family — Your children — that You choose just for us in this time of our lives — to love and by whom, through whom, You will love us.

That’s my prayer this day, Father.

More worthy of You

Oh Lord, You are drawing me more and more deeply
into the mysteries of the Holy Rosary and
into praying for our world.
I pray that my prayers are pleasing to You and
through them that I am drawn
more deeply into relationship with You,
more worthy of You,
more formed by You,
more conformed to You,
more pleasing to You,
more worthy of You.
In Christ’s name I pray to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit
are One God for ever and ever.
Amen.

The passion of our time.

When I heard of the Supreme Court’s decision adding sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, my first reaction was: All humans deserve the opportunity to seek employment free from discrimination.

Yet, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of USCCB lays out the concern.

I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.

By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan. (emphasis added)

Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.

We pray that the Church, with the help of Mary, the Mother of God, will be able to continue her mission to bring Jesus Christ to every man and woman.

So (early warning) what follows is my way-too-long struggle to sort all this, as I talk with Our Lord.

——————

“During these times…”

I’m so tired of hearing this phrase, Holy Lord. I hear it drone out from both the sincere and the sanctimonious to initiate some monologue on masks or medicine or malevolence.

And yet, today, right now, in this time and place, You are offering us a way to sooth some of the pain and suffering of Your Son. You’re offering us an opportunity to share Your love and to find new ways that include all of Your people in Your grace.

All of us

All of us
We fallen,
We sin-filled,
Even we aspiring saints.
The ignored, the ignorant,
The neglected, the negligent,
The elite and the alone;
The famished and the fed;
The despised and the despicable.
All of us are Your beloved children, Holy Lord.

But, not all of us know You or Your love.

We, the privileged

We, who know You — we, who have been baptized into Your truth — we are the privileged ones of this world.

Through no fault or action of our own, You chose us. Just as we didn’t choose our parents or the country of our birth, or our station in life, we didn’t choose to know You, Holy Father, or Your Son. We were chosen. You found us right where we were and and called us to You.

This is true privilege.
This is the real job opportunity.
For in You is the freedom and love
That passes all our understanding.

Too often, we forget that You’re the source of everything good in our lives. We believe that our good fortune is something we’ve earned, something we deserve, maybe — through some right of birth or heritage or even our own hard work.

But, no. These are all gifts of Your grace. You decided where we were born and when. And You selected our parents. You gave us the talents to succeed in our work and the strength to awake each day to embrace our lives. And You have given us the times in which we live.

In these times

Your gift in this time for those of us who know and love You is the blessing of sharing Christ with others, those less privileged, those needing—longing, possibly—to know You and to love You, too. Our gift is the opportunity to be an active part of Christ’s body — Your hands and heart — here on earth.

It’s that simple…and that profound.

What does this mean in action in this situation, Father? What does this look like on the holy ground of Your love?

Down here amongst Your unruly children?

Surely, we must share Your love through the way we live our lives. But what if we are asked to act—or made to act publicly—in ways that defy — or even defile — Your love for us, ways foreign to Your teaching?

We learn early that we are to hate the sins, love the sinners. But in this time we are being told that in order to love the sinners, we must approve of — love, even — their sin.

How does a religious school, for example, allow into its midst individuals, who, gleefully, often vociferously, reject one of Your most basic, Your most foundational gifts — the beautiful gift of who they are as beloved male and female children of God, who they are as Your beloved creations?

How does the religious institution function within the dichotomy of You and Not You? God and not God? How do we ease the friction, act with mercy, heal the wounded, protect the innocent, help You to call the willing?

Where is the opportunity in this, Holy Father? Where—what—is Your gift that You seek to have us give?

Your Word in action

Sister Marilyn taught 2nd grade at my daughter’s Catholic school years ago. For decades she faithfully helped to prepare young Catholic girls and boys for their first communion. Our family was not Catholic at the time. I spoke with Sister once about how excluded my daughter felt from the first communion ceremony that eventually followed for all her classmates.

Sister corrected me, ‘Oh no, we don’t exclude anyone or leave any one out. Everyone is welcome to be part of the church and to participate in the beauty of what we believe.’

And there’s the nut of it, isn’t it, Father? The Church universal. The body of Christ. Living, yet unchanged and unchangeable. Broken, yet complete. Sacrificed, given away, that our souls might be sanctified through our faith in You and in Your Son.

You’ve created us to be free. You allow us to choose in what and in whom we believe. As Christians, we believe in You, Holy Father and in Your Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit — that beautiful breath of love shared by Father and Son.

But so many others don’t know You or believe in Your Son. Too many have not even been introduced.

How, Father?

How do we embrace these others, Father, who reject our faith and insist that it must change in order to conform to their devices and desires.

How do we share Your love with those who have no faith and who hope only in themselves?

How do we share Christ with them, who demand that we deny You and love them first?

How do we — under the force of law — share the truth of Your love that You have shared with us?

How can we do anything good, anything pleasing to You, without speaking with love and affection to these others — these hopeless, hapless creatures whom You love?

How do we do all this, How do we do any of this except through Your grace, full of faith in You, knowing that Your hand is at work in this, as it is in all things?

You never said it would be easy

Indeed, You showed us the terrible pain of Your Son’s passion and told us to ‘follow Him.’

Even Mary and Joseph, when directed by Caesar Augustus, submitted to an arduous journey to Bethlehem in order to participate in a government-required census. Our Holy Mother was pregnant. She and Joseph were poor. But You chose that time for them to leave their home and family who loved them to carry Your Word-made-flesh to this distant place. And once they arrived, they weren’t welcomed or made comfortable. They weren’t treated lovingly. Indeed, there was no room for them — or for You.

But there, in that mean, inhospitable and humble place, is where You and Your love broke into our world.

You chose Mary and Joseph to carry Your light of hope first to the world’s poor and lowly. You even provided a bright light to guide the way of the world’s wise and kingly. They traveled their own difficult and dangerous journeys to Your Son, Jesus Christ, coming from far-away lands — from places that did not know You; from traditions foreign to Your Word. And yet, they came bearing their own gifts with which to honor and adore You.

Just as You sent the light to guide those foreigners to You so long ago, You are, even now, preparing us in this time to be the light of Your love to those who don’t yet know You. Those whom You are calling to Yourself. Those others in our midst.

And just as Sister Marilyn taught us year’s ago, You don’t exclude anyone from the beauty of Your truth. Nonetheless, like Mary, we each have to consent to Your will. When called by You, each of us has to say our own grace-filled, faith-filled ‘Yes’ to You and to Your Son.

Just say ‘Yes’

Now in this time of turmoil, my child, be My Light by how you live your life. Give witness to the truth of My love. Then, share the gift of love that I share with you. I’ll show You how.

To share and uplift other believers? Yes.

To make room for You, Lord—God’s own Word-made-flesh? Yes.

To be love for all those others among us—the least, the lost and the hopeless, the revolting, the reviled, and the wretched? Yes.

To include in our work and in our lives these other ones—forgotten for too long, ignored too fully? Yes.

For how else might they come to know Me?

Must we strengthen our resolve? Yes.
Understand Your Word better? Yes.
Prepare to share Your love with those who hate us and You? Yes.
Learn to be holy not just in our homes and our protected enclaves, but in public for all to see — to be Your light in our world’s darkness? Yes.

Are we ready?

As others scream and slur,
As they deface and disparage You,
As they have and surely will again,
Will we run away, like Peter and the others,
Will we deny You, again and again?
As they seize and distort our speech,
As they defame Your gifts,

Are we prepared? I pray so.

Will we turn our other cheek, Father,
The one of love offered,
Only to be rejected and scorned,
As You were? As Your Son was?

As others point at us with their accusations and allegations;
As they brutalize our hearts with their hatred,
And fill our world with their idols,
Are we prepared, even so, to include them in our lives,
But not give them our souls,
All for Your love of them?

Am I prepared? I pray so.

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.