Choosing to be chosen

Prodigal Son ImageOur priest’s recent homily touched on being chosen by God. Each of us is. Not all of us know it.

Many have never heard His call. Some hear it, but turn away. For some, recognition happens all at once. For others, God’s call is revealed more slowly and in stages. Continue reading

Therefore, I’m Joyful

Last Sunday was the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is known as Gaudete Sunday, or Joy Sunday, a day of rejoicing in the Lord’s coming.

In his “A Spirituality of HomecomingHenri Nouwen says, “How do we live out the joy Christ offers us? Celebration!

He goes on to say that, “But beyond these … celebrations, we are invited to develop an ongoing awareness that every moment is special and deserves to be recognized as a gift from the God with whom we share a home.

In his homily tonight our priest reflected on Joy. As I listened I recalled a prayer I wrote last fall. Just as Henri suggests in The Genessee Diary, “real joy wants to share.” I was overjoyed to have an appropriate occasion to share my prayer with all of you this Sunday. It’s called, Therefore, I’m Joyful:

You have given me this new day, Father,
Today, it is filled with sunshine and promise and potential.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You paint my world with vibrant colors in every season.
You send me constantly the gifts of Your beauty, Your bounty, and Your love.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You have given me my loving husband and children and friends.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You have taken me to be Your child.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You constantly assure me of Your presence here with me.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You constantly show me Your love for me.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You send me Your gifts of heartache and loss,
And with them, You remind me to lean on You,
To be lifted up again and again by Your strength.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You send me Your gifts of challenge and frustration,
And with Your added grace, You help me to forgive.

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You have allowed me to feel overwhelmed by my love for You,

Therefore, I’m joyful.

You, my heavenly Father, sent me Your Son, my brother, my Lord,
And You infused me with Your Holy Spirit
And blessed me with the “Yes” of my holy mother, Mary.

Therefore, I am filled full to the top and overflowing with the joy of Your creation.

I pray this 3rd Sunday and all of Advent that He blesses all of you with the love and joy that passes all understanding. I pray that your holy ministries of sharing His good news blossom and bless you as we all watch and wait for the coming of our Lord.

 

It’s simple. Just say ‘yes’ to God

Thank you, Lord, for guiding me (at last!) to the answer I’ve been searching for now for so many years.

For decades (all those years before my children and husband), I’ve wondered why I jumped from relationship to relationship. I would start out delighting in showering someone with all my energy and affections, only to tire of them after a year or two. They weren’t the real problem. I always knew there was something missing in me.

Even though, I was told repeatedly in many different settings that God loves me (“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”), the meaning of the message – how it all works on the ground – for some reason just didn’t connect.

But, praise God, I finally got it.

It was in a Bible study I attended (nearly 25 years ago now). In it, we focused for nearly eight weeks on the lesson, ‘We love, we are loved by others, we are Beloved (loved unconditionally) of God.’ That class was an important turning point for me. In fact, my angel put in a brief appearance during one particular meditation to rejoice with me and invite me to continue my search. I sensed at the time, even as it was happening, that I’d graduated to a deeper level of understanding.

I’m loved by Him unconditionally and, because I am (we are), I am not only able to love others without the expectation of reciprocity, but I’m able to accept what they offer as gifts from Him through them…without wanting more…or less.

Henri Nowren in The Inner Voice of Love, describes it this way:

…Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved—that is, fully received—by God can you give gratuitously [without need]. Giving without wanting anything in return is trusting that all your needs will be provided for by the One who loves you unconditionally…

…The danger is in pouring yourself out to others in the hope that they will fully receive you…

…A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support.

Well, this morning, in passing this book on to a young friend of mine (with whom I have always felt a sense of déjà vu, as her life challenges seem so familiar), I finally realized I’ve received the answer to my long-standing question – “where the hell did all this come from!?” Hell, indeed!

My family studied a host of books on religious thought – everything from the Bible to Buddhism, the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, and Islam. Along the way, I ended up with a very fuzzy sense of God and no real understanding of His love.

But what I didn’t realize until this morning was the cause-and-effect connection between my lack of understanding of God’s love and the failure of my early relationships.

I not only had a very limited sense of His love for me, but I had a strong sense that I could figure it all out on my own – outside church teaching, outside community … outside … period. The road less traveled, maybe…probably because it’s so circuitous and rough and rocky. What a sad, unnecessary waste of time.

Who knew there is a more direct route?

I guess, for me, it always seemed too simple. (Editor angel: You even used to joke back then that you wouldn’t want to simplify anything you could over-complicate!) What I wanted most in my youth was to be seen as capable, adult, self-sufficient.

Sure enough, one of my big life lessons was formed: I got to learn that caring for oneself is not ‘all that,’ as my kids would say. I was ‘outside’ going it on my own all that time, while I could have simply given into God’s love – believed I was loved fully and unconditionally by Him – and skipped all the intervening pain and hardship.

It’s that simple. And that tough for some of us.

Obedience: Ordinary things are made holy and great when we desire His will

It’s early morning again. I’m reading Merton’s journal for April 1 where he discusses obedience.

Book Cover

I found myself savoring one particular sentence where he wrote,

But in so far as we desire, with Christ, that the Father’s will may be done in us, as it is in heaven and in Christ, then even the smallest and most ordinary things are made holy and great. (highlighting added)

This recent time has been a one of waiting and worry, of deepening concern where I must learn (and relearn it seems with each new day) to trust and have faith, to lean on and submit to Him whose will I desire above all things. As each day has passed, my prayers for what I thought was desirable have gone seemingly unanswered and yet I know He has heard me.

I know this just because. This is our faith. But, I know this, too, because along the way He has sent me many beautiful reassurances – on holy waiting and patience; on the differences between worry and prayer; and here, where Merton goes on to write:

And then in all things the love of God opens and flowers, and our lives are transformed. This transformation is a manifestation and advent of God in the world.

One of the fruits of a solitary life is a sense of the absolute importance of obeying God—a sense of the need to obey and to seek His will, to choose freely to see and accept what comes from Him, not as a last resort, but as one’s “daily super-substantial bread.” Liberation from automatic obedience into the seriousness and gravity of a free choice to submit. (highlighting added)

Accepting what our Lord provides, ‘not as a last resort,’ but as all we need and precisely what we need for that day. And not just passively accepting His will, but actively participating in His plan by making ‘a free choice to submit.’

Then, I almost laughed out loud as I read Merton’s final thought. He wrote:

But it is not easy to see always where and how!

Well, no it’s not. But our Lord loves us – even in our feeble and flawed attempts to do His will.

———————-

Another day has dawned. Another day filled with opportunities to choose first to submit to the wonder He has planned for us, to give thanks, to rejoice and be glad.

 

 

 

 

Taking Spiritual Responsibility

Taking Spiritual Responsibility | Word On Fire.

I pray for each of us that we, at some fundamental level, say ‘yes’ and then ‘yes’ again and again to God’s call — sometimes stumbling, sometimes weary, but sometimes … in those most beautiful of times — on fire with love for Him.