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.
It has been so long since I’ve written substantively here…so long since we’ve talked…that it’s hard to know where to start.
And, isn’t this always the way where there’s separation, disconnection, distance? We lose our place. We miss important events in one anothers’ lives. We fall out of touch.
The “project,” I’ll call it, was to help our daughter move 2500 miles across country to a new home and a new job…a new life, really. The opportunity was a true gift from God. There were so many miracles, so much euphoria. I feel certain it will be a while before I understand all the lessons and discern God’s handiwork with any real clarity. The time has been both exhilarating and exhausting.
I asked God early on how to handle my blogging while I was engaged with ‘the project’ (it was really 6 or 7 major projects in one as it turned out.) I didn’t feel that I could reflect thoughtfully or write insightfully — heck, I wasn’t sure I could even write grammatically with the pace we were keeping — about much of anything until my part of the work was done. This place, this communication, I felt, needed more, deserved more, than I could give.
Still, where communication is suspended, relationships suffer. It’s true for friends and couples and between ourselves and God.
I’d welcome your thoughts about this whole subject. I know several of you have written in the past about this and that my feelings of undifferentiated, amorphous disappointment in myself are not unique or even unusual. How do you make time for this blog space, how do you do it justice, during times when life’s demands become…well…demanding?
And yet, I asked for and felt the comfort of your prayers. Thank you so very much. You first deserve an update:
- My daughter has a new job, a new home, and a whole new community of friends. I thrill when she tells me nearly each day for the last 2 months that she feels everything about this total change in her life is right and exactly where God wants her to be right now;
- Her old home near us is on the market and we’re currently praying for a quick sale (late breaking news: we just received our first offer!);
- In the meantime our son and daughter-in-law (about whom I have written before here and here) went to the hospital with labor pains in early May…our new baby grand daughter arrived 7 weeks early. She stayed in the Neo-Natal ICU for several weeks. She is, nonetheless, perfect! (This is just simple fact and has nothing to do with my grandmotherly status!) She has over the last month gained weight (she’s over 7 lbs) and lung capacity and she’s now home with mom and dad and they are all thriving in every way. We celebrated Father’s Day together in their home last Sunday. I’d forgotten what 7 lbs. babies are like to hold…there’s just no feeling like it in the whole world.
- We are so very blessed by God’s amazing grace. The abundance of His love over the last couple of months was everywhere and in every encounter:
- He helped us carry our burden by sending us the kindness and charity of so many wonderful friends and family who sent their good wishes and prayers to me and made sure my husband was feted with good food and company during my absences.
- There was our mover, who together with his wife, the dispatcher, held our hand during the long move, as they transported all our daughter’s belongings, arriving right on time with everything in perfect condition, and with no last minute surprises in price.
- There was the HVAC expert, who gave up his Saturday morning to help us vent a portable air conditioner; and
- The appliance repair guys, who made themselves immediately available to fix a washing machine; and
- Our realtors, who offered their friendship and their own personal resources to help us; and
- Our financial wizards, who just wouldn’t give up, even in the face of fairly complicated transactions; and
- The hardware store clerk, who spent nearly an hour helping me figure out how to secure a dog kennel; and
- So many thoughtful drivers who let me cut in when I missed my turns in unfamiliar country.
- There were, of course, all the caring and competent neo-natal staff taking care of our grand daughter…and her parents; and
- The fact that our grand daughter joined us during one of the short windows when I was in town was a true personal blessing; and
- We enjoyed a full complement of joy-filled family communicating with parents and all the rest of us with abundant use of the “reply all” feature on their email and texting. We were, as a result, able to share across family lines and across geography and time zones in one another’s experiences of wonder and joy with the new and precious baby girl in our midst.
The list seems almost endless…right down to some unknown young man who was standing in front of me in line at the airport, who paid for my water bottle as he was purchasing his own. It turned out he was sitting across the aisle from me on my flight home and before I even realized I needed help lifting my carry-on bag, he was up out of his seat, man-handling it into the overhead bin, assuring me as he did so that he would get it down for me when we landed…WOW! The good Lord had me surrounded with his angels.
Life is very, very good…life with God in charge is heavenly.
This article from John Martens writing in America Magazine is an answer to a recent prayer. In his discussion of loving our enemies, he concludes:
It is this desire (for perfect love), grounded in the longing to be holy as God is holy, that allows us to rise above our feelings for vengeance, feelings which the world understands, accepts and might even urge on us, to love our enemy. In the love of enemy we convert not only our own hearts, but the possibility exists that when we forego destroying enemies with weapons of vengeance, then love, the weapon of the spirit, will transform them.
So, I prayed recently that the Lord would guide me to my next meditation.
I’ve been wondering lately … reconsidering really…my long-held views about any number of subjects, but most recently capital punishment. Right or wrong? I used to be more certain of my answer. Today, not so much.
It was in the middle of the night. I’d awakened briefly and was in that dreamy half-sleeping, half-waking state.
In the beginning when I was more awake and said ‘hi’ to God, as I always do when I first awake. Then I continued to say a couple of prayers, thinking about each phrase as I progressed through them, considering how each phrase related to me over the last few days or weeks.
That was the beginning. Then I sort of drifted off into a space that was dreamier. I was still conscious enough to be aware of and remember the thoughts and images I was having.
This was the message I got back. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but this is the next stream of thoughts that I had.
I was contemplating love and evil, juxtaposing them, acknowledging that God is pure love. Jesus is pure love. I acknowledged that we are called to love Jesus and try to be more like him. In order to be fully with God, we are called to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.
I moved on to consider evil. What is it? Hatred, vileness, greed.
Where do they come from? What’s their basis? Is it fear? Hmmm, maybe. Hatred and vileness, villainy can often be traced back to fear. Is the devil fearful?
You know, I think He probably is. I think He knows the end of the story, too. I think He knows that God wins. But the devil’s nature is what it is.
When I have called upon God’s protection, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the devil’s presence…his essence in my thoughts, or his seeming presence with me…goes away. It just dissolves into an impotent vapor and slinks off.
On the basis of his occasional reappearance, I know the devil has not been fully conquered in me, but God’s power is always available, on call, to help me overcome evil’s temptations.
So, if we can do what God has asked us to do — to love Him, to aspire to be like Him, to project pure love — then should we not also be able to dispel fear and hatred in others? To project such compassion and charity that the power of evil is dissolved, vaporized in the face of our love?
Back to capital punishment. Why do we put people to death? To keep them from ever harming others in society? Justice? Well, yes.
Okay, forget capital punishment for now. It’s too complicated an issue for me at this point.
But isn’t love the goal? Doesn’t Our Father want each of us to begin – now, right where we are, to learn to love so purely, to love so strongly, that evil has no foothold in our lives. That the devil and all his forces can gain no traction?
If love conquers fear and hatred, which we know it does in the end, then when we approach any situation in our lives – any confrontation, argument, disagreement, physical attack even – if we take on the mantel of pure love, devoid of fear — if we don’t allow fear to seep in, I wonder if the hatred and vileness of those others whom we confront would dissolve before us, just as if they were standing before Our Father?
If so, good to go. If not, well I guess we might meet Our Lord all the sooner.
So, are we still good to go? Are we prepared to die, as we offer love as our self-defense?
I guess it requires detachment from life itself, doesn’t it? The Jesuits say we must have a spirit of detachment, even from life itself, in order to fully be one with God.
Well, that’s the meditation. I know for certain, I don’t have a clear answer to all this yet for myself.
I still feel more comfortable carrying and knowing how to use self-defense aids. I will continue to encourage our children to stay alert to threats. And I feel a certain relief, when a cold, calculating, murdering sociopathic sex offender or child trafficker is put out of his or her misery.
Can we not advocate for our enemy’s incapacity, his incarceration, possibly his elimination, while still loving him, mourning his death or injury. To act with justice, but without vengeance or hate, without a desire for retribution?
In the end, love is the goal. How do we love You better, Lord?
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.
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.
“I’m glad you’re with me today, Father.”
I’m always with you, my dear. I’m glad you’re aware of me today.
“This imagining thing that Fr. Martin suggests…well, I guess it was St. Ignatius who earlier suggested it for understanding more about Christ…isn’t something I know much about, Father. It feels so presumptuous to imagine You here with me. Can we just be quiet here together for a while?”
I know. There’s not any need to talk. We can just drive together.
A few minutes later.
“I have a question, Father.”
“Ha! I don’t know when or if to go public with the blog I’m working on for You, WWMB. I don’t want to put it out there, if it is not what you want from me. Or if You believe I’m/we’re not ready. Or, if I somehow might do something wrong or say something that might lead another person to go astray. What should I do, Father. And when.”
Do you believe that I led you to the writing that you’ve been doing?
Do you believe that I use things and people to my own purpose? And is my purpose good?
“Yes…and, of course!”
What is your fear? Are you concerned about what I might do with your work, who I might bring to your web blog, or are you concerned about whether something you do might be wrong or weakly reasoned or uninspired? How much of what you’re feeling is ego?
“Okay…I think I get where You’re going. You’re in control. But …(Angel: Really? What on earth are you doing, arguing, questioning God? Shhh, I’m new at this. He understands!) …what if I start the blog and then my work schedule gets in the way? What if I don’t maintain the blog, and, as is true for so many others, it just falls by the wayside and withers?”
“So, you’re suggesting that if I continue to follow Your lead, either outcome is …well, if not worthy, then at least redeemable…something? Or that You can still work with stuff, even incomplete stuff, if You choose…That what I learn about myself and about my relationship with You may be as important as what I lead others to learn about You and that in the end, it’s all up to You anyway?….hmph!”
A little later:
“I love you so very much, Father.”
I love you, too.
A bit later yet:
“WOW! How do You DO that? The sun shining through the mist, the snow-capped mountains, the fog lying along the ground in the valley. And the colors today are iridescent! What a day You have made for our drive! Thank you, Father!”
It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
And again later:
“Father, do You feel sadness or remorse for the world. Are You concerned about the state our world is in? How does that work for You? It seems like You, as awesome God, would be, should be kind of above it all…unaffected by all the sin and greed and deceit and hatred that exists in our world. And yet, You love us and care for us. How does that work?”
I don’t so much feel those things, as I understand them. I was there. I lived among you. I felt the things you’re feeling… your human emotions – love, anger, joy, sadness, remorse. I know how your pain feels. I try to help you use the pain you’re experiencing to strengthen you in your quest to find me. I rejoice with you when you take even the smallest step toward me.
“Don’t You ever tire of all my whiney doubts and questions? How am I possibly worthy of Your presence here in the car with me, talking to me and painting beautiful scenes for us to see as we drive along?”
I’m always here ready to talk and to listen, painting beautiful vistas. I’m always present with you. It’s nice to have you here present with me. We should do this more often.