Yearning, God’s small seed of hope within us

In this second day of Lent, Thomas Merton in Seeking God in All Things acknowledges how stultifying the world can be, especially for those of us living in busy cities, working in noisy factories, or commuting daily with thousands of others.

He reminds us that for so many, the hope – even the seed of a hope – has long been crushed.

For the rest of us — even those of us who feel frustrated by the crowds, deafened by constant cacophony, demoralized by the brokenness we see about us – for us, we still yearn with hope for silence and peace and unity.

This yearning is God’s small seed within us, calling us, reassuring us that we are loved by God.

Our job is to allow this yearning to bless us.

Even this most basic connection to God’s love for us can draw from us feelings of compassion for those others who have lost — or have not yet found — their way.

This small seed of kindness in our hearts may then grow into a prayer upon which our Lord will shine, through which may blossom in us a deep sense of peace and joy.

To stay anchored in God – in this experience of inner peace and joy – we must each find a place each day where we can be alone and silent and uninterrupted, says Merton. Some special space where we can, without obstruction, learn to experience God’s presence, maybe even hear His voice.

In this special place where we surrender fully to God’s loving embrace, we then allow Him to prepare us and repair us…make us whole and clean once again…armed with His Love, ready to venture back into a noisy and messy world.

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.

Christmas Letters to my Lord-Part IV

Keeping You uppermost in my thoughts and reflections during this Christmas season, trying to experience Your presence in all the unfamiliar people and situations was both fruitful and exhausting. Yet as we slow our pace, take time to reflect on Christmas and all of 2013 in preparation for the new year, I realize You were always there, Father. Just as You are here right now, reading these words over my shoulder.

As we approach “ordinary time”  – time again to plan proper meals, to exercise, to connect more fully again with You – my anticipation mounts for the warmth of Your touch, for those times yet to come when I might so subdue the cacophony all about me that I can hear more clearly Your quiet, gentle voice.

Also read Christmas Letters To God-Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Driving with God

“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.”

Only one?

“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?

“Yes.”

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?”

What if?

“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.

Hitting a wall

I hit a wall this weekend. It’s been years since I’ve experienced the frustration and pessimism that I felt yesterday.

There were lots of reasons for my discontent — water damage to our home has my kitchen and front room torn up, no sink, no floors, holes in the walls; it is disorienting to be sure, but the intensity of my reaction came as a surprise, causing me to cancel an otherwise welcome invitation to join old friends,  meet new ones, have a home-cooked meal, reconnect with them after our travels, which had separated us for more than a month; I got to add the guilt and shame of cancelling to my already difficult sense of disorder.

Even as I was going through it, I knew intellectually that I was over-reacting. I tried to summon my former spirit of joyfulness and gratitude for all my many blessings. I asked forgiveness for awaking that morning and getting up without first saying “hi” to God. I read the Bible. I even remembered to ask for God’s presence with me as I read and to ask Him to help me find the source of my discontent. My reactions all seemed too much, too over-wrought and my poor attempts at redirection were, in the end, to little avail. I couldn’t seem to shake the mood.

My husband finished a project he’d been working on and just the act of his sitting down with me and talking over a glass of wine finally brought me back around…nothing tremendously earth-shaking. But my pleadings (and my grumpy, whiny thoughts and words) were finally heard and healed.

As I was working out at the gym this morning and reading Fr. Martin’s book, Between Heaven and Mirth, I was reminded of how to focus on my joy and, it seemed with each step I took, I was reunited. This prayer was the result:

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.

Heavenly Host Celebrate Newcomers

It occurred to me the other day…I was reading something… I think I finally get the father whose (prodigal) son demanded his inheritance early, ran off and caroused his way through the next few years while his brother stayed at home working along side his father. (Editor Angel: Or at least you had a insight into the story that you haven’t had before.)

I always pretty sympathetic with the dutiful brother. He was upset to have his faithfulness and devotion seemingly set aside in favor of his wayward brother, when the rounder, after losing all his money, decided he’d seen the light and returned home.

It’s not so much that I was one or the other of these characters in my own life. But like the stories of the lost sheep and the lost penny and others, where there is great rejoicing upon finding that which is lost, I have felt conflicted.

At least until I began to think about the saints like Mother Theresa and Theresa of Liseaux (the little flower) who seemed always to be good, always righteous and faithful.

It occurred to me to think about how they might react up in heaven to learning the good news that a new sinner had just turned on his wayward path, first to consider and then to accept God, repenting of his or her sinful ways. What might God the Father feel, as He was tending to the many ills and pains of the poor and the oppressed, when He heard a beloved daughter or son call out to Him for His forgiveness and protection.

How might my mother and father, now in Heaven, react to news that my eyes had been opened and I had finally realized God was there loving me all the while.

I can imagine all of them, along with a full complement of the heavenly host, having such an overwhelming sense of joy. They might even ring bells or sound trumpets at each new convert.

I can imagine my parents calling upon God and Jesus and all the angels and archangels and all their new martyr buddies to join them for a great banquet where everyone would rejoice that I would be joining them one day.

Unlike here on earth where inheritances and estates are a zero-sum game — where if you get more, I get less — heaven is fully available to everyone. So, unlike the devoted son in Luke, everyone wins.

Our heavenly joy is multiplied whens a newcomer joins the ranks, as we understand it will hasten the time when we are all able to see our God face to face.