Evangelism

Sun thru monkey treeEvangelism has been a difficult concept for me. I’ve never thought I knew enough. I can’t quote Bible verses from memory. I don’t have a complete understanding of church history or teaching. My words can sound sanctimonious and saccharin even to my own ear. In the un-churched community in which I live I fear my witness would do more to offend than to welcome.

Yet, as I have begun to know our Lord better, I’ve at times felt as though I would burst if I didn’t find some way to share His beauty and gentleness and love with others. It’s a natural outcome of His sharing His abundance with me, who has done so little to deserve it.

When we don’t know how to do something that at the same time feels so urgent, it’s often true that our understanding of our purpose is lacking. My concept of evangelism in this case has been faulty and incomplete.

This morning Henri Nouwen addressed “The Fruit of the Spirit” in his book of daily meditations, Bread for the Journey. He says,

Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives.

But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.

Talk about an arrow straight to my heart. “…an insecure heart…creates divisions.” Here’s the nut,

The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These fruit speak for themselves. It is, therefore, always better to raise the question “How can I grow in the Spirit?” than the question “How can I make others believe in the Spirit?”

I’m not sure there are words to express the relief I felt as I read this. My job is to grow myself. I’m increasingly certain I can do that.

Henri continues in the next meditation to discuss “Right Living and Right Speaking” saying that,

To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking. When we forgive our neighbors from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.

Father, I pray Your grace guides my heart and my actions and my words; that they honor You and are acceptable in Your sight; that they bless those You bring into my life.

 

Life is very, very good. Life with God in charge is….heavenly.

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.

 

 

 

 

If We See God In All Things, Evil Will Find No Home In Us

To all my virtual friends, my belated, but warmly felt Easter greeting.

As I alluded to…wow, it’s been a few weeks ago, now…time is flying in my world…life has intervened and taken me, temporarily, from this platform. I miss each of you and look forward to being more present with you again soon.

My daughter and her employer agreed to part company about a month ago, which came as both a shock and a blessing. Since they gave her essentially 3 months of severance, she thankfully has had more than enough time to find other work. This resulted in the two of us flying across country to a community, which she has wanted to move to for some time.

Long story short, in less than three weeks an excellent new position was offered and accepted; a house was purchased; and she is currently packing and preparing for a cross-country drive with her dog, cat and belongings.

My tasks in support of all this are to get her current home sold and help her sort all the finance details of the purchase, while she’s on the road. We’re both flying through our respective ‘to-do’ lists.

Over the years I’ve become certain that, when barriers to movement in any particular direction are encountered that cannot be easily overcome with a simple prayer, the move is not part of God’s plan.

On the flip side, when perceived barriers arise and they seemingly dissolve before our eyes…as soon as we identify them, they disappear…I am equally certain that God’s hand is at work, parting our own personal Red Sea.

This has happened multiple times for us over the last several weeks, and is continuing as we move forward. It’s been an amazing experience that has left us breathless at times…as we have said we’ve been “whelmed”…not “overwhelmed” since we’re certain our lives are in good hands – God’s hands…but definitely whelmed!

Which brings me back to the title of this post: I have been giving much thought to thwarting evil, thinking and praying about how to pray that my daughter is not faced with evil in her new home. That’s when I felt blessed by this message:

If We See God In All Things, Evil Will Find No Home In Us

So, this is what I will pray … for her to see God in all things; to experience God with all her senses; to allow God to speak to her through all of her senses; and thereby, to so strengthen her that evil can find no footing, no home in any part of her being or her life.

My blessings on each you, too. I appreciate all the love and effort you put into to participating in this virtual community we’re forming.

My Enemy, My Love

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.

via My Enemy, My Love | America Magazine.

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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?

Meditation 13 – Seeing God in others, seeing good in others

Are you resolved to avoid that occasion of sin, to give up the object which leads you astray – not to read that book, which excites your imagination; to withdraw your friendship from that person who is irreligious, and whose presence disturbs the peace of your soul? Will you go at once and be kind to that companion who annoyed you?

I prayed recently that God would help me to see Him in others around me. I don’t know how to do this. And my prayer, while heartfelt, was offered without much real hope of ever ‘getting it’.

And yet, yesterday, I received what I believe is a glimmer of an answer — a clue, at least — of a direction I might follow. What may turn out to be a small miracle in my life.

I reflected on something I’ve known most of my life. It is this:

Those people to whom I have most often been sympathetically drawn seem more ‘worldly,’ an apt word that seems to capture ‘the look.’

It’s in their eyes. The look that says, “I know what you’re thinking.” “I’ve been around the block a few times, too.” “This isn’t my first rodeo.” “We have stuff in common, you and I.”

This insight, thought, realization, revelation – I’m not sure what to call it – occurred to me for just the briefest of moments. The significance of ‘the look’ flashed at my consciousness and then, darted off, to hide in my memory. It peaked out a couple of times from behind a long list of errands and interactions, reminding me that it was important, still there, waiting.

But, it’s only by God’s abundant grace have I been able to capture it finally onto paper (well virtual paper, anyway) where I can give it my full attention.

As I describe the experience here, it’s like seeing a bit of trace gold out of the corner of my eye, then slowly following a trail of little gold nuggets to reveal the mother lode, as it were, of the real message.

These other worldly people – seemingly clever, knowing, attractive – can (wittingly or unwittingly) be some of Satan’s most difficult pawns, sent to tempt us and lure us to a life serving him.

To be sure, even the most-worldly individuals are not necessarily bad or evil. Some may have mastered their knowingness, integrating it with a life of faith and service, as I hope I can do someday.

But, Satan works through our perceptions of others’ worldliness to appeal to our own weaknesses. He perceives those disordered desires and then tempts us with promises of outcomes tailor-made for each of us.

In the end it’s our own perspectives that need to change.

I must no longer allow myself to associate what I perceive to be their worldliness with something attractive. This reaction in me needs instead to put me on my guard, raise red flags, signaling for me to don my armor, prepare my defenses. It needs to trigger in me an internal risk assessment of whether to stay and engage in a holy battle or to walk away – either literally or figuratively – at my first opportunity.

[So, WOW…I don’t know about you, but I need to take just a moment to give thanks for this — to give thanks to God for His goodness and direction and His willingness to communicate with me…to answer my prayers…a small miracle in a way. For everything about this insight feels right.  Thank You, Father.]

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Let’s read again the meditation for today:

Are you resolved to avoid that occasion of sin, to give up the object which leads you astray – not to read that book, which excites your imagination; to withdraw your friendship from that person who is irreligious, and whose presence disturbs the peace of your soul? Will you go at once and be kind to that companion who annoyed you?

What about those others – those companions, maybe – who annoy us? Those who call us to account, possibly? Or those little or wretched ones who beg for our time or our help or our attention? What about those faithful ones whom Our Father has placed on our path to remind us to walk with Him?

Do their “looks” cause us to avert our eyes in guilt or shame or impatience? Under their gaze do we begin to sense our unworthiness? If we’re truly fortunate, does the light of their spirit illumine the poverty of our own?

In drafting a title for this post, I wrote the words “seeing God in others.” I was quickly moved to the additional phrase, “seeing good in others.”

It made me think about the added “o” in good.

In order to see God in others, we must first have a spirit that appreciates and is attracted to good in others.

And to do this we need to bring to God the extra “o” — a null, a void – the clean slate of our divine selves. Ignatian spirituality describes poverty of spirit as

an emptying of self so that God can fill us with life and love.

As we empty ourselves of our attachments and worldly desires – of those dark ties that will bind and entangle us and cause us to stumble — as we become empty vessels before God, we may then be filled with His goodness. As we grow and become filled with His love, we will in turn be able to recognize and be attracted to His good in all those others about us.

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Gracious, glorious Lord. You have once again fulfilled Your promise to answer my prayers and give me those things, which You know will bring me closer to You.

I prayed this prayer without hope of an answer. For this I ask Your forgiveness.

But I prayed in earnest and You answered with clarity.

You are an awesome Lord and I am humbled.

Reflecting God’s Divinity

I’ve tried to find words to express the tremendous tsunami of emotions and joy that I have experienced since reading Fr. Martin’s book “The Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything,” earlier last year. Similar to one’s experience of God, I think, my comprehension of its significance has taken — will take — time to fully appreciate. I need to view the experience looking back.

It was like having a large package of tiny seeds strewn upon what (apparently) was the moist and fertile soil of my mind and heart. Only now have I begun to recognize all the young sprouts of new life that are taking root. I fear the possibility that even one of these seeds might be so far-flung that I’ll miss it and fail to tend it properly. At the same time I know the God who blessed me with the grace to receive these messages is the same awesome Lord who will help me discover and tend each seedling in its time, and His.

To say that it has fully changed my life seems too small an expression to capture the full effect it has had. In everything I do now (five months later) I realize I have the responsibility to reflect the divinity of God. I know Him personally, therefore, I have the responsibility to acknowledge Him, learn more about Him, understand what He desires of me, feel and practice His presence constantly, introduce others to him.

I’m not very good at all this yet. I begin to understand why some carry around such a sense of guilt all the time. It’s both an appropriate reaction (because I fail continually throughout the day, practically from the first word out of mouth in the morning) and a beautiful grace from Him who allows me to glimpse a small part of what He desires of me, to perceive just a bit of the perfection He desires for all of us.

I have an especially difficult time seeing Him or feeling His presence in others, even when I actively try to think of Him and look for Him in them. It’s like looking through a steamy window. I can see the vague outline of possibility, but I can’t yet bring it into focus.

Quiet tasks are a bit easier – sometimes when I am alone I can hear Him and feel His presence with me.  My conscience speaks to me of important insights that seem just a bit clearer than they might have before.

One such scene played out for me just today. It had to do with allowing our close relationships to evolve to fully include God.

Take, for example, a relationship between mother and daughter: For the first decade or two, it is very…well…mother-daughter.

Mom loving, directing, soothing, in control, encouraging, disciplining, teaching.

Daughter learning, growing, hopefully becoming the person God intended her to be.

As the third decade emerges, these roles (by the grace of God) begin to shift. The two begin to build a friendship with one another – closer than friends, really, but more a relationship of two adults.

For me and my daughter the next step will be for me to reflect better the deeper sense of God’s divinity that I’ve been given. To accept the responsibility that comes with this gift, to share it with her, maybe most especially, and others who are close.

For some this may be straightforward. But for me it feels as though I’ve somehow turned a corner spiritually and begun to see a whole different world than the one I lived in just a few months ago.

In important ways I’ve become a different person than the mother who raised my daughter. As much as I raised her to know and love God, there are so many areas of my behavior that were still driven by ignorance and carelessness…and therefore, so many areas that require amendment.

This responsibility applies to other family members as well, ones especially from whom I have been estranged.

My stepson and his wife and I all had a falling out that had split our family for several years. The beginnings of healing had already begun when his wife bought the The Jesuit Guide for our son, who in turn bought a copy for my husband to read. My husband, in turn, encouraged me to read it. Soon we were all four sharing our collective amazement with its powerful messages and how they were changing our lives.

The insight of reflecting God’s divinity that pertains here is that God chose these particular people to bring me closer to Him. In so doing He bound us more closely than ever to one another. It has helped to heal old wounds, certainly. But it also created a new and stronger bond, a divine responsibility all around, each of us for another, to recognize and acknowledge how and who God used as a conduits for His message of love.

So, too, do I feel some responsibility to help ignite a new relationship with my husband’s brother and his husband. This is still a work-in-progress, so its shape is not so very clear. But, baby steps have been taken. They had dinner with us recently and we were all, it seemed, surprised and delighted that we were able to laugh and share stories and to genuinely enjoy our time together.

He is outspokenly atheist, but both he and his husband asked our opinion of our new Pope. And they listened respectfully as we discussed our warm feelings for Pope Francis and our deepening faith. It doesn’t seem like much yet, but it’s a start. And it was an answer to my prayers.

I’m willing to follow in baby steps, or maybe even better, get on my knees and crawl, if our Lord will only lead us and put the right words in our mouths.

There’s more learning required, more work to do — “I’m coming, Lord.

But, for now, just a moment to give thanks for the wonderful grace of being aware of His lessons and blessings so far.

Thank you Lord.

Meditation 7 – How do you lead?

Confide to Me your failures; I will show you the cause. Whom do you wish to see interested in your work? I am the Master of all hearts, My child, and I lead them gently where I please. I will place about you those who are necessary to you; never fear!

Failures…me? Please! (Editor Angel – Oh boy…this is could be a challenge!)

This task is either really easy…as in, ‘failures? what failures? Those little missteps were just necessary learning points along the way, right? Or really hard…as in, do you have all day?

Let’s see if I can break it down some. In this context failures, like forgetting someone’s name or being late to an appointment, while distressing at the time possibly, fall into the ‘relatively trivial’ basket.

Stepping up the scale a bit, I would call my ignoring God for so long a failure. I repented of this long ago, though, and have strong sense that God has forgiven me. That we’ve moved on. Plus, this failure mostly only affected me. Or, did it?

My failures of greater concern these days are those that might have hurt others in the past, or that personal demon that might still have some potential to threaten harm to others, now or in the future. These failures are those where I, in my ignorance or self-interest, may have led someone else astray or influenced them to make choices that were wrong or sinful in any way.

I think this is a burden we all bear, often without knowing or appreciating how important our behavior or our words are in another’s world, how much effect they might have on another’s decisions.

Might the strength of a young person’s personality or charisma encourage other young people to go out and party rather than to stay home study for an upcoming exam? What impression might the otherwise successful, fun-loving, articulate professional, who chooses divorce and the single life, make on another person struggling with marital challenges. How might a parent’s behavior, the example they offer day-in an day-out, affect their children? Or the children of their friends? Or the friends of their children?

These all fall into the ‘leadership’ bucket and are of continuing concern as we mature and grow into the person God intended us to be.

Chris Lowney in his new book,  Pope Francis, Why He Leads the Way He Leads, rightly asserts that all of us are called to be leaders

…whether we live that call as chief executives, parents, or, who knows, as someday a pope.

He says in order to lead we to need to be comfortable in our own skin.

Know who you are, the good and the bad. And find the courage not just to be yourself, but the best version of yourself. These are the foundations of self-leadership, and all leadership starts with self-leadership because you can’t lead the rest of us if you can’t lead yourself, if you haven’t done the work to know who you are.”

So, it’s these failures — failures of self-leadership, failures to realize (or to care about?) the critical roles we might be playing in others’ lives — that I would confide in God. Begging His forgiveness. Seeking His redemption.

Meditation 5 – Pray for us

Have you no plans to interest you? Tell Me all about them. Do they concern your vocation? What do you think of? What would you like? Are you planning some pleasure for your mother, for your family, for your guardian? What do you wish to do for them?

This fifth mediation before the blessed Sacrament made me oddly uncomfortable. Do I have plans about which I’m concerned? Some event I’m planning for family?

I found I didn’t want to think about it. I moved instead to clean some dishes left over from an earlier dinner with friends and put them away. I noticed the silver probably needed to be cleaned and polished it before the next weekend’s company. I fixed myself a cup of coffee and began reading others’ blog postings, hoping for some inspiration. I re-read the meditation once or twice and began a couple of sentences about something that seemed mostly unrelated.

And then it struck me.

Well, yes, I do have an upcoming event that concerns me…that dinner party next weekend. And no, I have not yet asked for God to take my apprehensions into His care. In one part of my mind I uncharitably figure God’s to blame for getting me into this situation to begin with. (Editor Angel – Oh, dear!)

A bit of back story will probably help. Even as I write, I can feel my own resistance to the whole subject. How to describe this? (Editor Angel – Stop this procrastinating, Just write; edit later!)

My husband and I have been estranged for several years from his brother. There wasn’t anything in particular that prompted the estrangement — no triggering argument or incident. Just years of this sort of competition of wills.

Just one example: An atheist, my brother-in-law nonetheless always participated in our family Christmas and Easter gatherings, especially after their father passed and their mother was most-often with us for the holidays.

For several Christmases he would decorate the tops of his gifts to us and our children with little rubber ducks. Potentially cute, but instead of the yellow, smiling duckies that we all remember fondly from our childhood, his rubber duckies would be red and black, sporting a devious smile and devil horns. Better yet, they came in varying sizes, so my pre-teen daughter at the time could make little families out of them.

Whoopee! I had a choice of being a wet blanket or acquiescing in a pretty aggressive, but non-verbal tug-of-war in my own home.

The duckies quietly disappeared.

After their mother passed a few years ago, it just didn’t seem we had enough in common to bother getting together with him and his partner. It was a relief for me, actually, to be able to forgo gatherings, where I would have to work to avoid being pulled down by the undercurrent of tension that always seemed to threaten.

So, I guess my resistance is laced with equal parts guilt and simmering righteous indignation. Even I can detect the not-so-latent hostility I’m still carrying around.

As I have been called over the last year to a different level of commitment to Christ, though, I have felt a need, if not yet a desire, to make more of an effort. One minister I heard preach years ago said God has given certain of our family members to us as sandpaper gifts; they’re there to help smooth our rough edges. Still, I don’t know if a real relationship is possible or even a good idea.

But, maybe he’s evolved somehow over the last couple of years. Maybe my prayers for him and his partner to be touched by God have found some traction. Or maybe we can enjoy a simple evening just discussing our favorite new recipes, how all the kids are doing, our travel plans for the year, our favorite new books. Safe topics. Non-personal topics. Maybe.

But, is there something further I would pray for if I had real, honest-to-goodness faith that God was a mighty God, capable of any and all things?

I know I can’t give up God in order to satisfy my brother-in-law, so I guess I could pray for Him to take all of us and our relationships into His care and to show us His way. To make us a miracle.

Oddly (maybe), this following prayer was what I wrote at the beginning of this reflection, those words that I earlier didn’t think were related to this topic:

Our God — father, brother, companion — who walks with us, sits next to us, patiently awaiting our attention, who is always available to comfort and guide and protect us, who understands our humanity — hold my hand. Lead me. Steady my steps when I falter. Strengthen my heart when fear and anxiety creep in. Help me to know Your love so fully that I cannot keep it in.

I’d appreciate your prayers for us this week, too, as we all prepare for this upcoming visit. (Editor Angel: There now. Was that so difficult? Well, yes, actually, I feel just a bit naked, all things being equal!)

Meditation 4 – Bless us to Your purpose

Today’s meditation, the fourth from the Catholic “Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament,” says:

Do not hesitate to ask for the good of your body – for health, for memory, for success. I can give you everything, and I always give when the gifts make souls more holy. What do you want today, My child? Oh, if you knew how I long to do you good!

I find as I’ve gotten older that my prayers for myself are more often for others — children, parents, siblings, children, friends, children, our soldiers, the poor, children (Editor angel – okay, we get the point! You’re a mother and a worrier!).

My first thought here, especially, with regard to my prayers for our children, is that their well-being is directly related to my well-being. So when I pray for them, my prayers are pulling double duty and helping both of us. When I put their care into God’s hands, I can often quit worrying about outcomes. My time and my energy — sometimes, my sanity! — are eased; the time required for other responsibilities in my life is more productive.

I’ve been blessed with exceptional health so far and as I near retirement, my career success is mostly what it’s going to be. Thank You, Father!

What I have talked with God about, long and often, in the last year is for guidance in how I might “re-purpose” myself now that my children are mostly grown and work work is slowing down. There’s a whole baby-boom generation, I imagine, asking themselves a similar question: “what now?”

I’ve asked how I might use my gifts for doing something pleasing to God. This blog is part of the plan He and I devised together a few months back.

Now that it’s getting underway, I pray I remember who’s in charge; I pray for His guidance, that He will whisper the right words — heck, I ask Him for the right thoughts — to express here. This whole effort would be kind of the ultimate plagiarism, if I were to take credit for it. None of these ideas or words is mine. Or, at least, I pray that I can get myself and my ego out of the way, so He might have clear passage, a blank page to speak to others through me in this space.

Wow! And EVERY time I say something like that I feel so incredibly arrogant, so very unworthy to be considered by God for a task so important.

And yet, here we are, me and God, working together to tell others how very much He loves them; how He wants them to accept His love; how much He wants them to grow closer to Him. Because, He reminds me over and over again, it’s not about being good enough or smart enough or worthy enough. I’m not. We’re not.

But, God is. And He’s ready to bless us and our work and make it good. We only have to be willing.