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.

Meditation 2 – Pray for the poor, the sick and the wretched

Today’s meditation is on praying for others, many of whom you may not know, many of whom you may not see anymore:

Tell me about the poor whom you want to help, the sick whom you have seen suffer, the sinner whom you would convert, the persons who are alienated from you, and whose affections you wish to win back. For all recite a fervent prayer that comes from the heart; and surely the prayers are heartfelt which we say for those whom we love, and who love us.*

I was shopping today, walking beside, in front of, behind hundreds of people. So many were frail or burdened by their health in one way or another. At one point I thought to help one woman unload her cart in order to check out. I hesitated, wondering if my assistance would be welcomed, or if it would make her feel small, or as though I was impatient with her and her frailness. My hesitation saddened me. But, the Lord must have been watching. Along came an angel clerk, who helped her put all her things on the conveyor belt. Praise God.

Still, she was one who was able to afford to purchase her foods and other items. What about those whose lives are so barren of resources that they must beg or ask for charity or, worse, those who find their lives so shredded that they are driven to sell or give away their bodies, in order to survive? Lord, strengthen them and heal their lives and their hearts. Give them your loving protection, that the core of who they are, the reality of their being, the child in them still, that is Yours and loved unconditionally by You, is insulated from evil and harm.

I prayed today for all my family and friends, but I’ve been spending some special time lately talking with God about several who have fallen away from the church and from God. I can tell from a distance that He has answered my prayers already in a couple of cases.

One friend told me of having listened to a CD of gospel music that she especially enjoyed. Another mentioned that she and her husband went to Christmas Eve services at a local church. I give thanks for this encouragement. I lift these two and others up to God, praying that He will beckon to them, call them by name, ask them to be one of His own. And, I ask that He help them to soften their hearts to His call.

But what of those friends or family who are alienated from me or from one another. What of those ones whom I can’t see or talk with or reach out to. I pray for them to come to know Our Father more fully and to be comforted by Him. I pray that my heart be softened toward them if there is enmity on my part. And I place my trust in God that He will hear my prayers and will signal somehow to me, if there is something more, some more tangible way in which I might encourage their faith, that we might be reunited some day in Christ.

Finally, what about those wretched souls, who have so lost their way that evil has consumed them and they call Satan their Lord. Those who have been so consumed by evil that they live hate-filled lives and pass their wretchedness on to others around them — imposing their control over weaker little ones amongst us, innocent ones, many times.

How do I pray for these, Father? Do I ask that You act in Your righteous wrath to smite them? Do I ask that You look deep into their hearts and find those small, hidden places there, which might still be receptive to Your touch? How do I pray, when I do not know what to pray for?

I only know that You know their needs and the needs of their victims. You understand their own victimhood. Act Father, if it is Your will, to give purpose to this pain and suffering, and to draw these poor and wretched souls closer to Your healing grace.

*A Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament, Catholic Church.

Miracle of answered prayer

My daughter caught one of these darn bugs that are going around this winter.

We get particularly concerned about her because these bugs can often trigger her asthma. So, when she called to tell me she was at Urgent Care one Sunday night, I was immediately lifting her up in prayer, asking that God strengthen her systems against the infection.

The UC doctor gave her a prescription that seemed to help a bit at first, but I could still hear her labored breathing as we spoke on the phone. She insisted that her workload didn’t allow her to stay home and rest, or to take time for Urgent Care again. Her regular doctor was booked. As much as I might applaud her work ethic, I worried about her need to take time to care for herself and get well.

Finally, after a couple more days of concern, I stopped and engaged more directly with God, more impeachingly [Editor Angel: is “impeachingly” a word? hmmm, don’t know. It should be.] I acknowledged that I didn’t know what my daughter needed to get well, but that He did…does; that I have no control, no real ability to help, but that He did…does; that all I can do is pray for His help and intervention with her.

Amazingly, (I don’t know why I am continually amazed that God answers my prayers. It is after all, what He said He’d do) within the next few hours, she texted me to say she had remembered a prescription that her regular doctor had given her for just such a situation and that she had begun already to take it.

What causes one faith-filled prayer for healing to be answered and others to seemingly be ignored? I don’t have that answer.

I do know that these everyday acts of healing are some of God’s miracles in my world. Thank you, Lord!

The miracle of feeling awestruck by God’s beauty

Being awestruck by God’s creation involves at least two miracles. The first miracle is the beauty and magnificence of God’s creation.

Spiritbath, in this post “…hello dear universe,”  shared the beautiful Vimeo video from Christian Mulhauser, in which he uses time lapse photography to capture the Milky Way and other scenes from the Island of Maderia.

There are several miracles embedded here that led to my own personal miracle — the miracle of time lapse photography, the circumstances that led Mulhauser to desire to be a photographer, the technology used by internet sites like Vimeo, which allow a photographer to share his work with others around the globe, and Spiritbath’s openness to being awestruck by the beauty captured in Mulhauser’s video.

The miracle I want to reflect on is the miracle of God’s grace that allows us to be awestruck by the beauty His hand has created. I think it’s under-appreciated.

When I read the header on Spiritbath’s blog post I originally clicked through to the video thinking, “I know what this is going to be. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but don’t have time for looking at this sort of thing today.”

Earlier in the morning I had prayed that God would grant me the grace to recognize His hand working in my life, to see those small everyday miracles, which can change one’s outlook.

Without really thinking all this through consciously I realized somehow that I might as well have been thinking, “I don’t feel like being touched by God right now.”  [Editor Angel: You don’t FEEL like being touched by God?! Really? I thought you were past that kind of behavior? If not now, on a weekend at the beginning of a new year, when you’re essentially on vacation…then WHEN?! ]

Hmmm, and so it goes. So here I am, down on my knees begging God’s forgiveness…for what? My lack of appreciation? My faithlessness? My laziness? And yet, doesn’t life roll like this sometimes?

Everyday we have a choice about how and whether we allow God to touch our hearts.

As I watched Mulhauser’s video, I felt my own heart softening, my spirit lifting. And, as though, the sun was shining down, I felt His warmth wash over and through me.

What a blessing. What a miracle of grace to feel awestruck by God’s beauty.

Thank You, Lord. And, thank you Spiritbath and Mulhauser and Vimeo.

Discerning Advent

I have just recently discovered this webblog and want to pass it along. The Ignatian steps in discernment are especially helpful in making important decisions. Blogger Andy Otto lists these exercises for discerning the best path:

  • Logical: Draw up a list of pros and cons for each choice and see which one seems to make more sense logically.

  • Imagine: Place yourself before God or Jesus and tell him you’ve made one decision over the other. How does he react? What does he say? Separately, do the same with the other choice.

  • Gut: Picture yourself committing to one decision. What feelings arise? Make a note of these and then do the same with the other choice.

  • Pretend: Try living with one of the choices for a few days, as if you’ve really committed to it mentally. Note in a journal how it was. Then go another few days as if you’ve committed to the other choice.

I have tried each of these at one time or another and can attest to their effectiveness. There’s only one additional step I often take in making important decisions. Since I often feel ambivalence in many of my most important decisions, I try always to pray a prayer that goes something like this:

‘Heavenly Father, I know that You love  me and want only those things for me that are good and that bring me closer to You. Please take the outcome of this current situation (and I name it) into Your care. If it is good and a path that You will bless, please give me certainty and confidence in Your will. If it is not a way You would choose for me at this time, please sweep away all possibility of its happening so that I will have no lingering doubt or care.

I love you, Father, and want only to do You will. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.’

God In All Things

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
(Luke 1:28)

We know God desires to shine a light into our world and into our hearts. There’s hope, somewhere. Through the darkness a light begins to shine. Thomas Merton describes this glimmer of hope:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by…

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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.

God’s Lost and Found

For years I have gone to God when I’d lose stuff…keys (top contender, by far), earring-backs, books, files…nothing terribly important in the whole scheme of things, but stuff I needed at one particular moment in order for my life to continue to run smoothly.

The way it started is kind of embarrassing, actually. I wasn’t yet familiar in any personal way with God. I’d been taught about God in broad strokes as a child and a young adult, but most of this early learning was just so many words with no personal experiences to which I could attach them.

Along the circuitous way that I’d traveled in my search for God (Editor Angel – Ahem, you had no idea at that point what you were looking for. I was there, remember?), I sought out and met a couple of times with a fortuneteller. That’s what we called her, anyway.

Her name was Dolly. She only met with people who came to her based on the recommendation of previous client. She lived simply and referred to herself as a mystic. She said her ability of Sight, as she called it, was God-given. (Honestly, I wasn’t far enough along at this point to appreciate or care much one way or the other where her ability came from as long as it worked.)

If there was ever an example of God finding us wherever we are, I’m it. (Really, Lord? I search for a fortuneteller and You just get in line?)

Anyway, it was Dolly who suggested a book to me, The Mystic to Cosmic Power by Vernon Howard, which prompted me to find lost items in the way I’m about to describe. I gave my copy away a long time ago, but I remember that somewhere in it there was a suggestion for how to appeal to a high power (the forces of the universe…?) for help. I don’t recall the suggestion using the word “prayer.” But when I made my first appeal for help in finding a gold earring-back that I’d just dropped into the carpet somewhere near or around my feet, that’s what it felt like. I remember thinking “What the heck. What can I lose by just trying this?”

First I closed my eyes and became quiet, then I visualized my earring-back and then I asked for help in seeing it with the sight of the One who could see everything.

Then, BAM, I opened my eyes, gave them a minute to refocus on the carpet and sure enough, there it was. Just like magic, I thought.

Over the years since, I’ve imagined that a VERY patient and long-suffering Lord knew I was open to belief, but needed some sort of small demonstration of His presence.

I never really believed in magic. I just didn’t have other explanations at the time. I’ve since revised this act into a real live prayer, complete with first acknowledging God’s authority and hand in all things; asking Him to give me His sight to see where I’ve left some object. Then, I remind Him that He promised us that anything we ask for in Christ’s name will be given us (this feels a little like a small child saying, “You said You would. You promised!”…but then, to God we are all small children. So pride, deftly set aside, I continue). Finally, I thank Him in advance for His help.

That’s it. I try to keep it simple since I don’t know enough to make it complicated. I can’t remember a time that that prayer hasn’t yielded exactly what I asked. Normally within the next hour…often during the next few minutes…I will have found whatever it is I was looking for.

I use this prayer primarily when all my frustrated attempts to find some trivial item have failed, though every once in a while I’ll pray something similar when one of our children or someone close is looking for a job or a new direction. (The little devil on my shoulder periodically whispers in my ear to pray it and then go buy a couple of lottery tickets. I ignore him.)

But it was only this morning that it occurs to me that I could pray this prayer for those times when I might lose sight of God in my life. (Note to self: Write this down somewhere so if you get depressed, you’ll have a reminder for where to turn. Note back to self: That’s what I’m doing!!!)

I don’t know how effective it would be to pray it for others who either lost sight of God, or never had Him in their sight – their free will can still thwart – but God knows. He can see not only where these others are in their journey; how far from or close to Him they are. He can also see the resources that He might best use to get their attention; to get them to see Him and His love for them; or, if that’s too big a ticket for the first step, He’ll know whether a gentle tap on the shoulder will make them turn to Him, or whether it will take a Mac truck to move them. He’ll know. He knows. And what we ask for in Christ’s name will be given.

So, the point, I guess, of this rambling is: If you’ve lost something, pray. Ask for God’s help in finding it. Then watch to see what happens. Then pray a prayer of thanks for His help.

Pray for little things – God enjoys pleasing us, especially when we pay attention to see how He answers our prayers. And He loves our gratitude when we remember to thank Him and credit His awesome power.

Pray for big things – He has a plan for each of us that is so much better than any plan we might construct for ourselves. He’s patiently waiting for us to understand, name, and ask for our deepest desires – either lost or not known, then He will fulfill them to the top an overflowing.

Pray for others who are lost – their free will and pride and arrogance can pose mighty barriers to His love, but our prayers are mighty as well. They both demonstrate our faith in God and, when we pay attention to see the answers to our prayers, they help build our own faith.

I may never know how my prayers work in the lives of others, but as my prayers are answered in my own life and in the lives of people I can witness personally, I know – with a certainty born of an increasingly stronger faith – that they are working to bless others whose lives I don’t see.

What is lost in our world is not lost to God. He knows where everything is and He knows how to lead us to find our heart’s desire (and our keys, praise God). Most of all He knows where each of us is and what we need in order to find Him. It’s all there – including God – just for the asking.