If God is everywhere equally present, then…

He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, St Ignasius, and countless others, past and present, tell us how and where to find God, to hear His directions and desires for our lives.

This morning I was reading Nouwen’s book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. In today’s passages he was discussing finding God in the books that we read and in nature.  These venues can be especially helpful, often making it easier for us to hear His voice, see His beauty, feel His presence, taste and savor His many blessings on our lives.

Still, another message hit me as I read. As clearly and as demandingly as if it were flashing in neon atop a tall billboard I was struck by the certainty that:

If God is everywhere equally present, then He can be found, felt…perceived in any place.

If God is everywhere equally present, as I believe and have been taught, then, simply being conscious of Him in our midst is the key … and the challenge.

No matter where we are, who we’re with, what is occurring, God is there. Walking down the street, on a treadmill at the gym, on a forest path, along the water, in a line at the grocery store, driving down the road.

To be sure, some places are more conducive to feeling our Lord’s presence, but He’s everywhere, just waiting for us to join Him in His holy purpose. Waiting for us to walk with Him along the way He has planned for us. Waiting for us to acknowledge His presence with us.

No matter the circumstances of our surroundings — whether beautiful, natural, sanctified and holy; or man-made full of industry and technology, metallic maybe, full of cold hard surfaces, filled with loud noisy people of all sizes and shapes; or even places polluted, foul, and rank with the discarded, the misused, the abused — He’s there, waiting for us to beckon to Him, waiting for us to cry out to Him maybe, that Now is the time we need to draw near to Him.

Our first steps toward Him may be shaky and feeble, but as with any new endeavor, practice helps us remember Him more and more often. We will soon learn to call upon and recall those ways and places where we discovered Him earlier. Deep in our hearts we remember the warm blessing of His love as He showered it upon us. We remember (or maybe realize for the first time) that He was with us no matter where we were or what we were doing. We remember over and over again, if we are searching for Him, that He is constantly sending us messages – through the words of people we encounter, the material we read, the sites and sounds that draw our attention. He’s there loving us, waiting to participate in close relationship with us every minute throughout our day.

How did I deserve such goodness, I wonder?

That’s easy. I didn’t. I don’t.

He is simply there for me – for each of us – waiting to bless us, waiting to take each part of us, no matter how broken, or even fetid it may be, and wash it clean. With His blood He prepares and purifies us to be His, so that we may become a blessing to share with others.

Meditation 10 – Make me worthy to be called a friend

Are there about you friends who seem less kind than formerly, who neglect you through indifference or forgetfulness, without your having consciously done anything to wound them? Pray for them, and I will restore them to you, if their companionship is good for you.

For me this might just as easily read, ‘Are there about you friends to whom you have been less kind than formerly, whom you’ve neglected through indifference or forgetfulness, without their having done anything to wound you? Pray for them, pray for their forgiveness and I will restore them to you, if your companionship is good for them.

The list is long one — if I’m really honest with all the possibilities — of all those throughout my life to whom I’m indebted, from whom I received some gift, to whom I owe some level of gratitude. If they didn’t try hard enough to hold onto my hand — to our relationship — how much responsibility is theirs alone? How much blame do I share for having not been present and available, cognizant and caring. How much better might I have listened to their story, rather than relating and reveling only in my own?

If they moved on to greener pastures, what did they leave behind? Just a dry and barren field? Or was our relationship like a grasping viney jungle, overwrought, humid, strangling, preventing all but the very strongest to reach the light?

You know their names, Father. Bless each of them with Your loving grace. And in the fullness of time, if Your way for each us should cause us to meet again, make me worthy to be named their friend. Amen.

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.

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.

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.