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Sacred Moments

Sitting on the love seat with my mom; we talk about her fears for the future … whether she will have more strokes; whether she will suffer cancer the way her mother did; how long she will be able to live independently.

She lays her head on my lap, like a child.

She tells me I really don’t know how much she loves me. I tell her that I love her, too, and that we’re blessed to have this time together.

We sit like this, her head on my lap, for a long time, neither hurrying to leave.

Sacred moments.

The Fulfillment of All Desire

I’m not even through the first chapter yet and already I want to quote it, to ponder it, to drink it in.

The book is The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. He writes about how we all tend to think there will be a better time later on … that we are too busy, the circumstances too difficult, that now is not the right time … to draw closer to God.

“What really holds us back from a wholehearted response to the call of Jesus … of the repeated urgings of the Spirit, is not really the external circumstances of our lives, but the interior sluggishness of our hearts. We need to be clear that there will never be a better time or a better set of circumstances than now to respond wholeheartedly to the call of holiness. Who knows how much longer we’ll be alive on this earth? We don’t know how long we’ll live or what the future holds. Now is the acceptable time. The very things we think are obstacles are the very means God is giving us to draw us to depend more deeply on Him.”

I love that, and the quote He uses from Isaiah 35:8-9 to encourage us to begin the journey:

“A highway will be there
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.”

I am eagerly on my journey, LORD. Teach me the path, show me the way.

It still amazes me when God gives me new understanding – usually in an instant – of something that I’ve heard a zillion times in my life before.

As I prepared for daily mass this week, I mentally placed each of my loved ones on the altar. I do this because I know we can join our prayers, petitions and offerings to the priests’ as he consecrates the bread and wine.

Then it happened – I heard the priests’ prayer with new ears and understanding in that moment:

Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you:
by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,
that they may become the Body and + Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ
at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.

The gifts I offered were my loved ones … and right there on the altar, we prayed that they may become the body and blood of Christ.

Isn’t that my prayer for them every day – that they love Him and seek Him and enter into that wonderful love relationship with Him? And when they do, they join to Him and become the body of Christ.

And there it was, on the altar, with the literal body and blood that we shared at communion.

I am ever in awe of our God.

 

I often ponder all of the beautiful, wonderful people God has placed in my life from the day of my birth. As God has shown me the power and the importance of prayer, He has led me to feel a great and very joyful obligation to pray for many of them by name each day. I feel that in a way, He has entrusted them to me and the best thing I can do for them is to pray for them and place them right back into His holy care, knowing and believing and trusting that He will answer my most heartfelt prayers for them. And those prayers are both simple and impossible for anyone but God – that He forgive our sins and leads us into everlasting life.

Imagine my surprise as I was reading The Story of a Soul, written by St. Therese of Lisieux, and found that in her life, God had shown her the same thing. I was given wonderful, deeper insight as she expanded on this, teaching me and sharing her Wisdom, written over a century ago!

I have read and re-read the following paragraph many times this week, pondering and excited by what it is saying to me.

“One day, after Holy Communion, He made me understand these words of the Canticles¹: ‘Draw me: we will run after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments.’ O my Jesus, there is no need to say: ‘In drawing me, draw also the souls that I love’: these words, ‘Draw me,’ suffice. When a soul has let herself be taken captive by the inebriating odour of Thy perfumes, she cannot run alone; as a natural consequence of her attraction towards Thee, the souls of all those she loves are drawn in her train. Just as a torrent carries into the depths of the sea all that it meets on its way, so, my Jesus, does the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Thy Love bring with it all its treasures.  My treasures are the souls it has pleased thee to unite with mine; Thou has confided them to me, and therefore I do not fear to use Thy own words, uttered by Thee on the last night that saw Thee still a traveler on this earth. Jesus, my Beloved!”

St. Therese then proceeds to use this passage from John 17 … using Jesus’ own words for His disciples … to pray for the souls God has entrusted to her prayerful care! I found it amazing and wonderful and I will be returning to this many times, I’m sure, as I ponder this and grow in understanding.

6 “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
8 because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,
10 and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.
11 And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
16 They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m
22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,
23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
26 I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

¹Song of Songs, 1:3 or 4, depending on the version

One Word, 2014

Several years ago I was listening to KLove radio and heard them talking about praying about “one word” that God would give to you for the upcoming year. I liked that idea and have remembered it. One year my word was “dance;” another year it was “abide.”

As I was reflecting this morning, God gave me a word for 2014: Peace.

What wonderful timing for me … peace is exactly what I need this morning as I struggle against tears, missing my children who live so far away. Peace is something the LORD has been teaching me, that deep-rooted sense of Him in all of the areas of my life. And more than that, Peace is a place to which He has brought me.

I know there will be challenges to this peace interiorly and exteriorly … but the LORD is my gentle Shepherd. And for 2014, I am grateful that the word given to me is Peace.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

A Chip in my Nails

I look at my nails this morning. Less than 24 hrs. ago I had my first manicure and now my nails are rich in color, smooth, shiny, and perfect … except for one small chip. Nine out of 10, perfect; the 10th with a flaw.

I think I like it that way. It’s such a reflection of my life. The last 3 months have been a whirlwind of great blessings:

Emily visited for 6 weeks while doing a pharmacy rotation. We have always been close, but living so far apart creates distance in a relationship, too. It was wonderful to have her here, to see her dressed each morning for work in a cute outfit, to linger over a meal and talk about anything and everything, to receive advice from her, and to hear about the hopes and dreams and plans she shares with her husband. This wonderful young woman is my friend and I treasured every moment.

Joe has been here almost 2 weeks, his girlfriend Amber a week. I’d met her only briefly before and it’s been great to spend time with her, get to know her, to see her and Joe as a couple. I like her a lot. He has been on a roll, hardly stopping to sleep as he visits friends, shows Amber the sights, talks about football and work and politics. To cap off his visit, he learned yesterday that he passed the first (and hardest) test on his path to being a licensed architect. He arrived for the holidays absolutely certain he had failed the test; he will leave motivated and excited to keep pressing toward his goal.

Having both of them home has given me more time with Mitch, too. Though he lives here, he works and goes to school and has one of the bedrooms set up with his tv and computer – a den where he studies and relaxes, an introvert like me. But he has spent more time hanging out with the family, laughing and debating and making us laugh with his offbeat sense of humor. No longer “the little kid” but a man who is easy-going, kind, funny. His eyes glistened with tears that he tried to hold back as he hugged Emily good-bye. What a beautiful moment and blessing for me to witness.

Mark and I were recently able to buy a piece of ground, realizing one of Mark’s dearest dreams. 80 acres – half timber for hunting, half crop ground to cash rent. We looked at a house for sale near the ground; it wasn’t quite right but we are keeping our eyes open and making plans together. It feels good to have moved closer to each other again in our marriage and to have some new plans and hopes for the future.

Like my new manicure, my life right now feels rich in color, smooth, shiny, new. But it won’t stay that way and even at its best it isn’t perfect. The glow of our time together will fade and there will always be chips. They are the inevitable trials of living in a fallen world; the veil that hangs between this life and the next; the separation I feel from my real home, my eternal home.

This life can never be perfect, but it can be very beautiful. And the chips aren’t flaws or something to avoid – they are necessary too.  God Himself will fill them in, clear them out, change the color, and re-do them as He wills. Sometimes ragged, sometimes nearly perfect; always worth pondering both the perfection and the flaws.

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 

 

Every time I read the book of Nehemiah, I am deeply moved by chapter 8. After long years in exile, the Israelites have been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. When the hard work has been completed:

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. In the square in front of the Water Gate, Ezra read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.

They were so hungry to hear the Word of God again! It moved them to tears … it moves me to tears to imagine what it felt like for them!

This morning, I also noticed something familiar in their gatherings. In chapter 8, they are told:

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not lament, do not weep!”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He continued: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!” And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Silence! Today is holy, do not be saddened.” Then all the people began to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been explained to them.”

Immediately following this event, chapter 9 tells us:

On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites gathered together while fasting and wearing sackcloth, their heads covered with dust. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all who were of foreign extraction, then stood forward and confessed their sins and the guilty deeds of their ancestors. When they had taken their places, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God, for a fourth of the day, and during another fourth they made their confession and bowed down before the LORD their God.

A time for great joy, a time for confessing our sins and for repentance.

Sometimes it seems people focus on one at the expense of the other. Some refuse to acknowledge a need for repentance; others only focus on sin.

I have needed both … during my dark time, I learned what a freeing gift the sacrament of reconciliation can be; how healing it is to take time to honestly reflect on my thoughts and actions and to confess my sins.

At the same time, I learned the truth of 8:10 – “rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!” When I am struggling, I find that praising God and thanking Him turns my heart and mind and mood around faster than anything else … it truly is my strength!

Joy and repentance … each has its place, each has its time, each is a wonderful gift from God to help us to balance in our walk with Him.

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