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Stages

My mom used to say she wished teenagers could understand that high school isn’t the whole world. She wished that they really grasped that whatever happened in those brief years isn’t their entire life.

I wish more people understood that this life, too, is only a stage … a stepping stone into the next life.

We all begin in our mother’s womb; nine months of specific types of growth and formation. Just so is the time we spend on this earth. However long we have, it is just a stepping stone – time spent growing and being formed.

Most of us see this life as our “one shot.” But how differently would we chose to live it, if we really considered the next life … eternal life? Would people ever fall into deep despair and commit suicide if they saw this life as temporary and had hope for what is yet to come? Would we focus so intently on money and power and careers and the “things” of this world? Would we hoard our goods and our time for ourselves … or would we be more generous, sharing and helping each other move from this life to the next?

There is such a bigger picture for us to see if only we pause and ponder it. There is something greater here – something worth struggling toward. I recently heard a reflection that noted God’s presence and love is much like the sunshine that completely encompasses a house. But we, inside the house, must freely choose to open the windows and let the sunshine stream in … or shutter them tightly, pretending that the sunshine does not exist.

Seek what is above, where Christ is seated
at the right hand of God. Think of what is above,
not of what is on earth.

Oh, how I wish my dearest loved ones would throw open the windows and seek. That is what, truly, is most important.

Tidbits

I think today I just feel like writing disconnected odds & ends.

  1. A few weekends ago I attended my second Christ Our Life conference in Des Moines. It is AMAZING to sit in Wells Fargo Arena, filled with Catholic brothers and sisters, and hear all those voices raised in the “Alleluia” at mass. I especially enjoyed hearing Cardinal Dolan and Father Larry Richards speak – they were wonderful!
  2. It’s a little strange though – in a way the conference filled me UP and re-energized me. In another way, as I sat there in that enormous crowd I felt very alone people-wise. I had traveled there alone and didn’t know anyone else attending.  I love the very personal way God walks with me and leads me and teaches me … but wow, I sure miss having one friend in my life with whom to talk about God and our faith, with whom to pray. Within my own family I have to take care to temper my enthusiasm, to tone it down so I don’t come off “preachy” or like the “church lady” because it sets off defensive reactions in others whom I love so dearly. I don’t ever want to push them away from God nor be a stumbling block. And so in some ways, I am very lonely in this earthly life.
  3. I’ve started through the Bible again … fourth time. The first time I read through it I was so full of “WOW!”s as I saw scripture unfold in order and in context. The second time was also filled with many “aha!” moments as new things stood out to me. By now, while the Holy Spirit still reveals new insights to me, it is less of a new, exciting, exploring love … and more of a comforting, familiar, mature love.
  4. I so treasure my time in the quiet reading scripture and praying, that I’ve decided to give a Bible to each of my nieces and nephews with their names on the front. I don’t think any of them will be particularly excited about it, but then again I was in my 40s before I started reading scripture on my own. It is my hope and prayer that they will receive it knowing it was given with great love and many prayers for them, and that some day it may be a blessing to them when they need it most.
  5. This morning in Genesis 9 I found it interesting that God told Noah, “Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants.” I’ve heard people say that man was vegetarian in the beginning … I see now where they get that and the footnotes in my Bible agree that is the case. Earlier, Abel was noted as a keeper of flocks; I guess the flocks were used for wool and milk, but not as food. There are no animals designated “clean” nor “unclean” at this time; that comes later with Moses.
  6. I’ve been reflecting a lot on “where I am” spiritually and I see clearly the things God has taught me, the trials He has brought me through, the great blessings He has poured out into my life. And I can see some of my path ahead – ways He is using me to help others and new things He is preparing me for. It’s all such an exciting, wonderful, hope-filled journey with Him.

I am so very blessed.

Attitude Adjustment

I’ve written before of the verse God gave to me the day before my dad died, and how close it has been to my heart ever since, even becoming my “life verse:”

16 Rejoice always.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5)

I’ve had many opportunities to share it with others undergoing trials and it does seem to be popping up more often lately as people face great struggles in their own lives.

This morning I read a passage that dovetailed beautifully with it; something more for me to ponder in harmony with that passage:

7 Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
8 If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.
9 Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?
10 They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness.
11 At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
12 So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
13 Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. (Hebrews 12)

I like how this tells me to view my trials not as punishment, but as discipline. Though painful, if I look at discipline as a sort of training for my own benefit, it helps me to endure it a little easier and to look for both the blessings and for the lessons I may glean while I am in the midst of trials.

This is important to me because as I reflect back in my life I see how I used to avoid trials as much as possible – lamenting when they came upon me and struggling against them – instead of looking to God within them. I can see how giving me the verse from Thessalonians on the eve of my father’s death, God has given me an attitude adjustment, and how He has given me a new way to look at what I am experiencing.

My God knows me so intimately; He knows this is effective with me. It may not be the most effective with others and I believe and trust that He is also drawing and teaching my loved ones in ways that they best hear and respond to our Shepherd’s voice.

I am so grateful for my attitude adjustment, and knowing that it is meant to help me someday share in His holiness. Wow!!!

 

 

 

An Extraordinary Spirit

Reading Daniel chapter 6, Daniel had risen to a place of power under the king. Verses 4-6 reveal:

“Daniel outshone all the ministers and satraps because an extraordinary spirit was in him, and the king considered setting him over the entire kingdom. Then the ministers and satraps tried to find grounds for accusation against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could not accuse him of any corruption. Because he was trustworthy, no fault or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said to themselves, ‘We shall find no grounds for accusation against this Daniel except in connection with the law of his God.’”

They proceeded to concoct a way to entrap Daniel and this led to the well-known story of Daniel in the lion’s den.

But I am fascinated by the three verses I just quoted.

An “extraordinary spirit” was in Daniel. Jesus sent to us the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Isn’t there an extraordinary Spirit within me, guiding and granting Wisdom just as it did for Daniel?

Can you imagine how cool it would be if we were found so trustworthy, with no fault or corruption to be found in us, that the world had to concoct a way to entrap us? What if the only to accuse us, would be in connection with the law of our Father?

Jesus told us the world would hate us. I pray that if it will hate me, it is in connection with the law of my God. That if it will hate me and concoct a way to accuse me, I not be afraid and follow the world but rather am brave enough to go against the world, worship my God even if I were to be thrown to lions.

Please, O LORD, grant me the Wisdom and the courage and an Extraordinary Spirit to follow you always.

 

The Extravagance of God

Sometimes in nature and in scripture I notice the extravagance of God.

Some commentaries point out that in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-8), we see a certain extravagance of God. He isn’t cautious nor sparing about sowing the seed, nor does He save it for only the most choice locations. He scatters it generously, giving every opportunity for it to take root and grow.

Today I was reading Daniel and saw extravagance again. Here Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were to be thrown into a fiery furnace stoked to be “seven times hotter” than normal. It was so hot that Daniel 3:22 says, “So huge a fire was kindled in the furnace that the flames devoured the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it.”

That’s hot!

If you aren’t familiar with the story you might well guess that the three are not burned up in the fire. But not only are their lives spared by the protection of God, they enjoy a certain extravagance in their rescue.

Daniel 3:49-50: “But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm.”

No discomfort whatsoever. Rather, it was like a “dew-laden breeze.” I imagine that to desert-dwellers, a dew-laden breeze would always feel extravagant, a heavenly treat. And here the three enjoyed it under impossible circumstances, accompanied by the angel of the Lord.

I found that especially beautiful this morning.

 

 

Quiet has taught me

Spending time in the quiet can teach you a lot about yourself.

When I first started Eucharistic Adoration, I quickly learned that being quiet for an entire hour isn’t easy. Not just being physically quiet, but mentally quiet as well.

And more than that, I learned what REALLY is going on inside my head.

I learned that I spend a lot of time “replaying” events … songs I’ve heard, tv and movies I’ve seen, and books I’ve read. I replay conversations, and sometimes imagine arguments or things I “wish” I’d said.

And I learned that none of that noise … none of it … brings me peace. It doesn’t make me a better person. It doesn’t help me to grow in holiness. It doesn’t draw me closer to God. It is nothing more than a very noisy distraction and waste of time.

As I’ve spent more time in the quiet, I’ve found myself watching less tv; being more discerning in what I read; turning off the radio more often. I am more careful about my interactions with people – I don’t want to hear gossip or dwell on judging others. I find myself turning to God in prayer more often, asking Him to help me with my patience and to bless people with whom I may be irritated.

Gradually I’ve found myself more at peace, less troubled by the ugly things that used to race around in my head. I’ve learned it’s easier to fill my mind with things of God, to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Being quiet takes effort, but things of value usually do. The blessings I’ve gained are enormous and I find myself seeking the interior quiet of prayer even when - especially when – I feel physically in the midst of chaos.

Quiet helped me make more room for God, and to be more purposeful in spending time with Him.  I hunger and long to dwell more fully in His presence.

Quiet has taught me.

 

 

 

Sometimes I look at the world and at our country and I feel such disquiet at what I see … man’s inhumanity to man in the forms of war, human trafficking, abortion. My heart cries out for the victims and their suffering.

And my heart cries out in another way for people who are lost, oblivious to the harm they do to their body, mind and soul in so many ways by following the world and “self.”

I guess it’s true that there is nothing new under the sun. I was reading Ezekiel this morning:

… and the LORD said to him: Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it.” (Ezekiel 9:4)

How well-said; how familiar. I, too, grieve and lament over evil; over immorality running rampant and its cost to my fellow human beings; to abominations practiced.

I feel powerless to “stop it” or to make a real difference by my own actions, but neither can I ever become complacent and simply accept it.

No answers today, only lingering sadness.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

**Edit** Because I love God’s timing … later in the day after writing this post, I read a quote. And somehow, it seems to fit.

Every Christ-follower has to realize that we carry a sacred, burning light that is infinitely more powerful than the lies of the enemy. Your light might seem small, but even the smallest act of love can illuminate the shadows. - Josh Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

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