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Reflecting

I ask someone to pray with me; just a small prayer before we eat.

A heavy sigh, silence as I recite the Catholic meal prayer, a quick sign of the cross.

And my heart sinks, then aches. I shouldn’t have asked; I didn’t think it was asking too much but in that moment it must have been. I do try hard to not impose, but it also means so much to me; I can’t tell you how much I desire to share my deep love of Him with those closest to me … with someone, anyone.

But too often, awkward acquiescence.

I think it gives me a glimpse of how God feels when we act purely out of habit, a sense of duty, as an obligation. How does He feel when we remain aloof and distant? When we resist or resent an effort to turn our hearts or minds toward Him for even a moment?

I know what it is to wait and hope someone misses me, thinks of me, makes an effort to call or talk to me. Isn’t that what it’s like for God too?

In Gabrielle Bossis’ book, He and I, God’s longing and waiting for us is described very tenderly, very sweetly. It’s given me a lot to reflect on when my own heart is stung.

It’s been a real blessing to me. I think I should read it again.

 

 

A little story

It’s nearly Christmas.

Candlelight reflects the glitter from a small plastic nativity scene in my prayer corner. On the back are the words, Made in China. On the bottom is a piece of masking tape on which is written:

nativityFrom Mitch
Age 4
1992

One summer my children spent the day with Mark’s three aunts in Pocahontas, Iowa. Never married, the three had lived together all their lives and had taken Mark and his brothers on childhood adventures to various Midwest destinations from the Black Hills to Wisconsin Dells to Kansas City to Dubuque.

Later, our children were the beneficiaries of hours of doting and attention. On this day they went downtown to the Ben Franklin store and each of the kids was given $1 to spend on candy or a little toy.

Mitch found the little glitter nativity scene and asked if it was ok if he bought it for “my mom” and it’s been a treasured Christmas decoration ever since.

Years later as my kids were growing and moving out of the house, I was searching on e-bay and happened find the exact plastic glitter scene like Mitch had given me. I ordered it – it cost $8, though he had paid 75 cents for mine – and put it away with my own.

This was the year I gave it to him. He bought his first home in late November; he and Katie have been busy painting and decorating for Christmas and making it their own.

I look at it in the candlelight and am filled with wonder and awe at what it represents. I don’t even know how to put it into words, exactly, or why I wanted to tell the story except that in spite of my personal struggles and questions I do know that I have been deeply blessed throughout my life, beyond measure and explanation. I don’t know why; I don’t know how I can express my gratitude to such a generous God. I hope my children come to understand how blessed they are as well, and to love and desire the LORD with all of their hearts and minds and souls.

And I pray very sincerely that all people can find a quiet moment to be thankful and to adore the child that came to us; to be grateful for Mary and Joseph saying “yes” to God.

I hope we all appreciate the gestures of love we receive and recognize that sometimes extravagant love is expressed by little plastic glittery figures.

He is both, He is all

The book I’m reading¹ shows Jesus as a very tender, intimate friend.

My scripture reading² last night shows Him as fierce judge, waging war in righteousness with fiery eyes and he himself will “tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty.”

I know Jesus as a tender, personal and intimate friend to whom I can pour out my heart and with whom I can laugh and be filled. I run into our Father’s arms for comfort and protection. I seek the Holy Spirit to guide me, teach me, advise me.

When I read passages about His power and fury and wrath, I wonder if I will be fearful of Him. I wonder if I have created an image of Him that is more in my own mind than it is reality. And I wonder if it’s like a child who experiences her father as very tender and loving at home while his enemies experience him as powerful and destructive on the battlefield.

The Bible depicts Jesus in many distinct, opposite ways:
The lion … and the lamb
The king of kings and lord of lords … and the suffering servant of all
Ruling with a steel rod … and taking care to not break the bruised reed.
He is creator & commander of great clashes of thunder, seas that roar, and quakes that level mountains … as well as fragile flowers, rainbows, and delicate flakes of frost.
God … and man

I think I do need to take care not to create a god in my own image. I can learn much about God by reading the Bible and believing He is everything it says He is, even when I find it fearful and I don’t fully understand what it means. And I also can trust what I know from my relationship with Him … He is indeed my intimate and tender friend, comforter, teacher.

And I think no matter how well I now Him and how close He draws me, I barely know Him at all. He is so much more than any man can fathom or dream.

While I think it’s good to ponder and wrestle with these things sometimes, I still laugh out loud when I think of the passage He gave me one time when I was demanding an answer:

What is too sublime for you, seek not.
Into things beyond your strength, search not.
What is committed to you, attend to;
for what is hidden is not your concern. (Sirach 4:20-22)

¹He and I by Gabrielle Bossis
²Revelation 19:11-16

Sacrifice Unseen

This reflection from today’s Give Us This Day magazine brought me to tears. It seemed a direct and personal Word of comfort and guidance for me from the LORD:

“The Lord addresses His mother in the hour that, for her, is the hardest. She is not unprepared for this hour, but the hour does not therefore weigh any less heavily upon her. For it is now that she gives her beloved Son back to God. She does this in darkness …

“A sacrifice that is performed in full view would not be a Christian sacrifice. If a man renounces some lower good for the sake of some higher one that he knows and has in view, then that is no sacrifice but only a choice between two goods, one of which appears more important than the other.

“But if he renounces some good that he loves in order that God might receive what he desires, then that implies a true sacrifice, because he does not know what form God will give to that which he offers him. The sacrifice lies in surrendering the ability to hold this in view.”

Adrienne von Speyr, The Birth of the Church

It gives me much to ponder.

 

A Moment

It’s been two months since our trip to Portland and the wedding. I wrote description to my friend after we got back:

I had a moment one day when we were walking downtown – all the kids were quite a ways ahead and I was hanging back with Julie (my sister-in-law) who couldn’t keep up. As I watched the kids ahead, I had an overwhelming feeling of being blessed – like a pitcher of water being poured over my head filled with blessings, overflowing.

Suddenly, like a switch, as the kids got further ahead of us and further away, I felt overwhelming sorrow at my loss of them. It’s a little hard to explain but God has gently been removing them from my life for quite a few years now and I’ve learned to surrender them to Him.

But in that moment, I realized He’s not done yet and I have to let go even more. It makes me so sad but Jesus, I trust in You.

I’m still pondering that experience and what it might mean. I don’t suppose I’ll really know until everything unfolds in due time.

But Jesus, I do trust in You. Lord, help my unbelief.

 

Foolishness of the Cross

At daily mass yesterday, Father Secora gave a wonderful homily about the foolishness of the cross vs. the wisdom of the world.

Father said that the message of the cross is essentially this: pouring out our lives for others out of love.

He contrasted two stories from the previous day’s headlines:

The first story reported how the EpiPen – a life-saving prescription for people with known life-threatening allergies – has gone from a cost of $57 in 2007 to almost $700 today. Many low-income people are unable to afford it, though the failure to have one on hand in an emergency could be fatal.  The CEO of the company that makes the EpiPen earns over $19 million a year.

The second story was about two nuns found murdered in Mississippi. Nurse practitioners, they provided medical care to people who could not pay for it in some of the poorest communities in this country. Their medical training would have enabled them to “earn a good living” but instead they dedicated their lives to serving others.

It’s easy to see the application of these two stories to Father’s definition of “the message of the cross.”

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.

Where is the wise one?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? (From 1 Cor:1)

 

 

 

 

A jumbled mess

As I try to sort through this jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings, I’m struck by how connected two opposites are: my greatest blessings are also my greatest struggles.

I truly, honestly know how deeply and greatly blessed I am. I feel deep gratitude to God for the blessings He has poured out on me from the moment of my creation. And my greatest blessings are my children – they are healthy, beautiful, wonderful young adults finding their way in this troubled world with their own style. Individually they are each unique and kind and make me proud; collectively they are my very heart – I love and enjoy being with them more than any other people on earth.

My biggest struggle is about them … but also not about them. It’s about them in that for several years now God has steadily been taking them away from me.

It’s not about them in that the deep sorrow I feel about this fact is between God and me.

For sure, it has turned me more fully toward God; our relationship has grown; He has increased my faith and my trust in Him; He has drawn me ever closer.  Enormous blessing.

At the same time, I miss my kids. I am so sad that we once were very close but no longer are. I struggle with the fact that the last time I saw two of them was 1-1/2 years ago; the next time I see them will easily be another 1-1/2 years, and more likely 2 years or more.

I feel great loss and sadness about it and I feel very alone; there is nobody I can express my feelings to. I can’t tell my kids – who wants a guilt trip? And I can’t discuss it with my husband; as my eyes well up with tears again he looks away, uncomfortable. He’s not being unkind or mean, he just doesn’t get it, really. He loves them and is proud of them and tells others about them, but he’s ok with seeing them “whenever.”

And so I’ll return to my home after a lightening-fast visit; I’ll settle back into a routine of work and living in my own little corner of the world; I’ll watch as friends and co-workers celebrate holidays and birthdays and frequents visits with their kids and grandkids; and I’ll struggle with this strange mix of being happy for them and feeling envy and knowing I’m blessed and feeling great longing for my own kids and fighting to stop wallowing in self-pity.

And I’ll continue to ponder the mysteries of His ways and trust Him even in my emptiness.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Rejoice Always! Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.