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Archive for the ‘PONdering’ Category

Most mornings when I walk the dog, I cross paths with a neighbor returning from his morning run. Each time I say, “Good morning!”  He never answers.

I walk into work past a group of people chatting and laughing at the front desk. “Good morning!”  No response; they continue visiting among themselves.

I have tried to initiate social time with several people from church; I long for friendship with someone who shares a love of God. I don’t hear back.

I send group texts or emails to my siblings and mom, or to my husband and our children trying to generate interaction and to catch up with their busy lives. Often the response is very short or they go unanswered.

Gradually I stop trying. If not for our invisible God, I would be crushingly lonely.

Each day I pour out my heart to Him: my joys, my sorrows, my hopes, desires, dreams, fears. He listens attentively and He responds with great tenderness. He guides, encourages, comforts, laughs with me. He creates beauty in the skies and waits for me to notice and delight in it. He invites me to come to him for even a brief moment during a busy day just to be with Him.

I suspect God has brought me into this lonely desert so that I will seek Him more, move closer to Him and stay there. I am certainly growing in my prayer life and feel more purpose in praying for others.

Among men I am lonely, a little sad. Fading … invisible.

With God I am finding joy and fulfillment. I long to see His face and to be fully in His presence.


I wrote this blog post in the morning, posted it before noon, and this evening God spoke to my heart through the book, In Sinu Jesus – When Heart Speaks to Heart:

There is no need … to go through life isolated, lonely, and friendless. I want to be the faithful companion of their days and of their nights. I want to be their solace and their rest. I want to be their Friend, ever ready to listen to them, to welcome them, to heal them, and renew their hope.

What a beautiful response to my prayer, to my longing. Thank you, LORD.

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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.

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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

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Throughout the Christmas season there is a focus on giving … we search and shop and purchase with great care and thoughtfulness; stories like A Christmas Carol tell us that when we’re stingy we’re bad, when we give we are good; we hear “it is better to give than to receive.”

None of that is bad, nor particularly wrong. Giving is a good thing! Sharing our bounty, being generous, thoughtfulness in how we give – these are all kindness and charity and I don’t know if the world can ever have too much of that.

However, if we are asking the question, “What’s it all about?” the answer is not giving, generosity, nor sharing.

What it’s all about – the point of the Christmas season, the point of Jesus’ birth and death and resurrection, the point of our earthly lives – is receiving.

It’s not about what we do … it’s about what He did.

Do we receive Him? Do we receive the child, the Messiah? Do we receive the gift of His sacrifice? Do we receive the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter sent to us by Jesus after His ascension?  Do we seek Him, rush to Him, welcome Him, receive Him fully into our lives in an active and daily way?

Knowing about God and even believing He exists is not enough. When the Magi were in Jerusalem the Jewish priests were able to tell Herod where the Messiah would be born; we presume as priests they believed in God and gave their service to Him daily in the temple. But they did not accompany the Magi to see the Messiah for whom they had long waited – they stayed in Jerusalem!

How about us? Do we believe? Do we try to do good and be good citizens and make this world a better place?

Or do we receive Him … really, deeply seek and receive the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings?

 

 

 

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I have a mental list of passages that remind me to be grateful for trials. Here are only two of them:

Now this trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him,
that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job.
(Tobit 2:12)

“Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors.
Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother.
He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.”
(Judith 8:23-27)

I was reminded this morning of a beautiful story about the Refiner’s Fire. It’s not long, and I’d like to share it!

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:
and he shall purify  
the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

 (Malachi 3:3)

While reading Malachi chapter 3, a woman noticed a remarkable expression in the third verse: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She went to visit a silversmith and, without telling the object of her errand,
begged to know the process of refining silver, which the smith described to her.

“But, sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am,” replied the silversmith. “I must sit with my eye
steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining is
exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The woman at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression,
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” God sees it needful to put
His children into a furnace: His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying,
and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them.
Their trials do not come at random: “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the woman was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back
and said he had forgotten to mention that the only way to know when
the purifying process is complete is  . . .

 . . .when he can see his own image reflected in the silver.

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Tobit remains one of my favorite books of the Bible, causing me to ponder many things every time I read it.

Some of the little thoughts & questions that rattled through my mind as I read it again, in no particular order …

Raphael. It seems to me he is a perfect patron saint for parents as they pray for their children. He gave guidance, healing and protection to Tobit and his family, even pursuing a demon and binding it hand & foot. When he revealed his identity, he said some very interesting things:

  • When Tobit and Sarah prayed, Raphael presented and read the record of their prayer before the Glory of the Lord
  • He did the same when Tobit used to bury the dead
  • Raphael was sent to put Tobit to the test, and at the same time God commissioned him to heal Tobit & Sarah
  • Raphael is one of the 7 angels who enter & serve before the Glory of the Lord
  • When Raphael came to Tobit, “it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God’s will.”

Sarah’s Parents. Can you imagine how they felt? They had given their daughter in marriage 7 times, and each time her new husband had died on their wedding night. They loved their daughter dearly. Their hearts must have ached for her, and they also must have felt great dread when Tobias asked her hand in marriage. They admired their relative Tobit and now, it seemed to them, Tobit’s son would lose his life because of their daughter. How bitter it must have been. Raguel got up in the night to dig a grave; and later when it was discovered that Tobias and Sarah were safe and sleeping, he sent servants out to fill the grave in. That made me laugh!

Tobit. While he was being tested, I’m sure he felt great despair. He had spent years risking his own life to bury the dead in secret to please God; he had endured much ridicule for his actions. But when his son Tobias introduced himself to Raguel and also to Gabael in Rages, both men exclaimed with joy what a wonderful man his father Tobit was. Did Tobit know he was admired?

Anna. Tobias & Raphael were delayed in their return to Tobit & Anna. Anna was worried when they first set out on their journey and counted the days, knowing when they ought to return. She watched the road and her fears grew deeper as the days passed with no sign of her only son. How often do we pray with great desperation and love? How often do we despair that the prayer will not be answered in the way we desire? How often do we wish we could just know what has happened and see what is in the future as we wait on the LORD? I have to rejoice with Anna that not only was her prayer answered and Tobias returned safely home, but he brought with him a beautiful wife who gave them grandchildren.

There is just so much in this story; it is rich in every way.

 

 

 

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This is your family …

At mass last night a young family took up the gifts before communion … a beaming mother and father and three children.

For a moment I thought, “I wish those were my kids and grandchildren, part of my family.”

And immediately I heard … “This IS your family.”

I looked around the church. I don’t know many names and Mark & I don’t go to the social functions. But I know so many of the faces; we sit next to them at mass or greet them at the door or pray for them silently when they seem to be struggling. I often weep as I watch people returning from communion, each one unique and beautiful in his or her own way – young, old, healthy & robust, stooped & fragile; all races and sizes … the body of Christ.

THIS is your family.

Love your family by blood; enjoy them and be blessed when you are together.
But THIS is where you are, now.
These are the people close to you, now.
This is your family.
Love them, too.

Yes, LORD. Speak more … your servant is listening.

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