Just Be There

Chatting with my nine-year-old as he was going to bed, I realized I didn’t know much, really, about his day.  I knew his activities — school, basketball practice, homework, chores, video games, etc.  But how was he?  ‘Fine.’

I wanted more.  But…he’s a child.

I recalled a chapter from James Martin’s ‘Jesuit Guide,’ God Meets You Where You Are. God, our Father, doesn’t need for us to explain, analyze or be in a certain place to hear us and to know us.  He is just with us.

I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)

finding god...

finding god… (Photo credit: tanjila)

Walked away from a church, and ‘all that nonsense’ years ago?  Can’t bring yourself to go back into a house of worship?  Okay — God is with you.

Yet there too you shall see the Lord, your God; and you shall indeed find him when you search after him … (Deuteronomy 4:29)

At home surfing the web?  In the grocery store? In a funk; in joyous rapture about the birth of a new baby; or in mourning for the death of a loved one or the loss of a job? In the street, homeless and looking for shelter?  Hmph, how about that… God too.

The Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)

oak sapling

oak sapling (Photo credit: adstream)

As a parent, maybe I need to meet my son where he is.  If he is playing a Xbox in the basement, maybe I should too.  Or at least watch.  I can shoot a basketball now and then.  By being there, I show interest and make a connection that I so desperately want.  Just like God wants with us.  One small seed of communication can grow into a healthy relationship tree.

This is as true for our relationship with God as it is for me with my son.

God is with you in everything you do (Genesis 21:22)

Photo credit: peksh78

Lucky for us, we are God’s children.  God is everywhere with us, all the time.  He sees what we do, and go through, and he understands.  He is always whispering ‘Tell me about it…’ and so happy when we want to talk.  If only we could be more like that, with children, friends, family, the lost, the lonely, the poor.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20)

Pray for it.  Maybe you can.

Tell Me Again the Write Answer

Another day, another procrastination, another inspiration… isn’t life amazing?

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

As I was stewing around the house, not writing, I wondered what I must get done:  organize that service project?  Tidy up for a biggish group of friends we’re expecting on Saturday?  Cook?  Shop?  Organize rides for the kids, get sports gear together, do the laundry… Am I procrastinating?  YES to all.

When I find myself like this, I know I need to sit quietly, and pray for a few minutes.  The answer will usually come.

Nothing  jumped out at me from the scripture readings.  Then I read the Magnificat Meditation of the Day written by a French married laywoman, Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, (1866-1914):

Elisabeth Leseur with her husband Felix, an atheist, who converted and became a priest after her death

“All that life reveals each day … all that constitutes our inner being; all of this should one day become words or actions that reveal our depths.”

Is this another directive to write? God is really good about giving me messages I need more than once.  (I don’t always get it the first time…)

“It is a difficult task, a great effort, to express our innermost thoughts, but we must do it, breaking open our souls as we might break open a sacred vase so that others may breathe the divine perfume.”

Helloooo, writers…. That’s the guidance for today.  Again, pretty direct this time (see A Clear Answer, Especially for Writers).  Thank you God, the Holy Father and Holy Spirit.  Let me write in that same spirit, with strength and wisdom from above. Otherwise, my writing is not going to smell anything like ‘divine perfume.’  Quite the contrary…

Holy Spirit painting

Holy Spirit painting (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

Contain those worldly distractions — email  pings, ringing phones, the buzz of the dishwasher finishing.

Sit. Reflect. Pray. Write. Pray again. Re-write.

Make time for the Lord.  Make time to write. I pray for the intersection of these two passions.  I pray that I may write according to your will Lord.

And the final touch from Elisabeth’s meditation:

“As we go along, let us spread ideas, words and desires, without looking back to see who gathers them up.”

She never even blogged… Truth be told, I love comments, likes and followers.  I love to see who reads my words… but I know, that’s not humble.  I struggle with humility Lord.  So I’ll just ask You to help me do it your way God.  It’s always better than mine.

Thank you for all the gifts and guidance you give me God. Amen.

Where’s My High Five?

I taught CCD today (2nd graders) and the lesson was on the Last Supper and the Eucharist –very important as the children prepare for First Communion in the Catholic Church.  The lesson was… fine.

I didn’t want fine. I went to some trouble and wanted a ‘wow!’  I rearranged the room to set it up like the Last Supper, brought in a chalice, paten, candles, pictures of the Last Supper, and even sticker sets for each child to create their own Last Supper.  We didn’t get to the sticker sets—yes, the fun bit.  Ran out of time. Sigh.

Of course we’ll use it next week.  The children were fairly attentive and responsive.  It just left me a little flat.   This, on top of some other writing-related frustrations, left me low.

In other words: c’mon God!  High five me or something!  I’ve been praying.  I’ve been asking.

I was given insight, if not direct messages today.  Here is what I heard at Mass based on some excerpts from the readings:

In the Responsorial Psalm 27: 7-8,13-14

 “Hear O LORD, the sound of my call;

have pity on me, and answer me.

Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”

I’m calling, but is my heart speaking of God or looking for glory?  Hmmm. Do I want God to look good, or am I more worried about me?  Guess.

  “Wait for the LORD with courage;

 be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”

 I am waiting…   Sigh.  I know.  I’m really just being impatient.  And selfish.  It’s not about me.  And God, I do know you’re not on my time.  Though I do keep forgetting that.

Then Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1

“…many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

…Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

 Like recognition?  Reward?  Achievement?  (You talkin’ ta me God?)

  “But our citizenship is in heaven

 and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

…stand firm in the Lord, beloved.”

Enough said.

Boy, I’m glad you speak to me Lord.  Thank you for reminding me what is important and loving me even though I forget, often.  Strengthen my faith so that I may stand firm in your ways and live humbly in your name. Amen.

 

Thanks… a Challenge

Find one thing you are thankful for about each person you meet over the next few days.

Are there people you are NOT looking forward to seeing?  Maybe it’s know-it-all cousin Dennis who tells you the route you should have driven to your mother’s house.  What about the cranky checkout girl at the grocery store?  I mean, it’s Thanksgiving.  Couldn’t she be nice?

When someone irritates me, I try to remember this: God loves them too.

I know God loves me.  But them?  They’re so…

Yes, them.  God loves them as much as he loves me and you.  And if God wants the best for them (like he does for us), we should help.  We should see them the way God might.

NJ Turnpike northbound at Exit 8A, inner lanes

NJ Turnpike northbound at Exit 8A, inner lanes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cousin Dennis has trouble connecting with people, so he always starts with the NJ Turnpike.  Thank God that he is willing to talk to anyone and everyone, including crazy, deaf Grampa Joe.  Aside from traffic, ask about his life. You might learn something.  What was the most unusual job he ever had?  What’s his favorite memory of your grandfather?

IGNORE THIS - Present Credit Card to Cashier

IGNORE THIS – Present Credit Card to Cashier (Photo credit: nickgraywfu)

That girl at the checkout — how many rude customers has she seen today?  Maybe she has a meal to prepare herself, and worries about having enough for her family at the traditional Thanksgiving ‘feast.’  Your smile or kind word might lift her mood.  It’s worth a try.  If nothing works, pray for her.

The magic of this challenge is that it’s not about the people you meet.  It’s all about you.  The better you are to others, the better you’ll feel, and the better others are to you in return.  Like a good karma sort of thing.

Take the challenge.  Let me know how it goes!

Sins of the Saints

Saints were not always saintly.  What sins did our models of holiness commit before turning to God?  Where did they start?  If they were able to grow beyond their weaknesses, can we?

You may have heard Augustine’s famous quote: “Lord, give me chastity.  But not yet.” Augustine (354 -430 a.d.) wrote an entire book of Confessions.  He fathered a child with his concubine, drank liberally and lived a hedonistic lifestyle for many years.

As an intellectual, he studied philosophy and religion. Inspired by his study of St. Anthony of the Desert, and a mystical voice telling him to “Pick up and read,” Augustine converted to Christianity in his early 30’s.  As his knowledge grew, his grace and relationship with God grew too.  Augustine became a Bishop and Doctor of the church. 

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)  a Trappist monk and one of the most influential modern spiritual writers of the Catholic Church (including the best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain) is said to have fathered a child during his ‘worldly’ youth, before he entered the priesthood.  Merton converted to Catholicism while at Columbia University.

Known for his commitment to non-violence and plain-spoken theological reflections, Merton is not a saint yet, but he is a great inspiration.  One of his many famous quotes:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. (Thoughts in Solitude)

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at de...

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dorothy Day (1897-1980), Servant of God, worked for social justice and peace, and founded the Catholic Worker Movement.  As a young adult, she had an abortion.  Later, after the birth of her daughter and her newfound passion for the gospel, she lived a life that many call saintly.  Quote:

“Don’t call me a saint — I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

St. Ignatius (1492 -1556) was a passionate soldier and a man admired by women.  His sins are not clear, but he spent years atoning for them.  While recuperating from a battle injury, he was given a book about the life of Jesus instead of a book about romance, which could not be found.

He discovered that thoughts of, and from, God filled him with peace and tranquility; other thoughts might excite him briefly, but left his heart heavy in the end.  Ignatius went on to found the Society of Jesus, as well as give us the Spiritual Exercises which are still in wide use today.

(Note:  this post neither condones nor invites you to do all those sinful things you’re thinking about!  But you knew that.)

These people made a decision to follow God.  We consider them holy.

Their lives did not change in one lightning-strike moment.  They thought, they prayed, they learned about God and studied their faith.  Day by day, year by year, they grew closer to God.  As this relationship strengthened, so did their awareness of goodness and their desire to do what God asked of them.

You too can walk these stairs.  Just take it one step at a time.  Use the Year of Faith as an impetus to begin.  Do one thing today.

Pop into church (temple…) for a prayer.  Bow your head and ask God for his help (remember, you already have his love.)  Ask for forgiveness, and grace.  Get that spiritual book you’ve been meaning to read.  Check out  Sacred Space.  Open the Bible and read a few lines.  Write the prayer that comes to your mind. Find something for which you are grateful.

Just start. Just one thing. It can lead to wondrous places.

Spilling and Sowing

Quotes to contemplate today:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

(There are so many great quotes from this Buddhist Monk. I saw this one at Diamond Mike Watson’s site.)

Where there is hatred,

let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

– St. Francis of Assisi

God wants to reach out to others through your hands. He wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him… give God permission.

– John Cardinal O’Connor

Find more inspirational quotes at Mission Moment.

Hurricane Sandy and Gratitude

This delay in posting has been brought to you by, you guessed it, Sandy herself.

Since my town falls lower on the necessary utility triage, we have just had power restored last night after 9 days.  Areas further west than me will be even longer.  Suburban NJ was crushed under a massive number of broken trees, telephone poles, damaged substations, etc.   We are fortunate enough to have a generator, which powers our heat and hot water.  (As I write this, the snow is starting to come down heavily, and many trees still have leaves.  If the snow sticks, more trees (or big boughs) will fall.)

My house was very lucky – no flooding, no fallen trees on our house, car, etc.  My thoughts and prayers go out to those who suffered so much loss in this storm.  The pictures on TV, as well as some scenes in my neighborhood, are hard to fathom. At least power is coming back to shore and suburban communities, and NYC.

Compared to the shore, Staten Island, lower Manhattan, Hoboken, Jersey City, my town suffered so much less– primarily a loss of power.  The ripple effects of such a devastating storm were an eye-opener.

  • Our grocery stores closed for several days.  Almost all fresh and frozen meats and produce had to be trashed.  Walking through a store with empty shelves is surreal, like images of communist Russia.  It reminded me of life in the third world, and the deprivation they live with every day.  I walk through the store surveying what is available: in the first few days: no chicken, no fish, no cheese, no milk – fresh ground beef?  I’ll take it.   Even now, nine days later, the supplies are better but still low.  Shelves have lots of empty space.
  • The gas lines are still long – my local station had about 40 odd-numbered license plate cars lined up this morning.
  • NJ Transit trains are not running from our area ‘until further notice.’  The town has charted buses to transport people into NYC.
  • Starbucks is still full of a diverse group of people, with at least one thing in common – laptops.  Working, charging, studying – every chair occupied, every table shared.

So today I am grateful.  Grateful for the heat, hot water, a working stove, upright walls, food to feed my family.  I am grateful for friends.  (I am really, really grateful to the utility workers!  I talked to one team that came all the way from Oregon.)

I pray for those still suffering losses and trying to find a way back to a normal life.  Lord, help them, heal them.

The strength of the community has been comforting:

  • When our pastor asked for more food donations, the parish brought 8 times the usual amount.
  • When the lacrosse program identified relatives of a local family that lived on the shore and lost everything, they ‘adopted’ them – the kids will come to school here, especially welcomed by local children, members of the lacrosse community are donating everything from shoes to sofas.
  • Our school is sending supplies to Staten Island.
  • Many, many families have taken in other families.
  • In one neighborhood, so many trees fell, blocking families driveways, and sometimes damaging or destroying the house, a ‘posse’ of residents armed with chainsaws went house to house checking on families and removing fallen trees.

I am grateful for my community.

So many people have said to me that even though this was devastating for so many, the storm has also strengthened our bonds to one another.

Lord, help us remember that we need one another, especially now, but always.  In the wake of this terrible storm and also this terribly divisive election, let us come together to live in love.

Thank you for your presence and the gifts that you have given us.  Let us continue to appreciate them as we do today.