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.

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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.

 

A Clear Answer, Especially for a Writer

IMG_7184 Hello again world.  After a blog hiatus during which I was co-chairing Catholic Schools Week at my children’s elementary school, I am back to the blog.  (Catholic Schools week was so much more work than I expected, but worth it.  More on that later.)   Thanks for your patience!

I had an enlightening prayer experience from this morning.  I had a simple decision to make:  should I go to my prayer group this morning (having not been in many weeks) or should I stay home and write?   I know I need to write, and I love to write, but that’s part of the problem.  I love it so much, it feels like an indulgence.  The prayer group is good for my soul, right?

Well, yes..  (Also, not going gives me a good case of Catholic guilt.)  I prayed: “God, help me. What should I do?”

As I sat down to have some breakfast, I picked up a Lenten Prayer booklet based on Thomas Merton’s writings.  Today’s entry is  The Healing Silence of Recollection, based on Psalm 62, verse 1:  For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God come my salvation.  The reflection includes this advice:

There should be at least one room, or some corner, where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you.  You should be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free…  O God, help me to seek silence to be with you.

prayer..

prayer.. (Photo credit: aronki)

It doesn’t get much more direct than that.  The answer to my prayers is not always so clear, but today it is, and I am grateful. There is more than one way to be with God.  And today, for me, it will be through prayer and writing.

Thank you O Lord for your help and guidance, and for noticing even the small things in my life.  Help me to write well, through your will and in your name.   Amen.

Dental Freak-out

Common Dental Numbering. Diagram from Open Dental.

I’ve been resolving to go to the dentist for quite a while now.  I really hate going to the dentist.  It’s not quite a phobia, but it could certainly be called an aversion.  And I’ve never had a cavity.  Never.  I brush, I floss (sometimes), so I figured, I’m fine.

Then after Christmas, the toothache started.  January 2, I am at the dentist.  My mouth is a mess.  I need, virtually immediately, a root canal or an extraction.  He can’t tell because of my impacted wisdom teeth.  Let’s not talk about the gum issue.  This is to a woman who never had a cavity, never had novacaine (a shot in my mouth?  are you kidding me?), no major dental work.   And the cost — don’t get me started.  I had as much trouble breathing as chewing.

So on the way home, I am upset.  I rant to myself, and to God — who else would listen? How could you let this happen God?  Why me?  I know saints talk about the value of suffering, but this?  Really?  Even Jesus didn’t have to have dental work (yes, for a split second, I did think this.)

Then, the whole ‘nailed-to-a-cross’ scene did pop into my head.

Ok, ok. Maybe Jesus did suffer more than me.  And maybe this isn’t God’s fault.  (Could be mine, maybe.)  Sigh.

Now what?  God loves me.  Yeah, I know that.  But my tooth still hurts like hell.  (Ok, maybe not Hell exactly, but, man it’s painful!)  What now God?  How you gonna help me?
Very spiritual.  That’s how well I took it, even with my Year of Faith journey well on the way.  Sigh.

Medieval dentist removing tooth

Medieval dentist removing tooth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I cried to my husband about how terrible this is.  He assured me that lots of other people have gone through this, and that I would be fine.  And that in fact, the cost wasn’t as much as his dentist charged.

I talked to my dad, who was planning to visit.  (Otherwise, we could go for a week or two without talking.)  Turns out he had a sudden problem with his vision in one eye  —  just woke up, and with a sharp pain, serious blurriness set in.  He couldn’t read.  He couldn’t drive.  He couldn’t come to visit.

Yet, he teased me about my tooth.  And told me it wasn’t that bad.

Hmm, lost tooth vs. lost vision.

Worried about my dad, I wanted to make sure my brother knew.  My brother is the guy with ‘genetically superior’ teeth — his dentist actually told him that.  I was reluctant to call, because I knew I would have to report my dental issue.  I’ve spent years sharing his tooth pride.  We tell friends “Nope, no cavities, ever. No dental work. Not me.”   Now I am a sister with tooth decay.

As it happened, he had already talked to dad, who had broken my news as well as his own.  While I fretted about a shattered tooth fairy image, he laughed my issue off with “what’s with the tooth?”  I was still his beloved sister, and that was the end of that.  (And thankfully, my dad’s vision returned to normal within 24 hours.)

I realized I wasn’t only frightened about what was happening but I was embarrassed.  Not just my tooth, but my pride was hurting.  Once the important people in my life knew, and were very supportive, I didn’t feel so anxious.

Thank you God, for sending me support so quickly through my family on my day of need (aka the dental freak-out).  So many people have bigger, more important problems. (But, if you can manage it again, please help me when I go back to the dentist.)  Thank you for being with me and letting me rant.  And not punishing me for whining.  I am sorry for my truly selfish thoughts and my pride (in my teeth — how weird is that?).  Thank you also for helping my dad.

Aside from my obvious resolution to go to the dentist more often (which is not optional anyway), I resolve to remember that you are with me through everything God, even the tough times.  I will try not to blame you.  Please help me to remain in you and you to remain in me, despite my very weak human will.

And boy, I pray that you have a sense of humor, God, so that we can laugh at this together some day.  After my last dental visit…

While You’re Waiting

You have a few extra minutes — waiting for the doctor or a bus or a meeting;  in line for a coffee or lunch.  Scan the phone?  Yes, I often do.  How about read a prayer mediation?  Sounds embarrassing, right? Yeah, I’ll just pull out that little Bible, IN PUBLIC, and let everyone know that yes, I’m thinking about GOD, right now.  You imagine people staring and thinking “Jesus freak!  I never would have guessed…”

Ok, Ok.  Have I got the resource for you:

Little Book

Little Book

The Little Books. The beauty of these small paperback booklets (published by the Diocese of Saginaw) is that the cover is completely plain:  no title, no picture, nothing.  No one knows what you are reading.  These six minute reflections are a brilliant way to increase your knowledge and your faith, not to mention improve your life.
IMG_0817

A bargain:  $3 to $4 for a single booklet or much less in volume.  My church buys them and gives it away (lucky me!).  Certain seasons are available in a children’s edition as well.  (Note that each season is a different color, so this year Advent is called The Little Blue Book.  Other seasons use a different color cover and corresponding title “The Little Purple Book” for Lent, etc.)  Can you tell I like these books?  They were a big help to get my prayer life moving.

Pray, pray, and pray some more.  Especially now:  it’s Advent, it’s the Year of Faith.  What are you waiting for?

A Better Gift

Galeries Lafayette store, Paris.Credit:  Benh LIEU SONG

Galeries Lafayette store, Paris. Credit: Benh LIEU SONG

Advent is upon us:  four weeks until Christmas!  Oh, the stress.  I just taught second graders that Advent is about preparing.  Yes, yes, my head screams:  buy presents for my three children, my husband, my brother and his children who are coming, order the turkey, decorate the house, the tree…

No.  I hear a quiet voice somewhere in my head.  Advent is the time to prepare for the real meaning of Christmas: Christ.  God.  Love.  Grace.

Thank you God, for the gifts you give us. Thank you for the wisdom and sacrifice of the ultimate role model, Jesus.  Help us try to give back to you, God by giving back to people around us.

One of the biggest gifts you can give is forgiveness. God forgives us. He expects us to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a great way to prepare your heart and open it to God.  Forgive for big and small things — your spouse fought with you, again?  Your co-worker said something unkind?  A waiter left you waiting?  Find forgiveness.

Credit:  Johann Jaritz

Step into their shoes.  Think what the situation seems like from their perspective.  Pray. Pray more.  Reflect on the fact God loves you, and calls you, by name.  God wants you to be a sign of his love.

David's Joy over Forgiveness, as in Psalm 32; Providence Lithograph Company

David’s Joy over Forgiveness, as in Psalm 32; Providence Lithograph Company

God loves them too.  So should you.  

Forgiveness is not easy, and not always immediate.  However, forgiveness is as big a gift to yourself as it is to those you forgive.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

 

On the Front Page

Although she died in 1980, Dorothy Day made the front page of  The New York Times yesterday.   Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbiship of the New York Diocese, has been talking about this divorced mother, journalist and social activist.

How did a woman with a “bohemian” youth,  including an abortion, who rejected religion find her way to God? And possibly sainthood?

“She completely trusted God’s love for her and did not wallow in guilt over the mistakes of the past”. (Stephen J. Krupa, S.J., America Magazine)  Her path to God is one of joy and love, chronicled in her autobiography, From Union Square to Rome.

The birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa, catapulted Day into God’s arms.

Day could think of nothing better to do with the gratitude that overwhelmed her than arrange Tamar’s baptism in the Catholic Church.  “I did not want my child to flounder as I had often floundered. I wanted to believe, and I wanted my child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the Saints, then the thing to do was to have her baptized a Catholic.”

(from A Biography of  Dorothy Day, by Jim Forest)

Day was already committed to causes of social justice, labor rights, and poverty.  This experience offered her another path into God.   Day so identified with the poor that she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, and voluntarily spent her life in poverty, operating ‘houses of hospitality’ for the needy.

The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.” (Dorothy Day)

A post-election political angle was picked up by the NY Times.  Day is of interest to both poverty-motivated (left-wing) and right-to-life driven (right-wing) Catholics.  Cardinal Dolan calls her a “saint for our time”, and a woman whose journey inspires.

For us, her faith journey is very well documented, and an inspiration to those of us, who, like her, live in a modern world.  Her faith was the basis for her life, and her life is a testament to God.  

“Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.”

Whether she ends up titled ‘Saint’, or not, Dorothy Day is a model of strength and justice, especially in this Year of Faith.   Most of us will never make the front page for our spiritual journey or charitable efforts.  No need to.  Our job is to keep God on the front page of our lives.