Friday, December 02, 2011

The Annual Question on the Manger Scene

The annual manger scene question is  who or what would you be in the scene this year? I’ve been the hay and the donkey and this year I should be the star. It’s a very uncomfortable position and very humbling. But a star needs only do what it is meant to do, what it was designed for and nothing more. In so doing the shining star draws attention so that others observe  and want to follow the path it displays.  It doesn’t matter to the star if some reject its importance.  It shines anyway.  The sparkle is not dependent on acceptance from others because it shines for everyone.  This star’s only need is to stay near to Jesus.  Otherwise it would be like every other star leading others only to itself.  People walk toward this star but the closer they get to the end of the path the less they see the actual star and the smaller the star appears.  No one arrives at the manger scene in Bethlehem and says, “What a magnificent star!”  It is ignored save for those still far away, still searching, still following.  The star has served its purpose in pointing others to Jesus.    Have I?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Why do i yell at the storm?

Calming of the Storm  Mark 4:35-41

The waves started breaking against the boat so that it was almost swamped.  But Jesus’ head was on the cushion asleep.  They woke him and said, “Don’t you care?”  He said to the wind and sea,” Quiet.  Be calm.”  Then he said to them, “Why are you so frightened?  Don’t you have faith?”

God is not in the frenzy.  In Matthew’s version (8:23)  the storm came without warning.  It became an actual and real, not imagined, problem.  In Luke’s version (8:22) the boat started taking in water and they found themselves in danger.

Several guys in a boat crossing the lake to the other side.  Quickly and suddenly a storm comes an begins to fill their boat with water.  Panic sets in as they fear for their own safety.

The apostles felt that Jesus didn’t care about them.  In the midst of the storm they were scared.  They had reason to be- the storm had come without warning.  The boat was taking in water so that they were actually in danger.

                Been there.  Done that.

Living life according to the usual routine when all of a sudden I get a phone call that someone I love is in serious trouble.  I try to fix the problem and/or support the person.  But the problem doesn’t go away.  OR the person doesn’t like the way I tried to help.  OR I doubt I can help at all and freeze in the tracks.  Pick one.  It doesn’t really matter which one.  I begin to panic and worry.  That certainly doesn’t help person’s situation or me.  Nothing is improving.  Things actually seem worse.  Coming up empty I ask friends for their ideas and support.  Some produce temporary solutions.  After that my quieted panic and fea resurface.  Then I may turn into a Job opposite.  Instead of trusting God thru every ordeal I become frustrated, frenzied, depressed or angry.  But being angry at the raging sea that is filling up the little boat of mty life isn’t a very successful manewver.  Even the apostles didn’t try that one.  They just woke Jesus up and complained to him


The moral of the story is trust God even tho you may be in real danger.  Yelling at the storm isn’t very productive.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who wants to party with Jesus?

In the previous post I talked about Luke 14: 15-24 and said I was too busy to hang out with Jesus.  This is a continuation of that story. 
But the decorations are still hanging and the food is all prepared.  The table is set with his personalized touch.  So Jesus searches the area to find someone who doesn't feel the need to punish themselves with negative self images or to protect their own positive self image.  He finds someone who is comfortable with being poor and ordinary.  It's a simple human being who kind of resembles Jesus actually.  This person is hungry but also ready to listen and rest.  And that's exactly when the celebration gets started. 

After my very busy day I return home a little disappointed.  I expected to feel comfort in the fact that I was as productive as I could possibly have been.  I worked hard and gave my all, never wasting a moment.  Instead, while returning home I wondered if I made the right choices and implemented the decisions well.  I didn't feel comfort with giving my all.  I felt anxious.  I began to judge my behaviours and worried if they were as selflessly motivated as I thought they were. 

While in the midst of this analysis I arrive home where Jesus had been all day enjoying the party with several others.  The old Martha/Mary Bible story runs thru my mind and I think, "Well just look at them!  Resting and eating and laughing while I was out there working hard all day."  But of course I remember that I was invited to be here too.It's no wonder they are all enjoying themselves; Jesus is with them.  He is feeding them, filling up their minds and their bodies.  He is paying attention to each of them so each  one feels special to him.  Releasing my burdens with a deep, deep sigh I make my way to the table where Jesus sees me.  He smiles. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

too busy to hang out with Jesus

Luke 14:15-24
So I would have been one of the guests invited to a party Jesus was having.  I am an invited guest!  It's bound to be a great party!  When Jesus has everything prepared and asks me to come I say- " I have some things to do for my family and then I'll be right there." Jesus replies, "But the banquet is ready now.  And I'd really like you to come.  That's why I invited you.  Everything has been prepared for you." 
So I say, "I'm sorry but I'm distracted and very busy.  See, what I'm doing here for you? "  or
"See my imperfections?  I have to work on getting them corrected before I can go to your party.  Gotta run. "  So my Lord watches me walk away from him so that I can continue my journey~
  • to one day feel worthy enough to be in his presence
  • to use up all the talents God gave me so I can rest with a clear conscience one day in his presence
  • to do something beautiful enough to make him proud of me 
He hears me say, "Talk to you later.  Maybe I'll text you" as I quicken my pace and run ahead. 
Alone, Jesus says aloud, "But I've been looking forward to this and preparing everything for a long time so it would be great."  Sadly he says good bye to his hope for this special celebration we were to have together and accepts my choices, my decision to go another way. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

in all things "Give Thanks! "

1st Thes: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Don’t repay evil with evil but always do good. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

Corrie Ten Boom’s (author of The Hiding Place) whole family died during the World War including her sister who was her companion in the concentration camp. But Betsie never ceased to thank God “in all circumstances”. The fact that the barracks were filled with fleas and live meant no soldiers would enter into it. That allowed them to read the Gospels aloud and to pray. Betsie saw everything as a gift from God and prayed for their persecutors until she died there.

For what should I be thankful today?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm just a beautiful mess!

      (“Better Than An Hallelujah”

I try really hard  but fail really big.

I want to please God  but I’m selfish.

Integrity and honesty are the values I hold most dear but  the person I am
is not the person I was meant to be.

I pray but some might call me hypocritical.

My greatest wish is never to give bad example as a follower of Christ
but I do the very things that I hate.

You might call me a mess, but to my God, I am a ‘beautiful mess’. He died for this beautiful mess that I am. Jesus looks at me like a mom who has just received a scribbled drawing from her child. A stranger might say, “what in the world is that?” But the mom believes it is beautiful and proudly puts the drawing on the fridge with a smile. Only God sees my heart. He knows my sins and , with a smile, loves me deeply despite them.

I love you God! I’ll try harder to make my life a better drawing for your fridge.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Profound Sadness and the Presence of God

Sometimes pain distracts us from being able to see God and talk with him. It depresses and angers us so that all we can do is endure it. But not Jesus. It’s like when a mom sits on the edge of her child’s bed if he has a very high fever or an unexplained illness. She’s there watching every breath, every movement. She’s attentive to the nuances and the slight attempt at a smile or a moan. She comforts the sick child in any way at all possible. She calls the doctor, tries to distract the child, feeds him, wipes his brow, and kisses his forehead. She’ll do anything to bring peace, comfort and reassurance to her son. The child doesn’t realize how tortured his mom feels at his pain. He may not realize it at all or until he becomes a father himself. All he knows is what he’s feeling. And all he wonders is “when will it be over?” Mom is far more in tune with her son during a time like this than when he is going about his life, playing with friends and laughing. THAT is the life she wants to be his normal. Illness and sadness is not.

It’s the same with God, I believe. When I’ve been in severe pain it absorbed me. I couldn’t see the world clearly and didn’t really grasp all the things going on around me. I didn’t want to get too involved in anything else in life because I was too tired. Pain is exhausting. Like physical pain, emotional pain seemed to pound away at my heart until it felt heavy and swollen. Everything took too much energy and I just didn’t care anymore.

Have you been there?

In retrospect I know God was hovering like a worried mom. He had been there himself. No one was there for him during the agony, as he was scourged or when he was condemned to death. He even felt alone and cried out as he died on the cross. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He’d never let that happen to someone he loves and calls his own. NEVER. “I have carved you into the palm of my hand.” We cannot be separated. So even tho I may be feeling a profound sadness and emptiness, I am not alone. Pain clouds my eyes so I can’t see, my brain so that it doesn’t think clearly, and my heart which no longer seems to be able to feel anything - at least not anything good.
 carved into the palms of my hands

But thru it all God is like the attentive mom. I may not have been able to see him next to me but God was there. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.” His heart ached when mine did. His tears joined mine. His eyes never left me. God noticed every nuance of movement. When I could be angry he absorbed it. When I felt abandoned in my own black world I’d get a phone call, a card or even an acquaintance with a special message meant for me. Maybe I got a referral to just the right doctor or medication. Or a sermon or a song that was able to penetrate thru the pain. It may have been the briefest of moments but it was undeniably there. At the moment I never realized what was happening because I couldn’t see the big picture. Each tiny puzzle piece of my life began to fit together again- albeit slowly, very, very, slowly. It felt like forever. The truth is I wasn’t even looking for the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I’d become content in my dark world of emptiness. But God wanted another normal for me and wouldn’t let me slip away. He was gently persistent. He was a sponge soaking up my anger and resentment. None of my words could turn him away because he knew where they came from. God was the unseen mom on the edge of the bed, always watching and listening. I couldn’t acknowledge his presence thru my pain but that didn’t send him away. If I admitted his existence at all it was in desperate pleadings for help while constantly crying. I actually begged at times. Intellectually I believed God was faithful. The Bible says so. I was taught that as a child, but it was like shadow boxing. I kept begging and hearing nothing but silence. Empty air.

I went to my prayer corner every morning and sat. Sometimes I cried without words and sometimes I yelled. But if I wanted God to heal me I knew I had to present myself to him just as I was- just like going to the doctor to be cured. But I didn’t pressure myself to pray with words. I just sat there. That was my faithfulness; it was all I could do.

I read THE SHACK and it gave me a break thru; that is, the fact that I was blind to it doesn’t mean God wasn’t sitting beside me on the edge of my bed to speak, the whole time. Even if I didn’t believe God was there it doesn’t mean that’s true. God does lots of things without my seeing or knowing it to be happening. “Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.”

I listened to music: inspirational music, Christian music. I wrote in my journal as a way to empty my heart of some of its pain. I finally wanted to be healed and slowly I was. Now, Jesus and I go thru “normal” days together and the darkness that once enveloped me is gone. It’s my own mini-resurrection really. But God and I look back on those days together and we talk about them Why? How? Will I go thru that again? Better than the answers is the intimacy between us. In my prayer times I had only sat there like a big silent lump of nothing, but I did go there every day. Empty handed and close mouthed I sat. (If you don’t go to the doctor’s office, how can he help you?) I couldn’t do or say much but I could sit there.

So as the months went by and we stared at each other something was happening.

I allowed myself to be angry at God. I presented him with my nothingness instead of avoiding him or ignoring him. I read a book and I listened to music and journalled.

God watched everything and was working behind the scenes. The right friend was at the right place at the right time. A specific song seemed to get a reaction from me so I kept playing it. God accepted my anger and gently wiped the tears away. He listened, not just to the words that began to come but to what I wasn’t even able to express deep in my heart.

And now that time of my life is over and I have a friend who endured it with me. It’s sad when God only gets to be involved in part of a life. He gave us his whole life while he was on earth. That sets the example for us. Give Him your all and He will give you his.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Standing in the Blood of Jesus

Jesus, I have an image of your crucifixion. Your warm blood drips from the cross but not to the ground. Some days I stand beneath with a bowl protecting the precious blood from dripping onto the thankless ground. Some other days, depending on the depths of my feelings I kneel beside the cross collecting each drip with my cupped hands. And on very intimate occasions I allow your Precious Blood to drip directly onto my head, shoulders and body so as to be washed by your holiness. That is the purest form of humility and sorrow for sin. Your goodness, your love cleanses me. It is not something I can do myself. Your forgiveness and mercy wash away my sorrow and shame. We become one as my selfishness falls away and I become more like you.

Give me a clean heart, O God. Wash away my sins. Pour over me the oil of gladness.

We have all sinned and are justified freely thru the Redemption that came by Jesus.

So now that I have been washed and purified I can say with Paul “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Spiritual Sayings That Make You Go “Hmmmm”…(2)

1. Paul was a contemplative.  Prayer for him was reporting for orders on where to go, how long to stay there, what to do and what to say.                                   (2 Cor 2 and Contact With God by Anthony DeMello, S.J. ) sounds like a good idea to me.

2.  Integrity is being the person you are meant to be- not the person you'd like to be or the person you believe you are.  To be a person of integrity you must be true to being the
person God created you to be.  And you must be the same person if anyone or no one is watching.  If each of us lived that virtue always and in all ways we could change the world.                     (Jesus, CEO by Laura Beth Jones)  wow- tough one!

3.  I am always aware of my own poverty and my needs before God.  I have to ask for everything and God always answers prayer.  My life, therefore, should be one of gratitude.      (Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton)

4.  In the end we will all be left speechless.                              (Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton)

5..  I am accepted by God as I am and not as I should be.                   (Bread That Is Broken)  thank you Jesus!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spiritual Sayings That Make You Go “Hmmmm”…

1. People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness but they choose not to live in it. –Nouwen

2. God never lets you down when your expectations of him are high. But he may keep you waiting.
 De Mello S.J.

3. (one of my favorites) Just keep rattling your begging bowl and sit like a begger when you go in God’s presence tomorrow or until he fills it. Refuse to take No or Later for an answer. De Mello

4. If we actually lived the radical Gospel driven life style we’d be in desperate need of prayer.
Bread That Is Broken

5. Peace of mind isn’t weakness. It can only stay in a strong person. But the strength does not come from self control but from allowing God control.                Bread That Is Broken

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How Much Does God Love Me?

The Father and the Son only had two moments of contact; one at the baptism in the River Jordan and the other at the Transfiguration. “This is my Son who pleases me. Listen to him.” And the agony in the garden? Jesus did it for love of us, yes, but “for all the love he had for us he recoiled from the passion; Jesus did not want it. The only thing that made him go thru it was the Father.” (DeMello) But our Father offered no interventions that rescued Jesus. Jesus was abandoned, tortured, and cried in the garden and on the cross while the Father was silent. He shouted out his feelings of abandonment but the Father was silent. The Father did not interrupt or modify the Son’s mission in order to alleviate his pain - actually the pain they were both feeling.

The Father never rescued his Son from the physical pain the Son was going thru. He watched the soldiers scourge Jesus and crown him with thorns. The Father looked at the blood and the bruises. He saw the apostles disperse, leaving his Son alone. If that was my only child I couldn’t have done it. I know parents who rescue their kids from much less - being bullied by kids at school, an unfair grade on a paper, drugs. But God watched Jesus go thru all that alone. Sometimes it’s harder to helplessly watch as your loved one endures an emotional crises or disease or financial turmoil. If you can’t fix it or protect them from it you wonder about your role as a parent. We don’t know what God was feeling as he watched his Son die. It’s reported that the sky turned dark and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. God did not stop the blood from pouring from Jesus’ side even tho he could. We humans can’t always rescue because we don’t have the cash or the cure for the disease. God did have what was needed and he could have fixed it. He didn’t. Jesus’ blood drained from his wounds as he hung on the cross and his Father mourned every precious drop. When they took his Son down from the cross God our Father saw Mary hold his body. Crying over it Mary caressed her child, touched his face and smoothed his hair. God must have been glad to see someone else love his Son so tenderly. Then they placed Jesus body in the tomb.
Throughout it all the Father never interrupted. He never implemented a plan B. He had sent his Son to be our servant and Jesus was killed. He did not stop it. WHY? The answer seems too crazy to be true. He loves us more. THEY love us more. More than the scourging, the crown of thorns and the nails. More than the Father’s emotional pain and the grief of his loss. Father and Son love us that much. They want us to be with them in heaven THAT much. I am worth that much to Someone. I am loved!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

God Hugs

Don't Focus on the Good or the Bad i Do but on God's Mercy and Love.

I love little innocent kids who, unknowingly, do wrong. There's no question that I'll forgive a 3 year old that breaks something, for example. My first thought probably wouldn't even be about what was broken or done wrong but about comforting the child. I could look at the child's face and see no malice, no intent to destroy only a fear of punishment. I'd want to wipe away that fear immediately! The child should be comforted not corrected. It's in the nature of a 3 year old to flounder and make mistakes. It's guidance, not blame that they need and a comforting hug.

So~ I should not beat myself up about my own weaknesses and failures rather focus on God's generous mercy. God knows me very well by now after all and as soon as I've sinned He wants to forgive and comfort me. Sometimes I'm too preoccupied with what I've done wrong to appreciate His gentle kindness. I'm beating myself up while he's trying to approach. So myself focus gets in the way and I can't appreciate His extreme generosity and understanding of who i am. Why do I look at me when I could be and should be in awe of God's pardon and looking at a loving Face?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The spirituality (?) of making cards

I fancy myself as a competitor for Hallmark cards- that’s a joke! But I really do enjoy the adventure of finding paper with different textures, patterns and colors. I buy stickers (on sale of course), look thru the internet and magazines for ideas and have become proficient in applying the right kind of glue for the job at hand. I don’t want my cards to look professional. I do want the receiver to notice that tho the card in their hands is neat and clean, it is obviously hand made. Before it gets tucked into an envelope I review the card very carefully one last time. I appreciate the creativity it allowed me to cultivate and the excitement and joy it stirred up in my soul because of its uniqueness. I never reproduce the same card. For several years now I’ve made birthday, Christmas, anniversary and “thinking of you” cards for everyone I know and never repeat the pattern. The joy for me is in the design process and I get lost in it.

Perhaps that’s why I appreciate God, the Creator and Author of Life. God not only created each one of us but also transforms us and our life situations as every single day evolves. As a single prayer for help comes to his attention God intervenes and the moment is transformed. Graces are gifted, persons come into our life path, a message is emailed, a transformation occurs. God is a very, very busy artist! How many requests must be in His In Box daily?

It may take me several hours to make a single card, but God doesn’t have that luxury. We’re a very demanding bunch! Part of our need for constant help may be that we doubt the value of God’s original design- ourselves. But if I go to sooooo much trouble to find the best stickers for a birthday card, comparatively how much effort did God use to design me? I choose paper and texture. God chooses skin color and freckles. I decide on the message I want my card to give while God creates a personality. I know for certain there is no other card like the one I’ve just made. I also know there is no other ME like the one God made. I look at my hand made card with appreciation for the joy it gave me to create it. Could it e that God looked at me the same way on the day of my birth? Could I really be His work of art?

I put my little card into an envelope and send it on its way. By now my friends and family know that envelope contains a gift individually designed for them. God sent me here to NJ to bring a message of joy and love to others also. And where did He place YOU to bring the same message with your unique personality?

Of course from time to time we forget about our message/mission and we become overwhelmed or confused by life going on all around us. God doesn’t get to put away his paint box. His creations run back too Him for continuous help. “Dear Lord, I need a job! Oh God, help me with this test. Father God, give me wisdom to know what is your will.” So he looks at the Very Big Picture and creatively intervenes. Lives change. People change. Grace is at work.

All around me is beautiful evidence of God’s creative talent!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why let Jesus come back??

Jesus had a hunger to be loved according to Mother Teresa. But “He came unto his own and his own received him not.”

If I had the power to raise my Son back from the dead after having been tortured and nailed to a cross it would never occur to me in a thousand years to return him to the kind of creature who had treated him this way. (John Claypool)

That is the miracle of Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How He Came Back to Life

Jesus, did you just sort of “wake up” lying in that tomb? How exactly did it go? 

Your eyes flutter open but your face is covered. To move that covering your hands have to reach up. But your fingers and your nose tell you other things cover your body. Instinctively you try to move your hand up toward your face to move the cloth. Now you smell the myrrh – a smell your life began with 33 years ago. Your hand moves the cloth and fragrances away from your eyes and mouth. As you do that your hand feels tightness to it and to open your palm fully requires a stretching motion. Finally you’ve cleared your face with the help of your second hand. That hand too required that you stretch your fingertips wide to relieve the tautness of the spread.

It’s dark inside the tomb so you don’t see the scars on your palms but as you begin to awaken you also begin to remember. You remember the smell of those same fragrances from your visit to Lazarus’ tomb. Your now outstretched hand brings the scene back. The darkness that covers you confirms the memory. I was dead.

As you lie there you try to collect your thoughts.

I was dead.

The nails went through these same hands. I remember the hammer coming toward my hands and feet. The memories are all rushing back now.

The spear went through my side, Jesus recalled. Instinctively he reached to touch it. A healed scar replaced the torn flesh. And as he tried to lift his head, a smile began to grow ever so slightly on one side of his mouth. I was dead.

No crown of thorns on his head now as Jesus tries to hoist his upper body into a seated position. Buds, plants and flowers all trickle and fall away and Jesus removes the cloth that had once covered his face and body.

Seated upright his eyes try to focus and he turns his head to see where they placed his once lifeless body. The tiny smile begins to broaden into a grin. “Oh Father!” He had been buried and placed in someone’s tomb. It was someone else’s tomb because Jesus never had on for himself. Did he think he’d never need one? But he didn’t have his own house, either. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)

“Father” Only one word. After all the experiences of the past three days the only word Jesus could bring himself to speak was “Father”. In that word alone was the full realization of what happened. The union of the two in that one word was like a meteor hitting the earth. The Father, who had been watching his Son’s body return to life as closely as he watched him be scourged, crucified and die, spoke his son’s name. “Jesus!” The strength of their love for one another was spoken in those single words. It was as though a huge surprise party was about to take place and only they knew about it. Jesus’ heart began to pound. He was suddenly anxious to remove himself from the tomb entirely. (Did Lazarus feel like this?”) He place two scarred but strong feet on the ground and reached his head and arms to heaven. He couldn’t wait to meet his beloved Father. He wanted to hug him, give his Abba a big, hearty pat on the back and say, “We did it! It’s done!” Instinctively he knew that would have to wait.

He looked for the entrance to the place where he had lain. Feeling around the walls which surrounded him, Jesus came upon the big stone that stood in the way between him and The Revelation. He would not have it. He could not have a stone between himself and his disciples, his mother, redemption, his Father. No stone would do that. No simple earthly stone was going to stand in his way.

Facing the stone Jesus looked up to heaven and repeated the same word, “Father!” He places his two scarred hands on the boulder blocking Jesus’ entrance into new life and it moved, slowly at first, out of his way.

No stone.

No nails.

No devil.

No death.

Nothing could stop him.

Nothing did.

As the stone rolled away so did the night. The stone was gone, darkness and sin were gone, evil and death were gone. Day broke through and with it Light, Salvation and Redemption. It was a moment of celebration for Father and Son. The grin on Jesus’ face was replaced with a huge smile. The smile erupted into a hearty laugh. “We did it. It’s done!” Jesus tilts back his head and laughs into the sky. “Father, we’ve won! Heaven has come. The doors are open wide so all can join us! Yeah!”

Jesus catches his breath, his heart pounding with excitement. He looks around one last time before he begins the final phase of his journey. Not too far away he sees the image of three empty crosses. Although it was a sobering view, his gaze then turned to the empty tomb behind him. Empty. Cloth on the ground. Stone rolled away. Empty.                                 Jesus then begins to walk toward his future and ours.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Sympathy Card to God

2000 years ago~
Dear God

Your pain is unimaginable to me and I am so sorry! One son – only one- and he is gone. You two were really one person. You thought the same way, acted and talked the same way. You shared everything. Even when you were physically separate you talked together for hours daily. The death of your precious and special son Jesus must be more painful than words can express. I am very, very, sorry for that pain that I helped to create. Yes Father God I am at fault. I watched and did nothing to rescue Him on that awful day. I followed along but I remained silent out of fear of the soldiers. So partly because of my own fear, self-centeredness and unwillingness to live up to my true identity Your Son is dead. I stood there and simply watched instead of making any radical moves. Some did, you know. Veronica stepped forward to help him and so did Simon from Cyrene. But I didn’t. Knowing that I’m sure you believe it is bold of me to send you this sympathy card. But I’m begging for your mercy Father God and hoping you’ll find it in your generous heart to forgive me. I do love you but I know my lack of courage and integrity caused you incredible sadness. From the bottom of my heart I am sorry.

Dear God

Father God, you put it in my heart to live a lifestyle of radical integrity each moment of the day. You gave me the strength and the knowledge I need to accomplish this as well as help from your Holy Spirit whenever it is needed. But I’m just as guilty as someone who stood along the sidelines while Jesus carried His cross to Calvary. Guilty in my failure to live up to the potential you’ve given me. I’m guilty for contributing to his pain AND yours by my inertia. I still haven’t fully lived the radical life of integrity. I’m disappointed in me, in the gift of life I have to return to you on my last day and I’m sorry.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

We’re Hungry Lord.

The Offertory at Mass is like the feeding of the hungry multitude. As a group the congregation stands before God crying, “We’re hungry, Lord!” The food we eat here on earth does not satisfy us. Our souls are empty and unfulfilled. Feed us, please. Fill us” In John 6:11 Jesus fed the crowd as much as they wanted. We bring what we’ve got to God and He blesses it and feeds us all.

                     Rev: 7:16 “Never again will they hunger. Never again will they thirst.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Which One Are You?

The Last Supper, like the celebration of Mass, was meant for all the apostles, including Judas.
The Transfiguration was only experienced by Peter, James and John. 
But only John stood at the foot of the Cross . 

Am I the Sunday Mass Catholic?
Am I the Catholic who shares in the spiritually high experiences with Jesus? with others in my life ?
Or am I the enduring, faithful one who accompanies Jesus (and others in my life) thru the most difficult of times, standing there faithfully until the very last moment?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I can only imagine what my eyes will see when You stand before me.
Will I dance? Stand? Shout Alleluia? Be still? Fall to my knees? Be silent?
                               From the song by Mercy Me

On the day my life ends and I face you God for my final judgment I imagine I’d just be frozen silent and in awe. My insides would eventually react and I’d want to run up to you and hug you never letting go. I’d be crying tears of joy and relief. After years of waiting and wanting to be HOME with the One who made me and knows me, there I am. I’m in the arms of my God who loves me unconditionally. But confusion might fill me up again. I don’t deserve to hug you and be so close to you. I’m a sinner and I have been for all the years you put me on the earth.

Like Adam and Eve after the apple event I’d want to run and hide so I could somehow avoid facing You. But I can’t do that. “Where would I go to run from your presence?”(Ps. 119) And so the final Judgment begins. Like sneaking food while you’re on a diet, cheating on a test in school, being caught in a lie…the guilty feelings begin but they’re a lot worse. My life, full of sins and weaknesses, parades before me like a never ending very bad film. At one point Jesus grabs my hand to calm my growing anxiety. In my mind, it’s now official. I’ve failed to meet my own life’s goals- never mind God’s! Each sin was surrounded with different opportunities and graces that I’d never noticed because I was SO focused on what I wanted at the time. It was about meeting my own needs and creating new wants. Worse yet, it was my own report card. I wrote it all myself. Filled with regret, sadness and guilt I hang my head. I don’t bother trying to explain, justify or rationalize my actions as I would have on earth. God is holding my hand! I feel like pulling away but at the same time I really just can’t. This is God! All my life I’ve waited for this moment. The Beatific Vision. I finally have seen His face, experienced what it’s like to be in his presence and to feel complete. Life on earth was all about searching, seeking, struggling. Now I am full, sated and calm.

God reaches over and takes my other hand as we face each other eye to eye. Is this really happening? Am I going to wake up any second now? God is holding my hands and looking into my eyes. Now I realize I am fully known. It feels like there is no one else around and there never was. For God it was all about me. For some reason I have the audacity to speak (even as I say to myself “still you don’t get it. Just shut up. Nothing you say could be as important as listening to God’s words at this very moment.”) It feels like if I don’t speak what’s in my heart now I will miss my final opportunity to be honest. “Even the stones will shout”.

“Excuse me Lord” I say in a shaky voice.

“Call me Abba” God says, smiling.

“Abba, I shouldn’t even be speaking right now. You know who I was and I surely know what that looks like in comparison to your life on earth. You sent me graces and friends.  I had my prayer time with you and the sacraments to help me. Still I chose myself over you.  I wanted my own needs and wishes met first. I asked you for help and you sent it. I asked for wisdom, insight and your Holy Spirit. You gave me all of that.”  Then, crying, I looked into God’s eyes and said, “Abba, I’m not ready. I don’t deserve to spend eternity here in Your Presence yet. I really want to get cleaned up more first. It’s like going into a wedding party as a bride’s maid – but wearing jeans!  Can you let me go somewhere to get myself washed up? What I’ve done with this soul you gave me is not what you deserve. "
A tear fell from my Abba’s eyes as he said, “I’ve not taken back the gift of your free will. It’s still yours. Are you sure this is what you want?.” “Yes, yes, yes,” I replied. “ I couldn’t feel good about spending time with you forever until I did everything I could to make amends for my selfishness and failures. Will you allow me to do that first?”  It was what I needed but not really what I wanted. I knew what I was asking. After being with God I was asking to be separated from him again.

“Many others have come to me with the same request. And when they do enter heaven after their period of cleansing they enjoy it so much more. I will let you go then into the desert of separation until you are ready to rejoin Me here.  Know that I’ll be waiting and always looking forward to the day we are re-united as we were always meant to be.  You were made to be with me. You’ll be complete when we are finally together forever and I want that day to come so much more than even you do. I’ve been waiting for you for many years. But if this is your request, I will continue to wait for you. During our time apart remember always that I am waiting for you. ”

After a very long hug, Abba slipped away from me and I was completely alone.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pain Hurts

keep begging

St. Paul said, "If you love those who love you what good is there in that?" 
Thomas Merton said, " If you always do what you like to do there is no merit in that."

So if life is simple and smooth and Jesus and I talk together every day I'm happy.  I feel peaceful.  It is nice to be on a honeymoon but that's not real life.  We're supposed to look at problems as opportunities.  God is always with us so we're never alone in our pain.  Thomas Merton says our surface self may be troubled but the Holy Spirit brings peace deep into the soul. 

That may be true but pain hurts.  It doesn't matter if its temporary or circumstantial or even if we're only feeling it because someone we love is the one in pain.  Pain hurts.  It upsets my physical being and makes me lose my focus.  Sometimes it's powerful enough to knock me down.  I feel empty.  I'm not talking about an interruption or a relatively minor problem.  Those are like being jostled.   Pain is being knocked completely off course.  Suffering is a better word because it seems to describe the slowness of an on-going process.  And it hurts.  

The truest saying of all is that time heals.  It may take three days, three weeks or three years.  It certainly takes three Persons in One.  Only after our pain begins to subside do the clouds move out of our vision.  When that happens we can see more clearly again and we notice who, what and where we went to seek comfort in our pain.  But it takes some time and my job is to be patient and calm (isn't that what peace is?) while I wait for the suffering to ease and the healing to begin. 

The process can't be rushed - it would only have to begin again.  I've tried that.  Suffering also will not be ignored.  It returns at every quiet moment and with certain memory triggers.  so if you can't rush it or ignore it what else can you do?  You could always cover it over with "comfort" food, drugs or alcohol, shopping, working, or going on a vacation.  But when that cover is finally removed the suffering is still there. 

I have to learn to sit with my pain.  To let it just be.  To look at it carefully and understand it.  Take it apart and look at all the pieces...gently.    Yuck.  But for me there is no way around it  That's why I'm writing this instead of stoically ignoring the pain or shopping or going to work earlier and ignoring my prayer time.  I'm admitting my pain and letting it out.  It's a new approach for me.  I even asked Jesus for help.  I began to do that about two years ago- finally.   It doesn't go away any faster but it feels more honest. 

Jesus, I'm not your perfect child.  Can't seem to do much on my own but that's OK.  I could do a lot worse than being dependent on You.  What am I trying to hide?  You know me thru and thru.  When you were on earth you sometimes spoke to Your Father all night long.  That wasn't all about getting instructions for the next day.  I'll bet you talked about us a lot to your Abba and I'll bet you needed - because You were fully human- to let go of some of your pain and frustration.  I'd love to have overheard some of those prayers!  Altho I can't listen in, I can certainly mimic your behavior.  Help me please and accept my suffering as a gift to You for the accomplishment of Your holy will. 
Thank you. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

And God smiled.

(R. Hook)

And God smiled.

There I sat pouring out my heart, anxious about some event to happen in the course of that day…. I missed it because I was so preoccupied with getting rid of the burden.

And God smiled.

Wondering whether my life had turned out the way you expected it to Lord. Did I give as much as I could? Did I represent you well to others? Was I a good example…so many questions.

And God smiled.

I read the Lives of the Saints. For months and months and months I tried to mimic their behaviors. Failing miserably almost every single day. Reproaching myself for not being able to do for one hour what they did for a lifetime.

And God smiled.

I tried to energize my prayer by listening to hymns and songs. I tried to draw. It looked like a 4 year old’s work! A stick figure of myself kneeling at the foot of your Cross with hands outstretched to receive any grace you might share with me.

And God smiled.

I never let a second of time go by without working my hardest to make that second a gift worthy to give to the Lord. People called me crazy and intense saying I had no common sense. But my exhaustion and my emptiness at the end of the day became my encouragement to keep going.

And God smiled.

I went on retreats. I gave retreats. I had a spiritual director. I became a spiritual director. I read every religious book I could get my hands on. I started a blog on spirituality.

And God smiled.

Every day God smiled at me. He smiled whether I was intense or exhausted. He smiled when I was singing off key and drawing stick figures. God smiled no matter what I did. It is the smile of parents staring at their newborn child. It was the warm smile of a mom holding a card hand made by her 5 year old. It’s the proud smile of a dad who watches his son on the town Little League team.

It’s the same smile God the Father had when Jesus was born in the manger and when John baptized him in the Jordan as the Father peaked thru the clouds to announce Him.

That smile doesn’t stop me from doing all those crazy things, rather it encourages me. Jesus loves me! It makes me wild with enthusiasm. I want to give him gifts, make him things. I want to do “something beautiful for God.” I want to face him at the end of my life with empty hands and be able to say ‘I used up everything you gave me’. So I’ll keep being excited and making every second of the day a gift. You can call me intense or any other descriptive work you like but this is between Jesus and me.

And I believe he’s smiling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Going the Easy Way or the Hard Way


andy dean photography
Jesus begs us to come to him and our own needs take us to him
                                                                 M. Scott Peck

Jesus, you left your Holy Word, your sacraments, your Rock the Church and your vey self in the Eucharist for us. And you wait. You are present in each and all of those things just as you are present in my daily life and the persons and situations in it. Every moment of every day is filled with opportunities to meet you. And every second of the day I make a choice to go about my way or to look for you. If I just remove my self-centered glasses I’ll see the opportunity more clearly. I’ll see you more clearly. But if I keep those glasses on I’ll have to learn the hard way.

Obstacles mount, unclear vision, evil…so many things get in the way. When I fall and become weak under the pressure of it all my needs will drive me to you. Where else is there to go?

Why don’t I just take the easier route to where you are already waiting for me?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gratitude and My Nothingness

Reflections on thoughts from Thomas Merton and The Shack

Self-loathing and lack of self-confidence are not from God. DaVinci knew he created a great work of art when he finished the Mona Lisa. God knew the same think about me the very moment I was conceived. For me to feel under whelmed by God’s design only speaks about my own ignorance. For me to wish I was something or someone else is a rejection of God’s wisdom and love. These feelings and wishes of mine can only lead to despair. They can’t fix anything and they exist without hope because I cannot become anyone else. I can only be me. To really turn this around (metanoia) and to put the devil back in his place (who else would these thoughts be coming from?) I need to value or at least appreciate my weaknesses. Jesus himself didn’t please everyone when he walked on this very same earth! What makes me think everyone is going to like me?

It feels like I keep making mistakes. Am I ever going to stop committing the same sins? It seems I wake up each morning with the intention that this is the day I’m going to make God proud of me. Today I’ll be Christ-like, i.e. patient, kind and gentle. But I only increase my self-accusations and sense of failure if I live my self-imposed rules. It also fuels my need for control. What a mess I’ve created. If God created me uniquely and considers His creation to be special and precious then I can’t increase my value. I can‘t be any more worthwhile than I am. Setting goals like that becomes a useless activity. It brings me to a sense of defeat when I can’t keep them and (duh!) I can’t make God any more proud of me than He was when he created me. He’s not proud of me because of what I’ve done, He’s proud of me for who I am. “Rules only have the power to accuse.” (The Shack p. 201) “And to the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that degree you neither know nor trust me.” (The Shack p. 208)          Heavy.

You are wonderful beyond imagination- the pinnacle of my creation and the Center of my affections.” (The Shack p. 192)

My good deeds are more likely to be accomplished and are of much more value if I do them because God deserves them. They are my gifts to Him out of love and gratitude. They show Him I’m trying to look more like my Father by imitating Him. The focus is then on Him and not on me. My lived-out gratitude to God for his indescribably delicious unconditional love becomes my actual life.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

We Begin This New Year

by Sister Joyce Rupp

We begin this new yaer with amazement at the presence of the Holy One.

We begin this new year with gratitude for life.

We begin this new year with hope that all shall be well.

We begin this new year with courage to meet what will be difficult.

We begin this new year with eyes ever alert for beauty.

We begin this new year with openness to greater truth.

We begin this new year with desire for continued transformation.

We begin this new year with compassion for the hurting ones in the cosmos.

We begin this new year with a sense of kinship with all whom we love.

We begin this new year with respect as others mentor and deepen our vision.

We begin this new year with determination to use out time well.

We begin this new year with willingness to help those who will need our care.

We begin this new year with longing for greater inner freedom.

We begin this new year with happiness, that we are invited to live life fully.

We being this new year with love for Holy One, our Intimate Companion.