Worth Revisiting: The Scent of Her Presence

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“An awareness of smells can illuminate our present. It can help us live more mindfully and gracefully. It can help us recognize that God’s goodness saturates the world, in scents that are both obvious and subtle.”

Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Taste and See ( Loyola Press)

Early morning dew, the scent of grateful peonies and roses greet me.
The aroma of homemade strawberry rhubarb and blackberry pies cooling midday meet me.
Nighttime breezes carrying a day well spent at play, leave me ..the promise of yet another summer day in the South.

My Grandmother’s house was my favorite place to be as a child, particularly in the summertime.  What might appear as lacking in structure or activity, each day was abundant in hidden treasures that could only be discovered by a slower pace and ready spirit. All this I too might have missed had I not been seeking- albeit anticipating- God’s respondent grace and presence. Grandma’s hard work in the garden wafted through her small home as she baked and canned the fruits of each day’s gifts. Receiving the present she also prepared for the future, when these would not be as easily gathered. Mindful also that nothing given should ever be wasted.

Indeed, there are so many indelible memories forever tied to the smells of my childhood spent with my Grandma. Sunday mornings brought an even more unique scent- as my Grandma readied herself for church service. Not accustomed to wearing makeup or perfume during the week, grandma was on this day a delightful combination of Ivory soap, Jergens lotion, Covergirl makeup and Emeraude perfume. How I loved this smell, so much so that I would take it all in as I cuddled close before church. Infused with the understanding that Sunday’s were intended to be special, she put forth her best for God.

Many years later I would smell that smell once again, over 1, 400 miles apart. Then 33 and in my third trimester I could not travel as she feel seriously ill this time. My heart was nonetheless with her, and almost without pause I found myself praying for her throughout the day.

“Lord let her know how very much I love her, let her know that though I cannot be there in person that I am truly beside her. If I could carry her as she carried me all these years, I would.”

God heard my prayer, and knew the close bond he had established between us would not end in death. Only moments before the phone rang, God gave me an otherwise inexplicable gift-my Grandmother visited me. In the shower, I suddenly and overwhelming experienced the all enveloping scent and presence of my Grandmother. It was all around me, permeating every space with love and memories. As tears of joy and grief streamed down my face, I said my goodbyes- for now, fully embracing the gift of being with her again. Profoundly aware that God was allowing me to experience this sacred moment of my Grandmother’s passing from this world to the next.

Then just as suddenly as she had come, she was gone. Though I tried to recover the scent for an instant, I knew that she was no longer there. As the phone rang, with my cousin who had been sitting with her in these last few moments on the line, I knew her words before they were spoken.

“Liz, Grandma just left us..”
“I know..she was here..and just left too.”

I then shared with her how I knew and the unbelievable love that I had felt in these last moments.Together we cried tears of joy for the gifts given to be with our grandmother all these years. Though eleven years have now passed- the fond memories of growing up through every season infused with the scent of her presence will forever remain, evidence of the world unseen .

Peace,

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With Gratitude

Gratitude today, much like the word love, can so often be taken lightly and without the depth of sincerity it truly deserves. Rather than a heartfelt recognition of the daily gifts and love bestowed on us by a loving Father, we can be tempted to reduce the sentiment to an occasionalthank you. Why is this? Does God only love us sometimes? Or do we instead fail to recognize where all good gifts come from? Perhaps in truth it is a bit of the both.

St. Ignatius stresses that gratitude is to be a constant response to the continual love and care that God shows for each one of us in each and every day.

“It seems to me, in light of the divine Goodness, though others may think differently, that ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation… For it is a failure
to recognize the good things,the graces, and the gifts received. As such, it is the cause,
beginning, and origin of all evils and sins. On the contrary, recognition and gratitude for the good things and gifts received is greatly loved and esteemed both in heaven and earth.”

From Ingratitude to Gratitude

So, just how do we get from a place of ingratitude to embracing an “attitude of gratitude”? First, it is important to know that gratitude isn’t just to be expressed, but lived. If we can change our understanding of gratitude from a thing given to an entire way of being then we are practicing gratitude in the right way. The Examen prayer is a beautiful way of becoming aware of God’s presence and blessings in our day and moving to a response of gratitude.

Get away for gratitude

Though it would be nice to say that I live the attitude of gratitude 24-7, I would be remiss in noting the numerous hours of an ordinary day that I neglect to offer God my loving praise. Recently,  I went away for a 5 day silent Ignatian retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA to recharge, renew and reconnect . This Father-daughter (/son) time is an essential part of  our spiritual formation for the roots of gratitude and love are always to be found in this foundational relationship. Once this has been nourished, the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) become more visible in our lives.

What does gratitude look like?

In a spirit of openness, the following is a glimpse of day 3 of my time away with my Father. Transitioning back and forth between an outer awareness of God’s movement in my day and the presence of grace, to an inner reflection and response of praise and love I could not contain my joy.

“Today, I lovingly receive this time to rest body, spirit and mind. I noticed your presence in the stillness of the morning and the smiles of those I encountered in my walks with you by my side. I see you in the beauty that surrounds me, both natural and man-made. I welcome the time and ability to pray for others, as it allows me a chance to respond even in a small way, to the great mercy and love that you have shown me. For, in my concerns and need for discernment you have always been there for me. For those times when I have failed to act less than I should, you have never rejected me.

Oh, the immense gratitude I have for your love for me in my quiet times- when I find myself busy with other things.  For you are patient and willing to wait a lifetime. Yet, how wonderful that it need not be a lifetime and that I have awoken from my slumber sooner than that. I praise you Father for the gift of my family and friends, for those solid and lasting ones as well as those which have come only for a season. Each has taught me something about myself and about your love for each one of us.

For the roof over my head, clothes, and the nourishing food in my belly, clean water, and soft pillow under my head I give you praise. I pray for those who lack any of these and are without proper medical care, and reliable transportation or employment. Thank you for a means of work that uses the talents that you have given me and which also enables me to serve others including my own family.

And of course, I offer you my profound gratitude to the Jesuit family who have adopted me, whose faith and values I hope to carry for the remainder of my days on this earth. I long to see so many who I have come to know in this life, one day in the next. Let my life always give witness and praise to You!”

Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God),

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Worth Revisiting: 31 Days of St. Ignatius

This month Loyola Press is inviting each of us to “explore ways of encountering God through using the five senses, inspired by the new book, Taste and See by Ginny Kubitz Moyer”. This celebration culminates on July 31st on the feast day of St. Ignatius. So please  join me along with other Catholic bloggers and authors these 31 days of St. Ignatius,for a month long Ignatian feast of the senses!

Today’s challenge:

Read the excerpt below and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and inner movements of gratitude for the gifts God has given. Afterwards ask yourself, Were there people or things that I had previously overlooked or even taken for granted in my day?

The First Principle and Foundation
(St. Ignatius of Loyola, as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.)

“All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening his life in me.”

Peace,

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Worth Revisting: Theology and Spirituality

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Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

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[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

Faith and Addiction: Fr. Mike McNamara

Image result for fr. Mike McNamaraToday’s guest post by Fr. Mike McNamara, a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, was from an article that appeared earlier in the  Scituate Mariner on June 8, 2017. Fr. Mike’s ministry has both been the work of evangelization but also a focused response “to the darkness of abortion and addictions as it affects individuals, families and the church”.  I am so pleased to share his thoughts on the challenges that have beset our families and communities and what faith provides.


 

“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings…”   Psalm 91

‘And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings’ is a line found in the refrain of the popular contemporary hymn, ‘On Eagles wings’.  Using words of scripture in the song, it touches many hearts.  It seems that no matter how often we sing it, people never seem to tire of it.  Many have hung onto its words at Church Services and especially at funerals, where it offers much comfort and hope.  

We have just celebrated Memorial Day.  Remembering the eagle as a national emblem, we cannot help but reflect on the bird’s unique strength and majesty and beauty.  It was these qualities that attracted the Fathers of our country to make it a sign of our nation.

What many do not realize is that the eagle, taken from the Bible, is a symbol for Christian people of faith.  It symbolizes those people who allow the Holy Spirit to lift them beyond the limitations of this life to share in a life of communion with God.  Unique dimensions of the eagle’s abilities are identified with the unique abilities of the Holy Spirit.

One unique quality is their way of seeing things. Eagles are able to see a prey from great altitudes and another bird from up to 50 miles away.  The Holy Spirit gives us a new ‘vision’ and ability to ‘see’ life and truth.

Eagles also have a great ability to sense wind currents and instead of relying on only the great strength of their mighty wings, instead use them in response to the wind currents around them.  As a result, they are able to fly higher, farther and faster than other birds.  The Holy Spirit does not abandon a Christian to ‘fly’ through life under their own power.  Rather, the Holy Spirit lifts them up with His power to reach the heights of their full potential.

Today, our communities are suffering under the terrible blindness of addictions. They bring us down and rob us of seeing what is true in life.  They bring down so many of our families and friends.  We seem to have no ability to stop their wave of destruction once they enter into our lives.   

However, with the Holy Spirit, there is the power and a fullness of life that no addiction can destroy.  

When we allow the Holy Spirit to be our strength, then there is hope and freedom.  The Spirit shines the light that no darkness of addiction can withstand.   The Spirit is the truth that reveals the lies that we have been duped into believing.  The Spirit of life destroys the spirit of self-destruction and death that is robbing us of so many loved ones, and the love, gifts and blessings they were intended to share with us and the world.

United, in the love of the Lord, as a community, we have the ability to change the direction of the world around us.  Living one day at a time, beginning our day on our knees before God, doing His will, allows The Lord to bring victory over these powers in our lives.

We have just celebrated Memorial Day and all the sacrifices so many made for us to be free.  May we not loose our freedom because of this enemy that wants to destroy so many.   May we experience in powerful ways that great strength and power of the Holy Spirit, lifting us high, on great wings of faith, to set us free and making all things new.

Fr. Mike McNamara

Priest of the Archdiocese of Boston

Director of Servants of Christ Ministries in Scituate

Part time Parochial Vicar of the collaborative parishes of Resurrection and St. Paul’s in Hingham.

 

Worth Revisiting: The Sound of Silence

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Couldn’t help but revisit this post this week as Friday, I go on a 5 day silent Ignation retreat at Campion Jesuit House. Truly looking forward to the sound of silence and and some much needed father-daughter time.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

(1 KGS 19:9A; 11-12)

This reading is certainly one of my favorites from the Old Testament, not because of the thundering noise, or the overwhelming displays of nature but because of a whisper. A small nondescript sound, undetectable on one’s own, but always there over, under and amidst a world of noise and chaos. It’s presence reminds us of small everyday ways that God moves and speaks in our lives. So too is the reminder that if we do not stop to listen, get distracted by the things that vie for our attention , or fail to seek the Lord we very well miss the Almighty altogether.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, grass, plant, outdoor and natureYesterday, I opted to bring my lunch outside to simply sit and share a few uninterrupted moments with the Lord. Like Elijah, I felt the cool breeze, and the sun on my face. I heard the birds and the children at play in the schoolyard. And, while all of this was quite beautiful and pleasing, it wasn’t where I had discovered God.Responding to an inner prompting, I closed my eyes..I quieted the sounds around me till all I could hear was silence.

Yet, this wasn’t the first time I had done so. Many years ago I had been given my 1st penance as a new convert, to go and spend some quiet time alone with God for one week. An unusual penance you say? True, I had been all ready to say a Hail Mary or an Our Father and move on along with my walk as a disciple. However, my very spiritually astute confessor recognized that surrounded by midterms, the law school exam and wedding planning what I was missing. That behind my words and sins of impatience and pride..was a need for silence.

Seemingly nothing, silence is not an absence of anything but a overwhelming abundance of a peaceful state of being. A stillness of body and soul, at rest with one’s self and the world. Unable to be at peace with one’s self or others, then an appreciation of silence will forever evade. For, silence demands a responsiveness and reciprocity to shed restlessness and concerns to simply receive what is there. This is why so many contemplative saints speak of an intimacy with God,because they had been ready to hear and respond to the whisper in their hearts.

If I may encourage,albeit challenge you- take time today to spend alone with God. It need not be a lengthy unbearable stay but a time set aside just to be open and present. What you may receive in doing so is beyond measure.

Peace,

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In Our Weakness

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

In seeking to be present and attentive to friends, family, and all those placed in our care we can at times mistakenly think that we are in control. That is, until we realize that we never were. For, under our own steam, even our own daily needs would seem insurmountable not to mention the needs of others. The reality truly is that we dislike admitting our weakness. We think, we plan, and we organize. Meanwhile, all of our striving though recognized by our heavenly Father was never meant to be ours alone.

The challenge faced in prayer might be how to pray for a specific intention or perhaps, when completely overwhelmed, how to pray at all. Yet, in these times, merely the desire to pray is enough. For while our relationship with God might in truth be a bit strained on our part, we have been given an amazing advocate! The Holy Spirit not only was with the apostles, and the helper of saints past but is there to guide and intercede for each one of us today.

In these moments of weakness, we are finally open to experience the grace that only our loving Father can give. Here we glimpse both how loving and mighty God is. And even in our perceivable strengths, we come to realize that  it is God who gifted them all. The peace that we long for can only come from our living Hope. Nothing that we do can ever create this peace in ourselves or within our community. But with God, all of our striving and yearning, in his will, may be fruitful. And better still, God uses our faults and failings too. Why? To show how great He is , and how unfathomable His love is for each of us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace to see your work in me! In my weakness, you have enabled me to do things that I never imagined possible. You have magnificently created the world and still meet the smallest concerns of those I love as if they were your only care. When I come next, Holy Spirit, feeling at a loss for words- I ask only for you meet me in my weakness.

Reflect:

Where do I feel the weakest in my life? How do I face crisis, despair, and loss? What strength and consolation have we found in the past? What hope do we have of God’s faithfulness and love in tomorrow?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Living Privilege

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privilege
noun priv·i·lege \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\

  • : a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

  • : a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud      (Merriam-Webster)

I grew up in a single parent home, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, not affluent but replete with love and the basic necessities of life. While I didn’t always like the food or the clothes I had, I never spent a day hungry or lacking shelter. Instilled in me was the understanding that despite the meager and lean times, there were always others who had so much less. I was indeed privileged.

One day when I was about 6, a young woman with three young children in tow approached the door of my house. I had recognized the two little toddlers clinging on her dress from the neighborhood, and had curiously wondered where they actually lived. Entering, they were unusually quiet and withdrawn not even wanting to make eye contact. Immediately  inviting them to take a seat, my mom got quickly to work. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, she had produced a fine meal from our dinner the night before. And using our best tableware she welcomed these new visitors as honored guests. The once shy faces lit up as they saw all of the food before them and boisterously became themselves once again.

Asking  me then to go and play with them for a bit, my mom sat down with their mother as she fed the infant in her arms. In hushed tones they spoke, their conversation forever remaining just between them. Packing up more food and clothing for them to carry with them, my mom reminded them that they could always return. This they did, though not staying for any great length of time. I asked my mom once why she gave, when that merely meant that we had less that week, or had given up that shirt she had just purchased with the tags still on it.

“This is what it means to love unconditionally”, she told me, “to care for others more than yourself. You may not understand this today but you and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share”.

This is the very definition of privilege and with it comes a tremendous responsibility to do all this with great love. Perhaps you do not feel that you have much to give or that others more able will step up to help. Yet, you have what only you can give…yourself. God knows your struggles, your needs and desires but he also knows your gifts. After all, he gave them to you. You see the world and ask why it all seems so troubling and unchanging- it begins with each of us to be the change in the world around us. One life at a time, every day anew. I promise that one life that will most certainly be changed is our own.

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them” – St. Teresa of Lisieux

Peace,

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In Plain Sight

 : Every Spring my mom, though teaching full time, would find an extra reserve of energy to become attentive to the details of housekeeping that winter and life had placed on the back burner. Make no mistake, however, it wasn’t just her responsibility but mine as well. Cobwebs and dust bunnies had no  recourse but to succumb to her broom, keen eye and swift hand.  What always surprised me in the course of these weeks was not the visible dirt but that which lay hidden in plain sight.

With pails of soapy water, a sponge for each of us, and a strong determination of mission we washed each wall from top to bottom. Not just once, but several times over, removing the unsightly grime that somehow had made its home on ours. And while I longed to stop at the first attempt,  to do so would simply make the dirt remaining all the more obvious. Yet, when the proper time and care was taken the work taken would reveal a well cared for home and the splendid true color of the original paint chosen.

I thought of this today in contemplating the housekeeping, as it were, of our souls. While we might easily recognize the walls that are broken or seemingly damaged beyond repair, do we see the layers of dirt and daily sin that fade the color of love that we are to reflect? Are we attentive only in confessing the obvious cracks or plaster in need of repair, or do we return time and time again to unearth the less visible sin we have accumulated?

For, much like the first pass of the soap on the wall, our awareness of the multitude of sin in our lives becomes apparent only when we begin to scratch the surface of the grime of time and habit. Too much work we say for such a small reward. Yet, this is the convincing deception of the venial sins in our lives. These small innocuous ways that we even unknowingly hide the beauty of God within, and become content to be less than what we were meant to be. If it has been some time since you have attended to this deeper spiritual housekeeping, God is ready and eager to provide the soap and water!

Reflect:

In what ways and areas do I need to attend to most in my spiritual life? What areas do I neglect? What might be revealed in tidying here that will let God’s love shine brighter in my life?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: What Truly Matters

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Can you recall a landmark moment in your life? A  time when it became suddenly visible what truly mattered, and where God was in it all? The following is one of my very own- all but a blink of God’s eyes yet a graced moment when I will forever felt held.

It was a late Spring morning in the South, ominous skies grey and overcast coupled with warm and humid conditions were the makings for the perfect storm. Locals knew the weather system well, and it wasn’t long before the tornado warnings ensued. I had never worried about these storms, not because there was nothing to worry about or because of my youth, but quite simply my mother worried enough for the both of us. Yet, that day would be different.

As students were sitting at the long adjoining tables in the school cafeteria, the alarms resounded through the halls, school, and town. Beckoned to get down beneath the little protection that we had, warnings were issued to tuck in and resist looking out the windows. That is when I saw it, just outside the huge glass window that encompassed the side wall.. An unbelievable enormous swirling combination of wind, dirt, branches, and other objects it had accumulated in its wake hovering just above the ground. There it was right before my eyes, not more than 8 feet from me, and I could not help but be both in amazement and fear.Unable to close my eyes I prayed for protection, “Lord please protect us and keep us safe from harm. Lift this tornado and carry it up and far away”.

After what seemed like an eternity, the greenish grey funnel lifted taking with it its new found treasures but leaving the middle school cafeteria building untouched. Though we breathed a quick sigh of relief, we were not out of the woods yet as there were a total of 9 funnel clouds that had formed and remained over this small town that day. Quickly, the school staff  ushered us all into the main building and into the hallway by the lockers. Deemed the safest place, we all huddled there and waited till we could leave to join our families. Beside me was a boy that I knew well, for we shared a strong Christian faith- a fact that did not go unnoticed to me that day.

Marvin, was a bright, joyful thirteen year old boy who just lit up a room whenever he entered. This was because he always carried the love of Christ with him. As we sat there, there was a brief pause and then I asked, “Marvin, I am concerned about my mother, and our families and friends..can we pray together?” “Yes..me too. Let’s pray.” And there we were- two kids praying in the hallway of a public school, oblivious that others would take notice. I still remember our prayer so clearly.

“Father, please protect us all in your loving care. Watch over our families and loved ones, and let these tornadoes pass us by. Though we would miss the things we have become attached to, it is the safety of the people we pray for today. Please take away our fear and concern and leave us with your peace. In this we pray-Amen.”

As I parted from him that day to be picked up by a neighbor of mine, I knew that God had been present in our midst. Arriving at my apartment building, I saw the devastation. No longer was there a roof but open sky in its place. Part of the roof had been hurled into the apartment of another neighbor and the rest wrapped around a lamp post. Yet where was my mother? Finally my eyes spied her,  standing solemnly inside the doorway of our apartment. To everyone’s amazement none had been injured.

Virtually everything I owned was damaged or destroyed by the winds, rain and debris. Yet, as I stood there hand in hand alongside my mother, in a pool of dirty water surrounded by the stuff in life, I realized that everything else was meaningless. I had my mother and nothing else-not the toys, the pictures, the clothes or the furniture truly mattered. Here was a recognition that God had not only answered my prayer, but of the small list of essential things in life.

With an internal prayer of gratitude I then watched as men from my community approached with tarps, tools, and provisions to cover the apartment and remove the debris. Here God was once again caring for us, this time in the shape of benevolent strangers who had stepped forward to volunteer their time and gifts for others. And while I would never see these men again, they will be forever etched in my heart.

It would be some time before I could move back into my house, but I had gained a better sense of where home truly was. It was for the moment beside my mother but always in the presence of my God. It needed no accouterments, but could be found in prayer. This was the meaning of joy in simplicity, grace through destruction and peace in crisis.  It remains for me a spiritual guidepost when I get preoccupied with the accumulation of comfort and the material things in life.

Peace,

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