Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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Take it All to Prayer

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Over the last few months,  a potential mission opportunity has been occupying a special place in my prayers. Our collaborative, having already made two trips to Haiti for teens with another in February, has decided to embark on an adult trip next July. This mission, though only a week has born great fruit among the youth in our collaborative many of whom had never seen such poverty. Their experience there has taken away the inner reservation to openly speak of their love of Christ, and replaced it with a realization and a passion for what evangelization truly is. These teens make a very compelling case for mission and witness of the conversion power of Christ.

So, when first approached to consider leading the adult trip, I could not help but think of all the lives that would be changed during this time. Yet, I also knew that as a follower of Christ like all things in our lives that this too must be taken to prayer. The difficulty that can arise, for all of us as believers, is when a perceived good receives a resounding no in prayer. So much so, we may delay our verbal response because we are hopeful that God has a “yes!” waiting somewhere in the wings.

This is where I find myself today, after much prayerful consideration and soulful introspection, with an answer I know to be the right one. With each heartfelt petition and reasoning for going, God has also helped me to discern why this trip at this time is not to be. Maybe God is calling forth the gifts of someone else. Perhaps there will be a reason that I am needed here. While none of these are revealed fully now, I trust that God has a time and purpose for all of this.

And in giving the outcome to God, what I have received in its place is peace.

“As we have seen, there is sometimes a big difference between what God is actually asking of us, and what we imagine he is asking. We won’t have the grace to do what God is not asking of us. But for what he is asking, he has promised us his grace: God grants what he commands. When God inspires us to do something (if it really is God who is the source of the inspiration), at the same time he supplies the ability to do it, even if it is beyond our capacity or scares us at the start. Every motion that comes from God brings both the light to understand what God intends, and the strength to accomplish it: light that illuminates the mind, and strength that gives power to the will.”
Fr. Jacques Philippe, In The School of the Holy Spirit, p. 21

Reflect:

Am I inviting God into every decision in my life, even the potentially good ones? Or, do I only ask God to support a decision I have already made?

Pray:

Lord Jesus, you asked that we follow you. So when the paths look equally good, or when we are inclined to take one over the other, help us still to seek your will and not our own. For this is where true happiness lies. In each of these moments, we ask that you also give us the courage to speak this truth and trust your loving will and purpose for our lives. My savior, and my dearest friend you will never steer me wrong!

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: 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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A Prayerful Thirst

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“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 17:6

From the outside the prayer life of a Christian, particularly those in ministry, may incorrectly be assumed perfect, and yet how could it ever be? For, if it depends wholly on us, broken and fallible as we are, alas our words and petition will always be lacking. And yet, God yearns to meet us where we are, making up for the host of imperfections and sinful ways we have become accustomed to. So then, prayer cannot begin from a self assured position of deservedness but with a humble desire to seek. There need not be a multitude of words (Matthew 6:7) or the right selection

 

Dryness in prayer

There are, however, times we cannot seem to hear God’s answer amidst the din around us, the circumstance itself or even over our own continuous cries for help. We may very well ask ourselves, just where has our heavenly Father gone? Or better still, what has been done or not done to cause Him to withdraw his favor and presence?

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray…The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” CCC 2725

Digging Deep and Reaching Out

Remaining centered on Christ when our prayer is arid can be difficult at best.  Yet, if we do not then everything else that we do, while perhaps humanitarian, is insufficient and even fruitless for we are lacking our source for wisdom, strength and guidance. It is like a tree with a great expansive reach but very shallow roots. This tree cannot weather the storms that blow us this way and that, or seasons of dryness where showers of blessings seem scarce. Conversely, deep roots sourced in Christ guide us to where we can find new strength and grace when the world around us has changed.

When prayer is difficult..Pray More.

St. Ignatius does not provide easy words for us here and yet it is the very thing we are being asked to do. The sadness, and longing we feel is what St. Ignatius calls spiritual desolation. It can appear at times as boredom, dissatisfaction, frustration or as complete abandonment. While it is often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, for the prayer seeker it is not only an undesired course but therein can lie a fear that it may never be found again. For, intimacy in prayer is such an priceless treasure, that once experienced and lost even in the smallest way or for the shortest time is deeply missed. These are the moments we long to return to when we suddenly become aware of our distance from God or sense that we are seemingly grappling about in the dark. We cannot, however, begin to pridefully think that we were deserving through our own efforts.  And still, it is not solely the journey of the forlorn disciple as the saints too walked this arid desert path of prayer on occasion. What most assuredly is the defining factor is our resolve to trust in God’s will and perseverance in the struggle .

St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed in her private letters (Come Be My Light)  her own spiritual desert that lasted over half a century. 50 years of coming to prayer waiting to hear God’s voice yet instead experiencing silence and solitude. Many a would be follower of Christ might have considered giving up by this time. But this, as she grew to realize, would be her cross one that would help her begin to glimpse the suffering that Christ endured himself. And while his voice was quieted, God met St Teresa in the faces of the poor and marginalized in the streets of Calcutta. Her work would, as she noted, allow the graced opportunity with the daily interaction with the Christ before her.

In Ordinary Time

We can learn much from the remedy that St. Teresa exemplifies through her time of spiritual emptiness and darkness. The “light” that she would find would not be found in lofty highs of prayer but in the everyday moments of ordinary time. Time spent with a priority of making space for God through devotion with the Blessed Sacrament and the prayers of the rosary became the guide for their work and the source of strength and encouragement to continue on.

“Where will you get the joy of loving?-in the Eucharist, Holy Communion.  Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day, He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that adoration.”

In this meditative stillness, we may also more readily discover the invitation to better discern our own spiritual inclinations and motives. Ask yourself:

  • What is it that is occupying my head and heart space these days? Have I invited God into these instances or sought to limit his presence in my life to where I would like him to be?
  • How do I receive this time of testing? Am I seeking only that the pain be taken away or am I trusting that though I cannot see the purpose or way forward that God does?
  • Even in this time of dryness, what do I have to offer through my daily interactions with others that I perhaps have not considered before?

“Teach my heart Lord to pray as you would have me pray. Let me not seek merely the consolation and intimacy of your love. Yet knowing that you work all things for good, and according to your purpose let me rest assured in your will and presence in my life. And when I cannot feel you near and am tempted to despair, let me trust in the unseen.”

Peace,

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“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

 

 

 

In My Corner

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Backs up against the wall prepared for an uphill battle, or at the very least a ready argument we turn anxiously to look for just who is in our corner. Even for the smallest of tasks we seem so ready to face everything on our own and only when we see the overwhelming odds do we recognize the depth of our need. Like a boxer, we stand bruised and bloodied with eyes nearly swollen shut before we fall on our knees .And yet, the fact of the matter is that it never has to be this way.

Corners

First a little observation about corners. As a friend of mine recently noted, corners are not the neatest, most brightly lit or cared for of places. That is where we keep the things we choose to hide or cannot deal with in the light of day that simply form the cobwebs of our lives. It is where we relegate the things that we hold onto, just in case we might find them of use one day. Now while it is true that God is needed to shine light on all of the hurt, guilt, and sin that lies here his love is never meant to only exist in this confined space. For if we let him, he longs for us to lay our heart and lives wide open for him to walk and guide our every movement.

Trust

So then why are we content to relegate God to the corner, asking only for his help when we feel we need him most?  Quite personally, it has been for me when I have suffered most from a misplaced trust in my own abilities or those of others. Forging ahead without consultation or consideration of his advice, I set off assuredly on a course that most certainly was doomed from the start. “Where did it all go wrong?”, I ask myself knowing the answer even before I ask the question.  It isn’t even a new story either. For time and time in the scriptures, God is asking us to include him in the planning, to wait to act. And yet time seems to stand still, and the uncomfortableness of the silence and the restlessness in the waiting tempt us to action. What I do not see, however, is the interplay of God at work in the hearts and lives of others seeking to bring us all to be a part of his master plan. While God can most certainly accomplish it all without me, he longs to have my trust and participation in the effort.

Rightful Place

Well, if the corner isn’t the sole rightful place of God in our lives, just where should our  Advocate and Comforter, Counselor and Deliverer  be? Truth is at times God is more than willing to take the lead, to walk beside us, and albeit carry us when we think we cannot go any further. All he asks is that he be first in our lives. The first consultation, the first consideration, the door that we first approach and move through in our day.Yet, how do we invite God to occupy that space in our lives if we have only turned to the coach’s corner in times of crisis?

  1. Pray- talk, surrender your concerns and difficulties but also  be willing to share your joys and blessings. It is all important to our loving Father.If we ever want to move God from the remote corners we have to give our all the good and the bad and include him in the decision making.
  2. Reconciliation- In considering what remains in our corners, now is a good time to “clean house”, maybe even do a little construction and eliminate the corners all together. Add some light to the darkest areas of our life by throwing open the shutters through confession and allowing God’s love to penetrate our hearts.
  3. Discernment- When a big decision seems to suddenly erupt on the scene..chances are that there were several smaller issues that were went unnoticed  or that led to this crossroad. Take time to allow God to lead. Discernment may appear at first glance to be inaction when really it is the most important part of any action that we take in our Christian lives.

My hope for you today is to recognize the friendship that our loving Savior is calling you to- not just a hiding place but a constant light, shield and hope of our life to come. Not for a moment does he ever forsake us. Isn’t it only rightful that we honor his choice to be with us always?

Peace,Signature

 

 

Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of the upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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The Coming of the Spirit

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” Acts 2:1-4

I had always wondered what it would have been like to have been in the upper room. To have been present as the Spirit rushed through filled and imbued with a holy fire to witness the love of Jesus Christ to the world. Courage to proclaim drawn from strength beyond our own united in divine communion with the Trinity and with one another. Here in this place to be overtaken wholly- the recipient and bearer of healing, peace, joy and courage. This weekend, I would wonder no more.

As part of a group of over 100 students and chaperones joining almost 4000 more at Steubenville East, an intense faith immersion youth conference, I anticipated the Spirit’s arrival. Hurried meals, record setting temperatures, lack of sleep and other logistical challenges had affected many that Friday and early Saturday. Yet, as all of this was gathering steam, so was the Holy Spirit in preparation for adoration. And like a tremendous rain cloud that suddenly opens, grace rained down.

I was surprised to see her there- making her way up the stairs of the arena and though I had met her only once before we had instantly connected. Southern by birth, we shared both a love for our childhood home as well as a recognition of a given purpose to bloom where we had been planted. So when in a voice quite clear  I heard the inner prompting  to ask her to sit beside me, I joyfully responded.

Ushered in with upbeat music and guided on by prayer we prepared for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that was to come.Up and down each aisle of the coliseum Christ was processed, stopping momentarily to turn and reveal Him to all surrounding. Seeking healing, desiring intimacy,  hands reached towards, as if to touch the hem of His robe once again. As he drew near, stopping beside us,the light that shone was all encompassing and darkness could not help but surrender. The warmth that flowed permeated every part of my very being, and I felt loved, held and adored.

Suddenly beside me, what began as soft tears moved to a deep profound sobbing. Healing. My beautiful new sister in Christ was being slain in the Spirit. Putting my arms around her I prayed.

“Lord, help console and heal the pain that life has brought her. Help her to feel the magnitude of your love”.

Then, in a grace-filled release of body and soul, she fell backwards into my arms as if floating atop the ocean’s deep waters. Suspended from the past and buoyed by love the hurt that she had felt gave way to peace and a smile that truly radiated from within. Warmth. Though she could hear my prayers, she was in a space almost between worlds awaiting the joy that would come. The gift of laughter. Holy joy, caught her and she laughed- uninhibited by anything around her conversing with the Spirit in words known to God yet unrecognizable to me. The gift of tongues. In utter amazement and gratitude I continued to pray,

“Oh my Lord, you have allowed me to witness this graced moment with her, to see and proclaim your greatness, mercy and love.”

Two and a half hours had passed during this time, all of which were spent on my knees and none of which I felt any pain from. As she came to, she expressed her slight embarrassment for the scene that she imagined others to have glimpsed. “There was nothing you could have done to control any part of it, nor would you have wanted to..it was beautiful!”

“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Still Waters

In the past year since this post was written, I have received such grace and strength from this moment in prayer. Now, during the periods when I thirst for true fulfillment, I find comfort to return to this resting place beside the still living waters.

Anyone close to me knows that despite sometimes bemoaning my busy schedule, I am indeed blessed and appear to thrive on chaos. On my already full plate there’s been ample room to take another helping of “Would you be able to join us?” , “Oh, and another thing”, or “I cannot be there.”  Yet over the last few weeks ,   I have felt the pressing need for a break -a respite to  gather my thoughts and silence to find my peace in the midst of the all that I am being asked to do. With my head swimming with service commitments, recordings, preparations, and conversations, the question of just when I would take this break was weighing on me too. That is until the answer came to me in prayer once again.

What began quite simply as a bodily sigh, gave way to a petition, and then to a surrendering of my very self.

“Lord, I need you… You have graced my life with so many wondrous opportunities to love and serve you. And while I cannot believe that you have called me, and given me the gifts necessary to answer that call, I am in need of some time with you alone. I want to be joyful in all that I do, not just simply go through the motions. I want to be close to you, so that others can come to know you through me. Come Holy Spirit..”

Then closing my eyes, I sat in silence in recognition of  that which had kept me busy, my deep desire to serve  and God’s ever presence through it all. Suddenly, I became aware too of the missed moments I had failed to take advantage of, glimpses of God inviting me to sit a spell and simply be.  No sooner was this acknowledgment expressed, than was God’s beautiful gift to me revealed. The vision that now lay before my still closed eyes was that sanctuary that I had pleaded for. Waters so tranquil and glassy that they could not help but reflect the beauty of the heavens that stretched across the bright blue sky.  There was truly no separation between the two, and I understood that this was his lesson as well.

You are my vision..

As St. Ignatius of Loyola’s own experience has shown, if we are to reflect God’s love, joy and beauty in our world this time of contemplation with our Creator and loving Father is essential.  In our surrender, the ripples of fear and doubt are dispelled , and our self reliance gives way to a peace that can only come from the One who has created and ordered it all. So, yes the One who set the sun and stars in motion also set aside for rest and serenity. And, this time need not always be extensive but as was the case here, just a cursory foretaste of what awaits when our time here on earth is done.

For the remainder of this week, whenever I have needed a short break, I have returned in prayer to find God ‘s invitation still present. So much so, I know that the smile and joy that breaks forth has been more than visible to others.  If this were not enough, God whose generosity is not to be outdone, has spoken to me again in Word and song. No surprise here, the responsorial psalm that I led with the children for this Sunday’s liturgy  was …

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul… (Psalm 23:1-6)

The invitation is there for you as well..to be led beside still waters. Are you in true need of a break in your life? Have you found God calling you to spend some quality time with Him today? He’s there..already waiting for you!

Peace,

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The Sound of Silence

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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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