Go Tell Everyone

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He sent me to give good news to the poor
Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more
Tell blind people that they can see,
And set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone
The news that the kingdom of God has come

And go tell everyone
The news that God’s kingdom has come

          In the weeks leading up to the US elections and during election week itself, a lone eagle circled our skies, calling and crying. The eagle is a personal sign for me, as is the kingfisher. When I hear the eagle’s call, just as when I hear the kingfisher’s, I turn away from the world and pay attention.

          But other than the piercing call of the eagle, I hadn’t really heard the other birds for some time. I wasn’t sure if they had all fled somewhere or if I had been too deeply buried in work to hear them. I mentioned as much to my dear Linda Raha, who replied in her gentle wisdom, It is in moments of quietude that we find ourselves again.

          It hadn’t been very quiet in my part of the world for some time now.

          Then, came last Thursday, and a gentle light shone its love into my heart. A 4 day break was coming up and I knew I needed to live it differently if I wanted to hear birdsongs with my inner ear again.

          We had to drive into the city on Friday. Since we live far away, I always try to make the most out of such trips. Often, things go reasonably well. Yet, there are times when I pack way too much into the day, and we come to the end of such days feeling none the better for it.

          With Thursday’s illumination, came a firmness to my will to not squander the day by over-planning. Instead, I made only one plan and lived the rest of the Friday hours in serenity. Its gift to me that night was an unusually still and calm spirit.

          I awakened on Saturday morning not to birdsong, but to the strains of an old hymn I’d long forgotten. It had been ever so long since my angel had sung me a hymn to greet my awakening. But unmistakably, I heard him now. From somewhere deep within me came,

He sent me to give good news to the poor
Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more
Tell blind people that they can see,
And set the downtrodden free
And go tell everyone
The news that the kingdom of God has come

          Wide awake and fully alert now, I traced the lines of that chorus with my heart, seeking the part God had willed for me, What do You want me to know, Lord?

          In a swift and gentle reply, He said,

Go tell everyone
The news that God’s kingdom has come

I am Sending Him

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I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you….Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever… ~ Philemon 1: 12, 15

          There are days that begin and end much the same way, in simple breaths that do not stray too far from the gate. While this past Thursday began in the hope of being a quick and efficiently worked day, by afternoon, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going home early from work.

          Like beads being threaded together to make a necklace, came the tasks, one by one. In a madness that can only come out of my country, without warning, a week back, schools were suddenly shut and most of the country was placed under movement control order again. Overnight, state borders were sealed, and inter district travel curbed in many states except in ours. Those of us in the government service were told to work from home but our state being a green zone, there was some flexibility. So, I opted to go into work on Thursday to take care of some paper work. I figured I’d be done and out by lunch time.

          Instead, it was almost 8 at night when I finally drove home. It wasn’t just the work that forced the late hour. In my tiredness, I made  a few mistakes too. As everyone knows, it’s always easier to prevent mistakes than to mop up the mess. But the only way for me to do that was to have a clear head and I didn’t, not that Thursday. The sudden lockdown announcement the previous Sunday afternoon had dunked me head first into the barrel. I had just one day to sort out the younger kids and make strict study plans for them while rushing to re-start my personal online work platforms. It should have been happy news for me, an inveterate homebody, a respite from the work place I dislike, but after months of political roiling, I didn’t appreciate the short notice and the ambiguity of it all.

I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you

          By early that Thursday afternoon, I was already wondering where was the heart God had promised me. When you hide your old grief inside, and carry on as well as you can, yet all the while searching the skies for signs of a mystical return, when you read of such a promise just that morning, well, you expect the day to go really well and smooth.

          Instead, there I was, working feverishly, unsure if I could meet my own deadlines, deafened to even birdsong.

Where is my Heart, Lord, I asked, where is he?

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep…
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there.

Den no die, Mama

          Where is my Heart, Lord? Where is he?

          A little slowly at first, but surely, the knots untangled. One by resolute one, things got done and buttoned close. As the day blushed into sunset, I began to sense something had changed. The air around me had stilled. Then, I sensed a presence beside me and within me, soft, gentle yet firm and strong.

Den no die, Mama

          There was still much to get through, but I was now miraculously clear-headed. I zipped across town, stop after stop, ticking things off my list. I was calm and collected. Despite the falling shadows and the deserted office, no frisson of alarm creased my spirit.

I am sending him

          When I finally pulled into my home driveway, the sun had gone to his sleep. I was too tired to arch my head towards the skies and search for the faithful diamonds that never fail to burn their gaze from velvet depths. But my little home was ablaze in warm, happy lights and my children had swarmed out to get me out of the car. There were little stories which needed telling and hearing right there on the front lawn. There were little grievances which needed only the balm of an attentive heart. I had received so much and I had even more to give. How much richer I was for that!

          However frayed and difficult that day had been, I had come to its night with a deep peace that left no space unsweetened. As Paul’s words to Philemon about Onesimus tread before me, that night I learned in a deeper way that however tragic our losses, our loving God leaves no gaping hole unfilled. 

          Yet, to get to this point of knowing and acceptance, a road must be travelled, a journey undertaken. There is a time for each step and for each fall. No amount of rushing can get us here. No amount of support can shorten the  distance. Every tear we shed, every question we send to heaven, is another step forward on this journey of seeking the return of what we have lost.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,

that you might have him back forever.

It is Time

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          Around after 3 in the morning, my husband and I and all our children finally went to bed, after keeping vigil with our American friends. At my window, to have one last look at a sky soon to bloom into new dawn, a half moon smiled down at me from her pink couch in the high skies.

          For some reason, my heart skipped in a little jump of sweetness.

          And with that I felt the words,

It is time.

          I wasn’t sure what it meant, and at past 3 in the morning, wasn’t up to prodding it open. Yet, hours later, when night had long passed its secrets over to day, it became clearer.

There is an appointed time for everything,

and a time for every affair under the heavens.

…a time to heal;

a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to rend, and a time to sew…

Given and Taken

 

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          Waiting with my American friends, I scanned the skies for a sign yesterday. From behind me came a whisper I’ve heard before. Bearing quiet strength, I heard,

Still wait and watch…Still hope and trust  

The Watchers, John Greenleaf Whittier

          As the mist begins to lift today, in joy or in pain,

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away

Blessed be the name of God.   ~  Job 1: 21

 

Open My Inner Ear

          Last Friday, I had the alluring prospect of the afternoon to myself. After weeks of pushing myself, I was coming to the end of the work week feeling drained, so some hours to rest and let go were precious indeed.

          But then my husband came home from work in the middle of the week, fuming about a change in work plans, necessitating him to attend a long meeting in the city on Friday afternoon.

          Immediately, I found myself asking him if I could tag along. Given what the weeks had been, especially that week, I did wonder inside of me, if I was mad. Mad to forgo physical rest. Mad to endure that long drive to the city and the likelihood of traffic snarls.

          Yet, there was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to go with my husband and while he was at his meeting, I wanted to be in church. I had gone so long without being before the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus had sustained me all this while and would continue to, I knew, but this Friday, after giving so much of myself to others, I wanted to give my Jesus an offering of myself. I wanted to be before Him and to console him by my presence and the offering of my heart, however tattered it was.

          My husband readily agreed. Over the 2 days or so till Friday came, I sensed a change come over me. Something began trickling into my heart. A cool stream of some kind of water, mystical and mysterious. As it tumbled and slipped into the gullies and crevices, my tiredness and tensions yielded unprotestingly to that water. I thus came to Friday, happy and light. Happier than I had been in a long while.

          In my happiness, I told Jesus that He was not to be silent with me. It had been so long since I had been in church and I wanted Him to speak and speak to me all the hours I was before Him.

          Then I spoke of my wish,

Open my inner ear

I didn’t just want to hear things; I wanted Jesus to speak to me through the ear of my heart.

          When Friday morning came, readying for work, I felt that skip of joy inside me, and again, wondered at it. Is it because I’m coming to see You? I suddenly asked. That I chose hours in a simple seat inside a still and empty church instead of an afternoon of deserved rest?

          A tiny sprite of words formed in reply,

My little adorer

          I keeled away from the name. I did not deserve it. All I was, was a mess of a person. One who slipped and tripped and fell more often than she walked upright, clearsighted and steady of heart. Never was this more evident than this October. This October of farewells and a change to life. An October of hoping and of hopes being dashed. Of a reigniting of old fires in our marriage, nefarious fires that had no business coming back to life.

Adorer

          For close to 3 hours in church that day, over and over.

          I left church later that day, tired, but with an inner quiet missing for so long. That Friday led to 4 more incredibly hectic days. My step slowed and I laboured to get through each day.

          But that sweet, cool brook within tripped and skipped on, catching the rays of an invisible sun with every turn and bubble.

          Today, I was home on sick leave. As is my practice, I fight illness with work. Managing to put dinner together, I left the kitchen after some minutes of listening to my husband venting about a mess at work. A sudden weakness had come over me and I needed to sit down. But I also wanted to get away from my husband’s anger and frustrations over work.

          I had barely sat down and begun scrolling through the posts on a forum when it occurred to me that I was giving my time to other people instead of being with my tired husband. That thought had not fully rolled itself out when these words formed,

Carry his cross.

          They were not my thoughts. They were from somewhere else. From within me but not of me. I know it because I did not delay, trying to hedge out of what was needed. Instead, in an immediate obedience pretty much foreign to me, I went to my husband and let him know he had my ear once more.

          I knew then whose Voice it was that I was hearing, that quiet bloom of words within me. I understood the difference between the talking to I often give myself, and this other Voice. When it is from me, often there is a struggle to comply. But when it is my Master’s, it straightens my soul to willing obedience and to genuine humility.

          Open my inner ear. My prayer had been heard.

Even If in Bits and Pieces

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Many times I found myself praying the Holy Rosary (even if in bits and pieces, the Holy Mother of God knows well how to sort them out)…   Dr. Mario Enzler, former Swiss Guard

          Quiet minutes to myself, the first of this new October. After 9 days of grindingly hard work and unexpected tumults, everything stills this morning. The only speck across this silent dawn is that we have to make that trek into the city. I’d rather stay home, sleep in a bit, get some rest and put the house into better order, but it’s a necessary trip.

          I say my first prayers of the day at my altar. It’s Saturday so I seal my heart in Mother Mary’s, my little Saturday offertory. Since it will be a long drive to the city, I remind myself to say a few Hail Mary’s along the way. Although I’ve done my daily readings and said my prayers all week, it has been one of those weeks with too much crammed into it. Despite the trip we will make today, despite the mental list in my head ready to be ticked off, I know I need to slow my step and quieten down, for the gullies of my heart are dry and in need of wetness.

          A sudden, bright white~gold in the outside sky catches my eye. The sun is coming up from its eastern bed, reminding me that we have to get going soon, when I find myself reading an article about a former Swiss guard and his faith in the Rosary.

Many times I found myself praying the Holy Rosary (even if in bits and pieces, the Holy Mother of God knows well how to sort them out)…  

          Without warning, tears prick my eyes.

          All these days, I’ve tried to keep my heart in God’s. I’ve prayed and prayed, but in drifts and drabs,

in bits and pieces

          Each time, I’ve called for my guardian angel. Called for him to join his prayers to mine and to carry my meagre efforts to heaven, because I knew that my prayers this week were especially small and paltry indeed, paling before the great needs of this week.

even if in bits and pieces, the Holy Mother of God knows well how to sort them out

          And with those words, my Heavenly Mother blew her breath over my weariness. With those words, I fell against Her maternal heart.

          So often this week, I had entreated heaven to scrub clean my offerings of myself. So often, I had scraped the earth of my days to find something of value, something I hadn’t held back for myself, something I hadn’t tainted with my many sins.

          I felt I had given so little to my God all of these 9 days.

          Yet, my beloved Mother was now telling me She had received each morsel of my heart, of my days lived in the depth of unexpected storms, and in unexpected joys too. Of the unseen work of hours and hours upon end. In the many falls and in the struggle to rise once more and start over each time.

          Bits and pieces. Each one received and sorted out.

A Time for New Roads

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There is an appointed time for everything,

and a time for every affair under the heavens.

a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.   ~  Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 5

          September closes her petals tonight. She has lived her month heroically, going from one difficult day to the next. She will soon draw her last breath for the year, before sinking into grateful slumber.

          Before another year comes.

          This will be a September I will always remember, marked in the way July is, yet differently. A very difficult and stressful September, yet dimpled so beautifully with pretty joys and warm loves. Autumn has come to many of those dear to me. As the leaves sweeten into their farewell hues, many have begun preparing for the coming winter. Putting away things of summer and pulling out winter wears and supplies. Saying goodbye to one season and welcoming the next.

A time for every affair under the heavens

          October pearls open tomorrow, but for now, I have these final hours of September, going gently to her deserved rest. Many things crowd our doorway. For once, I do not get fussy and set about clearing them away for they will soon be gone. When October morning raises its eyes to the awakening sun tomorrow, our lives will forever change in the way it has changed for so many families. We will weather it, as we have so many other shifts. There will be happy days, and days when even the softest rain must fall, for life must sing different notes for it to mean something.

          It is night, when after small chores, I slip away into the embrace of my garden. So much has happened this September, and more will come for sure, but for now, all I wanted was some still minutes to gather up the thoughts which needed keeping, and to release the ones that were ready to go. I sat in my old chair by the flowers’ edge and looked up at the dark night sky, so oddly visible now after the big trees in our garden had endured a great pruning. This had been another great change for us. To see huge portions of branches so familiar to us now cut away to make way for new life. Not pleasant but necessary.

… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

           Above me, the grey~white clouds gather in huge swathes and puffs, in silent trysts, yielding me no account of their words. Even the moon and stars are unseen, busy in their chambers. It is night, yet even the heavens are about their business.

          I can feel a storm is building. The air is humid and quietly restless. Soon, it is time to get up and go back inside. We still have some ways to go before we are done for the night. I make my way past the marigold bushes and vines of old-fashioned roses pressing their kisses towards the old house. My beloved zinnias lean towards me as I pass them, even in the night smiling their love into my heart.

All will be well

          Softly, gently, sweetly, September leads us to roads not travelled yet.

          Then, she slips back to her Maker.

Wait and Watch. Hope and Trust.

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Beside a stricken field I stood;
On the torn turf, on grass and wood,
Hung heavily the dew of blood.

Still in their fresh mounds lay the slain,
But all the air was quick with pain
And gusty sighs and tearful rain.

Two angels, each with drooping head
And folded wings and noiseless tread,
Watched by that valley of the dead.

The one, with forehead saintly bland
And lips of blessing, not command,
Leaned, weeping, on her olive wand.

The other’s brows were scarred and knit,
His restless eyes were watch-fires lit,
His hands for battle-gauntlets fit.

‘How long!’ — I knew the voice of Peace, —
‘Is there no respite? no release?
When shall the hopeless quarrel cease?

‘O brother! if thine eye can see,
Tell how and when the end shall be,
What hope remains for thee and me.’

‘Why watch to see who win or fall?
I shake the dust against them all,
I leave them to their senseless brawl.’

‘Nay,’ Peace implored: ‘yet longer wait;
The doom is near, the stake is great:
God knoweth if it be too late.

‘Still wait and watch; the way prepare
Where I with folded wings of prayer
May follow, weaponless and bare.’

A rustling as of wings in flight,
An upward gleam of lessening white,
So passed the vision, sound and sight.

But round me, like a silver bell
Rung down the listening sky to tell
Of holy help, a sweet voice fell.

‘Still hope and trust,’ it sang; ‘the rod
Must fall, the wine-press must be trod,
But all is possible with God!’   ~  The Watchers, John Greenleaf Whittier

Pray for His Soul

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          For some reason, 9/11 wouldn’t leave me this year.

          I’ve had some terribly busy days since last week. When work oversteps my coping boundaries, for some time, it renders me numb and too worn to care.

          But not this year. Not since I matched the image of a grieving Robert Peraza to my post, Every Tear. Several times in a day since the 11th of this year, I’ve returned to that image of a father, kneeling in sorrow, and perhaps relief, at finding that beloved name, etched in bronze, paying homage in a love only a true father can have for his child. Over and over, I have slipped away from busy, noise-filled hours to place my heart beside Mr. Peraza, willing him to at least share his grief with me, that his cross may be lightened.

          In almost every media article that accompanied that portrait of abject grief, I read Mr. Peraza’s words upon finding his son’s name at the North pool.

“I was just honoring Rob. … I was saying a prayer for his soul.”

I couldn’t stop going back to that moment of 9 years ago, so public, yet so private. A father praying for the soul of his son.

          Yet only today, did a question tug at my heart.

          Why did I keep coming back to that photo? Why that one – out of all the others? Why this anguished yearning to reach out and absorb all this man’s pain?

          On a whim, I decided to scour through the internet to see if there was something about Robert Peraza that I needed to know.

          It was as if someone had been waiting for just that. Almost immediately, I learned that Mr. Peraza had passed away in 2016. New thoughts then stole softly into my heart. To have worked so hard all those years, in the hopes of a happy retirement and maybe for a few more pearls on that necklace – a bit of travelling, more family time, quiet days to savour what work holds out of reach. Then, 9/11. Your loved one snatched away because the right to life means nothing to some.

          Still, even as I thought them, those thoughts slipped through and away, unwilling to stay. Even of the sadness I had felt from last week, barely a mist remained now.

          What had closed that door to that hidden world of grief?

          Slowly, quietly, someone pushed these words, like tiny vessels across my spirit.

I was saying a prayer for his soul.

          And then I understood.