Forever

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For the mountains may depart, and the hills be moved, but never will my Love depart from you.     Isaiah 54:10

 

 

 

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Lend For A Little Time

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TO ALL PARENTS

“I’ll lend you for a while a child of mine,” He said.
“For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.”

“I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked the wide world over in My search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?”

“I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;
But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”   ~   Edgar A. Guest

 

 

 

July 13 ~ Children in the Mist

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          Very early this morning, I did something I don’t normally do. I was up before dawn and decided to give the car a quick wash. Stepping outside, I briefly glanced up at the sky. A stream of fat, low clouds were unevenly illuminated by some unseen silver light. I assumed it was a low moon. I suppose it was, for I couldn’t see, as it was too low, blocked by a roof and trees.

          But my curiosity led me to the chair I keep handy just outside my bedroom windows. I sat down and gazed at the silent sky and the silver shaded clouds. Above me, a swathe of distant stars diamonded the pink breath of skies unwilling to relinquish its night slumber. A light mist veiled its bride of the skies.

          I might have prayed a little, but I can’t remember. I was exceedingly tired from work this week. And perhaps, I knew within me, that when clouds watch you, no words are needed.

          Several hours later at work, moving from one building to the next, I was caught by surprise. A soft, thick mist had suddenly descended low upon us. It hadn’t been there the hour before. Many people suddenly came out of nearby buildings, milling along corridors, gazing out at the open, at the sudden mists. It was at a busy time. It was surprising that people actually noticed the change; more surprising that a body of people actually came to have a closer look – because the people I work with – they’re not that sort. Very little in the heavens stirs or moves them.

          For brief seconds, a stillness enveloped us all.

          I had a strange, inexplicable feeling that everyone had been drawn out of their rooms to come and see but that they didn’t know what to look at.

          That they looked but could not see.

          I don’t know how I even knew this. But I am sure it was not from a lack of charity.

          Still later, the mists had gone, but glancing up at the skies, I saw clouds dressed in grey. If they portended rain, it would be much welcomed. I always love rain on a Friday. For me it is a fitting end to a work week, washing away the grit, soothing the spirit.

          However, the somber clouds lay unease lightly upon my heart. My thoughts went to an Irish friend, deep in a struggle. Fearing for him, I pressed him into prayer again, even as I went about my day.

          As the evening veils began to dip lower, the text came in.

          Telling of a baby, much loved, gone on to breathe in a world beyond us. We had all prayed so much for him, willing him to defy the odds and live on. I thought of the day God had chosen for this little one to return to where he would live on. This 13th day of July, Feast of the Mystical Rose.

          Just as my thoughts went to it, the image of the crowd from this morning, alerted to something, returned to me. I remembered the strange, thick mist. The gentle silence it wrapped us all in for scant seconds.

          Then, I remembered the dream on Good Friday morn. Of a thick mist rising from a high river. A mist of children. Children long gone, returning.

         Though darkness covers the earth,

and thick clouds, the peoples,

Raise your eyes and look about;

they all gather and come to you…

          The mist of the morning, come to bid a baby home. The mist that brought so many out, to wave a farewell they could not have known but intuited.

          What did we see and yet, not see?

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Speak

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Thus says the LORD:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.   ~   Hosea 2:16

 

          These were the lines from today’s 1st Reading. The answer to my lament of yesterday – Why won’t You speak?  But what wilderness will I be led to? Of deeper peace or of worse sorrow?

          Every year, sometimes twice, I read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series. Every one of the 8 books. They have an effect on me that no other book ever has or will. They remind me of all that is pure and unsullied. Each time, I am strengthened and freshened.

          Each time, I leave wistful and longing for an old life gone by that was not even mine to begin with.

          Last year, though, the longing stirred by the stories in those books pierced deeper than ever, and for the first time, it hurt deeply. For a time, I struggled with stranger~emotions. Then, I learned the reason for that new yearning:

I had touched heaven.

Again. And returning to this life I now lead, filled me with a terrible heartache for what I grieved I would never have.

          I revisited this yearning again in the past weeks. It’s not something I conjure out of my head. It’s not something I can summarily summon from the folds of leaves and vines. I cannot even anticipate which of the 8 books, which of its chronicles, would reach out and grab my heart as my eyes pass by.

          I do not choose this pain. It chooses me. And it chose me yet again this time. Caught my heart and wouldn’t let go. Its grip tighter than before, it wrung from me a grief that was deepened by old sorrow that always visits in July.

          Last year, when it came, it evoked a subdued, What do you ask of me? This year, nothing could restrain me. I wanted to know why this torment was before me again. I wanted answers but only from my Lord.

Why show me heaven, only to take it away? I asked in many different ways.

          He answered with silence. Over and over, I asked Him. He painted pictures before me, spilled pink over orange-stained skies and ribbon-ed drowsy clouds with purple and amethyst. He wove breezes in a hundred different ways through the embrace of leaf, grass and bloom, and sweetened the winds with birdnotes that laced the air unhindered.

          I wanted words but no words did my Lord give me. Every asking led me back to the gifts of land, sea and sky fashioned in silence.

          But today, as if speaking to a messenger, He says,

I will lead her to the wilderness,

I will speak to her heart.

 

 

 

 

Why Won’t You Speak?

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          Why won’t You speak? I ask my Lord today. Why won’t You pierce my heart with Your truths as You have always? Why this silence, why this distance? You told me once before that You will withdraw so that I do not become so used to Your voice that I cease to care and treasure it. And I accepted it, trying to be obedient for once.

          But it’s been long, long weeks. Yet, I know I’ve not been abandoned. The door has not closed. Throughout these past days and weeks, answered prayers and a spirit at peace are the testimony to the nearness of my Lord.

          But it suffices not. 

          For I want to hear Your voice.

          I’ve watched for it in the reddening rose of sunrise, trying to make out words as the sun slips its warmth upon the stream of clouds. Like the translucent pink blooms of the cosmos that border our fence, I’ve raised my eyes and heart to blue seas of the skies, whispering Your name. I’ve listened out for heaven’s whispers in lulls and rush of winds and green breezes in their dance amongst the trees and boughs. Every time the Blue King called his notes, I’ve paused and stilled for Your Word.

          But my Lord has been silent.

          Again, I ask, Why? Why won’t You speak? What would You have me learn from this new silence? I’ve tried to welcome it, to make it a trusted companion. I’ve searched and sought Your teaching Voice through Your Word.

          But this silence remains unyielding, unpliable to my probing. Words come and fall just to above seeking waters, before the winds bear them away. Day after day, night after waiting night.

          Why have You gone silent, I ask my Lord. Why won’t You speak?

 

 

 

 

In My Hour of Need

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Guardian Angel Prayer
by St. Gertrude the Great

O most holy angel of God, appointed by God to be my guardian, I give you thanks for all the benefits which you have ever bestowed on me in body and in soul. I praise and glorify you that you condescended to assist me with such patient fidelity, and to defend me against all the assaults of my enemies. Blessed be the hour in which you were assigned me for my guardian, my defender and my patron. In acknowledgement and return for all your loving ministries to me, I offer you the infinitely precious and noble heart of Jesus, and firmly purpose to obey you henceforward, and most faithfully to serve my God. 

          For some months now, I have been saying 2 daily morning prayers. One from St Gertrude’s Guardian Angel prayer,

I offer you the infinitely precious and noble heart of Jesus.

and the other, a surrender and reparation prayer,

Heart of Jesus,

Victim of charity

make me a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing unto Thee.

My whole day, its joys and twists, I try to offer up to God for a specific need or I leave it to Him to use my day’s worth where it is needed.

          There was an event that I had to attend today and from more than 2 weeks back I had been agonizing over it. Even when I was not actively thinking about it, it was always at the back of my mind, like a stench from a secret rot. I certainly prayed a lot, asking God to help tell me what to do – but I prayed to escape the event – and aligned God along that very line too. I hatched any number of escape plans too.

          Except that none of them felt like it was – it.

          Yesterday, I sagged and gave up to His Will. Finally conceding defeat, I sourly offered up the coming difficulty as reparation. No saintly, joyful suffering for me. I dragged myself to the day.

          The hours of the day fell among gentle plains and soft winds. I had expected only needles and knives, everything that suffering is to me, whatever its form. But it was as if someone had gently come to glide me past hurdles and traps. Even the unpleasant ridges seemed to have had their edges worn down.

          I was much relieved.

          It was hours later, after cold silver rains had drenched the seeking earth that my heart was led back to the Guardian Angel prayer lines,

…you condescended to assist me with such patient fidelity, and to defend me against all the assaults of my enemies.

          I understood then why the day I had dreaded for so long had seemed swathed in softness and gentleness. I saw why bridges had formed over breaches, why briars and brambles had been cleared from the path.

          Someone had laboured for me. My angel had come in my hour of need.

 

 

 

Stand and Pray

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Stand patiently and pray steadfastly, brushing off the impacts of worldly cares and all thoughts; for they distract and worry you in order to disturb the impetus of your prayer.   ~   St. Nilus of Sinai

 

           The week found its end in gales and whips of wind. Everything seemed to be quivering and shaking. Nothing was firm, strong on its foundations. It was hard to stand upright against the winds that pushed strong against hope and joy. I would have fallen harder had two little pearls from old days not come by.

Your children are your prayer

Thy Will be done

          Your children are your prayer were the words of an old Irish priest to a caring but exhausted mother who had told him she had no time to pray. These old words testify to the mystical meaning of sacrifice. They came to visit in the cheery sunlit breezes one morning late this week, to ready me for the change that was to come. When I received sad but not unexpected news later, the ache went deep. But then, I remembered Your children are your prayer. So, I arose and went to my household tasks. In them, I found a quiet against the rising tempests birthed by that news.

          And in that stillness of simple sacrifice, came the second life pearl,

Thy Will be done.

          To tell me the time for being out in the open was done for now. That I needed to retreat and seek my Lord’s Will in the cloister of my heart.

          For a time, I obeyed.

          Unfortunately, soon, I forgot. I forgot to seek His will. I forgot to listen out for His voice. I went ahead with old plans. And by doing that, I left the cave and went out into the open, where the winds wilded and whipped.

          Of course, I got hurt. Hurt in life is inevitable but when you leave the Will of God, when God does not ask you to welcome suffering, you are courting a hurt that is not willed. This hurt is different. There is an emptiness and futility about it.

          Stand patiently and pray steadfastly came last night as I wandered about seeking my Lord. It was a little light God slipped under the door of my heart, to point me back to the inner cloister I should never have left without His bidding.

 

 

 

 

 

It is the Hour of Vigilance

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          Towards the end of May, my heart heard two summonses:

Rise!

Arise! Shine!

Those were the calls to action. I knew I was being told to do something. But what?

          A week later, the mists parted slightly.

Beloved, the end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray.   ~   1 Peter 4: 7-13

           Be able to pray. That was the call. The call to intercession.

          The moment I received it, on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, when I had just asked for the spirit of atonement for myself, a feral wind blew, almost knocking me down. At church, someone I have come to distrust, came to me, slyly bearing a tale to trouble me.

          To lead me back to old wastelands the Angel had freed me from.

          It took me a week to overcome that Corpus Christi attack. By then, I had lost sight of the call to intercede. Even as I did continue to pray, the clouds had gathered and thickened over my spirit, and my vision was obscured.

          This morning, cleansed and nourished by the peace of wild things, a light returned. Sharp, clear, piercing to the core of my heart.

Stand before the Lord.

… let us be watchful with greater intensity… standing on one’s feet … expression of vigilance…be one who watches… stand guard before the relentless powers of evil… keep the world awake to God.

… be one who stands on his feet: upright in the face of the currents of the time. Upright in the truth. Upright in his commitment to goodness.

Standing before the Lord must always be, in its inmost depths, also a lifting up of men to the Lord, who, in turn, lifts all of us up to the Father.

And it must be a lifting up of Him, of Christ, of His word, of His truth, of His love… be upright, unwavering and ready even to suffer outrage for the sake of the Lord, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles: they “[rejoiced] that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts of the Apostles 5:41).   ~ The Hidden Homilies of Pope Benedict, Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass, March 20, 2008

          I now understood the words my spirit had seen.

          Rise! Arise! – were summonses to return to the watchman’s post I had fallen from in my many weeks of struggles. 

          Shine! was the holy exhortation to keep my soul and the souls of my brethren pilgrims awake to God.

          And then, I remembered an old, old call. One that has returned repeatedly and insistently,

Flee to the hills.

How many times have I pressed the veil to yield its secret, to no avail. But today, in the morning hours scented by the rose~golds of freed breezes, I finally learned its meaning. Flee to the hills is heaven’s shout to me to run and shine the Light of God from the towers, high above the rocks and dunes of turmoil.

          For it is now the hour of vigilance before God.

 

 

 

 

 

Rock the Boat Now

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          This past weekend, at a family get-together, I learned that the will of God is indeed a refuge in storms. My husband and I were confronted  with the choice between standing up for the faith, annoying people with our stand and perhaps creating a rift between family members and choosing to be silent to maintain peace, as well as not to be seen as over-reacting towards seemingly one-off dissents  against the Catholic faith.

          Trust me, it was far easier not to rock the boat. We were a close-knit clan and it didn’t seem wise to stir up unpleasantness – even if a family member was breaking the first Commandment of God – I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shall have no strange gods before Me. Besides, most other members had chosen the more agreeable response of respecting a personal choice than to respect God’s laws. It was all about freedom of choice. As long as we, my husband and I and our children respected God’s Commandments, why did it matter whether others did or did not?

          It did matter. Because, like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper.

          If it was about freedom, it was that I should be free to express without fear, my concerns for a Catholic who was increasingly distancing herself from the faith. And I should also be free to express my concerns about other family members who were choosing to look the other way on this issue just to keep the peace.

          Why shouldn’t I be free to respectfully articulate the Christian perspective on the issue at hand when our stand was questioned? Why shouldn’t I be free to ask someone to take a moment to think about what they were doing? Even if we were not Christians, if a loved one was moving apart from the family, wouldn’t we talk to the person? To ask the questions that needed to be asked? To express our fears, our concerns?

          Wouldn’t we do all that and more – whether within or outside the context of religion?

          And so, when we were faced with the choice either to speak up or to be silent, my husband and I said what we needed to say. Just calm, quiet statements. No badgering. No condemning. I don’t know if any other hearts will be steered to a different response in the days to come. I pray so, but that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit moves my husband and I to speak up again, His Will for us now is that we pray.

          As we drove home from that family gathering, my heart and mind returned to what we had done, to the line we had drawn in the sand, and the lonely side we had chosen to stand on. Even if it were never raised in future gatherings, I am certain that line would forever stay between us, possibly as the first of more of such lines. In every pool of laughter and tender tightness of hugs, there will from now on be a shadow in many hearts because of our stand, because of this first line in the sand. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the sting of regret – not over what I had said – but over the necessary cut to this family I love.

          And yet, as I sifted through the pebbles of sadness, I realized a soft peace had spread over my heart. Even as I probed and prodded it, this gentle peace remained anchored firmly in place.

          That was when I understood. The Will of God is indeed a refuge in storms. We had done His Will this time. There was a price to pay for this obedience, for choosing the Will of God over the will of Man, but even as we paid it and hurt from doing it, He pressed His peace into our hearts.

         It is this peace that sealed the certainty in my heart that there are times when the boat of souls must be rocked. We cannot allow our hearts to be bribed by warmth of relationships and the worldly perception of peace to turn away from the bitter waters of God’s Will. If He stirs our spirits and gives us His words, then we must speak because He wants to speak through us.

          I can already sense a subtle chill in some of the winds as they coast over us. In a family that has always prided itself on maintaining respectful silence when disagreeing over an issue, we have broken ranks by choosing to speak.

          But true love of neighbor means that when the boat has to be rocked, it must be rocked.