Month: January 2019

Help Is Coming

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But my torments are coming to an end. The Lord is giving me the promised help.   ~   Entry 140, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina Kowalska.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As The Robin Sings

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         My heart is deep in winter now. The sun mists the skies with rose, shyly and hesitantly, sometimes not showing itself at all. A winter silence has descended. Everything, everyone, is a little quieter. The white power of winter’s cold stays even the most garrulous and rebellious of spirits.

          Every day, I sit by my window of waiting, looking out as far as eyes can see, over the distant hills and expanse of skies, waiting for hope. Even as feet hurry and hands remain busy, the winter has filtered out so much of the usual distractions; thus my spirit remains more securely anchored to this still waiting.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.   ~  Ephesians 1: 17 – 18

          Where are You, Lord? I ask. Where is my hope?  Winter or not, troubles remain, dotting the hills and plains with their resolute darkness. When will the Promise come?

How much longer, Lord? How much longer?    

          Sometimes, I chide myself for this watching, like a mother to myself, afraid I’d fall hard and hurt myself if hopes are long in coming true. Yet, an unseen Hand continues to hold me to my perch on the watchman’s wall.

          This morning, rising early, looking out of the window, the thick white sky solemnly gazed back at me. Where is the hope that belongs to our call? I tiredly pressed into the watchful fleeces.

          Then, I remembered a visit I needed to make. Hurrying to it, Someone was already there.

I heard a chirrup in the trees and looked up to find a robin, her chest puffed proudly, indifferent to the weather. “And yet the birds persist,” I thought. The robin still perches upon the bare branch and sings out her song for the world to hear—praise to her Maker.   ~   Rebekah Durham, Praise in Winter

          Praise in winter. Praise as the robin does, even in the deep cold. 

          I winced slightly. Praise was a ring I hadn’t worn much of this week. Or the one before.

          I had an errand to run. I drove out, had it done. Driving back home, the radio turned off, I tried to seal my heart to God’s. I looked up once more at the white gray skies. A cheery westerly wind was blowing, making languid boughs bend forwards in welcome.  Remembering the robin on the bare branch, I offered up the beauty of the day to my Lord in praise.

          And then again, my thoughts returned to the troubles our family is facing, and I wondered, How do I hope right, how do I hope without breaking?

          Suddenly, piercing the well-insulated car, came an unusually loud avian singing.

Robins!

           Stunned, I scanned the line of trees bordering the roads. How could it be? How could it be that I heard them?? I could not even hear the crunch of the car tyres on the road. If I were to have heard  anything, it should have been that!

          But instead it was the choir of little robins! Unseen yet strangely, so very close. In a way I cannot explain, they seemed to be flying alongside the moving car – which they weren’t!

          The choir stayed by my ears as I drove into our home and got out of the car. Again, I was startled – they were our very own robins – patriarchs of the trees in our backyard!

          None of this made sense to me. How could I have heard the serenade of my backyard robins, from more than 400 metres away, in a moving car, through completely raised up windows and secured doors?

          As the winds continued their joyful ruffling in accompaniment to the gentle sweetness of the lilting robin hymn, I knew that Mother Mary, Queen Immaculate of my Saturdays, had brought me this beautiful miracle. Speaking through the tongues of birds, Mother bade me know that She heard me, that She was watching over my search for hope.

          But more importantly, She asked that, as the robin sings, undeterred even in the deepest winter, awaiting the hope of spring sun upon the snow,

so must I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Receive My Life

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Someone is in the final hours of his life. After all the months of praying, it has come to this. Nine young children and a wife. I want to pray for him, but my heart can’t seem to settle on a prayer.

          Then, this little dew comes. And it is right.

O Eternal God, receive the sacrifice of my life   ~   St. Catherine of Siena

 

 

 

 

 

When Nothing Stands

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          Some days ago, looking over my day, I felt I hadn’t lived it as well as I should. Yet, it wasn’t enough that I saw my less-than-perfect reactions to situations; I wanted to feel its burn deep in my soul. I wanted to really feel remorse for any wrongdoing.

          And so I prayed for that.

          Instead, the answer I received from Jesus was,

Console Me.

O Jesus, Divine Saviour, deign to cast a look of mercy upon Your children, who assemble in the same spirit of faith, reparation, and love, and come to deplore their own infidelities, and those of all poor sinners, their brethren. May we touch Your Divine Heart by the unanimous and solemn promises we are about to make and obtain mercy for ourselves, for the world, and for all who are so unhappy as not to love you. We all promise that for the future:

For the forgetfulness and ingratitude of men, we will console You, O Lord.
For the way You are deserted in Your holy tabernacle, we will console You, O Lord.
For the crimes of sinners, we will console You, O Lord.
For the hatred of the impious, we will console You, O Lord.
For the blasphemies uttered against You, we will console You, O Lord.
For the sacrileges that profane Your Sacrament of Love, we will console You, O Lord.
For the outrages against Your divinity, we will console You, O Lord.
For the injuries of which You are the Adorable Victim, we will console You, O Lord.
For the coldness of the greater part of Your children, we will console You, O Lord.
For the contempt of Your loving invitation, we will console You, O Lord.
For the infidelity of those who called themselves your friends, we will console you, O Lord.
For the abuse of Your grace, we will console You, O Lord.
For our own unfaithfulness, we will console You, O Lord.
For the incomprehensible hardness of our hearts, we will console You, O Lord.
For our long delay in loving You, we will console You, O Lord.
For our tepidity in Your holy service, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your bitter sadness at the loss of souls, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your long waiting at the door of our hearts, we will console You, O Lord.
For the heartless scorn that grieves You, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving sighs, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving tears, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving imprisonment, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving death, we will console You, O Lord.

Let us pray: O Jesus!  Divine Savior, from whose Heart comes forth this bitter complaint, “I looked for one that would comfort Me, and I found none,” graciously accept the feeble consolation we offer You, and aid us so powerfully by Your grace, that we may, for the time to come, shun more and more all that can displease You, and prove ourselves in everything, and everywhere, and forever Your most faithful and devoted servants.  We ask it through Your Sacred Heart, O Lord, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God, world without end.  Amen.

 

          Since that day Console Me returned, the Angel has led me to His tabernacle at the unlikeliest times. I use the word ‘led’ because I know it’s not me. Every time I awaken in the middle of sleep, I immediately remember, Console Me. When I have a few stolen minutes between tasks, in the sudden quiet that descends, Console Me instantly looms before my heart. This is improbable of me. And certainly not at a time like now when I come from work so tired I can barely think, when my head is so full, my hours too short.

          And yet, the second Console Me calls, everything that matters falls away, fading in a suddenness.

          In that instant, nothing of this earth stands.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Summons

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          Today, first Friday of the new year, I received a firm summons to the Lord’s Heart. Upon being reminded about First Friday devotions, I felt led to bookmark this page for my prayers – https://americaneedsfatima.org/Our-Lord-Jesus-Christ/the-nine-first-fridays-devotion.html. The devotion called for 9 first Fridays to be offered up for reparation. Last year, I was called to a similar ‘novena’ – 9 first Tuesdays for reparation. Just as it was that time, I knew that with the memory I have, and even with smartphone reminders, I’d fall off the wagon pretty soon.

          So, once more, from today till the end of September, for a period of 9 months, I will recite the Reparation to the Sacred Heart prayer every Friday, not just the first 9. I also told God that I offer my prayer as not only from me, but also from all those I have attached to my heart. This is a beautiful and indeed helpful way to remember to pray for many people. Instead of naming them individually or trying to remember who to pray for or even having to always consult a prayer diary, we can attach to our hearts the people whom the Spirit always moves us to pray for in a special way. So, every prayer we pray, covers those ‘attached’ to us as well. Melanie Jean Juneau taught me this. With a memory like a leaking sieve, I am forever grateful to her for this wisdom.

          I’m taking this attachment one step further this time with the Friday Reparation prayers: that as I pray this prayer, others attached to my heart echo it as well – whether they are aware of it or not. I believe this is possible because I’ve learned that prayer is not merely confined to words; prayer can be many things – silent suffering, sacrifice, obedience when it is hardest, a day lived in pure service to our neighbour.

          With so many prayers being prayed and lived, may graces flood the souls who need them most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Pruning

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         Right in the midst of our Christmas family gathering, I heard the call of the dove clearly. Nothing new, but significant because the state of busyness I was in, it was near impossible to have heard this gentle, unobtrusive call. And yet, I heard it.

          Immediately, my thoughts went to the verses that follow me everywhere,

… 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

          Every line promises light and sun and happiness. You could almost hear the wind sing through the trees and the warmth of the sun dance on your skin.

          But one line strays from the sunny promises,

the time of pruning the vines has come

Even if pruning is needed in order to increase blooms and fruit, sorrow before joy, it is still about pain. That makes the verse different from the others. Different in a way that makes me shrink back a little because I am so tired of pain.

          This morning, out in the sun~warmed breezes that sang in giddy glee, a wee dove hiding in the star~tree clucked out its little verse. I left what I was doing and went to sit beneath that tree. Searching for the little one, willing her to tell me what this all means, I found her. She hopped thoughtfully along a branch, muttering to herself. I watched her until the gold~green breezes tickled the leaves that hid my little dove.

          Noticing for the first time the thick foliage that hid this little one, for the first time too, I thought about the time of pruning.

The best time to prune grapevines is during late winter, usually February, while the vine is dormant and before growth begins in the spring. – Jessica Strickland

Late winter.

Usually February.

While the vine is dormant.

 Before growth begins.

In the spring.

          February. Month of Lourdes. 

Humble, holy, hidden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Winter

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How to Survive a Spiritual Winter

by Sara Hagerty,

Sept 4, 2018

 

A tree doesn’t survive the winter without healthy roots. Neither do we.

I remember that bleak February morning when my husband and I loaded up our car and drove through the stripped-bare forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains to move into my parents’ basement. Everything felt cold, including my heart. Weeks earlier, my dad was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer which we were all still dazed by.

I left their house only for brisk runs through Ohio’s suburban sprawl, and I came home to more winter as I watched my dad decline. I couldn’t escape this season. I had entered into a spiritual winter.

A Holy Season

What I didn’t know then was that this was a holy winter. God was doing something underground that I couldn’t see.

In our early thirties, our friends were taking active steps towards impacting the world for God: sharing the gospel with neighbors over shared meals, moving into impoverished parts of a city with their hammers and prayers, and starting foundations to release women from bondage. This, while I was cooking tomato soup and playing euchre in my parents’ kitchen, watching my once-strong daddy die.

It all seemed so unfair.

When God saved me at fifteen, I responded by pouring myself into evangelism. Then, in my prime, I was unable to alleviate the pain for the man who’d raised his little girl to believe that life had no limits. My offering was now a cup of soup.

Yet it was in the dark basement of my parents’ home, listening to my dad restlessly putter upstairs through the dark night, that I started to see winter as holy.

A Tree in the Cold

Psalm 1 talks about the man who meditates day and night on the Lord:

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

The deciduous tree knows seasons. It shoots out nascent sprigs of life and verdant leaf in spring. They and their accompanying fruit unfurl under the summer heat, lush and alive. In fall, the mossy-green alights into gold, but only for a flash before brown takes over and winter starts her pull. This tree is disrobed in winter, but not dead. Motionless, with roots resting and waiting, it ever so slowly grows.

The tree prospers in winter, fulfilling its God-intended purpose. Though, to the unknowing eye, it sure looks barren.

Without recognizing seasons, we might only see that barrenness. We see a prospering life in God akin to the opulent tree in early spring, with leaves and fruit intertwined. We forget that this blooming comes forth because of the preparation that winter provides.

Blessed Are the Thirsty

That holy winter — when I felt hidden, unseen by friends who weren’t familiar with long hours of care-giving, passing my days without visible accomplishments and apparent fruit — I started to see that I could cultivate an unseen, private life in God. My roots were still alive, albeit concealed.

In the basement, underground seasons of my life, His Word and His whisper became fresh to me. I wanted it, not so that I could teach it or share it or sermonize it, but because I was thirsty. So thirsty. During my daddy’s restless nights, I needed God to highlight a phrase from His Word to sustain my little-girl heart.

I wasn’t changing the world; I was changing my parent’s laundry. But through it, God was changing me. With his word cracked open on the counter, he whispered words of encouragement and promise: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:4–5).

The blessed man, likened to the tree in Psalm 1, found his delight meditating on God, day and night (Psalm 1:2–3). Meditating on God’s word — singing it, crying over the pages, taking my angry heart to his word for answers and asking for a surprise rush of his Spirit’s lifting — took on new meaning when I was winterized.

In the winter, I fell in love. He became my delight — because he was all there was. His whisper, my winter song back to him. And this was to his glory.

New Practices for Cultivating Roots

For those who are in winter (perhaps even a prolonged winter), there are some reminders that might help sustain our roots:

1. Receive your season.

Rather than giving your energies towards wishing for another. The surrender, although painful, positions us to receive all that God intends for that particular season much better than if we fight against it. God is always oriented towards our growth, even in our winter. This is a truth given to us in John 15.

2. Create new spaces.

Find areas where you can fall in love with God afresh. Seemingly barren seasons might convince you that your roots are hardened. Not necessarily so.

Thwarted opportunities are a fresh chance to see God through His Word in ways you haven’t before. Start a new habit of engaging with His Word in the middle of your thwarted day. Write songs from His Word. Take walks with your earbuds out, praying a verse back to Him. Ask His Spirit to direct your eyes to the ways He is working in the small areas of your life. Winter is a time when the inside can be nourished even when what is outside feels barren.

3. Don’t forfeit your dream for fruit.

Our culture is largely oriented toward action. But dormant dreams are not dead dreams; they are often further opportunities for dialogue with God. He created you to desire fruit, and He desires fruit for you (John 15:8). Winter is a time to take those desires to God in prayer. Winter can also be a season where dreams are cultivated.

Thankful for Winter

My seemingly barren winter started even before my dad was diagnosed, and it lasted years beyond his death. But during that very long season, I had this single verse on a notecard, propped behind my kitchen sink:

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3, NKJV)

Now, during a kind of spring, I see that it all proved true. He cultivated my roots in winter and gave me treasures that are still producing fruit within me. And it wouldn’t have happened without my winters.