Month: October 2021

A Father’s Prayer

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          There are days in my life when, like anyone else’s, everything stills. Further back in the week, there were a couple of such days when the breezes stirred not and no birds brought their song close to us. There was no unease within me at this odd quietening, though; there’s a time for everything, I figured, even for winds and birdsong.

          Today, things are a little different. The softest of breezes gently finger the windchimes hanging right outside our living room, and birds come by to chatter before winging off. And yet, a deep stillness permeates the air unlit by sunshine. This watchful stillness stretches its presence into my heart, rendering to silence the many voices there.

          But from that silence floats up a single prayer,

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

         I can’t help but smile a little. A few short days ago, I was reminded of a little story about my spiritual father, St. Padre Pio. Two young girls had gone to his friary to attend Mass. Spending the night there before Mass the next day, they had heard about St. Pio’s advice to people to send their guardian angels to him with their prayers. Wanting to put it to the test, the girls spent the night sending their guardian angels to St. Pio with various prayer requests. The next day, when they went to St. Pio to seek his blessings, he grumbled good naturedly, telling them he had been kept up all night by their angels.

          Remembering that story, I decided to do the same. There were a few very important things I needed help with. So, I sent them with my guardian angel, telling him to take my prayers to St. Pio, all through the day, every day, until I received my answer. And then, I tucked in a final entreaty: that I be given the prayer I am to pray, given all that I am asking for.

          This morning, with the sun busy with his own thoughts, in that soft stillness, that tiny vine of an old prayer stole into my heart.

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

          Although I didn’t seek it, nevertheless, as the prayer uncurled itself, I felt a name written on my heart. Padre Pio. Although I had forgotten what I had prayed for, clearly my spiritual father hadn’t.

          As I remembered my beloved St. Pio and quietly said the prayer, the sun pierced through the fleeces to place upon us his benediction.

Let Go

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God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus, we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.
Streams of the river gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High
God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;
God will help it at break of day.
Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,
he utters his voice and the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come and see the works of the LORD,
who has done fearsome deeds on earth;
Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,
breaks the bow, splinters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire;
“Be still and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
exalted on the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.    Psalm 46

          Last night, deeply troubled again, I sought the voice of my God. I told Him my family and I had sealed our hearts to this Calvary which He has asked of us. But since the path is hard and rutted, and we are often frightened and exhausted, we needed to hear His voice. And not just metaphorically.

         I asked God to lay His voice directly inside my ears. Then, the waters still in a churn within me, I fell into troubled sleep.

          This morning, the second I opened my eyes, I heard a single line from a Jeremy Riddle song play gently in my ears,

Be still and know I am the Lord

          Returning to the source of that line, Psalm 46, I recalled anew how many times God had given me hope through the verse God will help it at the break of dawn (Psalm 46:6). Each and every time, at breaking point, He reached out and showed me a new path, and fed me for the journey.

          I am tired, Lord, I whisper. Tired of fighting, tired of being frightened. Tired of the endless days of nights.

          Psalm 46 tells me to continue trusting – but today, I just cannot. I do not mistrust God –  I am still holding on to the Cross – but in a way I cannot explain, I am also so very tired and worn out. The secret, inner bubbling of joy I felt a few days back is gone. In its place, a cache of grit and sand and tears.

          Idly, I seek out the lyrics to the Jeremy Riddle song. And there I see the line,

And let go, let go of your worries

          As my heart took in the words, I remembered something else. 22 years ago, on a severely dark night, I gave up hope on life and begged God to take me. That night, Jesus appeared to meAnd He told me,

Let go, relax

Let go, relax

Let go, relax

          They were simple words – and certainly not what I thought I’d hear directly from Jesus. But as it turned out, they were exactly what I needed 22 years ago. And in a little weave of a way, they were brought back to me today, 22 years later, this still Sunday morn where the happy winds of past days no longer dance and hardly a note of birdsong is to be heard.

Let go, relax

          I knew what Jesus was telling me. Given the hard days here, worries and fears had accumulated, as they would, naturally, causing a churning within me. My worries and fears were standing between me and the stillness I sought and which God wanted for me as well. Jesus now wanted me to let go of my burdens to Him so that nothing remained between Him and me.

Let go, relax

          And so I begin.

The Prisoner’s Freedom

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I trust in the LORD;
    my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the LORD
    more than sentinels wait for the dawn.   ~  Psalm 130: 6

          This past week, I have been learning an old, old lesson anew: that if God wills us to walk a path away from the multitudes, even if we be persecuted for it by everyone else, true peace is to be found only in that solitary, lonely path.

          No where else.

          When people spit on us for daring to be different, I can’t help but think of Jesus. Falling under the weight of His Cross, flogged and bleeding, He continued on despite the curses and vitriol flung at Him by those He had been sent to love. True, there were those who wept for Him and who loved Him and more who hid this compassion and love in their hearts for fear of reprisals, but all their numbers were pitiably small in the face of what Christ had to endure.

          Yet Jesus told Veronica, Weep not for me but for your children. Despite His immense suffering, He did not choose this solitary path to be pitied; He accepted this path for it was His Father’s will for Him that He be a Sign for others. A sign of complete and perfect obedience to what God has willed, not what man demands.

          Through the many developments in the recent months, we are learning yet again that when we stand up for what is right, it is never a comfortable place to be in. There might be a few, deeply faithful friends who will stay with us through thick and thin, more who might support us as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them, but in the end, it can still be painfully lonely. It is a seat of thorns for sure, it will draw blood from us.

          And yet I have found, only here among the thorns, lives true peace. And freedom. In these past days, I have revisited our decision – the decision that pits us against others and for which we are paying dearly. I have allowed myself to imagine doing things differently, choosing to leave this lonely point by the wall of vigil and instead going where the crowds claim is freedom.

          Immediately, the peace flees. Immediately, the waters are troubled. Although the roads the crowds have chosen promise freedom, even imagining I am there, I do not feel free anymore.

          In a strange, unlikely way, I seem to be free only in this lonely place by the water’s edge, where the travelers are few. It is certainly a strange sort of freedom, unseen by anyone else, felt only by the spirit. I am beginning to realise that this is what Jesus meant when He proclaimed, I have come to set prisoners free.

The freedom of the spirit

          We can be sad. There will be days when we will cry when our cross bites deep. We will not shift our gaze from the horizon afar, continually seeking the break of dawn and release from this pain and suffering.

          But through it all, even as we wait for daybreak as prisoners, something inside us will be, paradoxically, free.

More Than A Sparrow

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Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10: 29 – 31

          After a late-night sparring with an insensitive and thoughtless colleague from work, I awakened to a Saturday morning, still an angry red from the thorns of that unexpected conflict. 

         Pausing at my window, I looked out at our front lawn. The first rays of the sun were already falling from a blue-and-white-tufted happy morning sky. It should have been a cheery start to a much waited for weekend but it wasn’t because of a late-night text message sent by someone who had thoughtlessly pushed aside consideration and compassion. On any other day, I might have absorbed it, fumed over it in silence, and them, moved to comply. But Friday night wasn’t any night; it was one of the many nights we have been enduring, in deep suffering and emotional privation that has yet to see its end. And some days, you can only take so much before something erupts from the force of relentless stress and pressure.

          Friday night was such a night. At my window the next morning, I was upset that even the gift of a fresh Saturday morning, a blue-and-white day, wreathed in the gold of new sunshine, was dulled due to what had happened. I had prayed for God’s forgiveness in case I had sinned by engaging with my colleague when He had told me to be still and to let Him fight for me; and I had prayed for my colleague too even as I prayed to forgive her – but it seemed as if any allure the golden morning promised had been extinguished.

          Presently, I saw something I don’t often see: two sparrows poking around and pecking at the thick grass of our lawn beyond the window. Their littleness and perhaps, their nondescript appearance do not make them the birds I often search for or listen out for. But I know they are always around – on the fence, on tree branches, on the electricity wires, pausing for a quick moment to collect bird-thoughts before urgently taking off.

          They are everywhere but I’ve never noticed them on my front lawn, even if it’s where they always are.

          Soon enough, I forgot about the wee brown birds. There were Saturday things to do and a nice twilight ride out to the countryside to look forwards to.

          And then, the sun speared light through the clouds. Another text message from my colleague was awaiting me and it was clear a light had pierced her. In that moment, the thorns of the previous night left me and I forgave her from my heart and told her my love for her remained. In a few quick strokes, the bitterness of the night had passed and I went on with my day, my heart much lightened.

          Towards the end of the day, driving out on languid roads, a JJ Heller song, Don’t Give Up Too Soon, came on. 

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