To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and Your law is within my heart!
~ Psalm 40: 9
Would that day ever come, when like the saints, joy floods me as I go to my Lord’s bidding? As long as God’s will aligns with mine, I am pliant to His call. But when the roads diverge, the struggle begins. The whining, the pleading, the bargaining.
Still, there must be a starting point somewhere for everything. Therefore, on this beautiful blue~gold day where the lightest winds tryst among tree friends and little birds tuck their chirps and whistles into the many blessed nooks of this earth, I ask for God’s grace to love His law and to love His will. The prayer comes easily enough for it has truly been a lovely day of rest and of a little work too, a day when happiness sings in the heart. Nonetheless, even if I should totter or fall when the inevitable storms reach my shores, this starting point will count for something because one of the things God has been teaching me this Lent is that He loves our starting efforts as much as He loves our long-haul faithfulness. Nothing is too small or too little for our Father.
Because what we often forget is that all that’s needed are the little buds of our first Yes, for God will supply the rest.
Lord, God Almighty, You have brought us safely to the beginning of this day. Defend us today by Your mighty power, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our words may so proceed and all our thoughts and actions be so directed, as to be always just in Your sight. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ from Make Me A Channel of Your Peace, St. Francis Prayer
I asked my angel for a prayer for today. It didn’t come immediately but a few minutes later, when I had forgotten about my asking. I heard the strains of an old hymn from the deepest part of me. Although the hymn was very familiar, I had to lean in and listen closely in order to identify it.
As always, with anything long, I asked for the part God meant for my heart.
In immediate gentleness, the light was shone,
In dying that we are born to eternal life
Then, I saw what I had never seen before. That in every act that we choose God over the world, no matter how small that act is, we die to all that is wrong. We die to all the world sets out before us in allure.
Yet, despite the seeming smallness of that death, we make another step towards the only Life that matters, towards Light eternal.
The latter days of summer are a good time to wash the heavy linens used in winter. A clothes line is quite handy for this. I have a line full of soft blankets now, that were hung in the early morning, when the day was new and the scent of the mimosa filled the air up. Hanging clothes out is a peaceful task – and you are liable to solve a problem or say a prayer while doing so. I have done both. ~ Michele Warren, The Rabbitpatch Diary
One of my faults is that I tend to rush through life. In the midst of doing something, in my mind, I am already chasing down the next thing. I seem incapable of quiet deliberation, focusing on one thing at a time. Maybe that’s one reason why I am often tired.
To quieten the unruly horses within me, I need to learn to restrain my inner presence to the present moment. To be in the moment and to be deliberate in what I am doing. It will not always be possible, I know. Thoughts are much like clouds, chugging and skitting from one port to another. But giving free rein to wild horses is to run many races in one day and that is never a good thing if it becomes a way of life. In a rush, we fail to notice the little wants and needs along the path of life. We will be too intent on covering the course to savour the little joys hidden along the way. Racing from one duty to the next, we risk training ourselves to always focus on the nextthing, missing all that’s precious in the present.
Life is not always about the next thing. Often, it is about how we live the now.
A new dawn slowly begins to light the eastern skies in gold. A busy day is ahead. Already I feel the day’s tension champing at the bit, waiting to be released in myriad ways. Today, like many others, it’s not possible to pare down the list of things to be done nor to reschedule.
But maybe it isn’t about doing as little as I can in a day as much as it is about slowing my inner horses, bringing my whole presence into every little thing I need to get done today.
Maybe it’s to be like the sun, moving deliberately and surely across the skies, in careful measuredness, till his work is done at the close of day.
One thing good about Martha’s Vineyard being seasonal is that every year when the tourist season ends and everyone goes home, the island has a chance to heal from the summer onslaught. ~Susan Branch
In this time of lockdown or Movement Control Order, it is all too easy to focus on the dark and the negative. On the mounting death toll. On the risks. On the endless what-if’s. I’ve lived too much of my life under the shadow of fear and I won’t go there now. Nonetheless, I’m not buying into the bliss of intentional ignorance either. That’s irresponsible. We must do what we must to be safe and to keep others safe too.
It is a time of genuine worry and fear. But there’s something else too. Something beautiful out of all this pain and uncertainty.
It is a time of healing
We need to heal from our dependency on the heady brew of the conveniences of daily life. We need to heal from takeaways, home deliveries and online shopping, just to name a few. They have made things so easy for us, and many of us have come to depend quite a bit on such services. And that’s fine.
But sometimes, we take our dependency too far. We make excuses to use these services to avoid going out even when it’s safe to do so. We deprive ourselves of a good walk in the sun. We choose to instead stare and pin pictures of spring blooms instead of stepping out and feasting on the many surprises which surround us. We send each other online bouquets or use florist services instead of making up a small posy of blooms from our own little plots.
When we return home tired from work, the takeaway beckons enticingly, and we tell ourselves we need a break, that a meal prepared from scratch, even a simple one, is too much of trouble. It’s fine when it’s an occasional option, but sometimes, we let ourselves go and make it a habit, and too soon, it becomes something we cannot do without.
In my little town where we are free from at least the stress of traffic and long lines, many of my townspeople have come to overly rely on food services and food vendors for their daily meals. Eating out is not a luxury here. From the wealthiest to the poorest, almost everyone either dines out or sends out for food. On the rare occasion that people cook, there’s again that heavy reliance on ready made dips and marinades.
They want Grandma’s cooking but someone’s got to do all the heavy lifting for them.
Over time, little by little, we begin to lose all that was bequeathed to us from generations before. We either forgo gardens or we procure the services of professional gardeners. We search out restaurants and cafés for the warm memories of old kitchens and food cooked with love. We don’t trouble ourselves cooking for our kids and family. We prefer to work than to return home to the whining and groaning of our kids. We hire home tutors and use that as an excuse to remain longer at work because that’s so much easier on our tempers than to struggle with our children over homework and exam preps.
But with a lockdown, with restricted movement, all our previous refuges have to be vacated. We can’t go to work. Restrictions take away the luxury of some of the services that have become an unhealthy staple in our lives. It’s a terrible time. But even with Stay At Home orders, life still needs to go on. We need to make important financial decisions. But kids need to learn too. Family needs to be fed. House needs to be cleaned. Other needs need to be met as well. But no one’s there any more to do it for us.
We’re on our own
It can be daunting, it can be frustrating. Some days can be hour after hour of mistake after mistake. But times like this can also be beautiful. Just like that beautiful island that benefitted from tourist dollars needs the rest of the year to heal from the effects of tourism, we too need this downtime to heal from certain conveniences that might have made life easier but also eroded life of value.
We heal by going back to basics. We heal by simplicity. We heal by doing things ourselves as opposed to always depending on someone else.
We heal by taking the time to do things. We heal by stepping back from rush and speed and instead, begin to savour moments.
We’ve been given a gift. Let’s take it. Let’s go home to heal.
He walked every Saturday and Sunday many miles to church, departing early in the morning, before dawn, to be on time for Mass and religious-instruction classes. He walked on naked feet, like all the people of his class, the Macehualli… During one of this walks to Tenochtitlan, which used to take about three-and-a-half hours between villages and mountains, the first Apparition occurred, on December 9, 1531. He was 57 years old, certainly an old age in a time and place where the male-life expectancy was barely above 40. ~ St. Juan Diego, Guadalupe, http://www.michaeljournal.org
He walked every Saturday. And every Sunday. Every trip, 7 hours. Barefoot. In the morning, before dawn. And this was after a hard work week in the fields.
I think of the various saints who have come suddenly, quietly. Rise early, they are telling me. Some years ago, exhausted from work and lack of sleep, rising at 5.30 a.m daily for my morning devotions, God asked me to rise at 4.30 for Adoration. I couldn’t believe He was asking that of me!
But God insisted and I obeyed grumpily. The difference it made to my days was immediate. And I kept to it. Until this year. With the stress and my health issues, even 5.30 a.m. was a struggle, I couldn’t do 4.30. God will understand, I comforted myself.
Yet, here it is again. Through St. Juan Diego, God is telling me the climb up the mountain to meet Him is not easy.
7 hour walk
Two days of it
Cactus. Stones. Thorns. The weather. It wasn’t easy for St. Juan Diego, it wouldn’t be for me too.
Since You have promised to come and dwell within me, O my Redeemer, what may I not expect from Your bounty? I therefore present myself before You with that lively confidence which Your infinite goodness inspires. You not only know all my wants, but You are also willing and able to relieve them. You have not only invited me, but also promised me Your gracious assistance: “Come to me, all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.” Behold, then, O Lord, I accept Your gracious invitation: I lay before You all my wants, my misery, and my blindness, and confidently hope, without the fear of being disappointed, that You will enlighten my understanding, inflame my will, comfort me in the midst of the crosses or afflictions that You have willed that I should suffer, strengthen me in all temptations and trials, and with the powerful assistance of Your grace, change me into a new creature; for are You not, O God, the master of my heart?
And when shall my heart be more absolutely possessed by You than when You have entered into it?
The week ended with a wounding and a struggle to forgive. When I sought my Jesus, He told me to pray for His blessings upon the two people who hurt me. It was a struggle for me to pray for them, much less intercede that they be blessed. And honestly, I didn’t want them blessed; I wanted the space of two continents put between me and them.
But there was something about the words of Jesus when He directed them to my churning heart. His words imprisoned me, held me in a vice.
And so began a new struggle – to pray for God’s blessings upon those who can only live if they hurt me. I wish I could say I fought my heart valiantly in order to fulfill the Divine Will; I did no such thing. I prayed alright, as often as I remembered, but I prayed for God’s blessings upon my enemies with all the sullenness of a spoilt child denied her wish.
I prayed with a heart calloused by blows. And God saw my struggle. He knew I needed help to soften my heart. He offered that help through a worship song by Brian Johnson, Have It All.
I played the song over and over and over, threading each line like a vine through my sadness and pain. Slowly, I could feel my heart softening. I could feel the hardness give way, the gates and walls crumble. I began to feel as if my heart had found its resting place, the wounds it hid within it bathed in a tender, gentle Love that Saw, that Knew.
That Mourned with me.
It was then I realized I was loved.
In a gentle awakening, I suddenly knew that my struggles were not hidden from Him, that He had not turned His face away from my ugliness.
I saw that I was not alone.
I felt my God was holding me, holding me close, His arms around me, His hands over each one of my wounds.
From that Love flowed a strength that flooded my will, levelling mountains and hills in its path. Lifted to the quiet skies sweetened by the breath of God in the green~gold breezes, I finally escaped the fetters that sought to imprison me to the will of the earth.
I turned back towards the prayer He had asked of me,
Ask Me to Bless them.
Freed by the miracle of surrender, I prayed unrestrained,