Faith

Lent 35 ~ Angelic Guards

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For He commands His angels with regard to you,

to guard you wherever you go.

With their hands they shall support you,

lest you strike your foot against a stone   ~   Psalm 91: 11 – 12

 

 

 

 

 

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Lent 31 ~ I Will Not

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King Nebuchadnezzar said:
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?
Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,
“There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you
in this matter.
If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may He save us!
But even if He will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”   ~   Daniel 3: 14 – 18

 

          Today, this brings me strength. This story ends with a miraculous  vindication and not fiery death. King Nebuchadnezzar realizes that God sent His angel to protect the 3 Jewish boys who refused to bow down to the king’s false god. But this is not the part that makes me strong; I receive hidden strength from the heartfelt witness of

But even if He will not (save us), know, O king,
that we will not serve your god

          Despite how far I’ve come on this journey of Christian discovery, when I suffer at the hands of others, I always want to be vindicated. When God prefers not to answer my prayer in the way I seek, naturally, it hurts. But as Jesus has shown me this Lent, my hurt is always over the unfulfillment of my plans, not God’s.

          Today, 3 young boys teach me what true faith looks like. True faith does not hold God hostage to earthly desires and tainted hopes. True faith allows God to be God and focuses on what I need to do to live my faith in my God.

          So, in my hours of today, my heart’s response to those who delight in hurting me, is simply,

I will not serve your god.

 

 

 

 

Lent 25 ~ At the Break of Dawn

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          My return to work after a short break brought with it the inevitable bite of winter. The oppression of loneliness and religious rejection. I tried everything I had learned on keeping my eyes on God, but I could sense the strength of spring slowly leave me.

          Some hours later, I received a text message of a cousin’s pain. As I reached out to comfort her through my gift of tickles, a healing crept back into my spirit. Within the hour, though nothing at work had changed, I was upright once more.

          I came home late yet determined not to bring winter in with me. I stoked the hearth to keep the fires of hope in spring alive. When bedtime came, I sought it with gladness as the day had been long and tiring.

          Settling down to sleep, I began to feel a strange weight pressing down on my chest. It felt like an iron brick. I went still, trying to figure out what was happening. The ‘brick’ pressed down harder – but oddly, I didn’t have trouble breathing. My thoughts returned to the day and I knew then that it had been harder than I was willing to admit. And it was not just today. Today had been just one day out of many long years of this same suffering. No end seemed to be in sight.

          Jesus, I calmly called out in the silence of my heart, Lay Thy hand upon my heart.

          In a heartbeat, the pain lifted. Just like that, it was gone. I snuggled down in the comfort that God was close by.

          But before I drifted off to sleep, I quietly asked God about my work woes, How long more till the promised help comes?

          Today, I see something that brings to life the tiny embers within me,

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.   ~   Psalm 46: 6

          I recalled the pain in my chest and how it had lifted miraculously.

God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed

          When will help come? I had asked.

          Could this be the answer?

God will help it at the break of dawn.

 

 

 

 

Lent 14 ~ I’ve Moved On

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          I’m not sure if it’s due to being unwell or if it’s the effect of yesterday’s returning – but I’m not easily provoked today. An inner  quietness graces my hours. I’m fretting far less. Today, it matters more to me that I give of myself, than seeking to be filled.

          Today too, I’m not catching myself scanning the skies, the air, the winds, for a sign of something to come. Today, when I think of what lies ahead, I’m content to let things work out their own course. No meddling in God’s affairs for me today. A friend wrote about the terrible floods in Nebraska, wondering if the floods were connected to a sign we had both received some years back – a sign of water, water in the month of March. I remembered that sign but as I sought to recall it more clearly, I sensed a veil gently slip over my mind and heart.

          And I released my hold over the seeking.

          God had promised me that spring would come to me, that winter would not stretch its frigid, barren arms across my life forever. That promise evoked in me a deep yearning for spring, each and every day since I heard Him last year.

          Yet, while I had waited for spring to emerge triumphant from cold hollows of snow and ice, after yesterday, I’m sensing a gentle pressure to let that be too. Because I have no way of knowing if spring for me would come this year or later. To expect it at a specific time – and to not have that wish bloom in joy – would mean yet another wounding for me. It is wiser to keep the hope of spring – but without desecrating it with a date.

          Has hope dried up in me? I hold my heart up to scrutiny.  If it has, I would have known it by the dirge a broken spirit sings in mourning for lost hope. No, this is not loss of hope, not when it’s accompanied by this strange, mellow softness of heart.

          The hours at work bring me an understanding: this is what it feels like when a long time occupant of a room has left to seek life elsewhere. The occupant who has ruled me strong for long, by whom I’ve defined so much of my life. By returning to Jesus the lines I’ve written and maps I’ve plotted to chart my course, I’ve been emptied of myself.

          I’ve felt emptiness before, in the Lent of old years gone by, hence, I would recognize the clean pain that comes from giving up everything of value to my heart.

          This is different now. What I’ve held on to is gone. But there is no pain, no anguished calling back of what was returned to Jesus.

         It’s as if I’ve… moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 1 ~ Voice from Lourdes

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          From a few weeks back I’ve been praying about Lent this year. For some sign, for direction. A prayer maybe, or better still, a book. But nothing came. I went to bed the night before Ash Wednesday with a mound of prayers left by God’s door. Well, not really prayers, but just one, said over and over:

Give me a Word at least.

And just before sleep claimed me, Our Lady of Lourdes, let me hear Your voice.

          No book, no discourse. No soft, sweet voice either. So, one single word for Lent, it wasn’t much that I was asking for.

          A busy day came and went. I received no Word from God on this 1st of Lent – although I did have a far quieter heart and strength not mine for a long and difficult day.

          Then, late in the evening, despite prayers and attempts at hope, we received news of a setback. I tried to bravely accept this setback involving my son, and live out my faith as I should, but I faltered after a few hours of make-believe.

          Rather than hide my tottering column of faith and compound matters further, I took my disappointment, the whole cart of it, and dumped it before God.

          Why, I demanded angrily, why did You not answer our prayers in the way we wanted? What was so wrong with our prayer that You chose to answer it in the negative? I thought of my boy, his long struggle, and now, trying so hard to be strong in the face of defeat.

How do I mend his broken heart? I hurled my anger and sorrow at God.

          Heaven did what it does best – it remained silent.

          Some hours later, still hurting and confused but trying to surrender and accept, I told God through gritted teeth,

Let my hurt be, but hold my son close to You. Do not forsake him. Bind his heart to Yours.

          I had some minutes to myself. Wanting to take my mind off things, I reached for the book I am reading now. But my gaze strayed to another – Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul by St. Faustina Kowalska. I had no intention whatsoever of choosing Divine Mercy in My Soul – I wanted cheering up and that was sure not the book to get the lark singing in my heart.

          However, something began to pull and tug at my conscience. It’s Lent, you know, hissed an exasperated voice from within me. Choose the Diary – for the sake of Lent.

          Still at war with God, I thought of my Ash Wednesday. It had been a day like any other, filled to the brim with endless work and another round of hurt. I didn’t have anything for my Lord, not even on this day when He asks to be consoled. No Lent prayer. No Lent meditation. Now, the day was drawing to its close. Clouds clustered together in the purple night skies, softly weeping. What was a few last minutes given to Jesus?

          I dropped my book and picked up Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul. Give me a Word, Lord. You speak so much to the saints, why won’t You say just one Word to me? I threw one last dart of a grumble in God’s direction.

          Opening the book to a folded page, a bookmark fell out from elsewhere. It was a prayer card someone had left in our pew after the blessing of the sick on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes back in February.

A Message to the Sick

Cheer up,

God is with you

You suffer

it is true,

But He is near you.

Trust in Him.

If He has let you suffer,

It is because He sees something good in it,

which today you do not know.

Your peace of mind is in your

“Trust in God”

Who can never let you down.

          I went still reading those words. Not a prayer, but a message to the sick. Message – as if fully expecting that I’d likely dismiss it if it said ‘prayer’.

          Message – as in words sent by someone.

          For Ash Wednesday, I had asked for a Word from God. He gave me Words.

          I asked to hear Our Lady’s voice. She answered me through the healing message of Lourdes.

          The moment I heard Her voice, my spirit ceased its struggle. I saw what I could not accept in the earlier hours when the dry branches of winter tore at our hearts. I saw that the setback we experienced today was God’s answer to our prayers – as well as His answer to my son’s toil and struggle. Strange and unfair as it appears to our earthly sight on this side of heaven, while I cannot yet see how this disappointment is good for us, God certainly can and He knows the hidden value of a great and good gift.

Trust in God.

          I lay down my sword. And with it, my heart.

 

 

 

By Faith

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1   Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.

2   Because of it (faith) the ancients were well attested.

3   By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.

4   By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s. Through this he was attested to be righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts, and through this, though dead, he still speaks.

5   By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him.” Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.

6   But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

7   By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

8   By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.

9   By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;

10   for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.

11   By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.

12   So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

13   All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth.

14   for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.

15   If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return.

16   But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

17   By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,

18   of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”

19   He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

20   By faith regarding things still to come Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.

21   By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and “bowed in worship, leaning on the top of his staff.”

22   By faith Joseph, near the end of his life, spoke of the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his bones.

23   By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24   By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

25   chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin.

26   He considered the reproach of the Anointed greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the recompense.

27   By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s fury, for he persevered as if seeing the one who is invisible.

28   By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29   By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.

30   By faith the walls of Jericho fell after being encircled for seven days.

31   By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with the disobedient, for she had received the spies in peace.

32   What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,

33   who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions,

34   put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders.

35   Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

36   Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.

37   They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.

38   The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.

39   Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised.

40   God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.

 

 

 

 

Endure

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Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what He has promised.   ~   Hebrews 10: 32 – 36

 

          More than a week ago at Mass, after the miracle of the birdsong, I went eager to hear what more Mother Mary wanted of me – in addition to the praise even in winter – that She asked of me. I had a strong feeling there was something more. All through the journey, later at Mass, I listened and listened.

          A sudden light beamed out of a side I never expected – the response to the Responsorial Psalm,

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

          I sat mute before them. I thought there was something I needed to do in response to that pulse of light but I couldn’t imagine what. In retrospect, I should have prayed those words, over and over, till I got my answer, or until the Angel pressed his hand over my spirit. But I didn’t. I just sat and stared at the words. Because I was waiting for something more specific to my seeking, What do You ask of me at my place of work?

          Mass ended and I felt the clouds continue to swirl in my heart. No clear and direct answer did I receive.

          Still, I wasn’t disappointed nor frustrated. The robin~miracle of the morning as well as the January work weeks of unusual inner quiet and immense strength, were before me. Something had begun for me in the fresh year. Something unexpected, not of my doing.

A stirring of a spring, an underground spring.

          Yet, I needed to be really sure. When we’ve been hit and hurt so much, sometimes, all we do is wait for the next blow to fall, even as we hope it will never come. We make the mistake of limiting hope to the smallness of that. Or that we escape. Or somehow survive. Sometimes, the kind of hope we’re capable of just cannot stretch beyond that.

          But I couldn’t turn a blind eye to January either. This strange January where an Unseen Hand had lit a tiny flame, hidden beneath the winter’s freeze. A flame of pure, quiet strength. Of a state of recollection I have seldom experienced before. A flame tiny yet strong, burning steadily, yet hidden deep within the cold breast of winter.

          I didn’t dare hope – but this was a clear call to hope. And no matter how afraid I was that this was merely a temporary reprieve, that the blows and rocks would rain down again soon enough, this strange secret flame, thawing the ice quietly, producing a clear, pure hidden spring that each day filled me with  wisdom, vigour and strength, was a whisper, yet paradoxically loud, strong and clear – that something has begun to stir in my life, even if all around me was the ice of old.

          It was this that filled me with a powerful certainty that even as I was beseeching  heaven for hope for my call, something was being asked of me as well. Praise – and something else. Just what, I didn’t know, my inner seas swelling in a restlessness that refused to be quelled by anything except an answer from heaven.

          Hours later, unable to go any further, I released my hold on my seeking. I had asked all I could. So, I finally rested my will and retreated to wait.

          At that moment of relinquishment, I heard a whisper. An almost inaudible breath against my heart.

Endure.

          Endure. A word, heard at any other time, would have produced waves of frustration, that after all the promise and allurement, it was to the old that I had to return to, not something new and vibrant; but back to all that was worn, rusting, dying – yet possessed with an infernal power to kill slowly.

          But no despair touched me as endure alighted gently upon my heart. Because endure was God’s reply to me. It was Spirit, Life itself, come to tell me to

Endure to do the will of God,

Endure till the rainbow dawns,

Endure till the Promise comes.

 

 

 

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Approaching the Throne

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For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.   ~   Hebrews 4: 14 – 16

 

          What would I do without the faithful hearts of friends? Those hurt and bleeding from their own wounds, bent from the weight of their own crosses, yet who immediately and unhesitatingly reach out to help brethren pilgrims who have fallen and cannot get up. Who leave their own wounds to tend to mine. Who carry my cross when I can’t.

          Who give from their own poverty.

          Where would I be without these souls who in love and tenderness mirror our High Priest, Jesus?

          Where would I be without this love born of pain and suffering?

          For it is this love that shines the light I need to see the Throne of Grace. When I would have shied away in doubt and anguish, it is this love that in loving insistence takes my hand and firmly sets me before Grace and Mercy supreme.

          It is time to approach the Throne for them, my brethren bound to me through the shared journeys of grey and gold, sorrow and joy.

          Jesus, I place these souls in Your Divine Heart. Grant each one the graces most needed for what lies before them, in the hours, days and years to come.

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

 

 

 

 

Light in the Mists

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          I was very determined that we get to Mass last weekend on the 13th as it was the anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and the Miracle of the Sun. I had a couple of things riding on my heart – the Holy Souls, a by-election that worried us, and thanksgiving – and I wanted to get to church to lay my prayer cart down before God.

          I don’t know what happened once we entered our pew. I prayed but it felt like I hadn’t. I forgot the prayer cart and I forgot God. I usually spend some time gazing at the Divine Mercy image to the left of the altar, but that day, I clean forgot. I could barely still myself. The air-conditioning in the church was turned up and the kids jostled to sit as close to us as possible. Then, they nudged and poked and squirmed in their seats  – even the ones old enough to know better. Trying to stifle my own giggles, I played referee out of the side of my mouth  until Mass began.

          When Mass began, I was disappointed that I hadn’t stilled and emptied myself as I usually do. It had been a hard work week and harder ones lay ahead. I needed to empty myself of me and be filled with all of God for the challenges and battles that awaited me. Instead, I allowed myself to get distracted. I felt I had squandered the precious minutes to immerse myself in God’s stillness. I ‘went into Mass’ with my heart left outside the door. I couldn’t ‘feel’ the Readings nor the prayers.

          When Father’s homily veered towards our church finances, I smothered an impatient sigh and kept my attention riveted on him and his words.

          But an Unseen hand took my chin and turned my face towards the Divine Mercy image off to the side of the church.

          It happened twice.

          And twice, I saw not the image of Jesus. My eyes only saw the words,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          Today, it’s been just 2 work days since Jesus told me to trust Him but they have been 72-hour days in terms of skirmishes, struggles with myself and the sheer amount of work. Just 2 days but the number of times I’ve asked, God, where are You? has surely exceeded the number of hours in those days.

          Each time, like a light trying to shine out of a deepening fog, Someone pushed these words before my heart,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          I’ve gone to quite a few of my usual spiritual pools but none have yielded an answering strength. I don’t exactly feel the strength from Jesus, I trust in You, but somehow, something in my spirit tells me I have to fix my heart upon that.

          Because with each day, despite my cheer and energy, despite the work that gets done, there’s no ignoring the fact that my workplace situation is worsening. I’m not sure how long I can hold on. I have no place else to go without uprooting the whole family. It’s hard to hold on to hope when you’re chained to the gates of Hell.

          But that wan Light, Jesus, I trust in You, is still being shone through the shifting twilight mists, willing me on, despite every stumble and fall.