Faith

Walk On Water

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          Skipping happily to my day at home this quiet November morn, I heard from within me the strains of a new song, Wherever You Lead by Kristene DiMarco. Leaning in, I tried to make out the words, seeking what God had willed for me. But the words, the lyrics, slipped out of my seeking reach.

          I was not in the least troubled. This morning, stopping by my altar, I had told Jesus I wished to offer up my days as a prayer of thanksgiving and also as a prayer for the Holy Souls, for this is November, when Catholics pray in a deeper way for those who have departed. I have three days off work. Linking up to the weekend, I have five glorious days and I am determined to live them right, in joy and thanksgiving, and may anything of worth from my days be gifted to my precious friends, the Holy Souls of Purgatory. How great their love for me has been and still is, this tender generosity of spirit of these saints-in-waiting. How many times they have warned me of danger, saved me from the rising creek. How many times, when the roads have been so dark, they have sung God’s leading to me, and with their voices in my ear, I have made my way from pain to joy.

          Everything of my November for them, I vowed.

          And then I busied myself with happy things. A small plot in my garden had been dug up and was now waiting for some new occupants. The original pot of dearly treasured Egyptian Starflowers which I had bought during one happy visit to the garden centre earlier in the year needed a new home. An attempt at a transplant some months before had initially disappointed me; I felt the new plant-babies didn’t take to their new dwellings and that I would soon lose them. Two other new plants I was trying out then, the Blue China and the Everlastings, had failed. Against the anguished backdrop of all that was going on in our lives, I had felt the sting of those garden failures deeply.

          But I refused to give up. I kept on watering and feeding the starflowers, coaxing them to fight to live on. In some ways, I think I saw our fates as intertwined; if they died, I did too. If they lived, so would I. For long weeks, it seemed a lost cause. Then, in a sudden turn of tides, the Egyptian Starflowers rallied back. Somehow, hope had reached their roots. With each passing week, they began to grow stronger and soon lushly flourished with grace, health and utter beauty. Every day, I visited them. The flowers would happily cluster together and gaze up at me, as if willing me to believe in miracles. That anything was possible.

          Today, it was time to build yet another home, a bigger home, for the starblooms. Then, I had some reading and writing to get done for the course I had enrolled in. Joy rose in delicious curls within me.

          Soon, into the quiet of that peace, God’s word gently slipped in. It was clear and precise.

Walk on water

          Everything stilled within me. Walk on water. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Do what seems impossible.

          Courage has never been an arrow in my quiver. I am easily scared and I am afraid of so many things. If I am ever emboldened, it is only by virtue of love; only love for someone can propel me forwards and out into the storm and into the darkness.

Walk on water

          What impossibility is God calling me to? Still battered and bleeding from the violence and abuse only dark hearts know how to inflict, all I wanted now was to curl up away from the eyes of the world. I wanted us, my family and I, to become unseen and unknown, to slip past human knowing invisibly, for to be seen was to ask to be hurt and harmed. Let down by family, by friends and even by Church authorities, the illumination of October has been shocking and brutal. It seems as if those who claim to love do not even know what it truly means and entails.

          Drained and exhausted, all I wanted was for us to be left alone. Yes, to remain in the cave of God’s holy mountain but beyond that, freed from even His call. Instead, last week, He sent His Word,

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Prepare

         I saw the word appear 4 times. I was alert. 4 was the sign of the times. First of Covid-19 and the pandemic; and now, the vaccines and the vaccine passports. What do I prepare for? How do I prepare? I had asked Him back in return. By His heart to wait, I then sent my angel, charging him to not return till God gives the word.

          My angel returned presently, bearing the reply,

Forgive

          So, in obedience, from my mind, I said the words, I forgive. Not from my heart, for so wounded was it that I felt no real forgiveness could be summoned from it. I forgive, I said mechanically, over and over, that old week of October.

          And then, a strange vine was laid upon my heart. I release you from my debt. It was an odd turn of phrase, unfamiliar, nothing I had ever prayed before. Nevertheless, I bound it to my own prayer.

I forgive you. From my debt, I release you.

          Name after name, person after person, I called to mind. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you.

          Nothing changed in my heart and I wondered what good was such a prayer prayed from a heart hardened by hurt and sorrow. But something within me remained undefeated. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you. Slowly, veiled by mists, my heart turned. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you. Slowly, softly at first, the prayer took gentle root in my heart. Then, it began to come forth with a new vigour.

          Just like my starflowers. And then, each time I prayed the prayer, it yielded with nary a trace of reluctance.

          Now, today, 4 days since joy began to unfurl anew in my heart comes the new call,

Walk on water

          Do the impossible.

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.

To Accept

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          Who knew it is possible to be gently happy and at peace even in sadness and uncertainty? With each passing day taking me closer to the day when I might lose my job, I expected the pain within me to intensify to the point of bitter grief. Instead, here I am, filled to the brim with a strange sweetness, a pink and white nectar I’ve never known before. And not only am I sustained through the hours, I can even sense a silver brook tumble elfin bells within me.

          Even as one life seems to be winding to its end, another has already begun. Towards the end of May this year, I finally admitted to myself that I was experiencing a deep burnout over work. Despite the changes I had made and the improved quality of life, it still wasn’t enough to shore up what was inevitably crumbling. Even though I could still handle work and do it well, something was clearly dying inside me. All the years of struggle and tyranny had taken its toll. I only wanted to stay on for financial reasons, nothing else mattered any more. Even then I wondered how long I’d hold out, because although money is important, it has never been a major motivation for me. When I reached breaking point, would money be enough to convince me to stay on?

          At that point, everything that held me in place fast fraying, one Sunday in May found me musing about trying something, something different that would offer a respite from the intensity of life as it was then. If I couldn’t escape from my job, could I then build another world within it, a new world that would nourish and sustain me even as the old one drained me dry?

          The minute I began to give it serious consideration, something was set in motion. Despite being filled with trepidation and doubt in myself, I applied to go back to school, fulfilling a dream I’ve long had. Even as fear and shame over my lack of abilities and past failures held me back many times, the moment I opened one door, it seemed as if unseen hands were gently pushing me from behind and tugging me forwards. 

          On and on, those unseen souls led me down one rutted path after another. Sometimes, overcome by fear, I would question my sanity in attempting something like this. If I could barely manage my job, how was I to study and work? Was this not the height of lunacy?

          In response, yet another door would open. Keep your eyes on the Lord and move forward, St Margaret Mary said.

          Just as the storms whipped around me more violently, the acceptance notification came on the Feast of St Teresa of Calcutta, to shine a light through the gathering darkness. And it was significant because 11 years ago, St Teresa had taken me on a journey through the book on her life, Come Be My Light. At the end of that journey 11 years ago, I understood what carrying our cross and following Jesus meant. While I fell many, many times since then, I know that those lessons St Teresa taught me have brought me to this point in time when light is somehow piercing this darkness. There are some days when I still I cry and rage at the world for the unfair hand it is dealing me and my family – but I cannot remain in the pit for long, for there are books to read and words to write, meetings to attend and thoughts to think.

          Today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, little bells are stirring in my spirit. Their light chimes lead me to forgive all who are hurting us. To ask for the grace of silence as I carry my cross as Jesus did.

          And finally, to accept with humility and with generosity of giving, the will of my Jesus that sometimes we must suffer so that someone else is saved.

 

 

 

Do Not Waver

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Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.   ~  Matthew 21: 21

 

          Like so many others, I too began to keep a journal to track my spiritual journey, starting it just after a horrific dream on the night of the 5th of July 2015 when I dreamt of something hitting and destroying the bright moon in the dark night sky. After the dream, I felt compelled to note down thoughts and messages and dates – and so I did, diligently, for a couple of years. Then, life got too much and writing in the journal slowed down. Still, there were entries for every year.

          Recently though, a beloved family member who has been journeying with me but who did not know of my journal, advised me to keep a record of all the things God has said to me. It gave me pause since my own thoughts had fallen along those same lines these recent weeks: that the journal needed to be re-started. So much is happening that I often feel as if our family is walking treacherous paths, blind, save for the light of our faith. Just when I think we are safe, the ground gives way beneath us, rocks are aimed at us. At such times, I often forget how my husband and I were led to do this, mist clouding the memory of the weave of events experienced and words heard in our spirits that have led us to these moments in where in the dark we must walk.

          Today was one such day. Although I am firm in the massive decision my husband and I have made together, suddenly, I could not recall defining moments that have led to this resolve – and that worried me. Were we wrong? So, from the still and silent hours of late last night when the terrain dipped to another level of tension, I have been seeking God’s voice and His alone. I am doing this for you, Lord, I whispered. But help me remember why. Tell me if I’ve read the signs wrong.

          In the early hours of this sombre and still, grey morning, I went to place my seeking into the Heart of Jesus. Going to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland via livestream, I pleaded once more, Tell me if I am wrong, Lord. Let me hear Thy voice.

          A short while later, the opening lines of a much loved song, prophetic for us in the past, were seemingly cupped in small hands and placed in my inner ears. From the song, Well Done, by the Afters, the lines given to me were,

Well done, well done
My good and faithful one

          Tears sprang to my eyes. I remembered the night I had first heard this song 3 years ago. It had been a time of deep anxiety and of looking up to the sky for signs. Shortly after, dawn had broken for us and the joy was indescribable. Now, hearing those lines once more, suddenly, I felt a gentle urge to look up all the lyrics to this song.

          As I searched, I came across the verse that birthed the song,

 

His master said to him, ‘Well done, My good and faithful servant.   ~  Matthew 25: 21
          
          Wanting to look up the context of the verse, I was instead led to Matthew 21. Realising my slip, I made to return to Matthew 25, but it felt as if Someone had reached out and held my arm to keep me from going back. So, I went back to Matthew 21, a quiet certainty within me that I was meant to be there.
 
          And so it was. Before me appeared,
 

Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.   ~  Matthew 21: 21

 
          As I read it, 3 words from the verse lit up with a strong yet quiet light.
 
          I realised it was God speaking to me. And He said,
 
Do not waver

 

 

 

Take Refuge

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Let us take refuge in the Wound of the Sacred Side, like a poor traveler who seeks a safe harbour in which to shelter from the rocks and tempests of this stormy sea of life, for here below we are continually exposed to shipwreck, unless we have the help of our all-wise Pilot.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Words for the Hour

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          Today, my phone warned me that my storage was almost full so I set about deleting accumulated content. Then, I came to a dear friend’s messages. She was the maid of honour at my wedding almost 23 years ago. But more than that, she was someone who was always looking out for what was best for me. A gentle person, she nevertheless never shied away from telling me uncomfortable truths. She wasn’t always right; sometimes she was dead wrong. Still, the bond between us ran deep and tight.

          When I came to her messages today, I knew that I would have saved any that I wanted to keep so with one swift move, I hit Delete. Sure enough, everything went – save one:

Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward.   ~  Genesis 15: 1

          That was my dear friend’s New Year message to me this year and seeing it now, my heart was pierced. I knew God was speaking through that verse.

          I have a lot to to be anxious about. The Delta variant is wrecking havoc as far as the eye can see and I have no faith in my government to lead us through this. Last month, I also began discerning a major move in my life. While I’ve made some progress, I’m still some way from a confirmation. I’m handling my work stress so much better now – but it hasn’t made me like my job more. There are all these little hills in my life, the terrain far from smooth.

          I haven’t forgotten what the past months and years have been like. The pain and the hurts remind me to be thankful for the present gentle hours, even on days when it’s easy to forget life was so hard a short while back. And so I tighten my grip on gratitude.

          But I’ve always been honest in my writing and here, I will not pretend that I am strong and positive now. The past weeks have seen glorious, stunning sunrises and sunsets. Pinks, golds, tangerines…all the colours of joy and hope that reach out and just catch your heart each day. July has never been an easy month for us for many years now.

          But I don’t remember a July as beautiful as this one has been. Every morning for more than a week now, the angel has woken us up with a surprise in the eastern glory of the sky. All through the day, the winds sing their hymns among the trees and flowers. Sometimes, in a quick foray to my garden on a busy work day, the winds quieten momentarily as I work in the flowerbeds – only to spring forward in a sudden gust, like a little child springing a jolly surprise on his mum. And every evening without fail, someone was sure to point to the sky’s western breast where the sun painted his last words in a spill of colours we know so well yet which still startled us.

          Somewhere over the weekend, I sensed the word, Faith, being written on my heart. It was easy to skip about when the sky is painted in hope and joy, and faith was not difficult to summon then. Then, August Queen prayer came and I knew the days were about to change. On Monday, a strong wind blew for hours and sealed the sky with thick gray and white fleeces. By night, the rain poured its grief upon the land. Nourished from the beauty of recent days, we welcomed each change unafraid. Soon, however, the thick white of the clouds descended deep into my heart, and faith needed a bit more work to reach for.

Let me hear your voice, I called to heaven. Leave me not bereft.

          St. Anne heard me and gently spilled light into my heart this afternoon. Doing some writing and finding the going a bit tough, a friend came forward expectedly and shone needed light on my path. How my heart jumped in happiness! That alone sufficed and I continued working with the renewed vigour that insight often brings.

          But God was not quite done.

           In the evening, when the sky was an unyielding white, He spoke through the love of my old friend, touching the wounds I did not try to hide from Him,

Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward. 

          So, I’ve come to place His words here. To let them touch and heal and soothe any passing hearts, for even the bravest souls will meet the hour that breaks their courage.

          Here then are His words for that hour.

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