Faith

Yearning

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          As day eats into day, and work becomes an endless biting of the spirit, there’s a world I wish I could escape to – the beloved Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables. Not just for the beauty of this Eden-on-earth, but also for the living that kept souls leaning against God’s heart. For the communing of neighbours. For a return to the time when work was a labour of love built on charity, generosity and simplicity of heart.

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          The fictitious Anne lived the life I yearn for more and more each day. When I come home from work, scratched and worn from a job that seems increasingly removed from God and heaven, when I am too tired and crabby to surrender in love to the calls of family life, when a wretched yellow air stains the little bit of green we own, I think of this bejeweled land and the life it allowed, thousands of miles away, and of the simple folk who once lived it.

          And I long and long and long for it to be mine too.

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          Will my children ever be as safe as it was then, when children knew no fear of shadows and moonless nights and darkened hearts? Will they ever know the little joys of diligence nurtured in honesty and integrity? Will they ever be free to dream and play in innocent abandon?

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          Will living ever be generous enough to allow us time to wander down quiet roads to tryst with nature? More than anything, will time ever slow down, and find its rhythm in gentle passage unbeholden to man’s tainted aspirations to rush and crush?

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          No answers lie in repose in the creases of my spirit. In this humid stillness of fret, that beautiful island and its olden life are further away than ever. Tonight, gratitude and thanksgiving is a bough beyond my reach because I’ve set my heart on a life in a world beyond me.

          But what is hope if not to anchor my vigil by the door of steadfast faith, that someday, that old life of ethereal grace will be mine.

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Rise and Return

          This long road of my hope and faith breaking must have begun months before – when the struggles began to add up, and consolations were few and far between, and perhaps, too little, too mild. Heartache over political situations, problems with kids, work issues. Trying to get over one rise after another, rather than face it head-on, I might have inadvertently chosen to blank out some of my disappointment that God hadn’t shown His hand in a stronger way. And bit by bit, that hurt must have grown and widened to the sorrowful proportions I am now forced to acknowledge.

          My faith is tattered and broken in places. It’s not a complete breakdown, but every tear, however minute, needs fixing.

          But it is beyond me. This is not any random fabric. This is the silk~spread of faith, woven from grace, triumph and loss by a Master Weaver. I neither know how to weave nor mend. I am not He, and never will be.

          I am trying to be strong but just cannot pretend hope tonight. My jug of oil is empty. I am spiritually weary. So, I will rise and return to my Father. At His feet I will kneel. One by one, every thorn and nail I will name, and into His Hands I will place, each weep and tear unshed. Where will this emptying take me I do not know.

          But I must start somewhere.

Cross the Jordan

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          Years ago, plumbing the depths of desolation, I heard these words in an insistent whisper,

Cross the Jordan

And you will find rest.

          I almost wept in frustration. I couldn’t even put one foot in front of me in hope, what more swim across a biblical river.

          But unseen souls wouldn’t give up on me. On and on, over and over, through weeps and struggles, stumbles and falls, the holy wraiths urged me  forwards,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          Grave after grave, farewell after farewell, one loss after another. And I’d struggle to my feet for the sake of my husband and children, for the sake of those at work who depended upon me. I walked blind, unable to sense or feel anything but the tearing sorrow of dashed hopes and dreams.

          I fell more than walked.

          I knocked at doors as I stumbled, begging mercy, respite from the wrench of pain. Many doors closed. Many never even opened. Get over it, move on, they said from their seats of comfort and triumph behind the lock. But some doors were thrown open. The most wounded of all reached out to me, fed me, nourished me and with love, set me on my way, for the journey could not end then. And long after I had crested the hill, they remained in watch at their doors, willing me on, despite their own bleeding.

          Great has been the distance covered since I began this weave through the most bitter of valleys. Yet, not one step could I have managed without the love of other wounded hearts that chose not to hide in hollows of pity. What I was fed with, they gave from their pain, they gave despite their bleeding, many wounds unhealed. They didn’t wait to reach their rest to put out their hand to me. My angel~saviours, both of this world and the next, seen and unseen, known and stranger alike, never once left my side, never ceased their whisper, willing me the life-giving hope I didn’t have.

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          With that chorus in my ears, I have made it this far. At the end of this week, a Light awaits in the dark. Waiting to touch  and bathe me in welcome. But I do not want to fall into Messiah Luminescence by myself. I want this welcome to bathe one and all, every seeking soul.

          And so, to every pilgrim soul lost in the grey and in the dark, I shine you this light that was lit for me from the love of countless others,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          Do not stop now, do not give up. Do not let bitterness win. Hard as it is, the road we stumble along is not as lonely and as empty as it seems. Many hearts travel the same routes unseen, brokenness a common coat shared in the freeze of loss. Even when all hope is gone, even when all has been taken away, especially when there is absolutely nothing left in our jar of oil, Jesus fills it with His own grace.

Yet, it is a grace not always felt. It is a hope not always sensed. It is a light not always seen.

          But it is a life~grace born of the most bitter of Crosses. It is a grace born of One who chose to Love despite the dark, One who chose life through death so that He may pour His grace into all of us, wounded seekers of life eternal. Our Messiah’s grace poured into us at our most empty, stands at ready to light the strength we need to not stop now, to not give up, but to cross the roughest Jordans of our life, to reach the rest Jesus has ready for us.

          Come now, beloved brethren, Christmas is almost here.

Don’t stop now,

Don’t give up.

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

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To those who bound my wounds and fed me,

Always, always in my heart,

Sue Shanahan, https://commonplacegrace.com/

Carlos Caso-Rosendi, https://casorosendi.wordpress.com/

Susan Skinner, https://veilofveronica.wordpress.com/

Nancy Shuman, http://www.thebreadboxletters.com/

Veronica Jarski, https://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/

God’s Child

Merry Christmas

Mission

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          Among the many things I was raised to believe about myself was that I lacked an enduring love and loyalty. That I gave up on people too quickly, so I was not a person anyone should look to for a hand to hold in a crisis.

          I carried that belief within me into friendships, and later, into prayer life, all the time trying to right that wrong.

By forcing myself to remain in deadly relationships because I believed I was the sole author of all that was wrong about it.

And by continuing with prayers long after the call of need had passed and evolved.

          Not surprisingly, I careened from one wreck to another. As I endeavoured to smoothen the path for others, I wound myself into knots that grew tighter and tighter even when I saw I was going nowhere but south, into the pit of unnecessary pain. The window of rescue flung wide, I turned away from. The open door to freedom I ignored, simply because I believed that it was my personal flaws that made me want to take leave of a situation, not the situation itself.

          Over time, through a series of miracles, cords were severed and I was taken to a different school where I began to learn who I really was. That marked the beginning of the end of detrimental relationships, and I slowly learned to loosen and escape the black grip others had over me.

          But one cord from the past remained. That one made me a prisoner within my own prayers, to my own prayers.

          When we’ve seen the inside of any prison far too much, there will be birthed within us a strong desire to free other imprisoned souls in various other prisons. And I found the recitation of various novenas very efficacious towards that intention. So, every time a pain reached me and couldn’t be dislodged after some prayers, I sought the power of novenas.

          While most were said for the required 9 days, there were others that I prayed – for difficult people, for children other parents struggled over, – which stretched on for months on end. I went to them, day after day, month after month, tugged on not only by the determination to spill light and love into wounds, but also by covert hope that I will be rewarded with the knowledge that my prayers had been answered.

          It is this erring pursuit of subliminal self-seeking which took me into landscapes so arid they ultimately dried up every rivulet of love and mercy within me. After much time had passed and seeing no discernible change in the person or situation I was praying about, I had to drag myself to the novena, just to be faithful to it.

          To not be who I was told I was- fickle, disloyal, lacking in compassion.

          It made me dread prayer time.

          I wanted so much to be over and done with some of those novena prayers because I could sense new needs coming up which I had to somehow either squeeze into my prayer schedule or keep waiting.

          Or totally ignore, hoping someone else would take it up.

          Yet, ending the novena was not an option, simply because I didn’t believe I had discerned it right; I thought it was my fickleness, my lack of loyalty and compassion for suffering souls that made me want to leave a prayer need and move on to another call. I saw the call to prayer as a duty I had to lash myself to.

          I failed to realize that praying for my fellow sheep was a mission to shine light, GIVEN me by my Shepherd. And that after a time in a certain part of a pasture, He would call me to another area of need which would require a move to a new meadow.

          I failed to see that to move, I first needed to leave.

         Soon, however, it came to a point where I had to admit to myself that something was very, very wrong if prayer was tearing me to bits. There was also much guilt over the bitter way I was praying for others. I saw it sully and stain my prayers. It wasn’t right.

          Somehow, my bitterness of spirit as I walked in the fields of pain and need constituted a far worse disloyalty towards others. I needed to discern what had gone wrong with me.

          So, back to heaven’s door I went, a changed person. Broken,  bewildered, penitent. No longer powered by my own desires. 

          Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to learn the lesson others guided by wisdom have long understood and obeyed: that when I answer the call to love others, I am shining the Light God Himself has asked me to.

          It is not my light. It is not the light I think I should shine.

          It is the Light received from the Almighty.

          It is the Light of Mission Willed for me.

          And this flame of mission can burn strong and steadily. Or it can change from time to time. Lights are given to be shone for the sake of Love, as Susan Skinner reminded me.

          I cannot, must never, choose which light to shine when or for how long, because I am the hands and feet of Jesus. To lose myself in the Divine Will is to go where He wills me to go, and to stay in one pasture of pain only for as long as He wills.

          And when He sends the angels to lead me elsewhere, I must learn to trust that the Light I held and shone for a time will now be passed into other faithful hands. In the shift of sands, I might be given this same light to shine out once more, or I might never see it again. As I learn to discern my mission at any given time, so must I learn to leave it when called.

          After all, what is faith but to know that I am one of many in the vineyard, there to shine the Light of Mission pressed into my spirit by One whose wisdom I will never surpass.

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An Un-vesting

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          Early this week, my superiors informed us that we would all be subjected to a new performance evaluation. ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ work performance had been redefined to suit the times. Basically, those who trumpeted their efforts the loudest, regardless of what those efforts were, stood to gain everything. Those who worked quietly and in obscurity would have their efforts remain unrecognized and unrewarded – unless they converted to the times, and burnished everything in the fool’s gold of egoism and vanity.

          What you actually did no longer mattered. How you elevated and promoted yourself was to be the new compliance test.

          Stunned, I saw almost everything crumble before me. Like everyone else, I wanted my work to be appreciated. I wanted it to be recognized for the good it truly brought. But I shrank away from the turgidity of the platform upon which I was called to promote my work. I could not understand why the sacredness of sincere toil needed to be dolled up to be admissible for scrutiny. I could not understand why the fruits had to be sacrificed so garishness of the self might shine.

          I had a basket of simple wildflowers no one wanted. They were not fit for adornment for the times we were in.

          Everything dear and sacred to me, every struggle faced alone, one by one, peeled off and cast aside contemptuously by a world beholden to the luridness of the times. Day after sad day, one petal after another, plucked and left to flutter to the ground, deemed not worthy to be lifted by the breeze of authority.

          It was in the bitter hours of those thorn-wreathed days that I felt this word written on my heart ~ un-vesting. Over and over, I felt it pressed gently upon my spirit. Like someone unseen was willing me to see the negation of my work through the lens of heaven. To suffer it without the stain of mutiny to render it a worthy offering ~ atonement for sins – mine and others.

          Despite the gentle entreating that I open the eyes of my spirit, I kept turning away. Too much of me was bound too tightly to my work efforts. A rejection of it was a rejection of me. To cast it aside was to toss me aside too. And I took it none too meekly. Storm after storm beat a hymn of keening within me, lamenting all that I was now to lose for choosing to stand with my Lord.

          On the dawn of the 13th, on the 99th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition of the 13th of May 1917, I wearily prayed the Act of Consecration of the family to Our Lady of Fatima. I surrendered each one to my Mother. At the end of it, I remained at the shores of the prayer for a while. Then, I wearily reached deep into me and untied the moorings that had hitherto bound work efforts -my simple wildflowers – to my heart. I placed the tiny blooms of all I have done, each one, into my Mother’s hands, and stepped back into the busyness of the day, emptied but sad.

          Within an hour, a vine of tiny miracles began to unfold through my work day. I laughed with a giddy abandon and tickled dour others to mirth as well. I found myself tending to my duties with a skip and lilt of spirit lost to me in the days past.

          Surprised at the sudden change, I put my joy to the test: I recalled my losses.

          The joy remained, anchored in the serenity of a spirit freed from burdens by an un-vesting willed by Heaven. I still saw my losses. I know what has been done to me and others is wrong. But the sting was gone.

          The un-vesting called me to meekness this week, and late though I was to answer that call, the flood of joy I experienced was His Mercy~gift to me on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

          To tell me my wildflowers, rejected by the world of the times, had its place in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflower Whispers

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          There are some days and weeks that take more out of us than we have to give. They pull and tug and scrape out what little patience and energy we carry within us, to the point of near depletion. We are left slumped on the floors of earth, willing for the sun to rise right again, to radiate and illumine the soreness to hopeful joy once more. With our tired hearts angled towards the windows of the world, we await those healing goldbeams. 

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          And come to us they do, these mysterious healing rays, yet, not always are they seen for what they are. Hope and light and refreshment do not always come in instantly recognizable packages of pomp and gaiety. Often, they are like wildflowers, shy maidens peeking through the bossier blades of grass. They come unannounced. Unexpectedly. They wrap their gentle tendrils around wilting spirits, whispering light and life back into brokenness.

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          A dew diamond can come through a timely wisdom pearl dropped into a tired heart. This week, for me it was -…..bring your heart back and put it beside Our Lord…. by St Francis de Sales, through Nancy Shuman’s beautiful post, Visiting My Dry Garden. In that dewy moment, the Lord had me see I had strayed beyond the pasture gate, taking with me only my will. He gently drew me away from the scratch and tear of worldly busyness. He gently led me to His Word, nestled in the hiddenness of holy seeking.

          Through the weave of a hundred moments lived through this week, I once again saw that life is an ebb and flow of success and failure. Of satisfaction and disappointment. Of blooming and wilting. No pilgrim soul ever escapes that. Yet, for so many of us, with the intensification of wilting, comes a restlessness of seeking that leads out beyond the pasture gate. We stray further and further away from moment-by-moment communion with the Lord. We go on the strength of our own will.

          It’s not always due to willful obstinacy; in my case this week, it was spiritual forgetfulness in the rush to meet deadlines and to get work done. Busyness and distraction are echoes that reverberate in far too many lives, day after dry day, leaving in its wake, a desert of wilting of spirits. 

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          But the God of Mercy is not one to stand by and watch us drift down paths not willed. Even on the busiest highways of life, Heaven erects signposts and rest stops to halt our descent. Strains of an old hymn, loving counsel, a rebuke even. One line in a book of thousands. An accident, an emergency surgery. A tragedy.

          Each call from heaven a wildflower whisper of light and healing, not always seen nor valued in the crowd of grass, yet, parting the blades in our lives, in a gentle reminder to bring our hearts back and put it beside Our Lord.

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LENT 27 ~ Our Hand in Heaven

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A Treat For The Children ~ by Hermann Werner

         

          Heaven is God’s grace to us. But the grace comes to us only through the doors of the life of holy obedience we lead on earth.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given.  ~ St Francis of Assisi

 

LENT 22 ~ Mercy in the Mind

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By Josephine Wall

During mental prayer, it is well, at times, to imagine that many insults and injuries are being heaped upon us, that misfortunes have befallen us, and then strive to train our heart to bear and forgive these things patiently, in imitation of our Saviour. This is the way to acquire a strong spirit. ~ St. Philip Neri

I never ever expected to read such a quote on prayer. Some of us are gifted with a fertile imagination that often wounds and maims charity in our souls more than reality itself. When these powerful imaginations play out in technicolour detail future situations we might encounter, St Philip’s words offer a splendid way to track out the venom of our imaginings and replace it with the dew of mercy.

Thus, a potential for more pain is transformed by mercy into the sweet incense of prayer.

LENT 15 ~ STAY THE COURSE

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          Years of toil that have yielded little. The giving of almost entire lives only to receive indifference and contempt. Praying all the right prayers, thinking  we’ve obeyed all the Spirit’s prompts.

          And yet, it’s the endless expanse of sunburnt sands that stretches before us.

          Our spirits falter, and we sink defeated. It becomes a struggle to set one foot in front of the other to continue a journey suddenly emptied of meaning and purpose.

          And yet go on we must, with a courage we might not have, in possession of a hope rendered more and more barren by the day, by the casting out of a net that repeatedly returns empty. And why must we persevere? Because…

There is no such thing as an empty net but sometimes God puts the fish on hold for a good reason…~ Carlos Caso-Rosendi, The Call

Fish on hold.

          Some hold that our why?  to that is, perhaps, our greatest undoing, because our questioning of delays sometimes leads to a darker despair. But true faith does not come from a slumbering obedience either; it comes from an active pondering, a sincere and earnest seeking to know His will. Questioning to understand the Divine Will is not wrong; seeking to undermine it, is.

          Hence, when hopes are long in coming true, when every good comes undone, and the desert of despair looms closer, may we seek His counsel, plead for it, even. And if His answer is silence, may we continue to beseech heaven, but for the armour of hope and strength to keep the faith, even as we are buffeted by confusion, distraction and delusion.

Tribulation is a gift from God – one that he especially gives His special friends – St. Thomas More

          Every hill and valley along our journey must be traversed, for each has its place in the journey towards His Coming. We must stay the course, all through the barren wilderness, pressed upon by doubt and fear, because the harbor of respite is just beyond the bend.

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LENT 12 ~ When Grace Is Misted

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          For many long grey years, I played to the bidding of a person who loved herself to the point of excluding God. I lived in troubled compliance in her world, and she lived gleefully in mine. Marionette and puppeteer.

          My mistress stood sentry between God and I. She proclaimed herself the doorway to Christ, except that a walk through her portal never led to God. Through a serpentine meandering in endless false lights and upheavals, it always led back to her.

          One day, an angel came to my soul, bearing a gift ribboned in the purple of sorrow. Opening my door to the angel’s weeping, I learned a grief known to many others. My jealous mistress tugged hard on the strings, to jerk my gaze back to her. But my mourning became a powerful grace. It was the sword which the angel wielded to keep her beyond the gate, where her shadow fell too far to mark me. 

          And by grace too, my tears were transformed into dew lights and vessels, which illuminated and carried me along the waters of seeking to make sense of this sorrow. Had grace been absent from my grieving, I would have rapidly been lost in the pit of self-pity.

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          It was the first of journeys I navigated unfettered. For the very first time, I was journeying on my own, towards the true God, through the portal of grace that did not seem at all like graces should – all bright and iridescent with shimmering hope.

          All who knew of my pain, even I, only saw my Cross, not the grace, for the sorrow given to me was a veiled grace. The pain was the gift of heavenly luminescence meant to guide my soul to God. But the luminescence was hidden from curious minds to protect me from confusion that can arise from too many onlooker-interpretations.

          This grace did not come with the expected joy-glitter of a thousand diamonds. Hence it was long years before my spirit was ready to see it for what it was.

          And that is how grace often is. Seldom clearly discernible. Often misted over. Veiled. Hidden within the Cross.

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