PRAISE

The Wait of Song

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Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.   James 5: 7 – 8

 

          I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so conscious of the phrase be patient as I have recently. These two little words seem to be popping up rather frequently before my seeking heart.

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.

~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          For good reason too, I guess, for patience has never been my virtue. Even if time and age have smoothened out some of the tension and tightness that is part of the wait for any fulfilment, I’m far from being cured of running my gaze over the distant hills, trying to make out the shapes in the mists beyond.

          But the good Lord to Whom no fold or crease of my spirit is foreign, has gently tucked the remedy for waiting into my Advent knowing this year. Every time the holy call of patience comes, God asks that I

Sing!

          To not save my paeans of joy for only sunbursts, pieces of good news that lift the heart to soaring heights.

          Instead, to sing with my heart, at the tiniest sighting of spring in the sombre winter’s wait. To sing even when snowdrifts threaten to bury deep the few lamps that burn.

          Indeed, that must be the way of my wait, till the Child King comes,

The wait of song.

Lent 29 ~ Her Name is N

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Your prayer intercession for N is pleasing to Me because it is an act of love.​   ~  In Sinu Jesu

 

          After a stretched and harried workday, the last thing I wanted was to make that long drive to the city. The only thing in favour of the trip was that I would have a chance to go to church, my first time since the 3rd week of January when my country went into lockdown again. That I would be able to spend the feast day of St. Joseph in a silent church before my Hidden Jesus, firmed my resolve further.

          The hot winds tossed and leapt in the blue skies above the seaside city as I got down from the car. I was so very happy to be back. It has been close to 2 months of hardly any quiet alone time and I was longing so much just to be alone. Entering church and settling down, for an hour, I got just that. No interruptions. Just the muted sounds of passing traffic and the chirping of happy birds in pursuit of living. Quiet and chatty in turns, I laid bare my whole heart to Jesus, even as I listened for His words. 

          Presently, barrel emptied, I picked up my copy of In Sinu Jesu, allowing the words to thread through me. Soon, it would be time to begin the journey home, to return to all that awaited me, the beautiful as well as the difficult.

Speak to me, Jesus, I prayed, if it be Thy will. Don’t let me go back without hearing You.

          Paragraph after paragraph, page after page, words flowed but nothing remained within me. I didn’t pause to try and go deeper either. Several times, I reminded myself that the words I was reading were God’s to the monk – not me – because I didn’t want to imagine that a word was for me. If God wanted to speak to me, He would make His voice heard and I would somehow know it.

          But God didn’t speak and yet, my peace was not disturbed. It was one of those rare times when I was fully trusting Him. I read on a bit more and then, saw that it was time to pack up.

          Just then, a thought occurred to me. So many lives would have been different had the people known of Jesus and felt His love. And I thought about my colleague from work who continues to make my life a misery due to the jealousy within her. Back in the day when we were close, on occasion, I used to share with her my walk with Jesus. Unlike the others whose eyes would narrow and lips tighten, my friend always listened earnestly. She knew I was not in the business of trying to convert her to my faith. She knew that I respected her faith and that she had nothing to fear from me.

          And yet, something in her faith was justifying what she was doing to me, a Christian.

          I decided I would bring my friend to Jesus. Shutting my eyes, I imagined her sitting beside me, right in front of the Tabernacle, before Jesus’ eyes. I offered her heart to Jesus. After a few moments, I returned to my book.

          Suddenly, without warning, a line appeared and shot its arrow right through my heart.

          Your prayer intercession for N is pleasing to Me because it is an act of love.​ 

          This monk, N, had been mentioned several times before and my spirit had never been moved. This time though, a jolt went through me. I knew then that this time, Jesus had meant those words for me.

          Because my friend’s name begins with N.

Praise You In This Storm

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I was sure by now God

You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say Amen

And it’s still raining

And as the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

I’m with you

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

  

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

 

 I remember when I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry You raised me up again

My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on?

If I can’t find you

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

I’m…

  

I remember when I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry You raised me up again

My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on?

If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

I’m with you

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

 

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm oh-oh

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

 

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth

 

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm, yea

 

And though my heart is torn

I will praise, I will praise You in this storm

I will praise You in this storm

Praise You in this storm

I will praise You in this storm.

          There are songs we bump into and there are songs that come looking for us. Praise You In This Storm by Natalie Grant is both for me.

Soon after it fell upon my ears last week, its anguished refrain, And I’ll praise You in this storm, was a light tap against my heart to ready it for this week: for the missteps, the exhaustion, things not quite working out despite my best efforts. As I played it on loop this week, even as I stumbled and made mistakes, I got up each time, and pressed little thanksgivings into my God’s Heart. There was still so much to be grateful for even as our lives became more and more difficult.

As a new day rose from the old, a new line in the song came to life.

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

          I’d listen to that line as I drove, as I worked, my eyes wet, my throat hurting from tears both old and fresh. Grief lives always. It never dies.

One afternoon, I wept into my pillow. Of the many things You could have done, You chose to give and then to take away. Why, God, why? No hand did I hold up against my old anguish. I felt I had lost so very much in this life. It seemed as if every single epoch of my life has been marked by loss. Just as I discovered some happiness, it would soon be taken away. But this loss…

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

          When I first heard those lines, I turned away from repeating them even as I continued to listen out for them. Then yesterday, driving home from a work day that had decided to live its own plan, so very, very tired, the song playing on, I raised my heart and whispered, You gave, You took away. Thank you. And tears came from the effort of forming the words I couldn’t bear to touch.

As soon as I had placed those words into Heaven’s heart, a light shone upon a new line, only that I heard it differently,

And every tear you’ve cried

I hold in My hand.

Lent 18 ~ Two Ways to Live

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.   ~   Albert Einstein

 

          There’s nothing more enervating than a world-weary person who’s seen it all. They either annoy you by pretending an interest in your doings, or they cast a pallor over your joys and excitement, leeching the light out of your spirit.

          I had not met too many of such people, and of the few in my life, scant patience I had with them. They lived their own lives in greys and painted everything else likewise. I kept well away from them.

          But today, edging closer and closer to fifty, my heart has softened a little. I understand at least one reason why some people are this way:

A lack of thanksgiving

          Some spend their whole lives waiting for the ‘biggie’, that anything smaller fails to register. And some struggle with gratitude and giving thanks because life has been one long pull of heartache and grief.

          Thanksgiving doesn’t come easy for many of us. Caught in the bog of pain and yearning, it can be so much harder.

          But as I’m slowly learning, it’s thanksgiving that opens the eyes of our spirits to the greatest miracle there is –

Life itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Old

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Thus says the LORD:

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves. ~   Jeremiah 6:16

 

          A set of old books which I read every year without fail would be the Anne of Green Gables series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in the early 1900s. When times are rough, as they have been these past 12 years, each book is sometimes read twice each year – for they impart to me a deep comfort, their pages a place for my soul to rest.

          More importantly, the Anne books return me to a time in the old when life was lived as it should be.

          I always take leave of my reading moments somewhat wistfully, for returning to an unpleasant reality is never welcome return. Yet, I return in renewed strength and vigour to the calls of home and hearth. After each sojourn to the kingdom of Anne, I am a better mother and wife, my rough edges smoothened down.

So, which is the way to good? I ask

The old Anne~roads, I answer myself

Where people rose early to greet the bloom of a new day, consecrating their hearts to the God they knew and feared, yet loved. Their hours spent in hard, honest labour, busy yet not imprisoned, free to smile at heaven even in the midst of occupation. Never too caught up in doings to rest spirits in the chant of winds and merry blooms, never so overcome by hardship or hurt so as to forsake neighbour.  Their hours set to chimes of cheer, hope and faith, scented by graces received in humility and joy, each day is lived and bequeathed to God and to God alone.

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves

          God is telling me to take my family in hand and return to the days of old. To return even if echoes of derision follow us – for some may never see the wisdom of our choice. The call to return is placed in every heart, awaiting only the obedient response,

Yes, Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Every Bird Sings

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          Today was a golden, sunny Sunday when it seemed like every bird on our little property was singing. It was lovely to be able to sleep in a bit and then wake up to a chirpy morn, complete with dancing sunbeams and the bluest of skies painted over in white~windbroom  clouds. We had come from a very exhausting week, capped by 2 consecutive days of long distance travelling on Friday as well as Saturday. This was the new normal for the year of 2019. It took a lot out of us and I feared we’d all get crabby and start carping at one another as we so often do.

          But it didn’t happen this time.

          Because Someone was ahead of us before we arrived at any one point.

          He filled us up with patience and wisdom and gentleness for every situation. He gave us the remedy for every challenge we faced. He gave us the energy we didn’t have, and a larger-than-usual capacity for laughs and jokes.

          He smoothed our tiredness and helped us to take the Mass Readings and the Gospel to heart and to find gentle direction in the priest’s sermon. He cleared so much of our hearts of ourselves, allowing us to savour and enjoy dew~pearl moments that might otherwise have slid off us – the priest’s serene and solemn blessing of water in the Holy Water receptacle in the corner of church just before Mass, the blessing of a couple and their 5 children on the occasion of their 15th wedding anniversary. The red and pink roses from an earlier wedding, adorning the bases of the altar and the Divine Mercy image, fulfilling my Saturday longing for Guadalupe roses that day. The brief joining of hearts as we shared in parish happenings, under twilight orange skies wreathed in aging winds calling their goodbyes.

          He pressed His finger to my lips when I would have made unfair demands on my family, when I would have given in to my tiredness and snapped at them, forgetting they too were as tired as I was – if not more. He cleared our hearts of every angry twig and leaf of inconsequential-s, things that took on a shadow of importance only because tiredness distorted them to appear so.

          This Unseen Light brought us safely through dangerous roads and difficult night time driving, right to our front door. Then, He closed all our eyes to sleep and watched over our dreams till the sun rose to its throne today.

          On a day when every bird sings, you know you have been  blessed, and blessed in abundance. With that knowing, comes a chagrin too, that there’s so little you’ve done to deserve any of this.

          And when your heart is pierced this way, you want nothing but to give God everything you have in your offering basket. I had nothing of value in mine except a heart humbled and quietened for once by the abundance of blessings He had gifted us unasked.

          So, as every bird sang, I entwined into that sweet avian garland my own notes of praise,

Blessed be God,

Blessed be God,

Blessed be God.

 

 

 

 

Fruit of My Lips

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          What is praise? Probably the last question expected from a cradle Catholic. I had already learned the important lesson of when to praise, as beautifully illustrated by Rebekah Durham’s robin in Praise in Winter. But suddenly, it seemed as if the understanding of what praise of God really is, was taken away from me, leaving me in the waters of asking yet again.

          What is praise? I pressed.

         The Angel stirred the waters.

Through Jesus let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess His Name. ~   Hebrews 13: 15

Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.   ~   Mark 5: 19

 

          Swiftly, this understanding was laid before my eyes,

A sacrifice of praise

Fruit of lips that confess His Name

Announce to them all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.  

 

 

 

As The Robin Sings

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         My heart is deep in winter now. The sun mists the skies with rose, shyly and hesitantly, sometimes not showing itself at all. A winter silence has descended. Everything, everyone, is a little quieter. The white power of winter’s cold stays even the most garrulous and rebellious of spirits.

          Every day, I sit by my window of waiting, looking out as far as eyes can see, over the distant hills and expanse of skies, waiting for hope. Even as feet hurry and hands remain busy, the winter has filtered out so much of the usual distractions; thus my spirit remains more securely anchored to this still waiting.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.   ~  Ephesians 1: 17 – 18

          Where are You, Lord? I ask. Where is my hope?  Winter or not, troubles remain, dotting the hills and plains with their resolute darkness. When will the Promise come?

How much longer, Lord? How much longer?    

          Sometimes, I chide myself for this watching, like a mother to myself, afraid I’d fall hard and hurt myself if hopes are long in coming true. Yet, an unseen Hand continues to hold me to my perch on the watchman’s wall.

          This morning, rising early, looking out of the window, the thick white sky solemnly gazed back at me. Where is the hope that belongs to our call? I tiredly pressed into the watchful fleeces.

          Then, I remembered a visit I needed to make. Hurrying to it, Someone was already there.

I heard a chirrup in the trees and looked up to find a robin, her chest puffed proudly, indifferent to the weather. “And yet the birds persist,” I thought. The robin still perches upon the bare branch and sings out her song for the world to hear—praise to her Maker.   ~   Rebekah Durham, Praise in Winter

          Praise in winter. Praise as the robin does, even in the deep cold. 

          I winced slightly. Praise was a ring I hadn’t worn much of this week. Or the one before.

          I had an errand to run. I drove out, had it done. Driving back home, the radio turned off, I tried to seal my heart to God’s. I looked up once more at the white gray skies. A cheery westerly wind was blowing, making languid boughs bend forwards in welcome.  Remembering the robin on the bare branch, I offered up the beauty of the day to my Lord in praise.

          And then again, my thoughts returned to the troubles our family is facing, and I wondered, How do I hope right, how do I hope without breaking?

          Suddenly, piercing the well-insulated car, came an unusually loud avian singing.

Robins!

           Stunned, I scanned the line of trees bordering the roads. How could it be? How could it be that I heard them?? I could not even hear the crunch of the car tyres on the road. If I were to have heard  anything, it should have been that!

          But instead it was the choir of little robins! Unseen yet strangely, so very close. In a way I cannot explain, they seemed to be flying alongside the moving car – which they weren’t!

          The choir stayed by my ears as I drove into our home and got out of the car. Again, I was startled – they were our very own robins – patriarchs of the trees in our backyard!

          None of this made sense to me. How could I have heard the serenade of my backyard robins, from more than 400 metres away, in a moving car, through completely raised up windows and secured doors?

          As the winds continued their joyful ruffling in accompaniment to the gentle sweetness of the lilting robin hymn, I knew that Mother Mary, Queen Immaculate of my Saturdays, had brought me this beautiful miracle. Speaking through the tongues of birds, Mother bade me know that She heard me, that She was watching over my search for hope.

          But more importantly, She asked that, as the robin sings, undeterred even in the deepest winter, awaiting the hope of spring sun upon the snow,

so must I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed Be God

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Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the One Who sits on the throne, Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before the One Who sits on the throne and worship Him, Who lives forever and ever.   ~  Revelations 4: 9 – 10

          Something stirs lightly within me at these words of the 1st Reading from Revelations. When we glorify God, the 24 elders fall in worship before Him. I do not know what it means beyond what is stated, but even in its most basic interpretation, those verses stir the beginnings of awe in me: that my most meagre praises and thanksgiving  are multiplied in heaven. I begin the day in tentative praise,

Blessed be God, forever and ever

          I feel a slight, quick press of spirit in response to my first offering. Quick and then it is gone. I know I must follow, that it is up to me. This praise offering should have been a route I am familiar with, despite not traversing it enough.

          However, today, it feels as if I’ve never been here before. 

          Since last Wednesday, since the witching hour hammering at my gates, when a nefarious hideousness hovered for long seconds, suspended between my sleep and alertness, everything has changed. Since my broken scream, Where are you, God? Where are You? in response to the evil that came so close that night despite my struggles to hold fast to what is right – and with the gentle embrace of Heaven the next day, everything has lost its familiarity. It feels as if with that attempted encroachment, the past  – my knowledge, my understanding – has been erased by a mighty Hand. Structures – both good and bad – levelled, experiences wiped clean.

          I have to start afresh – but I’ve not been returned to the old starting point. This is a fresh start.

          It feels as if I must learn how to walk again. So, I get to my feet, wobbly and uncertain.

          And begin, Blessed be God, forever and ever.

 

 

 

 

 

I Love Thee

 

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          Almost two weeks ago, someone contacted me and asked me if I had heard of this particular St Joseph novena prayer ~ 

NINE-DAYS NOVENA TO ST. JOSEPH

(Note: This prayer was found in the 50th year of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometime during the 16th century, it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is said that whoever shall read this prayer or take it with them, shall never die a sudden death or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, or shall be burned in any fire or shall be overpowered in battle. Say this prayer for nine days for anything you may desire. Then let go and let God. Trust that whatever is the outcome of your novena is truly what is best for you in accordance with the will of God.)

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me. (Mention your intention)

          Then, this person informed me of a ‘spiritual’ nudge that I would have need of this novena too.

          That certainly got my attention because in the days before this happened, I had noticed that St Joseph was coming up pretty often. And my husband and I were both facing serious work-related issues as well. So, I took it as a sign and began the novena.

          The day the novena ended for me, I received a whipping at work. I had my life efforts dismissed for the second time in two years. My abilities were belittled and in shock, I watched another august institution I had respected deeply crumble into the sewer of moral erosion, pride and blindness.

          Although I withstood it better than the previous hit last year, the bewilderment and the pain was severe and it cut deeper, because this time, my humiliation was public. I was desperate not to cry, not to compound my shame, but I sensed the unrelenting wet hovered close.

          An angel answered my prayers and pressed my tears into a vault in my heart, to not fall before eyes, and a dear friend’s prayers got me through the day. I stumbled home in a condition one would expect as a result of the smashing and grinding into the dirt of every potter’s vessel worked and lived for.

          And yet, I sensed something was different this time. Throughout the lashing, my strength in tatters, I begged for grace to hold onto the Fatima Way, because I was struggling to hold on to my cross.

          Slowly, faintly, I felt my spirit being held up by unseen hands. I felt unseen hearts willing me to not break. I wept some, but again, someone caught them.

Take my tears, I whispered to the angel I had summoned, Press them into Jesus’ Wounds. Tell Him I carry my cross for the Love of Him.

          Turning my heart to heaven, I called upon the saints of my heart ~ St Joseph, Padre Pio, St Francis of Assisi and St Jude. I prayed for help because I feared the wave that would drown me was now hidden from sight yet determinedly advancing.

          And then, I prayed for my prayer.

          The prayer to anchor my heart to God’s when the blackness of anger and hatred born of a wounding inevitably arrived. I prayed and I begged with every breath. But only silence resounded.

          As the barest of evening winds began to be touched by incoming sable hours, my eyes were led twice to hymns and verses of Praise. I recalled Mark Mallett’s deeply enlightening explanation of praise ~ …the most powerful praise comes when we acknowledge God’s goodness in the midst of the dry desert, or the dark night…, and I knew no matter what shadow my heart lay in, the lepers’ response could not be mine; I could not return in thanklessness every gift He had sent me.

          So, I somehow found the will to form praise from my heart. I formed it from the bitterseeds of the scourging I had received. I forced myself to push past the pain to acknowledge my own sinfulness that to some extent I deserved what I had received, because pride in my abilities and work results had birthed tiny seeds of scorn towards others. By nurturing this within me, I knew well enough where I was headed for, yet no attempt had I made to pull this sin of pride out by its roots.

          I don’t believe I watered this poison; but I certainly didn’t deprive it of its home in me either.

          I picked up my sin and wove my praise from repentance.

I have sinned, Lord, Let me suffer this for you.

          Hours passed. Sinking my heart into the night’s Rosary with a yearning only a wounding can bring on, I wearily touched heaven’s door yet again, Lord, give me my prayer.

          In a breath, gently, I sensed something bud and bloom in the emptiness.

You Who live and reign forever,

I love Thee,

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          I jumped eagerly for the words that streamed serenely into my spirit. But they gently eluded my will to tendril their peaceful vines around my brokenness. Over and over, all through the still night eyes, with no exertion, like breath I breathed them,

You Who live and reign forever,

I love Thee,

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          I marched the events of the day before me. I replayed my humiliation. I kept my sin before me. Through each one, I breathed,

You who live and reign forever,

I love Thee

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          When the silvers of dawn found me, the pain had gone. No trace but the memory of it.

          Not to cloud, nor to shadow, but to light the weave of path ahead.