1 KINGS 19

Gentle Roads

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          Today, I read an old post from my friend, Ann’s blog, Muddling Through My Middle Age. She was reminiscing about Halloween as a child and how things changed for her over the years. Like so many of Ann’s posts, this one made me reflect on my life, specifically on what I yearn for: a slower, gentler life.

          While Halloween is not part of life in my country except maybe in expatriate enclaves, what catches my heart each time Halloween comes around would be the beautiful photos of carved pumpkins adorning rural front porches as the waning orange of sunset reaches its twilight slumber. To me, those photos speak to a time of gentling. Of slowing down. Of savouring the ineffable sweetness of littleness and simplicity. A time to rest and to chuckle, to do things different to the daily dictates of regimented life.

          The all too brief months of sheltering at home due to Covid gave us that gift of time to live along gentle roads for once. Although often the hours at home seemed impossibly shorter, it was only because while they were filled with stressful formal work, they were also interspersed with the happiest hours for home and family.

          I miss that deeply now. We’re almost back to full work mode, and I’m not too thrilled about it. Yet, I’m also determined not to shut all those gates leading to those gently winding roads. Some aspects of that brief interlude God gifted us with must be brought into this new weave of roads beyond the gate. Since I am surrounded by people who now barely remember, much less treasure, the good of those slower days, it’s left to me to craft and fashion my present hours from the lessons I learned during sheltering. I can’t change people but I sure can cut the fabric of my now’s a little differently.

          This insight didn’t come quickly, though. But God was patient with me and took me to one lake of realisation after another, where I could review and contemplate how I had lived each day since the return to full time work.

          Slowly, my heart began to see things. Even more slowly but surely, I allowed myself to be released from old habits of behaviours.

          I’ve always been a workaholic. Coupled with guilt and a few other  burdens, my formal work has always followed me home, often forcing me to work well past midnight.

          But since June, when I returned to work, I’ve noticed a loathing to bring work home beyond the few times it was absolutely necessary. It suddenly felt as if I was sullying the purity of my hours at home by doing work that could wait. This reaction isn’t exactly new; but every time I’ve tried to stop working on reports and projects before, guilt has always won me over to the wrong side.

          Till now. If something from work needs to get done even at home, I do slog at it. But if it can wait, it certainly does, and I don’t quite have to fight myself to step away.

          That is not willpower. That is grace.

          Another emerging tint to my days is the spirit of thanksgiving and thankfulness that sits a little more securely over my heart now than it did before. Some time ago, I had an epiphany. Since we reopened, I struggled to get to work each day because it meant returning to the old, much of it detested. Before each new work day, I got myself into a twist thinking about all the sorry and sodden things waiting for me. Unfortunately, despite my penchant for imagining things, my work struggles weren’t pops out of my imagination; they were real and there was no escaping them.

          But slowly, my ingratitude towards the many gifts God tucked into my days, became clearer and clearer. I realisee that no matter how hard the return to the old was, it didn’t exempt me from thanksgiving.

          So, each time there was something to wince about, I tried to find something to be grateful for instead. It wasn’t always easy – not because the good and sweet were few and far between – but because I had gotten into the habit of casting about for greater and brighter jewels.

          Still, I’ve kept at it, and with my angel’s guiding heart, I think I’m getting to be a more thankful person.

          A long time ago, a good and holy priest had looked deep into my soul and saw well beyond what I was struggling to make sense of. He quietly told me that it was people’s jealousy that was souring so much that should have been sweet. When I asked him if there was hope of a miracle, Father had looked at me and nodded, saying, Yes, miracles will come  – but slowly.

          What he might have seen but didn’t explain at that time was also that those miracles would take a form different to what I envisioned.

          I believe that despite the disappointment and sadness which surround us, the time of miracles has begun – but not in the manner and magnitude akin to earthquakes, fires and wild winds. These miracles are beginning to unfold just like the soft, still sound Elijah heard from the depths of his cave of sorrow and pain. Through the protecting of our time at home, sacred to those we hold dear in our hearts. Through our little acts of thanksgiving throughout the day. And many more.

          All miracles are wrought by God, but their seeds begin first with us. I yearn so much for a slower, kinder, gentler life, the very one God showed me a glimpse of this year. But it is not His way to merely shake and break this earth to form a new home for us all.

          For miracles to grow and live, we must first seek gentle roads for ourselves. For every storm, earthquake and fire that we encounter, we ourselves must stand firm along the quiet paths of thanksgiving, charity and holy obedience.

          The world might have us believe otherwise, that a kinder world must begin with bending others into submission through force, fire and violence. But it doesn’t.

          This sweetly gentle life begins first with us. As we incline our hearts more and more towards the Spirit’s leading, we will begin to build new homes along the very roads we seek, formed from the soft, still sounds of God.

Lent 26 ~ A Quiet Gift Comes

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          I had been waiting for this day, this 25th of March. Feast of the Annunciation. Since 2016, I have been nudged to alertness regarding this date, this Feast, the day Mary said Yes to God.

          From Monday, when I began my simple 3 day novena to prepare for the feast day, my chest would tighten every time I thought about it. Was it anticipation? Perhaps. But I cannot be sure, because there was an underlying anxiety. An undercurrent of premonition.

          But the 25th of today dawned incredibly beautiful. Deep azure skies, a strong sun. Flowers in wild and joyful bloom, dancing in rhythm to the mischievous winds toying with them. Even my morning’s frisson of unease evaporated in the face of such sunny happiness.

          Yet, I continued to gently press my heart against Heaven. Give me Thy sign.

          And then, it came. But it was nothing like I had been stiffening and tightening up for.

          Instead, an unseen gentleness quietly led me on a little journey down an old lane of memory. I was brought back to verses that have never failed to quieten and still me.

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.   ~   1 Kings 19: 11 – 12

          I know it should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t. Not until today.

          I had always wondered what on earth that strong and violent wind, that earthquake, that fire – referred to. I would scan headlines and reports about Mother Earth revolting, laying my heart against each one, trying to find a common rhythm that told me I had found the answer.

          But each attempt was futile. I was brought to the gates and each time, left there, not allowed in. Until today. Today, the gates opened slightly. And even from the humble spot where I was, I suddenly understood what had been hitherto hidden from my spirit of understanding.

The gates I had been made aware of in Lent of 2018 referred to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

          And the wind, the earthquake, the fire – all now referred to inner churnings in my life.

          There had been strong and violent winds, earthquakes, fire even, in my personal and professional life for many years. I had struggled with and through each one, sometimes pulling through, often failing. Each fall went on to generate another set of wild winds, a series of earthquakes, endless fires as I fought fear, tears and frustrations.

          But early this year, I began to sense something had changed in me. Outwardly, I seemed to be the same. Some days I even fooled myself. Yet, it was evident that I was no longer who I was. Although I worked very hard at my job, although the pace was terrible this year, something else held fort within me, holding me back from the edge of the cliff. I knew that something was the December dream which warned of a complete and no-turning-back burnout.

          Suddenly, with that dream, I knew that I could no longer allow any external wind, earthquake or fire to destroy me and my body and my peace of mind. No matter what blew or shifted or raged, I had to take charge.

I had to flee to the hills of my God and my faith.

          And so I did. Many days, it sure didn’t seem like it, but if I forgot one day, I made amends the next day. Slowly, I learned something that has always been so hard for me – saying No, saying Stop. I did it at work. I did it at home too. Sure, that didn’t make some people too happy with me, but they needed to hear it.

         And now with the Covid-19 Movement Control Order in place, today extended by an additional 2 weeks, although I am working from home, I no longer have to contend with the worst of outside winds, earthquakes or fires. A clear break has come.

          Today, on the Feast of the Annunciation, Our Lady came to softly tell me it was time to eradicate, obliterate even the few inner winds, earthquakes or fires which may come to life from time to time as I navigate the roads of fear, worry and tension of this terrible pandemic. She came today to tell me it is time I leaned against Her and the communion of saints who are family to me, in order to fight myself, to fight back against the winds, earthquakes and fires of my emotions and temperaments.

          To still all that breaks, shifts and rages within me.

          Because it is in that ensuing peace and stillness that I will finally hear the small, still sound of my God.

          And with that victory, I will finally lean forever against the Heart of my beloved Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Give You Everything

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Our Lord loves you and wishes to see you advance with great speed in the way of His love, however crucifying to nature. Therefore, do not bargain with Him, but give Him all, and you will find all in His divine Heart.   ~   St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Thanks to a fellow blogger, I think I’ve fallen in love with Switzerland, Mürren especially. It’s a car free Alpine village and it’s gorgeous. I think that with the need to walk (since we don’t have cars there), the sheer loveliness around and quietness of the place, I’d be thin in no time.

          And it would be easier to be good!

          There are times when we need all the help we can get just to be good and kind. Beautiful flowers everywhere, crisp, clean air, decent people around you – can do wonders for me. But God’s not going to create a Mürren for me so that making sacrifices comes easily, or that prayer just springs from the heart instead of having to go and dig for it, and then to lash my will to it.

          God is not going to make me a Mürren to make anger management easier either. Life doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. So, so often, I ask myself, Where has my young heart gone to?

Where is the spirit that used to quicken at the pink and orange blush of the dying evening skies?

Where is the girl who used to awaken at nights just to enjoy the sound of the winds singing among darkened boughs?

          And there is no answer save that of, She is gone.

          For years now, I’ve looked high and low for her, this person whose spirit is primed to settle into the deeps of the smallest cups of loveliness. Sometimes, I think I have glimpsed her, but when I reach deep within to hold on to her, to stop her from running away again, I come up against emptiness, as if she was never there.

          I feel the bite of tears for the girl I once was, rising quickly in hope and light after every fall and push, but to cry is to hold on to what has gone – for that young one is no longer there. I am no longer that girl, I’ve grown old; but my soul is likely still young – immature, petty, unsteady. In a perpetual wobble. Never learning well enough the many lessons God has taught me over and over, I flounder in the breech between the past and the present.

          I am tired. Tired of this life, so very, very tired. Unlike many, I have so much to live for, yet, today, I can barely see each gift. It is not for want of trying though;

My eyes are dimmed with sorrow,

worn out because of all my foes   ~   Psalm 6:8

Today, as the hot evening motherwinds try with all their might to sing me their strength, nothing slips past the door of my spirit.

          Our Lord loves you and wishes to see you advance with great speed in the way of His love, however crucifying to nature. Therefore, do not bargain with Him, but give Him all, and you will find all in His divine Heart.

          This was God’s word to me yesterday. I see the word, crucifying, and I flail against it. Oh, how right my priest was when he looked deep into my eyes and read my soul right, Patience, you need patience. But soul loved by God himself, the priest did not leave me bereft of hope. The miracle you seek will come, he has assured me gently. It will come, but not in the violent wind, not in the fire, nor in the earthquake. It will come in a quiet and gentle unfolding.

          The tears come then, and this time, I do not dam the stream, pretending a fortitude I do not possess. I have given my all today. There’s nothing left in me. No hope, no excitement even for the future. It is as if all has died. Nothing left to be of use to God, my cup of offering is dry.

          Patience, you need patience

          Then, give me Yours, Lord, I pray in deep weariness, for I have none left in me.

…do not bargain with Him, but give Him all…

          How can I give what is no longer there?

…do not bargain with Him, but give Him all…

          I give you everything, Lord. What is there and not there. What is seen and unseen. I give you everything, Lord.

          I am moving on empty now. Somehow, I clean the house, teach the younger ones their lessons.

 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

 

 

 

 

The Little Sound

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          On the 13th of August, on what should have been the date of the fourth apparition of Fatima, the First Reading was from 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

          As far as bells go, those specific verses from 1 Kings 19 have, for me, about the loudest clang. In this past year or two, never have other readings lit up as brightly as 1 Kings 19. And each time, the message has been the same:

Do not get caught up in the loud and obvious.

Be still and wait for the little sound.

          And every time 1 Kings 19 has come to me, despite the crash of events around me, true to His word, God chose to speak through the tiny, whispering sound.

          This time was no different.

          On the 21st, I was busily rifling through the pages of St Maria Faustina’s Divine Mercy In My Soul, big thoughts booming through my head, when a tiny wildflower of a sentence halted me in my hurried tracks.

On one occasion I heard these words in my soul, Make a novena for your country. This novena will consist of the recitation of the Litany of the Saints. ~ Entry 59

          I had just come off the back of a 7-day prayer for my motherland – inspired by Jesus’ words to St Faustina. That had ended on the 19th of this month – the actual August Fatima apparition date. To end on such a date, that went deep for me. And 3 days from the close of that prayer, was this new entreaty.

          Again, a prayer for the country.

          Once again, for some strange reason, without an iota of doubt, I felt Jesus’ words to St Faustina were for me too. I resolved to recite the Litany as a novena for my motherland. But the 21st was an incredibly busy day, and it took too much out of me, leaving me too weary to embark on the Litany that day. So, on the morning of the 22nd, I took my heart to the Saints on my first day prayer.

          When I went to my daily readings later, I saw that it was the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

          The Fatima apparition date. And now, the Queenship of Mary. These were all Mary dates. And of great significance to me. They were the tolling of bells through the hills and valleys of my thoughts and living. The call of the bells were telling me something. Something withheld from me for now. Something beyond the veil.

          Something to do with my deeply troubled and increasingly polarized motherland, caught in a rising and blinding sandstorm, being dangerously enticed by the black lure of persecution and abuse.

          Never before have I heard this call this clearly. And coming twice, it reflected the urgency of the state of affairs here in a country that gained its freedom from colonial masters, only to fall prey to the seduction of communist greed and power.

          I heard this my God’s call, not in the fury of winds or earthquakes or fire. Just as it came to Elijah, He drew me to His will yet again, but through a tiny whisper that I could so easily have missed.