DISCERNMENT

Lent 9 ~ St Basil’s Prayer

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Steer the ship of my life, good Lord,
to Your quiet harbour,
where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.
Show me the course I should take.
Renew in me the gift of discernment,
so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go.
And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course,
even when the sea is rough and the waves are high,
knowing that through enduring hardship and danger,
in Your name, we shall find comfort and peace.

 

 

Last of August

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Appenine Mountains, Italy

 

          This last day of August here is a joyous gathering of wind souls, in a camaraderie understood best by the busy cloud vessels sailing the skies, and the sage welcomes adorning the trees. All morning, the breezes have been in a delightful tumbling, giddily greeting one wind~friend after another. From the dawn hours, they have been linking arms and dancing the merriness of spirit, as the soft, white sky-pouches race to partake of this sacred joy.

          For anyone tired or afraid of what September holds, they need only to rest their gaze against the cloud-laced skies of this last of August, and feel the love caresses of brethren winds that see far beyond the hollows and ridges of today.

         No matter what the ninth of the year keeps hidden in its bosom, in the cusp between old Augusts and September mists, I realize the sunlit winds of the morning have brushed a question against my heart: am I willing to let go of the old, and make way for the new? Am I willing to be born again?

          I’m not sure what I am being called to, but with a sudden ease, I fall into seeking the Holy Spirit. I allow it into my heart, unhindered.

          I’m putting out into the deep.

When Fire Is A Grace

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          During one mist-laced, green June day Mass, my spirit crumbled into a rare state of joyful brokenness and I was moved to pray,

Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          It wasn’t until some hours later that I recalled the prayer and puzzled over it. I had felt so close to Jesus during that Mass, so safe and sheltered, like He had put His arm around me and drawn me close to His Heart.

          And yet, instead of a joyful hymn to burst from me, it had been, Break my spirit….Break me…. A prayer fierce in its force.

          What on earth is sacred stones? I wondered.

          Looking back on June, then till now has been some weeks of deep inner struggle hidden within days of good work and simple joys ~ which is no pretense. No papering over with false light with the intent to conceal. The inner scourging has not held back the skip of my heart. But in the much that got done, in the happiness I’ve felt and the love I could give, no one could have guessed at the relentlessness of a secret whipping within me: I struggled and struggled with anger and its tainted companions of revenge and unforgiveness.

          Yet despite the secret battle in this one pasture of conflict,  I found deep joys in other meadows. I partook of life and loving. There was no mechanical rigidity to my waking hours. I did not live an existence landscaped by ashes and sorrow. Every pearlseed of beauty around me sank into the grooves of my heart and bloomed.

          This, for me, was something new. In each past skirmish of my entire life thus far, inner turmoil had robbed me of the diamond sunbursts that garlanded my simple everydays. But this one, this time was different.

          Sometimes, even I thought I must be mad, to be so much a part of the light and yet be in pain at the same time.

          I banged and banged on heaven’s door and refused to leave my place on its stoop. Why, Lord, why? I cried in near despair. Why can I not move past my anger? And why this deep swell of red when its catalyst so tiny and trivial compared to the huge trials I have faced and weathered before? Why this strange blend of storm and sun? 

          My spirit seeking discernment, I recalled the counsel of my friend, Fight the dark through thanksgiving. So, I lifted my eyes to the morning sky to scatter the claws of frustration. As I gazed in thanksgiving at the expanse of gold sea before me, the sun shimmered and misted the sky.

          My spirit stilled and I saw the words of my prayer at Mass that day, Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          Suddenly, it fell into place. My spirit was indeed being dashed and broken upon the sacred stones of God’s Truth. That mysterious prayer had unlocked a fire that now flooded every shadowed crevice of my soul. Fire was piercing through inner crevasses like never before. That was why the turmoil of spirit was unprecedented. My sinfulness had never been so close to Light before; even the slightest smudge burned and burned and burned.The turmoil I was feeling was the scream of sin being rent to ashes.

          My inner burning was manifesting outwardly as joy and love and strength because the fire was a grace wrought by a God who cleanses in order to free.

         

Bend in Thanks

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No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks ~ St Ambrose

          Some weeks back, a slight wind blew over and quilted unease upon me. Try as I did to part the wind and read its words, it yielded not its secrets. It troubled me enough to make me write about it to a dear friend. I thought he would have something to help me understand, bring me peace.

          Instead, he gave me something surprising, better, even: Fight the dark  through thanksgiving.

          It was an unexpected counsel. It might have been puzzling had it not hit the mark of actual weakness in me. Thanksgiving had indeed not dotted much the landscape of my recent weeks. I had prayed. I had worked. I had petitioned heaven. But seldom had my soul bent to love through Thanksgiving.

          Where is thanksgiving’s place in discernment? I believe it keeps the troubled heart from discerning wrongly. Thanksgiving is the rainblessed wind that douses the embers of trouble stoked by the dark of worry and fear. Thanksgiving pushes away the shadows of confusion, puts things into perspective. It helps us to focus on truth. It reminds us that in joy or worry, it is God who is in charge. It takes us to where the peace that surpasses understanding is Queen.

          When my friend exhorted me to lift my spirit in thanks, he well knew that a soul bent in gratitude soars towards the heavens, escaping snares that seek to scare and confuse.

          In seeking discernment, Thanksgiving lights the path to wisdom that births understanding.

Call of the Easter Wind

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          In the sun bloom of Easter in pilgrim hearts, there is felt in many, a stirring. For many, a bell~chime to deeper prayer. A spirit gentled to love. A nudge towards Truth.

          And for some, an unmasking. Of ourselves. Of others.

          Bit by bit, the winds unclip the covers we cower behind, and the veil begins to slip. Our sins and gifts alike, shone upon by a new Light, granting us a seeing into roads of past, and the new walk we are now called to. Fear is not the response sought of us, but a spirit that is freshened and humbled by the outpouring of Easter grace feels within it a new strength – an Easter strength – to face the graves of the past; a strength to trace in faith, the mist-wrapped paths ahead.

          The Easter blessings are there for one and all, to weather in courage, all that lie ahead, remembering in holy humility, the missteps of the past – guideposts for the future.

          Bit by slow bit, the winds come. To lift the sand grains that obscure our seeing of the true nature and intent of others. Slowly, the sands are brushed aside, and truth lifts towards us. We finally see people for they are

          We might see what we never imagined.

          We might see what we always suspected.

          We might see what we’d rather not.

          Pleasant or hurting, the Unmasking, – of ourselves, of others – is a grace we do not always receive in joy, in graciousness and in the humility of learning. Yet, receive it we must, because to continue believing in a falsehood simply because it is more comforting, because it troubles us less, is to live in a lie. There is no real nourishment to be found in pearls tumbling off a lying tongue. There is neither life nor hope in being tied to the wolves of pretense, deception and subterfuge – in us, and in others.

          When the Easter winds lift their call to our souls, we must seek the courage and will, to ponder the windnotes and what they bring to bear on our lives. We must seek heavenly discernment, even among bitter breezes. For they come not empty.

          Instead, hidden within, are the revelation lamps, to light what lies ahead for us.

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LENT 3 ~ Shadow in the Watchtower

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          Today, someone made me relive an old sorrow, wanting to know of every valley and crevasse traversed, moving from dark to light. There was a strange uneasiness in me over the request. The asking seemed innocent enough, but I sensed a shadow attach itself to it. 

          I shook it off, and with will, returned my gaze to the need at hand.

          With reluctance, I undertook the journey to where an old grief rests, not relishing the dusting off of mists that separate me from the sadness. When the sojourn into the resting place of memories finally ended, I took my leave, uncomfortably aware of my spirit drooping under a heaviness not familiar to me.

          What dark mist is this that has immersed itself so deep within me, I wondered. It did not come from the reacquainting with pain, of that I was sure. Something else. Something foreign. Something that did not have a right to mark my spirit with its presence.

          It didn’t just sink its claws into me; I soon saw that it had clenched too the seeker of my counsel – the intensity of seeking had waned; something else  had caught her attention. Enticed, she ran to it.

          I turned to my guardian, St Joseph. Help me, I entreated, discern this. Why has it come? What do I do?

          In gentle immediacy, the light of response, borne on a lily-breath flooded my soul:

Write about it.

          And with it, a serenity tendrilled and settled within me.

          I do not have all the answers, but for now, it does not matter. All I sense is that a sinister spirit invaded as someone sought my help to understand trials. It came to smear my efforts with a darkened slant. To blot out the grace of mercy by replacing it with a distraction.

          And in a way only heaven sees, the antidote to this sullen malice is to bring it to brethren eyes. Perhaps to awaken pilgrim spirits to a cognizance of a shadow in the watchtower where mercy is most needed.

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I lead, not you

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          Someone I love is in a dark place, bereft of hope, sodden with a grief that wounds and wounds with every resurrection. Every lift and turn of head brings into focus the loss that cuts deep. There is no escaping it. No forgetting, no momentary relief. Strength has gone to the grave, hearts weep and chafe for a light now gone.

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          At the first stain of pain, we both prayed our hearts out, joined by other loving souls from across the world. There was hope and light and a future. But then, something changed overnight.

           Something’s not right, my prayers are not being received, I realize.

          I plough on. She has fallen. Pray to St Joseph, invoke him, I tug her to her feet insistently. And I share a lot about St Joseph after that, so she seeks him as I did and do. But the resistance strangely deepens. I ache with a frustration which I hide – to not add another cross to the grief. I want nothing more than to reach out and press the balm of healing into a wound that bleeds. To stretch out my hand, and light up every darkness, banish each shadow to its lair of lament.

          Yet, no power do I have. There is little I can say or give that will turn sorrow into joy. I am no replacement for what has left never to return. I am unable to bud and bloom the rose of hope for her.

          No power do I have, no power do I have.

          And we both slump, tired.

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          I worry. I can sense her giving up, the tenuous grip on life and hope, loosening. I pray to compensate for her. But when I battle on, I sense I’m being restrained. Doors being closed. I fret because I think I prayed all the right prayers – to restore hope, to heal the wounds, dry the tears, light the path ahead. Yet, they’re not being received.

          Why, why, why?

          Why has Heaven suddenly put a Hand up against my sincere prayers?

          I want answers. I turn to St Joseph – the saint of interpretationof not only dreams, but of every manner of twist and turn of path. I beg his discernment. Why, why, why? I ask him. Why did you not help her as you helped me?

          And it comes, on a lily-breath:

          I am your journey, not hers, he presses on my heart.

          And there it was, laid out plainly and directly.

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          I am your journey, not hers. No two journeys are the same, however similar they may seem.  No two valleys, no two peaks will ever be the mirror image of the other. And it is not my call to make it thus. I cannot play God. I cannot take His place, and commandeer the path others must take – be it a course of action, or a saint to invoke, or a novena to say – even if it worked for me. God must be allowed to lead unhindered, each pilgrim soul through the valley of grief. I cannot, should never, take the lead, even if it seems so right.

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          And when the arrow of humility finally finds its mark in my bowed soul, a sudden power of strength and hope surges through me. Gone are the muddy shadows and lethargy. Gone is the wall, the resistance. I see my failing in my pride that I knew it all, but I see too Heaven’s mercy extended in the fresh blossoming of hope come alive in my soul.

          My tread is more contrite now. It is learning to follow the Light ahead. It understands it should never lead.

LISTEN FOR THE ANGEL’S CALL

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Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen hard, listen always

For the chime that comes

When the human will is at obedient rest

And the soul is stilled in wait,

Welcome the leading that buds

In the voice and light of understanding

Guiding to Wisdom never wrong.

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Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen all through the hours given to earth

For the silver whispers that breeze in

When life is a skip and dance of joy

And even when hearts are downcast and scattered

For human frailties and misgivings, no barriers are they

To the angel who heeds only the Master.

 

Listen for the angel’s call,

Listen at rest and whilst at work

Discern whispers to sacrifice, prayer and mercy give

Stilling tempests within souls

Resting beauty’s balm on troubled hearts

Quickening pilgrim spirits weary yet hopeful

To heed in humble obedience,

Heaven’s call to Love.

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