life

Lent 2 ~ Choose Life

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If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,…

Deuteronomy 30: 17 – 19

          About 9 years ago, I made a very difficult decision. I did not arrive at that point easily. Struggling and agonizing, I wanted to choose what was right, but fear and doubt were like storms inside of me, blinding and deafening me. It reached a peak on Christmas Day. On a day when I should have been happy and rejoicing, I was instead quaking with fear over an obligatory phone call I had to make. It wasn’t just this one time. Over the years, such calls had assumed a troubling pattern. Preceded by fear and of being sick to the stomach. Crushing relief when it was over. Despite my torment each time, it never occurred to me that such a dark and debilitating fear is a sign of something very wrong indeed.

          But something changed that Christmas Day. We had returned to my husband’s hometown and towards evening, I went out with my husband for a short drive around town with our toddlers and baby. We had taken an old, almost forgotten route, lined by worn homesteads and poor roads. Here and there, we saw people gathered in gentle pockets among old-fashioned flowers and trees, friends and neighbours finding any reason for an evening chat, as children pooled together in the warmth and cheer of simple, country games. People looked up as we drove by, and in their curious yet even gaze, I sensed friendliness, an uncommon acceptance and love.

          As we left that little village behind us, I returned to my present, to that dark fear. Suddenly, my heart saw what I hadn’t before: the wrongness of it all. In that little village in our rear view mirror was life as it should be. Even though I knew not a single one of those simple villagers, it was clear to my spirit that we had just passed through a place where, despite poverty and its attendant woes, hearts resolutely chose life.

          The minute we arrived back at my in-laws’ house, I made a decision that would forever change my life and that of my young family. I decided I would not make that dreaded call and that I would never call again. It was never a question of sealing my heart against others. It was a decision to walk away from almost 40 years of worshipping at the altar of fear.

If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,…
you will live…   ~   Deuteronomy 30: 16

          Today, for some reason, someone has brought back to me that old evening of 9 years before. So that I would understand clearly what I hadn’t before: that in decisively choosing to reject the idol of fear, I had actually obeyed the first Commandment – I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.

          And that when I chose His Commandment, I chose life.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 17 ~ Just Today, This Hour

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I thought to myself, Look at that. It’s not so difficult, the trick is to think small. I shouldn’t think of a whole book at once, that’s too big, too scary. I should think of it as one page at a time. And if I make each page the very best I can, when I put them all together to make a book, it will be the best book I can do. It’s not think big like everyone tells you, it’s think little, the same way you cross the beach in the sand, slogging along, one little step at a time, until you’ve made it.

And that thought carried over to, Maybe it’s not a lifetime – that’s not how to think about it. It’s just today. If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

 

          I’ve always been the sort to borrow trouble from tomorrow. Maybe it has something to do with my growing up years. From the time I was very young, I learned to mistrust today’s happiness because tomorrow always brought sadness of some sort. No matter how happy I was today, I learned to scan the skies of tomorrow, to anticipate the dark clouds, to familiarise myself with their shape and form so as to soften the blow when it finally, inevitably fell.

          It never occurred to me that the tides of my young life had been orchestrated. That sorrow was always hot on the heels of my happiness simply because I had been raised by people who could never bear for me to be happy. Every bubble had to be pricked and burst. Every sun blotted out as soon as it rose – lest I think I was too good, too smart, too blessed and got carried away.

          Nothing I did was ever good enough. Every success was attributed to someone else – but every failure mine, and mine alone. Every little dream and achievement was held up against an impossible gold standard.

          And each time, it was too little, too small.

          Today, on this green~gold day of a thousand chattering breezes, more than 40 years after I was taught those lessons, my God Who loves me reminds me instead that,

It’s not think big like everyone tells you,

it’s think little

one little step at a time, until you’ve made it;

Not a lifetime,

It’s just today

This hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tempter’s Song

tumblr_m4h0zdGltC1rwvtn9o5_r1_1280[1].png          Not even a month into the new year, and every day is a race to complete an endless amount of to-dos. The house like a tree, fruiting in abundance stacks of dirty dishes and laundry, crumpled paper and pencil stubs, food wrappers and store receipts. Trash bag after trash bag. Got to see to believe. Floors scrubbed today, grimy the next. No matter how fast I work, hardly a dent in what still needs to be done. At work, task after task crossed off, yet more popping up like mushrooms after the rain. The deadlines get shorter and shorter, the furrow in the boss’ forehead, deeper and deeper.

          I look around for hard surface. I need someplace to bang my head. I’ve only got a toe into the new year, and I’m already wheezing and gasping to keep up.

          I can’t believe that Christmas was not even a month ago. Short weeks since the languishing within the deep wells of Yuletide peace; yet, something seems to be chasing away the Christmas spirits of peace and inner stills, into deep burrows, away from the busy path of the every day. 

          Something doesn’t want the Christmas spirit around.

          It doesn’t want even traces of Bethlehem luminescence in any soul.

          It doesn’t want the joy. And certainly not the yearning for the Light of peace, for that is a yearning that feeds our souls. And the world says the time for that is over.

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          The world-all-wrong would have us believe that living in post-Christmas reality is to put Bethlehem spirit back into its box, and fasten the lid shut. That there is a time for the Messiah Joy, and it is not now. Achievement gurus will breathe into us that to rush and crush, is to live. That you’re living right if you’re always in a mad rush, stumbling from school runs to grocery shopping to dentist visits and then home, to burn the curry you thought you’d make to get everyone’s spirits up; if you’re sleeping late, waking early week after week to get that project on the road; if you go skidding into church, in time to hear the priest say, The Mass has ended, go in peace; if all you can manage is prayer on the run, and even that is mostly, O God, please, please let the bus be there.

          That’s life, shrugs the world. Accept it.

          But I won’t. Because that is deception.

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          We are being exhorted to buy into the belief that we must accept and succumb to and uphold a life made mad by the incessant rush of deadlines and stress. But it is precisely when we bow in obeisance to the Tempter’s doctrine of Rush and Crush, that we snuff out the Bethlehem Luminescence. We instead welcome in a manacling darkness, which will slowly and stealthily stain and destroy the very essence of our lives ~ children, family, relationships, our sacrifices, our very souls, – until we’re too blind to see anymore, and everything dies.

          The cramming of a decade of work into a year, the adrenalin rush of one super achievement after another, is a dark pull into the vortex of a life sans God, simply because there is no longer the time or space or stillness of spirit to seek Him and to listen out for Him. One simple ‘yes’ to the pull of the world precipitates us into another, and yet another, till we become slaves to a joyless, narcissistic life not willed by God.

          When the pursuit of material goals takes over our life, tiring us out so much we can no longer think straight, when we get so caught up in shoring up financial security that charity causes us pain, when worries and fears blacken the road ahead that all we see is the now of hopelessness, when family and marriage has to always pay the price for success, then, we have unwittingly listened to the wrong voice. We have submitted to the authority of the Tempter who touts Rush and Crush as the way to live, when in fact, it is a concealed, nefarious shackling to a life of slavery.

          Prematurely tired from just trying to cope, I think of the things that really matter – my God, kids and hubby and home. My faith life. All the little things not done but which must be done. I don’t want accomplishment, items ticked off lists, if it means forsaking quiet time. I think of the shallow prayers of the past week, and the nodding off through the night Rosaries. I realize there were too many prayers for my needs, and few for others. Everything was I  I  I the past weeks. My stress and struggle to cope had clouded my sense of charity. In my attempt to cope the way the world said I should, I had instead dimmed the true Luminescence of freeing truths that birth Life and love.

          Why pay homage to all that seeks to enslave when we were never meant to be slaves but brethren and free?

          I feel it deep within: there’s got to be a different way to live this life, and it must start sooner than later. 

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          We are born children of the Light. We are born to joy and peace. For ourselves, and to shine others to the same wellspring. The joyful luminescence of Christian hope and peace is a light lit in us from the moment of our conception, and nothing must ever dim it. The dimming is a deception that is not always a full frontal attack; more often than not, it sneaks up on us.  

         The seductive lure of Tempter’s song is sly in its subterfuge, for it promises life even as it seeks to kill.

 

Coloring Life In

I made the first cake of the year 3 days ago. A hurried slap-melt-stir-slam kind of cake. A butter cake with cocoa added to it to make it a chocolate cake which might bring frowns to blue ribbon baker brows. But it turned out to be a nice cake. Not roll-on-the-ground-to-die-for kind of a cake but pretty lovely all the same. And the fact that it took all of 60 minutes to mix up and to bake just as the sun went to its rest, makes it my go-to recipe from now on.

It’s things like this that make my day, and leave me with enough energy for other chores. Cakes and bakes that don’t strictly follow cookbook rules are very tempting for me. The allure for me is the something of mischief in them, one step skipped here, another rule broken there.

And life should be like that sometimes. A life lived or pursued in blacks and whites and the occasional greys can get monotonous. Everyone should try adding bright hues of spontaneity and experiments from time to time into their lives or we’d run the risk of going into our sunset years not having lived life at all.

And that would be so sad: to reach the winding down of life’s pulses only to regret lost chances, golden opportunities passed up in favor of dull, plodding meaningless adherence to rigid rules that never actually did us or anyone else much good.

So, splash some pink and vermillion into your days. They needn’t be screaming loud acts of rebellion; they can as easily be that diversion along your daily work route.

Or that steaming hot cup of coffee you have never stopped for all your years heading to the office.

rose1Color in your life can be pausing to bless yourself with the mysterious perfume of roses that frame your doorway.

It can be that extra hug for your spouse and children when you’re running late for work.

images63M23LRLOr that 2 minutes of gazing at orange-rose clouds in the early morning sky.

Or the book of old poems enjoyed on a tree.book

Color in your life is all that is tender and beautiful but which gets left on the sidelines when we’re so in a hurry to get ahead.

Bring that color back.

The First Bloom

I am deep in work when my daughter rushes in to tell me that the first zinnia of the year has finally bloomed. Oh, what an up and down we’ve had with zinnias this year. They are our family flowers, along with jasmines and my husband’s roses. Our zinnias have a mind of their own. They seldom bloom where we sow their seeds in the flower beds. In months past, they’ve taken to blooming just outside my double panel windows, by the clothes line, and the ultimate – right in the drain by the kitchen, watered by rain and everything that traverses our drains.

The zinnias are a poignant reminder of a time we took for granted a little. A time when we thought happiness and children born were here to stay and to see us off one day when we were old.

Today, when they bloom, and I watch them sway stiffly in the warm birdsong breezes, these colorful pretties remind me of a Life Book closed on earth here but now blooming across the sandbar. There is sadness. But there is hope too. Hope that comes from the life lost to us that now thrives in a world beyond us yet close by. The hope

that is now a Lamp to our feet.

We’ve sowed the zinnias in his resting place, amidst the wild grasses, jungle flowers and other sleeping souls. With the deluge of the past week, I hope the zinnias have birthed, so that from now on, purple pink orange yellow white magenta pretties will cuddle him and all the others all year through, till the end of time.