Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Is Coming!

I heard a Christmas carol the other day and the depth of my emotion surprised me. Sheer joy bubbled deep inside. I haven't felt that way about Christmas for a long time.

Somehow it means more to me this year.

Advent candles arrived at the office today. I opened the box and was taken in by the tall waxy poles of violet and rose, not to mention the crowning glory of the white and gold pillar candle for the center. I held and looked at them with awe and excitement. What's happening to me? I can't wait to decorate the Advent wreath for the sanctuary.

We pray a novena to St. Anthony each Tuesday after morning Mass. The last novena asked for his intercession for our new parish center. In contrast to many past frustrations, the ground is now broken and the foundation is poured. The beginnings of walls are being formed. Success!

I wonder if my new state of mind about Christmas has anything to do with our latest novena, one which asks the saint to intercede for Christ to find a place in our hearts this Christmas. What a lovely request! We've been praying this for several weeks, and here I am feeling gaga about Christmas... hmm.

Never underestimate the power of the communion of saints.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about simplicity, of scaling down my possessions and hence the complexity of my life.

Since our possessions can (falsely) make us feel secure, choosing to live simply can be an exercise in trusting God with abandon.

My thought is that living with as little as possible will tame the current state of my atomic structure, which feels as though each molecule is frantically and frenetically jumping about. I long for peace in my busy life, and inviting serenity to reign in my home feels like the first step.

I think of Franciscan monks with their simple brown robes, and realize that their simplicity of life is not just for their good; it allows those around them to more clearly see God without "stuff" getting in the way.

Off I go on my journey to collect & give away the odd pieces of my life that hold me back...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Complete Abandon

I approach many things in life with complete abandon, such as singing, motherhood, and almost all human interaction. (Unfortunately, all too often, I live out vices with complete abandon, too!) But I wonder, what would it be like to trust God with complete abandon?

Perhaps I would sit in His presence without asking questions... I would listen, rather than present my wish list.

What others think of me might not matter much anymore.

My first waking thought in the morning wouldn't be panic about all my unfinished business.

The past or the future wouldn't occupy my present.

My ducks needn't be in a row.

Peace would reign in my soul.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Practical Dreams

I attended a class last night about the colors and customs of liturgical seasons, and I woke up this morning with an image straight from a dream...

Create a prayer altar with colored candles to represent different liturgical seasons, and light the candle appropriate to the current season when praying. Fill the altar with holy reminders of the liturgical time of year (or the feast day) and with framed photographs of loved ones for which I pray.

Liturgy is the rhythm of the intertwining natural and divine worlds, a reminder of God's grand story played out on Earth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Earthen Vessels

Recently I was part of a small gathering for Mass at a local thrift store ministry. Afterwards we prayed and processed as holy water was sprinkled throughout the building. The holy water was not in a fancy receptacle as one might see at the parish church; it was in a ceramic bowl someone pulled off the thrift store shelves and an old paintbrush was used to sprinkle it. When the priest blessed the water at the beginning of Mass, we used what we had (including salt from an old fast food packet that was blessed and put in the water). Was the water any less holy and blessed because we used these thrift store items? No! - for it is not the receptacle, but what's within it that matters. In the same way, God transforms and uses us, human versions of dusty bowls, old paintbrushes and fast food salt packets. We are His imperfect receptacles that hold the holiness of Christ.

I know my faults and sins; the ceramic bowl of my humanness has plenty of cracks, and my spiritual paintbrush is worn and lacking. I'm not even sure if I have a salt packet! Yet over and over again, His grace is sufficient for me and I am made perfect in my weakness.

Next time you feel unworthy to carry His message, think of the ceramic bowl gathering dust on a thrift store shelf that got to hold the holy water that dispelled the devil and the old paintbrush that got it there. Then you'll know that God will use even you and me...

...provided we're willing to be His earthen vessels.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dancing with the Spirit

Jesus tells us to be as little children; however some of us need to learn to be childlike.

When my father died seven years ago, I was alone in making the arrangements for his funeral and burial. I traveled across country, away from my young children, to take care of things. I did OK until just after I arranged for his plot at the cemetery. Then suddenly, in the silence of the car, I fell apart. I sobbed deeply, uncontrollably, for what seemed like a very long time. It might have been the first time in my life I felt powerless, unable to manage things by myself. And you know what? God met me there. I became a child who climbed into His lap and I allowed Him to hold me like a daddy. That experience is still very close to my heart.

A friend recently sent me a poem over email about dancing with God. It reminded me of a verse from Galatians: ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:25, NIV)

Sometimes ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’ is not about doing correct, orchestrated dance moves; it’s about letting the Spirit lead, about being a child in His arms and allowing Him to carry us, kind of like when I was a little girl and stood on my Daddy’s toes while he danced. It’s about admitting we don’t know where He’ll take us, but trusting all the same.

Keeping On

Today I told a friend not to neglect doing something positive for herself, even if others are negative. (Or something like that.) Sometimes we can let the opinions of others dictate our decisions. It can be hard not to, especially if the others are significant.

Listen to that little voice inside you, the one that is asking you to break out of your shell of insecurity to move forward in following your dream.

Be coaxed by the love of God that calls to greater things. Be willing to throw off the status quo, to be the seedling that sprouts into a great tree.

Even Jesus said to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" At times our greatest allies, our closest friends, can provide temptation to stray from the path.

True courage is not about feeling brave, it's about following the call even when you feel scared.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Kiss of Life

Today someone dedicated himself in a deeper way to the service of God. A friend renewed his vows as a Franciscan brother. The event touched me in many ways. What I write about below was just one of them.

The story of St. Francis kissing a leper was briefly told at the ceremony. Apparently, St. Francis was deathly afraid of lepers all his life, but through the grace of God he was able to embrace and kiss one. This encounter removed the fear and changed his life.

A thought struck my heart as I listened to the story. Are we not like lepers embraced by God? We are amazingly stubborn and rebellious (we wear it like leprosy), yet He loves us. We are completely undeserving, yet He bestows grace upon us. We cannot earn His love, yet He gives it unwaveringly. He embraces us in all our sin and Heaven responds with joy when we allow the embrace. And, like St. Francis, our lives are changed.

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Divine Plumage

I was in the kitchen one recent morning and looked out the window to billowing hot pink clouds, the beginning of sunrise. Since our kitchen window faces east, I can be astounded each morning (so long as I pay attention). Such vibrant colors - such brilliant clouds! Each morning is different. I began to think of sunrise and sunset as times when God "shows His feathers." It's almost as though He's revealing Himself very dramatically for our benefit. With a show like that, there is no doubt He's there.

He doesn't have to do it... But He does.

Like a cosmic peacock fanning its tail to its mate, He calls to us in a no-holds-barred kind of way through these vibrant slices of Heaven visible just twice a day on Earth.

The More Excellent Way

I had to make a decision recently, and in doing so, it seemed to me that we are often presented with the "acceptable way" and a "more excellent way." I found that any decision, so long as it is in line with our values and doesn't hurt us or others, is acceptable. But sometimes we are called to a more excellent way, one that may involve sacrifice for the greater good. The more excellent way is not always the easier way; in fact, there may be great obstacles, even pain. However, it is always the way that brings great blessing in the end. Christ travelling up the hill with His cross is our example of the more excellent way... there was great pain and great sorrow... but in the end, then and now, there is always resurrection.