Sunday, January 13, 2008

All Will Be Well

There is a quote from Corrie Ten Boom that I’ve been reading lately:

‘Every experience God gives us, every person He puts into our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.’ Considering that she is a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, that is a pretty amazing quote!

Something came to light recently that is an ‘opportunity for trust.’ This morning I was thinking of the situation and feeling pressure to decide upon a course of action, a path to take, words to say. The Holy Spirit then clearly reminded me of His recent lesson for me: Trust the dance. I will lead. I will show you the way. Rest in My peace. All will be well.

All will be well. What a wonderful God we have!

Truth is an amazing thing. It can come to us as a calming, sweet recognition or it can be an intense, painful laser beam of light, exposing things we did not want to see. Either way, knowing the truth and being willing to walk in its reality is a beautiful thing. It leads to freedom.

Didn’t Christ say, ‘the truth shall make you free?’ Isn’t He truth with a capital T? If we walk in truth ~ however difficult it may be to admit or see ~ all will be well if we submit ourselves to the Truth.

I love literary analogies. Have you ever read The Velveteen Rabbit? It was one of my favorite childhood stories. It’s all about becoming real. The Velveteen Rabbit was not able to become real until life experiences made him that way. His fur was rubbed off through being hugged tight by the boy who owned him. He was thrown on a fire to be burned because of exposure to germs. But in the end, out of the ashes, came a real bunny. His wish came true.

Isn’t that how it is with us? God uses all experiences in our lives to help us become real. He shapes and molds us, often through pain, to become the people He envisions us to be.

All will be well.

Another literary analogy I love is from CS Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where a boy has turned into a dragon because of selfishness. The Christ figure in the book, Aslan, turns him back into a boy, but only by painfully removing the dragony scales with his claws. Ouch! But pain is often necessary for transformation. And Christ will always redeem pain if we allow it. The boy had to willingly submit himself to Aslan’s claws.

All will be well.

I will leave you with one of my favorite analogies, one from The Last Battle, also by CS Lewis. The book is about the end of time. Aslan, the Christ figure, has returned to Earth and those who love him have an opportunity to enter Heaven. There are some hard-edged, hard-nosed dwarves who think they are in a dark, smelly stable when in reality they are surrounded by the peaceful beauty of Heaven. Aslan lays a beautiful feast for them, delicious food that they eat, but perceive as rotted apples and dirty straw. Aslan speaks words of love to them, but they hear it as the roar of a fearsome beast. In the end, sadly, there is nothing Aslan can do as the dwarves have chosen to ignore the truth.

May we be not like those dwarves, but may we always respond to truth by recognizing the Truth. What we perceive as a painful reality may in fact be Truth calling us to the beauty of the future.

All will be well.


A Saint Is Someone the Light Shines Through

Some time ago I wrote a song called ‘A Saint Is Someone the Light Shines Through.’ The title, though cumbersome, captures the idea of the song. I was inspired by something a priest said while on retreat. He spoke about a little boy who defined a saint as ‘someone who the light shines through’ because of the beautiful stained glass windows depicting saints at church. (I later found out that this is a commonly told story; even so, it did inspire my song.)

We are the saints and Christ is the light. As a Catholic, I believe we are (or should be) on the road to sainthood. But whether we believe we can be called saints now or later, our goal is to have Christ shine through us.

St. John calls Christ the Light. Think of it. Light… illuminating, warm, healing, dispelling darkness, revealing truth, filling all space… light. He says John the Baptist was ‘to bear witness of the Light, that all might through him believe.’ We can be purveyors of that Light, too. But how?

We can’t all be like John the Baptist; in fact, there are very few of us called to be like that. But we can be who we are, with the lives that God gave us, and allow the Light to shine through.

Here is a line from the song:

The Lord is an artist; He creates with our lives

Windows for His light to shine through

He uses the broken pieces of our lives

Every texture, shape and hue

Before I wrote the song, I thought about stained glass windows. The pieces are broken, irregular, jagged… but together they form a beautiful whole. Isn’t that what God does with our lives? We’re all broken, but somehow God makes us whole. And as our lives go on, as we submit ourselves to the loving hand of God, he creates the stained glass windows that the Light can shine through.

I’d like to leave you with two thoughts:

· Don’t ever think there is anything in your life that God can’t redeem as a perfect piece of the original stained glass artwork He’s creating: you!

· The chorus to the song ~ may we all live it, whatever ‘broken parts’ we have:

Shine for Jesus

Shine with the love that He gives

Shine for Jesus

Shine so the world knows that he lives

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Labor Pains

Happy New Year!

We had a lovely sunrise Mass this morning in our not-quite-completed parish center. We sat in folding chairs under a partial roof that let the starlight in. Dozens of candles flickered. A capella hymns reverberated through framed but mostly uncovered walls. Gratitude presided for a project long in coming but now well on its way to completion.

In the homily, acts of kindness were described as "birthing Christ." I love the tangibility of this idea - of seeing myself as depositing Christ in various places and bringing life into the world through my actions. And of course it's exponential - good will begets good will, and we never know when the "paying it forward" ripples will stop... if ever.

The problem is this: how does one remain in this state of good will when one is not treated in kind? What if there are people in your life who continually challenge your equilibrium? In that case, "birthing Christ" can take much hard labor.

When I don't feel I've responded well, I have to remind myself of this. When Christ carried his cross, it was against great odds - he was beaten, exhausted, mocked, betrayed, he was going to his doom. Yet he picked it up and kept going - as best he could - after falling. We can keep trying, too, even after failing greatly, whatever odds we face.

We may need help. The King of the Universe needed it; who are we to resist? Simon the Cyrene was enlisted to carry Christ's cross with him. God will provide us with our Simon. Be open to whatever form Simon may take, and be unafraid to ask for him when you think he's needed.

And remember this. There are times when remaining silent is the act of greatest charity. Controlling our mouth and our impulses in and of itself can be an act of great love.

And finally, know when it's time to walk away. There are times for this. Love at a distance is still love, and great acts of charity can be performed unseen, on our knees.

Just as our parish center was years in the making, so can labor, and good relationships, and even acts of charity, be. May glorious births be the result of all our labor pains.