Monday, April 20, 2009

Oh, the Divine Mercy of God!

Lord, thank you that your Divine Mercy is with me in all my struggles. Thank you for your words to St. Faustina and, through her, to us. I am grateful for your longing to pour grace on your children.
If it hadn't been for this small imperfection, you wouldn't have come to Me. Know that as often as you come to Me, humbling yourself and asking for My forgiveness, I pour out a superabundance of graces on your soul, and your imperfection vanishs before My eyes, and I see only your love and your humility. you lose nothing but gain much...

A New Layer to the Journey

Well, it's real. After six months of being part of the aspirancy program, I've submitted my application to be considered for formation as a Secular Carmelite. While it's not definite that I'll be accepted, and while there will be two (or three?) years of further formation prior to making a temporary promise, it's another single step along a lifetime journey. I have wondered on occasion if I am an appropriate Carmelite, being the action-oriented extrovert I am (they are a contemplative order), but one thing is certain: I've received many graces through being in the program.

Yesterday two opportunities for grace converged: our monthly day at the monastery and Divine Mercy Sunday. The latter has a special place in my heart: our dear Papa, Pope John Paul II, died on its vigil (which is quite appropriate, considering it was he who canonized St. Faustina, from whom the devotion to the Divine Mercy comes). He was devoted to her message and designated the Sunday following Easter in this way.

I made a confession at the monastery (something that is encouraged on Divine Mercy Sunday) and, miraculously, that allowed me to become detached from a sin that has plagued me. Surely His mercy has been poured out upon me. Repentance is the true makeover.

Today has been one of Holy Spirit tutelage. My spirit unchained, I am able to see things in a new way. Miraculously, my will cooperates and feelings follow. Restless, I look forward to wearing these changes as garments.

I have learned, painfully, that I haven't respected myself as a human creature and child of God. Pursuit of holiness, especially in light of my Carmelite journey, must be taken more seriously than my own needs... or the need to please.

The "Holy Spirit Shop" is the best place to buy new clothes. I have found something that fits well; gratitude is deep.

Thank you, Lord, for your Divine Mercy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Memories of a Writers' Conference

I had the wonderful privilege of attending a Christian writers' conference over Palm Sunday weekend. That's us (my friend, Louise, and me) with the rest of the folks from one of our afternoon workshops. (I'm fourth from the right in the back row and Louise is fourth from the left in the middle row.) Louise and her husband, Mike, generously sponsored me. It was the 40th such writers' conference at the Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center near Santa Cruz and folks from all over the world (Africa, Europe, Australia) were in attendance, including some missionaries in from the field. I rubbed shoulders with giants in the world of Christian writing; some had published dozens of books. My favorite class was a two-part workshop on poetry, which was taught by Ethel Herr, a soft spoken and gentle published poet. She selected a wide variety of poems by various authors to read to us. My eyes were opened to the quality and diversity of modern Christian poetry; that in and of itself was a gift, as was listening to the cadence of her reading. I was inspired, encouraged and enthralled throughout the weekend. I learned about editing, developing a mission statement, finding one's personal voice, how to handle controversial issues with grace, communicating to change lives and so much more! I intend to go again next year, Lord willing. To top it all off, this morning I got an idea for a book!

Joy on the Journey

Dear God,

Thank you, just thank you, for your masterpiece, this answer to prayer. I cannot describe my joy. Truly you love your children well.

With love from your daughter who basks in your grace,


Love and Shame

I ran into a couple of folks I knew from a prior workplace in the pharmacy yesterday. The woman was friendly, but the man could hardly look me in the eye. And I knew why: it was because their relationship caused the break-up of both of their marriages. Three small children no longer have their daddy in the home. Much scandal was brought upon their workplace and families because of their desire to be together. I can see the strain on their faces. There is much loss.

To their surprise, I welcomed them. As recognition dawned in the man that expected judgment was not forthcoming, he relaxed and spoke a bit. I was friendly for one reason: they are beloved children of God. I am shocked by what happened and deeply grieved by the pain caused, but I know that God loves them beyond, more than and despite the choices they've made. Why should I do any less? I myself have been forgiven much.

Before my husband and I were married, he took a job 8 hours away from me. It was difficult to be apart, so we did what seemed natural at the time: I pulled up stakes, got a job there and moved in with him. We were going to be married within the year, so it didn't seem like a big deal to us.* During this time, I was shunned by some members of his family; however, I will never forget the love and acceptance poured upon both of us by his Mormon aunt and uncle. I knew enough about their beliefs to understand that they did not condone our situation; yet they welcomed us into their fold. To this day, I am deeply grateful; in fact, if I didn't disagree with the tenets of their faith, I would have become Mormon all those years ago.

Yesterday as I looked into the faces of those two in the pharmacy line, I could see their struggle with shame. How I long for them to understand the depth of God's love and His sweet, gentle touch! I pray their shame will not keep them from such a loving Father. He scans the horizon for their return.

*Now my understanding is different; I think marriages function much better if they don't start out like that. God's pure way is logical, beautiful and always best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He Is Always There

Jesus is present in so many ways... in so many places... a writers' conference, fully Evangelical, with its bold, outward proclamation... with its spare, earnest worship. the Carmelite monastery, shrouded in mystery, on a cloud of peace... where your secret call to the soul beckons... with the monks' prayers lifted to you like incense in their censor... a Catholic church, large or small, simple or grand... with its stained glass, flickering candles, and... especially... the holy hush of Your Presence... the springtime buds that make the world quiver with life expressed in perfect green... the flowers thrown madly throughout roadside fields, which shout of You in their purple and orange chorus... juvenile alter egos to Your stately sunset... the sweet eyes of a friend, kind with promise... eager and ready to accept, listen and connect...

Truly, Christ, you are everywhere!

Love Keeps Me Sane

On this path of puzzles, I'll trust the hand of God...

Tonight I opened a can of tomato paste with love and did my best to chop an onion with it, too. This might sound crazy if not for the example of Brother Lawrence, whose words about his journey of love are written in "The Practice of the Presence of God." He was a 17th century lay Carmelite brother who worked at simple tasks in the monastery kitchen. He said, "We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."

If I am determined to love despite what may be difficult to bear, Christ (our True Love) is given permission to live through me. To what I wrote in my journal today: "I am taut, like a guitar string, ready to be plucked or to snap," Love says, "I will make you sing." Love seeks to relieve me from worry because it gently shifts my focus from me. So - even if for selfish reasons - I will try to live in love (and always in Love). It is what will keep me sane. A tall order, yes, but for now, for me, the only one that will do.

Could I Be?

A butterfly on wings of hope to comfort in despair...
A white rose, dewy fresh, to show that Heaven cares...
The scent of Christ to all who doubt and need to know He's there...
The foamy sea that rushes in as an answer to a prayer.

Surely God uses each of us at times in different ways
To teach and guide, laugh and cry, messengers that day
A smile, word, or kindly deed means more than you may know
to those we find along the way to whom Christ's face we show

Sometimes we're the giver, and sometimes we receive
The more we give along the way, the greater our belief
that Christ will meet our own felt needs at the perfect time
With another pilgrim on the way willing to be kind

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This Is My Father's World

This evening as my son and I drove home from Easter supper at my in-laws, I was - as is usual for me - absolutely taken by the beauty of nature around me. We drove through vineyards and meadows, under canopies of green trees and over mountains with forests that opened at times to wide views, all at that magical time of day when the sun is low in the sky and the light is soft and kind to the earth. Soon after our trek began, the sun fell below the ridgeline and the clouds morphed into the brilliant purply orange of sunset. Distant trees became spiky silouhettes against a fading sky.

As I fawned over the setting sun, my son said to me, "Mom, I wish I could experience the sunset like you." Though he appreciates nature, he isn't moved by such changes in the evening sky. I began to wonder whether the way my cells resonate at the perfect green of a springtime forest is a bit unusual. Or the way I want to jump out of my skin with joy at the sight of the moon when it's orange (orange!) and so big it looks like I could touch it. Or the way my heart wants to burst when the late afternoon sun shines on the distant creek as it winds its way through fields below us. I'm not sure, but I'm thankful for others who share this joy.

One of my favorite hymns was originally written for children as a way to teach them about the glory of God in creation. It's called This Is My Father's World. Click here to read the stanzas and take a listen.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Heavenly Holy Thursday

We fall down and lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus...

I just returned from Holy Thursday Mass where I experienced Christ's presence in an amazing, awe-inspiring way. This "Mass of the Lord's Supper" during Holy Week celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, and during the liturgy this evening I felt transported to heaven (or that the saints in heaven were present among us), as though we became part of the ongoing worship of Christ in that realm. Some have compared the mass' liturgy to the book of Revelation in scripture, and while I have always believed that, it was never more real to me than this evening.

At the end of mass, Christ was removed from the tabernacle and taken by the priest to reside in the cry room that has been converted into a temporary little prayer chapel until after Good Friday. I longed to keep watch with Christ this evening, but my son was with me so we had to leave. I know my Lord waits there for me until tomorrow, when I may pray on Good Friday from noon until three to commemorate the hours he was on the cross. I am glad He is patient; I am not always.

Truly the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter) is the holiest time of the year. He comes to us in the most powerful of ways.

The picture above reminds me of a couple of hymns, Crown Him with Many Crowns and Holy, Holy, Holy. The latter speaks of "casting down our golden crowns around the glassy sea." Both of these hymns give me chills in light of what happened this evening.

Truly He is Lord! I look forward to celebrating His resurrection on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil Mass.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pearl of Great Price

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45 & 46)

Dear Lord Jesus,

I am so grateful that you think of us as fine pearls; it makes me feel very loved. That you - You! - were willing to "sell everything" on our behalf is beyond amazing. I can't help but think of the lovely canticle in Philippians 2 about this sacrifice:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

I cannot think of a greater gift than God - the creator himself - seeking, finding and selling all for a group of humble stones that He calls pearls.

Does any lustre or shine emanate from me? If so, let it be because of you. May all my "pearly" qualities be a mirror to reflect you - and You alone.