Hidden Grief

As I turn the page to fall, I pause and reflect on my summer. Like many, summertime gave me the time and space to read some good books. Recently, an old friend returned a book to me that she had borrowed. Initially, I only vaguely remembered the book but its title intrigued me: Letters Never Sent. My initial skimming through the book turned into eagerly reading it cover to cover. It is based on the author’s experience growing up outside of the United States, and later, as an adult, living and working in another country. Many of you know that my husband and I lived out of the country for almost a decade, and our two youngest children spent their childhood outside of the States. It has been some time since I have written about that experience but this book triggered many memories. 

Letters Never Sent is a story about loss, unexpressed grief, and the gift of healing. Though I related to the author’s story because of my mission field experience, I think it is a book for all. As the author observes, everyone alive has hidden griefs, some unrecognized even to themselves.

My experience in mentoring others and now serving as a spiritual director or companion to others has shown me that we all need God to heal past pain, restore relationships that are broken or weak, and set us free from the slavery of trying to please others instead of God. We each need to come to terms with who we are, in God’s eyes and God’s kingdom.  Have you let God settle for you who you are? Have I? I suggest that is a worthy endeavor for us all, and a gift God wants to give each of us.

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God renew your minds from within. Then you will prove in practice what is His good and perfect and acceptable will.” Romans 12: 1, 2.

People can be held captive not just in a physical sense, but by their memories and by feelings they judge that they should not have. When God gently allows us to remember and cry in a safe space, even two or three decades later, light can come into the darkness. The work of God sometimes hurts.  But I don’t know if we can ever really know God until we are forced to cling to Him so closely.  As the author explains: In every one of our lives, God requires a precious thing. For each of us it’s different, but it’s always precious; it’s the one thing we think we can’t bear to be without.

God will take the very thing you think you can’t possibly give to Him and make it the same thing that brings great blessing.

I heard a woman say that she had to learn to forgive many people in her life just for being who and what they are. I would add that God wants us to accept his forgiveness for who and what we are or have been. 

A Biblical definition of comfort is to sigh with someone. What a gift it is to have someone simply be with you and sigh with you. How divinely powerful it is to encounter God, who wants to sigh with us. God shows his face in the depths of despair as well as in the heights of joy. God’s inescapable presence is everywhere. May we grow in this awareness. May we accept that our own needs are as important as those of anyone else God sends us to minister to. And, it is okay to be ordinary, if that’s God’s will.

In the familiar Old Testament story of Job, we see that God gave Job time. He let him vent his feelings and ask his questions. He waited without jumping in. (How often do we try to explain God’s ways when we’re only guessing?) God never did explain the reason for Job’s suffering; He only reminded him of who He is. This is how God expects us to care for one another.

May we become a model of redemptive, comforting love.

Too often we punish or judge others or ourselves before discerning the root cause behind the behavior. Letters Never Sent vividly shows us that emotions cannot be ignored, denied, or repressed without consequences. Ruth’s story illustrates that coming to terms with our honest emotions is an important channel for spiritual growth.

My own life experience has shown me that my wandering away from the Divine ultimately blessed me with experiencing God finding me, pursuing me, and rescuing me. The penetrating gaze of God can be compared to the gaze of a physician, probing and discerning the evasive but death-dealing symptoms of disease.  There is no power like the power of Divine healing. God’s gaze can also be likened to that of a mentor who sees hidden potential, and is sensitive to the inner drive of unrealized dreams. As we let go of our fears and allow God to draw us to Himself, we can experience this healing, and then we can offer God’s healing touch to others through us.

As we enter into autumn, a season of change and letting go, may we be open to the God Isaiah describes here—open and willing to receive these graces, and to act on God’s behalf to minister in this way to others. What a great assignment for life.

“I have come to bring you fresh news. I have seen your depression and affliction. I have taken notice of your broken and bursting heart. I have come to wrap it, to stop the flow of the old ways, and to dwell there in your new heart, to become the ruling influence of your life. No more does the pain of life and the lies of the Evil One have to control you. I have come to deliver you from those things and from him, to establish Myself within you as Truth. To open the eyes of your heart. To set you free from sin and to set you free from yourself—to become what I have always intended for you to be!”
Isaiah 61:1-3a (Paraphrase, Brent Hanson, Moriah Foundation)

***This blog was inspired by Letters Never Sent: One woman’s journey from hurt to wholeness by Ruth E. Van Reken.

THE WAITING ROOM

I’ve heard that one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines is waiting. Scripture frequently reminds us to wait on the Lord. A life theme of mine this year has been I wait and God moves. So, what are you waiting for in your life right now? You may want to pause for a few moments, and ask yourself and God that question.

It seems we all have things that are pending in our lives. What we hope will happen or fear might come to pass. A decision to be made that we are uncertain about. A heart’s desire that we have prayed for over a long period of time, or something we are wrestling with that we would prefer to be resolved. Old wounds that linger on. So often I want these things to just be done!!

Yet I have been told to never underestimate the power of simply waiting for God’s grace to move. I trust that while waiting, I have an opportunity to experience the intimacy of being drawn like a magnet into the Divine Presence. Something in me can be created anew, restored, and made holy. I offer to God the hospitality of a soul ready to grow. I rest in God’s presence like a seed in the darkness of the earth, or a child in its mother’s womb. I embrace the waiting and ask God to transform me. At least, these are what my heart desires.

“Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” Isaiah 55:3

Those in-between times in life are waiting times. They offer those of us who like to do the gift of simply lingering with the Lord, pondering what really matters in His eyes. What endures. And in the meantime, we can practice living well as St Benedict describes in his Rule for living:

Live life normally
Live life thoughtfully
Live life profoundly
Live life well.
                                   The Rule of Benedict

In the waiting, we learn to listen with a simplicity of heart. To clear away the clutter and enter into the daily practice of deep listening.  We are encouraged that simply longing for God is a good prayer.

“It is not what you are or what you have been that God sees with all merciful eyes, but what you desire to be.”
Cloud of Unknowing

As we wait, we ask God to prune away the obstacles that weaken our communion with Him. To cut away the old dead wood.To anoint those places that need healing with a glance of Divine love.  We may ask ourselves how we feel about God leading us into the deepening places of our lives? What might be asked of us? How do we feel about that? We can ask God to help us be open to Him. To surrender our need for certainty.  To practice obedient listening while believing that God is also listening to us. How do you feel when you think about God listening to you?

You might ask Him questions like:

Where are you in this, Lord?
What are you asking of me now, Lord?

God can teach us how to live attentively listening for His voice. We must also pay attention to what feelings are most potent in us, and what God has to say to us through them.

Often, we need to listen again and again as our first listening may not be the final truth at all. A most dangerous god can be clinging to our own wills. It takes much time to discern God’s will, and even longer to courageously follow it.

As we move toward that great death at the end of life, we pass through many little deaths along the way. Our hope is that a new person is born out of struggle. Beauty is lifted out of our wrestling with the Lord. There will be times when God asks us to sink down below the storm, below the anxiety, where the peace of Christ waits for us. Our inner pilgrimage to the promised land of God’s heart.

Here is a Scripture that gently speaks to me giving me peace and hope. If I’m bold enough, I might even say that is shows me that I am dear to God! Can you allow yourself to feel dear to God? Ponder His words to us:

“God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.” 1 John 4:12


We wait on the Lord with the assurance that He waits with us, and He is perfecting His love in us. Little by little, we can love like God loves allowing Jesus to rule the world from our hearts. That certainly is something worth waiting for!

Reflect on these words as if God were saying them to you as you wait:

Abide in me as I abide in you.
Remain in me as I remain in you.
Stay rooted in me as I stay rooted in you.
Live on in me as I live on in you.

**This blog was inspired by the words of Sister Macrina Wiederkerhr in her reflections, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God. I’ve enjoyed spending my summer with her writings. Sister Macrina passed away last year. May her words live on in and through all those souls whose lives she touched.

ANCHORED IN THE MOMENT…

Anchored in God’s love

“…for I know him in whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1: 12

JULY. We are deep into summer. I am blessed to be in a season of life that allows time and space for more reflection. I’m able to savor the graces of those lazy, hazy, days of summer. How different from the days of much motion in my 30’s and 40’s. Each season has its blessings and challenges.  God will always help us to taste and see that the Lord is good. No matter when or where, so many things can speak to us of God’s goodness. Today I want to share about my love of words. One word in particular has caught my attention of late. ANCHORED. Specifically, ANCHORED IN THE MOMENT. What might that mean to me in my season of life? What might it mean to you?

An anchor feels safe, solid, and secure. Not easily moved.  In my younger years, I felt much more tossed to and fro by the changing winds. I was uncertain and insecure. I can still feel that way but now, more often than not, I feel grounded and peaceful. What has caused the change for me? Perhaps the answer lies in another word I love—TRUST. God continues to lead me on a faith journey where I feel more and more loved by Him and, thus, able to trust in His goodness and wisdom in both my life and the lives of others.

When I am trusting, I can BE HERE NOW IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. It’s easier to wait, remembering that God is always at work in the world. I hear God’s gentle voice saying: “Leave the big stuff to me, Cherry.” I surrender my need for certainty.

So where did this trust that anchors me in the present come from?  I would describe it as the slow, gentle work of God in my life. He has continued to call me closer to himself and helps me move in that direction. He chips away at my pride and heals my heartaches, as we say in Spanish, poco a poco (little by little). Over the years, as my trust has grown, I see how very little God is asking of me. His desire is that I show up, be still, and let Him speak to me. As I surrender myself in love to God’s love, He empowers me to stay the course. Basking in the love of God, I am more able to love as God loves.
 In God’s loving design, we are meant to light one another’s path.

God is my anchor and God is my hope. I desire to live in the depths of reality with an open, soft, and free heart.  Beloved words from Scripture beckon me to go to the depths with the One who “enables me to go upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)

More words that have been speaking to me are the lyrics from an old Christian worship song by Ray Boltz entitled, THE ANCHOR HOLDS. I encourage you to take a listen (on YouTube). These words called to me when I was in my thirties, but now, in my sixties, their meaning, like my faith, has deepened:

I have journeyed
 through the long dark night
out on the open sea
 by faith alone, sight unknown,
and yet his eyes are watching me.

The anchor holds though the ship is battered.
The anchor holds though the sails are torn.
I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas.
The anchor holds in spite of the storm.

Recently, I read that trust is crucial to spiritual growth. As a way to build your anchor of trust, I encourage you to simply spend regular time with your Creator, sitting quietly, waiting, and listening deeply. Slowly and reflectively read these words as if God were lovingly speaking them to you. Pay attention to what they may mean to you at this time in your life. Linger with them a bit. Bask in their deep truth. Let them peacefully anchor you in this moment.

BE still and know that I am God.
BE still and know… I dwell among you.
BE still and know… I call you by name.
BE still and know…  my mercy endures forever.
BE still and know… by my wounds you are healed.
BE still and know… I give you my peace.
BE still and know… I make all things new.

BE still and know that I am God.
BE still and know that I am.
BE still and know.
BE still.
BE.

LINGERING…

LINGERING—perhaps a lost art in today’s world of back-to-back activity. What’s comes to your mind and heart as you hear that word?  I encourage you to pause with that question before reading on.  For me, I sense an ancient beauty to that word. Relaxed and wide-open in all the senses. A depth. Perhaps a way to experience the depth of our reality. Each moment is full or pregnant with the essence of God—Divine Mystery. This holds true with moments of joy as well as those of pain and suffering. The art of lingering may hold a key to living in the depth of our reality—those sacred moments that seem to come and go so quickly.

Even as I am writing this with a sense that it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit, I feel myself revving up a bit and wanting to get it done.  Rather than being critical of this part of me, I am comforted as God softly reminds me that this is another opportunity to look to the Divine for help in my humanness.

Many of you know that I am enrolled in a five-year program for certification in Spiritual Direction. I recently completed the fourth year and will have a pause this summer before entering into the last year.  Though it is tempting to jump into my What’s next? for the summer and beyond, I have felt God’s gentle nudge and tender voice saying to me: “Why don’t you linger a bit with me, Cherry, and reflect on this past year of study?” Go slow is another message I frequently hear from God. I’ve spent a lot of my life going full-speed or, more accurately, going over the speed limit. One can miss a lot by living at that pace. Thus, the word lingering captures my attention, and begs a response.

Completing this program will be a dream come true for me—a heart’s desire of mine for many years.  I believe that warrants some lingering and deep gratitude for God’s faithful love and mercy to me. As a part of the fourth year, Practicum One, I was able to shadow two spiritual directors who co-facilitated a Retreat in Daily Living, a thirty-week program following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Since most of us are not able to step away from our lives for 30 days as in Ignatius’ time, this retreat is done at home with daily prayer times, weekly meetings with a small group of others going through the Exercises, and meeting with a spiritual director twice a month. I did the Retreat in 2019 so it was very meaningful to be able to repeat it, and see how God has been at work in me and my life since then.

As I have lingered with that experience, I wrote the following:

This was a unique opportunity to regularly pause and grow closer to God in prayer while still living my normal daily life. Doing this retreat under the guidance of a spiritual director and with others who also yearned to grow their connection with God and God’s love was of great value. It felt like I had a team of cheerleaders supporting me and encouraging me on. The Exercises are commonly called a school of prayer. One learns different ways of praying: praying with your desires, meditating on Scripture, using imagination in prayer, conversing with Jesus as a friend, journaling , and reflecting on God’s movements in your day and your responses to God.
I left the retreat calmer, free from things that had bound me, less controlling, more trusting, and eager to reach out to others with the deep love of God that I have encountered.
My prayer now is that I may live in awe and wonder with
 gratitude, confidence,
 and clarity of purpose.

For me, to feel more at peace, free from things that can bind me, less controlling, and more trusting and loving toward others are all huge gifts. I want to remain with God, let God take me deeper into these realities, so that they become a part of my core, my essence. I want to relate to others from that place.

As I linger in these moments with gratitude, aware of my weaknesses, my humanness, and my need for God moment by moment, I sense God giving me confidence in him and clarity of purpose.

Reviewing my journal from my first retreat, I ran across the phrase: “Wait and let God aim you.”  A phrase that has been on my heart this year has been: “I waited and God moved.” This is my hope-filled prayer for my next season.

As we come upon Pentecost, let us linger and ponder the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Advocate that fights for us. Who anchors us in the moment. The One who consoles, encourages, animates, enlivens, emboldens, and gives us work to do. We can trust this Spirit with our What’s Next?  There is purpose and power in lingering. God is preparing us, and at His appointed time will aim us and let us fly.

“… I know in whom I have put my trust, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to safeguard until that Day what I have entrusted to him.” 2 Timothy 1:12

*** Anyone interested in learning more about the Retreat in Daily Living and how you might participate in a group this fall, reach out to me privately.

THE RISEN LIFE…Dying and Rising

Holy Week and Easter have come and gone reminding us of death and new life. I recently read something that seems appropriate for us as we go forth in the year:

“We experience various “dyings”, not just with the death of loved ones but also with the loss of friendships, changes in lifestyle or career, physical infirmity, children leaving home, and our own relocations from one city to another.

Our God, however, is a God of life. The Resurrection reveals how God is always bringing life from death, hope from despair, love from hate, and light from darkness. So, we celebrate the “risings” as well, such as reconciled or new friendships, unexpected opportunities, renewed vigor, and meaningful learning experiences that come from losses.

Notice how the risen Christ still bears the marks of the Crucifixion. This itself is a consoling image. Our hurts and limitations are part of who we are. In death, they are not wiped away but are redeemed. God takes us as we are and makes us whole again. A new creation at work. God wastes nothing and redeems all.” — The Ignatian Adventure, Kevin O’Brien, SJ

I invite you to take some time as we move forward in springtime to prayerfully ponder your own dyings and potential risings. Let God show you how he has fashioned your life through these graced moments of dying and rising. Ask Him to show you what new risings He may have in store for you.

And for those of you experiencing the grief of a dying, I offer you this prayer:

Leaning On The Heart Of God
~Authored by Joyce Rupp~


I am leaning on the heart of God. I am resting there in silence. All the turmoil that exhausts me is brought to bear on this great love.
No resistance or complaint is heard as I lean upon God’s welcome. There is gladness for my coming. There is comfort for my pain.
I lean, and lean, and lean upon this heart that hurts with me. Strength lifts the weight of my distress. Courage wraps around my troubles.
No miracle of instant recovery. No taking away life’s burdens. Yet, there is solace for my soul, and refuge for my exiled tears.
It is enough for me to know the heart of God is with me, full of mercy and compassion, tending to the wounds I bear.

COME AWAY…

Come away with me. I love the sound of those words. They stir something in me. It is so romantic when my husband asks me to come away with him.  Perhaps to take a road trip, and go on an adventure together to the unknown. When girlfriends want to have some time away together, there is excitement in the air. But when God’s voice invites me to come away with him, that touches something very deep within me. I’m left speechless, excited, and a bit nervous. I know that it will be more than an adventure if I’m fortunate enough to be given the grace of an encounter with the Divine.

Recently I had the opportunity to go on retreat—a 3-day Ignatian silent directed retreat at St. John’s Catholic Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was more than just another opportunity. We were told that this would be a great gift God was giving us. When we come away from all the noise and activity of daily life to focus intently on God, things happen. God manifests in powerful ways. That proved to be true.  The time away was a precious gift to us all.

The wilderness will lead you to your heart where God will speak.

Our instructions were to bring a Bible and a journal. Nothing else. No other reading material and no electronics. That meant no cell phone. We were to make space.  To enter into three days and nights of simply enjoying basic life— simple things like eating good food, sleeping well, going on walks, going to daily mass, visiting any one of the three gorgeous chapels on the grounds, and praying with Scripture—talking with God, and more importantly, listening to God. We would have the time to do as monastics do: to dot the day with prayer. And to journal what we were hearing from God.

Let us listen to the voice of God as we enter into His rest.

Through it all, we were to pay attention. To sink into the present moment.  To allow God to still us. We individually met with a spiritual director for one hour each day. We were able to share with the director what each day’s experience was like. Spiritual direction is really not direction which would be something active.  Rather, it is simply allowing God to speak with you, move in you, and then sharing that experience with another who also desires deepening their relationship with God. I have found this type of spiritual companioning to be deeply healing.

As we began the retreat, we were given some simple instructions. We were invited to reflect on why we came. What we desired of God. A heart desire placed there by God. For me, I was hoping for a deeper sense of God’s love for me. I know that the more I feel divinely, unconditionally loved, the more that kind of love flows out from me to others. I was also hoping for more heart healingfreedom from the things that can distract me and bind me up in fear. Fear stifles authentic love. At our first mass, I sensed that God heard my desires as I listened to the homily and heard, “This time away can be like a deep massage on a wounded place”. To which I thought, “Yes Lord, sign me up for that!” Many of us can relate to carrying old wounds that linger on. Doubting and questioning oneself. Being in a holy place like a monastery can bring about profound awareness and divine healing.

Deep woundedness needs deep healing, and it starts with the grace of a profound surrender.

Thus began three days of simple, thoughtful living at a relaxed pace—eating, sleeping, praying, and worshipping; all with a reflective attitude. I paid attention to the beauty of my surroundings, and to what was going on in my heart. I looked at life with a soft gaze, opening up to God a little bit more.

One of the directors mentioned at the introductory session that silence can be thunderous! Although we were not speaking, God certainly was. We had removed many of the barriers to hearing God’s voice and sensing God’s movements in us and others.

Rest and receive. No striving. God is at work. Let it happen.

At the conclusion of the retreat, we each were asked to share a short phrase to describe our experience. It was striking to see how God uniquely met each person in the way they most needed in the moment. I commented that God had stilled me. I thought of the Scripture passage: Be still and know that I am God. To know God better, one must engage in stillness.

I am grateful that God did give me my desires for the retreat.  The gifts I received are special to me. I will hold them close and ponder them in my heart. I was again reminded of the extreme value of peeling away all the distractions and coming away with God. Not easy to do but worth fighting for.

Trust in the slow and gentle work of God.

I know those reading this live in different places throughout the world. I encourage each of you to look into what is available in your area to allow you to come away with God. Some of you know the value of these get aways, but perhaps have not participated in a silent retreat for some time. That was my case. I won’t wait as long for the next one.

I’ll end with Jeremiah 33:3. It has been favorite passage of mine, and a motivation to come away with God so he can share special secret things with us.

“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.”
New American Bible

“Call to me and I will answer you; I will tell you great secrets of which you know nothing.”
New Jerusalem Bible

“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out
on your own.”The Message

THE TIME IS NOW. CHOOSE WISELY.

It is March. Ash Wednesday is behind us and Lent is upon us. There are many resources available to enhance our Lenten experience. I will not add to that, but I would encourage us to take advantage of this time—these forty days—and choose wisely as to how we spend them.

It seems to me that all Lenten practices point to our hearts and God’s desire to draw our hearts closer to Himself. Scripture speaks of rending our hearts to God. Our Creator wants each of us to offer Him our heart as it is now, to allow God to break it open—our own crucifixion, and to transform us—our resurrection.  God hopes to soften our hearts so we will love God and others better at the end of these forty days. That is the new life that Easter promises. A surrendered and self-giving heart like Christ’s. The time is now. Let us choose wisely.

I offer two prayers for this present time—our now:

Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Dust off the unmindful activity that constantly collects there.
De-clutter my heart from harsh judgements and negativity.
Wash away my resistance to working through difficult relationships.
Rinse off my un-loving
so the beauty of my generous and kind heart
can shine forth.
Remove whatever keeps me
from following in your compassionate footsteps. Amen.
–Joyce Rupp

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our dignity to choose. Help me, as I begin this Lenten journey, to be aware of all the choices I make. Inspire me to choose the way of life—for my own sake and for the sake of all whom I encounter.
–Thomas Stegman, SJ

HOW EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY ARE YOU?

God is shaping me and shaping you! What a hope-filled thought for 2022. I think we all would like to see the world become a more just and gentler place. That’s a cause we can get behind. It may seem overwhelming, but I can start with me—letting God form me into a more just and gentler me. When I offer that me to the world, God can move through me to shape the world into God’s image.

Here is another hopeful thought as we live into this new year:

“All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.
In the end, all shall be well and if all is not well, it’s not yet the end.”
Julian of Norwich

A person who I find very hope- inspiring is Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic. Here are his thoughts on emotionally healthy people. Before you read them, I encourage you to pray and ask God what God desires that you take in from this message. I then invite you to slowly and prayerfully read and ponder each point. There is a LOT to each statement!  Go deep with it! Let God speak to you and shape you with each one. (You can also find these on YouTube.)

 EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE…

  1. Possess self-awareness. They are able to observe themselves and continue to get to know themselves. This is the starting point for emotional health as well as an ongoing process.
  2. Are aware of others and how what they do and say affects others. They can put themselves in another’s shoes, and thus, are quick to recognize other people’s needs.
  3. Are willing and humble enough to question their own assumptions about themselves, other people, relationships, and life in general.
  4. Allow themselves to be angry as part of the human condition and learn healthy ways to process it.
  5. Are able to set boundaries and say “No” to make space for the greater/deeper “Yes”. They learn to do this and gradually do it without feeling guilty. They recognize that other people use guilt to get what they want because it works and they learn to take themselves out of those situations.
  6. Realize that everyone is carrying a heavy burden. They have large stores of empathy and give people the benefit of the doubt.
  7. Know how to be alone with themselves enjoying their own company. They sometimes choose to be alone rather than be with those who have a negative impact on their lives.
  8. Make decisions based on values rather than their feelings in the moment.
  9. Walk away from toxic people.
  10. Are comfortable with uncertainty. They are able to wait for the right answer rather than rush to a wrong conclusion for the sake of having false closure.
  11. Accept that everyone experiences times of stress, anxiety, fear, and depression at some points in their lives. They view these as a part of natural living and see their value and purpose.
  12. When they meet someone that they don’t like, they are willing to explore why they are uncomfortable, and how they may be being challenged to change and grow.
  13. Have a healthy sense of self. They know who they are, and they know who they are not. They don’t let other people determine their self-worth.
  14. Understand that people come into their lives for reasons and seasons. Not always forever. People and circumstances naturally change over time.
  15. Believe in the best of their humanity. In each moment they can choose to love, show compassion, and make a difference. They let the best of their humanity shine bright and often!

I pray that you will come back to this list from time to time. I know that I will. I leave you with this prayer— Read it as if God is talking to you, wanting to shape you anew.

Let My Love enfold you in the radiance of My Glory. Sit still in the Light of My Presence, and receive My Peace. These quiet moments with Me transcend time, accomplishing far more than you can imagine. Bring Me the sacrifice of your time, and watch to see how abundantly I bless you and your loved ones. Through the intimacy of our relationship, you are being transformed from the inside out. As you keep your focus on Me, I form you into the one I desire you to be. Your part is to yield to My creative work in you, neither resisting it nor trying to speed it up. Enjoy the tempo of a God-breathed life by letting Me set the pace. Hold My hand in childlike trust, and the way before you will open up step by step. (Jesus Calling: January 25)

BEHOLD…A NEW YEAR DAWNS FOR US ALL

Behold = To perceive through deliberate observation.

BEHOLDI’ve heard that word many times during this Christmas season, and I appreciate the thought that it means to observe or perceive in a deliberate manner. My normal custom for ending a year is to review my journals and write a reflection of the year. I’m always amazed at the ways I see God at work in our lives when I take this time to behold the year. I give myself the gift of lingering over the time a bit. Afterwards, I ask God to give me a word for the new year. I wait and pray. Last year’s word/phrase was Listen Deeply which ties in with this idea of beholding. I am grateful for the many awarenesses I received in 2021 as I’ve listened deeply to life in and around me. I pray that this exercise helps me enter the new year with gratitude and openness.

I’m including a prayer that I read on Christmas morning. I believe it could also be a prayer for this new year. It speaks of the baby Jesus and God’s tenderness. When I truly behold life through God’s eyes, my trust in God’s goodness is renewed. I receive the Divine’s tenderness. That will be my word for this new year. May I treat all humanity, including myself, with the tenderness that God gives to me.

BLESSING BEFORE A CHRISTMAS STABLE
Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P.

“No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.” (CCC 563)

Lord, Jesus, as I kneel before your manger in adoration, let my first Christmas word be: Thank you. Thank you, Gift of the Father, for coming to save me from my sins.

Without you I do not know even how to be human. The characteristics of your human body express the divine person of God’s Son. And in that wondrous expression, Lord, you reveal me to myself. Thank you for that saving revelation in your sacred humanity. As the Christmas liturgy proclaims, in Christ we experience “the holy exchange that restores our life.” Thank you for coming as one like myself to save me from myself.

You come as a baby because babies are irresistible and adorable. You come as a baby because you want our first impression of God incarnate to be that of one who does not judge. How I long to be united with you in every way. May I never be attracted to the allurements and charms of the world. May I love you always, at every moment, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. May the tenderness, the dependency, and the mercy that you reveal in your infancy become the hallmarks of my life.

Newborn Savior, the very silence of your incarnation proclaims that the answer to the misery the strife, and the meaninglessness we often experience in life cannot be found within us. You alone are the Answer. As I kneel before you, eternal King, I surrender to you all my selfishness, self-absorption, self-indulgence, self-righteousness, self-assertion, and self-exaltation. Even as I adore you on this night of your birth, rid me of the nagging desire to be adored.

Word become flesh, you make your dwelling among us. Yet you do not live your life for yourself, but for us. And you enable us to live in you all that you yourself lived. Help me to embrace this truth with all my mind and heart. Come and live your life in me. Empty me of my willfulness, my petulance, may hardness, my cynicism, my contemptuousness. Fill me with your truth, your strength, your fortitude, your purity, your gentleness, your generosity, your wisdom, your heart, and your grace.

O Emmanuel, may the assurance of your unfailing Presence be for me the source of unending peace. May I never fear my weakness, my inadequacy, or my imperfection. Rather, as I gaze with faith, hope, and love upon your incarnate littleness, may I love my own littleness, for God is with us. Endow my life with the holy wonder that leads me ever more deeply into the Mystery of Redemption and the meaning of my vocation and destiny.

Longed-for Messiah, your servant Saint Leo the Great well wrote that in the very act of reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth. From this night on may my life be a dedicated life of faith marked by holy reliance, receptivity, and resoluteness. May I make my life a total gift of self. May my humble worship of your Nativity manifest how much I seek the Father’s kingship and his way of holiness. The beauty of your holy face bears the promise that your Father will provide for us in all things. This Christmas I renew my trust in God’s goodness, compassion, and providence. I long for the day when you will teach us to pray “Our Father.”

May your Presence, Prince of Peace, bless the world with peace, the poor with care and prosperity, the despairing with hope and confidence, the grieving with comfort and gladness, the oppressed with freedom and deliverance, the suffering with solace and relief. Loving Jesus, you are the only real joy of every human heart. I place my trust in you.

Oh, divine Fruit of Mary’s womb, may I love you in union with the holy Mother of God. May my life be filled with the obedience of Saint Joseph and the missionary fervor of the shepherds so that the witness of my life may shine like the star that leads the Magi to your manger. I ask all this with great confidence in your holy name. Amen.

THE ADVENT MYSTERY

Our Advent tradition

I love the change of seasons.  I also appreciate the Church’s liturgical year with each season carrying deep meaning. Full of sameness, yet each year offering us something new. The Scripture readings do not change but our lives do! For me, Advent is a season of waiting, of hope, and a time to reflect and look deeper at life—my own and that of the world in which I am living. I can slow down and allow God to speak to me—to teach me and to transform me. Here is a favorite poem of mine that speaks of my desire for us all:

OPEN THE DOOR
Greg Asimakoupoulos

When you step over
The threshold of Christmas
There’s a mystery
For you to explore.
A story.
A message.
Rich beauty.
The music of color and love.
There’s a sense
Of the Creator’s presence
The wonder of childlike joy.
The texture of worship.
The power of peace.
Turn the handle
And open the door.

Our church is now dressed in purple which signifies penance and preparation. I find it interesting that the lavender plant with its delicate scent is known for its calming properties. When we take time to be in silence whether early in the morning with candles lit, enjoying a stunning sunrise or sunset, or sitting alone in a chapel, we sense the wonder, mystery, and power of God’s peace.

It takes time and attention to encounter mystery. In our busy world, that can be a struggle.  I pray my favorite Advent prayer for all of us as we seek to experience the mystery Advent offers us this year. Maybe we can light a lavender candle as we pray.

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness,
Send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen.
By Henri Nouwen

Lavender– historically known for its calming properties