“As to your Lent . . . I can only tell you my own experience.”

Still good advice for this Lent as well!

Witnesses to Hope

Wonderful Caryll Houselander writes:

As to your Lent . . . I can only tell you my own experience.  A mass of good resolutions, I think, are apt to end up in disappointment and to make one depressed.  Also direct fault-uprooting: it makes one concentrate too much on self, and that can be so depressing.  The only resolution I have ever found that works is: “Whenever I want to think of myself, I will think of God.”  Now, this does not mean, “I will make a long meditation on God,” but just some short sharp answer, so to speak, to my thought of self, in God.  For example:

“I am lonely, misunderstood, etc.”
“The loneliness of Christ at his trial; the misunderstanding even of his closest friends.”
Or:
“I have made a fool of myself.”
“Christ mocked–he felt it; he put the mocking first in foretelling his Passion–‘The Son of…

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To Clasp Hands

Barnstorming

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rockwell_worship Freedom of Worship by Norman Rockwell

To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
~Karl Barth

Prayer may be easiest for the youngest among us.  It can be amazingly spontaneous for kids — an outright exclamation of joy, a crying plea for help, a word of unprompted gratitude.   As a child I can remember making up my own songs and monologues to God as I wandered alone in our farm’s woods, enjoying His company in my semi-solitude.  I’m not sure when I began to silence myself out of self-conscious embarrassment, but I stayed silent for many years, unwilling to put voice to the prayers that rattled in my head.  In my childhood, prayer in public schools had been hushed into a mere moment of silence, and intuitively I knew silence had never changed anything.  The world became more and more…

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” . . . or even just the desire . . .”

I just started reading Pope Francis’ book, The Name of God is Mercy, and I’m already hooked.  Here’s a little bit from the “To the Reader” section by the editor, Andrea Tornielli.  He’s describing Pope Francis’ comments on part of the first draft.

Pope_Francis_greets_pilgrims_in_St_Peters_Square_before_the_Wed_general_audience_on_April_16_2014_Credit_Daniel_Ibanez_CNA.jpg“We discussed the difficulties of acknowledging ourselves as sinners, and in the first draft, I wrote that Francis asserted, ‘The medicine is there, the healing is there–if only we take a small step toward God.’ After reading the text, he called me and asked me to add ‘or even just the desire to take that step.’  It was a phrase that I had clumsily left out of my summary.  This addition, or rather, the proper restoration of the complete text, reveals the vast heart of the shepherd who seeks to align himself with the merciful hear of God and leaves nothing untried in reaching out to sinners.  He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.  God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son.  But if, weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.  It’s already enough of a start for grace to work and mercy to be granted in accordance with the experience of a Church that does not see itself as a customs office but as an agent that seeks out every single possible way to forgive.”

Remember that God loves you

This is so important to know and remember.

A Year in the Word: God Loves You. Remember That!

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The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you.

—Zephaniah 3:17

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

More than anything in the world, I wish I could convince people that God loves them. It’s the reason I’m a missionary, the heart of every talk I give, the subtext of every chat I have with a small child: I want every person I meet to have a sense of the passionate, all-consuming love of God that I’ve had some small taste of.

As Christians, we hear that message over and again, but it’s been castrated, whitewashed and ground down until it means nothing. “God likes you,” or perhaps, “God is mildly fond of you.” Love has become some vague sense of approval instead of the stern-as-death, burn-away-your-sins, wild rejoicing love Scripture tells us of. And “God is friendly” doesn’t change lives. It doesn’t heal broken hearts or pull addicts from the miry pit or give anyone a reason to wake up in the morning. It doesn’t make saints.

So if there’s one thing I want us to come away with at the end of the Year in the Word, it’s a conviction that we are deeply, powerfully loved in a way that has to change our lives. There isn’t much you find more often in Scripture than this and many of my favorite verses (Isaiah 49:13–16; Isaiah 62:4–5; Song of Songs 4:7; Romans 5:8; Isaiah 54:10–11 to name a few) are just God finding yet another way to tell your heart how inestimably precious it is to him.

You read the rest here.

His goodness is never one whit diminished

Witnesses to Hope

In the matter of
God’s goodness
we have got to be
irrational.

This is the way it is,
with love, for instance,
and with any other
deep down, visceral persuasion.
We go beyond reason,
we do not trust
appearances.
All surface indications
to the contrary
we have got to believe that
God is good,
unfailingly good to us.
Even in the thick
of troubles,
in moments of dire tragedy,
calamity,
disaster,
God is being good.
This is illogical,
it is nonsense
but it is true.
His goodness
is never
one whit diminished,
obscured
or blunted.

Monsignor James Turro

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“Let Him find you everywhere he may look . . .”

In this Year of Mercy, it is important for you to remember that the Shepherd is looking for you, not just everyone else.  We are all, in some sense of another, lost sheep.  Let Him find you.

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“The Gospel tells us that the Lord went in search of the lost sheep.  How are we to understand this search?  . . . Now if anybody seeks anything earnestly, it is not in one little corner only, but in every corner and place till he finds it.  And so God seeks you–let him find you everywhere he may look, in all circumstances of your life.  Whatever shame comes on you, know that that is the place in which God is looking for a gentle and meek soul; therefore suffer yourself to be constantly trodden underfoot until you have well learned your lesson of meekness.

“God is looking for a poor man; therefore if anyone will take from you your money, your property, or your friends, let him do so, that you may be found poor by God, who is looking for you in just such a state.  . . . Whatever happens to you from friends or from foes, nay from your very mother or sister–no matter how it comes or from whom, all whatsoever that comes to you prepares you for God’s searching and finding.”  (John Tauler)

We are His Tears

Barnstorming

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Remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.
~Charles Spurgeon

There is in all visible things – a hidden wholeness.
~Thomas Merton

Hard times leave us frozen solid,
completely immobilized
and too cold to touch,
yet hope and healing is found
within the wholeness and goodness of God.

Even when life’s chill leaves us aching,
longing for relief,
the coming thaw is real
because God is good.

Even when we’re flattened,
stepped on, broken into fragments —
the pieces left are the beginning
of who we will become,
made whole again
because God is good.

The frost lasts not forever.
The sun makes us glisten and glitter
as ice melts down to droplets.
We are the hidden wholeness of God,
His eyes and ears,
heart and soul,
hands and feet.
Even more so,
we are His tears.

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Year of Mercy: start with yourself

I came across this post about the Year of Mercy and immediately thought of all of you.  Sounds like great advice to me.  (Originally posted at In the Heart of My Home.)

Year of Mercy: Start with Yourself

January 7, 2016

I’ve been looking forward to this new year, eagerly anticipating the calendar change, setting my hopes on a new digit in the “year” column making all things new. I’m not sorry to see 2015 slip away. I hear the drumbeat, steady and rising, propelling me forward: We can do better. We can do better. We can do better.

There are logical places in the calendar year that are invitations to hope. The beginning of the school year is a fresh, unwritten page. Advent brings with it the knowledge that the universal church begins again. The most wide-open space of all is New Year’s Day. Christmas has all the feel of the culmination of the year, and most mothers find the week after Christmas a natural suspension of time for rest and recovery after the effort of making a holiday merry. We tie up loose ends. Then, we look ahead in hope.

But if the year just passed has been a bit of a struggle, hope meets fear at the turn of the year and they wrestle for the vision that will shape the next 366 days (this year has a lovely grace day bonus). Fear threatens it all. What if this year is no different from last year? What if I am forever stuck in this place of discouragement? What if we can’t do better?

Cease striving. He’s God. (Ps 46:10) He can make all things new. Lean in and trust Him. All those things you hope for this new year? All the ways you want it to be better than last year? Put them at the foot of the cross. Trust Him with them. Then, resolve to live anew in His mercy.

Mercy makes all the difference.

We stand before the threshold of a new calendar year, having just thrown open the jubilee doors and stepped into the Year of Mercy. This is the year the church has set aside to wash us in compassion. This is the year the church has set aside for us to do the works of mercy that bring relief to the souls and bodies of our neighbors. Mercy is like oxygen, though. You can’t extend it to others without first being merciful to yourself. None of those resolutions, none of your fondest wishes for this year to be different stand a chance unless and until you live mercy inside your own skin.

That fear of being forever stuck? It is fueled by your unwillingness to meet the merciful Jesus and surrender. May I suggest just three resolutions which you might try, three resolutions which can open the floodgates of grace in the year of mercy?

Give the first five minutes of your day to God. Longer would be better, because this time is His lavish gift to you and you really do want to fully unwrap it, but start small. Give Him five minutes. Spend five minutes, first thing in the morning in His word. Flip open a bedside Bible. Pray Morning Prayer on the Divine Office app. Read the Mass reading of the day and a very brief devotion on Blessed is She. There are many, many aids out there to help you settle into the habit of listening to God before anything else. Those five minutes will fuel your day. Those five minutes will bring about the change you so desperately want.

The second resolution requires a bit more planning and perhaps more courage. Go to confession once a week. Frequent confession helps us to identify those sins we commit over and over again. Beyond identifying them, confession helps us to see the patterns which nurture the sins. For instance, I go to confession and I confess (again) that I am irritable and short-tempered and fearful. In the course of conversation in the confessional, the priest recognizes that for me, sleep deprivation is the near occasion of sin. If I don’t want this year to be the same as last year, I’m going to have to sleep more and sleep better. Further, I am going to have to exercise and to eat right because those two things affect my sleep and my mood and so they affect how I live in the world.

The third resolution is more difficult. It’s the Year of Mercy. Our first instinct is to ask how to bring mercy to others. May I suggest that the best way is to extend mercy to yourself first? Loving Jesus and loving others as Jesus loved us begins with accepting ourselves. My struggle this year has been with disappointment, and that disappointment has been a fire fueled by judging too harshly.

We cannot fully love others unconditionally until we love ourselves unconditionally. We cannot love ourselves until we extend to ourselves genuine mercy. If inside our heads, we have a running critical dialogue with ourselves, chances are we are going to judge others just as harshly. We find ourselves lacking, we see our faults, and then we look around and we begin to identify the faults of others in order to make ourselves feel better. That paradigm keeps us stuck in last year’s muck. When we accept ourselves and when we resist the urge to try to be superior to our neighbor and instead extend grace and mercy, we are open and receptive to Him. At last, we will have the strength and grace we need to effect real change in the new year.