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.

 

A Sunday poem

A lovely little poem by Anne Porter.

A Short Prayer

Mary, in you
We see the flowering
Of our human beauty
And  hear
The songs of God.

And in your heart the lost
Rejected and abandoned ones
Are held in honor

Stay with us now
And always.

God loves to light little lights

Last night we lit the last of the Twelve Days candles.  Most folks I know are done with Christmas, but not in our house.  We will soon take down most of the decorations, but we leave our lights up until February 2–40 days after Christmas.  Every year I reblog the post below to remind you why I think it’s such a good idea.  Join us!

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When I found out that St. Peter’s keeps their Christmas tree and crèche up in the square until February 2, I decided we would keep our crèche in the chapel and all our Christmas lights up until then as well.   I always felt gypped that there were not 40 days to celebrate after Christmas as there are after Easter.  Then I discovered that February 2, the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas), is indeed 40 days after Christmas.  So, to me, it makes total sense to keep those Christmas lights lit.  If you drive past our house right now, you will still see our candle lights in the windows. I personally love clusters of little white lights. When we begin the Salve Regina at the end of night prayer, the guitarist dims all the lights in our chapel.  During this season, that leaves only the Christmas lights and the sole candle lit before the icon of the Mother of God. Yet the chapel still seems bright.

In the beginning of his Christmas message, Pope Benedict spoke of how God “loves to light little lights.”  I found that particularly encouraging as I thought of all of us who are desiring to be God’s witnesses to hope.  May it encourage you as well, and may you call it to mind whenever you see Christmas lights and candles:


THE LITURGY OF THE MASS AT DAWN REMINDED US THAT THE NIGHT IS NOW PAST, THE DAY HAS BEGUN; THE LIGHT RADIATING FROM THE CAVE OF BETHLEHEM SHINES UPON US. . . .
AT FIRST, BESIDE THE MANGER IN BETHLEHEM, THAT “US” WAS ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE TO HUMAN EYES.  AS THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE RECOUNTS, IT INCLUDED, IN ADDITION TO MARY AND JOSEPH, A FEW LOWLY SHEPHERDS WHO CAME TO THE CAVE AFTER HEARING THE MESSAGE OF THE ANGELS. THE LIGHT OF THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS WAS LIKE A FIRE KINDLED IN THE NIGHT.  ALL ABOUT THERE WAS DARKNESS, WHILE IN THE CAVE THERE SHONE THE TRUE LIGHT “THAT ENLIGHTENS EVERY MAN” (JN 1.9).  AND YET ALL THIS TOOK PLACE IN SIMPLICITY AND HIDDENNESS, IN THE WAY THAT GOD WORKS IN ALL OF SALVATION HISTORY.  GOD LOVES TO LIGHT LITTLE LIGHTS, SO AS THEN TO ILLUMINATE VAST SPACES.

May we allow God to light each of us,

Straining for the Light

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For a long time the threat of a new year brought with it an onslaught of more darkness, more enervating melancholy, more long, gray days ahead to suffer through. It was nothing to celebrate.

At the end of one of those especially difficult years I met Alece Ronzino online. She too had experienced a year (or more!) like that, punctuated by loss and betrayal and hopelessness. In 2009 she decided to find one word to focus on in the new year, instead of a list of resolutions that were quickly and quietly abandoned. One Word 365was born.

One word can change everything. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap the long list of goals that you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2016. One word. 365 days. A changed life. ~Alece Ronzino

The last four years I’ve participated brought some incredible changes to my life. I became more focused, more hopeful, more inspired to hold fast, keep going, and expect good things. I’ve been challenged to be fearless. I have committed to believing. I have thrown myself into creativity. Most recently, I have spent a year contemplating possibility and what that looks like fleshed out in real life, and right now it looks like The Mudroom. I doubted it was possible a year ago, yet giving space for possibility to bloom made it a reality.

I’ve been brought low and robbed of energy by chronic pain. I’ve spiraled into dark depression. Anxiety has left me dizzy and breathless. I’ve been facing childhood sexual abuse head on and I have the bruises and scars to show for it. I’ve been humbled by my own darkness, my secret sins that cast a shadow over my heart and steal the light from my eyes. I’ve staggered under the weight of loneliness and grief and fear and despaired of ever feeling strong again.

My One Word for 2016 is restore.

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The locusts have ravaged me, leaving me bereft. I hardly know what plenty, abundance, fullness feels like. I find myself returning to that field of devastation, the locusts leaving nothing of worth behind. But there is a promise and I am claiming it.

Joel 2:25-32 (ESV)
25 I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.

In these verses God is not telling his people to buck up, man up, cowgirl up, grow up, deal with it, get over it, or pull yourself together. He is acknowledging that this is a straight-up disaster, a full-on calamity. He sees and validates the wreckage and the ruin that has devastated his people, who have been left desolate. He tells them that it was his great army, obeying his command, meting out justice, which caused this cataclysm.

But God.

God is a God of restoration, redemption, healing, and deliverance. He is a God of double portions and spacious places. He removes shame and exchanges it for radiance.

Jeremiah 30:17
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord
Isaiah 61:7
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion
Hosea 6:1
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”

He will not leave us as orphans. He will not treat us as our sins deserve. He will not ignore our cries for mercy. There is no shadow of turning in him.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bohoeffer penned a paragraph that all of us should write on our mirrors. He was referring to the morning, but I have replaced day with year.

For Christians the beginning of the [year] should not be burdened and oppressed by besetting concerns for the [year’s] work. At the threshold of the new [year] stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the [year] let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him whom our whole life belongs.

My proclamation for 2016 is to not be oppressed by the besetting concerns for this year’s work, but to face it with excitement and expectation. I will remember that God stands at the threshold of this year, like a sentry, offering protection but also reminding me that every day is a battle, but one I don’t fight in vain or alone. Darkness and distraction are no match for the light of Jesus and his wakening Word. Restlessness, impurity, worry, and fear have no place in this year. My first thought and first word of this year, and every morning in it, belong to God who has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

The onset of a new year isn’t a threat to me anymore. It doesn’t hold the same bleakness and grim prospects as it did previously. I’m determined to wrestle until I’m limping. I’m done with ashes and mourning and shadows and death. I’ve had enough of despondency and gloom. I’m aching for the light.

Who’s aching with me?

Tammy Perlmutter

Writer at Raggle-Taggle
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess at her blogRaggle-Taggle. She founded The Mudroom to make room in the mess and create a space for people to beheard. Tammy guest posts a bit, writes flash memoir, personal essay, and poetry, leads writing groups, and preaches on occasion. She is also an advocate for women and mental health, an alum of the Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop, The Stories We Tell, for survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and trafficking, as well as the Social Media Director for Threads of Compassion, an organization offering comfort to recent victims of sexual trauma. She will have an essay included in the book Soul Bare: Raw Reflections on Human Redemption, being published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.
 . . . reblogged from Mudroom

Hope Increased

Barnstorming

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Van Gogh's Irises Van Gogh’s Irises

I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace.
~Denise Levertov “For the New Year, 1981”

Years ago,  my newly widowed sister-in-law was trying to bring order to her late husband’s large yard and flower garden which had become overgrown following his sudden cardiac death in his mid-fifties.  In her ongoing ebb and flow with her grief, she brought to us several paper bags full of iris roots resting solemnly in clumps of dirt–dry misshapened…

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“When we give each other our Christmas presents”

A blessed Christmas to you all . . .

Witnesses to Hope

“When we give each other our Christmas presents in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them.  He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we have misused–and to save us from our own foolishness and from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave us Himself.  Venite adoremus Dominum.”  (Sigrid Undset)

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A hidden life

” . . . that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

~George Eliot, Middlemarch

A Christmas Card

Friday: from the archives

Witnesses to Hope

I don’t usually post Christmas music videos before Christmas.  (Trying to keep Advent Advent.)  But this one is special.  And it’s for all of you who are having a hard time during this Advent season, finding it hard to be joyful like all of those around you.  This one’s for you (from Steven Curtis Chapman).

And here’s his story behind the song.

Now, go back and listen to the song again, written just for you.

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A real super hero

A sister of one of our Sisters recently broke her leg severely and is basically off her feet for months.  I thought I would share one of her posts.  I’m sure you will be as inspired as I have been by God’s care for her.

I find myself mentally setting up my week with the goal of coping till the weekend when my family is all around me, to help, love and support me.

Week day mornings are a rush to get all my “assisted” tasks done before my children catch the bus for school…they closely follow a list to ensure I have everything within an arm’s reach so I can manage my world from the mossy green motorized lift chair.

Most mornings prior to my accident I would leisurely walk out to my kitchen and prepare coffee while marveling at the birds gathered around the feeder outside my window.  The familiar sound of my favourite couple, The Cardinals, calling back and forth, one protectively watching the surroundings as the other fed taking turns to spell each other off. God’s morning gift of greeting me through nature, as I poured the rich aromatic dark roast coffee from the bodum to my mystic monk pottery mug, never ceased to bring a grand smile of thanksgiving to my face.

I am a creature of habit, with little rewards built into my everyday routine…a decadent coffee here, pastry there, thick fluffy towels and luxurious lotion after a shower…by no means do I possess wealth, but reflecting now, I managed to physically reward myself after every spiritual exercise of obedience. Oh boy did I have things backwards.

Friday I felt stuck… dark… alone… all of the creature comforts I used to cling to have vanished, I need aid to do them all and guilt prohibits me from asking a personal support worker to grind beans for a gourmet coffee – it’s so minuscule in the grand scheme of what they do. The walls feel like they are closing in and perseverance just out of reach. Reflection on the week brings me back to our study of the sacraments, the outward sign containing God’s grace… God’s grace… I feel empty. Last week Fr. Brian didn’t come by for my weekly confession and with many funerals this week in addition to his weekly masses I hesitated to bother him for a home-visit for reconciliation. My sister reminded me that Fr. Mooney, a retired priest that lives in a nursing home a few miles west of our home had his number in the bulletin for emergencies. Is this an emergency? I just knew that my heart was in its darkest place since my accident.

Nervously I picked up the phone, I prayed ahead that God would prepare Father’s heart for my call and I wouldn’t be disturbing him. Father picked up on the 3rd ring, his soft frail “hello?” producing a lump in my throat, as if I had connected somehow with much needed light in my darkness. “Father Mooney?” I choked through tears… and explained my circumstance. “Well… let me check my book” with a few words he ripped open a spiritual oppression that had been hanging over me for days “tomorrow afternoon I will visit and hear your confession” in a whisper it was gone – the walls, the shadows, the monotony of my days – uncertainty uprooted and HOPE was firmly planted.

When I got off the phone the dam holding all of my anxiety washed away and I wept in gratitude for Fr. Mooney. I emptied my heart and lifted it to God, thanking Him for sending me a super hero – literally, a super hero… because there is NO earthly person, except a priest, who can administer reconciliation. Father Mooney, in his sunset years of mid-eighties, will pull a chair up to mine… he will garb himself in the priestly purple stole symbolizing penance and a portal will open… between time and a place outside of time. I will be joined, through Father as the veil, with my Saviour and healing will happen…the broken made whole… my GPS set straight… the gifts of The Holy Spirit watered and nurtured.

Of all the people in the world, pro-athletes, music giants, movie stars, motivational speakers, fashion designers, models and a plethora of other multi-millionaires who claim to have the answers to joy, love and success…there is a tiny white haired man whose humble life belongings line the dressers and walls in one room of a nursing home. This afternoon he will pull a worn camel coloured cardigan over his black dress shirt and white collar. He will shoulder an overcoat past the aches and pains of his eighty year old body and cover his head with an ancient fedora to keep today’s misty rain out of his downy locks. Gazing at the back of an envelope where he scribbled my address in pencil, he will find my home… and walk in the front door – his spiritual cape invisible to everyone but me.