“He looks at you with so much love”

“Live in peace and joy, my dear daughter.  Our Lord looks at you and he looks at you with so much love and compassion; and the weaker you are, the more his love for you grows warm and tender.  Never harbor thoughts which would go in reverse direction.  If these thought come and pester you, pay no heed to them; turn your mind away from them and cling to God with a humility that is bold and courageous.  Speak to him about his sacred and indescribable goodness which pours itself out on us, loving our small and week, poor and abject nature, despite all its infirmities.” (St. Francis de Sales)

“Blessing the darkness”?

We’re always questioning the darkness in our lives.  What good is it?  Why does God allow it?  Here are Ann Spangler’s thoughts:

Larry Crabb says that we find God only when we need him. Simple words, but true. It’s like looking for the light switch in a dark room. No one goes searching for it until the sunlight has gone. Similarly, darkness can impel our search for God.

Several years ago I met the last survivor pulled from the wreckage after the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. During our time together, Genelle Guzman-McMillan told me a story about flirting with faith but choosing to live without it. Then, on September 11, her world fell apart and she found herself in complete darkness, buried alive under a mountain of rubble

You can read the rest here.

He gave me a cowboy

A guest post today: (“You need some smile today.”)

It can happen so fast, the forgetting. I forget how to laugh, how to play. I forget who I truly am. I wake up not even needing the to do list I left on the counter the night before. It is etched in my mind and weighs on me like a mountain. There is so much that needs to be done. I simply cannot remember what is important anymore. The urgent has taken over the important. I blurt out questions to my husband as fast as they come into my mind. I begin to cry. I need help with this business thing I am trying to do.

Trying. To. Do.

I put in a load of laundry, make a few phone calls, and end up back in the kitchen thinking about that endless list when my phone chirps from my back pocket. It is a text from my husband. “You need some smile today. I’m going to saddle up Sam for you.” I didn’t even hear him leave the house. Glancing out the window, I can see him down at the barn tightening the girth around Sam’s fuzzy middle. A smile edges in slightly around my worried mouth. I exhale that breath I have been holding in all day.

Read the rest here.

The temptation of temptations

“So go forth very bravely with perfect trust in the goodness of him who calls you to this holy task.  When has anyone ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?  Mistrust of your own powers is good as long as it is the groundwork of confidence in God’s power; but if you are ever in any way discouraged, anxious, sad, or melancholy I entreat you to cast this away as the temptation of temptations; and never allow your spirit to argue or reply in any way to any anxiety or downheartedness to which you may feel inclined.  Remember this simple truth which is beyond all doubt: God allows many difficulties to beset those who want to serve him but he never lets them sink beneath the burden as long as they trust in him.  This, in a few words, is a complete summary of what you most need: never under any pretext whatsoever to yield to the temptation of discouragement, not even on the plausible pretext of humility.”  (St. Francis de Sales)

Stories

I have been invited this morning to give a meditation to a group of teachers who are having an in-service on MLK Jr. Day.  I used to teach at this school, and the last thing I would want on the morning of a holiday is to hear a meditation.  So, what I’m going to do instead is read them some of my favorite inspirations stories.  (Everyone loves to be read to. . . )  I’m going to share with them, among others, a few stories from Christopher de Vinck, one of the best story tellers I know (and an excellent poet).  I posted this one four years ago, but it’s worth reading again.  It’s from his book, Finding Heaven, Stories of Going Home.

A Prediction to Believe In

We are inundated with predictions these days.  Political commentators predict the outcomes of elections before the final votes are tallied.  Meteorologists predict snowstorms before even a single flake floats down from the mercurial sky.  We rely on soothsayers and statisticians to determine the outcome of a football game and the behavior of the stock market.  Some people in Japan claim that they can detect an illness before it strikes by scrutinizing the soles of people’s feet.  There are those who fear that the world will end in 2012, because that’s when the Maya calendar runs out.  People in India visit the town of Kanchipuram and pay to have their lives predicted by people who read palm leaves.

Sometimes it’s entertaining to see whether or not predictions come true.  When I was fifteen years old, our black cat, Moses, deposited a wiggling, pink, four-legged newborn creature on the back porch.  No one knew what type of animal it was, but everyone had an idea.  My brother said it was a kitten.  My sister said it would grow up to be a pig.  “It’s a rat,” I announced with confidence.  My mother looked down with concern.  “Well, whatever it is,” she said, “it’s hungry.”

I quickly found a new eyedropper in the medicine cabinet, heated some milk on the stove, and tried feeding the mysterious animal.  “Whatever it is,” I said, “it sure can drink.”  We fed it day after day until, slowly, the hairless animal developed fur, wide eyes, and a long, full tail.  A squirrel.  Everyone’s guess was wrong.

Many predictions about the future are based on similar guesswork.  We look at something, see some future shape in our imaginations, and confidently make a prediction.  Often this imagined future is simply an extension of the past.  The stock market will go up next month because it’s gone up for the last three.  The Yankees will win the American League pennant because they’ve done so for th past three years.  Our news agencies try to report stories before they happen.

It can be great fun when predictions fail. Schools in New Jersey were closed one recent winter day because meteorologists on television and on the radio predicted that we would experience one of the worst snowstorms in fifty years.  They were wrong.  Several inches of snow fell.  I looked at my fifteen-year-old son as he entered the kitchen after sleeping until 8:30.  “Why don’t you call some of your friends and go sledding?  At least there is enough snow for that.”

Michael looked at me and said, “Hey, that’s a good idea.”

“I’ll pick everybody up,” I suggested, “and they can come back later for hot chocolate, and I’ll treat everyone to pizza.”

Michael logged on to AOL Instant Messenger and called friends on the phone at the same time.  Within ten minutes, seven high school sophomores were all set to be picked up at 12:30.  I predicted that they would have a great time.  The prediction was correct.

The prediction of a catastrophic blizzard followed the pattern of many common prognostications.  Something terrible is going to happen; evil will triumph as misfortune overtakes us.  I think there’s a difference between predictions based on what has happened in the past or on pessimistic outlooks and predictions based on faith, hope, and goodness.  I think predictions of evil are often wrong.  Surely they are wrong in an ultimate sense.

I am a person of faith.  My mother predicted that my brother Oliver would be the first person to greet me in heaven, and I can hold on to that prediction and believe in it because I have faith.

I say, listen carefully–and skeptically–to what the news organizations are telling you.  Listen to CNN, and then look at your children being good.  Read Newsweek, and then watch your loved ones live each day with stamina and courage.  Don’t believe that news programs and newspapers always project what is really happening in the world, or what might happen.  Do not be misled by their dire predictions.  Understand that the media experts are trying to grab our attention.  A fifteen year old who shoots thirteen people in a high school is terrible news.  Goodness, like a rich autumn crop, is not news at all.

I liked watching that hairless animal develop into a fat, gray squirrel.  I liked listening to my son’s teenage friends singing together over pizza and soda.  I like thinking about dancing with my brother in heaven.

Should I listen to Dan Rather’s view of the world or my mother’s?  That’s an easy choice.