The still small voice

Some of you may remember Colleen’s post a couple months ago.  She’s the sister of one of our Sisters who broke her leg severely.  She is now on the mend and can walk with a walker.  Here she shares the tough time she went through after Christmas and the beautiful work God is doing in her life:

Along with my outward healing the real renovation is happening on the inside. A peace has come over me that has never resided in me before… it is profoundly stripping away the exterior noise. When I gave my life to the Lord in a new way 3 years ago I jumped into everything I could to “soak up” the Lord – I sought Him in programs, retreats, charismatic renewal events, the crazier the better – and all of those things were good, I think they served a very necessary purpose at the time… I was leaving an entertainment rich lifestyle but entering into something rich and busy and the transformation wasn’t horrible – it was livable – God filled the gap of missing friendships with new friendships in Christ, our social calendar was just as packed and God was always a topic at social gatherings. I thought “this is it Lord, this is what conversion is all about! it isn’t so bad, you have filled my plate – and it is good.”

I began going to daily Mass, weekly confession and thought “oh, oh, okay God, THIS is what you meant by conversion, the crowds are smaller a lot older more quieter… but this is what you are putting on my plate – and it is good”.

When my fall first happened I was filled with God’s grace, seeing a blessing in every day. I knew that people’s prayers were sustaining me, I felt full of hope, I had many visitors, things were a bit quieter than daily Mass as I relied on others to drop by – but God often brought people at my doorstep and my days were filled with lovely visits and tea and prayer. I had finished my first course at Sacred Heart Seminary, I felt like “wow this isn’t so bad – even in physical difficulty God filled my plate – and it is good”

After Christmas the change was different, I had to go out of the house for doctors appointments and weekly Mass bringing a fear that wasn’t there before. Day’s were much lonelier as life resumed, kids went back to school and less apt to help with my day to day needs, I no longer had personal support workers in,  My husband was taken away for several days at a time with work presenting new challenges and fears about being alone, I began a new course in Sacred Scripture – which was totally of God, but much more challenging and I didn’t see His reasoning in that right away… my plate felt empty, abandon. Weekly confession (in my home, Father would drop by) wasn’t possible anymore as Father’s schedule had changed, the people who were bringing me communion during the week stopped for valid reasons too. I was confused, I thought “Lord you know I need to receive you in the Sacraments, why are you not providing this for me?” I felt like the Lord had somehow dropped the ball, did He not see that I needed Him more than ever??? For weeks I was agitated and I couldn’t focus on prayer or school or anything. Many church related social things were happening and I thought “Lord I am supposed to be doing all these things, learning about You, growing in faith – why am I shut in? why am I being removed from all of these GOOD things??” No answer. No answer. No answer.

I was looking for the fire and the earthquake, the action so to speak. Feeling empty and useless, I picked up scripture… and I heard a small voice. The next day I picked up scripture, and I felt the Lord speaking to me. I had read scripture and certainly felt the Lord before – but this was different – this was very very different. Each day I poured over scripture and something inside of me changed. I would go to mass on Sunday and cry through the readings and then the liturgy of the Eucharist came alive like it never had before.

The other day a friend came to visit and confided in me about things that were happening on a social level, which I would normally jump into and try to problem solve and I felt the Lord tell me it was no longer my place – the Lord was clear, I clearly heard His voice and I knew my life as I had known it would be changed again. Who I thought I was, was fading away… my old habits, even one’s I thought were good – were not inline with what God’s plan for me is. I have no idea what His plan is, yet I am being told clearly to abandon the ideas I had for my life. Open you schedule, clear your calendar, listen to My voice. I remember my mum emptying her purse twice a year, and then transfer everything from her “winter purse” to her “summer purse”…. the Lord is telling me to empty my purse and there is no indication of picking up anything from the old and putting it in the new – like scripture talks about the wine skin…

At the beginning of lent I received a scripture that I know is God’s living word for me right now ““Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14 And God is, and in this the pace for my life has changed. Whatever happens around me, is going to happen around me, but God is fastening me to His Word – He is setting up an eternal desert for me to return to – not a desert of tumble weeds and desolation – this desert is a quiet place to hear His voice, where an oasis of living water stands and when the world claims to have the answers, or life is difficult on the outside, or busy in a good way with the Lords’s work….I will be drawn back. It is our place, where He allures me and speaks to my heart.

Armando

This is a story of hope for each one of us.

Armando is an amazing eight-year-old boy . . . .

Armando cannot walk or talk and is very small for his age.  He came to us from an orphanage where he had been abandoned.  He no longer wanted to eat because he no longer wanted to live cast off from his mother.  He was desperately thin and was dying of lack of food.  After a while in our community where he found people who held him, loved him, and wanted him to live, he gradually began to eat again and to develop in a remarkable way.  He still cannot walk or talk or eat by himself, his body is twisted and broken, and he has a severe mental disability, but when you pick him up, his eyes and his whole body quiver with joy and excitement and say: “I love you.”  He has a deep therapeutic influence on people. . . .

What [many people] do not always know is that they have a well deep inside of them.  If that well is tapped, springs of life and of tenderness flow forth.  It has to be revealed to each person that these waters are there and that they can rise up from each one of us and flow over people, giving them life and a new hope.

That is the power of Armando.  In some mysterious way, in all his brokenness, he reveals to us our own brokenness, our difficulties in loving, our barriers and hardness of heart.  If he is so broken and so hurt and yet is still such a source of life, then I too am allowed to look at my own brokenness, and to trust that I too can give life to others.  I do not have to pretend that I am better than others and that I have to win in all the competitions.  It’s O.K. to be myself, just as I am, in my uniqueness.  That, of course, is a very healing and liberating experience.  I am allowed to be myself, with all my psychological and physical wounds, with all my limitations but with all my gifts too.  And I can trust that I am loved just as I am, and that I too can love and grow.

(Jean Vanier)

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.

Repost: Who was transfigured?

When one thinks of the Transfiguration one usually thinks of Christ being transfigured–almost like Christ turning on a light bulb.  But there is a valid line of thinking in the Eastern Church that goes like this: “In a certain way it was really the apostles who were transfigured; it was they who became able to see.”  It wasn’t so much Christ whose glory changed; the apostles were just allowed to see Him as He truly is.  Christ opened their eyes so that they could see Him in all His glory.

And that’s the point of the Christian life, to have our eyes opened to the Mystery of God.  To constantly surrender ourselves to His grace, that the eyes of our hearts may be transfigured and more and more able to perceive the beauty and glory of our God.