Saturday, March 27, 2010

misshapen cup

Sometimes God grants me extraordinary graces. Well maybe He does it all the time and I just miss them. Today I noticed.

I am home alone today—a rare event for me these days—and I was listening to Brother Andre’s series on Mental Prayer. In it he was reading from Dom Eugene Boylan’s Difficulties in Mental Prayer which got me thinking deeply about my utter dependence on God, even for my own ability to pray to Him. What? I can’t even worship Him, love Him, tell Him I love Him without His help? No, no and no. I do know this. On a certain level, but in another way, how often do I really let that thought settle in, take hold of me and permeate everything I do, think and feel?

I saw myself—maybe for the first time, certainly for the first time in a long time—for what I am, a piece of clay, a lump of mud, a pile of dust. And yet God loves me?

The clay analogy made me think of my daughter who is taking a clay art class this semester in school. She recently gave me one of her rejected items, a cup. She was going to throw it away. She gives her nice pieces as gifts or keeps them herself, but this poor, misshapen cup she was going to toss. I rescued it from oblivion. After all, she made it. Its value lay in its creator, not in the creation itself—which brings me full circle back to my own soul.

My value lies not in the odd look my soul manifests due my own sinful nature, but in the fact that my Creator made me and KEPT ME! He didn’t choose to throw me away, though He certainly could have and based on the mess I’ve made of my cup (at times) He probably should have!

Instead, He keeps me and keeps on investing graces in me, whenever I ask ... and many times even when I forget to ask.

Today Lord, if possible, rewet and rework the original clay into something better. And yet, if it is for Your Greater Glory that I continue to be a misshapen cup, let me serve you as I am.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

forgetting what lies behind

Have you ever had a conversation with someone which was so good you were torn between hanging on every word and wanting to grab a pen or a tape recorder so that you could capture every word?

I just had such a conversation. I don’t want to forget it, but already so much of it is slipping away from memory. It was more than the meeting of minds or hearts—although it certainly was that—it was the communion of two souls. After Mass today I very much wanted to tell a lady from our parish who I know and like, but don’t know as well as I’d like to know, that I really appreciated her rendering of the Second Reading from Philippians. It’s a difficult selection and she is a superb lector, but today I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking through St. Paul’s words and her voice. It was a God moment.

Before I had a chance to tell her what I thought about her lectoring, we started talking about women, our need to give, the importance and gift of being able to receive, and special women we both know. Then in a very natural way, the conversation turned to the loss of her husband four years ago and her subsequent walk with grief.

This was not one of those conversations with a woman looking for sympathy. Rather it was the shared insight from a truly Wise Woman.

The husband she described sounded very much like my own husband—a wonderful man, loving, considerate, generous, hard-working, always thinking of others before himself. He used to take care of everything around the house, from doing the grocery shopping to scrubbing the bathroom floors. After he died, she would find herself on her knees scrubbing the floors crying ... thinking ... remembering. There are some things in the past which shouldn’t be forgotten.

But when he died she found her real spiritual work began. She needed to learn to develop in areas which she didn’t even know existed, where he’d been strong for her. It was this inner strength, this holy wisdom, this deep spirituality which I heard when she lectored. I drank it in.

I thought too about my own dear husband and felt a moment of panic, sheer terror actually, as I thought of my own potentially impending future, a time to come without him. What would I do? How could I go on?

She spoke of kind people—dear friends—wanting so desperately to help her in her bereavement and how she helped them in allowing them to help her. We both had tears in our eyes and few spilled over as well. She apologized to me! I felt privileged and honored that she would share her story with me.

We talked about judgments and she said how we are all taught to judge everything, from the weather, to people, to situations. But what a different perspective if instead of judging we choose to look at everything as an opportunity from God to grow. “What do you want me to gain from this O LORD?” And she said oh so much more…

Finally I did get to tell her how much I enjoyed and benefited from hearing her lector today, but by the time I did, I had already gained so much more, well … anyway, it made her happy. And for that LORD, I am truly grateful!

‘Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!’

Monday, March 1, 2010

Constant Contact

Remember what it was like to wait for something? Or someone? To savor the anticipation of seeing that special person? Talking to him? Hearing from her? Receiving a letter from them? Ah yes, those long ago days when we actually used to write each other letters, real letters. Remember?

Do you remember what it was like to wait and want very much to hear from someone? It could be a family member serving in the military overseas, or friends who’d move away, or that special someone you’d met and thought you couldn’t live without ... but found you could. Still the letters you wrote helped you feel connected despite the distance.

And then the day was here—that long-cherished missive from your special person arrived! You pulled it from the mailbox and looked at the return address, at your own name as the addressee, or the family name perhaps, written in long-hand on the envelope. Did you bring the paper near your nose and breathe in the scent of faraway places? Or perhaps touch it briefly to your lips? The touch and smell of someone dear sending shivers of joy and sadness through you, your eyes warm and full of moisture, close to tears...

You felt the thickness of the packet trying to judge the worthiness of the writings; the heavier it was the better. A fat letter meant many pages and more words to feast on. Maybe you wondered what he was doing now? Or if she was eagerly awaiting a reply. Now the question became, where to read the cherished epistle? In a private room? Around the kitchen table with the family? Under or up in a tree? Or for the very impatient among us, before we even got back in the house!

But what am I writing about? Does anyone even know? For more than three fourths of the population in America today, what I’m describing probably sounds like an ancient Japanese tea ceremony or a medieval courting ritual, if young people even know what those things are.

No one today knows how to wait for anything. We expect—we demand—instant communication, constant contact. Everywhere you go, everyone is on his or her cell phone, as the saying goes, 24/7. Wait to hear from someone?! Send a “letter”?! What’s a letter”? My daughters had to teach their boyfriends—and most of their friends for that matter—how to even address an envelope.

My response to all this: I refuse. I answer my phone when I feel like it. When I don’t, I don’t. When I’m with someone, I turn off my cell phone. I don't consider this anymore than common courtesy. If my husband was dying of cancer or my mother was having heart surgery that morning, I would make an exception. Otherwise, I think it’s rude to keep interrupting a lunch you’re having with someone to answer your phone. There aren’t as many emergencies as we like to think there are.

The people who love and truly need me know where I am and how to find me within a fairly short period of time. But truthfully we don’t need to talk to each other all the time. As for the rest, they don’t matter. If I could, I’d get rid of my cell phone altogether, but I can’t ... yet. I'm still working on it...

However, if I don’t blog as much as I used to ... you know why. Constant contact isn’t necessary, nor is it even enjoyable.

Savor the spaces and the opportunities to be quiet. Life is the real luxury. Letters and taking things more slowly are among the best ways to cherish it.