90 Seconds

How do you live one moment at a time? You cannot. This concept is wholly secular. Moments are increments of time that pass in movement from once frame to the next. They are snippets. They are still frames that can only be entered once the “moment” has passed. And, we move on to the next moment…

There is a lot of pressure to live “in” the moment. But moments are passing shadows. The movement of a shadow on a sundial covered 40 moments in a solar hour. On average, a moment corresponds to 90 seconds. And moments, (for all that they are not these days), were marked by a call to prayer at various intervals throughout the day. They were not a random “creation” of moments, they were an intentional calling on God, a movement towards Him. Even the earliest reference to the moment was defined by a Saint (St. Bede the Venerable).

When taken out of context, the moment becomes distorted, like other concepts extracted from out of their holy boxes. The world takes them and twists them to fit their own relativism, where one is in control of who and what they are. The God-man is lost in self-help books and do-it-yourselfers. And the moment? The moment fades away (how very cliche).

But if we return to mark our own moments, good and bad, can God change them? Can He use them? Or does the passage of 90 seconds define our whole lives? Each bead of the rosary marks a moment that I can change, a prayer, defining me. The now is the now I ask for Mary to pray for me, in this very moment, fifty times.

So the decades of the rosary are made up of moments, are marked by intentional prayer, are graces I give away after consecrating myself to our Holy Mother. And in those moments that have passed me without prayer, can I strive to make them holy by praying over them, especially the ones that stop me from enjoying life, the ones that rob me of my joy?

I say, contradict the world.

LET THE MOMENT PASS. DON’T HOLD ONTO IT. Jesus said as much to Mary Magdalene…

 

Enough

I’m saying sorry over and over again- but it is not good enough for you. Man made perfect, you are perfect. I am apologizing for things that I did’t even do.

I hate you in my mind for making me feel this way. That I’ll never be good enough, brave enough, I’ll never be anything enough for you. Because that goal of what is enough is impossible to attain. You yourself are not even aware of it. What is your enough?

The words you say are spears and they’ve made a thousand and one cuts in the core of my heart. They are deep enough to penetrate flesh, they are deep enough to wound. The heart rests on the inside of the body and wounds deep are not visible- on the outside.

If you are not the God-man how can you say that you do not forgive me, even for a thing that I did not do? Because the gift of forgiveness is transcendent, the radiant face of Jesus, the blood of the cross and the Eucharist on my tongue, and you are not sitting next to me… in the pew.

Can it ever be enough, when will I ever be enough? My Heavenly Father seems to think I am enough…already. I am enough, even through all my faults, and spills and messes. Jesus is on the floor with me holding the rag, cleaning up the blood that I did not spill.

And though my heart is broken, His is too- for me and for you. That I am enough for Him and not for you. That my humanness is limiting. That my good is not good enough, for you. That to Him, I am walking towards transfiguration, making change, wanting Holiness, but to you I am defined by the sin that plagues   you..

Love is a choice. You can choose to love me, despite all of my flaws, and faults and irregularities. You can love me when I apologize to you for what you did, when I cover up for you and you blame me, when you tell me I am responsible for your sin and those of your father. And your father’s father.

This is Lent. A working out of my salvation. The voices in my head telling me not to forgive. The pain and the beauty. The little Easters. The desperately seeking Jesus. The seven times seventy-seven times forgiveness- without condition. The transformation inside me. The molding and the aching. The paying for the sins of another. The ugliness of your father’s father. This is the movement towards the cross. This is the cross. These are the rules of engagement.

Forgive, Forgive, Forgive

 

 

Submit to the Plan of God

Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good, Romans 12:21

Solitude, silence, scripture– this is how God speaks to us… how we fight against the devil. And while nobody likes talking about the devil, it must be done. Because evil cannot be combated by pretending it doesn’t exist. Evil, as the scripture, says can only be combated with good.

But what and who is good? Well, there is only one who is good. But it is often hard to imitate our good Jesus, our suffering Jesus as we wade our way across the scorching earth. As I picked up my crucifix today and held it tight while praying my rosary, I saw it for what it was- I saw Jesus resting His tired head on me. And my breath withdrew from inside of me.

It was a tender moment that I thought nobody else would ever see. But sometimes those moments are the very ones that you have to share with others. Because letting people into those holy moments is precisely what God wants, as He experiences intimacy with us.

And I thought, what if I gave away all my prayers to God? All my intentions? Prayed only as He instructs me to pray? This is a movement of soul towards Him with a rush of great joy!

I yield my soul to you Lord!

And the rosary became a ladder towards God, let it all happen organically; let it come in, put in what God asks. Every bead closer to God, to sacred ground, to the freedom of my soul.

Jesus did not fight back. The forward movement He attained was walked through good and bad, accepting everything as from the Father. These are invitations from heaven, this is surrender.

Without Jesus the world is dark. He rests His head in my hand because He wants me to know that He is suffering for the world, He wants me to take notice, He wants me to know that I have been created for a higher purpose, that I am not just taking up space…

And as I got down on my knees in thanksgiving and adoration, I noticed the Alpha and God’s words to me, This is just the beginning. 

Better is one day in His house than a thousand elsewhere

Time does not exist for the King of glory…

The Eucharist is the whole picture, most of which we cannot see. But even in seeing a small slice, I am humbled to my knees. For all the life I’ve lived and bad I’ve done is all the more God loves me and chooses me for things greater than myself.

The deep ridges of my hands were all imprinted by the Master, and He drew every one into the cells of my skin.

He has not forgotten you either…

See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you… (Isaiah 49:16)

 

 

 

 

The Time that I can’t change

I am feeling overwhelmed by the time that I can’t change. As the clocks move forward, I struggle to catch up. The hours and minutes and seconds are in a sprint before me, and I am breathless and desperately chasing… time. In a haze of exhaustion and sorrow, the words in my bible seem to run off the page. Esther’s desperate plea for protection against her enemy, the psalmist’s cry for help. Sometimes I feel as if the words are there but I just can’t seem to catch up… in the same way time is escaping the grasp of my hands. God am I enough?

It is very obviously winter in my soul. Lent does that to me. When I have strained and poured myself into the divine colander, making the Master  tear apart my imperfections, and there are many. God is not cruel, but the truth sometimes is. And I wonder how I ever thought these words in my head, Am I my own Master?

The hiddenness of God is the beauty of God. As I travel, grope ground and dirt along my way, I am drowning. This is the part where I start to get hungry. This is eight days in the desert with no food from the world. It is just me and God.

And the more I sink, I fail, I get dirt on my face is the more I want Him; the more I realize that there is nothing good in this world. And the more the world reaches out to me with all its false temptations, sorrow and madness is the deeper I run into the Lenten desert he has created for me. It is not a retreat or defeat, it is a crown of thorns. It is not fighting back. It is a wanting for holiness. The world has nothing to offer me.

The Kingdom of God will grow upon earth, will be brought to fulfillment, in the same way it was established; by the daily and seemingly hidden lives of those who do always the will of the Father.

Servant of God Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.

Run to the wilderness with me!

God is in my coffee

God was in the staircase today

In my steps

My up and down movement

The paper cup and sugar

God was in my coffee

He was in the room number

And my patterned quilt sitting

neatly on my bed

He was in the train that rolled by at

6 am

and

7

And at the bar sitting next to me

He was in the wandering beggar that asked for

twelve dollars

to get home

My hot shower

and

time

alone

He was in the waiter

And the host

And the horribly cooked steak

That I ate anyway

He was my daughter crying last night

That I was not there to hold her

These are the things that make Him

Him

tiny prayers

moments

the dying to self to see

outward

It is intimate connection that brings consecration

Sacredness

the entrance into His Kingdom

God

let me in

 

Cloistered Words

It took several hours for me to find silence. At first I chased it, then shunned it, then cried over it. I had been led into the desert by the Holy Spirit and tasked to give up time- but very specific time. The time I spend in indulgence on platforms like You Tube watching silly videos or other such things that lead my mind to numbness. And although on first blush one might think that I was being to hard on myself, if you look deeper you can find the root of God’s request. When we substitute one thing for another to numb the pain or busyness of life, it is not holy, it is tragedy.

In my “day” job, I live as an attorney representing a major metropolitan police department. I am involved on a larger scale in our county on issues that effect millions of people- school shootings, the role of school resource officers and the taking of guns from people who are not in a place to have them. I look at horrible pictures, write laws and make decisions for people who are not equipped to make them for themselves. I have been operating within the confines of the criminal justice system for the past almost twenty years.

And so when I yearn for a break, for decompression, for peace, it is hard to simply “sit” in silence. The echoes of war ring deep in my soul. I think of guns, dying and the battlefield that my police officers live on daily. I worry about them, I pray for them, and I pray for myself. But most days, I cannot seem to simply let go…

So God asked me to fill my “quiet” time with all things Him, not to use escapes to deal with pain or to allow my mind to simply wander. And I attempted this for the first time on Day 4 of Lent, as days 1-3 were so busy at work and home I practically fell asleep in my clothes. After God cleared my calendar yesterday and I vehemently objected, I was left with nothing but myself… and Him.

And so I heeded His call. I found myself immersed in a documentary called “Chosen, ” a behind the scenes look at life as a cloistered nun behind the sacred walls of a monastery. The subtitle of the film, “Custody of the Eyes.”

The film was breathtaking and deeply disturbing all at the same time. But the disturbance was in my soul. I longed to be locked up with them even if only for  a short period of time. I adored their habit, simplicity and love for our Lord. I felt interrupted and challenged, questioning myself and my vocation, thinking about all of the time I had wasted not focused on the eyes of Jesus. I wanted my house to be a convent, a reflection of Him and His love for humanity.

One hour and 44 minutes is a long time to spend in a monastery, and I didn’t ever want it to end. I thought about their rules, expectations and order and I craved that. I have always had a profound respect and love for nuns since I was a small child. Maybe it was me gazing into my future entry into beloved Mother Church…

But I came out on the other end changed, wanting, needing…more. I felt alive in the silence of their monastery walls. I wanted to rid myself of idleness, of cheap substitutes and distractions. Because time is limited. Because it all should belong to God.

You can read more about “Chosen” here

I encourage you to watch it this Lent. For those at parishes that have the app “Formed” it can be found on there.

 

Give it Away

 

An unexpected image someone captured of me

Deliver us from preoccupation with ourselves and our needs

Magnificat , Friday March 8, 2019, morning prayer

I reflected yesterday on film development. When I was in middle school, I was a writer and editor for our yearbook. But one day, our yearbook staff sponsor encouraged me to have some fun and pick up a camera, and so I did. It felt so much different and heavier than that trusted pen to paper I found familiarity in.

I found the camera itself fascinating. All of its parts and settings and intricacies; and I longed to have some fun with it and expand my creative side, exploring a side of me that I hadn’t considered before. It wasn’t the machine itself or the art of photography that captured my heart, it was the dark room. It was the glowing images that lined the walls. But more than that, it was learning the process of film development and watching my images come to life.

I could have stayed in that dark room for hours. It was an oasis of faces and places and spaces. More than my own images that I shot, I marveled at the images that those with some talent were able to capture. And how beautiful to watch them come to life in the dark! Especially since they were black and white and still.

That dark room could have been a holy mountain.

I didn’t realize it then, but I do now, that it is the process that is important. It is yielding to this development process that yields good fruit. We focus too much on the feel good notion of “all in God’s time”, rather than the importance of experiencing His process. How else will we help others to get through the hard parts? 

Photographs are beautiful, but what happened behind the lens is even moreso. Who is the person who captured the image? How was it captured? And how many times was it taken until that perfect image appeared? The shutter clicks a thousand times before one image is published and sometimes a thousand more than that. So goes God’s hand  and His mercy on us, although we don’t always realize it.

The lens focuses on our image, the one we want and hope to capture. But it is often the least expected image that garners the greatest attention. How many times have we heard a photographer say I was in the right place at the right time or it was the subject that allowed the image to be as beautiful as it is?

The camera focuses the attention away from the photographer and onto the subject. We are all familiar with famous images, like the one captured of JFK Jr. saluting at his father’s funeral procession, but can we name the photographer? Likely not. As it should be…

The same should be true for all things and gifts that the good Lord has given us- the lens should be pointed away from ourselves. As this culture thrives  on taking selfies and self indulging behavior, we should be be thriving on the needs of others. Becoming counter-cultural is never easy, but it is the only means to becoming holy.

To live our gifts is to give them away. Lens pointed outward. And if you are like me, a writer,  your keyboard should be your instrument in writing words that always lead to Him.

How will you use your the lens of your soul today?