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?

 

Do Not Fear the Cross!

Invitation to the Cross (His words to me)

“We must never say that the kind of sanctity, forgetfulness of self, love of the cross, self-immolation and so on-are not for us. That is our human way of looking at things. If God wants them of us, he will send the necessary graces; all we must do is to hold ourselves in readiness for anything that he may ask of us, and go ahead fearlessly.”

Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart., French Carthusian monk and revered spiritual author

The question in my meditation time today was, when is the last time that you were happy? Such an odd question for Day 2 of Lent, when I was expecting the scourging at the pillar. But this Lent has been different for me, very different, as I had already spent my time in the desert prior to entering this Lenten season.

Instead, I felt Ash Wednesday as an opening. There was joy instead of pain, peace instead of sorrow. My foot entered the door of His kingdom and crossed over into an infinite threshold. There was no fire, or brimstone or darkness, but only light; light in my vision, in my body and in my soul. It was almost as if I entered heaven.

But how could this be? Was I not destined to be thrown into the darkness for self-evaluation, state of consciousness and penance? Yes all those things are important. But why had I entered the gates of eternal freedom?

Because, the Lord said, you have chosen the cross

In two or so months of suffering, it wasn’t until a single moment leading up to Lent that I sat with myself and decided to make that choice. I had had enough suffering, and I was willingly ready to hop on that cross. But if I chose death, would he give me life? It was worth the chance…

My soul is sorrowful even to death

When I gave up my soul to the cross, the tears ran dry. I could still feel every inch of the pain; but that was until I crossed over to the other side. And as I slid  into my spiritual death, the pain, the willingness to give it all to Him, the suffering suddenly stopped. I was inside the book of Revelation; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain…and there wasn’t. 

The cross was true to it’s word- it did not fail me. I could only feel the splinters but for a second.

And suddenly my great pain turned into great joy, and my mourning to turned into dancing! The welcomed cross, the humble cross, the needed cross.

Choose life, God said, by choosing death

What a strange dichotomy. What an absolute wrecking of soul. But He is the God of the living, not the dead. And I praise the cross of His execution every time I get down on my knees.

O great physician of the soul! Oh great Master! May I die to self a thousand times a day to feel your infinite love!

“When I cried to the Lord, he heard my voice; he rescued me from those who attack me. Entrust your cares to the Lord, and he will support you.”

Psalm 55; A Lament over Betrayal

 

 

Hidden

There is a part of us that is still hidden. A part misunderstood. A part exposed. But sometimes they are disconnected, separated   far     apart.

The hiddenness of God is a sacred thing. Like a veil over the tabernacle, we cover ourselves internally so nobody can touch us there. And at the center of that tabernacle of our soul is the Lord’s eucharistic love that was created in us and existed from the beginning of time. We may not want to touch our very hidden parts, but He does. For Him, that hiddenness is certainly exposed.

Your Father sees in secret.

Lent is certainly a time of reflection and barren deserts. And while the wastelands are where I find myself most at ease, I desire more than the grain of sand. I desire the molecule behind it. I want to FEEL the sand, not simply touch it. I want the in-between-the-fingers not simply the palms. I want the inside of the grain.

I want my soul exposed in the hot sun of the noonday.

We don’t have to wander through the desert like the Israelites. We don’t have to complain. We can journey and praise and fall on our knees, not asking for quail but asking for whatever God sends to sustain us. Fasting from the whole world and leaving it far, far behind,

Lent is self-sacrifice, perseverance, exposition, tears. It is the big gaping hole inside of your chest. It is the longing for that something more. It is the urge to sin and be saved at the exact same time. It is the walking towards sainthood and the wanting to experience temporal human pleasure. It is the sacred heart of Jesus, the walking it out, the insides of His insides and not mine. It is working out my salvation with fear and trembling for a God who offers me more than this world ever could. It is constant forgiveness for the man who took everything from me, remembering that God offers Him forgiveness too.

How can you get up in the morning and not want to be near Him while the hot beating sun is at your back? Forget cheap devotionals and WWJD bracelets. Isn’t it time to deal with your demons?

Stay still but walking. His voice will ricochet off your soul. The sweet spot of God can only be found in wanting and trial. Come join me in the desert.