The Tomb of Silence

Thirty seconds in and I am terrified. I cannot control the racing of my thoughts. I am afraid to ask the question, God, what do you want me to do?

The question stands alone and cold. I don’t want to move from it. In fact I want to hide behind it. It is a shield, a fence that I am on the other side of. .

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

I finally settle in. He’s only asked me for five minutes. But I am scared to go here, scared of what He will ask of me. It may be spring, but it is winter in my soul.

I cannot resist any longer. I sit beside my Lord and find myself beside the tomb. I cannot see Him. I cannot hear Him. But I know that He is there. How so? I have finally visited the grave.

Even in the silence I am working, He tells me. I am bringing souls to heaven. You can’t see it behind the tomb. It is only in the silence that you can understand it. Stay beside my tomb and you will see. Beside my tomb of silence there are great treasures to behold. See all that is going on! When in doubt, go sit beside my tomb. It is busy with activity. It is silence that comes before my resurrection. Learn to sit with me in silence, I have much to say here. There is great joy here. Silence before meditating on my Word. 

I settled in. I wasn’t so afraid anymore. The time had passed quickly and now I didn’t want to leave. But I knew I couldn’t spend too much time before the tomb, there was a resurrection to prepare for. So I opened God’s word and heard His voice. The words were alive because of my time beside the tomb.

He spoke to me about the seriousness of sin. That monster that waits to devour us. But this time I heard it differently. This time He opened the door to even deeper treasures.

Sin begins in the first thought. How will we respond? It lies in wait at the door in order to devour us. The devil tricks us into believing in an outward looking world, focusing on the sin of others and what others may or may not be doing. This then produces the ugliness and allows us to lose focus on our own personal holiness. But if we pause before we act, correct our thinking in our minds, turn inward instead of outward, we will remember our Lord’s beating. We will remember our Lord’s scourging. We will remember our Lord’s silence.

Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7 (b))

It is in that moment that we can pause too. Sins urge is for us, but we can rule over it (Genesis 4:7). We can sin no more if we are repentant (Psalm 4:5). We can prepare the way of the Lord.

If I choose to sit beside the tomb in every moment that I am about to offend my Lord, I can remember all of these things. I can remember the silence in the face of accusation, I can remember the stillness in the face of a beating, I can remember His prolonged agony as he suffered for my sins.

Today, sit beside the tomb of silence

 

 

This Easter, leave the thorn in place

But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

It is Day 38 of Lent and I am weak. I tell you this because it’s true. The Apostle Paul tells you the same in the very next words of verse 10, “I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.”

I’ve read this verse a thousand times, it is a Christian staple. My brain gets in the way though. My thinking, my complication, my resistance to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say. I think I know better, I think I’m smarter. I am not. I am a garbage can of thoughts. I have an agenda. I am a mess of a human. And this, this has led me to fall on my knees in front of the altar of my God. He expects me. He expects me to do this as homage to Him. He knew I would fail. He knew I would be here. Nothing is a surprise to the King of the universe.

In my great anxiety I was exasperated, when God? when will the pain end? The anxiety is too much and I am failing you Lord. Many have told me I have no faith if my anxiety has taken over. That I am lacking. This continued to make me feel less than, a betrayer of the one who saved me. Am I Judas Lord? I questioned myself. And this brought me into an even greater despair. Such is the plot of the enemy.

As I sat in front of the crucifix at mass this morning my anxiety was palpable. It was physiological. I was a mess of nerves and sweat. Things were not going according to plan. But when I fell to my knees, the devil couldn’t penetrate the grasp of the Holy Spirit, He spoke that scripture to me.

I had asked so many times, sometimes from minute to minute for God to take away my anxiety, for God to take away my physiological response when things get tough. But God has refused me. I never saw it as something to give up on- I always believed that someday it would be gone. But today I heard a freeing truth- it will never go away. It can’t be prayed away, anointed or exorcised. It can’t be charasmatically eliminated. It is the very thing that brings me to my knees. It is the very thing that keeps me glued to Christ.

I bowed my head… yes Lord! Yes Lord this is my cross!!! It is not a lack of faith but a gift. Yes Lord it is all grace. And in that moment I accepted all of it- the heart racing, the sweat, the tears, the inability to eat, the rocking back and forth, the pain, the panic. It was all beautiful now. It was all a gift of God.

How could it have taken me this long??? Six years and thirty eight days into Lent I had a massive explosion. God had broken me. And I repeated Stephen Colbert’s quote in my mind,

It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened. 

Our weaknesses are exquisite, they are not demeaning, or false or something to be prayed out. Rather, they are something to be taken in, accepted. They are the cross of Christ, the crown of thorns, the torn body. They are blood on my hands, my human betrayal and my failure to stay just one hour. And they are…everything.

Easter is coming but my anxiety will remain. I will not pull out the thorn in my side. It is a piece of the crown of thorns that keeps me in His arms.

You are not far from the Kingdom of God…

“We accept the love that we think we deserve.”

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It is twenty-two days into Lent and the desert feels hot. As things get more difficult, emotions get more raw, God becomes more real. He is straining me, pressing me like Gethsemane. He wants to get things out. He wants to retain the good. It is painful…

But what makes it more painful is to know the truth. The truth that for so long, I have believed that I had to perform for God in order to get Him to love me. And although I know better, my human family has set these wheels in motion.

I am only as good as my last assignment

So yesterday, He made me look introspectively at this. Why I toil and then lie in pain over and over again. Why I never think that I am enough… for Him. This is what has filled my head for so long, the God that wants more from me. The successful God. The friends that have left me because there love was conditional. The people that have conditioned my success on how much I do for them. The inability to take the day off, or scream or just sit in silence. It is an interior war, not an exterior one. It is me against myself…

What a great struggle it is to realize deep and cutting truths. Having an idea of love that is shaped by those around you rather than the one above you. We befriend the same kind of people, work for the same kind of people, attract the same kind of crowd over and over and over again. This is nothing short of an internal pulse, a signal that we put out that we are unaware of. We believe that we do not deserve better, that we do not deserve more. When we believe that love is conditional, others who believe that seem closer to us rather than farther. We try and surround ourselves with people who love us regardless, but end up pushing those people away. It is too much to know that someone would love me for who I am, not what I can do for them. This thought to me is overwhelming…

And yet, God tells me I deserve better, I deserve more. Not things, or tangibles or praise but love. I deserve to be loved in its most purest form, in its most innocent form. I deserve to be loved the way He loves me.

In seeking Him first, my Father tells me that I am not accepting of this great love. I cry in His arms because He understands. My heart is heavy, but swallowed in the divine love He has for me. 

There are so many of us out there like this. Dancing with exhaustion to gain the approval of others. People leaving our lives because we disappointed them. Trying to be enough when it will never be enough… for them.

We can’t rest, we can’t stop until they love us. And we are exhausted. I needed to be visited by God. I needed to know that He wanted better for me, more for me. I was afraid to go on an adventure. I was scared to follow my dreams…

There are no disappointments in the love of God

So if today you hear HIS voice, harden not your hearts. You are not far…from Him.

 

Let the Land Rest

but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie still, the Lord

Exodus 23:11 (a)

It is hard to lie still, to wait for your dreams to come to fruition. As I lie still, I shake in anticipation of what is to come. But I have always seen the waiting time as something to dread, not something to behold or cherish…that was until this Lent. It is only Day fourteen and God is showing me the fruit of the desert.

In letting land lie, we trust in God’s ultimate providence, seeing that our labor of love for Him can be just as fruitful in rest. In listening to that still small voice, I hear God calling me to put down the tiller, drop it in fact. Rest my child, He says, the harvest is coming soon.

I cry out to God in wonder. I cannot see the fruit of my labor, or His, but He does. I do not see trees or plants or corn stalks. I do not see anything at all. But He tells me it is there and I believe Him, because He is God and I am not.

I stare into the wide open empty field, it looks abandoned, but it radiates with divine light. I have prayed over this field many times without realizing it. I have prayed and leaned into trusting God’s will- the great- big- open -empty field. I saw it as abandoned, he saw the fruit. I can now see the underground, the roots, the soil, all of it. Grace is the water, the new growth. But God’s hand is no mystery. God’s hand created that field and I am only a tenant of His Will (great credit to Matthew Poole’s commentary).

“Thou shall let it rest and lie still. By this kind of quit-rent they might be admonished that God alone was the Lord and Proprietary of the land, and they were only tenants of his will.” Matthew Poole’s Bible Commentary

And if I see myself as a tenant and not as the owner, I am free to trust in the work of His hands, in His great providence, in the great I AM. I am free to float on the earth, above the earth. I am simply…free.

And I feel myself floating above and looking down on this abandoned, empty field- and I am flying. There are souls buried deep within the land that do not know it. But I am praying for them alongside the Blessed Mother- Mary who cries next to me from the skies imploring me to pray her precious rosary. There are people’s souls at stake, we are at war.

It is Lent, a time to attend to Holy rest, a time to let the land sit and lie still. But we are in active rest- contemplation. We are engaged in a war against the devil for souls. Jesus in fact went into the desert led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. There was great purpose in his preparation. This is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Prepare me Lord, for I am weak. 

And as I hunger in each growing day of Lent, I see flowers in places where they shouldn’t be. They are not an imaginary oasis, they are faith buds that will bloom on the 41st day. God is preparing me for what is to come…

And so the land is not dormant, it is spiritually active. To the naked eye it is nothing, but to the one who sees with the divine eye it is an earthquake of activity. Can you see the dirt that has been cultivated beyond the surface?

Is that field the harvest of your soul?

In order to become great in God’s kingdom, you have to become a servant of the land. It is great divine work to cultivate that soil; denying self, forgiving those that don’t deserve it. Standing up for justice and righteousness; turning the other cheek. Shedding tears for the crown of thorns you sometimes must wear; knowing that blood must be shed for an undying. We rage for the unborn, for our marriages, for hungry children. We hate lawlessness. We are completely imperfect in our execution of it all. But this, this is our co-laboring in His majesty. This is our calling. This is His glory.

The land is untilled and fallow, but soon it will be rich and bountiful. The empty field is the face of God. The empty field is your destiny. The empty field is your down -on -your- knees -praying and feeling the soil.

Stay there and don’t move. The fruit will abound. Scream if you have to, but don’t move; and the angels will come to your side and minister to you. Child, this is just the beginning…

 

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.

 

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.