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.

 

Free Fall

Writing is falling. It is exposing. It is trusting God word by word and line by line to say what needs to be said, what He wants to be said.

I have started and destroyed three prior blogs. Such is the journey of a poor human soul who is afraid and distrustful of God. God never asked me to delete them, only to change them, to lean into that change. They would have been nice to look back at and see that leg of my journey. But many saints before me have destroyed their first works- so I consider myself part of a band of rebels, of disobedients who have turned their backs on God.

This morning He asked me to sit down in front of the keyboard and just type. No forethought or plan, just the words He wants. This is hard. In my quest for control, it is hard to let go, hard to let him take over my fingers on keys. But I can feel Him gently lean over me and help me type.

I can feel Him helping me to simply let go…

It is only in trust that God’s Divine Will is revealed and entrusted to us. And although my Plan A never came to fruition, it was never His. Such a hard and cruel lesson. How many still sit up at night pondering what could be when it never was….

God’s Divine Will is free flow, it is where you are, it is a taking over of mind, body and soul, it is words we do not now understand. Sometimes I sit in rooms full of important people and wonder how I got there. Why I push so hard for this world to change and conform to God’s truth. Why I am able to offer love when it hurts the most. 

It is supernatural, it is overwhelming to think that God created me with a distinct purpose. To know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. And my Master like a hidden lover calls to me in  moments that I sink deep and pulls me out of the mire.

I sometimes think I am crazy to chase the divine carrot on a stick. But I step and step over chasms, and crying children and war because I love Him and I can’t let Him go. I walk blind and cannot stop myself from calling out to my lover, Master where are you?

Sometimes He cries back with great and palpable love and sometimes I feel I am drowning with hands up and no rescue. This is the lesson of blind obedience and trust. This is the lesson of unconditional love.

I have given up everything for Him- friends, family, jobs. I am where He wants me in every moment. I fail Him miserably and make Him proud sometimes within the same moment. He loves me either way. I keep my mind and heart focused on the end and my lover’s words- Well done my good and faithful servant.

I am living my best life even through tears and writhing. There is no life or breath outside of Him. The world is an afterthought, though He teaches me how to live in it. He is close even when I am far.

So if you are questioning where He wants you, don’t. Give your soul away to Him. Arms wide and open and accepting.

Give up the time

Jennifer Fulwiler, a Catholic radio host on Sirius XM, has a segment on Fridays called Jen’s Jukebox, where callers share their favorite secular songs that have a spiritual meaning to them. The hard and fast rule: the song cannot be a Christian song. This provides insight on the caller’s behalf to attach spiritual meaning behind pop culture words.

When I finally sat down to watch the movie “A Star is Born, ” I was upset and dissapointed that after weeks of trial and tribulation, the Lord had allowed me to watch such a deeply painful movie. The songs were vibrant and way too real, and my heart came away so heavy,- even moreso than it had before. I looked at my husband in the midst of tears and heavy gasping breaths and refused to let go of his hand. I apologized for anything that I had ever done to him. I apologized for being so petty at times and told him that I valued him beyond comprehension. But the tears and the heaviness on my chest would not go away. And after this last song, “I’ll never love again,” I could not hold onto him tight enough. All of the memories between us passed in hyperspeed through my very human and remorseful mind.

Why do we hurt the ones we love the most?

And as he held me and  told me that I was being overly harsh on myself, I couldn’t help but think of the other marriages that have suffered and are suffering over human selfishness. In the core of my being I wanted to shout out to all of them that the devil is a liar, there is a hole of nothing on the other side. 

These deeply painful lessons that I have learned about the sacred gift of marriage came at a high cost, but forced me straight into the arms of Jesus, who held me tightly when I couldn’t hold my own self up.

You see my husband was the casualty of another man’s sin. And so that man’s sin did not only effect me, but in turn effected a  multitude of people.

When you are running inside of yourself to get away there is nowhere to go but out.

I have left many people this way- in the wake of my inability to deal with conflict and pain. It was too difficult to let them love me, and too difficult to explain the depths of my pain. But to the one that loved me the most, I was slipping away. I couldn’t love my husband because I couldn’t love myself. I hated myself. 

In my cries for help, he could not recognize or hear me. In those dreams that I had over and over where I was in grave danger and my phone refused to call 911 as many times as I tried to dial, something was preventing me from pressing down on those numbers. I tried many times but a force greater than me controlled my fingers. I was spiraling and nobody seemed to be able to help me. How could they not see, I thought. How could they not see I’m drowning?

But rather than an extended arm I had arms that pushed me farther down. My sin became greater. And once in, I could not get out- there was no way out, until the great Master came and rescued me.

Sharing the details of one’s own demise is deeply personal and greatly distressing. But my demise was not my end, it was my beginning. The great healer saved me, saved my marriage, told me it was ok to be completely broken, shattered in a million pieces. And rather than sweep those pieces up and toss them in the garbage, he used them and is using them to create HIS masterpiece. There are pieces still missing, but I am living them. They, like the others, will one day be part of God’s greater plan.

And although I have apologized to my husband one thousand times, I apologized again to him for not having the courage to get help sooner. I could have lost everything, we could have lost everything. How could I ever thank Christ? I can’t. There are limitations to my human self.

How can you thank me? He said this morning.

Write your words. Speak your truth.

So after two years of being away from this keyboard, in the painful turmoil of my soul, he has worked enough on me that he finds me worthy to type his words to the world.

Our work for the Lord is never in vain. Hold on for the ride.

Shlomi I love you.

Shallow

*Please listen to the song as you read

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30 (b)

“Your name spoken is a spreading perfume.” Song of Songs 1:3

The movie “A Star is Born” paints the picture of a deep and painful love, rooted in complications of artistry, song, alcoholism and fame. And although the movie itself is “surface,” that appears to be the point; that we ourselves are surface; that we become numb and immovable based on our responses to the world. And while we may not use alcohol or substances to fill that void and become “surface” we use other things; the portrayal of ourselves on social media, the deep seed of deceit among friends, the veil that exists on our tears. We all, to a certain extent, are the alcoholic and addict portrayed in Bradley Cooper’s character in the movie- we are afraid to live our own truth.

As a sexual abuse survivor, I often find myself in this position- questioning my authenticity, my outsides. Without something to numb the pain, can I be my authentic self? Is Jesus enough?

In the last two months I have found myself before the crucified body of our Lord too many times to count. I try to identify with all the good that came from the crucifixion, but I find myself melting into God’s voice as he calls me intimately into his suffering, and I cannot stop myself from falling madly in love with him. 

You see my love story with God is a painful one, so I can identify with the very “surface” story of this movie which forces me to remember my own unwillingness at times to go deeper with God; to remember the way in which he called me. In horrific pain-no middle, a dark hole, lost.

I am reminded of my love for him in the rest of the verses in Song of Songs

Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth, 

for your love is better than wine,

better than the fragrance of your perfumes,

Your name is a flowing perfume-therefore young women love you

And at first glance these very shallow and intimate verses appear to be just that- surface and I’ve heard it all before. To a survivor, it may appear to be a line to get me to be physically closer to you, something to reel me in.

But to a survivor who has a love affair with God, it is the realness of the soul. And as much as I write before my Lord’s dangling body when I am on my knees in the chapel, is as much as he exposes me and my pain for what it is- a desire to be real, to be loved for who I am and not for who the world wants me to be.

Why Lord, is it so hard for them to love me? Why Lord is it so hard to even love myself?

Even before the crucifix, I have flashbacks- of him that took my sturdiness away from me and HIM who saved me all on my knees while the candles burn. What a haunting conundrum.

I don’t want to be shallow, I want to be deeply personal, I want to be me. And I cry out to God in my pain and ask Him to make me someone else. Someone else with another purpose. Someone who is not married to the crucifix.

But in those moments as I cry out in desperation to  be another created being, another version, one where the human slate of my soul is wiped clean from the dirty hands that touched me, more than once, I stay perfectly still.

But my story is not an anomaly, is not one, is not only me. Because from that pain comes the flowering of truth, the fighting to be myself, the pursuit of truth and justice in all things; the deeply abiding conviction to stay on the path.

It is  a supernatural overtaking to be able to thank God for your pain and disgust. To not want to find a way out, but a way in. To ask God in the midst of your pain for more, if it means the salvation of one other soul from this corrupt and morally bankrupt world.

And I cry out to my divine lover, kiss me Lord with the pain of the crucifixion so I can feel something real, something other than my shallow pain. Because your pain is meaningful and changed mine into something meaningful. And it is better than wine.

And I am left on my knees in front of Him. No longer wandering far away into the corners and recesses where I can hide, but directly to the cross where He is.

 

 

Amplified

Acoustics contain the property of sound. Sound that bounces off walls and sends signals to our ears. Sound that reverberates, creates motion and sometimes creates a soothing peace. It is the action of sound that sends out waves that send signals back to us. But what is the sound that we are putting out?

When I preach, I listen- I comprehend. I hear. But this hearing is not natural, it is in the supernatural. The ears hear but the soul understands and converts the message. If the instrument of music sends out the sound, I am receiving the reverberation.

We hear by accepting the Word of God and putting it into action. It is a verb, a doing. It is not a stillness. But it is only in stillness that we hear. So the stillness comes before sound, comes before it all.

The Word of God is demanding and active, it is not passive. It requires us to be uncomfortable enough to change and to focus on ourselves, so that we become more like Him. As we turn our attention inward, this radiates outward. This is when we can turn the other cheek because then it doesn’t hurt.

It all started for me with a gospel passage I read one Sunday. It was God’s call within a call for me. That the sacrament of marriage is not just for me and my family but for all of you. That each of us are building blocks that form the foundation of the church. And as the stones are forming the very bottom, the sides, and  up to the top, the cracks in the foundation are forming. Our marriages are crumbling. And Christ is on his knees while we are asleep in the garden.

The verse that started my call within a call was this admonition, this cry from Christ, found in Luke 6:27:

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

At first glance I had heard it all before. Yes Lord I know.

No, no you don’t. He said. Read it again.

But to you who hear…

I couldn’t go any further. You who hear. You…who…HEAR. The admonition Christ gave was not to everyone. It was to anyone who had ears to hear.

The day before, I had been to a lecture by Dr. Scott Hahn who spoke about the sacrament of marriage. I could hardly stay in my seat as I felt God nudge me several times during his presentation. This is the foundation of the church. This is the blood. This is the cross. This is everything.

Dr. Hahn’s words disappeared for me, but the Lord’s did not.

Feed my sheep, I heard… twice

Feed …my… sheep

And the call was deep and wide. And it was present. It was NOW.

As Dr. Hahn said, as we pray the rosary, as we pray the Hail Mary’s, the Blessed Virgin, our mother is present in the now and at the hour of our death. It wasn’t the hour of death that scared me, it was the present. It was coming to the realization that Mary was praying for me Now. That the time was Now. That time was happening now. And that is what was certainly running out…

I came back from Dr. Hahn’s talk with a deeply abiding conviction. My marriage has been saved by Christ. It was the reason that I was a Christian after all. But was this something that I only shared and talked about in the confines of my own home? In small circles? Was I really being honest in the ways in which God saved my marriage, the issues we faced and the rebuilding that we did and are still doing? I was fearful, ashamed and sitting with all of it. Until I heard the words from the gospel passage again :

But to you who hear…

The greek word for hear is akouo pronounced (ak-oo-o). I hear, I listen, I comprehend by hearing the word of God. But it is more than that. How God can I hear you? How can I be one of the ones who is sure to hear the next words out of your mouth?

The word akouo is the root of the english term acoustics. Acoustics are the property of sound. It is God audible. But how great is our hearing?

Acoustics is sound reproduced mechanically rather than electronically. It is not manufactured. It is of, relating to, or being a musical instrument whose sound is not electronically modified. It is sound that is pure and whole and not manufactured.

This was the hearing God was talking about. No enhancement. No enhancing of our own sound but instead allowing His sound to reverberate not off walls but instead the depths of our souls. That the word of God was not changed or altered or manufactured but instead pure and holy and true. And that sound, that sound in its purest form resonating in my ears, in your ears and down into the deepest darkest places. How can we read the rest of the gospel sentence if we cannot hear. We cannot.

And so with my newfound discovery I readied and steadied myself to HEAR the word of God. But not just to hear, but to HEAR. To listen to scripture as a an acoustic guitar with no amplifier, with its breaks and rhythms and strings and hard pauses. With the purity of finger to string and breath and pain in my fingers from producing rich sound. It is not manufactured but produced by the soul. And God’s Holy word became the acoustics, my soul the wall of sound and suddenly there was no need for an amplifier.

The next part of the gospel came like a rushing wind…

Love your enemies

And that’s when I heard it. That’s when I heard the call within a call.

And who is your enemy?

Your husband. 

What, what Lord are you talking about! These were not the next words I expected to hear and certainly not the call I was expecting.

This is the state of marriages, the Lord said. This is what they hear.

I was spinning. It was a great sadness. I was overcome with the crashing of the verse, the real truth, the lack of amplifier. It was rawer than I had ever expected and full of sorrow. What was breaking up the church? We were.

Let the one who among you is without sin be the first to throw a stone

The stone had been in my hand. I had felt its hard and abrasive outsides. It was impenetrable. And the world swallowed my marriage alive.

But I was no longer in the world, I was in God’s church. But the same monster, the same Satan who had deeply embedded his fingers into me was the same Satan who had managed to get through the church of Jesus Christ.

Who is my enemy?

And God showed me the thoughts of so many. Marriages in separation. Marriages on the verge of divorce. Divorce itself. Excuses. Abortion. Broken families. Children with multiple fathers and mothers. Fighting and chaos and the killing of each other. There are knives in our hands.

We talk about the atheist and secularist as the murderers of our faith, but we have named the wrong suspect.

Who is my enemy?

I look around and see that it is us. We are the enemies of our own church. We are the betrayers of Christ.

If we do not start rebuilding our marriages, being honest with each other, shouting out, “Crucify Him!” we will never get better. Because it is your marriage that effects my marriage that effects my children that effects my church. Our marriages are sacramental, they do not belong to us, they belong to God. And as Christ hangs on the tree at the center of every mass we celebrate, we spit on him, roll dice for his garments and crucify him all over again; all before accepting his body, blood, soul and divinity and pretending that we are ok to do so.

So this is a call to action. Are we ready to stand with Christ and fight the evil one, the dragon, the accuser and destroyer of our faith, or will we simply meld into the world, pointing to self and saying that our behavior is ok? Change only begins when we recognize our enemy. And this enemy is not our spouse.

Jesus’ demands and commands go far beyond what we think and feel. He requires greater. And the last part of the verse…

Here. Here is my other cheek!!!!!!!!!!!!!