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.

 

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.