Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Review: Eight Ways of Loving God

Trusting in God, especially when bad things happen, is difficult.  At its core, distrust occurs because we don’t know someone, and Who is more unknowable than God?
Jeanette Flood has created a very readable book on how we can grow in love of God, how we can know Him better.  It is a book light on footnotes --- it’s not trying to scientifically prove things to doubters --- and heavy on analogies, to help explain the reasonableness of the Catholic faith.  She describes eight facets of love, and how to overcome barriers to adopting them.  Love trusts, devotes time, obeys their Beloved, apologizes, bears with, loves those He loves, wants to be with Him, and eagerly awaits His presence.
Mrs. Flood gets to the heart of matters quickly.  I liked the simple points she made, like these:

·         “What’s in it for me?”  Love doesn’t ask that question
·         When our plans are ruined, we cling to them instead of discerning His plans.
·         God permits bad things to happen to us to achieve some greater good --- a growth in holiness of us or someone else.
·         What is essential is to believe it (suffering) has meaning.
·         In God’s presence, we had to be soaking in graces.  We were Son-bathing.
·         Obedience: the hardest thing to give up is one’s will.  We don’t like people telling us what to do.  Not even God.
·         To get along with anyone, it is vitally important to realize that we can’t change others.  We desperately want and try to change them, but one can only change oneself.
·         Instead of condemning people, try to understand them.
·         After Communion, a friend once imagined herself as a child lying prostrate before Jesus.  He scooped her up and settled her on His shoulder.  Seeing the wound in His hand, she said, “O Lord, I’m so sorry my sins did that to you.”  He smiled gently and replied, “You’re worth it.”  Can we say that to Him?  Whenever a cross comes our way or an opportunity to do penance, can we smile at Him and say, “You’re worth it”?

Mrs. Flood’s book convincingly explains how and why to love our God, Who so loves us.  And the reader comes to understand Love Himself.  God is Love.
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I’m on retreat this week, and one of my plans is to catch up on reviews of good reads.  I have been blessed with many in recent months.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: Overwhelming Pursuit

There are books written for people who are reluctant to change; they present facts which cannot be denied, proving the importance of change, and almost forcing the reader to change, however reluctant.  Mark Joseph’s book is for people who DO want to change, people overwhelmed by life.  He makes statements struggling people want to hear, want to believe.  He gives hope.  This is a comfort book:  it tells you that you are not alone in the rut you are in.
I once agreed that “Success is how I prove my worth in this world,” and how “Everyone loved me because I succeeded.”  We earn love, I thought, and as the sub-title of this book notes, I chased it.  Mr. Joseph shows how this drive for success, for love, compels us to seek superiority, to be the best at everything, a superiority pursuit which inherently sees (and treats) others as less.  These others we want to love us, we are driven to treat as less.  At the root of this contradiction, Joseph notes, is the fact that “we all struggle to love ourselves,” just as we are.
Mr. Joseph then goes on to explain how we can get past our fears, how we can confront and accept who we are, and then begin changes.  “It’s never too late to be the person you want to be, the person God calls you to be.”  Changing our life, Mr. Joseph notes, begins with conversion, “literally a process of turning to God, … when we begin to understand that life is better with God in it than not.”  And Mr. Joseph then helps the reader begin that change. 
I much like the direct approach of this book, speaking to the reader as to a friend.  He helps the reader to look in the mirror, and honestly recognize what he sees. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Why Do Loved Ones Fight?

If two people stop in a supermarket aisle, why do they ALWAYS stop next to each other, so no one else can pass?
Why is my roof leaking --- again!
Why is that guy in front of me going 20mph under the speed limit!
Why are the neighbor’s kids always screaming so loud!
Why is there never anything good in the refrigerator when I’m hungry!
Why did I drink so much last night, and will the pounding in my head ever stop!
I could go on and on.  There are so many things that bother me.  Now, don’t tell me that your list is longer.  Don’t fight me on this saying: “Well, yeh but what’s happening to me is ….”  I don’t want to hear it!  I KNOW I’m right in saying that all the biggest storms keeping falling on me; so, don’t tell me yours is worse.  Mine is the worst storm since they had to build an ark to survive --- only nobody’s building an ark for me.
Don’t you raise your voice telling me how bad you have it.  Mine is worse!
Are you angry with me now?  I’m just telling you the way things are --- and a lot of it is your fault!!
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Been there?  Angry at the world; taking it out on anyone near?
I woke at 6:30A this morning, very refreshed, and an hour and half before mass.  Even as I readied, I felt God’s presence around me, as I later did during the drive through the beauty of the pre-dawn skies (and with the sun shining in my eyes at this moment of writing).  And as I drove through the beauty and peace, I suddenly had brief thoughts of all the less-than-peaceful times of my life, like those mentioned above.  Those times when I was angry at my life, and couldn’t see its beauty, or its purpose.
Arriving at church early, I quickly noticed that my morning prayers continued the conversation God had started along the way.
It began as I read the Invitatory Psalm, Psalm 95:
Come, let us sing to the Lord
and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.
Let us approach him with praise and thanksgiving
and sing joyful songs to the Lord.
The Lord is God, the mighty God,
the great king over all the gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the highest mountains as well.
He made the sea; it belongs to him,
the dry land, too, for it was formed by his hands.
Come, then, let us bow down and worship,
bending the knee before the Lord, our maker.
For he is our God and we are his people,
the flock he shepherds.
Today, listen to the voice of the Lord:
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did
in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah
they challenged me and provoked me,
although they had seen all my works.
Forty years I endured that generation,
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.”
So I swore in my anger,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”
The first half of the psalm is praising God, which I felt like doing this morning.  The second half begins with these words, which I had underlined in my prayer book: “Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: Do not grow stubborn.  I also had circled the word “to”, and noted in the margin: “It doesn’t say for; He’s already talking.”  That’s a key point.  Sometimes in my prayers I’m looking for some particular answer from God, and I try to listen for it, “for” his answer.  And sometimes I think: “Are You ever going to answer my prayer, Lord?”  But, this psalm says to listen “to” the voice of the Lord --- He is already talking to me.  Well, if indeed He is, why don’t I hear Him.  Well, the psalm goes on to explain.
WE ARE STUBBORN!  We raise our voices, often in anger, so we can’t hear the small, still voice of God, which IS talking to us.  The Psalm goes on to say how they challenged God and provoked Him, although they had seen all His works.  God puts up with us, our stubbornness, our anger, a lot --- forty years in the example.  And He notes “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not know My ways.”  They can’t shut up, be calm (not stubborn) and “LISTEN to the voice of the Lord.”   And as I read and thought on these words in the quiet of the church, I knew that often, the words were describing me.
And then I read the concluding line of Psalm 95, the result of the times of my stubbornness, my failures to listen, my anger: “So I swore in anger; ‘they shall not enter into my rest.’”
I praised God with the first half of Psalm 95 --- I like to do that --- but I need to remember also the second half, and how important it is.
And as I continued my prayers before mass, in the day’s Readings I read Psalm 136.  I won’t print it all here, but one line repeats in it 26 times in that 26-verse psalm: “For His love endures forever.”  It’s like the psalmist wants to make sure we get it, and, that as we sing and pray that psalm God KNOWS we get it.  His love endures forever.  In all our sorrows, our anger, His love endures forever.
We often get so hung up in our lives, our so very short earthly lives, and we think them so important.  We so easily get angry when things don’t go our way.  These psalms, the beauty of the day, together they showed me again what is really important.  It was a lesson good for me to hear again.
Finally, I concluded my morning prayers with a prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI.  It is a prayer for Thanksgiving After Mass.  And in particular, I prayed the lines I had underlined in that prayer:
Lord, I am sorry for my sins; deepen my sorrow.
I praise You as my constant helper, my loving protector.
I offer You my sufferings, to be endured for Your greater glory.
I want to do what You ask of me, in the way You ask.
Lord, enlighten my understanding, purify my heart.
Let me love You my Lord and My God, and see myself as I really am.
Help me to conquer anger with gentleness.
Help me to forget myself and reach out to others.
Make me prudent in planning, courageous in taking risks
Make me patient in suffering.
Firm my good intentions.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish Your love for me.
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One of the benefits of this blog is its format, which includes a listing of topics along the left margin.  Clicking on one of those topics brings up all the postings I wrote focused on that topic.  This morning I clicked on “Anger”, and read all the postings, from oldest to most recent.  It was time well spent.  I can see that I am making progress in putting my anger in perspective, and when it occurs, finding a way to use it positively, not negatively.
And I can see with today’s gracious reminders from God that it is a constant battle.
Thank You, Lord, for reminding me.