Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Jesus --- I Trust In You

Jesus, I trust in You.
The words of that prayer came into my heart in response to my feelings of woe. 
In recent weeks, this whole Advent season in fact, God has blessed me in many ways and helped me bless others, and I felt during these weeks that I knew what the word “joy” truly meant.  But these last few days I have felt no joy, and my heart has been heavy.  And strangely these woes began over what is really the most unimportant of things:  money.
In June I booked my Thanksgiving flight to Arizona with Delta, and through their website my hotel and car also.  Delta confirmed the bookings and immediately billed me for the hotel.  Then, last month in Arizona, after one night at that hotel I witness drug dealers in the parking lot --- and they witnessed me.  As a result the local police recommended I change hotels.  The LaQuinta Inn in Mesa said they would issue credit for the 6 nights I had paid for but not used --- to Expedia, who they said had paid them for the stay (which was news to me).  The hotel gave me an 800- number to call for my credit from Expedia, and after I returned home I did call.  After about an hour and a few different operators, finally an operator said my credit would be forthcoming after she confirmed one final thing with the hotel manager.  I thanked her.
I heard nothing further from Expedia, and I received no credit.  Four additional hours of calls, numerous operators, and two dropped calls later, it seems no credit will be forthcoming from them --- I am out over $500.  Delta whom I booked with and who billed my credit card said no, it was really a “third party” who charged me --- despite all my confirmations and Visa billings directly from Delta.  LaQuinta said they were paid by Expedia and credited them back, but because Expedia paid the bill I cannot get a copy of the receipt, even for the night I stayed there!  My platinum Visa card, my LaQuinta Elite card, and my 30 years relationship with my credit union meant nothing:  “It’s not our problem.  Sorry.”  So a company I have nothing in writing saying I ever dealt with, is painted as the villain.
Meanwhile, the freezer in my home stopped working yesterday; the repair bill was $300; the same problem had happened only one year ago; and the repairman said “Trust me; this shouldn’t happen again.”  And as I entered church today for the Tuesday noon mass, the building was cold and dark --- power was out over all of Ann Arbor Michigan.  And, considering recent events, the power felt out of my life, too.
My prayers Monday night and Tuesday morning were disjointed ramblings, as my mind repeatedly turned over my woes.  I could not pray.  All the blessings of Advent, all the people I helped, all the joys of my life, I couldn’t focus on them.  The title of this blog is: Do Not Be Anxious, but I couldn’t calm my own anxieties.
Things didn’t get better as the Tuesday mass began; my mind still wandered.  Receiving Communion put my heart in close contact with Jesus, and I cried out to Him, asking for peace.  But it was after the mass that I finally found peace, His answer to my prayers.
The little children quietly began filing up toward the altar, as they do every Tuesday after mass.  One young man, his legs permanently deformed, came up on his two crutches.  Another lad, of perhaps 5 or 6 years old, struggled down the aisle as he carried the baby basket which held his tiny sibling.  There were many other children, quietly lining up for personal blessings and prayers from the priest and deacons.  And the last person down the aisle was a young woman I had not noticed before, who was gently carrying the tiniest of babies in her arms --- someone, it seems, had received a very special Christmas present.
And yes, the sight of this and the congregation singing Silent Night moved me to tears.  But it also opened my heart to realize something:  all my anxieties of late stemmed from not a loss of money, but a loss of control.  My pride was hurt and I felt anxious because things were beyond my control.  People I trusted in had let me down.
But as I looked at the young children I realized that they saw Who really was in control, and they humbly sought His blessings.  Little children had to teach me the proper attitude towards God and his plans:  Trust in Him, no matter what happens.
I said a prayer of thanks for that insight.  I told God my money was really His; and if He showed me some charity or some needy person, I would give it freely.  Or He could take it, for His own reasons. All I have is his.
Jesus, I trust in You.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mary's "Birth" Day

When I first arrived at church, early to say my Morning Prayers, I glanced at the altar, looking for the large poinsettia plant I donated for the Christmas decorations.  I didn’t see it amidst the plants around the altar.
But when I went up to the statue of Mary to light my small candle (as I do each Sunday), there was my plant with its large distinctive bow --- now it was Mary’s plant.  I see why it was placed there, on the pedestal at the foot of Mary’s statue.  The plant is over double the size of the other plants in church.  It made me happy that it was there by Mary, a most appropriate thing on this Feast Day of the Holy Family.
As the people flowed into the church, the first six rows of pews on Mary’s side of the church, where I sit, were empty.  But the last four rows (nearest the statue) were filled with families, and I counted over 20 children there, of all ages.  And just before mass began, a mom arrived with a tiny baby, all dressed in a little white dress, and they sat down in the row in front of the rest of us.  The baby looked back on all the other children and their parents throughout the mass, and she seemed to be smiling the whole time.  It seemed a most appropriate gathering of people, this Feast Day of the Holy Family.
Heaven is now home to all my family, and until the day I join them I’ll sit amidst this earthly family of people God puts into my life.  And in the littlest of babes, I’ll see His image --- and smile.
We celebrated Jesus’ birthday a couple of days ago.  Too often we forget to celebrate that it was Mary’s Birth day also. 
I won’t forget; I think the plant at the foot of Mary’s image reminded me of her “Birth” day.  I won’t forget.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Another Christmas Present for Jesus

I wrote that late on Monday night I had a Christmas Party for Jesus.  And that while Andrea Bocelli sang Christmas songs for Jesus, there in the adoration chapel I read the Christmas cards and letters I had received.
One of the most precious cards I received was a hand-written note from MaryEllen Jones, “the blind person” I helped see this past year, with a gift of magnification software for her computer, so she could continue to use it.  Her note told me how pleased she was to continue to be “able to use the computer which I enjoy so much.”
“I am truly blessed,” she wrote.
“May God give you the desires of your heart.  I pray you’ll have a wonderful Christmas and Great 2016!”
“Love and prayers.”
I just received a call from MaryEllen’s daughter.  MaryEllen laid down for a nap on Saturday, and never woke up --- another Christmas present for Jesus.  I don’t dwell on death, but if I had any such thoughts about MaryEllen, who was in her late 80’s, it would be that when she went home to join her Clinton (who passed this summer) it would be a peaceful death.  And so it was.  Her prayer that God give me the desires of my heart was answered. 
It was a great privilege that I was able to travel to Tennessee in 2014 and actually meet these two wonderful people.
When it comes time to pray this season, please consider thanking God for Clinton and MaryEllen Jones.  They were special people I have known.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

You Can't Out-Give God

When I got home last night, I was elated and I wrote here of the Christmas Party I threw for the Lord.  And I was still in high spirits this morning when I walked into the local 7-11 --- and heard screams.
I give away books for Christmas.  Of the many I books I read each year, I pick the best and give them to friends at Christmas.  I know of only one person who reads as much as I do (perhaps), and so the books I offer my friends are ones I think would provide value to those who read less.  “If you are going to read anything, read this” is my thought.  And yet, I am aware that there are some people who rarely read a book, and still I would like to remember them at Christmas.  And so I offer the clerks I see nearly every day at the 7-11 and Panera’s greetings and a gift card (this year to Target).
But when I went into the 7-11 yesterday morning for my usual cup of coffee, there was a new clerk behind the counter.  As I handed my long-time friend there (also behind the counter) her Target gift card, I felt a little funny not having anything to offer to the new person.  So I put a bill on the counter and said:  “Pick me out some winning scratch-off lottery tickets.”  And a bit nervously she began tearing off lottery tickets and putting them on the counter:  “People like this one” she said, and “this one seems to be winning a lot lately.”  She was being diligent in her first day on the job.  And when she finished picking out the tickets she took my money --- and I pushed the tickets back to her: “Merry Christmas.  I hope you picked out lucky ones,” I said.  And I left.
As I entered the store this morning, the screams were hers.  She saw me arrive at the store and ran over and --- to my surprise --- hugged me.  “I took the tickets you bought me home yesterday and had my son scratch them off.  ‘Mom!  You won $50’ he told me.  I just came into the store to cash in the winning ticket, but it wasn’t a $50 winner, it was $75.”  Hence, I gathered, the scream of delight as I walked in.  “This,” she said holding up the money, “will help me with my airline ticket to Boston.  Dad died this summer, and I don’t want mom to be alone at Christmas.  Thank you so much!”
My arrival just then was great timing --- on God’s part.
Last night I threw God a party, and this morning He arranged to give me a gift --- and a hug.  You can’t out-give God.
- - - - - - - - - -
Well, even if I can’t out-give Him, I can still give.  Tomorrow I’ll take that beautiful huge poinsettia plant a friend sent me to church.  It will become part of the decorations on the altar on Christmas Day.
I hope Jesus likes it as much as I did when I received it --- and I hope He doesn’t think of it as a “re-gifting.”  : - )

A Very Special Christmas Party

This Advent has been a great blessing for me.  I feel God has been with me in so many, many ways during these days.  And so I guess it shouldn’t be strange that I felt a desire to throw Him a Christmas party, but it was something I had never done before.
When I went to the adoration chapel late this night, I began my Evening Prayers with the Rosary, as I usually do.  I prayed the Joyful Mysteries tonight, and quickly felt at home saying them --- they were right for this time of year, and I resolved to remember to pray them each night this week up to Christmas Day.  Using the Joyful Mystery meditations I wrote a few years back (you can find them somewhere on this blog), there was a very rich conversation between Jesus, Mary, and I.  The adorers from the previous adoration hour bid their farewells after a bit, and we exchanged Christmas wishes, and then I was alone with Jesus, and I prayed the Rosary aloud.  I looked forward to my next plans for the night, when the lock of the chapel doors clicked open, and a young man walked in and knelt down.  This was most unusual for 1AM, and in my heart I was a bit disappointed.  Not only did I stop saying the Rosary aloud, but his presence would disrupt my private plans for the rest of the evening.  But even this, well, this might be the will of God, and so I silently assented to whatever He wished.  But the young man only stayed a few minutes, and I completed the Rosary telling Jesus all the things I wanted to thank Him for, for the events surrounding His birth.
After the Rosary, the party began.  I had brought my CD player to the chapel, and so Jesus and I, alone, listened to the beautiful Christmas singing of Andrea Bocelli.  His Christmas album is like no other; it was glorious.  From White Christmas to The Christmas Song to Adeste Fideles, the chapel rang with the words of his glorious praise of God.  And as Bocelli sang, I opened and read the Christmas cards I had received and brought to the chapel, reading each greeting, each letter, while often looking up at Jesus on the altar.  And I gave Him thanks for these beautiful people who He has put in my life.  I am so blessed.
 But before I knew it I heard the click on the chapel door locks again --- my replacement adorers arrived, interrupting my revere, and my tears.  I begged: “I’d like to hear the end of this, please,” and they silently nodded their assent --- as Andrea sang Silent Night. 
And they were crying too.
In all my life I don’t think I’ve been to a Christmas Party which gave me such joy, and I believe it gave Jesus joy also.  It was a very special Christmas Party, honoring “the Birthday Boy.”   It was a great privilege for me to be there.