Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Candy Day

With the culture’s penchant for re-naming anything remotely religious, I’m somewhat surprised they haven’t gotten around to re-naming Halloween, which is a shortened form of All Hallow’s E’en, or the eve of All Saints Day, November 1 on the Church calendar.  I figure Candy Day is what the culture will come up with ---- although perhaps not.

 This sign went up this week on a farm I pass each day.  I’m not sure if this is perhaps an alternative to giving away candy on Halloween night; if it is, you’d better hurry because it says there are only 8 left.  Of course it could be something else.  I mean, if it were REALLY a flying pigs farm then they might be selling them in place of drones, which are getting lots of government regulatory reviews lately.  Or, for that matter, perhaps the sign was put up by the cows in the background, kind of like an ad for: “Eat more pork.”  You never know about those cows, they can be kind of sneaky.

I don’t know if you got out to look at the huge beautiful moon earlier this week.  I tried to capture a picture of it, but it really didn’t capture the size, or beauty --- although the traffic signals came out clear.  I wonder if the moon will be visible Halloween night; it would be appropriate for the evening.

These guys might also be an alternative to Halloween candy, but probably not.  They were wonderful gifts over the years, and I could never part with them.  I’ve got plenty of candy for give-away on Saturday night, including the large chocolate bars for the littlest of angels, and the extra bags of Snickers to give out in case the rest of the candy runs out.  And if it doesn’t, well, I’m sure I find SOME use for the Snickers (which are in my freezer right now --- just in case they are leftover). 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Praise Him --- Always

This past week God opened my eyes, and gave me some insight into His ways --- and my small part of His much bigger plans.  The Sunday Gospel was about Bartimaeus’ calling out to Jesus, asking for healing of his sight.  Much discernment of this Gospel focuses on Bartimaeus’ asking with confidence --- as we should do.  Or perhaps sermons might have noted that Bartimaeus cast off his cloak to go quickly to Jesus, despite the fact that his cloak was probably his most valuable possession --- as we should set aside things we might value, to seek Him.  Those are all good lessons to be had from this Gospel.
But I was blessed to see something else in that Gospel:  Sometimes we should act with Bartimaeus as our example, but sometimes we should be open to act with Jesus as our example, even to the point of working miracles!  In all things and in all ways, we should seek to do His will, and give Him praise --- always.  As my eyes were opened to, all things are possible with Him, and we perhaps might be blessed to see His great plans --- much grander than our tiny petitions, if we but just believe.
The closing hymn at this morning’s mass re-enforced this lesson for me:
Blessed Be Your Name
Blessed be Your Name,
When the sun’s shining down on me,
When the world’s all as it should be,
Blessed be Your Name.
Blessed be Your Name,
On the road marked with suffering,
Though there’s pain in the offering,
Blessed be Your Name.
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord,
Still I will say,
Blessed be the Name of the Lord,
Blessed be Your Name.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord,
Blessed be Your glorious Name.

Friday, October 23, 2015

I Am Sad For You

I wanted to create a title for this post which used the word “pity,” because that is the word which came into my mind this morning at the men’s Bible Study group.  I wanted to say:  “I pity you!”  But I didn’t.  The discussion this week continued on the Gospel of John, and reached Chapter 4, and the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.  At the end of the discussion she states that she knows a Messiah is coming, and Jesus responds:  “I am He.”
The guys around the table described that as a “God moment.”  The woman knew then, right then, that she was in the presence of God.  And then the study-group leader asked:  “When was the last time you had a ‘God moment’?”  And under my breath I answered:  “Last night at the adoration chapel --- He was there with me.”  The guys, however, struggled to remember when they last --- if ever --- felt in the presence of God.  And so I prayed: “Lord, what would You have me say now?”  But no words came to me.  What came instead was a deep pity for these good men.
How blessed I am to see and receive my God each day, to be able to come into His presence, where He waits.  He waits for me.  Knowing I am in the presence of God is a most awesome thing.  And having these others say: “I wonder what that would feel like” brings on a sadness I almost can’t describe. I wished -- I prayed – that some mystical words would come to me, and that they would suddenly see the light.  But through my sadness I knew, I am not He.  He is the changer of hearts; not me.  And for those men, perhaps in His time, in His way, they will come to know the “God moments” that I know and feel each day.  Meanwhile, in some way, I think I shall remember this time with a sadness.  They are children He loves, who don’t really know Him.
I don’t attend the Protestant men’s Bible Study Group with any thoughts of conversions.  That is God’s to do, if He so wills.  I attend so that through study of His words I might “put on the mind of Christ.”  And I think this morning I did, as I realized that sometimes God can be sad.  But like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, His sadness is based on love, an unrequited love.  “How I wished you loved me --- and knew me.”
And then I realized one more thing:  I am called to put on the mind of Christ, even as I perceived it from that Gospel and men’s discussions.  I am called to love my neighbor, even if he does not love me back, even if he doesn’t know me.  I am called to love, and not count the cost.  And sometimes this might seem a sad and lonely thing.  But I remember this is how He felt, and as I receive Him in Holy Communion or spend time with Him in the adoration chapel, He is with me.  I am not alone.  We are about this task of loving together.  It is a “God moment” I wish all people had.
But regarding the men of the Bible Study group and my feelings toward them, I was reminded of other words which I recently discovered:
It is a great blessing when we are able to forgive ourselves,
for not accomplishing that which it is God’s to do.
I pray for such a blessing, that perhaps it might relieve my sadness.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Garden of Weeden

Last night the temperatures dipped below freezing for the first time in a while.  Fall is truly here, and I don’t think it will leave again until it has had its full say.  The trees seem serious about dropping their leaves, and the grass below is rapidly disappearing in a sea of brown clutter.  And soon it will be white.

Just last Monday the temperatures were in the pleasant 70’s and I spent some hours cleaning out the garden.  The now withered tomato plants and the long snaky vines of the butternut squash plants got pulled out and bagged for recycling pickup.  And the bags used for the still-growing weeds way outnumbered those of the dead vegetable plants.  My little plaque which reads: “The Garden of Weeden” seemed most appropriate this year.  Weeds dominated the garden by the end of this summer, despite the black plastic weed-block which covered most of the garden area.  The weeds just flourished all year long, even in the smallest of bare soil spots, and the extra fertilizer I poured on the garden?  Well, it seemed to matter not to the veggies --- growing seemed not on their agenda.     

I recall the Gospel admonition to let the weeds grow amidst the good plants --- that Gospel story seemed to imply that the good plants will always out-number and out-grow the weeds.  This year was a reminder that that will not always be true.  It seems that into every life a little rain must fall --- and some weeds grow.  It’s tempting to be sad about my meager veggie crop --- the tomatoes netted only two gallons of chili this year versus the twenty or so last year, but today I read another Gospel admonition about leaving some towns where things don’t go as you planned, and washing the soil from your feet.  Not everything will work out in life as we wish, and sometimes we just need to move on and not worry about things.

While I measured my garden output in terms of chili, who knows how God measures these things?  Maybe with less chili I’ll eat more fresh fruits and vegetables this winter --- probably a good thing for me.  And maybe spending that afternoon pulling those blankety-blank weeds was good exercise for me --- that’s probably a good thing too.  Or maybe it was just a good bonding time for me and Ritzy, the neighbor’s dog, who sat waiting patiently (well, perhaps not too patiently) all afternoon, looking at me the whole time with those big doggie eyes:  “Don’t you have any more Milkbones for me?”
(I think Ritzy ate a dozen or more bones over the course of the afternoon --- I guess he has me well-trained.)
Who knows God’s plans; maybe the reason for the whole summer’s crop failure and weed success was just for that one afternoon of weeding, and the hour spent afterward swinging gently on the deck swing, looking at the last days of the beautifully-flowered hanging baskets, listening to the soft music playing, and feeling the warm last-day-of-summer’s breeze --- and closing my eyes in peace and in rest, and feeling God’s presence, and His love.
To everything there is a season, and to everything a reason and purpose under heaven.
It is good sometimes, to just sit and count your blessings, on a warm summer’s afternoon, amidst God’s many gifts.   It might be just the thing He planned for you, and maybe He smiles as you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Blessing of Suffering

As I was praying in church before mass one morning this week, my thoughts drifted to the state of the world, and the increasing self-centeredness of people, and to how narcissism is now considered as a virtue, not an illness.  Socialism, getting things for me, is now highly rated in our country.  It’s a focus on the lowest level of happiness --- which I recently wrote about --- that grips increasing numbers of people, who say:  I’m not happy because I don’t have enough things; I think others are not happy because they don’t have enough things.
And then my thoughts at the church became focused on another concern of mine:  caregiving.  I no longer care for mom, but I do coordinate a caregiver’s support group --- and it is a much needed and appreciated thing.  And I also work to support a group of caregivers who care for developmentally disabled adults; and they are all beautiful people, both the caring ones and the ones being cared for. 
And then suddenly, I was blessed to see the connection between these two concerns of mine:  the first concern is about too many people loving themselves, while the second is about now enough people loving others.  And I saw the obvious disconnect:  the ones focused on themselves can see neither the needs (and sufferings) of those needing to be loved, nor the fact that IF they chose to fill that need they themselves would be made happier.  And I also saw the bigger picture:  as mankind deteriorates into a Satan-inspired love of self, God provides even more opportunities to love others.  In effect, as Satan tempts us one way, God provides opportunities to go the other.  So:  I don’t think it is any coincidence that as people increasingly lower into self-centeredness, there are increasing numbers of elderly and even youth suffering in various forms of illness, incurable illness or fragility ---people needing loving care, a care which requires others to step up from just caring for themselves.  Their suffering is really a blessing for others, an opportunity to strengthen the biological family and the church family.  The greater mix of older people is a gift of God, an opportunity to love, so that where evil may reign, virtue may triumph. 
Caregivers are those who love those who need love.  It is not a well-respected vocation in our society right now, but caregivers find that giving love to those suffering or in need makes the caregivers’ lives much more fulfilling.  Go back and read some of the words in my review of the play: Man of LaMancha.  That image of Christ which the knight displayed, read his words about fighting for the right no matter the cost, about being willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.  This is the world of the caregiver. 
I saw, as I sat in that church the other morning, how God has led me to where I am.  He made me a caregiver of my mom for seven years --- something certainly I would never have chosen on my own.  He let me see her sufferings, her need for love, and He led me through her sufferings, my fears of not knowing what to do, and my fears of being terribly alone and failing my beloved mom.  Yet there in the darkness he spoke to my heart:  I am your beloved; I am here.  And now God has led me down that path of caring for the caregivers.   Now I am positioned to use the talents, the organizational skills He blessed me with, coupled with the love He taught me, to care for caregivers --- just at that point in time when we need ever more caregivers in this society: both for those needing caring, and for the caregivers themselves, who need to learn how to love --- without counting the cost --- as He taught me.
Jesus said that “I will be with you until the end of time.”  I responded “Jesus I trust in You.”  The Man of LaMancha said “This is my quest.”
Are you meant to be a caregiver also, or a caregiver of caregivers?  Both are mighty challenges, worthy of a knight-errant:  to love without counting the cost.  Entering into daily prayer would be a good place to start your quest:  “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.  I want to do Your will --- not mine.”  This is a start to a new journey, your journey to be as He made you to be.  Ask, and He will answer.  Don’t look for the answer in an hour, in a day, or in a week.  It will be in His time.  It will come.  Wait.  Trust, and mean it.  Talk to him; read of Him and His saints.  Be in His presence.  He will talk to His friends.
How blessed, how fortunate, are those servants whom the Lord will find watchful when he comes.  Blessed is the time of waiting when we stay awake for the Lord, the Creator of the universe, who fills all things and transcends all things.  How I wish he would awaken me, his humble servant, from the sleep of slothfulness, even though I am of little worth.  How I wish he would enkindle me with that fire of divine love. … I pray to you, Lord, that love does not fail my lantern, burning within me and giving light to others, may it always be lighted and never extinguished.
      -- Saint Columban, abbot.
our help and our guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.
Do you have any idea how many ways there are to love in this world?  They are innumerable, and they are synergistic:  Love of God brings about love of neighbor; love of neighbor brings about love of God.  The failures of the world are opportunities for us to love; our opportunities to love are opportunities to change the world.  Certainly to love neighbor is a one-by-one thing, but there are many neighbors, and it is not just OUR love, for we were never meant to love alone.  Our family, our church, these are opportunities to use our love to teach these others how to love, with us.
The family is failing in our culture; so much self-love exists, which leaves others with no one to love them.  Teach your family to love; show them how to love.  The greatest thing you could ever teach your children is not being taught in the schools:  teach them to love.  Teach them the importance of love; show them your love in action.  Be an example of love.
And should the day of your suffering come, a suffering you cannot avoid, they – or others you taught – will be there to love you.  It/you will be a blessing for them.