Take My Yoke

This past weekend we heard one of my favorite Gospel passages:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:29-30)

There was a time, about eight years ago now, that I came to know this scripture intimately. It comforted me then, bringing me through a long dark hour, and reminds me still that my trust belongs to God.

So how exactly do we take Jesus’ yoke?   

When Mikey’s health was spiraling out of our control from a brain tumor, I turned to Jesus as I knew Him then. The situation was too big for me by far; my baby boy was dying. At the start, I cried out to Him, begging Him at any cost to heal my little one. I saw nothing beyond the deepest desire in my being to keep my sweet 3-year-old in my arms.  Jesus was always there, steady, solid, nurturing my hope, and yet, not making any promises about Michael’s health. He was answering so many of my prayers and giving me things I didn’t even know I needed, even if He couldn’t say yes to my one big request. Trust is not built in a relationship simply by receiving all that is asked for. Trust is built when one does all that one says he will do. God revealed himself in a million ways: through His word, in deed, and through His body, and what I came to know of Him was a depth of fidelity, honesty, capability, and love, that I had never known before. I turned to Him in every moment of need and He stayed close. He walked with me, day in and day out. When doctors were at a complete loss, Jesus wasn’t. As medicine continued to fail, my soul was nourished, refreshed, and full of Hope. One day He brought me to my Father; I will never forget those moments. We were flying away on a Make-a-Wish trip with our huge family, strollers, wheelchair, gear, and medicine, leaving behind all of our care and support team. Disease had become the familiar and we were embarking on a trip to the unfamiliar. I had some moments of terror as we were boarding that flight, understanding that we were leaving behind what little control we thought we had. Then we were up, up, and away, and as I looked out over the disappearing world below, to the vastness of the skies, I suddenly knew the awesomeness and Love of my Father. He created the skies, the earth, and all that is in it. All belongs to Him. We weren’t actually leaving anything behind that was out of our loving Father’s hands. That flight brought our little Michael to Mickey Mouse, but it brought me straight to the giant arms of Love, care, and protection. Jesus knew exactly what I needed. It’s not so scary to be little and helpless when you are cradled in Daddy’s lap. I knew I could trust Him even though He wasn’t promising that my own baby would be healed.

Only five short weeks after that trip, our beloved boy lay dying. I begged Jesus for the grace Mary had as she walked to Calvary.  He knew my desperate need and sent our Lady herself to be with me and comfort me. I really saw and understood Mary for the first time as we gathered around Michael in his final hours and there is no doubt that her grace abounded.  Peace descended upon the room as Mikey gave up his breath and we sought Heaven as never before.

Jesus knew our deepest need better than we did. 

How do we take Jesus’ yoke?  It’s really so simple.  We love Him. We seek to know Him until we can abandon ourselves in Trust, holding no piece of ourselves back.  We take His yoke when we can say that, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, “I belong to Him whom my heart loves.”

The Final Hour

For the past several weeks I’ve been wishing someone could just hit a fast forward button.  Even if it is a little irrational I don’t want March 2nd to come.  In some strange way it feels like Anna’s final hour is about to happen again only this time we know it and it is frightening.  I’m not sure why I feel this way when obviously the worst has already come and gone.   I think the anticipation is far worse than the day will actually be and part of me wishes we could just skip through.  I’ve been keeping busy, keeping distracted, keeping exhausted.

I’m not at all sure what is so frightening.  Perhaps it is fear that the suffering might change or get worse but then I have to ask, “So what if it does”?   I don’t think it’s possible that it could be as hard or as awful as March 2, 2013.  And if I’m honest, I wonder, “Is it really the worst thing”?  Here I am. Alive and well.  With fruit to show for my troubles. My Surrender comes more readily, my Trust is more certain, my Faith is stronger and my Hope is a force to be reckoned with.

Why are we so afraid to suffer?  It’s hard but we embrace so many things that are hard and we do it for mere worldly gains.  Truly when the pain is the worst I throw myself before God, into Him.  I live more intimately with Him and that is not a bad place to be at all.  In that way my suffering brings my greatest Joy.

March 2, 2014 will simply be day 365 without Anna, no better or worse than the day before or the day after. I know there is much to gain and be learned in these weeks of fear and anxiety and sadness and overwhelming loss.  I know this time of trial is fleeting.  And because I am called to live in the world my time of living purely and deeply in the heart of my God is fleeting as well.

For the past year I have been confronted time and time again with thoughts of how fragile and temporary this life is.  Sometimes I carry on business as usual without giving it a thought and other times I cannot escape the simple profundity of that truth.

Anna left the house on a Friday evening and called goodbye.  I didn’t drop what I was doing to give her a long hug and a kiss goodbye.  To her that would have just been awkward.  (And it wouldn’t have been enough of a goodbye anyway)   How could we not have known it would be her final hour?  There was no sense of it.  No warning and ultimately no final Earthly goodbye.  She walked out the door full of life and hasn’t walked back in.

“But about that day or hour no one knows…” (MT 24:36)

I know for a fact she had every intention of walking back in.  And waking up in the morning.  And taking pictures of her first clients for her budding photography business.  And seeing friends.  She had a journal next to her bed.  Was she about to write in it or had she already?  I don’t dwell on all the things she left undone.  That list is too long to wrap my head around.  But it does always lead me back to the same thoughts.

What if this were my last hour?  Am I ready?  Am I  afraid?  Am I excited?  What if today I meet God face-to-face?  How am I living for Him?

Anna's friends and sister all wear a piece of the puzzle engraved with "Live a Little"

Anna’s friends and sister all wear a piece of the puzzle engraved with “Live a Little”

Anna’s famous last words have become “Live a little”.  She used it as her senior quote in the yearbook and it’s become a mantra among her friends.  And I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe Anna’s philosophy of life.  She wanted to Live and by all accounts she certainly did.  She found the fun in every situation or made her own.  She was kind, generous, loving, intelligent, compassionate, talented and the pain of losing her brother gave her a unique perspective of the fragility of life. She simply wanted to ‘Live a Little’.

I can’t help but wonder in her final hour if that philosophy served her well?  Was she living for HIM a little?

Certainly no one wants us to ‘Live a little’ more than God does.  After all He is the creator of “living”!  He sent His son for exactly that purpose.  In Jesus’ own words

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)

Jesus wants abundance for us, not mere existence.  He came and served and suffered and died so that we might live life to the full.  He knew human suffering well.  He experienced it himself even before the cross, and rightly wants us to know that our suffering is not because of Him or the Father.  Our trials are because of the enemy, but God’s plan for us is living!1961644_10152266045058678_732702104_n

As we go through these days I just can’t help but be reminded of these days last year.  It truly seems like yesterday we were in the same spot with a high school senior.  Waiting anxiously everyday for those college acceptance letters and planning college visits for March and April.  The drama department at Westhill is getting ready to put on their musical production. Last year it was Footloose and Anna had fun designing the poster for it.  Just like last year, the boys and girls basketball teams are making a sectional run and the seniors are excited to cheer on their team. There are so many plans being made for the near future and it’s such a fun and busy time for Seniors.  Lacrosse starts soon.  Spring break.  College.  Senior skip day.  Yearbook.  Ball.  Graduation.  Anna was riding on the high of earning Four Gold Keys at the scholastic art awards and her work was on display at OCC for the month of February.  She was busy getting her portfolio together and was able to take it in person for a review at SU where she received high praise and constructive criticism.  She had been accepted with scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design and was on top of the world about making that dream come true.  Then and now, there is so much living going on and it’s good.  It was an exciting time for Anna last year and this year feels much the same for Nichole.  Business as usual.

Only there is a new awareness about all of it. We will all have to face a final hour.

In this hour before the anniversary of Anna’s final hour I turn to my Mother Mary as I so often do for her example.  During her own son’s final hour she walked beside him, every painful step.  She endured until the end.  She loved, prayed, wept.  This son she thought would be a great King was murdered with criminals.  Her hopes for a savior for her people apparently shattered.  And Mary trusted.

Oh Yes I will take a page from Anna’s book, my beautiful daughter.  I will Live a Little.  For Him.  With Trust.

Surrender

The question I’m being asked daily is “How are you doing?” followed by “No but, how are you really doing????”  (and I so appreciate the love and care and concern behind the question).  Depending on the person and situation my answer varies but the most honest thing I can say is that I’m terrible and wonderful.  I marveled at this strange coexistence after Mikey died and struggled to reconcile myself with the truth of it.  And here I am again in this achingly familiar place…

Anna Pullano 1/27/95-3/2/13

Anna Pullano 1/27/95-3/2/13

The fog and shock of early days is gradually lifting and is being replaced by a reality that is vivid and real and unescapable.  We are going about our daily lives because that’s what you do but the world is tipped a little on its axis.  It just doesn’t feel quite right.  And then moments come that knock the wind right out of my barely flapping sails and it’s all I can do to move on to the next moment.  It seems like everything around me should shift into slow motion somehow.  I’m almost surprised to realize every time that precisely nothing stops or slows down.  In fact no one around me or in the entire world could have any idea of the inner horror of those moments.  I miss my first-born daughter in a way no one else could possibly miss her.  My relationship with her was unlike anyone else’s.  The void in my life and in my family feels vacuous at times and it’s a very lonely and isolated place to be.  The disbelief that the accident actually happened and resulted in Anna’s instant death washes over me again and again.  How can it possibly be true?  What are the chances?  We had no warning. No goodbye. No second chance.  She’s simply no longer here.

In those moments I am terrible.

No matter what truths I know and hold dear the terrible moments rise up and they are beyond my control.

There are a few things I can control however and in those moments I call on the power I have been given to choose a course of action.  I very literally call on the holy name of Jesus and beg Him to come into my present moment.  I get on my knees.  I get on my face.  Not my will but yours be done.

I Surrender.

I offer myself and my pain and every ounce of terrible to the Lord and ask His grace and mercy in return. His gifts can’t be received without surrender though.  Only when I am empty can He fill me.  When I have nothing He reminds me that He has everything I need in every single moment.

And when I come to that, again and again,  I am wonderful!  I am amazed and inspired by the power of Christ within me.

The past memories and the future what-if’s fade into meaningless-ness and the glory of the real future we have is made present.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)

When I surrender, God restores my strength of will to stand in the present moment and accept it for exactly what it is.  If I’m truly honest the present moment is not terrible. I can count my blessings and my gifts.  I know He is present and at work within me and in my life.  I can trust Him and who better to trust than the one with the Power?  I know the promises He has given me and is fulfilling despite the present sufferings.

 He reminds me of the reason for my Joy and I am wonderful.

The Heavy Doors

I was walking out of the pool area with my 2 little girls all wrapped up in their towels and shivering as they walked from the steamy warmth of the pool to the chill of the locker rooms.  Someone ahead of us opened the heavy door dividing the spaces, letting out a whoosh of cold air.  For some reason my almost-5-year-old, Laura, decided she had to catch that door before it completely closed.  She stretched her whole little body up to reach the handle, itself as big as she is, with one hand while the other little hand wrapped around the door itself.  She pulled with all her might but at best succeeded in keeping it

from closing any further.  No way was she getting that door open and as her strength wavered the door started inching closed.  My inner Mom sirens went off screeching “danger little hand”, but part of me wanted to let her figure it out on her own.  She was pretty determined to wrestle with that door and even though she was slowly losing ground, she didn’t give up.  I was waiting for it to dawn on her that in case she lost the battle she might want to unwrap the hand from around the door that was about to slam shut on it.  She’s a smart little one though and knew if she gave up the assistance of that hand then the battle would really be lost.

Finally …. (ok only 5 seconds later)… she glanced at me.  I recognized the moment of surrender and easily reached up and grabbed the door, easing all of her burden, and we were on our way.

This little incident called to mind something very familiar.  How often in our daily lives do we embrace the struggle and think we have to open the heavy doors all by ourselves?  Perhaps we do it without thinking or perhaps we just don’t see a different way.  Perhaps you are a victim of a difficult situation that you just don’t understand.

Only God knows the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of our struggles.  Only He knows why He allows the Heavy doors to burden us but the bigger point is not about the struggle but about our Surrender.

It is easy to look at our lives and the world at large and find examples of sad, difficult, and even horrific situations and wonder, “Why does God allow that?”  Where is His helping hand, his Saving hand?  We know He is always with us and all-powerful and in the midst of so much struggle it can be very tempting to question Him, asking “where are you Lord?”  “What are you thinking here?”  “Don’t you think you should do it this way instead?”

Perhaps He is simply waiting for our glance?  Perhaps He is waiting for us to really come to Him in Trust and Surrender.  Perhaps He is waiting for us to shed pride and say, “I’ve tried this my way and it’s not working.  Now what?”  This is true on an individual level in our own lives but also on a bigger societal level.  When the pride of the majority seems to have the effect of overruling His helping hand, then the surrender of the minority must be to trust in His sovereignty and the ultimate outcome we have been promised.

Only in the absence of our pride can we enter into the intimacy of that ultimate trust.  God invites us to this intimacy again and again throughout scripture with metaphors of the bride and bridegroom.  Jesus himself proposes in the Gospel of Matthew “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (11:29)

God desires our surrender and our trust as a sign of our Love, asking us to recognize that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.” (Is. 55:8)

And unlike the prophet Simeon in the presentation narrative of Luke’s gospel, we are not promised fulfillment of God’s plans in our lifetime but for some reason we often have an expectation that we are.  We demand resolution here and now when all we are asked to do really is Surrender to the Almighty God and Trust in Him.

What might have been an epic struggle for little Laura had I not been right there, was really a non-event once she recognized her need for my help and hopefully it was a learning experience for her as well.  None of us has to bear the burden of the heavy doors alone.  Sometimes our greatest strength lies in our Surrender.  From that surrender comes the peace of trusting in the One who can open or close any door and the ability to truly accept the proposal of Jesus  “For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt 11:30)

 

Berries

Still More Reflections from the Garden

I’ve come to a startling awareness about myself; one that by the grace of God I will remedy immediately.   I am not proud to admit that I have been a very selfish gardener.

I have asked God on many occasions to bless my efforts in the garden; that the harvest might be bountiful. Indeed it has been that, and so much more, as He continuously teaches me valuable lessons.  Many I’ve written about already in Reflections from the Garden, Evangelical Earthworms, Weeds and Fruit.

In the spring, when the majority of my garden was still newly planted, the strawberry patch from last year was in full swing.  Hundreds, or maybe even thousands of little green berries adorned the plants.  The little girls and I went out each morning in anticipation and excitement of juicy red berries.  They grew larger and started to turn pink and a few were a bit ahead of the curve and were on the verge of red and ripe.  We ran out on the appropriate morning to pick our very first ripe berries.  I couldn’t wait for the kids to savor one and together we would give glory and thanks to the Lord for His gifts and His bounty; except when we got there, the first few ripe berries were half chewed away by the birds….  Imagine the disappointment and downright anger!  I had planted and watered and weeded and nurtured and finally the first fruits were going to the birds!  Excuse me while I sound like my kids for a minute but, “It just wasn’t fair!!”

I decided the birds were not going to get the best of my strawberry crop and I covered the patch with a fine netting to keep them out.  I certainly got tangled up in that mess but it didn’t seem to deter the birds at all.  I ran to the internet to research all my bird-thwarting options and was ready for battle . The berries continued to ripen and the birds continued to eat some of them.  One day, however, I realized that there were more ripe berries than either we, or the birds could eat!  It was one of those moments of awareness that comes directly from above and the Lord spoke the following verse to my heart,

Mt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet the heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?”

Gardens everywhere are helping God keep His Promise! I hadn’t thought of my garden as truly doing God’s work until that moment.  My garden is fruitful and surely not by my own inexperienced hand.  God has provided plenty to go around, enough for our family for weeks on end and enough for the birds in the neighborhood.  I have an abundance to share and am so thankful!

The bigger point, of course is that our Sovereign God has every detail of our lives and our world in His hands.  And while He is not ‘up there pulling strings’, His spirit is living and moving in the hearts of His faithful.  His sheep hear His voice and follow His commands and His perfect and holy will is accomplished, through us and in us.

It is usually easy to turn over our situations when we seemingly have no control over them.  When there is nowhere left to turn we turn to the Almighty and often, happily, discover that’s the very best place to go.  But what about the situations that, seemingly, are in our control?  A garden for example? Or the simple moments of our days?  What’s to gain by turning it over to God when we don’t really have to?

When we willingly place our trust in God’s providence we gain FREEDOM.  Freedom from the ways of the world, freedom from self-reliance and freedom from worry!  While every situation may not go exactly as it would if we did it our own way, we are truly free when the ways of the world cannot touch us and we have the confidence to know that whatever the outcome, it will be the very best one for our eternal salvation.

Gal 5:1”It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”

When we place our Trust in God we become free to Trust in God.  That is; by an act of our conscious will we allow God to transform our hearts.

I suppose it is entirely possible that all the birds in my yard have spread the word about my delicious strawberries and will show up next year with a few thousand of their closest friends for a feast.  I would be disappointed to have no strawberries!  It would be hard to stomach and I would probably question God’s wisdom, or at the very least, my own in trusting Him.  I also have complete faith there would be a valuable lesson to learn from it. Turning my garden over to Him does not guarantee perfect success, at least not the success that I’m praying for.  But turning it over to Him does mean that I am freed from the yoke of selfishness and the burden of trying to protect what is not truly mine in the first place.  The bounty of my garden is for the Lord to do with as He sees fit; to feed His birds and His animals or His faithful little family living here.  He will work all things for the good of His creatures.

Most importantly perhaps is the lesson that by Trusting in the Sovereignty of God I am freed from relying on the trinity of self; Me, Myself and I.  Compared to Him, what can I possibly know anyway??  Jesus Himself invites us to give everything to Him because He knows, in ways we can’t possibly know, that it will be for our good if we do!

Mt 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Why would we want it any other way??

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. They kingdom come, they will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. Amen

I Work Out

“I’m sexy and I know it. I work out!” These lyrics by the oh-so-appropriately named (even if a little inappropriate) LMFAO are rolling around in my head. I got myself back to the gym this week, after a little workout sabbatical (read: been waaaay too busy for that)  so I think that now qualifies me as “working out”.  The’ sexy and I know it’ part- well -I’m laughing something off!  So that little voice in my head and the screaming button on my jeans guilted me into finding time for the gym.  And for the record I would just like to say that I have not missed going to the gym at all.  Really.  Not at all.  I don’t enjoy exercising in a forced and contrived environment, though I’ve done it out of necessity for years.

I went back full steam and did a class and some cardio and some weight training.  It was difficult because the whole time my mind was whirling with the lists and responsibilities just waiting….lurking in my mind.   But as I said, necessity drove me and I moved from machine to machine working each muscle group thoroughly. Despite the weight of duty calling and a slight boredom, I persevered knowing that I would be thankful later that I accomplished a worthy and healthy thing for myself.

Two days later I realized some of the fruit of that worthy and healthy thing…. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to be precise.  Apparently it does require muscle use to move fingers on a keyboard.  Still I was proud of myself and willing to endure a little pain for the sake of the greater good.  Until the third day when I moved from tight and sore into full-out robot maneuvers because it just plain hurt too much to bend. Anything.  I vaguely remember crying out to the universe, “I take it back! I un-workout!”  There just isn’t enough healthy and good, and definitely not enough sexy, that could or should justify that pain and suffering!

The crosses we bear in our lives often feel similar, whether of our own making or not.  They are sometimes painful and heavy, sometimes tedious and aggravating and often we can’t really see the point even if we have a vague sense that somehow they are for our good.   How often do we cry out in distress to make it stop or change or go away or improve?  How often do we seem to get no response and see no change?  Or how often do we come through hardship the better and stronger for it?  In every case, God asks us to persevere and trust in Him because He knows exactly what the point is.

Simon de Vos - The Israelites after Crossing t...

Simon de Vos – The Israelites after Crossing the Red Sea – WGA25334 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can look at the example of the Israelites coming out of slavery.  They were in the desert waiting on the Lord for 40 years! They cried out and prayed and begged, and in spite of manna raining down from heaven to feed them daily, they ultimately failed to trust.  Moses went up Mt Sinai for 40 days and by the time he came back down God’s chosen people were worshipping idols. (Ex. 32) These were a people that had walked through the Red Sea on dry ground! They experienced miracles directly from God but how easily they gave up when the waiting didn’t seem to make sense.

We can ask, about the Israelites, and about our own lives, what is the point of the suffering God allows?   I certainly can’t pretend to have the answer to that profound question; who can know the mind of God after all?   But it is not difficult to look back at the Israelites on their way to Canaan and see where they might have gone wrong.  They certainly lost patience, and failed to obey and trust in God’s promise to lead them to the promised land. They questioned and tested God when they were hungry and thirsty (Ex 16-17).  The minute the going got tough they decided they had a better way.

What they missed was the point that our sufferings are an opportunity for purification.   They provide an opportunity to rely totally on our sovereign God and believe wholeheartedly that there is a point and a plan and that He is providing all the grace we need to be victorious for eternal rewards.

When we look at our crosses from this perspective they become easier to bear.  When we open our hearts to God in total trust and abandonment, He fills them with Grace to bear up in our circumstances.   He teaches not only the bearer of the cross but sometimes those who come into contact with another’s cross, how to trust and rely on Him in all circumstances.  He fills our hearts with Himself, thereby assuring us of victory.

My muscles are no longer screaming at me in killing pain.  I’m not even sure what was accomplished by those few little workouts, but somehow I know it was good and I’m glad that I have the first and most difficult week under my belt. Even if it’s on a very small scale, I am stronger and better off and more prepared to take on bigger and better workout challenges that will lead to a healthier and happier physical me!  Most importantly I’ve opened up an opportunity for myself to grow and to change.

If those Israelites had known then what we know now, if they had the knowledge of hindsight, imagine how obedient and full of Love for self and neighbor and how faithful in trusting and worshiping the one true God they would have been.

Wouldn’t they?

After all the land of milk and honey awaits.

Another Bag

I put out a family favorite dish of homemade salsa and tostitos chips for snack the other day. My younger kids were gathered around and devouring it with gusto.  As the chips started to dwindle the kids started getting nervous. You could tell because they went from taking one chip at a time, to a few, to all-out fighting for the bag before their own little stockpile was gone.  Screeching and complaining ensued and my pleas to share and not be greedy went largely unheeded.  It was clear that they heard nothing I was trying to teach them! They became so focused on hoarding chips they didn’t even realize that they probably couldn’t eat them all.  All that fuss obscured the goal; happy healthy snack time together.

It struck me as familiar. How often do we get so caught up in our own desires and wants that we fail to see the error of our ways in achieving them? Sometimes we lose sight of a path that God lays before us because we think we have a different and better path. Or just because we, in our limited human capacity,  don’t see the wisdom of God’s plan plainly, perhaps we dismiss it as less worthy than our own.  Perhaps we are simply so driven and so focused on our own course that we neglect the critical prayer for discernment. How often does God try to get our attention and teach us in our “teachable moments” of life but we can’t or won’t hear Him?

Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

If my kids would have stopped to listen for a minute, they would have heard me trying to tell them something important, “Fear not, Mom is the savior of snack time.!” I have another bag!”  In teenager speak that would be “I got you”. How much nicer snack time would have been if they had taken the hand I held out to them.

And how much more is that true of God in the whole of our lives?   He is Sovereign and He’s got us covered!   When our own plans go awry and we feel like we’re swimming upstream, we need to understand and trust that God definitely has a better way or a better plan.

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

Turmoil, confusion, dissatisfaction, and hurt are not God’s “ways” for us.  Achieving any end by means of sneaking, cheating, lying, being greedy and selfish is never in God’s plan.  Any course we embark on that neglects Love at its core is less than Excellent.

Lord help us to be attentive to your teaching in all the situations of our lives and always show us your “still more excellent way”(1 Cor 12:31) Amen!

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen