Monday, October 22, 2007

Numbered hairs

Yesterday's Gospel reading:

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

- Luke 12:1-7

I can remember when that gave me a bad feeling, that GOD WAS WATCHING ME and HE WAS MAD. I was trying to hide my sins from Him, as well as the world, and I was uneasily aware that it wasn't possible.

Today, I find that statement comforting. He's got my back; yes, He sees my sin (I see it a lot better myself), but He has me in the palm of His Hand.

I forgot sometimes how far I've come, and I need to curb my impatience with those people who don't see to get it, yet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Returning from retreating

Reflections upon my return from the Women's Retreat:

God Club vs. God School

Because I came back to faith largely on my own, not initially having any models in my daily life to whom to turn, to ask questions of or to study their lives*, I studied my way into understanding my relationship to Jesus and to His Church. I was delighted by the connections, the elegant and symphonic logic, the connections to art and science and birth and death and creation. So I am accustomed to making progress, having "aha" moments only in my head. I resist the urge to do the Te Deum dance when the Holy Spirit clicks together two seemingly unrelated issues, a life problem and a Scripture, let's say, since it happens not at a prayer meeting, but while I'm waiting for a conference call to start, or watching EWTN at home, vegging on the couch. I have been going to "God School" since 2002.

(* although if you try and deny the intercessory power and help of the Communion of Saints, I'll kick you right in the slats, at least in my heart. So many saints were so helpful to me.)

At a retreat, especially one like this, you're steeped in fellowship and resources and everybody is praising God right in front of you in all different ways. You can have conversations about current events, and your opinions, if not the same, are governed by the same Rule of Life. People offer advice, and their motivation is for you to grow in holiness; none of the what-if's are immoral. Besides which, you can tell a joke with a teasing reference to Scripture and not have to explain it. You can make any reference to Scripture, and it's understood with the same readiness that a popular culture reference would be in the everyday world. It's "God Club" and it's the supreme version of any immersion camp you would provide to a horse-crazy or sports-crazy child. I really needed this.

Idealization, part 2

Last year, I assumed that these women didn't have any problems. They all seemed so darn cheerful! That idea was knocked out quickly, as I heard heartbreaking stories of illness, family problems, death, job struggles. Their problems are exactly those of the world.

But this year, I realized that I presumed that these women always had the right solution, being rooted and grounded in faith as they are. That they would take a deep, sad breath and peacefully say "I want to discern the Will of God in this, and I will take it to prayer."

That's slightly less true: I didn't necessarily hear anybody laying out their plan of action and thinking to myself "What a lousy idea," but I could also see that their reactions to the problems of their lives included rage and resentment and mistakes and disputes, AND a turning to God as their rock. It's that both-and I learned this year.

"Precious" Moments

There was a time in my life that if someone had said "Let's spend some precious time with Jesus" I'd have winced so hard you'd have heard me two rows away. Words like "beautiful" and "precious" had no place in my God vocabulary, because I'd relegated those words to either untouched, unmanufactured things, such as magnificence in nature (for which I gave God some credit), or to kitchsy, souvenir-store, who's mommy's widdle ootsy pootsy cavity locaters, bite down and zing! call the dentist.

I joyfully reclaim the word "precious" because the treasure in the field, the precious pearl of great price, is communion with the Lord, anywhere along the continuum from prayer to Eucharist.

Confession ain't so bad

Another first (I write these out not to brag but to continue my role as Awful Warning of what you get when you worship yourself for most of your life), is that I could not WAIT to get to Confession. I haven't been since April, although I have enough access to it. I just kept putting it off, and ducking it, and getting busy. Nothing in the presentation before it pointed directly to reconciling myself with God, but I was clock-watching during the meditation time afterwards and dashed down to the chapel to get in line.

One tiny benefit was that I know none of the priests who were hearing confessions, so I was spared that temporal itchiness of "well, howdy Father, old friend, here's the same old sins again and I still doubt my firm amendment to change!" I know that Father hears me with the ears of Christ, but it's just plain embarassing, when looked at in the wrong spirit.

It was a good confession. I don't remember anything anyone said, but I came out of there righteous before the Lord entirely due to His Grace, not by my own efforts, and that was a joyful penance of prayer.

Real friends bring you Jesus

I have friends who have taught me to bake, to make slipcovers, who sat with me during my divorce and listened. I've taught friends to can and preserve, sat with them during the death of their parents and listened. Great to be friends; great to have friends.

But I cannot stop marvelling over the fact that I was at this retreat, worshiping our Creator in worship, meditation, praise, song and ministry, joyfully and wholesomely, at this unique parish, because of a tiny blog-directed friendship: I met Henry while we were both writing entries about annulment and its benefits. Side conversations developed with Roz, his Then-Main Squeeze and Now Wife, and we began to blog here together. Do not EVER think that God does not bring Greatness out of Niceness, Fantastic out of Okay, Mountaintops out of Backyards, and Blessings out of Pleasantries.

and, as a last review issue....Fashion Tips for Retreats

Last year, I admired everybody's Crocs, the footwear of the Holy Spirit. They looked kind of clunky-cool, so I got my own Crocs and packed them, to find that they've moved past them to a kind of sleek low leather clog. Gosh, the frenzied pace of Christian women's fashion.....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


It's Women's Retreat time again. This weekend, I will join my blogsister Roz at her parish, Christ the King in Ann Arbor MI.

My posts leading up to last year's retreat, my first ever as an adult, are here, here and here.

I was pretty nervous last year, wondering if I would fit in, if I would over- or under-react, if false teachings would be presented with enough passion and charisma that I'd be drawn astray. The last item is no problem; that is one devout bunch of women, wonderful happy faithful hearts. All of us worry a little if we'll make an idiot of ourselves, but that's just pride packin' its bags to come along.

What IS new is that I am looking forward to "prolonged periods of prayer," as the schedule says. Not that I'm any better at prolonging my concentration; if anything, I think I'm worse at it than a year or so ago. What I am is more content to sit and wait upon the Lord, to draw myself back to the meditation at hand, to offer up for God's Mercy whatever is jumping around in my mind.

The speaker this year will be offering us some insights in Ignatian Spirituality, the loving path to God described by St. Ignatius for his Jesuits. I don't know Thing One about it, except that the classic Ignatian retreat is 21 days, so it must be very rich and very exacting. Cool! - what else in life these days is rich and exacting?

St. Ignatius of Loyola. I wish his look wasn't quite so penetrating...

So pray for us. I'll pray for you, all Christians in my corner of the blogworld specifically. If you have a prayer intention you'd like me to take with and offer to the Lord, please email me or put it in the comments below.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Gleaned in the adoration chapel

St. Teresa on recollection:

We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.

It is well to reflect for a time but then we must sometimes remain by His side with our souls hushed in silence. If we can, we should occupy ourselves in looking upon Him who is looking at us. Keep Him company, talk with Him, pray to Him, humble ourselves before Him, have our delight in Him.

He will teach you what you must do to please Him. Do not be foolish. Ask Him to let you speak to Him and, as He is your Spouse, to treat you as His bride. Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth -- that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him.

Various writings of St. Theresa of Jesus excerpted in I Want to See God by P. Marie-Eugène OCD

Monday, October 01, 2007

Too much for words

Blogging is tough. The most important things reduce themselves least readily to words.

This weekend, I attended a reunion of about 250 middle-aged God-lovers who had been members of an intentional Christian community together during our dorm days in the 1970s. Though that community is around in one aspect or another still, most of us are involved elsewhere and living elsewhere now. Those times together in the '70s had been wonderful and difficult; we were younger and stupider then, and more naive; and we thought in simplistic terms because of the aforementioned youth and lack of experience. But there was no question then that God was doing something wonderful among us, and there is no question now that that was and is true.

If you're like me, you've been to reunions for high school or college. You try to look smooth, you mentally rehearse your "bio" to sound as casually successful as possible, and you dearly hope that the cheerleaders and valedictorians will no longer seem intimidating.

This reunion resembled that sort in no way whatsoever. These were 250 people who were looking forward, after a year of anticipation, to seeing people they had loved, and finding out with a certain amazement that the love was still there.

It was wonderful. And God was there. I was filled to the brim with joy and gratitude. Small talk wasn't small, because there is no small talk when it's family. And, in a sense, a family reunion is what this was.

Those of us who were able to stay in town held a prayer meeting on Sunday afternoon together with the "non-dormies" we hadn't seen the night before but are still active in that community today. The Holy Spirit was present in a particularly powerful way. I, for one, am going to have to sit with it all for a while. I think this weekend was non-trivial, but I don't know how.

Genuine community of brothers and sisters in Christ is all too rare. I thank God, not only that I had a chance to live it for a while but that, as I realized in a new way, once God builds something, it stays built.


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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009