Friday, November 30, 2007

Cross Standard

With the feast last Sunday of Christ the King, and a women's conference I attended last week about being the daughter of the King, and watching a movie about Joan of Arc last week and the second Lord of the Rings movie (whew! long sentence), I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a daughter of the King. And Kingship. And His kingdom.

I get to meet the King someday, maybe sooner than later. And this is not a stranger King, this is a King that I know!

And I got to thinking do I want to dress to meet the King (hypothetically speaking, of course)? Would I want to be dressed in my fanciest, finest clothes, or would I want to be in my battle gear, my coat-of-arms, bearing His standard?

I was thinking that I would like to meet Him in my battle gear bearing his standard. And then I read this quote from the book, "The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur." It is taken from a letter she wrote to her godson on the occasion of his first communion. She says,

"You ought not to be a laggard in the Christian army, but one of those stout-hearted leaders of men who encourage others and plant their standard--the cross--more or less everywhere in the world and in the souls of men."

Whoa. In my image of meeting the King, I'm carrying the standard in the form of a banner. But of course the King's standard is the cross. He promises us suffering for His sake on this earth. And we share in the suffering of Christ as the church militant.

It's just a more humbling image. I still want to bear his standard. But do I have the strength to bear it to the end if it is a cross??

Monday, November 26, 2007

One Alone

We all long to be fully known and fully loved. Often we are disappointed and struggle with the conflicting emotions that ensue.

I found this quote in my devotion time this morning that encouraged me yet again toward God. Perhaps it will encourage you:

"We know that even our nearest friends enter into us but partially, and hold intercourse with us only at times; whereas the consciousness of a perfect and enduring Presence, and it alone, keeps the heart open. Withdraw the Object on which it rests, and it will relapse again into its state of confinement and constraint; and in proportion as it is limited, either to certain seasons or to certain affections, the heart is straitened and distressed.

If it not be overbold to say it, he who is infinite can alone be its measure; he alone can answer to the mysterious assemblage of feelings and thoughts which it has within it...

Life passes, riches fly away, popularity is fickle, the senses decay, the world changes, friends die. One alone is constant; One alone is true to us; One alone can be true; One alone can be all things to us; One alone can supply our needs; One alone can train us up to our full perfection; One alone can give a meaning to our complex and intricate nature; One alone can give us tune and harmony; One alone can form and possess us."

------Venerable John Henry Newman

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Taking Inventory

Hullo. I know many people take inventory of their lives--personality, relationships, goals, fitness, financial state, etc--at the turn of the year. I am blessed (??) to be at the whim of my constantly churning mind which does a pre-scheduled (the schedule of which is unknown to me until it happens) accounting of all of the above. It did it this week. I suppose it was the combination of Thanksgiving and my birthday.

The inventory totals are still computing and configuring, but the preliminary results are out. Here are some of them:

I always tell my boys that no matter what, you can ALWAYS find something to be thankful for. Always. Even if it is that the day will end. I have SO MUCH to be thankful for. So much.

I need to work on fading away into the background. I know this seems paradoxical to say, but it is the only way that my needs are met and that there is peace in my heart. It's a mystery, I know. And a constant battle to push on to that spot. But to there I must go. To nobody land. There has been too much of me on parade lately.

I'm reminded that my first charge is to be a wife and a mother. It is also the place that gets me most quickly to nobody land if I'm doing that job right. So back to the grindstone with that.

Although I meet God intensely in some of the adventure and excitement of life, it is in the ordinary, mundane, everyday affairs that He takes his chisel to me to keep filing off the rough edges. I need to stop fidgeting and sit patiently so He completes His work in all faithfulness.

We all suffer. I want to be even better at encouraging others in the midst of theirs, in spite of my own.

And finally albeit more lightly in some ways, I'm reminded how much I love to run. It reminds me of the gift of my health. I imagine the breeze on my face as the physical touch of God. And I want to keep doing it for as long as I can. I'm only in my middle late 30s, for Pete's sake, so I will continue to go. (Did 5 miles today in low 30-degree weather--starting to brace for the real winter cold. Next goal at this point is a half marathon in St. Louis in April. We'll see.)

Thank-you, God for my faith. For my family. For my friends. For all of the random strangers you put into my life that teach me things about humanity and about myself. Let's go for another 37 years, shall we?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

My family is fed. The day has been relaxing. I have so many things and people to be thankful for. There is peace in my home.

Where, then, is the peace in my heart?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

God Redeems Our Weakness

Whew! What a week. I was so emotionally exhausted this week, I couldn't bring myself to blog. Even if I could, words would not have done it justice. Suffice it to say, I had some very profound experiences through work.

Anyway, during my devotion time this morning, I found a meditation I had torn out of a book last year and placed in the cover of the book I picked up this morning. For some reason the thoughts struck me today again and I wanted to share parts of it here. I cannot take credit for the thoughts. It was written by a man named Father Jacek Buda. He starts of talking about the color gray being the color of dullness. And then he goes on:

"The problem is located somewhere between great sin and great love, in the vast haze of imperfect friendships, unfulfilled promises, incomplete victories, plans delayed to infinity. It is a constant, omnipresent weakness, an endless capacity for mediocrity. Our dreams rarely come true--and when they do, they are just a pale shadow of what we expected. Our loves and friendships, though intense and full of promise, are also fragile and full of deception. How many times have we caught ourselves trying to possess or to manipulate other people? How many times have our prayers for others been nothing more than showing off for ourselves? What scares us the most is the suspicion that this is all it means to be human.

....This means that the way to get out of the gray is not to be afraid of it. If we accept our life, our loves and friendships and our work for what they are, and if we have the courage to receive them with all talent and energy, then past the haze of mediocrity, boredom, and even suffering, I will see Christ. Christ's humanity is not a limitation or an embarrassment; it is the way in which God chose to save his creatures. His cross is not a failure; it is his victory and hope for us. Christ is the Son who became man so that 'the Father may see and love in us what he sees and loves in Christ.' Thanks to him I don't have to be afraid of my weaknesses and limitations. As long as I don't give up, I am on the road to him."

My thoughts now (to myself as I strive to progress along the continuum of loving ever more purely and less selfishly)......

Examine your relationships. How do you use even good things to pull to have needs met for yourself that should be met through God first? In those ways you are not loving purely, unconditionally.

God, help me with this.

(I'm sick of praying this prayer and look forward to heaven when I won't need to pray it any more!!!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Day of Battle

Whew. I'm spent. I feel like I've battled all day. I have, actually. More on that in a bit.

A lot going on in my head and heart today.

Today is the celebration of All Saints' Day in the Catholic Church: So in my devotion time this morning, I ran across this statement......"The saints are true realists; they take seriously the hopelessness of man as it is and do not seek a refuge from the present in the future. They get on with the job in spite of everything and hope against hope."

What does the author mean by "a refuge from the present in the future?" When I think of the future as a refuge, I think of the hope of heaven. But the way this author is using it, he seems to be saying that it is not a good thing to take refuge in the he can't be talking about heaven. Any ideas? I guess the gist of what he is trying to say is that the saints were present with people in their difficulties, in the moment of their difficulties.

That "in the moment" theme again. My theme for 2007. And and probably for 2008.

Now for the battle. I've struggled with self all day today. But it didn't feel like the usual struggles. It felt like a continuous unrelenting onslaught all day long, where I needed to consciously throughout the day forcefully change the direction and content of my thoughts. They came unsolicited, and I fought them off, some more quickly than others. Arrrggh.

Are there ever days where you feel you are a focused target of the enemy? Where it feels like his mission for that day is to throw so many things your way that at times it almost seems easier to give in than to keep fighting? That was my day. And of course when that happens, you hear his voice saying things like, "See? You are sinful. Why even bother trying?" and "Just give up. You know I'm going to win in the end."

So then you add in the fight against the deceitful messages on top of the rest of the battle and sometimes it makes one just want to retreat.

With that in the background, I made a hospice visit at the end of the day. This particular woman is declining. I would be surprised if she was still living in a couple of weeks. And she is a dear. I feel like I've made a friend in the few short weeks I've been visiting her. Today she slept through most of my visit so I talked with her family.

I grabbed her hand to wake her to tell her I was leaving. Her eyes flew wide open, she grabbed my hand in a death grip and said, "You can't leave me." Now she has been feisty and known to have a sense of humor, so to lighten what I saw in her face to be a very serious statement, I asked with a smile, "You want me to stay with you ALL of the time?" And still very serious, she responded, "yes, I do."

Well I told her I couldn't do that.....not that I didn't WANT to (genuinely). I said even though I couldn't stay with her physically through the weekend, I told her I would be with her constantly through my prayers. I asked her what she wanted me to pray for. "That it be over soon."

With assurances looking intently into her brown eyes that I would be back on Monday, I pryed her hands from mine finally and walked out the door.

And I cried. Sad to be losing a new friend so soon. Sad for her struggles and uncertainties. Sad that I couldn't just move in with her for the weekend.

I found a quiet spot to park and pray for her. And I was infuriated that the enemy had not called a cease-fire and continued to assault me--during my prayers! And then the messages came like "You can't even focus to pray for this dying woman." I finished my prayers, albeit exhausted.

Hopefully tomorrow I will be stronger in battle.