We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” – Richard Rohr

I went on walkabout this morning and took pictures of what was happening in my garden.  Some things need work to bring out the best in it.  There is new growth every day.  The snowball bush is blooming and the Iris and peonies are budding.  The yellow dandelions are beautiful.  Even the weeds look good.   We had such wonderful rain last week.  These will go on my blessing list today.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a baby squirrel.  He (or she) was perched on the bedroom windowsill, and I crept over to see her hoping she didn’t run away.  She watched me come closer but she didn’t seem nervous.  Maybe the glass between us made her feel secure.  I asked what she was doing today and if she liked the rain. Other things, too, but I don’t remember exactly what.  She kept her eye turned on me and when I stopped talking her little mouth started moving. Her tail twitched a bit.  This happened two or three times.  She would stop and I would talk and when I stopped her mouth moved again.  I wish I knew what she was telling me.  Maybe she was complaining about the rain.  Maybe loving it, or maybe she wanted to know where her mother had got to.  Did she wonder what I said? I told her that she could stay on the sill as long as she wished or needed.  This conversation went on my gratitude list.  Also, it was one of the moments I felt closest to God and felt the most joy, peace, and love in that day.  Probably because I was paying attention.

In the discernment class that I am teaching, there is a spiritual exercise that I have assigned.  It is the Examen of Consciousness (Not the Examination of Conscience to prepare for confession).  This exercise helps us pay attention. It helps us recognize our blessings, helps us be thankful, and keeps us grateful. It helps us recognize the presence of God and helps us catch when we are getting off track. Paying attention to these movements within can help us in discerning God’s will for us. It can help us know when we are following God and when we are moving away from him for whatever reason.  The reason we may be feeling dry is that we are not paying attention to where God is and where he is leading us. This helps us stay connected.

This examen was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and was/is used in discerning God’s will as part of his Spiritual Exercises in a 30 day retreat.  But we are using it in a simple prayer form, alone or with others; perhaps with your family after dinner or before bed.  Following are the steps.

  1. Sit quietly. You may light a candle if desired.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance the events and moments of the day.
  3. Ask yourself – “For what moment today was I most grateful?” and then, “For what moment today was I least grateful?”
  4. Express your gratitude to God.

Spend time with this, but not more than 15 minutes.

There are other questions that can be used.  Another is, “When today did I feel the most peace, joy and love?” and “When did I feel the least…?” If you are interested in more about this, let me know.

I could try to explain how this relates to talking to squirrels and loving dandelions but I am still working on that.

If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”—C. S. Lewis


A Yearning Strong

“Prayer is the light of the spirit, and the spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness. Like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. Prayer also stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by humans, but by God’s grace.”—John Chrysostom

Today is one of those days when thoughts won’t go together.  I have waited for inspiration and jotted down a note or two but nothing hangs together.  I long for something, but what, I don’t know.  Sometimes when this happens, I look through old things I have written.  This is from a couple of years ago and it touches my heart again today. I think this is where I am finding myself.

trent and kaydance

“I love this picture of my nephew and his granddaughter.  Something about it touches my heart and I can feel the longing and love between them.  There is a mystical quality about the light, too, almost like the sunbeams are bouncing off particles and dancing around the room which is filled with Presence.  I love the little heart that is superimposed on the picture. The love between the two is all that is known in this moment.  She has come for a visit and will go home, back east I think, in a day or two. There is a touch of sadness here that I also sense because of this. This moment of love and embrace is suspended outside of time and I feel tears in my eyes when I think of the parting that will come.

“I am reminded of the soul and God when I look at this.  I am reminded of prayer.  I am reminded of being held in Jesus’ arms and words are not necessary.  Only love.  Only trust. The soul is safe where it belongs and God, while holding her, knows the love and feels the pain of the separation that will come when she leaves this time of embrace.  He does not want her to go even though he knows that she will. The soul will also feel the separation when she is not in his arms.” – A Friday Meditation, 26 Sep 2015 (revised), dlw

There is a song running through my mind that tells of the desire of the soul.  It dances around the room with the light.  The words are:

“Come down, O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardor glowing; O comforter, draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

“O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn to dust and ashes in its heat consuming; and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight, and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

“And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long, shall far out-pass the power of human telling; for none can guess its grace, till Love create a place where in the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.”—HYMNBOOK 1982

Be blessed today, dear ones, with yearning strong.

If I touch Him

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” – Matthew 9:20-22

This has been a very tough year for me for various reasons. My 93 year old mother is not doing well.  My brother has had serious health issues, and I, too, have not been on top of it all.  The illnesses I had leave me with little energy.  It was hard to get into Lent which usually rejuvenates me because I was sick and, so, Easter this year almost felt like just another Sunday.

This Easter season also coincided with the 20th anniversary of our second son’s suicide death. The season always reminds us of it, but this year was one where the actual dates were very close to the date of his birthday and the date he died.  We have all missed him very much this year.  Anniversaries bring this up and 20 years seem huge.  Maybe it’s the decade thing.  Guilt feelings come up, what-ifs hang around.  I was not a good mother.  Really, I wasn’t.  There were lots of reasons, but I didn’t give my children what they needed.  I can only ask for their forgiveness and so I do. “Please forgive me for not being the mother you needed and that I really wanted to be. I am so very sorry.”  In all truth, I was a mess.

When God peels off and transforms another layer of junk it is often raw and painful. For no real reason I feel plagued with insecurities which I had thought healed. But in case we all, especially me, get caught up in sorrow and self-pity, I must say that this is a resurrection story, too.  I know our son and brother lives again.  And I live, too. Even before his death, knowing I couldn’t change the past, I decided that I had to follow a different path – a path of transformation – and that I couldn’t make the changes alone. I needed doctors, I needed community, and I especially needed Jesus. The only way I could help my children heal was to get healed myself and to let them know that there is another much better way to travel and I was going to take it. It is the Jesus way where we find the healing we need and that he brings to us in so many different ways.

God loves to heal messes, but still some, not all, of the scars may remain. Like Jesus’ scars, they are part of our story. Jesus didn’t leave his apprentices until he showed them his scars.  Then he tells them to go tell everyone the things he said and did.  And do the things he did.  The scars and our healing are part of the witness we have to share with others, painful though our story may be.

The scripture above came to me early in the week. Paraphrased a bit, I say “If I can only touch Jesus, I will be healed.”  My time of solitude and silent prayer is a big part of how I touch him. I still do have days when I fall into doom and gloom.  I have days when I feel insecure.  But Jesus loves us just as we are.  He also loves us way too much to let us stay that way. I am very grateful.