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This makes me think… about qualifying my alone moments

Finding Solitude

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

-Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey- 

This makes me think… about waiting patiently for God this Advent

How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.” Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.

-Henri Nouwen-
Bread for the Journey

This makes me think… about prayer as first action…

“[P]rayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence… proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominate counsel is “Do your best and God will do the rest.” When life is divided into “our best” and “God’s rest,” we have turned to prayer as a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.”

-Henri Nouwen-
Seeds of Hope

Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Today I had a thought. A complete thought. And that’s a good thing amidst a million distractions.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to the stuff of earth and all the little things we do — the unspectacular, unexciting needs met for love of God, and love of others. For God notices what we do, even when we forget He is there.

St Therese of Lisieux got it right when she said, “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” Therese’s wisdom points to the beauty of the little way.

Every day, I need to pray in the morning: what is God’s will for me now? That’s where my peace is.

Some days there might be brilliant deeds, but honestly, for me, most of them are pretty ordinary.

So here’s to the mundane. Because that’s where He wants me right now.

Here’s to the everyday and to the myriad of things we might do that never get noticed by anyone other than God. They matter.

God’s plan for my life these past few months included countless things that I would not have chosen for myself. Yet God very much intended these activities and places to be on my calendar. Since late spring, I’ve been absorbed in a whirlwind of tending to others’ needs. God has kept me busy.

IMG_2539I have not had a lot of time to write because I have not had time to process it all. It has been much more important to just live it, not chronicle it… staying present to the people I’m with and the tasks I’m given. I sometimes think I place an unrealistic expectation on myself to constantly write about things. Not to mention I’m tempted by the alluring social media zeitgeist of our plugged-in culture beckoning me to come and play and escape for a while. But, for now, I’m not answering.

Yet I wouldn’t be honest if I did not confess that I struggled with acquiring that virtue.

I went through a withdrawal of sorts regarding my unplugged status. For the first few weeks of this shift, I was constantly feeling guilty that I was not producing new material for my writing career… a daily mental nagging that my slow disappearance from my online platforms was hurting my career’s visibility and viability.

The withdrawal period came to a halt when I remembered Who is in charge of everything, from my day’s agenda to my life’s work. My expectations are not his. My ways are not his ways. This became the basis for my relearning how to tune out my own perfectionistic expectations and continue to trust in God’s plan for me. My expectations usually always become worse by media noise — the digital megaphone yelling at me reminding me what I’m supposedly missing every day.

His will equals my peaceIt plots the path for my knowing which way to choose, and what to pack and what to leave behind.

So, here’s to the mundane, to living the hidden life that is oh so necessary.

Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live. It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” (Luke 2:51). It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.

-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 1995-

Here’s to the routine earthiness that grounds ordinary life — the roll of the day, the humdrum of what needs to be done. And honing a mature vision to see and act.

Here’s to finding a whispered sense of the sacred in every day… to knowing God is with us wherever we are, whatever we do.

Here’s to trusting God is found in every single person we’re with. Honestly, some days I have had to work harder to see that. But my faith acknowledges it, and right thinking does indeed lead to right action, most of the time.

Here’s to being in the moment with someone who needs me, to being about My Father’s business, to His will, not mine.

Of late, I’ve been caregiving in a variety of ways. I’ve been visiting the sick, clothing the naked, wiping the dirty, feeding the hungry, tackling the moldy and the dusty, driving to the hospital, the nursing home, the physical therapy appointment, and back again. I’ve been smiling at the next step taken with a walker, the graduation to solid food, the progress of wounds closing, and the dosage of pain meds lowering.

It is rather mundane and simple. Routines have to keep going, for the sake of others. I’ve been picking up after others, and tending to the dressing, the laundering, and the meal prep. It has reminded me of my years of hands-on motherhood, but to those I’ve been tending, I am no mother. I’ve been caring for parents who have been dealing with a longterm health crisis and a very slow recovery. Then my husband was unexpectedly sidelined with a back ailment. Then, in the midst of that, over the last six weeks, three of my friends have buried their fathers.

Some days the only good I think I can do is in prayer. But besides the prayer, there is a spiritual motherhood that I’m being called to – that of lifting up the lowly and the depressed, and making the things I serve taste good even if I can’t make the people eating them feel good. It is standing by and staying awake and in between, I’m providing friendship, nurture, coffee, and yes, adult beverages.

I’ve had to do things that I have no taste for either – like reading up on medical issues, prescription dosages, geriatrics, Medicare, financial planning, and wills.

I’ve been conversing, cheering, cajoling, joking, arguing, admonishing, strategizing, and soothing. I’ve been praying, crying, grieving. I’ve been shooting the breeze and swearing a bit too much. I’ve not been getting enough sleep. Yet my fatigue is no excuse for the many times I’ve tripped headlong into the sinful gulch that runs deep alongside the river of my would-be sanctity. I’m not the most patient person. But I’m trying to remember all the times when I was the patient and others were caring for me.

Still, here’s to the mundane.

There is simply holy work that must be done. It is the caring for a family and home, for the sick and for the dying.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy never really make headlines but they make the world go round. We’d be loveless and lost without them.

When doubting our effectiveness, some days all we can do is offer it all up. It still counts before a Father who sees all and knows all. My stay-at-home-Mom years taught me a valuable lesson when serving… I call it not keeping score. There is a time and a season for everything under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1.)IMG_3063

Today love means tending to the ones most needy and the work most pressing. Right now, that means not much writing for me. There have been a few short respites. I’m watching the calendar pages change. My presence is all that is required for now. Soon there will be time to pick up the things I’ve laid aside temporarily.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to today. God made it. He sees it, knows it and loves it. Everything He makes is good.

Do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
-Matthew 6: 31-34 rsv-

This makes me think… about how hell reflects the refusal to choose life

A Second Death

Hell is a second death. This is what the Book of Revelation says (Revelation 21:8). Just as there is an eternal life, there is an eternal death. Eternal life is a second life; eternal death is a second death. Our first death can be a passage not only to eternal life but also to eternal death.

Looking at hell as a second death takes away the images of eternal suffering and torture that are so prevalent in medieval art and literature. It defines hell more as the refusal to choose life than as a punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, the sins that the Book of Revelation mentions as leading to eternal death are choices for death: murdering, worshipping obscenities, sexual immorality, lying, and so on (see Revelation 21:8). When we sow death we will reap death. But when we sow life we will reap life. It is we who do the sowing!

~Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey (from the blog that remembers Henri Nouwen’s writings)