Sunday, February 24, 2013

Desperate Prayer

She was shopping at Wegman’s, piled the bags of groceries into the backseat of her car and drove off for her next errand. At the mall, she started browsing in the shops and found something she liked and reached into her purse and her heart suddenly pounded with panic. She could not find her wallet.

The clerk patiently waited for her, but it was no use. Her wallet had disappeared and it was not in its usual spot. Damn. She ran out of the mall thinking where she might have lost her precious. She drove back to the Wegman's on Ridge Road. When she got out, she frantically started looking into the metal carts for her wallet. The Helping Hands employees came out to inquire what was the problem. They offered to help her look for the missing wallet but there was nothing to be found. She was told to go into the store and ask customer service if a wallet was returned at the service desk.

She ran to the desk, out of breath and shaking, and asked the young people if anyone returned a wallet. The staff said no one had brought anything to their counter and there was nothing in the lost and found box.

Suddenly she felt a flash or flush, (only God knows) during the conversation, she had this epiphany that she was not in the right Wegman’s store. She had gone shopping to Wegman’s earlier in the day, but it was the Wegman’s on Lyell Avenue not Ridge Road.

She felt like an idiot, but she still needed to find her wallet. So off she flew back into her car, cursing the slow moving traffic driving down Long Pond Road. She started praying and told God that she would go to church this Sunday if she found the dumb wallet. She eventually drove into the parking lot. For some reason, this looked more familiar and she again began her frantic search for the wallet. Nothing found in the cart corrals outside the store, so she ran inside the store to the customer service counter and screamed at the kids in a panic if anyone returned a wallet that afternoon.

The kids were horrified, but they checked all around their counter and terrified reported back that nothing had been left in lost and found. Disappointed and exhausted, our friend sadly started walking from the counter heading into the hallway. Nearing the entrance door, she heard a voice from behind her say something like, “Ma'am, Ma'am.” She turned around and one of the girls from the counter came running up to her with this purse that had a wallet. Is this your wallet?  She instantly recognized her precious cargo. Then she began to cry and the customer service girl hugged her and the two women were crying together. The customers walking past were staring at all the fuss. They were tears of joy. Actually they were tears of gratitude that the kids took the extra time to search the counter again until they found her wallet in the lost and found.

Stuff happens, and most likely we have no control when bad things happen to good people. But it’s our response that makes a difference and this is exactly the purpose of Lent. How do we reflect the glory of God when things fall apart and we are in a frenzy?. We need to make a difference and one way is to learn how to pray.

Our normal practice is usually is a knee jerk response to some crisis, “Lord, get me out of this jam, or help me in times of trouble, or take away this, that or the other.” God does not make bad things happen to us. Rather, we need to learn to come to God in silence and “listen.”

God holds us up especially in moments of panic as we pray: “ …let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have their share of desperate moments and struggle to just survive. Teach us to simply listen to the prayers at Mass, in the Scripture, in our spiritual reading and in the quiet of our soul and learn your wisdom that comes to bring us inner peace.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don't Worry Honey-We're Going To Make You Look Good

A long-term employee shared a story that she had started with the company fourteen years ago after being laid off from another company where she worked over twenty years. Starting over is never easy and learning the new procedures and fast pace made her worry that she was not going to survive this new change. However, this wonderful leader came up to her one day and asked how she was doing. With tears in her eyes, she shared that she was afraid that she might be fired. Instead he simply put his arm around her shoulders and said: “Don’t worry honey, we’re going to make you look good.”

We have started another season. Not quite Spring yet, but we have entered another season of Lent that in the past focused on our sins. Yes, we know the drill that that we are imperfect beings, we have our share of weaknesses and suffer for our past mistakes and continue to make excuses for not doing better. Picture this scene. Jesus, your coach,  comes up to you and says, "Don't worry honey, we’re going to make you look good."

How does that make you feel? Relief, that I don’t have to go it alone. God is watchiong over us. Not to scold us for all our mistakes, but keeping an eye on his creation for after all we are created out of love. Our vision is to take God’s love and make ourselves look good. One important way we do this is in our humble prayers.

So here we go, As I write this Sonshine I am praying for you at this moment that God will take all your struggles, all your fears and make you look good. God only knows we have made enough mistakes at this stage in our life whether we are eighteen or in our eighties. But instead of carrying this heavy load of regret or fear that we are bound to keep falling down and making the same mistakes again. Would it not be a better image of God holding us up on his shoulders and giving us the extra boost we need sometimes to get us through hard times.

I had a Sunshine friend send me images of children. The one that best reflects this reflection is a child sitting on the shoulders of their dad. The photo is taking from behind and what you see is this child holding onto the hands of their dad from the back and the  dad’s T-shirt is dripping wet because their little darling has had a loose moment.

I am sure that we have had many moments in which we have let go and found ourselves swimming in the “urine” of life. Isn’t it nice to know that Abba, Our Father in heaven, will pick us up and let us stay on his shoulders until we find the strength to hold our own and live in the best version of ourselves.

God holds us up especially in moments of disaster as we pray: “ Guard my life and rescue me: do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” (Psalm 25:20).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have been overcome with sorrow or trouble that make us want to lose our cookies. May your tender love hold us up and give us the hope that we are created in love to be holy and blameless in your sight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pain in the Soul

Perhaps the most important thing we ever need to learn is this: It is safe to love!

Yes, it is safe to be vulnerable because we are in loving hands. It is safe to surrender because we fall into light, not darkness. It is safe to be weak because the strength we need is found when we give up on our own power. It is safe to give up the hurts we cling to because these lose their force when we are in love. It is safe to trust, to let our loved ones be free, because a power beyond us loves them more than we do and ultimately takes care of their safety. It is safe to give ourselves over without fear because, as faith teaches, in the end, all will be well. And it is safe to live our lives with daring because God, as Julian Norwich assures us, sits in heaven, smiling, completely relaxed, his face looking like a marvelous symphony. The world is ultimately safe. It is safe to love.

Most of the time we find it hard to trust because we find ourselves wounded, lacking confidence, anxious about many things, feeling the need to protect ourselves. It is hard to trust and especially it is hard to show weakness and to be vulnerable. We inhale a distrust that makes us want to show a superior strength, attractiveness, talent, intelligence, self-reliance, and cool detachment. Distrust and self- protection are everywhere. It’s hard to let ourselves be vulnerable, to trust that it is safe to love.

And yet, deep down, vulnerability and surrender are what we most deeply want. At every level, we need and want surrender. Morally and religiously, the entire gospels can be put into one word: Surrender. Emotionally, psychologically, and sexually the deepest imperative inside of us is simply: Surrender. And, deeper than all of our anxieties and our need to protect ourselves, lies a truth we know at the core of our being, namely, that in the end we cannot take care of ourselves, we cannot make ourselves whole, and we cannot hide our weaknesses from each other. We need to surrender, to trust, to let ourselves fall into stronger and safer hands than our own.

How do we move towards trust? How do we move from the house of fear to the house of love? There is no easy way, no simple formula, no magic bullet, and simply realizing where we need to go is not enough to get us there. How can we get there?

This is a journey that takes a lifetime. To master this is to be a saint. So we shouldn’t be surprised if we still find ourselves, at least on any given day, a long ways from where we want to be. Perhaps the best advice comes from Ruth Burrows, the British Carmelite. In her “Guidelines for Mystical Prayer”, she offers us this:

“Surrender and abandonment are like a deep, inviting, frightening ocean into which we are drawn. We make excursions into it to test it, to see whether it’s safe, to enjoy the sensation of it. But, for all kinds of reasons, we always go back to dry land, to solid ground, to where we are safe. But the ocean beckons us out anew and we risk again being afloat in something bigger than ourselves. And we keep doing that, wading in and then going back to safety, until one day, when we are ready, we just let the waters carry us away.”
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends during this Lenten Season that we learn to surrender and let go of our fears. In our struggles, may the grace of mercy, kindness and compassion carry away our fears into your warm, tender embrace.