How does this Happen to me?

Song of songs is the story of how the Lord comes to our soul and coaxes us out of the rocks and cliffs we build to protect ourselves.

O my dove in the clefts of rock,

in the secret recesses of the cliff,

Let me see you,

let me hear your voice,

For your voice is sweet,

and you are lovely.

Song of Songs 2

Whether we are high in the hill country of Judea, like Elizabeth in the gospel today, or shut behind the walls of fathers, the Lord will come to us and our soul.

Our job is to come out, to follow him. To trust that we don’t need the structures we have built around our heart of hearts to protect us from the evils of men.

Our soul waits for the Lord,

who is our help and our shield,

For in him our hearts rejoice;

in his holy name we trust.

Psalm 33

I always pray to be like Elizabeth. To be given the gift of recognizing the Lord when he comes to my house to give me help.


Nothing is Impossible

Just a short post today to remember the most important lesson.

Nothing is Impossible with God..

The Lord’s are the earth and it’s fullness:

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24

I don’t know what is coming next and I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know what I want and I don’t know how to achieve it.

Great peace floods out of a place of waiting and surrounds me like a placid lake. A boat will come.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?

Who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24

Fear Not, O Worm Jacob

I am exhausted with my groaning;

every night I drench my pillow with tears;

I bedew my bed with weeping.

My eye wastes away with grief;

Psalm 6

In one of the books of the classic fantasy series The Belgariad, by David Eddings, there’s a scene that always struck me as a writer’s cheat. In it a character is told that a prophecy holds clues to a great danger he goes into the library to pour over them. While he’s there, the voice of the prophecy, which also lives inside his head (don’t ask), says to him, “Hey, you don’t need to read every word, just sort of let your eyes move over them and I’ll I make the relevant passages leap out to you.”

As a teenager reading this I was like “COME ON! ridiculous.” But as an adult with a daily habit of reading the Bible, I have had this experience many times. There are times when unimportant phrases and words in passages read many many times almost become brighter, standing out against a darker wall of text.

And sometimes an entire group of readings are clearly meant for me and my current situation, for hope and comfort.

I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand;

It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Fear not O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel: I will help you, says the Lord.

Isaiah 41

And maybe it will bother some to think of God referring to his people as maggots and worms, but for me, I see this kind of language as an honest reminder of the truth of my own power. Now, to be clear, I don’t have low self-esteem and I value work and personal responsibility and I try to put those values into place and teach them to my children. And they are important. But the experience of my life is that mere goals and striving can accomplish nothing. They are necessary but not sufficient for life. The importance of goals and striving is not to achieve external things, but to develop good character. But you must always remember that the goals you think you are working for are all vanity in the eyes of God.

This lesson might make you hopeless, until you reach a time in life when there is no forward progress, and indeed, not even to a path to walk on. Locked in a paradigm of goal setting and achievement, you will spin your wheels and grow frustrated and myopic. Put recalling the true goals will set you free.

I especially need to remember this when there are no goals to be achieved and my problems and obstacles are things I have no power over. In those times I like to remember there is only continuing to live in faith. In those times Isaiah leaps out to comfort.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 

I will open up rivers on the bare heights,

and foutains in the broad valleys;

I will turn the desert into a marshland, 

and the dry ground into springs of water.

I will plant in the desert the cedar,

acacia, myrtle, and olive….

Isaiah 41

Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem

Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds misled them, straggling on the mountains: From mountain to hill they wandered, losing the way to their fold.

Jeremiah 50

Blogging has been light because I lost my prayer book last week. I have ADD/ADHD and I need external cues and tactile prompts to keep my routines going. Without my book it was hard to pray, even if I could look up the same readings on line, it wasn’t the same.

I used to flog myself for these problems. There is a permeable barrier between life struggles that are caused by legitimate external (or medical) factors and struggles that are really the fruit of bad choices. They are all entangled together and, though it’s hard, it is important to disentangle character flaws from real things that are out of your control.

“Their enemies said, “We incur no guilt, Because they sinned against the Lord,”

Jeremiah 50

But you can’t use the presence of sin in yourself or in others as an excuse for cruelty, especially to yourself. The temptation is to see all flaws and struggles and mistakes as sin and to be merciless to ourselves and others in meting out consequences for failure. The tendency is to read the words of Isaiah, picked up by John the Baptist, to “make straight His paths” as a call to do some real serious internal housecleaning. To straighten up and fly right, to be worthy of the Lord’s presence in our lives by acting perfectly from now.

“Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

Isaiah 40

But that’s not it at all. The call for repentance and self-examination goes hand in hand with a call to be merciful, to speak tenderly, to go out and gather the lost sheep. God will lay low the mountains and build up the valleys, God will part the seas and clear the brambles. God will show us the path to walk. Our job in preparing his path is to accept His Mercy.

Prepare for the Coming of Christ into your heart with honesty and ruthless self-examination, yes. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the paths of God are paved with Mercy.

The Lofty City

The more you read the Bible, the more you see that there are two worlds, coexisting. They overlay each other, like a two layered skirt. You can live in either one at any time. One is separated from God and the Kingdom of Heaven by sin and the affects of sin, and the other participates in Grace.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.”

Isaiah 26:5

I missed blogging yesterday because I’ve spent the last day very very sick with a stomach flu. The vomiting was not so bad as these things go, but I was so dehydrated that once when I sat up I passed out and fell forward and split my head open.

I am chronically dehydrated, I think. I don’t notice much from day to day but when I got sick, it became very apparent that this is a problem for me. It’s hard for me to not make an analogy between this kind of thirst and the thirst for the living water, the grace of life that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman at the well. Or, to today’s gospel: the house built on sand.

Everyone of them who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
Matthew 7: 24-25

People who build their house on rock seem to step out of this world and walk with God when they go through tragedy or setbacks or hardships. They become more sure about what is important, more full of Grace, more thankful, more kind, more present. This is just a personal observation I’ve made of friends and family who have suffered immense and almost unthinkable badness.

But people who live in the lofty city or who merely sit at its gates slavering to get in are brought to utter desolation when something goes wrong. They isolate, they grow bitter, become angry, lash out. I include myself in this category, in the past and surely also in the future.

The lofty city maybe looks shimmery and bright and powerful and high up and real, but it disappears when you reach out to touch it and ask for something you really need. Or if you are in it, you find yourself ignoring it if someone reaches out to you. It provides no sustenance, no living water.

If you live in the lofty city you discover it only when the rain or the fire or the floods come.

and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:27

It’s hard to know if you are living in the lofty city. Not all things that are fun and glittery and insubstantial are bad. Rich people can live in the city of God, poor people can live in the lofty city. There’s nothing wrong with fun or frivolity taken in its turn. So here’s my shorthand.

The lofty city has no neighbors.

Hidden Kingdom

Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.

Psalm 72

God’s kingdom, the kingdom of the faithful, is hidden from the eyes of the world. He asks us to walk by faith and not by sight. And sometimes that means what we see is evil unpunished by the world and good go unnoticed. We see the poor cry out in vain. 

In those times look for the hidden Kingdom.

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Luke 10

The Land of Gloom

We dwell in a land of gloom both metaphorical, and at this time of year, real. But darkness is not an excuse to lose faith. God promises that he will give us enough light to see where to place our next step and we are called to have faith that God’s plans are better than our own.

Though an army encamp against me my heart would not fear.

The army of darkness encamps within my mind. Assaulted by thoughts and emotions, I lay under a blanket and seek shelter when reality itself pierces my flesh.

Though war break out against me even then would I trust.

I know God doesn’t promise to drive the darkness away. He promises to guide us through it, one step at a time, to provide us sustenance along the way, one meal at a time. I am not to try to find the path myself, but to follow God who will lead me to shelter I cannot see.

For there He keeps me safe in His tent in the day of evil.
He hides me in the shelter of His tent, on a rock He sets me safe.

I pray for faith to look to God for the next step, the next meal, to not demand to know the fullness of His plan. To be like the Centurion in today’s Mass reading who in his faith knows that what God commands simply happens. It’s not necessary for us to see God enter our house. We just have faith that His authority is absolute, that He loves us, that He will make our paths straight, even if we can’t see every step of the path right now.

We share the feast the Lord sets for us and give thanks and praise for it, even when an army of demons encamps within our minds, even when real world troubles come against us in a never ending assault, even when we can’t see the next step. God sets a table for us in the midst of our enemies, he provides us a tent–a shelter–in the sight of our foe.

I shall offer within His tent a sacrifice of joy.

I will sing and make music for the Lord.

Psalm 27