Afraid of the Dark

Afraid of the Dark

The words “the Boogie Man will get you” terrified me as a child. This was one of the many fictitious reasons I was afraid of the dark. Along with the imaginary witches in my closet, the werewolves outside my window, and the monsters under my bed.

I combated my fear of the dark by keeping my bedroom door open and making sure the hall and bathroom lights were on when I went to bed.  But the lights did not stay on long…my money conscious parents always turned them off.

My fear of the dark continued into young adulthood. This time my reasons were valid. I knew the crime rate escalated at night. I had read the scripture passage that speaks about how “people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil” (John 3:19) and I did not want any part of that! It was in these young adult years that I was horrified to discover that there was another kind of darkness…an emotional darkness; a black depression that wanted to smother me. And leaving the lights on did not work, for this darkness lasted through the night AND the day.

I learned that the way to combat my dark fears was to call upon the True Light. For it says in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?” And Paul encourages us in Romans 13:12 to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” For “light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Ephesians 5:9. This Eternal Radiance has brightened my soul way more than I could ever begin to describe.

And as the famous song says…I’m not gonna put it under a bushel! NO!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine,
Let it SHINE!

Let it Shine

 

Eight. Sick. Severe.

Home sick

I was eight. I was sick. It was severe. I had all the classic symptoms. Distress, sadness, anxiety, and most prominently the shedding of endless tears. It went on day after day after day. The diagnosis? Homesickness. It was my first time to attend summer camp and I was not enjoying it at all. Neither was my big sister who was a camp counselor. I had thoroughly embarrassed her.

Fast forward a handful of decades, and here I am still at summer camp! (I eventually got over my homesickness and kept going to camp.) As an adult camp worker, I can tell you that homesickness is still alive and well. In matter of fact homesickness has been around for a long time. The Old Testament speaks of the sadness that the Israelites felt who had been exiled from their home.  “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Psalm 137:1

That sadness, that wistful yearning is in us all. We all long (whether we realize it or not) to go back. Back to our true dwelling place. Back to our place of highest joy.  Back to our place of total fulfillment.  Our home in heaven. A place that has no sickness or tears. A place of perfect contentment and infinite joy. A place where we will be united with our big family-the family of God. And of course…it is a place that I won’t embarrass my big sister.

TALKING FEET

Talking Feet

My feet talk to me.
They do that a lot now that I am getting older.
They chatter about Big Thicket hikes,
jumping volleyball spikes,
and running games of tag.

The phalanges yak about
hopscotch,
sprinting bases,
and glacier assents.

The tarsals and metatarsals recall
when life was strong and fast and free.
Each and every movement-memory
is carefully filed away between the bones.

My timeworn feet rejoice
when God puts a spring in their step,
and a giddy-up in their gallop.
They sing when I waltz with my husband
and they giggle when sand settles between their toes.
My feet thank their Maker.

My feet also recount the feet of a man
who walked on a rocky road to a place known as “The Skull.”
It was a bloody death march,
made by Christ
out of love for his brothers and sisters.

His holy feet were punctured with nails
onto the wood of the cross.
He didn’t just talk the talk,
but he walked THE WALK!

And though the path is painful,
I choose to follow
His feet.

Feet walking on rocks

 

I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN An Ascension Reflection

Ascension

When I became a young adult and moved away from home, a visit back to spend time with my parents was a favorite trip of mine. The unconditional love I received along with the yummy homemade food made it hard to leave. I yearned to stay longer and would often delay my parting. Nevertheless, I treasured the way my parents said goodbye when it finally was time for me to go. It was simple and sweet. They would walk me outside, give I-love-you hugs by my car, and as I backed out of the driveway and headed down the street, they would stand there watching and waving. As I looked in my review mirror far down the road, their now tiny silhouettes would still be there- watching and looking.

I now find myself doing the same thing when our grown children leave from a visit home. I stand there watching and waving as they drive away. Happy for the time that we had together, and longing for when we will see each other again.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, I imagine that the apostles had those same feelings. The presence of their loved one was gone and there must have been an emptiness. They looked intently as he departed, longing to keep that connection with him. Gazing and wondering if they would see him again. The apostles’ desire…my desire…your desire is fulfilled in Jesus’ promise. He says “I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22.

Let us pray:

God our Father, make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ. May we follow him into the new creation, for his ascension is our glory and our hope. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal

My Guest Blogger is Dead

Brother Jacopone da Todi
I  am in a writing slump, so a guest blogger is filling in. Only problem is—he’s dead. Good thing he left behind some of his writings!

Brother Jacopone Da Todi, died in 1306. He was a Franciscan poet and mystic. He would not know what a blog is – much less a computer. But he did know how to write profound words about God’s love. With “permission” (obtained through prayer) Brother Jacopone is the guest blogger today! You can find out more about this holy writer by clicking on the link at the end of this blog.

 

O SWEET LOVE,
CATCH ME IN YOUR HOOK
LIKE A FISH THAT CANNOT GET AWAY-
DO NOT SPARE ME:
I LONG TO DIE DROWNED IN YOUR LOVE.

And here are some excerpts from another one.
Please note: Words in ( ) are my addition.

O LOVE…DIVINE LOVE
YOU…(HAVE) A FRENZY OF LOVE FOR ME…
I SEE LOVE
PAINTED IN EVERY FORM AND COLOR
INVITING ME TO COME TO YOU, TO DWELL IN YOU…
I SENSE YOU IN ALL CREATION…

(YET) I FLEE FROM YOU,
AFRAID TO GIVE YOU MY HEART
I CEASE TO BE ME AND CAN NO LONGER FIND MYSELF…

(BUT) YOU, O CRUCIFIED CHRIST,
TAKE POSSESSION OF ME,
DRAWING ME OUT OF THE SEA TO THE SHORE;
THERE I SUFFER TO SEE YOUR WOUNDED HEART.

WHY DID YOU ENDURE THE PAIN?
SO THAT I MIGHT BE HEALED,
(AND KNOW…A) LOVE
WITHOUT LIMITS.

Blog on Brother, blog on!
If you want to learn more about this amazing writer click here: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/blessed-jacopone-da-todi/

 

 

What Hurt More?

Crown of Thorns WHAT HURT MORE

What hurt more my Lord?
Having the leather whip scream through the air, repeatedly slicing open your back?
Or hearing the crowd scream to release Barabbas instead of you?

What hurt more?
Having your skull pierced with ridiculously large thorns?
Or having the soldiers ridicule and mock you saying “Hail, King of the Jews?”

What hurt more?
Falling on the rocky road with the heavy cross pinning you down?
Or people falling in line along the path to look down at you-like you were some sick form of entertainment for them?

What hurt more?
Nails being pounded into your hands and feet?
Or the pounding of your disciple’s feet as they ran away in fear and abandoned you?

Jesus’ response to all those hurts-and many more hurts-were the merciful words he spoke on the cross before dying for us…”Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Let us pray:
Dear Lord, I am sorry for hurting you. Thank you for your merciful forgiveness. Please help me to love like you. Amen

STRONG FINISHES for the Oops, Ouch, and Oh My!

Horizontal Strong Finish

As a track coach I preach and preach to my athletes about the importance of strong finishes. Digging down deep and giving it your all as you close in on the finish line can make a big difference. Strong finishes are about determination and courage. Perseverance and focus. Discipline and commitment.

Strong finishes of course don’t just pertain to races on the track, but to projects and commitments we make throughout life, like the finish line that is fast approaching; Yes, the end of Lent is just around the corner with Holy Week and Easter on the horizon.

Jesus arguably had the strongest finish in the history of mankind. His strong finish included temptation and suffering, which he endured for our sake. As followers of Christ, we are called to walk in his footsteps. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21. Just take note: Strong finishes are momentous not because they are easy; strong finishes are remarkably significantly because they are hard!

This is a Lenten checkup with suggestions for a strong finish. No, it will not be easy to finish strong, but out of love for the Lord, I ask you to join me in taking on this challenge. If you do an honest reflection you will probably find yourself in one of these three categories: The Oops category, the Ouch category, or the Oh My category. Or, you might fall into several of them. Read and see.

  • Oops!

The Oops category is for those who may be saying, “What? It’s Lent? Oops…I am sorry to say that I haven’t done anything!” Or maybe this is you… “Yeah, I know it’s Lent – I kind of thought about it, but I’ve been overwhelmed with the business of life, and oops, I really haven’t done much to strengthen my relationship with the Lord.”

Strong Finish Suggestion: This one is obvious. You can’t have a strong finish if you’re not even up and going. It is never too late to start! So, get up and go! Don’t despair on the time you have missed, focus on the good you can still do. Make a commitment now to do something in the areas of prayer, fasting or almsgiving. Don’t spend too much time pondering the options, just pick something and get going. Here is a list of ideas to get you started.   What-to-Do-for-Lent

Scripture Meditation: Matthew 21:28-31 “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not.’ But afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will or his father?” They said, “The first.”

Prayer: Lord, I am sorry. I really haven’t done much this Lent so far. I know there is still time. I will start today. I know I can do this with your help. Please fill me with determination and courage to finish strong.

  • Ouch!

The Ouch category is for those who may be saying, “Yes, I know it’s Lent. Yes, I made commitment to do certain things, but I have failed. My attempts to do more prayer, fasting or almsgiving have not come to fruition. I have fallen down on this spiritual journey.” Or maybe you have done OK in some of the areas you were focusing on, and not so good in others.  Remember that Jesus fell down on his journey to a strong finish. Three times!

Strong Finish Suggestion(s): Yes, it is hard to get up and try again when we have fallen. The temptation to quit is strong. Our Savior experienced that same temptation on Holy Thursday when the immensity of what laid ahead of him was so overwhelming that he pleaded in prayer, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let our will be done, not mine.” Luke 22:4.

Note that he was in prayer. It is important that we do the same! When we have fallen and we’re on our knees, that is the perfect time to pray and ask the Father for help. He will strengthen us just as he did his son. Keep your focus on doing God’s will and get back up when you fall. Every. Single. Time.

Scripture Meditation: Psalm 118:13 I was falling, but the Lord helped me.                      Hebrews 12: 1-3 Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.

Prayer: Lord, I offer you my failures and my attempts. I know you can give my stumbling direction. I reach out to you in my fallen state and ask for your hand to help me get up, to keep my focus on you, and to persevere for a strong finish.

  • Oh My!

The Oh My category is those who might be saying, “Yes, I know it’s Lent. Yes, I made a commitment to do certain things, and Oh My! I have done pretty good in all my commitments!!”  Maybe you picked some things that were kind of easy, or maybe the commitments you made turned out to be not as hard as you thought they might be. (Or maybe you did pick some challenging things to do and have worked really hard at keeping your Lenten promises. Good job!)

Strong Finish Suggestion(s): Keep doing what you have been doing, but now it’s time to dig down deeper for God. Ask the Lord to show you what else you can do to have a remarkably strong finish. Maybe if you gave up cheese for Lent, he might ask you to ramp it up and give up all dairy products! If you promised to pray more during this holy season, he might challenge you to now ask other people to pray with you. I don’t know what your kick-it-into-high-gear task might be, but if you examine yourself honestly, asking the Lord for direction, he will show you.

Scripture Meditation: Mark 10:17-21 And as he was setting out on his journey a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him… “You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor our father and mother.” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him, loved him, and said to him, “Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the spiritual journey of Lent in which you have traveled with me so far. Thank you for enduring temptation and suffering for me. I accept the challenge of walking in your steps. Please give me an extra outpouring of your grace to strengthen my discipline and commitment that I may finish strong for you.

 

I could finish this piece with words of a coach screaming, “Come on! Give it all you’ve got! Dig down deep! Push! Push!! Push!!!”  I could tell you about the importance of crossing the finish line with maximum intensity so you can hold your head high, knowing that you did your best. I could tell you how strong finishes can strengthen your will and fortify your character.

However….

This is not about running a foot race to earn yourself a medal. This is not about finishing a stellar project at work so you can get a promotion. And it’s not about finishing strong to raise your self-esteem. This is about finishing strong for God! This is not about finishing in 1st place…it’s about finishing with grace!

This is about dying to self. (No, it won’t be easy.) It’s about focus and discipline in doing God’s will. (No, it won’t be easy.) It’s about growing closer in your relationship with the Lord. (No, it won’t be easy.)

This is about preparing for the glorious “finish line” of Easter. But quite honestly, it’s about something much bigger than that.

It’s about life. It’s about striving to finish the race of our life in a manner that glorifies God. It’s about following in Jesus’ footsteps in a way that attracts others to join the spiritual journey. And hopefully when we cross THE final finish line into everlasting life we will hear the words, well done, good and faithful servant!