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.

Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus (And other things we can learn from Berenice)

Touch his tasselA large crowd followed and pressed around him. (Mark 5:24) And rightly so. Jesus had just healed a man possessed with numerous demons and was on his way to the house of a synagogue official who had begged him to heal his gravely ill daughter.

As the crowd bumped into Jesus, hoping to see his next “show stopping” miracle, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years discreetly made her way through the mass of people. She had suffered much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and was not better but worse. (Mark 5:26)  She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and was healed. Tradition tells us that her name was Berenice.

We can learn from Berenice, especially as we prepare for the upcoming season of Lent. This desperate, penniless, physically-drained woman touched my heart as I listened to the gospel reading the other day. And I would like to present some points to ponder regarding her story:

  • Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus

Intentionally seek Jesus out. Berenice had an intense desire to get close to Jesus. Do you want to enter into Lent with a desperate desire to get close enough to touch Jesus as Berenice did? Or will you just follow along with the crowd and bump into him periodically throughout the season?

All practicing Christians “bump into” Jesus during their lives, such as when a prayer is said before meals, or when you go to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong-those are good things to do. But have you ever thought that Jesus wants you to do more than just “bump into” him?

Being a tourist- a sightseer- through Lent is easy, but going on a pilgrimage, a special spiritual journey during the season is the challenge. Ask God to show you now (don’t wait till Ash Wednesday) what he would like for you to do this Lent.  Then make those plans that will help you grow closer to him during the 40 day spiritual journey.

  • Surrender and Prostrate Yourself

Berenice was considered unclean by Jewish law because of her issue with blood. She lived in constant social and religious isolation. This is why she strived to go unnoticed and came up from behind him. (Mt 9:20) She knew of her “impurity” and prostrated herself. She surrendered totally and sought out his healing.

It is not always easy to say that we need help. That we are hurting or struggling, or that we have failed in something. What are your pains? What/who are you tired of dealing with, fighting with? What exhausts you? Maybe it’s a physical aliment like Berenice. Maybe it’s a strained relationship. Maybe it’s a situation at work. Or maybe you have done things that you consider unforgivable.

We can fall into the trap of thinking we need to deal with these issues all on our own. But surrendering totally to Christ and laying our troubles at his feet, is the way to go. This Lent, God is calling you to give him all those heavy burdens. He wants you to give him everything, yes- even those “impurities” you are ashamed of. Empty yourself, and lower yourself before the Lord this Lent.  Surrender and prostrate.  He will heal you completely, just as he did Berenice.

  • Act in Faith/Pray for Faith

If only I touch his garment, I shall be made well. (Mt 9:21) Berenice believed that Jesus would heal her. She did not plead with Jesus face to face for him to touch her. She had confidence that if she only touched the tassel of his garment she would be healed. And of course she was! Then Jesus said to her, daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)

Having faith is obviously an important thing. And we should grow in our faith. In Luke 17: 5, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. We too can struggle with the issue of faith. We might wonder, do I have enough faith? How can I increase my faith?  Faith is a spiritual gift from God. Faith can be increased by prayer and by acting in Faith (just as Berenice acted in faith by reaching for Jesus’ garment.)

One of my favorite prayers regarding faith is from the father whose son is possessed and pleads with Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)  This is a prayer I bring before the Lord often: God, I do believe, help my unbelief. This Lent-and beyond- God would love to increase our faith. We just need to ask him; pray and ask him to help us.

In closing:

  • Seek the Lord intentionally and purposefully this Lent. Make a plan that will help you to grow closer to him.
  • Surrender yourself totally to Christ and bow before him as your God and King.
  • And, act in faith as well as pray for the Lord to help increase your faith.

Berenice (and others in scripture) can teach us so much. Is there anything about her story that left an impression on you? How is the Lord calling you to be more like Berenice this Lent?

Where is the Newborn King?

Where is the Newborn King

Where is the newborn king? This was the question that drove the Magi on their long journey. They were wise, so they went to the most logical place to find the newborn king of the Jews, the holy city of Jerusalem- but unfortunately it was the wrong place!

When in Jerusalem they inquired, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” (Mat 2:2) King Herod heard of their quest and was troubled. So he met with the Magi to ascertain from them what time the star had appeared.

Herod gave the Magi the information that the new king had been prophesized to be born in Bethlehem. He sent them off saying “go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (Mat 2:8) This of course was a lie; he did not want to worship the new king, but destroy him.

The Magi continued their mission to find the new king with the star leading them. They were overjoyed when the star “came to rest over the place where the child was.” (Mat 2:9) They rejoiced when they finally found who they had been looking for.

The king they were looking for had been born in a stable; a crude and unexpected place for someone of royalty. The king was born into a poor, simple family. Yet the Magi hailed him, and fell down and worshiped him, offering him their gifts.

The wise men initially looked for Jesus in the wrong place, just as we do sometimes. We seek in the wrong places too! We think our spouse, a job promotion, a dream vacation, a bigger house, a smaller waist, popularity, etc. will fill our emptiness. We sometimes get drawn into the impressiveness of “Jerusalem” and lose sight of the star-the light of our true pathway.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Only in God will (man) find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (27) To find the joy the Magi found, to experience deep happiness and peace, we need to keep our focus on the star; the true light from our Lord. Know that he can be found in the most unexpected corners of our world!

And if we make a “wrong turn” as the Magi did, don’t give up. Keep seeking the divine. “Because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.” (CCC 27) Another way to say it is that we have an internal homing device, placed there in our hearts by God, and he never stops drawing us to him; just as the Magi were drawn by the star to Jesus.

Our Lord is calling-we need to keep focus and be diligent in our search; and upon finding him, rejoice! Honor him, and give him our gifts.

To close, I want to pose an interesting question regarding this piece Where is the Newborn King? The Magi found the newborn king in a most unexpected place, so I ask you, if Jesus was born today, where do you think he would be born?

Precious in My Eyes

Apple of My Eye

I couldn’t wait to get out of the elevator. When the doors finally opened I darted down the hall and into the room where my new grandson had just been born. My eyes instantly found him, and my breath was taken away. He was so beautiful! So tiny. So perfect. His black hair was all wet and curly. I kissed his head; he smelled so fresh and pure. His skin was softer than velvet. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My arms ached to hold him. I stayed close, soaking in everything I could about him and longing for the moment when I could embrace him.

Finally, he was there, in my arms. His weak wobbly body totally dependent upon my hands as I cradled him. He started gurgling and cooing, and then — his slate blue eyes looked straight into mine! My heart melted.  My soul soared. A smile as big as the universe spread across my face and I cooed back to him saying, oh sweet, sweet little one; You are so precious! You are such a gift! You are the apple of my eye!

It was a couple of days later when I was holding my precious grandson again, gazing upon his beauty and in total awe of him, that a whisper of scripture came to me. “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) As I looked with loving eyes upon my grandson, I sensed something sacred……there were eyes looking at ME! The loving eyes of Aba, my Father.  And a tender message; You, my daughter, are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” God was telling me that I was the apple of his eye!   I thought of the intense love I had for my new grandson, and realized that my Heavenly Father has that same strong love for me! Only more! Much, much more! More than I could imagine, and I was blown away.

He looks at me, with tender eyes?

He sees me pure and beautiful?

He gazes upon me with love?

He longs to embrace me?

He stays close by, soaking me in?

He holds me carefully, tenderly?

He can’t take his eyes off me?

The answer is YES! Yes, yes and yes! Yes, because I am precious in his sight. Yes, because I am his beloved daughter. Yes, because I am the apple of his eye. And here is the best part…God doesn’t just love me this way, He loves ALL his children, with this deep, passionate, eternal love.  Whether they are brand new innocent babies, or older tainted adults.

So, know that The Eyes of Love look upon us all and say the same thing…

Oh sweet, sweet one,

You are precious in my eyes, and honored,

and I love you!

Precious in My Eyes

Share and Grow? -or- Bury in a Hole?

Share and Grow Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

Can you imagine a financial advisor taking his client’s money that he is supposed to invest and burying it in the ground? Or a car salesman going off to hide “in a hole” when a customer comes to him wanting to purchase an automobile?  Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?  Both would be without a job real soon.  In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells his disciples a parable that addresses this very issue. Continue reading