Thursday, September 11, 2008

It Came From God; You Didn't Earn It

I had a conversation with one of my best girlfriends. She's been one of the biggest encouragements in my life. And we're a lot alike. I can trace some very painful moments in my life, and there she was on the other end of the phone, crying with me like my pain was hers. And it was.

And her pain is mine. Yesterday she told me how hurt she is. Like so many people I love, she is suffering. Like so many others I love, she's concerned she will lose her home, she can't afford gas--who can!--she feels that she's failed in some fundamental way.

I felt so sorry for her. I wished I could send her a check like a few of my friends have sent me. But I'm out of money. I gave her the only thing I have. A little bit of faith. I told her that God remembers her. He loves her, and He'll be her provision. I believe it with all my heart. I know He'll do it, because He keeps doing it for me. He loves me, too.

I talked to another very close soul sister tonight. It was she who encouraged me this time. I was discouraged at the reviews for Wounded. Feeling very misunderstood, and a little persecuted. I realized, we really know so little about God, all of us. And who am I to write "Christian" books? That's a heckuva question for a Christian fiction writer to ask herself. Maybe I'm not a Christian fiction writer anymore.

And I don't know what the answer is.

But I've been brave. I've tried to tell the truth. I've followed Jesus wherever He was taking me. I know Him. His voice is familiar now. I followed Him, often blind, sometimes running, sometimes crawling, sometimes weeping and sometimes cussing, but I went. I went when people didn't understand why I was going. When people thought I was deceived, confused, or just plain wrong. But it's painful to be misunderstood. I told my friend that maybe I've been presumptuous. What makes me think God speaks to people just because He speaks to me? What if God doesn't speak to me, and I'm completely out of my head. Only, I believe He speaks to me. But because I can't acutally see God, I thought maybe I shouldn't write anything about faith, just do what I am certain Jesus wants: works of mercy. I told her I wanted to live like she does. A life of social justice, making a difference. I want to be the merciful hands and feet of Jesus. A Motown Mother Teresa, so to speak. What do I really do? Nothing, I said.

She corrected me. She told me that I live out faith despite tremendous obstacles. There was this part of me that wanted to argue that I do not, but you know, I do have faith. I've learned to pray--and I am by no means an expert. I'm a pre-school level pray-er, but I pray because people are hurting, and God loves them, and He cares. He will take care of them. They/we need prayers.

Where did that come from? I don't know. God knows I can be the flakiest in the box of Frosted Flakes. It's a little embarrassing the extremes I'm willing to go to in my hot pursuit of my Lover Jesus. Yes, He's my lover, and after the bad reviews of Wounded, I don't give a damn any more if people don't understand that. But I digress. I don't know where faith comes from, but for some reason, despite my many failings, I have a little. And only a mustard seed will do. Just one, single, very small mustard seed.

It's not the boastful faith I thought I was entitled to when I was a Word Faither. It's something quiet. Not in the earthquake, and not in the fire. It's the whisper that won't go away even though my body is wracked with pain, I have no job, the bills are piled up, the car is gone, there are scars on my wrists, and some of my readers wonder if I'm still a Christian and worship Mary. But it remains. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He is God incarnate. He came to save sinners, of which I am the chief, and He cares about us human beings, who are not God, who need jobs, and house notes paid, and gas money. It's the only thing I can offer: believing with them, maybe, sometimes, for them. And it doesn't come from anything I did, unless you want to count suffering and being a fool. My faith--that tiny mustard seed--came from God. I didn't earn it.

You have it, too. I mean, really. Why else would you be here? With the likes of me?

Yesterday, I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I felt burdened by my sins. So much doubt. So much pain. So much struggle. So much actin' a fool! I just wanted to tell it all to Jesus, and hear those beautiful words, "Go in peace. Your sins are forgiven." And I unloaded all I could think of. Feeling so bad about choices I've made in desperation. There's always that part of me that dreads confessing sin. And when I overcome my ridiculous pride, I never fail to be surprised by the grace that meets me in that space. I told God, in the presence of a priest, all the awful things I've done and thougth, and instead of being condemned and rebuked, I was surprised by mercy, and made brand new again.

What am I trying to say here? I guess what I'm trying to say is that God really does love us in these awful, desperate times. Why I'm certain of it is completely beyond me. It's a gift. I'll take it, mostly because He gave it. I'm asking you to gaze at that mustard seed you have--or else you wouldn't be here--and marvel because that teensy gift of faith will move your mountains.

I don't know why we suffer. I don't know why so many of us have our backs against the wall with a Mac Truck about to barrel into us. I don't know why people who love and believe in God are having such a hard time, but there is that thing that God gives us. That wee bit of faith. It's a little bit of a mystery. I'm not even going to try to figure it out. I guess it's like Peter's revelation. Flesh and blood didn't reveal it.

Thank you, Holy Spirit.

I'm believing God will provide for my friend. I'm praying for her every day. Like a gift, when I checked the Liturgy of Hours yesterday, after sharing this awful burden with my sissy, a Psalm was there with her name on it, which just goes to show you, Jesus will let us know He's listening, if only we have ears to hear him. I'm going to post it for any of you hurting right now to take courage from. If you've read this far, take a moment to pray these with me:


O God, come to my aid.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Psalm 85 (86)
A poor man's prayer in time of trouble
Turn your ear to me, Lord, and hear me,
for I am poor and destitute.
Keep my life safe, for I am faithful;
O God, save your servant, who trusts in you.
Take pity upon me, O Lord,
for I call to you all the day long.
Make your servant’s heart glad,
for to you, O Lord, I have raised it.
For you, Lord, are gentle and mild:
you are kind to all those who call on you.
Let your ears hear my prayer, O Lord!
Turn to the voice of my pleading!
In my time of trouble I call on you,
for you, O Lord, will hear me.
No other god is like you, O Lord,
and nothing compares with your works.
All people – all nations you made –
will come and worship before you;
they will give glory to your name.
For you are great, you work wonders:
you alone are God.
O Lord, teach me your paths,
and I will come to your truth.
Make my heart simple and guileless,
so that it honours your name.
I will proclaim you, Lord my God,
and give you praise with all my heart.
I will give glory to your name for ever,
for your great kindness is upon me:
you have rescued me from the deepest depths.
O God, the proud rise against me,
in the meetings of the powerful they seek my life:
they do not keep you in their sight.
And you, Lord, are a God of compassion,
full of mercies, patient and true.
Look upon me, have mercy upon me,
give your strength and protection to your servant
your servant, the child of your handmaid.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
let my enemies see it and be confounded;
because you, O Lord, have helped me and given me comfort.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Psalm 97 (98)
The Lord has brought salvation
Sing a new song to the Lord,
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand, his holy arm,
have brought him victory.
The Lord has shown his saving power,
and before all nations he has shown his justice.
He has remembered to show his kindness
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel.
The farthest ends of the earth
have seen the saving power of our God.
Rejoice in God, all the earth.
Break forth in triumph and song!
Sing to the Lord on the lyre,
with the lyre and with music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn,
sound jubilation to the Lord, our king.
Let the sea resound in its fulness,
all the earth and all its inhabitants.
The rivers will clap their hands,
and the mountains will exult at the presence of the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge all the world in justice,
and the peoples with fairness.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Short reading
Job 1:21 - 2:10

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back. Blessed be the name of the Lord! If we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?
The Messiah and his forerunner
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and brought about their redemption.
He has raised up the sign of salvation in the house of his servant David,
as he promised through the mouth of the holy ones, his prophets through the ages:
to rescue us from our enemies and all who hate us, to take pity on our fathers,
to remember his holy covenant and the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
that he would give himself to us, that we could serve him without fear – freed from the hands of our enemies –
in uprightness and holiness before him, for all of our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High: for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare his path,
to let his people know their salvation, so that their sins may be forgiven.
Through the bottomless mercy of our God, one born on high will visit us
to give light to those who walk in darkness, who live in the shadow of death;
to lead our feet in the path of peace.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Prayers and Intercessions

Christ feeds and cares for the Church, for which he gave his very self. And so we pray:
– Lord, look after your Church.
Blessed are you, shepherd of your Church, because today you give us light and life:
make us truly grateful for such wonderful gifts.
– Lord, look after your Church.
Look kindly on the flock you have gathered in your name:
let no-one perish from the flock your Father has given you.
– Lord, look after your Church.
Lead your Church along the path of your commandments:
may the Holy Spirit keep her faithful to you.
– Lord, look after your Church.
By the feast of bread and the Word, give life to your Church:
nourish her and give her the strength to follow you with joy.
– Lord, look after your Church.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those that trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Lord, in your kindness fill our deepest being with your holy light,
so that we may be steadfast in our devotion to you:
for your wisdom created us and your providence guides us.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
May the Lord bless us and keep us from all harm; and may he lead us to eternal life.

And finally yesterday's Gospel reading, also with her name on it.

Luke 6:20 - 26

Fixing his eyes on his disciples Jesus said:
‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
‘But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry.
Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.
‘Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

May God grant y'all peace.

mustard seed image from worldmag.


~michelle pendergrass said...

Y'know? After that one morning with you and our other friend, I felt more connected to you two than I had felt in a long time.

The January just before, I had driven down to South Carolina to see a friend. I'd made plans to stop and see our mutual friend on the way home not knowing that I'd leave my other friend knowing I'd never see her again this side of heaven. I knew she had breast cancer, but she kept secret how bad it was. She died 3 days after I left.

It was all I could do to not cancel the lunch date. I went and was so shocked by the feeling of peace I got from that family. I was in horrible pain, wanting to just sit and cry, but they made me spectacular food, comforted me with kindness and love and made me laugh. (and now I'm crying again)

I'd only met this person briefly, I'm certain she didn't really remember (and that's okay). Then, when I saw the two of you that morning, I was also going through some stuff (that I stuffed) and you two were like my angels descending down with blankets of peace.

You are doing something for someone. For the friend who called in distress and for me...

Sometimes (for whatever reason) we see a lot of bad stuff. But there is good too. Love you girl.

upwords said...

Lovely. And so true...

Myowne said...

Hello...I am very, very new to your site and was very touched by your words and your ability to believe God no matter what - for you and for others. Thank you for your transparency and your heart for others. I also am very new to your literature and am looking forward to reading Zora and Nicky. It grabbed my attention immediately. I too am a writer and love books, people, and the words that change both. I will be adding you to my blog links on my blog

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

So good to see your words again, Mair. I'm hurting for you over those reviews of Wounded. I thought it was an absolutely beautiful story. The whole concept of reviews is from Satan, I think. :)

Love you, sister!!!

Rhonda Jeanne said...

Thanks for sharing the Liturgies. They are like an old quilt on a cold day.

Elysa said...

Love you, Mair....and loved WOUNDED, too. And I ain't any where near to being a there!

Zanade said...

You are very blessed to have her in your life. I never had a friend like that. Either they were jealous of the things going on in my life and were very cold or just didn't care so I guess I shouldn't call them friends.

God is amazing ALL DAY. I credit everything to him.

Fab blog!

Keep writing!


nuzor said...

Oh, Godmama.

I prayed the Liturgy and it brought me to tears. I really want to wrap my hands around you and tell you it's fine. We have similar struggles. Today, I doubted whether I was even made for medical school since I can't even get the experience to be admitted. I applied for a job at school, and my first choice professor I was supposed to be under rejected me. I wished I had forgotten about checking up on the job. I've been unemployed since I was 16 and able to work, and either there were no jobs that fit my schedule or major, or something will just come up.

So unlike my normal ranting tirades, I bit my lip and cried when I got to my dorm.

It's really, really hard for me to realize God will take care of things. It's not like I've been sitting on my butt for 2 years and refusing to work. I go out there, apply, check up...and nothing.

Medical school is a dream broken. I'll find something else to do in life. :(

kimmie said...

Hi There,

I just wanted to thank you for all your words. You are an inspiration. It is so refreshing and comforting to read such honasty. I am currently going through challenges where I have been pondering my mustard seed. Thank you for reminding me that this seed is a gift that He will not let fail. God bless you and your friend.

D. Gudger said...

I'm saddened about how other reviewers misunderstood WOUNDED. I found it very compelling and spiritually challenging. You know the depths of darkness I wallowed in when the ARCs came out. WOUNDED struck a chord with me, and filled me with the knowledge that Jesus sees and cares.

Part of the problem is that people react adversely to things they don't understand. They lash out in fear. Forget the purpose of literature and its role in society.

Sister, you write TRANSFORMATIVE fiction. God gives you stories so powerful, they change lives.

I attribute a lot of my movement beyond the edges of depression to what I found between the covers of your books.

LOVE you. Hope you can feel it from Colorado!