Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Wilderness


It's time, and I'm no more ready to go into the wilderness than I was the day my lungs felt like they'd explode. Days of migraine, only to segue into a bout of tummy trouble that singled out Abbie, Nia Grace, and guess who? And what does Jesus say? At 3 AM, no less!

"It's time."

And so I go, feeling so alone.

It isn't much to look at, the desert. Miles and miles of a whole lotta nothin'. It's colder than you'd think a desert would be. A few skeletons litter the landscape, of some poor souls who didn't make it out. If the look as if they simply gave up the ghost, and withered to bone where they lay. But their numbers are few.

"I sure don't wanna end up like that," I think. "God, it's cold. I always thought of deserts as being hot. Mine is cold, and dark. I don't like it."

The shadowy figure coming my way is the devil. He's going to tempt me. With what, power? I'm not much for wanting power. Significance? Yeah. I should see that coming. What else?

"You want to be loved," A voice says. It isn't the devil.

And there I am, on that mattress again, in that empty house. And the devil coming toward me looks like Joe.

Jesus beats him to me. He stands behind me, and puts his arm around my shoulder. It comforts me. And there they are: one man in front of me, and the God/Man behind me.

Joe doesn't say a word. He turns and walks away. Of course, he doesn't have to say anything. Hasn't he disappeared without a word three times? And that saying nothing, says everything.

"What does it say?" the Lord asks.

"I don't want you."

"How do you feel?"

"A little sad, but..."

"Yes?"

"Not so much. I mean, I thought this was going to be horrible, but all I feel is a little sting, what you'd feel if you were embarrassed. It isn't so bad."

"That's my girl. Are you angry at him?"

"Nah. I mean, look at him. He's a kid, just like I was. A little arrogant. Really cute. Kinda lost. Everybody has the right to find their own way. Maybe he just didn't know how to be forthcoming. It isn't everybody's strong suit."

"What about the Joe who was 42 when he hurt you?"

"He had to find his way, too. I made my own huge mistakes. I wasn't a child. I was 40. We survived."

"Yes, you did," Jesus says. "Do you forgive him?"

"Yeah. I do. But it still stings."

"That's okay. You're doing the work."

I don't expect it, but my parents come next. And they too stand before me, only to walk away without a word. It more than stings. I feel sick to my stomach, and it ain't the tummy bug.

"I don't want to do this anymore, Lord."

"It's important, little one. I want you to tell me what their silence says."

"It says, 'I don't want you.'"

"That's the same thing Joe's silence said. Think about that."

"No."

"It's okay. I'm right here, and I haven't even moved my hand from your shoulder."

"I thought the big wound was Joe's, but it isn't, is it?"

"No."

"I forgave my parents. They told me that loved me. They said they did want me. Daddy was a heroin addict. Mama had seven other children, and that was before she had the last baby. Mama said she didn't have any fight in her. How could she refuse her own mother, and her beloved aunt? People she couldn't say no to told her I was better off where I was. What could my parents do?"

"Do you believe them?"

(...)

"Do you believe they wanted you, love?"

"No. They were supposed to fight for me, but they let me down. They were suppose to come for me. I missed them. I loved them, and I was too young to fight. I was fifteen months old, but I knew them. I loved them!"

My complaint pricks my heart. I failed my own son, in the exact same way, even though I loved him. I didn't know how to fight for him.

"Damn." I hang my head in shame.

Now Jesus stands in front of me. He inclines Himself before me and whispers. "Let's keep going. You don't want to get stuck there. Not now." He lifts my chin with His strong, carpenter hand, His "hand of God." But He's gentle with me, so very kind. "If you don't believe your own parents wanted you, don't you think you'd have a little trouble trusting in anyone's love?"

I blink, but don't say a thing.

"Do you believe I love you?"

"Yes," I answer too quickly.

"Do you believe I love you?"

"Most of the time?"

"I said yes."

"Do you believe I love you?"

"Some of the time. I couldn't keep doing any of this without Your love. Lord, I can't live without Your love. You're all I've got. You're it."

"Then why do you work so hard to please me, when I'd be content just sitting with you in silence? You try to win my love as if you don't already have it. Little one, you avoided your parents later on in your life because you didn't feel capable of pleasing them. You felt rejected, again and again, whether you were or not. And you've sought Joe's attention because you don't want anyone to make you feel the way your parents did, again. You're trying to undue what they did by gaining his approval. You have his approval, and you know it."

"Yes."

"He can't heal you."

"You can't undue what was done."

"You're right. You're God, and You're supposed to be right, and..." I ramble, until I just shut up.

He smiles at me. I love His smile. "You have so much love. Open your eyes to it."

I'm mute. I have no idea how to do that.

"What have I asked you to do lately?" Jesus says. "The two things I tried to talk to you about again and again. But you avoided me."

"You said come to the silence. And you said you wanted me to stay a child, but grow up."

"Do you know what I mean?"

"You want me to come to You and do nothing. And You want me to be happy, free, and trusting like a child, but You also want me to let go of the lies that keep me clamoring for love in ways that dishonor me. And to act like I've got the good sense you've given me."

"It's a beginning."

"You don't despise, beginnings, do you Lord?"

"You know I don't."

I blink and the desert fills with angels. They don't look heavenly creatures. They look like Evette, and Erin, and Elysa, and Kristine, and Lisa. They look like Gina and Mystele, and Rhonda, and the other Mair. They look like Heidi, and Jen, and Terry, and Chip, Joni, and my Godbabies. I see my mother-in-law, and dozens of people I've worshipped with. There are so many angels crowding the desert, ministering to me like angels did Jesus in His desert. They are giving me strength.

Right there, are my children and husband. There are a lot of people I don't even know, waving my books in their hands. Some are saying, "Me, too." And I see Joe. And Mama, and Daddy. All these angels in their own way, for better or worse, are showing me something about love.

We are frail. We make awful mistakes. We sin, big time. Sometimes we don't know how to love. Sometimes we don't know how to be loved. People fail us, but we forgive them. Again and again. We are forgiven by them. Again and again.

We are healing, if we wish to be. If we'll go to the silence and let God love on us. None of us are quite whole, at least not those I see in this desert. We are healing.

And then my angels all disappear, and there's no one left, but me and Jesus.

"Now how do you feel?" He asks.

"Like You did in the desert after you confronted the devil. I'm really, really hungry. I'm famished!"

"It's a kind of hunger only I can fill. Do you trust Me?"

I pause. I want my answer to be true."Pretty much."

"We've still got a ways to go."

"It's okay, as long as You're with me," I say, and it is.

Together Jesus and I walk away from that place, my stomach growling as we depart. See, I'm still hungry, but my hand, empty before, a cup waiting for Him to fill, rests firmly in His.

I'm healing, a day at a time.

He's got me.



desert by night photo by serge anton

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wilderness Training


I wake up at six am, and my head still hurts. It's cold, and the humidity is high. I'm having trouble breathing. I'm a little miserable, but I feel God's presence hovering over me, brooding like He did upon the face of the deep in Genesis.

I'm trying to be brave. I'm trying to get ready. Last night was a huge breakthrough. Already I know we'll face the wilderness. Jesus is going to go with me.

"I'm ready," my soul whispers, but I wince because the light coming from the computer screen hurts my eyes.

"Just one thing," Jesus said. "What did you read last night?"

"It's a little vague I say," my lungs burning, "But there was something about you giving me just enough for the day. Like, I'm supposed to hold out my hands, like an empty bowl, and trust that you're going to fill them."

"With?"

"Healing."

"How much healing?"

"What I need for today."

"Will you do that for me?"

"Sure." And I take my hands, and hold them up, still a little breathless and weary. I don't even speak. I just trust that the act of holding my little cupped hands is asking enough. Trust. My mind is too tired to fight, and I wish I had the inhaler.

"Good," Jesus says simply.

I think of how we are suppose to be preparing to go into the wilderness. How I'm going to get in there, just like He did, and face the devil. And I'm going to be, just like He was, famished, aware that my hunger is something else, entirely.

It occurs to me that I should tell Jesus I'm ready, and before I think it He's telling me to find and inhaler and get some rest.

"But I have to face my temptations."

"There's plenty of time for that. You've still have enough Lent left to do the work."

"I'm Lent's biggest failure."

"Isn't that the point? To see what you can't do on your own. The real rock stars of Lent are the humble. The contrite, and sorry for their sins. And lets not forget the poor in spirit, those completely reliant upon me."

"Nothing is like I thought it'd be."

"I am."

"Yes. Yes, you are, Jesus."

"Now, about that inhaler...."

One bit of healing at a time.

"We are ever but beginning... The most perfect Christian is to himself but a beginner, a penitent prodigal, who has squandered God's gifts, and comes to Him to be tried over again, not as a son, but as a hired servant." John Henry Newman

On the Rock


This time we're sitting on a long flat rock. Like last time the white foamy waves crash against the sandy shore, but we're on my harder ground today.

"The whole rock thing is a little cliche, don't you think?" I say.

"You have to admit it's effective. You understood what I was getting at right away, didn't you?"

"It doesn't make me feel any safer."

"I'm here."

He is. He really is my foundation. My strong place. My stability. My rock sure isn't my knowledge of scripture or theology. It's simply Him, and I realize despite how fragile I feel, I'm safe. But I want to act childish anyway.

"You were with me back in the day, and look what happened."

And before I can even get it out of my mouth I'm right back there, in that empty old house on the dusty, bare mattress covered by the yellow blanket. I hate that blanket. Let's just say it failed to cover my shame. I go back to the rock. Fast!

"It's not the blanket you hate," Jesus says, reading my mind. The breeze tousles his hair.

(...)

"You don't hate him, either."

And it's true. I don't. Sometimes I think it'd be much simpler if I did, but we don't talk about who I really hate, or even who I love right now, Jesus and I. He won't make me say that. It's been days getting me here. He's actually trying not to run me off, as if I could escape His presence. I'm the one who joked, "I made so many beds in hell they thought I was the chambermaid down there." But God was with me. It isn't funny today. At all.

No, we don't talk about who I hate or love.

"So, why do I keep doing it?"

"Doing what?"

I sigh. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, Lord."

"Tell me."

"Why do you have to drag me through this?"

"Because you don't listen."

"Must you be so blunt? I'm listening now."

"I don't want you to listen now. I want you to talk to me."

It's futile to argue with God, though he tolerates me. But sometimes I get tired of myself. In fact, I'm tired of me a lot. "Okay, I made some kind of contact with him. It's not as bad as usual, but it was something. A little thing. A tiny thing really. You do realize all my girlfriends just rolled their eyes and groaned, "Not again!"

"No, they'll be praying. Well, a few are thinking it, but they love you. They know you're wounded."

"I'm sick of being wounded. I want to be a lioness. ROOOOOOOOOOAR!!!!!!!!" Did you know he taught me how to do that? It was one of the best memories I have with him."

"That wasn't a very pleasant sound, coming from you. You don't roar, my love."

"Why not?"

"It wasn't authentic. You're more like a kitty cat. You make sad, lonely people happy. I love kittens, you know."

"You seem like a dog person, " I say.

"You're suggesting I don't love you?"

"Of course not."

"Then act like I do. Don't romanticize what he thought you should be. What is your favorite scripture?"

"Blessed are the poor in spirit."

"You don't have to roar. Being you is good. What did I tell you earlier?"

"You said when I make contact when I'm upset, I'm going right back to the source of my woundedness. And honestly, I never thought about that until you said it. It's like I'm more comfortable with the wounded me, than the healed me. But, you know, not in a good way." Then I think of something else interesting. "You know, I heard in some Latin American countries, in the place somebody dies they throw up a big, white cross."

He chuckles, knowing what's coming.

"What if I just put a big cross in his yard? I won't set it on fire. It'd be, like, a memorial thing."

Now Jesus is really laughing. "First of all, what happened didn't kill you, although sometimes you act as if it did. And it didn't happen at the house where he lives now. You'd go to jail. If you have to go to jail, it should be for a better reason than that."

"I wouldn't go to the crazy house?"

"You aren't crazy, love."

"You called me love, again. I like that."

"Me, too. I'd have called you that all week, but you've been avoiding Me."

"Way to call me out on my blog, Lord."

"It's what I do. So tell me about the cross you won't be putting in Joe's yard."

"It's just a thought. Maybe I need to mark the spot. But I had the wrong spot in mind, apparently. You know, when you started telling me you wanted to heal me, I thought you'd want to deal with that Gabriel stuff. Opps. I said his name."

"They don't know him."

"I don't even know him. Thank God. No pun, intended. Anyway, and I told Carly what I realized I was doing--what You told me I was doing--and she said maybe it all started with Joe. Like the whole thing with Gabby wouldn't have happened if the Joe thing hadn't have happened first."

And just like that we're not on the rock anymore listening to the water. And I'm back at that damned house again, on that mattress with him, and Jesus is right there.

"Will this ever end? Like, seriously, Lord!" I yell from the mattress. "Didn't I go there--or here--five years ago with You? I've thought you healed me a thousand times. Why isn't this over?"

"A lot of damage was done, love, and consider this: most of it is over. There's just a little residue I need to clean up."

"I'm not up for this."

"You don't have to stay here." And we're back on the rock again. And I'm a little salty with Jesus.

"Why did you make me do that?"

"I didn't make you. You went there, but that was all you could do today. Tell me about what you read today."

"I read in the Sue Monk Kidd book about a little bird that crashed into her window. She and her kids went outside with it. The bird was stunned, but not broken, and she just needed to sit with the pain for a little while. But I'm not like that bird. I'm broken in a million pieces, and you know it!"

"You're not as bad as you think. I've done a lot of healing on you. You don't see it because you've been stunned since Lexington. You didn't think I'd move. You've hoped and waited for so long, and now it looks like I'm giving you all that you asked for. In fact, you see I've been giving it to you all along, and you don't know what to do with that. You still have pain, but I've done wonders in you."

That's why I'm not in his arms screaming. That's why I'm not throwing myself in the water. He takes my wrists in His hands and tenderly, with such exquisite deliberateness, kisses the two words over my scars: love on my left wrist, and love on my right. All I do is sigh, but it's a deep cleansing sigh full of relief and pleasure.

"My head won't stop hurting."

"It will soon."

"Are you sure I'm going to be all right?"

"You can trust me on it. We're just going to sit here together with this pain."

"Until when?"

"Until it's time to do something else."

"Okay," I say, and He lets me have the last word. I look at the water. The waves crash before us, a violent ebb and flow, but that's the way of things. A lot happens, the sea seems brutal if you're
fearful and don't understand nature. If you don't respect it, but it isn't scary. It's just water, rising and falling, tide going in and out.

I breathe in and out, and don't think about a think.

I don't think about a damned thing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Wilderness and the Desert: Lent '09

Emilie Griffin on Lent:

"We begin this forty-day journey by remembering when Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. In fact, the Spirit drove him there. Now our task is to imitate Christ in His journey, to walk with him, to let the Spirit drive us into a desert place where Satan may confront us." Small Surrenders, Paraclete Press, 2008

I've been meaning to tell you about Lexington, and I promise I will, but once again, lovies, I'm feeling icky. Migraines for a few days, and that makes everything, but sleeping and dwelling in darkness hard. Pray for me, please.

One thing I will say about my life changing journey (I never thought I'd say that about a trip to Kentucky) I found myself doing what I do a lot of: telling stories. Most of the time I love to tell a good tale, but I found myself increasingly horrified by the things I was saying. It was a little surreal at some point, listening to myself, and I think I even said, "What a drama queen!" Or something like that, because the stories, which are totally true, sound so remarkably full of crazy that if I didn't know they happened I may not believe it myself.

One story I told--and do not even think I'm going to touch it again. Not right now. With a migraine!--was about an incident of abuse. It involved my baby, and I could not believe I'd allowed somebody to treat us so terribly. I was ashamed. I burst into tears, lovies. I had to leave the room, and tell myself that it was over. We survived. We got through it, and I'd talked to my baby on the phone that very day. He was okay, too. We got through it.

Back in the day, when I first returned to Michigan from my descent into the hell that was my life with the man I used to refer to as "demon lover." I do not call him that anymore, but I'm not sure what I want to call him. Baby steps. Okay? Anyway, when I first returned home I'd have periodical flashbacks. They were awful, and I never knew what would trigger them. Once I saw a hanger and was reduced to a weeping mess because in a moment I was reminded of having the hell beat out of me with one. Another time, and it wasn't when I first returned, it was about three years ago, I was watching 20/20 and had a complete meltdown as I listened to a woman tell her story of abuse. It was like I was plunged right back there, and I was powerless, once again. In full panic mode.

But most of the time, I'm okay.

Or so I thought, until I found myself crying in Lisa's kitchen and trying to talk myself into believing the safety net was beneath me and I wasn't in grave danger. My life with "you-know-who" was years ago. I left him in 1993. And since that time I've been diagnosed as bipolar, endured crippling depression, been chronically under employed, had a hospitalization in a mental institute, a suicide attempt, a brother who was murdered, another who died waaaay too soon, I had a spouse with a really bad addiction, I lost three babies, crap piled upon crap, and I really did try to be a good sport. I know how to grin and bear it. I just kept going, though admittedly, sometimes I went painfully slow, but I crawled on bloody knees toward Jesus and He always took care of me. But does that mean I don't have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, just the same? I have no idea. I read Lisa's newest book (it's not out yet, lovies. Nice work if you can get it, but you can't get it.), and it hurt! I really did see some similarities between me and her hermit, wounded protagonist, that kinda confirmed I'm not as well as I want you to think I am. Not as well as I myself want to think I am. Lord, have mercy.

So, when I got back home from Lexi, Jesus kept bringing to mind these really negative feelings I had about my stories. I mean stories from my life. We ain't talking my fiction here. And He, in that gentle way He has, asked me to let Him heal me. He said I needed healing.

I guess I stuffed things down so long that I forgot they were still there. And as I've been taking this walk with Jesus on the way to His cross, He's been gently reminding me that I am carrying a cross of my own, and He's been helping me bear it, but don't I want to stop for a bit to deal with my wounds?

Haven't I dealt with them enough??? I'd rather deal with His. His wounds are safer, and Lord! His wounds are dangerous, but they feel safer than mine. But He loves me. And isn't it just like Him to overthrow the tables, clear out the junk I've been telling myself, so that He can make me a house of prayer.

Of course, I've been avoiding Him ever since this little revelation, but He has a way of drawing me, despite myself. Do you know that when the Bible says the Spirit draws us to God, that word draws is more akin to drags us, kicking and screaming. I'm being drawn and my throat is sore, and heels battered. But I'm going. And I don't know what is going to happen. But I trust Him.

It's time to heal. At least a little more.

To the wilderness I go.

How 'bout you? Any healing taking place. Any desert places? Any confrontations with Satan you'd just as soon avoid?

love,
mair-francis

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent: Not for the Faint of Heart. Seriously.

My Godbaby, Dusty, sent me this, and it says what I seem to be struggling to articulate today. Enjoy, lovies. I'll yak at ya tomorrow. And Dusty, much obliged.

mair-francis

Lent is not for the faint-hearted

Lent is not for the faint-hearted.
It demands that we, like Thomas,
put our hand into the side of the crucified Christ.

Lent is a journey towards the cross,
a journey of enlightenment:
from wilderness to feast,
from desert to oasis.
It’s an attempt to identify with the powerless
and the suffering in the world.

***

Lent is not tidy.
The days grow longer,*
the ground thaws, there’s mud and dirt everywhere
and the windows need cleaning.

Lent is a journey.
So at the end of Lent
we should expect to find ourselves
somewhere different from where we started.

Lent can be an opportunity
to explore what is the nature
of the promised Kingdom of God on earth
that we long for;
a time to discern
how we are called to work for it.

No, Lent is not for the faint-hearted!
*‘Lent’ means lengthen.

Kate Mcllhagga

From The Green Heart of the Snowdrop, Wild Goose Publications

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Zora and Nicky is a Christy Award Finalist!

I guess it won't be my hooker heels garnering me attention at this Summer's Christy Awards.

I'm so freakin' happy!

Can you believe it???

And Lisa Samson, my bff lovies, is a finalist for her rawkin', amazing book Embrace Me.

It was my favorite Lisa Samson novel until her incredible The Passion of Mary Margaret came out.

How much does this rawk? Seriously. And we're in two different categories, so you can hope both of us will win!

Here is a list of all the finalist:

Contemporary Romance category are:

* Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
* Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)
* Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney (David C. Cook)

Contemporary Series, Sequels & Novellas category are:

* Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
* Summer Snow by Nicole Baart (Tyndale House Publishers)
* You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman (FaithWords)

Contemporary Standalone category are:

* Dogwood by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)
* Embrace Me by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)
* Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas (Moody Publishers)

First Novel category are:

* Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake (David C. Cook)
* Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler (Bethany House Publishers)
* Safe at Home by Richard Doster (David C. Cook)

Historical category are:

* Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley (B&H Publishing Group)
* Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (Bethany House Publishers)
* Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser (Bethany House Publishers)

Historical Romance category are:

* Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy (Barbour Publishers)
* From a Distance by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers)
* The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen (B&H Publishing Group)

Suspense category are:

* By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer (Tyndale House Publishers)
* The Rook by Steven James (Revell)
* Winter Haven by Athol Dickson (Bethany House Publishers)

Visionary category are:

* The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House Publishers)
* Shade by John B. Olson (B&H Publishing Group)
* Vanish by Tom Pawlik (Tyndale House Publishers)

Young Adult category are:

* The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina (FaithWords)
* I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke (Moody Publishers)
* On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

mair-francis

Friday, March 20, 2009

For You Women's History Month Enthusiasts

Check out this fun gallery I wrote for Beliefnet:

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/Bible/Life-Lessons-from-Women-of-the-Bible.aspx

much love,

mair-francis

Friday, Third Week of Lent '09: The Gathering and the Scattering


"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." Luke 11:23

Look at us, lovies! We've made it to the half-way point between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday! I suspect it's gone like much of the spiritual life. We've gathered, and sometimes we've scattered.

We like to mull over the gathering days, when our commitment is strong and sure. Ash Wednesday was a gathering day. For the most part. I've had several of those, and I believe our Good, Loving Father honored my efforts to make Him more important that food, and cola. And He honored every moment I spent trying to learn, pretty much on my own, to pray the Divine Offices. Every form of alms I gave He blessed. He's pretty good that way.

Let's face it. You don't have to observe Lent. No one is going to come to your house and check to see if you've given up something you don't need, increased something you do, or are walking the way of the cross with Jesus. For Catholics, it's a private devotion. We're asked to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but the rest is up to us.

I gave up red meat for Lent. I had it once, when I ate what was lovingly set before me. My kind host didn't know I was going meatless. I had it again, when I became ill and no longer prepared my own meals. When I was well again, I had a particularly self-pitying, faithless day and ate a BLT with my hubby. I also gave up soda. I had a soda with that BLT. I think, in fact, I had two. And I felt horrible, but it is what it is.

I suspect that, like my spiritual life in ordinary time, the Lent journey is just that: a journey. There are times we walk with all the swagger in us. And times when we slouch toward Jesus bone weary, and maybe with an attitude. I've noticed it's hard to look my sins, I mean truly. I find ways to take the sting out of the word, but sin is an ugly little thing, isn't it? Though it can pretend to be pretty and shiny. And I don't do myself any favors when I pretend it isn't what it is.

Sometimes I'm weak. Sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes my heart is hard as stone. Sometimes, instead of gathering the things of God to me, I'm tossing them out of my sight, carelessly, foolishly. And when I look around and see nothing but emptiness around me, I wonder where all the goodness that was just right here has gone. Scattering sucks, even if, for a season, it seems like a lot of fun.

So what do you do if you've had chocolate, or cola, or over-eaten? Of if you've refused to give when you could have? What if you were short with your kids, or insensitive to your spouse? What if you did something you'd hoped you were done with, like had sex with your boyfriend? Or looked at porn again? What do you do with your big ol' sin?

Or what if you didn't do anything wrong, but you could have done right a little better than you did? What if you got weary doing well? What if you're doing great, but are proud of it?

I'll tell you what you do, what every sinner who became a saint did: get honest with God, and honest with yourself. If you are Catholic or Orthodox, go to confession. Don't try to clean it up, or make yourself look good. Let it out, and let it go. If you are Protestant, um, go to confession. It won't be look like it does when I'm before a priest, but it should look like it does when you go to a trusted brother or sister and say, "I'm struggling here." Choose someone who will love you, won't judge you, and who'll help you be reconciled to God. Deal with it, lovies. We don't do ourselves any favors feeling bad about ourselves and doing nothing. There is too much love in God to stay away because we're human. Let the first thing you gather be your "stuff," and take it to Jesus.

I was so comforted when in my readings I came open this simple statement: Often [God] is most active when He seems far away (Fr. Benedict Groeschel). Yeah, it's not rocket science, but I was glad to hear it.

The scripture I shared today wasn't the reading for today, but I thought it'd be good, half-way through, to talk about how in this Lenten journey I've both failed and achieved, gathered and scattered. I'm hoping we can take courage from one another. Those who have been more disciplined, share something in the comments that will strengthen your brothers and sisters. Those who have faltered, remember that you aren't alone, and we can always begin again. God really does have mercy.

Like I said, you don't really have to observe Lent, but if you do, there are so many gifts you receive. Every time you say 'no' to your flesh, you say 'yes' to God, and it's just good to deny yourself a little something. Don't you think?

So be encouraged. We're almost at the Resurrection. But there are crosses, and sometimes you'll find it's hard to bear them. Remember you're not doing any of this alone. It's Christ that's enabling you. You wouldn't even have the desire to please Him if He hadn't given you the grace to feel that. Lean on those everlasting arms.

Much love,
mair-francis
Photo: A Pomo woman demonstrates traditional seed-gathering techniques, photograph by Edward S. Curtis, c. 1924.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feast of St. Joseph


So, right in the middle of Lent is the feast of St. Joseph. In years past, even after becoming Eastern Orthodox, I never much got into him. He's a quiet sort. Unobtrusive, but some of the saints I love were very devoted to him, such as St. Teresa of Avila.

I had this experience last year during Lent. I'll admit, I watched a LOT of EWTN at that time. It was half my catechism, for heaven's sake. So, at a certain point they're all talking about St. Joseph, and showing programs about him, and I think, "Wow." He really was pretty cool. But it was more of an afterthought than anything. I still didn't get it until the enemy of my soul began to buffet me with a sin he finds particular effective: obsessing with Joe.

Isn't that ironic? Joe's name is Joseph.

So, I get discouraged, and here comes the enemy dangling bright shiny Joe before me. I'll just say, for my fascination slash obsession with that man, he really did suck, and most of my experiences with him, from losing my virginity and more, well, they pretty much sucked, too. And still, the enemy returns with the same old lie, that if someone that beautiful and fabulous ever showed any interest in me, then I must be okay. And I need to keep him in my life to keep assuring me I'm okay. I do know how flawed this logic is, but I can't even tell you how often it returns, which just goes to show you. The enemy really doesn't haven't many new tricks. Frankly, he doesn't need many. We fall for the same dumb sins, again, and again.

Last year, the same old stinking thinking cropped up, and once again, Joe dazzled in my thoughts. I got pretty sick of Joe. Thinking of Joe. Wanting Joe's approval, and worse! Suddenly there appeared on my television Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I love him. I mean love him like I love Brennan Manning. Seriously. So, there's Fr. Benedict, and he's talking about Saint Joseph, and he says he's the patron saint of unrequited love. It was as if a light came on in my soul. I'm not ashamed to admit I asked for St. Joseph's intercession. I wanted to stop thinking about Joe. I was embarassed and discouraged that he plagued me so often.

Today's reading said, "When Jesus' mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her shame, decided to divorce her quietly... an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is throught the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her."

I needed someone to pray for me that was familiar with my kind of pain: unrequited love. Imagine what it was like to be in love with God Made Flesh's mom. It's like being in love with the Ark of the Covenant! Seriously. What better choice for me to ask for help than St. Joseph, the patron saint of unrequited love? Who happened to share Joe's name. Righteous Joseph wanted to hide Mary's shame. But lovies, Mary, in truth, had nothing to be ashamed of. I did. I'd given the gift meant for a man who loved an honored me, uniquely, as his wife, to Joe. I had a raging, deeply painful, emotional affair with him years later, and long after that was over he still haunted me.

Thank God for saints. The communion of saints are a gift for a reason. God knew we'd struggle, so he gave us a whole community of overcomers, both alive in the natural and alive in Christ, to help us. It's an act of extraordinary generosity. The Holy Spirit connects us all, and the saints still pray. They pray with all their experiences behind them.

You know what? I stopped thinking about Joe after that prayer. It was as if I inexplicably received a grace-drenched respite in my mind. It was no doing of my own, I assure you, and I thanked my heavenly friend, St. Joseph, and the Great and Good God who connects us, for the gift. I think of that experience when St. Joseph comes to mind. To me, it was a miracle.

Maybe you're stuck on somebody who is impossible. Or maybe your situation is dire. Imagine having to be the guy who is Jesus' other father. Imagine having to protect Him, love and guide Him, and keep His mom happy. Imagine the flight to Egypt, and Rachel's children's blood flowing while you hide your little one with the big destiny, with fear and trembling, daring not fail. Joseph had bad things happen. He can be trusted to pray for your bad thing.

If you having a time of it, it's okay to say to your friend in heaven, "Say a prayer for me." God really did give us each other. It's right there in the creed, "I believe in the communion of saints." You don't have to worry about God being mad at you. You are no more "praying to the saints" as you are praying to me when you ask for my prayers. I guarantee you'll find a friend in St. Joseph. And I think Jesus is kinda soft when it comes to His dad.

I really do.

In love,
mair-francis

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday, Third Week of Lent '09: Jesus and the Law


Okay, so today I read:

"Jesus said, "I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"

I'm sad to say I don't spend a lot of time thinking on this passage of Scripture. Sure, a lot of my time is consumed meditating on Jesus, but there's a big disconnect when it comes Him and the law. So when I hear, "I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it," the words startle and sober me.

What can they mean? I mean really? What about those of us who embrace grace (thank God!), but--uh oh--aren't particularly careful about how we live? Have we become so free in our thinking that we choose to live our lives in God cafeteria style, picking and choosing only what tastes good? In The King, Crucified and Risen, Fr. Groeschel's meditation today suggested that many are doing just that. Am I? I wondered. Have I passed over Jesus' words, "If you love me keep my commandments," the way I'd skip the spiritual equivalent of steamed Brussels sprouts in the cafeteria of the soul? I don't care for Brussels sprouts at all!

I'm grateful that Fr. Groeshel, after his smackdown, offered an effective remedy for apathy to the law Jesus came to fulfill. He said the Christian conscience is informed by the teaching of the Gospels of Christ, and the scriptures in general. He suggested a long look at the Sermon on the Mount. Go ahead. Read the whole thing, Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Read it with all the devotion you can muster. I know I'll be doing so in the days to come. I'd be pretty lost if left to my devices in the Old Testament, but I've always loved the Sermon on the Mount. That, I can take to heart, Lord, have mercy on me. That, I can try to live.

And the sermon is nothing to sneeze at!

I guess what I got out of today's meditations is that it all points to Christ. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. All I believe and do should be rooted in Him. I love that moment in Mass when the priest holds up the Body and Blood of Christ and says, "For it is through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours Almighty Father, forever and ever." Through Him, with Him, in Him. The words make me swoon.

The best thing I can do is be like John the Beloved, and lay my head upon the Lord's breast. I'm certain there I'll hear his heartbeat for the poor, the forgotten, and the disenfranchised. After all, Jesus himself was all those things. And I'll hear His heart to love, love, love you, and even myself.

I don't know about you, but I needed the reminder.

in love,
mair-francis
http://www.zazzle.com/jesus_holding_the_torah_fulfillment_of_the_law_poster-228288244100693478

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

God to you! And Happy St. Patrick's Day

Dia Duit, lovies! Which is supposed to be "God to you!" I love Irish greetings, and this one has to be my favorite of all!

It's St. Patrick's day, and I'm feeling all my Irish blood. It's gorgeous, unseasonably warm outside, and the flu is gone (mostly). I'm grateful to God.

I thought you'd enjoy some St. Patrick love, today. He's so cool. It was he who used the clover to explain the Trinity. What he did when a rare four-leafed clover popped up is beyond me. Legend also has it that he banished snakes from the Island. Love that his feast day rear emerges during Lent. I won't hesitated to ask his intercession for the many snakes that pop up in my life. I need all the praying friends I can get. Many people are familiar with his breast plate prayer, and I found it in this amazing prayer my friend Donna Ellis sent me.

Enjoy, and have a bit '0 corned beef and cabbage like we Burney's (nice Irish name. We really are Irish! I'm Thomas Kinkaid's cousin. Yes! That one!)

And don't forget the beer! Color it green if you wish.

Donna, thanks for the great prayer.


~HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY~



St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer ("The Lorica")

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation; His baptism in Jordan river, His death on Cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spiced tomb, His riding up the heavenly way, His coming at the day of doom, I bind unto myself today. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim; the sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour, the service of the seraphim, Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word, the Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls, all good deeds done unto the Lord and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today the virtues of the star lit heaven, the glorious sun’s life giving ray, the whiteness of the moon at even, the flashing of the lightning free, the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks, the stable earth, the deep salt sea around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin, the vice that gives temptation force, the natural lusts that war within, the hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh, in every place and in all hours, against their fierce hostility I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, Against the death wound and the burning, The choking wave, the poisoned shaft, Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three. By Whom all nature hath creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

--St. Patrick, b. 387 A.D., d. March 17, 493 A.D.

with love,
mair
See you tomorrow for our Lenten journey!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday, Second Week of Lent '09. Nestled in Love

So, I returned from my transformative trip to Lexington on Tuesday, as planned. What I didn't anticipate was the mild, blah feeling I attributed to travel and lack of sleep was the beginning of the flu. Three days of fever, coughing, sneezing, constant nasal drip, and a general misery, I'm left with scarcely a coherent thought. What does this have to do with Lent? Absolutely nothing.

All bets are off until I can get out of bed. Aren't you glad God is merciful. If it's one thing my Lenten readings taught me is how great and good God is, and how small and needy I am. I'm convinced Jesus loves babies, fools, and the sick. I feel like all of the above today. I'm trusting His mercy and providence to see me through the next few days. Thank God for Nyquil. Seriously. And soup. I have new respect for soup.

I have so many wonderful things to tell you. I just don't have it in me to share today. Hang in there with me, I'll be back, hopefully Monday.

For now, I'm nestled in the love of our Good God, and leaving you to your own Lenten devices. You may, however, feel free to tell me how things are going for you. Leave a comment. I'd love that.

May God bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to eternal life.

It'd be nice if he brought a little healing my way, too.

big juicy love,
mair-francis

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday, First Week of Lent '09: Tell No One Day

Hello lovies,

For the last few days I've been whining about my weight and such. Today I stepped on an accurate scale at the doctor's office and was appalled at the number I saw. Let me tell you, I'm glad Jesus said, "Tell no one," about some things.

It's bad, honeys. Enough that I need to get alone and do some business with God. I'm going to Lexington with Lisa for a few days. I don't think I'll blog until I return. So, we'll see you on Tuesday.

Stay close to Jesus, and pray for me.

love,
mair-francis

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday, First Week of Lent '09: The Sign of Jonah

Today's reading was about the sign of Jonah, and I don't mean Thomas Merton's book.

"Jesus said to the crowd, 'This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign of the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign of this generation.'" (Lk. 11:29-32)

Jonah was a type of Christ, and his languishing in the belly of the whale for three days foreshadowed the time when Christ would face death for three days before His glorious resurrection. But what is God saying to me?

Am I looking for a sign? Waiting for the miracle that never seems to come? Sometimes I think I am. I've mentioned how hard yesterday was. Today brought its own struggles. It's easy to have child-like faith when everything is great and I'm the recipient of heavenly warm-fuzzies in spades, but on a day like today heaven seems to have moved without leaving a forwarding address.

I succeeded in abstaining from meat, but failed by overeating everything else in my kitchen. I showed up for the Divine Hours, but retained not a word of what I essentially read aloud instead of prayed. On a day like I had today I wish some messenger would come proclaiming that one day I really will act like I've got some sense. No sign was given.

Yet I, like Jonah, still hear the call to repent, and like the reluctant prophet, I resist my on-going conversion. It's much easier to be a big baby indulging in my oral fixation, food lust, and deeply ingrained habits, than to repent, and preach it to others, too. So what happens? I get swallowed up. My Jonah's whale is depression. It's a nasty, dark, stinky place, but it teachies me something. It's time to grow up and stop using food to fill the empty places inside of me. It's time to be a big girl and listen and respond to God's voice. "Repent," it says to me. And then, "Pass it on."

I ignored that voice today. The depression, despite my bravest efforts, consumed me. I hated the way my body looks, the things I did to gain so much weight, and the person I am to let myself go. Now, I am waiting for my rebirth, yet another conversion.

All I can pray is that the Lord have mercy on me, teach me to hear and give His message, and be ready to tell it before He spits me back out to my audience.

much love,
mair-francis

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tuesday, First Week of Lent '09: A Little Gratefulness

Today was that day. The one that inevitably comes after you've tried so hard. I didn't want to pray the Hours. I was distracted and full of sorrow. Everything came hard. I needed help.

I guess I finally admitted how lost I feel. The job market is terrible in Michigan, like many other places, and I'm near the end of my advance money from books. Like many Americans I'm worried, and what's worse, I felt like I made all the wrong choices in my life. I don't feel very marketable in the big bad world, and although Ken's business has picked up exponentially, I still feel like it's up to me to be the provider, which totally isn't so.

If God hears the sighs that filled my hours today the way He hears me pray the Divine Office, He took pity. I languished in front of the computer for hours, seeking a little bit of direction. Finally I stumbled upon some You Tube Loyola Press Lenten retreats and heard a simple prayer, "Lord, remember the work of your hands." Or something like that. Vinita Hampton Wright is doing a series of videos for her new book, Deepening Days of Friendship. I think. I know I'm so vague, but I have company and can't link right now. Just search for them on the site. Anyway, she spoke so beautifully about trusting God to do the work of creating us. At least that's what I got out of it. Even if I got every other detail is wrong, I needed to hear that it was God making me, and not myself. Today, I'd given up on myself.

After I watched the video and prayed that prayer, my agent called. His words were like an antidote to my blue mood. He rooted me back in faith: in myself, in my future, and in God.

Later, my bff Lisa arrived with my Godbaby. I'm as content as a babe at her mamas breast. We've spent the evening with laughter and great joy. They are yet another tonic for my soul. Not much to say tonight, but that this Lent thing, and so much of the spiritual life gets hard. Today was that really crappy day.

And then there is our good God, showing up with a word here and there, smiling faces, and people that love you so much you just know you're the work of God's hands. And so are they. How could we not be with such grace abounding?

I'm one lucky--no, blessed--gal.

much love,
mair-francis

Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday, first week of Lent '09: A Little Lavish Love


"And the King will answer them, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

Today, I spent the better part of the day grocery shopping and cleaning house. I mean furiously cleaning. Literally. At one point I got so angry at Ken I pushed him in the chest. He thought my assault was hilarious, thank God, but I thought, "Okay, you went waaaaaay off the love track there, Lent girl." I was bitch with a broom (and dust rag) today. And I repent.

I also repent for saying bitch.

What is so striking about this frenzy is that I was cleaning to prepare for a visit from my bff. Said bff is coming because she knows I've been sick and she wants to help me clean. Only I don't want her to clean my terribly neglected house. I want to offer her hospitality. Aren't we a pair?

This year I've found a new dimension to Lent that I've never experienced before. I'm realizing that Lent is not altogether private. There is a wonderful communal aspect to it. Lent was about stripping away to see Jesus more clearly before. Now, not only is it about stripping away the excess, fasting, and being awareness of my sinfulness, but it's also about the joy of giving and serving.

Praying the hours is teaching me to see a big God involved in a small world. But as tiny as it is to Him, He's invested in it. It's like Saint Julian of Norwich and her hazelnut vision. She saw a tiny thing no bigger than a hazelnut. She asked the Lord, "What is it?" The Lord answered her, "It's the world and everything in it." This small thing in her hand. She said that's when she realized, "God made the world, He loves it, and He will take care of it. And we should take care of one another. Social justice, as it's presented in the Psalms and the Gospels, is for all God's Church. In fact, it's for everybody.

Today in one of my devotionals I read some reflections from Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I love that man like I love Brennan Manning, and y'all know how I love the Ragamuffin. Fr. Benedict said that people want to give for Lent to the destitute, but many of America's poor aren't really destitute. They may have most basics, but "...we all need frills," he said. "We need them."

I don't have much money, but a surprise $20 dollar bill made it's way to me. I was going to put it in my Lenten bowl for alms, but my daughter Abbie, who's been working, bought me a ticket to the local high school's production of The Wiz. Lately we haven't been able to have any entertainment. We don't even have cable anymore. After much wrestling I took the money and bought my little girls their own tickets. Yes, I felt guilty. In my head I was one of the disciples who thought the woman pouring expensive nard all over Jesus--worth a year's wages!--should have given the oil to them to cash in and distribute the proceeds to the poor. "Man!" I thought, "I could have sent an orphan to school for a few months or something." But Nia and Aziza enjoyed the night out with mom so much. Their happiness was my happiness. It was such a simple thing, and they've had so many losses in the last six months. So I let the poor children I served be my own Saturday night. There's a lot of Lent left. Together my babies and I can work to do something for a few orphans. I think God is big enough to provide for my girls and the less fortunate.

All that to say, we really do need frills. So, I'm blessing my friend with hospitality she won't expect, and she's blessing me with her humble service (I'll leave a corner in the basement for her to clean or something). Both of us get to be Jesus to one another, Matthew 25 style.

There are so many ways to show a kindness to someone. Go to a blog you visit in secret, and tell someone you're reading and you appreciate them. Bake a pie. Take a senior citizen to the doctor. Give a frill to somebody who doesn't get many. That's almsgiving too, and it's blessed, blessed, blessed. Like Fr. Benedict says, "You'll put a big smile on Jesus' face." After all, you're giving that frill to Him.

Much love,
mair-francis

Sunday, March 01, 2009

First Sunday of Lent '09: Little Deaths and Dying to Self

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the saints I love like Dorothy Day, Saint Therese the little flower, and Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. All of them practiced "the little way." These big souls, so extraordinary to me, regarded themselves as unexceptional. They were humble and found holiness in the most ordinary things.

I heard a story about Dorothy Day and a man who'd come to meet her. Day was listening intently to a woman who was clearly drunk. After she realized there was a visitor she asked him, "Are you waiting to speak with one of us?" How telling that question. She esteemed the drunk woman as highly as herself. Mother Theresa, like her namesake Therese, spoke of doing small things with great love, and the little flower was as apt to offering up to God the trial of enduring cranky nuns as the sickness that ultimately killed her. The three saintly ladies sought no esteem for themselves. They were content to do what God called them to without the hype. But hype they received, and isn't that something?

Sometimes my arrogance and ambition shocks me. Pride is one of my most subtle and besetting sins. Dear God! Do NOT fail to notice me! And please, please, please don't slight me. It comes up in my most intimate relationships, in my career. It rises up as I serve the Lord in the simplest ways. Lord, have mercy.

Last year five of my books made their way to bookstores all over the country, and I was proud. None of those books have sold well, and I was humbled. The year I thought would be my big one, turned out to be the year that I found myself increasingly diminished. I was passed over for the job of my dreams without even a second interview. I couldn't find a job. And of course, there was yesterdays form rejection letter to a program to study writing of all things. Each of these things were a little death to me, some smaller than others.

Today during coffee hour after church, I confided to a friend that I didn't know what I was going to do. "I feel like I'm walking my personal way of the cross," I told him, and at each station I die a little more. All this makes me think of Jesus.

Nobody understands the spirituality of the little way more than Jesus. The scriptures say He humbled Himself, taking on the form of man. Talk about a downsize! God in a diaper must have shocked the angels. He lived in obscurity for thirty years. His public ministry only lasted a mere three. He died young, in a most humiliating way. He was abused, mocked, and spit upon. He did not complain. I am nothing like Jesus.

I long for the big way. The star path.

In Mass today's Gospel was about the temptation of Christ, Mark 1:12-15:

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained there for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beast, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

What is it that Satan tempted Jesus with? According to Henri Nouwen, it was the need to be relevant, powerful, and spectacular. I want to be relevant, powerful, and spectacular, but what is happening is that I'm irrelevant, weak, and under-whelming. I watch my friends become marketing machines for their books, and increasing find I have no heart for such. I'm grateful for energy to get out of bed most days. I'm thrilled that since Lent began, I've washed dishes every day, and exercised. Underwhelming indeed.

Today I felt more keenly aware of dying than I have in a long time. I don't mean the physical death I worried I may face sooner than later when I was in the hospital last weekend. I mean the dying to self I seem to have forgotten about that Jesus calls us to. A fierce melancholy seems to have seized me. I realized I don't want to die to self. I want to be relevant, powerful, and spectacular. In myself! Though I'd toss a little credit to God. Just being honest.

But die I will, Lord, help me, because I love Him despite myself. He enables me to love Him. But I'm counting up the cost of discipleship today, knowing that of the 12 disciples he chose, only one died of natural causes. Most were Love's martyrs. It's a hard thing to walk the way of the cross, I mean really, truly be in this thing to die. I came into this Lenten season fully expecting to let Christ's passion break my heart. I had no idea that I'd experience a passion of my own, and that it would shatter me, too.

I'm asking for the courage to keep going that hard way. To put my life, my future, even my children's future into God's hands. To give up my ambition for whatever small, seemingly insignificant thing He wants me to do. Honest to God I have no idea where I'm going. I keep talking about a house of hospitality, but that may not be God's will for me at all! He hasn't really clued me in yet. Or if He has, I don't get it. I feel like I'm free-falling, and it isn't altogether comfy. I imagine what I'm experiencing is only a fraction of what Jesus experienced, knowing the cup He'd drink of. Remember when the two disciples asked Jesus if they could sit on beside Him in His kingdom, and Jesus rebuked them, saying," You don't know what you're asking for. Are you willing to drink of my cup (my paraphrase)?" My soul is screaming, "You don't know what you asked for."

Did I know I may be called to taste the beginnings of success, and then be asked to forsake it?
Did I know God would take His time explaining what He's doing, if He explains at all?
Did I know my hopes would be dashed, that I might learn radical trust?
Did I know I'd have to fight an ever present urge to panic because it doesn't look like God is acting at all, or certainly He's not acting fast enough?!
Did I know it would hurt many a day to love Him? But I wouldn't be able to abide not loving Him?

I can ask so many more of these questions.

I guess I'm crazy enough to find out what I asked for, because I'm going with Him, so help me God! And I'm going only because I love Him so. Here's a little St. Teresa of Avila (I love those Theresas! No matter how you spell it!). I'm praying that in the midst of my own temptations, God will send me a few angels like He sent Jesus. I pray that I will learn the truth: I can live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, instead of by the bread I make myself. This is dedicated to you fools for Christ bearing your own crosses on the way to your personal Calvaries, knowing it's going to be the death of you.

Prayer To Christ Crucified

I am not moved to love you, Lord,
By promises of paradise;
Nor does the hell that terrifies
Move me to want to sin no more.
You are the one that moves me, Lord,

When to your cross I turn my eyes
To see your wounds, hear insults, lies;
I'm grieved to know you're dying, Lord.

Your love moves me in such a way
That without heav'n I'd love you still,
And without hell, I'd fear to stray.

I need no goads or giveaway.
For even if my hopes were nil,
I'd love you as I do today.

-Thomas Walsh (translator)

mair-francis