He Is Our God and We Are His People: Let Us Come Together in Cyberspace to Give God Thanks and Praise
Wherever we lift our hearts to God together is church. He is our God and we are His people. He has called us to this moment as an oasis of grace. It can be a special time when we come to Him with open hungry hearts.
He calls us in many ways: Through the beauty of His creation, through the laughter of children, the kindness of strangers, the tenderness of those who love us, our memories of many moments of grace.
He even calls us through nature’s terrible destructive power, that reminds us how fragile and helpless we really are, like falling leaves swirling in the wind.
But thanks to Jesus Christ, we know that the smallest one of us has infinite value and is held in the palm of God’s hand.
And thanks to Jesus, we also know that even when we, His people, still sin, there is forgiveness.
And that when we experience suffering and even heartbreak, there is grace.
Thanks to Jesus Christ we know that death is just a doorway to eternal life.
And there is no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Let us join together wherever we are to give God thanksgiving and praise.
My great-grandson, Aaron, played the xylophone in the junior high band last night. What fun! I could actually hear him, since there was only one xylophone.
He is following in the foot-steps of his great-uncles and great-aunt; Mike (trumpet), Steve (trumpet–until his friend, Donna, drove over it–then a flugel horn provided free by the school), and Julie (flute).
Fortunately for Aaron, if he ever plays in the marching band, I no longer have the stamina to run down Main Street alongside the band with tears of delight streaming down my face. I wonder if Mike has managed to blot that total humiliation out of his memory? Probably not.
The last time Steve came home for a visit, he was still shuddering over his memory of sitting on the junior high school bus with all his friends watching me collect pinecones from under the schoolyard Pine tree.
In spite of starting out frozen with embarrassment, Julie eventually forgave me for attending Parents’ Night on Halloween in a witch’s costume, because her classmates thought it was cool.
But, you are safe Aaron. I have gotten at least a little kinder with age, plus I no longer have the energy required to totally humiliate a third generation of teen-agers.
I now even have a plan for when I get really squirrelly in my old age. I already talk out loud to myself at home and laugh out loud at funny thoughts while driving. So when I noticed an older woman at a crosswalk talking out loud to herself as she walked along, I thought, “Oh dear Lord, there I go in a few years.”
But then I remembered a couple of friends who are at about my level of squirrelliness and it occurred to me that if I just keep hanging out with them, when we walk around together talking to ourselves, it will look like we are talking to each other. The key to old age is to travel in packs.
Plan in place. Problem solved.
These are quotes from Job and the Mystery of Suffering by Richard Rohr.
When suffering comes to you (and sooner or later it comes to everyone), don’t search for any special method of prayer. Just be.
Just sit and accept your cross: accept it totally in the depth of your being. How terribly anguishing, but terribly powerful this method of prayer is. There are many different experiences of suffering, but whatever yours is, don’t try to escape it. Don’t fight it. Just sit with your cross.
Rohr says, To be human means to be imperfect and in process. Grace brings us out of the question of why we are suffering to the amazing recognition, “My life is not about me.” This is the great and saving revelation that comes only from the whirlwind, and we are never ready for it…………We are a continuation of the incarnation, a continuation of the passion and resurrection-we extend the whole life of Christ.
In another chapter Rohr says: I believe that the opposite of subjectivity is not objectivity, but otherness. It is an openness to the other-as other-that frees us for creativity and originality in our response. It is always an encounter with otherness that changes me. If I am not open to beyond-me, I’m in trouble. Without the other, we are trapped inside a perpetual hall of mirrors that only validates and deepens my existing world views. The central theme of the bible is to call people to encounters with otherness: the alien, the sinner, the Samaritan, the Gentile, the hidden and denied self, angels unaware. We need practice in moving outside our comfort zones. It is never a natural response…………
The fruit of the biblical revelation depends more than anything else on having a Lord……..
Allowing God to be our Lord is not something we can do as easily as believing this, doing that…….It is always a process of a lifetime, a movement toward union that will always feel like a loss of self-importance and autonomy……..My experience is that, apart from suffering, failure, humiliation, and pain, none of us will naturally let go of our self-sufficiency. We will think that our story is about us. It isn’t.
Job can be seen as the “pruning” of the branch of it’s pretense of autonomy and all the burden that goes with it-self-validation and self-criticism. Freedom is when you know that neither of them matters. My significance comes from who-I-am-in-God, who-I-am-as-part-of-a-much-larger-whole………..God is carrying me, both the good and the bad parts. There seem to be only two ways that we know this experientially: prayer and suffering.
When the world seems to be a giant simmering pot of hatred and violence, I am able to cling to the hope for peace, because of an amazing experience I had many years ago.
I was at my first Charismatic Conference at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Though obstensibly Catholic, there were Charismatics (Pentecostals) from many mainline protestant denominations. This particular year there were 20,000 of us gathered for Worship in the football stadium. At one point during the sermon the worshippers responded by singing in the Spirit. Singing in the Spirit is when each person sings whatever the Spirit gives them. For some it may just be terms of praise in the believer’s own language, but to an unknown melody given them by the Spirit, for many the words are in a language unknown to the singer and at the same time to an unknown melody. The words, languages, and melodies are all different
For a few moments, I hesitated, since I had never experienced this and I found myself distracted by the differences I heard close to me. But suddenly my own song came bubbling up from deep inside and as more and more voices joined together singing completely different words and melodies, the awesome harmony brought tears of joy.
I cannot normally sing anything without following the lead of a strong voice next to me. But when singing in the Spirit, my own surprisingly high notes stay true to me, yet blend with the whole. That many people singing different melodies in different languages simultaneously in beautiful harmony simply lifts you out of yourself. Somehow, the God within each of us, that is the God of the Universe, bring us together as one body.
I may seriously doubt that any person could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but I know first hand that the Spirit can.
And that keeps me praying and seeking and listening and learning to love, even when no country and no person, not even children, are safe from violence.
Long ago in my thirties, I was in a Catholic Charismatic (Pentecostal) prayer group that was led by several Sisters of Mercy at their convent.
I, along with Pat, another woman member, were registered to attend the annual Charismatic Renewal Conference at Notre Dame Univerisity. At the prayer meeting two days before the conference, a young woman in her early twenties asked if she could go with us. We had spoken about a priest that led a small group of sisters and nurses in a healing ministry and Dorothy had curvature of the spine with one leg shorter than the other. This caused her to have to wear an ugly built up shoe, it sometimes caused her pain, and she feared that when she married and became pregnant it would cause more problems. It was too late to register her and probably too late to get her a room in the dorms, but we told her to bring a sleeping bag and stay in our room. So, Dorothy set off with us. We were running a little late and I was worried that we would miss the first large session in the Gymnasium, which was the presentation on healing. A couple of weird time changes later we arrived just as it was beginning, but had to sit almost at the very top of the gymnasium, it was so full. We were supposed to wait until it cleared at the end to find Pat’s sister. As the gym emptied, I prayed nervously about whether to take Dorothy down to the group with the healing ministry. I finallly said, “God, if you want them to pray for Dorothy, please bring them up our aisle, and I’ll ask them to pray for her.” The gym was almost empty, but we had not spotted Pat’s sister, so we were still sitting almost at the top on an aisle. Just then the priest and the others with the healing ministry started up our exact aisle on their way out. As they came near us, I spoke waveringly. “Father, would you pray for my friend Dorothy here. She has one leg shorter than the other.” He stopped his group and said, “Of course. Let Dorothy sit in your chair here on the aisle.” So, Dorothy moved into my seat and the several prayer members and Pat and I put our hands on her shoulders and held her hands, while the priest led us in a gentle quiet prayer for healing. No frills, no dramatics. Then he stopped abruptly and asked Dorothy and the group, “Did you feel that? I felt your leg jump.” Dorothy with tears flowing, agreed that it had. He then led us in prayers of Thanksgiving, smiled, and continued on up the stairs.
As we sat stunned into silence, Pat’s sister appeared next to us. As we followed her out of the gym, we excitedly recounted our experience with a mixture of laughter and tears of joy. Dorothy suddenly stopped and said in amazement, “I’m limping. My built up shoe is throwing me lopsided.” So, she took off her shoes and continued on, literally ‘leaping and dancing and praising God.’
After we got to our dorm room, my inner Twin to Thomas kicked in. It ‘just so happened’ that Pat was a physical therapist. For the next hour, I kept making Pat measure Dorothy’s legs over and over. Pat kept reassuring me that they truly matched. No doubt about it. But there still was some curvature of her spine. When, in the wee hours of the morning, we began to tire, Pat went to the communal dorm bathroom to brush her teeth. There she met an older woman and told her of our experience, ending with the curious fact that Dorothy’s spine was still curved. The woman reassured her by telling her that her own husband’s leg, which had been a whole inch shorter than his other one, had been healed the year before at this conference. She said that the leg grew immediately, but it took six months for the atrophied muscles to develop fully back to normal.
We finally all went to sleep exhausted, wonderous, thankful, and at peace.
Funnily, since Dorothy now had no shoes to wear, two days of June’s hot sidewalks left her with some blisters on the bottoms of her feet. Maybe we should have prayed some preventative prayers also
Over the next several months I, of little faith, looked each time our prayer group met to assure myself that Dorothy was indeed happily wearing sandals, flip flops, or tennis shoes.
And almost ten years later, now married and the mother of two children, Dorothy came to our parish to tell her story to our women’s group.
Yes, she was still happily and painlessly wearing sandals.
From the poem Time on the blog: poetry, photos, and musings, oh my – by lea
Whatever time is left
Use it up
Wear it down
Regardless how thin
The fabric becomes
It is rich with the sounds
Salty with tears and
This excerpt from Lea’s poem describes my life at seventy-five perfectly.
On Wednesday, my ninety year old friend Barbara, who is on a walker from a painful hip surgery, admitted her despair from feeling useless. But as we shared lattes with a younger friend, who lives with a slow growing incurable cancer, we laughingly imagined walkers like baby walkers and crinoline skirts to hide them, perhaps even small secret porta potties built in. Then, in the parking lot as we attempted to help Barbara into the van, somehow she got stuck bent over half way in. We tried to gently boost her backside without hurting her hip, until the giggles overtook us. Frozen in place, the three of us laughed helplessly, humor overcoming even our fears of age weakened bladders. When I called Barbara the next morning to make sure she hadn’t been hurt, she started laughing all over again, insisting she had been laughing all morning just thinking about it, and even wished we had a photograph.
Thursday, I spent with my friend with dementia, who once again had dreamed of her parents’ death as a present day event, and waked up frantic about funeral arrangements. Each time she grieves anew, I can only hold her hand and ache for her endless losses. But later, seeing the wonder in her eyes, as I tell one of the caregivers about her courage and faith and her kindness to so many in her life, I recognize a moment of grace even in the now worn fabric of our lives.
Friday, my alarm went off two hours early at four a.m. and I had the coffee made before I finally noticed the actual time. Later, I realized on my first stop of the day, that I had my coat on inside out. That night at a family celebration in a classy restaurant, I managed on my second trip to the bathroom, to go into the men’s room. Then, somehow I lost my coat check number in my tiny purse. Unfortunately, I don’t drink, so I can’t even blame it on something temporary. At least it’s fodder for blogs.
The Gold in the Golden Years are our friendships and shared memories, but perhaps most of all, the freedom to laugh at ourselves.
Laughter is carbonated grace.
When I first heard about the horrifying massacre of young children in Connecticut, my response was that I should buy an Uzzi and volunteer to guard the nearest school any of my grandchildren attended. Realizing that I have grands and great-grands in six counties and three states, I decided to start a movement to arm grandparents as guards in the schools of America. When I calmed down a little, reality reared its ugly head. Mental pictures of me (and those like me) forgetting how to get the safety latch off or shooting the maintenance person, because the glare from a window behind him made the mop look like a rifle, squelched that idea.
I’ve followed the responses and proposals in the media and on the internet and thought a lot about violence and counter-measures, that I’ve witnessed in my seventy-five years.
I don’t have statistics to compare the amount of violence in the decades since I first experienced it personally in 1954 (See post: My Introduction to Violence), but I remember the Kent State student shootings by the National Guard, innocent young black children killed over integration, a father shooting five or six elementary school children on the school playground in my neighborhood in Houston in 1959, The Texas University sniper killing students from its Campanile, and of course the killing of the children in the preschool in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. If there seem to be more of these now, perhaps it’s partly because of increasing population, partly because of the impersonal anonymous climate of larger and larger institutions, and partly because we don’t imprison the mentally ill in insane asylums any more, but haven’t found a viable alternative for those who are a danger to themselves and others.
But with the killers being students, parents, outsiders, extremists, and even the National Guard, it appears to me that while we certainly have to try to make our schools safer, there really isn’t any way to prevent an insane homicidal/suicidal child or adult from killing groups of children. Groups of children are vulnerable in the school, on the play ground, going from building to building between classes, on school buses, waiting to load onto school buses. They are vulnerable at Science Museums, Chucky Cheeses, Disney Land, Park playgrounds, Zoos, Skating Rinks, Little League games, school sporting events.
Several thoughts confuse the issue of gun control. The guns that killed in these cases were not in the hands of known criminals. And some were ordinary guns, not repeating rapid-fire guns, and then some were bombs. And just about anybody that can read, can make a bomb today.
The problem calls for more than just arming personnel in schools or curtailing the sale of certain types of guns or turning school buildings into bunkers.
My concern is not just the tools of violence, but the hatred that fuels it, a hatred that now comes out in elections, in sports, in marriages, and even in the name of religion. What is the source or catalyst for so much hatred?
To find that answer, we can only begin by looking within.