By Melodious Monk
It’s hard to be patient. I’ve been told that this gets better as you get older, but I’m not there, yet. There are a few specific things in my life I know God has initiated. Things I know he’s given me hope and vision for, but either they just haven’t happened yet, or they are happening in a way I can’t see or understand. In his steady way of writing, I find that these words of Oswald Chambers help re-assure my wavering faith.
God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal . . .
Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.
Perhaps I just need to be more patient and let God do what he does best — transform us.
By Melodious Monk
Today I woke up angry at God, wishing for another Labor Day, wanting to sleep more, and wondering why it was so humid again. Trying to rev up for the day, but still feeling a bit grumpy, I thumbed through a daily devotional by Hal M. Helms, stopping at today’s date.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? -Jeremiah 23:29
My word is like a hammer, breaking up the hardened crust of your heart. I want you to have a tender, feeling heart, able to be touched with the pain and sorrow of others. You have built up walls of deadness around your heart to protect you from pain and to avoid looking weak. Your weakness, My child, is My gift to you. Your strength is your rejection of that gift. There is a world of difference between your strength and Mine. I will show you that difference when this breaking and hammering have done their work.
After a few slow breaths, and a silent Amen, I’m now ashamed to be angry at God. I have so much faith to gain. There’s a constant war inside. I say Amen to these words, and in the next moment fight to keep the crust of self-protection around my heart. I hate feeling weak. It makes me angry, aggressive and selfish. But as Fr. Hal reminds me, the weakness is a gift from God, a loving force telling me it’s okay to not have it all together. I need to allow God’s Word to be the fire, strength, and comfort that it is meant to be.
Yesterday was a day of disappointment in which “wonderful” never happened. I (along with some others) was waiting for something important and long delayed to arrive. By 5:00 PM, I was a bit of a wreck — I dropped a cookie jar, tripped while cutting garden vegetables (paring knife in hand), and was advised to sit down with a nice glass of ice water. Day was followed by a night of conflict-drenched dream sequences, in which I bumbled around, a useless bystander. But I awoke expectant and admitted to my impatient self that God’s timing is always perfect. I entered the new day with this promise from Psalm 63:7: Because you are my helper, I will sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
By Melodious Monk
Too much to do and not enough time. This seems to be modus operandi of much of our culture. We create gadgets to be more efficient, and we still find ourselves running out of time! I find myself often bemoaning the fact that I can’t get all the “things” I’m responsible for done — the list never seems to end. It seems to grow the harder I try! The list feels like some of those trick birthday candles that never blow out no matter how much air you blow at the flame!
Do you ever ask yourself why God gives us work? M. Basil Pennington puts forth this idea about how St. Benedict uses work to teach us lessons about God.(1) He says that having too much to do is actually a gift from God. When we get to the end of the day, we realize we weren’t able to accomplish everything we might have wished. And we are reminded that we are not God. We are weak, needy people, in need of help.
Often I just get angry that I couldn’t finish everything I wanted to in the day. I try to plan better to find out how I can improve tomorrow. But again this is a dead end. In my own strength, I’ll still come up short. In his wisdom, Pennington is reminding me that coming up short is okay, and in fact a very good thing, even a gift from a loving God. Why? Because it forces me to remember who God is, and allows me to choose to live in his strength, and by his grace.
[(1) from Listen with your Heart, by M. Basil Pennigton, Ch 14]
By Melodious Monk
This week, we are preparing to perform Vaughn Williams beautiful and heart-wrenching work, Dona Nobis Pacem. Using Walt Whitman poetry as the primary source of text, Vaughn Williams wrote the work just before WWII as an outcry begging the world not to enter another world war. The piece takes the listener on a journey through all sorts of human emotions about life and war. There’s an outcry for peace, followed by a ruthless depiction of the sheer horror and un-humanness of war. Next comes a beautiful portrayal of the hope of reconciliation, followed by a martial and respectful, but sorrow-filled movement titled Dirge for Two Veterans. In the fifth movement the ensemble reaches its height of anguish, crying out to the heavens asking why? Why all this death, turmoil and suffering? Echoing the prophets of the Old and New Testament, the work closes with a triumphal hymn reassuring us that God will have the last word. The work is set down quietly with one last plea for peace.
In the fourth movement in particular, Vaughn Williams is juxtaposing the inexplicable horror and gut-wrenching sadness of war with the dignity and respect of human life. The music sounds triumphant and victorious as the poetry is depicting a tragic scene of a father and son killed together on the front lines.
It’s the same 2 measures in this movement that put a lump in my throat every-time we sing them. The poet has just explained that he can see and hear a sad funeral procession approaching. As it arrives the listener is quickly swept from seeing a sad procession into the grandest and noblest British-sounding march with all the pomp and circumstance the orchestra, organ and choir can muster. It is a triumphal and victorious moment, thrust in among deep anguish. I know this moment is coming in the work, but each time I’m caught by surprise in the sweep of majesty and glory. Vaughn Williams captures this essence. As the created beings in God’s image, we need to be reminded that all human life deserves the utmost respect.
By Sr. Nun Other
I awoke today with a personal weather forecast of cloudy with a good chance of thunder showers (on those around me!). I was out of sorts, displeased,and covered in a lawyer of super-gloom. Praying and talking did little to improve my outlook, and I was resigned to a day of self-imposed funk. Then rescue came through the memory of a song, written years ago by one of our first sisters. Based on the scripture Revelation 1:9, the words are:
I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day
Praying to my God and King
I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day
Asking would He hear my cry?
Then I saw the sky was aflame
And I heard Him call my name.
Fear not! For I am the same
Today, tomorrow, and forever.
Every day is the Lord’s day, waiting for me to walk without fear and to love as I am loved.
By Sr Nun Other
Occasionally, I watch a TV cooking show on which a chef announces he prepared a deconstructed something or other. Let’s say Eggs Benedict. Or better yet, Black Forest Cake. In deconstruction, each ingredient is prepared separately, transforming presentation, texture and temperature. When served, the food is physically unlike the original, but with all flavors preserved and creatively intensified.
The word deconstructed caught my attention and I thought of it in relationship to time. I make wonderful plans, really great ones, based on common sense. (Mine of course) Frequently, such plans are “deconstructed” by circumstance. The productive sequence of events I envision are abruptly interrupted by e-mail, phone call, or unexpected visitor. And I deconstruct right along with my plans. Anger flares, fear dictates, and trust takes a leave of absence. I suspect, however, that it’s the unexpected parts of a day that enhance, refresh, and re-design my life. God’s hand reaches down and deconstructs, rescuing me from self-scheduled boredom.
by Sr Nunother
I occasionally cause trouble by rushing to judgment. When I have an unresolved grievance against another, I’m primed to strike and easy prey to gossip and innuendo regarding that person. I wish to believe the worst because it validates my personal sense of rightness. This happened recently and I hurt a friend for whom I have considerable respect. John Henry Newman in Parochial and Plain Sermons wrote, “In truth, the all wise, all-knowing God cannot speak without meaning many things at once.” What an amazing thought! Unlike me, God views the world with perfect understanding and sees multiple possibilities where I see only my own narrow perspective. For example, what feels like love to the neglected, could translate as excessive control to another. Each interpretation would be true and valid. God’s love and mercy are creative and fathomless, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.
by Renaissance Girl
I am a “people pleaser.” I should say, my primary objective is to please people. The problem is, there are so many people to please that in the attempt to keep them all happy with me, I inevitably create situations that cause more of a problem and am a great failure in my people pleasing efforts. You know the scripture where Jesus says, “you can not serve God and man?” Well I looked at that one and said, yea, well, I think I can figure this out. I think God is finally getting through to me and saying, “No, you can’t.” So now it’s like re-learning how to walk – and to somehow replace my own voices that say “you should do that, that looks good” or “that sounds like a good answer”, with what is actually my favorite scripture: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21) It feels terrifying and unfamiliar. I was lamenting all this to someone yesterday when out of the corner of my eye I caught movement and turned to see a beautiful doe leap into some nearby brush and turn to look at me. It felt like a little nudge of encouragement – like Jesus saying, “I’m here and I am what it’s all about – this is the way.”