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Category Archives: Reflections

Breaking the Tie for Catholic Voters

I, like the vast majority of Americans, have grown weary of politics. It seems that the political discourse in America has become much more harsh and much less civil of late. I suppose that if I am honest with myself, I have fallen prey to this phenomenon. This most recent presidential election has been the nastiest that I can recall in my lifetime. Perhaps it is because I have become much more politically aware, but I doubt it.

As Election Day draws near, my gut tells me that just about everyone has made their decision about who they will vote for. There may be some of those elusive “undecideds” left, but I have not run across any lately. Just in case there are any Catholic voters who have not yet made up their mind, or are at least persuadable, I want to share one final thought before that all-important ballot is cast.

Per IRS regulations, the Church must remain non-partisan. The Catholic Church cannot advocate for or against a particular candidate or party. As an individual, I do not have to hold to that standard. The Church can speak out on issues, and has been very vociferous on numerous issues leading up to this election.

As the host of a nationwide show on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel, I hear from people of all different backgrounds, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike. I hear often from Catholic supporters of President Obama. The most common reasons they give for supporting the president have nothing to do with his record. Rather, they have to do with their perceived negatives about Mitt Romney.

“Romney supports abortion (in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.) He supports the death penalty. He wants to do away with support for the poor. So, Mitt Romney can’t possibly be the candidate that Catholics support. Neither candidate is truly in line with Catholic teaching.”

That last statement is certainly true. Neither candidate falls in line perfectly with Catholic teaching. To my knowledge, there has never been a candidate for office whose policies would all line up perfectly with Catholic teaching. President Obama is the most pro-abortion president in history. Governor Romney supports the death penalty. There are a host of things that people can point to with either candidate.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that in some alternate universe President Obama and Mitt Romney were dead even when it came to Catholic teaching. You pulled out a big sheet of paper and wrote down the pros and cons of each and at the end, the columns came out exactly equal. (Note: that’s not the way it works. Issues must be weighted, and the sanctity of life issues must be given much more weight. But play along anyway.)

At this point, what is the Catholic voter to do? Flip a coin? That seems rather arbitrary for such an important decision. Is there anything left that could break the tie? Allow me to make a suggestion. You should vote for the candidate that has not orchestrated a full out assault on your Church. I’m talking about the HHS Mandate contained in Obamacare. It is not only an assault on religious liberty, but I believe it is a frontal assault on the Catholic Church.

President Obama is demanding that Catholic organizations pay for products and services that are in direct contradiction with the teachings of the Church – contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures. While the president has declared that he has made an “accommodation” to the Catholic Church, in reality it is just smoke and mirrors. While facing dozens of lawsuits from organizations and companies – Catholic, non-Catholic and secular – this president has refused to budge. His strategy is to hold on until after the election. If he is reelected, you can be sure that the hammer will then come down hard. When Barack Obama is unencumbered by the need to be reelected, he will have no need to try to capitulate or placate the Church any more.

Once President Obama has gotten the Catholic Church in line, who will be next? This is an issue that should be of the gravest concern to everyone, not just Catholics. Even if you don’t agree with any of the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church, you will be affected by this issue. If the government can toss aside the First Amendment rights of Catholics, then what makes you think they won’t at some point toss aside your Constitutional rights? While public funding of abortions and the marginalization of religion become the order of the day, free speech will become a thing of the past. Those who dare speak out against the almighty state will be silenced, if they are heard at all.

President Obama seems hell bent on forcing the Catholic Church to accede to his will, all in the name of the public good. While many seem to applaud his efforts, let me ask you to bring this down to the more personal. If your daughter were in a relationship where a man was forcing her to do things against her will while justifying his actions by telling her that the things he is forcing her to do are in the best interests of everyone, would you support that? I highly doubt it. So how can any Catholic possibly support this president? Because Obama is not doing this to individuals, but to “the Church?” Remember, the Church is made of people. The Church is a family – the family of God. And if you claim to be a member of the Catholic Church, then President Obama is attacking you and your family.

My dire predictions may not come to pass in a second Obama administration. But you can rest assured that each and every one of them will be fast-tracked if Barack Obama is in the White House for another four years. For Catholics, Mitt Romney is not a perfect candidate. But I am convinced that he will show far greater respect to all people of faith, and defend our Constitutional right to the free exercise of your religion, whatever religion that may be. If for no other reason, this is why I, as a Catholic, support Mitt Romney for president. I urge all of my fellow Catholics to do the same.

There will be some who will persecute me for being “too political.” Honestly, I don’t have time to care about that. This issue is far too important for me to remain silent. Should you decide to no longer listen to my radio show or support my ministry because of my position, I pray for God’s blessings upon you and yours. May Almighty God give us wisdom and peace.

Thomas Merton Prayer

I am a regular reader and pray-er of the following prayer by Thomas Merton. Whenever I read it on the air, people ask for a copy. Feel free to to cut and paste and pray it yourself!

Thomas Merton’s Prayer
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
- Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;

give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

If you would like more resources and information, please go to www.Fortnight4Freedom.org.

Cardinal Dolan’s Liberty Letter

My brother bishops,

Twice in recent weeks, I have written you to express my gratitude for our unity in faith and action as we move forward to protect our religious freedom from unprecedented intrusion from a government bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I remain deeply grateful to you for your determined resolve, to the Chairmen of our committees directly engaged in these efforts – Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop William Lori -who have again shown themselves to be such excellent leaders during these past weeks, and to all our staff at the USCCB who work so diligently under the direction of the Conference leadership.

How fortunate that we as a body have had opportunities during our past plenary assemblies to manifest our strong unity in defense of religious freedom. We rely on that unity now more than ever as HHS seeks to define what constitutes church ministry and how it can be exercised. We will once again dedicate ample time at our Administrative Committee meeting next week, and at the June Plenary Assembly, to this critical subject. We will continue to listen, discuss, deliberate and act.

Thank you, brothers, for the opportunity to provide this update to you and the dioceses you serve. Many of you have expressed your thanks for what we have achieved together in so few weeks, especially the data provided and the leadership given by brother bishops, our conference staff and Catholic faithful. And you now ask the obvious question, “What’s next?” Please allow me to share with you now some thoughts about events and efforts to date and where we might go next.

Since January 20, when the final, restrictive HHS Rule was first announced, we have become certain of two things: religious freedom is under attack, and we will not cease our struggle to protect it. We recall the words of our Holy Father Benedict XVI to our brother bishops on their recent ad limina visit: “Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop William Lori, with so many others, have admirably kept us focused on this one priority of protecting religious freedom. We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.

As pastors and shepherds, each of us would prefer to spend our energy engaged in and promoting the works of mercy to which the Church is dedicated: healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor. Yet, precisely because we are pastors and shepherds, we recognize that each of the ministries entrusted to us by Jesus is now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church. You and I both know well that we were doing those extensive and noble works rather well without these radical new constrictive and forbidding mandates. Our Church has a long tradition of effective partnership with government and the wider community in the service of the sick, our children, our elders, and the poor at home and abroad, and we sure hope to continue it.

Of course, we maintained from the start that this is not a “Catholic” fight alone. I like to quote as often as possible a nurse who emailed me, “I’m not so much mad about all this as a Catholic, but as an American.” And as we recall, a Baptist minister, Governor Mike Huckabee, observed, “In this matter, we’re all Catholics.” No doubt you have heard numerous statements just like these. We are grateful to know so many of our fellow Americans, especially our friends
in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, stand together in this important moment in our country. They know that this is not just about sterilization, abortifacients, and chemical contraception. It’s about religious freedom, the sacred right of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.

When the President announced on January 20th that the choking mandates from HHS would remain, not only we bishops and our Catholic faithful, but people of every faith, or none at all, rallied in protest. The worry that we had expressed — that such government control was contrary to our deepest political values — was eloquently articulated by constitutional scholars and leaders of every creed.

On February 10th, the President announced that the insurance providers would have to pay the bill, instead of the Church’s schools, hospitals, clinics, or vast network of charitable outreach having to do so. He considered this “concession” adequate. Did this help? We wondered if it would, and you will recall that the Conference announced at first that, while withholding final judgment, we would certainly give the President’s proposal close scrutiny. Well, we did — and as you know, we are as worried as ever.

For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry. Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” we still ask how this protects us. We’ll still have to pay and, in addition to that, we’ll still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate. And what about forcing individual believers to pay for what violates their religious freedom and conscience? We can’t abandon the hard working person of faith who has a right to religious freedom. And three, there was still no resolution about the handcuffs placed upon renowned Catholic charitable agencies, both national and international, and their exclusion from contracts just because they will not refer victims of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, and the hungry of the world, for abortions, sterilization, or contraception. In many ways, the announcement of February 10 solved little and complicated a lot. We now have more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.

So the important question arises: What to do now? How can we bishops best respond, especially united in our common pastoral ministry as an Episcopal Conference? For one, under the ongoing leadership of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Bishop Blaire and Bishop Lori we will continue our strong efforts of advocacy and education. In the coming weeks the Conference will continue to provide you, among other things, with catechetical resources on the significance of religious freedom to the Church and the Church’s teaching on it from a doctrinal and moral perspective. We are developing liturgical aids to encourage prayer in our efforts and plans on how we can continue to voice our public and strong opposition to this infringement on our freedom. And the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, that has served the Conference so well in its short lifespan, will continue its extraordinary work in service to this important cause.

Two, we will ardently continue to seek a rescinding of the suffocating mandates that require us to violate our moral convictions, or at least insist upon a much wider latitude to the exemptions so that churches can be free of the new, rigidly narrow definition of church, minister and ministry that would prevent us from helping those in need, educating children and healing the sick, no matter their religion.

In this regard, the President invited us to “work out the wrinkles.” We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is scurrilous and insulting, not to mention flat out wrong. Bishop Blaire did a fine job of setting the record straight.) The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry “without change.” The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying,

“Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets.”

That doesn’t bode well for their getting a truly acceptable “accommodation.”

At a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff, our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for “working out the wrinkles.” Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in
America. The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.

We will continue to accept invitations to meet with and to voice our concerns to anyone of any party, for this is hardly partisan, who is willing to correct the infringements on religious freedom that we are now under. But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching.

Congress might provide more hope, since thoughtful elected officials have proposed legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom. Meanwhile, in our recent debate in the senate, our opponents sought to obscure what is really a religious freedom issue by maintaining that abortion inducing drugs and the like are a “woman’s health issue.” We will not let this deception stand. Our commitment to seeking legislative remedies remains strong. And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom. Period. (By the way, the Church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women. Thanks mostly to our Sisters, the Church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.) Bishop William Lori, Chairman of our Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, stated it well in a recent press release: “We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the Administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal
rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Perhaps the courts offer the most light. In the recent Hosanna-Tabor ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously defended the right of a Church to define its own ministry and services, a dramatic rebuff to the administration, apparently unheeded by the White House. Thus, our bishops’ conference, many individual religious entities, and other people of good will are working with some top-notch law firms who feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono. In the upcoming days, you will hear much more about this encouraging and welcome development.

Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times. Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue; some want us to close everything down rather than comply (In an excellent article, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the administration apparently wants us to “give up for Lent” our schools, hospitals, and charitable ministries); some, like Bishop Robert Lynch wisely noted, wonder whether we might have to engage in civil disobedience and risk steep fines; some worry that we’ll have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.

Brothers, we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans. There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within. As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.

I look forward to our upcoming Administrative Board Meeting and our June Plenary Assembly when we will have the chance to discuss together these important issues and our way forward in addressing them. And I renew my thanks to you for your tremendous, fraternal support and your welcome observations in this critical effort to protect our religious freedom.

With prayerful best wishes, I am
Fraternally in Christ,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Angel Effort

The Angel Effort
This year for Lent, I propose what I call the Angel Effort. Each day during Lent, I want to do something positive. You may think of them as “random acts of kindness.” Only they won’t be random. They will be planned and thought out. So I’m looking for suggestions for simple little things that we can include in our Angel Effort. Let me give you a couple of starter ideas; simple things that we can do to help make someone’s day better.

Pay for the person behind you on a toll road.
Call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
Take on a chore that someone else in the house usually does.

Get the idea? Then give me some ideas that we can use. Every day during Lent, we’ll use a suggestion and offer it up to the community. What are you waiting for? Log in and comment and let’s get the ideas flowing!

Ash Wednesday: Call a friend or family member that you haven’t spoken to in while
Thursday, March 10: Give someone a compliment today
Friday, March 11: Leave a note for someone

Monday, March 14: Open a door for someone (hint to husbands: always open the car door for your bride!)
Tuesday, March 15: Prepare/buy a meal for someone
Wednesday, March 16: Pray with someone today
Thursday, March 17: Give someone a hug today
Friday, March 18: Email a note of encouragement to someone

Monday, March 21: Make an online donation to a charity
Tuesday, March 22: Pray for a sick person
Wednesday, March 23: Be extra courteous in traffic today
Thursday, March 24: Give someone a surprise gift today
Friday, March 25: Do a household chore that someone else normally does

Monday, March 28: Pay it forward! If you go through a drive-through or toll booth today, pay for the next person in line
Tuesday, March 29: Choose to forgive someone today
Wednesday, March 30: Pray with a family member today (spouse, child, parent, sibling…)
Thursday, March 31: Use a sticky note to brighten someone’s day

Tuesday, April 5: (Be careful with this one!) Wink at someone today
Wednesday, April 6: Sing a song for someone (Note: you don’t have to be a good singer. Just sing!)
Friday, April 8: Give money to a homeless person

Monday, April 11: Say “God Bless You!” to people, even if they didn’t sneeze!
Tuesday, April 12: Ask someone to pray for you
Wednesday, April 13: Fast from one meal today and offer it up for someone you love
Thursday, April 14: Give someone a sign of peace (Make sure to say “Peace be with you!)
Friday, April 15: When someone asks, “How ya doing?”, respond with, “I’m blessed!”

Monday, April 18: Tell someone today that you love them
Tuesday, April 19: Pray the Rosary for someone’s intention
Wednesday, April 20: Invite someone to Easter Mass at your church
Thursday, April 21: Wash someone’s feet

Drain Me of Me

Father, I am so full of myself.
I know that if I truly wish to serve you,
If I truly wish to share your word and your love,
This must not be the way.
And so today, Father, I ask you:
Drain me of me

Of all the self-inflated ego
Drain me

Of all the harsh judgement that comes so easily
Drain me

Of all jealousy and resentment
Drain me

Of all the desire for attention and adulation
Drain me

Of all attachment to the flesh
Drain me

Of all that is not of you
Drain me

And when I am emptied, unencumbered by
The stuff and nonsense of the world,
No longer weighed down by the heaviness
And burdens put upon me by myself
Or the dark forces of the evil one

Fill me with your Spirit,
For your Spirit has no chains,
Your Spirit recognizes no boundaries,
Your Spirit is lightness and light,
Your Spirit allows me to soar
As on eagle’s wings.

And so, Father, right now, this moment
I give you permission to
Drain me of me,
That I may be more like you
Through your Son, Jesus Christ
In the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Kindle as Evangelization Tool

While on the way back to Tampa, I discovered a new evangelization tool: my Amazon Kindle! Just by reading my Kindle, I managed to strike up a few conversations with some super nice people who were just curious about my Kindle. The first was a woman at the airport in St. Louis. She sat next to me and started reading her book. She noticed that I was reading on my Kindle and asked me what I thought of it. I told her I loved it and we struck up a conversation.

She asked me what I do for a living. I replied, “I’m a Catholic evangelist.” She looked at me incredulously and shouted, “Shut up! There is no such thing!” (Don’t misread…she was a very nice lady and was just joking.) She proceeded to tell me about how she attends a Methodist mega-church in the Atlanta area and is involved in many ministries. She also told me how her mom recently converted to Catholicism as did a number of other friends and relatives. She said that she loved the reverence in the Catholic Church, and that she had come to learn that many of the misconceptions she learned growing up were just that: misconceptions. Praise God!

They started boarding the plane and we bid each other farewell and blessings. When I had gotten to my seat on the plane (the window seat in row 20), a young man sat down next to me. He was in full fatigues; an Army man. After a casual hello and a few minutes, I whipped out my Kindle and began to read again. It wasn’t one minute before curiosity got the best of him, and he asked me how I liked my Kindle. Bingo! Another opportunity to evangelize!

I came to find out that this young man’s name is Phillip (my Dad’s name, so I knew I wouldn’t forget!). Phillip is a private who was on a short leave from Afghanistan. He was on his way back to that country. Suffice it to say that I didn’t get another word read for the rest of the flight. Phillip asked me what I do, and I told him that I am a Catholic evangelist and that I have a daily radio show on Sirius XM. Well, it turns out that Phillip’s dad has a radio show and that, like me, Phillip is a student of many of the great motivational gurus of our time. Small world, huh?

Phillip is young (about the same age as my youngest daughter) and still searching for his place in life. When he gets out of the Army in two years, he would like to go to college. We talked for a good hour and a half. I assured him that it was not a coincidence that we had met. I assured him that God is watching over him, and that I would remember him in my prayers. I hope that you will do the same.

The moral of the story is that you never know what God may use to aid you in an evangelization opportunity! The key is for us to be open to seizing those opportunities when they come our way. Hey, anyone seen my Kindle??

A Good Cry

When’s the last time you had a good cry? For me, it was towards the end of my silent retreat.

I’ve shared before that I tend to be a pretty emotional guy. I like to say that I’m such a softie that I cry at toilet paper commercials on TV. While that may be a stretch, I have been learning more and more through the years that it is not such a bad thing to let emotions out now and again. This kind of runs counter-cultural. As a guy, we’re trained from youth not to cry. Crying is sign of weakness! Suck it up! You want me to give you something to cry about?!?

I’ve come to realize that tears are a very cleansing thing. They seem to be God’s way of flushing out a lot of the stuff that we allow to build up inside us. This is what happened on my recent retreat. I had a good cry.

Now, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill cry, garden variety cry. This was one of those sobbing from the depths of your soul, body convulsing, spit rolling down your chin, snot running out your nose cries. The kind that, when you’re done, you feel like you’ve been blown to pieces, but then put lovingly back together. Does that make sense? It hurts so much while it is happening, but feels so good when it’s all over.

Once I finished this once in a blue moon cry, I tried to kind of analyze what it was all about. (Such a guy, huh? Can’t just let it be; gotta always analyze things. Oh, well…) In the beginning, I think there was some fear involved. I had reached a point where I was pretty much naked before God. After three days of silence and prayer, all of the pretensions had been stripped away. Now it was just me. No more masks. No more secrets. No more hiding. At first, my friend, that is a scary place to be.

The next emotion I remember feeling very strongly was shame. Shame and guilt. When I had finally shed all the layers of the facade, there was some pretty ugly stuff to confront. This is when the really deep sobs began to well up. Once all the blackness was laid bare, there was sorrow. I can remember saying over and over again, “Oh, Daddy, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that I’ve hurt you. I’m so sorry that that I ignore you, that I don’t seek your wisdom, that I close the door of my heart on you so much. Please forgive me!”

At this point I had become a total basket case. A blubbering mass of protoplasm. And this is when the real healing properties of a good cry start to kick in. You know how they say that sweating during a good workout cleanses toxins from the body? I believe that the same thing happens spiritually during a good cry like this. I could feel a weight being lifted from me. It was as though thick layers of tar, so black and gummy that I couldn’t breathe, were being extracted from inside me. It was complete relief from what had been ailing me.

A quick mention about the physical aspect of this encounter with the Lord. When this was happening, I was sitting in my lawn chair by the lake. When I first started this encounter, I drew my legs up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. Kind of like being in the fetal position. And in this experience, I was like a little child curled up in the fetal position, lying on Daddy’s chest. There was an amazing sense of oneness. I was totally enveloped in the presence of God. It was more than amazing.

God is sooooo good! He knows just what we need when we need it. I imagine He had been waiting down my the lake for some time, knowing that I would be there, ready to let go of so much of the stuff that I had been holding in. And after the floodgates had been opened and the raging river of tears had finally been unleashed, there was peace. The peace that passes all understanding.

A couple of quick final thoughts…I suppose for admitting all this I could get my “man card” revoked. So be it. This isn’t the kind of thing that happens often. (I daresay that if we’re crying too often, that may be a signal of another problem.) But when it does, roll with it. Experience it. Enjoy the fruits that come from it.

Lastly, God has been teaching me more and more to be in the moment. Not some kind of hedonistic mantra about doing whatever you want, whatever makes you “feel good.” But experiencing His presence in each moment. Seeing the hand of God working in every moment of our lives. I pray that we can all experience this grace more often. May the peace of our Lord be with you!

The Two Reeds

Isn’t it interesting how so often God can give us messages through simple things that we may never even notice if our eyes aren’t open? I had a neat experience that would fall into this category on my recent silent retreat that I would like to share.

I spent a lot of time during my retreat sitting down by Lake Jovita. In my previous post you can see part of the view that I got while sitting on a concrete patio area at the lake house. There were trees and bushes and weeds and flowers and all kinds of plant life. And right along the edge, there were what I call reeds. Now, they may have another name, and I have no idea what the botanical name is, so I’ll refer to them as reeds. Among these reeds with little wheat-like stalks on top were two particular reeds that towered far above all the other reeds. For some reason, my eyes were continually drawn to these two reeds.

On Friday, I had a most amazing encounter with God. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But while I was conversing with God, I asked Him about the two reeds. I’ll try to put into words what God spoke to me about these two reeds.

As I mentioned, these reeds were far and away taller than all the other reeds, indeed, all the other plants by the shore. And as the gentle breeze would blow, the reeds would sway and bob, almost as though they were engaging in a beautiful dance. This was a dance for joy. The reeds were dancing as David dances before the ark of the covenant.

When the wind would blow a bit stronger, the two reeds would bend further, just above the other reeds around them. When this happened, it looked as though they were whispering to the other reeds who weren’t quite as tall. I asked God about this. “Are they bragging about how they are so much taller and stronger than the other reeds?” God answered, “No, my son. They are encouraging their bretheren to continue to grow and reach and be all that I want them to be. You see, the two reeds are not prideful. They know that they are exactly what I have ordained them to be. In fact, though they are taller and stronger, they do not recognize any difference between themselves and the other reeds. Oh, my son,” God said to me, “this is what I desire for all my children. This is what I desire for you. That you be only what I have created you to be, and that you encourage your brothers and sisters to do the same.”

“Oh, Father,” I said, “I’m so sorry for the times when I look down on others and think myself better or different. Forgive me, Father.” And God replied, “You are already forgiven.”

“But Father,” I said, “Why are there two reeds? I am only one.” God responded, “My child, you are never only one. Jesus is with you always, to help you on your journey.”

The lesson? God has created each and every one of His children to be unique and magnificent. He only wants us to be what He has created us to be, and to encourage our brothers and sisters along the way.