BE something or DO something?

As my anxious mind was over-working itself in the wee hours of the morning, I was interspersing worry with prayer. "God, what do you want me to DO? Three months of job searching and I still don't know what you want me to DO!"

We like to DO. We want to be busy and to contribute and to look back and feel accomplished. But that often isn't what it needed, necessary or good.

A dear friend is sitting vigil with his mother right now. She is dying of cancer. I've been there. At some point in the care of the loved one, the discussions move from "what do we do" to just being. There isn't anything we can DO in the dying process - God calls us to simply BE with our loved one. And anyone who thinks this is easy or not helpful or not unsettling has never done it.

In Genesis, Jacob/Israel wrestles with "a man" whom Biblical scholars say is God. When the man tells Jacob to let go, Jacob refuses. He won't let go until he gets a blessing. Now, if this were happening to me, I'd probably not let go even after I got the blessing. I'm stubborn that way.

How many times do we "give it to God" and then continue to wrestle Him for it? We pray for God's will, and then go about our day trying to ram square pegs into round holes. We are not content to live in God's presence; we have to wrestle with Him for His blessing.

And in the wee hours this morning, I realized that I've been searching for something to DO instead of simply BEing. As hard as it is, I really must let God reveal Himself in this portion of my life in the way He wills. I have to stop the wrestling, stop the begging for something to DO and simply BE the person God has created me to be.

A change in perspective

I'll admit it: I was getting a bit frantic in my job search. SEND OUT ALL THE RESUMES! SOMEONE HIRE ME!

Kinda like that. It wasn't good.

Providentially, I went away for the weekend to visit a friend. It was only supposed to be an overnight trip, but I was so relaxed and enjoying the company so much...I stayed. (Just as I was discussing this with my friend, Dear Husband sent me a text to say, "Stay another night if you need to." He really is the best.)

My friend and I actually stayed with her aunt and uncle, as my friend was visiting from out of state. I enjoy their company as well. They have a beautiful home and quite a collection of art. I feasted with my eyes.

I should probably mention that my friend's family are news and political junkies. They lean hard left; I don't. Watching MSNBC for HOURS: yikes! I do find this whole thing quite entertaining, though.

And then there was the Gospel this weekend: Who do you say that I AM?

It would seem that God is trying to show me that I need a little change in my outlook. Getting away for the weekend was a change in perspective, as was the running political commentary. Being surrounded by amazing art was a change in perspective. Jesus asking point-blank about our understanding of His identity? Boom: change of perspective.

What are my lessons from this weekend? Breathe. Laugh more. Seek out beauty. Other people's opinions can be fascinating and entertaining. Know Jesus.

Not bad for less than 48 hours.

In the midst of craziness

While my life just feels like my life, I am constantly reminded that others don't view it as "normal."

In the past couple of weeks, I've had not one, not two, but three friends who know me well explain the exact same thing to me. I start complaining about not being able to find a job. Each one of them - at different times and settings - said, "Elise, you have had a horrible two years. So much loss! God just wants you to rest."

I'm slow. It took three times. Ok, I promise: I'm trying to rest. Relax. Read. Pray. And not get TOO hung up on the job hunting.

We had a family get-together a few weeks ago for a nephew's 40th birthday. Lotsa fun, food and little kids running around on a perfect summer day. One of my nieces, whom I don't get to see very often, asked where my hubby was. He had a soccer tournament that day. She asked how he was. I told him that he was busy - being an engineer by day and soccer coach at night.

I also told her that he'd been embroiled in this weird situation at work, that had essentially turned him into a detective and eventually a sort of whistleblower. Her response, "Oh my gosh! You and Uncle Ed just seem to have one thing after the other - you can't catch a break!"

I laughed and said, "You know, on the Hilton Scale of Catastrophe, this work situation didn't even register!" We both laughed, and she agreed this was likely the case.

People, over the years, have told Hubby and me how "brave" we are, how "saintly" we are, yada, yada, yada, to have taken on 5 special needs kids. Oh, no. It don't work that way!

When God asked us, we said "yes." That is it. In all the craziness we've dealt with, we just kept saying "yes." And there has been a lot of craziness. Knowing county sheriffs by their first names, endless meetings with schools to figure out the best way to teach a kid, learning the EXACT right words to say in order to get a kid hospitalized on a psych hold.

We are not any braver, holier or more special than any other parents. I am bull-headed and that has helped. But honestly, the only thing we have done that others have not is said, "yes."

Sometimes our voices shook. Often, we wondered if we doing the right thing. We've had our hearts broken a time or two. But we've just held each other's hands and kept right on saying "yes." Even when it made our stomachs hurt.

And yes, we have a Hilton Scale of Catastrophes. Most parents have never found the need for such a scale, but we have. And we still use it occasionally. But in the midst of chaos and craziness, there is always that "yes." It is beacon, a light that leads us to God. So we'll just keep on saying it.

In this crazy beautiful life 
In this crazy beautiful life 
Something's make sense and you don't know why 
It's this crazy beautiful life 
Wherever you are, whatever you do 
Whatever wishes might come true 
Whatever you got, whatever you give 
You make it a beautiful life to live 
It's a crazy beautiful life It's a crazy beautiful life 
Something's make sense and you don't know why 
It's a crazy beautiful life

I'll just be over here...waiting...


Most people will tell you, I believe, that they are not patient. Certainly none of us likes waiting. Check out the folks in any urgent care center: Why haven't I been called? Hey, that guy came in after us!

Some of us are so impatient we pull out our phones at red lights, hoping to kill a few seconds.

And if one prays for patience (a dangerous prayer!), God will most certainly give one plenty of opportunities to grow in patience. 'Cause he's like that - more like a dad than a genie in a bottle.

We all know that patience is a virtue. We're happy to remind other people of this, but we certainly don't want to hear it when we have to wait.

I am no more patient than anyone else. I'm often more prepared: I'll bring a book or knitting if I know I'm going to be stuck in a waiting room for any length of time. But this doesn't make me more patient, just less bored.

I have now been without a job for just over 16 weeks. 115 days.

Oh, I've had interviews. I've had three second interviews. But no job.

I am convinced that God has a plan for me. (Can I get an "amen?") I just don't know what it is. So, I'm waiting.

Being patient. Very badly.

Waiting.

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Well, there's a message we don't want to hear. God is not delaying or denying an answer to our prayers or needs. No: he is PATIENT WITH US. He is happy to answer our prayers - when we are ready.

So, this whole "waiting on God" thing? It's much more about us - you and me - than about God. The answer to a prayer is right there, ready to be given to us by God - when we are ready.

Ugh. That means I need to do something. And that "something" is not to nag God: Why haven't you answered me yet? I've been waiting for so long! Aren't you supposed to answer prayers? Jesus said you won't give me a snake when I ask for an egg. He says, "Ask! The door will be opened!" Open the door, God!!

What an uncomfortable truth. (And aren't most truths uncomfortable?)

You know how we talk about the patience of Job? He wasn't patient; He was suffering! Miserable!

But he was faithful to God. He hoped and knew that in God's good and gracious timing, his suffering would diminish and his world restored. THAT is the something we are supposed to be doing while waiting for an answer to prayer. We hope. We are faithful. We trust in God's goodness.

I'm waiting. I'm trying to be faithful and patient. I am trying not to nag God by telling him, "Now! Now would be great!" I'm not very good at this yet, but he's giving me lots of opportunities to practice.

So.

I'll just be over here. Waiting.

The weight, the darkness of our Hinterlands

Welsh coast - photographer Lewis Fackrell
I've been watching "Hinterlands" - a BBC show on Netflix. It follows Tom Mathias and his detectives as they solve murders in rural Wales. (Really, really rural.)

Mathias, the lead character, is a man being crushed by the weight of guilt and sin in his life. It has forced him to live alone, in a shabby trailer. When he's not working, he's running - literally.

The whole tone of the show is dark. A woman who knows she works too much, but still tries to reach out to her teen daughter. A wife who knows of an affair between her husband and sister, the pain of which drives her mad in a way that Shakespeare would have been proud to write. "Home" for these people is not a sanctuary, despite the glorious scenery. No, home is truly the hinterland, "an area lying beyond what is visible or known."

Mute and silent before the wicked,
I refrain from good things
But my sorrow increases;
my heart smolders within me.

The notes for Psalm 39 tell us that this lamentation is one of a leader, now mortally wounded. Like any soldier, he knows the price of service, but now, facing death, he is weighed down - not by the injury - but its aftermath.

All of us carry scars and bruises. Some "scars" we choose ourselves: a tattoo or piercing, the scars of a C-section. Some scars life gives us whether we want them or not: a broken heart, both literally and figuratively.

Man goes about as a mere phantom;
they hurry about; although in vain,
he heaps us stores without knowing for whom.

Think of the parents who have begun to raise families, only to have that privilege taken from them. A mother dies from breast cancer or a young father in an accident. They did not know for whom they were storing riches for - they will not dance at a daughter's wedding or hold a grandson.

I promised myself that I would move far away from my own hinterlands this year. In many ways I have. But like the psalmist, the pain of the aftermath - well, I cannot drop that by the side of the road and hope it disappears. As the characters in the show mentioned above learn, our most rugged hinterlands lie within our own hearts. The rough and wild land where God has placed us: we can navigate and learn and come to love the place, or we can curse it. Either way, it is our hinterland and we must come to terms with its terrible beauty.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
You are my only hope.
From all my sins deliver me...


Whispering "Dream Big"

Dream Big - artist Sylwia Gryczuk
For reasons to complicated to explain, I found myself in the ER waiting room today. This particular hospital is the one in our area that gets many homeless guests, so the waiting was at least interesting.

The ER entrance for folks off the street features security guards. You have to pass GO before you even check in.

A mother with three children came in. She was tiny; her daughter (whom I'd put at about 10) was already taller than mom. The family was Hispanic. There was also a doctor entering at about the same time - a lovely lady with a wide smile and wooden clogs (You're gonna do a 12 hour shift in wooden clogs??)

The family stopped to speak to the security guard, and it was clear that one of the boys served as translator for Mom. The doctor paused, listened, and then entered.

Mom went to the desk to check in; she had to wait for a few other people before her.

The doctor went swinging down the hall, then stopped and came back. She went over to the three children, who had taken a seat to wait for Mom.

"When I was in school, I had to translate for my mom, too. She only spoke Spanish," the doctor said to the three kids. "It was  hard sometimes. But I loved being able to help her, and to speak two languages. Do you like science?" A couple of nods. "I really loved science, and now I'm a doctor. You can do that too. Study hard."

And then she took her shining, swinging self down the hall. And left three kids with big grins.

Dream big, little ones. Dream big.

Be Transfigured

Jesus' Transfiguration - Salvador Dali
From today's readings: 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.

...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.

In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has been lifted, and Peter tells new Christians not only of this event, but of its validity and meaning for them "Be attentive - this will be a light for the dark places you will have to traverse."

I suppose non-believers find this a quaint story. Not only did this Jesus guy fool everyone into believing that he was God, he performed magic tricks. Or maybe it isn't even that - maybe it's just a story, meant to fool others who didn't witness it.

It's odd that people find this hard to believe, because we live in a culture that is obsessed with transforming bodies. We eat clean, we workout, we compare ourselves to actors (who pay a lot of money for personal trainers.) We gulp kale smoothies and vitamins. Women are especially vulnerable to be transformers of their bodies: it's fine if you're pregnant, but you'd better be able to snap back to pre-pregnancy weight as quickly as possible. Our drugstores are filled with aisles and aisles of items to help us transform and transfigure ourselves: makeup, nail polish, hair products, weight loss products.

Our culture is currently obsessed with transgenderism: people who believe for one reason or another that they were really meant to be the other gender. Scientists tell us that this affects only about 1% of the population, yet there are those who spend most of their time telling the rest of us that we must make all kinds of concessions to this very small population. (For reference, 1% of the population will run a marathon in their lifetime, 1% will be incarcerated at some point, about 1% of women are 5'3" tall, and about .5% of people are vegans.)

But the Transfiguration of Christ? Somehow, people find it not believable.

We humans can do some pretty drastic things to transform ourselves, but ultimately these changes are only skin deep. One long-term study found:

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.

The only Transfiguration that truly matters is the one Christ is calling us to. And it is only in light of our transfiguration in Christ that we truly understand what our bodies are made for. (Let us remember that  Christ did not leave behind His body after the Resurrection - no, it was transformed, transfigured. Our bodies are not "bad" - they are limited because of sin. But we are called to be transfigured.

Romano Guardini reminds us that Christ did not give us His spirit in order to save us - He gave His Body and Blood. What more do we need to know about being transfigured?


...through the Holy Eucharist we participate again and again in the transfigured reality at once human and divine. Because communion in his flesh and blood is the remedy of immortality ... of an immortality not only spiritual but corporal; of man caught up in the abundance of pure corporal and pure spiritual life in God. (The Lord)

Thus, the Transfiguration is not only about Jesus revealing Himself more fully. No: it is a sign for us. Christ is calling us to be transformed ourselves, to be transfigured into living signs of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom He has both established and wishes to establish. We are called to be better than our diet, our health, the status of beauty. We are meant to be transfigured in Christ - it is the only change that truly matters.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're stil...