If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Homage to my Father in Heaven


I posted this a few years ago. I thought to post it again. I hope it helps someone.
-------------

"Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! [the Aramaic word for Daddy] Father!" (Galatians 4:6)


"Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him . . . whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely . . . . " (Psalm 68:4-6)


I call Him Lord so often I sometimes forget He’s my heavenly Daddy. I’m sorry when that happens. ‘Lord’ conjures for me a more distant relationship than the intimate bond ‘Daddy’ invokes.



In prayer several years ago, that intimacy stirred thoughts once again of my earthly father. Those who’ve followed my blogs for a while know Albert left me and my sister in 1954. I was four, Andrea was not yet two. He wouldn’t keep out of other women’s beds, so Mom finally told him to pack his valise.



Andrea and I rarely saw him afterward. Three, maybe four times over the next decade and a half. Then, in 1968, when I was eighteen, I asked Mom to set a meeting with him at my paternal grandparents’ apartment. I wanted to know his side of the story. I wanted to know why he left me and Andrea.



My mind’s eye still sees him as he sat in the wing-backed chair in front of the living room window. I sat cross-legged on the carpet a few feet from him. Andrea and Mom sat on the sofa to my left, my grandmother on the flowered upholstered chair to the right of the couch. My grandfather softly drummed his fingers on the dining room table to my right.



“Why did you leave?”



Albert hardly hesitated. He looked me in the eyes and said,



“Because I wanted to.”



That was 50 years ago. 

Fifty.



His words remain as chilling as if he spoke them last month.



I don’t know why that memory resurfaced while I was in prayer a few years ago. I'd forgiven Albert in my early years as a Christian for what he’d done to me. But that morning the Lord interrupted my prayer time and asked if I would again forgive Albert. His question caught me by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Would I again forgive Al for casting me aside like a piece of trash? More to the point, 'could' I forgive him?



“I’d like to,” I finally answered.



What happened next still warms me to think of it. The memory of Albert saying what he did remained – and yet remains to this day in 2019 – chiseled in my mind, but the memory then took a sudden and extraordinary turn.



I was no longer sitting on the carpet. Instead, my heavenly Daddy was sitting on the carpet and I was sitting in His lap. His arms encircled me and I snuggled deep into His embrace. His warmth surrounded me. I could hear His heart beat, feel His breath on my hair. A great sense of quiet washed over me. I knew I was at home, at home in His arms.



Home. Oh, the security, serenity, the love and hope that word arouses within me.



Albert’s words, “Because I wanted to” no longer stung as they had in 1968 because now, as I sat in quiet prayer, I could snuggle deeper into Daddy’s embrace.



Albert’s cruelty dissipated like a mist burned away by the sun as my Daddy held me yet closer – because He understood how those words ripped a hole in me. I remember even now as I write this how – as this scene unfolded in my memory – I broke into a grin, looked him in the eyes and said without hesitation: “I forgive you.”



Why shouldn’t I forgive the man? How could I not forgive the man? I was sitting in my real Daddy’s lap. Albert was never my father. He only impregnated my mother. He was no more my father than if he had raped her and she conceived. But my Daddy in heaven – oh, my Daddy has never left me, no matter how many reasons I gave Him in my life to do so. And even when I didn’t know it He was there, all the time, His arm around my shoulder, whispering encouragement to a young boy, who became a teenager, and then became a young man who would one day become the man at 69 who joyfully lifts his hands in worship of his Daddy in heaven.



Sitting in my heavenly Father’s arms, how could Albert’s cavalier rejection hurt me? I could feel only pity for the man who missed a lifetime of opportunities to be my earthly daddy.



Oh, I am so in love with my Daddy who art in heaven.


Friday, June 28, 2019

It Ain't Easy. But It's Important.

I've heard Mahatma Gandhi remarked, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ as found in the Bible all of India would be Christian today.” Isn't Gandhi’s observation applicable not only to India but to America and the rest of the world? If every Christian faithfully obeyed Jesus Christ, followed His commandments and lived according to Biblical principles, then what a different world this would be. Oh, God!  Start the process with me! Where does the process start? Hear what the Holy Spirit writes through St. Paul: “I beseech you, therefore brethren . . . . that you present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God . . . And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . . ." (Romans 12:1-2) How can we permit God to renew our mind? By immersing ourselves in what He tells us through Scripture and the historic teaching of the Church dating from the first century. Is that easy?  No. Not usually. But is it important? What do you think?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Just Be Held

Just Be Held
by Richard Maffeo


I received an email from my friend a few days ago. As long as I have known him and his wife – better than 40 years now – they’ve faithfully ministered Christ to those in need. Whether mowing neighbors’ grass, helping fix their cars, building fences, volunteering at homeless shelters, taking in strangers for months until they could get back on their financial feet . . . on and on their testimony continues.

But they’ve also had their share of health and financial reversals. Lots of them within the last few years, and most recently his broken-down lawn mowers and car – and his need to have surgery on his foot.

We’d been corresponding about my hospitalization last week with a serious bowel infection. That hospitalization, as some of you might know, came on the heels of Nancy’s stroke earlier this year. Here is part of his letter:

I believe that when these physical downfalls start happening, a lot of Christian's start blaming God for their bad health. As you know I have had a lot of problems this spring with my cars and mowers. Meanwhile, all my neighbors who are not followers of Jesus don't seem to have any of these problems.  But just because we decided to follow Jesus doesn't mean we won't have bad health or lawnmowers and cars breaking down.  It means that we are redeemed spiritually and everything else is just temporary.  So no matter what lot we have in life we have to stay spiritually healthy. So, you and I will hang in there no matter what. Hang in there, brother we'll be in heaven before you know it. 

As I read his letter, especially his comments about his godless neighbors whose lives seem so carefree, I thought of the 73rd psalm. Like Job who wrote of his confusion and frustration, the psalmist Asaph opens his heart to God and asks the same questions – questions we all ask from time to time.

Here is how he begins: Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind . . .. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice . . . And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” . . . . All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

“Surely,” he acknowledges, “God is good to Israel.” The psalmist knows it intuitively. But still the questions. And the confusion. And the sleepless nights.

Christian, do you believe God really loves you?

Really. Loves. You?

And that He wants to hold you close to Himself, wrap His arms around you when your health is failing, your cars break down, and money slips through your fingers like sand?

I recently heard a song written by the Christian group, ‘Casting Crowns.’ These lyrics perfectly dovetail with the message of hope in the sovereign and almighty God who holds each of His children in the palms of His nail-pierced hands – despite how things seem around us:
Hold it all together,
Everybody needs you strong.
But life hits you out of nowhere,
and barely leaves you holding on
And when you're tired of fighting,
chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender,
Lay it down and let it go

So when you're on your knees
and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on –
and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart,
its falling into place.
I’m on the throne, stop holding on –
 and just be held
Just be held . . .

If your eyes are on the storm,
You'll wonder if I love you still.
But if your eyes are on the cross
you'll know I always have
and I always will

And not a tear is wasted.
In time, you'll understand.
I’m painting beauty with the ashes,
Your life is in My hands
You're not alone, stop holding on –
 and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart,
 it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on –
 and just be held

What a wonderful picture that song paints – “Just be held.”

Christian, listen. If God is absolutely sovereign – and He is – then when things seem out of control, they’re not falling apart, they’re falling into place.

It’s already been a long year for many of you reading this. There have been unexpected deaths of beloved family or friends. There’ve been ongoing illnesses that brought with it chronic pain and more disablement. Financial woes plague many of you, and along with those serious circumstances is the nagging fear about what will happen in the not-to-distant future. These all, coupled with the non-stop barrage of bad news we invite into our living spaces through the television – it’s little wonder the peace promised us by the Lord slowly evaporates with each passing hour.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” Solomon wrote. “And lean not on thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

I want to close this message with one final word about trust.

See in your mind’s eye the word trust, written in small letters. Now focus on the first letter – t – and the last letter of the word – another t.  Do you see how they form a cross?  If you can’t see it in your imagination, write the word on a piece of paper.

We can trust God to love us, to hold us, to help us in our times of need and loneliness and despair because He has proven Himself eminently trustworthy – at the cross of Calvary.

‘Trust’ begins with the Cross. It ends with the Cross. ‘Trust’ is surrounded by the Cross on which the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain.

The psalmist wrote in the 73rd psalm: All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. But then he came to his senses and wrote: If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. . . . .

Listen, Christian: How we handle our struggles – we can call them our crosses in this life – how we handle them is not inconsequential either for our own eternal destiny, or for that of those who observe how we live with Christ WITHIN those trials.

May God help us to not betray the generation of His children by turning away from Christ when those crosses cross our paths through life. May the Holy Spirit bring us into the sanctuary of our Father’s arms, that we might ‘just be held.’

Now read how the psalmist concludes his lament: Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. . . . But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Christian, listen! Jesus is always our refuge and strength, a very present help in our times of trouble. Oh, Holy Spirit, grant that we may always speak of God’s great works and great love, despite broken cars and failing health and piling bills. Help us carry our cross with head high and shoulders back, always reminded that as Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry His cross to that hill, our Savior always helps us carry our cross – whatever that cross may be.

Oh, Holy Spirit, help us in such times to let go – and just be held.