“Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” Jim Kienan, SJ.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this quote and have been pondering it ever since. I think all too often we get caught up in what the works of mercy are and how doing them is beyond are our time schedules or comfort zones. And so we do nothing!
This quote tells me choose just one person and be truly attentive to their needs. Think about the friend who suffers from chronic depression. Visit her at least once a week. Have a cup of tea with her. Bring her some brightly colored flowers.
Is there an older couple or a single elder person in your neighborhood or church? Adopt them. Invite them over for dinner. Bring them to Sunday brunch with you and your friends. Many older people are just lonely, and need friendly faces to depend on to come to visit. Maybe they need a helping hand with buying groceries or mowing their lawn.
I feel those who need mercy are right next to us. Do you have someone whom you work with each day who seems stressed? Instead of being angry at them because they don’t get their job done right why not ask them if everything is alright at home. Are they caring for an aging parent or maybe a child is having problems at school?
Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes. I know all too often I am overwhelmed when I see all the desolation, disease, and violence from war-torn countries through the media. Just how can I begin to help anyone in this world experience the goodness of God’s love? But I do believe if we start with those around us we will see life begin to change for the better.
Your questions to reflect on for the week:
- When has someone entered the chaos of my life? How did it make me feel? Was I more willing to help others after that experience of being cared about?
- Think of three different people that I could reach out to right now. How will I begin to do that? What are my feelings about doing this?
There is a place many of us get pulled into at some point in our lives. It’s called a Liminal Space. It is that space in between, of waiting, a time of transition and not knowing what is coming next. Limens is the Latin word that means threshold. It is a thin space. Some may describe it as Holy Ground.
Our culture doesn’t like times or places of transition. We are functional, rational, and everything and everyone needs to have a plan. But for most of us there comes a time in our lives when all of sudden nothing follows the agenda. An illness, death, a relationship or job change forces us to look at ourselves in a whole new way. We are left floundering, not knowing how to move forward.
This is when we are called to sit in this liminal space. Life doesn’t allow us to go backward and we have no idea how to move forward. So we have to mourn, be confused, and deal with the ambiguity of life. We are called out of our comfort zones and to find new coping skills.
I sat in this space about eight years ago when my husband and I moved to a new city because of his job change. I made the move whole-heartedly for him, but left behind a city I had lived in for almost thirty years. We had raised our children there and we had a house we cherished. When we arrived at our new home I was overcome with grief. Everything I had known since college was now gone. I missed my friends, our church, even the stores I shopped in. A moment I so vividly remember is standing in Target crying because I couldn’t find the toaster waffles. Even the Target in this town wasn’t laid out like my old Target.
Gradually we met our neighbors, I started writing classes, and we found how much we enjoy attending the theatre. We like living in the city now for what it offers. But I had to mourn what I had left behind and at times still do, for I had said good-bye to the first half of my life when we moved. I had to have breathing space to let myself feel the loss.
Some questions for you to ponder:
- When have I been called to sit in Liminal Space and look at my life in a new way?
- How am I different today because of what I went through during that time in my life?
Psalm: 43:4 says “Let us go up to the altar of God, the God of our gladness and joy” Many themes had come to my mind to write about this Lent, but the only one I can even get close to this week is Joy.
You see my husband and I became grandparents for the first time last week when little Hugo was born to our son and daughter-in-law. I have never known such a feeling of blessing and happiness before. He lives over 1200 miles away so we’ve yet to hold him, but already I feel a deep connection to him through pictures and in talking to our son. This little being has brought a spirit of lightness and delight to our family. His birth is a sign of hope and future of another generation to come. Yes, his new presence is Joy among us!!!
And then I’ve begun to think where do I find joy in my everyday life? What do I look for to bring me this same kind of lightness of spirit? Am I constantly grateful for my blessings? All too often we get held down by the drudgery of ordinary living. We forget that there is such goodness around us that we can find hope in.
Sometimes I just look around my neighborhood for examples of joy. Whether it is the children playing in the newly fallen snow, the squirrels running up the trees, or the robin that tells me spring soon could be here. God provides us with such delight that we cannot help but rejoice in the life around us.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Just check Galatians 5:22. Do you pray for this gift? I know I have to often. I know when I’m feeling all “dark and twisty inside” like a popular TV character is described, I have to ask God to be happier about life. I pray to come out of the darkness of my moods and see the goodness and light. I often go to Psalm 27: The Lord is my Life and my Salvation, who need I fear. Yahweh is the fortress of my life, of whom should I be afraid?
So maybe a new baby hasn’t joined your family like ours, but do let go this week and let the Spirit bring you reasons to be Joyful!
Now for your questions to ponder and write about:
- What was that one major event of my life that has brought me true joy? How did it change my life? Write about that experience.
- Where do I find joy in my life every day? Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the goodness around you.
As always free to post your responses in the comment section below.
Growing up I always knew the first verse of “Amazing Grace” to be different than what others sang. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved and set me free. “Maybe it was my Catholic background. We didn’t talk about ourselves being wretched beings. I liked it the way we sang it and still do, for it is God’s grace that has freed my heart from fear and longing. It has taught me I am treasured by God.
Grace is that moment when you know you are surrounded by God’s presence, an instant of clarity where one can almost touch the divine. Our Creator embraces an individual to let us know God communicates his love through our earthly experiences.
Grace is when you hold a new born baby in your arms. It is when you look into the eyes of your beloved for the thousandth time and it feels like it did when you first met. Grace is when an adult child comes home whom you’d thought you lost. It’s holding a dying parent’s hand knowing they are at peace and ready to go home to their Lord.
The Sacraments have a long tradition of being an outward sign of God’s grace. The oil of Anointing of the Sick strengthens us to endure illness and suffering. Several years ago receiving this just before surgery I knew in my heart I would survive a serious diagnosis. Each time we receive Our Lord in the Eucharist we are nourished in our daily lives. As Jesus feeds us with his Bread of Life we are gifted with a sacred awareness of Him.
Grace transforms us by its power. It’s a point of breaking through for our soul to believe God forgives us, and truly loves us as we are. It can heal the woundedness inside us. It makes us whole.
When I started this blog I wanted it to be about Writing as a Spiritual Practice. Each week during Lent I will choose a specific theme to write about and then give you some prompts to ponder and write about for yourself. So consider the prompts and feel free to share your responses in the comment section below.
- I knew I was experiencing Grace when…
- In my life Grace set me free when…..
Blessings on your Lenten experience, feel free to share my blog with a friend.
There are times in our lives when the intent of a liturgical season does not match what is going on in our current state of life. We cannot possibly be of a frame of mind to rejoice or lament because we are personally experiencing just the opposite. For me this happened on Ash Wednesday in […]
Tuesday, February 2nd, Minnesota got one of its largest snow storms of the 2016 winter. The southwestern part of the state got over ten inches and as the day went on 45 mph winds came up causing white out conditions across the prairie. Plows were pulled off the roads and highways were closed west of Interstate 35 to the South Dakota border. In this kind of weather people hunker down and don’t go anywhere. One stays home and stays safe until the wind dies down again.
At 2:30 am, that night a massive explosion and fire rocked the main street of Madelia, my hometown. (pop. 2200) Several small explosions continued to happen. The 45 mph winds took the fire and spread it quickly from store to store on this historic street. The volunteer fire department did what they could, but soon calls went out to six departments in surrounding communities. The problem was all the roads were blocked with huge drifts and snow plows had to be called to go before the fire trucks to get them to Madelia. All in all eight buildings would burn that night and more will have to be torn down because they were damaged by fire and water.
This small town is devastated by this tragic event. Rural communities depend on their main streets as the life blood that keeps them together. Among those businesses lost were a florist, dentist, hair salon, and everyone’s favorite Mexican restaurant. My heart sunk when the news came over the web Wednesday morning. I went to memories of ordering the flowers for my dad’s funeral at the florist and how after the wake my siblings and all the grandchildren gathered at the restaurant to tell stories about Grandpa.
But what is truly amazing is the faith of the people of this town. The recurring theme one will hear is that no one died, that how blessed they were. If this explosion had happened during the day it’s possible over a hundred people could have died or been injured because they were in the stores or eating in the restaurant. No fire fighters were hurt traveling the snow bound roads or while fighting the fire. My brother, David, who is a local EMT, said the most they saw were scrapes and scratches, and some very cold men from being around the water in the freezing temperatures.
That very afternoon pastors of the local churches gathered their people together to pray and to give thanks. Our Creator in all his faithfulness had protected everyone. Just where was God early last Wednesday morning-Watching very carefully over all these good people.
They will rebuild. This little town I grew up in is coming together to start over. Their hearts have been torn in two and so much seems lost, but they will stand firm and move forward. I ask you to pray for them in the months and years ahead.
The video below gives you a feeling for the history of this street and what happened during the fire. Take a moment to view it.
I grew up in southern Minnesota about twenty miles southwest of the Minnesota River, just where the prairie begins that will flow into Iowa, and then Nebraska. My pre-school years were spent on a farm surrounded by oceans of corn and bean fields as far as the eye could see across the horizon.
In the fall of 1964 when I was seven we moved ten miles into the small town of Madelia, population about 2,000. Our house was on the edge of town about a block from the railroad tracks. We were so close that the bell on a little reindeer that stood on my bedroom dresser would ring every time a train would go by.
At the end of block next to the railroad tracks was a Monsanto Anhydrous Ammonia transfer station. Several times a day, all summer long, the trains would stop and unload tanker loads of ammonia to the big holding tanks at the station. The fumes were so thick we couldn’t breathe. Even if we ran inside and closed the windows we still smelled it. There was no getting away from that putrid feeling in one’s lungs.
This was only part of it. Day in and out farmers in their pickups towing smaller tanks behind them came past our house constantly to get the ammonia to pour onto their fields. Monsanto said it would increase crop production. In the 1960’s and ‘70s no one questioned this. It was better farming through chemistry.
Fast forward forty to fifty years. Those people of my small town are now sick and dying. Each time I talk to my aging mother someone new has cancer or she’s been to another funeral. The high rate of disease in this little town just doesn’t make sense. And it’s just not cancer. My brother says, “Clem and Matt have MS, You know it’s odd but their farms were right next door to each other all those years.” And then I heard George, Burt, and Fred all got Parkinson’s about the same time. We’ve also had several people from our little town get ALS.
Something is wrong with this picture. My heart breaks when I hear about all of these people who I grew up knowing. They were family friends. What’s more this pain has touched my family. Last fall my cousin, Carol, died of cancer and just this week another cousin, Joseph, died of ALS. How many more of my generation will die because we all grew up surrounded by the fields saturated with Anhydrous Ammonia and Round Up? Many of us already suffer weird health symptoms. My sister has a form of an autoimmune disease. I myself developed asthma at age 45. What’s strange is my asthma is especially susceptible to chemical smells. I also deal with joint pain that no doctor has been able to explain. All I can say is that at times it feels as though some kind of poison has invaded my body.
Two years ago my father died of a form of lymphoma. Between farming or fixing machinery for the local farmers he spent most his life in those corn and bean fields. His heart was strong, but something tainted his blood. I pray for those I love that God protects us each day to keep us healthy and whole as we grow into our wisdom years. May we be blessed to see our children’s children and their children too.