The Thorn

The Thorn

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, ‘But Lord! this is a thorn! and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift which Thou hast given me.’
He said, ‘My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.’
I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace:
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.

~Martha Snell Nicholson

2 Corinthians 12:And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

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The American Way

Was thinking yesterday about the differences in world cultures, specifically, the ability of those in other parts of the world who embrace and benefit from multi-generational co-habitation.  Families who do not grow up and move away from their family, but who start their own family with the benefit of parents, grandparents, siblings, and etc. sharing the same roof, pooling their resources together and defining family and community in a whole different context than the what has morphed into the American definition of the word.

My dad used to dream of owning a large piece of land, and having a big house where all his kids and their kids could live, so that he could enjoy them as he aged.  Of course, he never got what he dreamed of this side of heaven’s gates, but I think he was a bit ahead of his time, or maybe behind it.  This kind of mentality goes completely against the grain of the American Way.  The “I, ME, MINE” mentality.  America’s progress report, if we had one, would fail at “shares well with others”, and “treats others with respect”.  What would it take to reverse this?  I think it would have to start with personal revival and a change of heart regarding the practical application of denying ourselves, laying down our rights, and looking out for the good of others ahead of watching out for #1.

I think that people who can figure this out, and learn to live in harmony with others (as opposed to isolating themselves and denying themselves a part in community), will be ahead of the game during troubled times that are headed our way here in America.  What do you think?

Treasures in God’s hand

I’m watching grandbabies today, and as has become the case quite often, I often hear God’s voice speaking to my spirit as I speak words of love and instruction to them.  Today’s case in point:

We have a certain structure of our days here, and simple rules to keep some sort of order or routine.  We use our big girl/boy words to communicate, not our attitude or body language, or crying; we get treats IF we finish our food, and if we choose not to finish our food, we don’t get treats by crying about it.   Often, how happy we are is completely dependent on our obedience and our ability to wait.

Today, the youngest did finish his lunch, and was eagerly pursuing Grammie’s attention for gaining access to the treat jar. Reminders to be patient fell on completely deaf ears, as clearly, there was only one goal here, getting that candy.  Once he got it, away he ran to consume it.  Since it was wrapped, and he is not quite 2yo yet, I offered to help.  His answer (in his growing collection of big boy words, of course):  “No.  Don’t help.  Grammie.”  And he was able to get it unwrapped.  His second piece (Grammie’s a pushover, lol) was not so easy to do all by himself, so again, I offered, and again, his reply was the same, in not so many words, No thanks, Grammie, I can handle this on my own, don’tcha know?  His frustration mounted at his unsuccessful efforts, and the attitude appeared, but he continued to stubbornly refuse help.  “No, Grammie”.  Now, Grammie’s patience is not what it should be, so at some point,,,I imposed help, much to the little guys annoyance.  I quickly had it unwrapped, and interrupted his protests with a sweet treasure, ready for him to devour.

We are told that God’s ways are not our ways. God has His own structure, and sense of order and routine.  He has his own agenda for what His children need in order to best serve Him and to grow in grace, and He is always on time with His gifts and callings.  Aren’t we like toddlers sometimes with God and His ways?  We are anxious to receive the treasures from God’s hand, and try to unwrap them in our own strength and time.  When God asks “can I help you with that?” we stubbornly continue in our own wisdom and strength, and cry out in impatience when we fail.  It’s as true for us as it is for children that how content and happy we are in this life largely depends on our own ability to depend and wait on the Lord.

Forty Ideas to Incorporate or Give Up this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Today we remember our station, that we are dust, and one day will return to dust.  It’s a time of personal reflection on the passion of Christ, and the imitation of Him.  It’s also a time of intentional resolve to follow the exhortation of Philippians 2, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  The sacrifices we make should be from a heart of obedience, and not for outward show.  In this, we draw near to the heart of God, as obedient children, and have the opportunity to participate in His suffering and death.  The practical application of this participation is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. We give up things, attitudes, or bad habits that may have taken a place in our hearts that is reserved only for the Lord.  We put these things aside, and work on developing good habits while we nourish our souls.

If you don’t know what to give up for Lent, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas for you to choose from:  If you’e already made your Lenten sacrifice, there’s an idea for each day of Lent for a little extra sacrifice to keep you extra focused.

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, and would love to hear yours.  Feel free to share your Lenten inspirations with me in the comments.

  1. Spend some time developing your prayer life this Lent.  I’m still adding to and organizing my own prayer journal, and working on making better habits.
  2. Give up social media.  So much time is wasted here.  I’ve actually fasted completely in the past.  This year, I’ll be partially fasting, because of work that requires me to be on social media.  My goal is balance, my plan is to abstain from sun up to sun down, then prioritize the time acquired between work, familly, and ministry. I hope to be able to continue this even after Lent is over.
  3. Television.  Turn. It. Off.  Seriously!  We actually are planning to disconnect cable altogether as soon as this billing cycle ends.  What a waste of money and resources.  It’s just a vast wasteland of mind rot.
  4. Replace TV time with reading a good book.
  5. Read Story of A Soul, or if you prefer, listen to it online.
  6. Give up some sleep.  Wake up an hour earlier than usual, or stay up an extra hour before going to sleep.
  7. Replace sleep time with prayer and/or contemplation.
  8. Learn and pray the Divine Office.  It’s online here.
  9. Give up your telephone.  Turn it off for an hour, or an afternoon, or all day.  Let your voicemail pick up important calls and you can return them later.
  10. Make and send a handwritten greeting card or letter.  Don’t you love to get REAL mail?  Give, and you will receive.
  11. Give up laziness.  When you feel like sitting and relaxing, get up and DO something.  Combat laziness with activity…go for a walk, exercise, garden….
  12. Offer up your hobbies.  We enjoy them, but sometimes they take more time than they should, time away from necessary things, even.
  13. Give up worrying and fretting.  Aint’ nobody got time for that!  Replace it with thanksgiving, and allow His peace to fill your soul.
  14. Memorize Philippians 4:6,7
  15. Pray the Rosary.  If you are a baby Catholic (like me) or are just learning the Rosary, it is helpful to listen and pray along with one of the many youtube videos available.  Check it out, and pick your favorite.
  16. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I prefer to sing it.  This is my favorite version right now.
  17. Give up your pride.
  18. Pray the Litany of Humility
  19. Turn off your electricity for a day and meditate on Jesus being the Light of the World.
  20. Pray for those who do not have electricity for refrigeration, cooking, heating/cooling, and etc.
  21. Give up your favorite Alcoholic drink.
  22. Replace your usual alcohol beverage with water while you meditate Jesus’ first miracle.
  23. Give up caffeine (!)  (I have to admit this one is a huge sacrifice for me, I really, really love and appreciate my morning coffee.  If you can’t give it up completely, what about cutting back and limiting yourself to just one cup instead of half a pot?)
  24. Cut out all sugar and carbs and replace them with healthy alternatives.
  25. Give up one meal.  Offer it up and replace the time with a Rosary for world hunger.
  26. Give up meat.  Try some new meatless meals on another day besides the usual Friday fast.
  27. The ever popular “sweets”.  Give up candy, sodas, desserts, etc.
  28. Give up that second helping.  That dinner was good, and you could easily polish off another plate of it?  Resist.  Offer it up.
  29. Give up salt. Experience the absence of salt while you do a topical study on all the times salt is mentioned in the Bible.  You won’t forget it.
  30. Visit a shut-in
  31. Read Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ 
  32. Did you know Thomas A’Kempis has another beautiful work?  I’m reading The Imitation of Mary this Lent, after finding it in our church’s bookstore.  So far, I don’t see a free version online, but Amazon has them if your church bookstore doesn’t.
  33. Give up your inclination to anger.  When you feel it rising, offer it up, and and look for an opportunity to exercise your compassion.
  34. Memorize Colossians 3:8-13
  35. Give up grumbling and complaining, replace it with thanksgiving.  This requires you to think before you speak, a worthy habit to develop!
  36. Memorize Philippians 2:12-16
  37. Give up shopping for 40 days.  Learn to be content and make do with what’s on hand.
  38. Memorize Hebrews 13:1-6
  39. Give up procrastinating.  Whatever it is you’re putting off, do it, so you can get it done!  You’re not getting any younger.
  40. Memorize Ephesians 5:14-17 — in fact, if you’ve got serious penance in mind, memorize the whole chapter.  It is RICH, isn’t it?