What Instrument Will I Be?

Throughout the past week, I found myself feeling so inspired by the words of Pope Francis during his visit to the United States of America. I continue to find, as many others do, his message and his manner so appealing. There is no duplicity in him, or at least it seems that way. He preaches, and from all evidence, lives a life of love and mercy and promotes peace and unity.

Pope Francis exudes the essence of one who is centered in prayer, has a desire to remain faithful to God, and is filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit. He is inclusive and calls us to look beyond ourselves to focus on the common good. He challenges us to be faithful to God and sets an example through his own actions. Not only that, but what makes his words and actions even more meaningful (at least to me), he does all of this, without making it about himself. All that he says and does seems to point to something greater…to God.

“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” – Matthew 5:16

What a great example! One that extends to more than just one group of people, one that is so life giving and aspires a closer relationship with God and others. Pope Francis calls us to be true to who God created us to be. To have a Pope named Francis, who comes to us in the name of God, through Jesus and with the Holy Spirit, at this time in history, how fitting!

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

– Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

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The Bottom Line…

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.
You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power,
may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that
doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never
know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing,
there will be no result.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

In what seems like a win-at-all-costs society and in situations where it seems like the odds of existing, and being part of, with authenticity and integrity are slim to none, it can be hard to know what to do. It can also be very tempting to throw my hands up, pull back or walk away and fall prey to a “why bother?” attitude and to think, “what difference does it make?”

As I sit with the question, “When is it okay for me to walk away?” and pray about a particular situation, I think of a quote I saw recently, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” (Edward Everett Hale, American politician). As I think about this quote, I take a turn and my prayer moves to the questions, “Is there anything I can do? What can I do before deciding whether or not to walk away?”

I can speak up, sharing with those involved and privy to the situation what is in my heart and on my mind with love, care and concern, regardless of what may or may not come of it. My words may not make a difference in a way that I can see now, in a way that I might ever see, or at all. If I speak up though, and what I say is rooted in prayer and consistent with the words and example of the Divine, I give voice to the Truth that has arisen from within me. Then, if I do end up walking away, at least I can do so with a greater sense of freedom and no regrets. I can be at peace knowing that I saw something, it did not hold up when I held it up to the Light, and at a time and in a way in which I felt called to do so, I shared my concerns and spoke my piece regarding it.

So what is left? If I am looking toward what I can do, I can continue to pray for a positive and life-giving resolution, whatever that may be. I can also continue to ask God for the grace to trust that I did what I felt called to do and that God will do what is best, and when it is best, for all involved. In addition, I can continue to wait to make a decision about walking away. God helped me to know when to speak and what to say. “Certainly,” I tell myself, “God will help me to know when it is time to walk away.” My job for now is to wait and listen.

“The seed is the word of God.” – Luke 8:11

The seed is given to me (to us) through Scripture, prayer and revelation. It is a gift from God. What am I to do with it? First, and foremost, listen to it (be still and be aware)…embrace it with a heart of love (be open to it)…persevere in it and through it (be faithful, be patient and trust). These are all things that I can do. When I do them, what to do, eventually, becomes clear.

An Unobstructed View…

A good number of years ago, over twenty, I ventured out into the mountains with a friend. We were going to hike a trail that went up higher than what I had ever hiked before. I remember setting out very determined. I was going to conquer this mountain if it killed me. Well, it almost did!

After going quite a long way up the mountain, head down, fists mostly clenched, consumed with getting to the top, I almost walked right off the mountain. Had it not been for my hiking partner calling my name (I remember feeling so annoyed and at first ignoring him) and finally yelling at me to stop, a couple of more steps and I would have stepped over the edge into the abyss below.

As I look back at that experience, I feel grateful that I was hiking with someone who knew the way and truly had my best interest in mind. Thank God! What I did not know at the time was that my approach was misguided. It was good to have a sense of determination and a strong will to reach the summit. However, it was not good to be so consumed with accomplishing the task that I could not see value in anything else along the way.

So what did I miss along the way? There were spots where one could stop and take in the beautiful views and there were fellow hikers wanting to share a smile and say hello. I did not have time for that though. I just wanted to get to the top. The places to pause and the fellow hikers with their kind gestures and attempted interactions seemed more like obstacles, hindering me from reaching the goal than anything else. At the time, I did not see them as gifts along the trail…hidden jewels waiting to be seen or heard, and capable of adding richness and providing respite, strengthening and enlivening me for the remainder of the journey.

I could not see the splendor on the way up the mountain, but my hiking partner could, and all those taking in the views or sharing friendly gestures and words along the way could. I learned so much from Brian and the other hikers on the mountain that day. I was holding on so tightly to the notion of overcoming the obstacles along the way and succeeding…getting to the top…that everyone and everything around me appeared as enemies instead of the friend, the resting spots, and the friendly faces placed along the way.

It is interesting how sometimes the “enemy” on the outside is not the enemy at all, or pales in comparison to the enemy within. Also oftentimes, the best way up the mountain is with a wide lens view with stops all along the way rather than quick, straight, and in a tunnel. Most importantly, when traveling with God, the goal never becomes an obstruction.

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Rending My Heart…

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I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in the mountains, and although I love the ocean, the sound of waves, the scenery and all that comes with being seaside, I always find the mountains so incredibly awe-inspiring. As I take in the beauty of creation, I find myself at peace, breathing easy and feeling such a sense of gratitude. Cares and concerns gradually melt away, as I journey to the top of the mountain. It is as if my heart is preparing to open wide, wider than seems possible, to receive the magnificence of God.

“Rend not your garments, rend your hearts.
Turn back your lives to me.” – Joel 2:13

While it is good for me to retreat to the mountains, the ocean, or other such places for the peace, healing and strengthening that only God can bring, I know that eventually, I must return. Sometimes I find it hard to come back down that mountain. It is so much easier, peaceful and distraction-free, to be in the world, when you are standing on what seems like the top of the world. Still though, I must go back. My work is elsewhere.

At a lower altitude, and reflecting on the peace and joy of being mountainside, I find myself feeling grateful first, and then sad at not being able to stay; then, led by the Spirit and through the grace of God, my attention shifts. I am not alone. I start to think of the people, places and things through which I experience the mountaintop within the busyness of everyday life. They are gifts from God. They are food for the journey, providing support and encouragement, and challenging me to remain hopeful, faithful, and fruitful. Praise God!

Led by the Spirit – by Bob Hurd

Led by the Spirit of our God,
we go to fast and pray
With Christ into the wilderness;
we join His paschal way.
“Rend not your garments, rend your hearts.
Turn back your lives to me.”
Thus says our kind and gracious God,
whose reign is liberty.

Led by the Spirit,
we confront temptation face to face,
And know full well we must
rely on God’s redeeming grace.
On bread alone we cannot live,
but nourished by the Word.
We seek the will of God to do:
this is our drink and food.

Led by the Spirit,
now draw near the waters of rebirth
With hearts that long to worship God
in spirit and in truth.
“Whoever drinks the drink
I give shall never thirst again.”
Thus says the Lord who died for us,
our Savior, kin and friend.

Led by the Spirit,
now sing praise to God the Trinity:
The Source of Life,
the living Word made flesh to set us free,
The Spirit blowing where it will
to make us friends of God:
This mystery far beyond our reach,
yet near in healing love.