Being Chosen…

Anticipation…thrill…excitement…some of the feelings that accompany the thought of being chosen. As a child, I recall feeling a surge of these and more while raising my hand and waiting…longing to be chosen for one of the “premium” tasks during the school day. That is, the tasks that would get one out of the classroom (bringing books back to the library, clapping out the chalkboard erasers, etc.). I also recall these feelings while waiting to be chosen for a team during recess or gym class. So many times of waiting to be chosen during recess games of “red rover, red rover send … right over,” where the object was to break through the chain of hands on the opposite side.

As I think about it, I also remember feeling worry and anxiety in the instances where I was not chosen until further down line, or at all. Then there were the times of not breaking through the red rover line or not performing as I had hoped when it was my turn to “step up to the plate.” It is interesting how as we grow up, the aspects of the games of childhood follow us. They remain, only the structure morphs into adult forms (competing for a job, putting an offer in for a home, etc.). Just as in childhood, some seem to end up better off than others and the temptation is often to fend for oneself only.

Thankfully God does not play the same way that we do. In the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who is short (both physically and in the eyes of the crowd due to his profession) is trying to see Jesus. We are told it is Jesus’ intention to simply pass through Jericho. There is a crowd in between Zacchaeus and Jesus. He cannot see over or through them. He cannot break through the “red rover line.” In human terms, “game over.”

However, Zacchaeus, led by his desire to see who Jesus is, notices a sycamore tree, runs over to it and climbs up. Jesus sees him and calls to him. Imagine what it was like for Zacchaeus to be seen and called by name by the One whom he was trying to see. Not only that, but Jesus is moved from his original intent of just passing through Jericho to instead stay at Zacchaeus’ house.

How wonderful for Zacchaeus! But that’s not what the crowd seems to think. They “grumble” in disbelief. They are not able to share in the joy with which Zacchaeus receives Jesus’ invitation. I wonder what it would have been like if the crowd had been able to be happy for Zacchaeus.

Perhaps, though, what matters most is that Zacchaeus and Jesus are not affected by the crowd’s dismay. They continue in the direction they have been called. They continue their encounter. As a result, we see a moment of conversion and the grace of God which reaches far beyond any line. Like Zacchaeus, we are all invited, we are all chosen by God. What a thrill!

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At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
– Luke 19:1-10

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Roots…

As I look around I see trees of autumn colors, squirrels foraging and leaves falling and drifting…floating…turning and twisting…blown around in the breeze as they make their way to the ground. It is striking how marvelous God’s handiwork is. There is so much motion, so much work, in one way or another, almost all the time.

I find it intriguing that so much in nature tolerates and adapts to changes in the air, while maintaining its essence. For example, at its core, a tree remains a tree whether or not it has leaves. Its roots, trunk and branches, for the most part, remain the same season-in and season-out. One could say that a tree remains faithful to its purpose despite the shedding of its leaves and the scurrying and flurrying of animals around it. Also, while a tree may sway with the wind, it is rooted in its stance, often bending and rarely breaking, in the overall scheme of things. How important healthy roots are.

Many years ago, I recall so vividly seeing the roots of a tree as it was being pummeled by gale force winds. With each gust, the tree swayed. The grass around it started to lift as the winds continued and the roots underneath were exposed.

It seemed certain that the tree would topple, but it did not. My father and a neighbor braved the storm and worked quickly to tether the tree. In those moments, despite the storm, the root of humanity was exposed. My father and the neighbor were drawn out of the safety and warmth of their homes, helping each other and the tree to weather the storm. As a result many roots grew stronger that day.

Be faithful and helpful, and allow others to do the same.

roots

Here we go again…

The current state of affairs throughout the world, the vast unrest, seems so unreal. Have we really fallen this far? One can only imagine the reaction of all those who have come before us.

What is it that has led to what seems like an inability to be objective? How did behavior that wreaks of an “everyone out for herself or himself” attitude become so widely acceptable and celebrated? While there are so many things that one could debate, it seems reasonable to say that in the quest to win or be the best, integrity, fair-mindedness, and dignity have been obliterated.

Amongst all the hullabaloo and distractions, is there any substance? It seems that so often the meaningful is hidden, squashed or perverted to the point of being hardly recognizable as what it once was promoted as or intended to be. From where does this confusion come?

It leads one to think. What’s the point of all the non-sense going on in the world today? I guess that depends on what one’s goal is.

As unreal as the happenings in the world seem to be, they are not really all that new. We have been at the same, or very similar, crossroads many times before and have risen to the challenge. People of all different races, religions and cultures have persevered through faith, learning and re-learning to work together, from age to age since the beginning of time. We are no different. Believe…

“God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us,
you entrust us with the freedom to choose life…”
– Joyce Rupp, OSM

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I do…

In a time when the news is overrun with reports of less than honorable behavior by politicians and leaders; widespread violence; and devastation from war, poverty, and natural disaster, it was refreshing to receive word of a family member’s engagement to marry. It was such wonderful news! What a great reminder of the love and good that still exists despite all that would seek to destroy it. Yes, there is always light.

Delighted for this newly engaged couple, I recall, so vividly, the day my oldest nephew was born. I had just finished taking a final exam for a course titled, “Western Civilization.” Upon opening the door to my dorm room, there were two blue paper balloons that my roommates had taped to the wall. They exclaimed, “Congratulations, Aunt Carissa!” “It’s a boy!” I will always remember what a joy the news of my nephew’s birth was. It was of the same magnitude and kind of joy that has accompanied each of the births in the family that has followed.

What a blessing new life is, bringing excitement and hope…also gratitude. Any time there is a birth of any sort (a child, an idea, a beginning) there is beauty in the moment, pure love, and the promise of possibility. These all seem to exceed by far any potential obstacles or pitfalls that may come down the road.

As I look back to what was, and then to all that is, I recall at different points wondering…worrying…about the future. I remember, especially around my own engagement, there were so many thoughts beginning with the word, “How.” How will we afford a home? How will we provide for a family? There were so many questions. There are still so many unknowns. Then I think, “We first began, and then we took one step at a time.”

I feel grateful for Grace that leads the way, the faith that grows as we continue the journey, and the examples of both those that came before us, and those who walk beside us. Bit by bit, step-by-step, slowly, but surely things that seem to be so far away or even impossible at times become reality.

“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi.

mountainido

Action flows from Passion…

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” I recently heard this E.M. Forster quote while listening to a eulogy. I am sure we can all think of people whom we consider passionate.

I wonder though, what makes me see someone as passionate? How do I recognize passion? Do I seek to support and encourage it? Am I intimidated by passion? Do I only encourage that which falls within my understanding or my way of doing things? How do I try to see the root of my, or another’s, passion? Or, do I just make assumptions about desires, whether they are mine or someone else’s?

Over the years, I have come to believe more strongly that God places desires within us and when we are attentive, looking more closely at our desires, God helps us to sift through them. God helps us to focus on our desires that are best, helping us “to stir into flame the gift of God…” (2Timothy 1:6). In this process, as one continues to pray with a desire, passion is often born and a path begins to unfold.

The more consistent the prayer…sharing with God one’s thoughts and feelings…the waiting and listening, the stronger the passion, trust and patience grows. Anyone can care about something, but unless one cares enough to not only do something, but to do something that is born of prayer and fueled with a passion shaped by God, little changes in a way that is truly beneficial.

“The thought of God’s presence will put us in the habit of doing God’s will.”
– St. Vincent DePaul

Why is that important? Simply put, God’s will and way is the only One that truly benefits all. Try as we may, or give up as we may, in terms of desire and passion, there are always things that are beyond my control, but not beyond God’s. God’s will sees possibility and solutions when all we may see is roadblocks and impossibility.

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” – Psalm 95

In order to hear God’s voice, I must stop using mine, at least temporarily. I must take time regularly for solitude and prayer if I want to have a sense of God’s will for me. How can God reveal the way to me without having my attention? I must listen with open ears…open mind and heart.

There are times when we all get off track or take what we believe God wants for us and run with it. Times when we are off to the races only to have things unravel down the road. Sometimes we can get impatient when things are not happening fast enough, or in a way that we can see, and we leave God behind. We can be tempted into interactions with God that are more like a baton being handed off to us along the race, rather than like a tandem. We can forget that we (oneself and God) are in it together, and for the duration.

“For the vision is a witness for the appointed time,
a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.” – Habakkuk 2:3

I need to remind myself “The word of the Lord remains forever…” (1Peter 1:25). It helps me to grow in faith. A faith that is not stagnant, but that challenges me to be all that God created me to be. I need to listen and allow myself to be directed.

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