Newman…

Through a series of changes, I recently had the opportunity to learn about the life of John Henry Newman. I found his story to be fascinating. Living in England for almost all his life, the change that resulted from his conversion was huge. He faced great challenges in going from the Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Church.

John Henry Newman’s road went from childhood to Trinity College, Oxford student to vicar, teacher, preacher and writer at Oxford University to Roman Catholic priest and eventually Cardinal. He was a great theologian; first in the Anglican tradition and then in the Roman Catholic tradition. When he became a Roman Catholic priest though his entire life was turned upside down. He could no longer teach, preach or write at Oxford and because of his prominent Anglican position prior to his conversion he was seen as suspect within the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Essentially, all that he knew was taken away from him. Many of his relationships were severed and he was stripped of his teaching position and the prestige that went along with it. However, amidst these very big changes, his desire and resolve to seek and live a life of truth did not change.

John Henry Newman remained faithful and true to God and what he felt God was calling him to, throughout his life. We are called to do the same. Despite his less than favorable status with the Pope at the time of his conversion (Pius IX), he carried on and kept following his conscience. We are also called to follow our conscience. When Pope Pius IX died and the next Pope (Leo XIII) came along, Newman was named Cardinal even though he was not a Bishop and he was not a resident in Rome.

When John Henry Newman was named Cardinal, he took the motto “Cor ad cor loquitur” (“Heart speaks to heart”). How fitting for someone who was, and still is, in many ways a champion of the authority of the Church—God.

“It is indeed sometimes said that the stream is clearest near the spring. Whatever use may fairly be made of this image, it does not apply to the history of a philosophy or belief, which on the contrary is more equable, and purer, and stronger, when its bed has become deep, and broad, and full. It necessarily rises out of an existing state of things, and for a time savours of the soil. Its vital element needs disengaging from what is foreign and temporary, and is employed in efforts after freedom which become more vigorous and hopeful as its years increase. Its beginnings are no measure of its capabilities, nor of its scope. At first no one knows what it is, or what it is worth. It remains perhaps for a time quiescent; it tries, as it were, its limbs, and proves the ground under it, and feels its way. From time to time it makes essays which fail, and are in consequence abandoned. It seems in suspense which way to go; it wavers, and at length strikes out in one definite direction. In time it enters upon strange territory; points of controversy alter their bearing; parties rise and around it; dangers and hopes appear in new relations; and old principles reappear under new forms. It changes with them in order to remain the same. In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” – Blessed John Henry Newman

Shine…

Jesus said, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:3). He said this in response to the disciples’ inquiry about whose sin had caused a man to be born blind. In the first book of the Prophet Samuel, when Samuel is in Bethlehem looking to see which of Jesse’s sons he is to anoint as king and successor to Saul, the Lord explains to Samuel, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

There is an expression, “Offer it up to the Lord.” I have often heard it spoken by well-meaning people suggesting one say, “Thank you Jesus!” in response to the hardship or difficulty another may be going through. As many times as I have heard it said, it has left me pondering what they really mean and how this statement is helpful or comforting to the person who has just been incapacitated or experienced loss in some way. It is wonderful to experience offering trials and tribulations up to the Lord for oneself, but I wonder if that sentiment is often lost when instructing another to do so.

It seems that at times much can be lost in translation or we can get caught up in trying to keep a sense of order and understanding. It is human nature to want to make sense of or to be able to explain or account for things beyond one’s control. After all, no one sets out to break a leg or get sick. When it happens though we ask, “Why?” Perhaps sometimes even getting stuck in the possibilities that may have been the cause.

At the heart of the matter, it can be tempting to spend lots of time searching to see how or why something happened as we move toward what we do have some control over. We always have a choice in how we respond to a situation and in what influences our response. As with many things, it is a process. However, no matter where one may be in that process, there are always invitations to receive the grace of God. Not only that, but also to let it shine.

You, LORD, are my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures you give me repose;
beside restful waters you lead me;
you refresh my soul.
You guide me in right paths
for your name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in your house, LORD,
forever.  (Psalm 23)

Shine

Breaking Ground…

About a week ago, a good friend and I were walking along a path still covered with snow. With each step came the crunch of hardened snow beneath our feet. Also noticeable were the footprints of those who had walked along the path prior to us.

While we were walking the same path as those who came before us, our steps were different. It was as if with each crunch under our feet we were breaking new ground. My friend looked at me with a smile and said, “This reminds me of when I was a child. I used to love being outside in the snow.” I echoed my friend’s sentiment and we mused how, with age, the cold and snow had become somewhat of something to be avoided or better appreciated from within the warmth of the “great” indoors.

It was interesting how we had started out on our walk with a bit of resistance, as if to embark on a chore. However, we both ended up having a joy-filled experience. Although our walk was not what one might call an adventurous outing, simply stepping outside of the comfort zone of our homes that day certainly enkindled a spirit of adventure and a remembrance of how good it can be to brave the cold, or what one might see as less than close to ideal.

The experience was a reminder of how easy it can be to become complacent, stagnant, or for one’s zest for life to lessen, even if ever so slightly, when surrounded, day in and day out, by comfort more so than that which is new, unknown or different. Just as the cold air, the footprints of others, and the crunch made with each step on that snow-covered path brought joy, memories, and a renewed perspective to my friend and I it also brought a breath of fresh air, and with that, new life. Oftentimes breaking new ground begins with walking where others have been before, but with new eyes…remembering what was, while looking forward to what can be. We will never know until we trust the voice within, calling to our hearts, “Step out into the snow.”

BreakingGround

 

Room to Grow…

The human body contains numerous growth plates. These plates exist at the end of our bones, in areas of the body such as the foot, leg, elbow, etc. They are located in areas where there is much physical growth that occurs from birth often through early adulthood. Simply put, we were designed and created with everything we need, including room to grow.

It is no coincidence that our bodies are built with growth in mind. It is also no coincidence that at the very essence of humanity is the ability to grow in many ways, both as individuals and in communion. Often as we grow in stature, we learn through experience, or we at least have the opportunities to learn, and mature emotionally and spiritually as well.

As we handle and see our way through what once may have seemed insurmountable or far beyond reach, we grow stronger, we discover something new, or we tap into or uncover what we did not know existed within. We are multi-dimensional and that is a good thing so long as it does not lead to being pushed, pulled, or led astray.

While duplicity is all around, and is sly like a fox, it is no match for the heart that seeks and strives to be faithful and sincere.

No matter how many times one may stammer or fall, there is always Grace to be had and faith to be built upon. When we are able to ask for help, acknowledging and moving beyond our own mistakes, and forgiving others theirs, the grace of God reigns within and around us. It returns us to love, calling us to remember the truth and to realize once more that we are more alike than different. It is ready and willing to help us not only to recognize, but also guiding us to that which brings out the inherent goodness in each other; reaffirming the image of God in which we are created and helping us to grow. It is then, that we truly experience what it means to worship in Spirit and truth.

“God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship in Spirit and truth.” – Jesus to the woman at the well in the Gospel according to John, chapter 4, verses 4-42.

DaffodilRoomToGrow

Elevation…

Within the next month or so, the tiny buds surrounded by white snow in the photo below will gradually grow and open, revealing green leaves. They will start as a lighter shade of green, somewhere in between yellow-green and lime, and they will gradually work their way toward a darker shade of green. Once there, the leaves will stay that way, at least to the human eye, throughout the remainder of spring and into the summer. Then, as summer gives way to autumn, they will turn red before they fall, eventually returning back to the earth. Each year this process occurs, and with it, the bush to which the buds belong, grows.

Buds

Beautiful as it can be to witness this cycle of birth and re-birth, it would not happen if any of the stages along the way ceased to occur. Each step throughout the year, and throughout its life, is important to the health and growth of the bush, giving it what it needs to survive the cold winter and gusty winds, as well as times of drought.

The burning bush was created to make it through…to persevere and to adapt and grow. We are no different. While the cold, white snow, and wind gusts may be a harsh reality, at the same time, they hold and carry nutrients, and condition the soil. Although they can pose a challenge, with them, we not only grow, but we thrive.

When Peter, James and John ascended the mountain with Jesus, they had no idea what they would encounter. Similarly, as we face each day, we never really know what we are about to walk into or come across. Like the disciples, we can choose to walk with Jesus, or we can choose to walk on our own.

Even when we choose to walk with Jesus, though, like Peter, James and John, we will have moments when we may experience something that causes us to become afraid, to question, or feel challenged beyond measure…beyond what we may think we can handle. In those times, remember, the radiant Son brings warmth and new life to the earth, even in the cold. “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” – Matthew 17:1-9

Flume2016

 

In the Desert…

I remember as a child spelling d-e-s-e-r-t, desert, the treat following dinner. I also remember receiving my paper back from the teacher with a red “x” and a second “s” added in the word. A common error for a young child, I am sure. It is funny how some things make a lasting impression and how over time it can be much easier to laugh at things that perhaps once did not seem so funny or amusing. This is one of the gifts that comes with perspective though.

When Jesus was led into the desert, he faced temptation. However, despite his weakened state, he did not lose perspective. He remained focused on who he was and what he knew to be true. He was able to see temptation for what it was and to say, “Get away, Satan!” We are called to do the same.

In today’s world one could say that the desert of temptation has grown exponentially. Oftentimes where one might expect to find solace or solidarity and goodwill, there is none. Despite this, one must carry on and, like Jesus, hold fast to God, the One in whose image all are created. In seeking and striving to do so with all one’s mind, heart and soul, there is comfort and strength, knowledge and wisdom, and yes, even in the desert of temptation, there is peace.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God. (Deuteronomy 8:3)”

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11-12)”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. (Deuteronomy 6:16)”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve. (Deuteronomy 6:13)

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.

Matthew 4:1-11