I am actually a nervous, shy, and rather insecure person. Or I used to be. I trust God to take care of me when I stand in front of an audience and whenever I speak on matters of faith because I trust His Spirit that dwells within me.
I love the words of Corrie ten Boom on this topic: “When we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy that we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus.”
I like to tell people that all God desires is willing hearts! He will take care of the rest. You don’t have to have the whole plan figured out; God’s got a plan. All you need is the love: the love you have for Him, and “the love with which God loves” for your fellowman. Fr. Stephen Torraco used that phrase, “the love with which God loves”. That’s the Holy Spirit again. That power of the Holy Spirit was left within us by our Savior.
We are on a mission, the mission Jesus assigned to us before He ascended. As an Army wife that idea of “mission” resonates with me. Our Soldiers are fond of saying, “The mission comes first.” And when it is a mission that God has commissioned us to take part in, those words were never more true.
We are working with Him but He didn’t just leave us to our own devices, He left us the Holy Spirit. And so we are caught up in the Love of the Father and the Son and we are members of the Body of Christ. This very idea: for me, there actually are no words to express my awe and amazement, and gratitude.
As some of you know, I wrote a book a while back, Drowning in Lemonade – Reflections of an Army Wife, and I would like to share some of that with you this morning that deals with the idea of receiving the grace and love of God.
I met Sister Salwatricze, who lives and works at the Divine Mercy shrine outside of Krakow, Poland, when she was the keynote speaker at our 2005 Fall MCCW Conference. Her words, every time she spoke during that conference, moved me deeply. She is truly blessed by God in her ability to explain Jesus’ Divine Mercy to people. Her words reached down into the recesses of the heart. It was an amazing experience.
To illustrate the magnificence of the Holy Spirit, the profound impact He can have on our lives, she described a painting. The painting is of a man holding up a small cup to catch the water that is a huge tidal wave about to fall upon him. I could see right away what she meant. That’s God’s grace. We get as much as we are open to accept. If we are not holding back, or holding out, or holding too tightly to the things that keep us from accepting all the grace God is offering each one of us, amazing things will happen. Exciting things, miraculous things.
The little cup will hold only a tiny portion of what is being offered to us by the Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t deny ourselves what the Lord is offering. If we desire it and allow it, we are engulfed: we are completely submerged in God’s grace. “Don’t be afraid!” Jesus says it – we should heed His instructions, “Don’t be afraid.” We should find His words comforting. You don’t know what will happen: but with faith and trust, whatever happens, it’s not by chance. Faith leads us into the unknown with courage and strength…knowing that God is with us through it all.
Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee, in his book,” I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux”, says we should pray ‘Jesus, I thank You for everything,” or, as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:20, we should be ‘giving thanks always for all things.’ If we are to be thankful for the trials and the tragedies as well as the joy, then this is just a restatement of ‘making lemonade out of lemons’.
The ‘lemons’ are those negative experiences: and if we accept them and praise God in spite of them and continue to thank Him for everything, we have just prepared the lemonade. And we are like the person in Sister Salwatricze’s painting, about to be swept away into the giant wave of God’s mercy and grace. If the small cup is put aside, we allow God’s Will to be done – ‘cover me in Your mercy and grace,’ ‘Your Will, which I cannot begin to comprehend, should cover me. I want to drown in the things You want to give me. For ultimately, these are only good things, every good thing.’
To thank God for everything at all times, regardless of the situation, is to abandon yourself to His Will and trust that His only concern is for you. It’s not the physical you, it’s the interior you – the soul and spirit – that He loves and wants with Him in eternity.
‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me yet: not as I will, but as You will.’ – Jesus (Matthew 26:39)
‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ – St. Faustina, at Jesus’ direction
‘Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say rejoice!’ – St. Paul, by God’s inspiration
‘When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!’ – Author unknown
And then the negative connotation of ‘drowning’ (in lemonade) becomes an incredibly inviting desire to immerse yourself in the ocean of God’s mercy, allowing Him to do what’s needed for your benefit. You’re overwhelmed by His grace, inundated, engulfed in it: the grace that’s there in the suffering is Jesus. Reflect on Jesus’ suffering. Remember the hardships and troubles that Jesus had to experience. Unite your suffering, your cross, with His. It will benefit others, too. Because the sweet outcome, the resurrection and defeat of death, is worth it all for Him. Try to thank God in your trials.
‘Lord, thank You for everything.’ And if you say it sometimes and you don’t really mean it, you will.
I’ve always got a story for my stories and one of those has to do with Psalm 27 excerpted here, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? Wait for the Lord, take courage (and) be stouthearted and wait for the Lord!” When God gave me the title for the talk that this blog post is based on, over the next few months I started to find, in Scripture and in books, and all over the place, quotes about trust. This doesn’t even surprise me anymore. I just smile as I thank God silently.
I, sadly, attend many memorial services and I have for a very long time. This is mostly because of my husband’s jobs, and now the deaths are not always due to combat, but there are tragic accidents and terrible suicides. One thing we never prepared for as my husband took the last couple of jobs on U.S. based Army posts, were the number of memorial services we would still attend. Initially, some were KIA deaths, but it’s become much more than we’d expected for lots of other reasons. The Psalm most often read at memorials and printed on the back of the programs is the 23rd Psalm, and rightly so; it is comforting and familiar, even to non-Church goers, which is many in these services. But one day, shortly after I’d chosen the title for my conference talk, I attended a memorial service and the Psalm read and printed on the back of the program was the 27th Psalm: the one I shared a portion of today.
And it is so perfect, because, of course, it is all about trust in God. When I began to put the talk together, I looked up the quote in my Bible and the heading above the actual text of the Psalm was: “Trust in God”…I smiled again. Then, when I saw my notes for this talk, I had scrawled, in a moment of inspiration between 20 things I had to do one day, “quote from book”…I was looking for a quote about willing hearts, because I share that thought with people so often, but when I opened my book to start looking for that quote, I had marked a page with Psalm 27 excerpted at the end. I had last opened that exact book when in Carlisle PA for a talk in early March of ‘14. And I had not even read from that page in the book. I did not purposefully mark that page. I did not intend to read those words, but that, I believe, is what God wanted me to share. That’s why He marked the page.
I probably sound crazy to some people, but I do believe that God is communicating with us all -all the time, but most of us aren’t paying attention. I try to pay attention, though I am not always successful. Something else I share a lot with people is, ‘if you ask God a question, expect an answer.’ I am always expecting an answer. And so I hear Him. I know many of you do, too.
I’ve been re-reading Brother Lawrence’s book, “the practice of the presence of God”. Brother Lawrence was a humble monk who lived in the 17th century. Like so many humble saints, his faith long outlives and outshines his earthly existence. And that is great with him, I’m sure. I wrote in Drowning in Lemonade about how I don’t know where my thoughts end and my prayers begin anymore. And so I understand a little bit of what Brother Lawrence writes about in his letters. But not all, and I SO want to! He says, among other things, “Offer your heart to (God) at every moment. Don’t restrict your love of Him with rules or special devotions. Go out in faith, with love and humility.” Not that special devotions and proscriptions don’t have their place, but if you are so busy trying to get that Divine Mercy chaplet in at precisely 3 in the afternoon and so you miss helping a sick friend, or one who really needs you to pick up her kid from school at that time, or something like that. And you say, ‘oh, I’m sorry, I would love to help you but I have to pray my chaplet.’ That’s the kind of stuff Brother Lawrence is advising against.
It’s a very short book, and simply written, but there is so much there, I am still re-reading it months later. I want to absorb it and practice the presence of God as he does. My favorite thing he said, which is saying something because I love lots of what he says, is “I am doing now what I will do for all eternity. I am blessing God, praising Him, adoring Him, and loving Him with all my heart.” That’s what I want to do. That’s what we all desire, isn’t it? I talk about how you can pray anywhere, at any time in the book. Here’s a poem about that:
I could spend all my days
Praising You –
In song, with words.
But what about their homework?
And the game?
I could spend all my days
Praising You –
On my knees, hands raised.
But instead, I’m on my knees
Scrubbing a stain out of the rug.
I could spend all my days
Praising You –
In fellowship with other believers.
But then I’d miss
The “fascinating” monologue
From the old woman in the bank line
Who tells me about her children
Who never call.
I could spend all my days
Praising you –
And I do.
You are there in the lullaby
I sing to the drowsy child.
You are there when I’m on my knees
Picking up the little one
With upraised arms.
You are there wherever there’s
A lonely soul, just as surely
As You’re there in the overwhelming
Church at Christmas.
I can praise You with my life
If I remember You are there –
And I call upon Your Name
In thanksgiving and in awe –
That You are always there.