God Is Good

Hearts, hands, Sunset, Love, God

My father had open heart surgery this past Monday because of blocked coronary arteries.  He had a septuple bypass – I didn’t even know one could have that many!  We were all very surprised that he needed this and also very grateful that he had never had a heart attack.  He works so hard and with his circulatory system the way it was… I believe that God was definitely watching over him.  The surgeons were very confident that he would get through the surgery well and that it would be successful because he is in good shape, not overweight, doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke.  Still… It was major surgery and we know that things can happen…

Thankfully, he did get through the surgery well and, so far, he is recovering successfully.  Someone told me that there are so many people praying for a good result for him that God wouldn’t dare to disappoint them.  But, I don’t think it really works that way.  First of all, God is pretty daring.  Second of all, God’s will is God’s will.  We know that God hears all prayers and answers all of the prayers of the faithful.  What that answer is, however, is hidden in the mind of God until it is revealed.  And it isn’t always the answer that had been sought. Continue reading

Pauses

Tomorrow, my father is undergoing cardiac catheterization.  He’s almost 69 and this procedure is fairly routine, but… This is one of those moments that gives us pause as human beings.  It can cause us to grow in appreciation, tenderness, forgiveness, and the realization of the fragility of life.  I, as a daughter, love my father and, naturally, am saddened to see him age and feel deep sorrow and dread when I think about his mortality.  And, for me, personally, unique as I am and my life is, this pause is especially… scary.

I am so completely dependent upon other people for my survival.  As many of you know, I can’t even put food in my own mouth, I can barely move anything in my body… except my mouth (as in talking a lot, as others will confirm.)  My parents have taken care of me for all of my 41+ years of life.  I am utterly grateful for them, for their self-sacrifice and loving generosity.  I truly don’t deserve it.  But, full of great love as they are, they don’t do it because I deserve it – they do it because they love.

My father has always been a hands-on father.  My mother worked at home in the hairdressing shop that we had in our basement, so, as soon as the father came home from work, he took over the responsibility of caring for us.  He always gave my sister and me our bath, changed our diapers if needed, and got us ready for bed.  And he always played with us during this time, too!  And if we were sick, though we (and he) turned to our mother for advice and direction, it was our dad that we like to have at the bedside to soothe us.  As I grew more dependent, because of my progressive motor neuron disease, my father would get up for me in the middle of the night to readjust my position or to get me whatever I needed.  My sister grew into independence – but I did not.  So his care for me continued – continues.

Again, the procedure he is undergoing is routine and, truly, a blessing.  I am thankful that they are going to be able to do this  in order to keep him healthy.   Sure, something could happen, a mistake or bad reaction, just as something can happen to him or my mother whenever they get in the car to drive somewhere.   As I get older, I find myself more and more aware of this as I am becoming more and more sensitive to the fragility of life.  Not my own, interestingly, for I have always been aware of the fragility of my own health and have been facing my own mortality since I was 13 years old.   And I have asked God to let me live for a long, long time.   As my mother has said, it isn’t natural for parents to have to bury their child.  It is more natural for a child to bury a parent.   But, I will say, that I don’t have any desire to outlive my parents.   None at all.

Of course, I can’t control this, and I place it in God’s hands willingly and gladly, for I trust God’s will.   Sometimes the thought of what God’s will might be scares me – terrifies me.   But, in the end, as long as what ever happens in the course of these next years or decades is truly God’s Positive Will, then I will do my very best to see the blessings within it.    At least, that is my true intention.  To do everything that I can to be the person that He created me to be.   After all,  I belong to God, I always have and always will.  So, too, my parents belong to God, as do all of my loved ones.   No one loves my dad more than God does.   Not even me.   And, so, I pray that God will keep him safe from harm,  from negligence, accident, or malice,  and give him good health and well-being in mind, body, heart, and soul.    And that we not be put to the test!

May God grant us all the length and strength of years to do His Holy Will.   And, in these little pauses of our lives, may we be ever grateful for the gift of life –  and the awesome gift of love.   I thank You, God, for my dad and for the blessings of good medicine!

© 2015 Christina Chase

Righteous Not Riotous

There are so many miscommunications in the course of a normal day. Just small, trivial things and, yet, they can be so very frustrating. I don’t know how many times I have rolled my eyes or grit my teeth in aggravation. And then there are the habits of the people with whom I live – the simple, normal things that they do every day… over and over… inexhaustibly… things that can just plain annoy and irritate me to no end.

And then I wonder why people riot in the streets against real injustice…?

I in no way support or condone the recent actions of the rioters in Baltimore – they were being meaninglessly destructive, violent, and, well, stupid. There is no cause for such ridiculousness. Whatever cause they think that they were acting out for was completely lost and obliterated amongst their rioting. They were being punks and should be ashamed of their actions.

And, yet… When I am frustrated, irritated, and angry, do I not envision violence in my mind? Do I not want to hurt people with my words, slam my hand against the wall, or just break something? I hold back, I don’t do these things – like most human beings. But, there is an instinct within me, within all of us, to react violently, to wreck something when we are feeling wrecked, to basically freak out when our emotions overwhelm us. Usually, however, we don’t fall apart and descend into madness, into rash rioting, looting, arson, and assault. We may imagine that it would be a pleasurable release to throw a brick through a window or to grab and steal something that we want just because we want it – but we know better. We, if we are not mentally ill, know that that temporary release, that temporary and mad pleasure, will only lead to a mess that needs to be cleaned up, broken relationships that need to be healed, wildernesses that will need to be escaped – consequences that will demand to be met. And, so, we control ourselves, with true courage and strength, we remember who we are and we do not let ourselves disappear into chaos.

The brave person of consequence is the one who will never have to run away from the consequences of his or her actions – because that person has done nothing shameful. That person thinks before acting. Those who are peacefully protesting in Baltimore for justice and a decisive end to police brutality, those who are standing up for what is right, for positive and concrete change, appealing to human reason and compassion boldly, with no hesitation – they are heroic. For, unlike the morally and spiritually weak person, the truly strong person chooses love instead of hate, chooses building up instead of destroying, chooses correction and true justice that makes things better – instead of vengeance and violence that only makes things worse.

In my own simple life, I know that it is hope that will allow me to be the better person – the strong and brave person that I am created to be.

And from where comes this hope?

So many people are aimless and hopeless. There are far too many news stories of young people committing random acts of violence. Far too many police officers caught on camera being vicious and brutal, abusing their power to the point of killing. And there are far too many cell phone videos of groups of teenagers whooping it up as a mob of them beats up a defenseless person. What is wrong here??? What I ask is – where is the mercy?

Perhaps… Where mercy lacks, hope is already absent.

Every person on earth wants to belong – that’s because God made us and we belong to God. To belong to a mob of brutality can never satisfy that desire… for our hearts are restless until they take rest in God’s love. Lives of mere pleasure and gain are easily devastated and lost – because they are empty without the core of being, without God… for true joy can only come in fulfilling our eternally intended destiny. It seems like no one believes this anymore, even leaders in our nation don’t want to hear this kind of talk … so we need to testify.

If young people knew – and if we could all remember – that we are of divine origin, lovingly brought into being, not by creatures or happenstance, but by the Infinite Power that is the Creator of the universe entire…. If children and young adults knew – and if we could all remember – that we belong intimately to the Creator and Master of the universe, to whom we can never be lost and by whom we will never be abandoned…. If those wandering in darkness knew – and if we who have seen the light could remember – that we each have an eternal destiny that is unique and exquisitely particular for each of us as we are known by our Maker, who lovingly brings us into being for love…. If every human being knew that, no matter what happens in life, no one dies in vain – and no one lives in vain – as long as our souls remain rooted in Christ, in rightness, and, when wounded, we bind others’ wounds with love… then the hopeless would have hope, and the wayward would have direction, and the unloved would know love.

Naïve and overly optimistic? Maybe. But, how hard do you work in helping juvenile delinquents know that they are infinitely and intimately loved?

Okay, I didn’t mean to make you feel guilty with that question… well… maybe I did. But, if we, believers, don’t go out and tell people the truth, who will? I know that I need (as most of us need) to more bravely and consistently act on my beliefs – to be Christ to others and, so, bring others to Christ. And faithfully pray. We too often feel that we are powerless to change anything and we succumb to that powerlessness… and the stress of that only makes the descent into chaos worse – and more imminent. So, let’s remember our faith, our hope, our love, and let’s change the conversation.

Practical approach in my everyday life: I will think of the terrible waste that is the rioting in Baltimore whenever a small injustice – even of conversation, any kind of he said/she said – befalls me or someone that I know. When I am hurt or upset, I will think of how easy it is to descend into anger and destruction – and I will remember that I am made for more. Summoning my courage and my strength, I will remember that I am rooted in Christ and I will reflect mercifully upon the foibles of being human. I will remember God’s mercy. I will forgive myself and others. And I will overcome. I will lovingly forgive my adversaries, even the ones of a trivial moment, and I will put my energy and effort into building respectful relationships and joint works for the good of humankind, even just the work of deciding what’s for dinner – all through Christ the Lord.

May we all overcome. No matter how long it takes or how much it hurts, the truth of Life as Love will set us free.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Ephemeral

Sometimes, I feel so small. The world is big and I am tiny, a mote at the mercy of the rough winds around me. I can’t control what will happen next. Mere chaff in a storm, hollowed and wanting, with no power of my own to stay. I could just blow away, far from you.

Sometimes, I feel too thin. Little and brittle, the strands of life, spun glass drawn out too long. Fine filament made for a light that burns so bright… using up its thread of time, then fades away. Nothing here can stay.

I seek hands to grab, muscles press into my flesh and hold me close to beating heart, strong, so that my heart may keep beating, too. But, no creature can hold onto me for long. For, ultimately, this isn’t where I belong.

The veil between the me of here and the me of there is but a sigh, a wisp of cloud – just a little slip, a split-second unretainable, and I’m through.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Descended to the Dead

underwater

Have you ever submerged yourself under water, like a lake or a pool, and gone down, down, down? The light, if visible, is far-off and distorted, while all around you, enshrouding you, is a seductive, numbing kind of darkness. There’s an oblivious kind of quiet down there and you would stay below. But, within you is the instinct to rise.

You are made to rise – from the pool, the grudge, the self-pity, the addiction…. You are made to rise up, to see clearly, to breathe freely – you are made for the Light.

But, what if your ability to rise is deadened by self-abuse – by sin? Then, all that is good within you will drown. And your soul will die. It is for this reason that Jesus sacrificed himself on the Cross – he descended to the dead so that he may always be with you, so that he may always be with you even in the deepest, darkest abyss. Christ Jesus is there and stretches out his hand, and parts the drowning waters. You need only to reach out for his mercy and he will take hold of you – and raise you up to the land of the living, to the Light.

© 2015 Christina Chase

This concludes a trio of short reflections for the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Blessed and Joyous Easter, everyone!

Of Your Fire

This is a poem I wrote within an hour (as part of my Bible Burst writing project) inspired by a randomly received piece of Scripture and based on my own personal experience as a fragile human being.  I have done this.  And I am still haunted by the ghosts at times, and still feel the pain of the scars – but, by the grace of God, I’m being healed…

Of Your Fire.

Where Do I Live? (Heart Question 2)

When someone asks us where we live, we think of our homes.  I’ve lived in the same house for my whole life (so far).  The reason that I still live with my parents is that my genetic defect has progressively weakened my body so that I need somebody to help me with every daily activity.  (I share this, not to elicit pity or praise – I don’t want either – but to consider these questions honestly.  I am a real person writing this, as you are a real person reading this, and we all live in different circumstances although we are all human.)  No longer can I put food in my mouth or pull the covers up at night when I’m cold – so where I live is determined by my dependency.  But this just puts a clearer focus upon everything that is important in a home – I take nothing for granted.  I know more than survival, I know living.  Where I live, I, like anyone who is grateful to have a home, am sheltered, nourished, welcomed, loved – I love this place where I live as my beautiful home.

And I don’t just mean the house.  More than an address to which snail mail can be sent (for this can change upon moving) and more than the location of my bed and refrigerator (for it’s possible to have more than one of those) home, by the most practical and deepest definition, is where I belong.  As shelter, home should never be underappreciated, for there are far too many people who live, day and night, unsheltered from the cold, rain and snow.  As a place of sleep and sustenance, home is never insignificant, because rest and nourishment are necessary to life.  Home as a place of safety and comfort is also never to be undervalued – for it’s like a sanctuary and there are far too many people for whom the place where they live is also the place where they are abused.  It is in this understanding of shelter, sustenance and sanctuary that home as “the place where I belong” takes on substance.

So… Where is the place where I belong?  Is it in this particular house?  No, because that can change.  Is it with these particular people whom I love and who love me?  Well, that can change, too, most sorrowfully, as the lives of my loved ones aren’t permanent – so, no.  In asking the ageless questions, I’m not seeking changeable answers.  I’m questing for the immutable, the changeless answers that, therefore, completely answer the question for all times – for all time….

Pliny the Elder is credited with saying that home is where the heart is.  This has generally been accepted as a good definition of home and I like it, too.  But… Where is my heart?  I’m pretty sure Pliny didn’t mean that my home is my rib cage.  Christ tells us, “Where your treasure lies, there is your heart.”  Now, that’s interesting… Where is my treasure?  I tend to treasure temporal things – beautiful objects, the kind, physical presence of people.  If I am basing my definition of home on the people and things that I love (declaring this to be where my heart is) then my definition is temporary.  To find the eternal answer, I need to think of things eternal… things divine.

I’ve often heard it said that my true home, my eternal home, is Heaven.  But, I rejected this answer because I thought that it meant I could only do my true living after I was dead.  And what kind of life would that be?  I was, after all, created by God to be here, even if temporarily.  However, I’m beginning to understand that, if Heaven is my eternal home, then, because eternity has no beginning and no end, Heaven is here, now – not just hereafter.  And that understanding changes everything.

If I spend all of my time and effort concerned about what is of the world – having physical comfort, prestige, the praise of people, the pleasure of things – then this is where I live: my home is transitory, fickle, fleeting, finite.  If, rather, I spend my time and effort concerned about what is divine – being thankful, generous, compassionate, forgiving – then this is where I live: my home is loving, strong, enduring, infinite.  As Christ tells us in the Gospels, some people build their houses on shifting sand, while others build upon solid rock.  And what is more unshifting than eternity?  What is more eternal than God?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this understanding of the heart:

“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw.’”

No matter what location I am at, no matter what structure I am in, no matter, even, by what people I am surrounded, there is one place that is always and everywhere home.  This is my inner sanctuary, the hidden dwelling place where God abides with me and I abide with God.  In solitude and away from the distraction of things, I have an impenetrably deep sense of belonging.  This is where I am, for I am a child of God and my home is with Him who created and sustains me, who loves me infinitely and intimately.

There are moments in my life, moments that can’t really be marked by time or in space, when I am deeply aware that I am home.  This is when I withdraw into my heart and find the Presence of God waiting for me there, welcoming me, giving me shelter, rest, sustenance, belonging and identity – everything home should be.  As in the song of Hosea, God says, “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.”  I come home in every act of conversion while I live and breathe upon the earth, returning to my true self as God’s child, like the prodigal son returning to his father.  Restored through my repentance and Christ’s self giving forgiveness in order to live with, for, and in God, here and now, I already dwell within the embrace of God – and I will forever dwell in God’s pure, blissful Presence, eternally loved in my eternal home.

That’s where I’m at.

 

I’ll continue exploring the ageless questions – How do I decide, What is truth, Where is God.  For now, as I take up an online course in theology, I’ll be posting other questions and answers, sharing other thoughts and wonderings…

© 2014 Christina Chase