Mama

My mother is having surgery today.  She needs to have a full tear in her rotator cuff repaired – a surgery that is not uncommon.  But, I admit… I’m still worried.

Yes, I’m a bit of a worrier, what can I say?

Of course, I hope and pray that all will go well – that God will guide the hands and minds of the surgeon and all who are involved, according to His Perfect Will.  And I do trust in God’s goodness.  (All prayers are welcome!)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little of my mother with you.

So much more to me than a mother is she, although a mother is beyond good and beautiful, a wonderful wonder to be…

I’ve always been disabled, but mothers are supposed to take care of their children.  Now that I am an adult with great dependence and need, my mother is still my caregiver – even though, through the years, her own physical abilities have declined and racked her body beyond her age.  Being a hard worker, selfless, and stubborn, she pushes through pain and weakness, shuffling, bent over, dragging herself to do what she feels needs to be done.  As a woman, she is a marvel.  As a mother, she is a treasure.  And, as a human being, she is my friend, one of my favorite people in the world.

Hoping that this doesn’t sound too sacrilegious, I was thinking the other day of how my words to describe my mother are many of the same words that I use to describe Christ.

She is my rock.  Not only because she is tough, but also because her gifts and talents are constants, reliable, always there when I need them.  She is the firm foundation of our family.  No matter what the many things that assail her, if I really need her, she finds a way.

She is my refuge.  Everyone who has ever come to our house knows that my mother’s home is a true home, not only for her family, but for everyone invited, who all feel comfortable and lavishly pampered in a house of love.

She is my light.  When my mother is happy, everything is easy, music and laughter fill the house, and we deliciously delight in each other’s company.  Even when she isn’t happy, if I have a small decision to make, if I’m not quite sure how to do something or move forward, my mother is the one to whom I turn.  Her practical wisdom is unmatched (even if she doesn’t always take her own advice!)

As we are preparing for Christmas (my mother’s favorite time of year) these thoughts about my own mother make me think about Christ’s relationship with his.  Aren’t many of the things that I said about my mom true about many good mothers?  Of course, the mother of Jesus is exceptional – there is no denying that.  Mystery of Mysteries, God chose her to be His own mother.  How he must have loved her!  But… my mother is exceptional, too.  As disabled as her body is, she pushes through her pain and weakness and cares for me (and I so don’t deserve it – no arguing.)  And she cares for others with love and joy, with a selfless generosity that goes beyond being a “good” mom or even a great one.  And… mystery of mysteries, God chose her to be my mother.

I thank You, my Lord and my God, for the amazing person whom I am honored and privileged to call, “Mama”!  Watch over her and take good care of her, please, helping her to recover fully and well, with as little pain as possible.

© 2017 Christina Chase

Radically Give Thanks in All Things

Thanksgiving, Bible quotes,

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”[1]

You know that Thanksgiving tradition of going around the dinner table asking each person for what he or she is most thankful?  One easy way for me to respond would be to say, “I’m thankful for my family.”  Simple and, perhaps, cliché – yet, this gratitude is so profoundly, undeniably, and unshakably true that I do feel compelled to say it aloud whenever situations allow.  May I write out right now: Thank You, God, for the awesome blessing of my family and friends!!!

Yes.  It is good to express gratitude out loud for good people and genuinely praise God for them.  But…

Radical Thanks

In the Bible verse that I quoted from St. Paul, it doesn’t say to give thanks for the nice things in your life.  It says to give thanks in all circumstances.  And this calls to my mind the words of Jesus, who reminded us that it is easy to love the people who love us – but what about the people who hate us?  Christ calls us to cast into the deep, to not be bound to what comes naturally to us as creatures of the flesh, but to transcend instinct and do what is supernatural, what is divine, responding in accordance to the spirit within us.

As we, then, are radically called to love our enemies, we are also radically called to give thanks in all circumstances.  Yup, all of them.  If we are in the midst of an unjust situation, then we are called to be thankful for the opportunity to practice virtue, to right a wrong, and to share God’s compassion.  If we are in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, then we are called to be thankful for having known and loved this precious person, who is thankfully not lost, but alive in Christ for all eternity.

This gratitude doesn’t mean that we are called to be complacent.  We pray for the courage to change the things that we can… but we also pray for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.

One Big Thing That I Cannot Change

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Scripture Quotes on the Mind

Tree, earth, light, Creation

I left you (last week) with this thought:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:2

I wondered how this might be the key to letting God love me – and the key, in so receiving Real Love, to authentically loving myself and others in my ultimate joy.  So… let me think… Continue reading

Scripture Quotes from the Heart

I’ve been trying to find a biblical quote to put on the wall of my bedroom.  In researching passages (focusing on the heart) I decided to share a few here with some reflections.  (This idea is inspired, in part, by my friend’s “Scription” at DonnaMaria.org.)

Heart, windowpane, cross

From Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

 

What do you treasure?

Would do you hold most dear?

For me, my treasure is my family.  According to this Scripture quote, therefore, I think that means that my heart, the core of who I am, is with my family.  My identity and my very being is intertwined with loving them and being loved by them in our interactions, our relationships.  If what I treasured was wealth or fame, then I would be caught up in money, possessions, and other people’s opinions, linking up my identity with them.  And I can see how that wouldn’t be good.  Either way, however… I see that I would be treasuring finite things. Continue reading

Art of My Heart: The Annunciation

Perhaps you, like I, have looked upon many artistic depictions of biblical scenes and have been left wanting.  Jesus’s hair is way too long and pretty, everyone’s garments are far too pink and blue, the buildings and courtyards are inordinately clean, etc., etc.  I’ve written on this subject before.  Loving beauty and truth, I want to be both aesthetically pleased and spiritually impacted.  Good religious art should cause me to be powerfully moved by the beauty and meaning of the piece, powerfully taken back to the moment depicted.  In other words, I want to be spiritually transported by the aesthetic image to feel myself present at a moment when Heaven touched Earth.

And so much art just doesn’t get that done for me.

There are exceptions, of course, and I have reflected on them from time to time in this blog.  One exceptional work of art has recently been purchased by me (in the form of a print bought through AllPosters.com) to hang on my bedroom wall.  (My awesome parents are helping me to mount and secure it as I write this.  So many blessings for which to be thankful!)

It’s a depiction of the Annunciation by Henry O. Tanner.

Before I show it to you, if you aren’t familiar with it already, a little on the traditional depictions of the Annunciation.  I do appreciate them, typically with symbolic touches, usually with the winged angel kneeling before the Virgin Mary, who looks humble, pious, and open to what she is hearing.  The work of Fra Angelico comes to mind:

Annunciation, Fra Angelico

(Check out a wonderfully informative video on this work and other frescoes by clicking HERE.)

But, the angel, Gabriel, is as usual, lavishly and heavily garbed and Mary is so very calm and serene.  And, for some reason, this doesn’t strike my heart.  In Fra Angelico’s work, the pair look like they are in some Italian portico, in others,, young Mary has a greatly receding hairline.  I am willing to look beyond the contemporary “fashion” details that an artist will add in keeping with his time – if, and only if, I am taken in by a look in the face, a gesture of a hand, a radiant light….  Too often, however, details not contemporary to Scripture get in the way of the heart of the matter.  And, so, the works don’t find their way to my heart.

The 1898 work by Henry Ossawa Tanner is the exception.  In it, Mary is real, vibrant in her attentiveness, in what seems a lively curiosity, as well as serenely open and willing.  She is on the edge of something, almost vibrating, yet perfectly still.  The Angel Gabriel is, well… alive, aflame, pure light, marvelously and wondrously a powerful messenger from God.  Now, that is an angel!

Without further ado, then, I present to you the moment when the Angel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary and told her that she was to conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit…

Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner

This man-made painting of the moment when the Divine pierced the temporal veil and awaited a young woman’s full acceptance and embrace of faith, embrace of God’s salvation… Well, this work of art does find my heart, deep within, striking the chord of truth and beauty that only a sublime and subtle glimpse of the Divine can.

Yes.

I say with Mary, Yes.

Read my  depiction of the Annunciation in words by reading my posts: A Stranger Appears in the Making of the Bread  and In the Cloud of Glory a Portal Opens

© 2017 Christina Chase

 

Favorite Things: Jesus Images

The Christian faith, especially in the Catholic Church, offers rich imagery for believers to assist in their worship.  After all, God created us with five physical senses and desires us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Some images, however, fall flat for me, or are too pink-and-blue pretty.  For example, I seriously doubt that Jesus had blond highlights.

Since they say that a picture is worth 1000 words, in this post I’m sharing some of my favorite images to keep me mindful of my Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Sacred Heart of Jesus stained-glass

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Houston, Texas; photo by MaryLea

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On Redemptive Suffering

Christina Chase

A friend told me fairly recently that she thinks of me when she reads Colossians 1:24.

Yes, I admit, I had to look it up…

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…”.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with this one, as well as its association with redemptive suffering.  But… I can’t say that I understand it.  Because I don’t.  I don’t really get the concept of redemptive suffering… but, I am trying.

My mother is a lifelong Catholic and, so, I do know about “offering it up”.  That is, she has told me to simply offer up my day and all of my pains and sufferings to God, suggesting to do this with a simple prayer first thing in the morning.  Okay.  I didn’t do that when I was younger, but, after my long spiritual journey and upon rediscovering Christ (perhaps, more accurately, upon discovering him for the first time) I wanted to give it a go.  And I have been.  But… I still don’t get it.

What Is Lacking in Christ?

Sometime during this year’s adventure in health, I thought again about this enigmatic phrase from Sacred Scripture, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” and a new thought was given to me.  Well, a new angle or perspective…

Cross

Jesus took on the sufferings of humankind with his sacrifice upon the Cross.  He was fully united with us in our pain, suffering with us.  But (and please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, I do not mean it to be, and if I am speaking incorrectly of Church teaching, please correct me) Jesus was one human, with one human body.  He could not, in his one human lifetime, suffer every suffering that is known to humankind.

There are billions of ways to suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered his particular suffering and, being fully divine as well as fully human, in his particular suffering he took on all of suffering – but… he did not himself physically suffer leprosy, or lifelong disability, or cancer, or, of course, menstrual pains and the pain of childbirth.  We do that as individuals.  However (and this is a big however) when we offer these trials and sufferings of ours up to God, when we seek to suffer them in union with Jesus on the Cross, then Jesus was and is able (the Mystery of the Eternal Now) to suffer them himself up there, once and for all, for the Salvation of the World.

Why Am I “Offering It up”?

Does this make any sense?  Well, not completely, but that’s partly because it’s a Mystery.  There are some things in this life that we can never understand because we are limited.  Jesus asks us to offer our sufferings up to him so that he may unite them with his Sacrifice on the Cross for redemption.  He suffers everything with us and for us when we turn to him in our sorrows and needs and, thus, saves humankind.

So, I have come a tiny bit closer to understanding “offering it up” and the reason that my friend thinks of me when hearing St. Paul’s words.  It is, after all, quite obvious, upon looking at me, that I suffer in my body.  And also rather obvious, upon knowing me, that I rejoice in being alive – if not exactly in my sufferings.  (I’m definitely not a saint yet!)

I don’t know what sufferings await me in the future – of course, no one does – but mine were feeling palpably close and real when I came to this understanding.  When I was thinking about offering it up during my cancer scare, Carrie Underwood’s song would come into my head: “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I don’t really know the words of the song or what it is about, but the sentiment of wanting God to take control and take over – because I know that I can’t do it on my own – I get… And I’m hoping that this is part of “offering it up”, too….  Yes.  It is.  For I am not alone.  None of us are.  And it’s good to know that.

Why Redemption through Suffering?

All of this does beg the question, however – “Why redemption through suffering?”  What is so good about pain that it has eternal benefit?  I’m sure there are many theologians that have tackled this question, but I’m just going to answer with this:

Why are lush, green islands dependent upon volcanic eruptions?  Why do the bodies of furry creatures need to decompose upon the forest floor and, thus, feed the forest?  Why rain?  Why childbirth to bring new life?

This is life, this is how this life works.  I don’t know precisely why because I didn’t create it.  But, I do trust the Creator and I am willing (God, help me) to live fully and love deeply this terribly beautiful life that He has given to me.  There are people who are suffering so much worse than I am, so much worse than I ever can.  My heart goes out to them… Can you imagine how much more so with Jesus?  His heart not only goes out to me, it is beating for me, it is being pierced for me.  For you.  I am not alone.  You are not alone.

May I truly offer my sufferings up to Christ for the Glory of God, for the Kingdom and the Salvation of Souls.

So mysterious… So fleeting this life… So lovely….  Please help us, our Lord and God…

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo credits:

  1. At the Altar, © 2017 Dan Chase
  2. Aaron Burden, free to use through Unsplash.com

Joy of Heaven

When I was going through my cancer scare, a friend of mine asked me to pray for her friend who had just been told that his leukemia was terminal.  And I didn’t know what to pray.  The thought of my own dying was, I think, still to close to the matter.  If I were, indeed, terminal, I thought, for what would I pray?  For what would I want others to pray?

After heading out of church one Sunday with a sudden, bright knowledge that I was healed, I began to understand what was important about last rites and what was needed in all of our prayers for the dying.  It isn’t enough to tidy things up before one dies and then leave everything to God’s mercy.  The part about leaving everything in God’s merciful hands is certainly sufficient, but the beautiful healing in that is not only the rightness of it and the sense of peace that it can bring – but also the joy.

Sky, clouds, Revelation

Joyful Hope

What will it be like to be dead?  Does this question seem dark and morbid to you, raising up fear?  It does a little to me, but, perhaps that is instinctive, since it goes against nature to want to experience being dead.  However, as people of faith, it is not a scary question to ask.  For, we do not believe that death is the end of our lives.  Our bodies will no longer be able to hold onto life, will die and decay back into the earth – but the life that is let go continues.  Our souls, which had animated our bodies, are of spirit and therefore they are immortal and cannot die.  So… what happens after our lungs stop breathing, our hearts stop beating, and our brains stop firing signals?  What will life be like then? Continue reading

The Cancer Question and Being Wary of Hope

August 9th is nearing.  And that’s when I’m supposed to find out whether or not I have cancer.

flowers, forests, rotting log, rhododendron

Decay and Flowers, Such Is Life

Statistically, I probably don’t, since the kind of cancer that we’re talking about is rare.  Of women that have uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) only about 1 in 1000 become cancerous (lieomyosarcoma).  Even so, I am rather a rare individual, already living with a debilitating motor neuron disease that only affects about 1 in 6000.  That and ultrasound imaging that shows rapid growth of the outer fibroids but not the inner one leave me with no feeling of assurance.

On my optimistic days (which far outnumber the pessimistic ones) I have confidence in the mercy of God and the reality of miracles.  Whether it started as cancer or not, I believe that God can cure it.  On those days when I feel like I probably do have cancer, it’s simply an acknowledgment that we all have to die of something… God works in mysterious ways and enables all suffering to work for the good in His Masterpiece, the big picture.

I am too small to see the big picture.  Right now, God knows what is happening inside of my body and what is best for me and the people I love.  I don’t.

Having said all of that, I can see something inside of me, a truth about my particular personality, that is making this waiting period a little more difficult. Continue reading

Unknowing Worship

You have heard scientists extol the wonders of the cosmos, passionate about the laws of physics and discovered workings of bodies and the universe.  You have seen artists, brilliant in color, line, and texture, draw out the beauty of the natural world and the extraordinary in the ordinary.  You have watched dancers, and athletes, too, move in rhythm, strength, and agility with the fine mastery of muscle and nerve in the poetry of motion.

And, perhaps, none of these people ever speak about God.

But… don’t they?

They may be atheists, agnostics, or secular humanists, but their passion, brilliance, athleticism, and artistry are rooted in the Divine.  God is the Divine Maker, Shaper, and Mover… do they not participate in the divine life whenever they discover, express, and leap?

The Gospel, the Good News of God’s personal love and merciful gift, is written in words.  But, it is received, love, and lived in and through the heart.  Sometimes, the heart knows what the mind does not.

cross, night sky, wonder

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