A Prayer before Eating

This is the famous 1918 photograph by Eric Enstrom called “Grace”.

 grace by Enstrom framed

It has hung in the dining room of my parents’ house since before I was born. Interestingly, although my mother was raised by a devout family in a very religious village, her family never said “grace” – a prayer said before eating. It’s hard to say whether or not my father’s family did… probably they didn’t, except, I would guess, on holidays and, then, probably only at his aunt or older sister’s promptings. This helps to explain why my parents never said a prayer at mealtime when they were married. Not until my older sister changed things. Continue reading

Favorite Things: Quotes from Saint Therese

It’s a human inclination to want to be famous, wealthy, or influential in some grand way. I want to be a successful author, with big dreams of making bestseller lists and overcoming my severe disability to support myself and my family. It may happen, God only knows.  But, it won’t start there.  The purpose for which God created me begins here and now, in this moment, as tiny and seemingly insignificant as this moment may be.

Our lives are made up of small moments. What we do in those small moments and how we do them determines how we live – how we live here and now, and how we live forever. Joy is in the loving of each moment of each day – not in amassing.

quote Saint Therese little things with love

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said it best. Because she lived it. She had big dreams Continue reading

5 Steps to Letting God Love You

Apparently, it’s common blogging knowledge that people like lists. Who knew? Bloggers are suggested to write posts like “Top 10 Famous…” or “5 Easy Ways to…”. Personally, I’m not much of a fan of a step-by-step approach to spirituality – but I can’t help but like the convenience of a how-to checklist. So, here’s mine, a kind of companion to last week’s post:

5 Steps to Letting God Love You

1.) Be open and honest. This may seem like two steps, but it’s really only one. If you really want to let God love you, so that you may become the person that you were created to be, then you must look up from the closed in darkness of your little life to honestly assess all around you. And within you. Being truthful is the most important step to letting God fully into your life, because God is Truth. Know the truth is that you are not in this life alone. There are people all around you in a great big world created by the Infinite/Eternal One. Be brave enough to open your little eyes and your little ears to truly see and hear.

2.) Be not afraid of your limitations. You are small, weak, and imperfect. This is a true fact that your open honesty should be able to perceive. There are some things that you simply cannot do. For example, I cannot walk. And there are some things in your life that you simply cannot change, like the mistakes of your past, the wrongs that have been done to you, etc.. Too many self-help guides to happiness want you to live “without limitations”. But there are some limits that are truly and inexorably LIMITS. There is no shame in this. Every person has limitations! Just being human comes with its own set. So, know yourself, and accept the fact that there are some things that you simply can’t change. It’s okay. This is part of humility. When you bravely acknowledge your littleness, you open yourself up to the greatness of God.

3.) Desire forgiveness. Since you can’t go back in time and undo the mistakes of your past, you need to accept them and forgive. Mistakes that others have made that impacted you also need to be accepted and those in error forgiven. Sins, too, must be honestly acknowledged. Be not afraid! Rather, repent of all of those times that you chose to be unloving, that you chose to close yourself off from God’s love, and ask God to forgive you. Desiring His forgiveness, you will certainly receive – then, forgive yourself. Knowing that God desires to forgive all, forgive those who have sinned against you. Without this step, there will be no love in your heart.

4.) Trust. Each step that you take requires bravery – know that God is right beside you, holding on to you. Trust that God’s love is the answer to every problem, the healing balm for every wound, the inspiration for, and safeguard of, every practical action that you need to take in order to become a fulfilled human being. Trust that the difficult, unchangeable things that come into your life can never, ever take you away from the goodness and joy of God’s love – unless you let them. Don’t let them. Instead, let go of your desire for control and let God take over. Let God love… forgive… heal… lead… through you. You are never alone!

5.) Be generous. Receiving God’s forgiveness, receiving God’s love, you must share it with others! True love can never be bottled up and kept to yourself, or it will become stagnant and poisonous. Rather, true love must flow. God is infinitely pouring His Divine love into you. When you are honestly and mercifully open enough to receive that love, then you will naturally and joyfully overflow with it, giving God’s love to all that you meet. This doesn’t simply mean that you will tell other people “God loves you.” Being generous requires much more than words. Give your whole self away and do not be afraid! You can never run out of true love. So, choose to generously love your fellow human beings – family and friends, neighbors and strangers, even the people that you don’t like very much. Be truthful and know that every person that you encounter is beloved by God, intimately and infinitely. Treat every person that way. Honor every person’s sanctity and eternal beauty – eternal beauty that is seen clearly by God if not by you.
clipart angry-smiley-01

Putting It into Practice

Let God love that irritating person through you. How, you may ask? Following the steps, like this:

+ Accept the truth that this person is sacred and eternally loved by God.

+ Note, not only the person’s shortcomings, but also, most importantly, your own.

+ Forgive that person for not understanding, for being angry, slow, lazy, ignorant, mean, impatient – for you know perfectly well that there will be many times when you will need someone to forgive you.

+ Now, trust that this situation is completely seen and known by God and that it is good for you, that it is a moment full of God’s flowing love – if you are open to it.

+ Smile and be generous with the love and wisdom that God has given to you, accepting, empathizing, forgiving, and believing in the goodness of the irritating person, being generous with your time, talents, efforts, goodness, and your unshakable joy from God….
clipart relieved-face

When this works out the way you want it to, be grateful. When this doesn’t work out the way you want it to, be grateful. God’s love is in this situation, no matter what. And you know that this is true because God made it happen – and, by the grace of God, you let it happen. You chose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit – you chose to let God love.

There. Now for me to live it …

© 2016 Christina Chase


You may also like:

 Who God Loves More  (last week’s post)

Mercy Is Joy or It Is Nothing

 Righteous Not Riotous

The Heavy Laden One

 Obedience Is Nothing without Love

 

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

The Heavy-Laden One

Who amongst us isn’t wounded?  Who amongst us isn’t crippled in some way?  Who amongst us doesn’t bear the scars of past hurt or the pain of present heartache?  To be a living human is to breathe in and out, to think with the coursing of blood, to weep and to laugh, to taste a little bit of decay with every pleasure’s sigh.

No one can be alive and stagnant.  There must be ebb and flow, the breaking and remolding of every day.  For we do not contain within ourselves a still liquid, but, rather, a flowing stream of infinite love that must be given and received, which wears down every hardness and washes away the places of softness – so that ever and more we may be full of living love.

Do not be afraid.  Thousands have gone before you and thousands more are following; you are not alone.  The One who made the way leads you and protects you on all sides – thus that Beautiful One is the Way. JESUS-carrying-crossWounded, crippled, scarred, and pained, the Sublime One is your heartbeat, is your sorrow, is your joy, is the very marrow of your mind and very soul of your soul.  See how beautiful?  The Heavy-Laden One cries and sings with you – this Healing One waits for you beyond the edge of the last day.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

She at Pentecost

On creaking knees, worn with repeated hours on earthen floors making bread and coaxing coals into flame, she now knelt in the upper room in the city – and prayed.

“This is how you are to pray,” she remembered her mother telling her when she was but a little child, standing not much taller than her mother’s knees. The older woman had bent down and had put her warm, wrinkled hands on either side of her face, looking deeply and sweetly into her eyes as she had continued to speak. “You are to pray to the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength. You are to pray as you are to love – with your whole being and without ceasing. For you must remember that you are always and everywhere in the presence of God and His Infinite Love.”

Remembering, she lifted herself a little higher on her own aging knees and pressed her hands upon her heart. Lifting her eyes to the invisible heavens, she was keenly aware of Heaven’s listening. “For Love,” she prayed in her silent way, with every fiber and synapse-firing of her flesh, with the peaceful, fervent purity of her soul. Her own particular affection for the people around her, gathered closely together in the upper room, drowsy with their own prayer, radiated like the soft fragrance of a rose on a still summer day. “Oh, my God, that they may be healed, bound, and filled with Love… this is the prayer in the heart of your lowly handmaiden to whom You, Most Gracious and Good Father, gave the most precious and sublime gift, in all mercy and generosity. My Lord and my God, my Creator and my dearly beloved son, You who are Infinite and Eternal, You whom I love and adore beyond all measure, beyond imagining, may Your Holy, Perfect, Loving Will be made known brilliantly to those faithfully gathered here, those who have labored and loved with you, those faithfully awaiting the Holy Advocate to lead them out into the turbulent world and into the sure forming of Your Kingdom. This Advocate is Love, Love most holy, Love most pure, Love Divine. You are Love, Lord. You live and give Love – infuse Love into the hearts and minds of your faithful disciples here.”

The night wore on, and while some ate and others slept, all were praying. As they served, as they chewed, as they dreamed, every action, voluntary and involuntary, was an action of prayer, for all were caught up in the net of spiritual vigilance, awaiting the word of release – without even knowing exactly for what they were waiting. Though some were fearful, she knew, all had faith… faith and trust, trust and hope.

Before the cock crew his song of awakening, before the light of the sun broke the slumbering darkness, she lifted her unsleeping head again, the pain in her knees the joy of a deeply planted tree. Her heart in her chest lifted to God, her arms outstretched, she gazed sweetly and deeply with maternal love upon the men and women gathered in the dimness whose prayer, even as they slept, was for the power of illumination of mind, heart, and will. Her own tenderly loving face was radiant with her wordless prayer… “Oh, my Little One, Mighty Lord and Savior… The cavern of sorrow that hollowed so deeply at my heart has been filled to overflowing with everlasting joy! Ever sweet, ever kind, ever generous, You allow my heart to beat with yours… to beat with theirs… I suffer when you suffer and triumph when you triumph… And still I long as You long, I ache as You ache, for every heart to be restored, for every human to be healed of all division that can keep them from Your Love… I yearn for the hearts of these, your own dear friends, to be dispelled of all darkness and lack of understanding, to be filled with Light… with Truth… with Courage… with Love.”

The wonderful sparklings of her mind reach deeply into her heart, through the universe, and beyond… “Once, was I overshadowed by Your Power, oh, Most High, and always and everywhere am I embraced by You, enraptured by Your Love. My Beloved One… the more I gave wholeheartedly to You, the more You gave wholeheartedly to me. The sacrifice of the mother is the bliss of the child of God – I am she! You know my heart! Ready, willing, and able, always and everywhere, to love You, to receive You, to hold You – and to give You away when You will… and the child heart within me rejoices to serve You and to be loved so intimately and infinitely by You.”

Joyful tears welled up in her eyes from her blameless heart. “Your Spirit came personally to me once in intimate mystery, I trust and believe that You will come, now, and send forth Your Spirit again to overshadow and lift up Your disciples here. Enkindle in us the fire of Your Love, Your Word breathed in flame, that we may ceaselessly bear forth the transformative power of Your Love to the hearts of others, everywhere, for generations to come… Your will be done, my Lord. My heart is one with Yours… I hear Your Love whispering now, cooing softly in the coming wind…”

*          *          *

            So quiet was she…. So filled with Love from the moment that she was conceived in the womb of her mother…. With empty hands she had given herself wholly and completely to her Creator, had lovingly surrendered herself, body, mind, heart, and soul to God….

Above the heads of the disciples, tongues of fire burned… above the beautiful humility of her head, the fire burned with the wings of a dove, with the caress of hands, with a baby’s kiss.

Unpublished work copyright 2015 Christina Chase


 You may also like these posts, more imaginings of the life of Mary:

A Stranger Appears in the Making of the Bread

  in the cloud of glory a portal opens

 Pregnant

Obedience Is Nothing without Love

One question that I asked as a nonbeliever and that I still quietly wonder about as a believer is this: when Jesus rose from the dead, why did he only show himself to the people that were already his disciples? If the resurrection is proof of Jesus as the Christ and Savior of the World, then it seems only natural to wish that Jesus would give that proof to more people, so that the whole world might be Christian. It seems like, instead, he rather preached to the choir.

Yet, I feel a bit guilty carry this doubting question around with me.

I shouldn’t.

Turns out that I’m not the first one to ask the question – no big surprise there. The surprise for me, however, came when I learned who it was that asked the question first – and to whom it was asked. (Some of you may already know the “who” and “whom” of which I speak, but, please remember, with mercy and forgiveness, that I am not an accomplished reader of the Bible.) One of Jesus’s own disciples asked it to Jesus himself. And on hearing and understanding the answer given to the one asked, I was washed in a well-contented sense of rightness and joy.

It happened when I was watching a movie. Of course, it was not just any old mindlessly entertaining movie, but rather one of those new “Christian Faith” movies – The Gospel of John. Although I have probably heard or read all of the words spoken by the narrator before, the words of the Gospel struck my ear and my mind in a new way – and, thankfully, penetrated into my heart. The scene of the Last Supper came on the screen and the words of the Discourse came through the speakers. Jesus was saying that he would reveal and show himself to those whom he loved.[1] And then one of his very own apostles asked Jesus, face-to-face, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Good question.

Jesus didn’t rebuke the apostle in the slightest, but willingly gave answer and, of course, said it all:

“He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

Give yourself a moment to take that in. When first hearing them in the narrator’s voice, the words caught in my mind and then needed to be processed further, like a fish that is caught up in a net and then needs to be pulled onto the boat.

You see, Jesus only showed himself to the people who loved him because showing himself – even himself all resurrected and glorified – to people who didn’t love him would have made no difference. They may have been like spectators of David Blaine magic, flabbergasted and admiring, but merely exclaiming “Cool trick, man!” Rather, he showed himself to those who loved him because he promised that he would. They were grieving and mourning his death – and he came back to them. Although Simon Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times before the Crucifixion, after the Resurrection Jesus gave him a second chance to be true to what was in his heart. “Peter, do you love me?” And every time that Peter affirmed his love for him, Jesus gave reminding command to follow his teachings.[2]

The profound beauty and joy here is that Jesus is telling us the same thing now: Jesus reveals himself to people who love him, because the people who don’t love him will not obey his teaching – even if he showed himself to them, they wouldn’t care. What Jesus knows, and what we should all know, is that in order to be able to follow Jesus Christ and obey his teachings, a person must love him.

Without love for Christ, there is no Christianity.

As believing Christians, we want Christianity to be better respected and more embraced by the world. We naturally want more people to attend church, near and far. We would like to see pews full of people reciting the Creed aloud with us and identifying themselves as Christians. We would like them to obey the teachings of Christ and live good, Christian lives. But… in order to do any of this, people must first love Christ.

Christ himself said that, unless they love him, people will not obey him. It is only people who truly love Christ that are freely willing to obey him – because to do so is a natural expression and substance of that love. We can’t put the cart before the horse. We can’t expect people to reach for the high ethics and ideals of Catholic Christianity without love for Christ himself. I can’t expect myself to do this.

So… in my heart I am asking, “But, Lord, where are you that I may love you?”

I am hungry and need to be fed… I am homeless and need to be sheltered… I am ill and suffering and need to be cared for… I am homebound, and I am stuck in a nursing home, and I need to be visited… I am in prison and I need to be loved… I am a stranger and I need to be welcomed…[3]

I do not have to look far to find Christ here with me, in the flesh and blood of my fellow human beings. My family member is angry or sad – do I love? My friend is burdened – do I love? My neighbor is in great need – do I love? If I love the least of the people around me, then I love Christ. And if I love Christ, then I love the least of the people around me. It’s a profound circle that only has its beginning and end in God – for we can only love because God first loved us.[4] When we are open to divine love and give ourselves to that love, then Christ more fully reveals himself to us, and our love deepens and grows evermore.

One other question:

As we are supposed to evangelize, how are we to teach others to love Christ?  

Everybody who truly loves goodness and truth is already in love with who Christ is – whether they know it or not. The best way that we can teach others about Christ himself – and, perhaps, the only true way that we can really teach them – is by sharing our love for him with them. We love Christ Jesus in all that he is and in all that he has done for us. If others see the deep sense of joy and peace that comes from our love for Christ, love that is manifested in our love for neighbor, then they will come to know him through our love and, in knowing him, they will love him, too. And when they love him, they will want to follow him. They will obey his teachings – not out of superstition or blind adherence to rules, but out of love – and he will reveal himself to them more and more.

© 2015 Christina Chase


[1] John 14:15-24

[2] John 21:15-17

[3] Matthew 25

[4] 1 John 4:19