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Three Incredible Promises

On this Thursday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

 “But you promised!”

How often have I heard this protest—usually in the form of a whine.  It usually occurs when a child twists an off-the-cuff response to their request.  Something like:

Child: Can I go to the movies with my friends this weekend?

Dad:  We’ll see.

Child promptly interprets “we’ll see” as something like:

most definitely.  I promise. I do hereby swear or affirm that you will be allowed to go do whatever you want with your friends this weekend and I will do all in my power to make sure you do.

And then Friday finds the Child in flight grabbing his coat and the car keys in a mad dash out the door.  Dad is the sole obstacle to his progress.

Dad:  Where are you off to?

Child:  The mall with my friends.

Dad:  You can’t go until you (pick one):

(a) Finish the dishes

(b) Clean your bedroom

(c) Do your homework

(d) Complete some other mundane, unnecessary yet arduous task.

Child:  But you promised!

 Frankly I can’t always remember what I said five minute previously, let alone what I told the kids days before, so I am very cautious about using any words that can be construed as a promise by an objective observer.  Maybe that’s the lawyer in me.

Today’s reading discusses three promises God made to Abraham:

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.  Gen. 12:2-3.

God promised, and God delivered.  Praise be to the name of God!  He never forgets His promises.

In my life I find that I can be very childish when it comes to what God has promised.  Whenever I respond to a situation with “why me?!” or “why not me?“, it’s an implicit demand that God fulfill a promise He didn’t really make.

When I lose a job, “why me?!” loosely translates to “God, you promised to keep me in this job!”  Conversely, when I am jealous of others’ blessings, “why not me?” can be loosely translated to “God, you promised me many blessings and successes!

And again, the antidote to these false expectations is an attitude of gratitude.  When I am truly grateful for all that I am blessed with, I can focus on the real promises our Father has made, particularly the greatest promise: salvation through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Day 16-2

Note the promise embedded in these verses:  “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [NB: attitude of gratitude], make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7.

Day 16-1


The Destructive Power of Envy

On this Monday of the Second Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Some people always seem to have it good.

You might know these people.  Some are called “Golden Boys”—they can do no wrong and always are in favor and highly esteemed by the powers-that-be.  Some have the Midas Touch—everything they do succeeds and turns to gold.  Others wear Teflon and nothing bad sticks to them.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the fortunes of others, to focus on all their blessings.  The problem is that it distracts me from all my blessings.  This is particularly damaging when my focus takes the form of envy.

“Why is he so lucky?”

“Man!  He has it made!”

Instead of recognizing that I, too, am blessed, at times I perceive a Blessing Disparity—the false perception that somebody else is God’s favorite and is getting all the blessings.  This Blessing Disparity often leads to envy, the tendency to tear another down in my thoughts.  By focusing enviously on the blessings poured onto another of God’s children, I lose sight of the bounty that God has provided me.  This invites sin into my heart.

Day 13-1

The solution to a Blessing Disparity is to refocus myself on my blessings and recognize all the good that God has provided to me and continues to provide to me.  Make a list of my blessings.  Develop an attitude of gratitude.  Thank you, Lord!Day 13-2a

Suffering Servant

Madonna and Child

Yesterday I hurt my back. It must have happened when I was putting away the Christmas decorations. I was lifting heavy boxes, climbing ladders, shoving boxes up, over and back, standing, twisting, bending.

I didn’t feel it until early this morning after a night of tossing and turning. But I started noticing pain radiating from my lower back. It made everything difficult. I couldn’t bend over to put on my socks. Standing and sitting were difficult. I felt very foolish at church because I couldn’t climb into the passenger seat of the van. I couldn’t duck my head to fit in! So I backed away from the door and stood in the snow, allowing the adjacent car to pull out without me obstructing him with my slapstick routine of entering the van.  I should have dressed in a clown costume!  Or as a Keystone Cop!

In Mass the pain made the gestures and postures difficult. But I found myself blessed with a new perspective. I started to appreciate better those who cannot attend Mass regularly because of excruciating pain. I’m not sure I ever really judged them, but I know I didn’t fully empathize with them.  So, blessed with this epiphany, I tried really hard to view my suffering in the example of Blessed John Paul II. I tried offering up the pain, to think of the pain as a way to share in His Passion, to connect with those around me.  It really brought a different perspective, like putting on my glasses after cleaning the lenses.

We must have been in the crying section, because we were surrounded by little toddlers and infants who were crying, complaining and fidgeting.  I could have easily been irked by the distractions, as I often am.  But instead, I began to enjoy the company of the families in sharing the Mysteries of Mass.  There was a beautiful baby girl a few pews ahead of us.  Probably three months hold.  As I watched her Mom holding her closely, cheeks brushing closely, I fell into a time warp and found myself holding each of my four beautiful kids, each in turn three months old, cheek-to-cheek, each drooling, grasping, cooing in their own unique ways.  It was a brief reprieve, and I quickly snapped out of the reverie.

Later, the baby was placed in her car seat in the pew.  I could not see her, but I still watched her Dad, caught up in the spell of his doting smile.  I never understood the verb, “adore”, until my oldest was born.  But once she was born, and with each new child, I found myself in awe of the word.  Adoration.

All this because my sore back.  Thank you, God, for my sore back!

Inexpressible Groanings

Inexpressible Groanings

Words fail; what can I say? No word combination will help me to pray.
And if I could number my blessings each day, my tongue would be twisted, my confidence sway;
If honey-dew lyrics were lifted in song with voices of angels, they still would be wrong.
And, knowing that all verbal offerings fail, not able to vocalize more than a wail;
And yet, I pray.

Thoughts fail; how can I grasp the mercies and graces that enter my clasp?
My feeble cognitions would come out a rasp if I tried but to voice them–a humbling gasp.
If my human condition allowed me to plumb the depth of my blessings, I still would be numb
To the vast benediction of each counted breath,  each inhale and exhale an unearned bequest.
And still, I think.

Acts fail; what can I do? No vigorous action will help me pursue
The source of my blessings that seem to accrue without any effort on my part; but You
Provide me with everything I could require, the sum of my needs, if not every desire.
I cannot do anything to gain Your love, to merit the manna You send from above.
But still I act.

And though no thoughts, words or deeds will suffice to make me deserving of Your Sacrifice;
And while, seeking virtue, I stumble in vice; my scant tithe is weak, but You make up the price.
My inadequate words You gladly accept, transforming to beauty what I make inept.
My lowliest efforts You take in Your hand, and gently you add it to Your master plan.
So that everything I do in seeking Your will You transform to beauty with unbridled skill.
And You redeem.

A Psalm of Dawning Hope

lessed am I, though not fully aware
Of all that I’m given, of all that I share
With all of God’s children adrift in the sea
We bump and collide with in each daily dare.

 try to push past them in trying to see
The goal of my efforts, my reason to be.
But all that I witness amidst all the din
Are the crush of His people behaving like me.

ware of my failures, alert to my sin
I look in the faces of strangers and kin.
The mob that surrounds me with hopeful desire
Reminds me of all that I am deep within. (more…)

Many Scents of Mom

My Mom is always with me.
Like the early morning dew.
With the sunrise I awake to
Smells of coffee freshly brewed.

(I remember how her coffee breath
Would wake me every day.
With the scent of eggs and bacon
Wafting gently up my way.)

She is present in the autumn
As the fallen leaves are burned.
I await the morning school bus
With another day to learn.

(I recall her grubby sweatshirt
As she cheerfully would rake,
Making every chore a pleasure,
Every job a game she’d make.)


three steps to peace

Word Peace In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

Word Peace In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

Step 1.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

(What do I request today of God?)

Step 2.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

(What is my focus today?  What is good?)

Step 3.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

(Who shall I imitate today?  Note:  See note in Phil. 3:17:  “Being imitators of me: not arrogance, but humble simplicity, since all his converts know that Paul is wholly dedicated to imitating Christ”)

Phil. 4:6-9

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