Category: Faith

V is for Vocation

v is for vocation“I see you’ve stopped smoking,” Mother Veronica Mary said.

The air was charged; molecules brushed against my skin singing for joy.

“Yes,” I replied. Tears pricked my eyes.

“How was it?” she asked.

“So easy,” I whispered.

Her forehead rumpled. I took a breath and repeated myself in a louder voice, “So easy. I just forgot to smoke.”

“Forgot?”

“Yes. I’d plan to have a cigarette at lunch and forget them in my desk. Or I’d forget while I was waiting at the bus.” I shrugged. “At first I was afraid: How could I forget to smoke? Then I realized it was a good thing so I just stopped.

“It’s what we discussed,” I said.

“Yes?” she asked.

“If I have a vocation, then quitting would be possible,” I replied.

“True,” she nodded. “Most young women find it more difficult.”

I lowered my head. How do I tell her? I mutely asked my Friend. The air sang about me. Oh well. I suppose just the truth.

“My life often goes that way,” I replied. “I pray and want and pray some more and even try to make myself be different. Then I just forget to poke at myself and one day, the change I want just happens. How varies. But the change happens.”

Mother Veronica Mary smiled, “How are you doing with your biography?”

“That’s hard,” I said shaking my head. “There’s so much. It’s daunting.”

“Perhaps Sister Justin Mary would be of help,” she suggested.

I shuddered. “Perhaps,” I said.

“Think about it,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to ask her for help. Remember, if you really have a vocation…”

I gave her a tight-lipped smile and nodded, “Yes. If I don’t get it in a few days, I’ll ask her.”

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N is for Nightmare’s At An End

Comes a moment when light shines and the nightmare’s at an end
When shadows fail and wounded hearts rejoice to see the dawn
Comes a moment of laughter and our spirits sing with joy
When Love shows Love is stronger than our fears

Beloved,

n is for nightmare's endDawn has come but I’ve only got the beginning. I’d like to have the whole song. But the nightmare’s at an end, isn’t it? And doesn’t that deserve a glorious song?

I get whole days when my heart doesn’t hurt. Everything is richer, clearer, brighter. Colour is more colourful — the blue in the sky flirts with me, asks to be touched. Trees and grass smell green — the way it did when I met the cow. That was a dream or so I imagined. It seemed so far away. Now, it’s all around me.

A Grief Observed comes to mind.

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

Either way, we’re for it.
What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?
Maybe the nightmare’s at an end but I’m still for it. Maybe the song won’t be finished for a while: dawn isn’t noon. But I know the sun has risen. I know laughter and joy. Just keep me close to You, Beloved. Just keep me close. We both know me, how impatient I am, how I hate suffering and think I’ve payed my dues in that area. If You must continue to cut, keep me close else I create a new nightmare.

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J is for Just So You Know

“Just so you know,” Liam said as I closed my music notebook. “I’m not convinced.”

I laughed, “If a couple of scones, a dirge, and a Bossa Nova setting for the Sanctus was enough, I’d open Conversions Я Us.”

j is for just so you know“If you’re not trying to convince me, why do you bother?” he asked.

“At first, I did want to convince you. I was flattered that you asked me about my faith. You ask serious questions. I wanted to answer them,” I replied.

Liam opened his lips to speak but I rushed on before he could voice the first word, “But early on, you told me, ‘Your God is either cruel beyond measure or insane. How could it be otherwise?’ It took a while but eventually I realized that I can’t convince you.”

“You can’t,” he said. “You make up stories about God and suffering — like my sister did.”

“No” I replied. “But I did realize that you can’t see what I see, what she saw.”

Liam articulated each word with precision, “You see nothing. She saw nothing. You just comfort yourself with lies.”

“Six years ago, I’d have insisted you were wrong.” I shook my head, “But not now.”

“Because you know I’m right,” he replied.

“Because I know that it won’t work to tell you you’re wrong,” I said. “I can tell you how I’ve changed. I can show you that my writing is no longer full of wistful longing for halcyon days. I can play joyful music, tell you about the series of songs I’m working on, or my design projects. You can see my face go all red and excited because I’m teaching sewing and design or because I’m studying math. You can come to dinner every week and hang out with my friends who are so close, they’re family. But none of that matters…”

“You’re right about that,” Liam blushed and blurted out, “I’m glad you’re happy. Glad you’re off the pain medicine. You were so loopy.” He blushed again, “I didn’t mean…”

“It’s okay. I know what you meant. And none of that means God isn’t cruel.”

“Your God let you suffer for years, only now are you happy. And even though you’re happy, you’ve still got problems.”

“True,” I nodded. “You see my suffering and your sister’s suffering as examples of God’s cruelty or insanity.” Our eyes met and I smiled, “You did call Him insane.”

“He is either cruel or insane.”

“You can’t see any reason God allows suffering,” I said. “The good that comes just doesn’t outweigh the pain.”

“God knows the suffering we’d undergo, that we’d visit on each other,” Liam replied. “He could prevent that. Only a cruel or insane God would allow cancer, child abuse, terrorism.”

“There are those who’d say, ‘Only a cruel or insane person would experiment on animals.'” I replied. “But you do and you’re neither.”

“I treat my animals humanely,” Liam said. “God isn’t humane.”

“God doesn’t follow our idea of humane,” I replied. “You don’t follow PETA’s idea of humane. And if they could reason and speak, your animals might agree with PETA, not you.”

“They’re mice. Bred for the lab. That’s they’re purpose,” Liam asserted.

“We’re God’s. Made for a purpose,” I said.

“So you say,” Liam insisted, “but where’s your proof?”

“That’s just it,” I retorted. “You have a preconception of God, how He acts or ought to act. If He is good, there’d be no suffering. You can’t imagine that suffering might be a good thing even though you cause your lab animals to suffer.”

“My animals are treated humanely,” Liam repeated.

I breathed took in a deep breath and relaxed my shoulders. “I know you treat them as humanely as possible. They still don’t live as animals naturally live. They’re not even pets. They’re manipulated.” I smiled wryly, “That’s suffering. To live in a cage and not be able to run and hide or move about and use muscles that were made to climb is suffering. It’s horrible to be thwarted.”

Liam’s shoulders stiffened, his fists clenched. “What would you suggest?”

“Me?” I asked, my voice squeaky. “That you continue your research, You’re doing good things.”

“Then I’m not cruel,” he retorted. “But God is.”

“That’s what I mean: you don’t see what your sister and I see,” I replied. “And I can’t open your eyes.

“PETA doesn’t see that your research is so important, experimenting on animals is necessary. I see it. You see it. But they don’t.”

“You mean you see God isn’t cruel but I don’t,” he smirked.

“Yes,” I answered. “And there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. God will have to do that.”

“Maybe a blinding light,” he smiled.

“If that’s what you need,” I replied. “Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying to find ways to say what I mean.” I nodded at him, “You encourage me to do that. I really believe that you want to know if God is cruel or insane or something else, something immensely good.”

“You believe He’s the latter,” Liam said.

“Yes.”

“Why are we friends?” he asked.

“You don’t have to agree with me for us to be friends,” I told him.

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I is for It’s True If It Changes Us

“How do you know it’s true?” Liam asked. “You have no proof.”

“It’s true if it changes us,” I replied. “The change is proof of its truth.”

Liam sputtered bits of scone at me, “There’s no proof that God is anything other than a fantasy.”

“The changes He has wrought in us and our world are proof,” I replied. “Just like the changes you effect in a diseased mouse.”

With each word, Liam jabbed the butter knife at the dish, “I can reproduce those changes. Any scientist can.”

My eyes narrowed, “Don’t be intellectually dishonest. You won’t always get the same results.”

“That’s to be expected,” he replied.

i is for it's true if I changeI breathed in and pulled down my hunched shoulders, “The effects Jesus has had on people have been repeated since Pentecost,” I said. “A small group of men went from terrified to bold in a flash.” I forced my shoulders a bit lower. “They risked their lives and most of them were tortured and killed for the Gospel. It continues today. People encounter Christ and they change. Radically. Jesus is the only new thing that comes into those lives.”

“It’s not evidence,” Z insisted.

“If a good percentage of your diseased mice showed radical healing after you performed an experiment, wouldn’t you take that as evidence that your hypothesis was correct?” I asked.

“Of course. But I can repeat my experiments with a new batch of mice and if I can’t reproduce my results, I know my theory was wrong. The Gospel has been preached in many places and people have either not changed or changed into something horrible.”

“That’s always been true. Many who heard Jesus, Himself, changed into something horrible. There are accounts of them in the New Testament. But many also were willing to sacrifice everything for Christ. The same is true today.

“Liam,” I leaned over and placed a hand on his arm, “you don’t toss your theory because some of your mice die more quickly as a result of your experiments. You expect that to happen. As long as you don’t have an unacceptable number of deaths or deaths due to unforeseen causes, you focus on the positive results. Your experiments are a success not when every mouse is better but when enough mice are — and that might be a small percentage.”

“Peter or Paul or any of them might have changed for a hundred different reasons,” Z told me. “You have no proof that God changed them.”

“That would be like me saying you have no proof your mice got better because of anything you did.”

I closed my eyes for a moment and blotted out Liam holding his tea cup. Please Lord? I begged.

Opening my eyes, I first saw my music notebook. “Let me play a couple of things for you,” I said.

Checking his watch, he shrugged, “Sure.”

I moved to the piano and played several bars of I Will Always Love You. Liam shifted in his seat.

“Kind of ponderous, yes?” I inquired.

He grinned.

“What about this?” My fingers beat out Sanctus.

“Hey!” he smiled. “Is that Salsa?”

Bossa Nova,” I answered.

Liam sat next to me on the piano bench, “Play more of that second one.”

I played through to the end. “They’re both mine,” I told him. “I wrote the first one twenty-two years ago. I wrote a whole lot like that. My boyfriend used to say that they all sounded alike.”

Liam chuckled.

“Do you want to hear them?”

“No,” he shook his head.

“I don’t blame you. They’re dirges.” I turned to Sanctus, “This one I wrote about six months ago. It was a grand surprise. I didn’t know I had that kind of music in me.”

Liam ran his fingers across the lyrics. “I can’t read this,” he said.

“It’s originally from Isaiah and Matthew, I told him. “But this is the way it’s used in the Mass. ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.’

“I can choreograph and dance to this,” I said playing a few more bars then stopped and caught Liam’s gaze, “It’s true if it changes us. I know it’s true because it has been changing me.”

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E is for Earth is Earth

“Who would do such a thing?” Caroline demanded of me. She stooped next to the console table that held her stereo sweeping up bits of broken pottery from a small blue and white porcelain plate. The stereo was gone.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Someone broke into the house,” she told me as she chased down the remaining shards.

“How awful!” I replied. I glanced through the kitchen at the back door. “Where’d they break in?”

Caroline stood up and pushed heavy red waves of hair off her face, “I left the door unlocked so the girls could get in.”

E is for earth is earthThank You, I mutely told D’Abby. As much as I loved the dark polished floors and gilded furniture, I was thrilled to have moved into an apartment that though it required renovation had locked doors.

Sneaker clad footsteps sounded in the hall overhead. Farrah clomped down the steps as she announced, “My TV’s gone. Adhita’s boom box and camera are missing too.” She halted in the dining room doorway, “Ma! Why didn’t you just lock the door?”

“You girls lose your keys. I get sick of you breaking the windows.” Caroline espied more pottery shards and bent to corral them.

Thank You, I prayed again.

“Who’d do such a thing?” Caroline demanded looking up at me.

“Burglars,” I told her with a shrug.

“But why would burglars come into my house?” she asked.

My initial response remained unvoiced, Because the door was unlocked. I said, “That’s what burglars do,” Farrah nodded in agreement.

“I need my things,” Caroline whined. “I don’t have money to replace them.”

“Burglars rob poor people too,” Farrah said. I shrugged in agreement. “We should just lock the door,” she added.

“When I was a girl…” Caroline began.

Farrah interrupted her, “You never locked your doors. No one ever broke in.”

“That’s right,” Caroline told her. “That’s the way a neighbourhood is supposed to be.”

Farrah eyes caught mine. I let out a low, controlled sigh.

“Ma,” Farrah answered. “We don’t live in the country. We live in New York. There are projects four blocks away.”

“I shouldn’t have to lock my door. We’ve never had any trouble before.”

Farrah sputtered. My eyes widened.

“I thought you’d been robbed twice in the past,” I blurted.

“Well, yes…” Caroline began.

“And didn’t you rent to that man who was wanted for burglary and rape? Wasn’t he convicted?” I demanded of her.

“Yes,” Caroline admitted and then brightened, “But he didn’t rob us.”

I quashed a snort.

“Burglary was his job,” Farrah told her. “He didn’t work at home.”

Caroline looked up at me. I nodded.

“It’s earth,” I told her.

“What do you mean, ‘it’s earth’?” she insisted. “You say that but I never know what you mean.”

I released a sharp sigh. “Neighbourhoods aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. There are burglars and children who lose their keys and unlocked doors. So bad things happen.”

“But I didn’t do anything to the robber,” she whined.

“Robbers rob,” Farrah replied. “They don’t say,” she continued in a low, hollow register, “‘I won’t rob Caroline and her kids because they’re good people.'” Her voice returned to its accustomed contralto, “They look for houses that are easy to rob and just steal.”

“But I’m a Christian,” she insisted.

My forehead wrinkled. My head shook, “It doesn’t work that way.”

“Ma,” Farrah interjected. “Robbers don’t care if we’re Christian.”

“They should!” Caroline seemed about to stamp her foot. Farrah and I exchanged another glance.

“You mean everybody else gets robbed?” I asked. “But Christians get a free pass?”

“Why not? What good is that… What do you call it?” She waved the broom in the air as if she could sweep the words onto her tongue. “Abundant life,” she nodded. “What good is it if there’s no abundance?” She held the broom and dust pan before her like a sword and shield.

“You only get abundant life if earth is earth,” I said. “When some stranger has invaded your home and your stuff is gone, abundant life means the losing doesn’t define you. Mistakes don’t define us. God does. And you know you’ll be okay because Christ holds you and the whole, crazy world in His hands.”

“I want my stuff,” Caroline insisted.

“I’m sorry your stuff was stolen,” I replied. “It’s horrible. Why not call the police?”

“They’re no help,” Caroline said. She shook her head. “I need to make dinner,” she said carrying the broom and dust pan to the cupboard. “Why don’t you stay?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Help her D’Abby, I prayed.

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D is for D’Abby

“God knows your name,” the minister’s bright, authoritative voice asked through the radio speaker. “But do you know His?”

I yawned and stretched, “Morning, Lord.”

“See,” I told the radio. “I know His name.”

The voice continued, “We give those we love special names. When I was a boy…”

D is for D'AbbyHe continued his story while I wrapped myself in my navy, terrycloth robe and padded off to the bathroom. On my return, the minister inquired, “Do you love God so much, you have a name that only the two of you share? Are you that close to Him?” I tuned to a classical station and listened to Haydn as I dressed for church.

Huh? I silently queried my Friend. The lector’s voice continued to ring in my ear after he had returned to his seat. I glanced back down at the service leaflet:

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”*

Abba? That’s You?

But do you call me that? The words formed themselves in my mind and resounded like the peal of one of the bells in the church tower.

My forehead furrowed, That’s what Paul calls You.

I reread the passage from Romans again. The words, “we cry” held my attention. Hmm, I mused. I haven’t included myself in “we.” I tried to focus on the homily but my eyes returned to the leaflet. My lips pushed themselves together in a small moue. Abba doesn’t mean much to me. It just doesn’t.

The creed and prayers of the faithful brought me to my feet and captured my attention but at the announcements, I found my eyes drawn back to Romans 8. So do You want me to give You a personal name? I mutely asked. Something other than Lord, or God, or Friend? The word “Father” caught my eye. Something that means Father? A warm tingle of a divine hug suffused my arms and back. “Okay,” I whispered as I stood for the consecration.

After communion, I knelt, my forehead resting on my folded hands, whispering, “D’Abby, thank You for feeding me…” My head snapped up. “What did I just say?” I whispered. “D’Abby? What’s that?” I rested my head on my clasped hands and pleaded, “What’s D’Abby?” The warm tingle held me close. “It’s not Daddy. I wouldn’t call You that. It’s not Papa. He was my father. And it’s not Abba either.” I gazed up at the crucifix and then lowered my head again. “Gee!” I whispered. “Gee!”

*Romans 8:15

B is for Book

My back kneaded the wall outside the woman’s bedroom. Through the cracked door, I saw the woman sitting on her bed, taking things from a round, red, velvet box. Pressed my face against the crack, widening it. My mouth was a small O, my eyes pleading.

“You may come in,” she told me.

I approached the bed stopping with my hands on the white, linen coverlet. One green embroidered flower rested under my fingers. I stroked the bumpy needlework.

b is for bookA few ribbon-tied piles of yellowing envelopes already lay on the bed. The woman removed a small cream coloured book with gold edged pages from the box and placed it next to the envelopes.

“What’s this?” I asked, my hand on the book.

“It’s a children’s missal. My father gave it to me.”

I opened it. A berobed man held a cup and, above it, a small, round, shining white wafer. A sudden stillness filled my insides, rang through my heart and, without sound, through my ears. Tears welled in my eyes. The woman gently took the book from my hands and placed it back on the bed.

“Go play, now,” she told me.

Half way to the door, I stopped and gazed back at the small, cream book.

I returned to the bedroom I shared with Eve and Claire. My face sheltered behind an immense book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes propped against my knees, I sat with my back pressed against the closet wall; the closet door remained ajar.

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old, I chanted under my breath. After each stanza, I raised my head and listened. The rays of the sun on the window seat beckoned me to my accustomed place but I remained in the closet.

The woman’s door closed. She traversed the hallway and descended the stairs. As the sound of her steps died away, I tip toed to her room and tried the handle. It was unlocked. The red, velvet box was not on her bed. I went into her closet. There it was on a shelf above my head. I climbed onto her shoe shelf and lifted the box down. Beneath letters and dried flowers, I found the missal. I took it and returned to the closet in the room I shared.

Slowly, I read each page, drinking in each picture. On the page with the man holding the cup and the small, white, round thing, the words read: ‘Look, the priest is holding up Jesus so you can see him.’

Something tugged at my heart. My chest heaved. A stuttering “Huh! Huh! Huh!” came from the recesses of my chest. The well of tears gushed over. When it receded and the stuttering ended, I left the closet and pushed the book as far as I could under the my mattress.

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A is for Attached

“Do you know why you wanted to be at home watching Doctor Who?” she asked in modulated tones bereft of emotion. “Why when you’re invited to celebrate Christmas with a friend you always feel you’re on the outside? Not part of things?”

Wrinkles channeled my normally calm brow. My fingers traced the rough texture of the chair’s striated, beige and cream upholstery fabric. My head longed to shake itself. I held it still and after a long breath replied, “Because I’m detached.”

“Yes,” she said. And though her voice maintained the empty evenness, she spoke as if she had just revealed a great secret I had not known.

I continued to stroke the roughness under my fingers. Not linen, I mused to my Friend. Polyester and rayon. I returned my attention to Dr. Milton’s face. What does she want me to say? I inquired of Him. I already answered the question? Without speaking, I continued to watch her.

Dr. Milton broke the silence, “It’s alright if you want to be detached. But you need to know that you are. Then you can choose.”

a is for attachedbThe outer corners of my eyes crinkled. My head tilted itself to one side. “I’m deeply attached to God,” the words tumbled out. “That’s who I tell when I find myself amid people I love but have nothing in common with.” I raised my eyebrows and stared into her eyes, “I’m deeply, deeply attached to my Friend, to God.”

“But not to people,” she replied.

“No, not to people.” My eyebrows raised along with the tone of my voice, “I love people. I really do. But we have so little in common.”

“Because you’re detached?”

Was it a question?

“Maybe. But maybe because I’m attached to Someone very different. Someone with who sees into my heart. Someone who knows me and is utterly trustworthy.” My head shook of it’s own accord. “I don’t know what happened to me. I was attached to Marmar, Papa, Grandpère, Ti Eduardo. I was attached. But they’re gone. And the only one left was God. He’s always been with me. How could I not be attached to Him?”

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Surprise – Five Minute Friday

Death is always a surprise even though it’s always the toy prize at the end of life. It’s nearly unbearable. Only the perfect love that casts out fear makes it to go on living with such so much loss. Of course we neither love nor accept love perfectly, but love is perfect and makes it possible to live in the shadow of death.

surprised by joyMy life is evidence of what perfect love does for us, of how God cares for us in the particulars of our lives even when those particulars are horrid. But it’s hard to express. When I feared I’d mourn forever, God surprised me again and again. He has more surprises than I ever imagined. Eventually, I even encountered the surprise of discovering that I don’t want to go back to the far off halcyon days for which I longed. I’m happy and so, so grateful to live without rancour because of all that I lost.

So please pray for me as I struggle to complete my rewrite, as I struggle to give voice to joy.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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Answered Prayers

In 2005, Beth Holloway’s daughter, Natalee, disappeared while on a school graduation trip in Aruba. Holloway traveled to Aruba to search for Natalee and

[o]n her fourth morning …found a taxi and asked the driver to take her somewhere to pray. ‘He pulled over and there was a large white cross, and he told me to get out of the car, and as I did, I walked to the cross and just fell to the cross on my knees and just started crying and begging and praying to God to give Natalee back,’ she says. ‘I got up, and I went to next cross, repeated my same prayers and dropped to my knees and kept praying and crying and begging for God to give her back.’

“After days of searching for her missing daughter, Holloway says she was in unbearable pain. Though she was unfamiliar with the Catholic tradition of the stations of the cross, she instinctively went from cross to cross, each time seeking an answer. Finally, on the fifth or sixth station, she found one. ‘Complete peace blanketed me, and in that instant somehow I then knew that Natalee was with God, and I knew that he had cared for her through whatever ordeal she had encountered that night, and that’s when I became at peace,’ she says. ‘When my grandmother was always saying, ‘Lay your burdens at the cross,’ I got, at that point, what she was saying. I laid the burden of caring for Natalee at the cross. The work to find out what happened to her had to be done, but the burden was taken from me.'”

Nearly two years ago, a reader asked me “how could God be loving and let Helen die?” Helen is Phronsie’s friend in Margaret Sidney’s The Five Little Peppers Grown Up. When Helen contracts diphtheria, Phronsie prays that God will heal her and is convinced He will. After Helen’s death, Phronsie determines “it wasn’t nice of [God]” to take Helen away. She tells her sister, Polly: “‘Helen was happy here …And she never–never would want to leave her mother alone, to go off to a nicer place. Never, Polly.‘” Phronsie is right. Helen was happy with her mother and never would want to leave to go to a nicer place.

5th station

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry The Cross

Natalee Holloway loved her family and never would want to be murdered even to be with God. And certainly, God did not want Joran van der Sloot to murder her. Van der Sloot chose to commit that evil. Yet God did not stop Him. God allows an enormous amount of suffering and pain both natural and man made. And when we pray for relief, He often allows evil to continue though Jesus promised, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” If He wants us to believe in Him, ought not God keep that promise? Isn’t John 14:13-14 is a simple equation?

Request + In Jesus’ Name = Jesus gives us what we ask so that the Father will be glorified.

Except “in Jesus’ Name” is not like π. It’s not a constant Christ gave us so that we’d be able to avoid the evils in this world. Nor is it a talisman that wards off the van der Sloots or tsunamis or disease. Instead, “in Jesus’ Name” is a promise that we will pray as Jesus Himself prays, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Less than a day later, Jesus was crucified because His crucifixion and all that followed glorified the Father.

We have been given the grace to pray as Jesus, our King, prayed. But we’re like infants, making much noise and still unable to speak for ourselves. We nearly always pray from fear and anxiety, in blindness and desperation. But when we pray in Jesus’ Name, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

When I prayed to go home, pleaded for the return of my family, begged God to undo the horrors that had overwhelmed my life, I didn’t know I was asking Him to remake all of reality just for me. It never occurred to me that I could never be whole or free unless I was willing to be whole and free in a world that can be horribly painful. If He must rework the world to make me happy, then I don’t love Him, I only love what makes me feel happy. God becomes my fantasy, my story that I can manipulate and rework to my own liking. If God is God, then He must be faithful and worthy of my love even when He doesn’t do as I want, as I know I deserve. Margaret Sidney knew that and so Helen dies. Natalee Holloway remains murdered because God is God.

But Beth Holloway has peace because Natalee is with God who “had cared for her through whatever ordeal she had encountered that night.” And I have happiness and am learning to accept an experience of home that is not what I knew when my family lived; God cares for me through my ordeals and will continue to do so even when the final one culminates with death.

He is the God of answered prayers, prayers that the Holy Spirit refines and utters in a language very few ever learn this side of heaven. Even when God does not give us what we want, He answers our prayers. The losses are real; we don’t go skipping away wreathed in smiles after being lashed by the evils of this world. We do walk on able to live in a world that too often feels like hell. We walk on knowing that the answers Jesus gives us heal us and glorify the Father. Those answered prayers help us carry our crosses as we walk on to heaven.

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