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No matter how great your sadness or how deep your sorrow, there’s one person to whom you can always turn: Mary. Oh, I know. I can hear you: “You Catholics and your Mary…it’s Mary this and Mary that! Why, it’s practically heretical.” Marian devotion may be peculiarly Catholic, but there’s nothing peculiar in recognizing Mary as a particularly appealing and deeply understanding role model.

First of all, she knows heartbreak better than a country music ballad. The terror of losing a child in a big city? Been there. The profound grief of watching your own flesh and blood, your beloved son, be tortured and murdered? Done that. I don’t mean to sound blasé. Mary knows the darkest and most painful parts of motherhood like no one else. I can’t think of a better resource for parents or those who mourn. However heavy your heart, her heart knows your sorrow. No one who ever lived has experienced more vividly than Mary the destruction of innocent life.

But Mary is more than just a grief counselor. She is a model of acceptance. Some find Mary’s humility and serenity mildly annoying or even mealy-mouthed. (I know; I’ve been guilty of it myself.) “Thy will be done.” Honestly, you have no more passion than that for captaining the ship of your life? But Mary’s “yes” turns out to be stronger than any “no” could ever be. She doesn’t just accept. She puts herself into God’s hands totally. That takes guts. Anyone who’s ever tripped over the words “thy will be done” in The Lord’s Prayer knows what I mean.

What’s more, acceptance can be a powerful thing. Like poor old Hamlet, we can try to bend the world to our own ends, only to find that “the rest is silence.” Only in acceptance can we find peace. Only in acceptance can we find the ability to go on after life’s greatest trials.

Though Mary’s role in the New Testament is underwritten at best, the fact is that she was present. Present for Jesus’ life and ministry, present for his death, present for the Pentecost and subsequent spread of Christianity. She might not have said much (that we know of), but she was there as witness and active participant. She went where the work took her — the work of God, that is — whether that was far from home (Egypt) or in her own neighborhood. We would do well to do as Mary did.

So think of Mary as a resource, in pain as well as in joy. (No one has ever described the keeping of happy memories better than in that little sentence: “She kept all of these things in her heart.”) Whatever you’re going through, Mary understands. Let her stand with you.

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Recently, a friend told me that he is looking for a new job. Would I pray for him?

“Of course!” That’s what I said aloud, but that’s not what I wanted to say. No, no, no!

The chances that this friend will find a new job here are pretty slim. He is probably going to have to move far, far away. The reality is that what is best for him isn’t what I want.

The same day, joy oh joy, I found out that one of my son’s favorite teachers is leaving. He hadn’t told anyone, but his job was posted on the district web site. This teacher is also a friend and I knew I should pray for him. I knew that but at this point I was just in a mood.

Hint: When I say that I am in a mood, I do not mean a good mood. Honestly.

Still, I managed to pray. How do you pray when you want to pray for people to get it together and quit making you sad? You remember that you’re a grown up and that what you want may not be what’s best for other people.

Dear Lord,
I’m not sure what to say. Please help him grow into the person you would have him be and go where he can best do your work. And, God? Please give me the strength to not be a whiner about the whole thing. Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done.
–Amen

I have to admit, I’m always hesitant to tell God how to fix a problem. I tend to suspect that my instructions will be in my best interests and quite possibly not in the best interests of those for whom I pray.

As a Mom and a friend, sometimes I just have to get with it and pray for what is truly best for someone else even when it makes me a little blue. Thy will, not my will, Lord.

–SueBE

The Lord's PrayerThere are 7 of us on the committee to hire a new pastor.  We read over applications.  Listen to sermons.  Conduct phone interviews and pray.

What do we pray?  Not to mess up.  To find the right candidate.  To find someone that will help our church move forward.  That we hire the person who will help us discern God’s mission for us in our community and in the world.

We want to do God’s will, but for any chance of success, we have to know what His will is.  That’s not easy when you’re busy.  There are numerous ways to discern God’s will but they all take a certain amount of time and quiet.

  1. Read the Bible.  The Bible is God’s word and He uses it to speak to us.  How often have you read a familiar passage only to have something new leap out at you?  Something that speaks to where you are now and what you need to do?
  2. Pray.  Take the time to communicate with God. What we ask can be just as revealing as His answer.  Putting something into words can help you clarify your thinking, focusing things and helping you see what really matters.
  3. Meditation.  Listening is a part of prayer, but if you are anything like me, you need to take a few moments and relax. You breathe in.  You breathe out.  And you listen.  What drifts into your mind?  You may not receive an answer right then and there but you will feel less frantic about the whole thing now that you’ve spent time in His presence.
  4. Wait.  One of the greatest impediments to doing God’s will is our impatience. We want an answer and we want it NOW.  No.  To be honest, we wanted it yesterday or the day before.  We’re praying about it because we are getting a little worried that we have yet to discern his answer.  The answer then is very often “wait.”  You aren’t ready.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more listening to do.  I’m waiting for an answer that I know will come in His time.

–SueBE

One week after my father died*, the world lost another great guy. Though I didn’t know him very well, I can honestly call him a friend. He was always kind, thoughtful and deeply considerate. He’d suffered for well over a month before his death. The final diagnosis was — get ready for it — West Nile Virus. He was not infected while gallivanting about the pyramids, mind you. He lived in Southern Indiana. Please, think about this. I want you to understand the enormity of it: A super-nice guy was bitten by a mosquito in Indiana…and died a horrible death. Now, I get stung by mosquitoes all the time. They love me. But I never once considered it more than an annoying itch. Death never once entered my mind. Why should it?

Do I seem bitter? I guess I am. The randomness of the whole thing has gotten under my skin. (Like a mosquito’s proboscis, am I right?**) It just seems so very wrong. Unplanned. Stupid. Where is the movement of Providence in a death like that?

Which brings us to the four toughest words in our, or any other, language: Thy will be done. We say it all the time in The Lord’s Prayer. But how much do we mean it? Aren’t we always hedging our bets — thy will be done, except—? Thy will be done, only don’t forget about—? Thy will be done, but could you just do this one thing first? Or this, my favorite, thy will be done — but not that. That should not be done. Not only do we have no right to say these things — God doesn’t, after all, owe us anything — what good does it do us? Human beings have amply demonstrated their inability to run their own lives with anything resembling focused intention. We should be glad to give our will over to God. But we aren’t.

The pastor at our church recently said that we should not pray for things we want. We should pray instead that our wills be molded to God’s. We should want what God gives us, however hard that is. It shouldn’t be so difficult. God wants us to be happy, after all. God loves us. And God is a big-picture person, in a way that we cannot be. God’s got the bird’s-eye view.

A person in mourning can’t see the greater purpose of a death like my friend’s. But I have to believe that there is one. Because even if there isn’t, I’d rather live like there is. That’s where faith lives and breathes. I’d rather live believing that Someone Out There sees the whole puzzle than think for one minute that solving this thing is up to me. Life is too short, and eternity too long, to believe otherwise.

So here it is: God’s will be done. Go ahead. Bring it on. I won’t even brace myself for it. (Okay, maybe a little.)

*I refuse to use euphemisms like “passed.” Or worse, as one woman put it, “She lost her father.” I didn’t lose him. He died. He’s not pining for the fjords, for crying out loud. (That’s a shout-out to Monty Python fans, by the way.)

**Sorry. I can’t seem to stop using humor as a shield.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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