Be Still and Know.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash

From the ages of about two to four or five, I would listen to a cassette tape each night while falling asleep. Because I lacked the punning capabilities and wordsmithery I currently possess as a young adult, and because the tape was chock-full of songs my mom sang, I called it "Mommy's Music".

"Mommy's Music" featured many songs from the Catholic Mass -- a variety of what my family has affectionately termed in the years since, "Catholic Top 40." If you attend Mass regularly, you likely know the ones I mean:

Here I Am, Lord. Blest Are They. Canticle of the Sun. City of God.

Since well over twenty years have passed since those days, and since cassette tapes are more or less archaic by now, I have these songs in my iTunes library now. And there's one I find myself returning to every time I need a gentle reminder that I am loved.

It's called "By Name I Have Called You," by Carey Landry. The prelude, refrain, and the first verse go like this:

Be still, be still 
And know that I am your God.
Be still, be still
And know that I am with you.

By name I have called you,
By name I have saved you.
By name you are mine,
you are precious to me.

By name I have called you,
By name I have saved you.
Forever with you 
I will be.

Before you were born
I knew you.
Within your mother's womb
I formed you.
I appointed you to speak
in my Name.

I get chills thinking about how this reminder was sung over me every night as a small child: these words of the Lord, sung by my mother, a lullaby of my worth and belovedness and purpose, gently inscribed in my heart.

But these days, I've forgotten. Mistakes and secret shames and imperfections and other struggles have squirreled away into my heart, burrowing into the space God longs to inhabit, stopping Him at the door when He knocks. "Uh, God, are You sure You want to come in? I'm a mess."

I frequently find it hard to just... let Him love me. To let Him sing over me again. To listen as He calls to me still.  

Because still, I am called. Saved. Chosen. Precious. Known. 

And Beloved.

Be still, friend. Be still a while, here, with me. 

Be still and know that the same is true for you. 



You are so loved, dear reader. Remember that today.

Thanks Giving

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I'm not sure how this happened... but suddenly Thanksgiving is in a week!

I'm sure you've noticed. The commercials and storefronts and grocery store deals on turkey and stuffing are all dead giveaways. :)

I'm sure you've also noticed that in celebrating this particular holiday, and during the month of November as a whole, the emphasis is always placed on that first word -- thanks. We're always talking about being thankful for what we have. When we speak about giving, it's usually only in the context of giving thanks, i.e. sharing what it is we're grateful for.

Gratitude is a vital habit of the heart to cultivate.

But so is the habit of giving.

The deacon at my parish put it so well in his homily at Mass this past weekend. The Gospel was the story from Mark 12:41-44 about the widow who put everything she had, "worth a few cents," we're told, into the treasury. Jesus praises her for giving from her poverty rather than her surplus.

The deacon said that there are three types of givers:
  1. Grudge givers give because they have to.
  2. Duty givers give because they ought to.
  3. Thanks givers give because they want to.
If I'm honest, I'm usually a "grudge" or a "duty" giver. I give because someone else first gave to me and I feel like I owe them something. I give because I live comfortably and if I can afford to make some sacrifices for the sake of others, I feel like I should. I give because it's a requirement of the Christian life.

But more often than I'd like to admit, I don't give at all. I tell myself that on a graduate student budget, I don't have much of a surplus to give from.

But is that really all that Jesus asks for? My money?

I think we can interpret the widow's "poverty" in last Sunday's Gospel in a few ways. In a literal sense, she has limited financial resources. But what resources do I see myself lacking? Where can I give from my poverty? And where can I do so in joy?

The most resounding and all-encompassing answer for me involves time, that elusive resource we all seem to be running low on, constantly.

I don't have much. But I have fifteen minutes to be fully present with a student who is struggling, instead of working on my own projects.

I don't have much. But I have a half hour to call my grandpa, instead of indulging in a surplus of Netflix episodes.

I don't have much. But I have an hour to treat a friend to coffee and to receive her in her sorrow and joy.

I don't have much. But I can trade the surplus of time I spend surfing the internet in the morning and offer it to God in prayer instead.

...And, when the opportunity calls, I can even spend the $25 I was going to put toward a new t-shirt on donating to a charity instead. Even a graduate student budget can afford to do that. :)

Here's to giving, more often, from our poverty. Here's to giving, more often, from thankful, joyful hearts.

Here's to giving thanks.

And to thanks giving.