Saturday, October 31, 2015

GOD'S NUDGES

My friend Marian calls it a “nudge.” Someone else says “a bolt from the blue,” another calls it “God's whisper.” Still another describes it like a “brush of angels' wings,” by which she means goose pimples, I guess. 

I call it an “inner impression,” a mental feeling or a sudden knowing. It is like a gentle poke in the ribs or God's tap on the shoulder to get my attention. The ears and eyes of my heart are abruptly alerted to something God is saying to me.

Whatever you want to call it, you know that you know that you know when God is speaking to you. It isn't audible but you hear the voice of God nonetheless; you see with your eyes closed. “My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus declared. The qualification is that you must belong to Him, be one of His sheep, and acknowledge Him as your Shepherd. 

I've heard that a shepherd and each of his sheep has such an intimate relationship that when several flocks of sheep are in the same fold, all bleating noisily, and several shepherds are tending them, each sheep can recognize its own shepherd's voice when its shepherd calls its name. Equally awesome is the analogy that Jesus made for the same kind of intimacy that is available between Himself and us. He calls us by name and we are supposed to be able to hear Him, if we are listening. But we have to be listening; we must have an obedient heart. We have to get quiet enough so that the static from the busy environment we live in doesn't drown out His voice.

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening,” is what Eli the prophet instructed young Samuel. Should this not be our spiritual posture? Many people claim that they have a difficult time hearing God speak. It shouldn't be that hard to recognize His voice, if we know Him intimately. We usually can recognize the voice of a close friend or loved one if they say only a word or two to us on the phone. If some of us older Samuels have a greater challenge discerning the voice of God, we may need a hearing aid. God has provided that through the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts who tunes the volume up on our spiritual audio. God doesn't usually speak in a high decibel voice; He doesn't shout at us. He expects us to listen for His slight whisper.

God is continually speaking through creative ways. God speaks to us through His Word; the Holy Spirit quickens it to our heart and applies it personally. He speaks through His creation. He speaks through His Church and our Shepherds. He speaks through other people whom God “nudges” and they in turn “nudge” us. We exhort and encourage each other as members of the Body of Christ, His Family, His Household of Faith. He speaks to us through circumstances, positive ones and negative ones, if we are open to hear His voice.

The technology of cell phones is incredible, although we seem to take them for granted these days. Less than a generation ago our parents and grandparents would have thought such a gadget impossible. "Where are the wires?" To call them “smart phones” is an understatement. They are an analogy to our spiritual connection with God. Wherever we are, we are connected and can receive and transmit as long as there is a cell tower within range. God is our stable cell tower. We are responsible to keep our cell phone battery charged up so we will not miss His call. His call comes only into our device. He knows our individual number; He knows our name. In a room full of people and cell phones and noise, we can recognize our special signal or vibration.

Let's not miss the vibration of God's voice, that “nudge” notifying us that God has something to say to us. Let's expect Him to speak today in our ordinary day, speak to our ordinary need as well as our extraordinary needs. We don't have to wait for special occasions or when we are in special places to hear God's voice. He may surprise us with something He wants us to say or do as He directs our “going out and coming in.” If we are always connected to Him in an inner posture of “praying without ceasing” as Saint Paul encouraged us, our hearts are in the listening mode all the time.

“If today you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95; Hebrews 3 and 4).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

ENCORING ALL 7 OF MY AUTUMN POEMS

By viewers' popular request


Seven Autumn Poems
by Leona Choy

With introductory poem:
I Paint With Words”


I PAINT WITH WORDS

Some paint with brush and canvas
describing beauty seen by human eyes
Others paint with notes on a staff
which they set to music
Some paint with photo lens capturing color
or with nature's ingredients to produce
gourmet food for eager palates
some paint with healing hands and skills
bringing color back to pallid cheeks with health.
I paint with words.Some paint with hammer, nails, or mortar and cement
Some paint with flowers planted in fertile soil
or decoratively arranged in vase or bouquet
others paint with numbers and equations
describing, solving universal mysteries
or painting with technologies and systems
beyond my finite comprehension.
I paint with words.

Some paint on engineering blueprints
only white lines on blue backgrounds
which become impressive architectural edifices
a graphic artist paints from dreams and imagination
still life or incredible animation
a sculptor paints with hammer and chisel in stone.
I paint with words.
Each is an artist endowed by Creator God
with a portion of His creative spirit
in stewardship as a precious gift
not to bury unused
but to discover and invest
and multiply and so must I
when I paint with words.


AUTUMN'S PARADOX

AUTUMN puts on a Paradox Performance:
She hurries to change scenes and costumes
making me dizzy with her diversity
as she passes briefly between summer
and winter's blustery polar breath.

AUTUMN quickly comes and goes
a transient season of diminishing sunlight
and shortened fugitive days
still she turns once more to bless me
with the ineffable glow of a splendid sunset
leaves fall from soon bare branches
yet such glory in their surrender of life
a part of nature dying all around
amidst a time of bountiful harvest.

AUTUMN's paradox inevitably brings
sadness for diminishing mortal years
yet deep gratitude toward seasons past
rue for course of life I might have changed
now decreed and appointed
I must let go of what I cannot alter
to embrace the joy of what's to come.

AUTUMN's paradox offers me time
to gather all my nostalgia
like creatures forage for their winter larder
I will store up my treasured memories
to savor on a frigid winter's night
around the warmth of the dying embers
of my friendly hearth
and rest content in God's best plan.



SEASONAL SPECTACULAR

AUTUMN is a wet, crunching bite
of a Shenandoah Valley orchard apple
a plump pumpkin time
a snuggle-under-covers season
a time for raking leaves
winding up the garden hose
pulling up dry plants
a porch furniture storing time
a moth-balled sweater
retrieved from the cedar closet
with last year's woolen gloves.

AUTUMN is a cushion
a subdued, leaf-fire-scented buffer
between the swelter of summer
and the wail of frigid winter:
my favorite interlude
this seasonal spectacular!

AUTUMN arrives with composure
and quiet earnestness
unlike the sudden burst of spring.
It signals flocks southward
elbowing harvesters
to hurry with their bounty tasks
before the latter rains.

AUTUMN causes football fever
in restless males: spectators and team.
It sets off ghostly squeals and costume madness
in the young for Halloween
while Thanksgiving menus and fall fashions
tantalize the female mind.

AUTUMN taps summer on the shoulder
nudges it out of the way
and displaces the sultry day
with crispy-cool jacket weather.

Welcome AUTUMN!
I eagerly trade
deep-breathing frosty morning walks
for sluggish dullness that stalks
humid hot July which I
only tolerate because
I anticipate AUTUMN.

The painted leaf, the falling leaf
evoke a tension in my emotions
between joy and grief:
regret for what I haven't done
at blaze of summer sun
and gratitude for living
to this moment of harvest
in relationships and nature.

The wardrobe of the seasons
would be incomplete and out-of-style
without the flashy scarf and golden cap
of AUTUMN and her smile!

P.S. Thanks, God, for not bargain shopping
but going first-class
when You thought up AUTUMN!



AUTUMN'S POMPOSITY

Please stay—just one more day—
it’s a long time 'til spring!

The lash of latter rains
conspire with whipping winds
to chase her off stage
but autumn splendor lingers
reluctant to retreat
without a final flourish.

Eager to please
autumn struts proudly
on mountain and meadow
pompously waving
her leafy scarlet scarves
like victory banners
defying frost and fading foliage
laughing with careless abandon
stunning my summer senses
with her breathtaking beauty.

Stay, autumn—just one more day
before winter disrobes you
to naked, shivering branches
reaching for mercy to the melancholy sky
while chilly gusts sting
your flushed face.



BLUE LINE REVERIE

Crispy, frosty mornings cycle again
in a season of reflection, pensive nostalgia
granting me permission
to stroll the back roads of my mind
while wading ankle-deep in the paint-splashed carpet
kicking up waves of oak and hickory leaves
inhaling the musty mulch beneath my feet
while munching the wet crunch
and tart taste of a freshly picked Jonathan.

Here I can smell peace, forget schedules
concentrate on important things
like scampering squirrels
scurrying to stash acorns for winter larder.
I filter out all but the traffic noise
of wing-flapping, honking geese
heading South in the fast lane
while I take the exit ramp
to a blue line country lane
deliberately dragging my feet
trying to slow down my speeding life
that always seems to be
running a marathon ahead of me.


OCTOBER IN TRANSIT

Temperamental days
bluffing me, mocking me
with teasing, wistful
coquettish ways:
Late October.

Lingering memories
of high July
blazing sun
and summer fun
are tossed on the run
but mixed with
frosty ecstasies.

Reminiscing time
that casts a chill
as winter steals
with cold appeals
slipping finally
into November's prime.


GOD TRIPPED ON A MOUNTAIN

God outdid Himself again!
First He daubed His ruby brush
only on emerald maple tops
teasing them to shyly blush
then rouged their hues
with bolder strokes of scarlet bright
against the autumn cerulean blue
applying saffron-yellow
to catch the lingering rays
before the season’s early wrap
of a frigid starry night.

Suddenly this morning
all nature flamed aglow!
God must have tripped on a mountain
and dropped His palette below:
blazing gold and crimson
splashed on bush and tree
blotching lanes and lawns
spattering his paint recklessly.

Can a painter capture on canvas
such Divine display?
Or I, with feeble words of verse
His magnificence portray?
Creator-Artist-God
is without a peer
each season He paints
an original masterpiece
better than last year!


(Number 7 encored below:)


AWAITING THE AUTUMN DAWN

 
AWAITING THE AUTUMN DAWN
Leona Choy

I wait in pre-dawn darkness
watching for the sun's first ray while
blue and gray overlay the achromic horizon.
Silently a blushing tint of anticipation
steals from beyond the tree line
to lighten the purple shadows.

I begin to see the frosted fence rails
hidden by the unlit night
green pines stand motionless
revealed now in stark silhouette.
An eagle in flight sails slow-motion across
the powder-blue canopy of sky while
golden streaks dispel dusky apparitions.

The eerie scene begins to assume
familiar friendly features while
mist still hugs bronzed tree tops
shorn of autumn brilliance.
An eagle circles and returns...
or is it his mate seeking him?

Frost has aerosoled late October grass
turning the meadow into an albescent carpet.
For a moment dark clouds threaten to hide
the sunrise as I wait, scarce breathing:
Will I miss the main feature after all?

No! I rise to my feet in worship!
Burnt-gold leaps boldly upward
thrusting aside the indigo mass
showering me with warmth and brilliance.


The blazing sun catapults into view
as from a celestial launching pad
into the space of a fresh, new day
blushing the shy white clouds crimson.
I cannot bear to gaze upon this spectacle:
I shade my eyes at the flaming finale.

A fog blanket still shrouds the valley below
but God begins to paint powder-blue across
the vast sky canvas with a wide brush
until a daytime dome appears overhead
paling deep hues into muted pastels.

An alarm clock jangles by some distant bedside
forcing me reluctantly back to mortal thoughts
by the intrusiveness of prosaic human routine.
But I have been an awed and adoring spectator
privileged to stand on nature's sacred ground
to view the miracle of an autumn dawn.

I stand transfixed in silent worship
not of created sun and nature's video display
but of the Creator of heaven and earth.
The memory of God's enchanting wake-up call
lingers through my day's mundane routine
reminding me that He is over all
of ordered nature, seasons, space, and time
and human endeavors—
including mine!

Friday, October 23, 2015

NOT FAR FROM BENGHAZI


What's so special about the story of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry His cross? Perhaps because his hometown was in Libya North Africa which is now modern Benghazi and the official inquiry about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2012 is in the news again.

Wasn't Simon just a man who had happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, an insignificant, curious passer-by as he was referred to in the Scripture, who was randomly picked from the crowd? What was so important about that event that all three synoptic gospel writers would record it? In one of the Stations of the Cross we commemorate it.   

There must be more here than meets the eye! And a great deal to learn about carrying our own crosses and also the crosses of others.

As I searched for more background information, I found that a condemned person was always forced to bear his own instrument of torture, in Jesus' case at least the heavy crossbeam of a cross. But the soldiers didn't want a prisoner to die on the way up the hill to his crucifixion because that would spare him from the planned cruel torture of a deliberately slow and painful execution. A criminal was deliberately crucified in a public place where it would serve as a warning and deterrent to would-be evildoers. Jesus was already staggering under the weight of the crossbeam and falling repeatedly from extreme weakness after his agonizing, prolonged scourging by the soldiers.

In various translations of this biblical passage Simon was said to have been “pressed into service” or “seized” or “compelled.” He obviously didn't volunteer. He had no choice; he was forced to do so at the point of a soldier's spear. 

Who was this Simon whom Mark so precisely identifies that he even records the names of his sons and that he had come to Jerusalem from “the country” or “the fields.”  Since Mark wrote his gospel for Jewish believers, it is likely that by the time he wrote the gospel story the inclusion of the names of his sons in Mark 15:21 may suggest that they were of some standing in the Early Christian community. Tradition says that Simon's sons Rufus and Alexander became missionaries of the gospel; It has also been suggested that the Rufus mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13 is the son of Simon of Cyrene. 

Libya is separated from the Holy Land by Egypt. Simon would have had to cross Egypt by land or come by sea to Jerusalem. Libya was under Roman rule at that time but there was a Greek colony in North Libya along the Mediterranean Sea with a large settlement of Judean Jews.  Most of Libya is covered by the Sahara desert except for that special long strip of Northern coastline where eighty percent of Libya's people live.

It is significant that Cyrene became an early center of Christianity in the centuries after the Church began to spread. Did Simon have something to do with that? Some also link Simon with the "men of Cyrene" in Acts 11:20 who preached the gospel to the Greeks—the Cyrenians would have known how to speak Greek. 

Why was Simon there in the crowd that was following Jesus to Golgotha? Were his sons with him? Were they adults or children? Was he a laborer or a wealthy foreign businessman? Was he a Jew from the diaspora or a dark-skinned Libyan native? Was Simon a believer in Jesus already when he carried Jesus' cross? Was he a devout Jew who was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover according to the requirement of Judaism?  Or was he only a curious pagan caught up in the drama of a Roman execution until he became part of what was a life-changing event for himself and his sons and perhaps his heritage for generations to come?

Simon, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Did you stay at the cross after you carried it up the hill for Jesus and watch salvation history unfold? Were your sons at the crucifixion with you?

  “Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” Did you become a Christian as a result of seeing Jesus die on the cross or perhaps hearing the witness of the disciples about Jesus' resurrection? (Someone ought to write a novel about this man!)

Simon, “Were you there when the Holy Spirit came?” Were you among the 120 in the Upper Room? In the biblical account of the birth of the Church on Pentecost in Acts chapter two in the list of places from which people were present at the event, “the districts of Libya near Cyrene” was noted. Simon, “Were you there?” We can only speculate.

What is the take-away insight for us from this special event? In His suffering humanity and to accomplish His mission from His Father, Jesus allowed Simon to help carry His cross. He could have called ten thousand angels to strengthen Him to carry the heavy cross, but He permitted and welcomed a mortal man to help Him. In His teaching before the crucifixion Jesus spoke about the necessity of taking up our cross and following Him. (Matthew 16:24) On the way to Golgotha Simon didn't carry his own cross; he carried Jesus' cross.

We can't do what Simon did. We can't literally carry Jesus' cross. Jesus gave His life once for all on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and to obtain eternal life for us. However, in a singular way we can share the sufferings of Christ according to Colossians 1:24.  How can we bear Jesus' cross for Him now? Jesus declared that whatsoever we do for others or to others, we do as if we did it unto Him. The Lord receives it as literally done to Him! (Matthew 25:35-46) In practice then, as we bear one another's burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Each of us has unique personal crosses to bear as well as burdens, afflictions, and problems. There is a sense in which we must with courage and God's enabling accept and bear our own cross, the cross that God has given us in His love. By this we glorify Him and give witness to Him. However, there is a further sense in which we should reach out in love and compassion to help others shoulder their crosses as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus. By so doing, we are privileged to partake in Jesus' suffering, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)

YOUR UNIQUE CROSS

The everlasting God has, in His wisdom,
foreseen from eternity the cross
that He now presents to you
as a gift from His inmost heart.

This cross He now sends you
He has considered with His all-knowing eyes,
understood with His loving mind,
tested with His wise justice,
warmed with His loving arms,
and weighed with His own hands,
to see that it be not one inch too large
and not one ounce too heavy for you.

He has blessed it with His holy name,
anointed it with His grace,
perfumed it with His consolation,
taken one last glance at you and your courage,
and then sent it to you from Heaven,
a special greeting from God to you,
an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
***
Saint Francis de Sales
1567-1622

Monday, October 19, 2015

OUR GOD FOR ALL SEASONS


RIPEN WITH THE SEASONS

I see another meaning in the words of the *classic hymn whose first line is, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” “Ages past” can mean not only generations and centuries past in the calendar sense, but the different ages and periods of an individual's life cycle from birth to advanced age. Our Eternal God has a plan for each of us for all the seasons of our lives. He had a plan for my childhood, my youth, my married and parental life, my widowhood, and the "summit season" of my life.
 
Among the seasons of life is chronological maturity: aging, if you will. Even if you resist it, if you live long enough, you will come, albeit reluctantly, into the final phase of this mortal life on Planet Earth. Some call that stage of life our “sunset years.” I prefer to call them “sunrise years.” Since we are Christians, we don’t face growing darkness; instead we anticipate dawn and Eternal life with God. “The child is father of the man…The last of life for which the first was made,” wrote a famous poet.

I remember myself as a vacillating teenager always excited about something new or different, and my parents using the word “phase” in a disparaging way. “Oh, it’s just a phase that Leona is going through. She’ll get over it.” However, we don’t “get over” our seasons of life; we have to go through them, if God blesses us with long life. We don’t have the luxury of tripping lightly through the tulips through each chronological stage from youth to maturity. Human time is divided into seasons of life, and each period provides its own opportunities, responsibilities, struggles, temptations, joys, and challenges.

I’ve often used the term “seasoned saints” in my writing to refer to Christians who are maturing in calender years. The apostle Paul addressed all Christians as “saints” not because they wore halos, or were sanctimonious above their fellow mortals, or had achieved perfection. The Bible simply uses the word to refer to believers in Christ living on earth or in heaven. Also, I don’t restrict the term to the departed who are canonized by the Catholic Church because of their heroic virtue or extraordinary holiness.

Let’s explore the treasures of that season of life that is finally approaching ripeness in wisdom, experience, and responsibility—and hopefully, holiness and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church which He established for our nurture. 

Delving into the dictionary meaning of being seasoned is like discovering a mother lode of gold. The word season is a derivative of the Middle English, sesoun, Old French, se(i)on, and Latin word sation meaning “a sowing time.” That root meaning of sowing in itself is significant to the chronologically mature period of our lives:

We are seasoned in the sense of being experienced. We have done a lot of living which we can generously share with others for their benefit. (But only when we are asked!)

Another meaning of seasoned is to be toughened by conditions, like wood that is hardened and rendered immune to shrinkage or warping. Likewise, we are durable because we have lived long enough to learn to endure the adversities of life through trust in God.

Seasoned also means heightened or improved in flavor by the addition of herbs, spices and the like. Good cooks add just the right seasoning in the proper amount to enhance the taste. God is seasoning us all the time, adding this and that to increase His joy in us and our pleasure in Him and our usefulness for His Kingdom. As we age we shouldn’t become like “salt that has lost its savor” which Jesus said was useless.

A season is, of course, a time of the year—four distinct seasons in certain parts of the globe. Normally, human beings experience four seasons of life although somewhat overlapping. God expects different things of us in different time periods of life. He intends that we should live fully in the present at whatever season we find ourselves. God has allowed some of us to see many seasons of life; we have gained a perspective that as good stewards we should sow into our posterity, the generations that come after us.

“In due season we shall reap if we faint not” the Scripture promises. Due season always seems to be illusively off in the future somewhere, sometime other than right now. We spent a lifetime tilling, sowing, watering, and cultivating. In our latter season we tend to be in a greater hurry to reap because time does not seem to be on our side. However, God’s timing is not the same as our timing. Just as there is a due date for the birth of a baby that requires a prescribed sequence of growth to take place in the womb, so God has a due season for the fullness of some things He wants to do in us and through us in the lives and circumstances of others. Let’s be on the alert so we won’t miss our due season.

“To everything there is a season” the writer of Ecclesiastes declares. He proceeds to detail many of the milestone events of life with contrasts: “…a time to (this)…and also a time for (that)….” In our advanced years we acknowledge God’s wisdom to bring us through many of those opposites to balance our lives.

When a fruit is in season, it is ripe, mellow, fragrant, nutritious, and at the peak of its essence. Can that be said of us? We should not bemoan the fact that we are aging; instead we should revel in our opportunity to bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit according to Jesus’ desire and plan for the aging. The Psalmist compared the mature godly person with a palm tree that bears fruit into its hundredth year. “…They will flourish in the courts of our God; they will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:12-15)

Arriving at our “fullness of years” is no excuse to become slack in active witness for our Lord. The Scriptures exhort us to be available to speak up for Him anytime, anywhere, “in season and out of season” despite increasing limitations of strength, health, finances, or opportunity. To be advanced in years does not give us license to retreat because of age. 

Youth and middle age have no monopoly on seeking new horizons. Let’s emulate seasoned Caleb in the Old Testament who, although well into his eighties, didn’t accept that he was finished with his life. He asked God for another big hill (mountain) to possess. Let’s sprinkle seasoning on one another to encourage mountain climbing rather than slipping back down our already attained hills. 

God has equipped us with spiritual wings to lift us over our valleys of circumstances and limitations when they try to drag us down. Our advancing years can be the most creative and productive of our lives. Let’s expect our due season right around the next corner. “The best is yet to come” can become a reality instead of a pious platitude.

If we try to turn back the clock or get stuck in the rut of yesterday, we will miss the joy of passing on to the next generation the legacy of life’s richness in Christ. Let’s join the apostle Paul in declaring, ”My entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me—life on high in Christ Jesus. All of us who are spiritually mature must have this attitude….It is important that we continue on our course no matter what stage [phase, season] we have reached.” (Philippians 3:14-16) 

After all, those of us in the SENIOR CLASS are anticipating the exciting things we’re going to be doing after “Commencement” which some mistakenly call “The Finish Line!”


*O God Our Help in Ages Past
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI7JYSw-gOU 

Friday, October 16, 2015

WAITING ON THE TARMAC


I have to be realistic—my recent visit to my hometown after fifteen years was probably my last visit there. Because of distance, advanced age, mine and the friends and relatives I saw there, I don't expect that we will see each other on Planet Earth again. That's not a morbid thought, however, but a mortal reality. Of course I felt sad when we drove off after saying Goodbye.

However, since many folks I visited are Christians, some of whom I have known since childhood, I do expect to see them again “Elsewhere” in the presence of God in Heaven. There we'll pick up our conversation that we had to cut short because of the brevity of our visit. The following is really a happy, joyful letter to someone whose name I made up and am calling “Greg,” but it represents all the men and women whom I love and with whom I visited recently.


(By the way, it was interesting how most of their conversations eventually turned to the 500 year flood my hometown experienced more than seven years ago which permanently changed the landscape and touched the lives of so many. If you are curious, Google Cedar Rapids, Iowa flood 2008 and watch the flood on YouTube.)

Many of those I visited eventually turned their conversation to the devastating personal flood they were experiencing through suffering various stages of their health issues. This personal flood was changing their own emotional landscape and touching not only themselves but the lives of their families. Many friends and relatives I visited were in assisted living residences or keeping busy with doctors appointments. Most of their health issues were at least indirectly related to our normal and unavoidable aging process. But regardless of age, all of us in a sense are waiting on the airport tarmac of life for the signal from the Heavenly Control Tower for our “takeoff” from this life of trials, sufferings, and afflictions.

Some of us would really want to stay here longer because we don't feel that we are finished with life and we don't want to sever loving relationships. Others are eager and impatient to leave because of pain and suffering and weakness. They long for their lifelong Faith to become sight at last. They pray for release even as their disordered body keeps them anchored to this life; their cross seems too heavy.

How can I be a Simon from Cyrene to the “Gregs” I met? How can I "come in from the fields and help them carry their cross" like Simon did for Jesus? I can light a candle and pray with compassion and love for each “Greg” I have met for his gentle takeoff in the company of angels whom God will assign to that tender task when God's perfect time comes. And I can also write my heart's message of encouragement to them and share some perspective to help prepare for what we all must face sooner or later:

Dear “Greg,”

You might have been told that possibly your takeoff could be sooner than you expected—or you are sensing that in your spirit. You might be trying to speed up “setting your house in order.” Perhaps you are becoming more aware that the attachments of life are fleeting and fragile. A flood can take everything away. Consider this, however: Some of us who expect our takeoff to be “later,” may leave suddenly and arrive in Heaven even before the “sooner” people. Others may linger far longer than they would wish and they need patience to endure their suffering by uniting it with Jesus' suffering for us.

But God, not doctors with all their sophisticated knowledge and skills, has ordained the time of our takeoff. You may be carrying a heavy cross right now, Greg, but the way of the cross leads you Home toward beholding God face to face at last. That's what it's all about. All of us must cross that Final Threshold into life after life.

God created us more than just a temporary body. All of us have an eternal soul with a forever destiny. The moment will arrive when our soul will separate from our suffering body and our soul will defy gravity and fly into God’s Presence no longer weighted down with pain and limitations of this earthly life. Some friends may be reluctant to talk about our leaving, but it should be a joyful thing to anticipate crossing The Threshold because “the best is yet to come!”

If you get there before I do, Greg, please pray for me to Jesus that I may always do the Father's will on earth as it is done in Heaven. That will cover it all! That’s an assignment, hear? And if I arrive before you, I'll pray the same for you. We are one family in Christ in Heaven and on earth. Death doesn't separate us. Even when we leave behind our bodies, our “earth suits,” for awhile, we are nevertheless still fully alive and will recognize one another in Heaven. Our eventual resurrection will provide us with “space suits” appropriate for our transformed life! Didn’t Jesus promise, “Whoever believes in Me will never die but have eternal life”?

Greg, hold on firmly to your faith in God through Jesus as your Savior no matter how your life boat might rock with pain or affliction during the rushing waters of the flood of your health issues. It is only for a little while. The floods of life will recede. If you become too weak to hang on to Him, Jesus will hold you tightly. When we close our eyes for our heavenly trip, don't be afraid, it won’t get dark! Jesus said that He Himself is the Light. His beloved disciple John wrote “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” If you are “in Christ” no one can extinguish that Light!

I love you, Greg, and I love Jesus in you. When the time comes, we won't need to say “Goodbye.” Let's anticipate the joy of meeting again, not in our earthly hometown but in our Heavenly Hometown, in The Eternal City where the Light never goes out and no flood can reach us!
 
WILL IT BE DARK?
Leona Choy

Will it be dark
when I cross that Ultimate Threshold?
Beyond the sunset implies night
with all its terror and fright
when the next unknown scene unfolds.


NO!
"He that followeth Me
shall not walk in darkness
but shall have the Light of life."
Jesus assures those who walk this earth
how much more those on the Other Shore
who have leaped into immortality
"

"NO NIGHT THERE!"
thunders The Revelation.
The Lamb is The Light
the Lamp is His Presence
no sun and no moon
speaks their obsolescence
all is as noonday, all is the Light!

We shall not stumble and grope
in the darkness like those without hope
We who even now dwell in Eternity
shall shine endlessly
as the stars forever and ever.
The blind shall see God’s blazing glory
the lame will walk, the dumb talk
all praising the Lamb, the Light, continuously.

Will it be dark when we close our eyes?
Must we embark on that Final Voyage
with apprehension and dread
fearing what's ahead?

BANISH ANXIETY!
 We will not sail into the sunset
but into the splendid sunrise,
not into the foreboding of a growing night
but the sure promise of a dawning light
not with sighs but a shout Hallelujah!
God has provided the Lamb, THE LIGHT!
God has assuaged our fears: IT'S BRIGHT!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NOT OVER THE HILL YET!

As a nonagenarian I've discovered that I'm not “over the hill” yet. Surprise—God expects me to keep climbing!

That applies to all of us in our older calendar years. I call that season of life our “summit years.” I have published an entire book, the third in my spiritual autobiographical Trilogy, about our continued climbing experience. *STILL MORE! is the title and the theme.

Most of us were hoping that finally, perhaps in retirement, we could rest. Just coast along. Take it easy at last. At least anchor ourselves somewhere and try to keep from sliding backwards on the hill of life that we've been climbing. The fact is, there is not one hill but many to keep climbing in our advanced years. It seems that our lives are challenged by an entire mountain range, one mountain after another.

Each mountain seems like another obstacle to overcome but we are no longer as strong as when we started climbing. Nevertheless, with every new mountain, God provides more strength for our growing weakness. A classic hymn truthfully declares:
 “He giveth more grace when the burden grows greater; He sendeth more strength when the labors increase. To added affliction He addeth His mercy; To multiplied trials, He multiplies peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed 'ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father's full giving has only begun.” Help and strength for our mountain climbing continues to be available from God.

However, God is not a slave driver and pusher; He is the Good Shepherd who gently leads His sheep to climb to higher green pastures and to lie down and rest beside the cool waters. There are places and times of rest which God has provides for His elder sheep as we climb to the Final Peak, the Ultimate Summit. When we are weary and about to faint, the Scriptures say that He bears us up on eagle wings. Following the mountain analogy, there are times when He gently picks us up and puts us into His divine ski lift, as it were, and brings us to the sunlit Summit—over the sharp, pointed, painful peaks, and safely over the deep chasms into which we might have fallen.

God is concerned for our rest as we grow older. However, according to Pope Francis, being old is no time for resting; we must keep climbing and at the same time keep using our earned and learned gifts for our new mission in the world.

During his recent visit to the U.S., media focus was upon Pope Francis and he was widely viewed on TV and in person—and widely received and quoted. When he returned to Rome, during one of his general audiences gathered in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope had more to say about the opportunities in today’s frenetic world for senior adults to share their wisdom, prayers, and gifts with young people and families who need encouragement, hope and faith. “We older people can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren. We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are overly much in love with themselves that there is more joy in giving than receiving.”

The 78-year-old Pope said he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” when talking about the elderly since “I, too, belong to this age group,” recalling with a smile how during his visit to the Philippines the people there called him 'Lolo Kiko' – that is, Grandpa Francis. “It’s true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely doesn’t. The Lord never rejects us. There is a true vocation and mission set aside for older people. It’s still not time to ‘rest on one’s oars' and just coast along. When it comes to finding one’s new purpose in the world as older people, they need to sort of 'make it up as they go along,'” he said, “because our societies are not ready spiritually and morally to give this period of life its full worth. It involves sketching out a spirituality of older persons.”

Pope Francis pointed out elderly Simeon and Anna in the temple who had the knowledge and wisdom from life’s journey to recognize Jesus. “The weight of age and waiting disappeared at the moment they recognized Jesus, and they found new strength for a new task: to give thanks and bear witness to this sign of God. Just as Simeon found inspiration to sing out with joy and Anna became the first to preach about Jesus, let us also become poets of prayer, let us acquire a love for looking for the right words to offer, as inspired by the word of God.”

“The prayers of the world’s grandparents and older people can be a great gift for the Church,” he said, “and they offer a great infusion of wisdom for all of society, especially for [those who are] too busy, too occupied, too distracted.”


Pope Francis remarked how wonderful it was that Pope Benedict XVI chose to spend the final stretch of his life in prayer and listening to God. “This is beautiful,” he said to applause.

“There is truly an important mission for grandparents, a vocation for older people to hand down their wisdom and offer encouragement to those who are searching for meaning in life. How awful the cynicism of an older person who has lost the meaning of his witness, scorns the young, and does not communicate knowledge about life. I pray for a Church that challenges the culture of disposal of the elderly with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old people.”

The Pope told his audience how a grandparent's words are such a treasure. He said he often reads a letter which he keeps in his breviary that his grandmother wrote him long ago for his priestly ordination because “it does me good.”

I think I get the picture--we are still here on earth, no matter what our age, not to spend our time resting, but to invest it by "doing good" and to encourage the next generation in the Faith of Our Fathers. Personally, I pray that some word I write or say, something I email, publish or blog, will reach the heart of someone and perhaps years from now they will recall it and it will continue to "do them good."

* If you don't have your copy yet, contact Leona to order.