"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When Help is Better Than Fix

By Micky Wolf

Most of us know that when it comes down to it, and if at all possible, we want to fix what is broken. Which is fine if the ‘problem’ is a leaky pipe or a flat tire.  

Not so much if fixing means we want to make another person into a human being more to our liking, or put another way, “more like me”.

As if to confirm the point, my beloved just called, his patience wearing thin with the long lines at a local store where he was hoping to pick up the perfect Christmas gift for a family member. Talk about wanting to ‘fix’ something, in this case, his attitude. Round and round the block he went, not a parking spot in sight. To make matters worse, he lamented, the line of people waiting to be served was lengthening by the second, in this case, faster than you could say chocolate covered peanuts.

He would be the first to state this situation was pretty minor in the bigger picture of life. Nevertheless, what could I do to make it better? Not that he was asking me to, mind you.

Not a day goes by when we aren’t presented with an opportunity, sometimes many, to try and change—improve?—events, things, or people. Believing we know best, we overtly or covertly get involved, invited or not, honestly thinking we have the answer.

The best of intentions…

Given we have the best intentions, to help means to aid or assist; to fix means to make whole or work properly. Notice the subtle but important difference: assist or make. Don’t know about you, but I’m much more amenable to someone offering assistance rather than trying to make me do something. 

But aiding or assisting seems so…so…insufficient? Maybe even weak?

I have lost track of how many “assist or make” opportunities have landed in my lap in recent days, which can only mean one thing—the Spirit is really hoping to get my attention. Or in Christian parlance, provide a personally designed come-to-Jesus moment.

…the single mom who called, struggling to speak through her tears how hard it was to provide for her child and pay her bills. Wouldn’t writing a check go a long way toward fixing things for her? Sure, by my pockets aren't that deep.

…the note enclosed with the Christmas card detailing to the inth degree all that is wrong with the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to wave a hand and eliminate all selfishness, greed and corruption, thereby fixing her problems? Definitely, but not about to happen until Jesus comes again, which by definition, doesn't mean me showing up to save the day.

…learning of yet another woman who is now a too-young widow. Wouldn’t it be great to have had a cure of the dreaded disease years ago, fixing the world so this pain and suffering could have been avoided? Absolutely, but surely, none other than God knows the best way to heal.

…receiving a call from an adult, married child whose spouse was inconsolable upon witnessing the total collapse of the special, holiday dessert. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to offer a sure-fire method for never failing in the kitchen, or any other room of the home for that matter? Certainly, but then again, can any of us recall the last time anything was perfectly perfect, at least from a human perspective.

But aiding or assisting seems so…so…insufficient? Maybe even weak?

Not in the least. The bottom line?

When Jesus walked among us, many people had a specific idea of what it meant for them if He would fix their world—read “make it more to their liking”. And many did not hesitate to tell him so in no uncertain terms.

And yet the Savoir sent to us in human form did none of this. Ever. Rather, He chose to promise to come alongside you and me as a faithful companion, each step of the way, on our earthly journey. If that wasn’t enough, He also promised to indwell us with His Holy Spirit.

But there is a catch—and for good reason—in the order of God’s Kingdom. Only God can make and mold us into who He has called to be, and that can only occur when we choose to accept His invitation to be part of our life.

Good helpers are rare indeed, maybe because learning how to aid and assist in the manner and likeness of Jesus brings us to the realization of how much “me" has to go. 

There is little doubt that if we are committed to living this kind of life, we soon realize it requires nothing short of dying to self, of letting go of our notion of what it means to love and serve others.

Maybe the real lesson the Divine was hoping to get across was if anyone (including self) is to be fixed—made whole—let us leave that work to our good and gracious God. 

Do I tend to be a fixer rather than a helper?

How do I feel about being on the receiving end of either one?

Am I willing to ask for assistance, or do I want someone to fix my problem(s)?  


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You’ve Got Mail

By Micky Wolf

For many of us, this is a fun time of the year to go to the mail box or answer the door. Among other things, the convenience of shopping on the Internet and finding that special gift for our loved ones and friends is a much less challenging process. In a matter of a couple of days our carefully chosen purchases arrive.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. The little envelopes that show up alongside the goodies, the ones I tease my mailman about keeping. The bills. Yep. Apart from those, there are usually a few advertisements for various and sundry gadgets to cure whatever ails the body, mind or soul, here, or in the afterlife.

And yet here’s the part I find interesting—God’s idea of messages and messengers bears a certain resemblance to the how and what shows up for us, regardless of the season or celebration.

The fun stuff…

As mailing costs have continued to increase, there’s a special joy in receiving a hand-written greeting card or note these days. You know the sender not only took the time to find the appropriate message, they also plucked down some significant change for the stamp.

As well, the Divine makes sure we are surprised and delighted, if we are open to His mysterious ways. A brilliant orange sun hanging in the sky greets us as we go about our errands. A few scattered flakes of fresh snow glide past our face, daring to touch a rosy cheek with their cool, melted droplets.

The phone rings and a friend calls to say they were thinking about you and hoping all was well.

The fun stuff. The good news kind of stuff. Those moments that can reframe a difficult day into one of peace and hope in an instant.

The not-so-much-fun stuff…

And then, like those bills that show up to remind us to “render unto Caesar” what is necessary to maintain the services and utilities that keep our home in order or to remind us to pay for our recent purchases, there are the messages we would just as soon passed us by.

The report from the doctor’s office with test results stating we need to make healthier choices and lifestyle changes. Or, in another instance, the tearful child rushing through the door, frustrated and hurt because they were pinned into a dark corner of a hallway by the class bully.

The messages—and sometimes the messengers God uses to deliver the message of the Good News—can seem anything but pleasant. Whether struggling to make ends meet financially, cling to the tiniest ray of hope that a loved one (or ourselves) will be healed, or wondering how we will endure another day working for a boss who’s’ every breath drips with sarcasm, it may be all we can manage to take the next tiniest step.

It’s all gift…

It likely takes a lifetime of perseverance and learning to trust God in seeing His hand at work in all the circumstances and experiences of life, the ways in which He hopes to get our attention and speak to our hearts. 

This could not be truer than the hours and days of our journey through the season of Advent. Children, full of anticipation and excitement, dart about with glee as they wish away the moments until the big day. And so it should be. Let us not rob them of those precious, innocent years of seeing Christmas as a time to celebrate a special birth by tearing open shiny packages amidst squeals of laughter.

Soon enough, each of us will need to embrace the rest of the story—the knowledge and painful awareness that sweet, baby Jesus will become a man, the completion of his mission among us to be death upon a Cross. 

As our journey continues to unfold, let us gather with family and friends this Christmas and truly savor the fullness of God’s loving message to each of us—the most loving gift we could ever choose to accept and open.

What do I feel when the mail arrives? Fear? Sadness? Joy? Another emotion?

How do I feel about the kind of messages God desires to deliver to my heart?

How do I feel about the messengers God uses to get my attention?