Best or Worse
I live at Tanby, a locality of Yeppoon, but am presently in Perth looking after my brother’s family while he has cancer treatment overseas. Most people reading this will realise that Yeppoon has bad fires at the moment, very bad fires. I am following from afar, mostly through the Yeppoon Families Facebook page and I have been moved to tears by the courage and generosity that my community is showing towards those in need. Our community is big enough that many do not personally know the people they are helping. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this situation is calling for the ‘Best’ from people and they are responding. Yes, there are some for whom this situation will bring out the ‘Worse’ but I don’t want to dwell on them.
What is happening in my community is being done right across Australia at present, yes even here in WA, and will continue to be done for some time. We know it is going to be a long, hard summer. And we will respond with our ‘Best’. That’s what challenges can do: bring out the best in us.
And so can the ordinary challenges we face in daily life: getting the kids out the door to school, dealing with illness, caring for our elderly. Each day, every day we have choices to make as to whether we will go with our best or worse. And sometimes it can be hard. Even the smallest things can need courage to face. And it is in those situations, we mostly need God. A relative joked the other day that my prayer life now must be, ‘God, get me through this day!’ True, as it would be for any parent. So, let us hang in there, and with God’s grace, give it our best shot. And if it doesn’t look ‘pretty’ that doesn’t matter, we will have tried our best.
Loving Father, you alone all the challenges I face every day. You know when I am weak and feel overwhelmed. Give me the wisdom and courage to do my best in each situation and let me not worry about the rest. Give your strength and courage to those facing and fighting fires at this time. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
‘When things go wrong…’
Everyone reading this has things ‘going wrong’ in their life at this point in time. Think of them, from the small and silly to the serious and distressing. If there isn’t anything serious in your life at the moment there will be in the life of someone dear to you. We react or respond to these things in a variety of ways. We accept or swear, we fight against or passively accept, we try to learn from the situation or to be resilient, we give up or we ignore our pain. And we can react in a variety of ways in the same situation. But how do we see God in these situations?
In the worst of situations, we ask ourselves, ‘Where is God in this mess?’ and all too often we fail to find an answer. But maybe the question is the wrong one. What we could ask is ‘How do I find God in this?’ This shifts our focus: God is not the outsider manipulating the situation, but immersed with me in it. One of the challenges we have as Christians is that no matter how good we are, God rarely takes tough situations away from us. We have to go through them, often feeling bruised and helpless. But God wants to be with us in our lives, in the mess, muddle and pain. We have to struggle – not only with the situation but also it seems with God. We have to die to so many things for life to emerge.
This Friday, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. While the cross was always central to our faith, the image of Jesus on a crucifix did not emerge for centuries: it was too raw, too humiliating, not at all like the way people wanted God to act. Over this coming week, we could look again at the things ‘going wrong’ in our lives, and try to see just how God is with us in our struggle.
Loving God, help me to realise just how scandalous Jesus’ death was and then let me know how you can be with me in the difficult and times of my life. I ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
I am so tired.
“I am sooo tired.’, ‘There is so much to do.’ ‘The children are driving me crazy.’ ‘I am utterly weary and have no idea how I am going to get through what I have to do.’ Parent or teacher, most of you have words like this run through your head at times. Teacher, possibly by the end of term. Parents, by the end of the school holidays. We do not have to look far for the challenges of our lives.
Jesus calls on us to take up our cross and follow him. Too often we think this is something extra to add into our lives. Rather we need to simply ponder on the things, the multiple things we need to do every day and which often overwhelm us and we will recognise our cross. Taking up the cross doesn’t mean just putting up with what we have to do (and feel downtrodden) because that leads to grumbling – one of the best ways to deplete our energies. Taking up our cross means we recognise that what we have to do is something good, something that will make us grow as people, something that is holy. In taking up our cross we realise that God in Jesus is helping us.
Often the only thing we can change in a situation is by our attitude. Praying about our challenges is a good way to start that change. When we bring God into our weary, overwhelmed situation, we begin to see how we could tweak our routines and actions to get that bit of extra rest, to ask for help, to change the way we do things so they are more streamlined and give us a break. With God on our side, we may be surprised by how much we can do. Yes, they will may be plain and ordinary things, but that is where God most often waits for us.
Loving God, in the times that I feel weary and overwhelmed come to me and give me the rest my heart needs to sort out my life. Give me the patience and strength to be loving with my family. I ask thing in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Patience and Passion
Some of the best wisdom comes from people in their old age, especially when death is approaching. St Benedict in his old age edited over the Rule he had written, when he was younger, for his monks, adding a few nuggetty bits of wisdom. One of the best was ‘for it is by patience that we share in the suffering of Christ.’ As Christians, the Cross is our sign of love in the most awful of circumstances and we know that we are called to carry our own cross, sharing in Christ’s self-giving love. When we think of a cross, we usually think of some hard, dramatic challenge. Yes, that sometimes is the case but St Benedict’s wisdom points us to a more mundane, realistic experience. More often than not we know our cross when we have to be patient with those around us.
The word for ‘patient’ shares the same Latin root as the word for ‘passion’ – which is a word that describes both strong emotion and the sufferings of Christ. The implication for us is that when we are being patient, kind, caring, even when we don’t feel like, or rather especially then, we are actually being passionately in love. Our best love may well be given in the most hidden of ways. And what is more, we are allowing the same gracious love that was unleashed in Christ’s passion to flow through us and be a reality in our families, friendships and community. This is our triumph of the Cross.
Loving Father, you know how those I love can try my patience. Send me your Holy Spirit that I might show in my loving the wisdom and strength that Jesus shows in his. I ask this in his name confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Where do you focus?
Sometime ago I travelled south for a few weeks and got caught in the chaos that has affected air travel, especially in the southern states. Between an airline not running, engineering problems with a plane from another airline, bad weather and pressure from the beginning of school holidays, the homeward trip was a mess, beginning at Melbourne airport. There the queue for the Baggage Drop went back from the Domestic terminal right into the International terminal! What was amazing was how calmly and politely the overwhelming majority of people took the inconvenience in their stride. Amongst the hundreds of people, the number of people who made an unpleasant fuss could have been counted on one hand. Yet what was really amazing was how little attention those people were given. Everyone, but especially the staff, just got on with being calm and making the best of a difficult situation. I marvelled at what a difference such a focus can make.
In the ordinary challenges and circumstances of life, if we chose to focus on what is negative, we will become people who give out negativity: whingers and unhappy complainers. But if we make the best of a situation and try to find what is good, we will be happy and spread that happiness. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that not only has God created a good world but that God’s grace and power can bring goodness even out of profoundly sinful situations. We allow that divine power to work in our lives by what we chose to focus on. In life, in love and in relationships, we can only build on good. Focus on the good and then you will have the power to deal with the difficult challenges.
Loving God, you have made our world and each of us in love and goodness. When life is difficult and challenging, send us your Spirit so that we may be channels of Jesus’ life-giving power and love. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
There is something to be said for doing one’s duty. We tend to think that if we can choose to do what we want to do, we will be free and have a sense of fulfilment – that can happen. Conversely, we tend to think that when we have to do something we don’t like, we will not only feel put upon but be diminished as persons – not necessarily.
In fact, if we accept what has to be done with grace and get on with it, it can be quite a liberating experience. We are freed from the tyranny of our own likes and dislikes, freed from having to make all the decisions, freed from ourselves to get on with the task at hand. This situation happens so frequently in family life: walking the floor at night with a sick child, doing the rounds of the doctors with an elderly parent, being patient when the orange juice is spilt – you can think of a dozen instances in each day. It is in these situations that we experience one of the central teachings of our Christian faith: dying to self leads to life.
In the Gospels Jesus teaches that we have to die to ourselves to rise to the fullness of life. In his own life he showed how it was done. Now he has promised us his Spirit to strengthen and guide us. When we feel challenged, we can pray for this Spirit to come and help us transform that difficult situation into a place of grace and love.
Loving God, we often feel overwhelmed by the challenges of life, as though they are killing our spirit. Send us the Spirit of Jesus to guide us through the difficult and dark moments of our lives that we may bring the love of Jesus into our families and communities. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb