Praise be the God of Leah, the daughter of Laban. Who was unloved and her sister, beloved of Jacob. This is the one who God the Father looked at her and said: this is the one I choose to be the foremother of my beloved Son. The Son of God. The Merciful Lamb and Mighty King. This is the one who will give me praise.
“Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give thanks to the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah.” Genesis 29:35
(Bible verse from the USCCB)
A good desire is evidence of the nature of God
But, before we obtain our earthly desires, does God want us to love Him above all else?
I was riding to church on Pentecost Sunday and saw a lost cat sign. I had a flashback to when I was a kid, and the family cat got lost. I was sad and shocked the week after. But, eventually, I came to peace with the news. I was lying on the bed, maybe coloring or drawing with my sister while my mom did work nearby. And I said something to the extent of:"You know, if she doesn't come back... I'll be okay."
Almost as soon as I said that, my dad came into the room holding the cat, and we erupted with excitement.
So, I was thinking about the timing of that event and relating it to prayers and desires I have brought to God. I have come to think that when making decisions, we can't ignore desires. Of course, desires can be misguided and distorted and replaced with something that mimics them but does not ultimately fulfill them. And desires can, unfortunately, be ordered to the highest obeisance. But… they can also be ordered under God’s authority as a loving Father, Lover, and Friend. And when they are ordered under God, our desires become creative and expansive and shows us the nature of God.
So it seems that, ideally, God wants to show us, not just that our desires are good, but more importantly, that the Maker of them is so good. Desires symbolize the Nature and Face of God - they give us hints of our future union with Him.
Receiving a desire from God is like getting up on Christmas morning and finding that gift you hardly dare dream of – maybe an amazing Lego set - under the tree. And finding that it was even bigger and better than you imagined it. But, the night before, you had told your parent: "Don’t worry – I don’t need to have it if you don’t want me to." Maybe, you realized that it was sold-out or expensive for them - and you kind of realized, objectively, for yourself, it could take up a lot of space in your room.
But, for some reason, by not having been bound by that desire – while still knowing it is good, in a content and peaceful way that does not have to have it – you were all the more grateful to receive it. And, perhaps, after opening it, you immediately rush into your mother and father's arms. You are so grateful - the gratefulness has just been magnified - that all you want to do is stay in their arms a few minutes before descending from their embrace to play with the toy. And maybe when you come down to play with the toy, you begin to show them the toy, which they specifically chose for you. But seeing you delight in it gives them overflowing joy. Such is it with God. He is the parent, and we are the children.
So, I think that a dimension to doing discernment with desires is that they have to be ordered under God. And understood that they are good because God made them – and often tailor-made. For another person, a desire might not be optimal, but for you, it might be because God made you for it.
And, when desires are ordered below under God's wisdom, we can rationally see their benefits and downsides. Because nothing in this life is perfect. With this understanding, no one can boast that what they want is necessarily more perfect than another person’s want.
Have you ever had a question or petition, in prayer, answered only after your heart had given it up to God’s will? Perhaps, after years of not receiving it, you come to rest in enjoying God and knowing that since He is so good, He is all you need. But, after that ordering of love of God above all else, God might have then answered that prayer.
Why would God do it like this? Maybe He knows that if we receive the things we desire without knowing their context, our excitement over them will easily fizzle – we will get overwhelmed and not know the full capacity of their use.
For instance, gold itself is kind of pretty and shines, but if we don’t know its nature we don’t know that it can also be molded and turned into jewelry and even used for medicine and technology. For our desires, when we fully realize what can be done with them through God’s knowledge, we get to know the nature of the Creator and fall deeper in love with Him! But, when we don’t approach our desires through God, they become idols that take the place of God and end when we no longer know what to do with them.
God delights in giving us the desires of our hearts when we are most in love with Him. He knows what we need, and He knows that fulfilled desires from Him express His goodness for us to delight in, even here on Earth, before being united with Him in heaven.
And, also, when we are most in love with Him we enjoy any gift from Him in its full capacity. Because we know that anything from the one we love will be good and that is enough.
Holy God, give us the desire to love You above all else, preferring You to every other thing and person in the world. Order all of our other desires to the obedience of our love for You. Amen.
“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that now at last you revived your concern for me. You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity.Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
“But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
(Bible quotes from the USCCB)
Once, Lo and Behold
I rose from the dust
To rule worlds of gold
For I felt that I must
By an invisible force
Of which cities've been shed
For which man cries hoarse
And which kings have bled.
By which men are exalted
All glory for life
A gift never assaulted
I'd be fool to think twice
With unspoken devotion
I had ruled from afar
My exclusive promotion
I did not want to mar
Pride was my sustenance
A banquet without mince
Assumed death was slowed hence
Only fit for a prince
But never enough laud
Ended up causing me aches
I - my own god
Was still destined for breaks
As that limit designed
To what I thought that I was
Just proved myself confined
To illusory applause
For I had come to be resigned
By I - my own lord
To what I thought had defined
My value as could afford
But sealed from outside
My ends became means
And useless machines
For with what was inside
I had not long beheld
Until I was dried
Of my life source withheld
So with ponderous pains
I - while my own lord -
Was weighted in chains
And baffled and floored
With pride concealed lie
From humility forgotten
What did victory buy
From that the begotten?
Wielded in mirth
Yet noble in steed
Ceased only to dearth
And 'came tyrant in deed
For whom begs 'all applaud!'
Is a slave at the mill
The man I made god
Is a slave to his will.
-Copyright by Marina Baldwin
The Face of Jesus
If you are made in the Image and Likeness of God, does that mean that God is lonely for you?
I sometimes think about how Jesus - in His loneliness on the cross - must have found consolation in the good thief at His side. His presence must have been like having a friend 'hold your hand'. It made sense that Jesus would ask His Father to bring His new friend into heaven. To join Him ASAP - not just eventually. This friend next to Him - the only one who shared in His physical suffering on the cross.
In the past years, I have found opportunities in which I could understand and experience, within my capacity, this part of 'hanging with Jesus'. This approach helped ease the pain, at times, when I could imagine going through it with Jesus on Calvary. And it transformed some moments of pain into joy - it was like whatever suffering had meaning because I could go through it with Jesus and make Him feel less alone in His pain, and be intimate in joined solace with Him.
Since humans are made in the image and likeness of God it would make sense that we express unique faces and facets of God's own goodwill and personality.
God, like humans, must be lonely for someone who shares some part of Him. Even as He exists in the perfect love of the Holy Trinity He wills Himself to want us and be lonely for us.
I imagine Jesus as one who hangs back in a crowd watching you longingly. Waiting for you - loving and wanting you. In the same way, humans can long for intimacy in a marital relationship, I think Jesus also longs for a "bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh" encounter with us.
And so, I have come to think that Jesus sees a unique part of Himself in you -and He is lonely for it. In some way, He longs for a facet of Himself in you - His Image and Likeness - to reflect back and see Him too.
What is Forgiveness Really?
Lately, God's been on my heart to ask for the grace to forgive and teach me what it means.
Have you ever seen the motivational line: "No one owes you anything"? It doesn't sit entirely well with me. And, as I have been meditating on forgiveness, I understand a little more why.
We do owe something to each other. We owe each other love - we are made for love and loving. We have to know that. We have to know that so whenever we are hurt we don't get hard and callous but really "see" the truth, the injustice of what has happened, apparent from the tender wounds we now have, and then forgive the debt.
Because if you can't acknowledge the hurt is there anything to be forgiven?
The only way we can forgive is to realize that there was something owed to us that we did not receive be it love in the form of consideration, understanding, tenderness etc. To deny this truth makes us callous because we are not in touch with truth - the truth that God made us for love. To love and be loved. And when people don't give it to you that is an injustice.
It's actually a very empowering justice driven thing to do - forgiving - because it is a process that actually recognizes and mourns how you have been wronged - even if it was you wronging yourself. And recognizes, that at some level, there is no way this person (another or you) can pay you back. Because the time it took has already been lost. When we know this we may a faithful closing step of letting go of the payment of the wrong - so deep - that only God can heal and not asking it anymore of a human who can never truly repay.
Cry before God, the angels, and saints. Let God cry with you and mourn with you what was lost or hurt. Let God, the greatest arbiter honor your loss and give it to Him, joining it with what he lost and was hurt by with us. In this way our relationship with God also grows.
Forgiveness means you will not be burdened by what could have been. God's got the reward and recompense. Only He can repay what has been lost, in the end. In the meantime, we are still made to love.
Finding a New Face of God and Thoughts on the Holy Spirit ('Behold, I am doing a new thing!')
Outside of work I have not been painting as much lately, but spending this season, honestly getting inspired by faith-filled Youtubers and learning how they hear God, and spending the past few months trying to get to know the true nature of God - like finding a "new" face of His that is personal and unique for me at my point in my journey - and trying to listen to the Holy Spirit and wait on Him.
Just finding God in the odd places that you might not generally prescribe to where God can reside. But, it really isn't our place to prescribe this - the Spirit moves wherever He wishes and how exciting a journey that becomes for us as we are pulled along it!
I am finding new layers to what God is saying in the symbolism of His Universe and works. Here are some of the thoughts I have sat with the past months:
1) It has nothing to do with the quality of the work for the Holy Spirit to have an impact with it. The Holy Spirit can use anything for His Purpose. All we have to do is say 'Yes' like the Magnificat and allow Him to come into our situation. Literally thinking or saying to words with that intent. Just an unspoken feeling of intent for the Holy Spirit to go ham, if you will. And then you start to feel movements of peace and desire to do new things!
A Caravaggio painting can move us less than a 4 year old's drawing if the Holy Spirit is working through that 4 year old's picture to move us to tears in a more intense way.
2) Why doesn't the Holy Spirit always work in us? Is it not a given? The Holy Spirit is so tender so gentle. Never pushing. Jesus is gentle and tender never pushing. He is shaking, trembling with love of You as he waits for You. So great is his desire to run to us in a moment, but in a moment of unrequited love for us there he waits trembling with a desire to run to us and kiss us - take us in embrace - but will not if we are not interested. Like in healthy, loving, self-sacrificing human relationships that don't force themselves on others.
But at the moment we desire for Him to come He Rushes towards us and runs and runs till he is holding us in the most tender of embraces. And He will never let go unless you decide No again. But he will forever love you one way or another.
3) The thing that makes learning from God different from divination, Tarot card readings is that speaking with God is about a relationship with Him. It's not about pulling in knowledge from random spirits but speaking to God as a lover and friend and listening to loving things He shares with you that are always apt and meeting you just where you need to be met.
Anything that applies to how humans approach relationships applies to God!
4) I used to not understand that God wants us to ask for things and help. I didn't see it as particularly necessary to sit and wait and talk to God as if He really exists. But then, I had some things I wanted and needed so bad, and could not get any help from the world, that I got pulled onto a journey in which God was revealed to be the one to save and lead.
A Lent or two ago I decided I would sit down every day and read the Bible for 20 mins a day. Not just a single verse but sitting with and reading through pages of the Bible. Being patient with it and give importance to it like I did with painting.
I came into the Psalms and started praying with them and singing praises to God - just going on going because I gave myself that 20 minutes to fill with whatever in the Bible - and then I decided 'Why not- let me ask for the Gift of Tongues'. I had been feeling overwhelmed by what to pray for and I wanted an advocate - that was the word on my heart and that is another word for the Holy Spirit - to pray on my behalf because I felt so hounded and without help, if that makes sense. I had asked for it on and off over the past year and didn't receive it but as I was reading aloud praises to God I got emotional and then suddenly my words rushed out in another language - the Gift of Tongues - in that particular and special place of just sitting with God and pushing through the discomfort of doing nothing if that makes sense? And also, meaning it, when asking for it. Like I wanted it so I asked as if I meant it and was speaking to a friend. It had nothing to do with saying a particular word but responding to God's leading and meaning the words I was led to.
5) Praying to God starts with a place of honesty. It doesn't matter what that is. What is weighing you down no matter how disturbing or embarrassing or insignificant it may seem - that is exactly the thing Jesus wants you to tell Him about. When you start there, in that space of honesty, it gives Him the opportunity to heal the wound. Because He is a Physician who won't scare or violate you by jerking your arm out to bandage it and heal it He just waits for You to share it instead. He is trembling with a desire to reach out and help but would never if you do not wish it. He is the truest friend and lover.
So even if we can't see Him physically in human form we are invited to treat Him as if He exists - in the depths of our hearts we are crying for a Savior and someone to worship so we know He does exist!
6) You have to ask for the things the Holy Spirit inspires you with because He will never force Himself upon You. And, it doesn't have to do with straining to find the "right" words to ask but rather the words that God is inviting you to say.
The Holy Spirit moves through us. We feel Him passing. That helps guide us. We are physical as well as spiritual and we are the physical home that Holy Spirit can rest in. And rests in and wherever He likes! Let Him surprise you!! He moves again and again in new and new ways every day.
April 17th, 2021
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
There is so much that we are embarrassed into doing that really doesn't matter. There is a lot we are pulled and pushed to do that, in the end, is unessential. Sometimes we can get bogged down by the unessential and then never do the essential.
No matter how small and with whatever small resources you may have you can do the essential at hand. Every beginning looks humble and unassuming. But there can be, I think, a freedom to thrive in the small and unassuming essential because there is nothing to prove. You can simply do the task at hand. And if that means no energy to clean a messy desk after it so be it. Nothing to prove nothing to lose.
What is essential for you today?
Bible Connection: Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
Thoughts, art, and life.