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Sister Judy Nielsen, OSF

Spiritual Direction in the Franciscan Tradition

Franciscan Community of Divine Mercy

My Blog


The Importance of God

Posted on 7 May, 2019 at 20:07 Comments comments (11)
Hello Internet Family!
By now you know that I am not a professional blogger.  If I were to become one the work I told God I would be doing would often go undone.   I always read your comments.  Please know that you are prayed for when I am absent from the internet.  Now that I'm back at my desk I want to talk about a question that appeared in the comments:  Why do I think it is so important to find God?

My new family member Coach helped answer this one.   Coach is a cattle dog that was abandoned by his owners.  He found himself in a scary world that cared little about whether he lived or died or starved.  Many people must have passed him on the road. From the kindness of a stranger he found his way to a shelter and a man who taught him to sit. The food was provided every day but it was not enough for his malnourished body. He was safe but living in a cage next to bigger more aggressive dogs.  The man he met at the shelter gave him his name and took him outdoors to play.  He helped him learn to wear a leash so he could go to adoption day at the pet store where I buy food.   When I came in the door he was using his new sitting skill intently watching the door.  The hope in his eyes as he watched each newcomer was unmistakable. He was expecting someone.  I thought I had other business getting food for the two Labradors in the family so I continued on asking God to find him a family.  As I prepared to leave the store he appeared right in front of me again.  The man thought he must know me.  So Coach got his home. When we adopted him I said to him, "let's go home."   He was excited to get a new leash and collar but stopped to run back to the man at the shelter to excitedly tell him goodbye.  Right into the car he went to meet his new family.  With love and lots of rowdy play and food Coach has adopted us and he has healed.  We have figured out ways to reassure him that he has enough food, he will get his turn and he has a stash of boxes he can go fetch in the pantry that are his to chew.  He herds his flock of Labradors, jumps hurdles in the backyard, chases balls and loves snuggling at the end of the day.  From his darkest days of rejection and cruelty he has found that someone cares and he is loved.  

He couldn't see me and didn't know me when he was lost but Coach had the virtue of faith. He was convinced I was coming.   He was watching the door for me.  He had a belief that there is a loving Powerful Presence in this world that is concerned with us and with our good not because we are useful or beneficial but because we are special to this Presence.  I know this Presence as God.   We often find this Presence when we look backwards at what did not happen or even some unexpected good.  Faith causes us to look for this goodness and to expect it will be coming.  To paraphrase a passage from the book Franciscan Virtues: We can not see God, we can not examine him with a microscope for appearance, gender or classification but we can experience God through God's actions.  We can know Goodness, Truth and Beauty as it appears in our world.

 While we can explain away why the wind blows we can't explain the cool breeze that comes along when we are hot and tired or the unexpected goodness of a stranger.  Because God is good he can bring good out of the bad that humans do and good out of our own mistakes.  We know from the wonderful pictures coming from space that there is an order to the universe.  It is an order that man can not create.  Who wouldn't want that presence in their life?  When we hold on to our belief that there is Order and a Power for good no matter what is going on in the here and now we are practicing faith.  Faith brings about hope.  Hope gives us the courage to persevere with our dreams in the face of difficulty.  God creates the outcome.   When we are discouraged at not getting what we want God is the power behind the opportunity that would have been unavailable had we gotten what we wanted at the time. When we have taken the wrong turn God is the action behind the opportunity to choose again.  God is the action of the universe that brings about what is in our long term best interest.  We may choose good enough but God would have us choose the best for us. While we cannot know him as we know another person we can know the reassurance of his presence that nudges us toward hope with the beauty of a sunset, the rainbow after a storm, a butterfly in early spring, the goodness of strangers in a disaster and yes, a puppy playing in the sunshine, rolling in the grass showing his joy in God's creation.  

In a world that is often uncertain where we can encounter people who are uncaring or just plain mean God wants us to know that He is present with us.   The old story that he likes to wear disguises is a good one. He can show up as an opportunity, an encouraging phone call, a moment of quiet reassurance or a friend or a stranger offering help.  He is not the drive up window where our demands are handed out as quickly as possible.  He doesn't walk away or look for better company when we are feeling down. He is the gentle breeze slowly shaping us into reflections of his goodness.  In the social media world people often hurt themselves by sharing too much by sharing in a way that is too personal.  Only God can know our hearts, our dreams, our deepest desires and our pain.   Only God has no reason to judge what he has made as anything but good.  That goodness is on board when we arrive here and it should not surprise us that it is the Good that we seek. 

 It is a world full of imperfect often wounded and angry humans but God still chooses us to be His friend and his companion.  Imperfect people will often let us down.  We will let others down.  God gave us the gifts of hope and faith that we may not feel alone. God allows us to choose how we will use the goodness given to us.  It is up to us to practice the faith Coach demonstrated for us by watching the door of our hearts for God's presence.  We may be lonely but we are never alone.  We may be passing through the desert of our disappointments or the cruelty of rejection but we can hold on to that faith and keep walking toward the good knowing we are cared for by the Creator of the Universe.   Who wouldn't want a friend like that?   And that would be why it is important.

Finding God In A Digital World

Posted on 10 September, 2018 at 19:17 Comments comments (15)
Today I made my cup of coffee, said good morning to God and opened my news feed to catch up with the world.  As you can tell, I like to procrastinate about writing in this space.  The attraction of checking on the world with my i- things  is tempting.  The more I do that the more noisy the world seems.  And the more distant God seems to be until I remember there is nothing going on in his world he can't handle.  He doesn't need me to supervise.  It  is hard to hear the violence in our world's words and actions.  If I stay connected long I find myself getting discouraged about the goodness in myself and others.  Words have been turned into weapons.  Our words have real power.   Name calling, blaming  and shaming others for being different or character assasination because they got what we wanted is telling God whatever or whoever he has made he has made a mistake. It can lead us to taking bad actions that harm others.  I want to be careful with that.  God doesn't make mistakes.   He didn't start with me or you or them.  I want my actions to put good in the world not the thoughtless acts of other people's words.  
Today it was back to the new excuse for doing this:  personal politics.  I wondered about the original meaning of politics.  I looked it up.   Here it is my friends.  It might surprise you to know that the definition was "activity associated with the governance of the country and especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power."   There it was:  power.  We are being called to the war between politicians and news people wanting the power or the profit from our thinking and decisions.  Our thoughts & feelings are being hijacked to help someone else in their pursuit of power.  They will neither know or care about the damage we do if we choose to follow the noise off into action.  People don't handle power well. History tells us that. Yet God tells us it's a respected gift. Without the God of our understanding we turn power into our right to take instead of give, our addiction to get but never give and our excuse to bully others into giving us what we want regardless of what it might cost them.  Pursuit of power is part of the pride thing that causes us to fall.  But God gave us real power.  We have the power to say I don't play that game.  We don't have to react or respond. We have that power.  We can unplug from the invasion into our space and plug into the real power in silence. That's right.  Fifteen minutes of silence seeking God's voice generates more power than every digital tool you have.  It might be challenging at first but an unplugged walk or pause any place with more things God made than man made will plug us into a God connection.  Our mind clears of other's thoughts.  Our thinking clears of what others might think of us. We get out of the business of telling God we can't hear him and find him waiting for us in 15 minutes of unplugged time.  How to start?   It's a pretty cool thought that the HOW is already written down for us:  Philipians 4:8 tells us to put our minds on whatever is true, just, honest, pure, things that are good.  Silence generates faith. People recognize the power of integrity. And that has real power.  Real power generates faith.  It looks like this:  One person plugs in and says "that's terrible but what can I do?" another plugs in and says "wow! I can hardly wait to see what God does with this."  Peace and Light, my friends.