Demons Love a Well Swept House

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During Lent I place in the oratory a small plaque with two words: Vacare Deo, to empty oneself for God. It’s a reminder for spiritual cleaning.

As it’s midwinter, and I’m already bored with being indoors, I am looking for things to do. This translates to “it’s time to clean up,” and I try to organize the attic recently assaulted with boxes of Christmas decorations. The basement could do with a bit of organizing too.

When cleaning things up, indoors or out, we often open up space.

As a gardener I love how the landscape looks — often after a marathon work-bee — when I’ve cleared a section that’d been overrun with weeds, crowded by perennials or tangled from unkempt hardwoods. I diligently pull, root out and trim back all the bedlam, opening the area to allow more sun and air for better growth.

When cleaning out an area — basement or flower bed — I’m often reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:43-45. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

It seems inevitable after I clean or organize the basement or attic, I find more stuff to fill the open area. Once again a few years later I’m in the same mess. Things not really worth saving have ended up on the shelves and scattered on the floor. Again I’ve not gained wisdom about myself, and again I’ve used poor judgment about what has worth.

In a garden, fallow ground is filled much more quickly — in a matter of weeks — than ground with established plants. Inexperienced gardeners are inclined to pull the weeds and thin out plants, exposing the ground. Leaving soil open makes it available for more things to grow. If we are not attentive and leave the freshly cleaned area unattended, seeds from God-knows-where take root, and there are more weeds sprouting than when we started.

I see this “clearing out” much like the verse in Matthew. Even though I work diligently at bringing the Lord into my heart by pulling up the weeds of sinfulness and removing the clutter of bad habits, if I do not fill that space with the Word of God and his Mercy, then there is nothing to prevent the disorder from returning.

Like most things that run off course, the intrusion of unneeded objects or undesirable plants begins so small. A few items back on the shelf, a few weed seeds falling on exposed earth. Then without me really noticing, things are seven times worse than when first begun.

The determination to remove the unwanted, without equal desire to take the next step, leaves us vulnerable and open to fall again.

Lord, save me from the pride that empties and fails to fill the void with your ways.

(First appeared at Aleteia.org, reposted with permission.)

 

The Increasing Kindly Light of Lent

Geraniums morguefilesA couple of decades ago, while employed at a large retail greenhouse, I met a lovely woman 12 years my senior, whose company made the hours pass quickly. We often worked together in the hoop-houses — plastic greenhouses framed with aluminum ribs — at the back of the retail area. Those production houses were the hottest of all 20, being low and lacking adequate ventilation.

Each spring we’d spend 50 or more hours a week, often in 90-degree heat, hauling potting mix, containers and 200 feet of heavy hoses. We potted hundreds of perennials, filled thousands of flats with seedlings and for a million times a day bent our backs as we moved plants from work bench to floor.

We were once strong. As I drove to the nursing home to visit her, I thought of the increasing light of Lent, and wondered of her Easter, and the resurrection. Read the rest of the story at Aleteia.

Image courtesy morguefile.com

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Demons Love a Well-swept House

demons 1During Lent I place in the oratory a small plaque with two words: Vacare Deo, to empty oneself for God. It’s a reminder for spiritual cleaning.

As it’s midwinter, and I’m already bored with being indoors, I am looking for things to do. This translates to “it’s time to clean up,” and I try to organize the attic recently assaulted with boxes of Christmas decorations. The basement could do with a bit of organizing too.

When cleaning things up, indoors or out, we often open up space.

As a gardener I love how the landscape looks — often after a marathon work-bee — when I’ve cleared a section that’d been overrun with weeds, crowded by perennials or tangled from unkempt hardwoods. I diligently pull, root out and trim back all the bedlam, opening the area to allow more sun and air for better growth.

When cleaning out an area — basement or flower bed — I’m often reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:43-45. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

It seems inevitable after I clean or organize the basement or attic, I find more stuff to fill the open area. Once again a few years later I’m in the same mess. Things not really worth saving have ended up on the shelves and scattered on the floor. Again I’ve not gained wisdom about myself, and again I’ve used poor judgment about what has worth.

In a garden, fallow ground is filled much more quickly — in a matter of weeks — than ground with established plants. Inexperienced gardeners are inclined to pull the weeds and thin out plants, exposing the ground. Leaving soil open makes it available for more things to grow. If we are not attentive and leave the freshly cleaned area unattended, seeds from God-knows-where take root, and there are more weeds sprouting than when we started.

I see this “clearing out” much like the verse in Matthew. Even though I work diligently at bringing the Lord into my heart by pulling up the weeds of sinfulness and removing the clutter of bad habits, if I do not fill that space with the Word of God and his Mercy, then there is nothing to prevent the disorder from returning.

Like most things that run off course, the intrusion of unneeded objects or undesirable plants begins so small. A few items back on the shelf, a few weed seeds falling on exposed earth. Then without me really noticing, things are seven times worse than when first begun.

The determination to remove the unwanted, without equal desire to take the next step, leaves us vulnerable and open to fall again.

Lord, save me from the pride that empties and fails to fill the void with your ways.

(First appeared at Aleteia.org, reposted with permission. Image from morguefile.com.)

Stay in touch! Like The Catholic Garden, Morning Rose Prayer Gardens’ page on Facebook:

 

Lent’s Perennial List, Fasting From

Every Lent (usually before Ash Wednesday!) I am asked to post the perennial “Fasting From” list.

This began as a series of weekly columns on this blog about fasting from certain attitudes and striving to become more virtuous. Several of those columns made their way into my book Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent .

The list of those fourteen “Fasting From” reflections became popular, and many friends said they had printed them out and hung them in work spaces.

So, here again is the excerpt from my book:

One year during a late winter retreat a small handout was distributed and the idea of “giving up,” or fasting, took on a whole new purpose. Here is what it said:

Fast from bitterness; turn to forgiveness

Fast from hatred; return good for evil

Fast from negativism; be positive

Fast from complaining; be grateful

Fast from pessimism; be an optimist

Fast from harsh judgments; think kindly thoughts

Fast from worry; trust in Divine Providence

Fast from discouragement; be full of hope

Fast from anger; be more patient

Fast from pettiness; be more mature

Fast from gloom; enjoy the beauty around you

Fast from jealousy; pray for trust

Fast from gossiping; control your thoughts

Fast from sin; turn to virtue

Maybe we should consider hanging this list on the fridge for more than the forty days of Lent.

We are taught to be charitable in how we respond towards others. We also need to be charitable with ourselves as we become a more virtuous person.  Let us begin our journey this Lent with our hearts open, accepting the challenges to become who we are truly called to be as Christians. A virtuous life isn’t for the faint of heart.

May God always be praised!