Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Message from God or a Coincidence?

Yesterday was a very interesting day.

My day started with a 45 minute trip to my local hunt club to get the Yellow Dog out and get her some work.  With our recent vacation, I felt guilty of her lack of activity of late, and thought the time afield, even through our deep snow, would be valuable for both of us.

As I drove up, I listened to the Catholic Channel on my satellite radio.  With Lent here, I've tried to make listening to that station more of a habit, and the programming yesterday morning was very good.  The first show was about St. John Bosco, and all he was able to achieve.  I was deeply struck by the stories of the miraculous dog Grigio who saved and protected Bosco in numerous occasions.  I thought how incredible it would be to have such a tangible and unmistakable intercession by God in one's life.  It was awe-inspiring.

The next show to come on was a weekly talk with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whom I love.  The joy with which His Eminence goes about his business is palpable, and I just love listening to him speak.  The fact that he's considered by some to be a candidate for Pope is thrilling to me.  We'll see where the Holy Spirit takes him.

During the show, Cardinal Dolan was being updated by the show's host on a recent successful youth event, and began to utter "hallelujah," but caught himself mid-word and reminded us that during Lent, we don't say that.  He changed to a "praise God," and they went about their conversation.

I'm embarrassed that I wasn't aware that we didn't use the word "hallelujah" during Lent.  And I thought, that must mean that my favorite hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, is never played during Lent, which saddened me.  I've always loved that hymn.  It has raised my spirits in my highest highs, and has comforted me at my lowest points.  It was the one and only thing that I demanded be included in my Dad's funeral mass.  

When I sing the refrain:

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  

I somehow feel a part of the heavenly host - the angels, saints, and those gone before us - praising God in a reverent and sincere manner.  The song always removes me from the physical and takes me to the spiritual.  

The Yellow Dog and I made our way to the hunt club and had a grand time (more on that in a future post), and as we made our way back home, we passed through the town of Pulaski, Wisconsin which is just north of our house.  In Pulaski there is a huge Franciscan church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and while I had driven past it at least a dozen times, I had never stopped.  On this day, though, that would change, and pulled over to go inside and pray.

In my prayer, I went through my usual litany -  praying for those who are sick, praying for the church, offering thanks for my wealth of blessings, praying for strength against sin - but on this day I did two "deep dives."  The first was around a prayer for guidance and asking God to put me where He wants me.  I thought so much about St. John Bosco and how he was a tool for God's work.  I feel like I need to be pointed in the right direction to do what God wants me to do, and even fervently asked God to "hit me over the head with His guidance."  

The second part of my deep dive was around my sin.  I am a sinful man.  I do not live a holy life, and that pains me.  My heart seems constantly heavy in sin.  How I've treated others and how I've lived my life are replayed in my head over and over and over.  I cannot shake the chains my sin has wrapped around my soul, and I asked God for His mercy and His help.  I thought and prayed a long time on my need to go to Reconciliation; something I have not done in nearly twenty years.  

I wrapped up my prayers and returned home without incident, although the Catholic channel had now switched to some more "lighter" programming (which I don't like), so I switched to music over to my iPhone.  Once I got home, I cleaned up and met some friends from work at a local bar, as we'd be attending the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay men's basketball game against Valparaiso University (more on this one, too, in a future post).

We stopped at a bar after the game, as one in our group had won a $450 cash giveaway at the game and wanted to celebrate.  After a few drinks and watching the Gophers whoop Penn State, we said our good-byes and headed home.

I pulled out of my parking spot, drove down Oneida Street, and was at the corner waiting to turn left onto Lombardi in front of Lambeau Field on my way home when the current song on my iPhone ended and new song started.

It was All Creatures of Our God and King

I have only one version of that song in my iTunes library, from the City on the Hill album.  Of the 4,120 songs that were eligible for play, randomly, from my phone, that is the one that came up.  A chance of play of 1/4120, or 0.02%.

I immediately burst into tears and sobbed.  I struck my steering column and shouted aloud through my sobs, "What does this mean?"  It was a very emotional short drive home.

Throughout the night, I thought long and hard about it.  I developed three theories:

1) Coincidence.  Yes, the odds on this were incredibly long, but they were greater than zero.  With math, anything can happen, even the improbable (as witnessed by my friend winning the sweepstakes earlier in the day).  This was just such an event and nothing more.

2) God spoke to me.  He had a message, but it is one I still don't understand and I need to continue concentrate on and pray about in order to understand.  

3) God spoke to me, and the message was "Here's your hit over the head.  Now await further instructions."

Over and over again I thought this through.  Was this real?  What was being told to me?  What was the message?  Was God answering my prayer for guidance?  

And then it struck me: Maybe I was looking at it wrong.  My interpretation of the event had me concentrating on my prayer earlier in the day around having God show me where He wanted me to be and do what He wanted me to do.  I totally forgot about the other part of my prayer; the one that asked for cleansing of my soul of sin.  That's when I developed my fourth theory:

4) God spoke to me, and the message was "You know those sins you carry?  I've got them now.  We're good.  You're good.  Be at peace."

In the end, I don't know what any of it means.  I do know that I will continue to pray over it, and that my heart is now more open to try and hear God's message than it has ever been before.  But in my heart I do believe that this was a message from God, and this is now the third time in my life where I have felt His direct intercession in an event (again, more to come on that in future posts).   

I don't know what to say about any of it.  I know I shouldn't say "hallelujah," so maybe I just need to leave it at "praise God."

I welcome your theories and interpretations as well.

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Please feel free to include any thoughts you may have. Know, however, that kiddos might be reading this, so please keep the adult language to yourself. I know, for me to ask that language is clean is a stretch...