Friday, May 30, 2008
"For the rest, we can think of Mary as occupying her day like the "vigorous wife" described in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs: 'Does she not busy herself with wool and thread, plying her hand with ready skill?" She would have made all the clothes for herself and her men, covers for the beds. All that could be done in the home she did. And she never lost contact with God, God in her soul, God playing on the floor." (pg. 69) (Bold added) This paragraph really struck deep within me. Mary, the Mother of God, had much everyday work to do in order to live the life God called her to. I think this speaks volumes for the dignity of the everyday, necessary, tasks of life. Most of all, it speaks to the importance of maintaining contact with God through this work - not only in my soul, but in all the ways He is present to me in my life.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
This story is a great example of keeping a goal in mind, being resilient, and showing dedication no matter what the circumstances. It has reminded me of how often I take any excuse I can find and use at as long as it is effective. I am lazy and unfocused. The reason this girl was successful is that she had a goal that she believed was worth working hard for. How much better would my faith be if I could keep my ultimate goal as my sole motivation for doing everything? http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080528/ap_on_fe_st/odd_perfect_attendance
Ever since I began taking an active role in growing in my faith life, I've always had one stipulation with God. (Actually, along the way I have had countless ridiculous stipulations with God, this is the most long-standing and the most recent to be shattered.) I have always said that no matter how much I grow, how holy I become, I just want to be normal. I do not want people to look at me and see someone weird. I want to give everything to God, but I do not want to stand out. This has been especially true when I think about the possibility of getting married and having kids. I want my family to be devoted Catholics, but I also want my kids to avoid being accused of doing/thinking/saying/believing weird things. Recently, I realized just how misdirected and disillusioned this desire really is. What I have now learned is that this so called "normal" that I want to maintain is marked by many key characteristics. This "normal" means lukewarm faith, and mediocre devotion. It means conditional "surrender," and a standard for morality that leaves me asking how much I can get away with. It means living a lifestyle that allows me to keep God in the tiny box I want to keep Him in, so that I can maintain control over the areas of MY life that other people might question. That is about 6 of the many lies this desire has led me to fall into. The reality that I have come to accept, the truth I have finally learned, is that "normal" is not good enough. It is not what God wants for me. God is calling me to live a set-apart life. Set-apart from our culture and the lackluster disillusioned facade that it offers as a way of life. What is "normal" does not require me to surrender everything. It does not allow me to trust God. It does not mean placing full confidence in God and in His ability to shape and form my life into a life of His peace and joy. So today marks the end of my attempts to be this so called normal. Welcome to my new commitment to let God mold every aspect of who I am and what I do into the magnificent vision He has for me. Bring on the weirdness!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
When it comes to fleeing from sin and building my relationship with God, I tend to create a lot of rules for myself. I love making lists, and I frequently find myself writing down a long list of new ways to be holy. Today, I realized something very important. These lists (while often color-coded, written in my best handwriting, and perfectly organized) are meaningless. To put this into more concrete terms… a lot of times I’ll say something like “I need to make more time for God, so I’m not allowed to leave my room in the morning without saying a prayer, I can’t eat lunch without going to mass, and I can’t even lay down in my bed at night if I haven’t written in my journal.” Another example, if I’m struggling with a certain area of sin in my life, like judging people, I will make rules that say I have to spend at least 20 minutes everyday getting to know someone I have unfairly judged. If I’m struggling with purity, I might make a rule about not watching T.V. after 7:00. The problem I often encounter is that these rules rarely last longer than it takes me to write them on the list, and if I happen to successfully work these rules into my life, I find that aren’t as effective as I had hoped. This is because (once again) I’ve got it all wrong. The thing that is going to keep me from sin, the reason I’m going to choose not to fall into sin has nothing to do with rules that I make for myself. Because these rules lack the key ingredient. These rules don’t allow room for me to passionately love my God. That love, that decision to follow Christ and let HIM decide what I need to change in my life, is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing that will help me grow. All of the rules I like to create for myself are really yet another way for be to avoid actually growing in holiness. They might make me feel good. I can convince myself that as long as I have a list, I’m doing what I can; I’m making an effort. The truth of the matter is this, until I choose to fall desperately in love with Christ, my rules will not even begin to make a tiny dent in solving my everyday struggles. Because when I love God, and when I choose to let that love matter in my life, I end up praying because I want to. I have more strength to avoid sin, because I would rather think about God, and because I want to grow in grace instead. It’s not about how creative I can be with rules; it’s about how dedicated I can be to Christ.
Everything in this post is based on what I've learned from reading Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy.... I need to let God have more room in my life. I spend a lot of time dwelling on my future. I love thinking about being married and having children. Daydreaming about my future spouse has been one of my favorite pass-times for a long time now. I often fall asleep to thoughts about what I'll name my children and where I want to go on my honeymoon. I think that God is calling me to marriage, and I love swimming through fantasies centered around that call. My heart and mind are very much set on seeing these dreams unfold into the reality of my life. However, this book has shown me a greater reality. The deepest longings of my heart should be focused on God. My most enjoyable daydreams should involve greater spiritual intimacy with Him. Leslie refers often to an "inner sanctuary." That inner sanctuary is God's place within me. It is my first responsibility to protect that sanctuary. Nothing other than God should be allowed to enter there. My inner sanctuary is currently not filled with deep, passionate love for God. I've filled it instead with a longing for a future with the man of my dreams and our children. I see now the importance of giving that space back to God. It is in God that my greatest longings will be fulfilled. My inner sanctuary should be a place where my relationship with God is nurtured and allowed to grow and strengthen, not a place for me to imagine my future. If God wants my inner sanctuary intimacy with Him to be reflected in a relationship that is wonderful. In fact, I hope that is what God wants. Unfortunately, right now there is no intimacy with God to be reflected. All of the moments I spend blissfully longing for the man of my dreams are moments that I'm taking away from God and using for my own enjoyment. God deserves to dwell in my inner sanctuary without having to fight my earthly desires. My goal now is to give God what is rightfully His. As I build this place for God, I plan to faithfully wait in hope, trusting always in His divine grace, that He will write the beautiful story of my life in His time. He cannot do that, if do not give Him space to work.
I have a lot of memories from watching baseball with my dad over the years. I’m frequently surprised by some of the seemingly unimportant parts of a game that I remember. One game in particular, Chris Carpenter was pitching. He had been struggling early in the game, and I can remember him walking around behind the pitcher’s mound between pitches. A few innings later, he was pitching better, and I noticed that between every pitch, he was stepping off in front of the mound and walking a few steps towards home plate with his glove ready to catch the ball. I remember seeing this and, in annoyance, asking my dad why he kept doing it. As usual, to my dad this was a weird question. His response was an explanation of how he was “in the zone.” He pointed out that as opposed to earlier in the game, Carpenter wanted the ball. He was going to get it, ready to pitch. I’ve remembered this moment several times over the past few days in my pursuit of holiness. I find that a lot of times I say that I want to be holy. I say that I’m ready to grow, to be changed, and to passionately pursue what it means to be a woman of God. And yet, I sit around on my butt and don’t do anything about it. It’s like I get my uniform on and go out to the game, but then I end up just wandering around behind the mound. So, I have to ask myself, do I really want those things. Because if I really wanted them, wouldn’t I look more the Carpenter who wants to pitch, and less like the Carpenter struggling to stay in the game? Wouldn’t I be getting up off of my lazy butt and taking action? I think that I would be. My challenge is to not fall complacent behind the empty words of “I want to be holy.” Rather, I need to step in front of the mound, walking towards holiness, reaching for the ball, and actively seeking out ways to be holy. Then, I will be able to honestly say, “I want to be holy.”
I've been thinking about sacrifice a lot lately. (Probably because it is Lent). I think that, unfortunately, Lent has slightly commercialized sacrifice. We tend to see Lent as time to give up something we enjoy in order to prepare ourselves for Christ's death and resurrection. Lent is that time. However, it is also something more. Lent is an opportunity to change and reform our lives. Lent is time for us to grow in the ways we sacrifice so that we are able to sacrifice in deeper ways throughout the year. A lot of times sacrifice seems illogical. It is true that it goes against human nature. Giving up something we enjoy for a greater good is not typical human tendency. However, we are called to rise above those tendencies into greater truth. In reality, sacrifice is one of the most logical things we can do. Every time we sacrifice something, we are saying that God and God's plan are more important to us than our wants and our plans. Sacrifice says that we trust God. Sacrifice allows us to clear out something in ourselves to make more room for God in our lives. Behind every visible sign of every sacrifice there lies deep spiritual truth. That truth tells us that God knows best. That truth is something that Abraham understood when he took his son up the mountain to sacrifice him for God. That action was Abraham saying God's plan is better than my own. Abraham had a plan for him and his son. He waited a long time to have a son. He was old, and his son was a big help. Abraham was counting on his son in the future. However, when God asked Abraham to make the sacrifice, he was willing to do so. This is because he knew that despite the wonderful plan he thought he had, God's plan was better. That truth is something the Israelites in Exodus didn't even come close to understanding. God asked them to spend three days sacrificing and preparing themselves to meet him face to face. They couldn't do it. They didn't see how God's plan was better. Consequently, they missed out on a powerful physical encounter with God. That truth is something that Jesus understood to the highest degree when he sacrificed himself on the cross. He didn't have to do it. He could have gotten down. He could have run away. During the agony in the garden Jesus shows us what true trust in God looks like. He prayed that God's will be done over his own. Then, on the cross, he showed us what true sacrifice looks like. We are called to sacrifice in the same ways. We are called to choose God's will over our own. This Lent, while we are making sacrifices, let's focus on how these sacrifices will allow God to guide our lives. Let's focus on how we need to learn to constantly allow God's plan to prevail over our own.
Here at BC there are many opportunities to attend mass on a daily basis. It is easy for me to go to the 9:30p.m. mass held in St. Martin's Chapel. (located in the basement of my dorm). However, there isn't a mass at that time on Fridays. So a couple weeks ago I went to 5:15 mass at the Abbey. I hated it. I was really uncomfortable and felt out of place. (The Abbey has certain traditions that I don't understand). After talking to a friend about it, I decided I should give the mass a chance. Every mass is sacred. Every mass is important. Every mass offers me Christ. The second time I went, before mass started I said a prayer something like what follows: "Lord I don't understand the beauty of this mass. Help me to be open to it. Help me to see it. Help me to find Your beauty within it, because I don't understand it on my own." It hit me. That should be the prayer I say before every mass. The beauty and sacredness of what takes place at every mass is so far beyond what I can comprehend that I need God's help finding it.
Highlighting Pen: Thank You, God for being the light that leads me out of the shadows. Help me to always see that Light and follow it. Foundation: Lord, You are the foundation of my life. Help me to stand firmly upon Your words and Your love. Eye Lashes: Lord the purpose of the mascara is to make my eyelashes more visible. Help me to find ways to make You more visible in my words and actions. Eye Shadow: Lord, as I’m focusing on my eyes, help me to see You in everyone I meet. Help to see Your grace in every situation. Help me to see Your love in my life. Blush: Lord, as I’m adding color to my face, I thank You for the colors You bring to my life. Thank you for coloring my life with beautiful blessings in so many forms. Lips: Lord I’m adding beauty to my lips. Help me to make the words that come from them beautiful. Speak Your words through me. Hair: Luke 12:7 - “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Lord, You know every hair on my head. You have great plans for my life. Help me to trust You who loves every hair. Help me to follow Your will. Lord, as look in the mirror, sometimes I’m satisfied, and sometimes I’m not. But when You look at me, all You see is beauty. You see me as perfectly created in Your image. Help me to see myself in this way. Help me to see the beauty You see and provide. Lord, when others look at me, I hope they see beauty. More importantly, I hope they see beyond the hair and make-up. Help me live my life in a way that allows them to see You. Help me make You so alive in my heart that people see You when they look at me. Help me to radiate Your beauty and love. Mother Mary, you are the most beautiful woman I know. Your holiness and willingness to give your life to God is an inspiration to me. Intercede for me so that I may be beautiful and grace filled like you. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed are thou among women, and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and the hour of our death. Amen.
"Take from me my life, when I don't have the strength to give it to You, Jesus." These song lyrics mean so much to me right now. They've taken on a new meaning for me. When I first heard them, I thought about a person being in a horrible situation. I pictured something bad happening to them, and the person not being able to turn to God because of all the pain. That isn't where I am right now. My second thought was about someone facing a new phase in his/her life. I thought of that person not wanting to give up control by turning to God. That isn't quite my situation either. (although control is an issue) Right now, I know what is best of me. I know who I should spend time with and where I should be focusing my energy. I've spent my whole life resisting accountability and making sure I can take the easy way out. When I was praying, I realized that even though I knew this about myself, I didn't know how to fix it. I don't have the strength or will power to fix it. I need God to take my life anyway. I'm not strong enough without Him. I can't give it to Him now, because I don't know how. I have to trust that He can and will guide me anyway. Lord, please take from me my life, because I don't have the strength to give to You.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself" Raise your hand if you have heard that one before. Good, I see that all hands are raised. I was watching Dr. Phil today, and I stumbled across a brand new insight. You see, the thing about the phrase "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is that most of the time when we hear it, we tend to focus on the part about loving your neighbor. I think that a lot of times, we need to hear "Love thyself as thy neighbor." Dr. Phil says that we are the image we portray to others. The way we feel about ourselves, encourages the way others feel about us. If we think we are fun to be around, others will think so too. Personally, I love myself. There are moments when I think I'm so much fun to be around. Sometimes I'm sitting at the drums, and I do something that cracks me up. And the way I think sometimes, oh my goodness, I find myself funny. I've noticed that other people find me funny as well. So, it's kinda like this....love yourself, love your neighbor, and make sure you love yourself for the same reasons that you would love your neighbor. (ex) If you love your neighbor because he/she is optimistic, find and love the optimist in you.
A couple weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. I also had the opportunity to attend a praise and worship session on campus. Something that one of the speakers said really stuck with me. He said that we have to be transparent with each other. Transparent. That is a powerful word. But I think the speaker was right on. We have to be transparent with our lives. It is the only way to grow; it is the only way to really share your life with others. It is not easy though. Transparent. That means completely see through. Every fault, every shortcoming, and every failed attempt. Our lives truly impact those around us when we are willing to humble ourselves into transparency. We become vulnerable, which can be terrifying. All I can say is buckle your seat belt. It's going to be a bumpy ride, but wait till you see where we are going! (Join me in my quest for transparency) P.S. I have a long way to go.....
I'm taking a class called "Senior Religion Seminar." We are currently reading a book called Enduring Grace. In this book, each chapter studies one of seven female mystics. We haven't gotten through the whole book yet, but thus far there is a common theme. POVERTY. For example, St. Theresa of Avila is big on being poor in spirit. On another hand, St. Clare of Assisi is the epitome of real life poverty. (She was often too sick from fasting to walk). Although poverty is a central theme, it seems to mean something slightly different for each individual saint. So I think the challenge for me (and you) is to find what poverty means in our lives. In what area do we need to be poor in order to be closer to God? Is it to the extreme that St. Clare takes it? Or is something else, like poor in the amount of T.V. we watch? or the amount of time we spend on the computer? How can you and I bring poverty into our lives, so that we can also bring God further in?
"We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone. We are one body, one body in Christ, and He came that we might have life. I have come your Savior that you might have life through the tears and sorrow through the toils and strife, listen when I call you for I know your need, come to me your Sheperd for My flock I feed." I think that that refrain and verse go together perfectly. It is my favorite verse of one of my favorite songs. It's a song about the Eucharist that teaches us about community. We are the body of Christ. We the community are the body of Christ. That is a beautiful thing. The song tells us that our Savior has promised to be with us through it all, the tears, the sorrow, the toils, the strife. Part of the way our Savior feeds His flock, is through His flock. Being the body of Christ means that we are all deeply united as God. In a strong community that recognizes the gift of His body, when one person hurts, the community hurts. When one person is celebrating, the community celebrates. Being the body of Christ allows us to share our lives in a profoundly special way. Through good times and the bad, the body of Christ is more tangable than many recognize. It is important to allow the community to be the body of Christ to all of us in our lives.
Ever seen the movie, The Wizard of OZ? (I'm assuming yes.) The most memorable line in the movie is "There's no place like home." The funny thing is, that doesn't make any sense. Home is the black-and-white place where you feel like no one understands you, and some witch wants to kill your dog. But Oz is high-tech color with a good Witch to protect you. Sure Oz has its faults (poppy fields and flying monkeys), but there are people you meet along the way to help you through. The Wizard of OZ takes us through the journey of life. We are faced with challenges, and we are seeking things. The Tin man wants a heart, the Lion wants courage, the Scarecrow wants a brain, and Dorthy wants to be home. The movie teaches us an important underlying lesson. As we journey through life everything we truly want to be, we already are. At the end of the day the Tin man always had a heart, the Lion always had courage, the scarecrow always had a brain, and Dorthy was always home. The characters of the movie had to go see Wizard to learn that. Lucky for us, we don't have to go to Oz. God gives us everything we need to be who we want to be. He sends wonderful people into our lives to help us discover, inside of us, everything we've ever wanted to be. All we have to do is let God in. Through God we will discover the extent of all our deepest and truest desires. Just like Dorthy, we can't do it alone, and just like her friends, we need someone much wiser to make us believe it. (that would be God is case you didn't catch on.) Life isn't a struggle to get what we want or be a certain person; it's a struggle to understand who and what we already have/are. *Special thanks to Dawson's Creek for planting the Wizard of Oz seed in my head*
Already January has been a tough month. One my friends from school died on January 2, after being seriously injured in a car accident a few nights before. Her death, while sudden and upsetting, offered me an opportunity to think a lot about death. Naturally, I took the opportunity. When people would ask me how I was, I kept telling them that I was okay. No one really believed me, and I wasn't sure that I even believed myself. But I had this feeling that came from the depths of who I am and what I believe. This feeling just made me so aware of the fact that I knew that Elizabeth was some place so much better, and that it was a place she wanted to be. And deep down, I knew that there was no other place that I wanted her to be, then where she is now. The trouble is, while she is in a wonderful place, I'm still stuck here. This led me to draw the conclusion that grieving is selfish. Not selfish in a bad way, I don't mean to say that grieving is wrong. I mean that we do not greive for the person who died, but rather for ourselves and our loss. I went to all my classes last week, and I got a lot of homework done. Other friends of mine and hers, wondered how I was doing this. I felt bad, because I thought that I wasn't respecting her memory enough. Then I realized that it doesn't matter. She doesn't need me to grieve her, she doesn't need anything anymore, because she has the only thing that she has ever needed. It's all me and what I need. If I didn't to take time off, that's okay. Grieving is something that we do for our sake, not the sake of the one we have lost. Our individual needs are different, and that is why are grieving is also unique. In Loving Memory Elizabeth Eveker May 15, 1988 - January 2, 2005
If you look up "control" on dictionary.com, you will find the following: To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over. I remember one time I was at Six Flags with my cousins. My little cousin Caroline was about 5 years old. We went on Cast-away-kids (remember that ride?). Well, as we were going through the pitch black part, my cousin got scared. Do you know what she did? She closed her eyes. Now, at the time, I thought that was a really stupid thing to be doing. Why close your eyes? That just makes it even darker. The more I think about it, there have been times when I've done the same thing Caroline did. I've closed my eyes in the dark to make things seem less scary. When I think about it now, I think it comes from the need to control. When you actively choose to close your eyes, you've chosen to create darkness. You feel as though you control the darkness. The truth is however, Caroline wasn't really controlling the darkness. It was still dark around her. She wasn't even controlling the darkness created by closing her eyes. Fear controlled it. I wonder...is there ever a time when we are really in control? A line from a wonderful movie with Tom Cruise (he drives a race car-I can't think of the name-something with thunder I think) there is line that says "control is an illusion." It's ture. We never know what is going to happen the very next second. We never really have control. The only One (notice the capital "O") who can/does have control is God. The thing is, we have to let Him have it. It is up to us to let Him be in control of our lives. My question is, if God wants control and can have control, and we can never really be in control, why don't we give it to Him? Why is it so hard to let God have what we can't use anyway?