Monday, February 20, 2012

As We Approach Lent

With each passing year, I realize I look forward to the Season of Lent more and more.  Perhaps in my adult life, I realize that I need it more and more.  That I need a time, an entire season of growing closer to God through letting go and working towards becoming what he wants.  A time of going into the desert.  The idea of committing yourself for forty days to a special practice or either deeper payer, fasting, good works, perhaps picking up more mass attendances during the week or popping in more for adoration, actually gives me hope and a renewed focused on what needs to be the center of my life.  What is so ironic is that we as a Church are examining and remembering Christs death and crucifixion in this season, yet are hopeful for the Resurrection that we know only comes when we die to ourselves for greater love of God and his divine plan.  I think that is why I am always hopeful when Lent comes around, because I feel as though anything is possible, including real transformation, if I only let go, carry the cross and are willing to even go through some sort of death.  As I begun to prepare myself for this year's Lenten Season, I came across this beautiful reflection.  I think I will read each day during Lent, I hope it speaks to you as well.

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord, and hold me in this Lenten Season:
hold my feet to the fire of your grace
and make me attentive to my mortailty
that I may begin to die now
to those tihngs that keep me from living with you
and with my neighbors on this earth;

to grudges and indifference,
to certainties that smother possibilities
to my fascination with false securities,
to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;
to my corrosive fear of dying someday
which eats away the wonder of living this day,
and the adventure of losing my life in order to find it in you.

Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord, and hold me in this Lenten season;
hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace and grant me light enough to walk boldly,
to feel passionately,
to love aggressively;

grant me peace enough to want more,
to work for more
and to submit to nothing less,
and to fear only you...only you!

Bequeath me not becalmed seas,
slack sails and premature benedictions,
but breathe into me a torment,
storm enough to make within myself
and from myself, something...

something new,
something saving,
something true,
a gladness of heart,
a pitch for a song in the storm,
a word of praise lived,
a gratitude shared,
a cross dared,
a joy received.

Adapted:  Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace:  Prayers for the Battle

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tempest

"A violent windstorm, especially one with rain, hail, or snow; a violent commotion, disturbance, or tumult."  These are some of the adjectives that define/describe the powerful word, "tempest."  Some may better associate this word with the famous play, "The Tempest," written by William Shakespeare in early 17th century, where upon returning to Italy from a wedding in North Africa, a ship party is hit with a horrible storm on the sea, soon one of the characters reveals to the another that they arranged the shipwreck, which becomes clear along with other plots and themes as the play continues.  Essentially what the word and the play bring to mind is a violent storm.  Usually we associate this with natural or physical phenomena, like hurricanes, thunder storms, and blizzards and as a consequence, we can see the outside effects of "mother nature" fairly readily.

But, what the play and even a closer look at the word "tempest" may not readily indicate to the naked eye is that sometimes we each undergo our own tempest.  Sometimes it is caused or orchestrated by someone and we unfortunately bare the brunt of the storm.  However, sometimes it is also that we ourselves are in inner turmoil.  Sometimes we are in the storm of inner turmoil for a long time, looking for calmer seas, a life boat, or heck even just a life jacket so that we can at least feel like we can float through the tosses and turns of the storm.  Sometimes, we don't show that there is a storm going on, we keep in, go day through day as best we can and partially because we are hopeful and partially because are instinct knows no other way, but to persist, even when the shore is nowhere in sight, even though this can be more exhausting than the tempest itself.

I think this ties in with the life of a Christian fairly well or at least those of us who are still so infantile in our Christianity, our understanding of the mystery still seems so limited, where God wants us seems so unknown, we almost think we are lost or forgotten.  We want to be better, but find ourselves falling short of graces to deal with our fellow brother and sister.  We grow tired, we grow impatient.  But, we need to remember that he, God is always there and perhaps our tempests are part of a larger plan, even when it is so difficult because we have no idea when the storm inside us will end or which island our little torn and tattered boat will end up on, and I guess that is the scary part.  I guess what is the senseless part is trying to steer the boat through the tempest.  Why do we try to steer, when the waves are so much larger, that any steering is literally insanity, because it does nothing at all? It definitely is not helping and perhaps just makes it worse, but you do it because the steering makes you feel like you have control, but the tempest laughs at you the whole time while you’re turning that wheel like a mad man, because it knows that the little wheel you are steering is no match for this storm.  I guess once again this is where surrender comes in.  I guess this is where you throw your hands to the dark sky, with its rain, with its hail and you say fine and ride through it, even if you do not know what you are riding through or what the purpose is.

I think the tempest, in an "inner" sense of the word is brought on by vacillation of all sorts, but also by the feeling of being lost.  I think when we veer away from God, even if just for a brief time, this tempest has then an easy and fast way of settling in, especially if it knows you are vulnerable and especially if it knows that you are open to it.  I think that is why, even when it is difficult, one must arm their ship (meaning themselves) with Christ and ask for one thing and one thing only, his will and direction.  This is hard, as we so often want to steer our own wheel, be the master of our own ship.

"The mind and intellect of Christians are always centered on heavenly thoughts.  They gaze on heavenly things because they participate in the Holy Spirit.  Because they have been born above from God and are children of God in truth and power, they have arrived, through many labors and sweat endured over a long time, at a state of equilibrium, tranquility and peace, freed from further sifting.  They no longer vacillate back and forth, tossed about by crippling and vain thoughts.  In this they are greater  and better than those of the world, because their intellect and thinking of the soul is permeated by the peace of Christ and the love of the Spirit, as the Lord had in mind when he said:  "They had passed from death to life" (John 5:24)...

"Dear Lord, let me be the Christian you are calling me to be, centered on heavenly thoughts.  Let your will be done, let me know who I am, so that I no longer vacillate back and forth, tossed about this tempest by crippling and vain thoughts. You are my refuge and I need to see you in my life.  Amen.

Psedo-Marcarius.  "What the Pharisees Rejected."  Magnificat.  Vol 13 (8).  October 2011.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clinging to the Cross

I come to you often in a weak and needy state.  Impatient with myself, others and even you.  I come to you tired, drained and searching.  I come to you for answers, consolation, purification and peace.  I come to you, because I realize how much of my own behavior has brought me to this point, I am on my knees and I have no other option but to cling to you.  I take my crucifix that I have brought home from a far away place, a place oddly enough you have sent me twice and I hold it to my chest.  I close my eyes and ask for you to quiet my soul and to show me why it is you made me the way you did and how I am to proceed, to serve, to carry out the challenges before me.  When I hold you on the cross against my heart, I feel your arms wrapped around me, I feel your warmth and I don't want to let go of your cross, I realize how very much I need it.  Eventually, my mind calls me back to my daily routine and I realize how special my time with you is, how essential it is, I want to stay there longer and longer each day, because in that moment, I am what you created me for, I am stillness, I am in communion with you.  This is a moment of sweet surrender.

"Believers know that the cross is the inscrutable wisdom of God, the wisdom of love seeking its surest proof, its fullest expression for the sake of the beloved.  The mystery of the cross, for truly it is a mystery of the deepest currents of love, can only be comprehended through prayer, and then only by degrees."

"From tonight I ask you to pray even more.  Mediate on the wounds of Jesus.  Pray as much as you can in front of the crucifix."  ~ A message from Our Lady of Medjugore to the Visionaries Prayer Group

Beyer, Richard. (1993).  Medjugorje Day by Day.  Avia Maria Press.  Norte Dame, IN.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Staying in the Present Moment

The last year of my life has taken me on an interesting journey, with highs and lows and some struggles to work through or better yet, to try to surrender to God.  In this journey I have fell upon some interesting religious and spiritual teachers, some Catholic and some not.  What is interesting is that they all have the same powerful message and oddly enough (not knowing this at the time of my first reading and study) they actually often quote or refer to one another.  This has lead me to believe that I did not fall on these individuals randomly, but perhaps through God's will.  Their message is simple, stay in the present moment.   Through their teachings on staying in the present moment, they talk about one's ego and the false sense we have of ourselves, how this can distract us with worries and things we think we should be.  In the end, realizing that all we have is the present and the rest to some extend is an illusion of the mind in our past and future thinking, can lead us to state of peace, love and consciousness--simply being.  That we can still be productive in the present, but not a slave to the past or future.

In my morning mediation, I reflected on a message from Our Lady in Medjugorje.  In this message she states:

"Dear children, sometimes you oppress your hearts with certain matters, but this is not necessary.  Sometimes you are frightened by this or that, but again, why do you need that?  Who is with Jesus need not fear.  Do not worry or be anxious about what will happen tomorrow or a few years from now.  Abandon yourselves to Jesus, for only that way can you be the faithful sheep that follow their Shepherd."

Again, sometimes we fall upon things and it is simply not random that we do so.  I felt that these words were speaking directly to me and perhaps I need to read this message at the start of each day and then again at the end.  Perhaps these words will also speak directly to you too.  Being present is what Christ calls us to do, he does not call us to be stuck in the past or hurrying to the future.  In the present we can just be, taking one moment at a time, being healed one step at a time.

Dear Lord, thank you for the present moment.  Help me not to give away this gift you've given me today.  Amen.


Beyer, Richard. (1993). Medjugorje Day by Day. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mom Knows Best: Perspective From My Earthly & Heavenly Mothers

A few weeks ago I posted about experiencing a "spiritual drought."  What has been difficult for me over the last few weeks, is that I found it very difficult to pray.  I struggle with a few crosses and sometimes I let those get the best of me and I fall into sin, whether that be by unkind words, thoughts and actions towards myself or others.  The pattern I find myself in then is that this truly separates me from God, which of course is the basic definition of sin.  I fall into this trap of "unworthiness" and I feel so awful about myself and others, that I feel it is hypocritical to pray and attending mass even becomes a struggle, because I feel so low.

I know I know this, but my dear Mother brought to my attention that this is how the devil works.  He sees we are trying to do good spiritually and he works subtly to eat away at our virtue and efforts.  For me the devil can work as a huge distraction.  The evil one can get me fire-up over an issue and it deters me from prayer, but also productivity in my studies (I am a graduate student) and just completely erodes my focus.  I am naturally a productive person, so the devil knows where to hit me the hardest.  My Mother also brought up a very interesting and true way to think about sin.  Reminding me essentially of the verse in John (20:23) "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."  She shared how in the mass she attended on Sunday, the priest discussed this in his homily, partly focusing on how if we retain sin and are unforgiving, it destroys us internally and we can even see its effects externally in people--they are weighed down, grumpy, negative, aged, tired, etc.  I must admit, my lack of forgiveness with myself and others has had this effect.  I sometimes am so absorbed by the hurt, that I cannot get past it and in the end, it tears me apart inside and separates me from God.  Instead of giving it to God, I let it distract me and am thus vulnerable to the evil one.

This morning I got up early, feeling low about one of the crosses I carry.  As I sat in bed with tears in my eyes, I decided it was time to go back to weekly mass, even though, part of me wanted to stay wallowing in bed.  I took two of my favorite things on earth (my dogs Murphy and Norma) for a walk in downtown Claremont and then headed into early morning Mass.  The priest talked about what we store up in heaven and how important it is to consistently put God first in our lives and when we don't do that, we fall to sin.  He said that prayer is key here, it is our armor, our daily replenishment. 

I decided after mass to walk back to the sacristy and ask Father if he had a moment for confession.  I had a few things weighing heavily on my heart and needed God's mercy.  Lately, whenever I go to confession, I can't help but get emotion, this time was no different.  But even though it was painful, it was a release and in that moment, I felt a little less heavy than I had in a couple of weeks.  To me the sacrament of confession is so paramount and I have always felt very drawn to it.  The grace I feel from confession is so tremendous, I can literally feel a physical difference.  I know not every one's experience is like this and I have Catholic and non-Catholic friends who are very skeptical about confession, but I know its awesome graces and today, I am very thankful for this sacrament.

Upon heading home, I read a reflection from my "Day By Day" prayer book, which is based on Our Lady's messages in Medjugorje.  The reflection I choose discussed the power of the devil (coincidence, I think not!).   In a message she gave to one of the visionaries she stated,

"Dear Children, again today your Mother wants to warn that Satan, by every means possible, wants to ruin everything in you, but your prayers prevent him from succeeding.  When you fill up the empty space in your soul with prayer, you prevent Satan from entering.  Pray, dear children, and your Mother will pray with you to defeat Satan."

Both my earthly an heavenly Mother, reminded me of the power of the evil one this week.  I think God knows how dear they both are to me, so he used them to speak to me, to plant a seed, open my eyes and hopefully add some moisture to my drought.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the Sacrament of Confession and for your divine mercy, which is always available to those who seek it.  Lord, I am weak, I am a work in progress, I am passionate and sometimes irrational only operating on human emotion and not spiritual virtue.  I lack trust, increase my faith in you.  Lead me Lord.  Who I am Lord and who are you?

Beyer, Richard. (1993).  Medjugorje Day by Day.  Avia Maria Press.  Norte Dame, IN.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trying to Get Out of a Drought

Nothing but self-will can separate us from God.
-- St. Alphonsus Liguori 

Sometimes I feel as though I am in a drought.  As if all the life that I had in me is gone.  Sometimes on my journey I can feel indifferent and it is hard to get back on track.  I think I know what this is, it speaks to the necessity of perseverance.  If we do not  persevere in our relationship with God, if we become luke-warm in anyway, this has a ripple effect.  We can begin to feel separate from God, which is essentially the definition of sin.  In this separation, we feel off, we feel dried out, we feel that sense of focus drained away.

I know that on this journey and pilgrimage of life that there are ebbs and flows, valleys and peaks.  We have highs, we have lows and sometimes our relationship with God is not much different.  But, that is not because God leaves or dries us out, it is because we, in our own free will separate ourselves from God.  This separation causes negative consequences and misdirection, that is why it is so essential we persevere and that taking time with God becomes part of our daily routine, less we grow more separate and independent.   This is like any relationship really.  If we don't take the time, if we do not commit ourselves and persevere, we grown apart, we begin to yearn to become independent and this separation in the long run can cause sin and pain and deplete our relationships' living water, that is so essential for them to grow.

Sometimes, I am too independent and this has led me to want more.  The idea of anyone or anything clipping my wings is frankly revolting to me at times.  However, I have to admit that even though this independence has granted me accomplishments, it has not necessarily granted me true peace or acceptance of God's will and more than I would like to admit, it has made me separate myself from him and others.   In some ways, I feel very tired and dried out, and unfocused both on my relationship with God, others and on some necessary tasks that are literally right before me today.

Dear Lord,

Release me of my need to always feel and want independence.  Grant me your clarity and focus with all my tasks this day.  Bless our time together and my time with others.  Let the order of your natural will happen to me this day and help me to sit back and let you unfold your plan, so that I may be separate from you no longer.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Something to Share ~ A Few Favorite Bible Verses

Daily Grace, a fellow Christain blogger has asked that I share three of my favorite bible verses.  A few bloggers are doing this and I think it is a nice way to build community.  This being said, here are a few of my favorite bible verses:

Jeremiah 17: 7-8
"Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream.  He has no fear when the heat comes his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit."

Reflection:  I love this verse from Jeremiah, because it shows the confidence we can obtain if we trust in the Lord.  We can withstand every trial, every difficulty if are peace and trust are in Him.  We can handle life's trouble with grace and be a true example.

Philippians 4: 4-7
"Rejoice in the Lord aways. I say it again:  rejoice and may everyone expereince your gentle and understanding heart, The Lord is near: do not be anxious about anything.  In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God.  Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Reflection:  I've had this passage marked in my bible for years and read it often.  It always soothes my soul.

Matthew 5: 46-48:
"If you love those who love you, what is special about that?  Do not even tax collectors do as much?  And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that?  Do not even the pagans do as much?  For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect."

Reflection:  This sums up the Gospel, to love one another and bare with one another.  I can have a hard time forgiving and interacting with people who are not like me, so I try to reflect on this as a reminder that God calls me to love, even when it is uncomfortable and a challenge.

I would like to read the following bloggers' three favorite bible verses:

Wake Up Dave
Ask Sister Martha
Meandering Thru Life