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God Wants Your Attention…

The world is a crazy place. Just look around at all the headlines. Scrolling through Facebook is like maneuvering through a minefield. My stomach lurches at the sight of any political posts and begs me to keep scrolling. But I’m oddly drawn to read the articles and the comments. I find myself reading the battles between people I have never met. Before I know it my peace and hope for humanity has nearly evaporated.

Meanwhile, my littles call out to me.

Child 1: “Mom, can you play?”

“After I read this hope-sucking article that will keep me awake worrying about your safety and future.”

Child 2: “Chips? Dink? Pizza?”

“I’m sorry, I just read that all our food has been coated in agent orange and could give you cancer and a painful death.”

Then there is the silent one. The little one who simply clings my leg. With small tugs the little one tries to gain my attention. Yet, my eyes are glued. The depressing images of the world keeps dragging me deeper into the darkness. Still, the small tugs keep coming on my pant leg.

Finally, I break my engrossment with the hopeless abyss which is our world today. My eyes are tired and I feel completely drained and frustrated at the falleness of humanity.

And there I see it.

The bright gleaming eyes of my little one. As soon as my eyes meet those hazel eyes a radiant joyful smile breaks across that cute little face. It was then that I finally understood what God had been trying to tell me.

How many times had I ignored God calling me back to Himself? He called me to leave what was *supposed* be a ‘retreat’ and instead had turned into a depressing rollercoaster. He tried through the voices of my children. But, I didn’t even flench. He had to go deeper then the physical. Finally, He resorted to His greatest weapons: silence and joy.

The bleakness of the world is not where He is. He is not in the tirades of celebrities. He is not in the hateful speech splashed around newspapers. He is not in the the anxiety and the tension that bind our minds and hearts to the worries of the future.

Think of it like this: You have a beautiful picture of a wide open meadow nestled in the magnificent valley of the Rocky Mountains. *sigh* That’s better. The air is clear, the picture clear and simple. Beauty is simple enough to raise our spirits to that which is above us. Yet, what happens when we pollute this picture? When we distort the beauty? Every bleak headline is like smearing black paint over our beautiful meadow. After awhile the picture is no longer discernible. What was once clear is no longer visible. The meadow still exists but I can’t see it through the muck.

This is what happens to my hope when I consume the darkness that is out there.

It is when I finally stop and take a look at what is right in front of me that I realize that God has been there the whole time, tugging patiently at my heart. He’s been calling out to me. But I’ve ignored, procrastinated, deflected or just flat out didn’t hear His requests to come out of the mud. Yet, it never fails, whenever I do pull myself away there He is. His silent ever persistent presence is just waiting for my attention. It is there that He brings me joy and it is there that I must dwell, not in the mud of the world.

He always meets us in the silence with comfort and joy.

 

 

*Please note this does not mean hiding under a rock or being an uninformed person of the world around us. It is about finding a way to filter the muck and darkness and still maintaining hope and faith that God is in control*

Tales of a Tired Mama

It is currently in the middle of the night and I am awake with a fussy infant. I have tried everything I can think of to soothe her. I’ve walked with her, bounced with her, rocked her, given her food, laid her down and nothing seems to help. I know that she is not feeling well, yet nothing seems to be working.

Even at this late/early hour I know God is revealing Himself to me.

Sometimes, I wonder if God feels the same with me. He tries everything to console my nerves and what ails my soul but I am so worked up I can’t slow down enough to let any of His efforts take effect.  Sometimes I just can’t stop focusing on my spiritual discomfort that I completely ignore His loving efforts to console me. Instead, I fuss, whine, cry and complain until I pass out from spiritual exhaustion.

Just as I try to train my daughter to sleep so He is training me to love. Love right now, means being awake so my daughter has someone to love her as she fusses. She knows I am here and right now that is all I can give her. Just like the Lord, I know He is in my struggles and that He cares. He is there just waiting for me to give into His comforts.

 

Update: My little one barely slept last night. Finally, when I was at my wits end and she was screaming in pain I began to shower her head with kisses. Within a minute she was asleep. So often I wish I would give into the tenderness of God and let peace come over my soul. Babies are such sweet vessels for God to teach me through.

Bold is Beautiful

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Holy Week, Easter, the passing of Mother Angelica. Each of these are extremely powerful in and of themselves. Today though, I want to focus on Mother Angelica who, in her life, reflected both Holy Week and Easter until her final earthly breath.

I’m pretty sure Mother would not want a long eulogy about how much she has inspired me. Instead, it would only please her to praise the Lord who worked through her to reach me. If it was not for a series of events that led me to purchase Mother’s biography it is undeniable that this blog and my writing career would not exist. Reading about her faith in Jesus fanned my faith.

Mother said many things but these really struck me,mother 4

“A soul that trusts God is invincible.” and

“Faith is one foot up in the air and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” (How true that is!)

“Boldness should be the 11th Commandment.”

Boldness.

That is one thing she did not lack. That is why she herself was so endearing. We are naturally inclined to those who immolate it. That is one of the many reasons Jesus and the saints are so attractive. They have a surety and confidence that is mystifying to those of us who don’t have it.  If you ever watch reruns of Mother Angelica Live Mother always had an answer. She wasn’t wishy-washy. She was bold, straight and to the point. She didn’t let her past get in the way of her communion with Jesus or her mission of bringing Him to others. They worked side by side to carry out the mission He had for her life. Jesus was not a distant figure to her, He was her spouse and she knew Him well. Isn’t that part of being a saint? Knowing Jesus well.

The apostles had jaded pasts.  Heck they had jaded presents at times. “No, I’m greater.” “No, I’m greater.” “Lord, sit me at your right hand.” “Then I get your left!” “Jesus, who? Nope, don’t know him.” There were tax collectors and fishermen among them. They were considered the lowest and not the prettiest nor smartest people in society. Yet, they were the ones who answered His call to “Follow me”. The ‘smart’ people were no where to be seen in the inner twelve. Just some rough men who had great faith and boldness in spades.

Mother Angelica 3Yet, even with these pasts we never hear the apostles say to Jesus (like Moses did) “Lord, I’m not fit for this mission.” or “Lord, I’m not eloquent enough to preach your Gospel.” “I don’t have the education needed.” “I’m just a fisherman/tax collector/etc.”

They went out preaching knowing that many would be aware of their backgrounds, their imperfections and if they weren’t they would after a few minutes of talking to them. But I think it is critical to note that their worries are no where recorded in Scripture. They trusted that God would provide. They went forth with boldness to proclaim Christ. And you know what? They were invincible.

Not in the sense that they couldn’t be touched physically–goodness knows those guys took beatings and were persecuted out the wazoo–but you know what? Their faith gave them something I wish I had: The faith to not care about anyone’s opinion except God’s! They didn’t care what happened to their earthly bodies, they cared only about spreading the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, they cared about saving souls. They were willing to offer every inch of their being and breaths in their body to minister to the people of God.

That, my friends, is the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit.

To have such zeal to know that the people of this world may slander you, beat you and even kill you but your reward is in heaven and then the joke is on them.

That is part of the great legacy of Mother Angelica. She was praised by popes but persecuted by bishops, she suffered greatly in this world with many health problems yet she always saw her illnesses as a chance for saving souls. Even towards the end it is said that she told her sisters to “shove as many pills down me as you can.” When asked why, she replied (paraphrased), “Because one more day I get to suffer is one more day I get to offer up for souls.” It doesn’t take being drug out into the streets to be persecuted or to offer suffering (Just bring up you are Catholic in a public space). Anyone can be a saint right where they are. That is the great message of Jesus through Mother Angelica: anyone can be a saint. ANYONE!

Reflection: Mother Angelica was often quoted as saying that the biographers of saints should be sent to purgatory for forty years. Why? Because they made saints seem unreal. They made holiness seem unattainable. In her book “Answers not Promises”, she asks where are all the saints with long noses, warts, and unflattering figures? We need to make saints real again, not just by speaking/reading about their lives but by becoming ones ourselves. We need saints who are moms, dads, accountants, lawyers, doctors, priests, nuns, teachers, etc. We need people living in this culture who have managed to find, love and serve God. We just first have to get it through our heads that we can in fact be saints too!

Challenge: If you were to write your saint biography right now what would  it say? Think about it in your spare and wandering thoughts. Would it talk about how much you loved and served your family or spouse? Or would it talk about how much time you spent at work and money you saved up during your lifetime? Would it speak of your struggles to find holiness and communion with God in your vocation? Or would it list the great car you just bought and the amazing deal you got on your house?

Crossfire

Inventory time: How many crucifixes are in the room you are sitting in? How about the house you live in? I don’t know about you, but growing up I got a few raised eyebrows from friends when they would come over to play. Not because of the size or color of my house but by the sheer number of religious articles around it.

Let’s face it, Catholics love sacramentals.

It’s true, whenever I decorate a home I make sure to have a crucifix in every room. We have rosaries hanging on the rearview mirrors of our cars and religious window clings to boot.

I love all our sacred art, sacred music and ancient traditions but there is something Catholic that I dread. It is something that I take for granted, that I do before every prayer in the privacy of my home but dread doing at the public table.

The Sign of the Cross.

It makes me wince whenever I do it in public. For me, it is much easier to nail up crucifixes in my home where only friends enter. For me, it is easier to hang a rosary in my car where no one can say anything to me unless I roll down my window. For me, it is easier to dunk the tips of my fingers in the Holy Water font and sign then it is to make it in front of a crowd at lunchtime in McDonalds.

It is also no surprise that the Church adopted this so-simple-I-can’t-believe-its-so-hard-to-make-in-front-of-my-friends sign. That’s what God does. He doesn’t give us complicated formulas of ways to connect to Him. Instead, He takes simple things that most humans have like bread and wine and accomplish the unimaginable. Here, he uses a simple cross to stand as a creed to all his followers.

When made outside the doors of the church or our own homes, we are thrust into the scrutiny of the public arena. To make this sign over ourselves is to step into a place where sign of the cross 2religion is often mocked and misunderstood. It is a hard thing to face for those of us who don’t like conflict.

Wouldn’t be easier to wear a blessed medal? Sure, it would. Blessed articles are beautiful reminders of God’s goodness and grace. They are expressions of our faith. But the Sign of the Cross calls us to take one step more into His grace. To not just wear his blessings and graces close to my heart but to share that with others. The Sign of the Cross declares to all who see that I am a dedicated Christian. I can’t hide it behind a door or tuck it into my clothes.

“The Sign of the Cross can be made to testify to belief in the Crucified and thus be a profession of faith or to show that one hopes in and places one’s confidence in the same Savior, in which case it is a means of invoking God’s assistance in virtue of the Passion of His Son.” (St. Francis de Sales, “Sign of the Cross: The Fifteen most Powerful Words in the English Language”, pg 17)

This simple motion invokes an entire Bible’s worth of information. It is with this very sign that I enter into the liturgy, experience the Lord entering the Eucharist and the very sign I am commissioned with at the end of Mass. I have done it a million times, seen it done a million times and taken it for granted a million times. St. John Chrysostom asks: “If someone asks you, “Do you worship the one who was crucified?”, have no shame and do not lower your eyes to the ground, but instead glory and rejoice in making the confession with your chin raised and eyes looking straight ahead.” (pg 12.)

Sign of the CrossThis Sign of the Cross, according to St. Francis de Sales, is performed by Christians to show that they were knights, whom had taken on the Cross of Christ (become His disciples) and were not ashamed of the great power of Christ’s cross and salvation for all souls. (pg 12)

St. Jerome, Tertullian, St. Ephraiam, St. Cryil and St. Ambrose, all invoke that the sign of the cross should be  made in all matters of day to day life. From the time we rise to the time we sit, eat, stand, enter a room, go to a meeting, go outside etc. the sign of the Cross is there to strengthen us, to protect us and to remind us what our actions should be geared toward.

It is an outward expression of our faith to those around us but coincidentally, by making this sign God sends special graces to our soul. So, wouldn’t it follow that even if we are nervous about what others will say, the Sign of the Cross itself will grant us the graces to answer the questions posed to us?

Reflection: Everything we do as Catholics in our liturgies and customs are packed with meaning. For example, When making the Sign of the Cross, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion and the remission of sins, by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing. Did you know that most people in the early church made it with either three fingers (in honor of the Trinity) or five fingers (in honor of the five wounds of Christ)? (pgs. 9-10) Even St. Cecilia, who was one of the Church’s first martyrs, was found in the position of holding three fingers pressed together (for the Trinity) and two on her other hand touching (representing the two natures of Christ).

There are so many times I complain about not having time to pray. By that, I of course mean that deep, spiritual, contemplative prayer that usually happens during an hour of adoration. That doesn’t happen regularly here so I am constantly disappointed in my performance as a pray-er. Yet, the Sign of the Cross is a prayer in and of itself. So, if I don’t have time in my day to make four small motions with my right hand then I think I had better loosen up my schedule.

Challenge: Make the Sign of the Cross every morning when you wake up and every night when you go to sleep. Get in the habit of making this sign and thinking about what it means. Be aware of how many fingers your are making it with, what are you saying with your body? If you’re feeling particularly adventurous make the Sign of the Cross every time you pass a Catholic Church, sit down to eat a meal in the breakroom, go out to eat at a restaurant, or kiss those you love goodnight. Make the Sign of the Cross. See how it feels!

Cleanliness is Next to Holiness

Lent. It’s that time of year when everyone gives something up in hopes of breaking an addiction they have. Maybe it is to the morning cup of coffee, watching too much t.v. or the daily dive into the strategically hidden bag of chocolate in the bottom right drawer of the fridge. But there are times the caffeine headache is too much to take and the only way to alleviate it is by drinking a caffeine rich soda pop.  The twitches for chocolate when that person who really annoys you enters the room are too much to take.

Your head hurts, stomach groans, you can’t seem to muster up a happy thought. You can’t help it, you have to rub the temples of your head. You have to find some alternative to chocolate. How else will you deal with not being able to find out what happened last night your favorite show or your favorite team? Maybe cheesecake…No!

http://www.catholicallyear.com/2015/02/feast-then-fast-tips-for-fat-tuesday.html

http://www.catholicallyear.com/2015/02/feast-then-fast-tips-for-fat-tuesday.html

How can we possibly find joy in the sacrifice in the middle of temptation?! How can we, in the middle of mild yet irritating suffering, not carry out the habit we formed long ago? Is the solution to start a new habit? Perhaps. But not in the way that instead of chocolate when I feel irritated or annoyed I now head straight for a wine bottle. The point of Lent is to offer up something freely to root the bad out, not to fill up with a new ‘stuff’.

Lent is like spring cleaning for our souls.

The point is the deal with the ‘stuff’ of our lives. How cluttered are our souls with unnecessary things? How piled up are all the extra feelings of failure, annoyance, boredom and frustration have we hoarded away against ourselves or those around us? That is what the Lord wants to clean out.

There was a show on t.v. once that had a married couple clean out two rooms in their cluttered house. Once all the belongings were outside, they had four signs out that said, “Keep” “Give Away” “Trash” and “Garage Sale”. The couple would then talk through the various items and decided which one went in front of what sign.

God doesn’t want our chocolate. He wants our soul, our personhood, our time, our attention. He wants a conversation over what has clogged up our souls and thus our lines of communion with Him. With Him we need to figure out what needs to be healed or given to Him to be fixed, what things need to get trashed immediately that are dragging us down, what things we have that we can give to others (this may be volunteering at a parish event, becoming a CCD/PSR teacher, or joining a Bible Study), and what things we need to keep with us to foster and grow.

Yes, Lent is about getting rid of things but it is also about fostering good things. Yes, we are weeding the gardens of our souls but we are also planting new seeds as well as tending to those that have already begun to sprout and that is something to be joyful about.

Reflection: “Ugh, I miss (insert Lenten sacrifice here).” “I can’t wait for these forty days to be over.” “What day are we on? What?! You mean I have 32 days left? Good-ness.” “Can I switch sacrifices?” “Sundays don’t count, right?”–You know you are a Catholic during Lent if any of these phrases have ever entered your mind or exited your mouth. There are times I think that it would be easier to get rid of sins if they were physical. Like, if sin were a king sized mattress stuck in a closet, that I could handle. Sure, it’d be hard to get it down two flights of spiral stairs and out to the garbage. It would take a lot of effort and I’d probably smell pretty nasty once I got it down. Not to mention that I’d be sore all over from doing the most work I had done all year in a day. But in the end, it would be out and done with. Sins are so much harder when they are spiritual. Because the battle is not with an annoying object that’s in my physical way. Instead it is with an invisible reality stuck inside the closet of my soul and the only way to get it out is for me to work at it.

Challenge: Jesus said, we are not to be solemn, moan or groan when we are sacrificing or draw attention to ourselves when we sacrifice. Goal for this week: Have a good week. Every day make a conscience effort to be happy even in the midst of sacrificing for Jesus. And when you find it hard, pause, take a minute and ask Jesus and Mary for help. They always come.

Punctuality

I love Irish Music. When I was in college I was able to go to my first ever Irish Fest in a nearby town and met an amazing band called the Fuchsia Band. Awesome guys!

Anyways, they have a song on their c.d. that goes something like this,

Punctuality is all very proper I know
all the hurry and worry I hate
but it always occurs that wherever I go
I’m exactly ten minutes too late.

Welcome to my life. In America, we put a lot of emphasis on schedules, timetables, deadlines and due dates. These little buggers seem to dictate our lives with their very existence. This is not to say they don’t have their place and purpose. Certainly they do, but there are times that they become our sole focus. We anticipate the coming deadline. Then life turns into something like a word problem found in a math book:

Mom has one hour until she and her three children have to be at a doctor’s appointment fifteen miles away. She plans fifteen minutes to get ready to go for the day. She then adds in another ten minutes to find her keys, cell phone and purse. In the remaining time Mom must wrangle the kids, get their socks, shoes and coats on; prepare a diaper bag, deal with two meltdowns and load the children into their carseats.

Once buckled in, Mom will realize that she cannot find her purse which has the keys and the insurance card in it. After locating the items she rips out of the driveway and onto the road. She is then stopped at by a red light every half mile. The road she normally takes is under construction and she must use a detour that will take her two miles out of her way. Just as she is about to pull into the parking lot she gets stuck behind a city bus unloading passengers.

What are the odds Mom will make it to the appointment on time?

or perhaps a better question:

What fraction of Mom’s sanity will be left in tact?

Like a pregnant woman past her due date our patience dwindles as we encounter failures in meeting our scheduled goals. We want it to work out how we planned. We want things to be on time. We want to be able to look at those frazzled people who come stumbling through the store/school/lobby doors with pity. All with a smile in our hearts that we aren’t in their shoes (today, anyways). But, that’s the thing with life. We are not living on our time, but on God’s time. Everything happens for a reason and has been allowed for our own good.

Life is an obstacle course for us to jump over, dive under, climb up, and fight through. God sets the obstacles. And though we may see them, we have to be able to face them, not just look for a way around them. Like a Tough Mudder run we have to battle through one obstacle knowing that another is just on the horizon. There is one way to finish and that is to complete the obstacles as they are intended to be completed. It is our challenge to not just recognize that which God has set before us but to rise to the occasion. Not to be that person that looks around the sides of an obstacle for an easy out.

St. Gianna

 

Reflection: At the Annunciation, our Blessed Mother encountered the Angel Gabriel. Here she, a virgin, was told she would conceive through the Holy Spirit and bear a son who would be Jesus. This child would be the Messiah, the one prophesied for centuries. The one who was to free Israel from its bondage. The one to fulfill the final promise made to Abraham. The one to establish the everlasting and worldwide kingdom! And she was to bear Him in her holy womb for nine months. Can you imagine her anticipation? What would it have been like if she had been 41 weeks and still waiting to see the face of God? To hold this miraculous and divine child? Do we yearn for Christ’s presence as she would have those nine months? Or do the weeks slip by and we barely notice His presence in our prayers, at Mass or in our homes?

Challenge: What can we do for those who are frazzled by life’s schedules? Can we help them? Do we pray for them as soon as we see them? Even our small quick thoughts can become prayers when we see the poor parents juggling five kids and looking like they haven’t slept all night. Pray for those who are feeling the strain of life’s challenges this week right when you see them—the frazzled parent, the crying toddler, the standoffish teen, the struggling elderly.

Listen to Him

tug of war

https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/practical-parenting/g/8165495/tug-o-war/8167457/#6

Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for his ‘will to power’ theory.

Nietzche didn’t have kids.

If Nietzsche had kids, his ‘will to power’ theory would have been obliterated at the first all nighter with a newborn.

If the newborn didn’t get him, it would have been the two year old dancing in his crib when he’s supposed to be napping then proceeding to tear through the house like a tornado. Coupled with the fact that while you’re cleaning up the house the little one grabs your toothbrush, dunks it in the toilet and proceeds to brush his teeth with it.

If the crazy non-sleeping two year old didn’t warrant a submission then the whiny pouting five year old whose pizza isn’t peeled of all its toppings, cut up and quartered before it is all cold would have.

Not to mention the tantrums…oh the tantrums.

Those lovely things that you can anticipate with certain events (i.e. someone has something I want but I can’t tell you because I’m so mad and the only way to express it is through pushing, shoving or screaming, going to a doctor, trying to get them to sit still), others that are complete blindsides (food isn’t cut right, juice is too hot or cold, blanket is folded wrong).

Many I have talked to say that the love this stage, right when little ones are finally able to communicate St. Rafaeland begin to reason. I too, looked forward to this time and I do cherish much of it. But sometimes…oh sometimes I envision myself as grating my head against a brick wall as I argue about what the name of our country is, the reasons we go to Mass, the reasons we need to pray, how to be grateful for what we have, how to deal with not getting what we want, how to pray at the table and why we don’t fling rosaries around like lassos…basically trying to instill knowledge, virtue and formation on a young soul that is supposed to become a saint under my patronage.

(Then again, as I think about this, maybe children were the inspiration for his ‘will to power theory’ Hmmm…)

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some great parent to child speeches. Ones where at the end you mentally give yourself a pat on your back and surprised by your own words of wisdom.

Then the blank stare and, “But I don’t want to (fill in blank)”

*Face Palm*

We as humans don’t listen well. Especially when we don’t want to hear it. If my five year old doesn’t want to hear about it, he won’t. He goes some place in his psyche and thinks about planes, cars and trains until Mom stops talking.

There is something reassuring about this state of battle of will pitted against will–God knows exactly what we are going through.

We are called to be children and co-heirs to the kingdom of God. To have child like innocence and docility to the Will of God. But sometimes, we can stretch this analogy.

Why do you think He explicitly says in Matthew 17:5, “This is MY SON with whom I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM.” Black and white. Short and to the point. There is little room for interpretation. Here it is little ones. I have just told you who He is and what you are to do.

Just as I tell my toddler to turn around, pick up his toys and apologize for hitting his brother in the face with a car. God is specific and explicit with His words. Yet, we don’t always listen to God. He could say this upside down, inside out, and in twenty different languages but if our hearts and ears are closed He will get the typical response. Blank Stare + confused look = “But, I don’t want to…”

His words repeat, “Listen to Him.”

We can run, plug our ears, ignore the knocking on our hearts but He still calls, “Listen to Him”.

We have to open our ears and heart to listen to Christ not just about Christ. Where can we do that? At Mass, in our homes, in our prayers and especially in Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church. We can say it, sing it, read it and pray it. Most importantly we have to receive it, take it in, and be changed by it!

Reflection: Do you really listen to Christ or about Him? Every week at Mass we hear the words of Christ in the Gospel. We hear about His ministry, His life, His teachings. Yet, do we really sit at the feet of Jesus? Can we place ourselves at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes? Can we picture ourselves as a part of the crowd at the Multiplication of loaves? Do Jesus’ words resonate with us or do we just let them slide in one ear and out the other until we stand up for the Creed?

Challenge: Pope Saint John XXIII constantly lamented his failures to stay focused during his meditation with the Rosary, at Mass and in class. But he never gave up. He was vigilant to recommit and start over. This week, pick a devotion (rosary, chaplet, litany or novena) or book of the Bible to pray with every night. Listen to the words and try to pray them with an attentive and fervent spirit. Get to know the Lord.

 

 

Zoo

There were few things I loved more when I was younger and in school than going to the zoo. That was always my favorite field trip. We’d load up in the usual yellow bus and bounce our way downtown to the best zoo in the world.

We’d spend all afternoon running from exhibit to exhibit, knocking on the glass of the gorillas, pressing our noses up against the aquarium’s glass tunnel, and trying to milk the cow in the petting zoo.  It combined the best of both the outside and the inside. It gave tangibility to those distant places from which these animals had come.

Today, walking through that same zoo with my family I couldn’t help but hope they would enjoy the trip as much as I used to. Finally, after years of trying, my oldest wasn’t too scared to go into the aquarium. He was ready and willing to enter it’s dark recesses to “find Nemo”. In previous visits he would beg to leave as soon as our stroller hit the front entrance all the way until the end. We weren’t sure what bothered him or why. Maybe it was the dark hallways, the crowds of people, or that maybe he didn’t realize that the animals couldn’t escape their protective glass. Whatever it was, he overcame it once he had a goal in mind.

It wasn’t until I was home and looking back on the day that I realized this is a tendency in our spiritual lives. There are times when God puts something in front of us that looks dark and scary. We fear what lies within and before we’ve even entered the trial we beg for a return to the comfortable.

If we are brave enough to enter the mission laid before us, suddenly, all the little obstacles become more vibrant in the darkness that surrounds us. Like a child who is afraid of the shadows caused by his nightlight, we jump at the smallest twitch from an unknown source.

The problem is…we know ourselves too well. We know our fears, our imperfections, our favorite sins, ourSt. Francis de Sales failings. We know our frailty as a soul most powerfully when presented with an opportunity to grow. From transparent cages ominous and friendly things alike watch our every step.

Too scared to stick around to find out which one is watching we dart for the emergency exit. And that’s okay, God gives us those outs. He purposely places evacuation points for us throughout our mission. Of course, His desire is that we see them through but He still allows us to choose how long it will take for us to get through it.

Isn’t funny though, that even in those dark places of the unknown, if we have a specific mission like ‘find Nemo’, the obstacles don’t matter as much anymore. Like St. Terese’s ‘Little Way’ (to do little things with great love). Suddenly, when we find ourselves confronted with a situation, we remember our goal, our mission. It is up to us to choose if we carry out that mission and offer it up in great love. Once we know the objective it becomes easier to choose the way of virtue. If we see the light at the end of the tunnel we are more likely to strive toward it. Once it is in our sights we can barrel on through and actually enjoy the mission God has given us. We look at virtue with a smile and vice as a contained entity.

What seemed so far out of our reach now becomes possible. The far off lands of our potential are brought before our eyes. In these small places, God shows us part of His plan. He brings the potential of our heavenly life and gives us a direction, a mission, to help guide us closer to Him.

With direction comes peace.

So what are we afraid of? If God is the one designing the mission, laying it out, and guiding us through, what have we to fear?

Pope St. John XXIIIHe is not there to force us through a traumatic test which we must pass on the first try. No, He is there with us to serve as guide. If we happen to get distracted or linger at a certain dilemma, vice, or virtue He will gently guide us back to the wider goal. If we freak out and say we are not able to see it through He will lovingly accept our will.

Does this mean He gives up?

Absolutely not.

In fact, most likely this same situation will present itself over and over again. It is because this mission is meant to draw us to Him, to virtue, to help us adhere to the goal and finally achieve it.

 

 

 

The Storm

sea of galilee

Photo courtesy of JuliePerkins

Imagine yourself on a boat. A small lovely boat that will take you across a small sea. Upon its deep blue waters you will sail to the other side of the shore. There, you’re not sure what adventure awaits but, here, in the open waters you are at home. You’ve spent most of your life on these waters, putting nets in, pulling fish out, now as you cross you do not cross in hopes for food but for something greater.

At first the journey is peaceful, like every other you have taken. Clouds over head are large and white, yet something eerie looms in the air. Something is coming. You’re not sure what, but it is coming and soon.

With perked ears you walk about the small ship and notice your companions have the same looks upon their faces. They feel it too. Within minutes the wind picks up, the white clouds have now turned dark and streak towards the sun. The smooth waters turn rough and violent. Each one of you begins to shout to the others but none can hear over the howling of the storm. Waves crash upon deck. Lightening streaks across the blackened sky while thunder seems to rumble the waves into an undulating nightmare. Water crashes all around you, knocking your legs out beneath you. Desperately you crawl towards the stairwell that leads to the deck below.

Throwing yourself down the stairs you find a crewmate asleep on a cushion as though the waves were simply a mother rocking her child.

“Do you not care that we are dying up there?” You yell. The man turns over, climbs the steps to the upper deck, rebukes the wind and calm returns.

What are you thinking, right now, about that man?

No doubt, the apostles had a few thoughts when this all happened to them on the Sea of Galilee. Here these men were, most of them extremely well weathered fisherman who had seen their share of storms at sea, fearing for their lives. That alone should tell us that this is not just some little sprinkle, this is a fierce storm. Notice, they didn’t go straight to Jesus, instead they fought for as long as they could by themselves before going to wake him.

Isn’t that odd to you?

If it were me I think the first thing I would do is make sure that everyone was awake and helping. I don’t think I would let anyone be below deck let alone sleeping.

Instead, the apostles take on the storm themselves. Only when death seems to be approaching did they invoke Jesus to come to their aide.

How often do we do that in our lives?storm

How often is Jesus our lifejacket? Our last resort? Our last minute 911 call?

Don’t get me wrong, He loves coming to our aide. Yet, like with the apostles I can’t help but wonder if He does not look at us with a compassionate but disappointed grin, “Did you not believe?”

How heartbreaking that must have been?! Here is the man you’ve given everything up for and yet in your time of need you did not trust in Him. All you had to do was ask! You could have saved yourself and others so much grief if you had just said, “Um, Jesus, I know you are there…HELP ME!”

Reflection: Not all storms are visible. Fear, confusion, doubt, anger, frustration, disbelief…when their powers billow up inside of a person they create a raging storm within our souls. Yet, how often do we try to sail these rough waters on our own? We are constantly told to ‘tough it out’ and to ‘get through it’ which at times, yes, we need to, but what if we are missing the real point of the storm? What if that storm has been sent as a conversation starter? A trust exercise? A chance for us to look inside and wake up our souls to Jesus. Then with sure hands and faith we ask him, “If it is your will, rebuke this storm. If it is not, then please, stay with me.” After that, it is up to us to trust that He will not leave our side.

Challenge: Take time this week to ‘wake up to Jesus’. Is He asleep on your ship? You know, in your life but feeling distant? Go to Him, ask Him to be with you during each day and each conflict you face.

Demolition of Dreams

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow.
The same loving Father who cares for you today,
will care for you tomorrow and every day.
Either he will shield you from suffering,
or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and fearful imaginings.
Trust in the Giver of all good gifts.”
~St. Francis de Sales

There are times when God doesn’t make sense.

For years my husband and I had our hearts set on a certain job. We had it marked in red, circled and starred on our imaginary Top 10 places to work. After six years the job was finally open and it was offered to us. And we couldn’t take it. It was right there in front of us and we couldn’t take it. It was nearly perfect. We would be around great people in a great city and diocese. But the finances weren’t there. We just couldn’t make it work.

There are some who may say, “You could if you wanted to.” No, really, we couldn’t. I’m a thrift store shopping, garage sale-ing and deal hunting junkie. We’ve been so poor that we couldn’t even fill out one of those online budget sheets. We didn’t even have enough money to fill one out past the ‘monthly expenses’ part. We have been down the road of rice and beans. We have even gone so far as share a t.v. dinner to pinch pennies.

It is a hard prospect to return to especially with three kids.

Even though this is what we had hoped for and wanted for so long, when the job offer came I had no strong emotional reaction. (For those who know me, this is a rare occurrence).  When I prayed I had nothing. It was like the Sahara was bottled up in my soul. I had nothing to go off of. I wanted to feel something but I had nothing.

It wasn’t until we were typing the declining e-mail that emotion snuck up on me and the tears flowed. Frustrated, I turned on God. “Why?” I cried. “Why now?”fulton 5

Was it because this was God’s will and we were walking away from it? Was it God’s way of planting a huge U-Turn sign in our decision? Was God trying to tell us something? If  not this job then what? Where would we go from now? What would be next? Why put it in front of us only to rip it away?

It appeared as though God had set the table for a joyous feast. Then just as we were sitting down to enjoy it He stepped up the table pulled the tablecloth out from beneath the spread and dished out the leftovers. With gaping mouths we looked at each other as we gripped onto our plates.

Then, from somewhere deep inside my answer came…

Have no fear of moving into the unknown.

Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no, harm can befall you;

all is very very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence

~Pope St. John Paul II

After a few minutes I realized that the tears were not ones of mourning or loss but those of fear. A fear rooted in a lack of trust in God’s Fatherly care.

I do that a lot.

Fear and I have long been companions. I have always had a friend-crush on Trust but have never been able to make it work.

But isn’t that our usual reaction? We think we have God all figured out. We think He’s so predictable. This was simple move for Him, all He had to do was step up, hand us the job and the peace to go with it and we were there. The dominoes were all lined up. He just had to put them in motion.

But He didn’t.

Our grand plans were not His plans.

That’s the thing with God, He pulls the cloth but the feast remains. Nothing is broken unless we jerk and jolt to try to save something we thought was going to break (out of not trusting Him).  He set a feast for us just not at this table. He still wants us to rejoice and feast in His presence, it just may not be the same feast we expected or first sat down to.

Yet when plans change we try to cling to the precious plans and feast we had constructed and left dumbfounded now that it has been taken away.

Reflection: I love to eat. But even I, a seasoned eater, can be intimidated by a new dish. I try to be polite and take a small but reasonable portion so if I don’t like it I can choke it down quickly. While at the same time leaving room to add a subtle compliment to them if I do like it and go back for seconds. Though this strategy has served me well it has carried over to other parts of my life. How big of a helping to I take daily of spiritual grace? Do I go to one of the dozens of daily Masses offered at the five surrounding parishes? Nope. Do I make an effort to ‘compliment the chef’ only with subtle actions or do I try to verbally and physically thank God for all that He has given me that day? Do I thank Him for the sweet food as well as the bitter food? For the good of my day and the bad?

Challenge: Pray for a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, once a day, and meditate on the radical trust that Jesus had during His entire ministry. Pray that you may have the same radical trust in God’s will in all aspects of your life.