Archive | June 2015

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.

The Silent Heart

Baby Boomers

Generation X

The Great Generation

The Young and the Restless…yes, that is what my generation is.

We have all this youth and yet we aren’t sure what to do with it. At times it seems we are still too young for people to take us seriously. Other times it seems we are too old to connect to those five years younger than us. We still have dreams we want to accomplish but with each passing year those dreams seem to slide farther out of the realm of reality.

We are busy trying to get all that we want to accomplish done before the time we are forty. We want to do things now before we get older. For example, I want to write books, long glorious books. I want to read books. To get away from life and read the 500 books I have collected over the years.

I want to escape from the chaos that can be life.

I want to do what I want to do.

The picture in my head is of me swinging peacefully in a hammock shaded by nearby trees while a gentle breeze rocks me back and forth. Wrapped in warm sunlight I snuggle into pure relaxation and quiet ready to accomplish what I have always wanted to do.

Yet when I find that quiet moment I can’t sit still. My soul isn’t at peace. I want to keep moving, keep doing, keep checking things off my never ending to-do list. I don’t have time to lay around and swing!

I think this complex is especially bad for Americans. It has been drilled into us that our value hinges upon how hard we work, how successful we are at work and what we can physically show for our efforts at the end of the day.

Perhaps that’s why when I look around and see a sink full of dishes, a full laundry basket in the place of the empty one that was there a day ago, undressed beds and toy cars spread out everywhere that I don’t feel like I’ve been all that successful in this particular day of my life.

I beg for the time to do what I want to do instead of what I need to do. Scrapbooking, sewing, reading, napping, organizing, etc.

Then, came this little gem like a raindrop from heaven:

God will not supply every want; but He will supply every need. the trouble is that we want what do not need.

~Ven. Fulton Sheen

(Wartime Prayerbook, 29)

Do I need to scrapbook? So what if the kids don’t have organized and cute-as-a-button photo albums by the time they are 30. Does that mean I love them less? No, it means I loved the so much that I wanted to spend the time making memories with them instead of going through endless rolls of double stick tape and saying ‘Just a minute’, ‘Maybe later’, ‘Mama’s busy right now’ umpteen times.

What do I need more than anything? It is the hardest thing for me to get and give 110% to–silence of the heart.

Mother Teresa 2

After having kids I’m not sure I know how to deal with silence. Usually it means something suspicious is going on and I’ll find traces of the infraction when I go in search of my kiddos. Silence to a parent’s ears means trouble. Even at night my ears are ever perked for the thud against a railing by a little one, a cough or any sign of distress.

I have been conditioned to be vigilant in silence.

However, when it comes to spending time with the Lord in silence I am the most ADD out there. Suddenly, I remember all I haven’t done, all I need to do, as well as my long list of requests for God to fulfill. God’s voice seems so hard to hear.

Yet, when we look at the models of the spiritual heights they all had one thing in common: silent, diligent and vigilant hearts ready to do God’s will.

The best example is the Blessed Mother, the Mother of Jesus, Mary. Scripture notes that she observed and listened to things and pondered them in her heart. She did not run out and consult her family or group of friends about all the intimate details. Instead, she took them to the deepest part of her soul and resided there with them and with the Lord to help better understand their meaning.

holy family

mooneyfinearts.com

Mary does not speak much in Scripture but that is part of her beauty. It leaves open such beautiful events for us to ponder. For example, can you imagine Mary after the birth of Jesus? Like any mother I’m sure she lovingly cradled this small child in her arms and looked with awe upon his small fingers and precious face. Joy undoubtedly flooded her soul as he opened his eyes for the first time and his gaze rested upon her. She probably stared at his little fingers while he slept and watched every breath she could in utter amazement that this child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Not to mention the gloriousness of not experiencing birth pangs, can you say amazing?) I wonder what her conversations with St. Joseph were like. Did they discuss their amazing son and the outstanding mystery of what had taken place over the last few months? Did they fall into the stride of parenthood like the rest of us?

The gentle nature that comes forth from the quiet soul lends to a beautiful
garden of mysteries that can be endlessly pondered
.

However, when do we take time to ponder such things? I mean, really, fully and truly commit ourselves to thinking soley on the mysteries and awe-filled events that make up salvation history? When was the last time I sat around and thought about what it would have been like at the Transfiguration? Or to be one of the apostles that fell asleep during Jesus’ Agony in the Garden?  I say the rosary often but how often do I pray the rosary as I should?

When was the last time I sat with the Lord in prayer to listen to Him and not the heater/air conditioner that keeps turning on and off in the adoration chapel? Or to pick up a book instead of just being in His presence?

One of the simplest commands given in the Bible is one that should make us stop dead in our tracks: “Be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Think about that the next time you go to adoration, approach prayer time or attend Mass.

That is God.

The God of the universe. Who created everyone and everything. And He asks you to be still.

If that was your 80 year old grandmother would you budge from that spot? The President of the United States? The Pope? How much more seriously should we take this command from God?

It’s like the ADD kid that is bouncing around from thought to thought and the parent gently cupping his loving hands around our faces and saying “Be still.” These warm and gentle words soothe the soul. Like a warm blanket, they extend and invitation of comfort and rest.

St. AugustineThen, for emphasis he adds, “Know that I am God”. Like St. John, the beloved apostle, Jesus invites us in a deep level of peace and comfort. Just as he leaned in and rested with His Savior so too should we desire such intimacy. What place is more secure than curled up next to the Sacred Heart of God? Like a child rests in his mother’s arms so should we be able to rest in Him.

If we truly believe that we come face to face with God in prayer and especially in the Eucharist this should set us back in our tracks. That is God. And he has something to say to me.

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.

 

Wrestlemania

Nerd confession: I used to watch professional wrestling. Not just a little bit…a lot. Every Monday and Thursday night you’d find me in front of the television for two hours watching wrestlers break out steel chairs, tables and ladders to beat each other with. I would cheer when my guys won and get caught up in the man-drama of it all. This was not just a short phase. Oh no, I watched and went to wrestling events for almost nine years.

I am a recovering addict to wrestling. Now the wrestling I most enjoy watching is that of my husband with our kids. Unlike the televised version, the wrestling takes place on our living room floor and is filled with incessant giggles as they roll around. Sometimes, when the boys want to get their dad’s attention they will try to sneak behind him and wrap their little arms around his neck. In no time the little one slides down dad’s shoulder and into a perfect backflip and tummy tickles. They love it!

It may not be elegant or refined, but God has used this to reveal a little truth about Himself. As with majority of parenting, God uses every day life with kids to teach me about Him and to come to understand Him more. Wrestling is one of them.

In Scripture, it says that Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32:24-32), later it is revealed in Hosea that it was an angel.

So, here we have Jacob, who has stolen his brothers birthright and is on his way to face the music. He gets the news the Esau knows he is there and is on his way. Jacob sends all that he owns ahead of him across the river and then BAM! A man begins to wrestle with Jacob.

This match is not a quick five minute ordeal. No, it lasts from night until dawn the next morning. And knowing men, this was no cat fight but a strategic and epic wrestling match. Finally, Jacob is determined the winner. Yes, you read it right. Jacob wins the match. He persevered through the darkness to come out victorious in the light of dawn.

Yet, something significant happens here. The man he wrestles asks Jacob’s name. To give your name in Jewish culture and in the midst of battle is to concede power or victory to ththe rocke opponent. You had to think when Jacob first heard the question that his face was something like this————————————————>

Still, Jacob answers with his name conceding to his opponent. He’s starting to understand that there is someone greater here than just an ordinary man.

The man replies that from now on his name will no longer be Jacob but Israel.

THIS. IS. HUGE.

Name changes in the Bible are the equivalent of flare shooting, trumpet blaring, bell ringing, earth shaking event that signal a change in a person’s mission. This is why the Pope chooses a new name as do many monks/sisters when elected. Others in Scripture have had their names changed with their missions as well: Simon became Peter, Abram became Abraham, Saul became Paul, etc. The angel, sent by God changes Jacob’s name to tell him that he will no longer continue on his current path but will now be raised to a princely role.

This was a wrestling match with a purpose.

It shows the determination that is needed to be raised above the level we are on right now. God does not just hand us a new mission, it is something that we quite literally have to wrestle with within ourselves and with God. This match is nothing to shrug off. Battles with ourselves usually end up with us putting ourselves in a headlock of frustration, sharpshooter confusion or the suplex of agonizing worry to achieve freedom and reach a better life. When a change of course is proposed to our smooth, calm, current life situation it is hard to submit to a new, unsure and potentially chaotic course. In that instant of unsurity the bell has rung and the wrestling match has started to find God’s will, wrestle with it and either submit it or defeat it. This is both the beauty and the burden of free will.

This wrestling match also shows that even though God could be right in front of us we can miss Him. God took the time to send down to His servant Jacob an angel to announce his grand mission. Yet, the angel did not simply appear as Gabriel had done with Mary or with Zachariah. Instead, Jacob needed to hear it in the muscle flexing, spit on the dirt, heart pumping, muscle grinding, manly way. He showed Jacob the way to His new mission in the way He knew he needed to get the message. In the end Jacob came away injured but blessed.

In what ways does God try to reveal His will to you? Do you need a  2×4 like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan? Or perhaps you need good inner verbal sparring with the Lord? Maybe you need to be on a silent retreat, spend consistent time in the adoration chapel, or find His voice in reading the life of a saint. Rest assured that whenever God wrestles with us in the darkness that if we persevere through, with the light of dawn always comes the blessing of hope. And though we may come out a bit bruised from our tussle as St. Paul tells us in Romans 5, hope does not disappoint. Whatever we are struggling with, it has a purpose and when the struggle has ceased we will be able to see God clearly.

Reflection: I was recently listening to a talk by Chris Stefanick he said something along the lines of this, “There is a big difference between you and God, God never thinks He’s you.” Often times we get so caught up with the fight within ourselves that we forget who we are fighting. Are we merely fighting with our own finite minds/wants/desires or are we fighting the Divine Will of God? Are we struggling to move forward in our spiritual life or are we simply trying to twist God into the submission of our will? How often do I mistake my own imperfect will as the will of God that I’m fighting?

Challenge: This week, wrestle with the word of God. Has there been a passage read aloud at Mass either in Scripture or the Liturgy that you’ve never understood or just seemed like one of those ‘wierd Bible things’? Look it up, read it, spend time with it, ask a priest or someone who has studied scripture about the passage.