Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soul Searching Through Beans and Rice

                After a little soul searching, I have decided to do a little soul searching, reevaluating of my life, and/or praying for God’s guidance, however or whatever I need to do to fix a small dilemma I have been seeing in my life.  I assure you it is a small dilemma.  For the past three months, I have been having a wonderful time researching and writing for this blog.  I have grown in my journey to holiness and hopefully spoke to other people’s hearts; yet, I have not been progressing well in my writing career.  My monthly word count has been good at over 10,000 words each month, but all of those words have gone to the blog or an occasional journal entry.  Maybe 2,000 words have actually gone to my fiction writing.
                I don’t believe the blog has been the complete cause to my lack of fiction.  Really my biggest problem is editing.  I HATE IT.  My novel, Pursuing Destiny, needs to be edited.  One of my first readers gave me great insight in some major holes in the plot.  Nonetheless, I would rather go to the dentist than work on the book.  I have sent out queries on the book hoping to be rejected so I wouldn’t have to edit.  Pathetic, but true!  There are twelve short stories on my thumb drive that need to be edited or finished to than edit before I can begin sending them to markets I still need to research.  I have a second novel with over 50,000 words done, but I haven’t touched that since November.  Finally, I may have an idea of what I have been called to truly write, but with all this other stuff hanging over my head, I am overwhelmed.  I could go on and on about all of this; plus, I could add my duties of motherhood, housewife, friend, crafter, and pending gardening season, 1st Communion and High School Graduation activities, but I think you get the picture.
                Today at my 4th Day group (a Cursillo Bible Study), we continued Lesson 2.  Hum, we all felt like we were being hit over the head with either a baseball bat or 2X4 to pray more.  We also continued working with the analogy of our jars of life being filled with beans and rice.  Beans are the big things in our life like faith, spouse, children, and jobs while the rice is the little things like housecleaning and such.  During our time together, I was feeling pretty good about myself because hey, I don’t have a job.  Life is chilling out with plenty of time.  I can be such an idiot!  Writing the paragraph before this one made me realize I have bean and rice issues.  Do I make the finished novel a bean and the rest of my writing rice?  I have been told one of the best ways to break into writing is through short stories first, so should that be the bean?  I have a conference coming up in August. Should my half finished novel be the bean so I can pitch both novels?  Or should I say to heck with all of that and work on the project I think (not know) God wants me to do as my bean?  I am so confused.
                Pray without ceasing.  Praying in the predawn hours.  Praying at night.  Praying on the mountaintop….  We must have looked at 10 different spots in the Bible about praying this morning.  Even in my quest for finding things about Saint Patrick last week, I found prayer in his writing.  “…in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number…”  The neon sign is saying I need to pray.  I need to get away from my computer, blogging, facebook, Bejeweled, and all the distractions.  I have been planning on fasting from technology, so it is going to begin today with my blog and tomorrow evening with facebook.  Granted, I will still have the family to distract me, but besides God, it is my biggest and brightest bean.  I am going to enjoy them while I am praying.  In fact, in the little book we are working from, I wrote down my beans as being faith, husband, and kids.  My rice I wrote in as housework and writing.  My rice can just take care of itself for the next little while.  Watch out beans, you are getting my full attention!
                Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stop Judging

                Yesterday afternoon, I met a friend at the local brewery for a beer.  We don’t do this as much as we used to and I miss it.  We have also been very bad at staying in touch.  In the last couple of weeks, I have been worried about her and her family.  Her husband has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and the doctor’s are trying to figure out if it has spread to other areas.  The future does not look good.  She and I just went through the loss of a dear friend.  For her, our friend was more of a sister, so the loss was doubly hard for her and now she is facing it again with her husband.  True to form, this strong woman is doing well.  She is facing this challenge head on and strategizing her future. 
                During the conversation, I was bothered by a comment or two.  For the last nineteen hours, I have been mulling it over in my head how people can make a bad situation worse by their judgments.  One person has made the comment that she is lacking emotion in the situation.  In the same contest, people at work watch her for emotional outbursts thinking she is cold if she doesn’t have them.  This has never been her personality nor will it ever be her personality.  They shouldn’t expect it or judge it. 
She went on to talk about how she won’t handle all of this like our friend’s husband or the way I would with my husband.  She is different than me and our relationships with our husbands are different.  It only stands to reason that our going through a crisis will be handled differently.  This is completely logical and I will stand by her with the decisions she makes in the future.  We may discuss things and I may offer up what I might do, but ultimately, I stand by what she needs to do for the betterment of her needs, not mine.  Yet others will criticize, condemn, point fingers, and judge.
In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus states, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”  The explanation in my Bible’s notes sheds more light.  “This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.”  In Luke 6:37, he also states these words of Jesus in a different way.  “Stop judging and you will not be judged, Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
I will always admit that I recognize the faults in others and myself.  I am horrible and judge people who judge me when I should be more loving.  With others who don’t judge me but instead accept my faults, I dismiss their faults.  I think it is human nature to defend ourselves against those who judge us to judge back.  Yet, do we really need to say it to their face especially during trying times?
Years ago, I chose not to attend a meeting.  The stress in my life would have only grown if I were to go to this meeting.  Several people condemned me for not attending.  A friend and I discussed my fault in not going.  She didn’t agree with me, but she also didn’t condemn me.  Instead she lovingly accepted my choice and grabbed all the information from the meeting and gave it to me so I could read up on the issues.  I will always remember this kindness and act of Christian charity.  I also use her example and try to emulate her love.
I pray that God buffers my friend from those who think they need to express hurtful notions of how she should handle her life.  And I pray I can always be there for her without judgment and a strong ear to listen.  And I sure hope we go out for more beer!
Blessings to you all.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Esther: A Historical Tribute to Women Leaders of Faith

This morning I was going to simply discuss another quote by Saint Patrick, but after reading from my Lenten prayer book, I thought a story suited the day better.  Many people have issues with the Catholic Church and maybe other churches as well on being predominately led by men.  Yes, our priest is a man, but the rest of the church has women galore leading our flock.  Many of us females are Eucharistic Ministers while others lead in religious education, the Cursillo movement, music ministry, Readers, and the list can go on and on.  The Bible also has many women working as leaders to not only serve their people but also to save them.
In the days of the Old Testament, women did not have a high standing in most of society.  King Xerxes of Persia a pagan ruled over his wife.  Though she had prestige over other women, she had none over her husband.  Merely on the refusal of attending one of his feasts, he deposed and banished her from his kingdom.  She had no way of fighting this and fled.
The next wife he took was a Jewish woman named Esther though he had no love of the Jewish people.  In fact, one of his members of court convinced him to put to death all of the Jews living in Persia.  Esther was stuck in a very bad position.  She couldn’t watch her people and close relatives die at the hands of her husband; yet, if she spoke up to him, he surely would kill her.  Esther took her dilemma to the Lord.  He stood by her as she interrupted her husband to speak on behalf of the Jewish people.  The king didn’t go through with the mass murder.  She saved her people.  Today is the last day of the two-day Jewish feast in honor of Esther and her courage.
Esther didn’t lead her people from Egypt like Moses.  She didn’t lead her people in a synagogue.  I will never become a priest.  Though she and I can’t play the “big” roles in our faith, we can still play an integral part in the development of our community.  We ladies have a lot to offer with our faith in our families, Bible study groups, and in our parishes.  How are you leading?  Oh, and guys, just because this isn’t about you, step up and take action.  We all have a part to play in our journey to holiness.
Blessing to you all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quote of the Week

“I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many….”  Confessions paragraph 1.
This is the very beginning of Patrick’s writing.  He shows great humbleness here by saying he is not just a sinner but also simple.  While enslaved, he missed many years of education that he never felt he made up when he returned to the Roman world.  In his modesty, he also says he is the least of all the faithful.  Yet though he was the least, he did many amazing deeds throughout his life.  Finally, Patrick claims to be most contemptible to many.  He irritated church officials, druids, and most likely others.  He didn’t tote the party line.  Instead he answered to God’s calling which usually does not get the popular vote. 
                So how about you?  How does your humbleness rate to Patrick’s?  Do you tote the party line or are you contemptible to many?  I work on my humbleness and have a ways to go.  My ego gets me in trouble from time to time.  However, I do know I have been contemptible to people.  I work at not pushing my faith onto others, but if they bring up the topic, I express my beliefs.   I don’t back down when it comes to my faith. 
                Blessings to you all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Irish Grandfather

                Thursdays are always a busy day for me because I go to a Bible study and run all the errands I haven’t gotten to during the beginning of the week.  Thus, I do the quote of the week since it is a short post.  Today I was so busy that I didn’t even get that done.  I had wanted to discuss some quotes from Saint Patrick, but I will tell a story instead.
                Yesterday I mentioned how we have secularized many Christian/Catholic Feast Days.  Christmas has turned to Santa Claus, Easter to the Easter Bunny, Saint Valentine’s Day to the cherub, and Saint Patrick’s Day to Leprechauns.  A couple of years ago a friend called her grandfather who still resides in Ireland.  She asked what he did to celebrate their patron saint.  “What you are supposed to do.  I went to Mass!”  Saint Patrick must have chuckled from that and agreed most readily with her grandfather. 
                I must confess I didn’t go to Mass.  Instead, I skipped Mass to go to my hair appointment.  I wouldn’t make a good Irish Catholic.  A Norwegian Catholic I do quite well though.  After my appointment, I came home and made corned beef, Irish stew, and Irish Soda Bread.  The entire time I thought of Patrick.  After dinner I took a walk and thought of the two hundred miles he had to walk to the coast of Ireland to escape slavery.  Tomorrow I will discuss a couple of quotes from this great man of God. 
                Blessing to you all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saint Patrick: The Man Behind the Green

                Walking into the elementary school in 1st through 3rd grade on Saint Patrick’s Day was always a fun experience.  The desks were turned around or even upside down.  Green footprints zig zagged all over the hallway and classrooms.  Green seemed to be splashed all over the place.  The day was always mass chaos with surprises in store for all of us.  Also, everyone wore green and there was an air of camaraderie everywhere.  I remember the disappointment of growing up and the leprechauns not visiting our rooms when we entered the older grades.  Back in those days, all I thought of the day was leprechauns, rainbows, green, shamrocks, and treasure.  Of course in college, I enjoyed a little green beer.  Now I think of the man.
                Patrick was born in Roman occupied Britain just south of Hadrian’s Wall in 387 to a Romano-British family.  His family was a part of the Catholic Church.  Both his father and grandfathers performed the duties of deacon.  When Patrick was sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken over the seas to Ireland where he was a slave for six years.  While a slave, he learned the language.  The main task he was given was to herd and tend to sheep.  During this time of solitude he prayed and became close to God.  In a dream, God told Patrick to escape and head for the coast.  He did and made it back to Britain.  Going to the continent, he studied to become a priest.  After serving for a time, he became a bishop and asked to minister in Ireland.  He had many difficulties with the druids, but his persistence saw many Irish become Christians.  In 444 the first cathedral was built.  He also had many schools and monasteries built while he ministered in Ireland.  Near the end of his life he wrote Confessions which recorded his life story and missionary work.  He served Ireland for thirty years and died on March 17, 461.  He is the patron saint of Ireland and many dioceses throughout the English-speaking world, engineers and those who fear snakes and snakebites.  Legends actually say that Patrick forced all the snakes from Ireland with his staff.  He is also given credit for using the three leafed shamrock for explaining the trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
                Last year, I read the story of Saint Patrick plus Confessions and a letter he wrote.  I was very amazed by his humbleness.  He struggled with learning and didn’t think he had enough to give to other people.  Yet, looking at all the work he did do, he gave more than the average person.  I am most amazed that even while a slave, he loved the Irish.  If I were enslaved by a people, I don’t know if I would have the grace to love them let alone go back and serve them.  Today I struggle with people who have hurt me which are trivial issues compared to slavery.  I would definitely need the grace of God which is what ultimately helped and guided Patrick.
                As with many of the Christian/Catholic holidays, this celebration has become secular.  Tomorrow around the world people will be enjoying decorations of shamrocks, leprechauns and the like.  Chicago every year dyes the river a bright green.  I think I need to add this to my ever growing Bucket List of things to see.  Others dye beer bright green.  Celebrations, parties, and parades will take place all over the world.  I myself might have to find a little green to adorn the house in reminiscence of days gone by.  I hope you have a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Rock Foundation

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”  Matthew 7:24-27
             
This last Sunday, I believe this was read at Mass; plus, these verses are in the little black book I read during Lent.  They have stayed with me.  I can’t remember what Father said during the Homily or the commentary from the book.  Yet, I keep thinking of my life relating to these words.  As a child, one of my favorite songs came from these verses.  The last part of the song made it all clear.  “So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings will come down.  The blessings come down as the prayers go up….”  My entire life I have tried to live these very words.  If I haven’t, I have walked in the sand. 
My first boyfriend was definitely a sandy time for me.  I fell head over heels in puppy love.  He broke my heart.  My dad amazed me when he talked about the relationship and God.  I don’t remember what he said, but my conclusion was that I needed to pray about my relationships.  From that moment forward, if I did get hurt, it wasn’t hard.  God stood with me.  Thus, my marriage has always been steeped in prayer since the very first date.  It hasn’t been easy.  Storms have buffeted our relationship many, many times.  However, both my husband and I pray for our marriage giving us a firm foundation of rock.
                With the strong foundation of our marriage, it has carried over to our children.  Both Jerry and I prayed to God about our children from the moment we knew they were expected.  We dedicated them to God even before the baptism.  One of the big things I prayed for is that God would send the mentors they would need throughout their journey to holiness.  With these prayers, we have had many blessings for our children.
                After forty odd years, I am learning to pray for the rest of my relationships.  I incorrectly had it in my head that if I had people in my life that God sent them, and all would be good.  Wrong!  Well, mostly wrong.  Just because they are in my life, doesn’t mean God sent them.  There have been some mean people in my life and I know God would never intend that.  Many of those He did send, I failed to pray for the relationship.  This has created relationships that aren’t built on the foundation of rock that is God.  Because of this failure, I have struggled with many of my friendships and family relationships. 
                At this point, I think I have a pretty strong rock foundation for my house.  I need to continuously pray otherwise the foundation could crack in the next storm.  Alas, I still need to work on the foundation for the outbuildings.  Besides prayer, I don’t know what to do for them in the sand.  Maybe all I can do is pray.  Oh, and sing.  “So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings will come down.  The blessings come down as the prayers go up….”
                Blessings to you all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent: Cleaning and Participation

The word Lent comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime.  Lent is a time in the church calendar of many Christian churches that is spent fasting and in prayer.  Earliest history shows fasting to take place as far back as 180 AD by the testimony of Irenaeus.  The number of days varied for many years until the Canons of Nicaea in 325 AD mentioned 40 days of fasting.  I compare fasting to spiritual spring cleaning.  Of course, we need to clean every day, but this is when we can do some deep down cleaning. 
Why 40 days, some might ask?  These 40 days represent a time in Jesus’ life.  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Matthew 4:1-2.  Today, people are encouraged to do more than just fast during Lent.  They are called to pray and give alms along with fasting.  I tend to like to include reflective study to my Lenten plans as well.
Fasting range from cutting back food, liquids, television, internet, facebook, gossip, anger, and a host of other things, basically you cut out things that aren’t good for you or the amount you partake is beginning to take over your life.  In our busy lives, we can start to forget to spend time with God.  Rosary, Morning Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving, praying for a person who drives you crazy are all examples of prayers that can be done to spruce up your praying.  Almsgiving can be more than just writing a check.  Volunteer at the local Good Samaritan or soup kitchen.  Put your talents to work by helping an elderly person get their yard in order.  I like to make baby afghans during Lent to give to a local charity.  Finally, studying is good to do by reading the Bible.  Remember though if you struggle with reading the Bible, there are wonderful books by the fathers of Christianity and current lay people.
Jesus stated, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.” Matthew 7:21.  Our faith has to be more than just playing lip service to our God.  We must act.  Lent is a wonderful time to get busy.  Many times, we are merely spectators in life.  We watch football or listen to music or we go to church.  I see God as my coach or music teacher.  We would never think of just sitting on the bench or just tapping our foot to the beat of the music.  Instead our mentors would be making us catch the ball or plunk away at the piano keys.  God is no different.  He encourages us to volunteer our time and talent; plus, He loves to talk with us.  Participate.  This is what life and faith are all about.
How do I plan to involve myself more fully this Lenten season?  I plan to walk with God, literally.  Each day, I am going to walk while praying the Rosary and giving thanks for the beauty surrounding me.  I plan to crochet a baby blanket and pray for the little one it will keep warm.  I am going to give up sweets during my days at home.  For a week, I am going to fast from the internet.  Finally, I am going to study the Maccabees which are part of our faith history prior to the birth of Jesus.  I am going to be plenty busy, but I am excited because I am focused.  What plans have you made for Lent?  Do you plan to participate?  Are you going to clean?
Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes

                Since I was first introduced to mythology and being I went to many different churches growing up, I have always been fascinated by different religious practices.  My favorite mythology is Scandinavian.  In college, my favorite project was a twenty page paper combining the Norse ancient religion and their book the Prose Edda.  My favorite religion is Christianity; however, I have always felt a pull towards Judaism.  I believe to understand my faith better it would behoove me to study the Jewish laws and customs.  The other night at the after party of my daughter’s school’s big fundraising event, I chatted with one of the parents.  This mother grew up Catholic and became Jewish when she married her husband.  Many of the Catholic traditions derive from the Jewish faith.
                The Old Testament can help me in studying Christianity’s roots of faith.  “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long tunic in which she was clothed….” 2 Samuel 13:19.  The theme of ashes continues in Esther 4:1.  “When Mordecai learned all that was happening, he tore his garments, put on sackcloth and ashes, and walked through the city, crying out loudly and bitterly.”  Daniel used ashes.  “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” Daniel 9:1.  Jesus himself mentions ashes when he reproached towns for not repenting.  “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.” Matthew 11:21.  Our Jewish and Christian faith ancestors have used ashes for mourning and repentance. 
                Ash Wednesday is not in the Bible.  Jesus didn’t celebrate the day.  Many Christians believe that if a practice isn’t in the Bible, it shouldn’t be a part of today’s faith journey.  Maybe they are right.  However, I like the celebration of Ash Wednesday.  The somber tone of repentance of my sins and mourning the death of Christ enables me to begin the walk towards Holy Week.  Now is the time to remember that the nails that went into Jesus on the cross were my fault.  They are your fault.  We put Jesus on the cross because we sin.  It isn’t a pretty sight.  It doesn’t make me feel good inside.  But I need to take responsibility for my part in his death.  Ash Wednesday brings this into perspective for me.
                When my children need discipline, I have hated punishing them.  This is the worst part of parenting.  However, as they grow up, they begin to make better choices because of this discipline.  Now that my sons are becoming young men, I see them disciplining themselves.  My job of parent has led them to look into themselves and build themselves into better people.  To me, this is what Ash Wednesday means to me.  I am an adult in my faith.  I need to apply discipline to become a better follower of Christ.
                The Jews have always been God’s chosen people.  Jesus practiced the Jewish faith, but he added to its richness.  They used ashes and repented.  In the Prose Edda, even the Scandinavians were expected to repent.  “Thor [God of War] declared that Hrungnir should repent….”  Skaldskaparmal: The Poesy of Skalds.  When I go to Mass tonight, I will think of those who have gone before me in repentance and mourning.  They strove to be better children of their God. I will join them in this walk.
                Blessings to you all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Celebrating: Fat Tuesday

                Confession is good for the soul.  I must make a confession.  For the past couple of weeks, I have been struggling with this blog.  I have been struggling with a lot of things really: winter blues, spring fever, boredom, tired of reading, studying, and the list goes on and on.  Today I am really struggling.  I would rather take a nap then sit at the computer working on a post.  Yet, I look at the calendar.  Ash Wednesday is in two days.  Two days!!!  This is my favorite time in the church year and I am dreading it.  Today I thought I should write about something of some significance for the events of Mardi Gras, Lent, Fat Tuesday, and/or Ash Wednesday, but to be frank, it is boring me.  But, I will give it a go.
                Mardi Gras is French meaning Fat Tuesday.  Most people are familiar with the celebration that takes place in New Orleans.  The other day I did here on the radio how a friend criticized Catholics for such blatant hedonistic practices that take place in New Orleans during this time.  This is a secular celebration that isn’t supported by the Catholic Church.  I do know of one Mardi Gras celebration being supported by the church.  In our community, the high school youth group is throwing a celebration to raise money.  They are decorating with the official colors of purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power with carnival games and serving corn bread and gumbo.  This will be a G rated event.
                Actually, Mardi Gras is the French offshoot of carnival.  This celebration began with the Romans in the middle of the second century.  The word itself means farewell to flesh (meat).  The merriment would begin with Epiphany (January 6th celebrating the Three Kings visiting the baby Jesus with gifts) and ends the day before Lent.  Thus the tradition, of a “party” before Lent begins, has a long tradition.  Also, celebrations will be happening all over the world tomorrow for Wednesday begins the somber time of the year.
                Though none of this is exciting information for me, I did learn a bit.  I didn’t realize the link of carnival to Mardi Gras.  I also didn’t know this type of celebration started so long ago.  Unfortunately, I won’t be celebrating at the church tomorrow night.  My daughter and I have piano lessons and then she has open gym for softball.  Maybe afterwards, we will stop by for some ice cream.  Do you have plans for Fat Tuesday?  Do you have plans for Lent?  I am starting to work on mine, but that is another topic for Wednesday’s post.
                Blessings to you all.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dead to Sin

            Yesterday in our 4th Day Group, we finished up a section of a new book that we are working with.  The book is quite demanding in that we have to look up Bible verses continuously and we have to look up things in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The book we are using is called Women of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women.  This study takes me back to my younger years in elementary school.  Mr. Williams taught my Sunday School class one year.  At least I think he was the one.  During the class, we had to look up about 20 verses all over the Bible.  The author of this book reminds me of that time.  In fact, I had to look at the author’s name again just to make sure it wasn’t him.
            Now, I have not worked with the Catechism.  Years ago, my middle child’s godmother reprimanded me for not owning the book.  I still don’t.  I might just need to go down and get a copy.  There are probably a hundred excuses why I haven’t procured a copy, but my biggest reason is the Bible will reaffirm everything I need to know.  “I don’t need to know what a bunch of old men declared thousands of years ago.”  Really this is a stupid attitude when I love to do research and love the writings of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Francis of de Sales.  Well, we read one little section (one of the ladies brought her copy) and it threw me for a loop and I said some stupid stuff.
1694 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord.8 Following Christ and united with him,9 Christians can strive to be "imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love"10 by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the "mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus,"11 and by following his example.12  Catechism
8 Rom 6:11 and cf. 6:5; cf. Col 2:12.
9 Cf. Jn 15:5.
10 Eph 5:1-2.
11 Phil 2:5.
12 Cf. Jn 13:12-16.
            I believe all of us nervously chuckled at the fact that we are “dead to sin.”  We all agreed we weren’t doing well if we are supposed to be dead to sin.  One of us mentioned that our baptism must not have taken very well.  I have the personality of having to figure out the meaning behind things.  Since I didn’t have the Catechism, I didn’t realize these words were quoted and that there it came from the Bible.  I think my friend looked up the verse that corresponds with the quote and read it.  I was still lost in the words and the Bible reading didn’t register.  Instead of keeping my mouth shut, I started thinking out loud. 
            I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it had something to do with once we are baptized maybe our sins aren’t the big ones anymore.  I mean we don’t murder, have affairs, and look sinful because we are trying to be like Christ.  Wow, if that wasn’t judgmental and egotistical I don’t know the meaning of either word!  How these women put up with me I have no idea.  I am very blessed to have them in my life.  Luckily, one of them lovingly reminded me that as Christians more is expected of us.  We went on to the next question and no more was said on this bit of information.
            Two things have been bothering me.  The first, I am horrible at comparing myself to the rest of the world.  “I don’t do _____(fill in the blank), so I must be doing a good job at being a Christian.”  Why do I do this?  It isn’t because I think other people are horrible.  I know I am one step away from doing ______.  Let’s face it, my harsh judging is not loving and we are called to love one another, so I am obviously not “dead to sin.”  I think the world has beaten me/us down so much I/we have to reaffirm to ourselves that I/we are not all that bad.  Instead of looking at what the world thinks of me, I need to look to Christ.  What does He think?  I shouldn’t compare myself to others.  I should compare myself to the words in the Bible.  What an amazing revelation that most people already probably get but it has taken me forty plus years to come up with.  And really, I am sure I have heard it before I just needed another reminder.  I will probably need another reminder in a year or two.
            Well, I am still bothered by the thought of being “dead to sin.”  I still don’t get it because obviously I am not dead to sin.  I just revealed one way I sin on a daily basis.  So, I went back to the Bible and read Romans 6:1-11.  The eleventh verse brought it home to me.  “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin….”  In reality, I am not dead to sin, but I must think I am in that I don’t let it run my life.  I have to fight it.  I definitely need to approach this with a humble heart because thinking can get me into trouble as well.  The nice thing is that our baptism did take.  But, I still need to work hard at being “dead to sin.” 
I think I need to go out and buy the Catechism.  I know I have read the book of Romans in my life, but never with this amount of thought have I dived into the verses.  Yes, the Bible does have all I need to know, but those old men have a way of helping me to see it again with clearer eyes.  Okay, maybe not clearer, but different eyes.
Blessings to you all.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quote of the Week

“Two are better than one: they get a good wage for their labor.  If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion.  Woe to the solitary man!  For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
                Today, we read multiple verses about marriage and spiritual vocation.  This passage struck a chord with my soul.  “Two are better than one.”  I have struggled with this concept.  I get very bullheaded in life and figure “I can do it myself.”  I also pride myself in my independence.  However, God doesn’t want us to be independent.  He wants us to be a part of a team.  After many “falls”, I have realized that I need God in my life.  Ultimately, he makes my two.  He is always there to pick me up and help with my labors.  I have also been blessed with another two and that is of my husband and me.  We make a great team always helping each other through life’s trials.  I have a number of others on my team who help me to continue along my journey to holiness: the Bible study ladies, my church family, my own family, and more then I could really ever mention.  This past weekend I headed a small group of people to volunteer for an auction for our local school.  I could never have pulled off a tenth of the work if I had been a solitary woman.  It took a team.  Who is a part of your team?
                Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tripping Up

                Many times throughout our lives there are people who cause situations in our life that trip us up in our journey to holiness.  For the past eight and a half months, I have had such a person in my life.  Unfortunately, she has also been in my son’s life.  The ending result is hopefully he learned an important lesson.  For me, I was reaffirmed that God hears my prayer.
                Last June, I was excited about my son going through the different mile stones of being a senior in high school.  Well, I should clarify.  I was excited to do the pictures and the football season.  The rest is a bit sad.  Since I was so excited and wanted to make sure I had the pictures done before the summer became too hectic, I started the process in June.  The last week of the month, we went done to a photographer’s studio.  I had admired her work since the summer we moved here about thirteen years ago.  Besides school pictures and baby pictures, we have only done two professional sessions as a family and those were through our parish.  I was determined to get excellent pictures.
                She scheduled us for later in the week.  The session went beautifully.  We took a bunch of indoor shots.  We traveled up to a small little town in the area and she did a bunch of shots by the creek and by an old truck.  Of course, we had some football shots and formal shots, but the best were the casual shots in the woods.  Within a week, we had the booklet of pictures that we were able to show family members at a big family reunion.  After we came back to town, we sat down to order the pictures.  I was very impressed.  We got this all done in two to three weeks.  I paid the full amount for the pictures because she said they would be done in four to six weeks.  The end of August was the latest.  I commented that it was perfect and I could get pictures out to family for Christmas.
                No call came in August.  I had done a lot of traveling and figured I missed the call, so at the beginning of September, I went to the store.  I got the distinct feeling I was interrupting her.  I figured she was preoccupied and didn’t think much of it.  She said she had been busy doing a bunch of summer weddings and would get to the pictures.  I reminded her of the yearbook photo that was due in October.  She said she would have the order done by then.  I wasn’t in a huge hurry, so I thanked her and went on my way.  Really, I didn’t mind.
                A couple of weeks later as the deadline to the yearbook started closing in, I began to get a bit concerned.  I started calling and calling.  I left messages.  I became concerned and e-mailed the teacher of the yearbook staff.  In a very polite way, she said that there were certain photographers in town who where hard to work with.  If we needed too, the teacher would set us up with another option for the yearbook.  Great!  Would I ever get my photos?  Finally she called two days before the due date saying the one picture was done.  (She never did get one of Michel’s friend’s yearbook picture done.  She had her pictures taken in August.)  When I picked up the picture, I asked when the rest would be getting finished.  She said she would get to it.  I reminded her that I did want to give them to family for Christmas.  In fact, I had a really cool framing project for one of the parents that I wanted to do.
                I will freely admit.  I was irritated.  I hate conflict.  I avoid it like the plague.  Needless to say, I put off calling her until the beginning of November.  This was the latest I would be able to wait to get the pictures out with the one framing project in particular.  Her true colors showed during this conversation.  First she stated that she didn’t do any processing in November.  “But the pictures were in June.”  I couldn’t believe her.  Then I was informed she was too busy to work on my pictures until all the Christmas pictures and cards were finished for her other customers.  My thought was if they wanted their pictures in time they should have been in her shop in June!  She ever so patiently explained that seniors didn’t need their pictures until the spring.  Maybe they didn’t need the wallets, but I needed the rest of the pictures.  The icing on the cake was that she would sacrifice and do develop the pictures so I wouldn’t have to call anymore.
                You guessed it.  I didn’t get the pictures before Christmas.  Being tired of the entire situation, I decided I would let it rest.  If my son received his announcements before the pictures, I would then start looking into options of dealing with this horrible businesswoman.  Well, I complained to my mother-in-law and my son decided he would take on the project.  Being he is eighteen, I thought it could be a good learning experience.  Though I paid for him, they were his, so… 
Right after Christmas, he started going to her store weekly asking about the pictures.  By the end of January, he was pretty angry.  I told him to let it rest.  So, he messaged her on facebook.  He then heard the friend who did her pictures in the fall received her photos.  Hum, we were still waiting.  Last Friday, he went to see her with his younger brother.  I didn’t know he was going to.  A couple of days earlier we heard she had his portrait in her window.  Well, he confronted her.  Words flew.  She threatened to call the cops.  The younger son got him out of the shopping area.
They came straight home and he told us everything.  Minus one word he used, I had no objections to what he said.  We told him he was wrong in the word choice and he wasn’t allowed to go to her store, lesson one.  I was very surprised.  Normally he is a very respectful gentleman.  I now know I won’t have to worry about him sticking up to injustice.  This happened on Friday.  Monday she called saying the pictures were finished.  I let the machine take the call. 
Monday night I kept debating.  I didn’t want to go into her shop alone, but my husband is out of town.  I also didn’t want him to come because the cops would probably be called.  He has been beyond angry about this since October.  I also realized the pictures could be a source of irritation when we have to look at them on a daily basis on the wall.  So I had a talk with said son.  He said he would be fine with the pictures if we got a discount.  I had to explain that hell would literally freeze over before that would every happen.  He was again angry that she had won, lesson two.  The good guy doesn’t always win.
My affirmation came on Tuesday.  During my nightly prayers Monday night, I prayed God would show we the answer of when to pick up the pictures.  I couldn’t sleep most of the night fretting over the stupid situation, imagining the not so nice things I wanted to say to her about her business practices.  Yet at the same time, I wanted the blasted pictures.  Tuesday afternoon came and I hadn’t heard from God.  Gurr.  Since it was my insistence that I get the pictures through this photographer, I figured I had to battle the dragon.  Armed with the pamphlet that said pictures would be done in 4 to 6 weeks with the all encompassing ‘barring studio schedule’ and my check duplicate, I left the house. 
Driving up the last street, my stomach was rolling.  I get physically sick when conflict hits me.  I got angry with myself for being such a wimp.  I said one last prayer before arrival.  “Okay, I need help in this mess.  God, Jesus, saints, and angels, I need you surrounding me when I go into that store.”  I think instead they went ahead of me and cleared the way.  The photographer was gone, so I only had to get the pictures from her secretary.  They are gorgeous, but we will go somewhere else next time.
Through this time of our life, my son learned to stand up for himself and adjust his language.  He did falter a bit in his walk, but he dusted himself off and will try again to win the next battle.  I turned to God in a moment of crisis and He stuck with me.  I didn’t do anything rash and he didn’t put me in a place that would tempt me.  Even people causing chaos can help us grow in our walk.
Blessing to you all.