Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Favorite Time of the Year - Lent

                Today and tomorrow are my favorite days.  In fact, for the next 40 plus days, I am immersed in my favorite time of the year.  I always smile at the memories of my childhood of feeling left out during the late winter and early spring when my Catholic friends experienced their faith with acts of sacrifice.  I envied Mary B. and all her siblings as they gave up pop, gum, or chocolate as did their mother.  I found the family display of their faith beautiful and that it represented their respect for all that Jesus did for Christians during his last days on Earth. 
                Fat Tuesday is today.  This is the time many people treat themselves to the items that they will give up until Easter.  Many years, I eat chocolate on this day because I always give it up for Lent.  Being  that I have given up chocolate, flavored lattes, carbohydrates, and Diet Pepsi in September and am still staying away from them, this morning I woke up realizing I wouldn’t participate in my normal Fat Tuesday ritual.  Yet, this hasn’t quenched the excitement I feel for tomorrow.  I am almost giddy with anticipation.  Of course, I did decide I would splurge and have a plain latte.  I am drinking it now as I write.  Yes, it is good!
                Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, the beginning of Lent.  I will fast from meat the entire day.  In the evening, I will join a ton of other Catholics and celebrate Mass resulting in receiving ashes on my forehead.  Also, I will start my Lenten projects.
                Now that I am older with a better understanding of Lent, I don’t just give up things.  I also pray, fast, give to charity, and study more.  I work on my relationship with my best friend who was born in a manger.  I do all of this all year long, but I am so much more focused.  I compare it with the relationship that I am developing with my son now that he is not living at home anymore.  During the year, I phone, text, e-mail, and facebook him.  We enjoy our time together this way, but there is a distance.  This past weekend, I went to his college town.  We went out to dinner one night, shopped, church the next day, and lunch.  Being together, our relationship could be intimate.  I could see his smile, give him a hug, and hold his hand during the Our Father at church.  During this weekend, I experience a closer relationship with him.
                All year long, I pray, study, and do works of charity.  God and I are enjoying each other’s company just like I do with my son.  Once Lent begins, the time we spend together becomes more intense.  I almost feel the vale between us being lifted as least an inch or two.  Of course, I can feel this time throughout the year, but there is something more consistent and beautiful about my time with God during Lent like physically being with my son, nothing compares.
                Last night, my husband and I went to our monthly meeting at the Cathedral for those who have attended a Cursillo weekend in the past.  We watched a DVD that I don’t remember the name of but it talked about the song of God.  After it played, we discussed the topic.  Near the end, Anne mentioned our opportunity to pray more during Lent, to become more in tune to the song.  I think someone else talked about what they are doing for Lent.  Though it can seem like bragging, I believe sharing our Lenten journey can help others along their journey.  My biggest project this year will be to study and pray about the seven sorrows of Mary the mother of Jesus.  I will also do the normal fasting, attend Stations of the Cross, and crochet.  I usually make blankets for the babies of unwed mothers.  This year I am working on a blanket for Family Promise.  We will also buy baby items for our Lent to Life project at church.
                I didn’t always do this much during my Lenten journeys when I first started them.  I also wasn’t Catholic when I began to participate in Lent.  I shared my childhood woes of not being able to participate in Lent to my Catholic boyfriend (now husband).  He chuckled and said I didn’t have to be Catholic to travel down the Lenten path.  So, my first experience of Lent happened when I wasn’t Catholic.  I want to challenge all my readers to think about doing a project starting tomorrow.  There are many areas that you can work in to do this: pray an Our Father every day, read a chapter in the Bible daily, or say a prayer of thanksgiving for all the good things that took place during the day.  Tomorrow start working a little harder for your relationship with our creator, become more in tune.
                Blessing to you all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why We Suffer Part 3

                “Why will people know how to exercise free will in heaven if they can’t know how to exercise it on earth?” page 12-13 in God’s Problem.  The other day driving in the pickup this question rattled around in my head.  So many amazing thoughts started flowing.  My driving became distracted.  I turned down a main road headed to my house instead of going straight to pick up the groceries on my list.  I refocused on the task at hand, wandered through a neighborhood, found my way back to the correct street, headed to the store, and lost all my wonderful ideas for this post.  Hum, maybe next time I will pull over to jot down my thoughts.  Of course this may result in never getting to my destinations.  Now I look at the question and wonder where to begin.  At the beginning, the best place to start when a bit lost.
                In the beginning, God created a paradise on Earth in the Garden of Eden.  The notes in my Bible state, “Eden is near the head of the Persian Gulf, where the Tigris and the Euphrates join with two other streams to form a single river.”  In my travels in our local area, Hawaii, Mexico, the United States, and the Caribbean, I can’t help but think Eden covered the entire planet.  Man has turned many areas of our world ugly, but many areas remain pristine.  Humans have also made many gorgeous things to enhance God’s creation.  In the mornings, I will go out to start my vehicle only to be greeted by God’s masterpiece in the sky as the sun begins to rise.  I can’t imagine Adam and Eve having it much better in Eden when it comes to the physical beauty of the land around them.  I really believe we still live in Eden. 
Our freewill got us into trouble in Eden.  It continues to get us into trouble here on Earth.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve’s world allowed them to talk directly to God, walk in the garden with Him, and enjoy His visual presence.  He gave them freedom to explore the beauty made just for them.  They played with all the animals.  The grace of Himself God gave them filled them abundantly, but because they weren’t yet in heaven, they weren’t filled one hundred percent.  They lived in harmony with the world.  When they chose to take a bite of the forbidden fruit a vale went up between them and God.  This invisible barrier caused them to lose grace with God.  The harmony disappeared with God, animals, and the environment.  This one act of freewill caused suffering to enter the world causing our freewill to become diseased. 
Once we reach heaven, the grace of God we receive will be even more then what Adam and Eve contained in Eden before the vale descended.  This grace will heal our freewill.  The harmony we obtain with God and all of creation will open our sight to a new and glorious understanding that frankly we lack or even have a slight comprehension of in this existence.  To think, in heaven, I will be able to have my thoughts about a writing topic and still be able to drive to the store without turning the wrong direction.  Actually, I will never be distracted from God again which will eliminate my suffering.  Our freewill will sink up with God.  Until that time, I plan to look on our planet as paradise, talk and walk with God keeping my freewill as healthy as possible. 
Blessing to you all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quote of the Week

While reading about the apparitions in Kibeho, I really liked what Mary said to the visionary Anathalie.  “Mary had told the visionary she’d suffer much in her life, but her suffering was meant as a way to remind us to pray - in despair we often call on God, but we forget to follow His ways or keep praying when our suffering has ended and we’re happy again” Location 913. 
Thoughout my life, the formula has been good times = little prayer or bad times = much prayer.  I used to need suffering or trials in my life to pay attention to God.  Yes I did pray during the good times, but it was only when I had time: when I went to church or a retreat of some kind.  Granted, I did consistently go to church and went to retreats as often as possible.  Yet, my daily prayer would fall by the wayside much of the time. 
I am trying to think of the first time I truly suffered more than money issues or fighting with someone.  In BASIC training, I remember being so miserable.  I left my new husband for four months only to be submerged in a huge group of women from all over the country with different ideas than mine.  I struggled and suffered.  Every night, I prayed to God to give me the strength to make it another day.  I also prayed during the day to get through each new obstacle.  Once I arrived back home, my suffering ended as did my daily prayer.  This has been my way all my life.
I am happy to say that I am not quite so bad anymore.  For the past year and a half, I have tried to include a couple of daily talks with God.  In the morning, I thank Him if I can get onto our heavily used road in the morning without worrying I cut someone off.  I offer up the housework for His glory.  Each night, I thank him for all the good things that happened throughout the day.  Lately, I pray in the morning asking for guidance in one of my relationships.  My goal is to never again to slack in my prayer life.  I really don’t want suffering to remind me to pray.  Yes, I am going to suffer more in my life, but I hope to always have a close walk with Jesus every day, not just on the bad days.
Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A God Fearing Man

I have a question, what does it mean to be a God fearing man?
I ask this because it doesn’t make since to me since God loves me and protects me, so it doesn’t feel right to fear him. That’s not to say that I do not respect his power, because I know he is able to squish me like a bug if he wanted to.

                                My oldest son asked me this question via a message on facebook.  At first, the question took my breath away.  How in the world do I answer this?  My first thoughts flew to the Old Testament when God seemed to be angry a lot sending plagues and destruction.  Yet, I also thought of being in awe of God and how His power is so great that it would be scary to meet up with it face to face.  I mean, how many of us would freak out if a burning bush started to speak to us.  I know I don’t think I would handle the bush with much grace.
                        To start my research, I went to the dictionary because I really believed the key was in the definition of fear.  First I looked up “God fearing man” and found in the Free Dictionary by Farlex “pious; devout.  Deeply religious.”  Well, nothing there states anything about being scared.  Next I looked up “fear” in Dictionary.com’s.  The fourth definition states “reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God.  Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.”  So the simple answer is a God fearing man equals a piously devout man with awe, respect, reverence and veneration for his God.  Well, that was easy, but I wanted to continue my research through the Bible.
In the Bible, many references to fearing God give the text instruction how to fear God.  Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise.”  Well, here we go.  We need to grow in our knowledge and wisdom of God through instruction.  We need to read, go to church, and retreats.  I definitely don’t want to be a fool.  I also liked the note, “Fear of the Lord; reverential fear and respect for God on account of his sovereignty, goodness and justice toward men.  This is the foundation of religion.”  We are to build our house on this rock, not the sand of the fool.
Continuing with the theme, Deuteronomy 31:12  “Assemble the people-men, women and children, as well as the aliens who live in your communities-that they may hear it and learn it, and so fear the Lord, your God, and carefully observe all the words of this law.”  “It” refers to the law given to Moses.  The law is their faith, their beliefs.  We need to hear and learn our faith whether the faith comes from the Catholic church, Lutheran church, any church you attend.  By becoming knowledgeable in the teaching of our churches we will be stronger in our devotion to God.
So many people pay lip service to their faith.  I find myself falling at times from the material items of our world.  Instead I need to listen to this verse.  “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely.  Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” Joshua 24:14.  The gods talked about in this passage are gods of old.  The other gods of today are power, riches, rock or movie stars, drugs, alcohol, or mansions.  Anytime we put something or someone before God we create a god.  Instead fear the Lord.
As expected, I found many verses about fear.  I didn’t expect Mary, the mother of Jesus, to have talked about fearing God.  In the Canticle of Mary, Luke 1:46-55, she speaks of God to Elizabeth.  “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him” Luke 1:50.  Our price for fearing God is mercy.  This doesn’t mean we won’t have our share of suffering, but His Mercy comes to us through His son Jesus. 
A little dose of fear is good for us.  I fear icy roads and fire.  My respect for both causes me to proceed with care to keep me and my loved ones safe from harm.  I also avoid icy roads if I am able.  “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid, for God has come to you only to test you and put his fear upon you, lest you should not sin’” Exodus 20:20.  We are not to “fear” God or His tests, but we are to “fear” sinning.  God does this to keep us safe.  Sin leads to all sorts of bad outcomes and He doesn’t want that for his children.  I need to avoid sin more then I avoid icy roads.
I have always thought of God as my father.  My own father has characteristics like God as he should since he is made in the image of God.  As a child, I feared my dad.  Many of you know my dad and know he is a big old teddy bear; however, I still feared him because I sat in awe and respect of him.  I didn’t want to get into trouble because I feared the outcome, the disappointment.  I feel the same about my Lord.  I don’t want to sin because I fear the consequences of the sin and God’s disappointment in that act of rebellion.  God and my dad love me more then I could ever understand.  Yet, I will always “fear” them.
Blessings to you all.