Thursday, January 31, 2013

God Delights in Us


            I always find it difficult to express myself with the deeply heartfelt activities or ideas that come into my journey to holiness.  This past weekend I had the opportunity to pray and sing with almost a dozen ladies from my community.  Bible passages were read that we meditated on in the quiet of our hearts.  What a blessing.  Let me try to paint the picture for you. 

            With nervous energy, I detoured to City Brew to add a little caffeine to my morning.  New activities always make me a tad bit anxious.   I continued on my journey driving through town to a house on one of the main roads.  After finding a parking spot a block away, I walked down the sidewalk and smiled as I stepped onto the porch.  I love big inviting porches built in the “olden” days. 

Being this is a home for youth ministers, I was uncertain of the proto call of knocking or not, so I knocked and tried the door.  Locked.  Hearing a click, the door swung open.  Instantly, I was at ease as a very dear lady greeted me.  We attend the same parish.  I admire her love of Christ and the ministries she performs in our community through lectoring, youth ministry, music, Bible studies, and raising amazing children. 

            Other women filtered into the sun filled living room with plenty of comfortable seating.  After introductions, the music began.  As always, I watched in amazement as two of the woman played guitar so comfortably and my heart sang with all the women’s voices raised in prayer.  Across from me, a big picture window filled my eyes with a clear blue sky.  An elderly lady went out on her porch with a dust mop and carpets shaking out the dust.  I prayed for her to have a day filled with grace.

            After a few songs, a passage from Isaiah 62 was read.  I wrote in my journal.  “The Lord delights in you!  Serious about relationship with me.  Courting.”  As more songs filled the air, I kept thinking about what I wrote.  I also thought back to two weeks ago about the reading of God saying, “This is my son of whom I am well pleased.”  Father said we needed to believe God is well pleased with us.  Now, I hear that He delights in me.  He wants a serious relationship with me as intense as courting me and marrying me. 

            Another passage was read and more songs sung, but the Isaiah reading kept entering my thoughts until a revelation hit me.  In the last twenty-five days, I have been reading my husband’s Bible that I sent him while he was in Iraq.  The Bible is designed to be read in a year.  I am attempting the schedule, but I haven’t read anything that has inspired me to write.  The passages that have popped out at me are all the “thou shall not” ideas and I haven’t wanted to lecture.  How is that it is this day and this reading that fills my heart?  Then it dawned on me and I wrote, “I am a rule follower, a judge.  This is why the verses that speak to me are those of lecturing.  I tend to miss the loving aspects of our faith.  I miss that God delights in me.  I need to meditate in that.” 

            My spiritual word for the year is discipline.  I can’t help thinking it might be delights instead.  I will keep both in my heart for the time being.  It might just be that I need to be disciplined in remembering God delights in me and not worry so much about being perfect.  Hum, I lot to meditate on in the months remaining in 2013.

            The gathering ended and all of us ladies went back into the world with prayer supporting us up for the tasks to be performed in our regular day.  A peace settled over me.  I delighted in the gift God gave me in a very sunny January day.

            Blessings to you all.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Invite Jesus


                I haven’t written a Mass reflection for a very long time.  Last week, I was motivated to, but I forgot what Father said to inspire me.  This week I put a small notebook in my purse.  I jotted a bunch of notes.  As I look over the page of scribbling, Father said a lot of good things.  I am drawn to only one.  “Invite Jesus in all you do.”

                The reading of the Gospel was the story of Jesus turning water into wine.  Father told a story about Johnny Carson interviewing a young boy.  Johnny asked the boy what he learned from this reading.  After a few moments of thought the boy said, “Always invite Jesus to a wedding.”  Amen!  Father extended that to “invite Jesus in all you do.”  Amen!

                My daughter turned to me and whispered, “We should invite Jesus to our Super Bowl party.”  And again I say Amen!

                Blessings to you all.

Friday, January 18, 2013

J.R.R. Tolkien


                For months, I looked forward to the premiere of The Hobbit.  With much prodding from my husband twenty some years ago, this was the very first fantasy novel I ever read.  I loved it.  Since then I have read many, many fantasy novels.  I would love to say that J.R.R. Tolkien also inspired me to write fantasy.  I am sure he has subconsciously, but he hasn’t consciously.  How could he?  He is the master, a genius.  I could never write at his level. 

                With the movie came articles about Tolkien.  I started hearing talk of his Christian message in all of his books.  I became intrigued.  I decided to learn more about the man.  I checked out his biography from the county library and began to read.  I became fascinated by him.  He sounded like any normal professor that may have taught me Eastern.  Okay, maybe not Eastern, but you get the idea.  I loved learning his mother converted to Catholicism when he was but a boy.  I shook my head at her being turned out by some of her Protestant family.  I was amazed to discover when she passed away when he was twelve she left him in the guardianship of their priest.  I chuckled at the quote about how he thought other Christian faiths were watered down.  I cheered when he helped convert C.S. Lewis to Christianity though he was disappointed Lewis didn’t become Catholic.  He loved mythology and languages.  He served his country in World War I.  He loved nature and trees.  All of these facts endured Tolkien to me even more.

                His being a Catholic, soldier, and lover of mythology helped connect me to him to a small degree.  The writing life he led connected me more.  He struggled.  Working on his novels, he would become distracted and write about the world or the history of the novel instead of the scenes needed to complete his work.  He was never completely happy with his work.  I can relate to that!  Even after the huge success of The Hobbit, he struggled getting his other novels published.  I can’t even imagine.  I thought it would have been a breeze for him.  But like the rest of us, he paid his dues.  He didn’t like what the publishing business wanted to do with his work.  His story is the story of all writers.  Oh, and the character of the Ent is loosely based on his friend C.S. Lewis as my troll is loosely based on one of my dear friends.

                I was not at all disappointed by part one of the movie The Hobbit.  Nor was I disappointed with Tolkien’s biography.  I learned he was a normal man with a genius of telling an amazing story.  He will always be a master and I will never compare myself to him.  Writers block would take up permanent residence in my head if I did.  Instead, I will try to hold on to the knowledge that even the greats struggle through this journey of writing, living, holiness.

                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who Was At The Cross?


A person sent me an e-mailed with these questions a couple of weeks ago.

 

Here is something you can use for your blog.  Which apostles went to the crucifixion?  John went and became Mary’s son.  Simon carried the cross but there is talk of him coming from the country.  Mathew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of the crucifixion.  So, who all went to the crucifixion?

 

          The crucifixion is in all four of the gospels.  Of course, the stories are different, but they all talk about the death of Jesus.  The first three gospels do talk about Simon.  However, this is not Simon Peter the apostle.  I will take the verse from Matthew 27:32.  “As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.”  In the notes of my Bible, it states that Cyrenaica on the northern coast of Africa is a Roman province.  Simon either was living in Palestine at the time or had come for Passover on pilgrimage.  He was just a guy in the crowd that the Romans forced to carry the cross with a very common name.  In Mark 15:21 we can learn he is the father of Alexander and Rufus.  No new information is given about Simon in Luke. 

          As for who was at the cross, in Matthew they only talk about the soldiers and many women including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.  Mark accounts for soldiers, chief priests, passersby, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of the younger James, Joses, and Salome, and other women followers of Jesus.  Luke gives less detail.  He talks of the rulers and a centurion.  He also states that people gathered to see what happened and that the women followers of Jesus were present.  The gospel of John is the only account of Jesus’ mother being at the crucifixion and his disciple John.  Jesus lovingly bestows upon the two a new mother/son relationship.  In this account it is said Mary’s sister was with them as were Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala.

          In the end, these are the only people accountable to witnessing the death of Jesus in the Bible.  The majority of his closest friends failed to support him in the end proving humanities weakness.  The writings came not from firsthand knowledge but from a retelling of the story. 

          Blessings to you all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Beautiful Discovery


                I loved school.  Let me rephrase that, I loved the learning that school provided.  My favorite topics were history, literature, social studies, and writing.  During a sermon by my pastor in my junior high days, he talked of heaven being a place we could do our favorite activities all day long.  I envisioned a huge library where I could learn and write.  I spent sixteen years in school and never grew tired of exploring new topics.  I did get tired of the social issues that accompany being a girl.  Popularity was never my forte.  Nor did I care for working three jobs to pay for college.  I still dream of attending college lectures, but cringe at the price tag and think maybe when the kids grow up.  I would love a degree in theology, a masters in literature, history, and writing.  Heck, I would love a doctorate in all those areas plus learn Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic. 

                The other day, I felt like I got hit over the head by an imaginary brick.  I am living my dream.  Okay, I am not getting degrees of any level, but I am constantly studying and writing.  I have written four books, three novels and one non-fiction.  I am learning how to edit the first novel.  I write blog posts and keep a journal.  I am studying the life of J.R.R. Tolkien and will extend it to C.S. Lewis.  I am studying Saint Jerome and reading the book he translated into Latin (the Bible) though I am reading the English translation.  I am also reading a fantasy trilogy.  Thus, I could say I am taking Novel Editing 201, Blog Writing 102, Twentieth Century British Writers 301, The Bible 102, The In-depth Study of Saint Jerome 306, and Young Adult Fantasy 302.  I believe it is about an 18 credit load for free!  Life is a blessing.

                Yesterday I watched a three minute video about doing the things we love to do, write, paint, build, be creative, study.  Money doesn’t matter, but being happy in our work does matter.  I love the concept.  My friend stated she wished we were taught that more in school when we were growing up.  I agree.  Instead of stifling our dreams, teachers should have shown us ways to expand them.  Now, I love money, so going into a field that would give me money was very important to me as it is for many artists, musicians, and like minded people.  The entire time I played in band and wrote essays the teachers never showed us how we could carry these talents into a life after school.

When my son informed us he wanted to be a musician he accused us of stifling his dreams because we did discuss money.  Many people are poor musicians.  My son has champagne taste.  His reality is he loves the finer things in life and needs to figure out how he is going to pay for them.  We needed to guide him.  Now he is looking at a degree in chemical engineering while still studying music.  I envision him playing his heart out in the evenings and weekends at a local jazz club while working at his money job during the day. 

For years, I shelved my writing.  I still studied though.  Fortunately, a friend prodded me to start writing again.  I am eternally grateful to him.  I can’t believe I quit doing it because I wouldn’t make money at it.  (My first story was harshly rejected about sixteen years ago which put me into a massive writer’s block.)  My heart soars when I play with my words.  I have a friend who is a painter, but she doesn’t do it because she can’t make money at it.  I understand.  I have been there.  It is hard to raise kids, work at a job that gives you money and benefits.  Money does matter, but so does the creative side of our personalities.

I would love to see a new movement in education that sat kids down and discussed their dreams.  Helped them find ways to make those dreams come true even if all it ended up being is a “hobby.”  I envision them also being able to explore topics that aren’t on the syllabus.  Kids are put into boxes and not shown how to get out.  My older son is very artistic.  By day he goes to school and works a couple of jobs, in his spare time he makes masks.  Will he ever sale those masks?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But he still creates and dreams.  I will always dream of making money by publishing my writing.  People may stifle that dream from time to time, but I will continue to have my own little heaven here on Earth by studying and writing by being creative.  How are you creative?  What are your dreams?  Are you working towards those dreams?

Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reflecting


                Looking back at 2012 only makes me that much more excited for 2013.  For years, I have wanted to keep track of the books I read throughout a year.  I actually did it this year.  I couldn’t believe it when I finished up book number 45 on December 30th.  Going through the list, I thought I would share a little bit about some of my favorites.  The most inspiring which I did a few blog posts about was “The Traveler’s Gift.”  My best writing book of the year went to “Finding Water”, but for editing, “The Weekend Novelist Re-writes” helped me the most.  My favorite history book would have to be “Andersonville Journey”; yet, I loved reading about Generals Grant and Sherman.  My favorite fun read has to go to “The Hunger Games” trilogy.  This even beats all the Merlin, King Arthur, and Robin Hood stories I read.  So, if you are looking at a good read, these are all wonderful books.  I can’t wait to read more.

                Last year, I took on a new tradition that a dear friend introduced to me, adopting a saint for the year.  Her son picked for me Our Lady of Kibeho.  I enjoyed my studies of her and the people who have been affected by her love.  The book I read by Immaculee is hands down the most inspirational story I have read in years.  I am disappointed that at the end of the year I lost momentum in my studies of Our Lady, but it is a good tradition.  This year my husband suggested Saint Jerome.  I will keep you posted in all I learn about this doctor of the church.

                I haven’t done this as a yearly practice, but I have chosen a word or phrase to reflect on during different times in my journey to holiness.  I haven’t had a word for a while when I ran across another blogger who picks a word yearly.  I thought I would add to that.  After a couple of days’ reflection, discipline kept pushing its way into my thoughts.  I really had been hoping for joy, peace, or something uplifting.  Instead, my word is going to be discipline.  I have some hard work in front of me.  I will say I have started the year off well.  I had the discipline to attend Mass this morning and meditate on the word with Jesus.  I think I will work on attending Mass once during the week, writing more, editing more, cleaning more, spending more time with the Bible, and eating less.  Discipline!

                As for my writing/editing year, I am happy to say I wrote more words this year than any other year in my life.  I totaled 167,292 and this was without hitting all my monthly goals.  I upped this year’s goal to 200,000.  We will see how it goes.  Oh, and my goal to reach one million words is almost halfway done.  Since I started this writing journey, I have written 454,945 words.  They say at a million the publishing will happen.  I am getting there even if a bit slowly!  I am content with my progress in editing.  At the beginning of the year, my goal was to learn more about editing novels and count my minutes.  I did both tasks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t finish editing my book like I wanted and I didn’t reach my minute goal.  But I will still count this year a success.

                I am a firm believer in exploring the world.  My bucket list is pages long and I even have books on places to explore.  My adventures took me around the state.  I toured Our Lady of the Rockies, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, and many other areas in our state.  On our trip out to see family in Seattle, I finally stopped at a fruit stand that I just never seemed to have time for before.  We were fortunate enough to fly to Georgia and do some exploring there as well.  I still get giddy thinking about my first Civil War battlefield tour.  I also enjoyed my home exploring up on our mountain, the little lake just outside of town, and my neighborhood.  Exploring isn’t necessarily going to grand places but exploring your backyard.

                I am so excited for this year.  There are so many books to read, places to explore, and words to be written.  Though my word is discipline, I am excited to participate in all the joy that will be given to me in the coming days of 2013. 

                Blessings to you all.