Sunday, November 4, 2012

Forgiveness



Right after the car accident on a late September morning when our van was struck by a motorcycle running a red light, I didn't feel God's grace. Later, I did reflect how greatly I felt His love through the kindness of my fellow human beings, in the words of two gentlemen who took the time to stop and reassure, in the cheerful, calm way the firemen comforted and distracted my children and did for them what I couldn't do, in the steady help of the police and EMTs, in the face of my husband as he bent over me, weeping, in critical care. But I didn't even pray right after the collision, not even a cry of Father help me! That shows, I think, how stunned I was. My poor littlest children were left adrift in their terror and confusion while I tried myself to come back to my moorings.

But finally settled in my hospital room, fully awake from the anesthesia, I felt the surge of God's grace. It was like a physical, radiating presence. I don't doubt that such usually only happens with the prayers of many people. I felt fortunate, vital, able to calculate my extraordinary blessings. I felt that God had mitigated circumstances so that my young children would remain unharmed. So intensely happy was I that the motorcyclist who t-boned us did not hit the van farther back, and I worried more about how my kids would be able to process it all than I did about the discomfort of my manageable injuries, by then dulled with pain relievers.

Yet when I felt God's presence the most, when I felt that He was truly pleased with me, as if He stood at the foot of my bed smiling on His child, was when I forgave the motorcyclist who ran that red light, injuring me and endangering my children.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In Decline, or Reborn



Currently, I am reading a book called Christmas Miracles. Yes, that's silly, maybe, and too soon. And, yes, I am getting hazy-eyed every second story in the anthology. The miracles are mostly unmysterious, human beings helping their fellow man in simple but important ways or families working through obstacles with God's guidance.

Juxtaposed to this pursuit, I have been watching Masterpiece Mystery's Wallander series this month. This week's episode dabbled in religious extremism and highlighted within the context of the fictional mystery what has been rumored or reported for years: Christianity is on the decline in Europe. Few go to the big, beautiful and mostly empty churches for services.

Marriage is also beginning to feel archaic there, and more then half of mothers in many countries now give birth as single women. The birthrate itself has fallen to the point where many countries now have a negative one.

Of those found in the pews on Sunday mornings, the majority have grey hair.

But still I like what Andrew Greeley, priest and professor at the University of Chicago, had to say about all this, "Religion is always declining and always reviving."

Humanity is riding a giant pendulum; we swing from one extreme to the other, whether it concerns methods for raising our children, materialism, nutrition, etc., and then we swing back the other way when we realize things are not going well or have gone too far. Only for a fraction of a nanosecond do we potentially hang in the balance. Individually, there is always the hope that we can swing less violently, find peace in our methods.

Essentially, that is what these Christmas miracle stories are about - finding peace and joy while trusting God or by introduction to those who do trust Him and are seeking His will. The stories, as I said, are usually very plain: a family given grocery cards by an understanding neighbor, so that they can have Christmas dinner; a dad, whose car was stolen, being helped by truckers so that he could make it home to his family in time for Midnight Mass; a young woman of the streets given hope by some special needs kids singing Christmas Carols; and a family of seven finally finding a safe home in which to live in New York City, with the help of a woman who gives them a Bible and with it, courage. Sometimes, they are more supernatural, like two silent, oddly powerful young men showing up in a small town flower shop to protect its elderly owners from being robbed.

These stories that happen to strangers, that happen to you and me or through us when we are looking for our Maker's face, defy the rumors; God is not dead. Therefore, we, His Children, are alive in the Spirit and must alight the world with the joy, love and peace that come from knowing Him..

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Love

 

After I picked up my little girl from preschool one day this week, I met another parent outside the class who had also been to Father Davern's funeral. She shared that Father Davern's dad and her own had grown up together in Flagstaff, Arizona and that Father Davern had come to her father's funeral 18 years ago.

We talked about Father Davern's unique personality. Once during Mass when her son was very small, she told me, he looked toward the altar and pronounced, "Look, Mama! It's Jesus."

"No, no," his mama replied, but she knew she had to share this with Father.

So after Mass she found him in the narthex and told him what her son had said. She anticipated he would have something smart to say.

"Well," said Father Davern, "I can see how he might think that."

I assumed then she had known Father Davern quite well, but she finished by saying, "I could never just joke or talk easily with him. I never knew how to take him."

Completely do I know what she meant. At the funeral even one of his closest friends said during his memorial homily, "In his later years he became much harder to discern."

It was also during that homily that I discovered Father Davern had not only battled ailments like his diabetes and the recent broken hip, but he had also battled alcoholism. No wonder the obstacles were so fierce on the road to recovery. They proved eventually insurmountable. But can I speak just a little about courage? When Father Davern fell down the stairs at the rectory late one night last February, he lay there at the bottom of the flight for six straight hours before someone found him.

Courageous, yes he was. He had often shared details of his ongoing battle against alcoholism with parishioners.

Both my husband and this fellow mother were gratified that Father Davern's struggles were laid bare - by himself and by those who knew him well - so that, through Grace, they could help and strengthen someone else who is struggling.

This mother and I also agreed that some of the greatest gifts Father Davern had given others were his homilies. Short, great, inspiring, guiding.

I want to share this one, if I may, and I hope I don't bungle it, because I honor the lesson I gleaned from it. It was so wise and so simple, but if it sounds obvious - well, it should be. Great speakers illuminate the obvious, direct the beam on what we already know to be true but do not think about as we should.

The homily was about Love, and it was based on Christ's words (John 15), "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to  lay down one's life for one's friends." Father Davern pointed out how loosely we use that word. I love pizza. I just love my new truck! I love my new ring. I love this song! But we do not really love these things. We like and appreciate them for the often superficial joy they give, but we do not love them in the way we love our mother (Father Davern mentioned his mother first), our father, our children, our spouse, or our friends.

Then Fathern Davern went on to talk about his aunt who often went on trips to Ireland. On these trips she invariably bought Waterford Crystal and brought it home for her collection. On holidays and other special gatherings her house would be filled with children - her own and many nephews and nieces, and the Waterford Crystal would be there in plain view on its shelves, waiting to get damaged or destroyed during some childish accident. Yet this aunt did not care, though she really appreciated the beauty of her collection. She did not forbid them to touch it or to go near it. She let them play around her displays of Waterford Crystal. Why? Because these children she loved. The crystal was just a thing she enjoyed.

Love. We love people. We aim to love family, friends and others, as Jesus' disciples, so that we are willing to lay down our life for them. And not just because we love them do we work toward this, but because we love Christ, and he laid down his life for us.

As Father Davern pointed out, sometimes we do not like other people as we like our pizza or our new car, because they irritate us, perhaps. But we absolutely love them as we could never love that pizza or car, because we see Christ in them and that divine spark of life that comes from our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In Memory of Father Davern



His homilies were short, but because they were delivered so clearly, unpolluted with pretty language or unnecessary repetition, they stuck with you. We have a family friend who loved when Father Davern was the priest at Mass, because he knew there would be no rambling homily. It would be succinct and sweet, or as Father Davern himself used to say:

"Be brief; be good; be gone."

I'm glad I had the opportunity one time to tell him how much I appreciated his homilies. He passed away on Thursday night. I walked into Mass this morning and a large portrait of him was up in the sanctuary. I hoped he was retiring, but my husband shook his head, "No, I don't think so. I think he passed away."

I knew he was right, and before long it was confirmed. I wish I had known beforehand. Perhaps then I could have saved myself from crying noisily and copiously during Mass. Even reciting the Creed reminded me of how Father used to admonish us to get out our reference cards, telling us that we were almost there, but not quite perfect with the language since the Church adopted the new Roman Missal earlier this year. Father Davern would have thought it was silly of me, no doubt, to be streaming tears down my neck and wiping my face with a coarse paper towel. He was a no-nonsense canon lawyer, and our personalities were disparate. I'm often daydreaming along the primrose path. He could be sometimes irascible and always plainspoken.

The first time I ever spoke with him face to face, I descended on his office with my two hyper children in tow, who went crazy over the presence of a dog in the parish office, and told him that he had sent me a letter inviting me to RCIA classes. I told him that the reason I had not been confirmed before was because I was nursing four children almost constantly for several years, and so the evening classes would have been difficult to make.

He listened patiently and then responded with, "Yes...I sent those letters to everybody who isn't confirmed." And he said it just so and looked at me in just such a way as to state very clearly, "This is not a miracle of God. The angel Gabriel did not put it in your mailbox. It's a simple invitation, lady, to finally do what you need to do."

And one time when I was speaking in that RCIA class of how one had to get to church 20 minutes early on Christmas Eve to get a seat, he guffawed loudly and said, "Sweetheart, if you think that, you're fooling yourself! You have to get there 40 minutes early at least."

You wouldn't have thought he could be so blunt if you had listened to one of his homilies. They were full of compassion. I'd like to share with you one in particular, my favorite, that made me feel that, "Yes, aha! That is truth and well said."

Father Davern was speaking of the Gospel reading, Mark 6:1-6, when those in Jesus' hometown were astonished by him, his words and deeds, and they exclaimed, "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?" Jesus responded simply, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house."

In his homily Father Davern asked parishioners just how most of us learn about God? Then he stated a truth, A lot of what we learn about God we learn through each other. He pointed out that we judge people by how we knew them, who they were and how they treated us in the past, and we dismiss what they have to say or what they can share with us now. He gave examples. She was stuck-up in high school. He couldn't get his life together for years. He was mean and used to tease me all the time. She irritated me constantly. So we ignore and brush aside any message that they could convey to us now; we're not listening, because we're prejudiced. In this way we deny ourselves knowledge of God that others can give to us. There is no doubt that God responds to each of us, with our distinct personalities and intellects and circumstances, individually. There are things I have discovered in building my relationship with God that you may not know, and there are concepts that you grasp, ideas with which I struggle consistently. We can help and instruct one another, so we should listen.

I was very taken with this message, and it struck me as humorous, the part about the woman who irritates, because I felt sure that I had sometimes irritated Father Davern in the RCIA classes. Our personalities did not easily understand one another. It is something I felt when I asked him how he was doing after Mass one Sunday, and he responded, "Oh, getting along."

He had just spent several weeks in the hospital for a broken hip and had recovered remarkably well considering that things were complicated by his age and diabetes. Nevertheless, he was back at Mass saying the liturgy, leaning heavily against the altar as he blessed the Eucharist, sitting in his wheelchair as he delivered those wonderful homilies.

I wanted to offer to do something, cook him a meal or something, but I didn't know what he would accept, so I asked, "Is there anything that we can do?"

"No, I'll be fine. Thank you."

I awkwardly let it drop, couldn't think of anything else to say then, but that is partly why I was so sad today. I knew he had gone back in the hospital more than a week ago. I told myself I should send him a note, something to show that we loved and appreciated him. But I didn't do it. I just didn't do it.

Is that not always how we feel when someone passes away? I wish I had done more. I wish I had visited more often. I wish I had not been so selfish. It is how I felt when my husband's grandmother passed away; I should have visited her that last Thanksgiving, taken my newborn to meet her earlier. It is how my dad says he felt when his grandfather died; he wished he had found more time to take his family to see Grandpa. Through God's grace I spoke to my grandmama over the phone before her sudden passing due to an aneurysm. My husband kept urging me for a week to call, and I will be eternally grateful for that last good conversation, but she never got to meet the great-granddaughter who looks like her, with curly hair to make her proud, or her blond, blue-eyed great-grandson. And I remember my sister Vinca calling not long after the sister of a close friend of hers passed away. She called Annie and me just to tell us she loved us, because her friend was devastated by the death of her young sister, and Vinca was reminded of how swiftly loved ones can be taken away.

Father Davern was not a blood relative, and I did not know him well, but he was part of my spiritual family. I learned more about my Heavenly Father through him, his RCIA classes and those short and wise homilies. Do I think Father Davern was a great one for cards and notes or flowers? No, but I wish I had sent one or all of them before he died to show that I cared. And though he probably would have said, No, thank you, I wish I had offered to make him that meal.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On days like today when my toddler dumps a whole bottle of ranch dressing on the table, I pray for patience...and forgiveness, because before I sat him and his sister, who so kindly unscrewed the top for him, in time-out, I grabbed his arm roughly and yelled at both of them for making the mess.

There is plenty of laughter, silly dancing and singing, bedtime stories and hugs and kisses in our home, but with four kids there is also four times the spills, fights, personal demands and mischief-making. And, silly woman that I am, I can't seem to acclimate myself to going to bed at a reasonable hour, after years of poor sleep while nursing babies.

I don't need God to simply strengthen my patience muscle; I need help changing my habits, being more aware of positive steps to be taken before the fact.

I do surprise myself with how I've grown. Yesterday, my daughter dropped a toy in the toilet. I didn't yell at her but simply steeled myself to do what I had to do. After I rescued it and scrubbed my hands, she was crying and apologizing, and I hugged her and reassured her, "It's fine. I know you didn't do it on purpose." I remained calm the whole time. This germ phobic gal has come a long way.

There are times when I congratulate myself on how I've handled an unhappy situation, times when I've felt graced with the right words for a difficult conversation. But then there are times when I wish I had reacted differently - wish I hadn't yelled, wish I had been better able to control my stress and move beyond and let go.

I thank God for my children in my prayers, but in speaking with Him I also ask for guidance in being the best mother that I can be to my four children. There is nothing more important, and I want to grow in this vocation more than any other.

I know there is plenty of room for improvement.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thanks Be to God




A week ago I stood at the ambo and proclaimed God's Word for the first time to my church.

I had meant to do it much earlier. Almost two months ago I had taken my training to be a lector. But then I had outpatient surgery, had to wait for my certificate from the Diocese, and then had to renew my safe environment training. After that I waited to be alerted about my schedule.

Every Sunday we went to Mass, and I had a secret fear that I was supposed to be the lector but didn't know it. Every week my anxiety was present as I walked into our church. Eventually, though, all this anxiety built into an impatient desire to perform this wonderful task to which I had committed myself.

"I'm ready to be a lector," I told my husband after Sunday Mass two weeks ago. "I'm ready, and I'm going to write an e-mail and see if I can be scheduled."

But I didn't write the e-mail. A whole week passed, and I did nothing.

On Saturday I got a call from Mrs. M, the wonderful lady who manages the lector's schedule. She asked me if I had taken my safe environment class. I responded that yes, I had, and I thought the Diocese had notified the parish. They hadn't, but she was glad to hear it. And I knew what was coming before she spoke.

"Are you available for the 11 am Mass tomorrow? I have an opening for Lector 2."

We worked the details out; she refreshed my memory on the essentials; and she told me she would say a little prayer to help me through my nervousness.

I got off the phone and began to laugh, feeling joyful. You say you're ready, and God hears. You do nothing, and He arranges things for you.

At Mass I prayed that my reading would please Him, and that he would help me to be disinterested in my own image and appearance to others. I was nervous. But I remembered that Mrs. M had said that she figured if she made a mistake while reading, after saying the lector's prayer, that it was what God wanted her to accept, humbly.

And I did make a mistake. After reading from a letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, I forgot the lectionary on the ambo when I left the Sanctuary, and so the deacon, carrying the heavy Book of the Gospels, had to first replace the not-at-all-light lectionary on the shelf before he could read. I could have kicked myself. Two or three people had admonished me not to forget that simple task. But I'm sure Deacon knew it was my first time and has had many greater challenges thrown his way while serving the Lord.

I still find myself incredibly honored to be able to proclaim the Lord's Word. My mistakes have been many on this journey, so I am amazed I have this opportunity at all. Yet I also feel that by lectoring regularly, I will grow spiritually and become a better servant. I do not study the Bible as often as I used to when I was younger, and this is the perfect, blessed way to immerse myself in it once more. I am ready to Proclaim God's Word again and again. I am ready.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sign Of Peace


The curly-haired little girl left the pew for the outward aisle every couple of minutes, and during the priest's homily. The mother, a thin woman with the same dark curly hair and a face free of make-up, turned her head, watched her toddler, and then slowly rose to her feet to follow, her face tight and unhappy. Most of the time the dad didn't even look as he and their two sons, close in age, sat quietly in their places. The mother kept bringing the little one back only to have the same situation arise, the same exasperation playing across her features, setting her mouth in a straight line of frustration.

It's easy to judge in this situation. Why doesn't the mother just make the little girl sit? Keep her from wandering out into the aisle, blocking with her body, and hold the child? Why doesn't the dad help, keeping her on his other side, hemmed in with her brothers? If nothing else, why don't they sit in the cry room? They should not get up during the homily.

But the cry room...well, its very small in our church. It's hard to see the priest or to hear. When I sat there with our younger kids, I felt cut off from my Man and my eldest and from the mass, and church is very much family time for me. As for blocking the child, holding her and preventing her from going into the aisle, I have a toddler, and I know this tactic mostly works. But it is exhausting, and the parents must work as a team to control, calm and distract their children. It makes mass a true commitment of one's will. The continual shepherding of young children can make it seem much longer, and there are even times when my Man or I had to leave our seats and take our toddler outside or into the narthex or even to the restroom for a nurse. (For my part I always preferred going outside. In the bushes, trees and grass - even the pebbles in the landscaping - I found more of God than in the stuffy cry room. I could pray, or if by grace the speakers were on, I could follow all that transpired in the sanctuary while walking back and forth with my young one in the fresh air.)

Those days are mostly behind us, but you should not doubt one little bit that for my husband and me the Sign of Peace has extra meaning, coming when it does during the liturgy. There has always been a tad bit of humor mirrored in our parental eyes as we bend in for a kiss and say, "Peace be with you" before bending over each of our kids. In our heads we add, We're almost there. There is also additional emphasis, a passionate addendum of God bless you and preserve you, in the words and the handshake from those around us who see our four children and their often rambunctious adventures in the pews and observe all our best efforts to corral them. These people may be slightly put out by our youngest two playing or arguing or staring at those behind them, by our girls dancing to the music or by our toddler's constant migration on the kneelers, but they also admire our perseverance in bringing four kids to church each Sunday. And they watch us react to and curtail our kids' behavior, and they see, I hope, that it has improved from week to week.

For the family I observed today, I wanted peace and a blessing. I don't know if they usually sit in the cry room or some other section of the church and were only trying to sit altogether in a new spot, but I wanted them to hang in there, not give up. When the dad and the boys got up after the mother had deserted her seat for the sixth or so time, I hoped sincerely that they were not abandoning mass. I was very happy to see them all come back in time to receive the Eucharist. May God bless you all, I thought.

In a conversation months ago about kids' behavior in church, my husband had a friend confide in him that he and his wife didn't go with their only child to church because they were afraid the boy didn't know how to behave, having never been to mass. My husband's point was simply that a child will never know how to behave in church if you don't take them and instruct them. It's work, but it's good for them and for you.

Our family has not always had the commitment to mass that we have at present, especially when our oldest two were babies. When we didn't attend mass, we told ourselves we would pray Our Father together and read scripture like my own family did on Saturdays in my childhood. But wouldn't you know, we got to doing frivolous things, like watching television, and forgot to read. I would often only realize our omission once our children were in bed, and I stood praying over them just outside their doors.

Slowly, we began to realize as our church life grew, that if we didn't go to mass, our Sundays felt long and pointless. My husband realized, despite my hopes, that he was not going to discuss the Bible or even read it with the same passion as my dad did for his family.

"I'm not your dad. We need to go to church," he said.

He is right. Occasionally, when the kids are sick, we stay home, read from the Bible and the kids read aloud from the Children's Bible. Then we discuss it, and I ask the children questions. I have my dad's passion for God's Word and all theology, but I also have a strong tendency to ramble, winding through various subjects, beating the devil out of each one, before finding my original point again. It's good to keep the sabbath, but for our family it's better kept in church.

That is why I hope for that family I observed today that they don't give up on attending mass together. Their little girl is precious and adorable, and eventually she won't try to escape from the pew with her dollie anymore though she may still want to. Her mama will soon find that she can sit by her husband and hold his hand while their children sit close, quietly if not perfectly still. Mass will become for them, I hope, what it is for me: a time to be peaceful as a family and centered in spirit despite the lack of peace in the world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Good Fight




I will not lie. At times I read the paper or watch the news or listen to the stories of people haphazardly having children with multiple partners, bringing these children into an environment of disorder and sometimes neglect or abuse, and despair comes.

Yet, if God loves the world and His Son died for it, and others are fighting the good fight in the face of profound human weakness or outright evil, what right have I at all to give in to hopelessness? As a child of God it is very dangerous to judge or dismiss your fellow human beings. You are dismissing yourself as well by default. And love.

Recently, on the July 5th show of Rock Center with Brian Williams, there was a piece about painkiller-addicted pregnant mothers. The number of mothers bringing newborns into the world in these circumstances has nearly tripled between 2000 and 2009. It is distressing to see these babies, because they are beautiful (how well I remember my own, my fierce love for them and their superpower over me!) but extremely agitated, and unlike a normal newborn, a good nursing session will not calm them as they go through withdrawal. More upsetting is the fact that some of the moms interviewed said this little child was the second or third drug-exposed infant they had delivered.

Somebody has to fight the fight here, because you give up on these kids and their mothers and society pays hugely in the long run. And it will undoubtedly affect whether that child can ever come to know God. Thankfully, despite the emotional roller-coaster they must experience daily, the nurses and doctors treating these babies and their mothers for addiction keep up the painful endeavor to comfort these innocent babies and lessen their pain, to get the mothers into treatment, counseling and teach them coping skills for when they take their little one home. As one nurse pointed out, they keep the babies in the hospital so long (an average of sixteen days at a cost of usually $39,000 +), because an extremely agitated baby and a mother with no coping skills makes for a scary combination.

I can only imagine. I am a mother of four, and some of my babies were much fussier than others. My third basically lived on me in her sling for the first five straight months, including naptime and bedtime. I was utterly exhausted. If while caring for such a high-need baby, I had been battling an addiction and depression as well, I am not sure how well I would have coped. So may God bless all the nurses, doctors, and mental-health professionals who are not giving up this daunting battle against human weakness and the cycles that are perpetuated through generations of families.

And God bless bikers, bikers who are fighting for kids who have suffered child abuse. I'm talking about the non-profit group called Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, a group started in Utah in 1995 by John Paul Lilly, clinical social worker and play therapist. He saw the need to give these terrified kids, whose abusers often continue to threaten them and contact them, a sense of security - a family of protectors.

The bikers have all undergone thorough background checks. They use road names such as Fat Daddy or Venus, and they give the children their own road names to protect their identity, plus their own do-rag, vest, and blanket with the BACA logo. More importantly, they are there to make the child feel safe anytime. They go with the child when that child needs to appear in court to testify against their abuser. They camp out all night in the driveway or lawn of children who are afraid their abuser will come back, children who can't escape their nightmares at night. If the abuser or the abuser's family show up at the child's school or home, the family can call BACA, and the bikers ride out as fast as they can. They stay in front of the child's house, several of them together, and they keep watch - sometimes with a handgun on the hip (one of the only times they will wear a weapon around the child).

These bikers give the kids back a sense of safety, a sense of loving thy neighbor, that was lost in their horrific ordeal. Because of the bikers' often tough appearance, the child feels that they have friends who are stronger, scarier than their abuser. It can make a difference in whether that child will testify or not at trial, whether they will play outside again. It can make them smile for the first time in a long time when they see this rough and tumble group of bikers pull up in front of their house with their motorcycles and watch them transform into cheerful surrogate uncles, aunts, grandmas and grandpas.

When I read about these extraordinary angels of mercy in the Arizona Republic this last Sunday, I was reminded that everybody has a unique vocation. Sometimes, from our own painful experiences, the grace to help others is born. John Paul Lilly was abused as a child, as were some of the bikers involved in BACA. A group of bikers befriended Lilly and empowered him to fight a fear of the world when he was young. Now his group BACA is an international agency for aiding children who have suffered abuse.

So, I will not despair. Because of the evil in the world, good people must give love, compassion, courage, hope and mercy to their neighbor. They have always bravely done it and they will continue to do it, thanks be to God. For myself, I know I must strive to join more fully in their efforts, concentrating not on what evil has been done but on what good can be done.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Religious Phase, and A Thorn in the Flesh



Later on, like practically everyone else in our stupid and godless society, I was to consider these two years as "my religious phase". I am glad that that now seems very funny. But it is sad that it is funny in so few cases....If the impulse to worship God and to adore Him in truth by the goodness and order of our own lives is nothing more than a transitory and emotional thing, that is our own fault. - Thomas Merton from The Seven Storey Mountain

A few weeks ago at the park, I was talking to a couple of Catholic friends about our upbringings, whether they were religious. Mine was, but we really had family church with Dad in our home, on Saturdays, and it was sufficient. One dear friend was raised in Nicaragua where going to church on Sunday was pretty much a cultural obligation. The other was raised by a busy single mother in the USA, and only went to church with friends and their families. Both said that they remembered having the desire to pray often at about nine years of age.

I thought this was very interesting, and I wondered if this is something that occurs with most children around that developmental stage, the impetus to reach out to God. I also wondered if the opposite could often be true, too - a religious crisis. That is what happened to me at nine. I read a passage in the New Testament that scared the wits out of me, began to obsess about it and through months of mental agony felt certain I was going to offend God in an irreversible way.

Sadly, I felt that way again yesterday.

My old childhood affliction showed up with its WMD. And instantly, I was reduced, felt again that horrible separation from my Creator and the terror of it being permanent.

For years I had avoided this very specific torture, my personal thorn in the flesh, and I had come to believe that it could never debilitate me again. But yesterday, I became extremely aggravated about my special package of worldly concerns, and I mixed for myself a dangerous mental cocktail of weariness, frustration, self-condemnation, and depression. I should have seen the portal I was opening for an "angel of Satan" while stewing in my own insidious juices. But I didn't, and so I was an easy target. That is my own fault.

A thought struck with all its old familiar power, and after it came all the painful contemplations of what exactly I had thought, whether it was my own thought, and whether God would cease to have anything to do with me.

As I sat in the corner of my tiny kitchen, crying, and unable to distract myself with anything, my nine-year-old found me, asked if I was okay. After the third time, I finally answered him by lifting my hands mutely.

"It's okay, Mama," he said, having heard me tell his dad, obliquely, the source of my ordeal. "I've had bad thoughts, too. Really bad thoughts, and they used to bug me. It's gotten better - after about five days of praying."

That made me feel a tiny bit better. And then I remembered this passage from Saint Paul, but very imperfectly:

That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Unfortunately, when I remembered it I could only recall the "thorn in the flesh" and how Paul begged God to remove it, and I did not recall where in Paul's letters I could locate this passage. I wanted to find some comfort in it, because I remembered my dad quoting it to me when I was a child, suffering from my spiritual malady.

This morning I woke up, and bad as it may seem considering it was what I probably most needed, I did not feel like going to church. Besides, we were too late to make 9 am mass. Nevertheless, my husband insisted we go to the eleven o'clock.

You can imagine my astonishment and my gratitude when this passage from the letter to the Corinthians was the second reading. I had prayed God to bolster me, forgive me, not to desert me or deny me his Holy Spirit in the aftermath of my temporary defeat yesterday. And though I am nowhere close to a St. Paul, I felt assured as I followed the reading in my missal today that He would bolster me, forgive me, stay with me and keep His Comforter with me even in my abject weakness.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Son's Struggle and My Battle to Lead Him

My nine-year-old is struggling. It's hard to watch, and it breaks my heart. But I try to remain steady, not pushy, and I have known for some time that this struggle existed in my son. So I keep the conversation open, but never do I say, It is this or else.

He is very young to be reflecting that things in the Bible may not be true. He is young to be trying to say that he has struggled with the idea that Jesus' life is a hoax. It seems easier for him to believe in the Supreme Being than the Savior of humanity. I listen to all of it, unraveling his thoughts with gentle tugs, all the while anxious but passionate about this subject.

At nine I did not doubt Jesus. I doubted my ability to make it into the kingdom of God. That is not to say I have never doubted anything about spiritual faith, but I feel, listening to some of my fellow human beings, that I have not doubted in the way many have, in the way my son is. I do not know why. Certainly, I have never given up seeking God, and there is nothing I love more to talk about. But this is also because I know, and as I explained to my son, I know the truth in a way that I cannot give to others. I know the truth through my own experiences on my journey to the One Who made me, and it can always be assumed that I made up my experiences. I know in the way anyone can only ever know and understand - through the Holy Spirit.

To my son I keep repeating what I know, but he does not know what I know yet and cannot until he seeks God on his own. It is my word and my experience that I lay bare before him. In example, I cannot prove to him one of the most profound experiences I have had with my Creator, that while I was pregnant with his sister and struggling with my torturous obsessive thoughts while trying to ask God for something specific for him, my eldest child, I gave up praying one night and went to lay down in misery. I cannot show him how as I wallowed in self-pity that I heard God tell me to stop, get up and go pray over my son. I cannot prove how I obeyed even though my thoughts still speared me. I am powerless to explain my astonishment and joy that God had spoken to me for the first time ever in my life, if only in rebuke.

In fact, the only way I can explain such a direct, electrifying communication from Him is through the fact that at that time I was praying to God continually, seeking Him several times a day in my urgent desire to have Him meet my request. To my son I brought up Christ's story of the unjust judge (Luke 18: 1-8) and of the Stone and the Serpent (Luke 11: 11 - 13) as examples of the power of persistent prayer. I quoted what Jesus said at the end of the parable of the Judge, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

There is no proof except proof through the Spirit. "You will not have proof," I told my boy. "Not physical, scientific proof. Even of Christ's existence. A Jewish historian named Josephus mentioned Jesus and another historian from that time who I can't remember, but Jesus is actually mentioned very little outside the Gospel and the letters of the apostles."

Again, the proof is through the Spirit. I tell my son, and I tell him and tell him and tell him, Do not ever stop seeking God. You stop seeking and you have lost. It's okay to struggle and to question. There is nothing wrong with that. But do not stop seeking. Do not give up.

To end our very long but mostly calm conversation I said, "Son, I'm going to tell you what your Paca (my dad) told me as a kid - read the New Testament and ask God to be filled with His Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit will teach you the truth and help you to understand."

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask of Him? Luke 11:13


To read of one of my more personal experiences with my Father, click Here



Monday, June 18, 2012

Growing



I am very nervous to become a lector at my parish. I am not technically one yet; I just went to the training yesterday - on the day of my wedding anniversary. My husband trained the same day to be a Eucharistic Minister. We felt it was completely appropriate to give a portion of our day to God, especially since we made our commitment before our Heavenly Father in the Catholic Church 11 years ago.

The lector reads the Word of God from the ambo in a Catholic Church. Usually there are two lectors for each mass, one to read a passage from the Old Testament and the other to read the New Testament. The first lector carries the Gospel Book up to the altar ahead of the priest. After the lectors return to their seats, the priest or deacon reads the gospel while everyone stands.

The idea of standing before my church to read God's Word is both an exhilarating and terrifying prospect. What if I make a mistake? What if I trip on the way up? Heaven forbid, what if I mispronounce those strange Old Testament names? Yet, haven't I been familiar with the Word since childhood, particularly the Gospel? Didn't my dad teach his children to read the Bible, memorize the Word, and ask for understanding? I am honored to have the opportunity to proclaim God's Word in His presence, and I hope He will free me from vain consideration for my own image while doing so.

My reasons for becoming a lector are many. I love to read, and I read well. I was just confirmed this Easter. Our parochial administrator had a training class to introduce the newly confirmed to their many service opportunities in our parish. Our parish ministries are suffering from a lack of participation, too. The deciding motivation, though, may just be my sister Vinca.

Our family met in San Antonio - a very pretty city with its lush, undulating landscape - this past March. Vinca and I were unable to go to Mass on Sunday, but fortunately she had brought a missal with her. She recited the readings for that week, and together we did the responsorial hymns. Afterward, we got to talking about her small parish in Virginia and her role there as parish secretary.

I knew Vinca was parish secretary, but what I had not known until our conversation was that the deacon at her church asked her repeatedly to consider taking the position for a few months before she accepted. He is a no nonsense, ex-military man, and he must have recognized my sister's superior organizing skills.

As parish secretary my sister does not simply answer calls, deliver messages and monitor mail. She pays the bills, reads at daily mass, does the responses and prayers of the faithful, helps to make sure the church is in good order, and just about anything else necessary. I was astounded by her commitment, because while I have been attending mass for over ten years, my sister only began attending three years ago, confirmed that first Easter. Already she is hugely more involved in her parish life than I am in mine, and as I already mentioned, attends daily mass.

Granted, Vinca's parish is smaller, because she lives in the Bible Belt where Protestant churches far outnumber Catholic. But because it is smaller, those who garner spiritual nourishment from it must invest a greater portion of their time to keeping their spiritual home healthy and active. Did I mention that Vinca also instated and headed a proper children's Christmas pageant last year?

So if my big sis can be parish secretary, lector, sometime cantor, and events coordinator for her parish, what should I be doing for my larger spiritual community? A heck of a lot more than I'm doing now. I thank God for those people in our lives who can help point us on the path we should go, and I thank God for the beautiful opportunity to read His Word with joy for all who'll listen.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Parables in Music

On the way home this morning, we listened to Keith Green in the car. I'll admit I'm not one for Christian music, which is odd considering I'm a christian. There are of course hymns in Church that move me unexpectedly, bringing tears to my eyes for no reason I can grasp. One I heard recently was called The Lord of the Dance, a joyous and equally haunting view of Christ, and Amazing Grace is one of the greatest songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. Generally, though, I am a good deal indifferent and unmoved.

Green is different. I was raised on Keith Green, http://www.last.fm/music/Keith+Green/+wiki, but my continuing appreciation for his music comes because he is an ultra-talented pianist and because, more inspiring, he has a unique talent for taking the parables told by Christ and transforming them into richly textured songs. The tale of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son were both retold through his music; his Prodigal Son Suite is my favorite popular composition built on the word of God. When the father falls at his son's feet at the end, welcoming him home with love, joy, and gratitude to God, well...if you have never heard it and want to be inspired by that incredible image of redemption, I think you can listen to it for free on the Internet. Green perhaps covered that song in such an awesome way, because he was at one point in his life that prodigal son - a talented, touring musician doing drugs, believing in "free love" and exploring mysticism before coming to God after a soul-scarring experience.

This morning I heard another of Green's songs based on Christ's parables - The Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). That parable and Green's song used to frighten me when I was a child, because the Goats are not condemned for the evil they do; they're condemned for their apathy. Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? Then he shall answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25: 44- 46).

I struggle to care sometimes. That's a terrible thing to admit as a disciple of the Most High, the One who administered hope to the indigent, criminals and prostitutes. Still, I have my own sweet little family, four children to raise, and it is very easy indeed to get wrapped up in my own family's concerns. It worries me how selfish I feel at times.

Plus, the evil and despair of the world is well broadcast. It makes for such excellent stories, and by the hundred such telling of a deed it begins to feel like nothing more than a story, at the expense of the participants. I was well sheltered as a child and extraordinarily grateful for it. There are certain acts I could never have then believed would have been committed against a fellow human being. I have since been disillusioned time and time again in my adulthood. At first I would cry and ache in the knowledge of these horrible sins, especially those committed against children, and often I would cry for days every time the memory disturbed me. Now these terrible things humans do to one another trouble me less than I feel they should. I am becoming jaded, God help me.

The need in the world is always present, too, and my family and I are by no means wealthy, but we are comfortable. We contribute to help others, in food drives especially, but I know it is not nearly energetic enough. And to be honest with you, I fear strangers - oh, I'm more than willing to smile at someone I don't know or to give them friendly words or a few dollar bills, but invite them into my home? Not likely. For those in prison I don't feel a great deal of sympathy, either, nor do I feel that their conversion is very likely. I sound like one of the goats, now...don't I?

Nevertheless, not by my own strength and works do I go, but by the Grace of God. As Keith Green says through his music...Nothing lasts...except the Grace of God, by which I stand in Jesus. I know that I would surely fall away...except the Grace...by which I'm saved...

A few weeks ago I was disturbed during prayer by the face of a woman who lived down my street. Not once, but every time I prayed. This woman had told me some time earlier, when we stopped by her house while taking my daughter around to sell Girl Scout cookies, that she had recently had breast cancer. Her arm was bandaged, because her lymphnoids had been removed and fluid tended to build up, The woman was elderly, moved slowly. We stayed and talked to her for some time.

After we left her, I felt that we should visit her again. As a child, my family had visited two elderly and lonely neighbors often. One could not read, so he, Mr. Hayes, loved it when my dad came and read from the Bible as his wife used to do for him before she passed away. The other person was a lady named Mrs. Mays. She lived in a dusty old relic of a house at the bend in the road. She was more than a little ornery, and it was really boring for us kids to go there - nothing to play with, nothing interesting we should touch, only the trees and grass of her yard were welcoming - but we went as a family, and I remember the lesson my parents were teaching. I'm trying not to depart from it now I'm grown.

So I wasn't surprised as I forgot and forgot again about my duty to visit my sick neighbor, that my prayer included a reminder every time I sat in silence with God. God is very persistent, and I do not ever want to be denied His persistent instructions. So at last! I took my children on a convenient day, and we went to see her and spend some time with her. She seemed glad to see us, but told me that she did not need anything; her son lived with her and a friend, too.

As we walked away from her house, my children having gotten a little too rambunctious, I felt relieved that I had finally done what I knew I should do. If my Savior had been walking by my side, I may have said, "There! Are you happy? I did what you told me to do."

But my God knows that in my heart I add, please, Lord, never let me be deaf to your instruction, and through Your Grace, by which I stand, help me to respond and obey...




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy, Blessed Communion

I was confirmed this last Easter. It took me quite some time to decide that I wanted to be confirmed, during which time I met my husband (confirmed the year we met), attended mass with him, married him in the Church, and baptized our four children in its beautiful tradition. Eventually, I realized that I had become Catholic in my heart. (I am not trying to convert you. I am Catholic now, because that is where God wants me to be. If you are seeking God and listening to His Spirit, you are where he wishes you to be...or you soon will be.)

That is quite a transformation, actually, because when I first found out the man my sister had set me up with was Catholic, I was pretty near horrified. I laugh now at my ignorance, but then I had many of the Protestant misconceptions and superstitions about Catholicism: They worship Mary and idols! They pray to saints as if they were God. They love ritual and leave no room for the movement of the Holy Spirit. They think the Pope is all powerful and all knowing.

I don't address those misconceptions except to say that they are false and based on prejudices that have survived for hundreds of years. Anyway, when I said to my dad in dismay, "Dad, he's Catholic", I was really taken aback by his wise response, "Hillary, that's the oldest Christian Church there is." 

What truly drew me into the Church was quite simply the Liturgy of the Eucharist. When I witnessed it in person, I was awed by it immediately and was deeply appreciative of its faithfulness to Christ's words and actions. In fact, in the Creed and the entire liturgy, I was surprised to find the Word of God so manifest. Ironically, though, the Blessed Sacrament that I love and revere so much would give me a great deal of trepidation before my confirmation into the Catholic family.

I had made a mistake in ignorance, perpetuated by pride concerning this Sacrament. For me it was not an option to conceal this mistake. I am a very open person, and I despise giving others a false impression of myself. I told one priest in person, who dismissed the mistake with his nonjudgmental gaze, and then another in an e-mail. I was left alone to contemplate my folly, because a slew of RCIA classes (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults - required before confirmation to learn the theology and traditions of the Church) were canceled; the first priest who led them experienced a serious injury due to a fall, and the second priest, taking over the classes, was out of the country when I sent my e-mail.

I spent days in uncertainty, and one day in my anxious solitude, I finally broke down and wept over my unfortunate mistake, completely abased. Yet, when I shed those tears, I felt that I had done what God expected of me in acknowledging my fault, and that He, most importantly, had already forgiven me for it.

The second priest, whose lecture on Christian morality had in part inspired my contrition, decided to reschedule a RCIA class that had been canceled - I think because of my desperate e-mail.  It was awkward when I came in a little later than I had hoped. I could tell that he had indeed reviewed my lengthy e-mail and disapproved of the decision-making I had revealed in it. Still, I was there, and I was determined to thrust forward through any obstacle. He recognized that in my demeanor, I think, and we both settled in with the rest of the class to discuss the history and significance of theTriduum - Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday Night.

Soon after I attended Holy Thursday Mass for the first time in all my ten plus years of attending Catholic Church. I would do it a great injustice if I tried to describe its beauty and solemnity here for you, but it suffices to say that I hope never to miss participating in it again.

Then came Holy Saturday night, my confirmation night. Excited, nervous - flipping out at intervals - I showed up at church and waited with a small crowd for the Easter candle to be lit and passed on. When it was done and the light began to travel from candle to candle in the congregation, I was unable to follow the priest into the church with the rest of the candidates and catechumens as I was meant to. Instead I had to force myself to the front of the church later with my sponsor and try to claim remaining room in the seats reserved for us. The only room left was in the very front pew on the aisle. I am not sure whether others had refused that place, nervous about its prominence, but my sponsor and I took it gladly.

At first I felt the service did not live up to the one I had attended when engaged to my husband in San Antonio, but then the musical director began to sing the Litany of Saints for all the unbaptized (catechumens) standing before the gathered parishioners. It was beautiful and moving as she proceeded through apostles and archangels to saints who followed later. I was enthralled, and when it was my turn to stand at the front and be confirmed before all, I was joyous.

But what I will always remember most about that night is Communion. I have told you that I was seated in the very first pew. The catechumens and the candidates were to receive the Sacrament first. When the priest came down from the altar, I looked across the aisle to the catechumens, not wanting to jump before others. They hesitated, because many of them were young kids, and Father hastily motioned me forward. In that moment, my lovely sponsor stepped out of the way to let me proceed, and I realized I would be the first in my parish to receive the Eucharist at Easter Vigil. It didn't strike me fully until after I had received it and returned to the kneeler. Then moisture leaked from my eyes, and unfortunately my nose as well, in a flood. I offered up a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving, God is merciful. His Mercy endures forever. Thank you, thank you for Your mercy. While doing so I glanced up to see my little children, who had behaved so well at such a late service, receive a blessing from the priest and watched my husband receive Communion, and my gratitude increased. (My eldest son would himself be confirmed in another month. I had for some time held the hope that we could be confirmed in the same year.)

Things got too moist and messy, and not knowing how else to battle my wet face without lifting up my skirt, I begged several tissues from my friend and sponsor. I felt embarrassed; I was the only one who seemed to be reacting in such a powerful and obvious way for others to see. Still, more than embarrassment at having my emotion exposed, I felt God had conferred on me a special blessing that night. In that holy gift of His Son, He was telling me my mistake no longer mattered, His love for me was boundless, and His mercy truly does endure forever.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grace

It is important to point out that I feel I have a fair mix of Catholic, Protestant, and my dad's influences, and for all of them I am grateful. From every facet of my spiritual upbringing I have garnered truth and wisdom and help. And, in perfect honesty, the influence for which I am most grateful still is that of Dad. Without Dad's commitment to raise his children up to know God, I would have struggled much harder to find my Creator and very likely would have had a much greater allotment of heartache and trouble before I did.

When my dad read to his kids from the Bible on Sabbaths during my childhood, I felt that Jesus was present, as if he were actually sitting by my dad's side or standing in the room surveying our little gathering and giving his blessing to our understanding. And, after all, did he not say, Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them? After we read, we always discussed, and Dad listened to his children's thoughts and questions with respect. But, of course, spiritual food was not reserved for Sundays. Everyday events brought God into our minds and conversations as a family. Because of this, and despite many financial and physical disturbances, God was with us, and we felt it.

I am keenly aware of how blessed I am to have felt God's presence in my life from early childhood. There are times, though, and more so now that I am an adult, when it seems God has traveled several million light years away, and during such times I am lonely and restless. Perhaps that is my little glimpse into a world filled with creatures who do not know what to seek or how to seek it. As a perpetual state it would be destructive to me and to all my hopes.

But, thank God, the loneliness passes. After a few days or weeks, I am back walking with my Father again along peaceful paths, feeling the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit that never fails to inspire an incomprehensible joy. At such times I hear more clearly that indispensable guiding voice, and I am grateful for it.

In example, I was recently speaking with my husband about helping family members who were experiencing difficult times. One morning while driving my kids to school, I was debating how best to convince him to give more than we had originally agreed upon. If we gave less to this special person, could we then give more to help this loved one? While these arguments were going through my mind, this guiding thought came firmly, Let him be generous. I could have said a simple amen, because from that moment I was no longer troubled. I decided immediately to let my husband decide what to give, and in the end he truly astounded me; it was more than I would have dared to bargain for.

If I were not currently walking these gentle paths where I feel God is responding to me, I probably would not be writing here. A part of me always fears that loneliness that could come around that very next corner, part of me feels like saying a pleading prayer, Stay with me, but every spiritual person I have ever read about or spoken with has encountered fallow periods. The point is to plow through them, to continue to serve your fellow man, and to seek God in all things - however difficult and painfully solitary it may be.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

To Write or Not to Write

It was hard for me to decide to write a blog exclusively dedicated to my desire to more fully know God. I remember telling my friend Camille a while ago that I had no inclination to do such a thing. Oh, I didn't seek to avoid the subject. I mentioned my Father every now and then in my other writing, enough to give the hint that I was indeed Christian, but as I told Camille, I did not want to be limited. I didn't want to brand myself and my writing with a cooking blog, crafting blog, or faith blog. Sure, you have a clear audience, but I wanted to be free from constraints, from limited subject matter. However, Camille assured me that she would be interested in all those limited blogs I had just named. Perhaps I should have listened to that.

Or maybe I should have listened to another friend who sent me a link to a blog called Befriending Faith. She wrote me a note saying I should check it out, because her friend, the author of Befriending Faith, wrote very beautifully, and she knew that I enjoyed writing too. I took immediate offense to my friend's message. I enjoyed writing? No, I needed to write. Her friend wrote beautifully? Well, what of my writing? Had she ever bothered to read my words, let alone pass them on to others with a recommendation?

Ah, you see, I'm being honest and exposing myself as a little person, but that is exactly the way I felt. Nevertheless, I stifled pride and read Befriending Faith (which coincidentally, Camille had already mentioned to me). Obviously, it is a blog about developing your relationship with God. When I read it, it was during one of those times when I was praying about my writing, and I briefly wondered aloud to my husband if this was some indication from God that he wanted me use my writing in such a way. We both shook it off, but in an attempt to bury my uncomely pride, I wrote a post in which I linked to Befriending Faith. (Humbly I admit that the author of it does indeed write very beautifully, and the blog itself is inspiring.)

As I have already mentioned in my first post, however, I realized during Lent that God did want me to use my writing to please Him. I wasn't surprised about my revelation. I was only surprised that the thought had never occurred to me before.

Lent ended quite a while ago, and I am just barely beginning to write this blog about my incessant but sometimes weak search for the Prince of Peace. It is not because I lack in love, because my love for that Prince has never abandoned me since childhood. I have often said to my Dad, "All I can do is seek Him, even if I fail, because if I don't, I have nothing." I at least have the invaluable awareness that the desert through which I sometimes falter is present because of my separation from Him.

Still, I delayed so long in beginning here, because I began to suspect and then to discover that alot of other Christians who could write were already marching through the blogosphere with a similar mission, and how then was I to be different or more helpful? I think the answer comes from Saint Therese of Lisieux who quoted her friend Father Pichon as saying, "There are really more differences among souls than there are among faces." God responds to those different souls differently, I think, so I will share how he has responded to mine. And in general, I feel that Satan has such a monopoly in media, that I should at least do my part in bringing the light of Christ where I may.

If you are a creative person, and even truly if you are not, you understand how intentions can be cut through by the blade of discouragement. It was only when I saw a movie called The Encounter that I felt brave enough to defy that sword. In that movie, and yes I do recommend it, Jesus points out that all sin is to some degree rooted in pride. I had no doubt that my reluctance to go where I was led and my premature discouragement about success sprang from my pride in my writing. I started this blog that same night, and I hope that it may always please my Father.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Home

I have been walking and stumbling toward God since I was a preschooler. I was fortunate to have my parents' true guidance there - and here I mean that they actually talked to their children about God at home instead of simply dragging them to church with an attitude of what happens in church stays in church - so there has been no period in my life when I remember not contemplating God and seeking Him. As a child, I felt an immense love for Jesus and honestly believed that he went everywhere with me. This does not mean that I have always been in a state of grace. When I was nine years old, I went through a terrible spiritual ordeal for someone so young, and I passed several months in my solitary valley of fear. Some of the things I will share in this blog will seem very strange to some people - outrageous even, but I will seek to be honest so that I may, at least imperfectly, direct people to Jesus. After all, that must be the underlying motivation for all that I ultimately accomplish in this world through my relationships with my fellow human beings.

My other blog, No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors, is lighthearted and very, very human, if you will; it explores my flaws and my joys in mostly a trivial way. I did occasionally speak about my relationship with God there, about the real landmark moments in my journey, but I never sought to make that blog anything noble or high. I just needed a place to write. Still, while praying about my writing during this recent Lent, I suddenly realized that in all my erratic prayers seeking guidance, I had never once asked that my writing would please my Father. I should have always asked for that. That is why I have started Seeking The Prince of Peace.

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