Sunday, November 29, 2009

Just what I need

It’s exciting that it’s advent. A new year has started, a time to let things go and to look to the future. This year I am trying to embrace what the season of advent is all about: preparation and waiting (two things I’ve never been too good at). Advent is a highly ignored season. It just seems to get in the way of everything else. We have started the family reunions, counted our blessings, and enjoyed the ending of the year: we want to celebrate. But the Church says “not yet”. I must admit, I want to sing Christmas songs (I LOVE them!!), decorate my room, and do everything else “Christmas”. But now is not the time for that. It is a time to be silent, to be still.

Everything else in my life, however, is screaming at me to go faster! I must to do that, go here, send that, finish this, see so and so. There’s only how many shopping days left? If we fall into this trap it is easy to see why we become worn out and sick of Christmas, even before Christmas Eve!

This year, I want to learn to be still. I want to learn how to wait. I made a goal for myself today: I want to be less anxious about life (especially after yesterday's gospel). There’s no better time for this than advent! Although controlling my Christmas cheer until after the 24th is already proving to be a challenge, I know that if I attempt to mirror my life on the life of the Church, things would probably go much smoother for me. I can’t wait (but hopefully that will change!)!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks and givings

My thanksgiving was most excellent. First, I woke up in Myrtle Beach. Then my brother and I went to Mass. The priest would randomly break out in song, which kept me on my toes!! Then I slept on the way back home. My other brother cooked the (14 pound) turkey and I volunteered to make everything else. It came out really well! We had a nice dinner, and watched the packers win!

Afterwards, everyone wanted monkey bread for a late dessert. What resulted was an overflowing creation dripping with brown sugar! It was quite entertaining to watch rise. We took bets on how many pieces we thought would fall off. Then we went with my sister and her husband to see their house that they just bought! It was a great day!


The most EPIC monkey bread ever!!

(Koko is in shock by the awesomeness)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In no particular order,

I am truly thankful for:

  • God showing himself in my life
  • The Eucharist (which means "thanksgiving")
  • Seeing babies and them smiling at me
  • Rain boots and umbrellas
  • Still attending Auburn
  • My dad’s knee surgery going very well
  • Being able to get my brother excited about reading a book
  • My dog still loving me
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • The stars
  • Having a sweet last name
  • Being able to talk to my mom whenever she’s not sleeping
  • Reconnecting with dear friends
  • Jokes, the inside and outside ones
  • Milkshakes
  • All the love I’ve experienced these past few years
  • My spiritual director, craft guru, and the one who keeps us all sane (well, most of the time) Aka, my roommates.
  • My family growing in faith
  • All my friends finding loves and marrying this past year
  • All my friends who chose life, and those cute little babies
  • Friends.
  • Having incredible opportunities to see the world, including my backyard
  • The Helen Keller kitty
  • Glances of understanding from strangers
  • Late night heart to hearts
  • Meat men, refrigerator repairmen, and cleaners
  • New surroundings and experiences
  • Cookies and candles
  • Chipmunks and groundhogs
  • The chance to show others love
  • Life, in all it’s messiness, pain, heartaches, joy, surprises, and beauty.
  • You. The one reading this right now. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mediocrity

It seems to me that the priorities of this world are out of order. Everyone is “going green” these days. Being environmentally conscience is good, but hardly the most important thing. Security is another high priority concern. This is certainly not a Christian principle. Even showing mercy to criminals or trying to uphold long-established ideals are looked down upon. We are preoccupied with others’ “rights”. No one wishes to offend others by what they say, even if (especially if) what they say is the truth. Society wants everyone to live well-cushioned and un-bothered by others: basically, to live as selfishly as possible.

We concern ourselves with how the world sees us. We focus on getting a perfect GPA, recognition, high positions in companies, or a buff body so others will swoon. We want other’s to think highly of us so that we can think highly of ourselves. We want to make ourselves god.

This desperate attempt to build ourselves up leads to a few things, one being mediocrity. What do I mean?
Well, the human being, infused with a soul created and given by God, is not meant to build itself up. That’s not even it’s purpose or call, no matter the means. Human beings only want one thing and that is God. God is synonymous with love. We spend our entire lives looking for it. We somehow think that by getting recognition, power, or respect from others that that will lead them to love us. Because if I’m not smart, attractive, or wealthy, then no one could ever truly love me.

What a sad lie this is, and how many ways it appears in our daily lives! Even at church I often see it. People want to appear more holy than they are, want others to know about the good they do, want others to come to them for advice, as if they have it all figured out, all in an attempt to make themselves feel loved (and liked). However, that never lasts for long. The only way to truly feel loved is to receive the love from the One who loves perfectly.

It’s interesting to me also how, even though we put on a fa├žade of good deeds and a pleasant demeanor, we are so unwillingly to do anything to make it authentic. The quest of looking good in the public eye leads to mediocrity in our relationship with Christ, because we aren’t doing it for him anymore, but instead so other’s will take notice.

We love to make excuses for ourselves in order to protect our mediocre lifestyle. Recently, our priest challenged us (as it does in the bible) to be more charitable with our money. For whatever reason, this is an uncomfortable topic. I think he made a great point: what we do with our money reflects what is important to us. After the Mass, I heard people talking about how they “give what they have at the time”, something that was specifically addressed, and that they didn‘t think his homily applied to them. Do we really think that is good enough?

Now money is definitely not the most important thing, but if we aren’t willing to share it (even more than what is comfortable) then why? Is it that we are selfish and want to maintain our mediocrity? Are we concerned that people won’t notice us giving our money, when there is a much better chance of people seeing us volunteer?

Either you are all in or you’re not. You either completely desire to live a Christian lifestyle and therefore desire God’s will (although we all fall from time to time) or you hold back. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about desiring perfection (and taking the steps to achieve that), so that we may please God.

So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. -Rev. 3:16

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pageants are about inner beauty

1

Tonight I went to the Miss Glom pageant to support Jordan Lee Pierce. She is the only contestant ever to represent a non-greek organization. That organization is AFROTC. It was such a good time. For some reason pageants are really funny to me. I contribute it to my mom. When she came to our high school pageants to support my friends, she would sit in the audience with uncontrollable laughter. But you have to admit, pageants are pretty funny (I’m laughing right now just thinking about them).

2

She did really well. Unlike other girls who tried to be overly flashy and made obvious mistakes (like walking the wrong way, stumbling through the question), she was pretty awesome! She was the only contestant to have a roar of deep man cheers instead of the high pitched sorority girls yelling her name. It was pretty impressive. Even our cadre came out, and made jokes on all the girls. HILARIOUS!!

3

Jordan Lee didn’t win, which was a pretty big shock to me. She did, as expected, win Miss Congeniality. And, if it was a category, best dancer in a flight suit.

4

The most entertaining part of pageants is when the girls have to answer random questions on the spot. Sadly one girl totally froze in the middle of her answer about reading. She tried many times to start over, but nothing worked. It was so painful to watch.

5

On a better note, I heard the greatest answer of all time to a pageant question tonight. The question: Do you think cosmetic surgery is an unfair advantage in pageants? The answer (in a Southern-Belle slow voice): I believe cosmetic surgery is a personal choice. I have never had it. But I was hit by a truck. Thankfully, I didn’t need any necessary improvements, as I was only left with a few cuts and bruises. (At this point I was laughing so hard I didn’t hear the rest of the answer). I hope they put the video on youtube.

6

If you are ever having a bad day, go to a pageant. I don’t think anything could make you feel better about yourself quicker.

7

Yes I did just dedicate an entire post to pageants. I guess I should finish my paper now. (Btw, the title is a direct quote from tonight)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why I love being Catholic (Part 3)

The Catholic Church has an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. It’s obvious to me. How else could there be so much truth and guidance found within it? The guidance of the Holy Spirit is especially clear within the Church as it rules on moral issues.

The US bishops get a lot of criticism for whatever they are doing (or lack of doing), but there is always something more to be done. I don’t think the Church has ever abandoned speaking the truth even if the entire world disagrees with it.

That is the beauty (or just part of it) of the Church. It proclaims truth in great matters and in seemingly smaller ones. Here are just two of the documents that the bishops have been working on. One is about end of life issues and weather it is morally acceptable to forgo hydration and nutrition if the person is unable to eat or drink orally. (The directive says that it is an obligation to do so, even if it would extend the person’s life indefinitely.) There will be a vote to approve this later this month.

The other I read is about specific issues relating to infertility. Most of what is said has been addressed before, but I found it interesting that they also discussed embryo adoption, in which a couple would “adopt” an abandoned embryo in an attempt to save his or her life. While embryo adoption may seem like a very loving thing to do (and could be the motive behind it), the bishops remind us that this is not the way God intended us to conceive children and that the tragedy of abandoned embryos only emphasizes this.

It is so important to know, objectively, what the morally right thing to do is, before emotions and circumstances get involved. Especially during the end of a family members life, the call to end life support (if left solely up to you) can be torturous. These statements have clear guidance on what is right, with the Church backing it up. What a blessing these are!

Not only is having the Church to look to on tough issues a sign of God working through it but also that history shows that the Church has it right. This article (definitely should read!) goes through the history of the Protestant view of contraception and how other beliefs held by Protestants (in particular that pastors can and should marry) caused the ultimate collapse of their strongly-held belief that contraption is evil and large families show God’s blessing. I not only love being Catholic but am proud to be one because it is so obvious one has to have the entire truth in order to uphold any of it.

(Picture is The Light of the World by W.H. Hunt)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Being a Christian is hard

When done properly, it may be the hardest thing. I’ve always thought it strange when people accuse Christians of being so because they are scared. That they are looking for an easy way out. Maybe at some churches this is so, but not in the Catholic Church. Our faith requires much from us, in fact, it requires everything. The goal is to no longer care for ourselves, only desiring God and His will. This makes sense with heaven in mind, because that will be the only thing to focus on.

The task can seem daunting, but maybe it is much simpler than we realize. Yesterday I was reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis. It definitely isn’t something you read to make yourself feel better, but I think books like this lead to more improvement than ones that have you focus on how much progress you’re making. He wanted to make it clear that someone shouldn’t look to anything in this life for enjoyment. That the only place to find true joy and fulfillment is God, and everything that doesn’t lead you to Him is a distraction.

“You cannot have two heavens: it is impossible to enjoy yourself here and afterward to reign with Christ.”

Does that mean I can’t enjoy anything in this life? I don’t think that’s what this is getting at. If I live now as if this was my heaven, and going after only what brings me pleasure and fitting God into my own little box, then I shouldn’t expect to enjoy the real heaven once I die. You must make a choice. Make this life everything you want it to be (and hopefully it’ll work out for you…) or leave this world behind, have faith in God and only turn to Him for every need. This way you may experience the real heaven, the one that brings true happiness and joy.

I have a long way to go.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Am a Rock

I definitely recommend reading this blog post. It’s from the blog of Father Daren J. Zehnle.

Something to think about:
If we consider the life of Christ Jesus we see two principle ways in which he made himself vulnerable to love: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion.

If Jesus makes himself vulnerable, I guess I should too.

Here's a video that went along with the post:

video

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sacrifice

Going along with my recent post, I think it’s important to think about what exactly we are willing to die for. It’s easy to tell where your true priorities lie when you honestly ask yourself that.

I’ve taken an oath saying I will give my life for my country if necessary. That is something that is not to be taken lightly. This can vary greatly than giving your life for God, as America isn’t perfect and in many ways, very un-godly. As I’ve said in the last post, I look upon this promise not so much as giving my life so that people can do whatever they want, but instead that they would find the truth. If I should die in the military, I prefer to see it as dying for God, so that he may save more souls.

We also must ask ourselves who individually we are willing to die for. In Father Larry Richard’s talk about loving more, he said that when we tell someone we love them, we are saying that we are willing to die for them. Again, it is not to be taken lightly. Jesus says “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Look at how he was willing to die for us. If God willed it, could I do the same?

And lastly, am I willing to die for God? This should be the easiest but, in practice, may be the hardest. Am I willing to die as the seven brothers and their mother did in 2 Maccabees 7?

I understand why some saints prayed to be martyred. It was the most important thing to them and they wanted to prove that. In a way, I wish to be martyred. But I think all Christians are martyred in some way, weather that would be suffering your whole life (in many possible ways), dying to self (witch is talked about all the time) or actual martyrdom. It’s all giving your life to God, which is what he asks us to do. So, are you willing to die for God?

Happy Veterans Day

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you... Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.


I’ve been seeing this quote a lot recently among my friends. While we should remember and live our lives as though we are grateful for what they did and are doing for us, we shouldn’t turn them into something they aren’t. Every time I see this I think, Jesus not only died for our soul, but also that we may have freedom. Only the freedom Jesus offers and the freedom soldiers fight for are different. One is true freedom: free from sin, free to live fully in the life he intended us to have, free to be who we truly are. My mom, and millions others can’t offer that. They fight for the American people so that they may continue to enjoy the rights promised in the Constitution. In doing so, they may find true freedom in Jesus, however many choose not to. The American solider fights anyway. He may not agree with your stance on abortion, or the war, or that God doesn’t exist, however he will still offer his life so that you can continue to believe those things.

This is Article I of the Code of Conduct, which every member of the armed services knows by heart (there are six in all):

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Freedom is only found in Christ, however the solider is willing to give his life so you may discover that for yourself. Thank you for all that you give for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Family

The idea of growing up used to scare me a lot. I had this image where no longer could you have fun (except for boring dinner parties and drinking) and, in a way, you would be this totally different person, one that was more serious and less spontaneous. Although I’m realizing that really isn’t true, I’m learning that growing up brings about many other changes that I don’t think I’m ready for.

This year is really the first year I feel detached from my family. Not only am I growing up, but so is everyone else too. My sister graduated college and is married. My brother is in his second year of college and has a life of his own that I really know nothing about. My youngest brother is finishing high school and soon will be leaving home as well. Even my mom, although not in her control, isn’t at home. It’s not just me that leaving them behind, but they are leaving me behind too. I haven’t been home for longer than 2 days since last Christmas, and I admit, that is my choice, but I’m starting to sense that I really am on my own now. I am growing up.

Being far from them is hard when I’m reminded (which happens almost everyday) that people don’t know me very well. My family, they know me. And they get me. No one else in the world can interact with me the way they do. And it might just be that I have had my whole life to reach this point, and its unrealistic to expect that from others. But daily I’m reminded how different we are from most everyone else. I won’t go into listing things, but normally it’s the very small things or the way of thinking about things that makes me really miss how it used to be. I find myself being jealous of those who can go home, and hang out with their entire family, practically anytime they want. I find myself wishing I could do that too.

I’m no longer afraid to grow up, but I am worried I’m losing my family. It will probably never be like it once was. If I was fully aware of what I had at the time, maybe I wouldn’t have been so quick to move on.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My prayer in questions

What would happen, Lord, if I gave my soul to you?

What would happen, Lord, if I handed you my entire life, with no contract attached?

What would happen to my thoughts if I allowed You to enter them? Would I become possessed by You?

What would happen, Lord, if I loved as You do?

What would happen, Lord, if I truly, deeply and totally believed everything I said and only said what I believed?

What would happen if I did all this and no fear was in me? Instead, only you assure me, guide me, comfort me, and fill me with all that I am meant to be.

What would happen, Lord, if you save me?

Lord, I beg you to take my entire being and do with it as you will.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting into heaven

It seems a lot of people are preoccupied with getting into heaven. I guess it’s important. It would be nice to be eternally happy and with God forever. However, I question this desire. Some people are so preoccupied with it that they forget about God. If one is only interested in what they should do (accept Jesus or go to Mass or give to charity) and/or believe (he is my savior, abortion is wrong, etc…) so that they can get into heaven, then they are really missing the point. It’s a very selfish way of being “right with God”.

I think every Christian group can/has easily fallen into this trap. With the protestants, it’s a mindset that to get saved just say this quick pray really hard and believe it “in your heart” then you are good for life! You are getting into heaven, no need to worry anymore! Where does that leave God? Has your life really been changed?

Catholics aren’t much better sometimes. We don’t think it’s a one time prayer that gets you out of jail forever, instead we have all these rules, such as going to Mass every Sunday, and going to confession and communion at least once a year. You should believe all doctrines of the Church and serve your community. It seems that if you follow these things, this too, guarantees heaven. Still, it would be quite easy to follow all these and still only do them because you just want to go to heaven.

Maybe people forget why they do and believe these things. It’s all because you love God (or at least it’s supposed to be). Loving God is forgetting about yourself, only relying on him, and certainly not doing things so you can wiggle your way into heaven (I think God would know what you are trying to do anyway). The Church lays out these requirements so you can better love him. You serve him because you love him (and he asks you to). And certainly if you love God, your entire (every single aspect of it) life will be transformed and (most likely) you won’t be selfish.

Yes, one should hope for heaven. It sounds awesome!! But really, that should hardly be what we focus on. We should know that if we truly love God, then of course we are going to heaven, and therefore wouldn’t be at all concerned about the particulars of how to get there.

Definitely something to strive for.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This world is a battleground

This past week has been extremely upsetting. It started out by me realizing just how people are probably going to hell, only to be confirmed almost every day this week. People just don’t care about God or anything related to religion. They think that by denying the existence of God, heaven, hell, sin and everything else, that it actually makes it not exist. If they don’t believe in it, they no longer have to worry about it.

And today, in my world lit class, we finally talked about something that didn’t have to do with sex. Instead, we ventured into an even less-understood realm: Catholicism. The beginning of the discussion was fair enough, as usual, then it quickly became centered on false ideas (just like every class). We (or should I say, the professor) ended up concluding that the saints are gods that Catholics worship, and how Cortes’ letter to Charles proves this. I haven’t been that mad in a class in a long time.

So he doesn’t understand saints. I think a lot of people don’t. Saints are not gods and Catholics do not worship them like they are. Saints were real living people on earth. They never claimed to be god, and in fact, there entire lives shows that the only thing that matters is God and doing His will. Since saints were human, they had interests, professions, walks of life, just like everyone living today does. That is why some are associated with particular things. Not that they somehow rule over an area of life (say animals, or agriculture), but that they struggled, and/or prevailed in these areas, and hence are more connected to them. It is not thought that a saint alone can grant you anything. God is the only one that can work miracles and answer prayers. Asking saints to pray for a cause only emphasizes this fact. Also, since saints really lived and pleased God, they are an example to us of how we should live our lives as well.

Saints and deities have nothing in common. To think so shows a total lack of understanding as to who the saints are.

Oh, and happy All Soul's day! Pray for all the saints in purgatory!

Some thoughts

1

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now (John 3). I loved the second reading today. For all my struggles understanding the world and wanting it to understand me, it all matters little to the fact I’m a child of God. I belong to Him. To me this says don’t worry about anything. It’s alright if they don’t know you, they don’t even know me. Don’t be anxious for tomorrow, you will become something you can’t even imagine today. And all you have to do is hope and you will become as pure as Jesus.


2

I’ve been in a real funk lately. I’ve been trying to figure out why, but I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. The awful weather being a huge contributing factor mixed with a general lack of motivation for life. It also doesn’t help when everybody else’s lives seem to be going peachy. I wrote a little while back that I was feeling non-social, well I believe I’m now full blown anti-social. I don’t desire to talk with anyone anymore, let alone hang out. Something is off. Maybe I’ve been focusing on the wrong things and just need to go out and have fun.


3


So, I’ve been trying really hard to stop judging people lately. I listened to a talk from Father Larry Richards called How to Grow in Love of Others. Most of the talk was spent explaining why it is so important to love others, which I’ve heard many times before. For his advice on how to love people more, he recommends saying (in your head) I love you to them. Everyone you see, I love you. The people you actually love, I love you, and the people that really get on your last nerve, I love you. I must say, its given me a whole new perspective when everyone I come across during the day I say I love them. Me recognizing that I should love them and saying that I do has impacted my actions towards them (although I have a long way to go). For instance, this week I talked to a guy that said he stopped believing in God last year. Instead of judging him and launching into this spiel about God, I told him I loved him in my head and talked with him more. I think we became friends and hopefully we will have more conversations in the future. Jesus calls us to love everyone, which is a demanding request, but I think this has helped me get a bit closer to that.

4

I made some organic muffins today. I think muffins and organic should not go together. It was a huge letdown. Also, I don’t recommend any sort of organic deodorants. It will mess up your pits for a week!


5

It seems that other churches don’t display a crucifix. Is this mainly a Catholic thing? The crucifix is such a powerful image. Last weekend Sister Amelia (who is a fairly recent convert) said that when she walked (before her conversion) into a house that had a crucifix on the wall, she expected certain things from them. It was a powerful statement to hang that up. I agree with her. Our faith isn’t easy. We must die, and beforehand suffer greatly. Jesus cannot be described without thinking of the cross. By cutting out the idea of the cross, a Christian loses most of what Christianity is about. The crucifix remind us of the pain we cause Jesus by sinning and just what he did for the world. May we never forget what that cross means.


6

I want to do this. For real.
The other night, I was walking to my apartment after my night class. As I was waiting to cross a road, a car stopped at the light. All four doors opened and 3 guys and a girl got out to run around the car screaming, "Chinese fire drill!" I got excited and joined in running around the car. After a minute or so, one of the guys yelled, "Everybody in!" Somehow, I ended up behind the wheel. The light turned green, so I turned and drove down the road to my apartment building. I stopped, turned off the car, thanked them for the ride, got out and started running up to my building. While I was running, I heard one of the guys ask, "Who the hell was that?" This was easily the proudest I've been of myself in 4 years at college. MLIA


7

I leave you tonight with a beautiful poem that Ann wrote over at Imprisoned in my Bones.

Oh life, I cling to you!
Though your days grow long
and the shadows linger
I hate to say good-bye.

I want to hold your hand and
feel the wrinkles in your skin.
I want to gaze into your
clouded eyes
and recall the spark
that once existed there.

My heart aches
for the feeling of love
that once flourished
inside of me
because of you.
My body aches
for the feeling of
your once strong arms
that held me so tenderly.

I am left
empty
lonely
without you.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.