Do I matter or: The desire to be seen–and the need to be known

Do you know that feeling? That way you get when you just don’t feel like you are there? Like you are invisible? Like you are alone in a crowded room and not one soul sees you? Like you’re invisible. Like you’re a ghost.

Maybe you were a kid and nobody picked you for their team in gym class. Or maybe you were at a party and you saw your ex from across the room. He/she knew everything about you. And now? Its like you are a stranger. They don’t even notice you. Or maybe you are at a new job and that clique of coworkers tells a bunch of inside jokes and then they didn’t invite you to Bob’s yearly BBQ bash! The nerve!

Or maybe you worked your ass off for your boss and he didn’t say anything. Or you prepared a great newsletter for your students’ parents–and not one parent read it!

It kind of leaves you asking: Does anyone even see me? Does anyone even know me?

If you want a little bit of the insight into the very unorganized and college-style mind of Emily (that’s…me…btw), the idea of not being seen has always been with me. To this day, I ask God in prayer, “why am I going to this or that thing?” “do I really belong in this ministry?” “If I just disappeared today, would anyone even notice?” 

I think this might be a chronic problem with all of us. We all want to be seen because we want to know that what we do actually matters. For many of us, we find our fulfillment and our meaning in our accomplishments and in what we do. If you tell me I’m doing a good job, I have meaning and purpose. If that boy asks me on a date, I must be important! If you tell me what I shared at bible study really touched you, I must have purpose! If you see me–I must matter–right?

Is it possible that maybe we are settling? Yes, we all have a desire to be seen. After All, we share in God’s image and likeness. We were made to create and do as an image and a reminder of how God creates and does. But I think we are made for something deeper. We were made to be known. Our deepest desire is to not just be seen but to be known.

Everyone might be able to see your good works, how often you pray and go to confession, or how good you are at your job, but it’s a completely other thing to let people actually know you. For someone to know you, they have to see all of you. They have to know your accomplishments and your flaws, your fears and your victories, your wounds, your virtues, and your sins..

But we settle. We don’t really want people to know us. We just want them to see our best selves–the self that prays, the self that gives, the self no one will judge. But what we really need to be is to be known. WE need to let other people see us for who we really are. We need to let people see our quirks, our wounds and our struggles.

Being seen is easy but being really known is scary. Because we can’t control how people are going to react when we take those walls down. If she knew I was that insecure, she’d never talk to me again. Or if he knew how much I struggled with this sin, he’d judge me. No, it’s easier to stay in my own little made up land where my life is perfect and everything is great #fakefacebookhappyselfie

But it’s not just enough to be seen. If we hide behind a mask, we’ll always feel isolated and like we are hiding from the everyone around us. Instead of letting other people come to know us, we’ll just continue grasping for attention, and worry if people are seeing us the way we want to be seen. In the long run, we’ll just be lonely and never really grow in relationship with anyone.

But damn it’s hard. Maybe we were rejected in the past, made to think that our true selves is not good enough, or we just feel useless. One of the greatest comforts that I constantly need to remind myself of is that the Lord both sees me and knows me. He created me and put me here for a reason. Not in some abstract way. But he put me in this city, in this neighborhood, in this group of people, for a specific reason.

When we struggle with a fear of really being known, or we have a desire to be seen, maybe one solution might be to go to Adoration. Ask the Lord, “how do you see me? Who am I to you?” Because, God really did put you where you are for a reason. He sees you and actually knows you.

I was in prayer once, trying to figure out why God put me in a certain ministry. I felt kind of useless in it but I came up (or the Holy Spirit came up with!) one person I was helping. I asked the Lord, “Is that it?” I felt the Lord telling me., “If I sent you here for that one person, is that not enough? If that one person sees and knows you, is that not enough? Did I not leave the 99 for the one sheep?”
God sees you and he knows you. And really, that’s all that matter. God is constantly doing something. In fact, it’s impossible for God to do nothing–he’s pure act. If you are working with the Lord, he is always using you. It is impossible for you to be useless when you are a tool of the Lord.  

So today, if you’re feeling invisible or useless, just know that it’s a lie. It’s the biggest lie that the devil will tell you. Because God sees you, knows you, uses you, and loves you. It’s not for anything you did or did not do–its just because you are his child.

But maybe your problem is the people around you. Maybe you’re afraid that they won’t accept yo, or you are afraid that no one will love you if they knew the real you. Maybe it’s just easier to hide behind our social media profiles and get excited by the 100 likes we have on facebook.

I’ll admit it–the 17 likes on facebook on that status really did affirm me in the fact that I must be hilarious!

But really–God puts people in our lives for a reason. If you see a potential friendship, intentionally seek it out. Let that person see your woundedness. Within reason, if God puts someone trustworthy and good in your path–let them know you. The more I learn about people, the more I realize that we are all pretty broken 🙂

And don’t be afraid to get to really know someone else. We were created to be known but also know others. It’s easy to get comfortable with your partner or group of friends, but I know that you have an a that could really use a friend.

It’s scary because rejection flat out sucks. And when we put ourselves out there, we are basically asking for someone to reject us. And let’s be honest–you and I will probably be rejected. But so was Jesus. And he knows you and loves you, not just in spite of yourself, but because of you. Find your empowerment in that.

Of course, you’ll be lonely. That person you wanted to be your friend may never notice you exist. And your ex will continue to be an ass. It’s okay to feel rejected and sad when others don’t accept who we really are. It’s okay to want that human connection. We were made for it. But don’t give into despair. Because that sadness will bring you to Christ. It doesn’t make the pain go away–but it makes it a bit easier.

The Lord sees you and knows you even when others don’t. And others see and know you–even when you don’t see it.
It’s hard but if Christ–God–can be wounded and naked on a Cross, we can be open too.

Never believe you are useless. If you let God use you, He will. You are known. You are important. You are needed. You are loved.

Rest in that God knows you and loves you. Let yourself be known, and go and know someone else because they probably feel exactly like you 🙂

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Is it Easter Yet? Or: a last minute reflection on THE Holy Week and our little holy weeks

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As I write this, we are literally just a few hours from the Easter Vigil. We are so close to the celebration of the most important event in history. Can we just fast forward to it, already?

Sadly, no. I need to stay in this Lenten season just a bit longer. I need to remain in that place and time with the Apostles—when they were bewildered, in despair, when their world was in turmoil, when their teacher, Messiah, and friend, was dead. And everything seemed lost.

Because there’s something really interesting about Holy Saturday. Can you imagine how the Apostles might have felt? They spent the last three years following around this extraordinary teacher and miracle maker. Who, in fact, was more than a teacher. This guy claimed to be God.

But things change on Thursday. The Apostles watch as Jesus is sentenced to the Cross. We tend to forget that the Cross was the worst and most painful form of execution of the day It’s reserved for the worst of criminals. Still, the Apostles watch as Jesus takes up His Cross. They watch as His clothes are cast for lots, and as nails are driven into His hands and feet. They’re thinking to themselves, “He claimed to be God! He can fix it! He can stop this!”

Does He?

No. Jesus dies. The guy that was supposed to be our Savior, dies. People take Jesus’ lifeless body down from the Cross and secretly lay Him in a tomb. And then, nothing. Through all of the night of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, there is nothing but silence. God seems distant, aloof, and actually absent.

How would you feel as an Apostle?

I used to love this show called Lost. In season one, one of the main characters, Locke, becomes obsessed with opening this hatch in the ground. He is utterly convinced that this is something he HAS to do. And yet, nothing seems to be working. At his breaking point, Locke calls up to the heavens, “I’ve done everything you wanted me to do! So why did you do this to me?!”

That’s what the Apostles are doing on Holy Saturday.

Jesus is dead and the Apostles are scattered. By all standards, as far as Saturday is concerned, the Gospel Message has failed.

But Christianity didn’t fail. Tomorrow, Jesus will rise from the dead. Christianity will spread all over the world, and the little humans, AKA children, will go Easter egg hunting.

I think there’s a really cool lesson in here, for all of us. Christianity started in a moment of perceived failure. In the eyes of the world, it seems like foolishness. But the Cross and Good Friday are actually what brings us salvation.

We all have our own crosses and face our own Good Fridays. Doors close on us, relationships don’t work out, family members and friends die. Or maybe we just experience the simple loneliness and isolation that comes from simply being a human being.

And we all go through our own Holy Saturdays. Maybe, God didn’t answer that prayer, maybe God seems like He’s far off, or maybe we’re just stuck, asking, “Now what?”

Here’s the thing, friends, we are not alone. The Apostles, Mary, and God Himself goes through Good Friday and Holy Saturday with us. On Good Friday, we witness the perceived failure of the Gospel Message. We witness Jesus, asking for this “cup of suffering to pass”and we witness the Father saying “no”. We witness the loneliness and abandonment Jesus feels as his closest friends run away and deny ever knowing Him. We witness Mary, weeping over the body of her dead son. We witness the Apostles, distraught because nothing went according to plan. And we witness disciples waiting on the Lord despite everything.

And after all of that, Christ rises from the dead! He conquers the grave!

But you have to get through Good Friday. And then! you have to get through Holy Saturday.

You are going to have a cross with or without Christ. But Christ gives your cross meaning. Jesus doesn’t tell us that what happens to us is good, or that we won’t suffer. Instead, He tells us that he will bring something good out of our crosses. He’s going to change and use our Good Friday to bring about Easter Sunday.

The harder the Good Friday, the more glorious the Easter Sunday. On Easter, Jesus comes to us and says, “Hey! Look at all this evil and sin I just contoured! I overcame death!”. As cringe-worthy and cliché as it sounds, the darker the night the brighter the dawn. God wants to show us His power so that we can see just how much he loves us and wants to be with us. Like a lover wants to woo His bride, , God woos us through Easter and the Resurrection. He even takes our little Good Fridays and transforms them to little Easters.

I had a little Good Friday when I didn’t get a certain opportunity that I really wanted after college. I kind of felt a little lost and discouraged. My Holy Saturday was the time I spent asking God for direction and not feeling like God was answering. My little Easter was finally just deciding to go to grad. school and making the most holy friendship I might ever know.

God took my plans, reminded me I was not God, and showed me His glory by giving me something–dare I say it–better than what I wanted.

I’ve had friends who have experienced their own Good Fridays through broken relationships, failed endeavors, or simply not getting a certain job. But, when I talk to them three years later, they tell me they’ve had their own little Easters. If  one friend’s relationship had not ended, my friend wouldn’t be marring this very holy guy. In another case, if my one friend’s endeavor had not crashed and burned, they would not be doing what they love to be doing, right now.

Likewise, I’ve meant people who experienced Good Fridays through things like tragedy, mental illness, or addiction. Again, these are terrible things, but God still brought about Easter for them. They now console others who face the same issues, and have incredibly close relationships with the Lord.

Maybe you’re in the middle of your Good Friday. Maybe life just is not going the way you planned, you feel depressed, or you’re dealing with illness. Find strength in meditating on the Passion, and comfort in knowing that God went through it too. Look to the Cross and look to Christ. If Jesus can conquer death and all the sin of humanity, He’ll bring you to your Easter Sunday, too.

Or maybe you’re in the middle of your Holy Saturday. Maybe you’re a little bit directionless and wondering, “now what?”. In some ways, I’m right there with you. After God closed a door that I was sure he was calling me to, I’m in the middle of asking, “Um..,okay…what the beep, Lord?”.

And, if you’re with me, I’m going to say something that will make me roll my eyes at myself. Keep asking and wrestling with the Lord. Keep communicating.

And if you’re in a time of Easter, hold on to this experience. Because,you’ll need to remember this for later.

Christ is risen! Have a blessed Easter!

Ps: I’ll buy anyone a beer or cup of coffee who caught the very settle Grey s Anatomy reference. I don’t think you can do it.

3 Lessons from St. Joseph: or, the one with two too many camel jokes

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Two unknown facts about me—or well-known facts, depending on who you are 🙂

1. I love Saint Joseph. Seriously, y’all, this guy is the man. His feast day was last Monday and I made a point to be super excited that day 🙂
2. As demonstrated by the fact that I just made a list of two things, I also love lists. I don’t mean those silly lists of utility like to-do lists or shopping lists (the only thing I do just for the sake of utility is drink water. Water?! Gross!), I mean actual fun lists. Like “500 reasons why Stout Beers are the best” or “100 disturbing but hilarious photos of dogs doing something disturbing but hilarious”. You know, real important, life changing stuff.

Well, in honor of the fact that it was St. Joseph’s feast day last Monday, and because I love lists, I figured—why not make a list about things we can learn from St. Joseph?

After a bit of reflection, I found three things that really hit me about this fantastic saint. Of course, there’s so much more but the internet could not hold all of the things we can learn from this guy. Oh. I’m also dramatic. Sorry :).
1. St. Joseph teaches us about Holy Detachment and how to say “Yes” to God in the duties of the moment

I don’t know about you, but I’m an incredibly stubborn human being. I’m pretty good at following the desires the Lord puts on my heart but I am not so good at letting God show me how He wants me to carry out those desires. “Yeah God!” I’ll pray, “You told me you want me to go here, but you got it all wrong. Um. I really should be there.”

Then later: “Okay. Um. I’m here. Nothing is happening. Why isn’t anything happening? Are you sure this right?”

And I do this even on a smaller scale. Our first duty is to love the person God puts in front of us. But, I get frustrated when I’m interrupted by the doorbell at the office, while I’m working on a project. God is asking me to help this person—but I’m more concerned with my own thing.

Joseph shows us a different and better way to be.

His plans were constantly being course corrected and changed by the Lord. He’s about to quietly leave Mary when he finds out she is pregnant. Until an angel appears and tells him to take Mary and her child into his home. And just when Joseph thinks his life is together, an angel appears to him, again, and tells him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.

Tradition tells us that “the brothers of Jesus” might actually be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage and that Joseph was a widower. This means Joseph might have had a whole other life before becoming the foster father of Jesus.

The life of Joseph was not convenient, logical, or straight. Unlike me, though, he’s not attached to an idea of what he thinks his life should be. He’s completely detached from expectation and is able to follow the Lord with reckless abandon.

Likewise, Joseph is obedient to the work God is asking him to do in the present. He realizes that the only thing that really exists is his current reality. The past is the past, and the future hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, all that really matters is his response to what God has put in front of him.

From St. Joseph, we can learn how to answer the calling of the Lord, even if it’s not what we expected. We can also learn not to dwell on the past or get too focused on our plans for the future. The most important thing we can do is answer ”yes” to the work the Lord gives us, right now.

2.Trust and certitude

One of the things that keeps me from having such detachment and obedience to the daily duties of life is a lack of trust. Sure, I have faith in Christ–in a very academic sort of way. But, I struggle with that trust in my heart.

I struggle with that kind of trust and certitude that comes with knowing that this reality—what is currently happening—is a good for me. In other words, sometimes, I lack the certitude that says that God is using my circumstances for my good and the good of others.

But, St. Joseph gets it. When God directs him through dreams, and possibly even after the death of a wife, Joseph knows that God is guiding his steps. God works through Joseph because Joseph realizes that God is using his circumstances for his good or the good of others.

To live with trust and certitude in the Lord does not mean that we will always get what we want or that life won’t be painful or unfair. But, it means that, in spite of the pain, we know that we were created by a loving Divine Person, who will use what happens to us for our good or the good of another person.

3. Serving God in Monotony.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like I should be doing something more. What’s that phrase about how we were created for “greatness”?

Likewise, when I want to hear from the Lord, I want there to be huge signs. I am of that “wicked generation” that wants thunderstorms and fire balls. It’s not God if it’s not on fire, right?

And in the case of Joseph, God does talk to him in some pretty big ways. And as the foster-father and protector of the Holy Family, he does do some pretty great things. But, when you think about it, what was Joseph’s life-like on a day-to-day basis? He probably spent most of his life in the quiet town of Nazareth, getting up, going to work as a carpenter, and helping Mary clean up camel poop.

Sometimes, I want to serve God in big ways. I forget that every moment is an opportunity to serve God in small ways. Making coffee for your roommate, giving an encouraging word to a co-worker, or doing your dishes for your wife who hates washing dishes, are ways to serve the Lord and others.

It is not in big and glorious moments that we show the greatest love. Instead, it is in these small, but intentional acts of love that we give God the most glory and show people the most honor. Why? Because small acts of love are simply acts of love for their own sake. They are opportunities for me to love you simply because I love you.

Moreover, I spent so much time looking for signs in the sky, that I ignore God speaking to me in the ordinary ways of life. The time that friend picked up the phone for me when I needed someone to talk to, or that small inclination in my heart to go here or there, are little ways of the Lord speaking to me.

Joseph talked to the Blessed Mother and Jesus everyday. I bet every interaction was not some sort of revelation. I’m sure they had plenty of relatively non-interesting conversations about what they were going to have for dinner or who was going to walk the camel….:)

We’ll get huge signs, and do great things. But where is God really present? Where is God really asking us to do our work? God speaks to us in the daily, normal, monotony of life. And the beginning of your Christian call to love your brothers and sisters begins in the small acts of love you do daily with your spouse, roommates, and friends.

Joseph probably never even realized the way God was working through Him. And we probably don’t even realize the impact we have on those around us when we simply proactively love in the monotony of life.

Oh, St. Joseph. So much to learn from you and you did not even get one word in the bible! How bad ass is that?!

Stealing My Joy, Distractions, and other lies my ego tells me

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So, I’m waiting in line at the store. I just have to buy this one item. It should take five seconds! I should be home by now! But there’s two people ahead of me. And I swear they are stalking up for the nuclear apocalypse! How much toilet paper does one guy, actually need?!

Get out of my way! I have places to go—like my bed. My needs are a lot more important than yours!

And the next day I’m sitting by two other people. They exchange looks and smiles. They’re obviously laughing about me, right?

Wait. The world doesn’t revolve around me? There’s like six billion other people here? That’s funny. Sorry. I spend most of my time just interacting with one of those people—me.

This Lent, I’ve been particularly interested in the ego. I’ve always known I am selfish—nothing new there. But, I’m just now starting to realize the lies my ego tells me.

My ego distracts me and actually steals my joy.

Just for clarification. Egoism is not the same as being self-aware. I once knew a guy that said he was going to try to eliminate the word “I” from this vocabulary. I might be wrong—but that doesn’t seem like helpful solution.

There’s a very healthy and necessary kind of self-awareness. Being self-aware helps me to emphasize with those in pain, recognize my own needs, and realize when someone is hurting me. We have to be able to know and maintain our identity. Otherwise, we risk burn out or co-dependency. We can’t give ourselves to others if we don’t have any part of ourselves to actually give.

This self-awareness becomes a problem when I am looking at myself for my own sake—for my own glorification and validation. When I stop seeing myself as God’s instrument, and I see myself as my own master, that’s when my egoism and selfishness come to play.

The tricky thing is that I think our egos can be super sneaky. In fact, my ego plays off my normal desires.

For example, I’ve really come to realize that I find a lot of validation in how others see me. I remember being out of college and applying for jobs. I knew I had the skills to do this or that job. But it was really important for this potential employer to know that I was good at this or that thing. When I was rejected, I began to think: “Oh. Maybe I’m not good at this. This employer certainly doesn’t think so.”

Or when I teach a baptism class. I want that external validation that God used me bring this young family closer to Him. Without that validation, I feel insufficient.

Or I reach out to form a friendship with someone and I feel written off. What happened? Am I insignificant?

The struggle is that desires to succeed, to be seen, and to be known, are all good. But, because of our egos, they become disordered. Instead of looking at how God sees me, I become overly concerned with how others, or how I even see myself. I spend so much time on myself, I forget how God sees me, And, as his creation, all that really matters is how my Heavenly Father sees me.

If I can use an metaphore for a second. The Lord is an artist and I’m His paintbrush. My ego makes me forget that brushes can’t paint their own picture (maybe someday they can—in which case—freaky). A paintbrush doesn’t have the power to paint itself, or even to know exactly what it is painting. It just obeys the movement of the artist.

Maybe that’s what God is asking of us. God isn’t asking us to make a masterpiece, but to simply be the instrument He uses to create that masterpiece. Maybe God simply wants our “yes”.

Of course, having this trust to be God’s instrument or “paint brush” requires a lot of wrestling with the Lord. Frankly, my ego doesn’t want to be the paintbrush. I want to paint what I want, or I’d at least like to know what it is I’m painting.

But, I have to learn to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. To overcome my ego, I have to go to Jesus and ask, “Hey! This is what I see! How do you see me?”

The reason why prayer is so important is because it reminds us of who we are. We have to go to the Lord and see ourselves the way He sees us. The only way to free ourselves from selfishness is to take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes on Christ.

But my ego can even find me in prayer. Maybe my prayer starts out fine, but sometimes, it can turn into a monologue,full of sadness and self-pity. My ego robs me of my joy, because I lose sight of how the Lord is working in my life. I’m so focused on the things, people, and problems of this world, that I lose sight of Jesus and the blessings he Has given me. My ego distracts me, because instead of taking time to come closer to the Lord, I’m too busy gazing at my belly button.

My ego looks for validation from others. When I don’t get it, it tells me I’m inefficient or insignificant. But, when I lift my eyes to the Lord, I realize that He is the artist and I am His paintbrush. I find my peace when I recognize that my value is in being a daughter of the Lord. The Lord has and will continue to fulfill my needs and desires. And the Lord has and will continue to use me—even when I don’t always see it.

So, as we journey through Lent, lets take the time to go the Lord in prayer. Let’s ask Him, “Who am I to you?”. Let’s not be afraid to struggle and ask for the trust we need to look out of ourselves, and into the eyes of our Savior and Divine Friend.

Taking the heavenly cough medicine: or this reality thing is a good for me?

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Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to eat your broccoli? Or maybe you were one of those children who loved broccoli—weirdo. Or, remember, when you wanted to finish that marathon but you had to run everyday? Or maybe you like running. Weirdo. Well, maybe you always wanted to read Les Miserbles, but you don’t like the process of actually reading through hundreds of pages on the French tunnel system? Or maybe you are really fascinated by boring stuff…

Weirdo!

Okay. Fine. I’m really trying to find a good metaphor, here. Stick with me.

When I was little and I had a cold, my mother would make me take cough medicine. I hate cough medicine. It has this weird smell, a terrible aftertaste, and has totally turned me off to the idea of cherry as a flavor. But, my mother would still make me take it. Because, despite how gross it was, it helped me get better. The cough medicine,in a way, was a “good” for me, even it I found it—literally–painful in the moment.

For over a year, I’ve been a part of this group that started in Italy called Communion In Liberation or CL. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this group is that we are on this earth to encounter the Lord.

I mean, duh, right? How many times does Jesus say, “Seek first the Kingdom of God”?. And, for crying out loud, the First Commandment is to love God with all my heart, mind and soul. I find myself certain that my mission on earth is to come to know and love God, but I certainly don’t live that way.

The other point at CL that has really touched me is that we encounter the Lord in the world around us. The events, people, and circumstances, in our everyday lives, are the tools God uses to bring us into communion with Him. In sum, what happens to me in my daily life or in the present, is a good for me because it’s how I come to know and love Jesus Christ.

But, I don’t live like that, at all. Before I moved to Indianapolis, for example, I spent six months chasing job after job, utterly convinced that this thing or that thing was where I was supposed to be. And I became frustrated with God when my reality did not match up with my expectations. Does that happen to you? You’re not happy with where you are, so maybe God has abandoned you. Or maybe you feel stuck or that God just isn’t listening. Whatever it is, reality is not going the way you planned it, and life sucks!

We all have an image or an idea of how our lives should go. You go to college, you graduate, get that job, and you fall madly in love with someone. It works in the movies, right? But, it’s not our reality. And when our reality isn’t what we plan, we get frustrated and start to think, maybe implicitly, that God will not provide for our needs or maybe He’s not really there, at all.

We fall into this trap in the small stuff too. I have work to do in the office but the doorbell rings. My expectation is that I’ll get work done, but the present moment is demanding I answer the door. Or I’m running late to a meeting, but someone has a question. I have an expectation to be on time, but the present moment is demanding something else of me

The funny thing is that the only thing that is actually real is the present moment. My expectations for what I think my life should be are not real. My plans for the future aren’t real. The only thing that is real is the present moment.

Our daily circumstances are the things God uses to bring us closer to Him. Not getting that “dream job” after graduate school was the best way, for me, to encounter God and learn new skills for the future. Moving to a new city was the best way for me to strengthen my prayer life because no one was there to hold me accountable

Maybe, for you, being single gives you more time to find your value in Christ instead of in someone else. Or maybe, not having children right after the wedding, brings you and your spouse closer together in a way that could not have happened if you had a honeymoon baby (I’m feeling sassy today, sorry :)).

Not only does God use our present circumstances to help us, but He also uses them to help others. We are dependent on each other. Maybe my reality does not match my expectations because God wants to use me as an answer to someone else’s prayers. Maybe being single means you have more time to serve the Church. Maybe you moved to that town to be a friend to someone who really needed one. Or maybe you haven’t meant that guy or girl yet so God can use you to make your roommate holy through sanctification because you STILL haven’t cleaned your freaking crock-pot.

In conclusion, though, I like to think that what is happening to us, right now, is a good for us, because our circumstances are the ways in which we encounter the Lord. Like cough medicine, the present is what is going to make us better in so far as we allow our present to lead us into an encounter with Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is good. The Crucifixion, in itself, was not a good thing. But God used it to bring about something good. It also doesn’t mean that we need to repress sadness when our expectations and reality don’t match. But, we should approach reality with trust, that God is using what is happening right now, to bring us and others closer to Him.

If the present is a good for me, its made me think of three other things….

1. Cultivating curiosity. I really should pay attention more because there’s something, right now, that God is trying to tell me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to Mass, and thought, “Oh! This homily! I totally know what their going to say!”. Or the number of people I meet and think that I have the, figured out.

But, it shouldn’t be like that! There is something in that moment or this person that God wants to show me! God is giving me a gift in this very moment. I just have to look for it.

2. Being less self-absorbed. I spend so much time thinking about what I want or think I need, that I fail to see the gifts God has put in front of me. Maybe I spent so much time wishing I could do a certain kind of ministry, that I fail to see I’m already doing it. Or I want this relationship to work out so badly, that I miss the gift of this friendship I already have. Or I spend so much time thinking about my own problems, I fail to see how depressed my co-worker is today.

3. I need to stop rushing to get to the next thing. I feel like I live in that country song about being in hurry to get things done.In other words, I think I have to get this task done, just so I can move on to the next one, or I have to figure out my life to get to the next step. But, the only thing that is real is the present, so the only thing really being asked of me is to complete the task in front of me. Plus, I miss the joy of the present, if I’m spending all my time thinking about the next step.

So, read the cough medicine, drink the marathon…wait….what? Sorry. I got my metaphors confused.

Seriously though,the present moment is a good for us. God chooses to use the circumstances of the present moment as the way to bring us closer to Him.

Cough medicine is a bit easier to swallow when we realize that it’s going to make us healthier.

I’m weak, limited and wounded–and maybe that’s okay!

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Ever since I wrote that blog from two weeks ago, this concept has really been on my heart. We are limited, weak, and broken.

But. Maybe that’s okay.

Okay, its not “a good thing”, but maybe, just maybe, God can and does use our weaknesses. Maybe He can redeem them?

Ironically, today’s second reading at Mass has something kind of crazy to say.

“Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.”

How often have I told God that I can’t do something? I’m too young, I’m not like her, I’m not good enough.

And I am weak, limited,  and wounded.

For example–I’m impatient! Why is my computer so slow? clickclickclickclick*

I’m secretly stubborn, I mean, I’m adaptive, but I’m going to try and fix this excel spreadsheet problem by repeating the same incorrect steps over and over again for a bit, because I’m stubborn and I don’t even know it.

Even practically speaking, I’m limited. I’m just one person. I can’t answer the phone and the doorbell at the same time. I coordinate volunteers, but I can’t control if someone is going to get sick or just not show up. I can’t bi-locate or control minds. Waa!

And its a common problem we all face. Maybe you can’t articulate the Good News of the Gospel to your class or friend. Or maybe you’ve been wounded with a past of partners who used you like an object or cheated on you.

How do we respond? Well, my prayer is often a lot like Paul’s. At one point, Paul says that he asked the Lord three times to heal him of a persistent problem he’d been having. Does God take it away? No. God responds, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Um what? You know what I imagine Paul saying back? “Um. Dude. Why do you have to make my life so hard?” (What’s “dude” in Hebrew?)

And, again, its not a good thing that Paul is weak, limited, and wounded. But! God comes to redeem it and make it something better than it was before.

I mean, what is the Incarnation, anyway? Jesus doesn’t come to “redo” humanity. Instead, He takes on our humanity. He suffers and dies but rises, again, in a gloried body.

But, here’s something kind of crazy about that. Did Christ rise from the dead with a completely new body? No. In fact, Thomas puts his fingers in Christ’s wounds. Christ’s body is glorified—but he keeps his wounds. Why? Because, Jesus wants to encounter us in our wounds. He wants to tell us, “Hey, be not afraid. I’ve been there. I haven’t come to judge you, or even change what makes you, you. I’ve come to redeem and glorify what makes you, you.”

Okay. That’s cool. But why does God use the weak? Why am I still weak, limited, and wounded?

Well, first off, my issues make me incredibly aware of my need for God. God uses those who are poor in the sight of the world because those are the people that come to Him for help. People who are “rich” or “intelligent in the eyes of the world” never turn to God, because they don’t realize they need Him.

Here’s the thing. None of us our good enough and we’re all struggling with weakness. Its just that those who are poor in the eyes of the world are more likely to see that.

If I were perfect, a complement about my last blog would have made me boast, “Look at what I did God!”. Instead, I realized that it wasn’t me who did anything. God worked through me. Therefore, I had the opportunity to turn to God for help, thank Him, and encounter Him in a deeper way.

Likewise, a catechist and friend of mine expresses frustration with her kids not paying attention. One week, she felt like she made a breakthrough with a parent. She realized it wasn’t anything she did—it was the Lord. If she had not recognized her weakness, she would have never gloried God in that moment of the breakthrough.

Our weaknesses allow us to turn to God in our need, see God work through us, make us grateful, and bring us closer to Him. Fundamentally, that is kind of the point, right?

Not only that, but our weaknesses can actually show God’s glory to the world. Peter was a impulsive fisherman who denied His best friend, Jesus, three times. Paul persecuted Christians. Moses had some serious speech issues. But, Peter became Pope, Paul is one of the most important authors of Scripture, and Moses set Israel free from Egypt.

Because, “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more”. Our weaknesses give God the chance to show His power through us. Look at the Church! The history of the Catholic Church is full of 2000 years of weak and sinful people, but it still stands today.

My only obstacle to letting God show his glory through me is to limit His power by saying He can’t work through my issues. But that’s crazy–God is God and I am not that powerful.

So your too broken or wounded? Christ comes to redeem our brokenness. Its easier to help someone who doesn’t feel like their good enough if you’ve also, at times, struggled with not feeling good enough. Its easier for a mother who seeks mercy after an abortion to seek consolation in another woman who’s been there, too. Its easier to fight depression and loneliness when your with someone who has had that same struggle.

Again, after the resurrection, Jesus keeps His wounds. Not because His wounds are a good thing, but because He’s showing us how He redeems our wounds. He tells us,”Be not afraid. I’ve been there.”

Sometimes, I get really excited about something God might be calling me too. But then I pull back in fear. I want to tell God that I can’t do it. I’m too weak, too limited, too wounded.”What if I fail?” “What if they don’t even like me?” “You know God, if you made me like this person, that’s be great, yeah.”

But, these are really just excuses. It just shows I don’t trust that God’s grace is sufficient for me.

We’re weak, limited, and wounded and that’s okay. Because, Christ comes to work through our limits and weaknesses. Because, Christ comes to redeem our wounds.

We only have to let Him.

Lord, make me a rainmaker! Or; God wants a person, not just a doer

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And I’m back at the coffee shop. There’s an Italian woman across the cafe, and at a table next to her, a woman sits and reads her child a story. I’m eating a delicious cheddar biscuit, while wondering why the people who pour my coffee have no concept of what room for cream means.

I love this place :).

So here’s the thing. As Christians, we are called to bear fruit. The Gospel is full of parables about servants who get punished for not multiplying their inheritance, or for being fruitless trees. Its a little terrifying, to be honest.

I remember being really frustrated with God when I was applying for jobs. I tried to get involved in ministry, but nothing came of it. I kept begging the Lord, “Lord! I want to do your work! What the beep?”

And even after I got that job, the frustration didn’t stop. You want to talk about planting seeds and bearing fruit? Its my job to plant seeds and bear fruit. But its easy to get frustrated when those 8th graders just keep misbehaving, or when I have to watch the eyes of parents glaze over in a baptism class.

But you don’t have to work in ministry to have this issue. We all want to be great and do great things. John Paul II, after all, tells us we were made for greatness, right? We want our family and friends to know Christ. Or maybe we just want to be super great at our jobs or school.

And who can blame us? From our first years in school, we are being graded and evaluated. We have to get the best grades to get into the best schools. We have to be the best athlete to win the sports ball game match (that was a joke :)). We have to have the best resume and the greatest accomplishments to get the best job.

But, here’s the thing. God wants a certain kind of person, not a certain kind of doer.

My job is the plant seeds. But I want it to rain. I want these stupid seeds to grow because I want to prove to God and to myself that I’m good enough. I want to be a rainmaker. But we’re not rainmakers. We’re farmers.

Jesus Christ tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and the rest will come to us. St. Catherine says “Be who you are and you will set the world on fire”.

What does God want from you and me? He wants our hearts. He doesn’t call us to make the seeds grow.  because we are not rain makers.

First and foremost, God just wants to be our Father. The Lord wants us to recognize ourselves as His children.  Our value isn’t in how many things we accomplish. Our value is simply in the fact that we are  children of the Lord. Its not something we earn—its written in our very soul. It just sort of “is”.

And when we see ourselves as we truly our and let God live in our hearts, we become His instruments. That’s the final goal. Our purpose is not to “do” this and that thing. Our purpose is to be an instrument of the Lord.

And, if I am an instrument of the Lord, who am I to say how God uses me? Even if I touch one soul, that soul is just as important as so and so who touches a million. It’s Christ the Good Shepard, who leaves the 99 for the 1 lost sheep, right?

The Little Flower, St. Theresa, had this very simple outlook. “Do small things with great love”. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of a cop out. So, what are you saying? It sounds like an excuse to be lazy, passive or stagnant.

But, then I think, that’s not at all what she is saying. God’s first law is to love. Love, when loving rightly, is never passive or lazy. Love is always active. Love just gives, it seeks the good of the other without calculation. Love just gives.

I’m always struck by the story of the sower who plants seeds on the path, rocky ground, and good soil. The sower is just walking around, throwing his seeds all willy nilly! He throws seeds with reckless abandon. He doesn’t stop and ask if they will grow, or if he’ll be successful.

Why? Because that’s what an instrument of God does. He doesn’t stop to calculate his value because he knows his value as a son of God. He does the will of the Lord by doing the task that God has called him to do in the moment, and trusts God, the Rain Maker, to do the rest..

So, what does God really call us to “do”? God wants us to love Him, to be His instrument, and then love God in “the other”.

God wants a certain kind of person. He wants you.

The Loneliness Monster: or what I’ve learned from a year in the desert

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So, let me set the stage for you.

Its 2017. My favorite thing in graduate school was writing. I loved defending St. Anselm’s theory of atonement, and recounting the development of this or that doctrine.

I write a new blog about once a year. And I do like it. I just forget about it. But, with a new year, maybe I got a small inspiration from the Lord to take it up again. Maybe God can use my stubborn, silly self, to help someone. Don’t worry. I’m not about to explain the five marks of a Catholic school. Unless you really want me to.

So, here I am, in a coffee shop with my 7 year old laptop with a space bar I have to POUND to space, my coffee, and my breakfast sandwich. Blogging.

Oh yeah, ya’ll. I’m just that cool.

Exactly one year ago from Dec. 31st, I moved to a strange, foreign, new land called “Indianapolis”. The Lord called me to a new place,  kind of like a a desert,–away from family and friends. The call did not come in the form of a voice, or an image. It came in the form of a job offer. When God closes 20 doors on you, you go through the only one He opens.

I think I’ve learned one very important thing this year,

Before I go on, let me just make clear. I have a great job, with the best co-workers, and the best volunteers. I have been blessed to have some very close and holy friendships, here. But I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever lived knows about loneliness.

Its this feeling in your soul when your at a party and you feel alone in crowded room. Its that feeling you get when your alone, on facebook. on a Friday night and you see those photos from that event no one invited you to. Its that feeling you get after you break up with that guy or girl and its like a piece of yourself is missing.

And then it comes. I call it “the invisible loneliness monster”. I mean, if loneliness is a monster, it’d be invisible, right? It whispers in our ear,“What am I doing here?” “Does anyone even care?” “Why can’t I be here or there?” etc.

Okay. Maybe this is all a bit emo. But, bare with me 🙂

But here’s the thing. Even if we had all the best things, relationships, the perfect significant other,we’d still feel this emptiness. People leave, die, disappoint us, screw up.

Its almost as if we have this giant hole in our heart that no earthly thing can fill. And maybe thats the point.

Our destiny is communion with the Lord. And our hearts were not made for earthly things but for heavenly things. As cliche as it sounds, we actually really do have a God-sized hole in our hearts that only God can fill.

What have I learned from one year out in the desert?

I think one of the reasons God has called me here is to encounter Him in a more real way. The loneliness monster is that tug on my heart from God that says, “Hey! Only I can fulfill you”.

The Lord wants to spend time with you. He not only loves you, He actually likes you. He’s literally interested in every little thing about you. From your coffee habits to that weird thing you do with your hands when you explain things.

Maybe the next time we are lonely, we should stop and pray. Imagine Jesus as He sees you. Spend time in Adoration. For myself, every day, every hour, I need to stop and rediscover my identity in Christ. “Okay God. Who am I? And who am I to you?” Lets see ourselves as the Lord sees us. As his creation, uniquely, beautifully, and wonderfully made.

Of course, the emptiness and loneliness won’t completely go away. And that’s okay. Because our hearts are made for Heaven.

And yeah, we are still going to feel left out, and guys and girls are going to break up with us, or people are just going to  be downright inhospitable. But, when we find our identity in Christ, it doesn’t hurt so much. We’re all in our own little worlds. We’ve lost the art of hospitality and making friends. Acknowledge the pain, feel it, and fight inhospitably with hospitality.

Hey! I’m tangenting. “The Forgotten art of Hospitality” and “Feeling the Feels”? Future blog posts?

 

The Call to Be A saint, and the Freedom of the NOW

Awe! All Saints Day! It’s the feast day when we celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us and lived heroic lives of love. Saints loved God, and loved others as themselves. Its so fantastic to look up and imagine them in heaven, loving God, each other, and praying for us.

I’m sure you never have this problem, but sometimes its easy for me to forget one of the most important lessons of this day

We’re called to be saints too. Wait, what?

A Call To Be Great

Do you ever find yourself wanting to just “get by”? How close do I have to be to the speed limit before I get pulled over? What’s the least amount of studying I have to do to pass this test? Whats the least amount of work I have to do without getting in trouble with my boss?

We apply this to our Faith as well. If I obey the Ten Commandments, I’m good, right? If I do my weekly Sunday obligation, I pass the “good Catholic test”, right?

But here’s the thing. Jesus doesn’t just call us to be good. He calls us to great. He calls us to thrive.

We can’t just check off Ten Commandments and call it a day, Jesus tells us to love God, and love our brother/sisters as ourselves.

Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Mt. 5 :38-42)

Jesus ain’t a minimalist. He tells us to turn the other cheek, give more than what we are asked, and literally go the extra mile. He even says “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5: 48)

In other words, don’t just check off a list of stuff. Don’t just be good. Be great. Be a saint.

We Were Made For More

Have you ever meant a really holy person who was on fire for love and the joy of the Gospel? Have you ever just sighed and asked yourself, “How are you so happy, right now?”:

I’m reminded of the Third Order Franciscan Sisters I had the opportunity to work with once in Steubenville. These women worked everyday with the poor, didn’t have much themselves, and yet they were filled with joy. They were filled with joy because they knew God’s love for them, loved God, and loved others as themselves.

In other words, they were seeking to be saints.

We were created in God’s image and likeness. This got distorted when sin came into the word. Sin is a sickness and keeps us from being who we were made to be. But, when we strive to live like saints, we are start to become more like our true selves—the images of God we were made to be.

This is why Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life. And have it in abundance” (Jn. 10:10). Being a saint does not mean you walk around sad, being bitter that you have to follow a list of roles and obligations.

Being a saint means you are acting as the person you were created to be.

Think about it. Has sinning ever made you happy? I’m never happier if I am jealous of someone. I just get angry. I’m certainly not happier after I yell at a co-worker. I just feel guilty and miserable.

But, when I choose to be loving, when I choose to strive to live like a saint, I do feel better. When I patiently listen to a friend talk about his/her bad day, I help them and feel good about myself. When I give some food to the homeless man on the street, I not only help the man, but help myself. Why? Because I am striving to be the person I was created to be.

What A Saint Does

Its kind of hard to concretely explain what being a saint will look like for each person. We can look at the lives of the saints, we can look at the holy people in our lives, but we have to apply what being a saints to our own context.

St. Theresa tells us that holiness (being a saint) is about doing things, little or big, with great love.

If we turn to Paul, we learn the following,

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1. Cor. 13: 4-7)

Therefore,

“A saint is patient, a saint is kind, a saint is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. A saint does not insist on his/her own way, a saint is not irritable or resentful. A saint does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. A saint bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things endures all things”.

So, a good way to see how we lived up to our call, today, might be

“Was I patient? Was I kind? Was I envious or boastful, or arrogant, or rude? Did I insist on my own way? Was I irritable or resentful? Did I rejoice in wrongdoing, or did I rejoice in the truth?” etc.

Maybe you don’t have this problem, but when I read this, I get a bit discouraged. Anyone who knows me knows I can be impatient, irritable and a whole bunch of less than saintly stuff.

The Power of the Holy Moment

So, here’s this word of encouragement that I wanted to share with you, which was shared with me a few years ago by my dear friend, Jon Marc.

We don’t have power over the rest of our lives, but we do have power over this moment in time. Living a holy life seems overwhelming, but can we be holy in this moment? Can we love God and our brothers/sisters in this moment I n time and space?

A saint is not someone who just lived a holy life. A saint is someone who consistently lived a series of consecutive holy minutes. When they failed to live a holy minute, they asked for forgiveness and moved on.

Likewise we are called to be saints. Right now. In this moment. Don’t worry about being holy for the rest of your life. Be holy, right now. Say yes to loving God and your brother/sister in this moment, right now. All you have is this moment. So int his moment, be a saint!

If you sin in the next minute, ask for forgiveness, and strive to be a saint the next minute. A saint is just a person that lived a string of consistent holy moments.

This my friends is the freedom of the NOW. You might not be able to control how you act tomorrow or how you acted yesterday, but with the help of God, you can strive to be a saint right NOW

If you feel like you don’t know how to be a saint, then great! The first step to wisdom is, “I don’t know!”. Go to Jesus in prayer, ask Him to teach you. We will only become who we were made to be through the school of prayer.

God bless, friends and happy Feast of All Saints!

And two afterthoughts!

Two things of note:

1. Being a saint is NOT never having an emotion. For example, its normal to get angry at the guy who ran a stop sign and almost caused an accident. Its how you react to that emotion that is important. Choosing not to react out of your emotions is a great virtue, and will not grow unless you have emotions in the first place.
2. Being a saint does not mean you don’t take care of yourself. We love our neighbor as we love ourselves. You can’t take care of others unless you take care of your own needs, too.

The Answer to Life, the Unviserse and….Evangelization?

I recently attended a Mass where the Priest talked about the importance of being attentive to the liturgy. The homily had some fantastic elements. He used humor, allusions to our daily lives (granted, they were sports metaphors, why do people always make sports metaphors?) and he was engaging. But! He missed one really big point–he didn’t tell us WHY we should go to Mass.

The Mass is where we have our greatest opportunity, as a community of brothers and sister in the Body of Christ, to come into communion with God, who created us to be in a relationship of love with Him, right? Sure I know that, but the average guy in the pew, praying he can beat the rush out of the parking lot, probably doesn’t.

Another issues is that we as evangelists and catechists sometimes spend too much time appealing to rational argument and Apologetics, instead of appealing to mankind’s longings. We empathize Church doctrine over relationship with God.

Don’t get me wrong, I love scholastic reasoning and there’s a place for it, but it doesn’t have the same power it used to. Sometimes, we spend too much time trying to convince people that the Church is right, and not enough time introducing people to the person of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, the culture we live in today is a culture that is far more likely to make choices based on feeling rather than rational argument. The horror film and romantic novel industry thrive on the fact that we love to have our emotions engaged. Our concept of love has been reduced to a feeling , and we live in a culture that tells us to “do what makes you feel good”.

Fortunately, faith is not just an assent of the mind, but an assent of the heart. God does not just speak to our heads, but to the longing of our hearts as well.

So, how exactly do we evangelize and catechize those around us?

Its actually a much easier question than you think and you don’t have to be Scott Hahn to do it! If you know and love Jesus, you can evangelize! Here’s some tips,

1. Its all about Jesus—We should never evangelize or catechize without bringing the teaching back to Jesus. Anyone you talk to should leave knowing what your topic has to do with Jesus.
2. Get used to talking about Jesus to your Christian friends: I used to think it was a bit weird when some Christian friends would randomly break out into prayer. But the more we talk about Jesus in our daily conversations with other Christians, the more natural it will be to talk about God to other friends and co-workers.
3. Listen and ask questions: People really will listen to you if you listen to them. Jesus asked more questions than he gave answers. Listening fosters relationships, builds trust, and gives insight to who your talking to. It also provokes curiosity: Asking someone who they think God is makes them ask themselves that question.
4. Make it applicable—If you followed step 2 you’ll know the interests and problems of your audience. Jesus told stories about farming to farmers and I think he’s a pretty good modal l to follow 🙂 (FYI, if your going to start giving me a sports metaphor, I might zone out out, immediately. Sorry :))
5. Make it dismissible: The Gospel is Good News. Make it Good News.
6. Have a relationship with Jesus, yourself: You might forget what a teacher or friend said, but you don’t forget how they act. Actions leave impressions, and as John 13:35 says, “”By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Witnesses provoke Sp curiosity, openness, and dialog.
7. Know and share your story: Make Jesus alive and present today by sharing what He has done in your life. Be able to identify that “mountaintop” moment or time period where you experienced God in your life and something changed: Be able to answer “what were you like before this time/event?” “what was this time/event?” and “what were you like after this time/event?”
8. Read Forming Intentional Disciples. READ IT! And then make every Catholic you know read it! Seriously. Why aren’t you reading it, right now? Go!