Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Greatest Desire



My youngest child is four and half, (excuse me four and three quarters.)  And she often tells me she loves me.  It is the greatest gift to me as a mother to hear my child speak those words and it often comes in a ritual banter that goes like this.

“I love you mommy”
“I love you more.”
“No mommy, I love you more.”
“That is not possible, Haley, my heart is bigger than yours.”  
Then one day after the usual back and forth my four and three quarters daughter said to me, “but Mommy, I WANT to love you more.”

That was a profound moment for me. A moment I realized that, that is all God is asking from me.  A desire to Love him more.  What a great desire.

This is the greatest of all desires: to LOVE God more.  To become less ourselves and to give God more of us, so that Jesus takes his place in us.   this is actually true humility.  Less of you and more of him.

LET GO OF OUR DESIRES and PRAY FOR GOD’S DESIRES

I have another story for you about my children.  When my oldest son was young we would go to the Mall on Saturday’s to walk around and get out of the house but still be in the Air-conditioning. He Loved the fountains in the mall, and if we had allowed him, he would have spent HOURS just watching the water in the fountain, throwing pennies, and splashing with his hands.  

One day we were walking around Sears and he was riding in the shopping cart at Sears.  When it was time to leave Sears he did NOT want to get out of the cart.  I was mortified at the idea of wheeling the shopping cart through the mall, and I did not want to give him the idea that it was okay.  I knew just a few yards away from him, was the fountain.  I knew he WOULD LOVE THE FOUNTAIN.  I knew it.  I knew him.  I had been with him pretty much every waking minute of his life for nearly four years.  I knew what he liked and what he didn’t like, and I was frustrated at the situation where he was choosing something like a shopping cart, over something that I knew he would like much more.   And besides it was time to get out of the cart.

As I tried to convince my son to Trust me.  To know that something much better was on the horizon and it was time for him to let go of the cart.  I felt a profound voice in my head.  “EXACTLY KATIE.”    I felt like God’s voice was telling me to Trust him.   My God KNOWS me.  He knows what will make me truly JOY FILLED.  he knows what I am good at, and he knows what things I may need to work on some more.  IF I let go OF MY DESIRES  (shopping carts)  And TRUST HIS DESIRES for my life, (Fountains) I WILL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED.  

Sometimes it might be difficult to walk away from the shopping carts in my life. Sometimes it might hurt, or feel like I am not getting what everyone else has around me.  BUT God’s Desires for me, the gifts that he wants to give me are ALWAYS going to be better than what I want for myself.  

Can I repeat that?  

God’s Desires for me, the gifts that he wants to give me are ALWAYS going to be better than what I want for myself.  

So I pray this prayer at different times in my life.

God help me to want, what you want for my life.  
God help me to want, what you want for my life.
God Help me to want, what you want for my life.

As my four year old reminded me earlier this year, God help me to LOVE you more.

Great desires.   The Desire for me to LOVE God above everything else.  And the Desire to only want what God wants.


HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE GOD

Humility.  This is a big part of desiring GOD.

In a book I read recently called, "I Believe in Love" by Fr. Jean D'Elbee he says, "Listen to the Holy Father: 'The gate which is truly narrow, accessible to all, is that of humility.' The narrow way, the narrow gate, is for those who become again like little children.”  (I am not sure which Holy Father he is talking about, but that was a big lightbulb for me.)

I am going to say that again.   Because it wasn’t until I was preparing this blog post, that I think I actually heard this for the first time.  The Narrow gate.  The one we are all supposed to try and fit through.  The one that is basically the size of an eye of a needle.  The way to get through it, is to be HUMBLE.  To become Little.  TO little ourselves to basically nothing. 

Who does that sound like???

St. Therese.  HER little way.  SHE discovered the secret door to heaven.  She was the one who realized the trick to getting through the eye of the needle. 

Entering the gates of Humility was NOT exactly on my list of destination vacations.  The idea of allowing myself to surrender completely to God and to trust him in everything is incredible difficult.  The idea of letting go of what I sometimes believe is a pretty level head, and allow God’s almighty and all-knowing God Head to takeover is actually often pretty much against my human nature.  

But then again I don’t like my human nature very much sometimes.  It my human nature that causes me to stress about how every bill will get paid, how every kid will get into college, how every meeting will be attended, and how everything will get done.  

But then I know that God is the creator of the Universe and if he can create things like the human eyeball with all its rods and cones, and the Grand Canyon forged over millions of years using pretty much the same stuff that comes out of my faucet, surely he can figure out how to get my life in order.  


SO cast aside all of these other wants/desires/and preferences so that all is left of us, is the desires that God has for us.

My four and three quarters old daughter.  She gets it better than I do.  “I WANT to love you more.”

SEEK GOD’s DESIRES FIRST

It also reminds me of the song, “Seek ye first the kingdom of god, and his righteousness, and whatsoever you ask I will do. Alleluia alleluia.”

I have often wondered about this song.  There were plenty of time when I thought I was seeking first HIS kingdom, and God didn’t do what I wanted.  

I wanted my mom not to die.  But I didn’t get it. 

I wanted my husband to become Catholic, and I haven’t gotten that either. 

But here is the thing.  Both of those desires were MY desires.  They are good desires if I can brag for a second.  It’s not like I am asking God for a million dollars or anything.  But please understand, they were still MY DESIRES. 

If we seek First God.  If we desire more than anything; God.  If we desire more than anything to “little ourselves” and allow him space in our lives to Grow.  The rest of our life’s desires fall into place.  They fall into their proper places.  Which is behind God.  Our greatest desires should be to love god First, and humble ourselves behind him. 

I certainly miss my Mom all the time. I wish she could help babysit my kids.  I wish she could host a luncheon for my daughters when they get married.  I wish that she was available for me to go shopping with, because Damn she was a great shopper!    

But she is NO DOUBT is in heaven.  I feel her presence all the time.  I feel her prayers for me constantly.  I hear her voice, sometimes audibly.  And this life, this earthly life is only a split second compared to our eternal life.  I know without question that God’ desire to bring my mother to him in heaven, even it was before I was ready, was a good DESIRE.  Even though it is not easy for me all the time.   I have my own personal Saint.  Well I share her with all of you who knew her, but she is OURS, and she is up there in heaven working miracles for each of us.

I have desired my husband who is a very enthusiastic southern Baptist to be united with me in my Catholic faith for YEARS.  Now this is a tricky one, because I can’t imagine HOW God’s desire for my life wouldn’t include this.  But the point is, I still need to let go of all MY desires, no matter how good I judge them to be.  And I really and truly pray that prayer again. 

God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.  
God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.
God Help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.

When you desire only God, God won’t just fulfill your needs, sometimes he provides for your wants as well.

The best part is that so often when I cast my desires away, (Humilty) and I focus completely on GOD’s desire, He often times presents me with gifts also often called Consolations.  Suddenly I am invited to take a trip around the world for a Catholic Youth Conference, and I can’t tell you how many times I have come across the perfect rug on Facebook Swap or at thrift store at a fraction of what I was planning to pay for it, there was even a time I bought a new couch, and hated it.  I felt so trivial, and I really prayed for God to help me like the couch more. (See that, I am praying to want what God’s wants.) Well a few days after I prayed that prayer the cushions started to frey and I was able to call the company and they allowed me to send it back and pick a whole different couch.  I know that sounds ridiculous but I really and truly believe God was consoling my couch woes.   I consider those gifts from GOD.  He knows what makes us happy and he will provide for ALL our needs, and quite honestly many of our wants as well!

The second luminious mystery is the wedding at cana illustrates this perfectly to me.  I think this is a perfect example of how if our Greatest Desires are ONLY  GOD’s greatest desires for us, he will take care of us better than we can even imagine.  

They ran out of wine people.  They weren’t going to die.  They weren’t going to starve.  The hosts were maybe going to be a little embarrassed, and a few staff members maybe would have been fired.  But in that instance, because our blessed mother instructed the servants to “Do whatever HE tells you” “or lets reword that to do “What he DESIRES” and they OBEYED, their empty wine skins were filled again.  Do what HE desires you to do, and your WINE SKINS will be filled as well!!!


Passing praise onto God

I am a normal human being though and humbling myself before God is not always natural. Giving up all earthly desires is a difficult thing for me.  Sometime I do things, and I feel entitled to a little something for myself.  

Does this happen to you too???  

For example: I tend to enjoy people praising me.  I like a good thank you note, and definitely get a little inflated when people have praised work I have done.  But here is the thing, And this is the really difficult thing.

The credit for a job well done is never mine. It belongs to my Creator.
The credit for a job well done is never mine. It belongs to my Creator.

If I write a good blog, should I praise myself?  NO, did I do anything to deserve to a brain that may be able to write words down in a positive way? NO God gifted me that brain.  I just have easily could have been born with half a brain.  

IF I am talented enough to make a beautiful dress for one of my daughters, should I accept praise for my amazing handiwork? NO, God was the one who gifted me with hands that can make amazing stitch work, and the knowledge to know how to do it.  (THIS IS HYPOTHETICAL)

If I were a great musician who played multiple instruments could sing like a nightingale, should I allow myself to be pumped up by my amazing skills?  NO God is the one who gifted me with those gifts, and quite often I had no choice in the matter than I was gifted these talents.  (Again, Hypothetical.)  

Sure I practice, and study, and hone these gifts into becoming something better than what they started as, but even the ability to grow into something great is a GIFT from God.

“Everyone who praises himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be PRAISED.”  (Luke 14:11)

Now if people praise me, I shouldn’t slap their praise down, and scold them for exaulting me.  NO, I should pass that praise right on to the one who deserves it most.  The God who created me.  You all might know people who if you say, great job!  They say, “Praise God.”  Isn’t that the humility God is asking for?

It also talks about in the book, how the majority of our hurts, offended feelings, grudges and bitterness in life, often comes from our obsession with our rights, this need to be esteemed, or praised.  If people don’t recognize our amazing-ness we get upset, right?  Fr. D’elbee points out that the ones who honestly put themselves in last place is not astonished when other’s put themselves there too.    The more humble you are, the more you desire ONLY what God DESIRES, the less you will care about other’s opinions of you.

THAT IS A VERY FREEING FEELING.

Again, “everyone who praises himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be praised.”    He then talks about if we only recognized how much we gain by being humiliated, we would THIRST for those opportunities. 

Fr. Jean D’elbee writes that God always prefers the poor, the disgraced, the destitute and the needy because they are generally more humble.  I am imagining the seen from the Story of St. Francis wear he THROWS all of his RICH family’s belongings away.  St. Francis chose to be poor so that he could be humbled. So that he could ONLY desire what God desires.

St. Bernadette herself said, that if there had been a child more poor, and ignorant than she was the Holy Virgin would have chosen that child and not Bernadette.  

God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.  
God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.
God Help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.

My Four year old daughter:
God, I WANT to love you more.

Fr. Jean Writes  “Humilty is an Abyss which attracts TORENTS of Graces, which attracts Jesus Himself into a soul.  HE was not able to resist the humility of the prodigal son, the good Thief, or the woman of Canaan.  The VACUUM which humiliation makes in us when we receive it rightly is an emptiness which attracts Him irresistibly.”

When I hear that I think of Hurricane forced winds (Torents) of GRACES, literally Vacumming or SUCKING JESUS right into my soul.

Can you imagine that for me?   I will repeat the original statement, imagine hurricane forced winds of Grace sucking Jesus right into your soul.

Humilty is an ABYSSS, which attracts TORRENTS of Grace, which attract Jesus Himself into a soul.

Fr. Jean then talks about how a RAVISHING form of Humilty is Simplicity. 

NOW THERE IS A GREAT WORD.  Our world doesn’t really like the word Humble.  BUT WE LOVE THE WORD SIMPLE.

I think it is interesting again, that the God of the universe, A God so complex, so capable, so all knowing and all powerful, really at the root desires us to be simple.  

I think it is his way of saying, “Don’t WORRY.  I can handle this.  Please let me show you.”

Obedience is a big part of this humility too.  Remember back at the wedding of cana.  Mary tells us, “Do whatever he tells you.”  (I can put it in the word, “Do whatever he desires you to do.”   But then guess what friends, our part is to ACTUALLY DO IT.  Be obedient. If we are going to pray that prayer.

God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.  
God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.
God Help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.

Then when we hear God speak to us about HIS desires for our life, we should DO IT.

Sometimes it will be in the form of an idea.
“Katie, I want you to write a thank you note to that person.”
“Katie, I want you to put your phone down, and play with your children.”
“Katie, I desire that you stop worrying about everything on your plate and go visit with your husband.”
“Katie, I desire that you answer the phone when your long distant friend calls you.”


The last part of this conference Fr. Jean talks about how PEACE is the crown of humility.    PEACE was God’s first gift to humanity.  At the moment of the incarnation, the nativity, the Angels to sang to you and me, and all the people of the world. “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace to people of Goodwill.”  And one of the last things he said on earth just before his Ascension, “Peace I leave you, Pease I give unto you.”

In the midst of the terrible storms in your life, when things have gone horribly horribly wrong, people who have surrended completely to God, those of us who have figured out that it is not my Will but HIS WILL that we desire, have experienced that super natural PEACE.  That peace that passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:6)  The peace of knowing that something greater than ANY OF US, is in control, and that if our desires line up with his desires the ULTIMATE outcome will be the best outcome. 

We are released from trying to figure it out.  We are released from trying to be everything.  We are released from the pressure to be perfect in the eyes of this world.  

THAT IS PEACE.


So in summary.

Just as my four year old taught me, “God, I WANT to love you more.”
Just as my son taught me, “Let go of the shopping carts in my life.”
Pray the prayer: 

God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.  
God help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.
God Help me to desire ONLY what you desire for my life.

Humble yourself so that you can travel the NARROW way.

BE OBEDIENT.

And you will have the PEACE that PASSES all understanding.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Doors Slamming in my Face...

journey-noroom

I am working on a project and I feel like doors keep slamming in my face. 

I need volunteers. 

SLAM.  "Sorry, I am not available."  "Sorry, I can't do that."  "Sorry, I can no longer help that weekend."

It feels sort of like doors slamming in my face.  Then last night, after a particular loud SLAM, I went to bed, and God totally provided with me a revelation.

I wonder how Joseph felt when he was entering Bethlehem and realized there was no place for him to stay?

I mean, if I had been Joseph, I would have probably been totally excited for the amazing 5 star Marriott Hotel with super awesome Breakfast Buffet (complete with omelet station!) that God was going to provide for Mary and I when we arrived in Bethlehem.    I mean after all Mary WAS going to be giving birth to the SON OF GOD.  Why wouldn't God be providing an AMAZING set up for Himself?  I mean he is GOD.  Right?


I think I would have been dreaming of my omlet the entire walk from Galilee to Bethlehem.  Tomatoes, bacon, spinach, onions, and lots of cheese.  Totally.  Maybe some feta if they have that too.  For sure a waffle.  Loaded with whip cream and chocolate chips.  I mean it's free right? 

Or whatever the equivalent to this is around the birth of Christ.

If I were Joseph, and I had showed up to the first place and they had said, "NO ROOM" I think I would have been slightly annoyed, but I would have told myself, it is probably just because GOD has something better in mind.  

But what God had planned wasn't better, was it?  It was way worse.

I think if I were Joseph, when I finally went to the LAST PLACE in BETHLEHEM and they told me again, sorry dude, there is not any room here either, I WOULD HAVE FLIPPED OUT.

I mean seriously God?  (I would have been thinking.)  I am doing all of this for you and you can't even provide a decent place for us to sleep????  I would have been probably doubting and WHINING, "Why the HECK isn't God paving a path for me to do His will easily?"   I would have been wondering where the heck GOD wanted MARY to give birth to HIS son.

I probably would have been doubting whether or not it really was God's son.




The next thing I know I would have been trying to make Mary as comfortable as possible while she gives birth to the son of GOD next to animals.    I think I would have felt completely confused, and angry and annoyed at how ridiculously far away this whole scenario was from my idea.  I probably would have felt like I failed my pregnant wife, and that I looked like a disorganized husband.

Can anyone relate?


Of course now we know the entire plan.  Now we celebrate Christmas with tiny manger scenes.  No one thinks about how God could have come up with a birth plan that truly GLORIFIED Him the way He is due.  (Yes. I do mean omelet station.)   

Yet, when I do God's work now, I so easily forget that sometimes God's plan doesn't look so pretty. Sometimes it is messy, and sometimes it even involves manure.  But it is STILL HIS PLAN.  

So as these doors are slamming in my face, I have to take a minute to realize that maybe this project I am working on, won't be 5 star.  Maybe it will be messy and challenging and maybe it will be completely different than I am expecting.  But just because it may not be GLORIOUS, doesn't mean it wasn't his plan all along.






  

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Realization... Parish Employees should all be Canonized




I took a part time contractual position with my local parish, because you know what mother of five children who has a full time job DOESN'T also want a part time job?  Right?

Actually this job was really an answer to prayer.  Let me start at the beginning, and then I will get to the part about the canonizations of all parish employees.

I LOVE retreats, something about escaping the realities of life for a period of time to just bask in the light of GOd's love, and grow intimately with our Lord in prayer really makes me glad.  Even more than attending retreats, I LOVE planning and helping coordinate retreats so that others can bask in the light of God's love and grow intimately with our Lord in prayer.  To me its a thrill, and a "high" and I want everyone to feel what I feel, and experience what I experience.  SO we can all be "high" together.  (Deep down inside I really am a hippie.)

So about a year ago, and opportunity for a new full time job was presented to me and it included planning and coordinating confirmation retreats.  Well you see I sort of had a full time job already that I have been working at a for a while and I don't feel God calling to me leave.  But I did feel God calling to me to make a suggestion to my Pastor who had offered the role to me.  The suggestion was to coordinate just the confirmation retreats, as a contract employee and keep my full time job.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what the response would be, but when I received the "yes" from my Pastor. I immediately took it as confirmation from God that HE is calling me to do this.  I was excited, and filled with confidence that God really does want to use me in this way.

Then, I thought, "Wait a minute? What in the heck am I thinking?  I can't do this!"   (Those thoughts were not from God by the way.)

SO here I am in the thick of it, and it is happening.  I have to be honest. I am calling on the spirit of Moses a lot lately.  He had a speech impediment and yet, God called him to be the Voice of the Israelites to Pharaoh.  I am have a TIME impediment, and yet God is calling me to plan and coordinate three parish retreats.  Well God,  you are the one who invented Time, so here we go.

Since taking on this tiny little contract position, I have had a glimpse into the life of a parish employee, and truthfully I am realizing THEY ARE ALL PROFESSIONAL BEGGARS.  Every. Single. One.

Each parish is only as good as it's volunteers.  And in all fairness they shouldn't really be called Volunteers at all.  We are ALL called to be Disciples of Christ and Christ is speaking to each of us, when he says, "Go Therefore and Make Disciples of All Nations."  When you serve a parish community you are MAKING DISCIPLES.

Now in addition to begging people to step up and serve without any financial compensation, we require that they turn in 18 pages of paperwork, background checks, finger printing, and a three hour on-line training program to serve the youth.  WOW.  Now try to recruit disciples.

Yet this is what our Religious Education Directors, Youth Ministers, and Core teams have been doing for years.  This is seriously Saintly.

So here is my proposal for immediate consideration.

The three miracles necessary to be canonized can all be considered done after they have successfully recruited their first three volunteers.   Canonization should take place as soon as they have breathed their final breath.  Because in all fairness every Parish Employee is a TRUE SAINT even before they have passed onto heaven.

Seriously people, love on your parish staff members.  Send them flowers, show them you care.  Step up to disciple their domain;  preferably before they get to the "begging" stage.  Pray for them!  Pray that their work doesn't become tedious, and that they don't experience burn out.  Pray that they remember the spark that initiated their acceptance of the call, and that they always remain close to Christ to guide them in their vocation!!!

 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Three steps toward Forgiveness...


This is actually a blog post I started writing a very long time ago.  After reading it just now, I have to admit I can't believe I wrote it.  It was a good reminder for me, and hopefully will be for you too!


A few years ago, I went through an event that required some major forgiveness on my part.  After the dust settled and I was able to see things a bit clearer,  I knew that I would want to forgive, but I didn't know if I would be able to.

Now fast forward two years later, and I have to say that forgiving someone and moving on is the HARDEST thing I have ever done.  Actually it the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.

I realized the other day, this job is never really done. 

This is a daily chore; right up there with dirty laundry, and emptying the dishwasher.  Everyday, I need to ignore the pain and choose to love.  I need to forget what was lost, and look forward to what can be gained.  Everyday I need to die to myself and choose to live for something else.

This is the only thing that will truly bring freedom.

Dying to myself is really hard.  Especially when we are bombarded with images of happy carefree people; people on vacations, people celebrating fun birthdays, and people who just don't look like they are busy with laundry, or dishwashers, or forgiving.

Sometimes it feels like those of us who are burdened with the job of forgiveness are missing out on something. It feels like we were robbed, or have a harder life.    But to be completely honest, I don't think that is true.

I think this is a part of EVERYONE's Life.  I think learning to forgive is God's plan for all of us.  I think successfully forgiving a major pain in our life can really and truly set us free.

Some of us choose to actually take that path, and some of us put it off until later.  Some of us, think the whole process is just too darn scary to take part in, and we bury it deep down and try never to think about it again.  The truth is I really believe that every single one of us is going to be called to learn this important life skill.

Oh Boy, let the fun begin.

Prayer is pretty much the only thing that I have done that has helped this process at all.  Here are some practical things to pray for if you are struggling with forgiveness.

Step One:  Pray for perspective.  When you are in a messy situation it is nearly impossible to see clearly.  If you are able to remove yourself, and get a little perspective this can tremendously lighten the burden.  Maybe this wasn't even about you.  Maybe this was truly about the other person, and their issues.  It still won't feel great, but it will feel better.

Step Two:  Pray for Grace.  However bad this sounds the truth is, that whoever hurt you was created good by God.  Ask God for the grace to see this person as HE sees them.  Ask for the Grace to be able to think of the reasons this person was in your life in the first place. IF it is a parent, or a child, or relative, you may not have chosen this person to be in your life,  but if it a friend or spouse you did.  What are the good qualities of this person?  There must be some?  This is a hard thing to pray for, but asking God to remind you of the good in this relationship is an IMPORTANT part of forgiving.

Step Three: Pray in Gratitude.

Seriously?

Yes.  That was not a typo.

Give thanks to God for this opportunity to forgive.  This sounds insane, and it is.  But it is SO POWERFUL.   Gratitude for whatever burden you are struggling to forgive will put you leaps and bounds ahead of your forgiveness game.   If you don't know where to start try something like this:


"God, thank you for providing me this HUGE opportunity to learn forgiveness.  Out of all the people in all of the world, you chose ME for this important assignment.  You are the ultimate forgiver, and now you are inviting me to join you in transforming the world through forgiveness.  I don't know why you think I am capable of this, but you say to trust you in all things.   So even though there is NOT AN OUNCE OF MY BEING that wants to learn this lesson of forgiveness.  I believe YOU WANT me to learn forgiveness, so help me please!!!  Like right now....  No seriously, immediately.  Can you please just make it happen???  Can't you just re-program me, to be able to do this easier?   Actually can't you just re-program this other person, so that they don't mess up so bad, so that I don't have to learn this lesson in forgiveness?!?!?"

Amen.

Okay, maybe try your own prayer instead of mine.  I am still working on this whole forgiveness thing.










Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Triduum with Kids...



I have to say that I was a little worried about my kids' reaction to spending Holy Thursday evening, and most of Good Friday at church.   This is a major flaw of mine.  I try to please everyone, and I often result to bribes to make it happen.

Growing up my parents emphasized the importance of honoring Christ's sacrifice on Good Friday.  We were not allowed to have an excessive amount of fun on this day, no matter how many invitations to birthday parties, beach adventures, or boating excursions were thrown our way.  This was a HUGE cross for my eleven year old self.  Imagine lots of eye rollings, and complaining! (MEA CULPA!!)

Going into this Easter Triduum this year, I wanted to be a part of EVERYTHING, and show my kids all that happens during this holy week. But I was a little concerned at how much complaining and whining I would receive as backlash.  Normally I would bribe them all with Yogurt or some sort of amazing and rare treat, but HELLO?!?!  This is Good Friday we were talking about.  TREATS would not have been appropriate!

(Also let me confess that I SHOULD NEVER HAVE CARED ABOUT WHAT MY KIDS THOUGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE. I realize this of course. I should be SOLEY be concerned with PLEASING GOD, and not give too cents about pleasing anyone else, my own kids included.)

So here is how things went down.....

I offered them nothing!

I bribed them with nothing!

They all came to pretty much everything!

And the complaining was MINIMAL!!!

WHAT?!??!  All that worrying and stress and FEAR about how my kids would respond, was for NOTHING???

Holy Thursday I had four of my kids with me at Mass.  Smelling the incense, watching the priests wash the feet of the parishioners, and being apart of the procession towards the chapel for adoration were all memories I hope to continue for my kids.

After we came home and watched the Mark Burnett movie, "Son of God" which really emphasized and repeated the importance of this time.  (Parts of this were graphic, and perhaps would NOT be suitable for young children.)

Good Friday we went for a nice family walk in the morning, then Stations of the Cross.  We visited with a old friend we had not seen in a while, and took her back to our house for a visit.  Then we went back for the Good Friday 3 PM service.

My oldest son, recognized the fact that in EVERY Catholic Church (and many other denominations as well) in EVERY part of the world, they are doing the SAME liturgy at the same time.  I love that about our church.

He also subtracted 2017 from 33 years to see if we could come up with the APPROXIMATE anniversary of Good Friday we were honoring.   1984.  This would be about the One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighty Fourth anniversary of Christ's death.  Interesting...

The Altar was completely bare, we haven't sung an "Alleluia" since before Ash Wednesday, and the tone is somber and solemn.  Every sense was touched.  Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, and Taste.

SO here we are at Holy Saturday.  Jesus is in the Tomb.  We will dye some Easter Eggs today and bake and decorate some Easter Cookies.

Tomorrow the Church will present the equivalent of a Spiritual Mic Drop.  There will ALLELUIAS Flying all over the place, the church will be decorated with more flowers than a Home Depot Nursery, and the Choir will be singing all the songs we know how GOOD defeats EVIL.  Every Time.

Easter is coming!





Friday, April 7, 2017

What I LOVE about Holy Week...




Next Week is Holy Week in most Christian Churches, and there are so many things I love about it!!  It begins with Palm Sunday and ends with good Saturday and there are only about a million things that go on in between.  

I would call it almost a universal 7 day retreat within a 40 day retreat, and it can be intense and prayerful as you are willing to make it.

Palm Sunday is basically the only mass all year that you will actually receive give aways BEFORE you go into Mass.  I keep thinking the Vatican is going to change that someday, because we all spend the majority of the Homily making little crosses out of the palm branches.  I happen to be very good at this!!!   The Gospel reading for this day is very long, but it is usually broken up like a play and EVERYONE gets to play a part.  I love this.  It really puts you in the scripture and reminds you just where you would be if you had been alive during the time of Jesus.  (Spoiler:  We pretty much all would be screaming "crucify Him" because none of us are that good, and we do it today everytime we sin.)

Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are nice, and it is always a good thing to check out daily mass on those days.  Its also good preparation for some serious Spiritual Work outs which occur the rest of the week.

Holy Thursday is one of my most FAVORITE church services in the Catholic Church all year.  IT is like the birthday of the Eucharist!  The readings are all referencing Jesus instructions in the Gospel of John and at the last supper to, "Eat my flesh, and drink my blood."  We are reminded that Jesus is going to become the Pascal Lamb and we are going to be like the Israelites celebrating passover, eating Lamb!!!  (I know that might sound lame, but it is super beautiful!!  I promise.  Really.)

Then the most beautiful thing happens.  We hear about how Christ washed the feet of his apostles at the last supper, and so the Priest or Priests WASH THE FEET of the parishioners!!!  What a demonstration of SERVANTHOOD.  In my parish, all the priests do it, and some will wash the feet of pre-selected members of the church at the front, and then other priests will wash the feet of pre-selected people around the church.  So everyone can really witness this event.  

I have to be honest here folks. I have sort of a foot fettish.  The idea of ANYONE washing my feet, is totally out of my comfort zone.  Rest assured though, in case you are totally unfamiliar with this, EVERYONE who is getting their feet washed comes with the most impeccably clean feet I have ever seen.  So very little is actually accomplished here - it is mostly a symbolic washing.  But still I can't do it.  Maybe someday. But I am not there yet.

Good Friday, is like the MOST SOLEMN DAY of the entire year.  In my family growing up, there was absolutely no FUN allowed on Good Friday.  This proved to be difficult sometimes, because this often was a day off tied in with Easter Break and there were always invitations for beach days, or boating trips, or just play dates in general.  But that was NOT happening.

Stations of the Cross is usually held around 12:00 PM in most parishes on this day.  This is a beautiful re-enactment and reading of the final moments before Christ's Crucifixion.  Not the most uplifting events, but definitely powerful to remember.  Doing on the ACTUAL day of Crucifixion, just makes it seem more powerful and an opportunity to remember Christ's sacrifice.

At 3:00 PM there is a special Good Friday service as this is the hour that Christ died.  There is NOT Mass on this day, but the Parish does reserve Communion from the previous night's Holy Thursday service, (as my Husband likes to comment; Left-overs.) and we once again have the opportunity for our Spiritual Food. 

Then a wooden Cross is presented to the congregation and all are invited to come forward and kiss the cross.  This is Symbolic of the Gift that the cross has provided to us all, which is no less than ETERNAL LIFE.  

It sucks.  IT is UNCOMFORTABLE.  I always feel totally STUPID walking up to the front of the church and KISSING a cross.  But seriously, I am super happy that I didn't get nailed to it.  Because I hear that is the punishment for sin, and that thankfully I don't actually have to pay the price.  Right??? Can I get an AMEN for that???

Holy Saturday is like an anxious day of waiting.  I usually still feel a little somber from the day before's events.  But I also have this hopeful anticipation of what is about to COME.  

Keep in mind in our Catholic Faith we have ZERO alleluias's during Lent.  The Church has been bare for the past 6 weeks.  We have all fasted, and abstained, and sacrificed, and practiced good works for as long as we are able too.  (Some of us are not able too for very long.)

But Saturday Evening the ENTIRE church is about to SERIOUSLY PARTY!!!  (Church style - of course.)  Saturday Evening is the Easter Vigil, and the Church pulls out ALL THE STOPS.  I mean there are like a million readings from the Bible, new Catholics are officially welcomed into the Church, and the Alleluia's are coming out everywhere!!

Easter is the NEXT day and it not only is awesome, it FEELS amazing.  I swear the air actually feels fresh, and new and it seems like the entire Earth is rejoicing.

AND ALL OF THIS IS COMING NEXT WEEK!!!

I am so excited!!  Are you??!






Thursday, April 6, 2017

Did Catholics add books to the Old Testament???





This debate is a regular one in our house.  I know most people are arguing over bathroom space, or who took the last pair of clean socks, but in our house we occasionally debate Church History.  This is normal; Right???  It's not like we are going to need extra counseling or anything. Right???

I would first like to praise my Husband for his Southern Baptist influence on my family.  My kids have been memorizing scripture passages since they were three.  He reads them bible stories nearly every night, and they have all memorized the books of the bible.  Even my three year old can sing the song and recite nearly every book of the old and new testament.

Except for those darn "Extra" books the Catholics have in the old testament.  Those are NOT in the song that we have at home that lists the books.  Go figure.

First a little background.  The Catholic "Extra" old Testament texts are:

Many of you probably know about these Old Testament books, also known as the Deuterocanical, or Apocrypha, but maybe you don't know why the Catholics actually have MORE books than our Protestant and Evangelical brothers and sisters.  (You would think if anyone was going to add to the Bible it would be those bible loving Baptists, right?!?) And maybe you don't know that according to Catholics they were not ADDED at the time of the reformation. 

The short version in my own words is this:  At the time of Jesus there was not a DEFINED old testament.  Some groups of Jews used only the Torah, while others read the writings from the Prophets as well.  Some of these inspired writings, were originally written in Greek, but most originally written in Hebrew.   There were versions then that were totally translated into Greek, and then others that were not.  Different groups used different versions of the old testament for a few hundred years.

It was around the 4th century that the books of the bible were clearly identified and listed, and it was repeated at at least 4 councils.  The Synod of Rome (382), the Council of Hippo (393), the Council of Carthage (397), a letter from Pope Innocent I to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse (405), and the Second Council of Carthage (419). In every instance, the old testament canon was identical to what Catholic Bibles contain today. In other words, from the end of the fourth century on, in practice Christians accepted the Catholic Church's decision in this matter.   (from Catholic Answers web site, read full article here.)

SOOOOO, did Catholics add these extra books to the Old Testament during the time of the reformation???

Or did someone else take them away?  (Ahem. Martin Luther?) 

There is so much information out there on this, and the internet is FULL OF INFORMATION regarding this specific subject.  Unfortunately not everyone agrees on what is actually the TRUTH.

Some Great Catholic Resources on this.
Catholics United for the Faith
Catholic Education Resource Center

AND just for the sake of information I am including these OTHER perspectives: (Which for the record I do not agree with.)
Some Bible website with an explanation
Something called Truth Magazine

UGH.  SO what is the actual truth?

This is when I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to build a time machine, go back in time and interview Jesus and ALL the early Christians. I want to find out exactly what was intended, and meant by every single word that was written down.  I want to know who is right and who is wrong and which denomination is the most accurate.  (ie, the BEST.)

In all fairness this is a good argument in favor of the Roman Catholic teaching on Church Authority.  I mean somebody down here should have been left in charge so we don't all argue all the time.  (*cough: Matthew 16:17-19)

But the real reality is that I need to learn to get past all this and just practice the teachings of Jesus and LOVE everyone.  It doesn't matter whether the book is included or not, it doesn't matter whether you go to a mega church with a coffee shop in the lobby, or an orthodox church which hasn't changed in 2 millenia. JUST LOVE EVERYONE, and ESPECIALLY LOVE GOD.

Alright God, I will work on that.  But in the mean time if you could help us sort the truth out, I would be real grateful!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Half way through Lent, and I need a re-do...


This post if half confession, half mission of mercy for those of you who also might need a redo on Lent.

Apparently I suck at Lent, and self sacrifice.  (And here I thought I was super good at all that stuff.)

I have pretty much cheated or failed at EVERY single one of my lenten sacrifices, and some of those cheats have been EXCESSIVE.   Whoops.

I will give you an example:  I was going to try to go all of lent without purchasing any un-necessary item for myself.  I didn't think this one would be a stumbling block, because I feel like I go MONTHS on end without the time or desire to purchase new items for myself.  BUT some demon overcame me during spring break a few weeks ago, and I ended up purchasing on-line two rugs, three shirts, a dress, a bathing suit, and a book.  ALL IN ONE WEEK.  What the??!?!

How does that happen?   I will admit I am wearing one of the shirts now, and I LOVE IT!!! (Oh goodness that is not helping.)

NO really.  Why does it seem like things are not that important, until you suddenly try and go without them, and then it is like they CONTROL you??!?  Like you can't possibly live without them? LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO DIE UNLESS YOU HAVE IT RIGHT NOW?!?!

Does anyone else feel like they get sucked into desire like that???

What can I do about it???    (Please don't answer that. I don't want to return all the items.)  Great; now I feel totally convicted.

Can I just have a redo?

Can I start fresh?

Can I wipe this Lenten Slate completely clean?

That is the AMAZING thing about God.  His answer is always YES.  I can have a redo.  I can have a redo at Lent, and at every other area of my life where I have failed.  So can you.  We can have redos at loving our spouses, we can have redos at loving our kids, we can have redos at loving our friends, and we can have redos at loving our extended family.  

God will even provide the Grace to ask for redos FROM THEM if necessary.  (Which it almost always is.)

But with that, God also is asking me to let others in my life have redos.   He is reminding me, that I need to offer redos to my family, and friends just as he has given me a redo.

SO who are the people in my life that I need to start fresh with?  Who are the people that I need to wipe the slate completely clean? Who are the people I need to forgive, let go of all the past failures, and begin again?

I would even go so far as to suggest that you go experience the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Even non-Catholics talk about the necessity of confessing your sins to another person.  In our Catholic faith, we have the opportunity built right in to our Tradition.   Nothing beats hearing a priest, (Who is basically a stand-in for Christ, during reconciliation) say,  "I absolve you from your sins!"

WHOOHHHOOOOO!!!  FREEDOM!!!  (Imagine yourself skipping and dancing out of the church!)

Powerful stuff.  Seriously, can you believe God just showed me all that, through an on-line shopping binge???

Thanks GOD!!!




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why having 5 kids can actually be cheaper than you think...


Spring break for my kids' school is next week, and we are looking forward to a nice relaxing "staycation" at home.  

I actually wanted to take them somewhere fun, but a lot of the options were just too expensive.  It costs so much money to fly a family of seven anywhere.  We can no longer stay in one hotel room at most hotels, and admissions to most places can get obscene when you have to pay for 7 individuals.

As this week was coming to a close, I started to feel around for who was going to be in town next week for playdates.  I discovered, unfortunately that many of our friends are going skiing, or to the beach, or on some lovely sounding tourist destination.  We are not.  

That is when it hit me.   I actually save a lot of money because I have too many kids.  I just can't afford a lot of things. 

Thank God, for instance that I don't have only two kids.   Honestly, the four of us (Husband and I included) would be jet setting out of town every southwest-airlines saver email I get.  This would cost us thousands of dollars a year, I'm sure. Thank God, I don't only have two kids.

Even if I had only three kids, we could still squeeze comfortably in ONE hotel room with a simple rollaway.  I would be testing every hotel breakfast bar, and swimming pool in Orlando if we only had three kids!  That wouldn't be free you know?!? Thank God, I don't only have three kids. 

Honestly even if I only had four kids, I would probably skip out on making dinner multiple times a week to eat out. You know a lot of these "Kids Eat Free" deals involve two kids free - per adult meal purchased.  Perfectly designed for a large family of six.  I could see myself doing that often.  Thank God we have have more than four kids.

BUT FIVE KIDS?!?!?!  FIVE KIDS??  WE BARELY EVER GO OUT OF THE HOUSE with five kids - it is just too expensive.

SO I laugh at all you people who believe that you CAN'T AFFORD to have more kids!  

I can't afford to have LESS!!!

Surely, their tuition bills add up, and they do participate in a lot of activities that aren't cheap.  But compared to my potential for spending on travel,  sleeping in hotels, and eating out at restaurants, believe me we are saving money!

At least that is how I am going to choose to see it.  Wink, Wink.

Thanking God for my beautiful, cheap, family.

Disclosure*  This is a Joke, and only intended to make myself feel better.  Not meant to offend anyone with less kids.









Friday, March 10, 2017

A little lesson in Humilty and a few other things...




Last week I coordinated and led a retreat for our Seniors at the school I work at.  It was really a team effort and we sort of divided and conquered the different activities.

These are senior GIRLS, so we sort of expect their maturity level to be a little on the higher side.  For many of them this is completely true.  There are a number AMAZING young women in this group of 110 eighteen year olds, and there is no doubt in my mind that these individuals will grow into compassionate, kind, fun, sincere, faith-filled adults!

But unfortunately some of them are not adept at the "adult like" stuff.

The theme for the retreat was "Exploring the Journey Inward" and we were inviting these girls to get to know themselves and GOD better, before they leave for college.  I was on such a high after the retreat and I felt good about the activities and the talks that were presented.  It seemed like many of them enjoyed some aspects of the retreat, and got the message.  But then today I discovered that the overwhelming majority didn't like it, and didn't want to hear it.

OUCH.  That sort of hurt.

EPIC FAIL by me.  

Maybe I needed that lesson in humility though.  Maybe I needed that little reality check that sharing God's love is not always going to be received graciously.  Maybe I needed to realize that even JESUS himself was rejected by people, and maybe this was sort of what he felt like.

Now some of the critiques the Seniors offered are legitimate and can easily be received to improve next year's experience for those Seniors.  But some of the comments were just down right depressing.

Without being specific many said they thought there was too much "God" and not enough bonding with each other.   That just sort of made me sad.  I didn't think "too much God" was possible.  I can't get enough of him myself.

Anyway, I don't mean to sound deflated, sad, or depressed.  I realize that I will never be able to PLEASE everyone, and although we are already working on some things we can do to make it more fun, or more appealing, taking GOD out of the retreat is not going to happen.

I do believe that many of these girls haven't really had the best faith foundation.  Many are coming from families who might be Catholic in name, but not necessarily practicing their faith.  Some are coming from families who don't have any faith life at home at all.  We need to pray for these girls.

My real prayer however, is that a seed was planted.  Maybe they didn't get it last week.  Maybe even thought they think it was a waste of their time, maybe it wasn't.  Maybe someday they will experience something, and it will take them back to last week.  Maybe something one of us told them will give them a glimmer of hope that good things can come from knowing God.  That's a lot of Maybes.  But Maybe.