Matthew 6:16

"When you fast, do not look gloomy..."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The First Shall be Last and the Last Shall be First

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The first shall be last and the last shall be first.  I suppose that I feel differently about this story depending on who I see myself as...  If I see myself as one laboring since dawn, it seems unfair that someone who started a couple of hours ago gets the same wage.  If I see myself as one who is undeserving, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the vineyard owner.  How do I see myself?  A little of this, a little of that ;-)

Jesus keeps telling his disciples about his future death and Resurrection.   They don't get it.  I can not blame them.   He spoke so often in parables (which he DID explain to the disciples), they must be sure this is a parable as well.  One they don't get.  Yet.  Because it's not a parable.   Once they see he was speaking literally (and they won't until it happens), it will all make sense.

What's up with people rebuking the blind man from calling out to Jesus?     I would think compassion would dictate calling along side him and pointing him out to Jesus (so he can't miss him).  But then, maybe I'm supposed to be seeing myself in the rebukers, just as I ought to see myself in the latecomers to the vineyard.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Then, Shall I Be Saved?

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.   That is the prayer I ought to say, yet how many times have I caught myself instead with "There but for the grace of God go I...."   It seems like such an innocent thing to say.   It's so "Look at me!  I'm nonjudgmental!", when in fact, the it's the act of looking outward rather than inward and upward.   I'm to compare ourselves to no one but God (who alone is good), and find myself to fall very short indeed.   (And then, of course, to remember that he loves me anyway, because he is my Father, and he loves me because he loves his son, who died for me)

It's hard not to compare myself to others, though.  I read how St. Peter says "Behold, we have left all things, and have followed thee." and I see that I have left nothing for his sake.   I stayed with my mother, I have a wonderful husband.   I have a home that is warm in winter, and cool in summer (at least when compared to the outdoors.)  I'm the rich man!  (who happens to be female...).   How then can I be saved?

"And Jesus looking on them, saith: With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God."

Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Be Afraid?

Jesus has shown power over death before, what with the raising of the widow's son and the ruler's daughter. But here, finally, the Pharisees can't take it any more, and they seek Jesus's death in earnest.  Why now?   The pharisees are afraid that the Romans are going to harm them when all have believed.  I guess I don't get it.  Jesus has power over DEATH, and the pharisees are afraid of the Romans?  They have witnesses miracle after miracle, and are afraid?  That doesn't make sense, but I suppose my fears don't make sense either.
 2 Timothy 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.

It seems the pharisees aren't the only ones who need to check their motivations. (Ever heard the saying every time I point my finger, I have three more pointing back at me?  Yep. )

BTW, I heard this song on the radio today for the first time, and I really like it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Courtesy of Photbucket

A few months ago, I was at a Catechetical workshop where we ended up discussing the parable of the lost sheep.   Everyone in the workshop was a teacher, and one teacher commented on how unwise it was to leave the ninety nine alone.  She said she'd never leave the whole class if one got lost on a field trip.   I disagreed with her and said that is what chaperones are for:   you line the kids up against a wall, tell the chaperones no one leaves unless they hear a fire alarm and report back anyone who so much as twitches, then search out the lost child, because that child knows you, and will come to you, while even the best intentioned child might be too frightened to respond to a chaperone he or she doesn't know (and a mischievous child will try to get away with more from the chaperone than the teacher.)   Plus, I feel the loss more acutely, and am likely to go to places where I don't belong to make sure the child isn't being harmed (read "Men's Room"...I just walk in calling out "LOST CHILD:  PANICKY TEACHER:  ZIP UP!"   I know.  I should work on not being so shy and retiring).   I agreed that I couldn't search the child out without the chaperones, but the shepherd isn't alone either, there are hired hands.

That provoked an interesting discussion.  Some people didn't get that from the text.  I felt the text said he was the good shepherd, not a hired hand, which implied there were hired hands to help out.   Then something REALLY cool happened.  A young man who had been a shepherd in Poland (?!) said it was common practice to have more than one young man tending the sheep for the protection of the livestock and each other.    How cool is that?   In the middle of about fifty people in a workshop in CHICAGO, there was a former shepherd to give us input into something we are personally clueless about and can only glean information from the text (but, of course, this was as everyday to the people of Israel back then as using  a toaster is to us now!)

My point is that once we are back in the fold, and part of the ninety nine at some point, we aren't left abandoned.

I was more affected today, however, by the verse "And Jesus wept."  That same Jesus who has stood toe to toe with his adversaries, not backing down one inch nor worrying about ruffling their feathers, wept when he saw Mary and Martha's grief.  His compassion is so great, he feels our deepest sorrows.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

His Sheep Know His Voice

Enter the narrow gate. Choose the humblest place. Invite those who can't reciprocate. Jesus is challenging the Pharisees more and more, and me as well.  It's not like I mean to behave like that, it just sort of slips out.   Jesus also talks about his sheep knowing his voice.    Sometimes when I pray, I find it hard to discern whether some thoughts are mine or from him.   I remind myself all good things come from God, so if it is a clearly good thought, it's his, and if it's questionable, it's mine.   Still,  "my sheep know my voice" makes me a bit nervous sometimes, as I wonder if I DO know his voice, and if I don't, well, that doesn't bode well for me.
I suppose I have to just remember that God is my Father, and that like my earthly father, sometimes he will embrace me, other times spank me, but the final word from him is always that he loves me.   If that's the final word in my heart, it's him, and if it's not, it's me.
I'm so glad that Jesus taught us to refer to God as "Our Father".  So very glad.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blind Man Healed

One important reminder I see in what I read today is that bad things don't happen because someone deserves it, or as a punishment of some kind, but so that the power of Jesus can be seen by all.  I was also struck by the compassion Jesus showed for the man who was once blind even after healing him.   This man was kicked out of the synagogue for suggesting that Jesus must be of God, because sinners couldn't work the miracles he did.   Jesus then revealed himself to be the Messiah to the man, and he worshipped Jesus.   How wonderful and loving of Jesus to comfort that man and let him know that he was not rejected from the synagogue in vain!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Have you ever felt like God answered your prayer in a way you didn't mean because you weren't specific enough? I have. Sometimes it feels like a "gotcha", but that is not how God works.  He is our loving Father, and he does not play "GOTCHA!".   Not only is God our loving Father, but his Son is one with Him, and so entirely defines truth, that He would not play those kind of games with us.   Look at how entirely truthful he is with the Pharisees.  He knows that every word out of his mouth only makes them want to kill him more.    But does he hold back?  No.   He defines truth.  He cannot.
Sometimes I read the section where Jesus said that whoever sins against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, and a fear seizes me. What if I have, and I don't know it, and can never be forgiven?  I don't remember who, but someone once told me that if you have in your heart the desire not to sin against the Spirit, or to have done so, then you haven't.   I hope that's true.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Harsh or Not Entirely Understood?

Today some of what Jesus said comes across as a little harsh.  A scribe wants to follow him, and Jesus essentially tells him he has nowhere to rest.   Another man wants to follow him, but  after his dad is gone, and Jesus says to let the dead bury the dead.   I suppose I need to trust that Jesus was reading their hearts, and responding to what was there rather than what was said.  After all, the commandments do say to honor one's mother and father, so one can't exactly leave them without care, right?    Then again, James and John left Zebedee alone with the nets.   I suppose that now that my mother is gone, it isn't such a concern for me any more, but there is something buried in this word that I'm just not getting, I'm sure of that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Perfect Forgiveness

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Today I read about the Transfiguration of Jesus.  How glorious and fearsome it must have been to be under the presence of the cloud and hear the voice of the almighty say "This is my beloved Son; hear him."

I was also moved by the story of the unforgiving servant.  While I know that God has forgiven me many things, and I ought to be forgiving (perfectly  forgiving if I understand the seventy times seven statement Jesus made to Peter),  I get wrapped up in my own anger.   Even when I try to push it aside when dredged up, it comes out rather cruelly, such as "Well if she was foolish enough not to think before she spoke, I'd be more of a full to think on and react to what she said!  Why should I give more thought to what she says than she does!"  Not quite forgiving, much less perfectly forgiving.  

Lord, help me to become perfectly forgiving, for I most certainly do not want to face the consequences Jesus describes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jesus is in Control

Why are the Pharisees asking for a sign from heaven, when Jesus has been healing and raising the dead all this time already? What more are they hoping for?   I honestly don't get it, although the words "tempting him" rather than "testing him" is used in this translation.   It makes me think of the enemy tempting Jesus in the desert to use his power for his own glory rather than that of the Father.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus is moved by compassion.   Even after the last group of people he fed tried to kidnap him to force him to be their king, he feeds four thousand more because they haven't eaten in three days and he doesn't want them to faint on the way home.   Even now, by NOT giving them a sign, he indicates to the Pharisees that he is not afraid of them.   Jesus is in control.  He leads!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Astounding Strength and Boldness

This picture courtesy of Photobucket

Today I read how Jesus told off the Pharisees when they tried to get nit picky about the disciples not washing their hands before eating in compliance with rabbinic law.  The gist of what he said was along the lines of "You should talk!  You have a loophole for people not honoring the COMMANDMENT to honor one's mother and father!  THAT'S what I call messed up!"  (Obviously I'm just paraphrasing...)

I have been struck lately by the manliness (strength, courage, boldness)  of Jesus.   I read these pages where the authorities keep challenging him, and instead of backing down, or teaching secretly, Christ is out there in the open, ready to stand toe to toe with his adversaries.   I think I always understood that he was no wimp, getting scourged, carrying his cross, being nailed to the cross, and never once calling down the angels to get him out of this...  But the consistency of his boldness astounds me!  

I do remember as a teenager being horrified by that boldness, as if he could have avoided the cross by being just a bit gentler with his opponents.   But now I see that would have made him less honest.   He who IS truth could be no less!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Compassion and Patience

The first thing that struck me today was the role of Herodias's daughter in the death of John the Baptist.  I know that my first reaction the story is supposed to be how evil she was, but instead, I find myself surprised she could actually accept the head of a man on a dish and then walk it over to her mother.  I'm a grown woman who watches CSI, CSI Miami, CSI NY, NCIS, NCIS LA, Criminal Minds, and that new Criminal Minds show.  I watch the shows, but I have to turn away when the gory parts come on.   How was this young woman able to accept a severed head?   Was she freaked out, but feared her mom so much that a severed head seemed like nothing compared to what she'd face if she displeased her mother.   Or was she truly cold hearted just like Herodias?  Did she repent later, or become blood thirsty herself?

Also striking is how Jesus feels such compassion for people, even during his time mourning for his cousin. I'm sure he did mourn at least the manner of John the Baptist's death.   Still, people searched him out and didn't give him any quiet time, and Jesus felt sorry for them and served them, first by teaching them, and then by providing food for them so they could stay and learn more.  Only when they were hatching a plan to kidnap him and force him to be king did he leave them.   (Walking on water!  How cool is that?)

Then, after all that, he goes and continues to heal people, knowing that they will give him no rest, and will continually misunderstand.   His compassion and patience is astounding!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Loving the Giver More than the Gift

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The first thing that struck me in my reading today is that Jesus told the blind man he healed not to tell anyone. I wonder why.

I always worried about the verse where Jesus said that whoever loves his father or mother more than him isn't worthy of him.   I really loved Momma and Daddy a lot.   I'm not sure I could honestly say I love God more.   I know that is terrible, but it's true.  I realize that they were both gifts from God, and I shouldn't love the gift more than the giver.  I try to remind myself that all the wonderful things I loved about them are true of God multiplied by infinity.   I have sort of come to a sense that I cannot take out a measuring stick and compare the amount of love I have for my parents, but I can remind myself that every good thing comes from God, and thank Him for them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mustard Seed

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Matthew 13: 31-32 31Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.
    32Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.

I remember Jesus comparing faith to a mustard seed, indicating that a little goes a long way.   I do not remember the kingdom of heaven being compared to a mustard seed.  I'm supposing right now that the point is that the world holds it in low esteem because it's not of much material worth here, but that in the future, it will be awesome.
 It's hard not to get shook up when things start feeling shaky.  It's tough to say "Hey, it's okay, God is in control, and we'll be okay."   I notice, though, that Jesus did not refuse to calm the winds just because Peter and the other disciples were lacking in faith.   He loves them, and he responded anyway.

  I also read about Jesus sending the evil spirits of of a man and into two thousand swine.  TWO THOUSAND SWINE!   That poor man was tormented by as many spirits as would fill two thousand swine!   And the people of that town asked Jesus to leave?   I realize that that herd belonged to someone, and they lost property, but what about the joy of seeing a man no longer tormented?   How very sad that they only saw the loss of property, and not what they gained.

And they weren't the only cold people!   Mark 5:35  35While he was yet speaking, some come from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying: Thy daughter is dead: why dost thou trouble the master any further?

Um... WHAT???   THAT'S how they break the news to a man that his beloved child is dead?  

I supposed shocked as I am by such coldness, I have to ask of myself if my heart has been more open and kind to those around me.   I don't know, but I do hope it WILL be...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Courtesy of Photobucket

Today I read about how a house divided against itself cannot stand, and then the Parable of the Sower.

Today I pray, Lord, create within me good ground, and protect me, my family, and friends, from the enemy.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beautiful Promises from Our Beautiful Savior

The first part that I read today put the following song in my head. I really love this song, especially the chorus.

Seek Ye First 

 Seek ye first the kingdom of God 
And His righteousness 
And all these things shall be added unto you 
Allelu, alleluia 

 Man does not live by bread alone 
But by every word 
That proceeds from the mouth of God 
Allelu, alleluia 

 Ask and it shall be given unto you 
Seek and ye shall find 
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you 
Allelu, alleluia

In the next part of what I read, Jesus continues to heal, and calls the people in the towns where he healed to repent. He then forgives the sins of a notorious woman at the home of a Pharisee named Simon.

He is not slowed down even in the slightest by the criticism of the Pharisees. He knows what he came for, and he moves on ahead to bring it about.  He loves his people so much!  He is fearless!  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Click here for the location of the picture above.

Today, I was struck by the fact that the word "he" when referring to Jesus is not capitalized in the Douay Rheims version of scripture.   I looked it up, and neither does the New American Bible, or the New International Version capitalize pronouns when referring to Jesus.  The same is true for the English Standard Version, and the King James version of the Bible.  So if the Bible itself doesn't capitalize the pronoun "he" when referring to Jesus unless the word begins the sentence, why do I?   Is it my own stubbornness?  Pride?   Do I think I somehow have more respect for Jesus than the translator's of scripture? Or is it an honest mistake?  I guess the answer lies in how hard it will be for me to change my grammatical habits.
The main gist of the passages I read today was to not flirt with evil, and to be so good as to be far far away from it.  "Be perfect as also thy heavenly Father is perfect."  That IS a tall order!  It also helps put in perspective whether something seemingly mundane, such as watching Family Guy (yes, I watch this show a couple times a week, even though I know that many of my fellow Christians find it offensive, and honestly, so do I sometimes...) , is a sin.   While I can't see how it is disobedient to the ten commandments, I can see how it strays far away from being perfect.
Jesus describes many situations were he states that he expects his followers to go above and beyond.   He wants more from us than a debate over how close we can get to sin before we actually sin.  He wants us to be so far away from it that we are perfect.
I'm not suggesting it is possible for us to be perfect.   I am suggesting that Jesus wants us as far from sin as possible, and not skirting the line.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bewildered World

My friend Jason at Connecting to Impact is hosting a Warrior Poetry Circle. Today they are focusing on the word "Lonely"   I thought I'd try my hand at it this week.   I found myself wondering if Jesus was ever lonely.   My poem never actually answered that question, merely pondered it.  Even that pondering only went as far as what I have read so far in the Gospel this Lent.

Bewildered World

Disciples eating
A paralytic lifting
both on the Sabbath

Pharisees pointing
judgement filling their hearts instead
a sense of relief

When did it first start
Jesus, our deliverer
perplexing the world

The Word creating
all good things in existence
knowing we would sin?

The announcement of
a Virgin conceiving Him
through Holy Spirit?

Perhaps the stable
a King in the feeding trough
worshipped by gentiles.

Maybe the temple
when He was the wisest one
a boy among men.

The feast at Cana
the very best of the wine
saved until the last?

Did He feel alone
As a man not fully known
by His companions?


Today I have been reading about Jesus healing many on the Sabbath.  It seems so sad that instead of be glad for those who were healed, the Pharisees were upset about work being done on the Sabbath.  Their definition of work was so strict!   The healed man who lifted his mat was chastised.  The hungry disciples who grabbed an ear of corn were chastised.   Jesus Himself was chastised for doing the work of healing.   I wonder if the man who could carry his own mat for the first time thought of it as work or joy.   I doubt the disciples thought picking an ear of corn was work when they were hungry.  I wonder if Jesus thought of His healing others as work.   Yes, all of these things require effort, but so does getting out of bed on a Sunday morning.
I can see where the Pharisees were coming from, though.   It's easier to declare any lifting of the finger as work and unlawful than it is to differentiate between heavy labor and joy filled effort.  It feels like splitting hairs to say one thing is okay, and the other is not.   One could split a hair wrongly.   I imagine that without a Savior, making such a mistake is a fearful thing.  So sad that they did not recognize the Savior.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Healing: Heart and Soul

Today I read passages about many people whom Jesus healed.  Jesus went beyond the healing of just the body, and went on to heal the soul of those who came to Him by forgiving them their sins.   He didn't want to just send them on their way and move on to whoever was next, but longed to reconcile with them in spirit.  I'm sure He knew that this would cause grumbling among the scribes and pharisees, yet it was important enough not to be dismissed.  He forgave sins, and was chastised by the scribes and pharisees.  He hung out with those who needed to be reconciled with God, and was chastised by the pharisees.   He celebrated by eating with those same people, and was chastised by the pharisees for not fasting.  He could have saved Himself a whole lot of trouble by stopping at the healing of people's physical ailments, but that was not enough.  He came to heal us heart and soul.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Receiving Healing with Gratitude

Today I read about the Jesus calling the fishermen to become His disciples, His preaching in His village, the healing of a ruler's daughter, Jesus commanding the fever to leave Simon's MIL, and His preaching to the multitudes.  I found the story about Jesus healing Simon's wife's mother particularly moving.   She had just been sick, but after Jesus heals her, she is so well that she is able to serve lunch to all those men!  Now that's what I call fully healed!   Seriously, her healing was so thorough, and she showed her appreciation not just by saying thank you and doing what she felt like, but by serving Jesus, her son-in-law, and all of the friends they brought in with them!  Now that's a woman I'd like to emulate!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Random Reflections on Serving and Light

Today I read about Jesus being tempted in the desert, and the wedding at Cana.  I also read where Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and the woman at the well.
I found it interesting that both Nathaniel and the woman at the well believed in Jesus when they realized He knew them so well.   I wonder if they knew themselves before Jesus's arrival, and telling them about themselves.  
I also found it interesting that it was only the disciples, Mary, and the servants who knew about the miracle at Cana.  Then later John the Baptist is saying that Jesus is more important than he, describing himself as a friend of the bridegroom.  This reminds me of where Mary said in the magnificat how the humble will be exalted.
Jesus described His coming to Nicodemus as the light coming into the world, and how people prefer darkness because of their own evil deeds.  Reading that made one of my favorite Church songs pop into my head!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sacred Moments

Today I read about Jesus as a boy teaching in the temple, and Him becoming a man who at His baptism, heard the words of God the Father proclaiming Himself pleased with Jesus.

How glorious that must have been, to behold Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and hear the voice of the Father!  How wonderful for Jesus to hear His Father proclaim Himself pleased with Him!   I wonder what the people around were thinking and feeling at that moment.  Did they notice?   Or did the moment pass them by because they were wondering if the water was cold, or about the people around them?  Would I have noticed, or would I be worried about stubbing my toes on stones in the river?
I pray to be aware of the sacred moments I encounter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Communion of Saints found at

Well, I'm washed, dressed, and finished reading from scripture.   It only took me one hour to get dressed.   Yippee.   No, I don't look all that great for one hour's work.   My husband's friend's ex-girlfriend once told me during a difficult period she was having that whatever one has to do can be stretched into an entire day, no matter how small the task.  I didn't get it then, but I do now.  

The passages I read from the Gospel today can be found by clicking on this sentence.  Then you can click on this sentence if you like. :-)

I found it interesting that Matthew counts Jesus's genealogy up, while Luke counts down.  I don't know why that is, but it is interesting.
I find it hopeful that Elizabeth bore a son even though she was old.  I'm sure that it was no accident that it took so long....
I love John 1:12-13.  I always have.
12But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.
    13Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

I see it sort of as my own spiritual genealogy.   A genealogy I share with Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Zachary, Simeon and all the saints.  We are siblings spiritually, not of the flesh.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent and Discipline

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and I have come to a fuller understanding of how the next six weeks can be a kind of retreat bringing me closer to God.   Lent is a time of disciplined reflection and penance.   By penance, I don't mean to imply that we in any way make up for our own sins.   Let's stay with the loving child / parent analogy I have been using.  When a child yells at a parent and essentially says "I don't CARE what you want", and is later repentant, the parent loves the child unconditionally, correct?  But if that child is truly repentant, he or she wants to show it.   He or she wants to do little things to please the parent whom she or he hurt.   That is how I see penance.   It's not a requirement for my relationship with the Father, but helps me draw closer.
Anyway, I haven't been very disciplined lately.   My schedule has become non existent.   I feel like I have no purpose any longer, so why bother.  After my mother passed away, I stopped being disciplined about eating breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 11:30 and so on, and just wait until I'm hungry.   I get dressed when I feel motivated to get dressed, go to bed when I finally feel exhausted enough to sleep, and get up when I'm tired of sleeping.   I didn't start out so badly at first, but let's just say I've devolved...  Am I depressed?  Perhaps.  I'm not as emotional as I once was, but I'm not as motivated as I once was either.  Perhaps I've grown lazy.
Whatever the reasons, Lent provides me with the motivation to change and do better.   This isn't about my purpose.   I read a post not long ago about how time is a gift from God, and we don't know how much of it we are given.  Robin Arnold uses the analogy of if time were money...
I realized that if time were money, I'd budget it!   Upon reflection, I decided time is precious enough to do exactly that.   My Lenten promise is going to be to live according to a schedule.   I used to do it.  In fact, when I was teaching, I was very disciplined about budgeting class time so that every subject was accorded the state mandated number of minutes per week, and sticking to it.   If we had something particularly special to work on like a class play, I saw to it that somehow subject matter overlapped so that it was kind of a buy one get one free!  So I CAN do this!
How rigid is this time budget going to be?  No more so than when I was teaching.   There is room for "specials".  There just isn't going to be time for doing nothing but sitting at the computer, or watching t.v., or whatever.  Just like school started at 8:00 a.m punctually and ended at 2:30 on the dot, my day is going to start at 7:00 am and end at 10:30 pm.   I am going to get dressed immediately, then read from the Gospels as I mentioned in an earlier post.   After I am finished reading, I will reflect and pray, and then post something about my reflections on this blog.  I will then spend no more than two hours on the internet.   Calling friends and family can be done between then and lunch.   After lunch I can clean house and organize the room of the month.   Then I can start dinner, greet my husband, have dinner, and spend time either watching television, reading, or listening to music with Bob.   At ten I will plan the next day, start getting ready for bed, and will be down by 10:30, leaving the television off.
I know.  It doesn't seem rigorous at all.   Obviously my day will look different on days I volunteer at Church, visit relatives, etc.   On those days, blogging, t.v.  and/ or cleaning time will be condensed.
How can scheduling bring me closer to the Father?   Hopefully I will not only be more appreciative of the gift of time, but will develop a habit of using this gift wisely, and to His purpose.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Music in My Mind

On Wednesday of this week, Lent begins.  Yes.  Two days from now, we begin a time of penitential retreat.   We focus on God's great love for us, and at some points,  we will have to face our own faults, imperfections, and sins.   We will be be actually sacrificing something in order to draw ourselves closer to Him, and further away from things that hold us back from Him.   Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days Catholics abstain from meat, and limit ourselves to one meal and two snacks in order to focus on Him and less on us.
I have tried to explain here how we can focus more on Him and less on us by giving up things other than food for Lent.   (It's not that I don't need to be less attached to food, but that I don't want to limit myself to treating Lent like some sort of Catholic Diet Plan.  There are other things besides the occasion Bavarian Cream that affect my relationship with God )  Those of you that are familiar with my other blog know that I love to listen to music.   I am very attached to music, and find myself humming along and even moving along to music sometimes when I hear it at the grocery store, mall, car,  street corner, etc.
Years ago, I was driving my car and repeating the beginning mononlogue from Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy" by heart.   These are the words;

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here 2 tell u
There's something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own

I never realized what I was singing.   I never thought about it.  I just went along with it, saying the words because I like the beat of the music that follows.   Maybe I even thought the words "In this life, you're on your own" were cool.   But I realized that I don't actually believe that.   I never did.  A few minutes later, the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (I will NOT be providing you to the lyrics of THAT song.....  I assume you know it.) was playing and I actually understood what I was singing for the first time!  When I was an inexperienced teen ager, I thought the song was about being calm and stress free.   As a woman who was already married about five years,  I suddenly knew better!
I saw in my heart that I wasn't deliberate about the music that was going into my mind or coming out of my mouth.   Does that mean that I don't think there is a place for music with sensual lyrics in the Christian life?  No, not really.  My issue was mainly that I didn't think about it at all.  Perhaps the words and music are fine for singing and dancing to in my living room (but not my kitchen), while singing along at the grocery store or mall is totally inappropriate.
I made up my mind that year that I'd give up secular music for Lent.   God was helping me out, in that a brand new Christian station started up the same week as Lent did, and even advertised itself as being commercial free for forty days.  (No, I did not hear about it until after I'd made my mind up to give up secular music for Lent.)
Did it work out perfectly?  No, not quite.   I couldn't exactly give up grocery shopping, could I?   Bob was helpful in going sometimes, but it really isn't the true spirit of Lent to use it to get out of a chore!  I wasn't able to train my mind to not pay any attention to the music coming over the speakers.   I kind of think that worked out okay, though.   I was able to use it to focus on how perfect Christ's great sacrifice is, and that my small ones could never be perfect, but that His love is great enough to look upon them with love anyhow, even though He had been through so much for me.

Happy Lent!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Deciding What to Give Up for Lent : Part Two

The above picture is courtesy of photobucket

Yesterday I posted about how giving up something for Lent is supposed to bring us closer to God.   That is the main idea, whether we are giving up sweets, coffee, money, or time.  Only we ourselves can determine what would bring us closer to God, though sometimes input from people who know us can be beneficial.

Last year one of the things I gave up for Lent was alcohol.   I didn't really want to, because after my mom passed away, I had some trouble sleeping, and I found out that a little whiskey in my tea right before bed and I was out for the night.   I was weighing out whether or not I was depending on that cup of tea with whiskey and honey to comfort me rather than God.  But in my heart, I did not want to give it up, because I didn't want to feel the pain all night when I need to sleep.  (I coped during the day fine by leaning on my friends, family, husband, and just plain crying a lot.)

I turned to my friend Sarah for advice about what I should do.   I know what Jesus had to say about not letting others know when we fast (Matthew 6:16-18), but I needed someone who cares about me to nudge me in one direction or the other.  Sarah advised me that if it is this hard for me to decide to give it up, then it is probably what I ought to give up.  The idea is to sacrifice something for God.   It shouldn't be easy.

Without my friend's nudging, I probably would not have done it.   It was good for my relationship with God, in that I spent time talking to Him when I mourned at night, rather than medicating myself to sleep, and it was good for me in that after Lent was over, I didn't need tea with anything to soothe me to sleep.  Now the only time I drink whiskey for medicinal purposes is at the start of a cough!  And it is not a secret that I toast on special occasions ;-)

No, I won't be celebrating today with a toast, unless of course, it will make you happy! ;-)

But on a more serious note, I don't think it is wrong to have a friend as a sort of spiritual advisor to help discern what to sacrifice, provided that the intent is discernment, and not to have a cheerleader in our corner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Deciding What to Give Up for Lent

If you are contemplating giving something up for Lent, you may find yourself caught between trying harder to do as you should, such as not gossiping, and doing something extra, like fasting from potato chips.   A nun whose blog I really like a lot suggests that if it is something we should do, like not eat red meat because of our cholesterol count or something, we should do it on our "own time", not Lent, since the purpose of Lent is to draw closer to God, not to become healthy, pretty, or whatever. (You can check out her blog by clicking here.)  She suggests it should be something over and beyond the oughts.

I don't agree.  I've taught my students for almost two decades that things like playing with a little brother who gets on your nerves, or letting your older brother watch his favorite show without arguing about always having to watch Power Rangers is a fitting "cross to bear" because we draw closer to God by show love to people He loves.   I know that some of that is what they should be doing anyway.   But Lent puts it in a perspective that makes it a gift to God, and therefore there is more of an incentive, and gives them a six week time frame.   No, I don't think that after Easter a child can start yelling at his little brother to get lost, or grab the remote from his older brother.  Just that six weeks of practicing patience might bring them closer to God so that they want to show love for their brother, even though they are no longer bound by a Lenten promise to color and / or keep their hands off the remote!

I picture Lenten sacrifices as a sort of gift to God.  No, not one that He needs, but He may just like getting all the same.  Since God is our Father, He'd answer the question of what He wants in terms of what is good for us.   For example, I remember as a child, asking my parents what I should get them for their anniversary.   They answered that they want me to get a perfect score on my Spelling test.  Why?  Because they knew that I was perfectly capable of doing so, but sometimes just a little lax about studying.  What they really wanted was for me to do the best I could with my abilities.   The proof of this is that when I was in seventh grade, the gift request changed to a passing grade on my weekly Math test (Pre-algebra stunk!).   They knew I could get a passing grade, but was so overwhelmed by not being a "star" any more, I had given up.   The present they wanted from me was to not give up, and do the best I could with the gifts I had been given.

Does that mean that was all I gave them?  No, I saved up for a card, and perhaps some tacky vase or something they displayed with pride.   But the BIG deal to them, what REALLY pleased them, was doing what they essentially knew was good for me.   I picture God having the same reaction.

God the Father:   Oh LOOKIE!   She gave up gossiping to become closer to me!  I'm so glad!  This will improve her relationship with my other children, big time!
Angel:  Yeah, yeah....  She shouldn't be gossiping any way...   But you know, she also gave up sweets, which actually aren't a sin, as a gift to you.
God the Father:  Yes, that is rather cute.   My little girl sacrificing Bavarian creams because she loves me is kind of sweet.   But in the long run, her learning not to gossip is going to bring more peace to her and some of my other children than anything else she'd have chosen!
Angel:   Okay... Whatever you say... If there is anything I learned over the last couple millenia, it's never to try to make sense of the way a Father sees His children...

(I posted this imaginary conversation between God and an Angel during Lent a couple of years ago. I'll probably repost it later, but here is a link if you are interested now)

I enjoy reading a blog called Ironic Catholic.  She wrote a tongue in cheek list of what we can give up for Lent.  I share it with you here because it does point out the idea of giving up something we may be more attached to than we ought to be, which is really the point of giving up sweets or fasting of any kind.    The point is growing in Love for God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Beginnings: My Plans for Lent

The above picture is of a card that you can find on Etsy.

So, we now have eight days left before the start of Lent.   We still have plenty of time to decide how we can draw closer to Jesus during Lent, to better celebrate the joy of His Resurrection at Easter.

But I'd be a fibber if I acted like I didn't know for some time what I need to do for Lent.  You see, a little over two years ago, I bought a Chronological One Year Bible.   I not only loved the idea of reading the Bible in one year, but I loved the concept of reading books side by side as they happen in the same time frame.  In 2009, I lasted until about the first week of February.  Sure, I had a couple of days that I skipped, but was able to read two days worth the next day, so for a little more than a month, it all worked out.  But then I fell two days behind, and didn't have time to catch up by reading three days worth.  After awhile, I fell so far behind, I just put it aside until the next year.  My CDO (That's OCD, in alphabetical order the way it OUGHT to be ) mind could not wrap my head around reading a February entry in March.   The year 2010 began with Mom in the hospital, so I never did get around to starting again then.   This year, I don't know what stopped me.

Of course, realizing in February that I missed yet another opportunity to begin filled my heart with guilt.  I spoke to God about this guilt when I was praying, and the thought came to me (was it my own or from Him, I dare not assume) that I could read the Gospels in the Chronological Bible during Lent.  (My CDO mind is able to re appropriate materials, I have no idea why...)  The thought also occurred to me that it may be divided into portions that don't match up, and I'd either have to read a couple days at once a few times any way, or maybe end early.  But I was curious, so right there in the middle of prayer, I grabbed the Chronological Bible, looked up the number of days it would take me to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and found out that the number totaled forty!  That's EXACTLY the number of days during Lent!  I then counted the number of days to finish the New Testament, which would work out until around Pentecost.

So this Lent, my plan is to be disciplined about reading the Gospels every day, and hopefully it will become such a habit that I'll begin Acts and Paul's letters during the Easter Season.

Truthfully, I started this blog to help me with that.  Though I don't currently post daily on any of my blogs, the plan here is to update daily with what I read and my reflections on it.   This is more to keep me honest than for anyone else's edification.  :-)    And as I draw closer to God through His Word, I truly do anticipate a Happy Lent!

BTW, I hope my links to Etsy sites aren't getting on anyone's nerves.   I was just thinking that using pictures I had no rights to use could be problematic on a blog professing to deal with matters of faith, and that by using a picture from a site which is selling what is in the picture, and providing a link, I wouldn't be stepping on the toes of the owner of said picture.  After all, they'd be glad for a little extra exposure, right?   

I really like praying along to the Taize song on this Youtube video.   It's based on a verse from Psalm 103.