Monthly Archives: July 2016

Thursday Night

On Monday I got an email from a guy who is friends with the youth minister at our church. He’s a seminarian, and has spent most of the summer at a church one town over. Brad had told him that I play guitar and like worship music, so he contacted me regarding a service he was putting together on Thursday. I said I’d be delighted to play, but I’d need a few details. He didn’t get back to me until Wednesday, but he wanted to meet in person. I invited him to my house, and we talked about what music we would do. We decided on four songs, only one of which I knew, so I had just over twenty four hours to prepare. A rookie mistake when it comes to music is to sign up for something like this on ludicrously short notice. I’ve done it before, and it hasn’t turned out well.

Luckily the songs were very simple, one of them we decided to do acapela, and I learned them very quickly. I also had an epiphany when I went to bed Wednesday night. My epilepsy started acting up a bit, and when it does this I try hard to pray. The problem is that epilepsy inhibits me from using words, so I had to figure out a way to pray without them. Interestingly, I can still process visual ideas, if you will, and that includes the shape of words, so I traced Jesus’ name on my arm over and over. All I need is to know that he’s with me when I’m having problems, and that did the trick. My epilepsy is the one thing that really scares me these days, but I think I figured out how to fix that. It was a darn simple fix.

Last night I arrived at the church a few minutes early so Aaron could set me up. The purpose of this event was to call on the Holy Spirit to give us new energy and new excitement for the Gospel, and also to give us whatever gifts we need to share our faith. This was his first time organizing something like this, and it was my first time actually leading worship. Before people started arriving we prayed, and our prayer was: “Jesus, we don’t know what we’re doing, but you do, so you lead us.” As expected, we made a couple mistakes, but overall, I think the whole thing went well. I think Aaron will be a phenomenal priest. His prayers were genuine and faithful, and I could tell that something amazing was happening in that chapel.

I read a thing the other day about how God doesn’t expect us to be “good enough.” He wants us to rely on him to be good enough; strong enough; smart enough; eloquent enough; brave enough. He is enough. There’s a line in one of the songs I played last night that goes: “You are hope, you are hope, you have covered all my sin.” I don’t even know how to explain how much that means. Once again I’m realizing just how much God loves me, and how beautifully unfair that is. It used to vaguely bother me that his love is unfair; that I can’t equal it, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t want a God whose love is fair. I love him more because I can never equal him. The fact that his love is infinite means that I can always grow in love; I can always change; I can always do better because he is always leading me. It also means that now matter how bad I mess up, he will still love me, and that especially makes me want to do better.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Landmarks

I’ve had a busy summer thus far. I’ll be going camping in a few weeks, which is crazy because camping always kind of marked the end of vacation when I was in school. Time has changed since I graduated. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it. It’s just different. One of my friends is also done with school and he’s living and working back at home, just a few houses away. One of my other friends is still in school, and she’ll be starting up again come September. My other friend is (I guess) working for his cousin or something. My two guy friends, along with my brother, are my D&D chums. My brother will be back at school shortly after camping, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve took a bit of a break from working on my book for the past few weeks for a few reasons. Part of it is that it’s summer, and we’ve just had a lot of company at my house. Part of it is that I’ve had a serious bout of writer’s block for a while. Part of it is that my friends are home, Pokemon Go is a thing, and they constantly want to hang out, which I really don’t see as a problem. Part of it is that I’ve been trying to figure out what God wants me to “do,” so I’ve been trying to spend more time with him. I actually think it’s all worked out for the best. My dad and I have been watching a lot of movies lately. At the moment, we’re into conspiracy theory and post-apocalypse stories, and that’s helping. I got a new idea for my book that I think will move my story forward.

What I also figured out, which probably should have been obvious, is that I need to always be at least one step ahead of my characters. Part 1 of my book was significantly easier to write because I had “landmarks” planned out that would get them to Part 2. I didn’t have to get from A to Z. I just had to get from A to B to C, and fill in the details along the way. Part 2 has been harder because, for a long time, I didn’t even know how the book was going to end. Last night, I figured out at least one new “landmark,” which I think will be exceedingly helpful, and I think it will help me figure out what other “landmarks” I need.

Looking at life in the present tense, most things look like a series of happy accidents, but looking back, I see landmarks. Last night I discovered a new one. A while ago I wrote about wanting to belong only to God. Although I haven’t written much about it, I was seriously considering becoming a Consecrated Virgin, but every time I seriously thought about it, it felt wrong. I think this was the case because it sounded very much like I would be subject to the will of the Church (i.e. the will of the Bishop of the Diocese of Boston), and not to the will of God. I would like to make it clear that I like the Catholic Church. For the most part, I trust the Catholic Church. At the same time, there are things I don’t entirely agree with, and I know that the Catholic Church, while mostly good, is mostly led by fallible men.

For a long time, I’ve felt like I’m not very good at praying. At least, I’m not always super comfortable when praying. At the same time, I didn’t want to just use “scripted” prayers, because that felt like removing myself from the conversation. Very recently I found this prayer:

Oh, Sacred Heart of Jesus, to you I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may only exist to love, honor, and glorify you, This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to you, and to do all for your love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease you. I take you, Oh Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the strength for my weakness and faultiness, the reparation for all the imperfections of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Most Merciful Heart, be my justification before God your Father, and shield me from his anger, which I have rightly merited. I fear from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in you, Heart of Love, I hope from your infinite goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or repel you. Imprint your pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget you or be separated from you. I beg you, through your infinite goodness, grant that my name be engraved on your heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of your devoted servants.

As I read this for the first time, I prayed it. It sunk in immediately. This is not the original version. The version I found was written in “ye olde” English. I’ve changed words here and there to make it more personal, without changing the meaning. I think the process was a kind of prayer in itself. Whenever I thought of it, and had enough time, for the past few months, I’ve been looking into how to pray better. One thing that has been emphasized over and over in various contexts is that prayer is a conversation, and therefore, it’s important to listen. I’m getting better at that.

I also came across an argument, which I think is valid, that the Lord’s prayer is a formula for all prayers. The pastor (who was not Catholic) explained that Jesus’ formula was this: Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield (i.e. listen). Admittedly, at least the way I know it, I don’t think Jesus’ prayer is exactly set up like this, but I’ve been loosely following the formula, and I think my version of it works. I use a “scripted” prayer of praise that I wrote, then I do an Act of Contrition, then I say the prayer I wrote out above, then sort of a general prayer for the world, that I wrote, and by that point, I’m ready to “freestyle” it, and more importantly, I’m much more ready to listen.

Honestly, while I do feel like I at least kind of know how to listen at this point, I still can’t say that I’m good at it. One thing that I have learned that’s very important when it comes to prayer is to just sit still. The funny thing is, I learned this from my bird. I was picking a fight with Seamus the other day, partly just to be a pest, but partly because I wanted him to snuggle, and he bit me. I said, “Just sit still and let me love you.” I think this is often exactly what God is trying to say to us. Quite frankly, it’s hard to sit still. Even if I’m physically sitting still, my mind is often going a mile a minute. It’s probably different for every person, but I think it’s absolutely necessary to figure out how to “let him love you.”

I said that I’ve been trying to figure out what God wants me to “do.” I’ve been waiting for him to give me something specific, but I don’t think he’s going to. I found that Sacred Heart prayer by accident, but I think I was meant to find it. That prayer was a landmark. Over the past several years, there have been things he’s “told” me to do: be a bridge; tell the truth; be still, and know that I am God.” What’s more is that I’ve got ideas or written songs that have seemed to come out of nowhere. These, too, I see as landmarks; gifts that God has given me. They’re not mine. In a way, I’m able to draw a map of my life. Some landmarks are obvious; points in time that I can easily identify, like when I graduated high school, or when I released my album. These obvious things don’t define me, though.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I looked up the actual definition of “consecrate” because it was always just sort of implied. To consecrate is to dedicate to a deity, or to make sacred. It was by a happy accident that I found the Sacred Heart prayer, but it was exactly what I needed to find. When I found it, I didn’t think about it. I read it, and I prayed it, and I meant it. I wanted to belong only to God, and he made it happen.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!