Tag Archives: Christian

O Come O Come Emmanuel

I generally don’t like Christmas music for various reasons, but I found this a minute ago, and it’s super good. I do have to say that I am partial to this particular song.

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Advent Reflection Notes (Week One)

Earlier today I finished doing a novena to Mary Undoer of Knots. It’s a specific way of doing the rosary that really underscore’s Mary’s power as an advocate for us with God. I also started taking an online Advent retreat. These are some notes I took from the videos I watched.

1: Jesus is why I can smile and cry at the same time.
-One of the videos talked about finding happiness, and the speaker talked about how so many people are, or at least seem to be unhappy. Happiness is a weird thing because it doesn’t mean being gleeful all the time. It’s hard to define it, but I think it’s about feeling real or authentic, at least in part. The other day I was praying, and I remember telling God, “This world isn’t satisfying.” That’s not to say I don’t like things in this world, it’s just that I know there’s something way better available.

2: Can I give Jesus an hour every day? What is my best time?
-I’ve been doing the rosary every day for a while, so I know I can pray for at least a solid twenty minutes. I don’t always pray at my best time, and sometimes I pray as a way to procrastinate instead of actually scheduling devoted time for God. I’m not entirely sure this is really the way to go, though. I feel like conversation, which is what prayer should be, should be more spontaneous.

3: When praying, let God speak first.
-I definitely don’t do this. I often pray when I need something or I’m feeling bad about something, so especially when nothing in particular is going on, I need to let him start the conversation.

4: “I’ve been praying for something for twenty years, so I’m beginning to have hope.” St. Padre Pio
-That’s definitely something to think about. I’ve been praying for something really important for several years now, and it hasn’t happened yet, but for one thing, I think the waiting has made me more patient, and maybe more persistent. I’d like to know more what St. Padre Pio meant by this because it’s counter intuitive.

5: God sometimes leads us by rejection. Rejection allows us to be alone with God.
-I’ve actually started to realize this on a personal level recently.

6: I worry about what I think I can’t do.
-Jesus asks of us what we can do, not what we can’t. What I forget is that what I’m capable of often surprises me. More to the point, what God is capable of through me will probably always surprise me.
-“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

7: If you assert something enough, does it at least sometimes make it true? Can I start to trust God more simply by telling him that I do?
-This was a question that popped into my head while watching one of the videos. I think the answer is, “no.” Trust is a choice.

Anyway, these are just some musings I had while watching the videos. I’m hoping to post something like this once a week for the remainder of Advent. Hopefully they’re at least interesting, if not particularly insightful. I did write in my last post that I want to give Jesus more room, which I think ultimately means giving him more time. This is certainly one way I’m trying to do that.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Not Just Waiting

I miss something I’ve never actually had. It’s kind of a confusing feeling, but I’m used to it by now. I attend Mass primarily with people around my grandmother’s age, and I’m one of about seven people who attend weekly Adoration. When we sing, I’m one of the only people who sings loudly, and I don’t sing nearly as loudly as I want to. At the Easter Mass, when the priest says, “He is risen,” and we’re supposed to repeat it triumphantly, he just repeats himself because no one says anything. We’re so used to the fact that Christ is risen that it sounds like old news. It’s not old news.

I miss the joy and triumph I know people once had. I think to a lot of people, church feels like an annoying obligation. If that weren’t the case, and if people really believed what we say we believe, we’d be louder, and Reading would be a much more Christian town. Yesterday I was teaching the kids about Advent. I had watched a video done by Bishop Robert Barron about the kingship of Jesus, and about how Advent should be about preparing for the King. I asked the kids how we might prepare for a king. They didn’t really have a concrete answer, and I realized, neither did I. I call Jesus my King, but I’m realizing that I might not exactly know what that means.

I’ve fairly recently started praying the Rosary daily. I learned how to do it a while ago, but I’ve only started to get serious about doing it within the past couple of weeks. That was when I learned that demons don’t like it one bit, and that it was just a very powerful prayer in general. At first, I have to admit, it did feel a bit mechanical. Now, I can do it really without even thinking so much about what I’m actually saying, and just focus on each of the mysteries. Just within the past few days, the Lord has given me some good stuff to think about. I’ve just been doing them in circular order, so last night I did the Sorrowful Mysteries. I hate it, but last night I realized that Jesus hurts with us when we hurt and I have no way of repaying him. As I write this, though, I’m realizing that maybe praying through his Passion is my way of hurting with him.

Yesterday I read a post entitled “Love Hurts.” It makes you vulnerable, and if you’re willing to be vulnerable, you have to be willing to let your heart be broken. I wrote in one of my stories that a broken heart has to be given away to be fixed. Two or three weeks ago, the Gospel reading at church was about when the king separates the “goats” from the “sheep,” in other words, the unrighteous from the righteous. He says to the righteous that they took care of him when he was alone, or sick, or lonely, or in need, and they say they have no idea what he’s talking about, and he says that if they did it for any of the “little guys,” they did it for him. Likewise, he says that if the unrighteous didn’t do these things, they didn’t do it for him. I hate this parable because there’s not a whole lot of practical stuff I can do to help the “little guys.”

I sulked for a day, thinking I was going to Hell for sure, and then I don’t remember what brought me to this conclusion, but I read something, or saw a video, or something, that basically led me to realize that Jesus expects us to give him what we can, not what we can’t. To tie all of this back to Advent, we have to understand that Christ is the risen King. That should be freaking us out because it’s kind of awesome. Advent isn’t just about his first coming. It’s about preparing for his second coming, too, and about recognizing his Kingship in our lives now. Jesus is a fair and loving King. He also happens to be the God of the Universe, who came into our world as a baby. As a man, and through his witnesses, he says to every single person, “I want you to do and/or believe ‘X,’ but I love you too much to make you.” We should be seriously freaking out about this. All I have to give him is my writing talents, my prayers, and my time.

Yesterday, on my break between my CCD classes, I went into the church and just hung out for half an hour or so. Since no one else was in there, I sang a song for Jesus, and then felt sort of awkward about it. I’m not very good at being quiet. Maybe that’s something I need to work on to prepare for the King this Advent. Maybe I need to turn some of the music and movies, and everything else I love off just a bit, so I can hear his voice a bit more clearly. Maybe all he needs is a little more room.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Blue Diamond

About a week ago, I went out for breakfast with my mom. The sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, and it was warm. There were some wispy white clouds in the sky that, as I was getting into the car to go home, reminded me of a blue diamond. I didn’t know if blue diamonds were real, and neither did my mom, so we both assumed they were something I made up. I make a lot of things up. The next day, though I looked them up, and it turns out they are real. They can be made from normal diamonds and chemically altered to look blue, but they can also be found naturally with the blue tint. Either way, they are extremely rare, and extremely precious.

On Saturday, my dad and I went wandering around in the woods to look at the foliage. Ironically, there is an amazing red maple tree across the road from our house, but there wasn’t much color to be seen where we went. Still, it was very nice out, and once again, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue. There were a lot of interesting things to be seen where we went. I found the remainder of a tree stump that only had half of it’s outside left, and to me, it looked like a crown. I also found a dead fruit tree of some sort that had a branch and a shoot curving up towards each other like hands. I also hugged a fern because it was exactly the right height, and because I felt like it.

After seeing the blue diamond in the sky, I’ve been referring to happy, blue sky days as blue diamond days. When I was looking at the red maple outside our house, I thought, “I wonder what God was thinking when he made that.” Then it occurred to me that I might know. He was probably thinking something along the lines of, “That’s good.” Then it occurred to me that when he was making me, he was probably thinking, “She’s really good, and she’s going to like this tree.” I was really amazed by that thought. God made that red maple to stick out among all the other trees against a vivid blue sky, and he cares infinitely more about me.

Of course not every day is a blue diamond day. Maybe today the sun is shining, and the sky is blue, and your favorite tree still has all its amazing foliage on it, but you can’t see it past the broken glass in the window of your heart. Or maybe the window is just fine, but the sky is gray, and the leaves are gone and it’s cold outside. The truth is that we have blue diamond days to remind us how precious we are to God. You are God’s blue diamond. You are good. You are loved.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

This One Thing

I haven’t been sleeping well this week. It happens from time to time. Sometimes it’s for no particular reason, and sometimes I’m just thinking or worrying too much about something. I just keep waking up ludicrously early and something pops into my head, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Two or three days ago a really disturbing question popped into my head. Helping the poor, the sick, and the needy is a big deal to Jesus. I don’t even drive a car. I have to ask for assistance to get basically anywhere unless I’m going to one of my friends’ houses or church, and even then, getting to church by rolling there takes time.

I feel bad about inconveniencing my parents, and I don’t make any of my own money right now, so I can’t even donate to charity. I teach three CCD classes, and I pray for people who need help, and I write stuff here, but is that enough? If I’m not actually there in person to help out, in other words, If I’m not doing what Jesus said to do (according to how my mind works), am I actually Christian? I have no idea how this popped into my head. It was dumb, but I had to get an answer. So, like usual, at 6:00 in the morning (which is WAY earlier than I like to be awake), I was researching on my phone.

Before even looking, though, I prayed, and I tried to find a concrete answer somewhere in scripture. I wasn’t sure where to look, so I ended up searching for what made someone a Christian somewhere else on the internet. I found an answer pretty quickly that really seemed to make sense. To be a Christian, someone has to believe in Jesus, and try to do what he did. Jesus doesn’t expect us to do more than we’re able. This is so simple, really, but I think the simplicity of it makes it easy to forget.

I’ve talked about my hero complex before, and I’ve realized something more. Sometimes I wonder why God made me the way he did. Sometimes I wonder why he made me so I can’t drive myself around or fully control my epilepsy, and therefore, can’t get a normal job. I think part of the reason is so I can’t feed my ego. If I was able to do things the way I want to do them, I might not be so interested in helping. The fact of the matter is, I don’t like being dependent, and if I were totally independent, I probably wouldn’t be so empathetic towards people who are also dependent on others.

I realized something else through that whole experience, though. When I woke up with that horrible question in my head, it terrified me. I realized that my entire identity rests on the fact that I am Christian. I could write a substantial list of qualities that contribute in some way to who I am, but they’re just not important to me. I never fully realized this until my identity in Christ came into question. It was like questioning whether I exist or not.

Realizing this has actually made me feel pretty good. I know who I am. I’m not sure how many people can confidently say that. For many, I think it’s hard to track down one’s true identity. I used to think the fact that I was a fantasy writer was my true identity. The problem with identifying myself so much with that was that there were so many questions and variable factors. Am I actually any good? Is anyone going to like my book? Am I ever going to get published once I finish this thing? Is this thing just totally crazy? Is it only ever going to make sense to me? How long is it going to take to finish this? Am I always going to be writing fantasy? Even if this does go well, what do I write next? This is so complicated, and I have so many ideas! Some days this is so fun, and some days it’s such a drag! Luckily, none of that really matters. All that matters is that I believe and I’m trying.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Beautiful Now

Salvation is a hard thing to understand, let alone, explain. This morning I couldn’t sleep, so I read an article about how God just wants us to be ourselves. God loves us just the way we are. He created us, he knows who we are, and he doesn’t expect us to be anything other than who we really are. Whether we know it or not, we have a tendency to put on a facade a lot of the time. Even around our best friends, we emphasize certain things about ourselves, and hide others. God loves even the worst parts of us.

Our family recently bought a house in Naples Maine. My mom has loved this house for five years, and at first, I had no idea why. It looks like it’s about to fall down. We officially owned it last Friday. It’s not exactly wheelchair accessible yet, but I can get into three of the rooms on the first floor as it stands. Last Friday, I went into the house for the first time. It smelled. Everything was covered in dirt, dust and mouse crap, and it was filled with trash that had been left there by the previous owner.

The house hadn’t been lived in for twelve years. The guy who lived in it before was an alcoholic, and just let everything fall apart before eventually leaving. While he was there he had said he wanted to fix the place up, but had only really managed to pull some things off the walls. His drinking habit was evidently so bad that he had literally lost track of where he had stored away some of his beer.

We stayed there for a couple of hours on Friday and began cleaning some things up. I had brought my rosary with me, so I hung out in the kitchen and went through the Divine Mercy chaplet, which is part of a devotion that was first introduced in the 1930’s. In one of the rooms I couldn’t get into, my mom found a broken piece of something that had a piece of one of the psalms written on it. It read something like, “He who puts his faith in God is safe.”

This past weekend, my dad went up and camped in the house to start cleaning it up some more. On Tuesday, my mom and I went up to see how things were going. We had hired a clean-up crew to just get everything out of there, and they spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon there. My dad had kept the windows open, so the place already looked and smelled significantly better by the time my mom and I got there. On Wednesday someone came to see if the septic system was going to work for the house, and he said it would. Later, the architect came to see if the house itself could be “saved” and remodeled for what we need. He said it can. He’s already started working on plans, and my mom has enlisted her cousin, who is a builder, to take care of a lot of the work.

When my mom first saw this house she loved it. She wanted to save it. She wanted to make it her own. I didn’t get it for the longest time. A while ago I wrote a post about how we were debating about buying a house in a town closer to our family, or in Portland. My mom kept coming back to this house. When we finally decided on this one, and we were coming closer to buying it, I realized I wanted it, too. I was getting excited, but I still didn’t really know why. Now that we do own it, I can truthfully say that I love it now. I obviously don’t want it to stay the way it is, but I love this house, and I can’t wait to see how awesome the finished product is going to be.

This house to me is what salvation looks like. It was broken and empty before, but now it’s got people who love it living in it, and we’re going to fix it. Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy because we’re not there all the time, but I think now the house has hope in it. I recently wrote a post about what home is. Home isn’t just where a person’s primary residence is. Home is found in people and memories and various places all at once. I’ve barely known this house, and quite frankly, it’s still disgusting, but on Wednesday I sat on the porch in the sun, listening to music, and I definitely felt at home.

God asks us if we will let him into our souls, even if we’re really messy; even if we’ve said “no” to him time and time again. God loves us just the way we are. He always wants us to be better; Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” but he knows it’s a process, and I expect he loves the process, just as my family is already loving the process of fixing up our house. It’s easy to feel like we’re not good enough, and therefore, wonder how we can let God in, and even if we do, how we’re going to hide the ugly things from him. The fact of the matter is, we don’t have to. The ugly stuff is what makes the finished product so beautiful, and the fact of the matter is, God made us. He thinks we’re beautiful now.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Agape

Earlier today a question occurred to me. Why, or how do humans love? What is love, anyway? I thought of this question because I keep coming back to the question of why God loves us. Ultimately, that’s an insanely difficult question to answer, so I decided to try and dumb it down for myself. The obvious next step was to “Google” this because I wanted to know what experts, whether they be spiritual or scientific, had to say. First I got scientific answers that really didn’t seem very helpful. They only really touched on romantic love, which wasn’t what I had in mind.

Then I rephrased my question and got the answer I somehow knew I was looking for all along. There are four different types of love according to Greek philosophy: Eros, or a love that is deeply related to the body and the senses; Phileo, or affection towards people and sometimes things; Storge, which is a loyal love, generally towards one’s family, friends, a cause one believes in, one’s country, etc; Agape, or an active, sacrificial love that is chosen simply for the good of others for no reason. Agape love cannot be understood in a passive sense. Agape is always a verb. Agape is to will the good of the other.

Agape is perfect love, and it is the kind of love that God showed us when he died for us on the cross. God is love. This is why he is a Trinity. He is a lover, beloved, and loving. The Father and the Son love each other, and the Holy Spirit is the love that they share. A human relationship is shared between two people, but if there is no love between them, there is no relationship. People need other people because we need to experience love, and we can’t fill our need purely on our own. God doesn’t need, nor did he ever need humanity to exist because the Trinity was already experiencing perfect love.

God created us knowing that we would betray him. He saved us even though he didn’t have to, and even though it would mean experiencing the worst we had to offer. The crazy thing is that even though God doesn’t need us to love him, he wants us to. This is revealed over and over in the Scriptures, and also through the writings of the saints. In fact, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is simply to love God. Loving God means a great number of things, and can be anything from enjoying and appreciating nature, to imitating Jesus and doing good for others, to stopping to pray or participate in some form of worship.

Jesus said that to find one’s life, one had to lose it. He also said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. To lose one’s life does not need to be understood in a literal sense. It is meant that one is to give one’s self away freely, and in doing so, one finds out who they really are. Similarly, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends means to sacrifice for people without expecting anything in return. To make sacrifices for God’s Kingdom is Agape love. It is the kind of love that God wants from us.

What More Can I Do?

I tried to start a prayer chain on Facebook a few days ago. The idea was that if you prayed the Rosary, you would do it at least once for the people in Texas, and then tag five people so they could do it in turn. If you didn’t (or don’t) pray the Rosary and wanted to join me you would just pray five Our Father’s, and do the same thing. I don’t know if anyone’s done it, but I’ve been doing it for several days now. Only two out of the five people I tagged have “liked” my original post, but three people who I don’t even know have also “liked” it. If anyone wants to join me, you can either repost this, or just let your readers know what your’re doing.

Anyway, While I was doing this two days ago, I really focused on each individual part of the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s amazing just how poetic and relevant it is. I’ll write the original, and then put it into vernacular here.

Our Father
Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our tresspasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Our Father in Heaven,
Your name is holy.
Let your Kingdom come and your will be done
On Earth just as it is in Heaven.
Today give us what we need,
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Keep us away from temptations,
And deliver us from evil.

When I started this prayer chain idea, I started with the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, which focus on everything that happened after Jesus rose from the dead. It may seem like a weird place to start, but I started here because to me, these are the Mysteries of hope, and I’m sure the people in Texas could use a little more of that.

Because of the hope that Jesus gave us, we get to call the God of the universe our Father, despite his holiness, and despite our humanness. We know that his Kingdom is coming, but the fact of the matter is, it’s already here, too. We ask that his will is done because his will is always good. We can always ask for help to keep us from sinning, and he always answers that prayer, and he always frees us from evil. It just sometimes takes a while.

two days ago I was doing the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, which focus on five of Jesus’ most significant miracles. In particular, I was thinking about when he turned water into wine. I found myself thinking, “Turn water into… something else. They’ve had enough.” I’m doing the Mysteries in order, so today I’ll be doing the Sorrowful Mysteries, which focus on his Passion. It starts with the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus prays to his Father, and says “I don’t want to do this, but your will be done.”

I didn’t have a chance to do this yesterday because we had family over, but two days ago I found myself thinking about those words in particular. I found myself thinking, “I don’t really know what to pray. I just don’t get this, but your will be done.” Over the past few days, I’ve found myself praying that a lot: “I don’t know what to do or pray, but your will be done.”

two days ago I watched a video about a guy who got burned by accident when he was nine. He had burns over one hundred percent of his body. No one expected him to live. Then a guy who was a baseball announcer on the radio came and visited him in the hospital. The kid couldn’t open his eyes because they were swollen shut, but the guy told him he was going to live. He came back a bunch of times, and kept telling him that.

Eventually the kid left the hospital and went home, but some of his fingers had been amputated, and he didn’t want to learn to write again because that would mean going back to school. The Baseball guy sent him a baseball that said if he wanted a second baseball, all he had to do was write a “thank you” letter. He kept doing this to help the kid recover and learn and essentially get back to normal. When the kid graduated high school or college (I don’t remember which), the baseball guy showed up to his graduation. He said he kept asking himself, “What more can I do?”

I found myself asking that same question this morning. I’ve been praying. I hadn’t donated any money because I’m on social security disability, and I feel like it’s not really “my” money. Then I thought about it differently. Donating two hundred bucks is basically just moving that two hundred from Massachusetts to Texas. Since it was never mine to begin with, I might as well make some use of it. I do have menial savings, so I donated that two hundred. Still, the question lingers. What more can I do? I won’t forget about this, and I won’t ignore it because I refuse to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Third Option

On Thursday night I went to confession. At the beginning of this week I gave in to the temptation I had mentioned in my post about the Bleak, but I also had a few other things to confess. The fact that I failed sucked, the fact that I had to wait to go to confession for several days sucked, and having to confess several things sucked. The priest I usually confess to is really great, though. He’s really encouraging, and when I got through my confession (which involved tears), I felt so much better. I was in an annoyingly good mood by the time I got home to harass my dad into playing with me.

I also finished writing the Bleak yesterday, and thank God for that because that was the most depressing piece of fiction I’ve ever had to write. I’ve written not-fun things before, but they’ve either been for school, or they’ve simply been tedious. The thing about my mythology is that sometimes I can write things in whatever order I want, and sometimes it simply makes sense to write things in a specific order. I’m at a point, once again, where I can finally pick whichever story I want to write next. I’m going to write the story of one of my human characters next because I’ve spent a lot of time in the other Realms of the Abyss, and it’s getting to be a bit of a head trip. A little normalcy, or familiarity at least, will do me good.

I’m working on a new song as well. I started it a while ago, but it takes me a lot longer to write songs than it does to write stories. Songs have to say more in fewer words. It’s called “Autumn Hero.” The idea for it just sort of popped into my head a few weeks ago when my mom opened the door to our deck to check on something outside and I could hear the crickets that seem to only come out, or come out more in late summer.

The first verse goes like this:

I can hear the late summer sounds
Late at night with the lights turned low
The Ghost of Beauty sings in my bones
And I can breathe I am free

This whole week, until today at least, I’ve been kind of a lunatic because I’ve felt so badly about the stuff I had to confess. After my confession I felt so free, though, and on Friday I found that I couldn’t find the words to pray. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, and in fact, I think I was sort of praying, but this whole week I realized I’ve been doing all the talking. I finally found I could just sit because everything was okay again. I know I don’t have to earn God’s forgiveness, but at the same time, I can’t help myself. His love isn’t fair, so when I mess up, I feel really bad about it. I really want to make up for it even though I can’t.

Early this morning I had a dream that involved a pretty horrible choice. First I need to mention that I was born and raised Catholic, but I didn’t really care about being Christian, nor did I realize that I needed God until about six years ago. It wasn’t until a few months later that I embraced Catholicism for real, and it was until fairly recently that I began to understand devotion to Mary.

All that being said, the choice in the dream was a very difficult one. Jesus and his mother were about to fall to their death. I could save one, but the other would not live. I had time to think about it in the dream, but I had to choose. I finally decided to save Mary because that’s what I thought Jesus would have had me do. When I woke up, I remembered this decision, and it didn’t quite sit right with me. I’m realizing there might have been a third option that simply wasn’t obvious to me in the dream. I might have been able to take the fall myself and save them both. Whether or not I’d have the courage to do something like that in “real life,” I don’t know, but it makes me wonder.