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.
I’ve already watched the videos for week two, and I didn’t find them that insightful, except for one done by a priest named Father Nathan Cromly. These are a few points that were in his video that I’ll expand with my own thoughts a bit.
1: God prepares us by making us wait, and making us thirst for him.
-I think this touches on one of the points that stuck with me from last week. It reminds me of the quote from Saint Padre Pio: “I’ve been praying for something for twenty years, so I’m beginning to have hope.” Father Cromly says that it can be very tempting to despair and give up on faith in our current culture, especially if we don’t know many or any others who practice our faith. It’s easy to look at the problems in the world and wonder where God is or what he’s doing, but God wants us to dare to hope.
2: God isn’t afraid to disturb our sense of peace.
-In a recent post, I talked about how I really don’t know exactly how one would prepare for the coming of a king, let alone the King of the Universe. This point is definitely true for me because I’ve grown a lot spiritually in the past few years, and as I grow, I feel a desire to be holy very strongly, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to put the things I like into terms that make sense, or even to know if they’re dangerous to my spirituality. For example, I’ve been watching the show Daredevil with my dad on Netflix. The story is super interesting, but the symbol for the superhero/protagonist is the devil, and there’s a lot of problematic language in the show. Granted, the protagonist is Catholic, so I’m assuming the irony in that was meant to be simply amusing and innocent, but it still strikes me as possibly problematic. I have a harder time overlooking the language, but part of my problem is that I can’t help watching this show from a writer’s perspective, and in that sense, it’s really good. The point I’m trying to make is that figuring out how to take on the world is exceedingly complicated.
3: God comes into our lives to expand what we think is possible
-Yesterday I was still wrestling with the feeling that what I had to offer the Lord would never be enough. Again, this hearkens back to the parable of the goats and the sheep. Out of the blue, while my mom and I were in the car headed somewhere, I sort of felt him ask me, “Do you doubt what you can do or what I can do? Do you doubt my mercy?” I was speechless for a minute, then all I could manage was, “Sorry… I don’t doubt it any more.”
4: What does it mean and what does it take to unconditionally say “yes” to God like Mary did?
-This is a tough one because I know from experience that it often means being totally socially weird. For me, at least, it has meant getting used to being weird, accepting it, and celebrating it. I know that it also means doing things I don’t like sometimes, or doing things I could never initially see myself doing. When I first volunteered to teach fourth graders, I never actually thought I’d like it. Actually, I like teaching the little kids more than the high school kids. I started with high school kids, though, and even then, it was kind of on a whim, and I just went with it. If it weren’t for my epilepsy, I might consider trying to get a teaching degree and teaching theology at a Catholic school.
I would also just like to mention something I read the other day. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina several times, and in one of these apparitions, he gave her a prayer that would greatly help in the salvation and conversion of souls. The prayer is, “O blood and water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a font of mercy for us, I trust in you.” I’ve been praying for a few people for around four or five years at least. Ultimately, I guess that’s not really a very long time, but sometimes it feels like forever. Still, this revelation to Saint Faustina kind of reminds me of Saint Padre Pio’s quote. I like to tell people that I can swim a mile. After the first half mile, I’m exhausted, but I make it the second half because I’m more stubborn than I am strong.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!
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!
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!
On Thursday I went to Adoration like I usually do, and I went to confession like I often have to. I confessed that I’ve been struggling with a certain temptation, and I sometimes give into it, but I don’t think I’ve given in lately. I also confessed that a very long time ago, when I first came back to God, I didn’t understand the sacraments and that I felt like I sort of misused them because of that, but that this was something that I just hadn’t confessed because I keep forgetting to. I also confessed that sometimes, after I know God has forgiven me for something, I have trouble forgiving myself. The priest absolved me, and told me that I’m a holy woman.
A lot of people have been telling me that lately. My best friend has told me that several times. I sort of wrote it off because she’s agnostic. Then another friend who I don’t really see very often told me the same thing at her aunt’s wake. My mom has told me that I’m a holy person, but I kind of thought she was joking. My godfather has implied it. Now my priest is saying it. I don’t think I’m a holy person. I’m working at it.
I recently read a horribly depressing article. It was about what crucifixion actually does to the human body, and how people who were crucified actually died from asphyxiation after horribly long periods of time. It said that Jesus most likely did not die in this way because Biblical and scientific evidence suggest that he most likely died from heart failure. The really horrible part came next. It explained that heart failure can be the result of deep longing, loss, and/or rejection. This is especially common among elderly people who have lost a partner they have loved and been with for a very long time. In other words, people can die of a broken heart. In other words, Jesus died of a broken heart.
Jesus died for sins I haven’t even committed yet. When he was on the cross, he knew I was going to leave him. He knew I wasn’t going to care for several years. I don’t care that I was seventeen. My instinct is to say that I’m sorry. The thing is, I’ve said I’m sorry more times than I know, and I know he’s forgiven me. Peter rejected him three times; pretended he didn’t know him, and Jesus made him the first Pope. Last night I had a thought. “I’ve said I’m sorry, and he’s forgiven me. What do you say when someone’s forgiven you?” Then it hit me. It was stupid, really. “You say, ‘Thank you.'”
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.
God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. I read this tiny little thing last night, and for some reason, I just started balling my eyes out. There’s just something infinitely beautiful about it in its simplicity.
I recently discovered this song, and now I’m completely obsessed with it. I think maybe it gets at what I mean.
I have certain times when I habitually pray throughout the day. It’s usually when I wake up, whenever I eat, while I’m in the shower, and when I go to bed. I often pray before I start work, or when I get writer’s block, but sometimes I forget. Otherwise, my prayers throughout the day are pretty random. I tell God when I notice the sky is pretty and things like that. I’m rather simple sometimes.
I realized something while I was praying in the shower this evening, though. I find myself apologizing to God a lot, and it’s not because I’m a sinner. I know I’m a sinner. I know I need to work on stuff, and I know he’s forgiven me, and I know he’ll always forgive me. What I apologize about is actually stupid. I apologize for things I don’t need to be sorry for. I apologize because I’m not a hero.
I realized that I still have a hero complex that I thought I left behind a long time ago. It drives me completely insane that I can’t have my own apartment so I can give homeless strangers a place to stay. It drives me crazy that I’m not “able-bodied” so I can get a well-paid job and adopt a troubled kid who really needs a good mom. The fact that I can’t go be a missionary in a third-world country makes me want to tear my hair out. It sucks that I know and believe that prayer is super powerful and works, but I don’t feel it.
I apologize that I’m not a hero, when I’m physically incapable of being a hero. That’s just it, though. This is my idea of a hero. Heroes do grande, noticeable things. I lurk in my bedroom and write weird stories, and I pray because that’s all I can do. I pray for the people doing the things I can’t do, and I pray for the people who need their help, but I want to be there.
I recently came across Saint Faustina, who is completely awesome. She had mystical encounters with Jesus, and this is what he said to her:
“I want you to be very little, because when you are little, I carry you close to My Heart. Because you are weak, I take you in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.”
He also said,
“My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and exaggerated anxiety.”
Another mystic by the name of Sister Consolata Betrone received this message from Jesus:
“You only worry about loving me, and I will take care of everything else to the smallest detail.”
This is hard for me. I like to be independent. I don’t mind being told what to do or following directions or even working on a team, but I like to have an objective and, if possible, I like to have the freedom to be a little creative. I like to be able to complete the task I’ve been given and have that sense of accomplishment after. I think I was able to ignore my hero complex more when I was in high school and college because I had objectives and tasks I could complete and I got that sense of accomplishment when I passed a difficult test or got an “A” on a paper. Those were my duties. Come to class and participate. Pass the test. Write the paper. Do the homework. Get the degree. Graduate.
Now I’m in this weird position where I don’t feel as much like I have objectives. My mom told me to write a book. She didn’t give me a deadline. She didn’t tell me what it should be about. She didn’t give me work hours. She’s never complained when I’ve taken unnecessary time off. I feel like I’m floating around with no anchor. I know I can finish my mythology, and finishing each individual story does give me a small sense of accomplishment, but it’s certainly not a huge thrill. I have a list of stories that I need to write, and others may be added later, if need be. Once all my stories are written, I need to research and find an editor and either self-publish, or find publishers to submit to. What will come after that, I have no idea, but I hope I can be philanthropic.
Originally I was writing for two reasons. The first was because my mom told me to. The second was because my medical issues make it nearly, if not entirely impossible to get a “real” job. I want to go big, and I want to be a hero. Jesus says to get small, to love him, and to pray. He says to let him take care of everything. A while ago I realized I had only one real reason for writing my book. God is helping me write it. It’s his, and I want him to use it. Earlier I prayed that he would help me to lose the hero complex. I’m not a hero, and never can be in the way I think of a hero. I have to let Jesus be the hero.
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.
I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, but I haven’t entirely known how to pull it off. I’ve wanted to write the end of the Gospels in story form, in a modern, accessible way that still holds true to what happened. I’ve written it from Peter’s perspective, and I’ve taken bits and pieces from all four Gospels to construct the timeline. I have tried to be as true to the Gospels as possible while still being a bit creative. I’d love feedback. Thanks!
“Peter!” Mary entered the room so suddenly it scared me to death.
“What,” I said. I was not in the mood for any hysterics.
“Our teacher! Jesus! He’s alive!”
“Sure he is.” This had to be hysterics.
“Go and look if you don’t believe me!”
I was torn. I wanted to believe her, but at the same time I didn’t want to. It wasn’t possible, though realistically, I’d seen him do plenty of impossible things. I had walked on water because of him, though I wasn’t thinking of that at the moment. Finally I decided to go and see what she was talking about.
I left the house and ran to the place where he had been buried. The stone was gone. Hesitantly, I looked inside. It was empty. Nothing. There was no body. It didn’t make sense. It must be some kind of trick his enemies were playing. What more could they do to us?
“You see!” she said when I got back to the house.
“I don’t get it.”
“Peter, what don’t you get! He’s alive!”
“Mary, did you see him?”
“Yes! Peter, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I talked to him! I didn’t even recognize him at first! He scared me half to death!”
“What did he say to you?”
“He just told me to come and tell you and the others.”
No one else had said a word this whole time. I’m not sure anyone wanted to. Their expressions were difficult to look at, especially his mother’s. We had been moving around over the past few days to avoid being targeted. At the moment we were at John’s place. He’d been going home a lot anyway to check on her. I always saw why Jesus liked him. He was good like that.
Finally some of the other guys started talking, just quietly. Jesus’ mom didn’t know what to do. She just broke down so John and I took her to another room to calm her down. When she was at least mostly back to normal the three of us went back to where everyone else was and I suggested we all pray about this. Mary was credible. Jesus had liked her and trusted her, so I decided I did to. I wanted to believe.
Finally when we were all eating dinner Jesus walked through the door. The shut and locked door. That was fun. Nobody knew what to do. Some of the guys actually hid behind chairs or behind other people.
“That’ll do you a lot of good,” I thought.
Admittedly, I was pretty scared, too, but I had to know what was going on.
“Guys, calm down,” Jesus said with a laugh. He walked over to me; the guy who had just walked through a closed and locked door walked over to me, and said, “Pete, look.” He held out his hand. It was scarred from where the nail had gone through when they… did what they did. “Take my hand,” he said. “Touch it.” I did, hesitantly. It was real. It was a real, human hand. I looked up. He smiled, but I noticed the marks on his forehead. He pat me on the shoulder and let go of my hand. I had wanted to hold on to him. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose him again. It was a weird feeling.
Next he practically ran over to his mother and John and hugged them both. He went around to everyone and made sure we all knew he wasn’t some kind of hopeful illusion. What had began as a very weird, tense day quickly turned into a celebration… until he informed us that he had to go, to do what he didn’t say. He said he’d be back in a week, though, and we trusted him this time. Still, it wasn’t easy to let him go. It wasn’t until he had gone, though, that we noticed Tom hadn’t been there the whole time Jesus was. When we told him the next day, he didn’t believe us.
About a week later, Tom was with us and Jesus came back at the same time. This time he knocked. I laughed when I saw who was at the door. Tom didn’t get why. Jesus didn’t even say hi to anyone. He just walked straight over to Tom and told him to touch his hands, and he showed him the place in his side where they… did what they did. To this day I don’t like talking about it. What Tom did next was really cool.
He was speechless for a second and then he knelt down, still holding Jesus’ hand and said, “My Lord and my God.” That was powerful.
Jesus stayed with us for a little over a month after that. During that time, a lot of people who didn’t believe in him before started believing, and a lot of people who already did, believed more and grew in faith. One day a bunch of us were hanging around by the lake, one of our favorite spots, and Jesus and I snuck off a little ways. It was his idea. Everyone wanted to be around him all the time. Of course it didn’t bother him, but I could tell something was on his mind.
We just stood there, looking at the water for a minute, and then he said, “Pete,”
“Do you love me?”
“Of course I do.”
He must have thought I didn’t understand the question because he asked again. “Peter, do you love me?”
“Lord Jesus, you know I do.”
“Then feed my sheep.”
This time I was a little confused, but I had meant what I said. Even so, he asked me again, which was actually kind of annoying. “Peter, do you love me?”
I said, “You know I love you, you know everything.”
“You know what you have to do then, Peter. Feed my sheep.”
I don’t know why exactly, but this seemed to change something inside of me. I have to say, by that point I was definitely willing to cry around Jesus. We stayed there for a minute, and he let me cry, and then, because I knew the other guys were close by I didn’t let myself cry any longer. It was important to get it out, though. Something had been fixed.
So much happened after that, it’s hard to remember it all, and it was mostly celebration to us. It was such a happy time. Still, we knew it wouldn’t last forever. Finally, when it was near the end of forty days, we could tell something was on Jesus’ mind again, but he didn’t tell us what. It seemed like he was happy and sad at the same time. He really was a very complicated person.
Finally he brought us together for the last time, and, since we had all been wondering the same thing for a while, I asked him, “Lord, are you going to bring your Kingdom now?”
What he said next was totally unexpected. “Guys, listen to me. I can’t tell you God’s plan. It’s not your place to know it. What I can tell you is that you’ll be given power to do great things in my name. You guys have stuck by me, and you’ll be my witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then in all of Judea, and eventually, all over the world. I know I can trust you to do this. Wait for the Holy Spirit, and you’ll know when you’ll be ready.” Then, so suddenly, he was somehow taken up and out of sight in a cloud.
All we knew to do at that moment was to worship him because our friend, who was God, was going home. After that we did what he told us to do. We stayed in Jerusalem and prayed in the Temple and told everyone what we knew to be the most important and only real Truth in the world.