Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Advent Reflection Notes (Week Three And Four)

I decided to lump these since there is only one video for the fourth week of Advent and it’s actually just all the speakers praying through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary together. These videos aren’t really all that long, so I’ve been trying to watch them all in one go so I have the ideas fresh in my mind for the blog posts. Anyway, here are my notes.

1: God is a mountain mover, but he moves mountains under two conditions: a) it has to be his will, and b) it has to be for my good. Furthermore, what we perceive as mountains are sometimes only things we put in our own way, and sometimes we only need to change our perspective.

2: God is our Father. A Father provides and protects, and we are always God’s children.
-I woke up around 5:00 yesterday morning after having the most terrifying nightmare of my life. I am not exaggerating. For a little while I just prayed like a crazy person, but I was so freaked out that it just wasn’t helping, so I went through the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary, but that didn’t help either, so I prayed like I normally do again. I was starting to calm down a little at that point, but by then almost an hour had gone by, and I actually felt like calling my dad to lay in bed with me for a bit like a little kid would. I didn’t because It was insanely early and it would have been kind of weird, but what I really wanted was to feel like I wasn’t alone. Last night I was still actually afraid I was going to have trouble getting to sleep, so I went to bed with the necklace I designed that symbolizes God’s love in a special way for me. I had got it blessed by my priest, so it made me feel safer, kind of like a security blanket.

3: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Peace in this sense is a “sense of harmony brought about by restoration of relationship with God.”
-I’m going to play with this idea of harmony. I’m a very musically minded person, and harmony is just amazing to me. I love to sing, and harmony makes everything better, in my opinion.
-What exactly is harmony between a person and God? I think it has to do with a number of things, but for this I’ll stick with the music analogy. Harmony would be like a great songwriter/composer taking the foundation of something, and letting a student play with it. God picks the key and the chord progression and the words, and the overall structure of a song, and gives me a guitar, and tells me to put something on top of it. It can be whatever I want. I can choose to play something in the key he’s playing in, that stylistically makes sense, or I can just yuck it up because I want to play my own thing. Our free will choices essentially create or allow for harmony or disharmony.

4: Back to the basics: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
-For me this probably means learning to be more patient, first of all.
-Recently, God taught me, and my priest reemphasized to me that God can take the tiny little nuggets of what I’m capable of giving him and make them into something huge. Worded differently, I need to learn, however long it takes, to not want to be a hero.
-There’s something I need to do that I’ve been avoiding for a very long time. I don’t exactly know how to do it, and I don’t exactly know what the short term or long term consequences will be, but it’s for the good of someone I love very much. That’s a bit terrifying.

5: The Holy Spirit is the source of tradition and renewal.
-It kind of seems like the world wants to do away with tradition. We used to have crazy traditions in our neighborhood, but a lot of that has died out. At the same time, I think remnants of those traditions have held on, and new traditions have grown out of them. It seems to me that humanity needs both, especially spiritually. I think sometimes the world doesn’t like traditions, especially religious traditions because they seem like they don’t make sense, even if we do have explanations for them.

6: How did Mary experience the first Advent?
-She lived it through desire and expectancy. These feelings don’t contradict each other.
-Thirsting for God’s gifts enables us to better receive them. Impatience makes it harder to handle this thirst properly.

7: Love is sometimes chaotic and messy (my paraphrase).
-True love is sticking with the one(s) we love even when/if it’s scary.

8: We don’t always get supernatural guidance, even on really big important things.
-This is kind of confusing. Joseph didn’t have to obey the call to register for the census, but he decided this would be the most pleasing to God. Mary decided following her husband would be the most pleasing to God. I guess I sort of expect him to just tell me what to do on everything. I kind of like being told what to do.

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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.

My Ending

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.
“He’s alive!”
“What?”
“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,”
“Yeah, Master?”
“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.

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!

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!