Tag Archives: Honesty

Pray Without Ceasing

I mentioned in a recent post that many Christians, myself included, sometimes view prayer as another thing to check off the “to do” list. Many people have specific times every day that we pray, whether it’s when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed, when we have our meals, or at specific prescribed hours. Some use specific methods, formulae, or scripts. Some don’t. However, the Lord asks us, through Saint Paul, to “pray without ceasing.” As I said, many of us make the mistake of allowing prayer to be something to check off the list. This inevitably makes it feel tedious when it should be a real, genuine conversation with the Lord.

As I mentioned in my post about idolatry, prayer doesn’t necessarily have to be done in any specific way. We can laugh with the Lord while watching a funny movie, or cry with Him when we hear some bad news. Lately, I find myself asking for small favors, and because He grants them so readily, I remember to thank Him. It doesn’t even have to involve words. When we’re lost for words for whatever reason, sometimes all we can do is acknowledge that He’s there, and that He’s God, and we’re not. Sometimes that feels really good, and sometimes it feels scary, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen, and sometimes it’s all we can manage.

I don’t think I’ve reached the point to where I literally pray without ceasing, but I can say I pray a lot, largely in small ways, and I thought it would be helpful since we are nearing Lent to share some of my prayer habits.

1: Say “Good morning,” and “Good night.”

This is really easy, and can actually sometimes be really hard. I don’t remember exactly when I came up with this prayer, but it’s short, sweet and to the point: “Good morning, Lord. It’s a good morning because it’s one that You made.” Sometimes that can be hard to say because either, the previous day was crappy, and it’s still on my mind, or I’m anticipating something I don’t want to deal with on the day that I’m waking up into. Regardless, Good is good, anything He makes is good, and therefore, regardless of my own circumstances, the day I’m waking up into is good. Similarly, I say “Good night,” to God because it’s my way of leaving everything to Him. It also just makes sense. If I say “good night” to my parents, then obviously, I’m going to say it to my Heavenly Father.

2: Along with that, have other prescribed times.

These don’t have to be specific (e.g. at 7:00 PM). For example, after I say “Good morning,” I sometimes go straight to the Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Other times, I’ll let my mind wander for a bit. I don’t wake up at the same time, every day, so sometimes this is done at 6:00 AM. Other times, it’s done at 2:00 PM. It just depends on when I went to bed the night before, and when I woke up, and sometimes, if I had insomnia or not (the plight of being an artist). I also do Evening Prayer from the Liturgy when I finish whatever it is I finish work for a given day. Sometimes that’s at 6:00 PM, and sometimes it’s at 9:00 PM. Sometimes I don’t have time for this prayer until right before I go to bed, which on Thursdays isn’t until Midnight or after. I also pray before meals, and when I’m in the shower.

3: Unscripted prayers should be short, personal, honest, and to the point.

I’ve had to have several priests tell me this, but it’s okay to be angry at God, and it’s okay to use your own vocabulary. When I’m pissed off about something, I just tell Him. I’m the kind of person who thinks too much. I know that. Because of that, I can sometimes be a bit of a melancholic. I have to refrain from watching the news a lot of times because it can get me into a really bad place emotionally. When something really bad is happening, and I’m kind of stuck in it, sometimes my most meaningful, honest prayer is, “This sucks, Lord.”

4: When you don’t have the words, but you want to pray, just start with what you’ve been given.

Growing up, we weren’t the kind of Catholic family who prayed before meals, said the Rosary together at night, and went to church every single Sunday. I never really learned to pray anything other than the “Lord’s Prayer” until I went to college. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, my teenage years were a pretty desperate time for me, but I wasn’t using even what I had been given. If nothing else, I could just have said the “Lord’s Prayer,” and he would have known what I needed. Of course, I didn’t know that because at that point in time, I didn’t really know anything about God.

5: Be quirky.

This is sort of a small thing, but sort of a big thing, too. We’re all different people. I’m an abstract-thinking person. The other day, the phrase, “Come to me, and you will find rest,” popped into my head. I thought, “You know, I know that, Lord, but I’m not sure I understand it, really. I have an idea, though.” I got my guitar and said, “I’m just gonna play, and You use me, and I’ll just let You direct me, and show me what that ‘rest’ sounds like.” What He showed me was the inspiration for an instrumental tune that’s going to be on my upcoming album. Sometimes just letting Him play guitar through You can be a form of prayer.

6: Read stuff, and try stuff.

I was really good about praying the Rosary every single day for a long time. Now I’m not great. It takes twenty minutes, and I often simply don’t have time. Instead I try to do the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which takes about six and a half minutes, and you use Rosary beads for it. It was given to Saint Faustina in a vision by Jesus, and given my somewhat melancholic tendencies, I find a lot of hope in it. I also recently learned about the Catholic Acronym, F.I.N.C.H., which is about the message of Divine Mercy that Jesus wanted to share with everyone through Saint Faustina. (F) is the Feast of Divine Mercy, which takes place the Sunday after Easter. On this day, Jesus promised to give significant mercy to His people. This was not a one-time thing. You can check out the details online. (I) is the Image of Divine Mercy, which Jesus told to have Saint Faustina to have painted. This image is supposed to remind us of His Mercy, and of the fact that we can trust Him. (N) is the Novena of Divine Mercy. The Novena is simply that one should pray the Chaplet every day between Good Friday and the Feast of Divine Mercy. (H) is the Hour of Divine Mercy, which is at 3:00 PM when Jesus died. We are to make note of this, and, if we have time, to spend an hour with the Lord in prayer, or just to say a prayer of thanks for His sacrifice. I’m definitely a fan of the Divine Mercy stuff. If this doesn’t strike a chord with you, try something else.

I try to keep my prayer routine at a good mix of stream-of-consciousness, and scripted stuff. Both are, or at least can be meaningful. I find also, that a good time to pray is before I start my work for the day, whether that is writing a song, writing for the blog, or working on another project. I can get stuff done on my own, sure, but it’s a lot easier when I ask for help. Today I started working out how I’m going to organize a pretty big project I’ll be working on with my Godfather, and I knew that if I didn’t ask for help I’d get nowhere. I was sleepy to begin with, and really, I should never be in charge of organizing anything. With that in mind, I prayed, and it took me some time, but I figured out exactly what needed to be done for at least the first draft. When I finished, I just said “Thank you, Lord.”

That’s the last thing I want to make note of because it’s super important. Say “Thank You.” Our parents teach us to say “Please” and “Thank you,” when we’re kids, and I think anyone with good manners remembers to say this to other human beings. The crazy thing is, we ask for stuff from God, and God provides, but so many times, we just forget to say, “Thank You.” God is good, and I think we just expect to get what we ask for. I may be twenty-five, but I’m still a spoiled kid. Granted, sometimes I don’t realize until later that God has answered one of my prayers, because He can be very subtle, and there is absolute wonderful joy in that realization. Especially then, I’d say it’s important to give thanks.

To those who are really just getting started, though, keep in mind that Christianity is about love. Just start from the heart. Talk to God like you’re talking to your best friend, because that’s who He is. I’ve had to learn a lot of this by accident, but another great place to start is to go to Adoration. Find a church that offers it at a time that works for you, and just sit with Jesus. If you can’t figure out what to say, say nothing. Let Him get the conversation going, because He will. Let Him help. He loves you.

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Holy Waiting

This Advent is a little different for me because I’m, in a sense, waiting for a new coming of my Savior into my life, but I’m also awaiting the birth of my godson, who is due in January. The baby shower was on the first Sunday of Advent, and it was a good party. A lot of people were there. I normally don’t do super well with crowds, so I helped amuse a couple little kids who were there and helped make some decorations for the baby’s room. We had a two hour drive home, so I spent some of the time praying the Rosary. At some point, the phrase “holy waiting” popped into my head. My initial thought was, “I hate waiting.”

I’m naturally curious, so I did give it some consideration, “How could waiting be holy?” Waiting is tedious and boring. I am obviously not alone in this sentiment. Then another thought popped into my head: “couldn’t any activity be holy, provided it’s not sinful in itself?” I was teaching my CCD students last week, and I mentioned that I’m a songwriter. I told them that most of my songs are, in some way, about God, prayers to God, or about things that God is or has been involved with in my life. In the studio, my producer and I pray before we get to work, and it’s obvious to us when God starts really working his magic. In this way, I do think that working on my music is a holy activity.

Truthfully, though, the idea of waiting being holy is hard to wrap my head around. Then again, there are different ways of waiting. Waiting for me usually involves mindlessly trying to beat my high score on 2048. I could spend the time reading scripture or praying, but honestly, when I’m waiting, I just don’t want to have to think that hard, or really at all. I want to kill the time so it feels like it’s going by faster. The fact of the matter is, though, I’m not “killing” the time, and it’s not going by any faster. I am wasting the time I’ve been given. Advent is precisely a time for waiting, and I think it’s a time for making waiting a holy occupation.

I’ve been waiting for my godson with his parents for a long time now, but in hindsight, it’s seemed like the time has gone by insanely fast, and I’m just really excited to meet him. I am not patient, but I think, in some way, waiting to meet him has made me a little more patient. I think to understand how waiting could be holy, though, we have to take a look at what Mary did during the first Advent. She waited, but I don’t think she worried. I checked out a reflection on this by two priests and a nun, who emphasized all the interruptions of the personal plans of Joseph and Mary during that time.

From the get-go, Mary was planning to marry Joseph. That was complicated when she was asked to be the mother of God, but she said, “yes.” That again was complicated when Joseph realized that she was pregnant, but not by him, and they had to have a difficult conversation. He was planning on “divorcing her quietly,” which would have been the kind and honorable thing to do, but he was then asked by an angel to be Jesus’ foster father. Things went pretty smoothly after that, but they weren’t a wealthy family by any means, it was the first century, and anything could have gone wrong at any point during the following several months. The point is, they trusted God, and it didn’t–until Mary was eight and a half months pregnant and they got the news they had to go to Bethlehem. That was not going to be an easy journey, but still, they trusted God. They had to trust God the whole way because they didn’t know where they were going to stay, or where or when Mary was going to give birth. In the Gospels, however, there’s no indication that either of them panicked or worried too much at any point.

There’s no knowing for sure what could have been going through their heads at any given point, but obviously, they would have had normal human concerns. To not worry at all would have been abnormal. Humans have needs and concerns that are unavoidable. The point is, they didn’t let those concerns take over. They knew that God would take care of them. In the reflection video I watched, they talked about waiting with God instead of waiting for Him to do something. They also emphasized the importance of being vulnerable and being still with Him.

Earlier today, while waiting for my mom to run a couple of errands, I sat in the car and just prayed, out loud, about nice, simple things. I have a tendency to only talk to God when something is freaking me out or when I or someone I know needs something. Today I told Him that the sky He made was beautiful, and later, while eating my lunch, I just talked about food. I told Him that I’d like to know what He ate when He was here on earth because He knows what I like, but I don’t know what He liked. Maybe taste preference wasn’t much of a luxury He could afford, especially when things were getting dangerous for Him, but I’d still like to know. Maybe it’s not the greatest example, but we were waiting–just waiting and talking. That is priceless time that is not wasted.

All that brings me back to the question of “how can waiting be holy?” I think it’s less abstract than I originally assumed. Talking to God while sitting in the car makes sitting in the car holy. I think one doesn’t even necessarily have to be praying for waiting to be a holy activity, though. I remember the night my dad and my aunt went and waited with my grandmother over the couple of days before my grandfather died. I wasn’t there, but I don’t think they talked much. They just waited and loved each other and him. I think that was holy waiting, too. I think simply hoping is a kind of holy waiting.

Advent is a time for hope because we’re reminded of the first Advent, and we’re once again, waiting for Christmas. Jesus’ coming into the world to save us was a historical event, but we revisit it every year not just to remember it, but because we can personally invite Him into our lives again, in a new way, as our Savior. Saying “yes” to His love, or to anyone’s love isn’t something we do once. The “holiday season” is chaotic, and truthfully, it kind of drives me crazy. It probably drives you crazy, too. Try to find some space in that craziness to be still, wait with God, and to be vulnerable and honest with Him. That, I think, is holy waiting.

I’m Proud

I had a good day yesterday. For the longest time I’ve been wanting to ask my friend just to talk to Jesus. I didn’t know how to for a while, but yesterday I prayed about it right before she came over, and this is what came of it: I felt her out first and I asked how she felt about people trying to convince others that what they believe is true. It sounds invasive when you say it that way, but all it means is that one person wants another person to believe what they do. She wasn’t too keen on it, so I asked her just to talk to Jesus and if nothing happened, I promised I’d leave it alone. She said she would, and then we changed the subject.

I felt like this went well but could have gone better. I’ve tried things here and there to try and help her see who Jesus is, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere at all. I pray for her every day if I remember, and I share spiritual stuff that’s happened to me. I had her sing harmony on a worship song I recorded, and she’s come to church with me once or twice around Christmas. I promised I’d leave it alone, so I guess the only thing I can do now is pray. It just felt good to finally get that out in the open, though.

While I was on vacation I read a list of sins that the church ignores or is okay with. One of them, and probably the biggest one I deal with is apathy. In the article it was meant that we don’t fully acknowledge or understand how great it is that God loves us. We don’t quite “get” the implications of that, so we just sort of go about our day. I’m definitely guilty. There are some days where I don’t do much of anything, and I don’t think about God very much, if at all.

There’s another kind of apathy that I think is also very important that the article didn’t address. I think people in general have a very apathetic view of the problems people face in the world. A key example is how the Western world is doing very little to combat ISIS while Christians and other religious minorities are being killed, enslaved and raped in the name of their so called god. This stuff bothers me immensely, but the truth is that I can block it out. I can very easily push it out of my brain so I can think about what I want for dinner or how to go about completing the next quest in Oblivion. It wouldn’t be healthy to think about it all the time, it’s depressing, and it’s a very complicated problem, but I could remember to pray. I’m good at writing. I could write to the president (although I know now that that doesn’t often do much). I know there’s no easy answer, but we could at least try and find some answer.

Another one of the big ones on the list was flattery. People are more interested in what other people think of them than what God thinks of them. Again, guilty as charged. I realized that when talking to people in person, I avoid talking about religion. I avoid letting people know I’m Christian. On the internet it’s different somehow, but when talking to my closest friends I feel embarrassed for some reason when talking about spiritual things that have happened to me. I realized that that’s pretty screwed up.

It’s a dangerous feeling because it’s not always clear what it’s directed to. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to call myself Christian because of the goofy or even unethical things people in the Church sometimes do. However, sometimes I’m embarrassed to call myself Christian because people think my beliefs are ridiculous. The body of Christ is not perfect, but we’ve also done some pretty cool stuff that doesn’t get enough recognition by society as a whole. I don’t mean we deserve all kinds of praise. I just mean that people tend to see only the faults of the Church. It’s those things that are embarrassing because they turn people away. I feel I am somewhat justified in my impulsive feelings on this issue. I am not justified in my feelings of embarrassment when it comes to people questioning me or laughing at me or giving me “the look” when it comes to what I specifically believe because it implies that I am embarrassed of my God. That’s really screwed up.

I shouldn’t care how ridiculous people think I am. I mean, let’s face it, I am ridiculous, for a number of reasons. I’m silly, I’m impulsive, and I’m frustratingly and unreasonably optimistic. What I believe is unreasonable, and yeah, it sometimes takes some intellectual gymnastics to make things make sense, but it’s also amazing, and I should be proud to call myself Christian. I should be proud of what my God has done. I am proud, and I’m going to change.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Open And Honest With Perfect Strangers

In my time of being on various discussion forums and of blogging, I’ve noticed something that is actually quite concerning. It seems that people in general (myself included) are much more open and honest about just about anything through the medium of the internet. Many people feel much more comfortable talking about their dirty secrets, how they feel about things, what’s troubling them, etc, and by the same token, I think people are much more likely to give advice and “say what needs to be said.”

This of course brings up the question, “why?”

I know anonymity must be a huge part of it; it’s easier to say things from behind a user name and across cyber space. I just don’t quite understand why It’s easier to talk to people who might as well not exist rather than people we know and love. For example, I’ve mentioned on this blog that I had a “religious experience” through a dream that has really helped to shape who I am this past year or so, and yet the only person whom I personally know who knows about it is my cousin who I’m not actually that close to and who is almost an atheist. I could have told my best friend who I actually do tell almost everything to, and I could have to told my friend/mentor/teacher who likewise, knows a lot of my “dirty little secrets.”

I think the fact that we’re never actually going to meet the people we talk to on the internet plays a part in this as well. Many of the things people talk about are just embarrassing. I suppose It’s sort of like throwing something out there and not having to look at where we throw it. Perhaps having to interact with the person who knows your secrets can feel like having to interact with a manifestation of them in a way. Perhaps seeing that person is just a reminder that you have these thoughts, feelings, secrets, etc.

Perhaps it isn’t all bad that we do talk about these kinds of things on the internet. After all, humans are all fallen, and we are meant to confess our sins to God and to each other, so if the internet makes that easier, maybe It’s a good thing. I still can’t help feeling that It’s kind of like taking the easy way out. Perhaps what needs to happen is that if people insist on discussing these things on the internet, then they should make themselves a little less public. What I mean by this is that maybe people should try to make stronger connections with a select few whom they will share things with. I think people need to try to make genuine friendships and I think it can be done. I think there will still be a sense of anonymity, but also a sense of intimacy that will make talking about serious matters less stressful and more meaningful. I also sincerely think that people really need to just try and be more open and honest with the friends and family they already know and love.

Caught In A Lie

Well today was the first time this semester that I caved and skipped class. It’s a two hour long class in a subject that I really have no interest in. I finished writing a blog post and commented on a blog that I follow, then I played some games on my phone. The class usually starts at 3:45 and gets out at 5:45. Well, at 4:45 I called my mom because I was wondering where she was to give me a ride. Of course she was confused because I was calling her an hour early, so I said the prof let us out (I was confused as to the time). She believed me because it legitimately has happened once or twice in past years. Still, I felt pretty bad that I skipped and lied. I hate lying because I’m not good at it and I always feel bad. I’m glad that I didn’t get caught of course, but I’m glad I made the mistake of calling an hour early, because I think there’s a lesson there. I most likely won’t skip again. It’s not worth the possibility of having to lie again and it made me feel a little guilty just by itself.