Tag Archives: Humility

As Simple And As Difficult

One of my most recent songs was entitled “Just An Honest Prayer.” I struggle a lot with the story Jesus tells of when the King will separate the sheep and the goats–those who helped “the little guy,” and those who did not. I struggle with this because I want to do more to help people than I physically or financially am able to. It sometimes leads me to thinking that what I do, or even what I am, is not enough.

On Saturday I went to the monthly meeting of our Carmelite community. My epilepsy happened to be acting up that morning. I don’t have violent seizures, but I “space out,” and I can’t process language, or communicate easily. A few of our members noticed, and were able to calmly help me out until it was under control. At some point during the meeting, I noticed a picture I hadn’t ever noticed before. It was a black and white image, like a photograph, of the wounded face of Christ. Through that image I felt like He was saying to me, “I’m here. I’m with you.” The members of my community who were able to help me through my “brain fuzz” were great, but more than anything, what Jesus silently said to me was extremely moving and calming.

I’ve been listening to the podcast “Catholic Stuff You Should Know” for a long time now. Their most recent episode was, in a sense, about hospitality. An idea they presented was that hospitality is about receiving well, as much as it is about being a good host. I realized that I am not good at receiving. I don’t like being helped, especially if I need help. I realize that this is a symptom of pride. I’ve asked the Lord more than once to take my “brain fuzz” away. His answer has been, “No,” and I think I know why. To make me into who I’m meant to be, He needs me to need help. Also, if I didn’t have unpredictable fuzz, I’d be able to do more than I’m able to do now, and because of that, I likely wouldn’t be making the music I am, and I wouldn’t be able to offer my suffering to God with Jesus’ suffering.

Saturday ended up being a fabulous day. Dad got me a “Romantic” sandwich (broccoli, cheddar cheese, avocado, garlic, and spices) from Life Alive in Salem, and we headed to Maine. I went to Mass with my dad and Godfather that afternoon, got my favorite chicken sandwich at my favorite restaurant in Bridgton Maine for dinner, and that night, I saw the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen. Our house up there faces south, looking down a hill at some trees, and the river beyond. The sky was bright because the moon was nearly full. The clouds were long and streaked, running north to south, and the sky looked striped. There were also smaller, thicker clouds that were dark, but bright on the edges. My dad was the first to notice it because I had been looking at the fire we had started in our yard. He pointed it out to me, and I was absolutely captivated. I didn’t want to look away. I realized that this sky was a gift to my family. Not everybody would look up.

Finally, when I went to bed that night, I started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This is something I try to do every day. As I started praying, though, God spoke in my heart and asked me, “Do you really believe in the power of My mercy?” I said, “Yeah, I do. Help me to believe it more.” I have a habit of praying for everybody but myself. That’s not a good thing. I need His mercy and His help as much as anyone else. As I said, I’m not good at receiving help, and I’m especially bad at asking for it. That night, I prayed for myself, though, and He showed me something.

Often when I pray, I say something that ultimately translates to: “What do you want/need me to do?” I ask partly out of gratitude for everything He’s done for me, but part of it is that I frequently fall into the false belief that I have to “earn” all of it. Saturday night, He didn’t let me ask the question. In a sense, He let me see myself through His eyes, and I was surprised at what I saw. I didn’t see the mess I thought I would. I just saw me. I was even more surprised to see Him. I shouldn’t have been surprised at that. I had taken communion just a few hours earlier. I saw very clearly that, yeah, I’m a sinner, but I also saw very clearly, that He took the blame for my sins, and accused me of nothing. He looked at me as my Savior, and saw the one He saves.

Last night I went to Adoration. I don’t go as often as I would like, but I’m going to try and go more regularly, because I often find myself going with tears in my eyes, and leaving with a smile on my face. At the front of the church I went to–I didn’t go to my home parish–the Eucharist was on the altar, as it always is at Adoration, the Crucifix was on the wall behind it, as it always is, but the Divine Mercy Image was very prominently in view on the wall just to the left. I know that when I look at the Eucharist, or an image of Jesus, or what have you, I’m looking at Love. Last night, I realized more deeply that I was staring at Mercy.

In my song “Just An Honest Prayer,” the third verse and chorus go as follows:

I know I need a Savior
‘Cause I can’t do this, my Lord
And I know I am broken
‘Cause trusting You isn’t easy
But I’m ready to be honest
I so want to believe
I want to be with You in Heaven
So Help my unbelief

(Chorus)
You know the world is broken
When saying “I love you” is hard
Even when you want to
And even when it’s true

Trusting the Lord should be the easiest thing. He is Love itself. We don’t find it easy because our world is broken, and we are broken. I once read something along the lines of: Mercy is where love meets need. I am spiritually weak, and I’m not very nice to myself sometimes. Saint Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians that he is content in his weakness because the Lord revealed to him that His power is made perfect in human weakness. In other words, He can, and often does use our weaknesses for our own good and His glory.

As I said earlier in my post, I often want to help “the little guy” where I can’t. Jesus says that “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” I remember once I was at an open mic. I don’t remember what song I had been intending to play, but the guy who played before me got on stage and said, “This song is about how basically life is terrible.” I was up next and I said, “I wasn’t actually planning on playing this song, but the song I’m about to play is called, ‘Good In Things,’ and it’s about how everything is inherently good because God is good, and He made it.” My dad said he saw a woman at a table nearby with a look on her face like I had just “saved” her with that song. I don’t really know what he meant by that, but it made me happy to know I had made someone else happy.

It feels good to help people. Praying for people and making music that people can relate to and find joy and comfort in is about the extent of what I can do. At least that was what I thought until I heard the episode of “Catholic Stuff” on hospitality. I think part of being merciful actually means allowing people to help, and being grateful and humble about it. Everybody needs help in some way, at some point. Not everyone can do everything all the time. Maybe part of being merciful is allowing yourself to be “the little guy.”

A few days ago, I actually got some great advice. Someone who knew I was a musician told me that Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “do something beautiful for God.” They said if I wanted to glorify God, I should sing only for Him. God isn’t expecting of me what I can’t do. I can make songs that give people hope; I can be grateful when I need help, and in that, I can give someone else the joy of being helpful; I can take the time to pray that many others can’t because I don’t have a “conventional” job; I can offer God my suffering with Jesus’ suffering because I have a cross to carry that many others don’t. I can do all that.

Yesterday I realized that there’s something else I can do, and so can everyone else. It felt like God dropped a love bomb on me on Saturday, so I wrote a short post about it on Facebook. Then I realized I could do more than that. I wrote in my song, “You know the world is broken when saying ‘I love you’ is hard.” In another song I wrote, “We are fighting a war You’ve already won.” Both of these are true. Jesus saved the world, yes, but He’s still in the process of saving it, too. We’re meant to be a part of that. Saying “I love you,” or giving an honest compliment, or what have you, can be weird or awkward, so we don’t, even when we want to, and even when it’s true.

It’s easy to say to ourselves, “They already know, so I don’t need to say it.” I realized that, actually, yeah, we still need to say it. Even if we already know it, we need to be reminded. We’re really good at finding the flaws in ourselves, and when we find those flaws, it’s relatively easy to start thinking “I’m not lovable.” So yesterday, I started dropping love bombs. I looked through my contacts and decided on the three people I thought most needed a reminder. I did the same thing today, and I ended up having pretty nice conversations with a couple of people I haven’t talked to in a while. I just started with “Hey! Happy Thursday! I love you!” It was a little awkward, but it turned into something beautiful. The world is broken, but we can be a part of fixing it, and it’s as simple and as difficult as saying “I love you.”

Humility Lessons

Yesterday the people working on our car got us a rental. Our piece of junk is in our driveway at the moment because they’re waiting to get an expert mechanic in from I-forget-where. Having the rental is such a blessing, though. I was able to easily get to the studio last night, and we recorded harmony, as well as a potential guitar solo down on my song Autumn Hero. We also got quite a lot of mixing done. For those who don’t know, mixing is where you take each individually recorded piece of a song and get the “levels” or volume of each instrument or voice part right, as well as putting any effects on things.

It’s really awesome that Ken, my producer, happens to be Christian because we pray at the beginning of each session, and we always end up going on ten minute long God-is-awesome tangents. The title of the album that Autumn Hero will be on is, A Song To Sing In The Dark. It’s meant to be a musical declaration that there is always hope because the God of the universe, who is infinite and omnipotent triumphed over darkness, chaos, and death.

So why do I mention the rental car? It has tie-down straps to hold my wheelchair in place. Our regular car does not. I got in a bit of an argument with my mom yesterday because it takes a minute to tie my chair down. I am impatient, and I know that. I realized something else, though. The straps make me feel like I’m on a leash like a dog. They’re a bit of a blow to my pride. I still say that the rental, and even the straps are a blessing because I evidently need to work on humility, as well as patience.

This week we had to be out of the house on Tuesday and for a few hours yesterday because we were having some work done. We’re going up to Maine on Saturday, and we’ll be staying over for the first time. By no means is the house anywhere near permanent livable conditions, so it will basically be like camping. Between working on music, and simply being stuck  out of our MA house quite a bit this week, though, I haven’t got much work done on my book. I was hoping to work on Saturday to make up some lost time. I can obviously bring my laptop to Maine, but we’re going to have company, which means I might not get a whole lot done. I think this is another chance to let God work on me. To be perfectly honest, I do think camping out in the house will be fun.

I could have worked on my book today, but I ended up spending the whole day managing my online music stuff. It took much longer than I thought it would. It was a productive day, though, and I think it was worth the time. What I do, I do for God, not for profit. If profit comes in the end, then that’s a plus. Any creative endeavor is a bit of a dangerous business, though, because it can naturally feed a person’s pride. The other day, I was working on my book, and I had writer’s block. At the end of the day, I gave up, then an idea came to me, and I knew it was from God. I thanked Him, and I later realized that he hadn’t helped me earlier because, though I had asked for help already, I hadn’t really admitted that I couldn’t do what I was doing without His help. I’m good at writing because He gave me that talent.

He Meant What He Said

Our car was in the shop for most of the summer. No one could figure out what was wrong with it. We had it back for about ten days. As of Sunday, it’s dead and in the shop again. I wrote a post about this, and about patience and forgiveness when we were first having these problems. Jesus has been teaching me things this summer, partly through this experience. He’s taught me that this is my cross to carry, and I can carry it with Him.

I’m mostly stuck at my house, but I can still work, and thankfully, I have a portable wheelchair that my dad can get in his truck, and I was able to get to the studio and cut the lead vocals and two guitar parts for my new song, Autumn Hero last night.It’s a worship song, and I call the Lord my Autumn Hero in the song because, for me, it evokes the idea of a world that has been saved but isn’t perfect. We’re still clinging to Summer, and the idea is that Summer will come again, but right now, we’re in an uncomfortable time of waiting. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I like it, because Autumn is also a beautiful time, even though we have to “taste the cold.”

I slept really late today because I went to bed really late. As I’ve said before, I’m nocturnal. I’ll just stay up late tonight to get my work done. When I woke up today, my prayer was this: “Lord, I’m a mess, but I’m Your mess. I’m not leaving You. If I were to leave, I’d have nowhere to go. You are my Home. I literally can’t leave. I’m staying right here.” I don’t need to tell Him that, but I wanted to tell Him anyway. When you love someone, you tell them, even if they know it. What I meant was a little more than that, though. My Catholic faith is so ingrained in who I am at this point, that I can’t imagine going to another church. The Church is a mess, but it’s His mess.

Sometimes it seams like the world is out to get us. A bunch of bad stuff happens all at once, and it can feel like we’re drowning in it. Between the car and the problems in the Church, it does kind of feel like the world is trying to beat me down, on an emotional, if not a spiritual level, also. A lot of times, I end up waiting until the end of the day to commit to serious prayer. Lately I’ve been committing to praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet before work, as well as some “off-the-top-of-my-head” prayer, and that has helped a lot. I also pray when I start work, and while I’m working. I call it “picking a fight with the universe.”

Father Mike Schmitz often posts videos on YouTube, and a lot of them are really helpful. In one, he talked about having “anti-fragile” faith. He said that fragile faith is faith that gets broken when it comes up against difficulties. Then there is strong faith that can withstand difficulty and is no better or worse for it. Then there is anti-fragile faith, which gets stronger when it comes up against difficulties. This will probably sound like bragging, but I’ve been surprised to find that these frustrations I’ve encountered lately have, in fact, made my faith stronger. It honestly does come as a surprise, and it has nothing to do with me.

When God made me, he made a stubborn woman. I can at least say that. I think being stubborn is often only perceived as a bad thing. My own stubborn nature has been a huge help when it comes to trying times. The thing I’ve come to realize lately is that if we want Jesus, that automatically means we want the Cross. When He said to pick up our cross and follow Him, He meant it. For the longest time, I wanted Him, but I didn’t want the Cross. I realize now that it doesn’t work that way.

Learning to accept and carry my cross, whatever it might be, whether it’s the car, or my epilepsy, or something else, I try to carry it because I have to. I have nothing to prove. I just want Jesus, and I’ll follow Him through whatever mess I have to because I’m stubborn. I can’t do this on my own. I need His help, and I have to remember that, and it’s humbling, but I’m stubborn for Him. We carry our crosses because this is Friday, but Sunday will come. With that in mind, I want to end this post with one of my own songs.

https://writered.bandcamp.com/track/good-in-things

A Strange Dream

A few nights ago I had a very simple dream. This in itself is odd because my dreams are never simple. I’m usually embarking on one epic quest or another and they don’t usually make too much sense. In the dream I was in a seemingly endless, empty white room with no one else in it except me and a man wearing a somewhat strange outfit. The only thing I remember distinctly is a white fur coat. I was looking for Jesus and since there was no one else there, I assumed this was him. As soon as I started talking to him, however, two things happened.

Firstly, I quickly realized that this wasn’t who I was looking for, and secondly, a man who was a mirror image of the first man showed up out of nowhere. Since this was a dream I didn’t think this odd at all, so I went over to the second man assuming that, once again, this must be Jesus. Interestingly, though he looked exactly like the first man, he had a completely different personality. Once again, however, as soon as I began talking to him, I realized that this, too was not Jesus. The process repeated over and over, every time producing more and more men who looked exactly alike but had completely different personalities.

Then I stopped. Finally I knew this wasn’t working. By now there were countless men I hadn’t even spoken to yet, all who looked alike, and who, I could guess, all had different personalities, but were not Jesus. So I tried a new strategy. If I spoke to no one, they did not speak to me, so I simply wandered around and looked. They all looked the same. Eventually a theory popped into my head: maybe these are all different versions or parts of who Jesus is or even how people perceive him, and I have to find the one I’m looking for.

Shortly after that, however, I realized this was an absurd thought and there is only one Jesus. Only one. As soon as I realized this, I saw a man who looked like the others in that he had the same facial features and hair, but I distinctly remember him wearing much less elegant clothes. What was also distinctly different was that, unlike the others who were standing, he was sitting on a rock, his feet were in a pool of water, and he looked very weak, like he was about to fall over. This scared me. I wanted him to be okay. I knew this was Jesus, and once I was sure of it, he got up unsteadily, came over to me and gave me a hug. He said a few words, but I don’t remember what he said. I woke up after that.

I don’t think he actually said much, and I’m not really sure how important it was in the end. If he had wanted me to remember it, I would have. It’s easy to forget things between dreaming and waking up. I think what was important was the entirety of the dream itself. I learned a lot of things that I already knew in part, but that hadn’t entirely solidified in my mind.

In Mathew 24, Jesus warns of “false prophets:” people who preach things that sound like truth but really turn people away from the Truth. He warns of wars, famine, and natural disasters, and he warns that people will hate his followers because of what they (we) believe. He says that his followers need to be careful and not be fooled. There were a lot of people in my dream who looked like him, but who weren’t him, and it took me quite a while to figure that out.

What was interesting, however, was the real difference in appearances. The other men in my dream may have looked like him to some degree, but as soon as I talked to them, I knew I was talking to the wrong people. Not only that, but they looked strong, well dressed, and dignified, while Jesus did not. Jesus doesn’t present himself as above anyone. We find him in simple things and small acts of kindness. He humbles himself despite the fact that he is the Son of God. He is a part of the Holy Trinity. That’s kind of insane.

What hit me most of all was the very end of the dream. When I found him, he looked exhausted, like he was going to faint, and I felt responsible, as if it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had found him sooner. I was so surprised to find him like this that I hesitated, and I felt bad about that, too, but before I could even move to help him, he was getting up. When he hugged me it was the most relieving feeling I’ve had in a very long time, and it was in a dream.

I just wanted to write this all down and share it with whoever finds it interesting or helpful. I would love to hear what anyone has to say. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

 

Prayer Advice From A Total Newb

I’ve been trying to pray more. I’m bad at praying. Last night my friend asked me, “Isn’t praying the same as just talking to God?” Maybe it is and I’ve been doing it wrong, but from my experience, it seems like it’s somehow spiritually and mentally different. I’m not sure how to explain it. It involves getting very close to God, and that’s intimidating. Something I have discovered that’s helped a lot, though, is that prayer starts with humility. If you realize and acknowledge how tiny you are, it becomes easier. In a way, though it is just like “talking to God,” because you have to work through exactly what it is you need. I’ve also discovered that begging doesn’t seem to work–for me at least. I’m not sure why. Generally, I think it’s because God wants me to get somewhere or discover something before he’ll give me whatever it is what I’m asking for. On the other hand, there have been occasions where I’ve just stopped and said, “Hey, listen, this is important to me. Think you could help me out?” and whatever it is will be given.

Despite the fact that I feel I’m rather awkward about it, prayer works for me. I was talking to a kid I mentored about it the other day, and he said that part of the reason he doesn’t believe in the Christian God is because prayer hadn’t worked for him. He asked me if it did work for me, and I told him that I wouldn’t have got through college if it hadn’t been for God answering my prayers. I firmly believe that he’s helped me out with everything from emotional issues to tough classes.

Something else I’ve learned is that you can’t just idly wait for God to answer prayers. A lot of times the answer to a prayer involves you doing something. A lot of time it means trying everything under the sun, and allowing God to push you in the right direction. Sometimes prayers are a little something like this: “God, I’m afraid to do X or Y, so drive me up a wall until I can’t stand it any more and just do it.” That’s worked for me before.

Ultimately, there’s no “standard” or “correct” way to pray. Different things work at different times for different reasons. I don’t always feel sincere when I recite prayers (like the Our Father or the Fatima Prayer), but sometimes I do. On the other hand, a lot of people find it a lot easier to pray if they don’t have to search for the words. Sometimes things you wouldn’t even think of are a kind of prayer, like simply being with someone, and loving them so hard it hurts. The most important thing is sincerity. Mean what you say. Don’t just pray because you’re supposed to. Pray because you want to; because you need to. Remember the good in this world. Remember the good in your life. Remember that God loves you and loves the world, and acknowledge those things because they’re important.

Like I said, I’m not very good at prayer. I feel like I could be a million times better, but the point is that God listens. It doesn’t matter how eloquent or knowledgeable you are. What matters is that you’re making an effort to communicate with the God of the Universe in a meaningful way. In effect, you’re  saying “I have no idea where I’m going. You drive.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!