Tag Archives: Mercy

The Big Things And The Little Things

I have writer’s block, so I’ll write about this. I thank God for words. I thank God for air conditioning. I thank God for water. I thank God for the internet. I thank God for my technology. I thank God for my stupid bird. I thank God for all the random, pointless little things that I enjoy. I thank God that I can learn, and I thank Him for the occasional times I beat my dad at Checkers. I thank God for art, and I thank Him for his mercy. I thank God that I have easy access to food, even if it’s not exactly what I want to eat. I thank God that I’m alive. I thank God that I can think, and I especially thank Him that I can talk to him.

Thank God for the big things. Thank Him for the little things, too.

 

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A Thief Saint

I would like to preface this by saying that until this story’s conclusion, it is almost entirely fictional, and is written from the perspective of someone who says almost nothing in scripture and who there is only minimal historical background on. I wanted to write a story about the Penitent Thief who, in the Catholic Church, is known as Saint Dismas. He is a saint because he repented of his sins and, right before he died, Christ granted him salvation and promised him Paradise. I felt like he deserved a story, fictional or not, for a few reasons.

I hadn’t given Dismas much thought until a priest came to a church one town over from where I live. He brought with him a bunch of relics. These are objects considered sacred by the Catholic Church for various reasons; usually because they have some miracle associated with them. My dad and I went to Mass, and after Mass, we were allowed to go into a room connected to the main part of the church and look at, and even pick up some of the relics. One thing I remembered as I went in was that the priest had said to expect one of the saints to connect with us in some way. I went looking for something from Saint Faustina because I know things about her and I think she’s fantastic. I couldn’t even tell you what her relic was.

When I came across Saint Dismas’ relic, I felt a real connection. It just felt like he understood me somehow. His relic was an actual piece of the cross he was crucified on. I’ve done cursory research about him, and all that’s known is that he seamed to be a loner, and robbed, and even killed people that happened to cross his path. On Good Friday, though, he recognized that Jesus was innocent and he was not. More importantly, he was willing to acknowledge it publicly, and ask for forgiveness. What really compelled me to write this story, though was something I came across just a few nights ago. He was the only person who spoke up in Jesus’ defense. People mourned him, and his Mother and Saint John followed him to the cross, but even they were silent. It was a condemned criminal who actually said, out loud, that Jesus was innocent.

So without further ado, here is my rendition of how he got there.

He had a rough start. That’s no excuse for the things he did. Still, his life was not easy. Dismas was the son of a very poor farmer. His family managed, barely, until he was about thirteen, but then his father got sick. He did not suffer long. That was his only consolation. Death took him quickly, and he was followed soon after by two of his sons. It was just Dismas, his mother, and a young sister now. Dismas knew it was his duty to take care of his family, but he was young and had no real skills. He was afraid and felt he had only one option.

He waited until everyone had gone to bed one night, then left the house in a hurry. There was a small village nearby. That was where he would do it. Near the town was the house of a carpenter, and next to the house was a shed where he kept his tools. Dismas would test his ability here before he did anything drastic. He pulled out a knife he had brought with him, and picked the lock on the shed, a bit noisily, but with relative ease. He would get better at this over time. He crept into the shed and, though it was dark, took what he could find. He left in a hurry, leaving the door unlocked behind him, and making far too much noise as he ran back to his house, cursing every mistake he made. He hid what he had stolen under a pile of hey, and quietly made his way back to bed.

The following day, Dismas and his family worked the fields as best they could, but with just the three of them, they didn’t get much done. Plus his sister was still quite young, and was easily distracted and slow. That night was uneventful, but Dismas got up much earlier the next day, took the stolen things into the market as quickly as he could, and returned to his farm. His mother and sister had already started work, and his mother was suspicious. She asked where he had gone, and in the end, he told her the truth. She was indignant. How could he do such a thing? Instead of feeling shame, however, Dismas was angry. What other options did they have? His mother made him promise not to steal again, and for a while, he did not.

Dismas worked as hard as he could, and perhaps harder, to keep his family afloat, but eventually there was nothing for it. Their only options were theft or slavery. Dismas could not allow his mother to make that choice. He would not see his mother become a slave, and he would not let his sister be used, which was all too likely. Once again, he waited until his loved ones had gone to bed. Then he took a knife, and silently killed them both. Neither had time to react. He was precise. In fact, his own precision surprised him. Between sobs he said to each, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

His heart felt like led as he gathered some provisions and headed for the desert. He was homeless now, and would likely have to remain homeless. The first few times he robbed, he felt a bit guilty, but the feeling subsided, or at least became numb over time, especially as he became better at what he did. The first few times he killed, it hurt; it deeply hurt, but his heart darkened, and something strange seamed to grow in him, as though it fed on the blood. He both loved and hated the monster, and increasingly so as he realized that it was his only friend.

What he didn’t know, was that his reputation was growing. When it finally did come to his attention, it seamed that he was out of practice. He wasn’t used to having to evade people. He wasn’t used to people looking for him. Usually people were just trying to survive out here. Finally he realized that the smart thing to do would be to sneak back to a town in the middle of the night, strategically sell what he had on him, and disguise himself. Maybe he could just wait this out.

For some time, his plan worked–mostly. He was occasionally recognized and he was forced to move around quite a lot. This ultimately forced him to be more violent, and his reputation continued to grow. He tried to justify it all to himself, saying that it was all in self defense, but really, no one could justify the things he did. It was hopeless. There was no going back–not that there was anything to go back to. The memory of the night he had killed his family was fresh in his mind nearly twenty five years after the blood had been spilled.

Finally he decided to head for Jerusalem. He had heard talk of this zealot called Jesus. Some people called him a prophet. Others called him a heretic. Some said he was just crazy. What was important to Dismas was that this guy was causing mayhem, and he could use that mayhem to cover his own tracks. What was even more advantageous was that it was nearing the Passover, and the city was totally crowded. He could easily hide here. For several weeks he did so, and he heard a lot about the antics of this Jesus guy. He sounded weird, and kind of interesting, if nothing else. Then he apparently went berserk in the temple, why Dismas didn’t know, nor did he care. The authorities were on high alert after that, though, and Dismas knew he had to get out.

It was too late, though. More guards were brought in after that to keep the peace until the Passover was over, and Dismas could not hide. He had to do whatever it took to escape. There were people everywhere, and he spent several days simply getting lost, and occasionally doing what he did best–killing, stealing, or inciting violence among others. On Thursday, he was imprisoned and simply left to rot. Despite his own reputation, the authorities were more interested in this weird zealot. Dismas didn’t understand religious people. His family had not exactly been devout.

Almost before dawn the next morning he was wrenched from sleep and dragged to Pilate. This was it. He was doomed. He was surprised to see the crowd there. Then he realized that the zealot had been caught, along with another criminal. He and the other criminal were almost immediately sentenced to death. No surprise there. Then they were forced to watch this lengthy trial against Jesus. It was downright weird. Pilate pronounced him innocent three times, but because of the crowd, he was sentenced to death anyway. What was weirder still was that the crowd wanted some murderer called Barabbas released instead.

Then the three of them were taken away to endure everything these people had to throw at them–or hit them with. They shouted insults, and he shouted back. When the three of them were sent to be beaten by the Roman soldiers, he did everything he could to fight back, despite having his hands and feet bound. Yet eventually he noticed that, not only was Jesus putting up with it without a fight, he seamed to be asking for all they could hit him with. They were more than willing to hit him with it, and it felt to Dismas as though that monster inside of him was changing. It was as though the monster could see something that he himself could not.

He, Jesus and the other criminal, whose name he had learned was Gestas, were then led away, but not before some soldiers made a crown of thorns, placed it on Jesus’ head and mocked him as a crazy man and as a false king. Dismas and Gestas even joined in, though, for some reason, this made Dismas feel slightly uncomfortable. Then crosses were laid on the three of them, and they were told to march. Jesus had said nothing through this whole ordeal, and as the three of them marched toward Calvary, he noticed that people wept for the guy. No one wept for him. No one would.

When they reached the place where they would die, the three of them were nailed to their crosses. There was, of course screaming, but Dismas was astonished at the words that came from Jesus’ mouth: “Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.” The monster hated those words. The monster, Dismas realized slowly, and between waves of agony, was afraid of those words. The crowd and even Gestas continued to mock Jesus, who hung there, with his eyes fixed on heaven, and occasionally turning back towards a man and an older woman at the foot of the cross.

Slowly, it dawned on him. It was making him angry that Gestas was mocking this man who was dying. Gestas said through labored breaths, “If you are the son of God… get us down!” Dismas shot back, “Do you not fear God…? Jesus… remember me… when you come into your kingdom.” It was desperate, yes, but Jesus was who he said he was. Dismas knew that none of them were getting out of this, and he knew that he deserved to rot. All he could ask was that this King–the King of the Universe–remember him. If he couldn’t ask forgiveness from any of the people he had wronged, he could at least ask Jesus. In fact, Jesus had been beaten the worst of the three of them. He was bleeding and dying quickly, but he said, “Truly I tell you… today you’ll be with me in Paradise.” With that the monster died.

Dismas wanted to say, “Thank you.” He wanted to say, “I love you.” It had been years since any semblance of love had come anywhere near his heart, but Jesus had loved him. He had forgiven the unforgivable. Dismas could barely breath, and Jesus died before he could say anything, so he waited. Eventually the crowd dissipated and he was left alone with nothing but the sound of his own dying breaths. He was almost relieved to see soldiers coming.

The Ascension

I’ve had a weird couple of days. Yesterday my epilepsy was acting up, so I couldn’t work on my book. Today is the feast of the Ascension of the Lord in the Catholic Church, so I went to Mass with my mom at noon, and then we ran a couple errands and got lunch. Thus, I haven’t got anything done today so far, either. I realized something about this yesterday, however.

I know from experience that doing certain things on the computer exacerbates my symptoms. Given that both my work and many of the things I enjoy doing involve a computer or my Kindle, I quickly ran out of things to do. I prayed a lot, and played guitar for a while, then just lurked in my bed and listened to music. I quickly went from bored, to depressed, to angry.

I prayed some more, and man, did I let God have it. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to say anything. I was confused and angry about why this was allowed to happen, but I still trusted him. I don’t get his plan, and yesterday, I really didn’t like it, but it hit me while I was praying that I was so angry because I was unable to do what I assumed he wanted me to do. I assumed that he wanted me to work on my book, like I do most days. Really, I think he wanted me to pray yesterday, and that’s what I did. Beyond that, though I was angry because I wasn’t getting done what needed to get done. This was interfering with my schedule.

When I wake up in the morning, I usually entertain some inane thought or another, then after realizing that I’m actually conscious, I say “Good morning” because I know the Lord is with me. After getting dressed, my second prayer is, “I have a plan for today, but if yours is different, we’ll go with yours.” I think yesterday might have been God’s way of saying, “Sometimes our plans aren’t going to be the same, and sometimes you’re not going to like mine.”

Despite being angry because I wasn’t able to do much yesterday, I was grateful that I was still able to process language. I could think straight, and I could speak. What I realized yesterday is that I value my ability to work too highly. As I said earlier, today is the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. Our priest emphasized the fact that Jesus ascended to Heaven in human form, thus drastically elevating the dignity of human nature. My value is not dependent on whether or not I am capable of doing anything.

There’s a Mercy Me song that I like called “Even If.” A few lines from that song go as follows:

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain
Well good thing, a little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose to leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

This became my anthem yesterday. My epilepsy is usually little more than a fleeting inconvenience. It usually doesn’t cause me problems for more than a few minutes. I won’t pretend that yesterday didn’t suck because it did. It royally sucked. Last night, though, my symptoms finally started going away, and I was able to read for a while before going to bed. I’m actually glad Jesus didn’t say anything while I was freaking out. I just needed him to let me cry, and he knew that.

I had to go to the mall with my mom this afternoon to get a chain for my cousin and chocolate for my friend. My cousin was just confirmed, and I got him a medal, but the chain isn’t long enough. I got my friend chocolate because her birthday is on Saturday, and we’re going to see the Avengers tonight to celebrate. There’s a very odd store at the mall. It’s odd because it’s a Catholic store in a place you would not expect to find anything Catholic. I ended up buying myself a medal with an image of Saint Faustina on one side, and the Divine Mercy image on the other. I also got myself a piece of caramel chocolate. The fact of the matter is, God’s goodness got me through yesterday, and today has been infinitely better.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Mercy

This is what I know of God’s mercy.

God made humanity out of love, knowing we would betray each other and even betray him.

God never stops giving, even when we forget about him.

God chases us down to love us and save us, but doesn’t make us choose him.

God forgives every time we ask for forgiveness.

God saved us despite what it cost him.

God chose adoption over vengeance.

God knows everything about you. He knows your name. He loves you.

Sanctuary

Last weekend my dad and I flew halfway across the country to attend my friend’s wedding. It was absolutely amazing until that night after I had said my prayers and gone to bed. At the party, it passed through my mind that I could forgo marriage for God, if that was what he was calling me to. The emotion behind that thought was not unpleasant. When I went to bed, however, I felt like ash. I could see my sin, and though I knew Jesus still loved me, that love was painful. I couldn’t understand what he saw in me; why I’m worth saving.

This past week, that feeling has been haunting. On Thursday, though, I went to Adoration, like I always do. During Lent, at Adoration, we go through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as a group, so I prayed the Rosary, and I knew the Lord was there. That night, when I went to bed, I read through Luke’s account of the Lord’s passion, and then I started praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. About halfway through, I felt the Lord tell me, “You’re worth it. You were worth it.” When he tells me things in my heart, I have to believe him. I still don’t have a reason, and I still don’t understand why he loves me, but I don’t need to. Sometimes I need to be reminded, and I thank God that he’s patient.

A while ago, I was just sitting at Adoration, and I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, and he asked me, “What do you see?” I was a little stressed out at the time, so I thought about it for a second, and then I said, “I see a forest, and it’s raining, and it’s really quiet… but it’s not dark rain, or cold. It’s kind of bright… and there’s treasure in the rain… but you can’t own the treasure.” That rain has become my sanctuary in a way. There’s something there, and I can’t quite figure out what it is, but it’s something apart from the noise and chaos of life. I’ve tried to build on what I saw in the sanctuary, but I can’t. It’s something he gave to me. It’s something special to think about when nothing else makes sense. I think God probably has a sanctuary for everyone, and it’s worth taking some time to be quiet and let him show it to you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

God’s Timing

Yesterday we drove out of the mountains of Vermont and headed back to Massachusetts. On Friday we had arrived in the mountains for Vermont’s funeral. Of course death is sad, but something about this death made me angry. On Friday night I couldn’t eat much. I just felt drained. I’m really bad at dealing with sad things. I just don’t like other people to see me cry or that I’m upset. Because of that, I couldn’t cry until ten PM on Friday when I was in my room in the hotel alone. I can cry to Jesus because he knows I’m upset anyway. What I really wanted, though was not for him to hear me. I didn’t want him to see and to take my tears. What I wanted more than anything was for him to hold me and let me cry into him until I was done.

Yesterday, when we were about half an hour from home, my best friend called asking if she could borrow my dad’s soldering iron to modify her snake’s tank. Incidentally, she also didn’t have to work today, so I invited her to hang out when we got home. When she got to my house my dad was in the middle of replacing one of my wheelchair parts, but when he finished my friend and I went downstairs, my mom went out to get food, and my dad stayed upstairs. I had been debating it, but I finally couldn’t help myself, or maybe I couldn’t stop myself. I spilled the beans.

I told her everything. I told her how angry and sad this was making me, though I didn’t know why. I told her that I didn’t like to cry around people as I started crying hard. I told her how unfair it was because it was completely unexpected and out of the blue. She asked me if I wanted a hug. I hesitated for a second, but then I said, “Yes.” She held me and I cried for a long time. Then we played a dumb video game that I’m way too good at. After that we watched videos of assorted big cats being adorable. Then we watched a kids’ movie. I realized last night that Jesus knew that what I needed and wanted most was a hug from him. Since he couldn’t hug me in person, he sent my friend, knowing I would trust her with this. I told her that in that moment, she was Jesus for me. She just happened to call, needing a favor at just the right time. She didn’t exactly know what to do with that, but I wanted her to know. I went to bed a little after midnight and decided to go to church at a parish one town over instead of our home church this morning because the other church has an afternoon Sunday Mass, and I wanted to sleep in.

I thought sleep would help me recover from my emotional roller coaster. My dad caught me crying in church this afternoon. It was right before communion. He asked me if I was okay. I said I was. He asked me why I was crying, then. I said I wasn’t done being sad. Both are true. I am okay. I’m just sad. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive. The Gospel reading today was about when Jesus is recruiting his disciples. The priest said that his mission statement was, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Gospel is the Good News that God loves us and made a way for us to be with him forever.

After church I asked myself, “do you believe the Gospel? Do you believe in what Jesus said and did? Do you believe in the afterlife? Do you believe in Heaven? Do you believe in God’s love? Do you believe in his mercy? Do you trust him?” At that moment I truthfully could say “Yes” to all of these, but it was hardest to say “Yes” to the last two. At this church we sometimes go to, they use more contemporary music instead of the more traditional hymns you might expect at a Catholic church. A line from the closing song sticks with me right now. “Your grace is enough for me.” I know that’s true. I don’t remember the context, but I know that we are commanded to praise God even when it feels like the world is crap. Therefore, I’ll end this post with a few lines from one of my own songs.

I will sing. Hallelujahs. ‘Cause there is good in things. And I believe it. I can see that it’s true. And it’s beautiful.

Why?

Last night my epilepsy decided not to behave. Usually this happens when it’s getting a little late (around nine or ten o’clock) for no discernible reason. I take my medicine at eleven AM, and eleven PM every day, but for whatever reason, I still get a little “brain fuzz.” It’s hard to explain exactly what happens, but it usually only lasts a few minutes at most. The problem is that it makes me tired, and I keep making the mistake of going to bed too early. The point is, I went to bed around ten last night and woke up at midnight, wide awake. I couldn’t fall asleep again until around five this morning. Coffee is a beautiful thing.

We figured out I had epilepsy when I was eight. I don’t remember when I started having seizures, but I do remember when I finally got medicine and they went away. I was totally fine on a very low dose until about my sophomore year of college. Since then we’ve been increasing my does periodically because I’ve been having “brain fuzz” more and more frequently. It’s mostly annoying more than anything else. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to explain exactly what my symptoms are because, interestingly, I can’t comprehend language while I’m having issues. I can’t talk, and I can’t understand when people try to talk to me. I say it’s interesting because, unless it’s bad, it doesn’t really scare me anymore.

Last weekend a friend of mine came to my house  for the first time. We sort of officially became friends last year. We had a class together and it turned out we had a lot in common. At least we’re both super nerdy. I graduated last May, and he’s graduating this coming spring. We’ve wanted to hang out since last year, but we never got a chance, so we’ve been talking a lot via Facebook. Last weekend my friend got to see what “brain fuzz” looks like. This weekend he wants to hang out again. I’m so glad. It just makes me feel weird and yucky when my friends see my brain betray me. I know they don’t care, but it bothers me, nonetheless.

Epilepsy is confusing from a spiritual standpoint. Sometimes it doesn’t even cross my mind to pray or talk to God, and sometimes I get seriously angry. Sometimes, depending on how bad my symptoms are, it terrifies me. I don’t know why I started having symptoms again just a few years ago, and I don’t understand why they seem to be getting worse, but I guess at this point I don’t really care. I don’t think it’s going to go away, so there’s not really anything I can do at this point. I know God cares, even if it doesn’t seem like it, and I know he loves me. Everything is going to be okay, and I refuse to believe otherwise. If he won’t get rid of it, and pills won’t get rid of it, there’s a good reason. Maybe I won’t figure it out, but that’s okay, too.

While I couldn’t sleep last night I read, and I found this: “Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop” (Lamentations 2:18). At first that didn’t make sense to me. If you have hope, then why are you crying? If you’re crying, then you must not be hopeful. God tells his people not to be afraid because he is in control. He also says not to worry. I’m really good at not worrying. People actually find it annoying. Of course I occasionally worry, but it’s really not often. On the other hand, things scare me. I’m jumpy, and I’m superstitious, which is a bad combination. I don’t think God is asking his people to literally not be afraid. I’m not sure that’s even possible. Fear is a survival instinct. It’s natural. I think he’s asking us to scurry to him when we are afraid and to remember that we can rely on him no matter what. He will always make things okay.

He says, “Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop.” I think he’s saying that it’s okay to fall apart. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be scared. He will carry us. I think we can’t be utterly vulnerable or helpless unless we do have hope. I can’t do anything when my brain misbehaves. I cannot for the life of me figure out why it happens or how to stop it. Sometimes it’s just a minor inconvenience, and sometimes it’s terrifying and infuriating. I kind of know how to get rid of my symptoms of they’re not so bad, but sometimes there is nothing I can do. If it’s bad enough I just have to go to sleep, and at that point I just have to say (sometimes without words) “Lord, I’m at your mercy. Please take care of me.” I always wake up. My brain always gets better.

I think God allowed me to have MD and epilepsy so that I would have to rely on him, so that I would know him, and so that I would understand things better, and maybe be able to explain some of those things. That’s pretty cool. He picked me for a special reason. I can live with that. I can play three instruments now. I can write well. I can snuggle my stupid little bird. I can play my nerdy games with my nerdy friends. I have a pretty awesome life. It isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. It’s darn good.

I get to invent words like Wuja: a thing that is too cute for words!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Justice And Mercy

I don’t know much about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, today, is facing his convictions. He is charged on 30 counts in total, and will likely be found guilty of all 30. 17 of these are death-penalty charges. I remember that the Marathon Bombing took place on my 19th birthday. Tsarnaev was also 19. When the nation heard about what happened, we were outraged. Some were sorry. I was sorry. Tsarnaev’s defense was that his brother pushed him into it; convinced him to do it; forced him even. Most don’t believe that now. I don’t believe it. At 19, people have minds and wills of their own. He could have said “no.” He could have defended himself. Maybe he was influenced, but his decisions and actions were his own.

Still, I was; I am sorry. Tsarnaev is my age. At the time we were both college Freshmen. We both had plans. We both had futures. Tsarnaev ruined his own life. He destroyed others as well. He deserves to die. What I want for him is mercy. What I want for him is justice. I want him to live. I want him live in prison and live with what he did. Maybe he will never be sorry, but if he is given the death penalty, he will never have the chance to be. I want him to be sorry. I want him to know who he’s hurt. I want him to have to look at it and see it. I want him to have to know that Boston is stronger than anything he, or anyone else could ever do to us.

I ask all of my readers to pray, in whatever way is right to you, that Tsarnaev would live, and that he will come to understand what he’s done and have to face it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!