Tag Archives: Power

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.”

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Red

My favorite color is red. I mean bright, LOUD, obnoxious RED!!!! It’s followed by blue-purple, then black. Apparently only 10% of women in the U.S. say their favorite color is red, which I thought was cool. I was bored one day, so I looked it up. If you looked at all the stuff I own, you’d know my favorite color. My mom got me a new bag for my birthday, and it’s delightfully red, and significantly bigger than my old one. I was running out of room.

I was thinking about why my favorite color is red the other day, and I think I have an interesting reason. I’m just one of those people who have to have a reason for everything. Generally, I think, most colors have at least vague connotations for different people. To me, red exemplifies power and energy, but also love. Of course it’s also the color of blood. Interestingly, I got into an argument about this with a friend on Facebook. Red has negative connotations for him because it mostly represents blood and, therefore, death. For me, it can also represent blood, but I generally associate this with life.

At various times in my yet short life, I’ve been obsessed with things. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with dragons. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with a mythical world my friends and I created that, of course, we had to rescue from Agorauth, the evil wolf demon. When I was in high school I guess you could say, in a sense, I was obsessed with myself–or rather, the fact that I was “alone.” When I was in college, for the most part, I was obsessed with school, partly in the pursuit of Truth.

These days I think it would be accurate to say that I am obsessed with art; with creating things. I feel like my art–in whatever form it takes–has to have a reason behind it. I don’t think you can create art for art’s sake. At the very least, artists create because we want to. Even if one isn’t trying to say anything in particular, there is something of the individual in every created thing.

Most of my art isn’t visual. I mostly work with music and written pros. I don’t create in color per se, but I definitely live in color. Everyone does. How we dress, how we decorate, and what we carry with us say something about who we are. Most of my important stuff is red and, in some cases black. These color choices have musical, not just visual connotations. I grew up on 90’s punk and alternative rock. From the age of eight I wanted to be in a band, and when I started guitar lessons at fourteen, I knew I specifically wanted to be in a punk band. That didn’t happen, but it translated to how I carry myself. Red and black are very 90’s punk.

As I said, I don’t usually work in a visual medium, but about a year ago I designed a piece that, until recently I didn’t do anything with. I can paint, though not incredibly well, and it takes me forever. The design I came up with was complicated, so that was out of the question. I thought about getting a tattoo, but no one would see it, and it’s important to me. Finally I was able to create a digital version of my design and I’m having it made into a pendant. I’m rather proud of that. The design is a butterfly on top of a rose that is being held by two hands clasped together. The butterfly is supposed to be white and the rose is supposed to be red, but I’m having the whole thing made in silver.

The colors were symbolic in my original design. The white butterfly was meant to represent redemption and change. The red rose was supposed to represent life and sacrifice. The two hands together represent togetherness with God. I think the design will look nice in silver, but I still think it would have been nice to find a way to make it into something with color.

I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing. We just haven’t found a thing on Earth that doesn’t end up being not-good after a while. Everything eventually ends up being boring or unhealthy. When I was in middle school I ate pickle-and-mustard sandwiches for lunch every day. Eventually I got sick of them and, to this day, I hate pickles.

During Lent I’ve been taking a class about knowing Jesus better. Last week we learned something interesting. People tend to replace God as a priority with four basic things: power, honor, wealth, and/or pleasure. The thing is, none of these things will ultimately satisfy us. We’ll just always want more. This is definitely the plight of the artist… or at least for me. It’s never quite good enough, so I keep creating, or I keep editing. Sometimes I hit a home run and I can consider a project finished, but it isn’t often, and I throw a lot of material away. Part of it is that I’m much more careful with my novel than I am with my songwriting lately. I haven’t written a really good song in a while.

It’s hard to write a really good song about a specific person or thing. I find it’s easier to write about ideas and invent specific details, or to start with something random off the top of my head and see where it goes. Some of my best songs have been the result of what started as “mind spew.” I have a new musical project in mind. It’s an instrumental piece because it’s supposed to convey something I haven’t been able to express in words (and trust me, I’ve tried). In a sense, it’s supposed to be synesthetic. You’re supposed to feel it as you hear it.

I find I can much more effectively convey emotion through sound than any other medium, whether it’s musical sound or something else. Specifically, I’ve only really been able to convey a sense of peace through music. A lot of my visual art actually tends to be angst-ridden for some reason. My favorite color is red, and while it represents love, I never really think of it as representing peace.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Open Letter To World Leaders

This is the letter I just wrote to President Obama, President Putin and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Dear President Obama, Ambassador Power and President Putin,

My name is Katie Curtis. I am a United States citizen, and more importantly, a concerned member of our human family. I have recently become aware of the situation in Ukraine and the hostilities between that country and Russia. Today, July 17, 2014, I saw in the news that a Russian missile was found in a downed passenger plane over Ukraine. By no means do I intend to cause trouble or point blame. Rather, I implore you all, as leaders of the world to take a look at our situation and see if you cannot come to a peaceful solution. Our world is so muddled with wars, hostilities and violence as it is, and I can stand no more. I was very young when the United States went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have grown up in a time of war, though I have seen almost none of the violence except for what is shown on television. Throughout my high school and college career I have studied the World Wars and the devastation they caused. I learned about the United States Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. I learned about the French Revolution, and the conquest of Napoleon. War is something that can be traced back to the beginning of time, and yet most of the time it seems so needless. I don’t have a concrete solution to any of the world’s current problems, and I have my own ideologies the same as anyone else. I know it is difficult to make peace with people you fundamentally disagree with about so many things. I wish I could speak for everyone; however, I am writing this letter as a Christian, and I am basing my requests on my beliefs. Jesus Christ, the person and God I follow, said that the two most important commandments from God were to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. He also said that we should go beyond loving our friends and love our enemies. I don’t know what this looks like on a large, global scale; however, I do know that it means going out of our way to create peace, even if it means putting the needs and desires of our enemies first. I think it is often pride and fear that do not allow us to do that. Having power is an enormous responsibility. It is the duty of those with power to care for the ones without. So often power is misinterpreted as the right to impose ideologies, false standards and our own prideful desires on others. If world leaders truly used their power properly, there would be no revolutions; if the rich used their power properly there would be no poverty; if the educated used their power properly, no one would be uneducated. This is what I truly believe. I know it is difficult to put aside centuries of developed ideologies and built up grudges on such a large scale, but it is your responsibility as world leaders and defenders of your people to come to a solution that upholds human dignity and preserves innocent lives.

Sincerely,

Katie Curtis

Consistency

I’ve been known to say (jokingly of course) “Google knows all. Praise the all knowing Google!” My search history on Google has been extremely eclectic of late. When I’m bored I like to learn about things: everything from the Big Bang Theory to obscure religious groups/cults. I’ve also been trying to find a place to get my album mastered, and I was very recently doing research for a paper on eschatology (the study of the progress of history until the coming of God’s kingdom). You really can find anything just by typing it into that little search box.

Obviously a search engine doesn’t actually know anything; it’s just well equipped to find things. They say knowledge is power, and the Internet is extremely helpful when it comes to gaining knowledge. Sometimes I wonder what it really means to be smart. When I was little I thought it was simply knowing things that made a person smart. I don’t think so anymore. It’s how we use the factual knowledge we have that makes us smart. Intelligence also comes in the form of problem solving. The ability to think through things and fix problems or get out of situations is invaluable. Lastly, I think intelligence is knowing how to use power.

I think in the simplest terms, power is the ability to influence others and create change, whether for good or ill. What needs to be clarified is that “influence” and “control” are two very different things. Control, I think, is when influence turns to the dark side. In my theology class, which just finished yesterday, we talked about how a relationship with God is all about obedience. This is an obedience that people consent to. No one is forced into it. The same kind of thing goes for people’s obedience to each other. In the workplace, for example, people will happily work under a superior with no complaints if they like him/her and think that he/she is fair, etc.

These ideas are relevant when it comes to what people worship. It is impossible to deny that everyone worships something. In fact, most people worship many things to varying degrees, people of faith included. In fact, I’ve been known to say (jokingly) that music is my secondary religion (blasphemy, I know.) What I mean by that is simply that I love it–a lot. I can create it and interpret it and perform it, and though I can’t touch it or hold it, it’s very tangible to me. It helps me connect with people far beyond what my faith alone can do, and gosh darn it, it makes me happy.

Obviously I believe that there are right and wrong things to worship. Being a Christian, I believe that one is only supposed to worship God in a fairly specific way, etc. Beyond that, though, I think there are more right and more wrong things to worship. People worship things, and people worship other people. They do this because those things or people have power over them in some way. During his reign, the people of Germany worshiped Hitler because many of them believed that he was infallible and that he would restore their country to greatness, but also because he was a psychopathic tyrant who scared the crap out of everyone. The things people worship are often very good and intangible. For example, it can probably be said that some people worship philanthropy. In a way, this is like worshiping one of God’s traits without attributing it to anything or anyone greater. People often worship other people whom they are very close to. Admiration is a kind of worship, and so is love.

People worship who or what has power over them. Of course this is not always the case, but it is true. This can take many different forms. What is also true, however, is that people do not always worship a particular thing or person. This is because things and people change and sometimes have more influence in peoples’ lives and sometimes less. This is absolutely true of pop stars. For example, 12 year old girls worship Justin Bieber. However, these girls grow up and practically forget about him because they’ve moved on. In a sense, this is what it was like for the followers of ancient pagan religions. There were thousands of gods, and those gods were constantly changing; one day being kind, the next day, not so much. People needed thousands of gods because they couldn’t always rely on one for help and guidance. This is why monotheistic religions are so strong. God can change his mind, but his nature doesn’t change. He does everything out of love for humanity, and according to his plan which doesn’t change. That is why worship of God can stay consistent, unlike any created thing or any one person.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!