Tag Archives: Redemption

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

Advertisements

An Unpleasant Bedtime Story

I’m a writer, so naturally, I love stories. I love weaving together my own for my mythology. I love reading or watching or listening to stories I’ve gone through thousands of times or never before. Lately I’ve been listening to the Myths and Legends podcast, which I recently discovered, and highly recommend. I sometimes listen to these stories as “bedtime stories,” but I have wireless headphones and the battery ran out on them last night, so I asked God for a bedtime story.

He directed me to the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. It didn’t take much, but I realized that lately, I’ve been acting like the pharisee in that little story. I’ve been prideful about my faith, and I’ve been judging people for not having the same faith I do. I’ve also been forgetting that nothing I can do will ever get me to Heaven. Certain things can help me live more like Jesus which is obviously what he wants, but he’s doing all the actual work. I’m just cooperating, and I forget that.

I spent a while sitting outside today sulking about all this. I feel like I’ve betrayed myself. Sometimes I think it’s actually good that I don’t have any Christian friends around because it makes it more natural to go straight to Jesus and say, “I can’t do this.” I had to say that over and over, and I’ll say it over and over from now on because my thinking has been that I can do this. I can get home. I can get to Heaven. While that may be true, it’s only because Jesus wants me there. Otherwise, it has almost nothing to do with me.

I’m writing this down because earlier I was royally pissed off at myself. I still kind of am, and again, I think it’s because I’m prideful. My thinking, of course, is, “I should be better than this. This should have been obvious. I should have seen this sooner.” Well, I didn’t. It wasn’t the kind of bedtime story I was looking for, but I needed to hear it. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here, but I can at least stop being stupid about how I think about other peoples’ faith. Otherwise, I desperately need Jesus to help me figure this out.

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.

Waiting

Holy Saturday is an awkward day. It’s a weird time between remembering something awful, and anticipating something awesome. I never quite know what to do on this day. I know what to do on Good Friday. Yesterday I woke up at ten thinking, “What would be happening right now?” Then I realized that Jesus would have already been hanging on the cross for an hour. I’m an emotional person. I worked on my book yesterday, but I cried, too, and incessantly looked at the clock until three. I prayed, and thanked him, and started to figure out how magic would work in my universe. Last night I think I figured something out.

On Thursday I watched the Passion of the Christ for the first time. I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I was just horrified. I’ve tried for a long time to figure out what he sees in me; why he loves me; why I’m worth saving to him. Ultimately, from a human perspective, there’s some lovable, endearing stuff about me, and I know that, but none of that is why he chooses me. He chooses me because I exist. He saves me because he loves me. He loves me because I’m his. Nothing about me makes me more or less worth it. I’m infinitely worth it to him no matter what, simply because he made me.

Still, I’m left with the question. What do I do today? The only person I’d be more than willing to bet knew for sure that Jesus would rise from the dead on the first Easter was his mom, so I wonder what she would have been doing. I imagine she would have been trying to help the apostles get through this day, mainly. Still, even knowing what was going to happen, she did have to watch her son tortured to death just a day earlier. Even for her, I imagine today would have been a day of weird mourning and anticipating. My grandfather died several years ago from Alzheimer’s. It was a long, slow death, and I prayed that God would end his suffering. I don’t know if that was the right thing to pray, but it was honest, and it was sad, but also relieving when he passed. It could only have been relieving because of the hope of Heaven.

I guess that’s kind of what this day is for. This day is for hoping. I never knew my other grandfather. My mom’s dad died of cancer when I was just a year old. I didn’t even know my dad’s father very well because he was quiet, and started getting sick when I was pretty young. Because I hope for Heaven, I look forward to the day I get to hang out with both of them, and other family who I’ve never even known. I’m going to the Easter Vigil tonight. It starts in darkness, but we light up the church passing the fire of one candle to the next, and tonight we get to announce that Christ is risen. Until then, we wait, and we hope, and until he comes in glory, we wait, and we hope.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

My Christmas

Yesterday was pretty sweet. My cousin from Montreal was home for Christmas, and my grandmother got me a super competitive board game called Cathedral. The point is to place more buildings on the game board than your opponent by strategically blocking off territory. I love games like this because for whatever reason, I’m obnoxiously competitive. We also played a game called Password. We decided that we would do sibling teams because we knew it would end badly. It was my two cousins against my brother and me. My two cousins think nothing alike, and my brother and I think nothing alike, so it was hilarious. I got a lot of great presents from my family, but I’m most excited about my new bass guitar, and my copy Saint Faustina’s diary.

I realized something rather embarrassing when everyone had left, though. I had gone to Mass the night before, but I had not had a particularly Christ-centered Christmas Day. In my defense, my grandmother had stayed overnight and we had had company all day, so I didn’t exactly have much time to sneak off and do much. I had some, though, and I should have recognized and used it. I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary today, and she wrote something that I think is helpful. I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically she wrote that the future scared her and that she realized the past is unchangeable and not really worth thinking too much about. I empathized with her being a little freaked out by the future, and I’ve realized over time that I have a tendency to dwell on the past. It used to drive me crazy, but it has died down quite a bit. When I went to bed last night I prayed through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and then I crashed. My mistake bothered me last night, but that was last night, and I can’t do anything about it now.

One really cool thing was that my cousin (not either of the cousins I played Password with) told my mom that he really liked the Christmas Mass because our Priest’s homily was basically a history lesson. Apparently there has been preserved, what is believed to be, the wood from the manger that Jesus was placed in as a baby. My cousin asked my mom why they didn’t teach that kind of stuff in history class at school because, he said, it might convince more people to believe, even just a little bit. I’m my cousin’s Confirmation sponsor, and unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to figure out what he believes or how much he believes. This sounds to me like he at least wants to believe. I’m going to start being more of a pest, I think. By “pest” I pretty much mean Catholic nerd.

Anyway, I’ve had an otherwise pretty relaxing day today. I was going to work on my book, but I’ve decided to take a little vacation. As I said, I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary, but I also wrote a little in my own “Honesty Journal,” which I will be sharing with no one, and I started teaching myself the bass part of “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M. I may not have it exactly the same as the original, but I’ve figured out a fair amount of it primarily by ear, which has been great fun. It took me forever, though. I was using a pick instead of finger picking because I’m just used to that, but it actually sounds right, and at least for now, I might stick with that style, just for goofing around. I haven’t just sat in my room and played music for several hours in a long time. The crazy thing is, it seems like I almost forgot how much fun it is. Ironically, I’m wondering if I’ve accidentally become a bit of a workaholic, and in some ways, a perfectionist. I think taking a break will be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Get It!

Over the past year I’ve been working on reading the Bible cover to cover. Right now I’m in the book of Jeremiah, and man, that is not a happy thing to read. It’s all about how God is going to punish his people for betraying him and not adhering to his laws and teachings. He’s angry, and he speaks of his anger through the prophet Jeremiah. There’s not a lot of hope to be found there at first glance, especially if you don’t know where this story is ultimately going, and it’s literally scary to read. What I’ve found, though, is that God’s anger is relatable. There are little moments in what he says where one finds genuine hurt. In these moments he’s really saying: “I love you, and I just want you to love me back. I love you so much, but I don’t know what else to do. You’ve abandoned me, and the only thing left for me to do is to show you what that feels like.”

Today I found this: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship.” Jeremiah 29:11-14. God repeats over and over in this book that he will punish his people, but he makes sure to promise over and over that he won’t punish them forever. Even in his anger, God’s love shines through. He likens Israel and Judah to an unfaithful wife. I don’t know a whole lot about infidelity, but I have witnessed it from a distance, and I’ve seen how it hurts people. Forgiveness in that situation is hard.

Still, God wants, more than anything, for his people to love him back. He refuses to give up on them. He makes this very clear when he goes so far as to sacrifice himself and suffer real, physical betrayal and pain. Jesus took God’s judgment on himself. Said differently, he took on our betrayal. We can never pay that back. I don’t think it has ever hit me quite this hard. It is a love that cannot be reciprocated. I found myself actually thinking, “That isn’t fair…”

I guess that’s the point. No one will ever love God the way he loves us, no matter how hard we try; no matter what we do; no matter how nice we are; no matter how much we scripture-spam our Facebook friends; no matter how much we talk about God’s love, we can never come close to what he’s done for us. That’s just not fair, and to be perfectly honest, it’s a little hard to process. It’s unthinkable. There are no words to describe it. I can’t even say “Thank you,” because that would be inadequate. The only thing I can offer is genuine worship, and I think I understand a little better now what that is. I’m not sure I can put it into words yet.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Hope Is Together

Today marks the beginning of Lent. I read the Pope’s sermon for today, which I thought was quite good, and I went to an Ash Wednesday service at my church earlier this evening. The overall theme of the day was, of course, self sacrifice and giving to the poor. Another part of Lent is trying to become closer to God through prayer and/or reading scripture. Of course, every year everyone is urged to give something up or do something new to try and help themselves or the larger community.

At first I thought I might give up video games, but I hardly play video games anymore anyway. Then I thought I’d try and commit myself more to my music project, but again, I’ve already started doing that. Then I decided that I would try and do something bigger. In one of my classes we’ve been talking about literature related to slavery in America. We’ve been talking mostly in the context of African American slavery in the Civil War era, but one of my classmates mentioned that a percentage of people in America are still enslaved today. I mean, I guess I already knew that– maybe I had heard about it somewhere a long time ago and it was floating around in the back of my mind, but for some reason it really got under my skin and downright pissed me off, quite frankly.

When Dad and I got back from church earlier tonight I looked up modern slavery in America. I stared at the Google results, and looked at a couple websites, and then I realized something. I haven’t done anything about big, overwhelming problems like this in the past partly because big, overwhelming problems like this scare me. I feel absolutely helpless when I look at problems like the conflicts in the Middle East, or AIDS in Africa, or human trafficking in America, India or anywhere else. I feel so hopeless when I read about people who suffer from depression or know someone who has committed suicide or hear that my best friend is in the hospital again because she had another relapse. In short, the suffering of other people really affects me.

The speaker at our chapel service at school today was a pastor at an Evangelical church nearby. He was one of those guys who get really passionate when talking about Christ and tend to yell. Admittedly, it’s a little much for me, especially since I made the mistake of sitting in the front row today. Something he said, however, seemed very right, or true to me, for lack of a better word. He said that hope is communal. It is stronger when people are hoping for something together. I think that’s true of prayer as well. It feels more powerful and authentic when people pray together. I’ve experienced this with my friend at the recording studio. We’ve adopted the practice of praying before sessions, and man does it work.

I told myself a long time ago that I was going to devote myself to prayer because it seems to be the way in which I can be most helpful to the world right now. Well, I didn’t really do that as well as I would have liked, so I think I’m going to do that over Lent, and hopefully continue to do it in the future. I just need to make sure I spend a certain amount of time every day focusing on nothing but prayer and devotion. I think really good things will come of it. Despite everything that goes on in this messy world, I am still very hopeful, and I hope you guys are too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Forgiveness

Forgiving is one of the kindest things that someone can do for another person. It can also sometimes be a very difficult thing to do. Knowing that you are forgiven for something can bring an enormous sense of relief. In one sense, this person who has been forgiven has already been redeemed, and yet it engenders the desire to redeem one’s self. It can make someone feel as though they have been given a clean slate; they can start over. They can be at peace with themselves and the world.

EVERYONE deserves forgiveness. People know when they have done things that they should not have, unless they have done them out of ignorance, and being forgiven is often a reason for them to strive to be better.

Let the past be the past and live for the present. The cause has come and gone and the effect is what you make of it. Allow yourself to forgive and to be forgiven. If we can all do this, the world will be a warmer place.