Tag Archives: spirituality

Certain Death

This is a fictional reflection of the Gospel reading from this past weekend: the story of the woman caught in adultery. Most of it I made up since only a small part of her story is told in the Gospel. I just thought it would be interesting to see what might have taken place after she walked away.

We had only just got married, Isaac and me. Then he left. He didn’t really say where he was going. Just on business. He was a merchant: had some things to sell. He was a smart man. He would buy things that smiths and carpenters and other people made or grown, and then sell them for profit, but he had to travel a lot. It made me lonely. So that was how I ended up with Michael.

We were only friends at first, but then we were more than that. People got suspicious since he would come to our house a lot. People started asking questions. I kept getting strange looks in the market, and our neighbors would even avoid me. I could tell they at least thought we were up to something. I told Michael that we had to stay away from each other for a while, and we did. It didn’t really work out, though.

He came to me late one night. We were both feeling lonely. The thing was, he had been set to be married a year before, but his fiance got sick and died. It would have been alright, except that my neighbors were noticing, and that night, Isaac came back. I didn’t hear him come in. I hadn’t expected him to be coming back in the night. He threw Michael out of the house, and he didn’t press charges against him, but he was very angry with me. He slept in a different room, and the next morning, he brought me to the authorities, and they took me to the temple. I was so scared.

There was this new teacher, though who was there, and for some reason, the Pharisees didn’t like him. I was terribly afraid of him because he seemed to have some kind of authority. They said to him that the law said they should stone me, which I knew was right, but they asked what he would say. I don’t know why they asked him, but then he did something scary and weird. He asked me my name. I told him it was Elizabeth. He wrote my name on the ground, and he wrote what I’d done. Then he said that if any of them didn’t have any sins, they could kill me. He gave them kind of an odd look, and I didn’t really know what it meant, but they started walking away. When maybe half of them were gone, he bent down to where he’d written, and wiped it away with his hand.

There were some people left, but they walked away slow, too. When nobody was left, I was still scared. I didn’t know if I should leave or stay or if he was going to do something or what, so I just stood there. I felt pretty awkward, and I was embarrassed of the whole thing, and I kind of wanted to cry, and I didn’t dare look at him. He said, “Hey, look at me.” I didn’t dare not, so I looked him in the face, and he smiled. “Has nobody condemned you?” he said, and I said, “No.” I looked away because I still felt bad. He walked over to me, and touched me, so I looked at him again. He smiled and said, “Neither do I. Now go. Make amends with your husband, and don’t do this again.” I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. I just walked away.

It wasn’t normal, what he’d done. I was still really anxious while I walked home. I had to go through the market to get there, and I hoped I wouldn’t see my husband until that night when he got home, but he saw me at the same time I saw him. We both stopped for a couple of seconds, and then he started walking over. He didn’t look angry. I couldn’t really tell anything by the look on his face. I didn’t know if I should try and get away or wait for him, really. I didn’t have time to decide, though. He caught me, but he wasn’t angry.

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said. “Can you forgive me?”

I wanted to say, “You just almost got me killed!” but I didn’t. I told him what had happened. I said, “There’s a new teacher. He got even the pharisees to go away.”

“Who is he?” Isaac said.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you could ask around and find out.”

“Okay,” he said, and then he said again, “Can you forgive me?”

I thought of what the teacher had done, and finally, I said, “Yes, I forgive you.”

It took us a little while, but eventually, things got back to normal. We found out that this teacher’s name was Jesus, and that he’d done quite a few strange things. I was glad of it, though. They were all good strange things. A few months later, by chance, Isaac had to go away again. This time he said I should stay with a cousin. I thought that was a good idea, so I did. It turned out that my cousin knew some of the teacher’s followers. That’s how I got to know some of his friends, and I finally got to know him.

Advertisements

American Idols

I never watched the show “American Idol.” When “The Voice” came out, which was basically the same thing, I watched some of that. I do like to see people’s talents. I had an interesting conversation with my producer recently about my talents and his. I’ve said it before, but I can confidently say that I’m a good songwriter, and my talents have improved over time. I’m an okay singer, and again, I’ve got better over time. My producer is likewise, amazing at what he does. He can take the bare bones of something I’ve written, so melody, lyrics, and harmony if I’ve planned it ahead of time, and turn it into a ridiculously awesome song.

When I was in middle and high school I would probably say that, in some ways, I worshiped various musicians. I think humans are naturally inclined to worship something, and if it’s not God, it’s a band, a sports team, money, the leader of their political party, or maybe a pantheon of these things. I’ve come to realize that something people idolize these days is time. Personal time is a high priority for people. I get it. if I had all the time in the world and no relationships or consequences to think about, I would spend eons playing video games and reading fantasy books.

As it is, I do have relationships and consequences to think about, so I don’t do what I am naturally inclined to do. What or who we worship is a choice, and choices have consequences. What’s frustrating is that none of the CCD students I teach attend Mass. They are all completely obsessed with whatever sports team they’re on, and of course, practice is on Sunday. I’m not frustrated with the kids. Their parents have made a game into an idol. They really had no choice. I’m frustrated with the parents, though, because they have chosen their idols, and they are passing those idols onto their children, and that’s dangerous.

Today I taught the kids about Ash Wednesday. It’s early, but the lessons kind of jump around all over the place. I explained to them that God loves us enough to die for us. He made His choice. No matter what, we are worth that to Him. I explained to the kids that the ashes are a sign of acknowledging our sinfulness, but they’re in the sign of a cross because God claims us as His, sins and all. I don’t know how to get that to sink in, but I’m trying.

Still, I know that soccer is more important to them than God is. I was the same way as a kid. The trouble is, you can’t just tell someone that God loves them and they’ll magically believe it. You have to choose to believe something, and even then, we’re meant to have a relationship with God. To these kids, God is a stranger, and the thing is, he’s not intrusive. He waits for our invitation. I only offered an invitation when I had nowhere else to turn. Misery was what it took for me. I don’t want these kids to have to go there.

I started rereading the book of Jeremiah. I wrote a post about this a long time ago, but Jeremiah was speaking on God’s behalf at a time when Israel had turned to many idols. It was also a warning. God said that the Babylonians would come and take them as captives if they didn’t repent, particularly of their idolatry. God allowed their defeat and exile because they didn’t acknowledge Him as their God. If they had asked and said they were sorry, God would have somehow helped. My guess is that might have looked like another nation allying themselves with Israel or something.

Some might construe this as God being petty. Actually, it’s as if you completely ignored your best friend right in front of them, even as they’re speaking to you, and instead, made conversation to a napkin. Your friend would certainly be offended. Because they loved you, they would try to get your attention, try to repair the relationship, and try to get you to see their hurt and get you to apologize, but eventually, that friendship would break. That’s what happens when we find or create idols.

No one likes to talk about Hell. I don’t like to talk about Hell. Sometimes as Christians, we have to. What people don’t realize is that Hell is a choice. We have so much freedom as human beings, and not enough people realize it. The difference between Heaven and Hell probably isn’t what a lot of people think. The difference is, eternal life with perfect happiness and love, or eternal life without it. God is Love. To choose to worship something else is to choose a loveless life.

Don’t get me wrong, leisure is important. If we don’t take time to relax, or do something enjoyable, we’ll lose it. That’s a given. All I’m really trying to say is, remember who loves you most, and make Him your number one priority. It’s not that hard. One thing I think people get hung up on is, they think about prayer as one more thing to get to. Prayer is just an ongoing conversation. You can talk to God when you’re watching a funny movie, for example. Comment about it to Him; laugh with Him. Talk to Him at work like you talk to your coworkers.

Idolatry is probably the easiest sin to commit. I think most people have the misconception that God is loud and scary. He’s not; at least not usually. On the other hand, the idols of the world clamor for our attention, and it’s easy to get sucked in. Luckily, our God is merciful, and we have the sacrament of penance. We can go to our Father and say “I’m sorry,” and He forgives us. There’s a misconception about this, however. Many wonder why we have to go to a priest. First of all, we can and should say we’re sorry to God right away. We go to a priest because he forgives us on behalf of God, but also on behalf of the Church.

The Church is the mystical body of Christ, so when an individual sins, we’ve not only hurt our own souls, but we’ve hurt the whole Church. A good analogy is to think of sin as an injury. A venial, or what we might think of as a “small” sin, is like a small cut that we can put a bandaid on and it’ll heal on its own (as long as we apologize to God). A “bigger,” or mortal sin is like if you got a bigger cut and needed to get stitches, so you go to a doctor. That’s what the priest does in a sense. He gives you stitches for your soul.

We’re not on our own. We are responsible for our own souls, but also the wellbeing of the Church in general. Many Christians don’t realize this, and I think that’s part of the reason the Church suffers. No two Christians are truly strangers, even if they’ve never met. A forty-year-old Christian man in Africa is my brother, despite the fact that I don’t know his name or anything about him, because we have the same Heavenly Father. I think that’s what I love so much about the Church, and what makes idolatry so dangerous. God unites us. Idols divide.

Forgive Yourself As God Forgives You

I usually go to Mass on Saturday afternoons instead of Sunday mornings at our church. This Saturday I showed up a little bit early because I had decided to go to confession. I woke up that day with this thought in my head: “Forgive yourself as God forgives you.” I can hear over and over that God forgives without limit, but hearing it like this helped me to understand it better. Jesus told his disciples when He entrusted His mission to them to love others as he loved them.

The fact of the matter is, there are times when I feel like I shouldn’t be forgiven for one reason or another. I’ve messed up one too many times, or I’ve done something that must be beyond redemption. I know I am forgiven, but it often seems downright ridiculous. I’ve said before that I’m really hard on myself. I’ve been told multiple times that I’m too hard on myself. That in itself is problematic.

Forgiveness involves two people. God offers forgiveness, and I have a choice. I can accept His forgiveness, or I can continue being overly scrupulous and feeling sorry for myself. Accepting His forgiveness inherently involves forgiving myself because I’m His. If I’m going to live like Him, I have to forgive like Him, and because I’m messy, it means forgiving myself, and seeing who I am past the mess.

I Give Up. I Can’t Do It. I Need Help.

I’m not always aware of my sins, but when I become aware of particularly problematic ones, it sucks. I realized something tonight, though. I think I only figured out what my problem is with God’s help. I have a habit of interpreting things rather literally. Because of that, I’m a little obsessive about being perfect. That’s problematic when I also want to be humble. I start doing really well, but as soon as I realize this, I get prideful about it, thinking I’m getting good at the whole holiness thing. Then of course I mess up, and it really brings me down.

Jesus said to be his disciple I had to pick up my cross, deny myself and follow him. For a long time I’ve thought that meant accepting what difficulties the world threw at me, and trusting God to get me through them. I still think that’s part of it, but what God helped me to understand tonight is that I can’t carry my cross by myself. No matter how hard I try to be holy; no matter how hard I try to be perfect, without his help, that cause is lost. To follow my Lord, I have to accept my weaknesses, I have to accept that I deal with certain fears and temptations, I have to accept that I’m not perfect, I have to accept that he sees my sins and loves me anyway, and at some point, I have to give up and let him take over.

The fact of the matter is, Jesus needed help to carry his cross. His was a physical one, and in that time, he was experiencing physical weakness and pain. He could only carry it so far before Simon had to help. My cross is a spiritual one. My cross is believing that I can be perfect on my own. I can’t, and earlier tonight I gave up. I gave up and I prayed. I basically told the Lord that I’m not perfect. I want to be perfect, but I can’t, and that bothers me. I told him that I want to give up and let him help me. Letting him help is hard for me. I’m actually the type of person who really doesn’t like help from anyone, unless I really need it. I have enough sense to know that I simply can’t do certain things. This is one of those things I simply can’t do. I give up. I need help. That is my prayer. “I give up. I can’t do this. I need help.” Jesus had Simon to help carry his cross. I have the Lord himself to help carry mine.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Trust Life

We had a death in the family on Saturday. I don’t usually like using names on here, so I’ll refer to him as Vermont. It was completely unexpected. He wasn’t an immediate family member, but he was still someone fairly close. I’m surprised at how hard it hit me. Life is so fragile. Death is a weird thing. Just recently, another family member died, though this person was much older, and I didn’t know him personally. When I think about it, our family is so large, but a number of elderly relatives have died, and even some younger ones. It’s hard to believe I’m never going to see Vermont again. We didn’t see him and his family often, but I liked him. He was friendly and it will be strange having the others come to visit without him.

Death is a strange thing because the show must go on. Life doesn’t often let you stop to grieve; at least not for very long. Tonight I’m hosting a party with some old friends I grew up with. Most of them will probably drink, we’ll all eat food, and we’ll play video games, and do other stupid stuff. At the end of the day, though, somebody died. Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when I die. I don’t want people to be sad because I want them to be sure that I’m going somewhere good. At the same time, though, I’ll be gone and out of their lives until they follow me. I admit, I think about death a fair amount, but I’m not afraid of it. I just wonder what really happens before you reach your final destination.

That’s the other weird thing. Death isn’t really any kind of end. It only looks like one. Vermont is still alive in spirit. He’s just somewhere else. Maybe it’s the not knowing that freaks us out so much. We want to know where our loved ones have gone. Ultimately, we can only have some kind of idea, and depending on our spirituality, these ideas are usually hopeful and good, but they’re still vague at best. From a Christian standpoint, I think death is hard because it involves something that humans tend not to be so good at. It involves trust, and it involves surrender. When a loved one dies, there is literally nothing we can do about it, and if we don’t surrender, we tend to just cause ourselves more pain. We have to surrender ourselves to God’s mercy, and we have to trust God with the soul of the one we love and, for now, have lost.

I often reflect on the fact that the world is not fair, but at the same time I remember that God isn’t either. In this world, we have to die, but God made a way for us to live past death. I trust that.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Advent Reflection Notes (Week Three And Four)

I decided to lump these since there is only one video for the fourth week of Advent and it’s actually just all the speakers praying through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary together. These videos aren’t really all that long, so I’ve been trying to watch them all in one go so I have the ideas fresh in my mind for the blog posts. Anyway, here are my notes.

1: God is a mountain mover, but he moves mountains under two conditions: a) it has to be his will, and b) it has to be for my good. Furthermore, what we perceive as mountains are sometimes only things we put in our own way, and sometimes we only need to change our perspective.

2: God is our Father. A Father provides and protects, and we are always God’s children.
-I woke up around 5:00 yesterday morning after having the most terrifying nightmare of my life. I am not exaggerating. For a little while I just prayed like a crazy person, but I was so freaked out that it just wasn’t helping, so I went through the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary, but that didn’t help either, so I prayed like I normally do again. I was starting to calm down a little at that point, but by then almost an hour had gone by, and I actually felt like calling my dad to lay in bed with me for a bit like a little kid would. I didn’t because It was insanely early and it would have been kind of weird, but what I really wanted was to feel like I wasn’t alone. Last night I was still actually afraid I was going to have trouble getting to sleep, so I went to bed with the necklace I designed that symbolizes God’s love in a special way for me. I had got it blessed by my priest, so it made me feel safer, kind of like a security blanket.

3: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Peace in this sense is a “sense of harmony brought about by restoration of relationship with God.”
-I’m going to play with this idea of harmony. I’m a very musically minded person, and harmony is just amazing to me. I love to sing, and harmony makes everything better, in my opinion.
-What exactly is harmony between a person and God? I think it has to do with a number of things, but for this I’ll stick with the music analogy. Harmony would be like a great songwriter/composer taking the foundation of something, and letting a student play with it. God picks the key and the chord progression and the words, and the overall structure of a song, and gives me a guitar, and tells me to put something on top of it. It can be whatever I want. I can choose to play something in the key he’s playing in, that stylistically makes sense, or I can just yuck it up because I want to play my own thing. Our free will choices essentially create or allow for harmony or disharmony.

4: Back to the basics: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
-For me this probably means learning to be more patient, first of all.
-Recently, God taught me, and my priest reemphasized to me that God can take the tiny little nuggets of what I’m capable of giving him and make them into something huge. Worded differently, I need to learn, however long it takes, to not want to be a hero.
-There’s something I need to do that I’ve been avoiding for a very long time. I don’t exactly know how to do it, and I don’t exactly know what the short term or long term consequences will be, but it’s for the good of someone I love very much. That’s a bit terrifying.

5: The Holy Spirit is the source of tradition and renewal.
-It kind of seems like the world wants to do away with tradition. We used to have crazy traditions in our neighborhood, but a lot of that has died out. At the same time, I think remnants of those traditions have held on, and new traditions have grown out of them. It seems to me that humanity needs both, especially spiritually. I think sometimes the world doesn’t like traditions, especially religious traditions because they seem like they don’t make sense, even if we do have explanations for them.

6: How did Mary experience the first Advent?
-She lived it through desire and expectancy. These feelings don’t contradict each other.
-Thirsting for God’s gifts enables us to better receive them. Impatience makes it harder to handle this thirst properly.

7: Love is sometimes chaotic and messy (my paraphrase).
-True love is sticking with the one(s) we love even when/if it’s scary.

8: We don’t always get supernatural guidance, even on really big important things.
-This is kind of confusing. Joseph didn’t have to obey the call to register for the census, but he decided this would be the most pleasing to God. Mary decided following her husband would be the most pleasing to God. I guess I sort of expect him to just tell me what to do on everything. I kind of like being told what to do.

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.

 

Welcome Home

My parents and I have been arguing about where to buy our second home (their retirement home–I can work from wherever I want). We know we want to live in Maine where most of our extended family lives. My mom has fallen in love with a falling-down farm house in Naples, and though Naples is quite close to my godparents and Mom’s cousins, I think Portland would be better in terms of accessibility. My dad seems to like Portland better, but we’re all just going back and forth really.

A lot of people my parents age seem to be talking about buying a second home–another place to hang out and live. However, for years now I’ve felt like I have three homes. The first is obviously the house I live in and, by extension, my little neighborhood that goes around a loop, so there’s barely any traffic. The second is the music studio where I learned to play guitar and recorded eleven songs. In a way, I also learned to pray there because my teacher and later, producer happened to be Christian. The third is the church that I couldn’t stand as a kid, but am now seemingly magnetically drawn to. To be fair, I still think it’s the ugliest church in America, but the priests are awesome, the other volunteers and parishioners are really nice, and it’s just about a mile from my house so it’s easy to get to.

About two years ago another one of the teachers mentioned Eucharistic Adoration to some of the older kids around Lent. He didn’t elaborate much about what it was, but for some reason I thought it sounded interesting, so after a little while, I decided to go. The truth was I had never heard of it before. I went that week, and I honestly don’t remember what happened in particular, but I decided to make it a habit to keep going. I’ve been going almost every week now for the past two years.

Our parish also offers confession during that time, and at some point, for an inexplicable reason, I felt I should go. It was the first time I’d been since I made my confirmation, which meant it was the first time I’d gone in several years. I don’t remember what I confessed that night, but I do remember it felt like a humongous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. After that I got a little crazy and probably a little paranoid and started going about every two weeks, and sometimes more than that. Now I go about once a month, sort of like a check-up.

Going to Adoration is never quite the same from week to week. Sometimes it feels a bit futile, like there’s a tiny voice in the very back of my mind wondering why I’m there. During those times I pray anyway, but it kind of feels like I’m talking to myself. Other weeks, amazing things that I can’t explain happen. Last night I went as usual, not really knowing what to expect. I almost didn’t go because I was in the middle of working on one of the stories for my mythology, but I got a little distracted, and somehow came across the bit of Scripture where Jesus says, “Can’t you wait with me an hour?” So I decided, yeah, I’ll do that.

When I got there, I grabbed the little pamphlet with the prayers on it for the end, found my spot, put my phone away and waited. I’ll try and explain exactly what happens at Adoration the best I can since I know many of my readers are not Catholic. Catholics believe that the Eucharist (consecrated bread and wine) are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Some people take issue with this because it sounds like Christ is being sacrificed again. However, what it does, is it allows people to be present in his once-and-for-all sacrifice. That’s what happens at communion. Adoration outside of Mass is when the consecrated hosts are exposed so that people can look and sit and be in his presence.

I was a few minutes early last night, so I was totally ready to go by the time our priest came out and set everything up. For some reason I felt slightly awkward at first and I wasn’t sure why. It was like both of us (me and the Lord) were waiting. The thing is, when I’m nervous or scared, I ask Jesus to stay with me; just to be with me. Unfortunately, I forget to promise to do the same for him. There was nothing on my mind at all really for the first thirty seconds to a minute while I was there, and then I remembered why I had come in the first place, so I said, “Well, I’m here. I’m with you, Jesus,” and then one of those amazing things that I can’t explain happened. I couldn’t really think for several minutes after that. It was kind of like really seeing someone you love for the first time and fully understanding how much you love them and how much they love you and how awesome they are. Then of course I couldn’t shut up.

I sometimes have trouble praying at Adoration. Part of the reason I go is because it forces me to leave my normal life and sit still for an hour, and sometimes my mind just wanders. Last night I didn’t have trouble, though. In fact, I almost wished we had had a few extra minutes before the closing prayers that we all do together. I don’t know how much time it really was before the Katie in me kicked back in. It felt sort of outside of time. It could have been fifteen minutes, it could have been three. All I know is that whatever I felt brought me to tears.

Actually, at the beginning of this post I talked about the places I think of like home to me, but the truth is, they’re really just buildings. I think it’s really the memories and people associated with places that make them home. Really I could probably list off a whole bunch of places that could be home to me, including the camp ground we’ve gone to since before I can remember, Portland Maine itself, and the movie theater a couple towns over. Again, though, these places are home to me because of the memories and people I associate with them. I know that what I felt last night felt really good, and maybe it was God’s way of saying, “Welcome home.”

 

 

You Are Time

Imagine you know you’re part of an army but you don’t know who your allies are. You know you’ve got enemies, but you don’t exactly know who they are. For all you know, they’re invisible. They’re often smarter than you, and they’re masters of trickery. It’s dark, you’re tired, and you know your side is losing. You start to wonder if resistance is futile. Eventually it really starts to seem that way. Then something drastically changes. Defeat seems inevitable until a new ally suddenly appears. He fights valiantly and he teaches you his ways. He heals your allies and defeats innumerable enemies.

Then, once again, something changes. He warns that it is only a matter of time before his death, but your victory. He is captured, tortured, and killed, and you are forced to fall back, but miraculously, just days later, he is alive and your enemies vanquished. He was right, and he celebrates your victory with you because now that enemy you faced is conquered for good. He eventually says that he has to go, but he will send his spirit so he can always love you and guide you and help you, and he keeps his promise.

Centuries go by until it seems that the whole world knows him, or appears to know of him. He is glorified in acts of heroism that mirror his own. He is honored in acts of love and goodness. Fantastic works of af art are created by those who love him still. You find, nonetheless, that things inevitably change. Slowly but surely, in many places he is forgotten; in many places is made into a laughing stock; even his very name is dishonored, thrown into the mire of language with unutterable words.

And you ask, “what does it matter? What is a name?” A name is how you are known. You are known by your name as a writer or a thinker or a worker or a finder, or something else that makes you who you are. He is a hero, still here, still living, and his very identity is used as a curse. His name has weight; it is precious.

Holy Week (Monday)

This week is Holy Week. Friday is Good Friday. Even though I know what comes after, I’m dreading it because of what happened on that day 2,000 years ago. This post is not about that, though. What I intend to do, Monday through Friday of this week, is to write precisely about what Good Friday tried to destroy. Life. What I mean is that Good Friday stood for Death. It stood for hopelessness.

Probably some, and possibly many will take my posts this week as political. I urge you not to. Some of the things I will post about are tied to political issues, but they are not political issues in themselves. All that being said, I’ll get started on my first topic.

What does it mean to be pro-life? What does it mean to live life to the fullest? These two questions are closely related. As many readers already know, I am pro-life. Yes, I do strongly oppose abortion and the death penalty, but that is not the extent of what it means to be pro-life. It means supporting discussion and if that fails, civil disobedience when it is necessary. It also means helping disadvantaged people in constructive ways that build relationships and boost confidence. It involves being creative. It requires time, effort and sacrifice. My dad used to use a cliche every so often: “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” Do I always know how to “teach a man to fish?” Nope. Am I always capable of it? Nope. I do, however, think that there are people who are willing and able, and that this is the best solution to dealing with a multitude of social and economic problems. Again, this is getting borderline political, so I’ll leave it at that.

However, none of this addresses what it means to be pro-life on a spiritual level. One of the most commonly known things that Jesus said to his disciples was, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jesus is our connection with God the Father. Another Christian cliche is that we’re meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Relationships are a two-way street. He can chase us forever, but if we’re not interested, he won’t force us to pay any attention to him. To be spiritually alive means to enjoy the relationship that Jesus is offering us. To be pro-life from a spiritual standpoint, then, is, I think, to simply encourage people to acknowledge the invitation, and if they choose to pursue things further, to help them along. People never have only one relationship. Everyone has to ask for advice or direction in many relationships. A relationship with God is no different. What strengthens a relationship with God is worship (both individual and communal), prayer, and reading. Even fiction can help. Let God enjoy life with you, whether it’s playing with your pet, or taking a walk, or eating too much ice cream.

This addresses my second question. What does it mean to live life to the fullest? To an extent, this is a matter of opinion and preference. However, it also depends on one’s personality in general, and one’s overall situation. Some are happy living with the bare necessities, while others strive for extravagance. However, when one cannot attain what they want or need, living life to the fullest means accepting what one has and what one can attain. It also means being able to adapt and go outside one’s comfort zone. This will mean something different for every person. Sometimes it will mean watching a movie in a genre you might not usually pick. Sometimes it will mean skydiving. Lastly, living life to the fullest means allowing one’s self to let loose, and let go of one’s ego. It means learning to laugh at yourself with genuine joy.

Of course living life to the fullest also has a spiritual dimension. To address this aspect of it, I think I need to ask another question. What constitutes a full or fulfilled life? Every person will have a different answer for this, but I think it is possible to find a partially objective answer. Every human requires and seeks a handful of things in life. These are reflected in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with physiological/biological needs being the most basic, and self-transcendence being the highest. Self-transcendence refers to the need to give oneself to something outside of oneself. As an example, he specifically refers to spirituality. Maslow also describes his idea of self-transcendence as “ends rather than means” to oneself, significant others, and even the cosmos. In other words, oneself is something sought after by things outside oneself. God seeks us out. God is infinite and perfect. We are not. God has no actual need for us, but he has a desire for us. It seems that to respond to that desire positively is exactly what Maslow means by self-transcendence.

However, there is one aspect of this that I have not addressed. In both sections on our relation to God, I have primarily focused on what God gets out of it. What do we get out of it? I think the best way to close this off is to address that question personally. Strengthening my relationship with God has made me more creative, more outgoing, more honest, more altruistic, and more patient. It has raised my self-esteem, and given me immense comfort when things aren’t going quite right. It has made me more positive and less egotistical. That all has happened in the span of seven or eight years. I certainly won’t claim that my life is perfect, but it’s good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!