Thursday, May 24, 2012

Help us Obi Wan

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Star Wars in 1977 at the Portage Theater on Milwaukee Ave in Chicago.  When Darth Vader's stormed onto the screen through a cloud of smoke I was terrified (I was only 2 1/2).  Star Wars was my favorite movie for a long time, still one of my personal favorites.  It's such a great story of the battle between good and evil.  

There's a scene in the movie when the beautiful Princess Leia's urgent plea for help is discovered on R2-D2 by Luke Skywalker.  The message is looped and the audience repeatedly see Leia saying, "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."  I was reminded of that today when I saw today's Psalm response: Keep me safe, O God, you are my hope (Psalm 16).

Here's one of the good things about not living "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...": we have Jesus Christ.  My hope is in the Lord, not in The Force or in the fallible person of Obi Wan or Luke Skywalker (although their skills with a lightsaber are amazing).  I don't need to send a message via a robot to get help, all I have to do is get on my knees.  Sure, it would be nice to have Jedis burst through the doors and kick some butt when I'm in physical danger, yet they can do nothing for my soul.  

Keep me safe, O God, you are my hope.  While I love Star Wars, only Jesus Christ is the true hope for the galaxy.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Mission Statements

I find mission statements for churches to be pretty silly.  Seriously, why does a church need a mission statement?  I'm pretty sure Jesus laid out a couple of dandies in the Gospels: "love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself."  Or, "go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  As if we can better Jesus in trying to create a pithy explanation of why we do what we do.  I know mission statements were all the rage a few years ago and I'm not sure if there's even that much hype around the idea any more.  However, it will be a happy day when mission statements are dropped from the covers of parish bulletins.  

I do get the idea of a personal mission statement.  Your mission encompasses your vocation, how you will live it out, and your ultimate goal.  St. Paul had a rockin' mission statement and it can be found in today's first reading from Acts 20:24:
"Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace."
35 words and you know the kind of man St. Paul was; you can't get much clearer than that. 

Can I distill my life into 35 words?  It should reflect my life, just like St. Paul's mission statement.  A personal mission statement shouldn't be "pie in the sky" mumbo-jumbo.  Here's my attempt: I will reflect the love of Christ to those I meet, most especially in the roles God assigned to me: wife and mother.  (23 words)  Not a bad start...but really, who am I to think I can best St. Paul?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Take Courage!

Once again I have been M.I.A.  I'd like to say it's because my husband has a new job in Austin and that we've been feverishly packing, but that's not the reason.  Last week I was putting the finishing touches on a retreat I directed on Saturday.  The focus of the retreat was prayer and trying new prayer experiences: Lectio Divina, guided meditation, contemplative prayer, and what I call mantra prayer.  I thought it went very well, if I do say so myself.  

Now...back to blogging...  
"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."  John 16:33

This verse would make the perfect "mantra" prayer.  I know that the Church teaches that we should not used Eastern meditation practices - and I completely agree.  I use the word mantra in the sense that it is something you repeat to yourself in times of stress.  It's something that can used like a touchstone to calm down, focus, decompress.

For a long time I loved a line from Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."  I used this simple "mantra" in grad school when I was often up to my eyeballs in reading, papers, ministry, and lack of sleep.  Repeating it over and over again was my prayer that I'd survive grad school, get a job, pay my bills...that everything would be alright.  I graduated, I got a job, and everything was fine.  Then I moved on to another "mantra" prayer.  

"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."  With all the stuff that is swirling around my family these days: job hunting, potential move, potty training, and all around 2 1/2 year old craziness, I think I have just found the new prayer that I need.  

Take courage!

Monday, May 14, 2012

"I didn't say LIKE one another."

In Greek there are four words used for 'love'.  English has only one word and it gets abused.

Greek 'loves': eros - erotica love; philia - friendship; storge - natural affection (such as a mother for her child); agape - self-sacrificing love, unconditional love.

English 'loves' - I love my car; I love my dog; I love my husband; I love my child; I love God; I love that guy on that TV show, etc.  Some of these examples should actually use the word 'like', I like my car, but for the most part people understand what you really mean.  

Today's Gospel reading is the same from yesterday...apparently the Church thought we needed to study it.  It's all about love, agape love, that is.  Jesus isn't talking about friendship or even natural affection, he's talking about self-sacrificing love.  And, he certainly isn't talking about 'like'.  

Jesus' command is: self-sacrifice for one another.

Really?  But what about that jerk that I work with or that rude lady at the grocery store or all the other people who annoy the heck out of me?  Do I really have to self-sacrifice for them?

Jesus says yes.  I may not need to lay down my life for the rude lady at the grocery store, but I definitely should not give her a piece of my mind.  That's a self-sacrifice that will teach me patience and I will (or at least I pray I will) grow in love (agape and philia).  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Different Mother's Day Card

For all the Mommies out there who are missing babies...

Dear Mommy,
I love you.  
I can't wait to see you again.  Heaven is so pretty.  You're going to love it.
I asked God why you've been sad and he said it's because you miss me.  I didn't understand that and God said that I don't understand "miss" because I'm in Heaven.  He said that on earth when a mommy loves her baby as much as you love me and I'm not there for you to give me hugs and kisses that is calling "missing".  God said that missing can hurt your heart and that makes you cry.  Mommy, I don't understand missing, but I know about love and I love you just as much!
God told me not to say, "don't be sad."  He said "That's easier said than done.", whatever that means.  So, instead, please don't feel bad when you laugh or smile.  I love to hear you laugh - it sounds prettier than when I was in your belly.  And you're so beautiful when you smile.  Your smile makes me smile.
Someday we will be together and you won't miss any more.  And, we'll be together with God.  It's going to be great!
I love you, Mommy!

This is to all the Mommies who are facing the first Mother's Day with her baby.  And to all the other Mommies who hold the same sadness year after year.  You are all in my prayers, especially on this Mother's Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God and potty training

I have been trying off and on for about a year to potty train my son.  I have read about different potty training methods and had the arsenal of treats ready, but my little guy wasn't ready to go.  I might get him to go on the potty once or twice a day, but he wasn't ready for full-on potty training.  He's 31 months now and I've been wondering, "When will I have to stop changing diapers?"

This morning my son came into my room to "help me wake up" and as I was trying to come round to consciousness he said, "I have to go potty."  My initial response was going to be, "No...Mommy's still sleeping."  Instead, I looked at my little guy who was quite intent about going to the potty and I dragged myself out of bed.  He went potty, I was proud that he told me he had to go, and then (TA-DAH) we're potty training.  

As we were getting through the morning: eating, running to the potty, watching Thomas, running to the potty, getting dressed, running to the potty, I actually had a few minutes to think about how much I have learned about God since I've become a parent.

God is the ultimate parent - and I have a lot to learn in the patient parenting department.  God knows what is best for us and knows what we need to mature in our faith, but God doesn't force us.  For instance, if I need to spend more time in prayer, God is going to plant a seed of longing in my heart for more quiet time.  That seed grows and then I act on it when I'm ready.

Potty training is much the same way; it is a very good skill and it is will be good for my son.  However, if I yelled at my son when he didn't use the potty during the last year or made him sit on the potty when it was scary, then I would have created more problems.  A lot of parenting a toddler is about dealing with behavior issues immediately. "No, you don't climb up on the living room table and jump off!"  Then there is the long-term, personal and emotional development.  Many times it's about putting good things in his path, reminding him about the good things, and then waiting until he's ready.

And so it is with God.  The good things are on my path right now and I have to figure out if I'm ready or not.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blah, blah, blah

Many Catholics get the heebie-jeebies when spiritual warfare is mentioned.  Do we really have to talk about the devil?  Yes, we do.

When people tell me that they don't believe in God, I usually respond by saying, "God believes in you."  Terribly annoying for the recipient, but I'm not lying.  The flip side of this coin is Satan.  Some very erudite people have told me that Satan is merely "a psychological construct created by the Church in order to keep the masses in control."  Then, all I heard was "blah, blah, blah."  For as much as God believes in every person on this planet, Satan believes in them, too.  And, worse, Satan wants them to believe the lie that he is merely a psychological construct.

There is a constant unseen battle occurring for our hearts and minds and souls.

In today's Gospel (John 14:27-31a) Christ tells the disciples that he will go to the Father and he won't speak much with them because the "ruler of the world" is coming.  However, this ruler has no power over Christ or the Father.

Christians will earnestly give God credit when someone turns their life around or they're able to forgive someone, but what about when something bad happens?  Clearly, God can act upon our hearts, but so can Satan.  Oftentimes crimes of passion are characterized as someone acting out of their "normal" state of mind.  While a person might be responding to evil suggestions during horrendous crimes like murder or rape, what about the smaller ways we give into evil everyday: lying, cheating, giving into anger?  I'm not advocating "the devil made me do it" defense, but I have to be aware of the powers acting on me.  Am I listening to God or am I being deceived by Satan?

I know who the ruler of the world is, but who is the ruler of my heart?  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Just call me Willie Nelson

"I told you and you do not believe." John 10:25

Sometimes I wonder if I had lived during Jesus' time, would I have recognized him as the Messiah?  Or, if he were to come back and proclaim he had returned, would I believe him or would I think he's another nutcase with a God complex?

How is it that some people knew Jesus was the Savior and others didn't?  When Jesus returns will it be impossible to now know him?  How will we know?  Is it a matter of grace, if you're open to God there's no way you can't know?  Is there something in meeting Jesus face to face?    

I would hate to hear the words, "I told you and you do not believe."

I'm hitting the road AGAIN starting tomorrow.  Another round of house-hunting, but this time I've got an interview too!  Please keep me in your prayers.