Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Were You Thinking?

"Brown Coffee Blues"
(Cue crunchy blues guitar)
I woke up this mornin'
Stumbled out of my bed
Something, something, something
That rhymes with "bed."

I tasted my coffee
Blah blah blah blah
Wanting more coffee
Ya Ya Ya Ya!
(Last line intended to be sung with Swedish accent...Stockholm Blend)

I didn't have enough coffee this morning and therefore my lack of caffeine is even impacting my ability to have the Blues. It would be more true to say I have the "Browns" because coffee is brown (pitch-black in my case.) But, as brown is not symbolically associated in any way with music but more closely with a bad football team from Cleveland...I'll begin here by leaving well enough alone. I digress...whatever that means.

What I actual want to say:

I've come to realize that following the Lord means just that, following Him. It does not mean dressing up our desires in sheep's clothing. I have been able to justify many wrong-headed things in my life on the grounds (not coffee grounds) of the action or intention of following, "God's will." "Justification" is not a spiritual-gift...I believe this is a trap that many Christianesque-minded folks (as well meaning as we might be) when it comes to our pursuit of worldly things, desires and pursuits. Consider the following statements/interior thoughts which are not meant to be absolute statements against what they might represent, but are intended, merely, to allow us to do some self-analysis...

1) "I will do this because, after all, doesn't God want me to be happy?"

My how sly. What is the problem? Personal intention becomes the goal and God becomes a bottled-Genie. Instead of beginning with, "God, I want what you want when you want me to have it." It begins with, "I want it." Of course this is the essential plague of sin on humanity...nobody can escape this entirely. But it should give us pause next time we hear ourselves beginning with our own desires and not beginning with an ear and heart established in God.

2) "God can do anything He if it happens it must be His will."

This is equally, if not more, spiritually dangerous than #1. This view resigns God as the "paddle" and us as the "ping-pong-ball." This view has at it's very root a mis-belief that God is merely a "force" and not personal. This view of God is more akin to Zeus than to the God of the Old and New Testaments. Surely, God allows certain things and will withhold certain things...God does surely act in time and space and in our lives. However, He is personally concerned, primarily, with the state our souls and is not distant and aloof. It would be more accurate to say, "God loves me and all things that happen, He does allow, but that I might be drawn ever and increasingly closer to Him." Therefore, to keep God at a distance (as in statements #2) is to cheapen our view of God. He is involved, though often silent, but whether in silence or in speaking everything is intended to lead us, shape us and prepare us for heaven.

3) "I want to live a little first...I'll get back to God later."

There is no life apart from God. Every breath we draw is a sign of His love and faithfulness. God does not have a "pause button." Either you are moving toward Him or you are moving away from Him. Either you are currently aiming to give all to Him or you are in disobedience. With God there is no "middle-ground" and there is no "neutral." Jesus Christ said, "He who is not with Me is against Me." God is surely merciful but with limits. A day will come (be it at your own death or when Jesus Christ returns...whichever comes first) that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He IS LORD. If we were to do a poll in hell we would find that the majority of people there were surprised to find their souls in such a place. Some would dare to say that there is no hell. Those who maintain this view are guilty of spiritual-wishful-thinking. God is not your play-thing. As Jesus Christ said,

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Key words: fulfillment, kingdom of God, at hand, repent, believe, gospel. Now is the time. Now or perhaps never.

Finally, back to coffee and the blues. Justification of a coffee-addiction is one thing but justifying a life apart from God is quite another. Why would we do this? Simply because we have not had an encounter with God...or if we have encountered God we have chosen a path that is leading in the opposite direction. Return to Him and know true, abiding joy and peace...the best part of waking up.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ideas for Lent 2012

We are winding down on the final hours before our foreheads are marked with ash and our Lenten Season begins. This year, more than any other, I've considered more deeply how to celebrate this season and I offer here a few suggestions for you.

1) Prayer. Of course prayer comes first...but why?

Taking a decisive stance on prayer will change your life (and those around you) forever. You'll need to set aside the time (make it daily.) How often have you come to the realization that you need to pray more...listen to the Lord more...and you haven't actually done it. Do it now. Begin Wednesday. Make it in the morning if you can...even better make it morning and evening. Also, don't begin with a marathon of prayer because you will burn out. Just begin with a small time but be militantly faithful about it. Maybe you have an odd schedule like me? Make it less an issue of "what time" but make it an issue of faithfulness. If you aren't for some reason able to pray in the morning~ don't lose hope. Just make sure this time happens and happens every day. Start by just sitting down and saying to the Lord, "Lord, I offer myself to me to pray." He will. You will be changed.

2) Pray with Holy Scripture. The written Word of God...why bother?

Many people wonder what they should do with their lives...with their time, talents etc. Without realizing it, in the Gospels, Jesus Christ (the Eternal Word) has revealed much about the way to live. Of course, the Gospels aren't trendy Self-Help books, on the contrary, they are more directed toward how we might give up our lives in order to find our true lives in Him! "Pray Scripture" means, to read it and "pray through it" in such a way that your heart is attentive. Don't just breeze through but actually take the time to let the Word "wash over you." Drink it in and ask Our Lord how to apply it to your day...for THAT day. Find a the Gospel of John. It will change your life.

3) Turn down the dials. Listen to the right things.

Pope Benedict XVI famously said, ‎"We are no longer able to hear God – There are too many frequencies filling our ears." Do you want to hear from God? Turn down the other things that distract you. For me, Facebook is often edifying but just as often a distraction. Also, reading faithful Catholic books and watching edifying movies about the lives of Saints. The new series by Fr. Robert Barron is a great resource, entitled, "Catholicism" produced by Word on Fire. We're not quite finished with it but I'm considering finishing it up and watching it again during Lent...and turning down the dials on the other "neutral" or even spiritually negative stuff out there. Better yet, give some time for silence. Make it a prayer and then be quiet..."Lord, speak, your servant is listening." How can a loving Father resist such a heart?

4) Begin and begin again. Don't lose heart.

Often for me the realization that I've already "blown it" either by sin or simply by blowing off my resolutions causes me to avoid getting back on the proverbial "horse" again. I have to remember that my failure is merely a sign on my own weakness and therefore my own need for the Lord's help. Our Lord allows difficulties, temptations and "dark days" that we might better recognize the Light. We are sinners all and if we begin expecting in some ways to fall...yet with the firm resolve for when we do fall we will simply get back up again...this is the mindset of a true Victor! Confession! Confession! I always leave the confessional feeling so light and my soul feeling refreshed. I plan on taking part in this Sacrament often during Lent. It is the son who returns to the Father that can receive the blessing of the Father. Don't keep trying to fix everything on your own. You can't. Don't miss out on the true, deep, spiritual healing waiting for you in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Lord gives grace to the humble. Go. Be humble.

5) Mass and Adoration. Be filled with Him...Rest at His feet.

Understand that the Lord loves you and longs to be with you. Do you ever experience how you feel so much better and think so much more clearly after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion? Why? Because the Lord is truly present. It is the same with Adoration (particularly for those who aren't able at this time to receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus)...make it a point to give Eucharistic Adoration a try. Simply go, sit, and don't worry. Maybe you could say to the Lord, "I'm here." Then if your mind wanders don't worry. Consider yourself sitting in the presence of a cherished loved one. Words aren't always needed. Just enjoy His presence.

If you're still reading this you're in my prayers because it is likely the Lord desires to reveal Himself to you in a very significant way. It's no accident that you're reading this page. You are one who is willing to approach the Lord and your desire is not mere curiosity. Even if you're completely unfamiliar with the above ideas and practices don't worry about it. I'm glad to answer any questions you might have and I would gladly assist you personally in finding places to attend adoration or even ways to begin a journey into learning more about the Catholic faith...the faith of the Apostles of Jesus Christ...the very Church established by Jesus Christ Himself.

Write to me:

May the Lord grant you His eternal peace!

Let yourself entertain entirely new possibilities in life. Jesus Christ has come that you might have life and have it in abundance. Nobody is far from God.