The Boy of a Thousand Days

This past Christmas we got to spend time with our 3 year old grandson and his parents.  They live in the northern midwest, so we don’t get to see them nearly as often as I like.  Generally, this little boy is moving at the speed just under light, and has a destructive streak a mile wide.  A little tornado of energy.  One afternoon however out of the blue, I saw the clouds roll in on his little world as he declared “Mommy, I’m sad.”  Quiet tears rolled down his cheeks and his mother rocked him, and held him until his inner turmoil passed.  He was subdued for about 15 minutes.  His parents tell me he does this every so often…

Sometimes I’m too tired to read and too tired to sleep.  That night, I heard a podcast from my favorite author, Father Ron Rohlheiser.  He spoke about this sadness we have within each of us.  We all came from God and will all return to God.  Every human heart is imprinted with this longing for beauty, truth and goodness, and we all innately recognize this as human beings.  This emptiness, this sadness we all carry with us, is a longing for things not of this world. A longing for God.  We fill this longing with worldly things, like addictions, and endless pointless activities, anything to fill this God-shaped hole in our lives.   Perhaps this child, with his little tears, is remembering this time when he saw God’s face. Perhaps this little boy, only a thousand days old, is closer to his Creator than I am.

Inner Dialogue

“Nice going, dumb a**.”

This is a typical example of how I talk to myself.  It probably wasn’t even a serious transgression.  The other day, I laid out a new long skirt on my bed so I could cut off some extra fabric and wouldn’t trip on this skirt.  I picked up part of my bedspread along with the skirt with my extra sharp scissors and cut a large gash in it.  It wasn’t fixable.

Had a friend of mine done that to my bedspread, I would promise her it was OK, and I’ll just flip the bedspread over so it can’t be seen.  Easy!  But no such gentleness for myself.  Why is that?  Why are we harder on ourselves than any stranger we’ll ever meet?  I challenge myself and others afflicted with this  to soften this stance toward ourselves.  I hear some people say when struck with a new realization that “God hit me over the head with a 2×4.”  More likely, God kissed you on the forehead, and you were inclined to pay attention.

So how about a little gentleness.  It’s just a bedspread after all…

 

Gloriously Unhurried

Like many of us, I’ve lived my life making lists, setting goals, crossing them off, and setting the next goal.  I would alternate this with ruminating about the past.  With my re-conversion a few years ago, the truth that I had been forgiven of all things and I only had to ask for this forgiveness, freed me from the constant analyzing and reanalyzing of the past.

But I still have an issue with living in the future:  “If this happens, then that can occur.”  I never really enjoy the present moment, because my attention is turned to the next thing.  Always on a time table of some sort.

I’ve been introduced to the concept of living contemplatively.  Contemplation is described as a “long, loving look at the Real” (Fr Walter Burghardt).  It is more than mindfulness because it is a nod to the God of the Cosmos who grants our every breath, counts every hair on our heads, and loves us beyond measure. What if it also means also to live “gloriously unhurried?”  What if it meant putting the to do list aside and enjoying every sip of a perfectly extracted latte instead of slamming it down, hoping its enough caffeine to get you through the next couple of exhausting hours?

I’m going to try it, really try living in this present moment.  Just for today.  Tomorrow will likely be here soon enough.

 

Faith of a mustard seed

I am still processing what happened to me on Thursday evening.  Father Bashadora, affectionately known around the world as “Father Bash” from Uganda, came to our parish for a healing Mass.  I’ve never been to one, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

It was transformational.

Before the Mass began, it was humbling to see the parade of the faithful with walkers, canes, scarves covering heads balding from chemotherapy, and even sickly children carried in the arms of their exhausted parents.

The Mass followed the usual pattern, but it had a charismatic feel to it.  Father Bash,  a small unassuming man, gave all credit for healing to Jesus Christ.  Before long, our relatively conservative group of American Catholics were praying and singing, hands in the air for the flames of the Holy Spirit to descend upon us.  And descend it did.  I can see why the African Catholic Church is the fastest growing Church on earth.  It was so freeing to pray in this way, body-mind-soul.  I don’t know who was healed at this Mass, but I do know that trusting Jesus is first and foremost.

Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20).  I imagine having faith like that.  It is interesting that today I saw in the news that Tim Tebow, the Christian football player, has had a couple of incidences of “laying on of hands” that helped people heal.

“I do believe!  Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

 

Tranquil Closet

I learned yesterday that Jesus taught us about life in 38 parables, and 19 of those had to do with how we handle money and possessions.  This was a big topic in ancient times, and even more so today.   While trying to pare down my possessions into two categories:  useful or beautiful (thanks Marie Kondo!), I stumble especially with clothing.

Like many, I remember things I did or places I went in certain clothing and shoes.  Also, my size varies from one decade to the next (mostly up), and I save clothes for “what if I lose weight,” since trying on and buying clothes is one chore I absolutely hate.

I have a dress I wore exactly 23 years ago, and it is the single item of clothing that I have, that has scored me more compliments  than any other thing I’ve ever worn.  It fit, it looked amazing on me, and it is way too small for me now.  When I open my closet, and see that dress in the corner though, I feel defeated by it.  Not happy.  Stuck in the past.  When I look at it now, it has shoulder pads (ugh), and is cut like an American Airlines flight attendant outfit.  All I need are some plastic wings and a nametag and I could totally fake it. Except of course, I can’t fit into anymore.

So this morning I carefully folded that dress up, and put it in a bag for Goodwill.  I’m not that person anymore, and that’s okay.  Maybe someone can use it for Halloween.  I can almost see someone pointing out the over wing exits while wearing it now…

Rule of Life

Have you ever considered having your own personal “Rule of Life?”  A rule of life is something that our consecrated brothers and sisters know well.  The Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and of course, the Benedictines have their own versions of a rule of life.  For example, St Benedict back in the 6th century wrote in excruciating detail about how business would be conducted in the monastery.  He included everything from prayer life, to clothing (no more than two tunics), bedding (wool blanket, a mat, and a pillow), to how labor was to be conducted, as well as the internal administration of the monastery.  It is a rule that is adhered to today all over the world in Benedictine communities.

I  am a creature of habit, and thrive in a loose structure, for the most part.  I’ve been looking at the rule of life that other people have put together.  Some are practical, and deal with a lot of self-care things like: go to the gym 3 times per week; get 7 hours of sleep, etc.  But also, we should be concerned with our spiritual health.  I’ve been treated for depression a couple of times in my life, and the common thread was that I completely ignored God, and looked for things in the world to make me happy.  And it never did and never will.  We will always hunger for something bigger and eternal.  We were born with a yearning for God.  My rule of life now is pretty simple.  St Benedict had 73 rules and 350 pages to explain them all.  My rule looks like this:

Prayer: every morning, and every evening.  Examination of conscience at least once daily.

Love: Seeing other people from a heart-centered loving place, rather than the judgmental, hurting head-centered place.

Un-attachment: My dad said it best:  “Things don’t matter, people do.”  Detaching from experience, stuff, and the hamster wheel of achieving the next thing is a life long quest.

Solitude, Service, Silence:  All of these play a role in living a balanced life.

If you spell this out– Prayer, Love, Un-attachment, Solitude– you get PLUS.  Or “+.”

And that’s a pretty good thing to put at the center of my life.

 

 

 

The Domesticated Jesus

“Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death.  How easy it is to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly and inspiring moral teacher, but that is not how the Gospels present him.  He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with all of those forces that keep us from being fully alive.”    — Bishop Robert Barron

I spent the weekend at a conference that examined the rise of evil in the world today.  I think this quote nails what people believe Christianity is, and even what I have thought of it at times:  Jesus as the proverbial nice guy.  Domesticated.  Tame.  However, he fought to the death for each of one of us by name.  Victory is His.  And he invites us to share in it.   The ultimate warrior.  The Cosmic Warrior.  The warrior who loves you beyond measure.