Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gimme, Gimme More!

Only I could use a phrase from a Britney Spears song to start a blog post on a great saint. I know, I know. Jesus is probably rolling His eyes at me somewhere in Heaven. Lovingly, though ;)

I want to give some props to a saint who has come in in the clutch for some friends and I of late. Don't let his name fool you...he is a lesser known, in my mind....but...:

St. Thomas More. The Catholic Encyclopedia has lots to say about him. But basically, I know him 'cause I watched a movie about him (it won awards! It's on the Vatican AND AFI's top lists! That doesn't happen often, people!)

Other than the movie, I didn't know too much. But a friend recently prayed to him and then another friend recommended I do the same- and he was a powerful intercessor for us both! He clearly wastes no time and works quickly! I would expect nothing less than powerful persuasion from such a keen lawyer ;)

Plus, it's all in the name...St. Thomas MORE? ;)

I know. The joke was too obvious. But he is for real! No joke!

Just wanted to pass on this guy's name along for you and your next intercessory need ;) You are welcome.


Holy Spirit 2, Devil still 0

I know our faith-life goes in cycles as I've noted time and again on this blog. I have also noted that when the going gets GOOD (aka the Holy Spirit is in full effect) the devil gets GOING.

As in...going to make you crazy. As in going to make you think you aren't GOOD ;( Lies!)

The past couple of posts I have been at peace and raving about the Holy Spirit who I am contemplating and inviting more into my life.

Apparently, though, when you invite him in, you have to carefully guard who sneaks in from behind...This guy.

I didn't even want to google pictures of him, that's how much I didn't want to let him in! So I got this cartoon version. I still kind of want to stab him with that pitchfork.

I don't have anything really new to say about good vs evil, I could just use some prayers to not get frustrated when devil dude is trying to cramp my style.

I am really excited about having the opportunity to spend another week in ministry with teens from the Arlington Diocese at their Workcamp. As a friend reminded me, a week of prayer, unity, and service with others is a great way to combat the devil.

Another friend sent me this link from a non-denominational pastor who was reflecting on faith-life cycles. The popular Byrds song that comes from Ecclesiastes comes to mind and came to my mind in prayer the other day. Well, that's kind of a lie. I was on my way to pray and my friend texted me to tell me about her shopping trip that she was on. Our conversation:

Her: En route to outlets. Wish me luck ;)
Me: En route to Adoration...will do ;)
Her: you are getting the REAL deal
Me: To everything a season. A time to shop, a time to pray
Her: #ThisIsWhyWeAreFriends

(And yes, these are my actual conversations. I KNOW. I'm a nerd)

So the verse really came to me because I was trying to be cute via text, but after I wrote it, I did take it with me to prayer. It was a good reminder, like last Sunday's readings about Abraham and Sarah/Mary and Martha, that there is a time to reap, and a time to sow. A time to wait and a time receive.

But thank God it's always time for the Holy Spirit!

Another thing that has been a source of temptation for me- as much as I LOVE me some social networking- is Facebook. A woman in my prayer group had shared with me before her similar struggle to see all these people in her life post pics online of their babies while she and her husband were struggling to conceive. I have fallen into the trap as more and more people post pics of their engagements, weddings, babies, etc. too. I start to compare myself to others based solely on the fact that Facebook seems to be telling me this is where I SHOULD be in my life. Because I have 200+ "friends" who are one state in life, this is my basis for what I should want? Um, I don't think so!

Shoot, I even found myself of late looking at blogs and being like, "at least I'm not Jennifer Aniston". She gets torn apart in the press about being single and 40. She is a beautiful, rich woman! Why should I compare myself to her and/or rejoice in her suffering?!
This is the 40 year old "Old Maid"....right...

I've gotten plenty of "comments" on my travels of late from married friends or friends who are moms that are jealous of my freedom to come and go as I please. The grass is always greener. But this is why we need not to compare and be grateful for what God has given us.

The love of the Holy Spirit is the answer! And the devil needs to STEP OFF.

I appreciate your prayers at this time as I try to combat the devil. But it usually means good things are happening. Definitely pray for us at Workcamp this weekend and through next week!

Thanks so much,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis

I had mentioned a couple posts ago that my summer travels recently took me back to a special place for me- St. Louis. I recently went there for work, but as many of you know, God took me there- shoot- almost 3 years ago to enter a religious community. As I sat on the plane for my first trip back in 2 years, I was still in awe that God called me to the city that my own sister (by blood, not convent ;) was living in for a very important year in both of our lives. I am still so grateful for that year and that gift of having my sister there during that time. Every time I question the whole journey, I can always point to the fact that we were both there in the same place at the same time and say- that was God. God did that for me.

So this trip back was good for me. I am in a good place right now. Sure, I still have plenty of questions for Jesus, but I think I was able to go back and present my best self to the people I encountered this most recent weekend and just enjoy the city that I got to know fairly well a couple years ago.

The Church is pretty alive there, which is one of the many reasons I loved being back. Being in a religious community during my original stay in the city, I got to know alot of parishioners at various parishes in the Archdiocese. I met a lot of priests and other diocesan ministers, and there are just a lot of good people doing good things in STL! So I enjoyed being hosted a parish this past trip for work.

When I was on NET, we stayed with 'host families' at nearly every parish we would do retreats at. So it is not unusual for me to enjoy a meal with a family I've just met through the parish where I am staying.

This trip to STL afforded me such an opportunity! I was speaking at parish for work, and had made arrangements to stay at the parish, but thought I would be on my own for meals. I was actually going to try and meet up with a friend of my sister's on Saturday night.

After I had attended and spoken at the Saturday vigil Mass, Msgr made sure I was all set for my stay and quickly added, 'oh, btw the way- we have a couple that will be taking you out to dinner.'

I was surprised, but not disappointed. It was going to be like my NET days re-lived.

So a sweet couple( probably my parents' age) came to pick me up at the rectory after the Vigil Mass and asked where I would like to go eat. Me, being polite but also NOT a picky eater in any way shape or form, responded: 'anywhere! I'll eat anything!'

Taking me a little off guard, the wife suggests the buffet at the 'new casino' in town. I was never taken to a casino by any host family on NET! However, these were my kind of people! Casino? Buffet? Um, yes please. These are moments where I love being Catholic. We know how to pray and have a good time ;)

The casino buffet lived up to all the 'hype'- it had great food! ;) And I had a really great conversation with the couple- the wife, whom, had recently become Catholic and the husband had became a deacon.

They told me this great story that I told them I would have to share:

The deacon (before he was a deacon) was attending a daily Mass at a more traditional parish. The tabernacle had a door on the front, but also a way in from the back ( apparently, there was a chapel or sacristy behind the altar so that there was additional 'access' to Jesus for the priest ;)

The priest saying Mass at this parish apparently spoke to Jesus each time He reposed the Sacrament, saying something like, "Good Night, Jesus!"

Well apparently (and perhaps you see where this is going), at this particular Mass, the priest went to repose the Sacrament and said his goodbyes to Jesus in the tabernacle, and there was a response back from the tabernacle!

"Good night, Jesus!"

"Good night!"

Um...can you imagine?

It was, of course, another priest who was opening the tabernacle from behind, but I can imagine it was a kind of hysterical (and maybe even slight creepy? ;) event.

After our trip(s) to the buffet and sharing stories such as this, we promptly played slot machines, grabbed a beer, and watched the Cardinals game.

Best. Host. Family. Ever ;)

Just another reason to love St. Louis!

I also did get a chance to have lunch with some of the sisters, one of whom i was pretty close with before I entered, and visit the place where I lived for a short time. It was good to have a type of closure and to return at just the right time in my life- I was ready and could see how I had grown in the past 2 years.

I also got to visit some of my favorite places that I would spend time at on my "days off" (we got one day a month to do whatever we wanted when I was living there)- my "Special Place" that I blogged about, the Art Museum which I loved (and saw this exhibit this time around. Yes, I know there are STATUES involved, but they were LITTLE. Ergo, tolerable for me and my phobia...but still admittedly a little creepy), and I did get to meet up with my sister's friend and have brunch in the Central West End- a place I frequented often for brunches on my 'free days'.

All and all a really lovely trip that I am grateful for! Have you ever experienced these kinds of moments where various people and places from your current and past life collide? I kind of love these moments. They affirm me of God's plan.

Where will my summer travels take you next, you ask? How kind ;) Well, I am of course, not slowing down! Helping with ANOTHER Workcamp in VA starting on FRIDAY! Going to a quick girls' getaway the weekend after we finish camp, then a WEDDING (of course! But sans bridesmaid dress, thank the good Lord!) and then ANOTHER trip for work! It will also be a trip where my worlds will collide a bit...

but we'll blog that bridge when it?

Thanks for reading! OH! And so that this blog is not completely void of SOMETHING prayerful/theological/reflective to think about...

I LOVED the readings this past Sunday: The Lord revealing His promise to Abraham that Sarah would conceive a child in the first reading and the Gospel of Mary and Martha. The first reading gives me a challenge and HOPE that God can and WILL do all things for those who serve Him in His time. And that we need not worry like Martha in the Gospel, but just throw ourselves at His feet like Mary.

Hope you all are having a blessed summer!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Running for 'The Hills'?

My Tuesday night television watching just hasn't been the same since the first season of Glee ended a few weeks ago. Namely, that there is NOTHING I find worth watching on Tuesday nights now! If I were taking classes right now, this wouldn't be a problem as it would force me to get up off the couch and actually STUDY. But it's summer! And I want to veg and watch some reality TV and campy musical sitcoms.

So I found myself turning on The Hills marathon, as the series finale was last night. I haven't watched MTV since I used to sneak into my parent's basement and watch Season 3 of the Real World while in junior high (that was the San Francisco season with Rachel and Puck. You know, when the show still dealt with real issues like HIV, politics, and when they had careers? Now it's just seven strangers drinking. No thanks. I can see that any night out in Adams Morgan if I want to).

Okay, so that's kind of an exaggeration. I have watched The Hills before. My roommates and I have watched maybe 2 or 3 episodes together in the past, only to mock the long, empty gazes the actors/characters/whatever exchange amid conversations about parties, shopping, and...that's about it.

So imagine my surprise last night as I actually UNDERSTOOD one of the "characters" and (almost) knew where she was coming from! She wasn't talking about money or drugs or plastic surgery, she was talking about finding herself.

Since it was the series finale, MTV has to tie up their "storylines" in a pretty little bow. One is taking the 'next step' by buying her own place, one is moving in with her boyfriend, one is getting sober (I wish I were kidding). And this last girl decided she needed some time alone, away from everything and was going to take a trip to Europe for an indefinite amount of time.

When she was talking about needing to move on and go do something for herself, she used a phrase that went something like, "I need to be scared" and it struck me. Mostly because that it was an odd phrase, but also that I kind of got what she was trying to say.

The times in our lives where we find out who we are usually involve some kind of risk or fear factor. Now, we can't live inside this fear, but when we are afraid, it puts us into survival mode. We have to look inside of ourselves and say, "No one else is around me now. What do I believe? What do I want for myself? What do I know how to do that will keep me going?".

Now, I don't know if that girl ended up going to Europe or if it was just a storyline MTV came up with (the show ended up weird where they let the viewer "in" at the very end and showed a Hollywood lot and cameras, leading the viewer to question, was any of this real? Not that we are surprised if it's not...) but I had to applaud her self awareness or desire to make herself vulnerable for the sake of learning about herself. Even if she didn't come up with this idea on her own ;)

To switch gears and make this theological....Reading The Sanctifier and learning about the Holy Spirit, I've come to learn that the Holy Spirit and it's love possesses us. Or It should. And this is scary for us, I think. We are taught as humans we shouldn't be enslaved or possessed by anything, and that is true! We shouldn't be consumed by our possessions and certainly should not enslave another human being!

But the Holy Spirit and LOVE are different. When they possess us in a pure and complete way, they make us better. They lead us to fulfill our call. So while this possession can be scary, we need to let ourselves be vulnerable to this possession of love through the Holy Spirit.

I found myself relating to a character on The Hills last night, and that was scary! ;) And so is letting ourselves be docile to a Spirit. But the character was speaking some truth, and the Spirit just wants to possess us with love. So who am I to limit how the Spirit works?

Does that have us running for the Hills? Um, lemme check: No. But making ourselves uncomfortable, nervous, or even a little "scared" in order to rely on the Spirit and let Him possess and direct us? I think, like, omg, totally ;)


Monday, July 12, 2010

Today I Rant About Seafoam

Seafoam or Seaglass? Please someone tell me the difference.

Disclaimer: This post will not be theological in content in any way. But will have everything to do about my life ;) Well, not everything. I am already disgressing...

By some dumb, er, luck? I have been getting a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazines. I still feel like someone signed me up as a joke or it is being sent by my mother in hopes I would grow to love getting recipes and kitschy kitchen ideas.

I should also preface this post- I am kind of the anti-Martha Stewart. Don't get me wrong, I can throw a good party. But I usually just take care of the guest list and booze when our roomies have a get together. And frankly, if the party doesn't have winebottles and/or beer ("recyclables" as my friends and I call them) then I don't know if it's a party I want to be at. Humph.

So I get Better Homes and Gardens. And they pretty much sit there on the coffee table and mock me about how little I care about having a better home OR garden. My roommates, however, do subscribe to the Real/Simple/Martha Living mags, so I suppose the Better Homes ones don't stick out TOO terribly much in this house. I just mostly use them as coasters, though.

Well, folks, today I decided I was going to be a big girl and open the infamous mag over breakfast. And it almost had me too. Almost.

The cover had summer recipes for watermelon and grilling. I actually like watermelon and grilling. Summer BBQs I can handle because they usually have the aformentioned "Recyclables" present PLUS paper products as dishware. Bonus recycling. Less pressure.

I almost wanted to know about 15 ways to prepare watermelon and 5 great ways to skewer shishkabobs.

But then...

I stumbled upon the "better homes" section, apparently, and there were articles telling you how to add color to your house (they even suggested colors for laundry rooms. Really? Do you WANT your laundry room to look appealing so you spend more time in it?) and I read these words that let me know I wasn't ready for Better Homes OR Gardens:

"Seaglass is the new off-white".

This sentence spoke volumes to me. 1.) what the heck is seaglass? The fact that I didn't know it was a color, let alone trendy, made me feel isolated 2.) I didn't know off-white was ever "in". Really? I do know that it is seaglass really universal if I don't know what it is?!

Now I can keep up with fashion. I LOVE it. So perhaps, if these colors were being applied to a new shift dress rather than laundry room wall-color, I wouldn't have stumbled so much over the words.

But seaglass? This word to me means class separation. I don't know that seaglass is a color. Does that make other BH&G readers better than me???

The color I DO know of is seafoam and I mostly associate that with 80s bridesmaids dresses. I actually think seaGLASS is EXACTLY the same as seafoam but paint marketers didn't want that association. You can't fool me, Better Homes and Gardens. You are just trying to dress up seafoam. You can't put seaglass on a pig. It's still seafoam.

In other news...I went to St Louis this weekend for the first time in two years! Still processing the experience, but I can say it was certainly blessed. More theological reflections and life updates to follow!

In the meantime, contemplate the meaning and deception of seaglass...


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where is the Love?

Remember when the Black Eyed Peas weren't annoying and overplayed? I do. The year was 2003 and the song was "Where is the Love?" The song was socially conscious and pleasant to listen to (and it featured J. Timberlake! swoon!). Sadly, I'm afraid those days are songs like Boom Boom Pow consume our airwaves. Sigh.

Today, I was reading my latest undertaking for spiritual reading- the aforementioned, The Sanctifier- and really taken by the LOVE that IS the Holy Spirit.

We know the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. It is through the power of the Spirit that this love is communicated.

We know what it's like to love. It is all consuming. When you love someone, romantically or not, you are concerned for them. You care for them. They are in your thoughts, and you want to spend time with them. Their interests are important to you.

That is my practical, anti-mushy gushy description of love anyways. The chapter I was reading today describes the love of the Holy Spirit like this:

"Is not love the obsession that enslaves all our faculties, that absorbs our lives, admits no rival, and is satisfied with nothing less than our whole being? Is not love the fortunate conqueror who entered through the gates of our heart, we knew not when, and after having gained possession of us, inch by inch, planted his triumphant standard to wave above us..."

Whoa, there, Archbishop Martinez?! Is this a spiritual reflection or a romance novel! Seriously, I am blushing.

So he is saying that the Holy Spirit IS this powerful, intoxicating, all-consuming love for us from God. And that it should also possess all of OUR being.

It makes me think of the Matt Maher song:

"Your Love is Extravagant. Your friendship, it is intimate....Your love's intoxicating..."

I think when I was discerning religious life, it was easy to think of God's love this way because I was thinking of giving my life to Him in a unique way. But it's taken me these last couple of years to see, while religious life is a unique way to express this love, the all encompassing love of God exists for us regardless how we are called to communicate it.

And who doesn't want to be in love? (I'm still open to the Catholic Bachelorette idea...just.saying. ;)

I wrote a blog post on my popblog recently about a Ke$ha song that uses this 'intoxicating' metaphor for love (aka "Your Love is My Drug"...granted, the metaphor is not poetic, and the fact that Ke$ha can carry the metaphor throughout is really the only thing she's got going for her...poor thing...)

Is the Holy Spirit's Love likened to that love of Ke$ha?! I am going to be praying with this idea of the intoxicating love of the Spirit. He is quite the little Cassanova. He's gonna have to go slow with me...remember I am not prone to sweet/cute things... ;)

The Archbishop concludes the chapter with a Gospel quote that I also found helpful for reflection: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be" (Matt 6:21).

Our world tells us our treasure should be monetary or in status or even in fake, lustful relationships. But what do we treasure? In what does what we value lie?

Being a visual/image person, I think of treasure as the archetypal box of gold pirates search for in the deep. What are we searching for, and what would be in that box when we find it? Is it the same thing that Jesus wants for us?

Where is the Love? ;) Seems like the Holy Spirit's got a clue.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom, Utopia, and Heaven: Samezies?

pic of 'jam session' on stage at Workcamp- I'm in the back playing the keys!

Happy Fourth of July! I am currently writing this post from a Megabus to NYC...this summer has been CRAZY!! I have NO idea where June went. If you find it, you let me know 'cause it sure as heck escaped me.

Last week, I spent the entire week way out in VA at a little thing Catholic youth ministers like to call 'Workcamp'. Yes, I am well aware that the term is one that evokes thoughts of the camps of WWII...I honestly have NO idea way we call it that. Other than that it is like a camp and the kids come to work. Here is a little better explanation here

Basically, kids from churches all over descend for a week upon a high school, sleep on floors, eat cafeteria food, do community service by day and pray by night. There is pretty much NO reason that this should be fun in any way. But it is! The only explanation as to why it might be is perhaps that it is a little utopia/commune for a week where everyone is serving and giving of themselves, and of course, the Grace Jesus pours down on the place.

I go to help run the programs that the kids experience in the evenings, provide assistance back at "homebase" (aka the school where we stay for the week), and play music for Mass. Each year, the diocese brings in a Catholic music artist to emcee the event and lead the kids in worship. I really enjoy meeting and working with these musicians- it's always a good experience to chat and collaborate with professionals "in the biz".

The camp's theme this year was "Hope in Him" (and we are actually doing another camp at the end of this month, so it will still be the theme) You all know this has been a personal theme for me, so I was glad to pray and reflect on this with, oh, you know- 400 some people ;)

So that has been my week. And jammed in before and after that was a quick trip to Philly to sadly attend a memorial service for a college friend's mom who passed away from cancer, and now a quick trip to NYC/NJ to visit my LA friends who are in town. I wish I could say the summer is going to slow down from here, but I have a couple of work trips this next month, plus another Workcamp, plus a girls weekend planned somewhere in between!

Sorry this post is kind of just an update/catch all on my can be sure that there has been lots of Mass, prayer, and reflecting in midst of the travels. I'm pretty happy with where Jesus and I are at right now. There is always room for improvement, but I've got my daily Mass and prayer time in, regular confession (clearly, it's only a matter of time before Jesus comes and shakes things up with the way I'm kind of "coasting" right now....He's challenging like that...)

I will say I was struck today by how the readings at Mass were so JOYFUL. All about rejoicing. But as St. Paul describes...rejoicing in the cross. I really don't think Paul understands how rejoicing works, but I still love him :)

The Gospel is Christ's instructions to His disciples as they go out and preach. He gives them SPECIFIC instructions on what to do and say when and where they are or aren't welcomed...when to "shake their feet", and all that. What I say to that is...where are my detailed instructions, huh? ;)

I will leave you today with this last part of today's Gospel which gives some food for thought better than I could right now in my uber-tired state:

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said,"Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name." Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to 'tread upon serpents' and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

As usual, Christ gives us good perspective. The disciples are all excited that they have been given the power to cast out demons, but of course they miss the point. All of our gifts are for the goal of heaven. The opportunity for heaven is what we should rejoice in.

And this idea of the utopia of Workcamp (where everyone is self-giving and working together) as well as the reason we celebrate the 4th today (our freedom) all can tie into this reminder of heaven- where we will be free and one.