Monday, September 28, 2009

I Gotta Feeling...

Yes, this post title IS echoing the current Black Eyed Peas hit. OVERPLAYED but still kind of awesome. You can't help singing along when Fergie shouts out her adlibs (SMASH IT. LIKE OH MY GAWD...shout out Naj and the recycling crew! ;)

But I chose the title because I had been having a feeling lately that I needed a kind of retreat. Prayer in the morning's been great, the novena has been rockin' (way more than I thought, surprisingly. Who wants to pray to be totally open to God's Will- I mean HONESTLY OPEN. I'm talking His will which could possibly include, I don't know, remaining single forever?! I know, right? But surrender is a beautiful thing, and God knows our hearts...), but I needed a little extra me n Jesus time.

One of the volunteers from the youth group I used to work with in VA let me know that they were taking a group to Awakening Fest- an all day Christian concert in NoVA. I found that quite a few kids whom I had worked with were going, and like I said, I had just been having this feeling lately...that I needed to get back to my roots in a way.

Time to TESTIFY! (who remembers the short lived Kanye song by the same name? I know Kanye is taboo these days for many reasons, but that was one of my jams circa, say, I dunno- 2004 maybe?) anywho...

Christian concerts like the one I went to this weekend were pretty crucial in my personal relationship with Jesus. I must admit, it was the non-denominational Protestants in my life that jump started me on my walk with Jesus. And witnessing the concert this Saturday, I remembered why.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters get down to basics. They speak of Christ's personal love for each of us as the reason He died on the Cross. They preach often that we are saved by His Cross and Resurrection. Done and Done.

And that is the heart of it- God became Man to die for us to save us because He loves us. I know I just talked about this a couple blogs ago with the John 3:16 reading, so I will spare you my football poster comment(s) again...

For me, I needed to get back to that personal love. That reminder that, yes, Jesus died for me and He'd do it again because He loves me that much.

And it has become clear to me in my walk with Jesus, that my Catholic faith adds SO. MUCH. to that Truth. And I couldn't help but think- as I often do- how much MORE amazing would that concert be if the Eucharist were present and Christ could be worshiped while He was truly present there before us (He was pretty present anyways- it was raining all day, and it seemed kind of appropriate to me. Jesus raining down His love and mercy.... but we know how the Eucharist draws us even closer to Him).

The same youth leader who told me about the event reminded me that the Gospel this Sunday (and then again today at daily Mass) was 'anyone who is not against us, is for us'- a pretty ecumenical message. And so I pray for Catholics and for our other Christian brothers and sisters and that we can become more united in our ministry and our proclamation of Jesus and His message of HOPE in the world. The Protestants definitely have that simple Gospel message and ZEAL down. But our Catholicism has a rich, rich bounty that adds even more to that. For example:

IT'S OLD. In both of my grad classes, we are reading old catechisms and I totally geek out over them. We went to see the rare books collection in our Library, and me and my whole class were all like: 'oooo....a 17th century children's catechism! Look at the pictures of the seven deadly sins!' Kind of sick, I know. (BTW, it is a fact that I've spent more time in the library in 4 weeks of grad school than 4 years of undergrad. Sorry, mom and dad...) But it is just amazing to me what a deep history the Catholic Church has! We have maintained rituals and teachings from the very beginnings of Christianity. Our faith stems from Jesus' initiation of Peter as our Rock and what Christ left to the apostles. Amazing! (It is also amazing to me that some of the catechisms we've seen in recent years haven't changed from like the 1500's, which has positives and negatives...I'm working out that thesis in my head right now ;)

Anyways, I am thankful for the opportunity to get 'back to my roots' today in my personal relationship with Jesus, in being re-connected with the fruits of some of my ministry efforts, and the rich history of our Church which involves many people of different backgrounds and points of view. May we all bear much fruit for the growth of the kingdom on earth and in heaven.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Dreams

My apologies to Aristotle from whom I stole the title of this post from his original work. "Why then, Julia, have you posted a pic of Sigmund Freud?", you ask. Well, when looking up images of Aristotle, several scary images of statues popped up, and we all know how I feel about statues. I also remember reading a text by the same name by Freud in college, so I suppose I'm not the first to gank the title. So there.

Phew! My brain is ALL. OVER. the place today. Blame it on grad school, blame it on dreams. Blame it on the a-ah-ah-ah-alco...what's that, Jaime Foxx?

Have you seen those new Bing! commercials where a person asks their parent or spouse a question and they reply with several somewhat related (but not really) responses repeatedly until they appear to resemble the spawn of the devil and the main character is left to back away slowly and think, 'why did I ask'?

I'm like that today. Try me.

"Julia, how are you today?"

I hate it when someone puts the roll of toilet paper on the dispenser so the sheets come under instead of over. I love it when people cutting or trimming the lawn stop for you so you can pass by. Did I finish cutting the lawn? That episode of Mad Men with the tractor in the office was disturbing.

And so also applies when I pray today and I ask God, 'what's Your Dream for me? What's my life's Dream?'

First of all, speaking in terms of 'dreams' is somewhat against my nature. I mean, I like dream interpretation. I find that very interesting. But here I don't mean dreams in the literal sense, but the figurative one.

Now, I'm the realistic pessimist, remember? Dreams are for optimists. I don't speak in dreams and rainbows and kittens. I just don't.

So where did I come up with the question, then, of 'my life's dream'?

Another idea I stole, I'm afraid. From this guy:

Blessed James Alberione. Still love 'em. He came up with this prayer:

"Your dream, O Master, is to lay hold of me, to change me with your divine life.
Your dream is to purify me, to free me from my selfishness and my faults.
Your dream is to re-create me, to make me a new person in your image.
Your dream is to fill me with your charity, to make me love the Father and all my brothers and sisters just as you do.
Your dream is to bind me to you with the closest bonds, to bind out hearts together as one.
Your dream is to make me strong, to impart to me your divine power, so that I can overcome evil and be constant in doing good.
Your dream is to enflame me with an untiring zeal to spread your kingdom in the world.
Your dream is to possess me in this life and in the life to come,
O Master, may your dream come true,
May I be able to give all that you ask of me."

Good, right? I've known of this prayer for a couple years now, but until recently haven't been able to pray it with my whole heart. Not that I'm exactly 'living the dream' now- not at all.

I am currently praying yet ANOTHER novena, though this time with friends, which definitely adds an element of HOPE to the novena. Strength in numbers! It pretty much is a novena not too different from Alberione's prayer. We want to become more open to God's 'Life Dream' for us; for His Dream and our Dream to be one.

Look at me all up in this piece talking about DREAMS. Huh. God must be doing some kind of work in me :)

So what is my life's dream? Heck if I know. When you ask me that, I go back to sounding like that Bing commercial: 'I want to be a writer. NO, a wife! No a long time student! A volunteer!' I will say, though, in spite or despite of all the turmoil this year in trying to figure out 'my life's dream' I have become content in the waiting. Ah! Gasp!

And maybe that's God's Dream for me.

Ooooo....that's deep.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Angels (and Demons)

First of all, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The readings today remind us of God's love for us- so much so, that He sent His Son to die so we might have life. I'm always appreciative of today's Gospel passage- John 3:16- because it just sums up this idea of God's love for us and Christ's mission so clearly. And because you see it on posters at football games.

I also always love reading today's 2nd reading from St. Paul in the brievary: "For God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped...rather He emptied Himself, taking the form of the slave..." (Phil. 2:6-11) It's a reminder during the times where I am impatient or confused by God- thinking I have to do MORE and be perfect- for me to see that God doesn't necessarily want that confusion for us. There is beauty in the mystery of God, but He also tried to set a clear example for us by sending Jesus.

I needed that clear reminder today. My sister got married this weekend and when someone that close to gets married, there's also SO much to think about! And my little head was left in a whirlwind after this weekend's events (or maybe it was just the ridiculous amount of jello shots that were taken at the encouraging of my 86 year old grandmother throughout the weekend)

It really was a perfect day, weather wise, and also everything just came together perfectly and fell into place. God's hand was certainly all over this day and He made that known to my family and I in many ways. Here are some pics of the beautiful bride and our day! (1st and 3rd photos courtesy of Mr. Fred Ginter)

God also showed me His love for me, not only through the very clear readings today and the obvious blessings of my family this weekend, but in a very clear and personal way yesterday in the BWI airport parking lot of all places!

I had just taken the bus back to my car from the airport, my head full of thoughts from the weekend and the typical single girl questions that come with witnessing weddings: 'will that ever be me? Does God want that for me? Do I want that? How can you know? Who will it be? yadda yadda yadda...'

And before I had any opportunity to feel sorry for myself and let the demons of temptation slip in while waiting in line paying for my parking lot ticket, I'm greeted at the parking lot booth with a strong and friendly 'Hello!' from the woman inside.

'Hello!' I respond.

'Where did you GET to go this weekend?' the woman asks as I reach for my credit card.

'Um...GET to go? Er, ah, well, Cleveland. So I don't know if you can really say GET to. But I was with my family, so that was fun." I respond.

She says, 'oh, Cleveland! Well that sounds nice! By the way, I am 27 years cancer free today. I was healed by the Lord Jesus Christ and I am cancer free. We should trust in Jesus because He can do all things.'

Whoa. Alright, then! I told her I really believed that and God to bless her. She said the same to me and then I was on my way.

I immediately recognized that in that moment, God was speaking to me and that was such a clear message to me from God. Just as I was about to ask all kinds of questions and potentially lead myself from trusting in God's plan (AGAIN!) He sends me this woman to remind me that God can do all things. Amen! And I am carrying that message of HOPE with me today!

So she was the angel that I reference in this title. The angels in all of the Gospels and Old Testament proclaim a message to others, and she was a definite herald of God's message to me. As for the demons, they are the temptations and thoughts that enter into our heads that try to keep us from hearing and following God's message.

A case can also be made that bridesmaid's satin is of the devil. As I most recently noticed- with the change of only one letter satin becomes satan. Coincidence? I think not. It does not wrinkle, it is water resistant- all things that natural fabrics are not. And wearing it can cause you to end up doing things like, oh, I don't know...drinking too much and wind up sleeping in it? Not that I know that for a fact or anything...I'm just saying. It could happen.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blessings and Booze

Ha! So my friend and I decided this subject heading would be a great title for this blog or for perhaps maybe my memoirs one day. It really was spawned because she keeps a blog called Baking, Books, and Booze (you should check it out- it's hilarious and has some great recipes and book recommendations! Shout out, E!)

And also because one of the wineries I like to frequent out in Leesburg, VA is having this event that I think is genius and wish I could go to!(see 2nd Annual Blessing of the Harvest)

Blessings and Booze? Yes please!

Last Sunday, my aforementioned friend and I did the best. thing. ever. We rented a limo to take us and 8 other people to three of our favorite wineries (not the aforementioned winery, though. Next time!)

I really recommend this as a way to travel- especially when alcohol is involved! It was a blessing. On so many levels. To be altogether with friends, enjoying God's great creation (rolling hills, fermented grapes... someone give me a Nature badge) and just celebrating life. Here are some pics from our day out in the 'burg (Middleburg, that is!):

And it reminded me that I really need to remember the simple pleasures and blessings in my life. No, really!

Re-reading my past few blogs, I am pretty proud of myself! This pessimistic realist has been quite hopeful, it seems! I was down a little bit yesterday, because when I approach my 'situation' from a negative angle ('I can't believe I'm still in this job, still in this state of unknowing when everyone around me has their prayers answered, etc.'), sure- that's no fun and leads to nowhere! But when I think of how much God has given me- the blessings of a healthy family, roof over my head, friends, WINETASTING EXCURSIONS,as Hallmark Movie as that may seem, it does give me hope.

And as I've mentioned before, reading the Bible helps. And Confession. It just reminds me these things are tools given to us for a reason! When I'm not reading God's Word or have a bunch of smelly sin built up, I totally feel pessimistic. Who's surprised? Nobody.

Speaking of keeping it simple (er, stupid? can I get a K.I.S.S.? ha! oh, on so many levels, though...) the readings today were a good reminder of the simple values we as Christians keep to keep us on track (and I realize I'm like embedded hyperlink happy apologies)

So I'm keepin' on keepin' on, hoping in the Word....going to be witnessing my sister, Janet GETTING MARRIED this weekend. That's going to be intense and most likely blogworthy.

Yes bridesmaid's dress #7 will be involved, but I'm thinking I've saved the best for LAST :)(and mostly because I don't plan on buying bridesmaid satin ever. again. That means YOU, friends! :)

Peace and HOPE,