A brief moment of inspiration…

I sent this out to my women’s group at our church the other day as I realized that I could not be the only one feeling frustrated about the current election situation:

*** Hello Sisters, Please grant me a few minutes of your time. I will preface this mail by saying that it is a mail about the election – but is not about politics.

We met last night for the Great Adventure Bible Study and went through our studies for the week. After the study, someone mentioned that they had been feeling anxious and almost depressed surrounding the elections.

A wave of relief came over me to hear that someone else had been feeling this way as I, too, had been feeling a sense of loss of peace, an overwhelming sense of anxiety and had been overcome with a feeling of depression. I had also been finding myself feeling very angry.

The election has become very divisive within our country and it seems as though the sense of charity of people toward one another has been lost during this time and people have forgotten the idea of what it means to treat others as they would want to be treated. Its not just in what people are saying to one another, but also in what they are doing.

The fact that Homeland Security and police around the country have been put on alert and are making plans for post-election outcomes speaks for itself (have we EVER heard of this being done here in the US before? We watch it on the news in countries around the world… but who would have thought that it would be the US that would be at risk of civil uprising and disobedience based on the outcome of the election).

In any event, this individual who was sharing her views last night noted that she was feeling persecuted by others for her beliefs and choices and it was becoming very clear as the election process unfolds. I, too, had been feeling that way. I have shared the story with some of you that I was ‘expelled’ from my running group because of my expression of my beliefs (which was spurred by a comment made by one of the runners while discussing the ‘Trail of Lights’ in Zilker Park – he said ‘I can’t understand why Michael Dell, a Jew, would sponsor a Jesus celebration’ – day after day I bit my tongue while running, but I couldn’t keep silent after hearing this entirely offensive remark). During the course of the discussion I was told I was ‘wrong’, ‘crazy’, and also told that my views were ‘extremist’ and ‘radical’ (I’ll spare you the details, but I can assure you that the discussion from my perspective was non-judgmental from my side and was a flurry of personal attacks from the other – those who were there are baffled by my expulsion based on the nature of the discussion). One runner even asked me to prove that God existed (things were a little intense by this point and I wasn’t quick enough on my feet to retort ‘Prove to me He doesn’t').

I went through a few difficult weeks of feeling very angry, hurt, humiliated and ashamed about what had happened, but have come to realize that God had actually freed me from a very toxic environment. ‘The truth shall set you free’.

In any event, I wanted to share with you a story of what happened to me yesterday. I went to morning Mass with G as I wanted to pray for God to be with Julie during her surgery yesterday and I wanted to pray for a return to peace and a freedom from anxiety for myself. I had been praying for this recently – but I was still feeling a little crazed and thought that perhaps going to ‘His House’ to pray might help Him hear a little more ;-) This was the gospel reading for yesterday: Lk 12:49-53 Jesus said to his disciples:

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Father gave a beautiful homily talking about the power of love and used the analogy of ‘setting the earth on fire’ by our thoughts and our actions and through love and awareness. As I sat in prayer waiting to go up for Communion, I heard it clear as day from within – ‘The feelings you feel are an attempt to distract you from what you should be doing in this time, which is to carry on in the spirit of love and to spend time in prayer.’

I realized then that I had no control over the outcome (quite literally because I can’t vote ;-) but that I did have the most powerful force out there on my side to call on in a great time of need like this.

As if that wasn’t clear enough… our study last night was discussing Genesis 24 – 50 in which the story of Joseph is told. The Reader’s Digest version is this: Joseph is the beloved son of his father as he is the first born of the wife that his father truly loves and adores. He also has dreams in which it is revealed to him that his brothers will bow down to him and that they will be his servants. His brothers – envious of Joseph – sell him into slavery into Egypt and tell their father that Joseph is dead. Joseph goes on to become the most powerful man in Egypt next to the Pharaoh and saves his family – and the whole of the region – from great famine (G likes to call him the greatest commodities trader EVER!). In the end, he forgives his brothers for what they have done when he sees that they have repented and shares in his good fortunes with them. In spite of the terrible treatment by his brothers and being sold into slavery – and a whole host of other terrible things that happen to him during his life – he forgives his family and those who have done ill against him because he knows that it is part of God’s bigger plan.

The author of the study, during his lecture, notes that if you only remember ONE passage from Genesis – let it be this one that Joseph says when talking to his brothers about why he forgives them (remember at this time, the New Testament has not been written and forgiveness isn’t really in the order of the day….): As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. – Genesis 50:20

This comforted me greatly to remind me that this chaos and mayhem that reigns right now in the US is part of God’s bigger plan and that we are to trust in His will. We need to trust that He will watch over us and keep us from harm.

I’m sorry to have gone on and on here, but I wanted to share this with you in the hope that it brings you comfort in the event that you have been feeling any of the same feelings lately. I got up this morning and prayed the rosary and will do so every day until the election and will keep doing so after the election to call upon God for His mercy in watching over the entire country and call upon the hearts and minds of those who live here to be reminded of the need for charity toward one another and unity within. Much Love, D

Struggling – a lot. But the light's are coming on.

I’ve been really struggling lately on a few fronts – but mostly with happenings around the current election. I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety, stress and even felt mildly depressed. I’ve been praying for peace and freedom from the anxiety but have felt kind of hopeless at the same time.

This morning I went to mass with G. I went with the intention of praying for my sweet and beautiful (absolutely stunning inside and out!) friend, Julie, who is having emergency surgery today. The prospect of surgery only came up within the past few weeks and it was on Tuesday that she found out it would be happening so quickly. She’s a wonderful mother to her little boy and a beautiful friend to all who know her. She has been through more in her life than anyone would ever want to experience but is a fighter who comes out on top in all the challenges with which she is presented. I have no doubt that God will be with her today and carry her through safely so that she can be back on track very very quickly.

None of that, however, stopped me from wanting to go and pray for her today. I also thought that it would be a good time to put forth some prayers for peace for myself so that I can clear my mind and heart of the clutter that is preventing me from moving forward in the most loving and peaceful way I can. I think those prayers were answered today.

In the homily today Father Bud talked about being on fire. He talked about the feeling that one has by being loved by someone who doesn’t need to love them. In other words, the feeling of being loved by someone other than a friend, family member etc… but by someone who loves you just because. This is the kind of love that Mobile Loaves and Fishes shares every time they go out on a truck run. They share the love and kindness with those on the streets who are not so fortunate. I had an epiphany when thinking about the lack of peace and the anxiety I feel lately and realized that it is an attempt to draw me away from loving and doing good. Its a way to distract my attention to things that are really insignificant in the bigger picture.

I have been very angry about the lack of charity and kindness and tolerance that has been shown between those of opposing views in this election. I have been very angry about the vilification that has been attempted to be conveyed upon those who might not vote for Obama and the attempt to paint them as racist simply because they don’t support his ideas or viewpoints. I have been angry about the McCain/Palin signs repeatedly disappearing in our neighborhood and being replaced only to disappear again – but that the Obama signs never seem to go missing. And the list goes on and on.

But what I realized this morning that spending all that time in anger is exactly where I shouldn’t be. I should be focussing my efforts toward the good and the positive and overlooking those things that are making me angry. I can’t really change those things by anything I do except to be on fire with love and hope to touch someone by sharing the peace and joy that comes from within and not be caught up by that which is beyond my control and a result of man’s choice to treat others in an uncharitable way.

Someone I know, and I can’t recall who, has a great signature line on her email that says ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’. I think it was Ghandi who said that. I love that. Its so positive. If you want love in the world, be love. If you want peace in the world, be peaceful. If you want unity in the world, exemplify unity. I suppose the sad part of that statement is that the things that I mention about are about a lack of charity, unity and respect for one another, and reflect a spirit of divisiveness – which is exactly the change that they are bringing out in the world. We create what we are and, too often, we become what we hate. So, my goal going forward is to ‘Be the change that I want to see in the world’ and pray that I am not overtaken by anger so that I don’t put forward the idea of anger in the world. I’ll admit, I’ve had some angry posts in my blog and I’m not proud of those. But the idea for me in blogging is to journal my thoughts and the evolution of my journey through life. Looking back at those posts is actually a good thing in remembering where I came from, and hopefully, the progress and advances I have made.

Purity of Heart and Intention

Last night I sat in on the last bit of the Divine Mercy Study Group (I missed the first part because I was sitting in on the Old Testament class as part of the RCIA program which was very interesting and completely relevant given the Bible study in which I’m currently involved).

The topic was along the theme of ‘Purity of Heart and Intention’ and the idea that our actions should be undertaken with a purity of heart and intention.

  • In other words, what is it that motivates us to undertake certain actions?
  • Are they selfishly motivated?
  • Are they for others?
  • Are they pure in their intention or are they an attempt at a display of righteousness on our part?

It was wonderful food for thought. We discussed the idea that the primary intention can be wholly pure, but that can be lost in a less than pure secondary intent. For example, some have suggested that public displays of piety are less than pure in their intent.

This is perhaps true in many cases because we, as humans, are far from perfect and we often consider ourselves before others. Someone like a Mother Theresa is a beautiful example of purity of heart and intention. She was a woman who exemplified the true gift of giving selflessly – and she did so all the while struggling with her own feeling of Jesus not being there with her as she felt He was in her early life.

The Majella Society also struck me as an example of the purity of heart and intention in regard to their approach to saving the lives of the unborn. Their approach is to show women that they do have a choice, in fact, they have many choices. Their attempt is to educate and inform women in a loving, supportive and non-judgemental way. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for what they do and the numbers reflect their success. They are located here in Travis County and, since their inception, Travis County is the only county in the state of Texas to have their abortion rate drop.

I recently went to one of their functions to hear one of my favourite speakers, Sally Robb, speak. She talked about the fact that this is a subject that is so very divisive in its nature and that there is often an ‘us vs. them’ mentally. She encouraged those there to remain humble, respect the choices of all women, and to encourage change through love and kindness and the extending of a helping hand to those who find themselves in need of making a choice. That, to me, was an excellent example of the purity of heart in intention.

So often we don’t consider this in our day to day actions and interactions with others. I’m going to try very hard to consider this and be aware of it as I move forward.

But what about the dinosaurs?

Well, my burning question about the Bible and dinosaurs was sort of answered. I posted a question to Jeff Cavin’s blog. He is the fellow who developed the Bible study that I have been facilitating at our Parish.

I was very surprised to receive a response as lengthy as I did and really appreciate his time in sending it to me to help explain a few points as well as point me to some excellent resources for further reading.

What he explains is that the Bible is written in an attempt to convey a truth. Sometimes the writer uses literal elements and sometimes allegorical in order to achieve that end. They also sometimes leave out information but that doesn’t mean that we can’t piece it together from what we know.

For example, a literal interpretation of the Bible would have us wondering how, if Cain and Abel, were the only decendents of Adam and Eve carried on their lineage? More specifically, with whom did they have children? Jeff explains this two ways. The first is that oftentimes names were used in the Bible to refer to tribes or lines of lineage and secondly that in many cases the stories are often told regarding the men in the family (since they carried on the bloodline and also the birthright and priesthood of the family) and the women were often not discussed. In the days in which the Bible was written men also married their sisters.

So, while it is true that this raises a good question in the literal reading of the Bible, it can be explained by several other known elements from that time. Skeptics might say, ‘Well, but how do we know all these other facts?’. I don’t know the answer to that question, but do know that Biblical scholars have spent much time pouring over ancient documents and archaeological information in order to put their teachings into context.

What isn’t important is to understand the absolute specifics of what is being read, but rather the overall objective of the truth of God as creator and higher power. This is a key and important point to consider when reading the Bible and its made it extremely helpful in putting things into perspective.

What is my bottle of salad dressing?

At some point we all have to face our own mortality. I hope that my mortality on this earth will be met with immortality in the afterlife in Heaven. I believe in Heaven and am glad to know that it exists.

Since the death of Paul Newman, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I want to leave behind on this earth. What is it that I want to offer to of myself to leave this world a better place than when I was born. I thought about this when I watched the pieces honoring Paul Newman and talking about his $250 million worth of gifts to charity – simply by putting his name on a bottle of salad dressing and a few other products. What a generous gift he gave to the less fortunate on this earth.

It made me stop and think ‘what is my bottle of salad dressing?’ An unusual thought – but perhaps not. I have my marriage and from it the two beautiful children born of it. I think about my children and the values that my husband and I instill in them and realize that they are an attempt to make the world a better place by being respectful of one another and by being considerate and humble in their behaviour. We teach them a lot about life, but ultimately all of it comes back to treating others as they would wish to be treated.

Then I think of myself and the bigger picture. I have been praying for some time for a clarity in my vocation. God has blessed me with the most honorable and respected vocation of all in being a mother, but I recognize that I have a calling outside our home. I’ve been asking for clarity as to what that vocation might be and where God wants me to be in order to give fully of myself outside of my family.

Its not so much that I want to be known for what it is I do, but rather that I want to know that I have done something in an attempt to improve upon that which the inhabitants of this earth have been blessed. I have a humble recognition that I have been very fortunate in all that I have been given and do my very best to give thanks for that on a daily basis. But what is it that I can do?

This is something that started toward the end of our CRHP formation when we began to discuss ministries going forward. We spent two meetings discussing the general idea of what it was we wanted to do as a team and individually.

I’m beginning to feel as though the prayers have been answered as I’ve connected with two young men here who are starting a beautiful foundation to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse. Its really very inspiring. I started to work with them as I wanted to help them with their website, but after a meeting last week I realized that working with them will be much much more as we are talking about a number of other initiatives – one that involves my CRHP team from last year – who have willingly and lovingly stepped up to the plate with a great big ‘YES’ on the idea I put in front of them. Its really been a beautiful gift and I’m very excited about what it is we will be able to offer the young boys and girls who have been so unfortunate to suffer at the hands of abuse.

The Great Adventure – Session Two – The Early World Pt II

This week we read Genesis 4-11. The story is beginning to unfold. We read about Cain and Abel being the first born of Adam and Eve, though I think its left me with more questions than I had when we started!

Even ‘I’ mentioned this idea when she came home from religious ed one Sunday morning – she said ‘Mommy, if Cain and Abel were the first and second children of Adam and Eve, who did they marry to have children?’.

One of the women on our bible study asked, ‘If Cain was marked by God to protect him from being murdered for having murdered Abel, who was God protecting him from?’.

I understand that the Bible is literal in many cases and allegorical in others, but I am unclear on how to understand this one? Its also led me to wonder about how long people really lived in Old Testament times? Was it really to 120 years? And there is still the burning question of how this all fit in with the dinosaurs.

I suppose that these kinds of questions sounds like I’m doubting the authenticity of the Bible and I’m not. I am, however, trying to understand how it all fits in. We talked about Noah and the flood. We discussed the idea that the ark was a symbol for the Church and that the waters of the flood were a precursor to baptism. The ark was intended to carry and protect those within as they floated through life during the flood. While the flood, a washing away of the ‘sins’ of the world’ was a reference to the idea of salvation through baptism.

One of my favourite things that I learned in the reading this week was about God’s covenant to man in the form of the rainbow. Its a beautiful idea that after the rains God wanted to remind man that He would never again flood the earth and kill off all living things (well, except for those in the ark) and He did so by the using the rainbow in the sky to remind them. I thought that was a beautiful story.

We also talked about the Tower of Babel. It made me wish that I had read the Bible BEFORE studying art history in college in order that I could better understand the themes within many of the paintings and sculptures we studied given that a great number of them were biblically based. The discussion around the Tower of Babel led us to consider the idea that what may ‘seem’ like a moral or good idea is not always that way when you consider the impact it has. For example, the Tower of Babel was an attempt to be closer to God – which, on the surface, would seem like a good idea. But, in creating the tower, man decided that they would also be able to ‘be’ like God which tended to negate or disintegrate the initial intention of the heart.

We looked at other present day examples like stem-cell research in which the idea of embryos being created for the sole purpose of creating stem cells may look like a noble cause on the surface, but it begged so many questions from a moral and ethical standpoint. Even the idea of in-vitro fertilization falls along these lines when considering that many of the embryos created do not survive or are never used. Those are pretty big examples along the lines of respect and value for life issues, but there are others out there as well.

We also discussed the idea of Pentecost and the contrasts between the Tower of Babel resulting in the ‘babbling’ of people and not understanding each other to the idea of Pentecost where the ‘speaking in tongues’ resulted in ‘babbling’ of the word as a result of the Holy Spirit. It was a great session with a lot of interesting discussion.

The women in the group seem to be learning a lot from Jeff Cavins as well as from each other and the idea of being able to read through the Bible and be able to discuss it in historical context is proving fascinating!

What's the message?

I had a great run yesterday morning in the beauty of a somewhat cool morning. I’ve been thinking a lot about what has been happening in the financial markets and trying to be ‘serene’ about it since there is nothing I can do about it and worrying won’t help. But it made me think of where we are at in the U.S. and what has become important to us.

We have become a complex people who have placed great importance on the things that we have and have forgotten about the fundamental ideals of the simplicity of the family and community.

I was listening to ‘Where is the love?’ by the Black Eyed Peas and never really thought about it before. I’ve always really loved the song and thought it a great tune with a catchy beat, but I listened to it and then listened to it again to see what was really being said.

“And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love) …

Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality Instead in spreading love we spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found”

It really struck me how clear this message was. I’ve been reading the messages from the Pope lately and read the comments from people who have so much anger within and don’t understand the fundamental basis of the message of Christianity or Catholicism.

I hear so much about how the church judges, about how controlling the church is etc… But I feel more free than I ever have since being confirmed into the Church. The church provides a moral code and anyone – I mean ANYONE – is welcome to be confirmed provided that they believe and acknowledge and agree to abide by that moral code. Its no different than becoming a US citizen.

We agree to abide by the laws of the land and suffer the consequences for not doing so. We make choices in our life – and we live to experience the consequences of those choices. We have made choices in this country and in the western world to put ‘things’ ahead of some pretty basic concepts like community. We have become the ‘me’ society where we look at everything and think about how it affects ‘me’. We are being sold a bill of goods by those making movies and advertisements that we are better if we ‘have’ than if we ‘don’t have’ and that we are all entitled to ‘have’. Sure, we are all equally entitled to ‘have’ – but the question is how do we get there and what is it that’s important to us? We live beyond our means – ‘no money down’, ‘no interest until 2019′, ’0% financing’ – our economy was built upon the American Dream that we could have it all and could get it for 9.99/month.

So, now, here we are. The chickens have come home to roost. Its not ‘free’ and this $900 billion dollar ‘bail-out’ is not ‘free money’ as people like to think. Its our money and its being wastefully spent.

Why? Because its not requiring that those who made the choices suffer the consequences for their decisions. Instead, we are ALL going to feel that pain. In fact, many who contributed to the downfall are now being hired by the Federal Government to go back and assess all the lousy assets that we, the taxpayers, now own. Funny that – isn’t it?

It reminds me of a story about the New Orleans School Board spending $3 million to buy an Oracle Financial Database built on best practices in the industry. Then they spent another $1 million to a consulting firm to make it work within their ‘best practices’. The consulting company messed it up so badly that the system couldn’t be used and sat idle for some time. So they put out an RFP for companies to come and bid on ‘fixing’ the messed up database to put it back to how it was when they first purchased it. They decided on a vendor and only after they had started did they realize that the vendor was the same company that messed it up in the first place – only operating under a different name. At this point, the school board has now paid for the system twice. Great.

It makes me wonder what the brilliant minds who got us into this mess will do to get us out of it and how much more it will cost. I look around and see that we have reaped what we have sowed. Disappointed – yes. Screwed – essentially.

But we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.

Why pray?

G and I went to a ‘Divine Mercy’ study group the other night. I had never been before, but the topic this week was ‘trust’ and G really wanted to go. It was our date night and not exactly what I had in mind, but I did end up enjoying it immensely. I am not that familiar with the Divine Mercy, but do know a bit of the story behind how it came to be. There was a nun who had a vision of Jesus Christ in which he commissioned her to paint a painting of him in a very specific likeness. He also gave her some very specific instructions surrounding the painting. The basic messages were: * Trust in Jesus * Be merciful Its really a beautiful devotion. At the bottom of the painting she was to paint ‘Jesus, I trust in you.’. This week, the discussion was all about trust. It was really fascinating to discuss the elements of trust in our lives as they pertain to our everyday activities, our relationships and also our spirituality. For me, trust in God is fundamental to my belief in God. I have had people say to me before ‘Prove that God exists’ (to which I normally reply – ‘I can’t. But prove to me He doesn’t’. – which, of course, they can’t). A belief that God exists and bestows upon us innumerable graces and mercies and wants the best for us in our lives is the ultimate act of trust. So, without that belief – the other elements of spirituality as they pertain to God are not possible. But what struck me most was the discussion regarding prayer. I had often thought about this before. If God knows what we want in our hearts, then why must we pray? It goes back to the very beginning within Genesis. Man was created in the image of God to worship and love God. Part of worshiping and loving God is to spend time with Him which we do when we are in prayer. Prayer is not just asking for things that we want, but also the act of giving thanks to God for the blessings He has given us, and also the act of asking what it is God wants us to do for Him. Listening carefully is something that I’ve been working on over the past few years and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that when God wants me to do something He tells me and continues to tell me until I do it. Its not a fleeting fancy that comes and goes. He sends me the message – sometimes quite literally with the words in my head, but will continue to send that message in that way or in another that reminds me until I do it. I’ve had a few of those messages lately and haven’t been acting on them. They have been repeated over and over and over and over and over again. Finally, I have acted upon them. I find when its ‘my will’ that is to be done – the thought can come and go. I may think it again, but it usually passes and then its gone. But when its ‘thy will’ that is to be done – man, it just doesn’t go away until I do it. So in my prayer time, I try very hard to listen to what comes to my mind. I listen to the prayers that flow from within and try to hear what it is God is trying to tell me in those messages.