Devil you bully, you have no power here

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks at the Feast of the Dedication:  He says his sheep follow his voice.  How many of us are there who Jesus is desperately screaming for like a lovelorn lover.  Calling to us passionately. Begging us to believe him when he says he loves us.  He forgives us ALWAYS!  He wants nothing but the best for us; that he is always with us.

Jesus will go hoarse calling to us, that is the depths of his desire for us.  So, why don’t we hear?

Pain. Guilt. Feelings of self-loathing.  These are just a few of the things that keep us from God.  But to say these are sin AND that is why we can not hear God is both spiritually and theologically irresponsible.

The Old Testament is replete with those suffering from depression: Moses, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah.  Paul, the Greatest Apostle, was also a suffer.  There are numerous Saints who suffered from major mental health problems:

Saint John Paul II said of those suffering with mental illness: ”Whoever suffers from mental illness ’always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”  ~ International Conference for Health Care Workers on November 30, 1996

We have to think responsibly and charitably about mental illness and sin.

 

Deep depression is not just self-pity. The level of anxiety of those with generalized anxiety and panic attacks is significant even during sleep. If you can imagine the anxiety of being on a hijacked airplane and seeing several co-passengers shot, you can begin to grasp the level of anxiety some people suffer for days at a time. Even people with moderate clinical depression (dysthymia) feel pain on their best days.

From a research perspective, the emerging answer to what causes emotional illness involves three components: nature (one’s biological, chemical, and genetic makeup), nurture (environment, circumstances, teachings), and personal choice (which can but does not necessarily include sinful choices). Not uncommonly, the cause is a combination of all three of these.  ~Dwight L. Carlson Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems In Plain Site

So to say that emotional issues are caused by sin or that the persons dealing with these issues are sinning, is denying God His power to heal. Their ability to use their story for God’s good, and for God to them as instruments of His Glory.

So why would we not want to hear God’s call?

Let’s go with Guilt.  As moms, we have more guilt than we want to admit.  A small amount may be of our making.  But the majority is not.  I know from my life that the guilt I express most comes my feeling of inadequacy as a mother. Inadequacies which come from the fear that I am not raising perfect children. I know in my head that is impossible, but my heart still tells me that I must, or the world will look down on me poorly.  This makes me deaf to God because it is society, or “friends” who hiding their guilt, limiting the advancements, triumphs, I have made.

Now for Pain.  Emotional/Spiritual pain that comes from issues, situations, or problem causes us to become isolated.  The insolation that we create we believe will be helpful, only keeps us from the support we need.  Going deeper inside is like burying ourselves in a grave.  We think of nothing else, do nothing else, experience nothing else but the problem.  Blocking us from finding solutions, we only concentrate on the dilemma.  Making us deaf to God’s calling out to us.

Feeling of self-loathing are the most difficult to control unless we get/have support from affirming God loving friends and family. These feelings come when we do not care for ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically or socially.  It is a vicious cycle: we feel the pain of our self-doubt, it causes guilt which create self-loathing forcing us to hide making us emotionally/spiritually deaf to a loving God.

Now this deafness.  I am not one that will say everything bad that comes into our lives is the work of the Devil.  That takes us out of the responsibility for our actions.  I am also not so inclined to call the devil the “evil one”.  Gives the big bully more power than he deserves.  But I will say that there are times when the devil will bully us into not hearing God.

Like what he did in the Garden with Eve.  He uses the same technique now as he did then.  He uses our feelings to goad us into doing what he wants, not what is good for us.  For the slightest of moments what he has to say makes sense, and then the reality sets in that we have been duped.  If we are not careful, we run around that vicious cycle pain/guilt/self-loathing for far too long.

It is better for us to take a few minutes out to discern what it is we are thinking and how it will benefit us.  If we have peace than it is of God, if not, time to do more rethinking.

AIM Apostles In the Marketplace could be becoming Apostles In Motherhood Podcast

11080914_896694973687050_1222511226849895303_nBut whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

While, in high school in Washington DC, I belonged to AIM:  Apostles In the Marketplace.  It was a support/prayer group that took the daily reading of the Mass as a way to live life.  The group was evangelistic, but we were  encouraged to not be pushy about it.

AIM’s purpose was for us always to invite by our actions, like the first reading of yesterday, where the crippled man was healed: “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple..”  The Disciples were healing in the name of Christ, but they were not doing it like circus barkers.  They wanted people to come to Christ by how they were seen in the community, how they were acting, by their gentle manner, not pushy attitude.

The Priest who created AIM was a Jesuit who so unassuming and gentle.  His mantra was that we show them how we are by our actions, not our words.

If people asked us questions we would answer, but we never went to someone with the hackneyed have you found Christ.

In our support/prayer meetings, we would discuss how our days were going.  How well we were living out the Gospel of the past Sunday.  We asked each other for supportive ways to change.  We sought out ways to do, be better.  We prayed for each other.

Hearing, “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep”, made me think of AIM.  We are the gatekeeper. Jesus can’t be everywhere so that is why he made mothers.

Maybe I should start thinking of AIM as meaning Apostles In Mothering.  I have been feeling called to restart being a podcaster, that would make a great name.

 

Relationships, or How being challenged makes me more me

Athirst is my soul for the living God.

This past Sunday was Good Shepard Sunday, and the Gospel and readings focused on relationships and the importance of the Holy Spirit in influencing those relationships.

In the first reading, Peter explains how everything the Church will be doing from now on, every good deed, will be done because of Christ, through Christ.  Then we are told that we are beloved children of God who are needed to bring Christ into the world so that the world will know us and because of that they  will follow Christ. Finally, Jesus explains how we are to be as Christians.  We are to lay down our lives for everyone.

I began thinking about parenting, mothering, and relationships.  Remember your mother saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.”  Well, the reading adds a layer to that telling us all: if you can’t do anything nice how can you call yourself Christian?  Think about relationships.  Aren’t they emotional/spiritual dances we have with others?  Every action has a reaction.  Aren’t good deeds moving us forward, wrongful ones moving backward?

The second reading is our relational triangle:  alovecard
It draws us deeper into the relationship dance, the Great Commandment Triangle.  How we relate to others is a mirror into how we feel about ourselves and by connection how we feel about God.  This reading is important. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Not only are we examining relationships, but also our calling; which is a response to our relationship with God. None of us will fully known who we are until we have revealed what it is that we are called to do.  Think about that for a moment.  When you were in college you had one sense of who were going to be, you “just knew”.  But it was amorphous, it changed with the next class or next whim.  As you were called to motherhood things became clearer but only slightly.  It wasn’t until you were challenged that who you are coming into focus.  And that challenge is always in relation with someone else.  So, you are being called, as in the first reading, to look at everything you do as if you were doing it for Christ.  Through the second reading, you see that the more you do as for Christ.  The more you do according to your calling. The more you do while loving God, your neighbour and yourself with your whole mind soul and heart.  The more you find the you are becomeing more YOU.

Finally, Christ tells us that when we have achieved all that, it will be easy to lay down our life.  Think about that.  How often have we done something for someone without every a thought about ourselves, just because that friend, that fellow mom, really needed something, right now.

A Temple of Cloth

I will not wear a chapel veil.  I know many women who do feel called to wear one, but I am not one of them.  Wearing one for me implies a servitude of women, one that blocks women from fully participating in their faith read more here.

But I will wear if I had one, and I hope to have one this Mother’s day, a Woman’s Tallit.

I have been in love with the idea of a Tallit since I was a child.  I am a DC gal and many neighbourhoods have multiple Catholic Churches and Jewish Synagogues. One of my best friends was a Jewish girl named, Judith.  She lived three doors down and we spent hours at each others houses.  Fascinated by the expression of faith on display; which was very interesting to say the least!

Judith’s father was a prominent psychologist and her mom was a stay at home mom.  They were Orthodox Jews.  I loved their understated display of their Menorah, Torah, Talmud, Sabbat candlesticks.  Their house seemed like church to me.

When Judith visited my home, I often felt embarrassed by my family. In our living room was a huge, and I mean huge, almost life-size crucifix hang to “greet guests” as my mother would say.  Terrify them I always thought!  It seemed to scream: “Here is Jesus, the guy you people crucified!”  It was church size!  Now Judith being a good southern girl never said anything about it, never showed any discomfort, never seemed bothered.  But I was!

We would go to each others services, something very modern for Judith’s family, bringing this Catholic girl into a Synagogue and letting their daughter go to a CATHOLIC service!  But I loved what I was allowed to see from behind the curtain, the men in their Tallit praying.

I asked Dr. Schamberger why the men worn those cloths while praying. He told me they were Tallit, and they wear them for morning service. The tassels are reminders of the laws of Moses.

But the one explanation I loved about the Tallit: it was like wearing the Temple of the Lord, so when you prayed you were alone; just you and God.  Now that just warmed me to my soul!  From that day on I wanted one, I wanted to be wrapped up in a temple of cloth with God/Jesus. That speaks to a great deal of spiritual power!  Something that we as women must begin to take as part of our mandate.

One fun fact I learned from Dr. Schamberger was that for many years women could freely wear a Tallit, and, in fact, some communities do. It made me wonder if Mary had one?

Spiritual Mean Girls

Pray for me my fellow sisters-in-Christ moms.

I would love to be in a prayer group, but ever since an awful experience with a college group I have been very reluctant to have anyone “pray over me.” Tonight was no exception.

I have posted before that I am enjoying the Alpha Group.  And the small group I am in is very sensitive to the fact that not everyone feels free enough to share deep personal prayers within a group, and I am more than grateful for that. Tonight was a mini retreat for all those who did not make the one-day retreat.  The talk was OK, and I did get a lot out of it but was becoming quite anxious as the time for small group prayer was coming.  I have come to hate them.  The saving grace of tonight’s was before we were invited to break up into those prayer groups we were given the option of going off on our own, or being in a group.  But there was still the specter that going off on your own was “wrong.”

I told the retreat prayer group person that I was going to go to the Adoration Chapel to have one-on-one prayer with God. She was reluctant that I was doing that but let me go.  Let me go, hmmph.

I had hoped I would be going into an empty Chapel; it was an unreal exception.  I tried to pray.  The space, while beautiful, felt very spiritually dry, void. Perhaps it was that I was going in with exceptions that were not going to be met, I could not pray there.

Going back to the worship space where the mini-retreat was being held felt awkward. I wondered around trying to find a place to pray, but landed back in the Tabernacle chapel where the retreat talks were being held. I found a small corner.  It felt surprising comfortable and I settled into a deep prayer. At least until I was startled out of  my spiritual revery by the very woman who knew, I didn’t want to be “prayed over”.

It broke my prayer rhythm. Making me slightly angry that this woman, whom I had told that I wanted to pray alone, felt she had to ask if: “I wanted to be prayed over now?”  No!  I don’t, they make me more than uncomfortable. There is a lot of emotional-spiritual baggage with prayer groups I have yet to work out.

Now, I know this woman was looking out for my spiritual well fare and wanted me to know she “was there for me.” I know, but I don’t like sharing.  I have become very careful sharing and with whom I share.  I have had very sensitive things I have asked for prayer come back to me in the form of gossip.  Knowing that others were gossiping about my prayer struggle, or spiritual struggle, or emotional struggle made/makes me feel very small.  I, truly, felt/feel dead inside.  I couldn’t look my prayer group “friends” in the eye.  They acted so superior to me as if they had their spiritual, emotional, personal poop together and I didn’t.

There have been prayer groups that I belonged to that “prayed over me” that I receive some Chrism.  The prayer leader, someone I can only describe as a spiritual mean girl, just KNEW God wanted me to have the gift of tongues.  One that I did not ask for and would never want.  We were in a circle, me and the rest of the mean girl leader’s besties; all waiting for me to burst out in tongues.  When I didn’t get it, I felt empty, I felt left out.  Expressing those thoughts and concerns to the leader she acted insulted and said it was because I don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. And if I were a better Catholic I would have gotten it.

I was so desperate to become part of that group I would have done anything.  I was the spiritually unpopular girl wanting more than anything to be part of the spiritually cool group.

I cried all the way back to my dorm room.

The next meeting the leader asked, again if I was ready to receive the gift she KNEW God was waiting to give me, and I said yes.  I was prayed over, and I started to babble some nonsense to the extreme joy of the leader and her circle of spiritual cronies.

I felt like a liar.

Tonight when I got home, I went to my prayer altar and prayed over the events of the evening.  I feel called to speak with the leader of tonight’s prayer group, so she knows of my experiences and my reluctance.  My prayer is that there will be some grace that comes from this; grace that I can finally feel as if I have some relief from those past experiences.  I also pray for the grace to make sure that I don’t make this leader feel as if I have just handed her a heaping bag of flaming spiritual poop of my past unresolved hurts.

So, my fellow sisters-in-Christ pray for me.

Spiritually blind

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

For three days, he was unable to see Acts 9:9

Saul sure has an encounter with Christ on the to road Damascus, knocks him right off his horse!  During my time as a mom, I have been knocked off my horse many a time.  Sometimes, like Saul, I am doing it to myself by how I perceive things or how I am reacting to things.  Like Saul, I may just have a certain experience of a situation that I angerly can not shake;  won’t shake.  I am emotionally and spiritually blind.  Or worst of all, I am just too tired from life to want to hear, see, be anymore.

How many times have we all said: “Well you opened my eyes!”  We aren’t physically blind, but emotionally/spiritually.

Emotional/Spiritual blindness has everything to do with the heart.   “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them..” Matthew 13:15  We can become so involved with the mundane aspects of life, the tedium of troubles,  soul-crushing worries that we no longer can hear God, see God or feel God’s presence.  Does all that life close our eyes does to wear us down? Do we stop hearing that soft, small whispered voice of God because of the cacophony of noise from gossip, negative talk, depressing news?  Or do we hear God but just ignore Him because His message is too hard to accept: that we are loved, that we have a purpose larger than the world, that we are made wonderfully?

It is clear that Saul, before he became Paul, saw no use for the Christians.  They were upsetting Saul’s well-planned world.  His blindness came from prejudice.  His was not going to see any of the good that the Christians were doing.  He was not going to acknowledge God’s power, Jesus’ sovereignty.

Like Saul, we do the same thing.  Is time for us to become Paul?

elated articles

We all know one

We all know one.  The person you try to avoid because they are an occasion of sin.

  • The spiritual bemoaner
  • The spiritual aggressive
  • The spiritual dismisser

How are we being called to deal with them?  In the same way, we are called to look at everything: with prayer and in a spirit of discernment.

If you are a mom with children in their 30’s, then you are very familiar with a parenting program called: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, otherwise known as STEP.  Now STEP isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it did have an excellent matrix created to help parents understand their child’s behaviour and how to deal with accordingly.  I wanted to use something for the faithful realm.

Every behaviour, whether from an adult or child, has a motive.

The spiritual bemoaner:  Here is someone for whom life just isn’t fair. They see everything as being targeted towards them.  It’s not that they lack empathy; it is that they feel no-one has shown them empathy. They may repeat a story where they felt slighted many times over.  Do not try and solve their feelings of being slighted; that is not the focus of this behaviour.  The focus is self-injustice.  They do not feel worthy. They may have a very low affect: meaning they always look as if they are about to cry.  Spiritually they.  This repeated story has enormous emotional energy for them.  The “slighter” is seen by our spiritual bemoaner as a person of immense authority, one the bemoaner must be associated with.  But for the bemoaner, the authority figure is more than merely human, they are super human. The authority figure is someone who is not allowed to have feelings, troubles, inadequacies of their own.  What the bemoaner is looking for is someone who can take all of the bemoaners painful feelings and make them go away.

How this person is an occasion for sin.

When dealing with a bemoaner we must be careful to not be drawn into the drama of their life.  They are trying unsuccessfully to create solutions without confronting the cause, without finding out why whatever happened, happened.  They look to us to be their saviour. We can not be.  So we must pray for their inner peace while dealing with them and after.

The spiritual aggressive  is someone who knows everything about everything, at least they is what they try and project.  They see themselves as experts on Church teachings, law, practice.  They have no patience for anyone who disagrees with them, or is seen as contrary to established norms.  It is their way or the highway.  Someone may be in full alignment with the Church, but because they are not doing as the spiritual aggressive does they are wrong and everyone will hear about it.  Often a spiritual aggressive hids a deep secret: their fear of being wrong.  Somewhere in their past they learned the only way to be seen as “good” was to be perfect, to know everything, to not be fooled by anything or anyone.  The spiritual aggressive is the bull in the china shop.

How this person is an occasion for sin.

Someone dealing with spiritual aggressiveness is going to have to keep clear of any heated discussion or topic.  Often spiritual aggressive will bring them up so that they can feel significant and important.  It is important that you remember they are trying to make themselves look good, feel better, not in your eyes, but their own.   They can be thought of as modern  Pharisees.  It’s all about the show, not the belief.

The spiritual dismisser:  This person can’t wait until everyone stops sharing their petty little lives and just listen to them: the spiritual dismisser.  It is often hard to tell if the dismisser is truly so arrogant that they don’t care about others, or that they are not aware how insensitive they are being.  Those who are dismissive do not see the relationship that is profoundly in the Greatest Commandment: Love God, neighbour, self.   They relate to the God and self part of the relationship, everyone is just an extra.  They may have been pampered by others.  Pampered to avoid any temper tantrums, arguments, or general, prolonged unpleasantness.  Dismissers use their lack of empathy as a weapon, keeping people away.

How this person is an occasion for sin.

Spiritual dismissers can be charming, even likeable.  It does not mean that their actions will not one day cause you to snap at them, it is that we must be on guard against.  We often leave confronting dismissers until the last moment because we truly hope they are better than they are acting, but this causes tempers to build.

Be upfront with them in gentleness and truth.  Speak to them about how you are feeling about dismissed.  Do not blame, or accuse, just state facts clarly and simply; because often they do not know how they are coming across.

 

 

 

Hurry Up! It’s getting away!

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.”

In the first reading today, Phillip feels/spiritually hears God calling him to take a desert route, not one he would normally take.  God has some important things to discuss with a certain Ethiopian eunuch, and He needs Phillip to do that talking.

Ever have that feeling; that you are being called to go and speak with someone for God?!

I am enjoying the Alpha group that is being held at a local parish near my home. Yesterday one of the women in my group related how she felt called to speak to someone but didn’t do it.  She felt that sharing what she had to say with that another person wasn’t going to be received well in a public space.  What she had to say wasn’t bad, so maybe the Spirit was telling her to wait for a better less public time to speak.

The word “go” is mentioned in the Bible 1,514 times.  We are encouraged to go tell, go invite, go make, now today we are being called to go join.

So what happens if we are called like Phillip was, to go join, but we demure? Does it mean that the opportunity is lost to us forever? No. It does give us be a moment to discern what is being done, how you are feeling about the call, the person, place or thing.

Like my friend, she had several important factors to consider.  First, who was around her and her friend when she felt called to speak? The subject is a private one and a matter of faith.  While in this small circle of fellow workers there is a person with a very negative attitude about faith and the Catholic expression of it.  Knowing this my friend could have said what she felt called to say and let the chips fall where they may, but she held off.  She held off to protect the person she needed to speak to from the slings and arrows that he did not need at the time.  She also denied ammo to the person who with the negative attitude; God was NOT calling my friend to deal with her, so it was the right course to leave that woman alone.

Next, she was considering the importance of the message.  It wasn’t a bad one, but it was a deep one; one that was going to take time to explore.  Deferring a calling like this speaks to wisdom and sensitivity.

What would happen if my friend just let the moment pass and ignored the call to speak out of fear.

Two things would likely happen.  The call does not disappear, so she may have the call visit her again, and again until in some manner it is cared for.  God never lets a situation go into oblivion.  He will find someone, if not you, or me, or my friend, to deal with it.

Secondly, if we ignore God’s calling for us to move in this world, we begin to lose momentum for us to move positively in this world.  We begin to hide.  Hiding from God is akin to hiding from the greatest of ourself, and we do this because we feel unworthy.  An attitude that God NEVER wants us to have.

With each step we take to speak boldly with love and gentleness we become stronger.  When we speak our story, heed the call we bring light into a dark world.