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 have to make sure that I don’t make this leader feel if I have just handed her a heaping bag of flaming spiritual poop of my past unresolved hurts either.

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?

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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.

Am I Crazy?

Am I crazy?  Don’t the readings of today sound exactly like Sunday’s first reading and yesterday’s Gospel?!

Yuppers, they are those same readings.  Why?  It is important for us during this Octave of Easter to understand how the early church operated.  Each person was seen as important.  Age didn’t matter. Sex didn’t matter.  What mattered was that you believed.

The community was home, was a refuge, was the safety net, was support, was love.

All the things the early church saw as an example of heaven.

When I worked for the Diocese of Lansing, I felt like I had reached a bucket list goal.  I always wanted to work at a Catholic”office”.  I loved the idea that we were all of the same faith.  It was fun to able to go to Mass with colleagues.  I felt warm and fuzzy.

And that is probably how all the very early church felt: warm and fuzzy.

They were in it all together.  They understood the challenges of being these new Christians, and they were eager to be supportive of each other.  They were eager to live as Jesus taught.

So, how does all of this relate to motherhood, to now?

Well, like most utopian society it is hard to maintain once the group gets bigger and more voices of “authority” want to be heard.  Society kinda takes over.

Society takes us over, as moms, as well.  I get so frustrated with the ebb and flow of mothering competition.  With working moms vs. stay at home moms.  I remember fights, verbal fist to cuffs, with mom “friends” who felt it was important to let me know how right and perfect their children were.  It didn’t help either me or them.  It caused bitterness.  So, if that is happening to you new mom; get better nonjudgmental friends.

A true supportive, nonjudgmental friend will not make you feel like you are their psychological experiment of the week.  They will speak truth to you if you need it, gently.  Just as Jesus never nagged neither will they.  They will understand that each of us will be called to mother uniquely according to God’s plan for us.

God in His wisdom has created us to express different aspects of His Kingdom.  I consider myself an Orthodox Irish, (Christ new agey) Preppy Southern DC Catholic; I know a mouth fill.  I have mom friends who identify themselves as Earth Mothers.  Moms who will call themselves Flighty Artistic types.  Some say they are Type A moms.

Now in a utopian society like the early church tried to create, uniformity is key to its ultimate success; well, nature hates conformity.

The next thing that frustrates me: Unwillingness to accept differences.  God did not use a cookie cutter when He created us.  It must be very important to Him that there be diversity.  So, that must mean as long as we are mortal, good, non-abusive, legal, faithful to God and Church teaching; we should be able to raise our families according to our conscience and God’s call.

It always hurts me to hear Moms gossip about other moms.  Scripture tells us if we are having problems we should go to our sister and discuss it.  Discuss it, not bully or force imposed compliance but discuss it to find mutual beneficial opportunities.  What I found is this rarely happens.  Friendships end bitterly.  But if that is true, then how supportive and faithful was that friend?

Moms, these readings are important to us because they show us how important it is that we create a community  that is home, is refuge, is the safety net, is support, is love; than our friendships be an example of heaven.

Go Boldly Proclaim You Are a Mom

fbcid374878961-73727314-hqAren’t we, as moms, reborn when we have our children? So many times I have heard fellow mom friends say that they see the world anew through their children’s eyes.

As I have said, many times becoming a new mom isn’t always convenient.  But why not go boldly into that new role?  The TV show Teen Moms is a good example of young moms taking difficult situations and trying to turn them around.

Yes, our lives change.  Yes, we are given more responsibility.  Yes, it sometimes sucks.  Yes, it is often filled with great joy.  Yes, it is often filled with moments of unbound pride in ourselves and our family. So, why not boldly proclaim that you are a mom!  Why not look at all the blessings!

As my mom used to say: “Children are coming into your life, you are not going into theirs.”  It is part of being Priest, Prophet, and Queen. We nurture, we teach, we guide.  Let’s not lose ourselves in those roles and forget that God has given us talents, gifts and callings.  We may have to modify our idea of how our lives would go, but God DOES not want us to forget his plan for us.  God has promised us that His plans are so much bigger and better than we could up with.

Be bold, look for those opportunities to use all we have been given to become completely involved with life, our community, our God.

Proclaim Boldly

Sanhedrin in session, 2005
Sanhedrin in session, 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the first reading, Peter and John have just been released from the authority of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court and legislative body, for preaching the message of Jesus.

Peter and John going before the Sanhedrin  meant they were being punished for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, an offense branding the men subversive.  Now both men could have kept quite out of fear of reoffending. They could have let the situation get the best of them. They could become angry.  But what did happen.  What can I gain, we, as moms, gain, from this first reading? 

I used to say that life hit me about the head with a wet trout.  What I meant by that was that I felt that life did whatever it wanted to me. Like when my hubby and I found out that instead of having time to be a couple we were now going to be parents after conceiving a honeymoon baby.  That pissed me off in a big way.  I felt trapped by my hubby, by life and especially by God.

What I was not considering was that I had a say in the situation.  Peter and John could have done the same thing: Gone around saying how horrible it was to be in front of the Sanhedrin, but they didn’t.  They took control of how they perceived the situation and looked to see how the situation strengthened their calling from God.  They looked at the good in the situation, not the bad, not the inconvenient for them, the good for everyone.

They saw the good in the situation.  They turned the situation into even greater an opportunity to proclaim the Good News.  Like every life situation, there is going to be goodness.  That is the nature of God. That Honeymoon baby slowly made me think of how I was NOT changing.  I was still me with all my talents and gifts.  I was still me with my calling. I took the time to think more clearly about what I was being called to do and how having a baby was going to HELP me achieve it.

Like Peter and John, who would not be held down by threats or mistreatment, they were going to use both to strengthen their belief in the power of God.  Using the situation to say: “See how God is using us to tell you the Good News, you go do the same.”

New Mom to Empty-nester Mom

new mom empty nest mom