At a recent Christmas party, the host invited the guests to share toasts for the new year (and simply life in general) by setting a theme and encouraging us to toast to various things. Standing there, cupping a glass of mulled wine, I listened to people make toasts to fruitfulness, the fullness of faith, wonder, the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit, and so on. After the person would give their ferverino related to the toast, he would lift his glass and say “To fruitfulness” (or whatever was being toasted) and the rest of us would repeat it.
Partly preparing for the potential of being randomly called on and partly because it was a beautiful idea, I pondered what I would toast to and how it could be connected to the previous toasts. So, lucky random readers, you shall hear my toast!
To waiting. The gift of fruitfulness comes only after a period of waiting. A slow, quiet growing (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) which gives way to newness. The world waited for a Savior and even after the Incarnation, there was still a period of waiting for redemption, waiting for an epiphany. Our lives are filled with waiting, manifold opportunities for glorious encounters wrapped in the seemingly mundane trappings of daily life. May this waiting not be passive, but may it be an active experience of longing, of hoping for what is to come, and trusting that it will indeed come.
Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash
Lent is fast approaching.
Even though I’ve been consistently thinking about Lent over the past few weeks and prepping my students and small group for it, I still haven’t fully decided what I will be giving up/adding to my life for the next 40 days. Many ideas are swirling around, but I haven’t landed on specifics yet. This morning, I was talking with one of the prisoners and after I explained a little about Lent, he asked what I would be doing for it. Great question, friend, I thought, I’m not quite certain yet.
However, there is still time to decide. Time to prayerfully consider how we can draw nearer to the Lord’s heart as we wander into the desert so that He may speak to our hearts more intentionally.
To that end, I created a Lenten devotional for you (and me)! I’m excited about this little project and I hope that it will enable us to have a more fruitful Lent. (Click picture below for the pdf)
Continue reading “From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional”
I found this poem through a podcast that has a “poem of the day” that they read and analyze a bit. While I often forget, reading and learning more poetry follows a desire I have to immerse my life in more beauty.
The poem is called “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo.
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
Continue reading “Perhaps the World Ends Here”
I often find myself living life the same way I ran seventh-grade cross country.
Simply put: not well.
I remember watching the older runners prior to a race. They were stretching and jogging around, warming up for the few miles they would be running around random golf courses. I understood the stretching part, but I never quite got the jogging part. For me, finishing the race meant I should store up as much energy as possible. Sometimes, I was dragging myself across the finish line or walking small sections where there were no cheering fans. Why would I foolishly waste energy just moments before the race?
A few years ago, I was running pretty consistently and I completed a five-mile race. It was as I was finishing the race that I finally understood what those high school students had been doing years ago. Crossing the finish line, I felt really good. In fact, my third and fourth miles felt way better than the first two. My time wasn’t incredible, but I was satisfied with it for myself. I had logged enough miles that I was at the point where I grasped the concept of running so as to warm up. I wasn’t wasting energy–it was instead needed so I could run better. In my conservative, store-up-everything mindset, it was revolutionary to understand that giving some allowed me to give more.
Weekends during the school year and portions of the summer find me falling into that same trap of storing up instead of spending. I’m an introvert and I have yet to find the perfect life balance when my job is one that requires so much extrovertedness. In the evenings, I don’t want to be surrounded by people. On the weekends, I’d rather curl up in my home. During the summer months, I convince myself that relaxing, watching movies, and being a recluse are exactly what I need in order to survive the school year.
But I don’t think that is actually true.
I mean, I want it to be true because that would be an extremely convenient excuse. But it isn’t reality. When I turn in on myself and don’t enter into community, it doesn’t really make me want to be communal later. Instead, I find a dozen more reasons to not go out, to not share myself. Reasons that essentially boil down to being lazy and selfish.
Continue reading “Poured Out”
While personal difficulties can be genuine, regardless of their large-scale importance, sometimes it is helpful to put them in perspective. The Lord cares about what I care about and so I try to be careful to not dismiss hurt feelings, stress, or joy simply because it isn’t life altering. Yet when I do feel overwhelmed or a bit shaken, it can help to focus on the aspects for which I can be grateful.
There are two recent examples that come to mind. The first is my living situation. Currently, I am in the process of moving into a new house, but I am not quite moved in yet. Over the past couple weeks, I have stayed mostly at my parents’ house in the country and sometimes with friends who live in town. It isn’t that difficult of a life, but the slight upheaval of transitional homes adds a bit of extra stress to the day-to-day life.
Yet when I was sharing this stress with a few different people over the last couple of days, I was struck by the fact that I am not homeless. In fact, it is the opposite. I have an abundance of homes–there is the home I am working to move into, my parents’ home where I have my own bedroom when I stay there, and friends who generously offer a room to me when needed. The added stress I feel is real, but the things I can be grateful for far surpass the inconvenience.
Continue reading “The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health”
I love when I am able to find secular examples that point to spiritual realities. When shown explicitly religious media, my students often give what they think are the correct answers based on their years of Catholic education. Yet when it is something that seems a bit unrelated to the class, they tend to have a greater openness and willingness to interact with the material.
On the second class day of the new spring semester, I showed them a TEDx talk called “500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair.” (Feel free to take a minute…or 19…to go and watch this video.) The image of strangers taking the time and effort to carry a man in a wheelchair up a mountain seemed to obviously gesture toward the Church on earth and the Church in Heaven.
“Through the power of community, I climbed mountains.”
At one point near the end, Justin says. “Through the power of community, I climbed mountains” and it resonated so much that I had to write it down. So many conversations lately have pivoted around the need and desire for community and authentic friendship. While some say community cannot be built, I disagree. I believe community must be built. While we cannot choose to magically connect with people, we must be intentional in how we use our time in order for community to be successful.
This community that Justin and Patrick found was possible because others were willing to be intentional with their time and energy. The pilgrim duo they met in the cathedral in Burgos were willing to wait for them before climbing the mountain leading into O’Cebreiro. Then other people heard the story and decided to wait, too, without ever meeting Justin or Patrick. Community requires intentionality and it reminds us that in this pilgrimage of life we cannot walk alone.
A priest friend of mine often said, “You can be damned alone or saved with others.” I think he was quoting someone but I was never certain of the source. The idea is that Hell is isolation, but Heaven is necessarily communion. Communion with God and with others. The reality of this can be revealed in the many “saint pairs” that have arisen over history. St. Francis and St. Clare. St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. St. Louis and St. Zelie. St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius of Loyola. The list could go on and on. St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II? Saints live a foretaste of the heavenly communion through their authentic friendships with one another. They “carry” each other up the mountain, using friendship to encourage the other to enter into deeper relationship with the Lord. Continue reading “I Climbed Mountains”
When I scroll through Facebook, it is difficult to not feel at least a little discouraged. My mini-world of online Catholic life, neatly curated based on my interests, is overflowing with article after article of questions, deception, and Church hierarchy. I haven’t joined the fray and posted yet another reflection on the duplicity found within some of the Church’s most elevated ordained men. It didn’t seem necessary after millions of words have been spilled over it and it doesn’t seem to help the hurting. Despite not posting about it, I feel the increasing weight of the problems and wonder what will happen next.
My faith isn’t shaken–it wasn’t rooted in bishops or the Holy Father to begin with. I don’t feel compelled to even consider leaving the Church–She is my home and I would not want to be an orphan in this crazy world. I do, however, ache for the hurting and I frequently consider how this must look from the perspective of my students. When hypocrisy is so blatant, it is a struggle for them to see why one should belong to such a fragile, sinful institution.
Despite the fact that I am unshaken in my desire to remain in the Church, the Lord gave me a generous gift. Yesterday, the Lord gave me what I didn’t know I needed.
I attended a Theology on Tap.
I know the coordinator pretty well (she is my sister, after all) and so I have known about the progress of the launch of this new program every step of the way. Yet when I walked into the gathering space, I was surprised at the number of people already present. And as the minutes continued to pass, I was soon blown away by the number of people who came streaming in. An event that initially had aimed for fifty people and then optimistically raised its hopes to seventy or eighty, eventually rounded out at about 150 people.
The attendees? They were young college kids, adults in the first decade of “adult” work, middle-aged parents, and grandpas and grandmas. A gentleman at my table graduated from high school in 1956. A priest stood behind me. A co-worker sat next to me. My parents were nearby. A couple sat on the floor near the bar, all available seats having long been snatched up.
The attendees? The Church. Continue reading “The Church Showed Up”
At different times I find myself missing college. While it was stressful and filled with numerous papers, I miss the unique setting that is found in living in the dorm and sharing my daily life with many others. The fact that a perpetual adoration chapel was only a short walk away was also a major benefit. Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the constant stream of people around campus, prohibiting any chance of being alone and filling my melancholic soul with stillness and silence. Despite that, I found it invigorating to be surrounded by young people my age who desired to zealously live out the faith. Of course they failed, but it was to my never-ending joy to be able to enter into deep theological discussions at the drop of the hat.
Once experiences the beauty of such an environment, everything else seems to not compare. Now I don’t live in a place that is teeming with young Catholics. I have a real job and I have to concern myself with money. The goal now, as opposed to the liberal spending of college, is to earn more than I spend. College was a steady stream of cash poured from my pockets and from the pockets of a couple banks.
Yet every now and then I am able to recognize the beauty of the present moment. I remember that I live with three young women that are on fire for the Lord. That we do engage in deep conversations, that we are sharing our lives together, and that we can challenge each other to delve deeper into our faith. Last night we had a women’s prayer group meeting at my house and I was filled again with a sense of gratitude. Women from different jobs, places, backgrounds, and lives came together to be rooted in prayer. At one point I was concerned that our conversation would be offensive to some of the new ladies but I was even more encouraged to find out they weren’t. We could talk about praying outside Planned Parenthood, contraception, ObamaCare, medical ethics, Catholic hospitals, and much more without any tension or conflict. We seemed to be in one accord.
I thanked the Lord that I didn’t live on my own but with women I can grow with. I am not alone in my faith or without Catholic friends, but rather the Lord is increasing and strengthening these friendships. My community may be small, but it is sufficient for me. The Lord provides. He knows what I need and He is supplying. Perhaps not in the abundance that I dream of or desire, but in the amount that is perfect, necessary, and manageable.