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Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

This past Lent, as I do every Lent, I went about doing an examination of conscience in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. One of the ways that I do this is to review a printout that I have of the Ten Commandments that also has more specific offenses relating to each Commandment. Whenever I get to “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”, I usually tend to skip this one. My mother died almost 42 years ago; my father a little over 22 years ago so I figured this didn’t apply to me.

This year, as I was reading the chapter “Dancing for Joy” in the book Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly, as part of the Best Lent Ever program, my mind began to wander.

 

The more we close the gap between the life we are living today and the life Jesus invites us to live through the Gospels, the more we will experience that joy.

So what stops us from closing the gap and dancing for joy?

— Kelly, Matthew. Rediscover Jesus [Kindle edition], Locations 1525-29

As my mind wandered, I realized that “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” did apply to me. More specifically, “Honor Thy Father”. Some time after my father died, he appeared to me in a dream. He was glowing, similar to how angels are pictured to be in old paintings, although with much more light. In this dream he spoke to me. He said “Hold His hand and test the waters.”

Anyone who knew my father would know that he never spoke like that in real life. His last words to me in real life were “have a good time.” I knew this meant that he knew he was dying. He wanted to let me know that now it’s time to live my life. Since I was a teenager (he had his first stroke when I was 13), I put my life on hold to take care of him. Now, at 23, it was time to live the life I was meant to live.

“Hold His hand and test the waters” I’m sure refers to the time when Jesus told Peter to come to him, but in order to do so Peter had to walk on water. As long as Peter kept his focus on Jesus he was able to do the seemingly impossible. As soon as Peter got frightened and turned his focus away from Jesus, he began to drown.

 

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.

— Sir Winston Churchill

By letting my anxiety take over and not trusting in God, I’m betraying what was essentially the last words my father spoke to me — the last wish my father had for me, and what God, the Father, wants for me. Letting my anxiety take over and not trusting in God prevents me from being the person God intended me to be and in all likelihood prevents me from fulfilling whatever purpose God intended for my life. And, as Matthew Kelly says, it also prevents me from feeling the joy that God intended.

So, how would I answer the question posed earlier: “So what stops me from closing the gap and dancing for joy?” I’d say my anxiety. But how do I let go and let God? So far, the only answer I get is “Just do it.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple when dealing with chronic anxiety. Logically I know that I shouldn’t feel anxious when I do, but logic doesn’t make my anxiety go away. I need some other method of dealing with it.

I always say that books are put into our lives at just the right time. When I was pondering the questions above, I couldn’t find anything specific in the Rediscover Jesus book to help, but a non-Catholic book that I read before Lent did resonate with me. I highlighted several passages in Harnessing Your Emotions by Andrew Wommack. Perhaps I will review those again. Taken as a whole, perhaps both of these books along with prayer and scripture reading, talking to God, and listening in the quiet moments will help.

For months before my jaw surgery several years ago I would have panic attacks, then a day before the surgery, without me doing anything differently, a great peace came over me. I just knew everything was going to be OK. I’ve never forgotten that feeling. I want to feel that peace again in all that I do. I pray that God shows me the way if it is His will.

 

Where will your adventure take you and how will you go forth? Will you be like Peter, hedging your bet and looking at the storm-tossed waves? Or will you choose to see only the outstretched hand of Jesus?

–Kelly, Matthew. Rediscover Jesus [Kindle edition], Locations 1994-97

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A while back I read the Kindle version of the book Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux. If you read my review of the book here, you’ll see that I didn’t like the book all that much. Despite this, there were a few passages that spoke to me. I ran across these quotations, scribbled on a few pieces of paper, while I was sorting through (decluttering) a stack of notes on a table near where I usually sit and read in the evenings.

“…A soul in the state of grace has nothing to fear from the devil, who is a coward, and will even fly from the gaze of a little child.”
— from a dream Therese of Lisieux had.

Now that it has been about 5 months since I finished the book, I don’t remember why I found this statement worthy of writing down. I suppose because it is good advice. When one’s soul is in a state of grace, temptations are few.

“As I was no use at games, I should have preferred to spend all my time in reading.”

There is no doubt about why I wrote this quote down. First, I am definitely not athletic, so you’d never find me spending my time playing sports. Second, if I could, I would spend all my time reading. In the Spring, Summer, and Autumn, when I was growing up and my friends were not around, I would get a book from my personal library, set up my porch rocking chair, and sit in the screened-in carport reading from morning until evening occasionally looking up at the stately cottonwoods across the street while pondering what I was reading. In my adulthood, I continued this tradition when I lived in my apartment in Novi, Michigan. I didn’t have a carport, but I did have a balcony, so on non-rainy days when I had no other responsibilities vying for my time, I would sit on my balcony, from morning until evening, reading a book from my personal library occasionally looking out over the pond and adjoining woods while pondering what I was reading. Currently I live in a large, older home with a deck. How I would love to spend countless hours on that deck reading… But, for now, the seemingly never-ending decorating and decluttering and upkeep keep me from that… although I have taken breaks from working on projects to sit out in the evenings, even if it’s just for a half hour, to read.

“…for God has given me a faithful heart, and when once I love, I love for ever.”

A couple of my friends I have known for 30+ years and although we don’t see each other often (even less so since I moved to mid-Michigan), I hope they know that they are always in my thoughts and prayers.

“He does not come down from Heaven each day in order to remain in a golden ciborium, but to find another Heaven — the Heaven of our souls in which He takes such delight.”
— St. Therese talking about God in the Host

Something to think about when in line to receive the Host, and something to think about always… especially when being tempted away from a relationship with our Lord.

“I realized thoroughly that joy is not found in the things which surround us, but lives only in the soul.”

Something for me to think about as I pare down my possessions to only those things necessary for the well-being of my body, mind, and soul. Although joy may not be found in purchased “things”, some “things” can elicit joy: a sunrise, a sunset, a rainbow, a lake, a river… and then there are all those living “things” that surround us: trees and flowers and birds. All these “things” that surround me bring my soul joy.

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The child … makes the wife a mother. Man more commonly cooperates with nature, but a woman cooperates with God; she is the bearer of the gift of God to man. The word of woman is “Fiat”, submission, surrender, cooperation with life. A woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give; there is hell within when she refuses to give. Bearer of the cosmic plentitude, she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into the world. Looking down at that babe, a new paradox is revealed: it is the only time self can be loved without selfishness. A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn.

I’m currently reading the book Life is Worth Living, by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. It includes the transcripts from 44 episodes of his television show of the same name. This particular quote was taken from an episode entitled “Children: Burdens or Joys”. I thought it quite appropriate to share this quote with you at this time, Mother’s Day being Sunday.

I think that this quote not only speaks to women who have given birth, but also to women who, for whatever reason, cannot: “a woman’s unhappiest moment is when she is unable to give.” I wonder about some women’s consciences, if there is truth to the statement “there is hell within when she refuses to give.”

Some reading this will be put off by the phrase “she fulfills her mission when she brings a child into this world.” But, in context, there’s no disputing the fact that God made Woman to bear children. This is what Bishop Sheen is alluding to.

I can empathize with the “unhappiest moment”. I can ponder the “hell within”. I was struck with awe, however, by the statement: “A mother now loves a non-self in herself as her body becomes the ciborium of the new life, and her arms become its bearer as she passes on culture to ages yet unborn”.

Slowly re-read that sentence. “…her body becomes the ciborium of the new life….” Just think what our society, what our human race, could become if each and every person took this phrase to heart and treated the gifts from God with the respect and care that they deserve.

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Full citation for the quote above: Sheen, Fulton J., Life is Worth Living: First and Second Series, Ignatius Press, original copyright 1953 and 1954, p. 173.

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Gift Suggestions

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Originally published in something called “Wood Chips Newsletter,” I cut this out of a church bulletin years ago. I ran across it today in my nightly attempt to unpack and get things organized. Yes, we’re still unpacking and organizing after living here more than a month in our new home. At least once a week I make the comment “we have too much stuff!” This after taking yet another load of stuff to Goodwill this past weekend. And, in thinking about it, how much does our stuff make us happy and how much of it gets in the way of making us happy? That’s something to ponder…

So, in this season of giving. And in this season of getting more stuff that we may or may not want or need, the above quote seemed appropriate. While we may ponder whether all our stuff makes us happy or not, if we all gave and received the gifts suggested in the above quote, chances are we wouldn’t have to ponder whether we are truly happy or not. We would feel it from the depths of our souls.

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Woodshedding

Back in my college days I took an African-American Literature class. It was taught not by a Wayne State professor, or by a teaching assistant, but by a visiting professor, Poet Laureate of East St. Louis, Eugene B. Redmond. I hated this class. Not because of the literature itself, nor necessarily because of his teaching style, but because of the work load. I never could finish a reading assignment in the class. I remember completely missing the point of a poem I was supposed to interpret for one of our essay assignments (Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar). I still don’t think I learned much in that class. For many years I thought that that class was a waste. Then I started to think that it wasn’t a waste. Occasionally during that class Mr. Redmond would talk about the processes he would go through to write his poetry. One of those he called woodshedding. He would always say that in order to write, one has to go out to the woodshed. Get away from everyone and everything and then, and only then, can you listen to your inner voice.

I used to write poetry. See the Poetry tab above to read some of my work. I started writing in high school and continued writing into adulthood, but I haven’t written anything for the past nine years. I’ve always been telling myself that nothing inspires me. To which my husband probably thinks to himself, while rolling his eyes, “Gee, thanks dear!” But, recently, I’m thinking that it’s not so much a matter of lack of inspiration as it is a matter of not making it a priority to woodshed. Not making it a priority to sit in silence and listen to my inner voice.

Lent started last Wednesday, and so far it has not felt like Lent for me. “There’s something missing” I kept saying to myself, but I couldn’t come up with what that was. Then at church on Sunday, after the homily, Fr. Scheuerman turned to our deacon and asked him if he had any suggestions for Lent. He said that we must take time to sit in silence with the Lord. We must sit still and let Him talk to us. We must pray, but it can’t be a one way street with us talking. We must listen too.

I said to myself: “Yes! That’s what was missing from my Lent. Silence. Silent prayer.” I’ve always included that, but this year it seemed like I always had something else that “must” get done. Then I started thinking about my writing. And, it dawned on me that the reason that I’m not feeling inspired to write may be that I’m not sitting in silence listening to my inner voice, not listening to God, my center.

In past blog posts I talked about decluttering my closets. This Lent, this year, I must declutter my mind, remove all the “noise”, and get back to center. Get back to finding my inspiration.

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Love means to reveal to a person his or her own beauty.
Jean Vanier

I know I’m a bit early in wishing my readers a Happy Valentine’s Day, but we plan early in my household. A couple of years ago we gave up celebrating holidays such as Valentine’s day in what has become the traditional (i.e. commercial) way. Instead, for all holidays except Christmas my husband and I pick a special entree and special dessert and then we cook a nice meal together. Just so things are fair, we switch off. One holiday I pick the entree (and he cooks) and he picks the dessert (and I cook) and the next holiday, we do the process in reverse. This takes the pressure off finding the “perfect” gift (who needs more stuff anyway) and it gives us some time together enjoying each other’s company. And, we do enjoy this time together. Invariably, no matter what kind of day we had, we always end up laughing and in a good mood.

Of course, I was not always married. And, perhaps like some of you reading this, I would sometimes get depressed when days like this rolled around. Everyone seemed to be part of a couple, except me, I’d think. But, who says Valentine’s Day has to be about romantic love? Even if you are single you can celebrate Valentine’s Day. Just do it in a non-traditional way. Love comes in many forms and everyone is loved by someone (even if the only someone is God). So, use this day to express your appreciation to all those that love you. And, I’m guessing that most everyone has someone that they love (brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, children, friends,… and perhaps God?). Valentine’s Day can be one extra special day in which you express your love to these people (in word and in deed). My guess is, once you show your appreciation for the love you are given and then give love to another, the depression you felt will lift and you’ll be able to say to yourself: “How Blessed I Am!”

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When warriors come and bang the drum
And march their troops before us
Then friends of peace link hand in hand
And join as one in chorus

— Third verse of the song “How Can I Keep From Singing?” composed by Joel Mabus, 2003. Original hymn composed in 1860 by Robert Lowry.

Yesterday I, my husband, and my mother-in-law went to a Community Sing at my husband’s old middle school, now a community center, in East Lansing. This particular community sing was part of the annual Mid-Winter Singing Festival held this time of year. This is the first time that we’ve gone, but I’m guessing it won’t be our last. All of us had a wonderful time. If you like singing (even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket like me), like folk music, or like comedy you’d love this “concert”. Leading the sing this night were Joel Mabus (my favorite), Susan Werner (a new favorite), Frank Youngman (funny!!!), and Rachel Alexander (what she can do with 70 amateur singers in a 90-minute workshop is amazing!).

The mix of songs is older (i.e. “My Blue Heaven”) and newer (i.e. “My Girl” by Smokey Robinson). The singers on stage put their own spin on things too. And, every year after intermission at the Saturday Community Sing, the “choir” from Rachel Alexander’s 90-minute workshop comes out on stage to sing 2 songs. This year one of the songs sung was by Susan Werner herself. She sang with the choir. The song: “Help Somebody”. Loved, loved, loved it. Loved the song, and the 90-minute choir was spectacular. Here’s a performance of the song, though not the one I saw, obviously:

This night, WKAR, the East Lansing public TV station was filming a documentary about the Mid-Winter Singing Festival. I don’t know how the documentary will turn out and I don’t know when it’ll air, but if you can get WKAR on your TV, then I suggest you watch to get a feel for what it’s all about.

If you’ve never been to the Mid-Winter Singing Festival and the Community Sing, I’d highly recommend it. Plan ahead. The next Singing Festival is Friday-Saturday, February 4-5, 2011.

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