Behind the Book Curve

March 2, 2015

I’m slightly behind the curve when it comes to reading heavily recommended and popular books. That was the case with Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. But when I finally did get a chance to read it, boy, was I ever happy that I didn’t pass it by on the way to another story on my list.

Without giving away too much of the story to the few of you who may not have read it or have seen the movie, its about a World War II bombardier named Louie Zamperini who is taken prisoner by the Japanese. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it. It’s not a Catholic book, but there is a faith element in it.

unbroken

As I was reading, there was quite a few times where I stopped in shock or awe at what some of the men in the war went through. How did they survive such dire circumstances? How did they NOT break? The story doesn’t go through all of that, but it does focus on the survival of Louie.

There were a few lines in particular that nearly jumped off  the page for me. I’ll highlight just one. After Louie returns from the war, he’s struggling, as are his fellow POW friends and other veterans. The author notes: “There was no one right way to peace; every man had to find his own path, according to his own history.” (Page 349.)

I thought that was such a profound statement, especially as we all go through this period of Lent. Some may be suffering through hardships, and might be at breaking points for different reasons—it’s not for us to judge those reasons or hardships—everyone has a history that they are trying to fight through find their peace.

Lent is the perfect time to find that path to peace. Catholics can connect their suffering to Jesus’ as He makes his way to the Cross.

Anyone reading a book for Lent that is really moving them and bringing them closer to God?

Walk the Line

February 23, 2015

There have been a lot of posts and articles out there that talk about how Lent is not a time for self-help, or a way to diet, or to kick a bad habit—rather, it’s a time of sacrifice. I know this. It is not about me, it’s about God and taking away the things that distract us from Him.

But, I’m of the opinion that the two go hand-in-hand. As anyone who has given up something for Lent that’s habitual, like smoking, or drinking coffee, and I bet they’ll tell you that when it comes time for that break, they are thinking of that item first, and God second. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Resisting temptation and turning it into a sacrifice is supposed to be hard. There’s no way I can tell for sure, but I think that’s when prayers are pretty strong, or at least the most heartfelt, at least for to me.

There probably is a line that Catholics have to watch out for…a line that separates us from doing things only for ourselves and not for God at all, but otherwise, I’d have to say, God wants us to be the best we can be, so if we get a little self help or dieting in on the way, so be it.

I was thinking of the Johnny Cash song “I Walk the Line,” (hence, the title) because of the lyrics “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time; I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

I think it’s a fitting way to go through Lent.

Next Rest Stop: 40 Days Away

February 17, 2015

If you’ve been on a long trip you’ve seen the signs that point out when the next rest area is coming. Today, Shrove Tuesday, is the like the last “rest” area Catholics will have before the biggest, best rest area to come: Easter. The hard part is getting through those 40 long days.

I’m not good on long trips. I get fidgety, I change the music constantly, I feel the need to stop at every rest area along the way to get out and stretch my legs. I’m the same way in life. For the most part, I change my interests constantly—my hobbies, my favorite movies and books, and especially how I pray. Lent, with its continuity is difficult to say the least. At the same time, the challenge is appealing because I feel that it helps me grow spiritually, and that, for me, is what life is all about.

So what am I doing for Lent this year? I have no idea. Yet. I’m hoping that something will strike me tonight as I indulge in the last stop before the long and winding road of sacrifice and contemplation begins.

One of the pictures I like to keep in my mind during Lent is of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James and John. While he prays, his three closest friends fall asleep. In Matthew 26:40, it says, “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” It’s an odd picture to have during Lent, perhaps, of failure of the three disciples—but it is one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. It shows Jesus at one of his most human points, I think, scared, maybe a little angry or upset with his friends; but ready to accept what is coming ahead (His Crucifixion).

gethsemane

But I relate to the disciples. The go to pray with Jesus fully prepared to stay awake and be with him, but they fail. Jesus wakes them up and, in my mind pretty much says, “You couldn’t even do one thing and I’m going to die for you!?!” The disciples stay with Jesus, and epically fail another two times.

Why does this image mean so much to me? I think because it shows that we, like the disciples, are going to fail many times, maybe more so during these 40 days of Lent, but we can keep trying.

What are you doing for Lent? Please Share.

Have I Become a Couch Catholic?

February 11, 2015

Perhaps its because I’m getting older; or perhaps its because I’m getting stuck in a routine—but lately my prayer life and spiritual life have become almost stagnant. When I leave work, I often have so many ideas for what I want to do with my time. But by the time I arrive home, all I want to do is sit on the couch.

I’ve become a couch Catholic. All my prayers are done sitting on the couch. When I think about God, I’m sitting on the couch. When I’m thinking of others to pray for them, I’m most often sitting on the couch. I think its okay to do these things, but for me, I’ve become so complacent that my prayers have become stale, almost like a passing thought that’s gone before I can even catch hold of it.

Pope Francis said recently, “Whoever does not go on a journey will never know the image of God, will never find the face of God.” It reminds me of what St. Augustine said “My heart is restless until it rests in You.” I think that’s pretty remarkable because when I’m sitting there on my couch I often find that I can’t figure out what I want to do. I’m restless. I can’t make simple decisions because none of them feel “right.” I think it may be God’s way of telling me to pray more, to get more spiritual.

I think one solution could be as simple as going to another part of the room to pray and focus.

I’ve been listening to a song by the band One Republic titled “I lived” about living at the edge of your comfort zone. It’s a good song. I think it’s one to listen to before Lent begins. I know it’s an upbeat song and Lent is not supposed to be a celebration, but stick with me here. Lent is a journey, and it’s one that I hope to experience and really live through this year—and not on my couch.

What are your plans for Lent?

Third Times The Charm?

February 3, 2015

I have read or heard the parable of the girl Jesus raises from the dead three times in the past few days. I heard it today at Mass, on television from a preacher one night around 1 or 2 a.m., and in a Bible study I do with one of my friends.

If you’re not familiar with the parable, it goes like this: a father goes to find Jesus in a crowd of people to tell him that his only daughter was dying. As soon as he finds Him, however, someone tells him, ‘don’t bother Jesus, you’re daughter is already dead.’ But Jesus says to the father, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Jesus takes his three closest friends with him into the girl’s house and the father and the mother. Everyone else has to wait outside. He tells the girl to wake up, and she does. Jesus tells the three not to tell anyone what had happened.

I’m not a theologian or a preacher. I don’t study the Bible under any sort of authority. But after hearing this story three times, I have to think that there is a lesson in there that I am supposed to learn. So I thought I’d share what I’ve picked up, and I hope that you, readers, will also share any thoughts that you may have on this.

The first thing I noticed was that Jesus took only his three closest friends. Which made me think of my closest friends, and how as I’ve gotten older my circle of friends has gotten smaller, but I’m okay with that because I have quality people in my life. The second thing I noticed is that even though Jesus said not to tell anyone, the story obviously made its way out into the world since we’re reading about it today which means someone spilled the beans. I’m thinking it was one of Jesus’ closest friends, but like I said, I’m not a theologian so I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere.

And the last thing I noticed was that Jesus tells the father, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” That is a life lesson that I know I need to take to heart.

What do you think? Am I missing something? What lesson or thoughts do you take away? Please share.

Nostalgia—The Good and Bad

February 2, 2015

“Remember when,” “If only,” “I miss.” Those are some tough phrases to mull over in your mind, especially if they remain in there too long. Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing if it reminds you of good times you once had with loved one, or special places or times in your life. But there is another side to nostalgia—and if you stay there too long, it can poison your present and your future.

Reminisce long enough and you’ll think that the it was only in the past that you were able to truly live—at least that’s how it was for me—until I started to see how looking back was holding me back. There were so many things I wanted to redo, so many wrongs I wanted to right armed with the knowledge I had now (it always works like that, doesn’t it, that you want to go back in time with everything you know now…); so many old friends I wanted to reconnect with.

That kind of thinking, however, can block you from all the good things happening right now. For example, I gave up drinking two years ago. When I would go to parties, I would reminisce about all the times I had fun while drinking with my friends. That kept me from having fun in the moment with the people I was with at the time. Not anymore. Maybe an old story will come up in conversation but not with the aching I once had of going back in time.

In Philippians Paul writes that he desires to be like Jesus and wanting to learn to do so, so he has to follow Jesus’ and forget his old life. Paul writes about this in 3:13 saying he can achieve this goal by “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”

God doesn’t want us to go backwards. He wants us to go forward in our lives. To move on, to learn from and let go of the past.

The “Snowmageddon” That Wasn’t?

January 28, 2015

I didn’t plan my week with the thoughts of a snowstorm, let alone a blizzard. I had a busy week coming up and had every detail and hour accounted for—if any one piece was out of place, the whole week could come crashing down like an avalanche and overwhelm me.

As a child, I looked forward to snow days with enthusiasm and hope. I prayed to God for snow days, I went to bed in anticipation of waking up to snow covered streets and sidewalks, with no possibility of getting to school. I would turn on the television, hoping that my school would be on “the list” that is, the school closings list.

Now, as an adult, I enjoy snow days, but the enthusiasm is gone. As a child, I’d rush out the door to find other kids in the neighborhood for snowball fights, tobogganing, and other winter fun. Yesterday, I didn’t even leave my apartment. I lost that childlike wonder. It was a sad realization.

Maybe there was no “Snowmageddon,” but the blizzard that was not did make me realize that something inside of me was lost along the way. I hope to find it and bring it back, if it’s at all possible.

What do you think? Is it possible to bring back the feeling of happiness that children have into your life as an adult?

Rock, Paper, Smile

January 21, 2015

My soul has been filled with rocks that have weighed me down for the past few days—rocks made up of depression, exhaustion, ingratitude, and a plethora of other negative feelings. Needless to say, it was getting to be a burden to just get through each day. Then this morning, those rocks began to roll away.

I was typing at my computer when I heard someone come up behind me and smack something down on my desk. I turned around and saw my editor walking away—having left a shiny small package of cards on my desk.

At first I thought they were baseball cards, but on closer inspection, I saw that they were “Kitten Bowl” cards! (What makes the exchange even funnier is my editor’s dislike of cats and my love of them—I have two cats at home.)

photo

That tiny package of paper cards made me smile and feel a sense of gratitude. I sat there and looked through the cards, at the pictures on each one, and felt myself calming down after a hectic few weeks. I have the cards on display on my desk so I can look at them whenever I feel stressed out.

It was a simple gesture, a small act, but sometimes that is all it takes to make someone smile and feel grateful again.

Have you ever experienced something similar? Please share.

Prayer Code Red

January 15, 2015

I don’t know about you, but lately I feel like my internal disaster system is on code-red. Everywhere I look there is something wrong—from large-scale terrorist attacks to smaller, closer to home issues with health, work and family. I feel as if my insides are filled with a sort of frenetic energy—and that includes my prayer life.

My prayers to God, when I do bother to pray, are quick and said as an afterthought. Oh, yeah, God, I’m having this problem with my health, can you see to it that it all works out okay. Oh, hey, God, I’m having a problem with motivation this week, can you help me out with that? Hey, God, my friend needs prayers, can you help him?

They’re rushed, not well thought out, and pretty disrespectful to God. Can you imagine if someone picked up the phone and said something super fast like that and then hung up, without waiting for a response? Such a one-sided friendship wouldn’t last very long, I don’t think. Thankfully, God has more patience than most people.

But how can I fix my problem? How can I go from a code-red situation down a few notches so I can relax and pray, and live, the right way? For me, I think the answer is in communication and relationships.

Having trouble with your spouse—tell them; too much going on at work—talk to your boss; having problems with your family—lay it out for them. The same is true for God. We can’t do it on our own—I think calling out to others, especially Jesus, calms the frenzy.

Choose Your Own Adventure

January 7, 2015

Did you ever read one of those “choose your own adventure” books as a child? Or more recently, play one of the video games where you get to choose different options that determine the fate of your character?

My husband has been playing one such game that I bought him for Christmas and as I watched him play, I began to think about how we all, at different points in our life come to crossroads at which we have to choose a path that will shape our character and determine which way our life will go.

Unlike in the books or the game, we can’t flip back a few pages to see where other options lead, or start a new game if we don’t like the outcome. Life is much harder than that.

Look at any decision that you have made in your life—choosing your spouse; having one too many drinks; picking your career; or even the words you chose in that last fight you had with your friend—and accept that you can’t go back. You can learn from the past but you can’t erase it.

God tells us so often in the Bible to focus on the present; not the past or the future. I think He does that so we can be happy with our lives right now. Take for example, Ephesians 4:26, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” or Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own.”

Just like in those games, and in those books, you have to make the best decision that you can, with the information and resources you have right now, and trust in God that He will help lead you.


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