Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why 22 will be better than 21

 I have been trying to ignore the fact that I was turning 22, freaking out because it seems so old. Up until tonight the question ‘so what are you going to accomplish while you are 22?’ stumped me.

However, during adoration it was as if a rock was thrown at my head.  God is about to rock my world.  I get to spend the next few months finishing school surrounded some of the most amazing friends.  Then I graduate.  Like wait what??? This is absolutely amazing. These past four years have changed me in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. My mind has been opened to a world outside of myself and soon, God is about to reveal to me a future I could have never imagined. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL.

I mean I have no idea what life is about to bring me or where I will be in seven months, but that’s okay. Where ever it is, I can’t wait to get there!  God is about to call me to my next vacation, He will open so many opportunities for me to go out and do something that I love.  Something that I am so passionate about that I am going to wake up every day leaping out of bed with a smile.  I mean who wouldn’t want that?  I am going to be able to go out and share my joy and desires with others, hopefully changing their lives.   

This is about to be the greatest year of my life. And every year after will also be the greatest year of my life.  HOW COULD IT NOT BE??? I will be living my life for God, surrounded by people I love, doing something that I love.  In Taylor Swift’s words… 'I’m feeling twenty two'

Catholic Guilt

‘Those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with Him in LOVE because grace and mercy are with His holy ones and His care is with His elect.’ – Wisdom 3:9

Why do I feel guilty about sleeping in and missing mass after making a promise to myself I would go as often as possible?

Ø   Because I know that going to mass would have brought me closer to God, creating a more joyful, peaceful, and thankful day.

What most people assume 'Catholic guilt' is, is a feeling of God being mad at me and trying to make me feel bad. This feeling is actually from growing closer to God and Him revealing to my heart the knowledge of the better choice. He has shown me the beauty of the grace and love and mercy that I receive during mass and He tries to allow me this opportunity every day; all I have to do is say ‘yes’.

What is in my heart isn't guilt, it is inner grace that God has given me to lead me down the path that He knows is perfect for me, even if I can’t always see it myself.  During this life, I have fallen into sin and my mind has been tainted by the world.  I have been taught certain things will bring me pleasure and to follow those worldly pleasures.  But I am like a rat in a maze, I do not always know the best way to take; sometimes I want to follow the trail of poisonous cheese someone left. Alone I would fail, but I am not alone; God can see the best way out, He knows that best way to get me to the end goal safely. 

We need to be thankful God has given us a conscious because it allows us to find the everlasting joy that we long for in the depths of our hearts. It may be hard to always make the right choice because the rest of the world says it’s wrong, but sooner or later we will understand the good that comes from right decision.

 God isn't upset with you when you make the wrong choice, He just patiently longs for you to know Him and waits for you to direct your path back to Him so he can forgive your sins and bring you back on the road towards His everlasting love.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Embracing Silence

St. Augustine once said, “You made us for yourself oh Lord; and our own hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Similarly, French philosopher Blaise Pascal believed, “the worst torture for modern man is to be quiet and alone in a room.”

What this means:

1.    Our hearts are created to be united with God; that is the whole reason He breathed life into us in the first place. 
2.    When we sit in silence, we reflect on our lives and feel that longing within our hearts.
3.    When we are separated from God by mortal sin we hate the silence because it reminds us that no matter how much stuff we buy or how many friends we have, there is still a feeling of loneliness.   
4.    Silence also allows us to realize what misguided parts of our life we need to change, but often find it impossible to do so.

We have two choices:

5a. Fill the silence up with the constant noise of people, music, books, TV, electronics, etc.

5b. Embrace the silence, start speaking with God; listening to your own heart as it tries to lead you down a new path towards eternal happiness.

6a. If you take the first path, you will never feel complete and will constantly try to fill yourself with the next best thing; seeking to fit a square peg into the circular sized hole in your heart that longs for its Creator.

6b. If you take the second path, you may experience some hard realizations, some bumpy times and big changes, but after these alterations in your life, you will be able to embrace the silence (you will seek the silence). At last, your heart will be at rest, embracing and returning God’s love.  You will finally experience peace, knowing that no matter where life leads you or what it brings you, God will be there next to you, guiding you through the storm, which is what truly matters. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lessons from an AA meeting

Attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meetings was such a beautiful experience; they are so raw and honest; so inviting and non-judgmental. 

What I learned:
  1. They are blessed to have gone through this experience because they no longer live with an ‘I can do anything’ attitude, like so many people do.
  2. They know the truth about human weakness.
  3. They know that to reach a goal it takes the support of those around them as well as the will power to keep trying even when they mess up.   
  4. They know we can do nothing on our own. Their everyday is focused on giving up control of their lives because they know God is the only one who can make it better. 
  5. They accept everyone, regardless of their past. 
  6. They know that the things they buy for their family aren't nearly as important as the time they spend with them.  Their children would rather have daddy home to play with than have daddy bring them a toy after working all day. 
  7. They know the importance of taking things one day at a time.  Making the right choices today will lead to a better tomorrow. There is no need to worry about the future. 
  8. They know that we don’t control the world around us; things don’t always go according to our plan and we must accept that. 
  9. They know that problems don’t discriminate between class or race.
  10. They know not to judge someone based on their past; people can change.
  11. They know that Praying to God is the only way to through the day; with Him, all things are possible.

>>>They are truly lucky because they know
the truth for  'when I am weak, then I am strong’
                                              – 2 Cor 12:10 

What is Islam?

My diversity class this semester has really forced me out of my comfort zone and caused me to critically think about my life and the way I view other cultures.  This class, as well as going to India has really allowed me to see the value behind every culture and religion so I made it my goal to learn more about the other cultures this semester.

I had my first opportunity a few weeks ago at the Saudi Arabia event going on in the Union.  I will admit, my first reason for going was to try some of the food, but it led to a long conversation about food, culture, values, and dress.

Speaking with some of the girls there, they explained why they wear abayas which cover their whole bodies and even sometimes their face.  I always made the (wrong) assumption that it was because Islamic men viewed women as their property, not wanting anyone else to look at her, as well as because they wanted to be dominant and silence her voice by not letting her show her personality.  What I found was the complete opposite.  These girls loved wearing abayas and being covered from head to toe.

They said it let them express their personalities even more because when people speak with them, they get to know them for who they are without assuming things based on their figure.  they also really enjoy the fact that men do not simply looking at them because of their bodies, they know that people truly like their personality.  How many of us can say that those around us like us 100% for our personality and not because of the way we look and the way we dress.

Now I am not saying we all need to change the way we dress, I do see truth in the fact that God created us in beauty and that we shouldn't hide it, but what it has taught me is that we need to step away from our assumptions and get to know the truth behind other cultures.  I also see great value in dressing modestly and not flaunting your body so that those around you like you for you and not because they like to look at you.

Another interesting thing I learned was who they believe Jesus is.  Fascinatingly enough, they believe that the Virgin Mary was the mother of Jesus and that Jesus preached the truth about God.  They do then go off track and say that he is simply a great profit and not the Son of God, but still, I didn't realize the similarities.  At the bottom of a pamphlet I was given, it describes their religious views and I must say, they have a strikingly similar outlook on life.

...."Surrender your imperfect and fickle will to the perfect will of the Power that is greater than you.  you will then find the peace and freedom that only the Creator of all things can provide.  Then you must do what is right and good to your fellow creatures"....

To anyone who actually reads this post; I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere that you are the minority.  Go in with an open mind and you will be so amazed at what you may learn. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God Cancels Class

Today’s gospel is one that is brought up often and we always hear the same sermon over and over again.  Be like Mary, sit and listen to Jesus instead of being like Martha always constantly running around trying to do everything perfectly.       

Luke 10: 38-40
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."

No matter how many times I reflect on this reading, it always hits home and reminds me I need to straighten out my priorities.  The last month I have been trying to tame the Martha in me and be more of a Mary.  I used to try to do every possible church activity thrown at me from two bible studies to Theology on tap to lots of classes and meetings, and it was really weighing me down.  I couldn’t handle it all and it wasn’t making me feel like I actually knew God and it really confused me why not. I was being a Martha; doing everything I thought would please Jesus, but I ended up ignoring Him.  Sure I gained lots of knowledge and know way more about my faith now, but through being so caught up on these things, I lost my relationship with Jesus. I pridefully thought I could become holier by taking charge and learning every possible thing there is to know about the faith. 

What I really needed though to be happy and calm myself down was to put my relationship with Jesus first before everything else. Don’t get me wrong, bible study and classes are great, but if your top priorities aren’t mass and alone time praying to Jesus during a holy hour (or holy 10 minutes) to build your relationship with Him, then you will never feel fulfilled. 

Is it really possible to get to know someone from only listening to others tell stories about them or discuss some of their teachings? No.  We may know a lot about them, but we don’t know them personally.  Same with Jesus.  Until you take time to talk to Him daily, you won’t know Him or all the wonderful things he wants to give you.  When you care about someone you make time to talk to them every day.  Do you make sure to talk to Jesus every day?

When you make time for God, He makes time work for you.  These last crazy few days it would have been really easy to come up with a good excuse to pass up going to mass or holy hour so that I could gain some needed time for homework.  By the grace of God I stuck to my plans for holy hour, even when a rush of thoughts telling me I could never get everything done attacked. Did I get as much done as I hoped to that day, no? But I did walk out of mass with a sense of peace and awareness that God would help me get done what needed to be done.  Amazingly enough, I got exactly what I needed done the next day and then God even felt like being more generous and canceled my three hour class in the afternoon. He is always sending me little ‘don’t forget I love you’ messages.  

Now I am not guaranteeing that by doing a holy hour God will cancel your class, but by spending time silently with Jesus, building that relationship, you will receive the peace and calmness you desire because you place all your trust in God.

Luke 10: 41-42

But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Prayer to fulfilling the will of God

Prayer to fulfilling the will of God

‘Lord, if it be your will, so let it be, and if it be to Your honor, let it be fulfilled in Your name. Lord, if this be for my good, give me the grace to use it for your honor, but if you know that it will be harmful to me and not profitable for the good of my soul, then take away from me such a desire.’

‘O most merciful Jesus, grant me Your grace, that it may remain with me always and persevere with me to the end.  Grant me always to will and desire what is most pleasing and acceptable to you.  Let Your will be mine and let my will always follow Yours in perfect conformity with it.  Let my will and desires always be one with Yours’ and let me be unable to will or not to will except as You will or do not will.'

'Grant that I may die to all worldly things and that I may be despised and unknown for love of you.  Grant, above all things to be desired, that I may find rest in you, and that in Your heart alone may be my peace.  You, O lord give true peace to the heart and perfect rest to the body and soul.  Apart from You, all is difficult and never still.  In that peace, in You who are the one, supreme and eternal God, I will sleep and take my rest (Psalm 4:9)’ Amen 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

So Help Me God

I have always looked at the phrase ‘so help me God’ as something to be used to make a point, more of a threat.  But is it? We say it after sweating to tell the truth or make an oath.  I considered it to mean that if I was lying, I would be struck down by the person I was lying to and would need God’s mercy to save me.  Or that God would be the one who would strike me down for lying and again I would have to beg for His help to avoid the punishment that would come upon me from lying. 

Let’s take a moment to look at this from a different tone of voice, from the voice of a humble and just person.  ‘So help me God.’ No longer is this a phrase taken in defense of your honor, but it is admittance of the truth.  If I am taking an oath to ‘tell the truth and nothing but the truth’ I truly do need help from God. Because if we are honest, we never fully know the truth of any situation.  We know the truth from our own experiences, but psychologists have proven over and over that the human brain has flaws and often misses many of the things that go on in any situation. 

This becomes a humbling moment to us as we let down the facade of thinking we know everything and admit that we need God’s help in discovering the truth.

So help me God’  

What about those moments when you know the truth, but are too afraid to say it in fear of hurting someone or fearful of what people may think of you? ‘So help me God’ is also calling up to God asking Him to send down His grace so that we may not be scared of the response that may come from speaking the truth.  If we don’t have God reminding us that speaking the truth is the correct decision to make and that with it comes joining Him in His everlasting kingdom, we would never be able to face the harsh judgments of this world.  

“So help me God though out my day. Help me to recognize and speak the truth.  Help me to live out truth in my life and to not be afraid of the earthly responses I may receive because I know of the joys in Heaven that await me.  Amen”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time Should be Used, Not Use You

Senior year has been freaking me out; actually my best friend Dana is more why I have been freaking out.  Up until a few days ago, I was on the relaxing bandwagon of just seeing where senior year takes me and hoping that God would drop something in my lap before I graduate. 

Last week she called and was freaking out about what she was going to do after graduation and all these adult decisions she was going to have to make and it hit me: I am graduating this year and being thrown into the adult world. (I would tell you the number of months left till I graduate, but I can't really bring myself to count them.) With only ___ months left till graduation I have a lot of lasts I am going to start experiencing; last formal, last initiation, last Husker football game. Part of me wants to say yes I can't wait till initiation, it is going to be such a great time, but then I stop myself and think yes, I can wait, because I realize that when it is time for initiation that means there is only ___ - 1 months left until graduation.  All this counting down freaks me out.

It's not that I am scared to graduate; I can't wait to see the life and experiences God has planned out for me, but I want to make sure that I enjoy all the time I have left in school because I know it will be gone momentarily.  In my diversity class today we got on the topic of how different cultures value time; in America if something is planned from 7-9, we show up at 7 and we leave at 9. The time that we have planned to be somewhere is the only time we give to that event and the people there; as soon as we reach the end of our allocated time, we get up and leave.  Other cultures however, don't focus on time, they are more concerned about the company they are with and the quality conversations they are having with someone. They don't get upset when someone is late, they just figure it is because they were helping out a friend. The last thought on their mind when listening to someone explain their hard day would be the fact that they need to leave in two minutes to make it to another meeting.   I am the worst at this, my schedule is nonstop from 7am to 11pm and some days I think my head is going to explode. What I lack in my life is a little buffer time. Time that I can use to sit down and talk with someone who is having a bad day, time that I can use to catch up with an old friend as I am walking back from class. "time should be used, not use you." My time should be more focused on those that I love, not my TO DO list. 

We have all hear the story in the Bible of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help the injured man even when the priest and Levite passed over him.  I was recently listening to a podcast of Freakanomics where they did a modern day test of this story to see why some people pass over those in need and others help.  What they found was that when testing to see if seminarians would stop to help someone, it didn't matter if they had just heard the story of the good Samaritan, what mattered was how much time they had.  They would always stop and help, unless they were in a hurry, then they would pass right over the man, probably not even noticing him.  Who do you and I pass over that needs our help or even just a simple hello because we are in a hurry or staring at our phones? If I had a few less 'make myself feel good' meetings planning in a day, I could spend time building up those around me. 

This whole using my time wisely and to glorify God also struck a chord as I was listening to Matthew Kelly talk when he made the comment, " When we say yes to the stuff that isn't for us, we miss out on the stuff that is just for us" 

God has a perfect plan for our lives; there are certain places we are supposed to be to meet certain people so that certain lives can be changed.  However, we all to often decide that we have a much better day planned out for us than God does and we take control.  To be fulfilled we try to fill our days with an unreachable To do list.  Everyone can attest that a full day does not mean your day was fulfilling, often it just leaves you stressed and dreading the next day. 

My goal for this semester is to let God into my To do list.  Before I commit I need to ask His advice.  Is this just for me, is this organization or meeting necessary and will it make me a better person, or will it cause me to pass over the opportunities God has placed in my life to fulfill me make me truly happy. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Photos Tell a Thousand Words

Words don't always seem to be able to do justice to stories and memories; Hopefully this video will help provide a visual to everything that I can't explain with words about the mission trip to India.

 "If you want your future to be different from your past, change your habits." Matthew Kelly

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kolkata India Journal

Thank you again to everyone who supported me on my mission trip to Kolkata, it was truly an amazing experience and my hope was to be able to share the trip with you in a more personal way.  I kept a daily journal of all the things that we did, as well as my thoughts and feelings about some of the interactions I had an the relationships I built. 

It is slightly long, so what may be the easiest is to go down to the bottom of the document below and click the full screen button and it will expand it to make it a readable size or you can down load and it will open it up in a more readable view and allow you to print it and not have to stare at a screen. 

I hope that you are able to take the time to read and learn more about what Kolkata was like.  I do apologize for any misspellings or grammar errors.  Most of these journals were written very early in the morning, or late at night when my brain was a little worn out. 
God Bless,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Peace of Mind

Friday night I was home, and I was okay with that.  I sat there feeling as though I should be upset or unhappy that everyone else was probably having a blast, but I wasn’t upset at all. I was more thankful I didn’t have to turn anyone down to go out.  This made me think back to a few years ago and how I had a totally different perspective back then. 

If it was 7pm on a Friday night a few years ago and I didn’t have plans  I would have been devastated, wondering why I didn’t have any friends and thinking about what a loser I was.  It didn’t matter whether or not I actually wanted to go out. There were some nights I wanted to do nothing but sit at home and watch a movie, but I was always worried about missing out and all my friends having so much fun without me.

This is where that feeling of Earthly peace would come in.  I was so overwhelmed with feeling like a dork because that’s what the world told me I would be if I stayed home one night.  My feelings were all based on what other people would think and how I would be viewed.  I felt a sense of peace as soon as that first text would come in with plans for the evening and I would rush to say yes, even if I wanted to do nothing but stay at home or if I didn’t really like what I was about to go do.  It was all about making sure I wasn’t missing out.  Half the time I wouldn’t even have that much fun and just be counting down until it was acceptable for me to head home.  I didn’t feel true peace, what I felt was this “peaceful” sense of living up to the standards of the world. 

Last night at around 7pm I was thinking to myself, “Hmm, I’m 21 I should be wanting to go down town, but I don’t, I would rather be at home spending time with my parents.”  I only have three weeks left of summer, so why would it be a bad thing to spend time with the people that I love the most.  I had no anxiety of worrying about how people would view me. I think this has come with knowing my priorities and learning how much I am loved by God.

 Before knowing this love I was always trying to fill a feeling of emptiness with the acceptance of the world.  Life is so much simpler and peaceful knowing that I don’t have to live up to the standards of the world, because lets be honest, most of them aren’t good standards anyways.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

India- The Poor in Spirit

I get so easily distracted and know what it means to lack the gift of being poor in spirit. I think that if someone were to say ‘give up your life for Jesus’ I would say yes instantly, but yet on a daily basis I fail at this.  Every time I feel the urge to pray, but don’t because of my phone or the TV or something similar, I am
showing God what I think is truly important. Having spiritual poverty (being poor in spirit) means I am willing to drop everything for Jesus, nothing would tie me down or make me say ‘hold on Jesus, be with you in a minute.’  This may be why the material poor are closer to Jesus’ heart, because they don’t have material things that they have made into their own gods and put them before Christ.  They run to embrace the fullness of the Lord when He calls because they can see how much greater He is than anything here on earth, while I often have to respond to a text or finish a quick task before I turn my full attention to God. While in Goa, we saw the people give way more honor and thanksgiving to God in one day than many Americans give in their whole lives.

I think a lot of this comes from all of the things we have and the technology that makes us so self efficient that we don’t think we have to rely on God daily and do things like pray for freshwater because it’s right in our homes, we don’t have to pray for good weather because we can predict it days ahead of times, and we know we will always have more than enough for our next meal.  We have turned from thanking God to thanking ourselves because we think everything is in our control with the touch of a button.  In India, many didn’t know if they would eat their next meal or have clean water, and when they did, they gave great thanks to God for providing it for them.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be glad for all the technology; it is a wonderful thing (when used in the right way).  What I am saying is that we still need to thank The One who gave us the brains to invent such technology and for the ability to have food on our table because of the jobs that we have due to the skills we were given .  God doesn’t want us to have nothing, but he is God, the Creator, the Father, we should depend fully on Him, giving Him the honor and the thanksgiving He deserves for all that He has given us. 

‘Nothing is appreciated more than appreciation’ 

Monday, June 10, 2013

No Such thing as Leprosy -India

(currently in a cyber cafe in India, which is a tiny room that you come in off the street and it costs 15 Rupees (30 cents for an hour), so I'd say a good deal.)  

"There are no lepers, only leprosy and its curable."

A few days ago we went to the leprosy shelter that Mother Teresa built while in India and it was amazing to see the work that she did and what she has built for these people with this disease. Most people with leprosy get abandoned by their family and are looked at as if they are not even human.  I can't even imagine being dumped on the side of the road by those who love you the most, your husbands, brothers, children; because you have a disease that everyone is scared of, even though it is curable.  Those stranded are left to die a long slow lonely death. 

It took a woman like Mother Teresa to set up and give these people their basic human dignity and spread the word that it is wrong to treat others this way.  She took them in off of the streets to show them that people deserve respect and love.  It is amazing to see what this place has grown into since she first opened it.

When we first got there we walked past some of the patients and it hurt to look at them; seeing the missing arms and legs and many were missing eyesight because of the leprosy slowly eating away at their body.  Stranger than seeing this however, was the fact that they would all smile as you went by and bow and tell you hello in Bengali.  They all seemed so happy and it was hard to imagine being in that state and yet being filled with joy. It's amazing what simply giving someone their dignity back to them and treating them with love will do.

As we continued to walk  we went to a different area and saw the jobs that they supplied for the patients while they were getting treated and even for some who have recovered and just are so thankful for the place that they continue to work there and help out.  One of the jobs that they have for them is to make all of the bedding and clothing for the patients in their other homes as well as make the white and blue saris that all of the sisters wear.  One of the girls pointed out something that really made me stop to think; that these people are the ones left to die by society, they aren't even looked at as humans, and yet they are clothing the women who go out on the streets every day and care for all the sick and dying.  It is amazing to think that they are gaining back their human dignity and by clothing the sisters, they are also feeding the hungry and caring for the wounded.  They are doing more good for the world than many of us are capable of doing in our lifetime.

We also got to see the school that was there for the children of the patients and they sung us a bunch of songs in English and Bengali, it was adorable.  These are children that probably wouldn't have gotten an education if their parents hadn't gotten leprosy and been brought here.  They would definitely not be learning English, which is a necessity if you don't want to live in poverty for the rest of your life. 

 God doesn't create suffering, He allows it to happen.  He is like any father, He hates to see his children suffer.  While he doesn't take away all of the anger and pain in the world, he does make it so good can come from it.  These people were abandoned by society, but through God's love they have been taken in and given human dignity and now have incredible hope for their children's futures.  This is true for all of our lives; if we turn to God, even the hardest parts of our lives can be used for good.

--(This trip has been amazing so far and I have so much more to share!  P.S. my spelling doesn't get any better in any country, so sorry if there were errors)

"You will only be scared of the future if you are not using the present correctly" -Mother Teresa

Monday, May 27, 2013

Leaving for India

So tomorrow I star a new adventure as I fly to India for a FOCUS mission trip.  Ever since I went to Haiti last year, all I can think about is how desperately bad some people need our help.

Of course, this help  that they need isn't what most people would expect.  While they do need food and clothing, what they need more is to feel as if they are a true human-being, treated with respect and shown that someone loves them.

Why is it then that when we see someone on the side of the road we automatically feel bad for them because they lack material possessions, cute clothing and food?  Is this perhaps because this is what society has taught us will make us happy? We want to give these things to others because we expect that the lack of these things is what is hurting this person.  Take a moment.  Think of your friend who has the most material possessions and then ask yourself if this person is truly happy. I am going to guess that the answer is probably no.

I have had plenty of friends whose parents work all day every day just so that they can buy them nice things, but at the end of the day they end up just wishing their parents had spent more time with them at home.

What is life without love? To most it would be meaningless.  We need to give meaning to other people's lives and it is so easy to do this.  A simple smile would do the trick and it is amazing that simply asking someone how their day is can make a difference.

Next time you are walking past someone poorer than you sitting on the corner, before you look at your phone and hurry by, take a second to look over and just smile; acknowledge that they are a human too. In God's eyes, you are no greater than they are.

Actually, I would say that 1/2 of the people you walk by on a normal day are feeling unloved, but you can change that.  Someone doesn't have to be homeless to feel like their life doesn't matter.  With our society today so wrapped up in ourselves, it is easy to forget that there are actual people standing all around us waiting for someone to simply smile at them and show that they care.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peace is not a Feeling

A while ago God allowed the devil to place a dark spot on my heart because of my pride .  On the outside, things were fine, but on the inside my brain was going crazy.  I was so concerned with why I wasn’t good enough, what was I lacking, jealousy, thinking of why others weren’t better than me; that I lost my inner peace.  It took hitting this low point to realize that I have been searching for this peace in the wrong places.  I realized how much I care about awards and honors and being able to prove to others that I am a good person.  I had been expecting something for a really long time, something that I felt I deserved and would show to the world how ‘great’ of a person I was.  When I didn’t get it, I was really taken aback.  I couldn’t understand what I was missing.  The devil has been following me everywhere with these thoughts of confusion and jealousy and really caused a lot of doubt in me about who I was.  It took going on a retreat I didn’t think I needed to open my eyes. 

A seminarian spoke to us about peace.  He said that peace is not a feeling.  Which is a slight twist on things because you so often hear people say, ‘I feel peaceful.’  This is how I was searching for peace.  I was searching for the feeling that I thought I would get from being perect.  From having great friends, a great life and great honors.  The problem was that I had gotten plenty of honors in the past, but where did it lead me? Not to peace, it leads me to just search for that next honor or that next accomplishment so that I could feel peace by knowing that I was succeeding at being this ‘great’ person. 

Long story short, what he said was that peace is not a feeling, peace is a person.  Peace is knowing so deep down in your soul who you are, a child willed into existence by God to be loved by him and to join him on the path of showing the world love.  What does peace by this true definition mean? It means that even when the worst possible thing in your life goes wrong (or littlest). That it’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus.  Peace allows us to know Jesus so intimately that we fully rest in him knowing that no matter what the situation is, God will will good to come through it and by enduring these trials, we are understanding how little this life means and accepting the truth that we will live forever in eternity with God, (hopefully).

This is the peace that I want.  Not the feeling of peace that is never achieved because I am always needing more, but peace from knowing confidently that by fully giving my life to God and those around me through sacrificing and suffering and love, that I might have true peace in knowing that I will spend eternity in Heaven with God.  If I knew the true meaning of peace I would not have been crushed by not getting acknowledgment for all that I have done.  I would have found peace because I knew that all my actions were done for love of God and not because I was seeking recognition from those around me.

Peace is not a feeling.  Peace is a person.  Peace is Jesus Christ.  

Like Sheep in the Midst of Wolves

At tonight’s FOCUSgreek event Sister Mary Helen shared some of her experiences from her time as a Gamma Phi Beta and how her prayer life drew her closer to God throughout her years in the house, eventually leading her to discern religious life.  She spoke of the friendships she made and some of the things she faced while living her faith out in the Greek community.  During her talk she kept referring to how she turned to Mathew 10:16 when things seemed to be getting difficult.  Praying with this verse afterwards, I was struck with how relevant it is to living a Christian life while in a fraternity or sorority. 

Mathew 10:16
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.

Let’s start from the beginning; I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves. The term midst of wolves is a pretty accurate description of what it is like to live on a college campus, let alone in the Greek system.  There are so many people out there willing to attack who you are as a person, what you stand for, your values, and your beliefs.  It seems to be especially hard to be a true Christian who lives out their faith without getting looked down on by a majority of the student body.  I think that recently there have been plenty of examples of people standing up for their faith, but getting attacked for voicing their opinion. If something goes against what society tells us is correct, standing up for it only bring stares and snide remarks.  But yet, even with all of this turmoil and uncomfort, it is God who is sending us out into this world.  He has a special plan for us and wants you and me to be directly in the middle of the Greek system, and often in the heart of sin.

 We are His sheep; he has a purpose for us and wants to lead us home.  Sheep are often looked upon as these clueless animals who just roam the pastures trusting in their shepherd.  Well maybe, just maybe, that is what God is calling us to do.  We don’t need to know the answers to everything or win every battle; we just need to be sheep.  We need to be the sheep that always trust in their shepherd. If we trust God, our shepherd, with our whole heart, we go about living our lives not in fear, but in peace and joy because we know that we are safe because the Lord is always there watching over us and wanting to steer us from danger.  If we live our lives with our Shepherd as our guide, we should never worry, even with the threat of wolves in the distant because as long as we follow the path the Lord has laid out for us, He will lead us safely home. 

“be shrewd as serpents”

To be shrewd means to be cunning, good with judgment, or having a clever awareness.  He tells us to be shrewd as serpents referring to the slyness that serpents have as they move around, always slightly out of reach and slipping away from danger.  Think back to Adam and Even in the garden, the serpent didn’t tell them that God didn’t exist; he simply tried to enter into their hearts and convince them that they could be like God if they would only eat the fruit.  What if we lived our lives like this; if we looked through other people’s eyes to see into their hearts and find their emptiness? We would be able to find their confusion and present them with the truth of God that would reach their hearts on a personal level. 

What if we had the cunning awareness that Jesus possessed as he spoke in the temples? He was aware of objections that may come his way and knew the best response before he was even questioned.  However, he wouldn’t use argument to win them over; instead he would answer a question with a question, stopping the claims against him and causing those around him to think deeper. Jesus teaches us that it is important to be aware of the attacks the world may throw at us and be ready to question the world back. 

“simple as doves”

We can all take a lesson from the doves; the birds that fly around free, not held down by the world, but spend every day enjoying the gift of life God gave them.  Doves are not worried about possessions or money or the opinions of others.  They don’t carry suitcases around with material objects they think will make them happy.  Instead, they let each day guide them in a new direction, following the divine call where ever it may lead them.  What if we could live a life like this? Not letting anything hold us down and always being open to where the Holy Spirit may call us?

I challenge you to take five minutes and read the rest of this verse below.  Close your eyes and open your ears.  What is God saying to you as He speaks these words to you?  Is he giving you support? Is he asking you to be a witness? Is he calling you to be courageous?  

"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

How will I spend eternity ?

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there also, will your heart be.

One of the most wondered questions is probably what Heaven will be like.  Some people say that you will spend eternity surrounded by the thing that you loved the most. I don’t know if this is true, but to me this seems like a pretty fair deal; God is going to allow you a never ending supply of whatever you placed the most focus on during life.    This got me thinking; if today the world ended and God was going to let me live forever based on what I cared the most about; what would it be?

            I don’t think I actually know the answer to this question.  I would like to be able to say right away that it was obvious that what I cared most about in this world was God and His love for me, but if I look at my daily life honestly, I don’t know if that would be the case.  Just the other day I remembered that I still needed to do my daily devotional, but I had to leave for work in ten minutes and decided I needed to curl my hair instead.  What does this say about me? For one thing, I think that this just shows how much I care about what others think of me.  I constantly worry about how I look, if I am funny, if I say the right thing, or what my reputation is; instead of spending this time in prayer or simply enjoy the way God made me.  (Even as I sit here I wonder what others will think as they read this and if they will like it.) I don’t want this to be the focus of my life, but the human side of the world constantly tries to pull me in and my sins bring me down.

        Wow, what would eternity be like if I only lived to focused on the thought of being liked by others? I would never feel peace.  It would be impossible for me to feel truly happy because I would constantly be living my life based on how someone else thinks I should act.  And if we logically think about the millions of people out there who all have their own different views, then I will never be able to have everyone’s acceptance because no matter what I do, someone will disagree.  Living under the impossible want to please everyone would cause some major stress and unhappiness for eternity; hence probably a large amount of the stress and worry that I face in this present life. 

            Now, let’s think about what eternity may be like if I spent it the way that God intended; surrounded by His love, engulfed by His love.  We would never have to worry another day in our lives.  God wants nothing but our happiness, and being God, He can make sure that nothing will take this happiness away.  In Heaven there will be no more sin, meaning there will be no more pain, no sadness, and never feeling unloved or unaccepted.  You would live your life in peace, with everything that you may ever need, because God’s love is all you need. 

            This life on earth isn’t God giving us a test to see if we love Him, its God giving us is a choice.   He wants us to love Him because we chose to return the love He gives to us; not because we are forced to or because we feel guilty.  The next time I have the choice to spend an extra fifteen minute fixing my hair or giving it up to God, I need to think about what I want the focus of my life to be and how I want to spend eternity, so that when God gives me a life of what I love most, it will be Him. 

Matthew 6:25
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why can't I pray?

Beloved, Clothe yourself in humility

Something has been lacking lately.  I just didn’t know what it was.  That’s a lie, I knew exactly what has been missing; Jesus. I had been feeling separated from him; but I was trying to fill that longing with many things but Jesus. Things I don’t usually struggle with like facebook and chocolate, (I don’t hardly ever eat chocolate, I don’t even really like most chocolate), but it became the only thing I desired, but it wasn’t satisfying me. And in the end the replacements just caused me to feel worse about myself.  

It started clicking in my head that my prayer life had been suffering.  I was no longer feeling a pull towards disappearing in silence to pray and personally listen to Jesus.  I was still going to mass, saying little prayers in the morning and evening, and chatting to Jesus randomly throughout my day; often though, it was because I felt guilty and like I had to do it, so I was just squeezing it in.  I became a weight and couldn’t get off the couch, founding facebook the most interesting thing ever whenever I was planning on going to the chapel to pray.

I could tell a difference too, my relationships all seemed farther apart and things in bible study weren’t running as smoothly, I was stumbling over words and not be as prepared as I needed to be.  

I kinda realized that I needed to make a change; I was going to win my battle with the devil and was going to build back up my prayer life.  I knew I could do it as long as I put in the effort.  I could fix bible study if I would just reach out more to girls and make it more exciting.

For a little bit, things were kinda better, I stopped in to pray more and was trying to read scriptures, but I was still dragging my feet to do it, pushing back the start time, convincing myself it was okay to leave early; and I was still feeling as though something was out of place.

I didn’t understand why until today.  It finally hit me that this whole time I have been having an I am Courtney, I can do anything attitude. “I was going to win the battle; I knew I could do it.”  I was really lacking humility; I can’t do anything without God’s grace.  I needed to clothe myself in humility.  I was trying to fight these battles without him, instead of asking him to fight the battle for me. I was his beloved; he didn’t want to see me fight these battles on my own, he wanted me to realize how much I do need his help so that he could step in and take my hand.

 It was like a weight was lifted as I handed my broken prayer life back to God and asked him to fix it.  I knew that he could do anything, and that I needed him to guide me.  It was amazing, the almost instant switch; after mass I didn’t want to leave, I could have sat and prayed all night.  I felt peace and joy as I left the church.  Let’s just hope this zeal continues, and it will as long as I am putting my battles in God’s hands and not trying to fight them on my own. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Feast of St. Joseph

St. Joseph is not someone I often think to in depth about.  We all know he played a role in Jesus’ life, but he doesn't get much mention in, we only hear of him three times in the Bible: after the conception, the birth, and the finding in the temple.  However, we know he was the adoptive father of Jesus, a pretty important role, so we shouldn't be so quick to pass over who he is and his life.

Tuesday was the feast day of St. Joseph and we were told about a shrine to him about five minutes from where we were in St. Louis.  We figured we would check it out, expecting it to be a statue in the middle of a park, but much to our surprise, it was a gorgeous church. Looking up to a statue of St. Joseph, it really hit me how amazing of a man he was and the example that he set.   

First, let’s look at his ability to give up his own dreams for God’s plans.  I am sure he was expecting to be like any other good Jewish boy and have lots of children to pass down his name to and raise them to be good Jewish men.  But he knew God had a greater plan, even if he didn't understand it, and went with that.  He trusted the angel that God sent to him and a dream and from that day on strove to do his best in this new role God called him to.

What impresses me more about him is his humility and ability to not seek praise.  I mean his son was going around preaching as a child and of course being sinless and just a great all around kid, but he wasn’t acting like most parents and taking credit for everything his child did.  It would have been easy for Joseph to take all the praise for the holiness of Jesus, since it would appear to most people that Jesus was his son and that Joseph raised him to be such an inspiring and behaved young child.  However, Joseph knew none if it was his own doing and that it all came from God. He took no credit for the amazing son he raised.  What an example for us all, we often do great works and claim them as our own, even though we could do nothing on our own and it is all God working through us. 

Leastly, think of his faith.  He only knew the child Jesus.  He never saw any of the miracles worked or heard any of Jesus’ preaching and teachings; but yet he still put all his faith in God and knew that God would fulfill his promises and good would proceed.  What a lesson to us all; trusting so much in God to change our life plans, continuing to believe and have faith even when there are no mighty signs, and knowing that God deserves the glory behind all that we do.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lenten Challenge:

Amanda presented FOCUS Greek with a challenge during this Lenten season: go to Mass every day and go to confession once a week for a month. Now I know most of you think this is insane due to the crazy busy schedule of a Greek student because we are constantly on the pursuit of excellence. But just hear her out. 

Going to mass and confession transforms us, every time we receive these sacraments we are made more into the image and likeness of Christ and get stronger every time we go. I know that it seems like an extra hour a day is a lot to give up; that between homework and meetings there is no time. But the point she made was that if you start to go to mass every day you won’t need to study as much or work as hard on your projects. (And no she isn’t telling you that you will stop caring about school). 

When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, our relationship with God was broken and our intellect diminished. But, every time that we expose ourselves to Christ, He makes us more himself. When we go to mass and confession we can think clearer in all aspects of life because we no longer carry around the burden of sin. When we grow in closer to Jesus we no longer worry about what others think of us, how we look, or what are future will hold because we know that our relationship with God is what truly matters. She personally experienced just how true this was as she started attending daily mass and realized her school work got easier and she built stronger relationships with her sorority sisters. She promises that if you do this for a month you will never stop, you will realize how much better your life has become with Jesus as the center and will want to continue to grow.

Mother Teresa had the Missionaries of Charity saying a holy hour a day and as they began to expand and help more and more people the sisters asked her to decrease the holy hour to a half hour so that they could have more time helping people. Instead of following their request Mother Teresa upped the time to two hours. However, instead of helping less people, they ended up doubling the amount of people they were able to help.

Lesson learned: when we give the time to God that he deserves, he gives us the time to accomplish the things that we need to do. Think of what the Greek system could become if we all committed to going to daily mass and confession every week.

What it means to have Faith

Many of us claim to have faith.  But do we live this faith out? Do we really understand what it means to have faith?  Alpha Phi alumni, Amanda Teixeria, spoke at UNL's FOCUSgreek about her experience coming to college and realizing what it truly means to live out her faith.

 How do we live out our faith? By first knowing Jesus and then by sharing Him.

There are three types of relationships with Jesus:

1.      He is outside of our lives and has nothing to do with how we live
2.      He is only part of our lives.  We fit Him in during free time between practices, schools, and meetings.  He is just another activity in our schedule. 
3.      He is the center of our lives and everything we do revolves around our friendship with Christ

Another way that I sometimes like to think of this is: 1. We don’t realize that our actions are sins because we don’t know Jesus, 2. We know that what we are doing is wrong, but we continue to do it anyways and pretend like Jesus won’t mind, 3. we have Him in the center of our lives and try to avoid all sin because we realize how much it pains Him.  Being Greek makes it often hard to have Jesus at the center of our lives, we are constantly chasing after the next best thing to put us on top and we fill our lives with distracting temptations.

When Amanda would go to Frat parties, everyone would always feel sorry for her because she wasn’t drinking; but she knew she wasn’t missing out on anything, they were.  She knew that through her connection with Christ she was living in reality.  He reveals us to ourselves. We no longer try to be like anyone else, but are free to be who we were created to be.  It is attractive to see someone who knows who they are and is living a life of joy and freedom.  This is why we urgently need to build our life around Jesus; there will be ups and downs, but it will be the wildest adventure you have ever been on and the best.  God takes our small plans, blows them up, and then invites us to go on an even greater ride.   

Step two seems to scare people a lot more: Sharing Jesus

If our lives truly do revolve around Jesus and we know His love, then we would be so compelled to share His love that everyone around us would also know Jesus.  It has been said that we can see our own relationship with God based on how we invite others to know Jesus. 

People often think they are quoting St. Francis of Assisi when they say, “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” The thing is, he didn’t say this.  In fact, he believed something far from it.  He would often travel to up to five towns a day preaching the Gospel using words.  If I see someone helping an old lady across the street I wouldn’t just think, “Wow that person must really know Christ, I want to know Him too.” All people see is a good person.  If we never use our words, then who are we witnessing to? Ourselves? You need your words to proclaim that your actions are because you know Jesus loves you, otherwise some people may never connect the dots.

What should really be our motto is, “Use your words to proclaim God’s love; but if your actions don’t match up, then your words are useless.” What this is saying is that unless we live out what we say our faith teaches us, people will just consider us hypocrites and never feel the need to know Jesus.   

Now, imagine what might happen if we never say anything at all:  It’s the end of your life, you are riding the escalator up to Heaven when you look over and see your fraternity brother or your sorority sister on another escalator that’s going down.  What is more awkward: bringing up Jesus in a conversation now, or the moment when they look you in the eye at the end of your life and ask “why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t I deserve to be told so that I might be in Heaven also?” Let’s just say I personally hope I never hear those words.  Our Greek houses don’t need another funny guy who cracks jokes about how drunk they were the night before or someone who was on exec for all four years and is awesome; what they need is someone they can rely on to be a witness for Christ. They might not know it now, but being that witness is the best gift you could possibly give them.   Every year since Amanda has graduated she has gotten a letter or facebook message from one of her sorority sisters letting her know that they have come to know Jesus in their lives and thanking her for being that witness for them. 

People notice, even if they don’t say anything.  Our words might not bear fruit now, but they will later.  God’s hears our prayers and won’t let them go empty.   

One way to be a witness is through the idea of servant leadership; that by serving others, you become a leader.  (Prime example: Jesus) The small things do matter.  Do things that are counter cultural; by putting yourself last behind the pledges or simply just throwing out the trash when it gets full, our actions will back up our words and people will start to follow us on our journey for God. 

We don’t need to be perfect to preach the gospel, but we do need to be trying.  The biggest pitfalls we Greeks face are chastity, sobriety, and excellence.  Chastity and sobriety can be the biggest temptations and also the most detrimental to our witness.  If we are not living out the words of Jesus, why would they change their lives if they see that our lives are not changed?  Don’t let your actions turn someone away from finding God and spending eternity in Heaven.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hurting Jesus

Getting hurt, hurts. It’s as simple as that.  Especially if it is someone close to you causing the pain.  Recently I was let down by someone and I was really finding it hard to forgive them.  I wanted to, I know I needed to, I know that God was asking me to.  We know that anger only wears us down, so why do we stay angry?  I needed some advice, so I figured why not just go to confession and talk a priest (AKA Jesus).  After I was finished explaining the hurt and my inability to make it go away and forgive, he gave me some simple advice: 
Think about the last time that you hurt Jesus the way that you were recently hurt.”

After finally being open and entrusting once again, I just felt alone and lied to.  I think I am only beginning to understand how I do this to Jesus daily.  I tell him that I love him; that I want to give him my whole life (like I have said millions of times before).  He starts to trust that I will follow through this time and that I am willing to drop all worldly things and distractions for him.  He gives me his whole heart; he dies for me so that my sins may be forgiven and I can start fresh.  And then what do I do?  I say, just kidding I still want control; I want to do my own thing and forget about how You trusted me when I said I would give up my life for You, like You did for me.    I lie to him, I leave him alone. 

I couldn’t have asked for better advice.  Whenever someone wrongs me and I start to feel angry, I just think back to when hurt Jesus in that way; and let’s be honest, it was probably in the last ten minutes.  I can’t begin to imagine how much more pain Jesus feels when we wrong Him, way more than we have ever felt.  We should all make a commitment to stop hurting Jesus, stop lying to him, stop punching him in the stomach.  Thankfully, no matter what we do, He still loves us, and that alone should make us cringe at the thought of ever wronging Him.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Second Sorrowful Mystery

While on a rosary walk the other day, we were reflecting on the mysteries and as he read the second sorrowful mystery, something really hit me hard.

Second Sorrowful Mystery
Pilate said unto them: “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all say unto him: “Let him be crucified!” And the governor said: “Why, what evil hath he done”? But they cried out the more, saying: “Let him be crucified!” (Mathew 27) So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus Scourged, handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15)

I remember growing up and even to this day being discussed at this story.  This crowd had no reason to hate Jesus and still yelled crucify him, crucify him; trying to condemn him to a miserable and torturous death.  And Pilate, finding no fault of his own, decided to go along with the crowd to satisfy them by handing Jesus to be crucified to prevent the crowd from turning on him. I always got so angry thinking that it was so easy for them to turn their backs on Jesus, the savior of the world, and wish unthinkable pain upon him.  What hit me hard during that rosary was the fact that every day I am the crowd, and I am also Pilate. 

While I might not physically yell out crucify him, every time I sin that is exactly what I am saying.  Every time I know God’s will and yet decide to break his rules and do my own thing, I am saying crucify him, crucify him.  Jesus died for my sins, for your sins. That means that every time we sin, we are the one driving the nail deeper into his hands; that little sin we don’t think is a big deal is an extra lash from the whip tearing into his skin.   

Pilate on the other hand, didn’t want to harm Jesus because he knew he was innocent and Pilate didn’t want to do anything wrong; but he was more worried about what the crowd would think of him than doing the right thing.  By standing by and watching other people sin and not saying anything, I am being Pilate.  I am going along with what I know is wrong and ignoring Jesus’ silent plea to help him. By lack the courage to stand up for my beliefs and continuing to watch others sin, I am allowing Jesus to be crucified.
This is a sobering fact, when you think of all the things you do throughout your day that are just adding extra pain and suffering to Jesus’ crucifixion.  Take a minute to think about where your life needs to change so that you are no longer silently yelling crucify him, crucify him.  Even those little sins are an extra blow of the hammer, are they worth it?