Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Purple || Lent 2014, Day 7 #CSLentIPJ

PURPLE

Purple is the color of both the Advent season and the Lenten season.  Both seasons are supposed to be penitential seasons, times of repenting and turning back to the Lord.

It is striking that during Advent, we wait for the birth into this world of our Savior. During Lent, we wait for the resurrection at Easter, and the promise of our own resurrection and rebirth from death into new life in Christ.

Purple is one of those colors that always looks better on others than on me.  As I write that line, I am convicted by the idea that oftentimes being sorrowful for wrongdoings and repentant also look better on others than on me.  It's a wonder that I can see past that plank in my own eye to nitpick the splinter in the eye of someone else.

This repentance gig is a tough one.  It is never easy to take stock of yourself and shine a light into all the dark corners of your soul.  Thank goodness for the sacrament of reconciliation and for God's mercy.

Luke 6:41-42

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reflection || Lent 2014, Day 6 #CSLentIPJ

REFLECTION

One of the most fun parts of the past several months with baby Bethy (who will be a year old in just a few weeks, something that boggles my mind) has been watching her interact with her reflection in a mirror.

At first, she simply saw another baby and would reach for the face, not realizing how that other baby mirrored her own actions.  Now, she sees the baby in the mirror and held by the image of her Mommy (me) in the mirror and I can almost see the light bulb over her head click on -

That's me!

Mirrors aren't the only ways we see reflections of ourselves.  Some of the most telling and important reflections of ourselves are the ones we see mirrored in others.  Our words, our body language, our smiles or our frowns, our very dispositions can often be seen mirrored in our children, our spouses, our friends, even the stranger on the street.

Those are the reflections that can uplift us the most, like seeing our children intentionally practice kindness and patience with each other using our very own words and expressions.

But those reflections can also cut the deepest, like seeing those same children react in frustration, anger, or despair in the same fashion we do when faced with a challenging situation.

And the word reflection - and it's partner, mirror - remind me of one of my all time fave lines from the Bible, one that I go to again and again and again when my mind simply cannot wrap itself around the unknowns of whatever challenge I face:
"For now we see in a mirror [a]dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." 1 Cor 13:12

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Eucharist || Lent 2014, Day 5 #CSLentIPJ

EUCHARIST

Grateful.

I have Ann Voskamp's blog and book to thank for my knowledge of the Greek word eukaristos which means grateful or thanksgiving.  I've read her blog on and off again for several years (and am in an "off again" period right now as I am with pretty much everything that has to do with blogging).  She's written extensively about the idea of living a eucharistic life, a life centered on gratitude, even on the hard days.

It's so easy to be grateful in the good times.  It's also so easy to be grateful after the hard times are over.

But to be actively seeking, offering, and living out gratitude during the hard times?

That one is a challenge, perhaps the challenge we face as Christians.  To look at our sufferings and our shortcomings and our failures and our pain and say, "Thank you, God," for the hard times and for the small moments of grace within the hard times.

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Faith || Lent 2014, Day 4 #CSLentIPJ

FAITH

Faith, faith, faith - oh, how I struggle with this one.

Just last night, late, I was at church for my weekly hour of Eucharistic adoration after a long week and a Friday that saw me at the heights of sunny optimism in the morning and the depths of despair and discouragement by the end of the evening.  My knees hit the kneeler and the first thing words I prayed were these words from Mark:
"I believe!  Help my unbelief!"
Faith isn't easy and that's as it should be because faith is a gift.  It's one of the theological virtues (right up there with hope and love) which means there is nothing I can do to "get" more faith.  Faith, hope, and love (charity) are all from God:
"The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity." CCC 1813 (emphasis mine)
Oftentimes, just like the boy's father in the Gospel of Mark, we believe, but....

But life is hard.

But there is so much suffering.

But I am mocked by others for my faith.

All these buts, all of these conditions that we put upon God, essentially saying that we require God to make this life perfection for us in order to believe fully and faithfully.

We have it all. mixed. up.

This life isn't supposed to be perfect for us.

This life is supposed to perfect us.

And if we are meant to be perfected, well then, that means we are starting from a less than perfect place.  It means that we are all flawed and broken and in need of improvement, no matter who we are in life or where we are in life.

And the only way to improve - in life, in sports, in anything - is practice, practice, practice.

It takes faith, big bucket loads of faith, to see those tough moments of life, the deep valleys that seem endless and dark tombs whose walls press in on us, as practice, practice, practice.

And so we pray -

"I believe!  Help my unbelief!"

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Test || Lent 2014, Day 3 #CSLentIPJ

TEST

While hopping around the internet yesterday, I came across this quote:

"Without work, there is no rest; without struggle, no victory." - by a Saint whose name escapes both me and Google right now

Life is full of tests, and yet we fear them and worry over them.  From tests in school and evaluations at work to the tests that come our way out of seemingly nowhere - an illness, loss of a job, a failed relationship.  Being tested by life is simply part of life.

I've been tested more times than I can count and as hard as those times have been, they have only served to strengthen me in some way - sometimes in body, but mostly in spirit - making those testing, dark valley times of my life a good thing in the end.  But still I often find myself standing on the top of the mountain in good times, not always able to enjoy the view, but instead worried about the next valley, the next test.

Maybe sometimes the truest test in life is to simply be in the moment, to let go of worry and simply enjoy the view.

Matthew 6:25-34

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Virtue || Lent 2014, Day 2, #CSLentIPJ

VIRTUE

How ironic that today's prompt is virtue; I'm currently in a bible study that is using a guide called Courageous Virtue.  We are about halfway through the study; the virtue we are discussing right now is self-control (temperance) which fits nicely into this Lenten season.

There have been so many good discussions in our group as we cover the different virtues - the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance) and the three theological virtues (faith, hope, love).  One topic we come back to again and again is how virtue is portrayed in a negative light in our culture.  To be virtuous is nearly synonymous with being a boring old prude.

But most people are aiming for being more virtuous in their lives whether they realize it or not.  Virtue, as defined by the Catholic Church, is:

"Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good." - CCC 1833

Every time you make a New Year's resolution or buy the latest self-help guide or even just ask a trusted friend for their honest opinion about your faults, you're seeking virtue.  That innate desire to improve yourself in some fashion is the desire for a more virtuous life.

A life without virtue - a life lived in a reckless, unfair, cowardly, and gluttonous manner, a life filled with doubt, despair, and hate - is a wasted life, a life that neither inspires others nor satisfies the soul.

Phil 3:14

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dust || Lent 2014, Day 1 #CSLentIPJ

DUST

No one likes to talk about death, myself included.  It's just too uncomfortable, too far off, and too much of a downer for most people. The problem with this, of course, is that very few people are prepared to face their own death when that day finally comes due.

The Catholic Church, in her wisdom, kicks off Lent with Ash Wednesday and literally slaps us upside the head (or gently crosses us on the forehead, depending on your parish) with a reminder that death waits for all of us  - that from ashes we have come and to ashes we will return.

The smudgy cross on my forehead today?  It's a reminder that I am a shiny speck of dust in the whirlwind of life, and that life is very, very short.

Lent reminds me to do my best to live a life with no regrets, a life that focuses on loving others, loving God, and loving God by loving others.

And it reminds me that love DOES.  Love is a verb, as cliched as that saying is.

Love gives.

Love sacrifices.

Love always seeks the best of and for the other.

And, in the end, love is what remains.

1 John 4:7-21

This post is inspired by Catholic Sistas Lent 2014 Instagram Photo Journal.