Sunday, October 29, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
God is not found in intellect & reason - nor in books will you find that for which you pine.
Living water flows forth from God - coming to quench the desert soul.
If there's still anyone out there who checks my blogs weekly, I apologize for this later than typical post. My weekend was rather full... and Monday was a "day of rest" for me. So... all I can say is, "better late than never?" *smile*
Last week, on Thursday to be exact, I took the advice of both Sr. Gretchen and my spiritual director. I went in search of my "right brain" creativity. There is a small town about 45 minutes away named Boerne (pronounced as a German word - "Burn-ey"). This town is what I call cute. It has antique shops that line Main Street - a nature center with walking trails - restaurants with porches to overlook the small river or grassy areas - and a beautiful Catholic Church.
I spent about 3 1/2 hours in Boerne last Thursday. I sat in the church for a long while... listening to the flow of the baptismal font and watching the trees outside. The weather wasn't nice enough that morning to venture outside. But... I was content. And as I sat... I let my mind wonder... and my guard down... and ended up writing a few thoughts. I suppose some would call it poetry. For me, it's just insights gained while sitting in the church. Actually, two of them came to me while in the car on my way there. Amazing what happens when you drive without a radio!
Then, after having lunch outside and meditating in the church (and a 15 or 20 minute nap in there somewhere), I went for coffee and desert at a restaurant where I could sit outside. I was there for probably about 45 minutes... writing a little more... sipping coffee very relaxed... and enjoying some of the best peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream I've had in a while.
So, why do I tell you this?
Thursday was a fairly significant day for me. Not only did I re-discover a creative energy that I had neglected, but that creative energy connected me with God in a deeper way. And that is a grace for which I am grateful.
With prayers & blessings for you all!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Life is funny, you know. On the one hand, a person strives to be better - to be the best person he or she can be - to grow closer to God by doing all the "right things" - to be "perfect," so to speak. On the other hand, we are reminded that it's not by our efforts that God's grace is given. It is in total abandonment that we are open to receiving Grace freely given.
Total abandon to God. What does that mean? That's where my prayer has taken me this week. How does one do that?
I met with my spiritual director this past Thursday. She tells me, "Nicole... relax... just be." Yeah, right, like that's an easy thing for me! I'm sure those of you who know me are laughing right now. I don't even think the word "relax" is in my vocabulary!
Why the words of wisdom? Because, it seems, I'm trying too hard... and not allowing God to do what God needs to do. In my efforts at trying to be "perfect" (Am I growing enough? Am I learning as much as I possibly can? Am I closer to God today than I was 2 weeks ago? and other such questions), I'm getting in God's way... And causing myself a little undue stress.
Stress is a strong word. But I use it in its most mild sense, if there is such a thing. You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist... and I kinda like being in control... otherwise, how can I assure that everything will turn out the way I want it? (written, of course, with ironic humor) Sometimes I think God must just say, "Ahh, Nicole... relax... I've got it." But do I hear that? Nope. I'm usually spending too much time telling God what to do. *smile*
Several weeks ago I wrote about the purpose of the novitiate process. In that post, I quoted Fr. Paul Molinari, SJ as stating:
Under the same divine action, as the novice enters upon this time of initiation, he or she desires above all to acquire that loving familiarity with Christ leading to that knowledge of the heart possessed because of the deep unitive love that is present.... Clearly, what is required is that the novice, first and foremost, be given the opportunity to come to know Christ, not in any abstract and theoretical way, but by entering into an experience similar to that of the first disciples...
The Novitiate: Initiation into Christ's Way of Life
At the time that I quoted Fr. Paul, I understood this to at least somewhat depend upon my efforts. As if I could "make" this happen just by pure will. Right now, I just shake my head. It's not by my work. I have to be open and be receptive to the Spirit who is already at work in my life. It's not a matter of "doing all the right things" and reading all the books I can possibly get my hands on about growing in my spirituality. It's about total abandon to God... and being responsive to God's gentle guidance.
Of course, me being who I am, these are difficult realizations with which to live (from a practical standpoint). I still ask myself (almost daily), "What, exactly, does it mean to abandon myself to God?" And, of course, I ask "How do I know if I'm doing it right?" How ridiculous! There is no "right way." This is not exactly a precise science where everyone can follow the same method to get to a desired outcome. Oh, how much easier for me if the spiritual life was a science...
And so... how am I at the end of another week? I'm doing well.
I'm starting to see life... discernment... God... myself... in completely new ways. I'm questioning... and learning to live without all the answers. I'm learning that sometimes ambiguity is a good thing. And... that I can't force myself to grow closer in my relationship with Christ. There are things that help, OF COURSE (prayer, Eucharist, quiet, reflection etc.)... but all of that just allows me to be more receptive to the Grace that is showered upon me at every moment. A person, no matter what personality type, can't control Grace...
As I type this post, I smile. God has such interesting ways of teaching & guiding me. For God's patience, I am grateful. I seem to be a slow learner... *smile*
Thanks for checking in!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) each quote Jesus speaking about denying oneself. However, Luke phrases things with a slightly different twist. Luke added a word to the sentence. And to me... it makes a lot of difference. What's the word, you ask? - "daily" -
Yep... one simple, five-letter word makes all the difference. In other words, denying oneself is not a one time thing... neither is carrying one's cross. It's a daily decision. And, I don't know if anyone else notices this, but it's not really negotiable, either. So... not only does one have to deny oneself constantly... and carry their cross... there's no "ifs, ands or buts" about it.
You might wonder what brought me to these reflections. It's not often that I begin my blog with a brief exegetical statement (yep... I'm even making up new words...)... Well, I'm glad you asked...
It seems to me that before this week I'm not sure that I ever really understood what Jesus meant. No, that's not right. It's not that I didn't understand. It's just that I hadn't ever really lived it... or understood it from a practical perspective. What does that mean day in and day out? What does that mean in the context of religious life? I suppose you could say that I came face-to-face with the fact that academic or theological knowledge/understanding doesn't mean much of anything until you really examine whether you are living the reality.
Before people start wondering... no... I'm not carrying some heavy burden. Nor am I going through some difficulty. I'm just honestly looking at myself... hearing this call to deny myself... "knowing" (from an academic perspective) about the vows... and saying, "Are there things in my life that don't live up to this?"
The vow of obedience, in my understanding, is a call to listen and respond to God's promptings. It is the humble realization, also, that I may not be able to figure that out alone. God speaks through the people in our lives. That's a fact that I'm sure many wouldn't argue. And so, in community life there is shared discernment. I can no longer make decisions as if I'm a singular, autonomous person living her Christian life on her own.
Now... that's all well and good in theory until a person is challenged. And yes... I am challenged - daily (in a good way). I should have learned this lesson long ago: things don't always happen the way I want them to. Duh. But the thing is... the vow of obedience (again in my limited understanding) is a complete denial of self will. It's not my will that matters. I've known that for a long time. It's just a lot more difficult when my will doesn't seem to match God's.
I find myself saying to God at times... "But God, I really want..." or "God, I can't do that/ not do that/ give that up/ go here..." And sometimes I hear myself praying, "God, why would you want such-and-such? Wouldn't you rather x-y-or-z??" As if God will one day say, "You know, Nicole, you're right." *smile*
On Wednesday of this week I went to the 12:15 Mass at St. Mary's Univ. because we don't have a community Mass on Wednesdays. As I was praying before Mass began, a song refrain came to my mind... and it wouldn't go away. "Father, I put my life in your hands." It's from John Michael Talbot's rendition of Psalm 31. That became my prayer. To put my life... my will... my all... in the hands of God.
I'm sure there are other times in my life when I've made some form of that statement my prayer. But this time I think it was different. It was as if I wasn't the one controlling the words. They were welling up within me without much thought on my part.
But, that was Wednesday... and as is written in the 9th chapter of Luke's Gospel... denying oneself and taking up one's cross is a daily thing...
And so... my journey of self discovery and "God discovery" continues. And what an interesting (and quick!) road it's been so far. I can hardly believe that it's already October. I understand that as an indication that things are going well. And, indeed, I believe things are going very well for me here.
Thanks for checking in. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
With many prayers,