Will You Get in the Wheel Barrow

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I heard this kind of humorous tale about faith and trust recently. It goes like this:

A man was tight roping across a canyon and he had a huge crowd watching him from below. He made it across successfully and the crowd erupted into cheers. They shouted “Do it again! Do it again! We know you can do it!”

So he said, “Should I do it blindfolded this time?”

“Yes! We believe in you! Do it again!

“Ok. What if I do it blindfolded pushing a wheel barrow?”

“Yes! We believe in you!”

“Do you think I can do it blindfolded, pushing a wheel barrow with someone inside?”

“Yes! We believe in you! You can do anything!”

“Ok. Who wants to sit in the wheel barrow?”

*cricket. cricket.*

You see, they believed in him as long as they didn’t have to get involved. As long as they weren’t personally taking a risk. And that’s kind of what life with God is like. It’s fine to say you trust Him and believe He can do anything. But are you willing to get in the wheelbarrow? I had an amazing opportunity present itself yesterday and if I go through with it, it’s going to take an amazing amount of trust. I’ll be taking a risk and changing plans that I thought would never change. The Lord is inviting me on a wheelbarrow ride across a canyon. I just have to decide if I’m going to get in.

I’ll let you in on the details once I make a decision.

Peace and blessings!

Lenten Reflections Round 1

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It’s my first Lent as a confirmed Catholic and I’ve done some reflecting on my journey with Christ so far in my life.

Sometimes, I get a little discouraged about my walk with Jesus. Sometimes I feel like I’m so far from being holy that it’s almost pointless. Almost. But this past week I’ve been getting much encouragement from people and I’m not sure that many of them even know that what they have said has meant that much to me. But it has. For instance, I was doing the readings at my parish’s Ash Wednesday mass and later my friend emailed me and told me that I was glowing and that she loved how she could see the Holy Spirit filling me and transforming me. It gave me so much encouragement because I had felt a little like I was stuck. Like I wasn’t going anywhere on the path Christ had me on. Sometimes it’s easier for others to see the changes within us that it is to see them in ourselves. Sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves and expect more of ourselves than even God does. God is much more gentle with us than we like to think at times.

So after all of these encouraging comments, I started to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am now and a little of where I might be heading. And I’ve seen how much I’ve truly grown and changed in just the last year. I look back on who I was when I began my Lenten journey last year (and was finishing the last part of my journey to confirmation) and I’m amazed at how God has transformed me. I see more growth than I saw in all the previous 4 years of my journey with Christ. Of course there was growth in those first 4 years and I wouldn’t be where I am without them, but my growth has been so much deeper now that I’m Catholic. I know that I still have to persevere. I’m nowhere near the finish, yet. But it’s encouraging to remind myself that growth is possible. I’ve done it before and I’m still growing. Sometimes it just takes other people to make us believe it’s true. So if you see something wonderful that the Spirit is doing in someone, tell them. It might give them some encouragement you didn’t even know they needed.

Peace and blessings!

What’s in your basket?

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I have a practice of opening to a random passage in the Bible while in adoration and then seeing what God wants me to learn from that passage. Today, I opened to Zechariah 5:5-11.

The angel appeared again and said, “Look! Something else is coming!”

“What is it?” I asked. He replied,

“It is a basket, and it stands for the sin of the whole land.”

The basket had a lid made of lead. As I watched, the lid was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! The angel said, “This represents wickedness.” Then he pushed her down into the basket and put the lid back down. I looked up and saw two women flying toward me with powerful wings like those of a stork. They picked up the basket and flew off with it.

I asked the angel, “Where are they taking it?”

He answered, “To Babylonia, where they will build a temple for it. When the temple is finished, the basket will be placed there to be worshiped.”

At first I was like, “Lord, I have no idea what you want me to do with this.” And he told me to be patient.

So I thought some more and I got to thinking about what I might find in my basket. If the Lord were to send me a vision of a basket that represented my sins, what would I find inside?

I might find a man to represent my sometimes overzealous desire for a relationship,  to represent my faulty idea that a relationship will fulfill me. I might find a mirror to represent my vanity or pride. I might find textbooks to represent the fact that I often put my education at a higher priority than my relationship with Christ. I might find a laptop open to my Facebook page to represent my distraction and my need to be liked by others, sometimes even to the extent of not openly sharing my beliefs.

I had asked the Lord this morning to help me begin to identify my sins so that I can address them. And I realized that this is an excellent exercise of the mind to do just that. I’m amazed by how quickly the Lord answered that prayer. If I know what is in my basket, I can avoid building a temple around it and worshiping it. I can put things back in perspective and make sure that God is the priority in my life, and these other things, which are not inherently  bad, will stay in second place.

What things might you find in your basket?

Lenten Sacrifices, Dating Fasts, and retreats

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I officially decided what I’m doing for Lent this year. I will be getting up at 6 am everyday and using that extra time for personal prayer. I hope to sometimes go on a rosary walk. Along with that, I’m going to be more intentional about praying for others. So I’ve asked many of my friends if they have anything they want me to pray for. If any of you readers have anything, feel free to let me know in the comments! I’m also limiting my Facebook time to 30 minutes once a day, probably around dinnertime. I think this is going to be a Lent full of spiritual growth and I can’t wait for it to get started.

While not specifically for Lent, I’m also going on a dating fast. It’s not like I’ve dated a lot, I’d say I’ve been on an unintentional fast for pretty much my entire 21 years of life, but I do have an unfortunate tendency to “mentally date.” I imagine what it would be like if this or that guy asked me out and before I know it, in my head we’re dating. It’s really dumb and immature. I’ve also been dealing with some old emotional stuff recently and I need to sort through all that before I date anyone. And I’m not entirely sure if God is calling me to marriage, which is kind of the point of dating. So, from now until graduation (and maybe longer if God tells me to keep going), I will be fasting from dating. It’s something that I’ve toyed with for over a month now, but last night at a talk about love, sex, and dating the idea was mentioned again and it was just the push I needed. I need this time to focus on becoming the person God wants me to be and to begin truly discerning what vocation God is calling me to. It will help me to learn to love the opposite sex as my brothers in Christ rather than viewing them as potential future spouses. Even if the guy of my dreams comes along between now and May 17th and asks me out, I will say no. It will not be easy, but most of the time saying yes to God isn’t easy. But it’s always worth it.

Going along with discernment, I’m participating in a busy person’s retreat at my parish. I’ll spend 30 minutes each week talking to a spiritual director and then 30 minutes of personal prayer. I’ve never had a spiritual director before so I’m really excited to see what it’s like. I think this will be a good way to get my feet wet in that area of my spiritual life.

With all of this going on it makes me really excited for the next 3  months and especially the next 5 weeks.

Peace and blessings!

Lenten Decisions

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Well, lent is just about a week away so I’m trying to decide what to do this year. Last year I gave up Facebook and Twitter along with my space heater and electric blanket. But since I haven’t been using my space heater this year anyway, that’s not really an option. And I want to do something new anyway. The Lord has placed several ideas on my heart and I just don’t know which to pick. There’s a lot I need to work on these days.

1. Wake up no later than 6am (no snooze button allowed either) everyday. And since I don’t need to start getting ready until at least 7 am most days, that extra time will be used for personal prayer and scripture reading. I’m terrible at using my snooze button this year and I’ve been slacking on my morning prayer lately so this is one of the top ideas I’m leaning toward.

2. No gossiping. Walk away from it or say something nice about the person instead. I’ve found myself falling into this more lately. And it’s just not cool. Sometimes I feel like I just really need to vent about something, or rather someone, that is frustrating me, but gossip can be hurtful and it makes it hard to trust. It’s hard to trust people who talk to me about other people. How do I know they’re not talking about me to other people, too? And I know it’s the same for people to whom I gossip. It’s just bad news all around. This one is also near the top.

3.Checking Facebook once a day (probably the evening) for no more than 30 minutes. It’s a major distraction. Enough said.

4.Only buying things I need. I have a shopping/eating out problem. And it’s expensive. I’m a college student with lots of debt so I need to be more careful. Plus God has trusted me to be a good steward of the money He gives me, and let’s face it, I’m not. I also need to trust that God will give me enough to provide what I need and that extra should be given to help others who don’t have enough. I need to learn to be satisfied with that. I need to learn to distinguish want from useful but not necessary from useless but want anyway. This would mean no movies, no eating out (I might make exceptions if it’s for someone else’s birthday or something), no new clothing unless all of mine mysteriously disappears or starts getting holes, etc.

5. No pain meds. This one may seem a bit extreme but I think our world has become obsessed with being comfortable and removing all suffering. There’s an aversion to pain, which is understandable, but Christ suffered more than I can even imagine and He made suffering redemptive. It can be united to Christ’s and offered up on behalf of lost souls. I wouldn’t be seeking pain, but if it arose I would deal with it through means other than medications. I’m finding myself with a strong desire to do this one.

Those are the things I’m thinking of doing. I might do two depending on which ones I choose, but I don’t want to overwhelm myself and end up giving up on all of them. What are some of the things you’ve done for lent that have helped you grow the most? Do you know what you’re doing this year?

Life’s a Dance

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…and God is the lead.

One of the many things I learned at SEEK is that I am not a good dancer. There was a swing dance the second night and I went to the lessons beforehand. I’m terrible. I could not get the steps down. I barely mastered the basic footing before they moved on to spins, turns, and dips. It was a humorous experience to say the least. I feel bad for the poor guys who had to be my lead!

This would have been better than my dancing

This is what I ended up doing by the end. Not really. But close.

The past few weeks since my return to Minnesota I’ve realized that not only am I literally an uncoordinated dancer, I’m also figuratively (or spiritually) a bad dancer. God is my dance partner, and being God, He is supposed to lead. And He tries. But I often miss His cues. I don’t always understand what move He wants to do next. So I stumble. I step on His feet, or one of my own feet. Or I let go of His hands, or fall because I didn’t trust Him to support me. Sometimes, however, I know what move He wants to do, but I don’t want to do it, so I try to take the lead. I think, “I’m not ready for that move,” or “That move is lame. Let’s do this one instead. ” But I’m a terrible lead. I wasn’t meant to lead the dance, especially when I have no idea what I’m doing.

Luckily God is love. And love is patient. I am so thankful that my dance partner is as amazing as He is. If I were in His place, I would probably abandon me and me call me hopeless. But God sticks by me. He waits for to regain my footing or to relinquish the lead back to Him. And then we try the dance again. Hopefully as I pick myself back up from my latest stumble, I’ll let Him keep control. And when I don’t know what the heck move He is expecting me to do, I’ll tell Him so that He can teach me. And I hope that I will trust Him to catch me if start to fall, because it’s really hard to catch someone who is convinced that you won’t.