Sunday, September 25, 2011

God's Providence: Like A Parachute

There is something about the way I contribute financially to our family that exercises my dependence on God's Providence.

I was just reading trust in God's Providence is like using a parachute.  You don't really trust that it works, until you make the jump out the airplane's open door, and it sustains you in a slower descent, to land on the ground in one piece, breathing, and yelling joyfully that you were able to dive from the sky, live, and walk away.
I've never done that, but that is how I imagine it would be.

Being an independent IT contractor is a little like jumping out the window of a career as a permanent employee, and trusting in God to provide the next job.
  • Every single client (job) I have had, has the finger print of God orchestrating different relationships in my work life to the good of me and my family who loves Him.  
  • Three times I've found work after taking off for the summer, within one week after the kids returned to school.
  • I've made some great friends while working.  Then, at contract end or more suddenly, the daily nature of the relationship can come to an end.  In this way, God has taught me that he is the friend that I will never be parted from.
  • God has also provided me some lasting care and support through some of these friends long after the contract has ended.
  • Some contracts have ended suddenly, and that feels the exact same way as getting "let go" or "downsized", which feels exactly like getting fired.  Usually this affords me solitude and time for several hours of prayer a day that I don't usually have, unless I go to bed super late, or wake up super early.  God provides time for me to reconnect with him, when I have needed it most.  Also he knows better than me when I need to be "delivered" from a situation.  
Where I still need to trust him and seek his help, is that he wants me to remember him and talk to him throughout my day, and he even wants to help in the mundane tasks of each day.

This I haven't yet mastered, although being new at a client forces me to at least act patient, because I don't want to appear to be impatient.  It seems to rub people the wrong way.

This means I act like I have grace and patience initially, but then when I think I've put up the false front long enough, I start "driving".

I don't think I reflect God's grace when I'm driving.   Especially when the impatience, frustration lead to disrespect and gossip.

I am wondering if I am now getting to the point where I am old enough to trust God more like a child trusts a Father and not just when it comes to a big thing like, where is the next job coming from, but in the small stuff, like how do I get the four to twenty levels of approval needed to move something along.

I even have a couple of experiences where I knew he must of helped me, because something was resolved or went better that, in hindsight, it ever should have.  There have been a few times where I saw the opposite of Murphy's Law.  Of course these were also after praying alone in front of a tabernacle, so I asked for God's help, and he gave it.

The Jesus Prayer may be part of that solution.  I'm trying to get to keeping my soul at peace while at work, by remaining in Jesus, like a branch on the vine.

The harder challenge will be at home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Be Free From Your Complaint

34And (JESUS) said to her, "Daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace, and be free from your complaint." (Mark 5:34)

Really like this translation of the verse from the healing of the woman who suffered 12 years from a hemorrhage.

She had firm belief that if she could just touch Jesus's garment that she would be healed.  She suffered for 12 years and she still believed if she could just touch him.  She somehow found her way in through the crowd pressing against him, and when he was purposefully following the synagogue leader, Jairus, to his home to heal his daughter.

I think that is what the Jesus prayer is becoming for me.  Pressed in by my duties, my weaknesses---especially those, my concerns for others, I need to find my way to Jesus.  I know his touch, his presence, his grace, his Holy Spirit will heal me, restore me, give me peace, and free me from my complaint.

Well, complaints . . . as in plural.  Other translations have diseases in there instead of complaints, and complaints seems to have a more powerful abstraction to make it easier to apply to any and all detractions to physical, emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal relationships' health.  That is why I like this translation.

In my last rambling, unpeaceful, unjoyous, post, I mentioned that when I was feeling the sadness and couldn't shake it, I started to pray the Jesus prayer.  I was praying it aloud, using a prayer rope, bracelet, that those of us in the Religious School at my church were given last Lent.

The sadness, and thoughts that were generating it, were more or less subdued, but I was not brought to peace.  It was good I was praying, but I was only touching the surface of the power of the prayer and was doing it not as a regular discipline, but more like taking couple of ibuprofen when I have an occasional bad headache.

The Jesus Prayer is a recurring theme for me.  I posted about it previously here.  As a young adult out of college, a priest in a confessional taught me this prayer for the first time.

Actually found a book in the public library in the new book section called The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer: Experiencing the Presence of God and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of an Ancient Spirituality by Norris Chumley.  He goes to four ancient eastern monasteries and talks to monks (3 of the 4 monasteries) and nuns (4th monastery) to provide guidance to us in the west, as to how we can pray the Jesus prayer in a way that will lead us to unceasing communion with God.

As is often the case with the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit and guidance of my guardian angel, I found the book just over 3 weeks ago, but there it was for me to read at the foot of my bed this past Sunday night, when I really needed it and had the prompting to read it.  Prompting as in: why did I have that prayer rope handy when I was so down Friday night, and why did I walk through the grocery store (Dominick's in greater Chicago area) with no care as to who saw me praying the Jesus Prayer out loud?

On his pilgrimage, the monks assured Norris and his companion that true peace is possible. Not peace as an abstraction, but peace within ourselves, between individuals.

"The first step is entrusting your life in every way to God; surrendering and putting ego aside, making communion with God the primary purpose of your life.

Set aside regular time when you will shut off the phone, the computer, the television, and the radio, and in the stillness give yourself up to silent prayer and contemplation.

By all means, fulfill your obligations to family, friends, work, and neighborhood, but make your actions an extension of your prayer life."

So those are my fresh marching orders.  Very much resonates with me the need to put ego aside, and that the path to this will not be my own self-mastery, but the work of the Holy Spirit within me.

I think it is important that I do this first thing in the morning, even though I am the opposite of a morning person.  That is how the rest of my day can be an extension of my prayer, and an offering to God.  That is how I can get in shape--through regular exercise--so that throughout the day it will become so easy, I hope, to slip into my inner room -- my soul and commune with my Lord.

Here is a quote from Origen (c. 185-254) to help.

"The name of JESUS can still remove distractions from the minds of men, and expel demons, and also take away diseases; and produce a marvelous meekness of spirit and complete change of character, and a humanity, and goodness, and gentleness . . . "

Need that, want that, but most of all want this:

"What is important is to be united with God . . . the important attitude is to remind us that we are in the presence of God.  And to start to speak with him silently, not just by words.  And this communion of our minds with God, it's the beginning of a good prayer, although we are in the cities, or are working in the office.  And it's a question of desire to meet God and to let God share in our life.  And in this sense we can conclude that to say that prayer (the Jesus prayer) is not only our activity; it's the activity of God in us."  (Bishop Daniel Crobotea, Patriarch of Romanian Orthodox Church)

Would love to make this another 1000 word+ post and tell you more of what I learned from this book, and the rich spirituality that can come from praying the Jesus prayer mentally in tune with breathing, but I am back to work now and have to have a little more discipline.  I'll need to break this up into another post.  Hope you'll come back to read more, or find the book yourself.  Maybe it is a new book in your public library too.

Also, it would be good for me to practice it more first!

(breathe in while mentally (heart in the mind) saying) 
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God"
(hold the breath for second or two)
(then while exhaling mentally say)
"Have mercy on me, a sinner." 
Thank you to all who did pray for me after reading my last post, or even after scanning it, because I know it didn't read that well, especially Noreen at Rosary Mom and Anne at Imprisoned in my Bones.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Without Me You Can Do Nothing.

I had started out fairly calm but then we had one important family member wake up crabby.
“Our house looks like Hoarders”,
“We aren’t organized or disciplined enough for . . . “
"If we stop piano lessons, we'll have one less thing that we are late for . . . "

Repeated over and over.  I just started a new job this week, after being home with the kids this summer, who just returned to school last week, so we are still settling into our organization and routine and I thought the sweeping criticisms were a little premature.

I didn’t let it bother me at first but then when I came home, a little sad that my 15 year old had her last piano lesson (she started when she was 6), and I proceeded to make a pretty good lunch and only 3 of the 6 people ate it, and I was one of the 3, well it all got under my skin.

I remember the quote I got from 100th Lamb, which Elizabeth pulled from Rohrer and Sutherland in Facing Anger, "Anger represents a protestation against loss of self-esteem."  I let out a unintelligible grown when I first read it, and reflecting back at my angry outburst today, I will just say, "Bingo".

I was angry and sick of hearing sarcasm and the same questions and false accusations repeated over and over, so I went for a run.  It did help me get a grip on my emotions.

I’ve been on the verge of needing a really good cry since yesterday.  I can’t really put my finger on the source of it.  I was shopping in the grocery store, and to counter-act the sadness I began saying the Jesus Prayer over and over again, and I think it was obvious to some of the people that I passed that I was or had been crying.  The shopping ended well though.  There was an older gentleman who helped me out with the groceries. 

I mentioned I had a new job, and thus why I ran over into a second basket.  He told me about trying to get a job in property management within walking distance of his home, and that I was nice.  I told him I would pray for him to get the job he wanted, and he said, “Please do.” 

I prefer to think I don’t get depressed, but I’ll tell you if I hadn’t gone running today, I probably would have gone to a church and ended up crying.  It was a pretty good run, an hour plus.  I listened to some faster paced stuff for the home trip, so I would get whatever was bugging me out.

Initially I went upstairs, showered, and then put a call into my parents  They live in Florida.  I only see them every other year.  At one point my mom retold that she was once touched on the breasts by her step dad, but her mom didn’t believe her.  She has mentioned this to me before, but I usually don’t let it just sit there.  This time I just remained quiet.  It sounded on the other end like she was crying a little bit.  The silence was only for a minute, but it seemed longer.

Where is this ramble going other than somewhere with the lights out? 

Today shows me again that without Jesus I can do nothing.  I can’t control my own emotional health.  I can’t remain calm and peaceful when even one member of my family is complaining and in a bad mood.

The afterschool teacher for my kids was telling me that her preacher told her complaining is a sin.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here a Protestant is loading up a Catholic with a bunch of sins I didn’t want to own up to.

My first reaction, “That isn’t in the Ten Commandments.”

Her, “Don’t you remember how angry God was with the Israelites in the desert when they were complaining?”

The other afterschool teacher said she would check with her husband who was a preacher to see what he says.

That was kind of a challenge to me.

What?  Why should a Protestant Preacher have a corner on the market for telling a Catholic whether or not complaining is a sin.

So I came up with this, nothing original here, just pulling from what I remembered from my readings, mostly from The Better Part.  

“Well, I was reading about how disappointed Jesus was when the disciples were thinking they were going to perish in the storm.  He was disappointed that they didn’t have faith.  They had seen him work all kinds of miracles, visible in people’s bodies, and invisible in the way he healed their hearts, including their own.  They had seen him cast out demons.  Still they were fearful and desperate.  So I think complaining is probably at least a lack of faith.  As for not complaining it does say in John 15 that we can do nothing without Jesus.  I don’t think that could be more true when it comes to not complaining.  If we don’t remain in Jesus how would we avoid complaining?”

As I look back on my day, my knees hurting from my run in the chilly air, and the sadness cloud still hanging about, I am very aware of the truth of John 15:5

Without Me You Can Do Nothing.

So how or what do I need to change in my life that I can remain in Christ, remain aware of the indwelling of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in my soul?

I’m going to start by going to Confession tomorrow.  If there is anything that helps me have more strength in my faith, including peaceful and joyful awareness that God is always with me, it is receiving absolution and advice in the confessional.  Then I’ll receive the Real Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion. 

I know that will give me the healing and strength I need, and I need healing and strength, Lord!

I’ll also pray for my Mom, who needs healing.

The person who was complaining doesn’t go to church with us anymore, so what do I do about that?  I guess that is where I just let go and let God.  And continue to pray.

I am not sure what miracle God will need to work in me to bring me to a place of maintaining peace and trying to bring sunshine even when others are complaining.  Well forget the sunshine, I just want to not feel the loss of self-esteem that leads me to an angry outburst.

I have to leave this to him too.  I know I can’t do it! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We Bow Down

During the Divine Liturgy for the solemn feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross the Byzantine Catholics three times say:
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify. 

Each time, we also touch our foreheads to the ground.  This is known as full metania.

How many times have you felt that we should be doing this routinely before the Holy Eucharist when we go up for Communion, or especially when we come in and leave for Adoration?

This practice of full reverence in the symbolism of actually touching my forehead to the ground in adoration of Christ's redeeming sacrifice is one of the reasons I feel at home in the Byzantine Catholic rite.  It just feels right to me.

We also do this during the Stations of the Cross during Lent, which the Byzantines call the Great Fast.  Again that especially feels right.  

The genuflect is good.

There is just something about the forehead to the ground before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords that suffered so much to make us free from sin and to give us eternal life in heaven.

Yesterday I walked very quickly into an open kitchen cabinet door, while rushing around getting ready for church last night.  I had a little bump right where my forehead meets my hairline.  I don't know if that was a sign to post on this today, but I was a little more deliberate as I was doing the full metania last night.

On feast days, Byzantine Catholics are blessed with holy oil on the foreheads after Divine Liturgy.  Our priest looked a little surprised by the bump when he was blessing me.  The holy oil was soothing there, and less cold than ice!

Today we remember Our Lady of Sorrows in the Roman Rite.  This is something I think should be added to the Byzantine calendar because it makes so much sense for this feast to follow that of the Holy Cross.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God Does Not Hate Women

I was tripping over at the blog of the atheist that left a comment on my God is Love post here.

He used Judges 19 and 1 Tim 2:12 to show how the God of the Bible is a woman hater.

Judges 19 and I think Judges 20 are two of the most terrible (because of the sin they describe) chapters in the Bible telling of the reality of sin, of evil, of cowardice, of the absence of all that is good, noble and loving.

You may or may not have seen the commentary that points out the significance of the first line:
(following is from
"'There was no king in Israel': This set the stage for the terrible story in the following chapters. No king in Israel meant more than the absence of a political monarch; it also meant that they refused to recognize God’s leadership over them."

The chapter and I would argue the one following "shows the depths of the depravity to which many sink apart from the grace of God.”

God does NOT hate women.  I know that personally, although I'm sure that would be easy for an atheist to dismiss.

1 Tim 2:12 is not the easiest verse to accept silently or quietly if you are a woman, and I also know that personally because I wasn't happy the first time I read it:
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

Scott Hahn helps take away the sting when he explains in the commentary from the Ignatius Study Bible on 1 Tim 2:12
"Not an absolute prohibition that applies to all circumstances, but one that excludes women from the teaching ministry exercised by ordained clergymen (1 Cor 14:34-35). Paul is not denying the equal dignity of men and women in Christ (Gal 3:28) or the propriety of women in praying and prophesying within the context of worship (1 Cor 11:5). Women perform an invaluable service when they teach the faith in other contexts by their words and Christian example (Titus 2:3-4)."

I had problems myself reading the OT, using a Catholic RSV version of the one year Bible about 15 years ago.  I was really struggling with all the killing going on in the OT, not just of the armies, but of the children and livestock too.  It didn't make much sense to me, so I didn't finish.  I favor the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosiah, Daniel, Tobiah, and 2 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees is better than Lord of the Rings. 

I have read all of the New Testament.   I won't be dishonest with you, I had problems with other of Paul's statements too.  I was advised to keep a scripture journal and when something bothered me to copy the passage down and pray about it seeking to understand it more.  About 50% of these I came to have a better understanding, usually from good commentary resources, but sometimes it would happen that I would hear the particular passage explained by several different people (one of our Parish priests, maybe a preacher on the radio or on TV) within a short period, maybe 2 weeks to a year after I prayed to understand it better.

Some passages, like when in 2 Kings 2:24, Elisha has two she-bears devour the 42 children that made fun of his baldness, I haven't yet found something to help me understand.  Elisha was a great miracle working prophet of God.  Why would some name-calling lead him to have some children killed? Atheists cite this passage frequently when they leave trolling comments on Christians' blogs.

I started using the second half of the journal to write down the verses that deeply touched me.  That half of my journal overran into the first part of the journal such that I only had about 20 pages of problems, and then 100+ and onto other journals of Bible Passages that deeply touch me and are meaningful to me.

I'm not a Fundamentalist.  I believe God created the heavens and the earth and that they didn't evolve magically.  I would put my life on the line for Christ, but not for the belief that the world was created in 6 24 hour days.  I'll leave open that I might come to believe that, but I don't believe that as strongly as I do that God's Son left the glory of heaven to become a man, to atone for our sins, so that we might have life within us now, and eternal life with God, all the angels and saints in heaven.

I also have problems with Ephesians 5:24, but not with Eph: 5:22.  My problem with 5:24 is it adds "in everything" after "wives should submit to their husbands".  Even fundamentalists when they teach this today say so long as it is moral and isn't against God's commands, but still, Paul wrote "everything".  That's where I go to God does breathe on the words, and the words are inspired, but the words were still put to paper (unlike the Ten Commandments to stone) by the hand of man.  I hope this isn't pride in me, but it might be.

I am not a scripture scholar as is obvious.  This post started as a comment that overran the character limit for comments over at the atheist's blog.

I would like to persuade that God does breathe on the words and God does use the words of Scripture to teach, strengthen, comfort, and mold us.  There is so much that is important to how we are to live now, and hereafter in the Word of God, and especially in coming to know the Word of God that became flesh.

Often God's touching us through Scripture is miraculous.  I've mentioned before how even though I am just reading Fr. Bartunek's meditations sequentially in The Better Part, I have been struck by how the brief passage and teachings speak to me about what I am experiencing, and challenged with that day or week.  I wrote before about how a friend said the scripture passages for the first Sunday she decided to go to a Catholic Church, after 18 years or so, spoke directly to her heart (Isaiah 49:15-16 especially), and during lunch today she said that is continuing to happen.

One of my problem verses was right after the Parable of the Sower, when it said that Jesus continued to speak in parables to the crowds, but secretly explained things to his Disciples, his followers.   I don't think I understood that verse until tonight.  It used to really bother me.  If God loves all his children and wills that all would be saved, why only speak to the crowds in parables and only explain the meaning to the disciples in private?

Fr. Bartunek says this is why prayer life is so important.  God wants us to communicate with him.  This explaining happens in private when we are seeking first the Kingdom of God, and to follow Christ as his disciples.

What I've learned from reading more about Mary and the Holy Spirit from Fr. Chris O'Donnell's book:
  • We do need to be docile to the Holy Spirit, just like Mary was.  
  • We do need to ponder things we don't understand, just like Mary did when Jesus gave her a pretty short explanation in the Finding in the Temple.  
  • Most of all, we do need to be humble like Mary was, and still is, always pointing us and leading us to adoration of her Son.
    • When we are humble and get past some of the self-absorption, self-love, and rationalizations we have more room for grace.
I was just thinking that Mary was so humble that she was FULL of Grace, but think this is where my theological weakness and lack of understanding of the magnitude of the Immaculate Conception is apparent to those that have a better understanding of this dogma.

I don't think a person with intellectual pride is going to get past the obstacles that are there in the scriptures.  Instead the enemy will use these to boost the pride and distract the person from the light.  Really, as Fr. John Bartunek points out, it is no different from the Pharisees and Scribes that would see Jesus's miracles and still close their hearts and minds to him.  It grieved Jesus that they would not believe.

If someone has humility, patience, and the desire to ask God to help, even if it is couched in terms like "if you are real", then there is at least the ounce of free will and openness to the light and grace of God.  I love Elizabeth Malou's conversion story at

Also, it does make sense that a passionate atheist isn't going to be persuaded by a comment I might leave on his blog, and I've left a couple, nor by this post.  I don't know if I will regret that, but I couldn't resist.

My current belief is that light and grace can break through the darkness and blindness of pride, and sometimes like in Elizabeth's story it comes when you become a little vulnerable to someone else, a friend, or in her case it was a co-worker.  I think this vulnerability is a small opening in the stone wall built around the soul.

This is similar to Jen Fulwhiler's coming to belief when she fell in love with her husband.  Since he was super smart and had degrees from top schools, she couldn't dismiss him as she had others, as an intellectually unsound individual.  It opened her to find out more and led her eventually to the Catholic Church.  Her most recent audio post tells this story:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Spam, Delete, or Leave the Nasty Comment?

Got my first very insulting comment tonight from an atheist blogger with 22 profile views, and no comments on any posts on his initial page, and without an email so I could reply letting him or her know that I found the comment insulting and assuming.

I remember well back in April and May 2011, when I started blogging, what it was like to post 2-3 times a week and realize that there were very few folks actually reading what I was writing.

It was up dramatically from when I would write in my own scripture journal, or when I would have so much to work through that I would use Word or Open Doc and seal it with a password.

So I did what this person did, as it would be more fun to have actual readers.  I went off reading and commenting.  I over-followed initially, looking for the reciprocal follow back to my blog.  This was not a statistically successful tactic in retrospect.

The comment was nasty because it was blasphemous, and belittling, not that I avoid a good humbling, with all the great Saints telling us over and over again how important humility is to advance in the spiritual life.

Decision then:
  1. Leave it, and post a reply 
  2. Delete it
  3. Move it to spam
I went with 3.  I could have taken it if it was just insulting to me, but not if it was insulting to God.  It was basically a rebuttal to the God is Love post I did late last month.

I have no idea how young, or old the person is, nor how long the person has been an atheist.  What I know from the comment is there is an assumption that anyone that believes God is Love is not actually using the thinking potential of the brain.  

I'm going to say a whole 5 mysteries of a rosary tonight for this person so they can know that God exists, God created this person to be loved, and to know, love and serve Him, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, Our Savior.  In short, I am going to be a militant intercessor along with our Lady for this person.  A shrink might say I'm passive aggressive or something, but this just feels right.

Well what would you have done, or what have you done when this happens to you?


On different note, the 9/11 memorial programs are really getting to me.  I had a baby girl 14 days after the tragedy.  I thought it was the pregnancy hormones then that had me sobbing on the way into work every day.  It wasn't.  It is just that sad, because I am doing the same thing tonight when they are showing the families of the deceased in the days following the attacks.

Our Lady of Peace please pray for us.  Please pray for peace in this world, and an end to the two wars that our country's military is fighting.
Our Lady of Peace
God, Our Father, we thank you that you are going to bring about the Kingdom of your Son and a new heavens and a new earth, and that the delay is to save more of your children.  We thank you for your mercy, and ask you for a greater outpouring of your Holy Spirit that your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  In Jesus Name, Amen