Tag Archive | faith

On service

Jesus_Mafa_Healing_of_Leper

What do you want of me Lord? Where do You want me to serve You?

Where can I sing Your praises? I am Your song. “Servant Song” by Jess Viray

Last Holy Thursday I wrote a reflection on being a servant. I pondered Jesus’ willingness to do challenging tasks such as washing his apostles’ feet, curing lepers, and hanging out with society’s outcasts. He explained how all of these tasks or actions were in line with his vision and mission. My mission and vision are about empowering others to become the very best version of themselves either through academic or personal growth. I am not always willing to do the difficult tasks such as forgiving myself and others, empowering myself, or taking time to truly serve.

I resist mercy. One of the audiobooks I enjoyed during Lent was Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway:  Rediscovering Mercy. I have enjoyed rediscovering Ms. Lamott. She is hilarious. I enjoy her honesty, wit and self-awareness. She has me cackling at times. I especially like how often she owns her pettiness and schadenfreude. I’m right there with her. These aspects of my personality are hilarious but they continue to stop my path towards holiness. So long as I am willing to catch a case for taking off on one of my enemies or even someone who merely annoyed me, I am not living out who I truly am. This is why I continue to pray for the strength to forgive myself for my flaws and to forgive others more readily.  

For many decades, I resisted doing things for myself. Like most people, I usually sacrifice self-care due to work or family. I have gotten better over the years about self-care and self-development. But it often takes an illness or an injury to get me to slow down and truly listen to myself. Like most leaders, I am my own worst critic. It is very challenging to not see failures as personal. Being good to myself continues to be a process.  

I miss having opportunities to serve. In the past few years, I joined colleagues and students  to serve at Glide Memorial dining room during Advent and Lent. While I consistently volunteer for organizations that are personally important to me like Girls Inc, I also need to serve the homeless.  I need to make service an integral part of what I do again. I need to make the time.

I am working towards being a servant in all aspects. Being a servant is not self-serving. It requires humility, dedication, patience, and strength.  

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Morning meditation

20180405_105215“Morning has broken like the first morning…”

During Lent, I had a goal of getting back into praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I had not done so in about a year until Good Friday. I finally prayed morning prayer. I prayed it every morning for years. Most of the time, it was therapeutic. Sometimes it was sustaining. A few times reciting the prayers kept me afloat. I cherish what it did in my life. Because it is an old friend, I can resume as if I had never stopped. But because time has passed, I see it with new eyes and a deeper understanding.

The morning prayer is set up the same way every day I follow the shorter Christian prayer which consists of morning prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. It opens with the invitatory psalm, usually Psalm 22 but there are others.You recite an antiphon that changes depending on the day. This is followed by two psalms and a canticle from an Old Testament prophet, again with antiphons that are fitting to the season or the feast. There is a short reading, sometimes from one of the prophets or a letter of Paul. Then you recite the Canticle of Zechariah with an antiphon, prayers of intercession, the Our Father, and a concluding prayer and a blessing . Some of these prayers I knew by heart; I’m sure with more recitation I could I could do it by memory

The Canticle of Zechariah has always been one of my favorites. It comes from the Gospel of Luke which is my favorite gospel. It is a song of joy following the birth of John the Baptist and recalling the history of salvation. The lines that consistently strike are the ones that say, “ he promised that he would save us from our enemies  from the hands of all who hate us.” Sometimes those words make me cry. That is what happened in my life. I have been burdened by people full of self-loathing and hatred of others. I have had to fight back against their toxic poison. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for their conversion. But mostly I prayed for God to prevail and to keep me safe. He did. He always has. I am forever grateful.

Morning prayer may only take about 15 minutes but it is a wonderful time of serenity and silence. When I recite these prayers, I enjoy peace and stillness. I definitely need more of that in my life instead of the usual piles of folded laundry or checked work emails that I tackle weekday mornings.  So far during the Easter season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Those moments of quiet reflection are much needed and appreciated.

Procession and process

Last year I took part in my parish’s Holy Thursday celebration for the first time. The Eucharistic ministers were asked to sit together. At the conclusion of the mass, we were asked to take part in a procession during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I was moved to tears. I have anticipated that moment all year. There are several moments at Mass when I get teary-eyed and other liturgical feasts that I love and enjoy there are others. I gain something out of every Mass I attend. The procession on Holy Thursday is a special occasion.  29683620_1980737562175453_2343870968512959220_n

I wore all white as Sister suggested and sat with my fellow ministers.  Once Mass came to an end, we walked to the back of the church. Dressed in our various shades of white, we quickly gathered together in the vestibule and formed two lines.  We each got a candle. We filed into the church and knelt. Then, we processed through the entire church as Father displayed the Blessed Sacrament to the congregation. Our entire procession stopped at several points in the church, turned to face the Blessed Sacrament, raised our candles and bowed before continuing. Everyone in the church sang in Latin.  We concluded by kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a beautiful conclusion to the evening.

29597492_1980737552175454_4484460233475374210_nAs I looked around at the faces of my fellow parishioners, I realize some of them were looking at us in awe or as if moved by what they were seeing. I felt grateful to be there in that moment. I made eye contact with many individuals and gave a quiet smile or nod. I felt grateful to have the privilege to serve as a Eucharistic minister. I felt grateful to take part  in something so special despite the challenges of the week. When I looked at my fellow parishioners, I knew they had no idea what I had experienced that week; they saw me as representing their faith.They saw a woman at peace, filled with serenity, joy, and strength in my faith. They saw me.

I am grateful for those moments when I am truly touched by God. I am grateful that my faith allows me to reveal my true self.  Every moment, every day, and yes, every challenge is a gift.  This Lent has been a blessing and I feel closer to God.  I am ready for Easter.

Musical motivation

sacred music

A good soundtrack is everything. Star Wars, the James Bond films, Shaft, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and The Wizard of Oz all have famous soundtracks featuring one or more songs that call to mind certain characters and places, and inspire strong reactions. Those songs stay with us, often for life. For of those who like to work out, a soundtrack can be motivational. I have been at many a half marathon where the announcers played the theme from Rocky or Chariots of Fire.  My gym plays a mix of old school hip hop, top 40 rap, and the always fun trap music. When I run, I stick with my disco playlist. When I lift weights at home, it is usually house music mixes or sometimes New Edition hits.  Occasionally, I try something different. When I was doing a 30-day plank challenge, I started using Rio-style samba or the Game of Thrones theme to motivate me. Today, given that Holy Week is well underway, I decided to work out to instrumental hymns.

When you hear “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace,” you may not be inspired to do multiple sets of squats and push-ups. However, I found the music relaxing which then led me to focus. Usually I’m folding laundry between sets or starting on work email or rearranging clutter on my home desk. Multitasking isn’t good for the brain.  It’s not good for your form or getting into a workout rhythm either. Today it felt good to focus on my breathing. I had a more mindful workout. Plus it was in keeping with my pledge to take in appropriate material this week. I plan to change my soundtrack more consistently. I need more time to truly appreciate my health and the opportunity to improve my fitness.

Last Lent one of the four challenges I took on was to be more prayerful. (4 Challenges in 40 Days) One way I worked towards that was to listen to sacred music or gospel music during my commute. I found it helpful given the stress in my line of work. Combining working out with spiritual music was a welcome new motivation for a Monday.

My wish for this week

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Holy Week 2018 has arrived. It’s amazing how 40 days or 6 weeks initially seems like a long time. For those of you who gave up alcohol, chocolate, or swearing, maybe that amount of  time felt daunting. For those of us who chose to work on virtues like patience, forgiveness, or mindfulness, perhaps we needed more time. This is an important week in my faith life. It is a good week to revisit what I have learned and to spend more time being grateful.

I intend to make this week quieter. Though my reading choices and viewing choices haven’t always made sense given the Lenten season, I want this week to be more focused on the meaning of Lent. I told my daughter yesterday that we would only be watching appropriate films  on TV this week. As for reading, I’m going to shelve certain books until next week.

I would like to resume the Liturgy of the Hours this week. The Divine Office used to be a part of my daily life. I used to do morning prayer every day. My daughter and I used to do night prayer together. I miss the routine and the rhythm of those prayers. I miss the imagery and language of the Psalms. I have missed that time to reflect on my life and all its blessings.

May this week be a blessing to all. Though you may not practice any religious faith, everyone deserves a time of quiet, stillness, and peace. 

An example of growth

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Recently on a Sunday morning, I heard Donnie McClurkin preach about being an example. He noted how often in the church we are told to be examples which we interpret to mean examples of perfection.  We no longer strive to be examples. We give up.”Well I’m not perfect so therefore I’m not a good example for folks.” McClurkin pointed out that we need to be examples of growth. Our testimony needs to be about the mistakes that we have made and the progress that we’ve made.

Growth is central to my faith life. I base the majority of my writing on my growth. When people ask me for advice, I’m good at couching my words appropriately. I’m  aware of how it could be taken. If we have a trusting friendship, I’m going to open about my progress. I am not perfect. I am honest about my weaknesses. The majority of my blogging in the last decade has been about where I need to grow,  where I am weak,and where I struggle. I struggle with fear, pettiness, and the desire to be vengeful.These are all challenges with which I continue to mature. All of the struggles that I have endured, whether they have been emotional, professional, mental, or physical, have helped me become stronger through faith. Like everyone who practices a religious faith, I experience periods in which my faith is shaken, weak, or lazy. It doesn’t waver. There are times when I don’t feel like praying, reading the scriptures or doing spiritual reading. II don’t make an effort to be disciplined.  Even during those periods of struggle, I find great comfort and inspiration in my faith. It is my faith that has given me the strength to grow as much as I have.

One complaint I have heard others make about people of faith is the feeling that we presume those who not practice or believe do are lesser than. The term “holier than thou” arose because people have used their religious practice or faith as a means of shutting themselves off from others. This is a mistake as people striving towards holiness because holiness is about wholeness. I cannot be a whole person if I’m not part of a whole community. If I look at others as sinners or judge others as not worthy to be saved, I have missed the meaning of what it means to be holy.

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we learn that God loves us. He loves our imperfect world. He loves humanity, which, by its nature, is flawed. He loves us.. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He wants us to grow. He gave us an offering of his love and faith in us through his son. That is hard for us to understand. One of my struggles is to truly accept His love. I feel pressure to be perfect I’m not perfect. I’m loved but I’m number 57 or 338 or 1250 on his list.  Those thoughts are about me not about His love.

I’m thankful to Pastor Donnie McClurkin for sharing his wisdom and helping me to reflect on the Gospel.  I’m grateful to Dynamic Catholic for continuing to push me to reflect on questions about myself and for always reminding me that my faith will help me find the answers. I hope I have the courage to share how I am an example of growth. My faith does not make me different from others. It is part of what makes me strong.  if you’re a person of faith, I encourage you to read the scriptures or find some spiritual reading to help deepen your growth. If you are Catholic, visit Dynamic Catholic and take part in Best Lent Ever. It has changed my faith life and therefore my life. Whatever your stance on spirituality and faith, find something that brings you closer to feeling whole. That will bring you closer to being holy.

Mile 7

141090-185-008hI am more than halfway through Lent. It has been a very different Lent than the last few years.  I embarked on less challenges.One of the dangers of seeing Lent as a time of challenge is that I begin to see it as if it were a fitness challenge or half marathon training. That misses the purpose of Lent. Lent is meant to be a season for growth.  I’ve been trying too hard to make it a goal to attain.

I have focused too much on being successful at Lent. Lent is my time to be thankful, prayerful, and mindful.  Lent has been fruitful. I may not be writing or exercising everyday but I am praying every day. I’m even praying for those that I’ve written about. That is growth.

I am done competing with others. I have pulled away from activities in which I felt that others wanted to compare themselves with me or in which I felt a spirit of competition and tension arose. I know that I am competing with my old self. I will resume that and soon. But I’m done competing with the rest of the world. I will keep living my life the way I want and in keeping with my values.

My social media break always reminds me of what really matters. I remain close to those who are truly loving, sincere, and supportive. I continue to enjoy doing what I love. While I miss the social connections, I don’t miss the drama or the annoyance I sometimes feel at what people may say or do. I feel like social media sometimes brings out the worst in me. I prefer being the best version of myself. I have spent the last 25 years or more trying to be the best version of myself. I’m old enough to know what that takes.

There are 2 weeks left in Lent. I am going to enjoy this time. I will make the 40 blog challenge. But I don’t owe anyone any updates about bags of clothes that were filled or books that were read or even rosaries that were prayed. Now is my time to catch up with God.