Tag Archive | #spiritualsunday

On service

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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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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.

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.

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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.

My song of praise

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St. Dymphna is not here for it.

Psalm 118: This is the Day

by Michael Joncas

(Refrain) This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good,
His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

Refrain

The Lord’s right hand
has struck with pow’r;
the Lord’s right hand is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.

Refrain

The stone which the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord this has been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes!

Refrain

It’s not every day I sing a psalm.  Over the years, I have heard, both at LA Congress and from different homilists, that to sing is to give praise to the Lord. Now my voice isn’t that of a singer. I can somewhat harmonize when I have other voices with which to combine.  But I don’t sing solos nor should I.  So I make a joyful noise.  Earlier this week, I sang one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 118, out loud in its entirety. True, it was during my morning commute, so I was in my car. I sang my heart out, con muchas ganas.  The commuters who saw me probably got a good laugh.  No matter. Yo estaba feliz.

It’s Lent, a time to reflect on the Lord’s Passion. Yet I was singing a song of joy and victory. This is a song for weddings or Easter. What happened that led me to Carpool Karaoke this particular psalm?  I learned that someone I encountered in the past was held accountable. Others recognized patterns of behavior I saw. That is cause for celebration. I know we shouldn’t take joy in others’ struggles. In my personal and professional life, I have worked to move those who are a negative force in others’ lives, particularly the lives of young people, away.  Anyone who hurts a young person’s opportunities to move forward to become the best version of herself or himself has got to go. I feel vindicated and validated. I always knew that what I and my colleagues experienced was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. Sadly, this behavior went on for years before me to many others. It is high time for this person to be held to high expectations. Por fin, se va.

“The Lord’s right hand is exalted.” I believe that things happen as they should.  Whether you credit the universe, the Lord’s right hand, karma, or however you view the world, what is right, good, and just eventually happens. Wrongs will be made right.

Every day is a day the Lord has made. But that day I felt, along with many people, that justice had been served.

I can’t sing but this young woman can. This is her version of my song

Holiday

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Alleluia! It is Easter Sunday 2017. I am very happy to have experienced the Triduum and Lent. I had a wonderful journey, full of challenges that ultimately helped me grow as an individual and better understand my mission in being a servant to others. Today’s Gospel from John describes the different reactions of the disciples to Jesus being gone from the tomb.  Jesus’s rising teaches us how to live our lives. His rising helps us understand that hope prevails through the losses and challenges. God does not abandon us.  He will strengthen us.

My secretary and my mother in law both wanted to know if M had an Easter basket. I got some strange looks when I admitted I didn’t make her an Easter basket.(I haven’t done so since she was in diapers.)  In bringing up M, I want her to understand how important my faith is in my life.  We are the only Catholics in our small household so we share our faith. We are in Mass weekly.  We take part in Reconciliation.  We took part in the Triduum. We’re not holiday-only Catholics who only go to church on Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Mother’s Day. We are there every week; I like to attend daily Mass when time permits. I take part in rosaries, the Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration when I can. Church is important to me and therefore the focus of Easter.  I asked M about the meaning of Easter. She said it celebrates Jesus’s rising. She doesn’t ask to color eggs or request candy but it’s not a priority.  I liken Easter to New Year’s.  At midnight, as we came home from the Carnaval royalty competition, M announced Alleluia. I want her to know Easter is the big holiday in the church.

I don’t mind being questioned about my faith. Why do I believe?   Do I live what I believe? Am I truly upholding those principles and values? What do I gain from the readings and from church experiences? My faith has helped me in my mental health journey.  My faith helps me be disciplined. I am a flawed person.  My being in church consistently doesn’t make me better than others; I am open about my struggles with pettiness, resentment, and self-righteousness.  My faith has helped me move forward. Following Christ is not easy but I will continue to do so because He has given me so many gifts. He loves me. He is risen!  Alleluia!

Woman at the Well

On the 3rd Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading was about the Samaritan Woman at the Well.  I’m reflecting on being that woman. I’ve been a lector at my new parish for two years and Eucharistic minister for almost a year. I think about do I deserve to be in front of all these people?

My involvement in parish ministry began during the darkest period of my life. There were times when I wondered if the church building wouldn’t collapse on my head. It didn’t. I found that the parish priests I worked with, no matter where they were on the spectrum of conservativeness, were always merciful, kind, compassionate, and patient. Over a decade later, I’m still on that journey to be spiritually healthy.  When I proclaim the Word or share the Body and Blood of Christ, I feel like I’m getting closer to achieving peace. I feel like He’s working through me. I feel like I’m the very best person I could possibly be when I’m in that sacred time and space.

I’m well aware that I’m a sinful person. But I’ve been accepted, welcomed, and embraced. I won’t walk away from that. Even when my faith falters and I’m filled with doubt about the choices I’ve made in my life, even when I wonder  if I’m worthy, I can’t walk away from what saved my life.

Yes, it’s living water!  Yes, it changes people. So as long as I can, I will serve God in small ways and I won’t ashamed. It’s not me that’s up there speaking aloud. It’s not me serving. It’s Someone greater. Yes, how great Thou art!

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Art by Liz Lemon Swindle