Monthly Archives: August 2012

We are our own best friend & our own worst enemy

Friday, August 24, 2012 – 4:00pm – under a bridge at the edge of town – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Strange spot for a desert day prayer time, I know. But, it was the quietest and shadiest spot I could find. Even though it happens to be under one of the main roads in town. When you live in a small town like this, the “main roads” are not all that busy. We were also short on gas so we had to pick a close spot, and this was the best we could manage.

The bible verse I got today is Acts 16:9-10: “One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and kept urging him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the good news.” Now my point here is not to talk about visions, as great as they may be. And my point here is not to determine whether it’s better to have this foreigner or that foreigner appearing in your dreams. My point is simply this: God can work in your life much easier when you are relaxed and open. How much more relaxed and open can you be, than by being unconscious in a state of sleep? I think that’s why God so often has used and continues to use visions and dreams. But before you rush to the neighborhood pharmacy to buy some Melatonin, realize that you don’t have to be unconscious for God to speak to you. You just have have to be humble, willing, and ready to hear him.

A few other tidbits that came to me:

1.) We are our own best friend & our own worst enemy. – Sure, there are lots of things that are not within our control. There are also alot of things that ARE within our control. One thing that is always in our control is how we react to life happening. All too often we hide behind the lie of being helpless as a way to excuse how we react to certain things. All too often we see defects and problems that are noone else’s doing but our own, and we despair. How do you fix yourself if you yourself are the root of the problem? We are our own worst enemy because of this. But (there’s always a “but” in the vocabulary of the ever optimistic Christian), this should also give us great hope. If we are our own worst enemy because of the power we wield against ourselves, then it should follow that for this very same reason we are our own best friend. Who controls whether or not we react with charity or anger? We do. Who controls whether or not we go to Sunday Mass or stay in bed? We do. Who ultimately makes our choice for good or for evil? WE do.

2.) Giving out of our need – as a pretty frequent 10% tither in the past, I was comfortable. It was a little more than I wanted to give, but not so much that I felt uncomfortable. I knew I was doing good, and that was enough for me. Now, as a foreign missionary, I have become acquainted with giving out of my need, instead of giving out of my excess. 10% net tithing of an American sized weekly income, even when small, still leaves alot left. Giving ANYTHING when you live in excess of $6000 below the poverty line, is a little tougher. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where our words that we preach and profess are tried and tested, to see if we’re ready to live it. Never before did I ever think I’d be stingy about a single apple, or a few slices of bread. Never before have I felt the remorse I feel when I think I’ve not given enough to someone who is truly poor. And never before have I felt the immense joy of truly giving out of my need. It ain’t easy, but it’s worth it. For their livelihood, and for your holiness.

3.) Giving lovingly and not begrudgingly – It’s SOOOO easy to give begrudgingly. Resenting that poor person because you think they’re too lazy to work for it, or because they’re bothering you at an inconvenient time. How dare they do such a thing! And to tell you the truth, I have a long way to go in this area before I get to where I wanna be. But I’m glad it’s not easy. I’m glad it’s a challenge. Because I know that when I do get to a point in my life as a Christian, that I can give to those in need, and do it with LOVE, then I will indeed be blessed.

4.) Voluntary poverty – Now why on God’s green earth would someone choose poverty? That’s just straight up dumb! If that’s the hand life deals you, then ok. But to choose it? You mean to tell me that you WANT to be poor? You want to give up the securities of a financially comfortable life? WHY?!?!? I’ll tell you why. It’s for the same reason that our omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God decided to incarnate himself to save us. To truly serve with compassion those to whom God has sent us to serve, we can’t look down on them. We can’t be prideful. We have to live among them. We have to be friends with them. We have to suffer with them. We have to feel their pain. It is only then that we can truly minister to them with a sense of urgency, passion, and care.

5.) Maybe it’s God’s plan to allow us to struggle – This one ties in pretty closely with #4. Looking back on my first year of missions, I spent WAY too much of it trying to retain a level of comfort and security which would remind me of life back home in the States. I resented the fact that my mission partners, while cooking a sufficient quantity of food for us to live off of, cooked food that at times was humble and far from fancy. And not gonna lie, at times I could have eaten alot more that what we had. Mission life is hard enough already, why skimp on food? This year, I still struggle with not wanting myself to struggle. Since we’ve been here, and especially in my time since language school, it seems like me and my mission partner’s meager monthly stipends have been burning holes in our pockets. We have just barely enough to survive, but not enough to survive without having to worry. Part of me hates this. Why should I have to worry about whether or not we can put gas in our van? Why should I have to worry about whether or not I will have to live off of hotdogs for the next 2 weeks? But as these worries flood my mind, I start to realize some of what those who are truly poor have to go through all the time. And then I hang my head in shame. While I simultaneously thank God for all he has given me. God you’ve made your point. Well played, my Lord. Well played.

That’s all I got this week y’all. Hope you have a blessed week. Ciao!

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Silence and The Sower

Friday, August 17, 2012 – Noon – Ejido Tejocote – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Sometimes we prepare the soil. Sometimes we sow the seeds. Sometimes we water and nurture the plants as they grow. Sometimes we reap the harvest. All 4 are important. These were some of the thoughts that came to me during my weekly desert day prayer time. In my time here in Mexico I’ve been slowly reconnecting with my childhood hobby of gardening. I’ve also been thinkin’ about the parable of the sower and what happens to the seeds when they fall on the different types of soil.

And that’s what got me thinking about the 4 stages I mentioned above. So much emphasis is put on the reaping of the harvest. But so often we forget that for there to even be a harvest, someone has to first prepare the soil. No good soil = no plant. And what good does it do to prepare the soil if we aren’t actually planting the seed. Furthermore, if we plant the seed but never water it, nor prune and nurture the plant as it grows, then all has been for nought. And as we all know, if you do all that but don’t actually go out and reap the harvest, then it’s a waste. Maybe because of the line of “work” i’m in, I can’t help but think in terms of evangelizing and helping others. To me, preparing the soil is equivalent to forming a relationship with people. Sowing the seeds is equivalent to evangelizing. Watering and nurturing the plant is the follow-up that must be done and the maintaining of the relationship. And reaping the harvest is equivalent to helping them put their gifts to good use.

As I sat in silence during my desert day prayer time, I was enveloped by peace and stillness and this came to me: “The most profound silence I’ve ever experienced outside of Eucharistic Adoration has been during my experiences of desert day prayer time. Sometimes it’s so peaceful and quiet that I think I may have gone deaf because I see a blade of grass moving silently, or a spider web glistening in the sun. But without fail, I end up hearing the breeze blowing over the rocks and through the trees. And I think the silence is as profound as it it because of its nature. It’s not a purely nature-inspired silence. It’s not a mere admiration filled with awe and a love for natural beauty. It’s a God-infused silence that stills you way beyond the capacity of anything in the nature created realm to do so. It’s the Creator inhabiting his Creation.

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Desert Day in the Graveyard

Friday – August 10, 2012 – 10:30am – Panteon Santa Ana – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Desert Day in the Graveyard

So, my mission partner is about 5 hours away in another part of Mexico with one of our local missionaries riding along. They’re doing the bi-annual (twice a year?) renewing of the Mexican permit we need to have our American van here with us. No van = weekly Desert Day prayer time at a location that I can walk to. So I chose the tried and true local graveyard. Lest you think I’m some kinda morbid sort of person, let me explain myself. The idea of Desert Day is to follow Jesus’ example of escaping the busyness of ministry by retreating to a quiet locale, free of distractions/disturbances, for some much needed time with the Lord. Obviously, the graveyard is very VERY quiet. The people who “live” there don’t make any noise at all. (Ok, ok, corny/bad joke, I know). Also, there are a few really good shaded spots to escape the sun. Last but not least, if you’ve never been to a Mexican graveyard, then you’d never know how colorful and decorated they can be. The graveyard here in General Cepeda (Panteon Santa Ana) has nary a totally plain gray or white tomb. Many are painted various bright and varied colors. And for those tombs that are white or gray, they are usually adorned with a colorful Jesus or Our Lady of Guadalupe statue.

My reflections today centered around two bible passages I received during my Desert Day prayer time as well as a excerpt from the current chapter I’m reading in the book “Catholicism for Dummies: 2nd Edition”.

First passage – John 10:27-28 “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand.”

When I came across this verse, it really struck me. I caught myself thinking that sometimes in life I succeed in listening to his voice, ergo, being his sheep. But how many times do I NOT listen to his voice? Everytime this happens, I am not his sheep. Not out of his decision. He ALWAYS wants me to be his sheep. But he also respects my freewill, and that is how we as human beings are the most unique species of “sheep”. Unlike our animal counterparts, we have more than just animal instinct that guides our decision to follow or not follow him. We have, as previously stated, freewill. So, back to my point, because I have not always heeded his voice, there have been many times that I have not been his sheep. Many times that I have not followed him and he has not known me. Again, always because of my decision and never EVER because of any decision on his part. He always gives me what I need, including every possible chance to turn from my ways and towards his. Sometimes out of my nature of being a “tete-dur”, I choose my way. (“Tete-dur” is a cajun-french phrase my dad taught me when I was a little boy. It means “hard head” 🙂 ) But, the consolation of my reflection on this passage lies in the last verse. If I do choose to be his sheep, I will have life…………….ETERNALLY. I will NEVER be lost or stolen from his hand.

Second passage – John 11:41-42 “So they took the stone away. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I myself knew that you hear me always, but I speak for the sake of all these who are standing around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.”

This passage was with Jesus, Martha, et all at her brother Lazarus’ tomb, days after he died, moments before Jesus raised him. To me it shows two things, which I just so happen to desperately need, day in and day out, as a missionary. (All Christians need this too). It says to me that I need to be confident that God hears my prayers. And, it tells me that I need to pray not for selfish reasons, but in service to others.

This last passage is from the book I mentioned. “Darkening of the intellect: This wound is the reason many times we can’t see clearly the right path to take even though it’s right under our nose, so to speak. Sometimes, our wounded human nature cloud’s our intellect’s ability to see with precision the proper course to take. Often, we need good advice, counsel, and perhaps even fraternal correction to compensate when our minds are unable to digest the situation or we find it difficult to figure out the proper solution to our problem”

It’s a passage that really struck a chord with me. Currently I’m living out my commitment to be in Mexico until the end of November. What will happen after November, I honestly have no earthly clue. (Maybe a heavenly one?) And it’s frustrating. But, when I read this I felt like it helped me to understand the nature of why it’s hard to udnerstand God’s will and path in our lives. And the compensation it mentions (good advice, counsel, and fraternal correction) is right on the money. I have and still continue to benefit from all three.

And that’s all I got for today. I felt really good about my Desert Day prayer time today. Like God really spoke to me. It’s a great feeling.

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Jesus’ parable comes alive! (The Conclusion)

Some parting thoughts after witness the power of “small” giving

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Jesus Parable Comes Alive – part 1

Jesus parable comes alive in the modern version of the biblical story of Matthew 12:41-44. Never discount the power of a small gift, or of many small gifts put together. Be sure to check out “Jesus Parable Comes Alive  (the conclusion)”

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