Posts Tagged With: love

New Year reflections on love and life from a Cajun Catholic missionary

Sunday, January 13, 2013 – Noon thirty pm – Mom and Dad’s house – Lafayette, LA
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a journal entry, and I was startin to feel the itch. My impetus for this particular entry is my friendship with Anne. One of the things I really enjoy about our friendship is that I’m learning so much due to all the talking and discussion that happens between us. While Anne is the only one privy to all of the background stories and discussions, I still want to share these “gems” with y’all.
-“I want the whole truth & nothing but the truth, along with an undivided heart.” Perhaps just as bad as lying is failing to tell the whole truth. Yes, in telling partial truths you can literally say you are not intentionally lying to somebody. You may not even be desiring to lead them astray. But if you don’t give them the whole picture then you bear responsibility for when things go wrong. Related to this would be loving others with an undivided heart. Nothing’s worse than trying to have a discussion with someone who is distracted. If someone does not pay attention to me when I’m trying to have meaningful discussion or interaction with them, if their actions don’t prove to me that I’m important and that they’re focused on me, then I feel gypped. Same thing applies to loving others. If you only seek to fulfill the “minimum requirements of love” (as if such a thing even exists) then you are not going to be able to show that the relationship and the person are important to you. My advice is to do what you have to do, and then do more. The extra effort will be worth it.
-“What’s not a big deal to you may be a big deal to someone else.” We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences in life. Inevitably your outlook on certain issues will be different than that of those whom you love. That’s why you have to be considerate and take into account what your loved one has gone through, in order for you to be sensitive to how things affect them. A simple joke or a seemingly small issue for you could be something that touches upon a very sensitive area for your loved one. And because you love them, you have to be prepared to pay attention to these small things and act accordingly or avoid them if at all possible.
-“A small deal can become a big deal, in both good ways and bad.” As I stated in the last paragraph, small things that are not heeded can create problems. But it also works for good. A simple note, a quick hello, a little hug, or a meaningful compliment can make the day of the one you love.
-“Daily personal prayer time is a must, no matter how many other spiritual things you do.” Imagine trying to run a car on fumes. Or sustaining a friendship when virtually no meaningful communication exists. That’s essentially what you’re do to your relationship with God when you don’t pray. Aside from that relationship suffering, you also won’t be able to get what you need to live your life lovingly for others. The same can be applied to your relationship with your loved one. Without communication, your relationship will wither and die. And if you don’t relate to God daily in prayer, then you won’t be able to relate to your loved one in the way that you need to.
-“The ugly truth is better than a pretty lie.” Sometimes we are scared to reveal unpleasant truths about ourselves or our pasts for fear that the other person will stop loving us. If they do stop loving you, then it was not the right kind of relationship. However, chances are that they’ll love you anyways, because they can see through the imperfections. But if you hide truths from them, or if you lie about something (even if it’s in a seemingly innocent or protective sort of way) in order to make yourself look better, then your relationship’s foundation is weakened. A pretty lie is still a lie. But an unpleasant truth honestly and freely revealed, is still the truth. Doing that will help you to build trust with the one you love and it will help you to be vulnerable in a way that is good.
-“Loneliness and stress can be cruel masters or great motivators.” Loneliness and stress are two of the leadings causing of people doing dumb stuff. It’s because they focus so much on the problems of loneliness and stress as well as the by-products of these two things, that they lose sight of the solution. Sure it’s easy to wallow in misery and self-pity when stress and loneliness are knockin’ at your door. But just imagine how much better things could be if you allowed these two things to motivate you instead of torment you. Instead of seeking wordly things that will never fill the hole in your heart, allow loneliness and stress to motivate you to do charitable works, or to pray more, or to seek the company of others. If you do this not only will you grow, but your relationship with your loved one will grow as well.
-“Love is a choice that is worth your time and effort.” Sometimes love feels great, both literally and figuratively. But our modern culture lies to us when we are tricked into believing that love always feels good. Love is sometimes hard. Love is sometimes painful. Love is sometimes confusing. It doesn’t just happen. You have to choose it. Yet it’s always worth it. And what is love? Love is doing right and growing closer to God. If you want to show your loved one that you truly care for them, then do right and help them grow closer to God.
-“Trustworthiness and vulnerability go hand in hand.” You cannot trust someone if they cannot open up and be vulnerable with you. On the other hand, you cannot be vulnerable with someone if you cannot trust them. It’s kinda like the chicken and the egg question. I’m not sure which has to come first. I just know you gotta have both.
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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 24

Day 24 – Wednesday – 10/17/12

Had another opportunity to practice self-control last night and this morning. I continue to explore the cooking side of myself in little ways. Earlier this week I bought some peanuts because I wanted to make homemade peanut butter. Well, besides the fact that it is not as easy as I thought it would be, I also didn’t account for my hunger making it really hard to resist eating it. 🙂 You’d think I would have learned by now. But I did sample a little bit last night and this morning and I’d have to say that I’m very pleased with the outcome. It’s not like what you’d buy in a jar obviously. I simply shelled the peanuts, stuck ’em in a blender, add a few spoonfuls of cooking oil for moisture and creaminess and voila! Only thing i’ll do different next time is maybe add slightly less oil and put some sugar too. And If pecans weren’t so much work to shell, I’d do pecan butter. But I promise you I do not have that kind of patience, especially not when I’m on a fast. It’d either be torture not being able to eat the pecans, or I’d be so dang hungry that I’d eat the pecans as soon as they were shelled. Alas, that’s the biggest dilemma I face in life right now, which means I’m VERY blessed.

To revisit what seems to be a constant theme of my fast, I continue to learn about areas that I need to work on, and I continue to be humbled by the generosity of others. What seems to be most on my heart at this point in my fast, is my somewhat negative tendency towards selfishness and self-preservation. I use things like “fairness” and “being broke” to try and justify my behavior. Seemingly little stuff like not sharing my personal stash of coffee or sugar. But my mission partners, probably unbeknownst to them, continue to humble me and teach me in these small ways. Me asking Luis to hold off on doing his usual email/internet stuff so I could watch a UL Ragin’ Cajuns football game on a live video feed. And he did it! I can’t say with certainty that I would also have done that. Albert, before he left earlier this morning to go to the States for a few weeks to do some fundraising (say a quick prayer for that), bought some Mexican coffee for me since he knew that we were almost out. Again, it seems small, but God is using these small things to powerfully touch and move my heart. And I know Albert will be back in a couple of weeks, but I’ll definitely miss him. We enjoy the energy and friendliness that he adds to the mix here.

And unrelated to the fast, but I just feel like talking about it, is my recent decision to rejoin CatholicMatch.com. It’s basically a relationship/dating oriented website for Catholics. I did it for awhile last year, and was taking a break. But I decided that I needed to give it another chance. It’s a great way for the Lord to be able to introduce me to like-minded Catholic women and to be able to enjoy their company, form friendships, and possibly more. I think too that this time around I’m a little more patient about the whole process, and a little more mature and realistic in my expectations and how I go about doing it. So far I have really enjoyed it. Having great conversations that I really, really enjoy, and I can see for sure that I’ve at least got some new friends already. We’ll give it some time and prayer to see if God blesses it to go any further than that 🙂

Came across an AWESOME quote from Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) an encyclical by Blessed Pope John Paul II that I’m currently reading. “In particular, the life of holiness which is resplendent in so many members of the People of God, humble and often unseen, constitutes the simplest and most attractive way to perceive at once the beauty of truth, the liberating force of God’s love, and the value of unconditioned fidelity to all the demands of the Lord’s law, and even in the most difficult situations.”

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 17

Day 17 – Wednesday – 10/10/12

Well, today is a slow day so far. We have office hours this morning and later this afternoon we’re doing a prayer service at a chapel in a neighborhood right behind our mission house. (update: Our prayer service was blessed. 7 people showed up. We sang, prayed, and preached the Word. I preached on John Chapter 6’s teaching on the Eucharist. It was also really nice to be able to do a prayer service/chapel visit within walking distance of our house! 🙂 )

Had a good walk around the plaza this morning. Nice and cool. Very fresh air. During office hours, we had one of our semi-regular visitors come over to ask for prayers for her daughter who had her newborn baby with her. After we prayed for her daughter and the baby, the lady asked for us to pray for her too. Apparently she was having some head pain. It feels really good when someone comes over to ask for prayer. Even when they have a legitimate material need we can help with, we know that the real reason we’re here, and the best we have to offer to them, is the Lord’s love. Regardless of what you have or don’t have, if you are in love with the Lord, that’s the most important thing.

Also have to look at setting up a twitter account. Need to help promote FMC on Facebook, but I’m doing a complete facebook fast as part of my 40 day fast. But, I believe I can setup a twitter account and send updates through twitter to Facebook without having to access Facebook. I really wanna be faithful to this fasting from Facebook. I feel like it will help me to grow in self-control and other ways, and will also help me to prioritize what’s really important in life (my relationship with the Lord). I’m feeling a little bit more of the hunger feeling now that I’m splitting my daily meal into two smaller “snacks”. Next week I may split the meal into three smaller snacks and see how that affects me.

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Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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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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I know what I want

Saturday, May 19, 2012 – 6:20pm – Adoration Chapel @ Our Lady of Wisdom – Lafayette, LA

Just a few thoughts I had while in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament……

I know what I want. I want it so bad I can almost taste it. I see others who have also wanted the same thing and have received it. I try to be happy for them and not let it turn into envy, jealousy, or covetousness. It seems like the time for it is not far off, but it still isn’t time quite yet. I have to keep journeying towards it though. It’s tough to keep going when things aren’t always certain. It’s tough to keep going when so many times before it hasn’t worked out. It’s tough to keep going when you don’t know if your efforts will be reciprocated. It’s tough, for these and for so many other reasons.

Sometimes I wonder if I want it too much. But then I realize that God would not give me this desire for no reason. I really feel like this is the way that I’ll be able to love as much as possible. It’s the way that I’ll be able to identify most with Jesus and the way that he loves. I will suffer through whatever I have to suffer through. I will risk misunderstanding, humiliation, and heartbreak. I will sell all I have, if that’s what I have to do to gain this beautiful pearl. I will not wait until I’m completely holy, healthy, and capable, because I never will be. I will pursue it as I am now, hoping and praying that God will strengthen me where I am weak

And when I obtain it, my heart will be filled with joy. I will receive as much love as I possibly can, because I will be fulfilling the desire of my heart and soul that God has made me for. I will pour out my love like never before, never having to be afraid that I’ll run out, or that it will not be received. I know because of this that new love will spring forth. At this point, I can only imagine what it will be like. I look forward with faithful and eager anticipation to the day when I will know for myself what it is like.

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When one door closes, another opens

Saturday May 5th, 2012 – 1:45pm – In the guys’ trailer @ Big Woods Mission Base – Esther, LA

“The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” –Psalm 12:6–

It’s funny how our human concept of love often leaves out pain. Pain? Really? Love is supposed to be, well, happy! But in reality, love is a decision, not always easy, and sometimes painful. But Love is still Love. It will always be worth the sacrifices we have to make. In fact, if Love was so easy to arrive at, if it didn’t require any real sacrifice, if we didn’t have to put our hearts on the line without any guarantee of success, would it really be Love? I don’t think so.

Right before I started writing this journal entry, I was re-reading over my last one. At the end, I was talking about my trip up to Michigan to see my then-girlfriend Nina. Talked alot about being honest and open. That was something I could have done better at. Not that I was dishonest. It’s just that I wasn’t open enough about how I really felt and what was really important to me. I was actually having concerns before I even left Mexico for the St. Lucia trip, but aside from not being open about it, I figured that maybe our visit would clear things up. I needed to give it a chance. And I truly believe that. I knew that in spite of my concerns, that I needed to go through with the visit to Michigan. It’s because visiting in person and getting to know someone up close and personal is way different than doing things long distance. Whether it was a make it or break it visit, there was value to be had in us being together. Needless to say, we figured out that a relationship wasn’t in the cards. Now I could take this time to go over all the potential reasons why things didn’t work out. But I won’t because that’s between me, Nina, and God. I could also look back and lament the things that went wrong, or I could wonder what the purpose of the relationship was if it ended up not working out. What I’m gonna do is hold onto the fact that in spite of the relationship ending, God let this happen for a reason. It taught me more about myself, and helped me to grow closer to God. I pray that Nina derived the same benefit as well. When I look at how plans have changed as a result of this, I can again rejoice. I now have the chance to be with my missionary community at our home base here in Louisiana. I can visit with friends and family before I head back to Mexico.

Speaking of Mexico, I’m still not sure what will happen there either. The theme of my missionary life so far has been A.) Expect the unexpected, and B.) Plans will change. After talking to Joe a couple weeks ago, we came to the conclusion that because there were no major obstacles to me returning to Mexico, that I should do that. Once I arrive in Mexico, the idea is that I’ll stay until Intake 2012 arrives in November to wrap up their training. We recognized that one of my needs is to stay and commit to this mission post for the rest of the year and really put myself into it. Really give myself to these people. I agree with that. There’s nothing illogical about that conclusion. But for some reason, I’m not totally at peace with it. Maybe it’s just the normal hesitancy one experiences when facing the unknown or something new. There are other reasons though. Part of me wonders if that not being at peace is because the mission post is not a good fit for me. Another part of me wonders if I maybe just need to live in community at Big Woods for a few months and help out with Intake. Then there’s the opportunity for travel to Asia. I REALLY want to go to Asia, and FMC has a month long trip to the Phillipines planned for June, and a 3 week trip to India in December. If I stay in Mexico until November, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make either of those trips.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is learning to play the guitar and learning to speak Spanish. At this point I’m having to try and teach myself. Spanish has come to a dead stop. I’m not even trying to study in any way. Guitar is almost at a standstill but I am trying to resurrect it. Practiced last night for the first time in weeks. It’s just that I have such a hard time teaching myself. Having a teacher who pushes me makes it alot easier. Don’t see that happening anytime soon though. Both speaking Spanish and playing guitar will come in handy for missions and other ministries as well. Guitar will be easier for me to stick with. I feel like it’s more useful and I have more of a desire. And even if Spanish is as useful as playing the guitar, it’s just hard for me to stick with it. My heart and my passion is with the french language. The fact that I have to neglect the language that is such a part of me and my culture, in order to learn another, is hard. Maybe one day God will bless me with mission trips to french speaking areas.

Here’s to having faith in God and trusting in his guidance during my missionary journey………………….

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Cold Day in the Desert

Friday – 3/9/12 – 2:02pm – On a mountaintop in General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

The moutain we’re on this week is the one right behind La Colonia, which is a neighborhood very close to our casa. In fact, this mountain is close enough that we can walk to it. It is the highest mountain in town, but don’t let that fool you. Climbing time to the top was 15 minutes max. Nonetheless, the view up here is gorgeous. From here we can even see the other mountaintop where we did a Desert Day during La Entrada (Intake) in February. It (the other mountain, not the one i’m on right now) is the mountain that’s right next to the farm that’s owned by the same lady who owns the Las Portales restaurant next to the church in town. Perfect spot to come and pray for Desert Day. Now that I think of it, this is my first “true” Desert Day for me and Luis since we arrived in Mexico over a month ago. It’s just the two of us today.

A few minutes ago as I was reading my Bible, I was at the beginning of the book of Judith. It starts off by saying how King Nebuchadnezzar wanted everyone in the land to basically say and act like “Hey dude, you’re the man and the best ever and so much so that we wanna pay you homage and worship you.” When they didn’t do that, he basically wiped out alot of them, and plundered and terrorized so as to strike fear in their hearts and force them to submit to him and worship him. And that story got me thinking about fear, both good and bad fear. King Nebuchadnezzar’s fear was the bad kind of fear. It’s the fear that makes you afraid, the fear that removes your free will, the fear that FORCES you to submit. Then I got to thinkin’ about the fear of God.

The fear of God, properly viewed, is a GOOD fear. The way I see it, it’s not a fear of death, revenge, or horrible suffering. It’s the fear of offending a love so great, that its’ a love completely unrivaled. THAT’S the kind of fear we should have towards God, and the fear that should be a guiding factor in our lives. It’s a fear that leads us to love, not despair.

We also had a great week this past week. Last Saturday for our free day, me and Luis decided to take a bus to and from Saltillo. We did it because A.) we wanted to learn how to get to and from Saltillo by bus, and B.) so we could walk around town a bit. Our handicapped friend Hugo whom we met in November 2009 on a short term mission trip, was not in his usual spot in front of the Cathedral and the Cathedral was closed. We checked out the market and the surrounding area for awhile before heading to the bus stop on the edge of town where we caught the bus back to General Cepeda. Don’t think we’ll be doing that every week though. Even taking the bus is an expense that really adds up. On Sunday we did morning Mass, and then went to La Puerta, our Sunday rancho visit. We’re gonna visit that rancho on the Sundays we don’t have communion services in other ranchos. The plan is that we’ll do some songs and prayer, lead a reflection on that Sunday’s reading, and close with some more prayer and song. We also continued to integrate more and more into our weekly schedule. We are now in full-swing with our door ministry, home visits, and rancho ministry. I think from here on out it’s just a matter of fine-tuning how we do things and figuring out the best way to minister to people. We’ve also been blessed to be able to go to Daily Mass during the week. This week we’ve also been participating in a series of talks given by the priest in preparation for a Lenten mission that we’ll be giving next week. All in all, we’re experiencing a good balance between busy-ness and rest, and I look forward to things getting better and better.

God Bless!

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On the nature of Love & bein’ a country boy

Monday October 24, 2011 – 7:35am – Office @ Big Woods Mission – Esther, LA

“Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, that you may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace.”
–Baruch 3:14–

Last week I started getting the urge to do another journal entry. After all, it’s been over a month. (Where does the time go?) Thought that I’d get a chance Saturday during Desert Day, but I had a good distraction. A friend of FMC who attended our Life In The Spirit Seminar at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Lafayette stopped by. I had been corresponding with him to try and get a copy of Sarah Granger’s talk to him. Tried to get back to journaling later in the day on Saturday, but things kept coming up, and I didn’t wanna force it. Sunday I was gone all day. Caught a ride to 10am Mass in Richard with Kylie so I could hear Sammy and Lindsey give a talk for World Mission Sunday. Stopped at Candyland Cottage in Rayne after Mass, and then Uncle Donald’s after that.

Ok captain, time to land the plane and get to the point. So, two weeks ago, someone close to me told me she was doing a discernment retreat to try and get a handle on what God is saying to her about her next steps on her journey. Being the good influence she is, I was motivated to do one as well. I was discerning both missions and marriage. For missions, I was discerning my next steps for both long-term and short-term mission opportunities. For marriage, I was discerning the who/what/how/when factors. As far as my discernment of missions went, my desire to go to Asia at some point was confirmed. Seeing as how it looks like me and Luis might end up in Costa Rica, my time in Asia is looking like it will be with a short term mission group. I also discerned that if God puts me with a family again next year, that it would be with the Romeros. For short term missions a whole plethora of opportunities popped up. The Phillipines, St. Lucia, Ecuador, and Peru all came up. Already confirmed that I’ll be helping to lead a trip to St. Lucia in January. We’ll see what God does with the other three locations.

As far as the marriage thing goes, you didn’t honestly think I’d give you all the answers to that, did you? 🙂 It’s a private revelation from God sort of thing, where only the people concerned find out. However, I can say that I also did alot of reflecting on friendship and love, and the end of this entry I’ll include some of the nuggets of wisdom God gave to me. The realizations and revelations were a blessing to me and were proof of the Holy Spirit working through prayer.

Living out in the country has been really good for me. Yes, a big part of my season of growth right now has been due to community life. When you are surrounded by good people and a life of prayer, you WILL grow in holiness. But that’s not the only factor. Being surrounded by nature is good for my soul. Living in the peace and quiet instead of the noisy and fast-paced city is good for my soul. Seeing things like rice fields, swampland, horses, cows, pastures, fog, dogs, barbed-wire fences, & birds is good for my soul. Swimming in a muddy pond that is home to the occasional 3-4 foot gator is exhilarating…………….and good for my soul. Burning logs and branches is messy, and good for my soul. Killing wasp nests is good for my soul. Pounding on a pile of rock hard dirt, shoveling it into the back of a truck, dumping it into a hole, filling a wheelbarrow full of horse manure to fill said hole with “fertilizer” so grass can grow and thereby hold the dirt in place, is good for my soul. Riding my bike down a country road and seeing a beautiful oak tree draped with spanish moss is good for my soul. Working and sweating and getting blisters and sore muscles is also good for my soul. I love where God has me at right now. I love that I get to wake up and do this (and other missionary stuff) every day. I think perhaps the singular greatest blessing I’ve received since being back at Big Woods is being able to work with my hands and do manual labor. It has taught me so many things, including obedience AND knowing the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all of these blessings. Please continue to shower them down upon me. Help me to continue being open to your guidance. Bless us in all our missionary endeavors here at FMC, especially as Mrs. Genie prepares to go to China, and Intake prepares to go to Mexico.

Nuggets of Wisdom from The Holy Spirit about Love:

* be free to love * love unconditionally * draw close to me so that you can draw close to her * take a leap of faith * Friendship is not just a consolation prize, it is love through companionship. And marriage is the fulfillment of friendship * Instead of choosing good over evil because of an ideal, I can now choose good over evil because of someone. When I think in terms of people instead of ideals, love as a choice becomes real, and is easier to make * It should be a give and take, where you can savor the mystery * I need someone who brings out the best in me * I need someone who can bring me out of my shell * If you know the Lord has brought someone into your life, if you know you are drawn to someone because of a mutual love  for the Lord, then do not hesitate to grow close to that person! Do not be afraid that you are “deifying” them or “idolizing” them. Let yourself enjoy them and their company. Let yourself enjoy the love you give and receive. Draw closer to them by drawing closer to the Lord. That person is an instrument of God’s love in your life. To put them off due to a false sense of caution, humility, or discernment is a tragedy. By not putting your heart on the line and loving the person unconditionally, you risk losing out on the greatest treasure in life, LOVE.

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Take me home, 165

Tuesday July 19, 2011 – 7:40am – Back Porch of the Cafeteria at Camp Hardtner – Pollock, LA

Yes you heard right, I’m back at Hardtner! 🙂 My heart is so happy right now, you have no idea! When I knew I’d be stateside for Faith Camp, & I saw that the dates for Mid Hi were after that, I knew I had to come back again. Contacted Fr. Jeff Millican, an episcopal priest from NOLA, and he ok’d it and here I am! He’s the dean for this week, Middle High, which is for kids going into 9th & 10th grades. He’s also been doing camp staff for 10 years now, and I knew him from back when I was a counselor. FYI, “Camp Staff” is the group of adult volunteers that came in for that particular week and plan & execute the themes and content for the talks, family groups, etc…..

Rode up with him to Hardtner yesterday afternoon. Stopped in Elleck (Alexandria) to get our drug testing done and buy some snacks for the week. Got to camp around 5:30 and started getting settled in. Met Brahm Diaz’s mom, Adelaide, who is another one of our camp staffers. She was a counselor back in the 70’s, and has been very involved with camp over the years. (she’s done camp staff too). Brahm was one of my campers and the past few years he was a counselor, including 07-08, when I did my previous 2 years of camp staff w/Madre Annie Bates

So we basically got settled in our rooms, and just hung out the rest of the night. Fleshed out the theme for the week, “It’s the End of the World as we know it.” Got titles for each day as well as a few notes on what we’d like to talk about each day. Talked camp and life. Ate supper. A few of the counselors came by to say hi: Janey, Claire, Daniel Chapman (the head counselor), and Luke Miles. Saw Emma Benton at one point. Got to visit with Haley Harrington and Ashley Holliday when I went to the office later that night to use the wireless internet.

Got to visit with Pat Higgins (the camp director) as well. So many great things about yesterday, that I’ll finish up by mentioning my top two or three. Just being back for the first time in 3 years was awesome. I felt this odd mixture of feeling like i’d never left, as well as all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that flood you when you return to a favorite place. Yesterday Claire, one of the counselors and a former camper of mine, told me that I was one of her favorite counselors. That made my day. To know that an awesome Hardtner person, who loves camp as much as you do and is now a counselor, not only remembers you but also remembers you as their favorite counselor, is an amazing feeling. It makes my experience of Hardtner more complete. Makes you feel like you made a difference and did something right. I think I would just have to sum it all up by saying that Love is so tangible here at Hardtner. It hasn’t even been a full day since I arrived, and I can already tell it’s gonna be an awesome week.

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