Posts Tagged With: spiritual

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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My visit with a pretty blonde in San Diego

I knew that title would get your attention πŸ˜‰

Friday, December 21st, 2012 – 6:00pm – 28,000 feet – somewhere between San Diego & Dallas (continued at 8:00pm @ 28,000 feet somewhere between Dallas and Lafayette)

Well, my first ever visit with my friend Anne is officially over. And what a visit it was. After our friendship began online roughly 2 months ago (we met on CatholicMatch.com), I could tell that I liked talking with this chick. Not only did I enjoy it, I looked forward to it. She’s beautiful, smart, loves God, & is emotionally and spiritually mature. Two beautiful little girls. A loving and supportive family. Oh, and she started talking to me when I was still doing missionary work out of the country. Did I mention that I had a ridiculous beard when we started talking? She gets some extra points fer sure. Her striking up our initial conversation 2 months ago in spite of my situation helped me to realize that she’s a special girl and that I DEFINITELY wanted to get to know her better.

So we agreed on meeting up December 19th-21st. She was already on Christmas holiday from her teaching job and her girls would be with their dad. The timing was perfect. We decided on California for our first visit because we both believe that a man should be a man and pursue the woman. Specifically we decided on San Diego because we wanted a neutral location where it would be just the two of us getting to know each other better. I stayed at the Cabrillo Inn on Rosecrans St. and she stayed at another hotel about 10 minutes away. It was the perfect setup. On Wednesday morning, the day we met in person for the first time, it was a slow and relaxing morning. She finished up a few errands back home before she drove into San Diego. I slept in and then had lunch after a leisurely morning strolling along the waterfront at Shelter Island, which was a short walk from my hotel. When she let me know that she was on the way, I took a shower and freshened up a bit. Wanted to make sure I looked really sharp and smelled really good for our first meeting. πŸ™‚ I was a little nervous and kinda self-conscious when we first met and hugged. But over the next few hours as we explored Old Town, had dinner at a Mexican restaurant (where we got randomly serenaded by a mariachi band as we ate) and talked, that nervousness and self-consciousness started to fade and continued to do so throughout our time in San Diego. Of course there were a few moments of silence and/or awkwardness on my part, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all, it was our first meeting, and there was no one else there but us. No family or friends to counsel/guide/distract/visit with us……….you get the idea. So yeah, I guess that added a little pressure, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Probably my two favorite highlights were church and coffee. We got to go to noon Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego. Being able to go to Mass and to be able to share it with someone special was amazing. It’s something I don’t get to do very often, though hopefully I will in the future. The Our Father during Mass also gave me an excuse to hold her hand for the very first time. πŸ™‚ As good of an excuse as any I could possibly think of! I also really enjoyed the time we spent at coffeehouses Wednesday and Thursday night, as well as sittin’ beachside earlier this morning at Mission Bay. These were the times when we were solely focused on each other. We didnt’ have any distractions and we could talk as much as we wanted. Probe and pick each other’s brains. Get to know each other better through pure, unadulterated conversation. Right before we left the beach this morning to head to the airport, we agreed that we both enjoyed our time together and that we wanted to continue to get to know each other. I felt blessed that we both agreed on that. And I could tell by all the subsequent texting back and forth during the course of my travels throughout the day (along with the abundance of smiley faces contained in those messages), that we were both happy with where things are at. πŸ™‚ So as of now, no relationship status change. We wanna do things right and take it slowly. But, the future certainly does look bright!

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Mission Bay Beach

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Many thanks to Anne for taking this picture. Had to take it to prove that I was actually in San Diego πŸ™‚

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Hotel Del Coronado all lit up for Christmas

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beachfront at Coronado Island

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best bathroom graffiti ever! GOSH!

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Saint Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego

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view of San Diego from my hotel balcony

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Testimony of my 2nd year in missions

I’m at the point where I feel like I just have to do. I can’t sit around and wait for a big voice from the sky to tell me out loud what I must do. I feel this way because I think God wants me to know how to step out in faith. This is one of the main things that I think the Lord has wanted to teach me in my 2nd year of missions. I’m tired of sitting around and waiting for the God-given desires of my heart to fall into my lap and be fulfilled. I want to go out and get them. I want to seek and find. I want to play an active role in my journey of faith, fulfillment, and salvation. I need to know that I’m exercising my free-will to the best of my abilities, that it’s not withering up.

My second year of missions has also been a time of intense growth and learning. At times it has been painful. It has ALWAYS been fruitful. Spiritual inertia is something that’s very hard to conquer. Disobedience relentlessly persecutes the human soul. Impatience robs us of the present moment. I’ve had to deal with all three of those things this year. Having to immerse myself in a new culture and language took a toll on me. Living with someone very different than me who is many years my junior was tough. Having little or no funds, and for much of the time being in the negative, was extremely difficult and humiliating. Realizing that I’m not the easiest person to live with was a blow to my ego. Knowing that I was judgmental towards the poor was a punch to the proverbial gut. Add to that a failed relationship and the very real after-effects, and things didn’t get any easier.

Now if you take everything I’ve said so far at face-value, it could possibly paint a very depressing picture. But with God, it’s not just about the superficial. In all of the growth and learning, the suffering has not been for naught. It has been through the cross, and that’s how I know it has value. That’s how I know it’s been of great benefit to me and hopefully for the people in my life. And I’ve known for months now that something big is about to happen. Someway somehow I’m about to turn a big corner in my life. It’s an exciting feeling and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 39

Day 39 – Thursday – 11/1/12

Check out the date! 11 + 1 = 12! I love when that happens! πŸ™‚ Anyhoo, I felt the need to slow down my journalling a bit. The past couple of days I’ve been typing up my entries instead of writing them down first. I didn’t really have any time to journal this morning because I was getting ready to come to Saltillo. After morning prayer and a cup of coffee, checking email and throwing a few things in my backpack, I hopped on the 9 o’clock bus (La Naranja) to Saltillo.

Got down at my usual spot in front of the Panteon Santiago. It was an absolute madhouse in that area because today is All Saints Day & tomorrow is All Souls Day. Or as it’s known here in Mexico, Dia De Los Muertos. Headed down Victoria Guadalupe street to the post office to mail something to the states. I can’t tell you what I mailed off, I can’t even tell you how big or small it is, because I’m almost positive that the person who it’s for is gonna read this entry and I don’t wanna spoil the surprise. You know how girls are. If you let them know they’re getting something then the gears in their brain get goin’. And if you give them even the slightest clue as to what it is, then their brain goes into overdrive and they will use persistence and charm to try and get more clues out of you. πŸ™‚ (I kinda had to let her know something was coming, cuz I had to ask for her mailing address.)

Now I’m sitting outside of the Miracle Chapel that’s on the side of the Cathedral here in Saltillo. Gonna go to Noon Mass, since today’s a holy day of obligation. Well, it is in the states, not sure about here in Mexico. But whether it is or it isn’t, I have no excuse not to go, and I wanna go anyways. Besides, I’m definitely feeling the hunger pangs right now, so the first thing that will alleviate my physical hunger, as well as my spiritual hunger, is The Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ in The Eucharist. Cool, huh? πŸ™‚ After Mass, I’m gonna take a city bus to La Central de Autobuses and walk on over to Domino’s for lunch. I’m kinda pumped about it, can’t lie. Not only am I super hungry, but I’ve been in Mexico for five months now and haven’t had any American fast food or pizza this whole time. After some deelish pizza, I’m gonna head on over to HEB to buy a Dr. Pepper to bring back home and enjoy. Then I’m gonna take the bus back to General Cepeda. Probably gonna be a slow night. I might start cutting the new table covers from the rolls of material I bought from Senor Schlemann’s tienda. Maybe talk with some friends. Who knows…….

A few quick updates:
-Mass and The Eucharist were awesome.
-Got the “mystery thing” mailed off without a hitch πŸ™‚
-Domino’s pizza was awesome!!!!!!! Flippin’ delicious. I probably could have eaten the whole thing, but I was gettin’ pretty full so I saved two pieces for part of my lunch tomorrow.
-Got my Dr. Pepper, ready to crack that baby open tomorrow. Word.
-Played volleyball again tonight. I didn’t realize how much exercise it could be, and consequently how much it could hurt! It’s not too bad though. And it gives me more to offer up. Again tonight I was comic relief, definitely was the cause of some smiles and laughing. πŸ™‚ Slowly but surely though I am getting better.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 27

Day 27 – Saturday – 10/20/12

You know that Bible verse somewheres in the NT, the one that says basically “I do what I don’t wanna do and don’t do what I wanna do”? Well, most of us know that it’s normally interpreted as “I do the bad stuff that ain’t good for me to do, even though I know it’s bad and don’t really wanna do it, and I don’t behave like I know I should and like I want to and know that I need to”. I actually experienced it in reverse last night: “I do the good stuff that’s hard for me to do, and I don’t do the bad stuff that I kinda want to”. I suspect that alot of you experience that as well. You know, wanting to do what you’re not supposed to, but you sacrifice your personal desires for the sake of doing what’s right. That not so easy or pleasant but oh-so-necessary part of being a Christian.

Last night, the devil was comin’ at me hard. He was tempting me, trying to get me to fall. However, by God’s grace and my cooperation with it, I stood firm. Though I could definitely stand to improve in how efficiently and quickly I cooperate with his grace. And so, while the experience itself obviously was not pleasant, in hindsight I’m very happy that I was victorious in that situation. I truly think it’s yet another sign that I’m turning the proverbial corner in my spiritual life. When I think about how hard the Devil tempted Jesus when he was fasting in the desert, and how Jesus held firm, the parallel is a very striking one. Hunger, the very thing that is exposing my weakness, is also what’s making me strong.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 15

Day 15 – Monday – 10/8/12

Well, I made it through my first two weeks of the fast. I’ve definitely learned and grown alot already; I’ve definitely gained some clarity in my discernment of next year’s mission post. But, there’s still alot of time left in my fast so I’m sure there’s alot more progress to be made. I think this week I will start eating my daily meal at breakfast. Or, I might split my daily meal between breakfast and lunch to see how that works. See how it affects the hunger factor. One of the main reasons for the second option is that with a once daily meal, it’s a little bit bigger than a normal-sized meal for me. I suppose that’s a way to compensate for less meals. Guess that’s ok, as long as i’m not eating a daily meal that’s big enough to be three meals! πŸ™‚ More food = more time to prepare it and eat it. But, after morning prayer I usually have things I like to do before our morning ministry gets started and I don’t know if I’d have time to eat AND do all of that stuff. Ergo, the split-meal idea. I’ll at least try it today and see how it works out.

edit: Tried the split-meal thing and it seems to work ok. But, I think as long as I don’t dilly-dally I can eat a meal all at once. Might try that tomorrow. A meal all at once would also give me more of a hunger feeling later on in the day, that I can offer up. πŸ™‚

Earlier today we did our second to last rancho visits to Santa Ines and Independencia. Let them know that in two weeks would be our last official visit as a mission team before the 2 groups of missionaries arrive in November. At the rancho where I conducted the communion service (Independencia), I had a good chat with the lady who is the unofficial caretaker of the chapel. I’m giving her that honorary title because she is the keeper of the tabernacle keys, and i think she’s one of the few regulars when they pray the rosary in the chapel. She was lamenting the fact that few people show up at the chapel, whether it’s a rosary or a communion service. She specifically mentioned her wish that people would have a hunger for God. HUNGER. This word caught my attention for obvious reasons. It’s the type of hunger that she’s obviously concerned with, and in my fasting i’m realizing that it’s the type of hunger I too should be concerned with. I kinda smiled on the inside when she said that, because knowing that she and a precious few others like her are in that rancho keeping the light of Christ burning, is very comforting. Regardless of the numbers, it’s nice to know as a missionary that the people you serve have a hunger and a thirst for God.

Last but not least, offer up a little prayer for our mission team here. One of the guys was sick last night and this morning, and the other one has been sick today. Praise the Lord I haven’t gotten sick, but I woke up late, and have been in kind of a funk all day. I feel like it might be some kind of spiritual attack. So like I said, prayers please! πŸ™‚

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 14

Day 14 – Sunday – 10/7/12

So the dumbest thing to ever do in Mexico is to go on a 40-day fast. Too much good food here. I discovered earlier this morning the 2nd dumbest thing to do in Mexico. Help prepare bunuelos while on said 40-day fast. For those of you who don’t know, bunuelos are a type of thin flour tortilla that is fried till golden brown and then coated with a sugar/cinnamon mix. The light at the end of the tunnel is that I get to eat my share of the batch that was made when we go to Gallo & Rita’s tonight! πŸ™‚

When we got back from communion services, I got a little flustered after repeated attempts to unlock my combination lock on my bedroom door. Part of the frustration was the repeated failures, and part of it was the “stress” of being hungry. You know, moodiness, a little bit of the shakes, the hunger feeling, etc… After a bazillion tries, and one combination lock slammed to the ground in disgust, I paused for a moment. I said to myself “Wait a minute! I’ve got a fast and some hunger pangs I can offer up for this!” And I did just that. My anger dissipated and I just kinda thought it was pretty cool to have that in my spiritual arsenal to offer up in a time of need.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 11

Day 11 – Thursday – 10/4/12

So, I think one of the fruits of my fast that I’m already beginning to see is an increased level of appreciation. Just in general. I seem to be appreciating stuff more. It also seems like my general/overall “happiness” level is up too. At noon today is the first of two St. Francis feast day Masses at our church parish, San Francisco de Asis. And the retired Bishop Emeritus, Francisco Villalobos (who sounds like the voice of God when he talks and reads) will be celebrating Mass. Kinda neat that Francisco is celebrating Francisco’s feast at the parish of Francisco. Feel like that’s Catholicism’s way of ensuring a gaping ripped hole in the space-time continuum that will create a massive black hole that will swallow us all and send us to a much earlier than anticipated meeting with our maker. (edit: as you can tell, the whole “rip in the space-time continuum black hole” thing didn’t happen. But what did happen is that I got to briefly chat with the “voice of God”, aka Bishop Villalobos briefly after Mass. Super holy, super nice dude)

He’s a really good friend of our missionary company’s founders, Frank and Genie, from way back in the day when they first came here and he was the bishop. Speaking of fasting and eating, maybe if I play the “I’m Frank and Genie’s missionary” card, he’ll invite me to eat a delicious lunch with him. I mean, bishop’s gotta eat, right? So why not eat with him? πŸ™‚ We’ll see…… (edit #2: didn’t get to play that card, so I’ll never know. Ended up eating 7 missionary hot dogs for lunch. A missionary hot dog is a hot dog that uses a slice of wheat bread for the bun instead of a regular hot dog bun. Ends up be a little healthier and ALOT cheaper)

I think aside from clarity being a product of my fasting, I’m also starting to notice that I seem to have more spiritual insight. Lest I be mistaken as prideful, I can assure you that any and all insight is a gift from God and has nothing to do with me. For example, when we comment on the scripture reading during our community prayer, I feel like the scripture is more alive and that I have more to say and share. And of course I also seem to have more spiritual insight in regards to my own personal journey with the Lord. Well, I’m off to enjoy the singing, dancing, and other fesitivities that lead up to the main event later tonight, the fireworks! πŸ™‚ As a near and dear missionary brother of mine says, Hasta La Pasta!

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 10

Day 10 – Wednesday – 10/3/12

This morning I realized that even though I’m a “morning” person I can still be a little somber or grump-ish sometimes. It’s something I was reminded of this morning when we had to be at a 6am rosary at church. Another thing that’s been on my mind lately is how God changes us. It’s less of an instantaneous thing and more of a developmental process. Kinda like an athlete. An athlete doesn’t become good overnight with nothing but happy feelings. The excellence and satisfaction come after much hard work. I believe it’s Β the same in our spiritual life. When we pray for patience, he tests our patience in order to develop it. Right now I’m praying (as part of my fast) for an increase in humility and charity. I have not magically all of a sudden been filled with humility and charity while being able to practice them perfectly. Instead of giving me humility, he has first humbled me, in many ways. Instead of increasing charity in my life, he has first shown me where I fall short and do not practice charity. I think these are necessary stages to go through in order to truly receive those gifts and put them at the service of others.

Gold is purified and refined in fire. A metalsmith heats up metal from it’s cold, hard state until it is malleable. Then he hammers it into shape to create the beautiful final product. Another thing the good Lord reminded me of is realizing what we actually want when we pray for something. What we really want when we pray for patience is an easy day where we are not tested. What we really want when we pray for humility is not to be humbled. What we really want when we pray for charity is to feel good about having gifts to share without actually having to part with those gifts. And by the way, my self-control was tested this morning after the rosary. I had to sit and watch everyone else eat the delicious tamales Marta prepared yesterday. However I was able to take 3 of them home and eat them for lunch. πŸ™‚

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 9

Day 9 – Tuesday – 10/2/12

Well, I slept a little better last night, but it’s still too early to tell if it’s because I’m eating lunch instead of supper. I had a spiritual insight this morning. The first psalm talked about “a soul thirsting for God”, “yearning for God”, “for you my soul is thirsting”, & “my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water”. Because of my fast these verses came to life in a whole new way. After I read them I started wondering if I thirst & hunger for God at least as much as I hunger and thirst for physical food and nourishment. Am I as ravenously hungry at the table of God’s Word in the same way that I am at a table of regular food? Since I am fasting, once my daily mealtime comes around I REALLY look forward to eating, and when I start eating I feel like I could just eat and eat and eat and that I can’t get enough. Do I feel the same way or even more strongly when I encounter prayer, The Eucharist, Scripture, fellowship, missionary work, etc…..? Another analogy I thought of was wondering if I desire God as much as I desire the air that I breathe? To be honest, I have to answer no, which is not a good thing. But at least God has revealed that much to me and I can begin to work on it.

I also had a tiny snack this afternoon after Mass. One of our missionary families is preparing breakfast for everyone who will be at the St. Francis novena rosary tomorrow morning at the parish. Marta invited me over after Mass to take pictures of the food prep for their missionary newsletter and said I could sample one of her tacos. Felt it would be rude to turn down the invitation! πŸ™‚ But, in moderation, and not wanting to break my fast too much, i had one small RIDICULOUSLY DELICIOUS taco. Coulda eaten 10 of those things. After that taco and a small soft drink, I told everyone that was in the kitchen visiting and helping that I picked the worst country to do my first 40-day fast. (They all got a good laugh outta that).

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