Friday, January 20, 2012

As for religion, I love it.

If you've been paying attention to the spiritual blogosphere lately or even just Facebook, then you're bound to have seen this spoken word video about Jesus and religion. That original video has spawned dozens of responses from Christians, atheists, and all sorts of others.

There have been a few from the Catholic perspective, but the one I want to share is from Indiana's Fr. Burns, aka Pontifex. He not only serves as a diocesan priest, but he's also an incredibly talented hip-hop artist. I've been one of many touched by his music and ministry in the Phatmass phamily.

The point is this: Jesus didn't hate religion. He hated hypocrisy from anyone, regardless of creed. Dead hearts broke His heart. Liturgy and ritual is only empty if we treat it like a chore and not a real, physical encounter with Jesus.

Check out Father's video, and when you're done, come and talk with us about it. The discussion thread is here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I don't often write poems anymore, let alone post them publicly. But when the urge to write one does come along, it's fast and furious,  and more often than not they come out almost ready-made.

This one encompasses nicely everything I took away from the retreat, and the direction I'm trying to go in now. Enjoy.

January 11, 2012

I need
To think.

Slow down,
Breathe in;

To look up and search for those
Little streaks of You
That I see mixed in, just barely,
In the paint of the night sky.

I need
To remember.

To dig deep,
Wake up;

To shake off the haze of this
Complacent status quo
That I built, like a wall
Around my fragile faith.

I need
To let go.

To realize Your love is the strength
Running through my veins
That I receive even if
It’s the last thing I deserve.

I need
To accept.

…That I am not an island in this world.
…That life is never perfect,
…That I am not perfect.

But even so,
I am Yours.

And for that,
I am beautiful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Little Voice

If I had a nickel for every time someone made a reference to the "still, small voice" of God, I wouldn't need to work anymore.

Most of the time, my skeptic heart has dismissed the phrase. To me, language like that is just a pretty way of saying that God doesn't really speak at all.

But on retreat, I came to a different conclusion that somehow makes more sense, at least in my mind.

One of the seminarians who traveled with us gave a talk about the value of meditation and how to get started. As a Pagan, I meditated often, but the sort Catholics speak of is very different. Eastern-style meditation seeks to empty the mind of all thoughts, but in our spirituality, we open ourselves to whatever wispy ideas come along. Those, the seminarian said, could be God's way of reaching out to us.

Of course, I thought that was a bunch of hokey, too. But when our quiet hour came, I gave it a try.

Walking the grounds of the retreat house is always a spiritual experience in itself. Running downhill with the sun on my back and the wind in my hair, everything around me screamed of Him. I may be a skeptic, but as my father told me once, "You can't look around at all this and not believe there is Someone who made it all, and who cares for us."

God cares so deeply for His creation, for us; so much, in fact, that He's woven Himself so tightly into the fabric of this world that you almost miss it. He's so much a part of our world that His voice is no longer booming, but subtle and saturated into everything around us. We experience Him daily in a million little ways.

This is a new revelation for me. It's like Samuel hearing the voice of God, but thinking it was someone else speaking as we heard this weekend ... those pesky thoughts that "interrupt" our time with Him are often truly His way of speaking. Our supernatural, extraordinary, divine God has chosen to reveal Himself in natural, ordinary, very human ways.

He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of reason. We have an innate desire to do good. And more often than not, intuition will show us where to go. It may not be a burning bush, and He may not appear in flesh, but He does appear and speak all the time. He speaks through us.

All we need to do is listen, like Samuel did.

Friday, January 13, 2012

More like falling in love...

I came back from retreat on Sunday afternoon, and have spent large chunks of time since then trying to unpack everything that happened there.

It was not the easiest weekend, but at the same time, I'm extremely glad I went. Being in an unfamiliar group with a different priest stretched me out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, I'm social and got to know lots of great people.

More importantly, though, the only one I really had to lean on was God.

I ran from Him for the longest time, even after I came back to my faith. I didn't want to change. I didn't want to see everything in my heart that needed fixing. Perhaps the biggest reason was personal: I blamed Him for circumstances in my life that weren't His fault.

For so long, then, I associated God with a host of negative things. I knew that, but was too afraid to face it. It would hurt too much. But this weekend, I allowed myself to get to the bottom of all of that, and when I did, I found Him waiting with open arms.

We are building from the ground up a relationship that began six years ago out of confusion and desperation. It was a broken relationship from the start because, in so many ways, I was broken.

Little by little, I'm finding that brokenness is fading. My flaws are many, but He has healed and continues to heal me of so much.

Retreat allowed me to open myself to His love in a way I was never able to before. At one point, alone in front of the tabernacle, I thanked Him for that ... but the answer I got wasn't what I expected at all:

Thank you for letting Me in. It's about time.

I hope this is only the beginning.

As with most things, this song says it much better than I can.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thou Shalt Laugh!

Before I leave for retreat, here's a silly video. I typically find "Christian" comedy extremely lame, but this made me smile. This is Michael Jr. of Thou Shalt Laugh. Thanks to Brian for passing this on. :)

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole

Merry Christmas, happy new year, and apologies for being so quiet over the Christmas season...

I spent the last two weeks with family, friends, and an exorbitant amount of food. And I walked into 2012 a few pounds heavier.

More than that, though, I am a touch holier than I was at the beginning of Advent. Let me explain:

When you really love another person, there's often this compulsion to be different, be better, for their sake. They have given you so much, they deserve so much, yet all the ways you can think of to show your gratitude feel ... inadequate.

That sense of inadequacy hit me hard over this vacation, both in the ways God has loved me and the ways others have. Over and over again, He has given me more than I could ask for.

This new year, I marked six years since I gave my life to Christ. Until recently, I thought I was doing pretty well. Perhaps I am. But lately, I have learned just how abysmally far I have yet to go.

That frustrates me. And I'm thinking it's time for some progress.

This weekend, I'm going on retreat with a group of young adults I've spent only a short time with. I don't know them well at all, and am admittedly uneasy about sharing my heart with mere acquaintances.

Too, there's the daunting realization that, while there, I have to face Him alone once more. Being one half of a spiritual team has become so natural to me -- it is my eventual vocation, after all. The departure from that, however brief, is a bit nerve wracking.

Being alone with God is usually too much for me to handle. If I can avoid Him, I will. And I have.

But this walk is all about seeing ourselves for who we are, and not the puffed-up delusion we imagine for ourselves. It's only when we own up to how badly we need Him that He can truly work.

My only goal this year is to emerge a little stronger, and a little more worthy of the name "Christian." An ambitious goal, maybe, but it's long overdue.

So I'll do what I dread and face this retreat, even if it hurts. Everything worth having is worth the struggle ... and a better, healthier, more joyful me is more than worth it.

Please pray for me.