Category : Faith

Do not forget reminder
Action, Article, Faith, Love, Scripture, Service
0

Help Me Remember

The last week of August is the first week of school in our area.  The Friday before school started, the boys and I returned from four weeks of traveling and visiting family (New York, New England, China, and Malaysia… including the rides to and from the airports, the trip home took 42 hours).  We spent the first week of school recovering from jet lag and readjusting to home, schedules, and packing lunches.   Things were chaotic and everyone was exhausted, but we were slowly-but-surely finding our way back to normal.

Mid-morning Thursday on that first week of school, my sister called with an urgent request.  Laurie is the Executive Coordinator for both SafePlace (an organization focused on ending sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change) and Austin Children’s Services (ACS offers protection and healing to children who have experienced abuse and neglect).

ACS has received eight children this week, and our clothing closet is empty.  Three brothers came in late last night with nothing but the clothes on their backs…and they are going to be here for a while.  Do you have any clothes that you could donate for these three boys?  We need size 3T/4T and size 5/6, as well as size 9 shoes.
Sorting through clothes to make a donation was not on my to-do list.  It wasn’t even on my radar.  But I didn’t even hesitate; of course we can help!  We live in Houston and were planning to visit Austin for the weekend.  I had a little over 24 hours.  As I went through the closets and bins of clothes, I found a lot of 5/6 clothes but I had already passed the 3T/4T on to my nephews.

So I reached out to five local friends who also had boys.  Not one hesitated.  Every single one of them found something to donate – with apologies: “sorry it couldn’t be more…”  The generosity was overwhelming.  We barely had room in the trunk for our luggage.

IMG_3104


  • Recall a time when you were asked to help someone in need.  What happened?

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Rubber-boots-in-the-water
Divine Providence, Faith, Friendship, Grace, Scripture
2

Seek and You Shall Find

Last week, during heavy rains and flash flood warnings, my living room flooded.  The exterior drain got clogged and water seeped in, drenching the carpet and padding.  I only discovered it because a meeting I was supposed to be preparing for got postponed. So while the kids took care of their afternoon responsibilities, I emptied the dish-drying rack and tidied the kitchen. When I walked along the far side of the living room to place a special platter back in its display holder, I felt the squish of puddling water in the wet carpet beneath my feet.

My first call was to my husband (the iPhone tells me I made the 16-second call at 3:23pm).  His office is a mile from home, so he arrived within six minutes. In that time, my boys and I grabbed every towel in the linen closet to sop up the mess.  That’s when I texted my network of friends.

Flooding Texts

Flooded-Carpet-and-PorchWithin moments of texting each request, different friends responded telling me they had what I needed.  Within 90 minutes of discovering the flooding, I had everything I needed to fix the problem, including a neighbor who came over to help my husband snake the exterior drain–all without spending a dime.

In response to this situation, I had a choice.  I could either focus on the frustration of the flooding or I could be amazed by how quickly everyone responded.  I could be annoyed by the clogged drain or touched by the outpouring of kindness, generosity, and availability of the friends in my community.  I could obsess about the potential for the problem’s recurrence or I could be grateful for every aspect of the solution.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

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Waiting Alone
Faith, Grace, Hope, Scripture
0

Waiting…

I struggle with Waiting.  Patience is not my strongest virtue.

I’m not talking about the banalities of waiting in traffic or waiting behind a check-writer in the check-out line of the grocery store.

I’m talking about Waiting to hear news about a job in the midst of unemployment. Waiting for a diagnosis.  Waiting for that life-changing email or phone call.  Waiting for a response.

Waiting for more information so that you can move beyond the gazillion choose-your-own-adventure style possibilities in your head and actually start doing the “next thing,” whatever that may be.

Most recently, this Waiting sat like a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  My boys got sick while we were visiting my parents in Malaysia.

Sick and Sleeping

When my younger one gets sick, it’s always been no-energy with a scary-high fever for the first 24 hours.  After that first 24-hours, the high fever always breaks and then, I can tell whether it’s worthy of a doctor’s visit or just a passing bug.  My older one has a similar cycle, but the high-fever isn’t quite so scary.  It was only a 24 hour wait.  I have waited longer for other things, but this was my children… in another country… it was just hard.

Waiting is hard.

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23:50
Action, Evangelization, Faith, Grace, Life
2

Stuck at the Gate? or Open to Grace.

You know how when you attend a retreat, your heart is brimming with peace, love and joy?  …how you are swimming in an awareness of God’s grace?

Grace is the free and undeserved help that God gives us (CCC, 1996).

Well, for the retreat I attended, I had just written a book on how to continue that retreat experience—Continuing the Journey—and distributed it to my first group of readers.  I was not only on that retreat-high, I was on the precipice of a new chapter in my life.

And I was exhausted.  But it was that good kind of tired where the adrenaline starts to fade and your entire body begins to relax.  And there was all that grace.


Grace is a participation in the life of God (CCC, 1997).

Bonus: at the conclusion of the retreat, I headed to the airport to join my family in the Adirondacks for a vacation.  It was the first of four weeks of traveling to visit family; Upstate NY, then Boston/New England, then China, then Malaysia.

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danskin finisher
Faith, Virtue
0

Somewhere Along the Line

I met Peter through a friend of a friend at a party, before heading out to see some bands play at South By Southwest.  I was attracted to the trifecta of cute, smart, and funny that he had going on.  As we got to know each other, I was shocked to find out that a month before we met, he had run a marathon and completed a 50 mile bike race, and was about to do a triathlon.  He had an average-guy build–a little bit of a beer belly–and didn’t look like an athlete; I could not fathom how he could possibly do those things.

More than my unhelpful preconceived notions of what an athlete looks like, I had sized up the end-result of all his training efforts as impossible: there is no way I could run 26.2 miles, no less swim 1/2 mile, then bike 12 miles, then run 3 miles.  Just no.

I saw athleticism as haves-and-havenots (and I was a havenot).  Like a light switch: it was either on or off, but no in-between.

But Peter didn’t see what I saw.  He saw a training schedule.  He saw daily steps along a path.  He saw incremental progress building up until he could confidently complete something amazing.  Peter’s  way of seeing things inspired me.  He was a regular guy that did a marathon and a triathlon; if he could do it, I could do it.  So I did.

tri

The following year, I completed my first Danskin Triathlon – an all-women’s series that cultivates an environment of encouragement.  The swim went okay–though I’m a strong swimmer, I was ill-prepared for fifteen pairs of feet in my face.  Towards the end of the 12 mile bike ride, I faced what felt like the largest hill I had ever seen.  I wasn’t even halfway up, and I was ready to dismount and walk to the top.  But in front of me were two plump, middle-aged women, ever-so-slowly biking up-up-up, and encouraging every single person around them.  Not only were they not giving up, but they weren’t letting anyone else give up either.  “You go girl!  You got this!”  Once their words of support and love reached me, I firmed my resolve to just keep pedaling.  Tears welled as I shouted to these women “You two are amazing!  Thank you!  YOU GO!!”  And I was off, finishing the bike and then the run.

The back of the medal that each woman receives upon crossing the finish line sums up my experience with profound truth: The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race.

IMG_1420

What are some of the areas in your life that you might have unhelpful preconceived notions?

Virtue 

As ignorant as I was about fitness and training, I am very familiar with how damaging unhelpful preconceived notions can be in the world of religious education, particularly the haves and havenots mentality when it comes to the topic of virtue.  If you google the definition of virtue, you can see why many people approach it as a light switch, either on or off, but no in-between.

definition of virtue - Google Search - Google Chrome 252014 13442 PM.bmp

Emily lamented in a Facebook post about how unhelpful this preconceived notion can be.

Julie Dienno-Demarest - Google Chrome 252014 124907 PM.bmp

I don’t necessarily think Google got the definition wrong, but I do think there’s a much more helpful way of thinking about virtue.

Virtue is like a good habit that we can become better at doing.  It’s less about haves and havenots and more like a muscle that gets stronger (or weaker).  Developing virtue is like training for a race; it’s about practicing these good habits over the course of time.  When we want to form a good habit–or break a bad habit–we take incremental steps towards a goal.

When you think of virtue, imagine a gradation or a continuum of stronger-to-weaker.  See a training schedule.  See daily steps along a path.  See incremental progress building up until you can confidently complete something amazing.  Think of saints and the lives of people who inspire you.

Virtue Arrows

Recall a time when you were making a change–or trying to improve at something.  What helped you practice good habits?  How did you overcome bad habits?

The Virtue of Faith

Traditionally, a discussion of virtue touches upon the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) and three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love).  Of these seven virtues, faith seems to be the one people have the most unhelpful preconceived notions about.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Too often, we misunderstand the idea that faith is a gift, and perpetuate the have-havenot or light-switch attitude.  

Yes, faith is a gift: God invites us to know, love, and serve him.  The gift is the invitation.  Practicing the virtue of faith is our response.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

The virtue of faith is concerned with strengthening three areas:

  • Belief – the intellectual understanding of and assent to what we believe
  • Spirituality – the emotional trust in and relationship with God
  • Discipleship – living one’s faith out in life, following through with moral actions and a commitment to justice


Sometimes these three dimensions are referred to as the head (belief), heart (spirituality), and hands (discipleship).

Head Heart Hands

A person can be stronger or weaker in any one of the three areas.  Developing the virtue of faith means that we are called to work on strengthening each of these three areas in our lives.

At 16, Becca admitted that she was struggling with her faith.  But when she began thinking of this virtue as having three areas, she saw that her life was already aligned with God’s will in many ways.  Her struggles were mostly in the area of belief.  Her relationship with God actually began to heal once she was able to see herself as having one of the dimensions of faith.  

Consider your own practice of the virtue of faith.  


  • For each of the three dimensions of faith, where on the continuum of stronger–weaker would you place yourself?
  • What is one thing you could do to work on strengthening each area?


When it comes to strengthening our practice of virtue, truly: The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race.


Danskin Austin ’07 by Sara Robertson licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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