Unconditional Love
Friendship, Love, Love and Relationships
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I love you just the way you are.

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Love one another as I have loved you.  (John 13:34)

Unconditional agape love.  That’s how God loves us; that’s how we’re called to love one another.

To be honest, that’s hard.

Consider that line from that Billy Joel song: “I love you just the way you are.”  Think about the people that you love, whether it’s your romantic love interest, children, siblings, parents, friends… Consider whether you can truly say, “I love you just the way you are.”

Because that’s how God loves us.  Just the way we are.  We do not have to be perfect for God to love us.  God loves us just the way we are.  And there is tremendous freedom in that.

Spiritual teacher and mystic Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987) wrote a beautiful parable on this in The Song of the Bird.

I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change.

I resented them and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried.

Then one day someone said to me, Don’t change. I love you just as you are.

Those words were music to my ears: Don’t change, Don’t change. Don’t change . . . I love you as you are.

I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!*

De Mello concludes by asking: Is this how you love me, God?

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Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise
Conversion, Lent, Metanoia
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Lent: Are You Giving Up or Taking Up?

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So it’s lent.  The question used to be: What are you giving up for lent?  Now, people are asking: What are you going to do for lent?  Instead of “giving something up,” many suggest we “take something up.”

The thing is that both of these questions can be good ones, and in both cases, our responses can miss the point.

The term “lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” or “springtime.”  In the south, the whole of spring is a beautiful season of warmth, light, and growth.  In the north, it’s often drab and dreary: muddy, cold, and barren trees well into early May.  Many a blizzard has fallen after March 20th.

Regardless of where you live, the idea of spring is the season of rebirth, promise, and hope.  Spring is when we see nature go from death-to-new-life.

Lent is about that death-to-new life transformation of springtime.  Like Jesus’ time in the desert, it is a 40 day spiritual journey.

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Playground
Article, Human Dignity, Justice
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They’re Children, Not Chickens

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Two Moms go to a playground with their kids, ages 2 – 4.  One child asks his mom to help him use the fire pole, so she holds him the whole way down.  The second child asks the second mom for help.  She says, “I’d be happy to teach you how to do it, but I’m not going to do it for you.  Do you want to learn?”  Second-Child hesitates before agreeing.  Second-Mom explains how to reach out, hold the pole nice and high, then step out while holding on, wrap feet and legs around the pole, and gently loosen the hold to slide down.  She guides her son’s grip, holds her hands out to catch him in case he needs it, but tries not to actually do the work for him.  By the third try, he’s doing it with enough confidence that she can sit back and watch.

403

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The back of church pews
Conversion, Forgiveness, Grace, Humility
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Modeling Humility

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Looking for a resolution you can stick to in the New Year?  How about modeling humility?

You know how most Catholics prefer to sit toward the back third of the Church?  Not my family; we sit in the front pew.  For one thing, the pew at the front is almost always available.  For another, it helps my kids (and me) pay attention when we can actually see what’s going on.  The problem, as you might imagine, is that the boys behavior is on public display.

As this post is about modeling humility–not perfectly behaved children at Mass–I’d like to make it clear: we don’t have that good-behavior thing down.  I’ve made two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress with regards to Church-behavior, but we are far from having “arrived.”

Two-Steps Forward

  1. I finally realized that growling whispered threats between pursed lips to SIT-STILL-AND-BE-QUIET was probably not helping them to develop a positive attitude toward Mass.  So I changed my language: Everything we say and do at Mass needs to show respect and reverence to God.
  2. I encourage my boys to use the Magnifikid or the Missalette to follow the Readings as well as all the rest of the Mass prayers.  Because participation shows reverence and respect.
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A Joyful Heart
Advent, Humility, Joy
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Preparing, Waiting, and Joy

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I love how life teaches me about faith.

Advent is about waiting and preparation.  I know that.  I knew that.  Except I didn’t really get it until the year I was pregnant.  That was the year I encountered the blessed waiting of Advent as an expectant mother in her first trimester.

Up till then, my “preparations” were focused on gift-giving and party-attending.  Don’t get me wrong – I planned, prepared, and purchased gifts from the heart.  I organized Christmas caroling at the nursing home for my high school students.  I participated in Giving Trees.  It wasn’t that I was self-centered and materialistic… I just didn’t get the whole waiting and preparation thing.

But that Advent when I was pregnant with my first child, I sat at Church one Sunday, ever-so-aware of how nauseated I felt, ever-so-aware of the little life growing inside me, and ever-so-in-awe of the path that lie ahead. Preparation wasn’t about nursery colors, registries, and baby names.  It was about preparing our lives–and our marriage–to receive and raise a child.
New Born Alex

Fast forward nine years.  I thought I knew what waiting and preparation were about.  And then, on December 1st, the day after the First Sunday of Advent, my husband came home with the news that he was being furloughed.  Furloughed is not unemployed; you technically keep your job but aren’t allowed to work until the company can afford to pay you.  He’s an aerospace engineer, working for a company contracted by NASA… How long would the furlough last?  Until contracts were signed and there were funds to pay for his position.  Possibly in a day or so… possibly 4-5 weeks.

So we waited… and hoped… and prayed.

In the waiting, there was an absurd amount questioning (particularly second guessing financial decisions and employment possibilities) and the awareness of a humbling loss of control.  From day to day there would be a glimmer of hope, and then a “no.”  A lot of uncertainty.

Through it all, I was struck by a deep sense of perspective.  We faced temporary unpaid leave.  Many are in the midst of long-term unemployment.  Others face terminal illnesses or a tragic loss of a loved one.  Sure, we’d rather not be in this situation, but it could definitely be worse.

This past Friday, after two weeks of uncertainty, Peter went in to work for a meeting and then used up the last of his paid leave.  There was one more glimmer of hope: his company had won a contract with three-persons-worth-of-work, but it was a matter of waiting to see if they would assign it to him.

Sure enough, the answer came Saturday night while we were at his boss’s house for a Christmas party.  Praise God, Peter was assigned to part of that new project and could return to work on Monday.  Awash in joy, I couldn’t wait to share the news!
Back To Work Post

The next morning was the Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday, which is Latin for joy!  We light the pink candle and remember to be joyful.  Let me tell you, joy radiated from within, and it felt incredible!

Children seem to dabble in joy so easily, especially at Christmas; adults seem to struggle with stress, especially at Christmas.

We really do need that pink candle to remind us to be joyful.

Well, with this good news, I was determined to be joyful!

To be honest, although I had been setting aside money from Criagslisting old toys, I was hesitant to do any Christmas shopping until I knew whether we might need those funds in other ways.  So between Amazon and all the other stores for all the other things, I’ve been buying gifts this week.  It’s a little crazy out there.  It’s tempting to forget joy and embrace stress… after all, everyone else is doing it.

So every day this week, in the midst of every errand, I find myself pausing in reflective prayer: I am so thankful for the opportunity to do this. I choose joy.

 I invite you to do the same: choose joy!

  • How has your life taught you about faith recently?

  • How can you choose joy this week?
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