Monday, January 30, 2012

1/30/12

I had not intended to post anything about this, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it needed a response.  While I won't post the link, a fellow blogger put a link up to an article claiming that right wing Christians spouting hate are "real" Christians since hate and intolerance are just what the Bible teaches.  The author goes on to state any Christian that says different must let go of their Bible as their "religion" doesn't match up with their words.

What a bunch of crap.  Religion and Christianity are not the problem.  Jesus taught some pretty radical stuff, even for today.  Jesus told us that instead of seeking revenge (eye for an eye) you must give the person who stikes you the other cheek and pray for those that persecute you.  He also taught that you must love your God above all else and to love your neighbor as yourself.  He taught us we must keep forgiving those that wrong us no matter how many times they do it.

These are central tenets of my "religion" and Christianity.  Where in there is there room for hate?  Will people take what they read in the Bible and use it to justify their own behaviors?  Of course.  Does that mean the Bible is at fault?  Of course not.  The author is doing what those he accuses do: use the Bible to justify their incorrect views.  No religion will ever be perfect because people are the ones that make up the believers and people aren't perfect.  We will always fall short.  However, it's the stiving to live up to the example of Christ that makes the difference.  And I challenge this author to find anyone that puts God and neighbor above themselves to be hateful.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

1/29/12

I had an awakening at Mass today.  Not sure if it was the homily, the readings, or just the Holy Spirit, but I realized that I was allowing worldly things to affect my spiritual decisions.  Specifically, in how I give.  Mind you, I have no problem contributing to the financial health of our parish.  I give weekly and don't think twice about it.  However, we're given the option to distribute how our weekly contribution is used.  We can choose to give to the parish in general, world need specifcially, or "Adopt a Student" specifically. 

Additionally, I've had some issues with the leadership in our parish and how some of my friends have been treated.  I do hold specific leaders responsible for failing to truly lead the congregation.  I'm convinced that while some of these leaders may think they're doing what's best for the parish, they're really focusing on their wants and needs instead.  I've also had some issues with how some things in the diocese are run.  I've had a real problem with our annual Catholic Ministries Appeal and how if we don't raise the money to hit the Bishop gives, it comes out of our general fund, basically amounting to a tax on our parish to be part of the Diocese.

It occured to me today that I'd been holding my giving hostage to my ill feelings on these issues, give to World Need instead of the parish and giving not at all to the Catholic Ministries Appeal.  I'm trying to make the Church (or parish) conform to my desires instead of using my treasure to benefit God and the community.  While accusing others of being selfish, I too was acting selfishly, and perhaps a little childishly.  Give me what I want or I won't give you any money.  That is such a poor reason.  So I've decided to simply give and not worry about the rest.  I'll place my trust in God that my gifts will be used to benefit those that need it and further His work. 

I've come to realize lately that there really are evil spirits in the world, and many of them are not the classic demons that "possess" you like in The Exorcist.  These demons are more incidious, like anger, hate, stinginess, and selfishness.  These kinds of demons and evil spirits are more incideous than your traditional demon because they're so subtle.  They can get in the way of a true relationship with God by chipping away at need to give up your desires and focus on the desires of God instead.  And I've come to realize that true peace and happiness only come from serving God and not ourselves.  So I'm working hard to exorcise the demons in my life right now.  Pray that the Lord helps me do so.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

1/26/12

Romans 13:14 "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh."

In order to focus more on spirituality, I've been trying to work on some of my bad habits.  Let's face it, most of our bad habits are desires of the flesh.  And many come out of selfishness.  Which is the real thing I'm trying to remove from my life.  Let's face it, we're human so we will act selfishly at times.  But God calls us to put others first.  It's the essence of steward leadership.  The greatest of all is the servant of all.  However, putting that into practice isn't always easy.  So I pray for strength to rise above and control the desires of the flesh so as to focus on others.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1/25/12

Romans 12:9-21 (emphasis mine)

"Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your estimationDo not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, 'Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'  Rather, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.'  Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good."


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1/24/12

Jonah 3:8-9 "Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand.  Who knows, God may relent and forgive and withhold his blazing wrath so that we shall not perish."

Jonah 4:4 "But the Lord asked, 'Have you reason to be angry?'"

Is is too much to ask to have a little control in your own household?  For things to go the way you want them to?  Apparently it is.  And it's not something I should expect.  Why do we get really upset about the dumbest little things?  It's very easy to be selfish at home and forget we need to be servants everywhere we are, not just outside of our homes.  Jonah is a very short book of the Old Testement, but those few words pack a LOT of power.  Sometimes being a parent can be the most difficult job God gives you.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

1/22/12

Today's first reading was from Jonah.  I found it very inspirational as I can relate a lot to Jonah right now.  Jonah was a reluctant prophet.  God asked him to preach to a people he hated.  And he struggled to get over that hate.  He also knew that if the Ninevites repented, God would forgive them and not destroy them.  But Jonah wanted them destroyed.

Anger and frustration can get in the way of doing God's will.  You don't have to hate someone (or a country) to have that happen.  Letting go of all your wants, desires, expectations on others, and general being angry with the world cause things don't go the way you want them to in necessary to follow God.  And it's hard as hell.  Little things can bug the snot out of you and make you react like an asshole sometimes.  But you keep trying to get better and keep going.

I'll be reading Jonah again, I think, to remind me of that.  I beleive I can use that reminder right now.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

1/19/12

Like everything, praying gets easier the more you do it.  I'm trying to build more good spiritual habits.  Hard to tell if its paying off, but I FEEL better, at least most of the time.  Some demons are harder to get rid of, but if you keep battling them, eventually you'll win.  At least, that's the theory I'm going with.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1/18/12

I began praying the Rosary on Monday night.  It's something I haven't done often but seemed the right thing to do while I was away from home.  It is a very meditative practice.  I think I'll continue to do so, though perhaps not every day.  With Lent coming up soon, that may be a good opportunity to begin some new habits.

A co-worker of Ellen's passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer.  He was very young.  He was lucky enough to see his new granddaughter, but that was it.  Ellen and I are praying for his family as he was a good guy.

While coming back from dinner last night, my co-worker and I were approached by a woman giving us a big story about being in town for chemo and not having money or a car and not being able to afford cab fare to get home and could be spare a little money for some food or a bus ride and she's not a drug addict etc etc.  I've heard this before.  So I gave her a couple of dollars and my coworker gave her the leftovers from his meal.  I didn't really beleive her story but it didn't really matter.  Someone was in need and hopefully we provided them something.  At a minimum she got some food and hopefully a few dollars to get a warm beverage.  If her story was true, I hope she made it home ok or at least found someplace warm to stay.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

1/15/12

Today's readings were about being called by God to dicipleship.  That theme and how I can serve have been on my mind a lot lately.  They were very timely and helped me to continue to focus on ministry.  After meeting with the band Friday, we all agree on the need to broaden our ministry and do more than just playing at Mass.  I was relieved that we were all in agreement as I wasn't sure where some of the other band members were in their thinking.  Now that we've agreed, the real work begins.

I continue to pray for the leadership at our parish.  We pray for leaders each week but it was especially in my mind today.  We need strong SERVANT leadership in our parish and I'm not sure we have it.  During his homily, our priest stated we must be diciples using the example of our lives.  That really resonated with me so I just need to keep leading by example.


Friday, January 13, 2012

1/13/12

Romans 9:17 - For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "This is why I have raised you up, to show my power through you that my name may be proclaimed throughout the earth."

This verse really struck me today.  With all my internal struggles on what my and the band's ministry should be, I think this is one of the answers.  Why are we here?  To show, through the example of our lives, that Jesus is Lord and that faith in Him and following His ways are the only path to life and happiness.  The band meets tonight to talk about our future.  Hopefully the Spirit will be with me to properly express my thoughts on our ministry.

Although I've read Romans many times, I beleive I finally understand what Paul was saying concerning the Jewish law and how one cannot be justified by it.  It always seemed on the one hand he was saying the Law was divinely inspired and therefore from God, but on the other hand saying no one could be saved by following the Law.  This seemed contradictory.  However, I beleive Paul was saying that too many people were just following "the rules" and not living by faith.  As if just following the rules was your ticket into heaven.  I see a lot of that even today in the Catholic Church.  Following the rules is far more important.  However, following the rules based on a deep seated faith will save you.  Because you follow the rules to please God, not to keep score.  It makes much more sense now.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

1/12/12

Try as you might some days something small can ruin your day.  The only thing to do is keep praying and try to sleep it off.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1/11/12

I didn't get as many opportunities to pray today and when I finally got 10 minutes of uninterrupted time I realized how quickly frequent prayer has become necessary to my peace of mind and spirit.  Our lives are so crazy finding that quiet time is getting more and more important.  I pray for the strength to keep going and fulfilling all the responsibilities placed on me.  The only way I can do it is to have the Lord help me carry it all.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1/10/12

Today's readings were about dicipleship and following Jesus.  That really resonated with me given my struggle to discern which direction my music ministry should take.  However, I think today the answer broke through.  I've been thinking on how to use music to evanalize and some great inspirations came to me.  I met this evening with our music director and wanted to let him know I thought we were on the wrong track on some of the musical elements for our Masses.  To my surprise, he agreed with me.  We had very similar attitudes towards music ministry and liturgy.

I beleive I have a good idea now what the Lord is asking of me.  I need to share my inspirations and ideas with the band and see what they think.  I pray they see things the way I do.  There's a lot of hurt and frustration within the band right now for many reasons.  I think we need a vision and a purpose to bring us together and move us towards the next thing the Lord is asking of us.  I'll continue to pray for guidance and that the Lord show us His will.


Monday, January 09, 2012

1/9/12

Today is my lovely wife's birthday.  While I am blessed in many ways, she's perhaps my biggest blessing.  She has been the guiding light in my spiritual journey. Every place I go, she goes first and leads me to a deeper relationship with God.  I certainly would not be the person I am today without her.

Words cannot express what she means to me.  So I wish her the happiest of birthdays and thank her for being such an inspiration.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

1/8/12

Mass was a little weird today.  The band played pretty well and we were comfortable working with the music director.  However, there's still the underlying tension with the pastoral administrator.  The "non-music" parts of the Mass were kind of painful.  I had a brief chat with the music director and will speak to him more this week.  Luckily, one of the other band members broached one of the subjects I wanted to talk to him about, namely how some of the things the parish is doing is seperating people from the Mass instead of bringing them more fully into it.

I continue to pray about that and for the leaders of our parish.  I'm still working on creating new habits to improve my spiritual life.  It's not always easy.  It's finding the quiet time necessary for good prayer.  But you keep at it.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

1/7/12

Today in my reflections I was thinking about leadership in the Church and parish.  It ocurred to me that Christopher has a talent for leadership.  I want to put the seed into his head that he should use this talent in some way as a vocation.  I know it's tough for a 15 year old to discern their vocation, but it's not a bad time to start thinking about it.  Or praying about it.

His grandmother always said he should be a priest.  I'm trying to keep that door open to him and let him know it isn't a bad vocation, if that's his calling.  The Church could use a priest like him.  But that's a big decision.  I simply want him open to that call should God be speaking to him in that way.

I was reminded to pray for those that have fallen away for their faith or not discovered it yet.  Of my two siblings, I'm the only one that regularly attends Mass.  I've begun praying for them to discover their faith and the blessings it provides.  I continue to thank the Lord for all the blessings He's given me and for the wisdom and guidance to do His will and not mine.  Which isn't easy.  I'm also still praying for the leadership in our parish.  There are many people in positions of authority but so few that really understand what it is to be a leader.  And, more importantly, a servant leader.


Friday, January 06, 2012

1/6/12

One of the 7 pillars Matthew Kelly mentions in his book is to pray the rosary.  I've been reluctant to do so mostly because I've had a somewhat Protestant view of Mary.  I understand Catholics don't worship Mary but I questioned why I needed someone to intercede with Jesus on my behalf (the same as praying to saints).  I understood in my head why Catholics do it but not in my heart.  Matthew Kelly goes into depth about why vernerating Mary and asking for her intercession is important.

The funny thing is, I've been kind of moving in that direction already.  For whatever reason, my attitudes towards Mary have been on my mind as I pray and meditate.  Perhaps the Spirit is drawing me closer to a deeper understanding of Mary and her role in our salvation.  I completely get the thought that there's a special bond between mother and child only a mother can understand.  Carrying a person inside of you for 9 months creates a unique bond.  Mary had that bond with Jesus.

I continue to pray about it and ask the Lord for guidance and to show me His will on how to be closer to Him.  I'm still not sure where he's leading me as far as the parish and the band goes, but I trust He'll take me to a place more blessed that I could have imagined as long as I trust in Him.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

1/5/12

One of my bandmates is fond of saying if you have a decision to make, pray about it for 3 days first.  It's probably good advice for just about any situation.  I've been praying for guidance on my music ministry and the direction of the band for a few days now (might be 3, might be 2).  Today I had some possible insight to lead me in the right direction.

It's been germinating in my mind that my music ministry is not about me. I've always taken the stance that the music I play is not mine, but God's.  Through the many ups and downs of playing music at my parish, I've consistently said that.  Lately, some of the band is chaffing under the "rules" we live by when playing Mass at our parish.  The most recent thing is playing a Mass with the choir.  Normally, we play one Mass a month.  The thing that riles some of the band is that instead of doing a second Mass that month with the choir and our regular Mass, we're "losing" our Mass.

It occured to me today that perhaps it really doesn't matter if we "lose" a Mass or not.  Are we there for us or to touch the congregation through music?  Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to touch them in a different way.  I've always said I'll take any opportunity to play music with any group.  I don't understand why the band isn't seeing it this way.  Perhaps God is asking me to lead the way and open up a new (or at least different) way to minister.

I need to pray about it more.  I think it would be beneficial to speak with the head of music ministry to let him know my concerns.  About our group and music ministry in general at our parish.  It seems fewer people are being engaged by the music.  We seem to be going in the wrong direction.  More to pray about and discern.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

1/4/12

My thoughts are still on the situation at Church with the band and our music ministry.  But while working out, I began to reflect on everything going on at our parish right now.  How some people no longer feel welcome at our parish.  How Mass seems to be seperating me from God instead of bringing me closer.  How our parish leader seems to be divisive instead of unifying.  The thought entered my mind that perhaps I should talk to him about it.

Then I opened my Bible at lunchtime to the beginning of Paul's letter to the Romans.  It starts out with Paul's greeting to the Romans.  His first statement was that he was a slave of Jesus, called upon to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel.  That spoke to me for some reason.  That and the line where Paul gives thanks for all of the people he's addressing.  I prayed that Jesus reveals His will to me.  Do my reflections from earlier and that reading go together?  Is the reading an answer to my previous question?

I'll need to pray on it more in Church.  It really is the only place suitable for that sort of prayer.  I plan on stopping after work.  It did occur to me that I need to start praying for those people in my life that don't bring me peace.  It's easy to pray for those that you like.  Not so easy to pray for those that you don't.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

1/3/12

I tried praying for 10 minutes at work today.  I normally get in before everyone, about 6:45.  While there weren't many people in the office, it still wasn't as peaceful as praying in church.  I need to get there as often as I can.  Ellen normally goes after work so I may try that as well.  Today wouldn't have worked due to band rehearsal.

Speaking of the band, rehearsal was good and bad.  The music and the company were great.  However, we argued about playing a joint Mass with the choir.  There's a lot of friction right now between the band and elements of the parish.  And I feel its getting in the way.  I need to continue to pray about that and hopefully convince my bandmates that we supposed to be doing this for the congregation, not ourselves.


Monday, January 02, 2012

1/2/12

I got to pray at Church with Ellen today.  We're trying to take at least 10 minutes every day for prayer, at Church whenever possible.  It really is a great place for it as there are no distractions.  It was a powerful experience kneeling together in silene in prayer.

I read the chapter in Rediscover Catholicism on the Mass.  What really struck me was the statement that Mass is not about the priest, or music, or any of the other things people normally complain about when they talk about the Mass.  It's about worshipping and receiving Jesus.  I've had a lot of issues with the Mass (and the parish) lately.  But am I making it about me and those things that don't matter?  Is it important that the pastoral administrator wears an alb and is on the alter platform with the priest?  Is it importatn that we chant prayers instead of say them?  Is it important that the words of the prayer have changed?

I'll be the first to admit I've been getting less out of Mass lately.  Was I getting complacent and comfortable?  Was it just routine?  I'll need to reflect on that further.  There are some things about the new Roman Missal and our implementation of it that are distracting me from fully experiencing the Mass.  I'm not sure what I can do about that, but I'm going to try and get rid of the distractions.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Day 1

Happy New Year everyone.

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions.  If I think I need to make a change, I do so.  I don't need January 1 to prompt me to do so.  On my wife's advice, I've been reading Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly.  It's a good read whether you're Catholic or not.  He basically calls people to greater sprituality and a closer relationship with God.  While I haven't finished the book yet, one of his 7 pillars of faith is prayer.  He calls on people to pray just 10 minutes a day.  Doesn't sound like much but it can be powerful.

There have been a lot of things weighing on my mind lately.  I've been praying about them but I'm going to try and strengthen my prayer life.  What Kelly has written reinforces what I've found in my own life.  Giving your problems to God makes them much easier to solve.

I decided to start chronicling my thoughts here just to have a place to put them down.  I've got three big things weighing on my right now.  At the start of Advent a new translation of the Mass was instituted.  And to be honest, I don't like it.  I don't know if it's the translation itself or how our parish is doing it.  But I feel like a spectator now instead of a participant.  I don't know how much is because its different and how much is because I don't like all the chanting we're now doing.  But what I'm struggling with is whether I'm making it all about me or all about God.  I got very deep spiritual meaning out of the way we did it before.  And now I don't.  So I'm praying about that.

The second thing is my band.  I'm questioning if we're fullfilling our ministry the right way.  I'm dissatisfied with a few things, particularly how we're so limited in our music selections.  We should be doing music that engages and uplifts the congregation.  And we get great feedback whenever we play.  Again, am I making this about me?

The third thing that weighs on my mind is the dynamic in our house and my relationship with the kids.  Nobody ever said being a parent was easy.  I did get a ride in today and my route took me past our parish.  Kelly recommends praying in a church whenever possible so after my ride, I headed over for some quiet time.  As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, I first thought to myself it would be hard to pray for 10 minutes.  That can seem like an awefully long time when you're just kneeling quietly.  I prayed for what I thought was about 5 minutes and decided to get up a sit for a while.  I checked my watch and 12 minutes had gone by!  I was astounded and amazed.  Just goes to show, I suppose, that even time with the Lord goes by faster than you think it does.

I intend to keep trying and to praise God for all the little things as they happen.  As a Christian, we supposed to put Christ at the center of our lives.  It takes practice and dedication, both of which I think I can do.