Friday, September 23, 2016

The Simple Life

As part of my reading for my Spiritual Formation course, we read a great little book on spiritual discipline (Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster).  It highlights a group of spiritual disciplines that can help us get closer to God.  One of these disciplines really resonated with me right now: the Discipline of Simplicity.

The idea is pretty straight forward.  We need to learn to simplify our lives more.  It's a crazy, chaotic world we live in.  We seem to fill it up with things to keep us "busy".  This busyness I believe contributes to some of our stress, anxiety, and tiredness.  The theory of simplicity is not so much to remove things from our lives, but to put them in their place.  For example, while having a smartphone is good, do we NEED the latest and greatest as soon as it comes out?  And is the smartphone a tool for our use or do we let the smartphone rule us?  How many of us can put down their phone from the time you get home from work until the next morning?  I can feel your anxiety already through the screen.

What brought this to the forefront for me was a conversation with my Facebook pal Julie.  She expressed anxiety about whether she should start watching some series that was "highly recommended" and a "must watch".  I agreed that I too was a little anxious about just finding time to watch all the shows on my DVR as it is without adding anything new.  And it dawned on me.  Why the hell am I stressing out about watching a television show?  And what areas of my life have I been stressing out over for no reason?

So I've decided to try and simply things a little.  Partly for my own sanity.  With two diaconate courses this semester I need more time to get that work done.  But beyond that, I need to take care not to get too stressed out for the sake of my wife.  I can be a real pain in the ass when I feel overwhelmed.  So the first thing I did, for now anyway, is get off of Facebook.  Why?  Because stupid memes, political posts, and just trying to keep up with my feed were starting to get to me.  I'd be annoyed for hours over some stupid thing someone shared that I found idiotic.  I even uninstalled the Facebook app from all of my devices.

I haven't retired from social media, but my Twitter and Instagram feeds are pretty small.  Manageable.  And not terribly annoying.  I've also cut back on my musical activities.  I knew that had to happen but it kind of handled itself.  One of the band members could no longer go on so that was as good a time as any to call it quits.  I'm still working on balance with school and my Christian group, but as that's more a ministry, I think I can work that one out.  I'm looking for other areas to simplify and get more time for reflection and prayer.  And time with my family.  It's a work in progress.

I must say, however, I'm not really missing Facebook all that much in the short time I've been off of it.  There are a couple of people I'd like to keep up with.  I suspect that if I get back on, I'm going to be hiding or unfriending quite a few people.  Honestly, I probably accepted far to many friend requests from acquaintances I don't really know any more, like high school classmates.  Nice people and all, but ones I never really spent much time with even in high school.  We shall see.

For any of my Facebook pals that wish to touch base for any reason, you can always email, message, or hell, even leave a comment.  May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord shine His face upon you and be gracious to you, and may the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week of September 4

This week I'm trying something new based on a recommendation from Father Paul.  He called it the TNE approach to spirituality.  You thank Jesus for your blessings that day, tell Jesus what you need, and then state where you experienced Jesus today (TNE = Thanks, Need, Experience).  I've been trying to do that as part of my evening prayers.  I think it's pretty easy to think about what I'm thankful for and what I need, but where I experience Jesus is a little more difficult.  Some days it was pretty easy, such as after Tony's funeral.  But other days, like today, it's much harder.  Today was just an ordinary day.  Mass in the morning, a few things around the house, a block party, visiting with my mom.  I think I need to look more closely on where and how I can see Jesus in these every day interactions.

I'm feeling that I need to work more on the spirituality of the every day.  Things like looking for opportunities to see Jesus in others.  Offering daily tasks and situations to the Lord.  Taking more purposeful time pray, reflect, and try to be in God's presence.  I wonder sometimes if I'm going through the motions.  For example, I read the daily Scripture readings each morning.  But am I just reading them or am I letting it sink in?  I certainly don't take dedicated time to reflect on them.  Perhaps I'm letting myself be too busy to make the time.

Julie hit on something with a Facebook post this week.  She mentioned having anxiety about binge watching shows due to the time it takes to truly focus on what you're watching.  It made me wonder if I'm trying to fill my spare time with "things" so I don't make the time to quiet myself and actually listen to God.  Am I being anxious about going deeper into my faith?  I keep saying its important.  Or am I just feeling that I'm not being Christian enough?  Like I don't measure up to the spiritual awareness of others in my diaconate class?  I don't know.  But that probably needs further reflection.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Week of August 28

Tony passed away on Wednesday, September 1.  Since seeing him in the hospital the previous weekend, and especially have seeing him in hospice, I've been a little out of sorts.  Two things have been on my mind of late.  The first is on forgiveness and family.  Talking to family members has brought back some old hurts and reminded me of other unhealed or unhealthy family relations.  I think about how insulted I felt when Vinnie didn't send flowers to my dad's funeral.  Of how my uncle Joe treats my Aunt Irma.  About wanting to make a "statement" at their funerals some day by my actions.

Since recently going to Reconciliation, I'm trying to be more attuned to where I sin in my life.  I didn't realize I was still hanging on to this bitterness.  That I probably should forgive them for how I think they've offended me, regardless of whether they reciprocate.  I also think about the lack of relationship with Kirk.  It's something I don't really think about since it doesn't impact my relationship with my sister or my nephews.  But is there something there?

At Fishers of Men yesterday, we watched a video discussing the line from the Our Father "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that trespass against us".  Am I truly forgiving others?

I've also begun reading Celebration of Discipline for class.  It's placed me in an odd mood.  I can't put my finger on it, but I feel agitated and a little upset.  Like it's pointing at me showing me all the things I should be doing and am not.  Questioning decisions I'm making as to whether I'm doing things for me or because I'm trying to trust in God.  I keep saying I trust in God and am trying to do His will, but am I really?  Am I just going through the motions?

One thing I did take away from class with Nancy on Thursday is that spirituality is work.  I think I need to work on my spirituality, once I figure out just what it is I'm supposed to do.  Hopefully the class will help me to grow and point me in a direction.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Listen (to What the Flower People Say)?

Or just what the people say?

I believe this is one of the times the Spirit is wacking me in the head to tell me something important.  It happens every so often.  Here's what I've been hearing lately.  When I started down the path to applying for the diaconate, one of the first things Ellen told me was that I would need to learn to listen to people.  Then, at a meeting with my spiritual adviser, I was asked how I pray.  When I explained, the question I was asked was "do you just listen to God?"  Now, I'm reading books for two different courses and they're all focusing on listening.

See the pattern?  I do.  So, I'm of the impression that the Spirit is telling me I need to listen more.  To God.  To others.  To my wife.  To my family.  To my friends.  To my co-workers.  It looks like a skill I'll need to develop more.  And I believe learn how to do it joyfully.  I've heard a lot of references to St Therese of Lisieux lately.  She's known as the "little flower".  Her spirituality is basically finding the joy in all the little things you do and glorify God in your every day tasks.  Not worry about trying to do "big things".  I've downloaded her autobiography and now just need to find time to read it.  We'll see where it goes.