Saturday, December 31, 2011


In the End its All About God

As the Christmas season lingers and the year closes, it is natural to reflect -- to reflect on the good times and the bad, on what we have done and what we have failed to do. We cherish what is special to us and renew our hope and our resolve to fill what we perceive we lack.

This Christmas season had me feel my void like never before. The normal tricks -- focusing on the giving and counting my blessings -- failed miserably. And God wanted it that way. He wanted to show me my wound -- He knew I was ready. It was incredibly painful. There were moments I thought I would not make it.

The signs of noncompassion I could handle; it was the signs of near compassion that hurt me the most. As an astute new friend pointed out: you know abandonment, and you know what to do with that. What you don't know is compassion and love, and that is what you cannot handle. I still tear up now knowing how true that is.

It is sad, I think, that some of us go through life expecting relationships to fail. We experience disappointment enough times that we end up compensating by lightening things up, by expecting disconnection, by giving someone an out and, ultimately, by not allowing ourselves to trust.

It's ironic, I guess, that in our quest to protect ourselves we cause ourselves even more pain. The isolation is real and very painful. That is what I had to come to terms with. But something more to the core made me realize that I was not, in fact, trusting God. I was not trusting Him to show me how my covering my needs was actually sabotaging their fulfillment.

How, in fact, that seeing my relationships as they are, while painful, was the very step I needed to take to open myself up to the people that could be there for me. And how being vulnerable is what would finally set me free. Because it is in vulnerability that we let God in intimately and have HIS will move us: beyond ourselves and into Love, beyond our intellectual choice and own will -- for to love is not a choice, it is a divine gift that God places in our vessel. Our choice is a mere illusion of Love if the author of Love, God, has not willed it. And that illusion will die if the author of Love does not eventually reside in our choice.

I know my vessel is sometimes full of things that ultimately are not good for me. This Christmas season, I was strong enough to allow Him to begin to shape me by opening and breaking me, all for my own good. For His Love needs lots of room, and I was always full at the inn with my own distractions, preoccupations, and obligations.
This breaking is unique for all of us. Some have it early, some have it late and, sadly, I suppose, some never have it at all in this life.

Even though we all, in the end, are seeking to love and to be loved, we don't always find the source of that Love. We look for love in all the wrong places, as one song puts it. But when we do look for Love in the right place, it does sometimes cost us with real pain as we tear down the illusions.

But then we are free to surrender to Love and to God. He can then open our hearts so we can Love one another the way we each individually need to be loved. For our needs are not all the same. On top of that, they change and morph. It takes all of you to really love another person. And most of us on our own strength never even come close to stretching that far. It's why we need God not only to give us the strength to love but to show us how to love. It takes us being vulnerable.

God's power (Love) can move mountains. We have all heard of the mother who lifts up a 2,000-pound car when her child is trapped underneath it. And perhaps some of you have seen the movie Lorenzo's Oil in which frantic parents come up with a serum to save their child from an unknown disease. Or perhaps you have seen Conviction, in which a woman sacrifices everything to save her brother. Yes Love/God is powerful, beautiful, and scary all at once. It requires all of us. And if we are into self-protection or weighing the costs then we will fail. But if we surrender to God then Love never fails.

I'll leave you with a substitution of Love where God is normally found and similarly substituting God for love. I pray to my Almighty Father that this will not offend Him, and I pray it won't offend any of you.

The Lord's prayer would go like this:

Our Lover, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Love's name. Love's kingdom come, Love's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In love give us our daily bread, and in love forgive us our trespasses, as in love we forgive those who trespass against us, and Love lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

God makes the world go 'round.

And the Beatles song... All you need is God.

As we end this year may we embrace our destiny and know that, in the end, it is all about God.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


The Abandonment Washes Away

Christmas is in essence such a time of joy. Yet accepting the season into our lives can sometimes be quite difficult. Personally, this season has been bittersweet every year that I can ever remember. When I was a youngster, I wished I had a larger family. When as a teenager I lost the little family I had, I longed for any family. And as an adult, I have mourned that deeper connection to a larger group no matter how I ended up spending Christmas.

Sometimes I spent it with the large family of my boyfriend at the time; those were probably the best Christmases I remember. Sometimes I spent it with my extended, and yet still small, family in Peru. Sometimes I spent it with a married friend's large family, sometimes with just one close friend and, not often (thank God), I have sometimes spent it alone.

My closest and wisest friends saw in my life a recurring theme: that I could not commit to and depend on someone. It wasn't a choice, really. There were always two forces at work: my love of my freedom which was with me ever since I can remember and, more to the core, the emotional loss of my mom at such a young and critical age that it left me wary of getting too attached to any one person or family. It's like abandonment was right around the corner, so I had to leave before I was left. I could never see it, but some of them could. It seems you can never see things clearly until you are ready.

It really boils down to trying to be in control -- trying to control the outcome and being prepared for all the possible options -- versus just letting things be. Now don't get me wrong: we all have choices and some amount of control about where those choices will lead. But we don't have control over the real reasons as to why we do the things we do and, in the end, we don't have control over many outcomes. (In my example: when my mother would be taken away.)

This lack of control and how we abandon and are abandoned is always most painful in our relationships. You can choose to put in effort, apologize when you make a mistake, be funny and interesting, be forgiving, and be whatever adjective you think it takes to have a deep, meaningful connection that lasts forever, and you could still end up divorced, never married, or essentially friendless at any point in time. Even if all your intimate relationships could be successful and everlasting, you will lose them through death eventually. That sounds horrific at first glance, but is it?

Jesus is, for Christians, our savior, our God. He is the model of perfect love, our teacher of perfect intimacy both with God and with one another. For others, He may simply be a folkloric wise man, taking any account of his life and who He really was as, at best, embellished, the gist of the truth likely getting lost in translation. But regardless of where your eyes fit on who He was, He is the most influential man that walked that planet:

We celebrate His birthday like no other. We celebrate His death and resurrection like no other, and we mention His name -- whether to give praise or take it in vain -- like no other. There is no question He is like no other.

So let's look at His intimate relationships. First with His Father, God. He put His relationship with God, as well as God's desires, first always. He put God above His earthly mom and foster dad. He put God above His friends and ultimately above Himself. So let's look at what that showed people of who God is: Jesus dined and communed with "sinners," He washed the apostles' feet, He preached and chastised, He expressed compassion, loneliness, and anger, losing patience at times. Yet He always showed His desire for intimacy and love with God and with the tribes of Israel and then ultimately with as many as asked of or would receive Him.

What was His reward at some critical moments in His life? Well, Peter denied Him three times, and all His friends abandoned him at one point. People spoke badly about Him and claimed he was possessed. He was homeless when he went preaching from town to town. His own kinsmen and the religious leaders of His day wanted Him crucified. He let it happen against His natural and good desire to live and allowed Himself to be crucified. And then on the cross, following His Father's will to the end, even to humiliation, physical and verbal abuse, and a painful death, what were some of His final words? "Father, why have you forsaken me?" I can't imagine how that moment must have felt for Jesus.

Abandonment, even temporarily, is devastating to most of us. Depending on the circumstances, we find it hard to trust again, and not just the individual responsible; we find it hard to trust someone new. And in essence we find it hard to trust God/love, ultimately, because He allowed it to happen.

Part of intimacy is allowing the undesirable to happen knowing that God/love will ultimately take care of us in the end. In these moments of joy and anguish in our closest relationships with each other and with God, let us take a moment and really see the baby Jesus and know He trusted us first. And that in the end if we turn back to God and each other, the abandonment washes away.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


God's Beauty in the Feminine and Masculine

Here I am again at Half Moon Bay beach. This time I am with Teddie though:-). I brought her without a harness and am banking on our bond and the fact that cats are territorial that she will stay close as I type.

Today I had a repitition exercise with one of my classmates that shined a light on an aspect of myself I rarely give voice to. It is the feminine principle that so often gets discounted in our "male" valued society. Now don't get me wrong "male" values are good and necessary but so are the "female".But before I get too analytical about it all, I will relay things as they happened and let you take the lessons you will from them.

This past week I began acting classes again. In the first steps of what is called the Meisner technique you do what are called repitition exercises. Simply put you look at your partner and focus on their physical behavior. You let them affect you personally and respond instinctually..they repeat what you said and you keep doing this until something changes. When the feeling changes then one or the other changes the words expressed. You focus 100% on your partner, listen, let them in and respond truthfully. It sounds simple enough but because being vulnerable is not something we go around being 24/7 it is harder than it seems. It usually takes time to get there, and yet as actors we strive to get there as quickly as we can.

So today I did this repitition exercise with a classmate. At first we were both in our own modes and quirks. I was forward and intense and he was passive and reactive. I wanted him to take charge and I took charge to try to make this happen. Yet he remained in his mode and I in was a long funny dance.

And then something happened and he became masculine and took charge. It was so beautiful to see and almost immediately I teared and began to cry. And in this shift he saw in me the very sensitive, vulnerable and feminine side. And his observation of me made him say I was cute and femine when he saw this sensitivity and that he trusted me.

Ironically, his masculinity allowed me to be feminine and my feminity allowed him to be even more masculine. My classmate doesn't really know me but some words he conveyed during the repititon rang so true. After he saw me soften he said " You don't have to be tough. You don't have to be tough." I don't have to be tough. There is strength in softness, in vulnerability ,in tears, in receptivity. There is strength in the feminine.

Our culture already knows there is strength in the masculine and slowly we are learning there is strength in the feminine. The giving and the receiving of men and women has value and strength. It deserves respect and even awe. It is my prayer we all see God's beauty in the feminine and masculine.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A Special Thanksgiving

I think we have a holyday for a few of the virtues that make us happy. Love is Valentine's day. Service and sacrifice are Veterans day. I am sure you can make even more ties.Yet today is the only day we actually call out the virtue of being thankful.

Oh sure its an American holiday where staunch patriots celebrate a tradition and liberals fashion another celebration because they see the event as raping and pillaging the native Americans. But aside from which lens you look at this day, I think to be thankful is a powerful grace.

Some of us are grateful for health, wealth and/or a loving family. Some of us are blessed with all of it. Some of us are grateful for our jobs, a meal on the table, our children, our parents, our spouse. Some of us are grateful for a happy disposition or a job we love. Some of us are sick and are grateful for another day of life or relief from pain when it comes Yes, the family is large and the circumstances varied It's all fleeting no matter what but it's those moments no matter what they are that we can be thankful for.

So here I will share the personal and hope the broad will permeate as to why it is a great blessing in our lives to be thankful, beyond the analytically psychological. Today I am thankful for the everyday gifts God has given me, for my body, my mind, my heart and my soul. For the relative health and strength that I have been graced with in all aspects. I am thankful for my home, my friends and my extended family.

And to the not so everyday, I am so incredibly grateful that God has graced me into a new life..a new career that I never dreamed possible. I am soo incredibly grateful that He shows me that in every day and every interaction, He teaches me through you and I teach others for Him.

And its all for our own edification, for our own understanding of how great and powerful love is and all for the glory of God..all for the glory of that pure white hot unconditional love. A love that not only speaks the truth in love but allows you to crash and burn when you vear of the path. He loves us enough to allow us to fail just so we can reach for Him and allow Him to lead.

I am incredibly grateful that His dreams for me are much bigger than my own. I am grateful that the path is ambiguous and tumultuous..that the adventure is so easy when I grab a hold of His hand. Whether in war and famine or feast and good times..God is there..weeping with us or celebrating with us.

This day I am incredibly grateful I know God exists..some of us still are unsure or don't believe at all. I am incredibly grateful that he is teaching me day by day what it means to love. And this day my dear and sweet Heavenly Father..I am grateful for You. And as tears of joy stream down my face..I see that being thankful also heals. And for you dear God and the so much more you give us...this is a very special Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Love burns thru everything

I am truly amazed at how often we get caught up in our own hurts. No question we are all fragile and sensitive beings and our memories are long, but often all that is required is to open up to the source of love God.

I will share a story with you that has made me wonder if we don't give a little too much credence to psycho babble that does not agree with the truth as revealed by God.

I have to start with The Lord's Prayer because it led me to a miraculous place of healing and love. Now by love I don't mean circumventing the truth or side stepping conflict..but what I do mean is achieving grace.. the grace to courageously and joyfully love.

So here goes the most powerful and graceful prayer that could ever be said and was taught to us by our master and our God incarnate Jesus Christ.

Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

And without knowing it in my pain, desperation and fear I uttered words that changed my day completely. All relationships that don't go as planned bring a certain amount of heartbreak...a dating relationship with emotional and personal involvement brings a more personal pain. And so as I woke up yesterday morning...having experienced a drama circle of two people shutting down the days and night prior and not feeling good about my role in yielding to temptation...the temptation to not trust to judge and to not love.

I turned to the crucifix above my bed. I saw Jesus hanging on the cross and said I love you and I trust you. Please forgive me and I will forgive. With that I had the courage to respond to my friend and communicate some pain, disappointment, some realities I saw and ended by forgiving and letting go of how I wanted the relationship to be. The last step now is to let go of how I would like the relationship to transition. Herein in love I am now free to be kind, to love and to step away. I am free to move on stronger and wiser even if not be open to love again and find the mate God designed for me so that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And with this fulfills the deepest longings of my heart and assures that God and hence love burns thru everything.

Monday, October 31, 2011


A Sea of Love

I am at the coast at half moon bay. So many words that have moved many experiences too. I guess I will start with the phrase that stared at me as I approached this blog entry journey. Written on the bench I was about to sit in-- "The voice of the sea speaks to the soul."

Yesterday while on a hike with my church group I reflected on two things. One is that our eyes face outward so our focus is on the other..we can't see our own face. The oddest thing caused me to think of this. We were warned of ticks along the way and I told a friend of mine that I would take off the ticks I see on her and she could take off the ticks she sees on me. What we see is the other, my friend, and my friend sees the other, me. How beautiful that we were designed to take care of one another.

How we see brought me to the sea. I also took note as we hiked along the coast..that our world is more sea than land and I wondered why. I am sure there are scientific theories as to why this might be. However, I will speculate on the subjective human perspective:-).

We were not meant to live on the water and yet our soul does feel a special call to be near it. The look and sound of the waves soothes us. I think of our other senses that we may not notice that also beckon us, the smell, the touch of it. But definitely not the taste:-). The sea also has great mammals that are noble and intelligent and that we admire and enjoy. It also has a mammal we don't understand and fear. It's a sign of what we need and a dream of what we want. Enjoying the ocean often requires solitude and listening and hence is a great way to commune with God.

So in this sea of writing I hope I can really begin to see. To see that love and God always take care of things no matter how it may seem, and when I begin to worry, especially about someone else, pray..pray pray..the almighty God is already at work trying to comfort and open new doors...and if we love Him we will in turn really see the other and

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Redemptive Nature of Conflict

Most of us disdain conflict, except maybe attorneys. Conflict can take the form of inner conflict, conflict with God, and conflict in relationships. Show me a person who no longer experiences conflict and chances are that someone is dead. Jesus had conflict as well. In and of itself conflict is not bad. Its what we think about conflict and how we choose to deal with it that determines how we grow.

In any situation conflict challenges us. Emotions are stirred with-in us and it gets messy. It makes us look inside and dig deeper into our motivations and our conflicts with those motivations. There are layers upon layers inside of us. Often we first wrestle with another's motivations and their layers to circumvent the more painful and tedious process of examining our own. It requires more of us, and so we often choose not to deal with it. It's easier to rationalize and pull back or give up. The old saying pick your battles is true--conflict can be exhausting.

But conflict is also necessary. It is necessary for intimacy in this life. Think of the conflict that happens when you battle to make time for God or to really open yourself up to God. There is someone else that doesn't want that relationship to grow. Think about the feelings of conflict you may have with God every once in do you deal with that? Certainly running away or rationalizing does not foster the intimacy. It is the same with our personal relationships and then some.

I often battle when things seem unjust and people are hurt. Hence, it may not seem like it, but I am afraid of conflict as well. This is especially true in relationships that mean something to me. That first conflict usually decides the fate of the relationship for me.

Peeling back the layers is scary, sometimes we don't want to see things about ourselves and about others and about our relationships. Last time I checked however illusions don't last. The beauty of conflict is that you can begin to be loved for who you really are and you can begin to love others for who they really are. As you both accept who you are, you are then free to choose to change and sacrifice and stretch to help build a closer relationship or decide to part ways if you both decide you can't move forward.

Conflict can be the pathway to realizing that freedom. You will only feel loved and have the freedom to truly love if you have the freedom to change your actions or not. You can choose different actions and still be who you are. Conflict makes you feel alive emotionally by making you aware of two opposing forces. It builds character by allowing you the opportunity to embrace the truth and eventually the opportunity to forgive.

We all have many lessons to learn through conflict. My lesson is to not runaway form it initially or when the heat gets too hot in the kitchen. What's your lesson? Love (God) endures all things and hopes for all things. In the end, conflict may be the divine pathway toward redemption. Certainly Jesus' conflict with the world had Him allow the crucifixion. But it also allowed the resurrection and the beauty of redemption, love and forgiveness. May God help us through the redemptive nature of conflict.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The Magic of God's Grace

I LOVE when God surprises me. Yesterday was a magical day. It would not have seemed the thing to expect given a tumultuous Friday and partying too hard that night in part due to my emotions being so raw.

Saturday morning I woke up tired after 5 hours of sleep. I became aware of Friday and the week in general, but then something magical happened. I started with a brief prayer, and then I went about with actions. I cleaned and organized my room then cleaned the bathroom. I was getting ready for my special guest for the day.

As usual I had a joyful peace as I walked to classes, and I greeted and smiled with the people who crossed my path. I took that with me into my classes and the new day brought a new reality. Friday was Friday and today was today. The classes were sweet and magical.

Then there was an atypical delay in starting our workout in fitness class. I had a little angst as I had to pick up my guest at the airport by 1200pm. Even though he had given me permission to be late, I did not want him to be waiting so long. After the work out, I dashed out. Grace multiplied as his flight was a bit delayed, and I finished working out minutes after he had arrived.

We spent a magical day together. We enjoyed just being and the beauty of God's world. We appreciated the magic of touch and affection. We freely shared thoughts and allowed a free connection to happen.

We then went to Redondo beach to experience a glimpse of the vast life in the ocean by going on the looking glass boat tour. The fish had glorious colors. A narrow silver one with a lightning blue streak, a fat orange one called Garibaldi, a fat opaque grey one with a white dot on it's back and glowing olive on it its fins. Their eyes also had a beautiful shade of blue. There were dozens of some and hundreds of others.

It made me think of how each fish was a unique representation of life. From a distance each species looked the same. However, if you looked closely enough at each one, each one was unique. Lastly there was a dazzling gold choral of plant life that amazed me.

It reminded me that life is vast and God's handiwork is always expanding. I couldn't even experience all that vastness even if I chose to spend all my waking moments just exploring. It made living forever seem just about the right amount of time it would take:-).

We then ate at a restauarant and enjoyed the oceanviews. We ended by settling in for a bit at Manhattan beach. What a quaint yet perfectly organized and zealously guarded town. Aside from the beach parking lot patrol men ready to inform you of the rules of the lot, there were a myriad of volleyball nets on the beach, cute little shops and restaurants and a variety of architecture. We fell inlove with some colonial Spanish styled condos and daydreamed of what it would be like to live there.

There were many surprising moments yesterday. The most surprising was my guest's decision to purchase a rosary after seeing one hanging on my rear view mirror. There are subtle and not so subtle ways we influence each other. It can be so beautiful.

There is beauty in just being, in the freedom to dream and the freedom to love. This is the grace of living, and the rest can be washed away. If these moments are influenced or caused by collective prayer, I am eternally grateful for the pure injection of God's grace.

Thank you God for letting the rest be washed away and keep me in that embrace. And the next time, if there is a next time that the enemy injects poison into my inner world, please remind me that I can uniquely combat it with a prayer then truth and love. I can then leave it behind, and experience the magic of God's grace.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Our Unique Gift to Lead and Love

We are in the last day of July which is about mid way through summer. Some of us are taking vacations, enjoying the fruits of our labor. Some like me are taking a minivaction on a Sunday at the beach. I am here at Redondo Beach near the pier reflecting on my summer adventure at Holywood.

I gave a speech about a week ago in the Leadership class. This class specifically details leading like Jesus. I couldn't help but integrate what I learned thru strength finders and my top four gifts given by the almighty himself namely Command, Input, Activator, Connectedness and Self Assurance. What came of it was the following speech slightly modified. I hope it inspires and allows all of us to dig deeper into the glorious majesty and mystery of being made in God's image.

It is always true for me that when I hear and read hours of information there is always some things that stand out more than others.. If what I learning validates my experience it sticks more.
What have I learned?

First, I found it interesting that the servant leadership paradigm is being studied and implemented in our secular world. I found it both interesting and paradoxical that it seems to be effective. Paradoxical because our culture, despite being Christian and Catholic for so long, has not dared to embrace what Jesus taught until now. I know throughout most of my life I struggled between what I heard the culture telling me, my own nature and what Christ presented.

The surrender of the culture and my nature to open to what Christ presents was a decision I made only recently, and it is a daily decision and struggle. I know that emptying myself so that God can fill me is the truest path to discovering myself and my vocation. This leads me to the two attributes I find most attractive in leaders and characteristics I wish to hone for myself.

Humility and confidence. Humility makes me teachable, curious, open and present. The reality is I have infinity to learn and a finite amount of time to learn in this life. So being open to every opportunity whether in prayer or in my moment to moment life is a goal I strive for. It is also where I find God.

Confidence or self assurance is the knowledge that I am created by God in his image and that he loves me more than all of humanity, including myself, could ever love me. Just as importantly, that my experience of working the talents that God has given me has led to the affirmation of what I am capable of doing and the knowledge of the intrinsic worth of what God has created. It is my goal to keep combating the voices inside and out that deny both realities not only for myself but those around me.

Humility and confidence can lead me to a vision. John Paul II, Mother Theresa and MLK had both attributes in my view. Humility led them to their visions by seeing, hearing and feeling what the world needed most. They graciously rose to the call. Their confidence in God and their call led them to their courage. And these attributes led to deeds and words that inspired, motivated and impacted the world in deep and significant ways. Humility and confidence led to passion, kindness, integrity, self sacrifice and a unique experience of what it means to love for them individually.

In discerning my call as a leader it always helps to humble myself before God's glorious power and have him lift me up to see the needs around me that impact me the most and call to me. Then my courage can be effectively applied to say what needs to be said and do the things that need to be done. May we all embrace our unique gift to lead and love from Our Father in Heaven.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Keep the Sabbath Day Holy

Keep the Sabbtah day holy. This is the third commandment, and is in line with, love God with all your might, mind and strength. Out of all my new year's resolutions, this has been one of the more difficult to keep. Yet, it is actually one of the easiest to master. You can clearly see if you have lived it or not. It's a day of rest, a day you make time for the Lord and for connecting with loved ones and visiting the sick. You can enjoy nature and reflect on the Word. In short, you breathe and see the miracle of life around you.

Of course, if your profession has you working to serve the sick or conversely if your life circumstance has you being served because you are sick, then your day of rest is either a day of service or receiving the healing offered. I suppose if you could serve in your health care profession on the sabbath without pay, then it would be holier.
However, for the vast majority of us, we do not HAVE to work or cause someone to work on the Sabbath.

It's simple really, you do your work, chores and shopping on the other days and you embrace the down time. I did it for awhile this year. What side tracked me was wanting to please other people and myself by following my own will and priorities. Soon my rationalization led to breaking the habit and ironically I felt uneasy, less peaceful.

Today, I begin anew. Knowing that God's guidelines are meant for our good. He designed us to love, serve and honor him precisely because that is what makes us joyful, complete and whole. We came from Him and to mirror Him is the truth of who we are.

Discipline is the ability to say yes and stick to your commitment even when it is difficult and knowing when to say no. It takes practice, devotion and openness to God. It takes humility and courage to let God be your guide. It takes humility and courage to know when you have lost your way and to turn back.

I must be free in my own will to obey and love. So first I must be free from the impulses that ensnare me to serve myself first. Then, I am free from the yo yo of reacting with anything but love. In short, I must be free from only seeing the fear of losing my pride, my money or security and my life.

The antitheis to obeying God is rebellion. Rebeling against God and others is anything but freedom and can lead to a tortured way of living. I find that my practice of discipline either inspires others or it threatens them. For the latter who rebel, all I can do is pray.

Yet, the focus must remain on my own relationship with God and others. How do I open to God and the many blessings He has in store for me? How do I open to God and serve him through others? And the most challenging for me, how do I put the needs of others before myself?

At times, however infrequent, if the true motivation is Love and honoring God's will, it is reproving one another that is required, and this too takes courage. For me it takes courage especially in close relationships. For sometimes I leave things unsaid. It takes a special grace to know when to speak and when to remain silent. If both always remain silent eventually this creates permanent silence in the relationship.

However, more often I don't exercise this principle consistently because I am constantly afraid this will mean I will be taken advantage of. I also find this concern in others as well. Yet, I find when I exercise this principle that I feel joyful and at peace.
The lack of faith that love is its own reward, and the desire to attach expectations is what is at the root of not putting others before yourself. Love is it's own reward, giving is it's own reward.

The blessing God has in store for me is beyond what I can expect, and perhaps not as immediately as I would like. And so, I exercise my faith this Sabbath day, knowing that by focusing on God (love) I will be filled with what is required to live out His will uniquely. So here I pray that I, and all of us, might be sanctified by honoring our Lord's command to keep the sabbath day holy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Glorious Living

This first July blog I begin with two quotes and a You tube video. The quotes are from the Bible and one from Helen Keller, respectively and the You Tube is about the miracles that led and lead to the Corpus Christi(body of Christ) celebration which we had last Sunday. After that I explore what they mean to me and what they can mean for all of us.

Ephesians 1 vs. 11-12 "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."

“If we believe that the earth is ours, and that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy upon the hills and gladness in the fields because the Artist in our souls glorifies creation.”
Helen Keller, published in Personality, December, 1927

As I examine life from the intricacies of the human body to all the variables necessary to sustain life, I am in awe. Life and the universe with all it's rules and even with it's chaos, is a miracle.

The knowledge of only this universe is infinite, and hence we collectively know less than a measurable percentage of that. And, I personally only know perhaps 1/2 of 1 percent of all that we do know. A good analogy is math. If I can count to one trillion, how much closer are you to reaching the last number? We could have counted backwards and gotten the same answer. This teaches me humility.

In this humility, I can begin to understand what God wants for me and for us. Ephesians tells us. He just doesn't want pleasurable living, not just happy living but glorious living. What does glorious living mean? Helen Keller's' observation opens the window to our soul on how to begin to do that. If she could know this without being able to see with her eyes or hear with her ears than so can we!

Perhaps we need to be still in our minds and in our bodies. We need to let the noise of our will, our perception of what is real, our fears, and our God given need for love to melt away, so we can see and so we can feel God's love in everything. He can teach us what love really is through observation, study, prayer and the still small voice that speaks to us. Perhaps the greatest way we can know, and the way Ms. Keller knew was to experience this personal, physical and transforming love through an individual.

An individual like you and like me can manifest love and transform individuals. This brings me to how you and I can get closer to being that embodiment of love. The You-tube video tells us how you and I can become love.

If God is Love, then Jesus is the embodiment of Love. His biggest gift to us was the sacrifice of his body and blood. And His gift keeps on giving because he is present in the Eucharist and the Consecrated Wine. The love of the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine and Jesus becomes present and is a present for us.

If we are what we eat, then the more we partake of His body and blood the more we are transformed to be like Him. To live as He lived. To live boldly and fully, to love fully, to know and to be known and to live forever. If we have this faith, this reality becomes manifest.

In our quest to find love and meaning in our lives, we need look no further than Jesus Christ. He embodied our worth, our potential and Love. May we embrace, give and seek Love always. For putting our Triune God first is to put Love first, and here is our witness for glorious living.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The Real Power of Prayer

It is often said that communication is key in relationships. I find often that actions speak much louder than words. Whenever I am ambivalent and/or see ambivalence between action and word, it is often the action that will ultimately decide where your heart really is. And there is little point fighting it, for in the end you are either in something or you are not.

Our relationship with God is much the same. We can talk about praying, we can pay lip service to God but unless our action and our body matches our words our heart is not really in it. I have found little and big answers have come in my life when I get down on my knees, pour my heart out to God and in humility ask for guidance or help.

I am digging back to the beginning of my prayer life in sharing one experience with you. I do this in the hope this example of prayer experience will help you as well as re-energize me into what is possible. As we get older, more confident and self sufficient, it is easy to not only lose sight of praying, our communication with God, but also to change our relationship with God. It is certain our relationship with God matures and changes as we go thru life, but I feel that we feel closest to God when we are vulnerable and depend on Him. It mirrors the times we feel closest to one another.

My new found faith started at age 20 and led to my first divine connection in what I refer to as my wallet story. I was a sophomore in college and had just come back from having lunch with a friend at Garcia's Pizza in Champaign, Il. Sometime afterward, I noticed that I could not find my wallet.

So I did the logical thing. First, I looked all over the house. When that yielded nothing, I then retraced my steps as to when and where it was that I had last seen my wallet. It was at Garcia's. I called the restaurant and they had nothing, I then called my friend to see if I had left it in her car and again no luck. Logically, the only other place it could have fallen was in between my friend's car and my home.

I looked outside in the snow and realized I had reached a dead end. Losing the money inside was the least of my concerns. I was worried about my licence, credit cards etc And although I could easily cancel everything and get a new driver's licence, I thought what a pain.

As embarassing as it was to pray for something so small, I decided to do so anyway. While on my knees and next to my bed, I started my prayer my communication. Dear Heavenly Father, I know there are much bigger problems in the world than my lost wallet, and I will understand if this is too trivial for you to address but I have done everything in my power and I can't find it. If you can help me, I would really appreciate it but its ok if you don't because I know this is such a trivial matter. I ask this humbly in Jesus name. My words were the least of my communication as I recall.

My heart, my feelings, my intellect, will and my faith were 100% there. My body langauge was speaking as well. I remember my face and upper body contorting as I as embarassed to ask. And as I prayed, I knew He heard me and that He was there. I felt HIM. As soon as I finished the prayer, I paused and felt warmth and peace envelope me.

A thought then spontaneously came to my mind "Gosh it would be so nice if someone would find my wallet." Minutes later the phone rang and the voice on the other line said "Are you Angela.."and I interjected and said "Yes and you found my wallet right?" "Yes" she said a little perplexed.

I proceeded to ask her where she found it? She said in the snow outside Green St, which is where I lived and where I searched for it. We arranged to meet, and I thanked her. My wallet was intact.

Looking back, the intimacy with God was the best reward of the whole experience. I was humble, vulnerable, and yielding to His will and He was gracious enough to help me by communicating the answer that was shortly to come. It is my hope that we all learn to lean on God, even when our approach isn't quite right or the answer doesn't turn out the way we'd like. For it is in the sweet intimacy with God, our heavenly Father, that we find the real power of prayer. Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 6, 2011


With God All Things are Possible

Today something astonishing happened. A friend called me to say that a priest who had preached and believed ideologies contrary to church truth and teaching had a change of heart after a 3 month retreat. This priest had apologized to a parishioner for preaching contrary to church teaching and was now convicted of the truth.

This was a priest whom I had challenged with love back in October of 2010 and then again in January and late February of this year. I did this after I heard his homily in late September of 2010.

The decision to talk with him and then challenge him came after I confirmed his belief was indeed against church teaching. In a sense it was understandable because he has a brother who struggles with his sexuality. What started out as initially only a little uncomfortable became increasingly so as I realized was going against the tide even in my faith community.

I noticed how others were upset at the time but were paralyzed by anger that yielded to fear. I also noticed that others had just left that particular parish and deemed it hopeless to do anything against the heretical subculture. The odds were small for change everyone said. It's hopeless. That from some members in a faith community!

Yet too I noticed how others had decided to pray for the situation. Some spoke up with kindness and some in anger. As I acted in other ways in the months that followed, in ways the the Lord led me to, the needed space then happened. I was led to Florida. In that space, the seeds for change had been planted and were growing unbeknown to me. Prayers were sown and a heart was opened. I am still amazed at God's grace and love!

This news came at the heals of one of my most challenging periods. My surrender to God was constantly being challenged by my need to be in control. All my daily routines and practices were disjointed as I toiled to get ready for an exciting and yet scary move. My formal focus on God was even challenged, and I had days where I had to muscle out the prayers. Acting has always come easier for me than praying, and that sweet balance only comes through surrender.

This little miracle of a courageous priest who sought out God and embraced change was exactly what I needed to hear. This Friday I get ready to embark on the most potentially fulfilling and challenging call yet for me to surrender, ironically in "acting." Knowing that without God this would have been impossible for me. Fear had paralyzed this call many times before but, perhaps it was not the right time. And now I jump into His arms knowing that with God all things are possible.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Embracing Holy Wood

This weekend had me reflecting on two events, one personal and one global. The personal was my visit to Holy Wood acting studios.
I came to LA to begin my discerning process to see if I was being called to join this endeavor and expand my skills in the performing arts. The global was the highly advertised message by Harold Camping and others that world was ending.

Ironically, the messages I heard on both were the opposite of what I had expected. In the personal, the first steps in discerning brought catastrophic fear the likes of which I have rarely experienced. In the global, I heard a homily moments before the supposed end of the world that took this message and brought joy and hope about how to live in this passing world.

Hollywood can conjure up images of vanity, self indulgence, self aggrandizement, idol worship and I am sure worse. This is amazing given the fact that the origins of the name were in fact Holy. According to fellow blogger Pat McNamara,,
"Mass was first celebrated in this (Hollyoood now) parish May 3, 1769, by the founder of all the California Missions, Father Junipero Serra, and upon this date also was erected the Holy Wood of the Cross, hence the name of Holywood, or Hollywood, the name which was afterward given to the place by the wife of John L. Beveridge of this place."

I thought of what the significance of the cross and that it was and is Holy Wood. Jesus brought us redemption and invites us to partner with Him in this redemption. Jesus said,"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." Matthew 16:24.The cross, the Holy Wood is meant for us as well.

My personal journey met with the global concept. Serrindipitously, a voice instructor from Holy Wood Acting Studios led me to St. Monica's in Santa Monica for the 5:30p.m. mass. The Gospel message 1 Pt 2:4-9 was about not letting our hearts be troubled and trusting in the Lord. It ends with an almost unbelievable promise "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.” As I discerned the fear I initially experienced was the enemy trying to set limits on my faith and subsequently on me.

Then at 5:50p.m. last night, Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson met the global. He first made us laugh and then made us think about the value of living each day as your last. First came his humor." Well the world is going to end in about 10 minutes and I know I won't be taken up because I am a sinful pastor, and so I have prepared the homily in its entirety because I know this. Some of you may be leaving your pews but the rest of us left behind will continue with mass".

After the laughs, he shared how people were talking about the world ending at a ball game a few days prior. Our fascination with this could lead to the secret of life.
He shared how a mystic in Buddhism was asked his secret for a good life. The mystic said that he lived each day as if it were his last. He lived as if a venomous snake was ready to strike now. When you are in this situation you are not thinking about how much money you have or what people think about you or even your past sins, you are focused on right now. And while this venomous snake is ready to strike at any moment, the mystic notices ripe berries and he picks them and eats them. After all, why would you deprive yourself of this joy.

The pastor then shared about the lessons that Marty Martinson, an elderly Wal-mart greeter in Brookings, SD, gave. Give a little more of yourself. The only person who can make you happy is you. Be a better you. He referenced a book written about this man.

The pastor went on with our concept of God. We worry and fret and live as if our God was a very small God. We bargain because we think God bargains. We say to our neighbor well I forgive you but I won't forget and we think God is the same way. He concluded by saying that our God is much bigger than this. His love is much bigger than this, and if we embrace and lean on our very large God then we live our lives very differently. That we must feel His love and not just think it. For when we feel His love then it becomes real.

His homily made me reflect on the personal. Our penchant for trying to control our destinies by trying to predict our future. And on the global with our penchant for trying to control God and His plan by predicting a specific time for when the world will end.

Sure, on the personal, we can have goals and dreams and can make them come true but the journey is out of our hands and there are surprises along the way we can't possibly anticipate. More than that though is that sometimes our goals are not what God has in mind for us and we fail to live up to our best potential and our fullest joy if our will does not mesh with His. If we follow Jesus and do his works then we can do greater things than He! Wow!

It has made me think how often most of us limit ourselves in one way or another because we have limits on God. Our limitless all powerful and ever living God we place limits on and when we are then blind to his aid. We also limit our potential and joy in life. We are afraid in our vocations and in our relationships and with our lives. We live half present for fear of what can happen. We give our hearts and time half heartedly often due to worry and preoccupation. Anytime, we do this we limit God and limit our joy.

As we discern our divine destiny one day at a time, some doors will close so that others can open. Let us not be afraid to walk thru a door, even though it seems we are not quite equipped to walk thru. We can't see where the road is meant to lead. Let us have courage to listen to our deepest desires, to walk with courage thru the doors and meet the obstacles we meet outside and inside of ourselves. Let us live each day as if it were our last with courage, kindness, mercy and love. And one day it will be our last, and it is my hope that all the way we were embracing our Holy Wood toward God's glory.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Happy Mother's Day to Our Ultimate Mother

It is natural to think of our mother today and to honor her. It is one of our most impactful human relationships. And I must admit that until I went to mass this morning, I hadn't thought about Jesus mother "the Blessed" Virgin Mary. I wonder if for Him, too, she was and is the most impactful of human relationships on Him.

Most Christians honor Mary as the woman who was graced by the Angel Gabriel's visit. He paid tribute to her and said "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" Luke 1:28. He informed her of how special her role was to be. She would be the vessel by which the salvation of the world would come to be. She would conceive, nourish in her womb, and give birth to Jesus without knowing a man. She would raise and instruct Him and do all the things that mother's do. What an amazing privilege and grace! I guess that's why she is blessed and why all generations would call her blessed. Luke 1:48.

Although science is changing this intimate relationship, for the vast majority of us, we too began in our mother's womb. Here, we were physically and spiritually nourished and our mother was our vessel. So vulnerable are we, that our mother has the power to stop our growth and end our life.

I then think of the mothers who choose not to have the baby growing in their womb. Some choose repeatedly and for a variety of reasons. In all cases, a mother chose her own life over her baby's. She chose fear instead of faith and love. She chose to interfere after a choice she made or was forced to make that led to conception. Whether the circumstance was rape, incest, out of wedlock or in, if their is a life in the womb we must do something in order to end that life. The reasons for terminating the baby's life can varied; a baby can seem to be developing mental or physical disabilities; it can seem as if a mother's and/or baby's life is at risk, or that the baby just was not planned for and is inconvenient.

The baby is inconvenient. That could be said about all the prior circumstances and arguably about 100% of babies. As much as any mother wants and loves a child, pregnancy is rarely if ever a cake walk. Morning sickness, hair loss, diminished mobility, temporary and permanent body changes and the list goes on and on. And this just during pregnancy. Of course, there are many positives that far outweigh the negatives or we wouldn't be here! Nevertheless, the cost is great.

I think of mother's who chose to carry the baby and keep it or give it up for adoption. I think of a mother whether she carried the baby or not. She generally and consistently had to choose her child over herself. This leads us to the definition of love.

My thoughts here lead to my own mother, whose love became most apparent when she was losing her own. According to friends and family, they asked my mother if she was afraid when it became apparent she was dieing. She said no, but I am afraid of what will happen with Angela. Recalling this still brings tears to my eyes.

This mother's day, no matter what relationship we have or had with our mothers, let us embrace the symbol that each of us carry in our soul. To all the mother's that lost their opportunity to be a mother whether by choice or not, let us embrace that divine call deep inside us to love others more than ourselves. Despite the fact that we ALL choose against love more often than we choose for love, let us rejoice in God's (love's) mercy and know that if we let HIM in, He will show us who we really are.

We can then surrender and choose love(God) more often. And who better to guide us in this surrender to God than the Mother of God. May the Blessed Virgin Mary's words be a guide for us all "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" Luke 1:38. Happy Mother's Day to our ultimate Mother!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Persevere to New Beginnings

My favorite month of the year is May. Spring is in full swing, it's my birthday month, also it is the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary and this year we have an entire month to celebrate the Easter season. And Easter symbolizes the most beautiful and miraculous event of our Lord Jesus persevering and leading us all to new beginnings.

May is bringing new beginnings for me in many ways. I am now living in new quarters with new people in the Miami area. I also begin my last full week residing here. Too, my life soon will begin anew as I return to my home, my friends and my life.

This week will also be the beginning of transitioning my work here to those whose job it is to turn the wheels of justice. There is peace in knowing I did everything I could to further the cause. Both in my small personal example and in our recent national and global example when we finally captured Osama Bin Laden, we see how perseverance eventually leads us to new beginnings.

However, there are always more reasons as to why the Lord takes you places than just one. It just seem to be HIS awesome way. What remains ahead, I can only speculate on. Yet, it is precisely this mystery that invites surrender, joy and wonder.

My new beginnings this week are in large part brought about by the Lord reteaching me some fundamental principles. Two of those principles include humility and surrender. Last week I took some leaps of faith and found that God addressed my concerns and questions before I had much time to even consider them. For example, some evidence that had eluded me ended with an attorney calling me to make arrangements that were most convenient for me to pickup the documents. Another is some financial risk was mitigated by a delay I had not planned. Even simple things such as what to do next after Church, helping a new friend celebrate her birthday and finding time to write this blog just fell into place.

However, the most poignant principle I was retaught this week was the principle that sin comes from within. The most chaotic event, which finally resolved itself, was learning that sexual sin has no boundaries. It is no respecter of persons and can affect the old as well as the young.

Our secular world defines our sexuality as purely a hormonal/physical impulse that primarily affects younger people and is a chaotic mess that has a will of its own. However, our sexuality, which is one of the greatest expressions of love we can experience, begins it's distortion in our thoughts. The more our thoughts entertain, encourage and illicit sexual connections that are based on fantasy, the more divorced your sexuality is from reality. Lustful thoughts may randomly come and arouse us physically. But they have nowhere to go if we shift our focus and invite grace to come in. The more grace enters and changes our heart to love the less those lustful thoughts arise and have fertile ground to grow. Even if we stumble on occasion, the sin has no lasting hold if we embrace God's grace. Our perseverance in rejecting the tempter yields to more grace.

On the flip side if we hold on to lustful thoughts, entertain them and encourage them, the next steps are self evident. After arousal we are led to act. Often masturbation comes first and from there acting out on the "object" of our desire. Objectifying a person is the antithesis of love. What sows in our heart is the life we will end up leading. And the longer we have lived our life embracing this destructive path, the more powerless we are to control it when the next person comes that triggers our entrenched pathways. How sad. We can end up being an 88 year old acting out impulsively, humiliating ourselves, the person who incredulously rejects our advances, and our loved ones. The sinful thought that we began entertaining long ago has born some ugly fruit.

However as we learned last week, even in the ugliest of circumstances God can surprise us by turning it into something beautiful. This is especially true if we follow His will. As we begin this new month of May, let us remember that the more we persevere in His will the greater the chance we have of allowing God's grace and love to spring us into new beginnings.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


The Ultimate Joyous Meditation

Today marks the beginning of the most joyous 50 days in the Christian calendar, the Easter Season. We are to begin the festivities as the 40 day Lenten journey has come to a close. This Easter Triduum had me reflecting on all the events that led to the crowning victory of Jesus conquering sin and death, Satan's contribution, through Jesus resurrection. I reflected on my Lenten journey. I thought of Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He repeated the same prayer in slightly different words 3 times. Despite the victory and joy He knew would come, the horror on so many levels he was about to face caused him to ask to want to skip this moment, and yet He acquiesced to God's will.

So what does this account of Jesus all giving love and triumphant glory have to do with us personally? Ok, its true He called us friends and we are created in the image of God. But what does that mean? Perhaps it means that we too ultimately have the same cries and can look forward to the same triumphs.

As I mentioned in last weeks blog, this has been a mysterious interruption for me. As I began the restorative justice ministry, I could not have foreseen that the other aspect of it, the healing and restitution of the victim would unexpectedly became very personal for me. Nor could I have foreseen that it would take front and center stage. Certainly, I had not planned it nor wanted to take it on to this extent. However, God has his own plans and design.

So why am I in Miami so abruptly? I have detail some background as I weave in the answer. My adoptive father's death in Miami almost 4 years ago was marred by tragedies too horrific to believe. His death was hidden, and due to a lag in communication I was only informed of it a year and a half ago. I was his only daughter and the shear shock and emotion caused me do all I could to uncover the how and why and rectify it as best I could. I could not believe given the past history of my adoptive father and I, that I would end up being his only advocate.

In late February of this year, as the criminal case slowly progressed, the civil case came to a screeching halt when my legal counsel abandoned the case. For weeks, I tried to secure alternate counsel by phone from California but to no avail. I finally hit my own wall and recognized I would either have to step it up or let it go. That first weekend in April came, and I was exhausted. So I turned I turned in prayer and asked if you want be to give up this civil battle I will.

The next week a lawyer called a second time to hear of my case. One thing led to another and she said to come right away as the statutes were expiring and her firm had decided to take the case on a limited basis. Prior to her communication, I had already weighed the decision to drop everything and go to Miami but I wanted to delay this til the end of May. This decision had me feeling unrest. The attorney's urgent request caused me to do a 180. After this decision, I woke up feeling peace the following morning.

Although, God had revealed to me that He wanted me in Miami, I knew the catalyst of what brought me out here, namely the attorney's request, was not going to be the end of why I was being brought out here. And so it was.

This past week was my Garden of Gethsemane. I foresaw that the attorney which brought me out to Miami, would abandon the case. Monday she officially did. So here I was having to scramble at the eleventh hour for substitute counsel, postponing the gathering of evidence and postponing assisting the overtaxed law enforcement and legal system. In my scrambling, I met with more attorneys whose fear, pragmatism and laziness would mirror both prior attorney's motivation, in differing aspects, in abandoning me and the case.

On Wednesday, in the midst of turmoil and exhaustion, in the midst of holy week, I still knew I was brought out here for a reason. The signs still kept pointing me to pursuing justice and restitution. Yet the cost on so many levels was great, and the intense agony led me to thoughts of what lay ahead. Too, I again questioned my own steps and motivations as my own outrage fueled me as I kept discovering all the events and participants that led to my own personal tragedy.

Yet the only peaceful answer I have found is in surrendering to God's will. So I cried first in tears and then in prayer, I pleaded again as I had while I was still in California, "I am ready to let this go and yet if it is still your will, please show me and your will be done".

The answer came in a whisper and then loud and clear the next day. Even though I had not planned to do this, doors opened that had been shut and I gathered more information with greater ease than at any other time prior. Aside from finally finding an alternate attorney, I recognized that he was the one I should choose. And, more importantly, I spoke with an attorney who had direct experience with the people who had stolen not only my adoptive father's assets and possibly his life but his dignity. This particular attorney had sued them prior representing other people who had not been paid for services rendered. The personal now had become more global.

Our heavenly Father's unconditional love manifests itself in a myriad of ways. When some of us are enslaved in passions such as greed and we get away with breaking the law in pursuit of those passions, we are rewarded to continue. This can not lead to a good end for anyone and least of all to those enslaved with this behavior. God's love, mercy and justice give all of us a chance to embrace redemption. However, that process has to start somewhere and oftentimes it starts with loving justice, the timeout to experience conversion and redemption. Of course there are no guarantees that this will happen but at least the opportunities are granted. And just as it takes a village to raise child, it takes a village to help someone commit crime and, also, to allow them to keep committing them.

I find it amazing as we enter the joy of the Easter Season how God can turn something as ugly as what Christ endured into something beautiful and redemptive. May we meditate on the meaning of justice, sacrifice, love and the ultimate joy and glory of the resurrection this Easter.

And in a personal way let us reflect on how the ugly in our own lives, can be transformed into something beautiful and redemptive as well, if we but follow God's will. This may be one of our ultimate joyous meditations.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


A Graceful Timeout

Sorry for the long hiatus. I am in the midst of a mysterious interruption in my journey and am in Miami, Fl. The reason I am here is ironically tied to the most challenging ministry I started about 3 weeks ago.

About 10 years ago, I had my first wave of wanting to do prison ministry. They discouraged me from getting involved. Even writing letters was dangerous they said, since the prisoners could track my address and open me up to unwanted attention. I could use a PO Box I thought. So It didn't deter me, but in the end I was refused.

This time the inspiration came again during my confirmation classes last October. We were reflecting on a passage with the word "free" in it. Of course I fixated on that word. For me my freedom has been my most cherished gift. It has no doubt prevented me from committing to people and things my heart wasn't 100% in. It also is something I have sought to obtain through finances.

As I reflected on how much I LOVE my freedom, I thought of the antithesis, prison. Sure most of have prisons in our heads, some of which we are aware of and some which we are not. But I thought about those in physical prisons and their lack of freedom. I thought of Matthew 25 13-40 "and you visited me in prison." The desire to reach out came back again.

I inquired at my parish and was told about the restorative justice ministry through St. Vincent De Paul. After they told me of the various programs, I was specifically drawn to the youth ministry. I also liked the aspect of ministering to and of restitution for the victims as part of the ministry cycle. I decided to pursue it upon my return of my trip to Peru in December.

After three months going through the application process, my first visit and training session was finally scheduled. As March 27, 2011 approached, I began to get very nervous and requested the prayers of various friends. I ended up accompanying Chaplain Martin Schurr to perform a communion service. And much to my my dismay, instead of visiting teenage girls we were escorted to the "roughest" teenage boys facility.

As we waited for the door to open, Chaplain Marty told me that we had no control over where we went and sometimes are even sent away. Wow..what a journey of faith! He told me there was a school, a court house, exercise area, and social workers all in this enclosed facility. There was no where to travel, you were in all purpose prison.

When we finally came in, I saw about 20-25 young men sitting in their fold out chairs. I didn't know what to expect, and I was uncharacteristically timid. Chaplain Marty did most of the talking and only had to call out once to stop some giggling.

Chaplain Marty began by telling his story. He came from a dysfunctional family. His father was an alcoholic who spent all his money on booze and never had enough money left over even to buy his son a new pair of shoes. His father's nickname for him was sh**head. His mother was very depressed and eccentric and would often be in pajamas all day. He was embarrassed and never brought any friends over and was angry for having to wear shoes with holes in them.

His pain and anger led him to choices that landed him in a juvenile detention center (JTC) like the one they were in. This ironically is where grace stepped in. Here he met Joe an older man who volunteered at the JTC. Joe was a very peaceful man, and Marty liked talking with him. With time Marty and Joe became friends, and Joe got him a job when Marty was released.

Then one day while working the "boss" yelled at Joe. Marty became very upset as his friend did not merit this treatment. He wanted to defend Joe and was going to show the boss a thing or two. Joe quickly asked Marty, do you really want to help me? Of course said Marty, and I am going to. No said Joe, if you really want to help me, lets pray for the "boss". Joe said the boss is probably stressed in trying to keep the business going, to be able to pay his employees etc.

Marty was shocked. He didn't agree or understand but followed Joe's request. Then Marty asked Joe why are you doing this? Joe told him he was Catholic and this was his faith. Slowly Chaplain Marty came to regard this man as a father and with time Marty made other choices that led him to enter religious life.

Marty said that if we choose to carry around anger and pain, then this will lead us to choices that will create more anger and pain. He cautioned them to really think about why they are here and to make other choices so that they don't end up in a real adult prison. Marty also told them just because you have an uncle or other family member there does not mean you are destined to go there. Your fate is in your hands.

I was riveted there listening and thinking why am I here? Chaplain Marty then introduced me and invited to share a little about myself. I told the boys I was from Chicago and had lost my mother at 16 and soon after was on my own. I told them that although I may not share their background, one thing I did share with them was feeling very angry as a youth and that I carried this anger for a long time. I shared with them that the only thing that melted that anger was love, and you can't love if you have never been loved. And even if they had not experienced love yet, that it was my hope that today was the beginning of their encounter with love. As I looked around, I was amazed to see that these simple words had opened some of their eyes and that they were looking at me and nodding in agreement.

In the service, Chaplain Marty ended up having me read most of the readings. I was amazed at how the holy spirit guided me through hick ups that invited the boys to "help" me. After the service, in this authentic and trusting moment, a couple of boys asked me questions about God's love. One in particular, Hector, shared some deeper personal struggles. I was moved. A lot seemed to stem around forgiveness; forgiving those who have hurt you and forgiving yourself.

The last thing I said to Hector, who was haunted by violent memories of his parents and voodoo practices of his family, was to pray because God's power overcomes anything. I added, God will put people in your path that will help you. He smiled and said like you and Chaplain Marty, and I nodded.

Injustice, hurt and evil are realities we all encounter one way or another. We can look at how we participate in creating these realities, and how we respond after we notice what has happened by our collective blind choices.

Those unexpected interruptions in life that come up may be God's call. That interruption may be a stint in juvenile hall, the loss of a job, an unexpected illness, a timeout with a friend or family member, or a call for justice. And as we approach holy week, let us reflect on those interruptions. They very well may be a graceful timeout.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


A Sure Path to Joy

Seeking a path to joy is the reason I started the certification process for Theology of the Body last month. It was something a good friend of mine had suggested I explore on numerous occasions. All I knew about it was it had something to do with sex and chastity.

Now midway through the classes, I realize that it is much deeper and broader than I ever imagined. It has made me concur with George Weigel's description that it is a “theological time bomb set to go off".

Although this blog will only scratch the surface, it is my hope I can do justice to this complex topic, and that you will inspired to dig deeper into this joy afterward. There is both a wikepdia article and a book that is a quicker and easier read on this subject.

So humbly, here I begin:-). The Christian faith and it's timeless principles have around for over 2,000 years, and every generation has had it's challenges with it. I feel this is because our fallen/disordered nature hasn't changed either but only our knowledge of the physical universe and the given theories and circumstances we inherit. We remain and will always be, in this reality, largely ignorant of infinity.

Theology of the body is the perfect angle in the beautiful prism of truth that speaks to us now. According to theology of the body, our body and our complimentary sex is a divine representation of God. In other words, we are created in the image of God. By sex I mean our maleness and femaleness which is stamped on our bodies, minds and spirits.

This dignity of the body came to fruition when the Word became flesh. In other words when God became man through Jesus Christ. By this act, He made us aware of the dignity of the body. He took on flesh to redeem, and restore it through the resurrection. We are not meant to transcend the flesh but restore it and embrace the entirety of our embodied spirits.

In our bodies lies the stamp of self gift one for the other, woman for man and man for woman. Because this is how we are designed, to completely give ourselves to the other and become one, it is in this nuptial union that we come closest to experiencing divine love here on earth.

Through the nuptial union, the sexual embrace, comes the possibility of new life. In fact without this union we would not exist. In this nuptial union then lies the meaning of our whole existence and the meaning of life. From this comes the deepest foundation of our human ethics and culture.

In simple language, as sex goes, so goes marriage and the family. As marriage and the family go, so goes the world.

Yes there are anomalies just as we are designed to see and some of us are born blind. And, as a culture we have tried to change the rules of sex and new life. I believe there are three main reasons we do this and brings me to the core of our human struggle.

Freud, Marx and Nietzsche all had their theories on what motivates human beings. Freud thought it was all about the lust of the flesh (sex), Marx thought it was the lust of the eyes (money, economics), and Nietzsche thought it was the pride of life (power or our will to dominate). One could argue they are all tied together.

In juxtaposition, the virtues that free us from these motivations are the same virtues the religious take in the Catholic faith. Chastity (for sex), poverty (for money) and obedience(the desire to dominate/pride/power ). These are so contrary to what our disordered state wants and, not surprisingly our culture, that it seems both horrible and impossible to embrace.

It's horrible perhaps because it seems like we are dieing and in a sense we are. Our baser side dies. On the other hand, we are freed from this struggle between our baser side and our divine impulses. In our disordered state we struggle with these baser desires. This certainly doesn't lead to peace or joy.

On the one hand if you indulge your baser desires thinking they will lead to happiness, you will want more. That is because happiness is a temporary state that will always lead to wanting more. Instead of finding more happiness however you ultimately find emptiness. If you unleash your baser desires you at best become a slave to them and at worst you self destruct and harm those around you.

Along with becoming free from these struggles, the virtues free us to truly love others (not lust after or use them), pursue and create what we love(instead of pursuing money), and to love God (instead of trying to be Him). All this Love enables us to be truly joyful, and we no longer feel compelled to chase happiness, the counterfeit of joy.

Is it impossible? No. It's obvious that it's not easily attainable, but the first step is you have to want it. A famous St. Augustine saying before his conversion was God grant me the virtue of chastity but not just yet! Because this virtue begins with what your heart and mind entertain you have to start wanting it there. If you choose it inside first,your body will follow suit.

Chastity is when your sexual passions are in subordination to your will. In other words you choose when to engage in that self expression in thought and in action. You rule it and it doesn't rule you. Then you are truly free to love another. You can then choose to express it in an exclusive way in the nuptial union. It even extends into the nuptial union. In other words, chastity doesn't end when you get married, its a way of life. Your focus is on the other and what they want--Love never self seeks.

Love is love before, after and beyond. Love is the fruit of chastity and ALL the virtues. May we have the grace to educate and be educated on Love and embrace the sure path to joy.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Honor your father and your mother

Every year on March 4th, I remember my mother. She passed away that day in 1981. I can scarcely believe it has been 30 years. That's longer than many of my friends age. What I find fascinating is that it doesn't matter if it's been 5 or 30 years, my feelings are always the same. My feelings of melancholy morph into sadness then morph into tears that end in joy. This year was no different.

However, what was different was the way I honored my mother and her memory. March 4th landed on a first Friday this year which is the scheduled time for the Taize prayer.

I decided it would be great to honor my mother in this time of prayer with a few close friends. Along with the prayer service, I wanted to remember her by sharing a Peruvian dish and also pulling out some of my favorite pictures of her.

Sharing special memories of my mom with friends, brought her alive to me and to them. Sharing pictures allowed my friends to see her in me. Sharing the Peruvian dish, lomo saltado, helped me share with my friends part of her culture. However, the most moving part was having them share in the prayer service. Of course my tears had been primed when I shared memories of my mother before the prayer service.

However, those tears paled in comparison to the tears that happened at the prayer service. The dark chapel lit by candlelight, the soft, melodic choral singinging of repeated prayers, the company of friends who were only there to support me, and my mother's memory were all just enough to have my tears flow for about 30-40 minutes. A friend started crying too, and I thought when will the tears cease? After the allotted time they did and peace came.

We ended the evening at my house eating, sharing, being present and being vulnerable. It was beautiful.

There is a Spanish saying that you die three times. Once when you leave your physical body behind, another when people stop visiting your grave, and the last when people stop talking about you.

Of course my thoughts turn to Jesus. It's ironic, but with this definition, Jesus is arguably more alive now than when He walked the earth. Even though He is no longer there, people still visit the Holy Sepulchre daily in Jerusalem. He is called by name intentionally and in vain daily by millions of people. And of course, what He said and did are talked about on Sunday at churches all over the world.

With Jesus in mind, aside from keeping my mother alive in special ways on special days, I can I keep her alive and honor her best by being the best person I can be. And, that can best be assured by letting God work through me and honoring Him, my Heavenly Father. How sweet it is to honor your father and your mother:-).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


God's Complete Command

A few weeks ago I began a journey at my church with their expanded version of Gallup's "Living your Strengths" book. The Clifton Strenghtfinder assessment yielded my top 5 themes as Command, Input, Activator, Connectedness and Self Assurance. This week's blog will focus on command.

As I researched the theme of command, I was naturally led to the theological source first. Most of us, whether religious or not, have heard of the ten commandments.

Jesus simplified them into two commandments. An excerpt from wikepedia states: When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus is portrayed by the Gospels of Mark[12:28–34] and of Matthew[22:34-40] as stating that the first two commandments, and the greatest, are
1.One should love God with one's entire heart, soul, mind, and strength
2.One should love one's neighbour as one would love oneself

There are many ways to look at the same thing and commandments are no different. Commandments have been softened to mean the "golden rule" or "guidelines on how to live joyfully and peaceably." God wants us to be joyful and so He generously told us what it takes to be joyful. It would make sense since He designed us, and if we are in His image he would know what is required to makes Him and us joyful.

But what does commandment mean? Well according to Meriam Webster, it simply means to command, an edict or an imperative (religious term). So what does command mean? Again, Merriam Webster defines command as : 1: to have or exercise direct authority : govern, 2: to give orders 3: to be commander, 4: to dominate as if from an elevated place. exercise authority, to dominate from an elevated place, to give orders. It makes sense God is authoritative, since He is the author of everything and everyone. However, people have been granted authority too; the government, police, teachers, parents etc. If we have issues with authority then we will reject it in all forms and simultaneously reject any authority we may be granted individually. But this is food for thought for another blog.

This theme of command and the concept of authority becomes very personal for me. Of the five themes, command ranked number one for me. This agrees with my experience and what friends shared with me. In acknowledging that it is such a part of who I am, the command theme has and will come out consciously and unconsciously. When it is honed and directed consciously, it can be a great asset to others and simultaneously give me peace. However, while choosing to hone and be conscious of my command characteristics seems the best course of action overall, it may not always be what God deems best every time. Sometimes I have to accept that to challenge, take charge and even let loose at times is what I meant to to do, popular or not. It will also put me on the firing line on controversial subjects.

I'll end this reflection with John 2:15-17.

He made a whip out of chords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

Jesus' love here puts God first, the first commandment we are to observe. The first three of the ten commandments all pertain on how we are to love God. Jesus' putting God first is what led him to love us so much and suffer and die for us. However, this particular scripture where Jesus wrath is displayed in the temple is often misunderstood, not accepted, criticized and skipped. It may be that what we often skip has great pearls of wisdom. It is my prayer that we search for, acknowledge, trust and eventually Love God's complete Command.