Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Just as You Are

I don't know about you guys, but I am a big fan of the P&W. That's right, praise and worship. Just like Jamie Grace, I like to "get my worship on," ya feel me? Anyways, one of my favorite songs is actually a really simple one (which is great because that means I can actually play it on the guitar...). Maybe you have heard of it. It's called "Come, Now Is The Time To Worship." In this song, there is a really cool line that says, "Come, just as you are to worship. Come, just as you are before your God. Come." It's actually like half of the song, but that's besides the point. I was singing this when the lyrics hit me. Come, just as you are. Before your God.

It reminded me of the homily that Fr. Mike Schmitz gave this Christmas Eve. He talked about the Little Drummer Boy, and after a couple tangents discussed the fact that this boy came before the Lord to "play his best for him." Elaborating on this point, he talks about how the Lord doesn't actually just want us to bring us our best, but also our worst. He wants us just how we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Here's how these two ideas line up: to come before our God just as we are means He wants everything. He knows exactly who we are, what we've done, how we feel, how we are hurt, what needs healing, what needs cleaning; simply put, He knows us better than any other person ever could, including ourselves. And He wants us to bring it all to Him. Just because He knows what we suffer, that doesn't mean that He's just going to barge into our lives and clean up our mess without our permission. Maybe we are like hoarders in our souls and hang on to everything and aren't ready to give it up. Everything gets messy and chaotic. Jesus ain't gonna go in there and tidy it up for you if you won't let Him in the door. But we don't have to keep Him at the threshold of our heart afraid to open the door, embarrassed by the mess inside.

Maybe your soul looks like this... 

The other day, I was talking with my mom who was preparing to host a couple of friends for a card night at our house. She said to me, "You know, Mrs. So-and-so always has such a perfectly kept home. Whenever she invites people over, not only is her house immaculately clean, she always cooks the perfect meal with the perfectly complimentary hors d'oeuvres etc., but do you know what? She knows that I'm not like that. So I'm not going to just hide all of our crap and pretend that our house is always clean, because guess what... it isn't. Ever."

This is my soul... Bahahahahaha. Jokes. 

You know, maybe it was a superficial concern, but there is actually a lot of truth to this. Jesus knows our souls. If we try to hide all of our crap, it's just us pretending. We can put on nice clothes and go to church, but if our soul is messy, God's going to see right through it. And it's okay! He knows that we are like that. He isn't disturbed or upset that our life is a complete wreck, because He already knows! In fact, that's why Jesus came here on earth. He wants to be right with us in the midst of our crazy, messy, dirty lives. When He was born here on earth, as my home priest pointed out, it wasn't in a highly sanitary hospital. Nope, it was in a barn with a bunch of dirty animals. He laid in a feeding trough. He had rags to wear.

Moral of the story: we don't have to be ashamed of our mess. We just need to come before the Lord, just as we are and let him into our messy hearts. Let Him come and fix us, heal us, clean us, and love us. He already knows everything. We just need to give it to Him and trust his hand in our lives. Now I'm not saying that He's going to go all Bruno Mars like, "there's not a thing that I would change, because you're amazing, just the way you are." Actually, if we let Him in for real, we won't be able to help but change. Because the truth is, Jesus loves us, mess and all, but if we really love Him, we're going to want to let Him change us. Also mentioned in Fr. Mike's homily, Romans 5:6-8 says:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Just at the right time, He came into our world and died for us, broken, messy, dirty, sinners. We can't let that love go to waste.  

Let Him in!! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Where is the Fire?

Yesterday was a great day. Why? Well, for many reasons. But one pretty good reason is because it was the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary! I had the opportunity to go to Mass last night at a parish whose priest is particularly enthusiastic about spreading devotion to Mary. It just struck me that we are so lucky to have such a wonderful role model, someone who knew Jesus in such an intimate way, and someone who has appeared all over earth to reach out to us. She is like the world's greatest evangelist. She knew her Son so well, and knew His capacity and desire for love, that she wants everyone else in the world to know Him too. Whether it's praying the rosary or consecrating yourself to Mary, there are so many ways that our mother Mary gives us to ask for her help on the road to holiness. I could go on forever about Mary, but that's actually not the point of this blog.

Assumed body and soul into heaven... BOSS. 

Now that all non-Catholics have probably already navigated away from this page (sorry... but Mary is just really legit), I want to share another brief story from yesterday. Last night, after a beautiful evening of celebrating Mary, I came back to an email from one of my friends. She shared with me a really cool testimony of a woman named Monica who had been struggling with a lot of things, substance abuse, depression, loneliness, etc., but she was invited into a church where she heard God speak to her in a very direct and new way. Well, insert time lapse, and now she is now living a transformed life, a new person, alive in the joy of Christ. It's so beautiful to see a life change in such an incredible way, but there was something about her testimony that kind of disturbed me. She describes her experience growing up Catholic. She went to church sometimes with her mom and passed the checkpoints of receiving her first Communion and later Confirmation, but it didn't really mean anything to her. She describes feeling like it was an obligation, like it was something she "had to do," not something she "wanted to do."

This got me thinking of my own experience growing up as a Catholic. Now, even though I can count on one hand the amount of times I've missed Sunday Mass in my life, and I spent countless hours as a child inundated with Veggie Tales, I have to admit that I had similar feelings regarding my Catholic faith. It was always about rules. If I went to a wedding on a Saturday, did the Mass count as my Sunday obligation? Can I actually break my Lenten sacrifice on Sundays? Is the one-hour Eucharistic fast before Mass starts or before actually receiving the Eucharist? These were my greatest concerns. 

In college, however, I was blessed by encountering a community of people who were Catholic and proud to be so! They had a zeal for the teachings of the Catholic faith, and just when I was starting to question my beliefs the most, they showed me the beauty of the Church by the way that they lived their lives. I realized how AWESOME our faith actually is! We have friends in high places (namely, the saints) who are constantly helping us grow in holiness. And what about MARY?! We've already covered that. We have the sacraments, not because God wants us to prove our faith by participating in them, but so that He can POUR OUT HIS LOVE through them. Best of all, we have been given the gift of the Eucharist. We can spend time in adoration in His presence. Through transubstantiation (big vocab words...another perk to being Catholic) Jesus is present in His most vulnerable form just so that we can receive Him weekly--or daily if we choose; so that He can give us strength and be physically united with us. We have an awesome faith!! And this is only the basics... there is so much more! 
Pope Francis is sure happy to be Catholic!

So then, I have to ask myself, why, if this faith is so awesome, do people have to LEAVE it to encounter Christ? What are we Catholics doing wrong? It sure isn't GOD making people leave the Catholic Church. Where is the passion of the saints and martyrs? 

Well, I'm not going to answer that question for you. Just think about it. 

If your faith is just an obligation to you, don't you want something more? What is the point of your faith? Do you actually believe what you practice?

If your faith has come alive, do those sitting next to you in the pew every week feel the same? If not, maybe you should do something about that. If yes, praise God! Get together with them and show other Catholics the beauty of their faith! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Call for Respect

I was listening to my Spotify playlist today, and, because I enjoy not paying for my music, I am forced to bear through the commercials that interrupt my jamz. Well, I was noddin' my head to some Josh Garrels when my reverie was shattered by an advertisement. It was spreading the word about "Man Candy Mondays" on ABC. Coined "No guilt... All pleasure." Featuring the new show "Mistresses." My first thought was, wow, very classy. I laughed a little at how someone could take this so seriously.

But I had to stop myself. Because no matter how ludicrous this was to me, I knew that countless other recipients of this message, including but not limited to eight year old girls, teenagers, college women, broken women, married women, etc., were listening to this ad, maybe staring at the picture, with their interest engaged. This is no laughing matter. This is a problem.

I don't know a lot about the show, but I'm going to go ahead and judge a book by its cover so to speak. It's called MISTRESSES. Here, you take a look.

Four Friends. Four Hearts. 13 Weeks of Seduction. Yeah, sounds real wholesome to me. First of all, what do their hearts have to do with any of this? I digress. That's not what I'm going to talk about.

Basically, this show appears to be glorifying women who tempt married men to betray their wives and engage with them sexually, breaking the divine bonds of marriage for whatever their selfish reasons may be. When I think about this, it just makes me sad, and a bit worried about women of our time. Is this just another way women define empowerment? Is ruining marriages now something to take pride in?

There is a major problem in our culture. Men and women are constantly seeking to have power over each other. While I was reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, a certain line struck me. He quoted Tacitus in saying, "They terrify lest they should fear." I think the same principle can be applied here. Women are so afraid of being betrayed by men that they become the source of betrayal. They have the power. They are not the vulnerable one (or so they think).

Women, is this really what we should be idealizing? Don't our future husbands deserve to be seen as more than just "man candy?" Don't they deserve our respect? And if we do marry, are we going to ever feel comfortable or secure in our relationships in a culture that is glorifying infidelity?!

Men, is this what you want? You want women to see themselves as merely sexual creatures constantly seeking to control you with their charm and beauty? Don't you want to be able to trust them? When you say "I do" do you really want it to last forever? Or are you going into marriage as a temporary contract?

Stop fighting each other! Stand up for respect and honesty! Or watch our society collapse.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Carry Me (Sometimes)

Today, I was thinking about the Footprints in the Sand poem, and as I pondered the thought of God the Father carrying me, his daughter, I was inspired in a particular way by the meditation that followed. 
As I was imaging the Lord holding me in His arms, I began to think of the different reasons a man might carry his daughter. 

The first reason that came to mind was because of weariness. My family takes occasional hikes together, and, when I was little, I wouldn't be able to hike for as long as my parents. When I reached the point that I felt overcome with exhaustion, my dad would pick me up and place me on his shoulders, carrying me for the remainder of the journey. Sometimes, I feel like I am so worn out and overwhelmed, that all I can do is trust the Lord to bring me through it. When I am on the brink of collapse and don't think I can go any further, the Lord is there to carry me through the difficulties. 

The second circumstance is immediate danger. Say a child is trapped in a burning house. A loving father would run into the flames and carry his daughter to safety. Just like this, I have seen instances in my life that the Lord has carried me through chaos and sin. He has rescued me at the crucial moment, saving me from the lies of Satan and the destruction of our relationship. 

Lastly, a father carries his daughter merely out of love. A father picks up his beloved child and holds her in his arms to show his affection and express the love that words cannot comprehend. I have experienced this love as the Lord has showered His love upon me in times of extreme joy and peacefulness. I feel as if He is carrying me through life, and I worry about nothing, because I am wrapped in His loving embrace.  

But, the Lord cannot always be carrying me.

There are those times in life when there are two sets of footprints in the sand. When God walked beside me without direct intervention. 

It makes sense. If a person is always carried, their muscles will deteriorate. They won't even be able to stand on their own. We weren't made to be carried through life. 

Our spiritual lives can be like a marathon. You don't wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon that day. Likewise, you do not just become a saint in a day. It takes training. It requires discipline. The Lord cannot carry us through every instance of pain or difficulty. Maybe these are crucial moments in building virtue or preparing you for something in the future. If a runner was in the middle of a run, and someone picked them up and carried them, just because they were having a tough time, that would be more harmful than helpful to the runner. If he or she is serious about their goal to run a marathon, he or she will need all the necessary training without skipping out on workouts. Any interference will only hinder their growth.


So, how can I get mad at God for not carrying me through difficulties when only He sees the big picture? How can I lament my daily challenges because I don't see the potential for growing in virtue? We are called to thank God for all things. He alone knows what will sanctify us despite our sin and weakness. And aren't we all called to be saints? (Yes!) 

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. These are the three unalienable rights "guaranteed" to us right in the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. I put guaranteed in quotes only because the degree of which we are able to carry these out is more or less debatable, but I digress. It is interesting that the big FF's (founding fathers) included the "pursuit of happiness" in the rather exclusive V.I.P. list of what it meant to declare independence. Hmm. Where the heck did Jefferson get this from??

Well, upon pondering this question, I decided to use my skills as a student to research and uncover the mysteries of this part of our nation's Declaration of Independence. Aka, I typed it in Google, and the first source seemed pretty legit. (It even had sources cited... I trust it.) In this article, I learned that when Jefferson wrote about the pursuit of happiness, it wasn't the first time someone had brought up this phrase (at least that's what Carol Hamilton argues). Instead, it is suggested that in 1690 our dear friend from the pages of many a history book, John Locke, wrote in an essay, "The necessity of pursuing happiness is the foundation of liberty." I found that very interesting. So, essentially, freedom is equivocated with chasing after happiness.

I guess the next question I was confronted with is: what is happiness? It is an age-old question that has left even the world's most successful people scrambling for an answer. How can we chase something we can't even identify? We're like Ponce de Leon perpetually searching for the fountain of youth that may or may not exist. What do we do when we don't understand something? Pretend we do, naturally. As a culture we have made up our own guidelines as to what exactly happiness is. Happiness is doing whatever you want to do. Happiness is making the most money. Happiness is seeking pleasure. Happiness is watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and devouring a two-pound bar of chocolate. Well, if that's what happiness is, why are we so unhappy? America should be the happiest place on Earth! (Sorry Disney World, I'm expanding your claim to fame.) But are we happy?

Hmmm. Okay, so maybe this "pursuit of happiness" John Locke talks about has become a little muddled across the years. In my own experience, I have come to realize that the only true happiness actually goes by a different name: joy. If you don't know what I mean, let me explain. Joy is that deep feeling of peace and contentment you experience that can only come from God. Wow. I'm not very good at explaining it. Have you ever been happy and felt like nothing could shake it? That's joy. Ever see a sunset or sunrise or pass through beautiful landscape and you can't help but smile because it's so beautiful? That's joy. Joy is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is more genuine than any sort of sugar high or adrenaline rush.

On the topic of happiness, I have to say, I agree with François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận who so eloquently states in his book The Road of Hope, "This is the secret of happiness: to have but one will with God." God wills to give us joy through the Holy Spirit. To be of the same will of God is not only to accept His trials, but to accept His joy.

Unfortunately, there is no way I can convince modern America of this truth. Our society is plagued with a false perception of happiness. I don't know what Jefferson foresaw when he included "the pursuit of happiness" in the unalienable rights, but I have a feeling he wouldn't like what he saw in today's society. We think we are pursuing happiness, but in actuality, the things we pursue are a dead end. The U.S. was intended to be one nation, under GOD. Our society will never be happy until it recognizes that we remain under God. We are not God.

As Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn't require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.” I think that it is about time we actually tried to pursue genuine happiness by unifying our own will with God's. It is then that we will find true joy. 

Learn from the words of a modern saint

Pictures from:

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Today, I was caught up a little in reminiscing and fondly recalled some of my childhood memories. There were tales of mischief and shenanigans mixed in with some brattiness and parental discipline. You know, all the basic formation of my entire personality and such. Good times. Well, amidst the episodes playing back in my mind was one particular Christmas a few years back.

Pretty neat, huh? Check out that joint action!

When I say a few, I mean over a decade. I was probably around four or five years old. I think? We'll go with that. Young enough to get pretty excited over the new gymnast Barbie I had just unwrapped. This thing was the bees knees. She bent at all of the joints, and not just a little rubber flexibility, I mean she ACTUALLY HAD JOINTS! It was kind of a big deal. I immediately opened the package and began to play with her, leaving the rest of my presents an abandoned mess on the floor. The one thing I didn't like about this Barbie was her outfit. She wore a wrist-to-ankle leotard exploding with U.S. pride. It was essentially an elastic flag stretched around her body. Well, I really wanted my new Barbie to try out some of the pretty dresses I had, so I tried to get her current outfit off. This was a bad decision. As I gripped her head and tried to peel off the leotard, something else gave way first: her head. Here I was with a brand new, headless Barbie gymnast. My face flushed and I started to shake as I ran to my dad. 
        "Daddy, daddy! I broke her! Can you fix it? Can you put her head back?" I was utterly distraught as I carefully placed the broken doll in his hands, tears welling up in my eyes.
        "Here, let me see it." He took the doll and popped the head back into place. Everything was good, right? No. Wrong. I don't know if you have ever popped the head off of a Barbie before, but when you try to put it back on, it doesn't attach the same way it came off. You just jam it back onto the neck. It stays on, but the head, in effect, swallows up the entire neck, leaving you with a neckless Barbie. This, in my world at the time, was complete tragedy. My new doll would never be the same! Oh, the horror! 
         "But now her neck's gone, daddy!"
         "I'm sorry, hun, but we can't just get you a new one, you just got this! You can still play with her just the same." He gave me a sad smile and picked me up onto his lap, offering consolation to his little girl. 

I was in adoration today recalling this incident when an image flashed into my mind. This time, it wasn't a memory. It was me, running to my Father. Not the dad I was blessed with here on Earth, but the Father I was created by and created for. My heavenly Father. I was running to him, sad and upset, but hopeful. I could hear myself in a childlike voice cry out to him, "Daddy, Daddy! I'm broken," I look desperately at the Father before me, "Can you fix me?"And unlike with the Barbie, He just smiles at me and says, "Come.

Tears came to my eyes as this image played through my mind. Isn't this the truth of God's love for us? We are broken. And God doesn't want to just give us a new heart and say, "Oh, here you go. Now be careful with this one. I'll give it to you this time, but next time, you're on your own." (I got that a lot from my own parents here on Earth...) No, He just says, "Come to me and let me fix you." 

"You will seek me and will find me when yo seek me with all your heart."

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's a new year. 2013 has officially began.

So, what does that mean? It was under 10 minutes until the ball drop when I found myself feeling alone in a house full of my friends. You know, that feeling when you know you should be happy, but you aren't? Yeah, that one. Well, thoughts of last New Year's pried their way into my mind. In the face of these memories, in the despair of these mistakes, an unexpected feeling overcame me: thanks.

Yes. I was thankful. I was thankful for the mistakes and the sadness and the loneliness, because I could recognize something greater now in my life.

It doesn't matter how I dress myself up or paint myself with makeup, because at the end of the day, it all comes off, and I'm left to face my Maker. He is the One who makes the decision to give me another day. He is the One who has brought me out of times of sadness and despair. He is the One who has irreversibly changed my life for the better, and the One who knows what is really best for my life.

So this new year, I am excited to say that no matter what follows in the next 365 days, it will be part of a Divine Plan. And I am thankful.