Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two new thoughts about God

I was noticing the face I make when I see a baby- when I catch their eyes, I make a big happy surprised kind of face like "Wow!!! You are wonderful!! HIIIIIII!!!!!" I've seen a lot of people make that face. There's something about a baby that makes people feel so happy to see them.
I think that the faces we make with babies are a reflection of the way God feels when He sees us in prayer.

Tonight at Mass a little tot was sitting in his stroller diagonally across the aisle ahead of me, and I caught his eye and smiled at him. Soon he was smiling back, then he started to laugh. Then I started to laugh, and everyone around me smiled, and he smiled and laughed more. It was so fun, hearing his little belly laugh echoing through the big church. Everyone around him, we couldn't stop smiling along with him. And I thought to myself, I bet this is how God feels too- I bet He loves it when we smile, and smiles along with us. And in the same way, (I can't help myself- when people cry, I cry...) I believe he cries when we cry too.
I think Jesus gave us the answers to so many questions when he told us to think of God as "Abba", Father- even if our own earthly father's weren't great, we all can identify with the concept of what a perfect father should be. And I'm learning more and more about being a child of God, loved like a father loves His baby. It's a good feeling.

Believe the Good News

Scott tells me things I want to believe about myself. He says I'm beautiful, pretty, cute- smart, funny, beloved. He tells me I am great. I do want to believe him, I look in the mirror and search for the good news he tells me about. I want to believe it's all true, that he's saying the truth about myself to me, but somewhere in me a voice says "he's just being nice, he's just saying that so you'll feel good. It's too good to be true."
But you know, why not believe him? I have no reason not to. Why not take the good news and go with it?
I wonder if God feels this frustration with us. He has nothing but Good News for us- we are good, we are redeemed, we are loved. We are beautiful, made in His image. But other voices say "it can't be true, because you're not perfect. It's too good to be true."
But, you know, any evidence that the voice is right, comes only from worldly sources- not from God. Why do we choose to listen to it, over and over? It's a puzzler.
I'm going to start by believing Scott when he says great things about me. Why would he lie? He's got impeccable taste...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

can't help myself

I have no good reason to post this video except that I was fascinated by it. See if you can tear yourself away from it! And the girl looks familiar to me, too- anyone know who she is?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

did you notice?

Did you notice the "asking the question" entry down a few? I posted it after posting the last one (about the box cover) so it didn't show up on the top of the list. But hey, check it out anyway, wouldya?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

who's got the box?

I went to a regional meeting of Religious Ed professionals today to catch up on all the latest hubbub with the Archdiocese. This is a tough diocese in which to work- it's very hard to feel safe and secure, whether you work for a parish, or at the diocesan level. Recently the RCAB has offered packages to employees who have been there for many years- and it has caused some real discomfort among, specifically, the religious education community.
I think it's pretty much agreed across the board that the paradigm for religious education that we have been using for too long... is not the best way to help young people be formed in their faith. Changes do need to happen. But as we "in the field" watch the movements and decisions of the hierarchy, it does make us all wonder- what is the face of faith formation in this Archdiocese to be?
Because decisions and changes are being made without the contribution or consultation of anyone in the field (at least, not that I've heard of so far) it creates an environment of fear. Who is making the decisions that will change our jobs? I just hope that somewhere, somehow, there is an actual, overarching, long-range, forward-thinking GOAL. A very wise man I know said it best- he said that it seems like they are trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle, but they don't have the picture on the box to go by. It's a hard way to put things together, and I hope it'll work better than I suspect it will.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

asking the question

So, last time I went to Spiritual Direction, I told Mary (not the BVM; my Spiritual director's name is Mary) that I was frustrated by the whole "why does God let bad things happen to people?" issue. I told her that I knew I'd never understand it, and that it wasn't really mine to understand. She said "well, it sounds like you've already decided the answers without ever even asking God the questions." (How about that!)
So, I decided to ask (of course still not really believing I'd get an answer) and see what God would tell me. Mary gave me a printed Catholic Update about suffering. It was interesting- it talked about letting go of ideas that God was trying to punish us, or trying to teach us... but, you know, although it made some good points, it still fell short of answering my question.
Coincidentally, the chapter I turned to this week in my book (Is Your Lord Large Enough) was about suffering. It seems CS Lewis wrote about The Problem of Pain early in his career, and then wrote, journal-style, A Grief Observed much later, upon the death of his wife. The first was theoretical, the second was experiential- so you can imagine the differences.
Anyway- the author of IYLLE makes some great points, the best of which, I thought, were these:
"Pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving." The fact that we struggle with pain is a sign of our faith in the Goodness of God! If we didn't have a belief that God is good, we'd expect pain, and not need to look for the meaning of it. Huh.
"'Love is a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.' This is not a wish for the loved person's happiness, but for his or her good, even if suffering or unhappiness is necessary to attain that good." Here's that parent image again- a good parent understands this, I bet.
"God may (even, I think, does) share and feel the pain when human beings suffer, but cannot eliminate the pain without changing the nature of the universe and eliminating human freedom." I've heard this argument before, but it never really worked for me- I couldn't see why freedom would be preferable to God than making our lives happy and safe and good. Why bother with pain when He could change things? I get that good comes out of pain in many ways, but why go to the trouble? But then I read this:
Our vision is limited. God's knowledge of what ultimate good consists of, for individuals and for all humankind, goes far beyond what we can possibly comprehend. We do not have enough informaiton to build a case that God could or should have saved an individual or a community from a pain or grief. In the end, we must trust in what we know about the character of God, though in the midst of suffering or grief, such trust may be difficult." Of course!
This answer satisfies me more here than it has before. I've been told "all you can do is trust that God has a plan" a million times- and it always made me a bit mad. But the difference is, I was looking at it though my own lenses again- my own judgment of what GOOD is and what BAD is. God, of course, sees through different eyes. I can trust that God knows better than I do about what is good, and that makes all the difference to me. And just as it always seems to be, the reason I'm not getting the answers I expect from God is that I don't even know how to ask the question.

Friday, May 09, 2008

the gifted are called- the called are gifted

It has been a wild coupla weeks. At work, things have not slowed down since Easter- somehow, despite the fact that I still can't explain to anyone what my job description is, there are just more and more things to do.
Scott and I met with a deacon in Martha's Vineyard this week to learn about the Called & Gifted process. C&G is a process developed by the Siena Institute to help people discern their spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts, they say, are God-given, and meant to be shared/used in the world to bring about the Kingdom. So, there may be lots of other gifts you have, talents, secular gifts- but there is a difference.
We were met by the Deacon at the boat, and he took us to his inn to do the process. The way it works is, we took an inventory to see where our highest scores ended up- which gifts came up at the top of the list. But the most important part was that after the inventory came an interview. We looked at the gifts individually, heard a definition of that gift, and then looked at our own experiences to try end discern if that gift was something God had given us... or, maybe not.
The interviews were fascinating, and we both got a lot out of them. One thing that has stuck with me from the process was that he said "a gift is ours to give away... that means that if we don't use the gifts God has given us, then we leave someone in need." That puts a different spin on it. It means that the gifts aren't given TO us, they're given THROUGH us. How about that!
I'm hoping this process is one that we can bring to our parish- as we were being interviewed we kept throwing out names to each other of parishioners who we know would be great to interview. It's the difference between looking for people to fill volunteer positions, and helping people discern their gifts to see where God wants them to make a difference in the world. Like everything in parish work, it seems that the harder way is so often so much better.