Imperfect follower

If you’re anything like most humans, even if you’re talented at something and called to do it for the good of the world, you were unlikely immediately amazing at it.

This is true for our faith life too. Following Jesus is, in a way, like a craft.  And this video reflection reminded me of that:

As far as discipleship goes, I am so far from being an expert. I am even further from mastery and perfection.

That’s why many of us who are religious speak about our prayer “practice” or ministry “practice” and so on. We realize we won’t start off with an expert status, and even a lifetime of this work will not perfect us.  We have to persevere and remember that we really are a work in progress.

I am just finishing an online class about the theology and practice of ministry.  The class has helped me feel assured that I am OK at the ministry of teaching after all. What makes me OK at it, apparently, is that I am open to learning and growing, can communicate well, and  am somewhat knowledgeable.  According to this book that we read in the class, those are the main charisms (gifts from the Holy Spirit) needed for teaching. This gives me hope!

I used to feel really insecure about how I lived my faith and how I ministered. I often felt like I would fall short, and I still frequently do. I know that I could always do better.

Recently my students were working on their contributions to the city-wide Compassion Project.  During our discussion about the components of compassion, I was reminded of something I need to keep in mind: I must be patient with myself as well as with others. We really do learn as we go, don’t we? This is one of the reason forgiveness is such an important part of our Christian life. Certainly our main motive guides us: we want to love as God loves. 

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Yes, I am learning. I think I get it now. I must be patient with myself and keep persevering. For I am in God hands. Evidently,  in order to becoming the loving woman who God made me to be,  it will take a while and this is quite OK. I just hope I can remember this most of the time. Even if I forget, the good news is that with God I’ll have some more chances to try again! 

Whew. What a relief! 

Photo credit: http://weltenmusterung.tumblr.com/)

Foolish weirdness for the sake of Jesus

A couple weeks ago I was asked to play a giant game of foursquare at a school pep rally.

I tend to make a fool of myself a lot.

I believe that when we live the Gospel we must be wiling to sacrifice and risk, and sometimes the price is embarrassment. We must not be too concerned about our image or consequences or what others think of us. We must be wiling to put ourselves out there, on the line, no matter the cost.

Ultimately, we must be detached and trust God because the actions that require courage- whether they are bold or subtle- are the ones that build up the reign of God. When we are fearless about being strange and different, we allow God to use us as an instrument. That’s when all sorts of transformations occur- for us and the larger community.

I knew the game of foursquare was going to be a giant gym-sized game with a great big exercise ball, totally unlike what I tried to play on the playground in elementary school.  This frightened me a bit.

The court I played on a few weeks ago was much different than this one. (Photo credit: http://www.pgpedia.com /f/four-square)

I have practically no athletic skills. In fact, I am quite uncoordinated and clumsy.  A group of students were putting together the faculty team and I figured that they asked me to participate to give the student team an advantage.

Naturally, I was a little freaked out.  I was very nervous and scared I would hurt myself and end up in the ER with a broken bone or something. Or worse, maybe I would hurt someone else. Was I really capable of doing this?

Then there were the rules. Despite multiple explanations, I didn’t understand the way the game worked. I basically entered the court clueless about what was happening; I only understood I needed to keep the ball out of the square I was in.

Why did I agree to this potentially humiliating task?  In a sense, because I knew that a “yes” to the invitation to participate was a kind of ritual of accepting approval and love of my students. I love my students and am so thankful for the moments when I feel loved by them. I wanted return the love. 

Once the game began, I started being surprised. I quickly found out that I was capable and that I enjoyed it! I discovered that I can be ambitious and not intimidated by a crowd of a few hundred students and adults I admire, and just let go and get into it. (When we are living the Gospel we also have to just let go and get into it!)

Transformations were happening all over the place. I was personally surprised and transformed as I discovered that I could play the game well. I found myself having several “dumb luck” moments;  I would hit the ball and the crowd would cheer and I didn’t understand why. Basically every time I had success, I shared a gift and heard joy erupt from the crowd: a communal transformation.

In the end, I was very surprised that I could actually play well and I enjoyed playing, too. I was thrilled that my participation brought joy to others and built up the school community. And, it felt great to go around the school building afterward and hear “great job in foursquare Sister! Wow, you’re really good!” Ha!

I guess we never know what God might do with us when we say yes to love, to community, and to making fools of ourselves. In this case and many others, I’ve learned that we just might end up being transformed. Amen!

Even if no one gets it

"vigil lights" by Julia Walsh FSPA
“vigil lights” by Julia Walsh FSPA

Brothers and sisters:
We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,
not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
and which none of the rulers of this age knew;
for, if they had known it,
they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him, 

this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.            -1 Corinthians 2: 6-10 

When we speak about our love for God and the messiness of building God’s reign, we won’t make sense to everyone. This Gospel life is a life of faith, trust, and at times, foolish love. Our faith communities can develop their own sense of culture and community. When newcomers show up, they may not really get us or what we’re talking about.

Sometimes this can become hilarious:

And, other times our language and methods can be disturbingly ineffective.

Let’s remain conscious of our culture, our language and our sense of community while we live our Gospel lives. Are we extending hospitality and explaining our rituals and traditions? Do we meet people where they are, or do we only accept them if they conform to our norms?

Let us be faithful, let us be loving, let us be authentic and speak the Truth, even if no one totally gets it. After all, we’re instruments in Christ’s body and no one’s salvation is really up to us. I do believe, though, that if we’re mindful and loving, then we shall indeed expand the Kingdom of God! Amen!

Social justice on Super Bowl Sunday

What if our nation got as excited about the Gospel as we do sports? Or better yet, what if we got more excited about God than cheering for a team?

How different would this day be? How different would we be?

A wise Sister once pointed out to me that if we celebrated the liturgical seasons with the same fervor as we have for sport teams, then our whole society would be transformed. Maybe, I thought, things would seem more like the Reign of God that Christ proclaimed.

Can you imagine it? Our clothes colors could coordinate with the priest’s vestments. Instead of fancy stadiums, we’d have top-of-the-line community centers in every city so to better shelter the homeless, feed the hungry and heal the sick.  All people would have easy access to a vibrant worship community.  Upon waking, we’d read our Bibles instead of the sports page.

And, maybe instead of having Super Bowl parties today, we’d have parties to celebrate today’s feast: The Presentation of the Lord in the temple.

Here’s one thing that shouldn’t be hypothetical: We would be more concerned with the social injustices that happen behind the scenes at the Super Bowl.  We would be better in touch with the reality of inequality and violence that comes with all our American celebrations. This information would be common knowledge:

Our hearts would be involved with another awful injustice. For, even more alarming than the facts about wealth and poverty is the truth about what happens to many women on this day.

(Credit: http://www.policymic.com/articles/79235/you-ll-never-see-this-side-of-the-super-bowl-on-tv)
(Credit: http://www.policymic.com/articles/79235/you-ll-never-see-this-side-of-the-super-bowl-on-tv)

Read this article to learn about the horrific, true story about sex trafficking.

Then, join my community and me in prayer.

Go here to learn what else you can do to make a difference.

No matter what you do, I hope you’ll keep Christ part of your day! Peace!