Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Moral Compass

I've been doing some thinking about morals, values, ethics and the like lately. I think we all in general have a moral compass within ourselves. It does shift from time to time throughout our lives. During my marriage I think my moral compass was a bit more skewed; and now that I've come back to Church, it's found a new direction.

I have a few things I take passion in. I have a love for music, rollercoasters and learning. There have been many things, however, that I just simply haven't given much thought to... at least for a while. I wasn't sure where I stood on many social issues from time to time. I once thought that people on welfare were too lazy to get a job. But then I was on welfare and I realized that the system doesn't work to help people get off of it. I was a rare exception because I didn't want to be labeled and become part of that system. It wasn't in me to have to rely on outside assistance for survival. I used it while I finished school as a single parent, but when I was able to get off of it, I did.

I had never taken a strong stance regarding abortion or birth control either. When I found myself pregnant and alone in college I had to consider many things. Yes, abortion did have to enter my thoughts. The father of my child wanted me to have an abortion because it would be an inconvenience to him to deal with a child. (You see, I wasn't the first girl he got pregnant.) My aunt also suggested it. I took their opinions but decided I couldn't go through with it. Although at the time I felt that abortion was the right of other women, it wasn't right for me. I felt an obligation to face my mistake of getting pregnant. I did consider adoption for a while, but I decided that this child was my responsibility and I couldn't let someone else have raise him/her. It was difficult at times, but my child is the greatest blessing I could ever have. Now that I am facing some medical issues that may involve a hysterectomy, I realize that my son may very well be the only chance I ever had to have a child. So how could he ever be consider a mistake? Yes, I got pregnant in college without being married. But given the circumstances of my life after that, I never would have had the opportunity to have a child. The man I married had a vasectomy as well as several of the other men I dated. Now I am at age and with my health issues, I probably will not have any other children. If I had chosen abortion, I very well could have lived a childless life. For some people that may be o.k., but the joys and pain of motherhood are priceless. Given that idea, how can abortion ever be right? And how can birth control be acceptable? Yes, I realize that people today have sex and not all share such rigid, religious views. But if it's God's will for those children to be conceived and have a soul, then what right is it of ours to prevent it? We can be responsible and not have too many children we can't afford. We do have the ability to control our urges. There are also many people that would like to adopt children that are unwanted by their birth mothers.

I've always had a conservative moral compass in the sense that I would never steal, I can't lie (at least not very well), and I couldn't hurt or kill another person (or animal for that matter) unless my life or someone that I loved was in danger. Since I made the decision to become Catholic and be a part of this faith, I realize that my moral compass has shifted more to what I think God's desire for me would be and I am thankful for it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taking time to pray

In the past year and a half, I have probably prayed more than I have in my life until that point. But it's still not enough. I'm guilty of often not having a regular prayer life. I'm am learning the power and need for prayer, but I still have work to do in that area.

Martin Luther has been quoted as saying “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Now I may not agree with some of his other thoughts and notions, but he knew the importance of prayer.

For me personally, I generally pray at night before going to bed. Yes, sometimes I fall asleep before I finish my prayers. But I have also prayed on my way to work in the mornings during my 30 minute drive. But this summer I've rarely had such drives. I do need to work on my prayer life, but more so, I need to learn to just be still sometimes and let God do the talking. I find that I'm always the one babbling on about things.

Father Phan remarked that people today are so busy. We often find ourselves with too many things to do and not enough time to do them. We tend to multi-task which isn't always a good thing - like driving down the road and putting on make-up, reading the paper or talking on the cell phone. (Or perhaps for some people doing all four at once!) When our heads are so full of other things and we're going 90 miles an hour to get xxxx done, we wear ourselves out. In order to function better, we need some down time. Even Jesus and the apostles needed it. The problem was that so many people were desperate to hear His words they hardly had time to rest. Even when they decided to take a break and tried to get away, they were met with more people.

Taking time to stop and pray is our way of recharging our body, mind, and spirit. It gives us unity and better focus. God isn't often on our to-do lists, but we need to take time for Him and remember Him. We are often overwhelmed with things and end up putting prayer on the same level as other menial tasks. We have to realize that in the scheme of things, very few things are really important. We tell ourselves that this, this, and this needs to be done and if I finish all of that, then I'll spend time in prayer. This seems illogical because we should take Martin Luther's stance, and say "I have so much to do today that I should spend some time in prayer beforehand." This way we might realize what is truly important and can ask for God's help in completing our tasks and make sure we're always mindful of Him.

The thing about prayer and talking to God is that we are tempted to forgo it because of a lack of concrete results. We often don't get answers for some time. Sometimes we pray for others and God's work in them takes time. Because we live in a world where we crave and desire immediate satisfaction, prayer is something that ends up on the bottom of our lists. But prayer should become a way of life and not a task.

Daily prayer must become a necessity for us. Prayer helps us receive God's grace and grow in His holiness. It helps us fight our temptations. It puts things into focus for us. We should strive to make prayer a routine habit. Of all habits to have, at least prayer is something beneficial.

So now that I've talked the talk, am I ready to walk the walk? I am going to make the effort to both begin and end my days in prayer. Instead of simply thanking God for getting me through another day, I will ask for His help in it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Trust Me

How many times have we heard someone say "Trust me on this" or how many times have we said it to someone else? Simple words but I've found trust is actually a complex issue. It was a huge part in the failure of my marriage. It has prevented me from accepting many people at face value. But trust is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Trusting other people can be difficult especially if you've been burned before. But what about trusting God?

You'd think that as Christians, we would be able to easily put our trust in God. Why do we often find difficulty in it, then? Is it simply our human minds and nature that prevents us from being able to trust in Him completely? Is it our sinfulness? The thing is that we might never have answers for it and that is where trust comes into play. It's the ability to have complete faith without having all the answers. For someone like me that has to know how scary movies end and always wants a happy ending, it's hard to deal with at times.

Sunday's Gospel told of the apostles beginning their journey to spread the word in their travels. They were told to take nothing with them other than their staffs and sandals. For all their other needs they would have to trust in God's providence. How many of us could travel so lightly and on faith alone? Today we can't go anywhere without a cell phone. Perhaps because the apostles witnessed the miracles of Christ first-hand their faith was so strong.

Before I can continue with my discussion of the concept of trust, you must understand that it goes hand in hand with faith. A simple definition of faith is "the theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will." Many of us would like to say "of course I trust in God's will. I would do anything He asked of me." How certain are we really in saying that? Sure it's printed on our currency. In God We Trust. But honestly, do we put 100% of our trust in Him? What if He asked the same thing of us that he asked of Abraham, to sacrifice our own child? Would we question God's judgment? Would we question that it was God actually asking that of us? How many times have lunatics done things in the name of God or Allah that we know God would not command?

Fortunately, God usually doesn't ask us to do the impossible. He simply asks us to trust Him. How simple. In the homily on Sunday , Father Phan explained that trust is essential for our faith and without trust, our faith is incomplete. How true. We have to trust in Him to even begin our faith journey and there are instances along the way where sometimes our faith is tested. I liked the analogy that Father Phan gave. Trust is liking floating on water. If you fight it, you're going to sink; but if you learn to relax you just float on top. He also said that the greatest obstacle in our trust is fear. How true! I know I've been guilty of not having complete trust in God because things weren't going the way I planned or expected. We have to realize that what we may think is good for is and right is not what God has planned for us - especially those desires that are contrary to His will. Trust is abandoning our fear and leaving it in God's hands.

When I look back through my life I realize just how often God has provided for me. I often feel humbled because I certainly wasn't deserving of anything, but things always seemed to work out... even in my bleakest moments. When I found out I was pregnant in college, I wondered how I was going to manage having a child, finishing school, and pay the bills. But I managed and finished my degree. When I needed a teaching job on the step program, I applied at one school only and by chance a teacher left in the middle of the summer and a position opened up. I was always able to find affordable places to live, pay my bills, take vacations, have enough to eat, and have health coverage (or I stayed well when I didn't have insurance) etc. And God continued to provide for me even when I wouldn't give Him the time of day for about 12 years or so. Oh, I thought about Him every now and then. I even prayed once in a while... but I had given up on Church and decided I would live my life the way I want to. There were times when I called out to Him asking "Why is this happening?" or simply "Help me." Sometimes I felt I didn't get an answer, but it always came in some form. Sometimes it took me years to realize that He did indeed answer me...and sometimes it was simply "no" or "not now."

Now that I'm finally getting on the right track spiritually, I am amazed at how He provided for me despite my complete lack of faith and trust. I realize that I had to go through some of those hard knocks for a reason and all my experiences happened so that I might eventually learn from them or use them in some way. I do know that God will continue to provide for me and may continue to teach me a few lessons here and there... even when I have my doubts. I am still human and quite imperfect and when things don't go my way or when I want something that I simply cannot have, I sometimes find myself once again questioning "Why?" I hope and pray that my faith continues to increase as well as my trust in God. As Father Phan said, things may not always turn out as we want, but God knows our needs and in His divine providence, He will provide for them. So when God says "Trust me." Our answer should be a resounding "Yes, Lord!"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Still Here

I'm still around. I'm still going to Mass weekly and I still love being Catholic. I just haven't had much to say about it. I did have an interesting experience yesterday, however. I had two Mormons come knocking on my door yesterday. They caught me at a bad time as I was getting ready to leave to go to the movies. I was kind of abrupt with them, but I really didn't want to spend time talking to them. I told them I was Catholic and I didn't share their beliefs and that they would be wasting their time. They went on to say something after that and I told them that I was leaving in a few minutes and I didn't have time to talk to them. They departed after that. A part of me wanted to be able to converse with them but only if I felt more knowledgable. I am confident in my own beliefs about the Catholic faith. I know I still have much to learn. But I feel that I should know more about their beliefs before I get into a discussion with them. I know a little... but not enough. I know there are books out there about dealing with those that come knocking at your door like the Mormons and the J.W.'s. I just haven't had time to look into them. Of course I had big plans to get more research done this summer and look how far I've gotten. I guess there will be time for that later. I do still wish there was a class I could take on apologetics. I do study on my own when I can, but a class would help considerably. I know there are online things out there, but I need something where I physically go some place and learn lessons and am assigned homework etc. I guess it's because I'm one that has always loved being a student. I was in college for seven years. (I had a baby and changed majors) But I enjoyed taking classes. Sure, I would often wait until the last minute to write my essays but I still made mostly A's. I never made lower than a B.

Our diocese is having a Eucharistic Congress at the end of August. I guess it's basically like a local Catholic convention with guest speakers and such. I would like to go to it but I have a conflict on the second day of it. I'm also thinking of singing in the choir that is being put together for it. It just depends on when the Mass will be held on that Saturday. I think it will be interesting.

Well, it's not much of a post, but just wanted my two or three readers to know that I'm still alive and kicking.