Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding Joy in the Desert

I admit to being a little skeptical about the idea of focusing on joy during Lent. I mean, it's Lent. We're talking barrenness, dryness, penance... Anyway, I still think it's there. There was a time that I thought that the desert was just barren, arid and kind of terrible. However, if you've spent any time there, you realize it has it's own beauty as well. It's just different than what we're used to.

The joy that I found this week was in the first reading on Thursday:

"Thus says the Lord:
Cursed is the who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose hope is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its root to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit."

There was a little more, but that's the part that really stuck out to me. I have definitely been feeling like the barren bush that has no change of season. Just plodding through the same exhaustion. I recognize myself in that first part. I think in the fatigue, I have gotten to the point that the only way out seemed like finally having the circumstances of my life change. That is definitely putting my trust in human beings, and thus away from the Lord.

The joy that I am finding in Lent is in the mercy. Yep, I'm not doing it right. Yep, I'm all out and can't do it anymore. But that's okay. Notice in the second part, the tree is green in the midst of the drought. It's not about life being easy, it's about knowing the source of Life. It's about not getting those priorities mixed up.

Yes, I have been (and likely will keep on) begging God to be able to share my life. I am not going to lie, I am past the point where I can try to make the best of it. But I am finding joy in the fact that I can't take pride or credit for any good any more because it's obviously all Him. It was before, too, but I can see it so much better now.

The desert can seem barren at first, but it has it's own beauty. Once you've seen it, you can certainly appreciate that life in the midst of the harsh environment. Sometimes the very fact that things are a little more sparse makes the beauty that much more impressive. I admit that though I love the desert, I don't want to live there (either literally or figuratively) but I do want to soak it up while I'm in the midst of it!

(When I wrote the title for this post, I accidentally wrote "Joy in the Dessert", which I actually think is quite easy to find!)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Word for Lent

It's Lent, and while I initially started with the whole "what should I do for Lent and what should I give up, etc.",  I did eventually get around to what should have been my first started point: "Lord, what about Lent this year?" I'm feeling a pull in a very odd direction this year, at least it feels odd in connection with Lent. It started with confession last week, but I'm feeling like a focus should be joy.

It's Lent, right? Desert, fasting, ashes, penance? That Lent? Nonetheless, the pull is toward joy. Which is kind of funny when you think about the fact that I couldn't muster up much joy all Christmas season, and that is kind of what that whole season is about! Now, here in Lent, there is the draw in that direction. Don't get me wrong, I'm not fighting it, I'm just trying to explore what that means in this particular season.

I love the wisdom of the liturgical seasons for keeping the overall balance in our lives. I don't want to confuse the idea of exploring joy in this fasting season with treating this as a season of feasting. The joy is meant to be found in the fasting, not in ignoring it.

Actually, it fits well with Pope Francis' year of mercy. In confession, there is joy in forgiveness. In our weakness, there is joy in Christ providing strength. In the simplicity of the desert, there is joy in finding a clearer focus on God and the things that really matter. In hunger, the reminder that we are made for more than this life.

I think it's much like the joy I am finding in getting rid of so much extra stuff in my house. As I pare down to the things that are more meaningful to me, I realize that the extras were not making my life better, but getting in my way. Lent is that time to do some of the same thing on a more spiritual plane. Letting go, dumping off the extra. It is a time to recognize sin and find forgiveness, but also a time where the fasting should open a little space for us to explore what is really working for us and what is not. Even things that are not sinful may be in the way of a greater joy of deeper communion with God.

On an unrelated note, any particular prayers that you have for me to take to Adoration tonight?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fat Tuesday

I need to be getting ready for bed, but it's Fat Tuesday, and I've been partying it up! Okay, if you call spending a little extra time in front of a screen today, and eating some sugar (it's out again tomorrow!) "partying", then I am all over it!

Y'all, I know it's last minute, but I love that Pope Francis is calling us not to be indifferent to those around us, and to focus on other people and being merciful rather than just giving up candy or whatever. (I still think a small sacrifice is helpful, particularly if it's something that helps us rethink our priorities or become a little more detached from certain habits- AKA some of my social media checking and re-checking getting a little out of hand!) But still, I really feel like for so many reasons, I really need to be trying to reach out and help others this Lent, but I don't really know how or in what direction. Any thoughts? I think there is a lot to be said for first focusing on those we live with... But I live alone. So, I can start with the people that I see regularly, but I don't know. I feel like I need something specific to focus on so as to reach a little outside my current comfort zone. Any brilliant thoughts as to how I might try to go about that?

You guys! Unrelated to Lent, but I am giddy today! Praising God for the way things have worked out in unexpected ways at work. I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself, but there is a chance that if I can bridge a gap that I'm working on that there might be a chance to make some real change, at least in my little area, with regards to people moving better and with less pain! Appreciate any prayers that I can figure out the best way to bridge that gap... Or at least find a way that works!

Also, while I'm on the prayer requests, I'm going to go ahead and throw one out there for those of us that are single and still feel called to marriage. There is a loneliness in that that is hard to describe. Yes, it's being alone every evening, sometimes on holidays and weekends, but even when I'm out doing all the fun stuff, it's not having that person to share it with. Furthermore, I feel the separation from many of my friends as well, because they are all going through something in life that is so different than what I am that I also don't have as much to share with them. I am more than aware that marriage doesn't fix all of those problems. I don't expect it to. Nor am I praying just for marriage, but also for a way to help create better community, which is something that we ALL need, no matter our state in life, and something that few of us have. And I am not just asking for me. I can think of 4 or 5 or 6 other people that are in the same boat. It gets old, and that fatigue of trying to get up and deal with it is a big part of my recent depression issues. All I can say is, those words in Genesis "It is not good for man to be alone" are ringing deep and true right now.