Bible Study

I may have talked about this before, but I lead a Bible Study for young adults at my church. For the most recent lesson, I was preparing by reading 2 Kings and came to a realization that I wanted to share and ask anyone still reading to think about answers, answer themselves, whatever they want…

I threw down my Bible in frustration. Why were we still reading about how Israel continues to make mistakes in patterns…over and over again. Later I realized…God is reiterating this point because humans do that constantly–make the same mistakes over and over again. We are imperfect beings who are perfect in God’s eyes. He treats us like His children, forgiving, patient, kind, and sometimes punishing, and yet we still continue the cycle of sin. Is it easier to sin in today’s world? Maybe. If it is, it’s probably because we know God’s compassionate and forgiving nature.  If it isn’t, it’s because we know the repeating history of sinfulness. Many of the people of that time were unaware or unfamiliar with the consequences of sin because by the time they began to sin again, the previous generation of sinners was gone. We don’t have the luxury to make that mistake.  Maybe luxury is a bad word for it, but we do have the luxury of knowing and understanding the benefits of keeping God’s commands and the consequences of going against them. We have the Bible. Yet we still sin. Why is that?  “Human nature” isn’t a good enough answer anymore.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Concerns?

God Bless,
Juli

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Mardi Gras

Bon Mardi Gras!

So tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent which means today is Mardi Gras (exact translation: Fat Tuesday).  Celebrating Mardi Gras for Catholics is more than just a party, it is a day in which we should all reflect on and determine what sacrifices we will be making this Lent.  While thinking about Lent, I remembered our 40 Post challenge from last year and how much has changed since then (I started slacking on the posting A LOT!).  This past winter I was a part of a Young Adult Book Club at my church and we read Blessed Are The Bored In Spirit by Mark Hart.  One of the chapters asked the questions “When have you been courageous in your faith this year?” and “In what ways have you personally answered the call to act from your heart?”  I had begun a response, but never finished it and now feel it is relevant to post today.

This past year has been such a wonderful year of my life. Last Lent I began attending daily mass, a choice that changed my faith life for the better.  This was a courageous choice for me because I had tried to do it the previous year and was disappointed by something that happened.  What had happened really put me off from attending mass at my church and so I stopped going during the week. When I made the decision to go again, God graced me with patience and love for others and enabled me to make daily mass a part of my life.  By going to mass daily, I began giving more over to God and growing in my faith life.  I met so many wonderful people and made quite a few new friends who are such an inspiration to me for my faith to grow and prosper as theirs has.  Additionally, it has helped me to make decisions in my life separate from just in church and gave me the courage to make another decision regarding my faith life.  I soon signed up to start reading at mass, something that scared me terribly.  Public speaking has always been a fear of mine, but I was feeling called to help out in another way. Soon after I signed up, I was approached by a friend of mine at daily mass and asked to read during the week. I began reading on Tuesdays every week and about two Sundays a quarter.  Although I was still a little anxious about reading on Sundays, on December 23rd I read and was told that I no longer seemed nervous at all. I also felt a lot less nervous.

Another way I think I have been courageous in my faith this year is through my young adult ministry – LIFT (Living In Faith Together).  We officially formed the group over the past summer and have met pretty much once a week since then.  In the fall we began a Bible Study and I was asked to lead it.  Although I had never done a Bible Study before and didn’t really know what to expect, no one else really wanted the role and I felt it was an important activity to take part in.  The program flows pretty easily and it is more of a facilitation role, but the study and reading of the Bible has really helped me to grow and understand more about the roots of my faith.  Although we’re not even through Genesis (I know, it’s a little drawn out), the depth of the study is such that the points that are made are ingrained in my mind.

Being called to facilitate and to read are both really awesome ways in which my faith life has grown, but something that I really value that God gave me this year is my Religious Education class.  Once a month I get to teach 6th graders religious ed through a program my church calls “Becoming Disciples”.  This program is family-integrated, which means they have three home lessons and one in-class lesson a month.  The kids that I get to teach are such a wonderful group and I enjoy every class I have with them.  More often than not we run out of time because there is so much I want to discuss.  The real blessing in teaching this program though, is that I get to relearn so many things and relate my own experiences to them as well as listen to the experiences of my 6th graders.  They are so talkative, but many of them show such an understanding and love for the Word and ask such wonderful questions!  What I am now looking forward to is helping revamp the 7th and 8th grade program with a friend of mine and continuing to teach next year 🙂  Teaching this class has been something I look forward to and get so excited in preparing for it that I almost feel as if it’s for me and not them.

This upcoming Lent, I look forward to letting more go to God and renewing my faith through sacrifice and service to attempt to become closer to Christ in His rising again.  I will try and post more this Lent since Lent is my time for reflection and what better way to reflect then to write about it.  If you so choose, maybe you can answer these questions this Lent.  They really helped me look back and see the good in my life (I am not going to bore you with all of it, I just wrote a short novel up there) and understand and respect how far I have come this year.  I’ll leave the questions for you again down here:

When have you been courageous in your faith this year?

In what ways have you personally answered the call to act from your heart?

God Bless, *JuLi*

The Journey

Last week I took a break from my stumble through of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, (You have to, it’s a really hard book and my English major brain was getting tired, you know like you do after you go back to the gym after not going for a while. It was all, “The hardest thing we’ve read in the past year was Edith Wharton and now you’ve thrown this at me?”) and I read a brilliant book called The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.

Jacobs is a writer for Esquire magazine and described himself as an agnostic secular Jew. He decided to spend a year living the Bible as literally as possible. The results are amazing. Jacobs creates a list of rules for himself that come from the Torah, he consults (though often defies) The Talmud (the ancient Jewish teachings put together by rabbis interpreting the laws of the Torah), puts together “a spiritual advisory board” of rabbis, priests, ministers, and scholars to help him get by and of course grows a crazy beard.

Jacobs is irreverent but earnest  in his quest to find some sort of spirituality  which I adore. He focuses mainly on the Old Testament, (and finds deep connections to his  cultural faith) but spends a good amount of time in the New.

I’ve never really read the Bible, to paraphrase comedian Jim Gaffigan, “I’m Catholic, one of the best things about my religion is that people read that stuff to us.” It’s something I’ve always meant to do and always get caught up singing Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat songs when I get halfway through Genesis. (It was Red and orange and pink and blue…) But I think that next year I’m going to put a real effort in to actually read the bible.

But first I have to finish Les Mis. 

 

A Single Girl’s Prayer

From the looks of things lately my career is starting to get back on track, after six months of floundering. This is nice for me.

But what becomes difficult for me is that when everything else in my life is going well, it leaves me time to contemplate my loneliness.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends, and a loving and supportive family. But I am single, and there are times when I get very deeply lonely, I miss the love and support of a real relationship, something I have never known.

So I composed this prayer. Like most of my prayers it’s a little bit irreverent.

Dear Lord, please grant me the patience to wait for my husband
I know I am impatient to meet him.
I know that this must happen in your time not mine
But maybe send him in enough time that we can have our time
Before it’s baby time

Grant me the strength to sit at a bar by myself
And not accept drinks from sketchy dudes because I am lonely
Usually such dudes do not even want to get dinner
And I am better than that
However, also grant me the clarity to tell the difference
Between the sketchy dudes, and the ones who are just shy
Or maybe just had too many shots that night

Also please keep me away from shots.
Generally, that prevents a lot unwanted behavior

Please give me compassion on first dates
First dates are awkward for everyone
So it’s OK if it isn’t perfect
Also, grant me grace to hold my tongue
And maybe not talk about Batman the whole night

Give me the confidence to order real food
For you gave us the gift of carbohydrates, oil and fire
Thus french fries are a glorious gift from you, and should be treated as such
You also created lettuce, but I’m pretty sure it was Satan that decided people should consider chicken Caesar salad a meal

Please place me in the path of a good, kind man
The kind of man who isn’t afraid to admit he watched The OC, and is nice to his mother and sisters
The kind of man who is either taller than I, or doesn’t care if I’m taller than he in my super high heels
The kind of man who loves that I watch football on Sunday, but doesn’t expect me to know the name of every guy on the field
Let him drink beer, but know what kind of wine he likes and not use “gay” as a term for “stupid”
Let him love or at least be open to the music of Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffet, and humor me when it comes to Madonna and Lady Gaga

Please Lord, let him love me
Let him love my sour moods and my laughter
Let him love you, and my love for you.
And finally Lord, grant me the clarity to know when it’s him.
Don’t let me walk away.

Amen

Turn Me On, I’m A Radio

Months ago I would have laughed at you. Last year, I would have dismissed the very idea. But a few weeks ago, in very little bits, I started listening to Christian radio. It doesn’t hold first position on my dial, but it has a spot on my presets. In fact, this station provides some needed refreshment.

Like many of us, my commute takes me through the same locations twice a day. My coffee may vary in temperature. I could be less tired than the day before. Sometimes the sun hides behind a cloud or doesn’t rise until I have parked. But my daily ritual remains unchanged.

The radio is the great variable, my tool to an enlightening ride. For most of my life I have taken pleasure listening to the radio. I have even gone so far as to install a shortwave receiver in my car so I can pick up broadcasts from around the world. Unlike print or television, radio acts a companion on the journey. Distant outposts broadcasting exciting new music on long trips, sometimes offering just the right song, or conversations that might expose some new insight or point of view. I sincerely believe in the transformative power of radio.

Mostly I listen to the morning news to catch up on the stories that work or life precluded me from following. Aside from “college radio”, real variety is limited since a number of stations play some form of rotation whose selections differ solely based on genre.

I have found that the most promising stations are often out of range, in a foreign language, or on the AM band. And since I can only get reliable shortwave reception at night, I decided to give K-Love a shot.

Since I was surprised at the content and tempo of the songs, I could only listen for a minute or two at a time. Returning to contemporary music and talk provided a comfort rooted in familiarity. In honesty, I was not used to hearing the promise of God’s love or other Christian themes presented with such cheer and simplicity. After listening for a week or so I made a discovery: I had forgetting the need to trust in God.

Our maker has made mankind promises, it is contingent upon each person satisfying mankind’s commitment. The covenants of the Hebrew Scriptures form three concentric circles. God promises His presence, love, and gifts, in successive order, to man, his family, and his people in exchange for man’s trusting obedience in Divine Providence. Scripture repeatedly illustrates that God keeps his end of the bargain.

Our own concerns easily make this message unnecessarily complex. We approach the guarantee of God’s love with exceptions, scenarios, and what-ifs attempting to find some gap. In His goodness, God will not exclude someone for his fault. God isn’t the IRS or some cranky librarian. He loves us, accepts us, and welcomes us back home.

A New Kind of Anger

I’ve spent the past week being very, very angry. Angry in a way that I’ve only been a few times before in my life. I’m feeling deeply hurt and betrayed and I don’t know where else to go with it but here, so I want to apologize to all of you for this rant.

Apparently, I’m not supposed to be receiving communion any more, and I’m meant to be excommunicated.

I didn’t receive this week, because I was so angry I couldn’t even bring myself to go to Mass.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what it is, a document written by The Holy Father was released this past week, which basically stated that supporting marriage equality was a grave sin and that such support meant a member of the congregation shouldn’t be receiving communion.

This makes me sick.

I do support marriage equality. I support it deeply and wholeheartedly. I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with the fact that so large a part of the population in this country are denied basic civil rights. I don’t believe that gay couples should be able to receive the sacrament of matrimony (and to be frank, don’t know any gay couples that are interested in receiving it) but under the eyes of the law, they should be equal.

It’s wrong that it’s denied to people. It’s wrong that when my director and choreographer from my high school musicals, two women who have been together for nearly fifteen years, adopted their children they had to create iron clad legal agreements, in case, God forbid something happened to one of them (the one who is legally the mother of their little girl and boy) no one could try to take them away from the other. It’s wrong that my uncles, who celebrated their twenty second anniversary this past year, and who own two homes and a business together, have to pay double the taxes that a hetero sexual couple in their situation have to pay.

This is wrong. I don’t care. I’m done being quiet about it. I’m done biting my tongue around my devout Catholic friends and my hyper conservative friends. It’s a betrayal to my friends and family who are homosexual. It’s a betrayal to my uncles, who took me in to their home this past year, purely out of love, to my friend who is transgender and has been one of the deepest supporters of my writing over the past six months, and to countless other people in my life and not in my life.

I’m also done wrestling with my conscience on this issue. I am a Catholic, and I love The Church. I will continue to go to Mass, and I will continue to receive. I will not judge, I cannot judge. Love is love and that’s the end of it for me.

Happy Belated Birthday!

So it seems that Cherie is the only one of us who posted on our 1st Birthday and I’m pretty disappointed in myself since I had been reminding myself all week to post.  Tonight I became inspired though, so better two days late than never.

Tonight was the first night of my young adult ministry’s book study.  While we only read the introduction to the book so far, I was already amazed at how inspiring the introduction was.  We are reading Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit By Mark Hart.  As we listened to the audio book and he spoke of his struggle, the struggle in society, and what we do about it, it inspired me to think about my own personal struggles.  After the introduction ended, I could feel a profound silence and feel the reflection going on within and around me.  We then delved into discussion (a little too early in my opinion, but it was fine) and I realized that we all have such similar struggles that take on different shapes and forms.  Lately I’ve been hearing all sorts of testimonies and amazing stories that have inspired me and made me want to change my sinful habits, but when it came down to it, I still couldn’t change my choice.  Not couldn’t…I guess it’s wouldn’t.  I could talk the talk–and I spoke it well–but I was having trouble walking the walk.  I would declare my changes and speak out to my friends, but when it came time to speak up where it mattered, I have been having a really tough time.  I’m trying to take little steps, but I’m realizing the only way to change is to change all the way.  It will have to be one extra large super sized step and I am terrified.  Mark Hart spoke about people wanting to be liked and not respected.  I fit in there perfectly.  All this time I’ve been wanting people to like me, smoothing things over where I feel I need to, that I forget that by being myself and standing up for what I believe, I may make enemies, but why would I want to be friends with anyone who doesn’t accept me as I am?  It’s going to be difficult, but I want to be brave.  Pray for me so that I may be a braver Catholic and act more confident and less like a coward.  It seems the closer I am to someone, the harder it is to potentially let them down.  But I don’t want to be let down so I’m going to change my life.  And if I don’t, you’ll all just have to keep praying for me.

Love you and God Bless!

Juli

Oh, and Happy Birthday C.C. 🙂

Go See Looper. Now. I’ll Wait.

I saw Looper this weekend, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the protagonist at different points in his timeline. I expected an action flick with a possible undercurrent of sci-fi (time travel is central to the premise)n and there was enough action to satisfy anyone’s appetite for destruction. What I did not expect was the significance of the film. I walked out of the theater with an appreciation for all I have in life and some food for thought regarding human nature. I’ve been processing it since Saturday night and decided it’s definitely something I’d like to discuss on this blog, but since the movie just came out, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. So go see it now, while I mull over the contents of my post. I promise, it’s worth your while.

“A Person’s A Person, No Matter How Small”

I’m currently in the ensemble of a community theatre production of Seussical. Seussical is (predicably) based on the collective works of Theodore Giesel or Dr. Seuss. Primarily, the plot weaves together the twin tales of Horton The Elephant (Horton Hears a Who and Horton Sits on An Egg) with The One Feathered Tail of Gertrude McFuzz and The Better Butter Battle. 

Whenever I think about Horton Hears  A Who, I start thinking about God’s love for the individual. (I think about God’s love for the individual a lot of the time.)

The line “a person’s a person no matter how small,” is a nugget sized philosophy for the idea of the soul. Your soul is the essence of yourself, so therefore, it is what God loves. God loves the soul, and recognizes the soul of the human being.

A person’s a person no matter how small.

It’s a such a simple thing and yet so hard to forget. I’ve decided to start using it for meditation. I pray through meditation almost daily My meditation is kind of off beat. I use random phrases, like mantras in yoga devotion, music that speaks to me spiritually (Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” usually makes an appearance, “Christmas Lullabye” from Songs For A New World also) and the Rosary.

So, for the next week when I sit down and breath in and out and focus on God and quiet my mind, and one of the things I will focus on will be “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Taking good advice…

…is a great decision.

Painted this today on Juli’s advice from last night!

I’m going to make it in this job. I think I’ll have enough time/sanity to write an actual post about it this weekend, but tonight I believe that I can make it happen. That’s a small miracle in its own right.