How To Have A Normal Conversation (…With the Creator of the Universe)

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Scenario: You have a job offer and you’re not sure whether or not you should take it.  You need a little help deciding, so a natural thing to do is to call up a close friend.  The two of you talk it over; your friend helps you weigh the pros and cons, and you get off the phone call perhaps still not 100% certain of your decision, but you feel like you have at least a little more clarity on the matter.

Now, what if instead of calling your friend, you just sent a brief  text: “Have job offer.  Send flowers if you think I should take; disregard if I shouldn’t.”

Crazy as that sounds—is this not sometimes how we approach our prayer when faced with a big decision?

Of course, God is more than just a good buddy with helpful advice–He’s the One who actually KNOWS how things will turn out whether we choose one road or the other.  It would be so helpful if God could just beam down a ray of light illuminating which path we should take at every major crossroad, but often that’s not the way it works.  

The Way It Works:

As my father-in-law puts it: “God is not a cosmic slot-machine.”  Prayer is a conversation!  A conversation with the Creator of the Universe, but a conversation nonetheless.  When you’re faced with decisions, however big or small, God wants to talk with you about them.  How else are we supposed to grow in relationship with God other than talking through with Him our thoughts and feelings?  That brain in your head that is weighing all those scenarios?  God put it there!  And your faculty of reason is one way God talks to you.

Another way God talks to you is through your desires and longings.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”

-Psalm 37:4

When the above Psalm popped into my head while I was driving one day, I nearly pulled over my car so I could look it up to make sure it was actually in Scripture.  Did God really promise me the desires of my heart?  Isn’t prayer and this whole Christianity thing supposed to be about conforming my will to His?  Of course it is, but the Christian life isn’t meant to be a drudgery of “I’m doing this because God says so.”  It’s supposed to be a joyful union of our will and our desires to the Creator’s, so that we can confidently proclaim with the Psalmist, “Take delight in the Lord, and He WILL give you the desires of your heart.”

You see, our desires and longings are another way that God reveals Himself to us.  And if this sounds controversial it shouldn’t, because it’s relatively simple to keep in check.  If my desires are immoral or somehow not in keeping with the teachings of the Church, then they are not of God, plain and simple.  But, if I am weighing two options— neither of which appear to lead me away from God and His Church—and one stirs a longing deep within me, or conversely, maybe one produces feelings of anxiety or just an overall sense of not sitting right, then perhaps those feelings are God speaking to me.

“Ask A Sign of the Lord your God” (Isaiah 7:11)

If you are at all familiar with my blog then you know that I am all about praying novenas and being specific in your prayer intentions.  Asking for signs isn’t necessarily a bad thing (it’s actually Biblical!).  However, asking for signs is never a stand-alone thing.  God will give you signs, but only in the context of a relationship and as the result of a conversation.  In fact you probably won’t even recognize the signs God sends your way if you’re not in the habit of regularly talking to Him.

So start talking to Him!  Open up the Scriptures regularly to get to know God and to familiarize yourself with His voice.  Spend regular time in silent, personal prayer.  God wants to help us in both the big decisions and the little things—not as some guidance counselor, but as the most important person in our lives.

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Some Thoughts on the “Blank Space” Dating Mentality (A Song Review…Kind Of)

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I am not at all ashamed to admit that there is a soft spot in my heart for Taylor Swift. Many a drive has been spent rocking out to her albums, and more than one of my teenage heartaches once found a balm in her lyrics.

These days, my appreciation for Miss Swift has less to do with my personally being able to relate to her lyrics about heartache, and more to do with the joyful confidence that exudes from my nieces when I get to see them rocking out to Shake It Off.

However, every time I hear the song Blank Space on the radio, my heart breaks a little. The lyrics are so relatable for so many in that stage in life when they are searching for “the one,” so in a sense I get it. In fact maybe my heart breaks partially because I’ve been there. I know that longing, I know that heartache. I know it can feel like a never-ending cycle.

But I also know now that it doesn’t have to.

The song is all about that willingness to put yourself out there despite past heartache. Swift sings in the song’s refrain:

“I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/
But I’ve got a blank space, Baby, and I’ll write your name.”

Apart from the rest of the lyrics and outside of the melancholic melody of the song, these words almost sound like a dare coming from someone who treats love and dating as if it were just a game. In fact, at another point early in the song she actually says, “Love’s a game, wanna play?” However, anyone who has actually listened to the whole song can tell you, Blank Space isn’t meant to be the happy refrain of someone who is content playing the field. Rather, it’s the jaded defense mechanism of all of us who have ever bought into the false promises associated with chasing “the one.”

“You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain”

I’m not picking on Taylor Swift. I actually like the song and am glad she wrote it. And its popularity attests to the fact that so many of us can relate—and so many of us are sick of it.

The problem with the Blank Space mindset is that it has a false premise. It assumes that your only two options in soul mate-searching are “forever” or “down in flames.” When faced with the latter, we are presented with the choice to become closed off and bitter, or to continue to be open in the hopes that the next one who comes along may actually be “the one.”  We justify putting ourselves on this merry-go-round by hoping desperately that any and all heartache or pain will be worth it once we finally find our happily ever after.

For what it’s worth, to anyone still caught on the merry-go-round, I’d like to offer another way. “Putting yourself out there” does not have to be synonymous with “giving yourself away.”  And not giving yourself away to everyone you date doesn’t have to mean becoming closed off and bitter.

I’m not promising that you’ll escape all heartbreak, nor that you won’t encounter pain.  But there is a way to avoid those feelings of emptiness, being utterly lost, or broken.  It’s called chastity, and it’s more than just not having sex.

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Chastity means admitting that love isn’t a game and dating isn’t merely for fun.  (Dating can and should be fun, but “fun” isn’t the end goal.)  The chaste person agrees with the Blank Space mentality insofar as admitting that real love must involve an utterly terrifying, and completely vulnerable, total gift of self.  The difference is that the chaste person waits to do so until forever is promised— not with empty words, but with a lifelong commitment.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote explains the way that I wish I had approached dating in my Blank Space days.  It’s still among my most visited posts on this site, so check it out if you’re looking for tips on how to get off that merry-go-round.  ;)

I’ll be praying for you!

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Ask Mary: “Why Is It Important to Pray the Rosary?”

Question:

Why is it important to pray the rosary? What is the rosary’s
connection to the Blessed Mother?

Answer:

The image of “Catholic” as an old woman clutching her rosary beads is so ingrained in the mind of our culture that it may surprise you to learn that the rosary is a private devotion.  That means—among other things— that while Catholics are required to do things like go to mass every Sunday, make a good confession/receive the Eucharist at least once a year, and learn their Catechism, Catholics are not actually required by the Church to pray the rosary.  

But don’t get me wrong here.  A Catholic who chooses not to pray the rosary makes a pretty foolish decision—and that’s not just the opinion of some random Catholic blogger.  Many, if not most, of the Church’s greatest saints have preached the importance of praying the rosary as a means of drawing close to Jesus.

“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.”
~St. Padre Pio

(For a brief historical look into how the rosary was developed, I recommend checking out this article from EWTN: ‘History Of The Rosary.’)

The Rosary Is “the Bible on a String”

In the rosary, we pray the Scriptures. We pray the Our Father as our Savior instructed us.  Again and again we repeat the Angelic Salutation of Gabriel to Mary, “Hail, Full of Grace!  The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) And we echo Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, [Jesus]” (Luke 1:42).  As we pray these words we meditate upon the works accomplished by Christ for the sake of our salvation.  We meditate on His birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His first miracle (—accomplished at the request of His Blessed Mother), His Passion, Death, and Resurrection (to name just a few).  In praying the rosary, we meditate upon the Word of God in our hearts while uttering the Word of God on our lips.

And in all of this, recitation of the rosary reminds us that while God most certainly could have accomplished our salvation and manifested His glory by some other means, he chose to give Himself to us through Mary.

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If this is not enough, there is another reason to pray the rosary surely worth mentioning today.  Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady Of Fatima, because it was beginning on this day in 1917 when Our Lady visited three Portugese children in the small village of Fatima, asking them to pray the rosary and perform acts of penance for world peace.  The apparitions culminated in what is now known as “The Miracle of the Sun,” on October 13, 1917—during which tens of thousands of eyewitnesses (many of them non-believers) reported seeing the sun “dance” before their eyes.

One secular newspaper reported:

“…the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.”

To me, the events of Fatima help to convince that God honors those who pray the rosary.  The sun doesn’t dance without God moving it!  Of course, we don’t need events like Fatima in order to know that honoring Mary is important.  It was God Himself who first honored Mary by choosing her to bear His only Son.  It was Jesus who instructed us with John at the foot of the Cross to honor Mary as our own Mother (John 19:27).  The rosary is a beautiful and powerful way to obey the words of God.

I’ve visited this topic in a previous post, “5 Reasons Why Young Catholics Should Pray A Daily Rosary.”  Check it out by clicking the image below:

5 reasons to pray rosary

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Book Review – Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin

Ave Maria Press recently gave me the opportunity to read and review Arleen Spenceley’s  Chastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin.  I was given the book free of charge, but the opinions in my review are 100% my own:

 

Arleen Spenceley was a journalist for the Tampa Bay Times when, in 2012, she “outed” herself as a 26-year-old virgin in an op-ed that went viral.  Chastity Is For Lovers tells that story (and so many others), while inviting young people to discover the meaning of chastity in our universal call to love.

I was intrigued to read Spenceley’s book not only because I am a sucker for chastity books but also because it sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy (another thing I can’t resist).  Young spunky journalist writes op-ed about being a virgin and is caught in the midst of a media frenzy—hilarity ensues.

Chastity Is For Lovers did not disappoint, and Spenceley’s unique voice and style of storytelling was a refreshing change of pace on a topic that can often feel over-saturated with voices merely repeating one another.

The risk of a chastity book written by a self-professed “happy virgin” is of course that it has the potential to come off as prideful or judgmental to those who have walked a different path.  Or, to compensate for this fear, often those who preach chastity are so afraid of coming off as judgmental that they end up all but apologizing for their virginity. But Chastity Is For Lovers succumbs to neither of these pitfalls.  Spenceley is bold enough to be authentically herself—neither apologizing for her virginity nor boasting of it.  And it pays off.

All in all, Chastity Is For Lovers is a solid book on the Christian virtue of chastity that I would definitely recommend for young Catholics of dating age, or anyone looking for encouragement in navigating the world of dating.

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New House, Same Home.

The sky is grey and a thunder storm looms.  In Southern California, a day like today would be a once a year opportunity to stay in pajamas, listen to the rain, and maybe turn on a movie, (or 3).

In the Dallas area, it’s just another Thursday in April.

We are going on two weeks living in our new house in a new state, and as I am getting acquainted with the concept of storm closets, and trying to muster up the courage to use “y’all” in casual conversation, The Church continues the celebration of Our Risen Lord!

How wonderful it is to belong to a Church that can remain a constant for my family and myself in the midst of such a major life change.  While we’re still looking for a parish to call home, part of the beauty of our Catholic faith is that we are by no means “homeless” with regard to a Church.  The same liturgy, the same sacraments, and the same Jesus are all present no matter which Catholic parish we attend on any given Sunday.  And that is pretty fantastic!

Happy Easter, Y’all! ;)

Easter 2015

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