Be Reciprocal Givers and Receivers

I totally understand how easy it is to be the giver rather than the receiver.  When you are the receiver, there are questions that arise like, “What’s the intent of this gift?”  “How do I repay this gift?”  “How am I worthy of this gift?”  Those are probably only some questions that pop up.

Often, receivers are unwilling, right?  “No, don’t get me anything for my birthday, just come hang out.”  Or, “Oh, you really didn’t have to give this to me!  Please (as the receiver hands back the gift), this is too much!”  We in the United States, as far as I know, are so reluctant to be a receiver.  Most of us would rather give.

Would you ponder this with me, and admit that part of the pleasure of giving is that the giver is in control, and therefore it’s hard to surrender to become a receiver?

This aspect of generosity is something that Jean Vanier has advocated against, along with other famous people who dedicate their life to charity, such as St. Vincent de Paul, and Mother Teresa.  They advocated that the givers need to become the receivers, otherwise the givers hold a control over those whom they give to, and their Christian charity becomes tainted with a type of domination.

I notice this type of domination all the time in my field of care giving.  I am the one who has so much “control” in a situation when helping my clients with disabilities.  I am in control how food will taste if I cook it, and I am in control of how clean a place will look after I leave.  I am in control of what activities I make time for, and I am also in control of the way an activity is done.

I was working for a few days with an older couple.  Let’s call them Larry and Susan.  Larry was the main client who needed the most assistance, but since Susan also needed some assistance as well, I was expected to help both of them.  Larry and Susan had issues with balance and movement of all their joints.  They were unable to do simple things such as tie their shoes.  They were both at risk of falling down at any time, so the caregiver would have to watch their movements closely.

I was told that they needed to do a shower at least 3 times a week.  Larry was much more accepting of assistance than Susan was.  When it came time for showers, Larry was ok to be the first one, and would obey my simple commands like, “Ok, let’s stand on the count of 3.”  Susan, on the other hand, was not so keen on the shower.  I let her postpone the shower day, but when it came to the time itself, she was still not happy about the thought.  I paused, and I waited for her to explain why she wasn’t interested in the shower.  “I just don’t know what I’m doing.”

And there it was.  Fear showed its ugly face.  She was as unfamiliar with the shower routine as I was since I just began working in her home a day before this situation.  Susan didn’t want to be a receiver of my offer for a warm and relaxing shower.  She’d rather skip it and stay away from risk.  She was not being a giver: I needed her trust, and it was not being given to me.

After some gentle persuasion, and upbeat promises like, “I promise it will be warm, and it will be quick,” she began to walk over to the shower.  But even when she got into the bathroom, she started whimpering, like a scared child; the shower was no longer a comforting activity for her in her old age.  “I’m going to fall!”  She made more distressed noises, and I respected her with silence.  I moved slowly and I talked to her with an upbeat and reassuring voice in hopes of being able to complete the shower routine.

holdinghands elder youngerSusan ultimately gave me her trust.  She was the giver as much as I was.  Susan allowed herself to be vulnerable and surrender one of her most precious gifts: her trust.

I let that situation stay with me as a powerful lesson of surrender.  There’s too many times I have not wanted to surrender: listening to positive critique, giving trust to a stranger asking for money, forgiving a driver who doesn’t let me switch lanes.  I, like so many people, want to demand justice and be in total control of the situation, or at least fight for control.  Here on the opposite end was Susan, giving up control and security to a stranger who promised to honor her gift of trust.  It seemed that the best way to accept the gift was to not think little of it, but instead receive it with astonishment and gentleness.  As much as I was going to give her the best quality of care, I also had to become a mindful receiver of this woman’s vulnerability.

If I can find those times of silence and reflection, I can unpack these delicate and fleeting moments that I encounter with people that I care for.  This Lenten season, let’s practice reciprocal giving, and reciprocal surrender.

gbert yellowstone

Our Journey Will Have Death and Resurrection

I got the call on an early Monday morning.  “Hi, Gilbert, it’s Bob from L’Arche DC.”  My heart pumped rapidly, and I started getting shaky with my phone as if I was going to hear something tragic…or something exciting.

“We are welcoming you to come join us, but with one huge stipulation.  You see, we tried having you come as soon as you can, but we just don’t have any more rooms for anyone else right now.  So, if you do join us, it’s going to have to be in May.”

I felt relief.  It was over.  My wandering had reached a point of clarity.  I now had a date to start my new adventure with a fantastic organization and incredible people.  I sighed ever so deeply.

“I am happy to hear about this opportunity and I assure you, I have no problem with the date.”  And I replied with a huge grin on my face.

I’m sure they were hesitant about whether I would be accepting their offer.  Afterall, I had expressed my eagerness to join them as soon as possible, and that I was even laid off from my current ministry sooner than I thought.  I was definitely welcome to the idea of moving to the East Coast in the dead of winter if it meant having a stable income AND health insurance.

Yet, despite my pronounced eagerness, I had pondered over an important detail that kept my eagerness in check.  In fact, there was hardly any talk about it– it was a detail only mentioned once. They did not know that I had prepared myself on the spiritual, emotional, and mental level to accept the possibility of a late starting date rather than an immediate one.  They had mentioned that I may not be able to move in as soon as the summer of 2014.  Nonetheless, they only needed to mention that possibility once in order for me to consider it.

I had to do some inner work even prior to being prepared to accepting a later start date.  I had shared with you all that I was frustrated wandering, and that I was so very ready to do something that would lead to a more settled life.  (Read my blog post on “Wandering”.)  I had to allow myself to be very upset at God, to be very upset at myself for not fulfilling my own expectations, and to just sorrow over all of it.

But as much as I kept posing the question to God, “What do you specifically want me to do,” I also tried to be positive about my situation by counting all the blessings I did have: awesome friends, an amazing family, living in one of most beautiful parts of the world, and having enough money to not ever worry about my basic necessities.  I let myself sorrow, but only during prayer times.  It was a psychological method I had randomly read about, that healthy people will allow themselves to feel their depth of grief, loss, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotions, and then they will commit to feeling content and resolute in their purpose of being the rest of the day.  If anyone would be willing to listen to me complain and rant, it would be God.  God could handle anything, and so I decided to let God have it: my tears, my shaking of my fist, my thoughts of being destructive to myself or to items that I used for worship.  Yes, I did imagine myself throwing my bible across the church, or ripping apart my rosary beads, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Why are you forsaking me!! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!”  But all this was in my head; I never felt the need to act out such fantasies.

I remember these times also bringing a sense of enlightenment.  I remember sometimes walking away from my prayer and feeling content…a deep peace.  I never received a voice in my head; just a feeling that I was going to be ok.  Alas, I did not have my anger and frustration wiped away.  I would start feeling upset about my lack of career path, lack of choices, and feel negative about my life after a couple of days, sometimes the very next day.

Yet, I was being mystically consoled.  Meaning, I didn’t feel good about venting my frustration, but I felt ok.  I felt strength in continuing to do the only thing that was the best thing to do: place one foot in front of the other.  And to do that 100 times, 500 times, then  1,000 times until I reached my destination.  Thank you, Lao Tzu for that wise saying.

I mentioned in my blog post “Wandering” that my listlessness meant I had no clue when I was going to stop feeling nomadic about my life.  I felt solidarity with the Hebrew people who were in an exodus state for such a long time, and their story recounts all the vocalized frustrations they had with God.  I suddenly felt more pity for them than for God, because I knew how bad it meant to me to have some sort of timeline, and I could not imagine walking around for an unstated period.  I would have joined them in their complaints, and would have told Moses, “This sucks, man!  Let’s just go back to Egypt, cause at least we know how to get there and how long that would take!”

I just wanted a timeline of when my wandering would stop.  “Please, God, is that too much to ask?”  And then I got it.

As you might have guessed from reading the beginning of this post, I called an organization called L’Arche Washington DC.  I knew I would love to work for them, and in that initial conversation the recruiter mentioned a significant fact, “Yeah, we love accepting new people and I hear what you are saying and I know what you are looking for.  But I do want to mention that it’s more probable for you to find a placement with us in the summer time than finding one now in the winter time.  We do have one or two spots to fill, but I just can’t guarantee you that you would get one of them this month.”

Those may have not been exactly the recruiter’s words, but they held the utmost important fact that I needed to embrace: I may not be able to join them until summer time.  To this very day I still remember those words being spoken, and my heart had a sinking feeling.  I was tired of wandering and I wanted to do something incredibly meaningful RIGHT.  NOW.  Yet, because I had been pleading with God for awhile to give me a timeline, I felt this was a nudge in my gut that the possibility of my acceptance in the summer of 2014 wasn’t just a possibility, but an answer God gave me;  after all, it was a timeline.   Not as soon as I was hoping for, and yet, it was still sooner than 40 years.  I was being given more compassion than the Hebrews had obtained.

So when it came to hearing the first week of January that I was welcomed to begin in May,  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait anymore.  I had a timeline to work with, and I was already hustling for jobs and making enough money to live and have some fun.  I was excited to announce to my family and friends WHEN I was destined to live somewhere new, and do what I love.

I had to die to the idea that a timeline was going to follow my ideal timeline.  I had to surrender to the God that took care of me at every moment of my life, and stop doubting that I was going to be left behind.  In my surrender, I gain so much more life.  I had stopped being angry during my prayer because I felt I did have purpose: to be the best of myself for the sake of others: to be incredibly friendly, wonderfully kind, somewhat goofy, and at all times be of a spiritual mind.

This is how God wants it: to be resolute in my faith so that I might inspire others, and to enjoy the love given to me so that I might be able to make time to love and serve others even when it’s inconvenient to do so.

We are all promised to experience death and resurrection in our journey.  But I don’t believe it has to only mean physical death, but it also includes inner death to expectations that frustrate us.  Resurrection does not have to be a promise we wait for, but in fact it’s what God wants us to live out RIGHT.  NOW.  If we’ll just trust Him.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The second reflection on this is about what Resurrection looks like.  I will write that post 2 months, if not 7 months from now.

George, my friend, Rest in Peace

easter Here’s the Eulogy I did for my friend.  I was blessed to serve him and learn from him.

George was born on June 12, 1922, and was the 10th child of eleven kids.  He was 91 when he died.  He leaves 12 direct nephews and nieces, and 66 second nephews and nieces.  He and Bernice were married 47 years.  This is no surprise because, after all, it was love at first sight for both of them.  She was a nurse when he met her, and he decided to kiss her after only chatting with her for a couple of hours.  Two months later he married her.

He was born in California, and it sounds like many of the nieces and nephews have fond memories of visiting George at his place in Malibu.  Everyone knew George as someone who loved making and giving away trinkets.  He never did stop doing this, since so many children who attend St. Norbert’s school were blessed to get 2 trinkets or 20 of them throughout the year.bday4

George was definitely famous in his own right.  Bernice told me he appeared frequently on PBS with the Boy Scouts, showcasing interesting craft projects.  George taught a few classes at Orange Coast Community College.  He and Bernice were even a part of the founding board of directors for Cal State LA.

It was commonly thought that George was going to become a priest.  He was always very religious and was known to many as our “local John the Baptist.”  He used to go to Mass every day, and there was one time recently when he walked to church from his home only using his walker.  He had his first scooter stolen, but this did not deter him from accomplishing what he set out to do.

George never wanted to shy away from conversations that dealt with politics or religion.  He always promoted Christian Unity, and encouraged people to go to other Christian churches not for the sake of converting others to be Catholic, but to show others that we support them and love them.   In fact, he claims to have helped put up the Missionary Cross in this church, which is found opposite side of the altar, over the baptismal font.  He reminded priests and parishoners alike that it was at the moment of our baptism that we were also being called to be Missionaries for Christ.  George was also inter-religious and I finally went to visit and pray at a local mosque during Ramadan with him.  He never wanted to stop hosting these “missionary events,” and I thank St. Norbert’s bulletin editor Jo-an as well as Fr. Pat for allowing George to keep placing announcements in the bulletin, regardless if any one showed up.georgescooter2

George was always very generous.  He and Bernice actually gave away an RV to a homeless family one time, and had let some people live with them whether it was a single mother and her children, or a homeless man who needed some shelter during the winter.

Bernice always said, “well, if you ever need a place to stay, we have a spare room, and I think George could use some male companionship.”  Bernice mentioned this almost every time I visited, and I silently pondered the thought.  Little did I know that  five years later, I would actually live with George.

I only lived with him for a short time, from February until the end of June of this year.  Within that time I learned so much more about caring for another person.

I learned that it was more important to have George live as long as he could in his own home, and stick to his old ways, than to place him elsewhere or be upset at him for his bad habits.  I learned that George required me to love him in that unconditional, inconvenient way.  It was inconvenient to take George to Mass because I had to give extra time, or show up late to Mass.  It was inconvenient to do shopping with George.  I couldn’t just go and grab the items he need.  Quite often he wanted to do it.  And also grab a couple of other items not on the shopping list.

I started to realize that real love is often inconvenient.  Accepting the inconvenience helped me die to my Self.  Will I have enough patience?  Will I give him my attention or time only when I feel like it?  In the end, to be someone’s companion meant that I needed to be there as much as I could, until I reached a point of some uncomfortability.  Then I was loving George.

Thanks, George, for all the things you’ve done for us.  Thank you for being a missionary for the rest of us.  Pray for us that we will take your place and seek to be better Christians, thoughtful of children, and determined to make a better society, even if it’s inconvenient.donuts

Wandering

Wandering.  Someone described it as the space in which you come from and where you want to go.

In life, we hardly get from point A to point B in a heartbeat.  We desire to get married, and yet we have to date a few people before we find someone to be serious with.  We desire a position that will help us be financially stable and will stimulate us, but we’ll work many smaller jobs before we land that “dream job.”

Due to the economy, current culture trends, and whatever the case may be, there are many of us who are wandering.  This was never necessarily a bad thing.

We take the situation that happened with the Israelites.  We read that they wandered for 40 years in the desert.  We read that they also continued to forget about God and all the little miracles done during the journey.  There was much complaining and moaning.  “When are we ever going to get out of this?”

Oh, how I know that feeling.  I’ve been underemployed for the last….nine years.  I definitely chose most of those years to be underemployed.  I have been involved with the non-profit world for about six years and other employment has involved work with the church, which usually doesn’t promise high earnings.

I have agreed to be an underpaid worker.  I have always desired to serve God full time and work specifically with churches and non-profits.

….I just hope that I can find some position that will help me have a family.

And so I’m wandering.desert wandering

As I reflected on all the possibilities, and what I have done so far, I do see that God has never left me.  Some set backs have occurred and maturing has developed.  Yes,  I have felt lots of impatience, and I supposed I am feeling some right now.  I want to work in a position I see fit for myself RIGHT NOW.

Why the wait, God?

A pastor by the name of Gene Appel said that Christians need to understand that the 40 years in the desert for the people of Israel was an important time.  They didn’t know when God was going to say, “You have arrived.”  In fact, biblical scholars say that the numbers in the bible tend to be more than literal, but spiritually significant.  The number 40 is a number that stands for “a very long time.”  So who could really know the exact time the Israelites were lead in the desert?

It was an important time because God was able to just be with them.  God was not making relationships with other nations, or at least that is what seemed to be happening.  The people were being given this opportunity to bond as a nation, and to bond with God.  The people were also being tested and possibly their doubts and frustrations wear only indicators that they would not be ready to move forward with God’s plan.  This does seem slightly counter-productive since the Israelites really had no idea how long the journey was going to be.  If only they understood the length of time it was going to take, would that have made them more hopeful?

Pastor Appel said, “Will you follow God even though you don’t understand and you don’t know how long?”

Some days it’s a no.  I’ll not pray as much, I’ll let myself over eat or feel depressed.  Other days, I’m positive and trusting.  I’ll do the work I need to do: search out a position, contact people, do follow ups, go on dates.  I will move forward knowing God is guiding.

I’m praying I have more positive days.  But there is that whole aspect of time wearing someone out.  It feels so long after a few years.  It feels disheartening to keep trying.

I guess at times like these we need to say out loud a frequent sentence found in the Psalms of the Old Testament:

“O Lord, make haste to help me!”

  • The Soul in Depression: A Podcast on using the Psalms as part of the healing process of depression.
  • wandering… : A simple statement from a blogger about the necessity of wandering.
  • How to Quit Wandering : A more in-depth look at the benefits of wandering.
  • The Story: Wandering: this blog is posting each chapter of THE STORY, the same book Gene Appel is using for his church, Eastside Christian Church.

Not so much about Conversion, rather Conversation

Gilbert Marquez Jr.:

This is a reblog of my first blog post ever in my life!! So, readers, now that’s this blog’s one year anniversary, if you could describe your reaction, criticism or praise, in one word, what would it be? Your input would be an awesome anniversary gift!! Thank you!

Originally posted on Theology In Brief:

lego Sacred Heart of JesusDon’t worry, I’ll keep this brief. ;)

This is an attempt to not be profound, but to be promotional of all things great…at least all that deals with “Study of God,” theology.

I am a faith resources consultant, and I seek to strengthen communities through collaboration.  I achieve both of these missions in part by creating this blog…kind of.

I have great hope that many will join me in the conversation!  Share your findings, your struggles with God, your playful insights about spirituality, etc.  By doing so, you will help me, possibly propel me, to repay the favor in sharing even more!

Welcome to Theology In Brief.

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The house of my sojourning.

Gilbert Marquez Jr.:

There are some blogs that are just fun to read, and then there are blogs that are frekin so amazingly heart-felt that you can’t help but share it….and then there are blogs that you wonder whether that person is just writing about you because it’s way too alike your own thoughts, ponderings, loves, and doubts!!
This is the second time I am “reblogging” this particular Blogger named Grace. She is AMAZING because she has such a better way of describing so much of what I also have experienced. And she just turned 33. I turned 33. So, read this, and know that I am not just merely passing this along as a good read…..it’s actually so much of what I am feeling right now!! Enjoy her post, and pass it on: ….

Originally posted on Grace for the road:

33

I laughed yesterday morning before I ever climbed out of the sheets.

I woke up 33 yesterday. In a bunk bed. In a room full of stuffed animals and children’s books. This on a birthday where I feel like, for the first time in adulthood, I finally feel my age. Where I look in the mirror and see a mid-30s woman, not a “you still look like you’re 25″ girl.

Heather met me in the hallway, teasing me about my accommodations.

“Did you snuggle with the teddy bear I left in there for you?”

Heather is amazing.

She beat me to 33 by only a few months, and she’s in the homestretch of becoming a foster parent. That’s why the bunk beds and the perfectly put together kids’ room overflowing with toys and books and Scripture placards.

I was her first charge on the eve of my birthday. She and…

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Bridging the Gaps in My Faith

…from a recent phone conversation…

Me: So what has your faith life been like recently?

Amy: Oh, I’ve been enjoying two churches, believe it or not!

Me: Really?

Amy: Yeah, I have really been enjoying [Church B] because the pastor does a great job at presenting the message, and I also enjoy all that they are offering.  I still go to [Church A] because I have been going there for so long, but I also just enjoying all that [Church B] has too!

Me: Wow, that’s really cool Amy!  In fact…it sounds exactly what I have been doing recently too.

I have been ecumenical and inter-religious ever since high school.  I have attended Christian groups, and some Christian services.  I am a Christian-Catholic, and unfortunately that’s a huge difference between Christians.  In college, I was the Public Relations Officer for the Muslim Student Association because they needed someone willing to do the communication, and I befriended a few Muslims.  I admired people in general who were willing to have passion behind their faith.

Passion dictates so much of what we do with our beliefs.  Those seeking out more from their faith are struck with a sense of passion.  Those involved with their faith community are energized with passion.  Read the poem at the end of this blog that further emphasizes this point.

eastside worship space

eastside worship space

Passion seems to seek us, and strikes, leaving us desiring more.  It struck me with my first attendance at Eastside Christian Church.  My housemates were already becoming regulars at Eastside.  I only heard about this church through them.  I never was able to go with them due to prior commitments.  Sometimes the commitment was to go to my own Catholic service while everyone else went to Eastside.  Then, one Saturday, as the group was about to leave, I just said, “Hey, I think I’ll join you.”

It was the music.  It was the professionalism.  It was the vibe of high energy and enthusiasm that the community gave off as you entered their worship space.  I was intrigued.  By my second visit, I was hooked.

Passion also can turn into fidelity that withstands the test of time.  This is not always the case.  I have been passionate about many things like USC football, or Angels baseball, but in the end, my passion was only as good as the team’s winning streak.  Yet, when passion was sustained for a long period of time, it then has loads of potential to become fidelity.

I have been passionate for my Christian-Catholic community for a very long time.  I got the love-bug for my Catholic faith when I was in high school.  It carried me through college, and even lead me to consider becoming a priest. (Read the blog post, “Not a Wasted Decision” to learn about my process of discernment in joining and leaving the priesthood path.)

I have shared with other Catholics about my current trend of attending two services a week for the last 3 weeks.  Some wonder if I am wavering in my Catholic faith.  I believe that’s a valid concern, but a concern I don’t have for myself.  I actually attend Catholic Mass almost every day, and have been doing so for the last 5 years.  I love so much of what the Catholic church offers…

But lately, even that hasn’t been enough.

Eastside is a well-run Christian community.  They have plenty of things to get involved in, and their services are just darn invigorating.  If praising God is supposed to be fun, don’t you think it would be invigorating too?

It is unfortunate that when I do attend a Catholic Mass, most of the time I find myself among the “walking dead.”  “Dead” meaning no passion.  Just enough energy to show up.  But I’m not sure if they know what it means to be in love with God.  I find myself singing love songs to God all by myself.  Imagine that!  Sing a love song about someone so loud, in public, and see if you don’t feel a little awkward.  That’s the same feeling I get singing at a Catholic Mass.  I have been yearning for more passion for a little while now.

Listening to my friend Amy speak about her own faith journey was comforting.  I bet there are plenty of us who are part of a couple of faith communities for the sake of trying to sustain the passion.

Passion.  We know when we have it, and we are certainly almost like another person without it.  I believe that my current church attendance at two different churches is more about sustaining my faith than changing it.

What about you?  What do you find lacking in your faith community?  How can you bridge the gaps you encounter?

“Nothing is more practical than finding God” by Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Nothing is more practical than finding God

That is, than falling in love in a quite absolute,

Final way.

What you are in love with,

What seizes your imagination,

will effect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

What you will do with your evenings,

How you will spend your weekends,

What you read,

Who you know,

What breaks your heart,

And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love, and it will

Decide everything.