Tag Archives: discipleship

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.

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.

The house of my sojourning.

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: ….

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.

Not a Wasted Decision

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

Gilbert and his Novitiate Spiritual Director, 2003

How funny things don’t always work out as you planned them to be; but there has been many gifts in all that I did not plan.

It was 10 years ago that I began my novitiate experience.  When I entered the novitiate, I thought nothing of it at first.  The novitiate is a place for a person to seriously take the next step towards becoming a “Religious,” that is someone who serves the Catholic church through a dedicated life of prayer, service, and who will live in community with other Religious.

I was told of my acceptance as a novice at a party only for Religious.  They were celebrating one of the Saints that founded their community, St. Ignatius of Loyola.  When I was told, I didn’t think I was going to be rejected, so I did lack surprise and even a little enthusiasm.  “Are you excited?” the Religious in charge of vocations asked me.  “Oh, sure!” I hastily replied, “I’m glad to start this next part of my journey.”  We looked at each other for a couple of moments, we smiled, and then parted ways.  I didn’t call anyone immediately.  Yet, I did tell people at the party, and they congratulated me.  My parents got the news when they came to pick me up.  “Wow,” and, “That’s wonderful,” were the main comments I remembered.  Everyone seemed happy, but as I said, I wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement.

I remember my enthusiasm shooting up as the week before I moved into the Novitiate began.  I had both happiness and nervousness.  I was sure I was doing the right thing for myself, renouncing any opportunity to be married in the future, but also knowing that the novitiate was still a trial time to really live out a Religious lifestyle so that in two years, I would make a proper discernment about whether to continue, or to do something other than the priesthood.

I remember also that very moment when my family and select friends said good-bye to me, and left the party that celebrated my moving-in day.  I remember watching them leave, and finally saying to myself, “Wow, this is it.”  Finally, I felt a sense of awe at the decision I had made.

It was only as I lived my first month at the novitiate that I started realizing how hard it was to live with men, be surround by men, and be constructively criticized by men.  I was well aware of the sacrifices needed to live such a lifestyle, but I didn’t know how much growth I needed in humility and courage to become a priest.

I definitely thought it was supposed to be a cakewalk if it was meant to be.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

We were a group of six who entered in 2003.

I wrote about all this as one of my first journal entries in a leather-bound book I finally used up.  It took 10 years to use all of it.  I had stopped journaling often since I was writing in other ways: lengthy email updates to friends and family, writing reflections about books, and even writing letters to friends I had made across the Nation.

That was August 30, 2003.  Since then, I have done many different things, and most of them not what I intended.  The biggest change in events was my departure from the novitiate after one year, and eventually joining l’Arche in a very full-fledged way.

But it has been helpful to remember my “Entrance Day.”  It reminds me of the hurt I went through most of my time at the novitiate, and how much I felt abandoned by God.  I remember the fantasies of love that started to plague me as if I was smitten with a curse.  I remember feeling lonely amid a community.

It’s after all that pain that now I see the truth.  I now understand that God never abandoned me, nor did God want me to ditch loving companionships with women.  But there is a difference between falling in love and having a respectful relationship, and objectifying love as if it was a “cure-all” to natural passions.  I was lonely because I was choosing to distance myself from others, not letting the other men help me nor allowing my experiences to help them.

I would not change the course of events of my past.  My prayer life has forever been affected with depth since my time in the novitiate.  I believe that it wasn’t so much that my idea of becoming a priest was not meant to be.  It’s more telling about the graciousness of God in allowing things to always work out for the better because I’m cared for.  Maybe I was supposed to try harder to be humble, or grow deeper in courage, yet I am now where I am because I have said yes to dancing with God.  Sometimes I wanted to lead the dance, but the best parts of the dance in my life have surely been when I decided HE could lead instead.

This Anniversary Marks Growth, Not Pain

L'Arche Foundation Logo
Forgiveness

To look forward, to want life, means we have to be willing to look backwards and become more conscious of all those who have hurt us, all that is broken in us and that has brought us inner deaths, hurts that we may have hidden and stifled. It means that we acknowledge the story of our origins, of our own lives, see and accept our brokenness and the times we also have hurt others. When we have accepted who we are and what we need in order to grow in compassion and peacemaking, we can move forward to give life. To forgive is a gift of God that permits us to let go of our past hurts.

Jean Vanier, Finding Peace, page 47-48
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About two years ago, I broke up with my fiancée.  It took a day of arguing, crying, yelling, loneliness, and confusion to really make the breakup final.  One day she was in my life as no one else was or had been; the next day she was out.  I was sad we couldn’t work things out, but relieved at my decision, and felt strong about sticking to the course.  Our relationship was toxic and I had to let myself go from her.

Today I am more mature and definitely happy.  But that quote I have added as a beginning to this reflection really dives into a point I don’t hear of often.  To get real results with forgiveness is not necessarily to go looking for a scenario where a person can obtain closure.  In fact, that’s downright selfish.  My idea of closure may be drastically different from my ex-fiancée’s idea of closure.

Instead of seeking closure from her, I sought answers within my own actions.  I sought to lay out all the wrongs I did against her both out of anger and naiveté.  Afterall, relationships are not one-way occurrences. If it was toxic, I had some part of making it toxic.  I sought counseling.  I read and reflected.  I prayed for myself.  I allowed myself to fall in love again, and get hurt; to start over again, and to be vulnerable again.

I prayed for her almost every day, and then every other day, and then after four or five months, I prayed for her on occasion.  I recognized that I was not helping the healing process for myself if I frequently reviewed my past with her.  I had to trust that she was being taken care of and being prayed for by others.

Remember Jean Vanier said to acknowledge our stories?  I’m acknowledging that even after a harsh break-up, and going to counseling, I still messed up with other brand new relationships. Yet, I have not quit believing that I can do better in my relationships, and especially in dating.  I have gotten back up, and take all events as learning experiences.

Forgiveness is coming to an acceptance of what is broken and letting go of regret or resentment.  Moving on does not meaning the brokenness is gone.  It means acknowledging our scars and walking forward with them, not shying away from our needs.  One of my major needs has been to be consistent in my prayer life, and attend prayer with a community, regardless if I feel I “get something out of it.”  The gift has been in the stability rather than in small moments of joy or peace, which do occur, but definitely not every time.

It really did take double the amount of time I was dating my ex-fiancée to move into a healthy mindset about my relationship with her.  I have not spoken to her for a very long time, nor do I intend do.  But if I did run into her, I pray that I would be nothing less than sincerely courteous to her and able to wish her well, without sounding condescending.

My prayer for you, the reader, is that you too will find quiet time to look into your past hurts and scars, and then with much hopeful resolve, ask God to open your heart to that gift of forgiveness so that you can be a light and companion to others as they wrestle with their own brokenness.