Tag Archives: spiritual warfare

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.

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.

Sometimes It’s Better to Be Mundane

There is truth and depth in living simplicity.  I dare say, there are some of us who always want more.

Simplicity can be mundane for me.  I have the personality that seeks out adventure and spice in doing my normal routine.  I have successfully broken my normal routine moments throughout my days, my weeks, and my months.  I admit it could be a coping method for feeling inadequate, but alas, I am enjoying myself and my life.

Yet, living some moments and routines in a simple way has been very liberating.  As I have sought to do extravagant prayers for 9 days, or the 30 day prayer, or the search for finding heroic ways in fulfilling my obligations, I have also felt defeated in such practices.  The vicious cycle goes like this: I will start the new prayer and the new task, and fail to be consistent with it.  Then I give up doing anything at all that may resemble an attempt to get back to my resolution.

This obviously leads me to be less in touch God.  As if there was no such way to achieve a balance, I tend to shoot for the extreme opposites.

The following podcast is from a woman who has wrote about finding solice in daily simple prayer.  In her book, Acedia and Me,  she speaks about how our faith can be tested more than we want to believe it is, and in those moments of great testing, we need to do at least something to keep our daily prayer going, and eventually keep the motor of faith oiled up so that it will not rust.

http://americamagazine.podbean.com/2013/03/25/april-1-2013-podcast-everyday-faith/

  • Daily Prayer (focusedandfree.com)
  • America Magazine: Founded in 1909 by the Jesuit order and directed today by Jesuits and lay colleagues, America is a resource for spiritual renewal and social analysis guided by the spirit of charity.

Loneliness vs Solitude

The reflection below is worthy of your pondering. It speaks about the fact that there is a spiritual battle within us that can make us feel lonely. Loneliness is negative and un-useful. Solitude is finding a place within ourselves to be at peace. It’s usually found in quiet spaces, but a sense of solitude can also come up when you realize that what you do to connect with God is rare and not often promoted or announced. There is solitude in knowing that your relationship with God is hard to explain to others. It should give you peace and a sense that you are particularly special…there is only one of YOU, you are not replicated and have never been or will be replicated.

May you seek time to increase solitude in your life so that you have the spiritual energy to fight off the temptation of loneliness. May your solitude increase your awareness of your connection to this world and promote a compassionate response to all whom you meet.

L'Arche Foundation Logo
Friday 12 April 2013

Loneliness seems to be an essentially human experience. It is not just about being alone. Loneliness is not the same thing as solitude. We can be alone yet happy, because we know that we are part of a family, a community, even the universe itself. Loneliness is a feeling of not being part of anything, of being cut off. It is a feeling of being unworthy, of not being able to cope in the face of a universe that seem to work against us. Loneliness is a feeling of being guilty. Of what? Of existing? Of being judged? By whom? We do not know. Loneliness is a taste of death.

– Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 33

Who is Jean Vanier?

For Lent: Giving Up…”the World”

There is a common sticker motto I’ve seen around Orange County, CA: “Not of This World.”  It’s so darn common that I almost want to believe it’s a name of a church.

It made me think: am I part of the world or not of the world?  This is the question everyone asks especially during Lent.

I’ve listed the link in this post to a VERY fascinating blog entry in response to a book that speaks about purity and the lack of purity in our society.  You don’t have to be of a “prudish mentality” to ponder such an issue.  Just ask basic questions: What types of books sold the most in the year?  What type of clothing does a department store offer the most to its teens shoppers?  What are the lyrics of the most popular songs?

Purity is far from promoting asexuality.  Purity is knowing the beauty and strength of a healthy understanding of sexuality.

There was one part of the blog I related to the most: what type of music do I listen to?  Recently I was in the car with young children, the youngest being 3 and the oldest being 11.  I wanted some upbeat music, so I requested that the kids play my “groovy” playlist.  Up comes a song where a line in the chorus said, “I will have your clothes off by the end of this song.”  And it said that phrase a few times!  But to all the kids it didn’t really seem to bother them.  In fact, they actually chose the song because they knew it!

What can I do?  Stop the song and then play it later when they are not around?  What does that say about my values?  I LOVE THE BEAT AND THE RHYTHM.  Right.  There is beauty to that.  But it’s the same argument some men make who say they like strip clubs because there they see some great dancing with beautiful women.  “There’s a craft to it,” and I agree with them.  But there’s a craft to anything whether it’s making a great cigar, a great alcoholic beverage, and exotic dancing.  Does it mean that it’s a thing that promotes purity?

So, for Lent, I decided I would be very conscious of the songs I play and movies I watch.  It’s hard, and it will be harder to even delete songs that are far from purity.  But, am I called to be of this world? Or live in it and not be of it?

That’s a higher calling of virtue for all of us to ponder.

CSD Book Club – Blog Entry.

It’s interesting to see what grabs our imagination.

What We Feed Will Grow

A key theological point I am learning through l’Arche is about accepting the “shadow-side” of my Self.  Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen, two great theologians from l’Arche, speak about our shadow-side as being not “apart” from us, but “a part” of us.  It is never going to go away, and the more we repress it, the more it is bound to explode.  Repression of our shadow is practically the same as “feeding it.”

I ran into the comic strip below from my brother who has always shared great stuff with me.  The story tells everything you need to know about how to handle your shadow side.

Jean recommended that we not feed the shadow, but befriend the shadow so that when others do wrong to us, we will not react with aggression or despair, but will hold a sense of empathy for that wrongdoer.  Knowing how to forgive is also knowing the “bad wolf” of our own, and realizing that the person who wronged you has ultimately a harder battle…within their Self their shadow is winning, and it is not allowing them to become the best person they can be.  And that’s a sad state of being.  So pray for them, and forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

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Week of the Darkness versus the Light: Exorcisms

Painting of Father General Saint Francis Borgi...

In honor of this week of Halloween, and remembering the departed, I will post about themes that deal with the battle of darkness versus light.  This post’s theme: exorcisms.

As I write this on Halloween night, I know there will be some who will enjoy the viewing of great horror movies dealing with exorcisms.  There is the classic, “The Exorcist,” and others will see newer stuff like “The Last Exorcism.”

Would you be scared to see an “exorcism” in real life?  Well, guess what?  You most likely already have…and if your Christian, you had one already done unto you!

The reality is that many terms, like “exorcism,” get their depth of meaning lost or warped with the trends of pop culture.  Exorcisms occur so that, “a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1673)  The most popular exorcism done is called baptism.  A person getting baptized is being washed from previous influences of evil, from the bondage of original sin, and receives grace to withstand future temptation.

Ah, I already realize we can get deep.  But let’s make this brief.  Some points to understand: original sin’s harshest effect is the possibility of never entering heaven; evil exists in the world because people have free will to choose God or not; evil will always lurk around us until we die and transition from this physical reality to the spiritual reality.

These points make it clear of the usefulness of exorcisms, i.e. a formal ritual asking God to cleanse and protect a person or object.  Baptism is the main one that is practiced to help Christians become united to God (Romans 6:1-13), and gain the help they need (grace) to not easily fall into the temptation of evil.  But an exorcism would not take away temptation.  This is a burden we must pray against, and strengthen ourselves to dispel it lest it does win over our will.

God will not take away our free will.  An exorcism will not force us to have faith in God or God’s power.  This is important because a deep study of Jesus and his exorcisms in the Gospels will help us notice that so often people would be fearful or doubtful of the power of Jesus over demons, but those directly affected by the exorcism would be incredibly grateful.

So, the next time you see someone getting baptized, pray that you are inspired by the person’s willingness to say “yes” to the teachings of Jesus, and beware of believing that a baptism is magical and would make someone invincible over evil.

Since it is not easy to do this by our self, why not join a community of faith to help encourage you to keep the faith?

And now, an except from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cited by paragraph number:

1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.