Persistence

Our Gospel this weekend was from Luke 11:1-3.  It goes a little something like this:

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Not gonna lie, when I heard the part, “If he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence,” I laughed. Out loud. That’s funny.  I mean if someone were to bother me at midnight when I was tucked in my bed, I would be ticked off, even if it were for a friend.  I mean seriously. Go somewhere else. Let me sleep.  But this guy’s not gonna go away until I give him what he wants, so I might as well suck it up and go grab some bread for him.  I can totally imagine a situation like this playing out in my life, and so it is funny.

Aside from that line… lately, I’ve been thinking God is full of crap.  I haven’t gotten anything I’ve been asking for.  I’ve been teased plenty of times, sure… like whenever I break down and cry and threaten to renounce my faith and become a pagan or something out of the sheer frustration of asking and never receiving… God will send me a job opportunity, or get me excited about something, and I’ll be happy again… only to not actually get the job anyway.  The guy’s got a sick sense of humor, I’ll tell you that.  Sometimes I think God is nothing more than a mean fat kid on an anthill in the blazing sun with a magnifying glass.  And he has bad manners and chocolate dribbling down his chubby face.  I genuinely think that sometimes. I’ve been asking for a job, for clarity, for peace, for love, for something to do besides playing the Sims on my computer and wishing my life was as exciting as my Sim who recently achieved his life dream of becoming an International Super Spy… and I got nothin.  Zip. Zilch. Nada. I’m trying to follow God’s call, and I’m doing my fair share of the hard work, but God just seems to enjoy watching me suffer and saying no all the time.  God seems to like to dangle good things in front of me, promise to give them, and then rips them away.  Mean fat kid on an anthill.

And then I read the part about persistence, and I realized… well HA!  If I can’t get what I want by being friendly and nice, then I’m busting out the big guns. I’m gonna start demanding. I am going to ask every single hour of every single day and he’s gonna HAVE to give in. He’s going to be so tired of my whining that he’ll have no choice.  Mean fat kid, meet meaner fatter kid. Bam.

Okay I don’t really mean to sound like I hate God. I don’t. I’m just pissed at the guy right now.  I mean seriously.  Throw me a bone.  Let me work at Starbucks, for crying out loud. I’ve always wanted to be a barista. Please don’t make me bag groceries. You know how unorganized I am.  Hell if I would have the patience necessary to freaking bag groceries all day. Yikes. No thank you. If I can’t be a youth minister right now (or ever… which is another story in itself), at least let me do something I enjoy.  Don’t torture me.

Persistence!!!  Ask and you shall receive!!!  Don’t just ask once, because chances are God’s just laying around on his laz-e-boy recliner chuggin beers and watching the game, and he doesn’t want to be disturbed.  Ask and ask and ask again!  Pound on that door!  I do believe that even though it doesn’t feel like it all the time, God does love each and every one of us.  It’s just that if we really WANT what he has to offer us… we’ve gotta WORK for it.  We’ve gotta keep hoping when it seems hopeless.  We’ve gotta keep asking at risk of sounding like a broken record.  We cannot give up.  Because once you give up… you lose.  You don’t get anything.  Don’t be that guy. Go get those loaves. How bad do you want it???

Well, if religion works like ethnicity…

… that would make me 50% Lutheran and 50% Catholic, anyway, so the fact that I, a Catholic, went to my first Lutheran  service today, shouldn’t be that huge of a surprise, right?  The fact that I liked it and would like to go back shouldn’t be a surprise either, right?

I really loved going to my first Lutheran service.  I do love being Catholic… but you know, the Lutherans have a lot going for them.  Their services really aren’t much different at all from a Catholic Mass (aside from the whole communion thing… details details).  I arrived late with a friend and we sat in the front row because she was a music minister.  At first it was kind of awkward… the non-Lutheran in the front row and all… especially the non-Lutheran who typically sits in the dark back row at her usual Sunday service… but it was easy to get over.

“First Reading” and “Second Reading” were changed to “First Lesson” and “Second Lesson.”  There was still a Gospel message.  There was still a lot of music.   There was still prayer and some of the words were exactly the same.  The confession prayer (whatever it’s called… even I don’t know) at the beginning was basically the exact same concept but with different words.  One of my favorite moments at this service was when the sermon started.  A woman came up and was talking, and I turned to my friend and asked her if anyone could give the sermon.  And she said that usually the pastor gave the sermon.  And I was perplexed at first why a woman was up there speaking when it was the pastor’s job to give the sermon… and then I saw the collar.  I almost leapt for joy.  I believe I made some kind of audible noise that the people around me could have picked up on when I said, “THE PASTOR IS A WOMAN!!! THAT’S SO AWESOME!!!!”  And it was!  And you see… the world didn’t fall apart.  I was not distracted by her presence aside from the initial confusion.  I didn’t think her being a woman took away from her message.

My second favorite moment occurred at communion.  I wasn’t sure if I could actually receive it, or if I should, given the differences in theology… but the other pastor (a man, who was even involved in the choir, which I thought was great in itself… the fact that the priest had such an active role within the community itself) announced that the communion was open to everyone, regardless of faith or denomination.  The bread was a gigantic loaf split in two and distributed among the congregation (there were even gluten-free options available for people with allergies), and each person picked up a cup for the wine to be poured into, rather than sip from a communal cup.  I loved that I was welcome to receive communion despite my Catholic-ness (because the Catholic Church is rather exclusive about who can receive the body and blood), and feeling that connection with the community made me feel a stronger connection with Christ.

I genuinely enjoyed my experience.  It’s not going to make me stop going to Catholic Mass, or convert… but I really enjoyed it.  I also enjoyed being able to experience what it’s like being the odd man out when it comes to attending a church service… because for the past 3 years in college, my friend was the Lutheran at the Catholic Church.  It was certainly an eye-opening experience.

I Was Never Very Good at Baseball…

…so it makes complete sense that when life throws me a curve ball, I strike out.  I mean for crying out loud… I can barely hit the darn thing straight… so why, God, do you love curve balls so much?  Ever stop to think that not *everyone* was created with the amazing baseball skills that YOU have, God? Hmmmmm?

Needless to say, this weekend was full of curve balls.  Friday night, I was finally presented with an opportunity to leave my house after dinnertime to go out and be with friends.  This rare occurrence was one that I was even slightly looking forward to.  However, the second I got off the phone with said friend, my phone rang again… some 800 number.  I thought to myself, “This could just be another politician’s voicemail calling me.  I don’t need to listen to it.”  But almost as though I lost control of my thumb, I hit the button on my phone to take the call.  An extremely automated voice reported to me:

This message is regarding your train scheduled to leave Glenview, Illinois, at 2:35 PM, on Sunday, January 10, 2010, and arriving in St. Cloud, Minnesota, at 12:35 AM, on Monday, January 11, 2010.  Your trip has been canceled due to weather.  Please contact customer service for further assistance with your travel options.  We apologize for the inconvenience, and look forward to doing business with you in the future.

WHAT!!!!!!!  I pressed the appropriate button to replay the message, just in case my ears were deceiving me.  Perhaps they made a mistake.  Perhaps they meant to say, “Why Sara, you have been such a good girl this year that we have upgraded your ticket to first class and given you a 75% discount on it.  You are an angel and we wish you glad tidings on your final semester at school.”

Nope.  They were definitely right the first time.  In a panic, I called customer service.  At first I was very snooty with him, raising my voice, obviously ticked off and on the verge of tears.  How the sweet baby Jesus was I going to get back to school now?  The guy at the other end of the line simply told me there were no other options but refunding my ticket.  At that moment I remembered that this young man was not responsible for canceling my train, so he didn’t deserve for me to be mad at him, so I apologized and thanked him kindly for his help and said good night.  Of course when I hung up I shouted all sorts of obscenities at that stupid phone.  Somehow it felt better to yell at the phone.

Of course I can’t afford anything at all.  Winter break was the first time in my entire college career where I have ever had to ask for help coming home.  I probably would have stayed up on campus if it weren’t for my parents’ willingness to help me out in my time of need.  I felt awful having to explain the situation to them again… especially considering the only acceptable option to them was flying, since they would not let me drive back with a person I have driven home with in the past… and rightly so, he’s a psycho driver… but I’d rather almost die for 7 hours cheaply than have to buy a plane ticket this late in the game.  Luckily, I found a student discount ticket that was about $100 cheaper than any other booking service, and my parents were willing to pay for it.  They were even willing to pay for my checked luggage (even if it goes over the 50 pound limit… which it very well might… because I packed that baby in pretty good… as trains don’t have weight limits).

I had a hard time dealing with this particular curve ball because it forced me to humbly ask for help again.  I’m not good at that. I would much prefer paying for my own travel expenses and my own food and my own bills.  I do not like asking for help.  I always try to find the cheapest option.  Heck, I took the train in the first place because it was cheaper to do that than pay for the plane ticket plus checked luggage fees plus potential Executive Express fees.  I put a lot of thought and counted a lot of fingers and toes when I decided to take the train.  I treat my parent’s money as if it were my money.  I hate asking for help.  I’m 21-years-old.  I’m not 18. I should have this routine down by now.  But financial curve balls came up this year, and now the train curve ball, and my poor wallet couldn’t handle the added pressure.  I had to suck it up and ask for help.

I wonder why it’s so hard to ask for help sometimes.  If it was this hard now… I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like this summer when I move back for good. Yikes.

I was actually going to write something of more substance but then I looked at the clock and realized… oh crap… I have an hour left to pack and take a shower.  I should get on that.

Love,

SG

I See London… I See France…

There’s nothing like putting on clean undies.  The optimal situation is clean undies and clean clothes on top of the clean undies… but realistically speaking… sometimes it’s day two on the blue jeans.  So maybe not all of my clothes are squeaky clean, however, the undies always are.  Have you ever noticed how grimy you feel wearing the same undies for more than 24 hours at a time?  It feels like week old Chinese food dunked in sewer water.  It’s awful.  The worst part about dirty undies is that it makes the rest of you feel dirty, even if you aren’t all that unclean.  Undies are the foundation for our clothing choices.  Undies are the first thing we put on in the morning.  Undies are of absolute importance, unless you prefer to go without them, which, for all intents and purposes, is not where this conversation is heading.

On a seemingly un-related note, I hate going to confession.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I have ever been.  The first time I felt horrible after and like the priest could care less about my silly little problems, even though it took me over a month and a half to muster up the courage to go in the first place.  The second time was amazing… the priest was very open and listened intently and was very understanding and even offered me solutions which extended beyond a couple “Hail Marys.”  The third time, it wasn’t awful, but I didn’t walk out on Cloud Nine either.  For the most part, my experiences with confession haven’t exactly been stellar ones.

However, today I had an epiphany in the bathroom. I hopped out of an exceptionally delicious shower and was feeling great all over in my clean undies and clean clothes when I realized… a ha!  So this is what reconciliation is supposed to be like!  I have always struggled with the concept of confession to a priest for a long time.  No matter how many times anyone has ever tried to explain it to me, I’ve never understood the need to have a priest intercede for me and the Big Mac Upstairs… I always figured I could just go straight to Jesus myself.  After all, Jesus said Himself… I’m the Son, God is my Father, the only path through to the Father is through the Son.  Get it?  I got it.  But sometimes I don’t go straight to God.  Sometimes I skirt around the issue.  Sometimes I don’t actually confess what needs confessing.  And sometimes I just need something more… I need something physical… I need a hot shower of absolution with the soap of contrition.  And I need my clean undies. I need to *know* that my soul has been purified.  Otherwise, for all I know… I’m still sitting in year-old sin.  And who wants that?  If day-old undies make me feel gross, it’s no wonder I feel so passionless, so apathetic, so not myself sometimes.  I’ve got a kink in my soul.  I’ve got some dirty undies on my soul that need changing.

When I wear clean undies, I feel clean all over.  I feel like I’m ready to start my day.  I feel like I don’t smell all that bad.  The best way to start building anything is with a firm foundation, and the best way to assemble a great looking outfit for the day is with clean undies.  The same goes for your soul.  If there is something troubling you, that something is going to gnaw on you and affect everything you do, from how you treat others to how much time you give for yourself.  Going to confession is your chance to take a shower and put on some clean undies.  You know you’ll feel a lot better when you do it, and you know that you can do it as often as you want or need to.

So my challenge to you for the week is this:  go to confession.  If that’s too big of a step for you, take some time at the end of the day or at the end of the week and reflect how your day or week has been.  Really be critical of yourself.  Take your actions to heart.  Learn from your experiences.  Try a better way.  It can’t hurt.

Do be do be do…

Greetings, friends out there in the great wide somewhere!  My name is Sara, I am 21-years-old, a senior theology major at a legit Catholic institution of higher learning, and devout Catholic…  and I have a confession to make.

I am a back row Catholic.

There was a time in my life where I sat in the front row.  That time was my freshman year of college, when I was just starting to make my faith my own, and my friends at the time all wanted to sit in the front row to experience Jesus in “IMAX” (up close and personal!).  However, year after year, question after question, I found myself sitting further and further away from the altar until I finally discovered my little nook in the back under a giant cement column in the dark.  I sit there mainly because I like having a giant cement column to lean my head against when I get too bored to pay attention in Mass, or when I want to hide from people, or when I just want to be one of those people who has their unofficial “spot” reserved week after week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am sincere when I label myself a devout Catholic.  I believe in all of the basic teachings and I have a ton of questions and feelings of confusion and frustration towards my Church, but I don’t run away.  I like to tackle my questions head on.  As a theology major, I love to learn about God and spirituality, and how to apply these other-worldly concepts of God into a very worldly-world.  I love to look for God in the seemingly un-Godliest of places.  I observe, I digest, and I spew forth my abundance of wisdom unto the masses (aka–you, the reader).

This is my journey to seek God in the big and the little things.  Please feel free to comment on any post and offer your thoughts, opinions, philisophical ponderings, and whatever questions you have about the Catholic faith, or my faith, or religion in general.  I’m no expert, but I’d love to try… from one back row Catholic to the next.

Until then… stay safe, be well, and make good choices, friends.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” –Mother Theresa

Love,

Sara