Fear – Five Minute Friday

schnauze“Harry! Jack!” I called from the porch. Waiting for a response I really didn’t expect, I checked the soil in which the mint and herbs are growing to determine if they needed water.

“Huh!” I sighed. The schnauze obeyed me no more today than they had yesterday. I went back inside, grabbed a whistle (I’ve never been able to whistle properly) and blew a blast into the back yard. After a couple of minutes, I sighed again: I’ll have to find them, I mused to God. I can’t shower until they’re back inside. Thankful that I was already wearing shoes, I walked down the steps and began checking behind shrubs and garden furniture for the black and grey dogs. As I came round the corner of the deck, a wide open gate greeted me.

“How is that open?” I asked. “No one uses that gate.”

Quickly, I made my way back inside, snatched up my phone and pocketed my keys. I grabbed two leashes and a bag of treats and made my way out the front door. As my feet carried me down the steps, my fingers were searching for my house mate’s number. A thought breezed through my mind, What if she blames you? You let them out. I ignored it, let it continue on its way.

Living in Christian community is changing me. The monolithic ogre of fear has become like the hairy monster, Rudolph, in Looney Tunes, Water, Water Every Hare. It’s tiny. A good stare sends fear scurrying away.

Not so many weeks ago, I’d have been terrified to inform my friend that her dogs were off roaming the neighbourhood without an escort. Today, fear became concern. Fear lost its power to paralyze me. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be paralyzed again. But today, the schnauze are home after their great adventure and what would have been overwhelming fear didn’t slow me one bit.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

World – Five Minute Friday

I’ve lived on three continents and seen more of the world than most. Living in other parts of the world provides an education one doesn’t get when everything is familiar. I’ve often shaken my head at wonder that many don’t know that that black and white are only two of many ethnic possibilities, that in some places, class (a/k/a money and deportment) trumps skin colour every time, that in many parts of the world, those with darker skin are considered less desirable but in some, those of lighter skin are less beautiful.

worldStill, there is that which can never be learned traveling the world. The family is the ideal place to lean that when life is just too much, when everything ought to work but fails, when I feel I’m a total disappointment and a burden, those who love me will pick me up, dry my tears and say, ‘I’m here for you. I’m happy to have you in my life. Believe me, it will work out.” Family is where having a meltdown and being weak are opportunities for more love, not less.

But sometimes family isn’t available. Real Christian community can provide the same love. Christian community is not being nice on Sunday and at church events before we go off to our own separate existences. It’s not just asking, ‘How are you?’ and saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ when we hear that things are tough. Sometimes tough consists of the endless days of isolation and loneliness punctuated by Church attendance. Sometimes tough consists of never having the opportunity to give to others. Sometimes tough is not what I need you to give me but what I hunger to give you.

In a moment, I’ll go and transplant my house mate’s herbs — we’re trying to protect the basil by planting it next to some spicy hot oregano. The joy of doing something for a friend is excruciatingly painful — warm water on frozen fingers. It’s not something the world can give me. It’s a people thing. It’s an Acts of the Apostles thing. It’s the place where I can trust enough to reveal ourselves, including the parts I’ve always hidden because being brave and tough and strong were necessary. It’s the place where I can just relax and be human.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Gift – Five Minute Friday

giftI have been given so many gifts. They’re not enough. I want more; I’ve always been immensely hungry (and still hope to get the biggest gift under the tree.)

I want to give more. No matter how much I give it’s not enough, will never be enough.

Gift is one place where “not enough” is good. I always want to be hungry to receive, hungry to give, hungry to be a gift.

But only God, Himself, is gift enough and what have I to give Him? Myself, yes. But I want to give Him more.

He has given me a childlike faith. I pick “flowers” and give them to Him as we stroll through my life is immense. Often, those flowers are weeds. Those too are a gift for Him.

And for me too.

All of life is gift – the good and the really bad and everything in-between.

May I be a gift to everyone I encounter. May I be worth opening and peeking at and exclaiming over, even a little bit. May I be the kind of gift that surprises and fills hearts with hope and courage and joy.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Why I Am Catholic

UPDATE – When I write, “I’ve also found error,” I am not referring to error in the Church’s doctrine and teaching but rather error in teaching and living the faith. I expect to find that because the Catholic Church is bursting with sinners just like every other place where humans congregate.

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A new Pew Study has Catholic bloggers writing about why they are still Catholic. Elizabeth Scalia invited Catholic bloggers to share why they remain Catholic. Of course, it never occurred to me that being Catholic was something I could just leave off like giving up wheat because it exacerbates the inflammation in my small bowel. Occasionally I long for bread (mostly to have something to slather with butter). But bread was never something I pointed to and said, “That’s who I am.” Catholicism does define me even though the minister tried to knock it out of me.

I have no memory of a time when Christ was not absolutely real to me. I have no memory of a time when I wasn’t Catholic. After my parents died, when being Catholic was a terrible crime, I clung to my faith. I kept a small, children’s missal and a used copy of “The Song of Bernadette” hidden away. They sustained me from five until ten when I was old enough to sneak out of the house and go to Mass.

behold the Lamb of GodThe summer after the minister’s first wife died, we were sent to a Catholic day camp. Finally I saw Jesus held in the priest’s hand as I rested in the quiet emptiness of the church while the other children played outside. The priest did not allow me to receive Him but my eyes and heart devoured the answer to my unspeakably deep longing. I was starving for Him.

As a child, I saw that the minister’s faith held much good. There were many wonderful people. Some were kinder than many Catholics have been. Certainly, God gave me many gifts through them: the joy of singing from my toes, the experience that sometimes worship includes an “Amen!”, swaying, a raised arm, and copious tears. Most of all, I gained a deep, abiding love of Scripture.

Yet service after service, I sat in a pew and stared at the empty table. It ought not be empty: “This Do In Remembrance of Me.” “This” was so rarely done. And it was only a symbol. (I couldn’t find symbol in the Bible only, “This is…”) Yet there were rules. When some of the unbaptized children ate a bit of cracker or took a tiny glass of grape juice, the minister shouted and behaved as if they had done something horrible. He blamed himself for taking us to the communion service; he had never blamed himself before. All of the children in the house were baptized by month’s end. He even re-baptized me (my baptism in infancy didn’t count). But if “This” was just a symbol, why behave as if “This” was so vitally important?

Eight months after I began university, I was confirmed. When I encountered scandalous catechesis and behaviour, I fled to find the Catholic Church, stumbled into an Anglican parish, and by the time I discovered it wasn’t Catholic, had already begun an inquirer’s course to be received. I had three questions for the curate who taught us:

“What is the Eucharist?” I asked one Sunday.

“It’s the Body and Blood of Christ.”

“That’s okay,” I told my Friend. A few minutes later, I inquired, “Who is the pope?”

“He’s the bishop of Rome, the first among equals,” the curate responded.

“That seems okay,” I mutely told my Friend. As we left the room, I asked the curate one final question, “May I continue believing what I already believe?”

“Of course,” he told me a surprised shrillness in his voice.

“That’s okay too,” I told my Friend. “I can’t stop being Catholic.” (from “Loved As If,” Chapter 5)

In the Anglican Communion, I found Sodalities, perpetual adoration, the Stations of the Cross, Cursillo and other experiences that encouraged me to believe I had found real Catholicism. But priests fell asleep during my confessions. I began recycling my the greatest hits to keep them awake. At one point, I considered making up a few sins but then decided that would be lying. Only one priest listened and helped me work on my pride but he was miles away; I could only see him on rare occasions. I began to wonder what Anglicans considered sin. Sometimes, sin seemed no more than bad taste or being odd.

And then there was the branch explanation. Anglo-Catholics consider themselves one branch of the Catholic Church. But why is there is no communion between the branches? At what point does lack of communion mean a branch is severed? When does lost contact with the source of nourishment cause starvation?

Finally, I began studies for a master’s degree in theology and soon realized I was learning to comment on religion and faith but not coming to know and love God better. Though I love studying, there seemed little purpose in studies that would only fit me to analyze when I hungered to be more like Christ.

Often after Mass, I’d walk the streets of New York telling my Friend, “I must return to the Catholic Church, but how? Where do I go?” One day, the rector of my parish used the name of Jesus. I realized I had not heard him say “Jesus” in six months except when reading Scripture or reciting existing prayers. That realization, more than anything else, relaxed my grip and when God pulled me kicking and screaming from the Anglican Communion, my struggles were less than they might have been. I knew, even if it was filled with the  same errors that had sent me fleeing, I’d only reach holiness if I went back to the Catholic Church.

At a new job, I became friends with a man whose Catholic faith was as foundational as mine. I didn’t know there were other people like me. He was crazy and fun. One day I told my Friend, “If there’s a place in the Church for someone as crazy as him, there must be a place for me. I’m at least as crazy as he is.” A few weeks later, I made a retreat, realized I was old enough to ignore or even shout back at those who tried to ply me with lies, confessed, and returned to the Church.

That was nearly eleven years ago. Since my return, I’ve found orthodoxy as well as everything else I sought. I’ve also found error, haughtiness (including my own), and bad catechesis. One of the things I learned on my detour through the Anglican Communion is that sin exists wherever there are human beings. To avoid sin, to be with people who are truly faithful, I must to leave earth and myself too.

But now the table is filled every day. Jesus is here in tangible form. And I so need Him to be tangible. Hunger exists to be fed and I have an immense hunger for Jesus, for Him to do exactly what He says He does, make Himself present again when we do what He did on Maundy Thursday.

I’ve found confessors who take my small sins as seriously as my whopping ones. And a great, great cloud of witnesses surrounds me and goes before me, along with me (I’m one of them). We are all trying reach heaven, no matter how difficult the journey; some have already made it. “Ultreya!” we cry out to each other. “Forward! Continue!” That cloud of witnesses, that community has brought healing I never hoped to find this side of heaven.

The orphaned waif who lost everything has found identity and family in Christ and in His Church. They go together. This is where I always find my Beloved. This is where I feast on His Body and Blood. This is where I am home because Jesus is truth and He is here. Non-Catholic Christians reach for the same salvation I do and may get into heaven before me, but because the Catholic Church is home, it’s also my best shot for holiness. After much striving and difficulty, I found myself on a solid rock that Christ chose. That is the greatest gift my parents gave me before their deaths. Even when I fled the Church it was to go in search of the Church. Where else would I go?

Blue – Five Minute Friday

blue ridge mountainsThe blue sky against the deeper blue mountain as the sun rose on the second morning of the drive signaled the end of the low-level dis-ease that had haunted me for nearly five years. Those wide open spaces of Houston, so beloved by so many, had been a never-ending, current that shocked me each time I went out. New York City, though chock-full of tall buildings, only required me to avoid looking up. There was no hiding from the wide open spaces of Houston. They went on forever and ever and ever with no amen, no selah, and, except for a few neighbourhoods where I rarely had reason to go, not even the slightest diminuendo. Those endless distances wore me down, heightened my agoraphobia, intensified my sense of isolation, kept me inside far more than was healthy.

But now, the painful current had stopped. I felt my shoulders relax, realized how tense they had been, how painful the uneasiness had become; I could not begin to feel it until it was gone.

Today, I sit on Bridgett’s mid-century modern sofa in her living room that is smaller than my bedroom in Houston and gaze at the dark blue, glass pitcher that lives atop her kitchen cupboard. Another friend from Houston texts to ask me if I am settling in.

“Still settling,” I reply. “But it’s very good to be here. Last night, I slept well for the first time; feeling more and more at home.”

Suddenly tears have pooled in the corners of my eyes. They threaten to spill over. Those words, “at home,” dissolve some barrier in my heart. I’ve needed to be at home for so long, since Marmar and Papa died, since before I was five. How have I lived all this time without home? Only now can I begin to hear the message the blue pitcher tells me: ‘Your hunger, starvation, dis-ease has always been valid. You always knew it, you needed home.’

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Follow – Five Minute Friday

I’ve wanted to make “Loved As If” my magnum opus and answer all those who are amazed that I follow Christ even though my life has often been “solitary, poore, nasty, [and] brutish.”

Among other things, I’m a student of literature and especially of the stories we call myth and legend. Originally, they were simply the stories one generation handed down to another. Until fairly recently, humans weren’t interested in empirical proof of the facts. We wanted to pass on truth. Aesop and Gilgamesh pass on immense truths that have been part of what it means to be human since the beginning.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is one of my all time favourite pieces of literature. It’s also one of the oldest known to man. I’ve always been struck by Gilgamesh’s lament when he first realizes he will die. He prays to the god Shamash because he sees the bodies floating in the river; and realizes this too will be his lot. All that is left is to make a great name for himself. He and his dear friend, Enkidu, undergo many trials and adventures and win great renown. Then Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh loses himself. Death can do that to us.

jesus-and-child-10When I lost my parents, I lost myself. I did not know who I was or to whom I belonged. Knowing that I didn’t belong to the minister, that I gained no identity from him gave me a bit of information about who I was not but none about who I was. That knowledge came from my Friend, from Christ. He condescended to follow me and lead me through the horrifying labyrinth of my childhood. But eventually, I had to choose if I would follow Him. It made me cranky that I had to choose. Then I understood, Christ could not be a beloved magical teddy bear to comfort me, perform miracles when needed, and provide wisdom. He had to be my God as well as my Friend. I had to be willing to follow Him even if my life never became the image I had conjured in my mind and contained more heartache and pain.

He has always been so gracious to me. He has always been there. And I want to follow because of His graciousness and generosity but also because in Him, I know who I am; Christ gives me identity. It doesn’t matter if the identity I have now is the one I would have had my life had been different. This is me. It is the Lord’s doing and it is astoundingly marvelous in my eyes.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Meet

After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)

“When did you meet Jesus?”

So many times I’ve been asked that question. I imagine myself walking along and discovering Him around the corner. Or being introduced at a party — a bbq or wine and cheese — or sitting next to Him at a formal dinner.

words to eternal lifeMy response has always been, “I did not meet Jesus. I have no memory of not knowing Him. Over time, I have come to know Him better and plan to continue getting to know Him. He seems to have just swooped me up like my Papa did when I was little. He’s never stopped swooping me up and I hope He never does.”

Many times, curiosity, fear, attraction have sent me scurrying off after something that seems to be meet and right. Eventually, I discover that if I’m scurrying away from Him, even if it’s towards something that looks glorious, I’m going in the wrong direction. Too often, I’ve gotten what I want only to discover I really don’t want it. (Once is more than enough.) And “swoop”! There He is, swinging me high into the air. Where else would I go?

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

2015 A to Z Challenge Reflections

At the end of each annual A to Z Challenge (that’s what the month of April is all about), bloggers write a post reflecting on the experience.

A year ago, I launched launched Loved As If. This year, I reworked the years between escaping the minister and his crazy family and finding healing. In my book, that period is “Attic Clearing.” I encountered many other bloggers and some of their readers. ‘Twas lovely. Blogging two posts each day, one here and one at Glam Of God, a fashion blog I launched during this year’s Challenge, was hard work. And again, ’twas lovely. I’d do it again. Well, maybe I’ll limit myself to one post or write more posts in advance. The A to Z Challenge is a great opportunity to devote a concentrated amount of time to a writing project even when other things are calling my attention. That, along with meeting other bloggers, is what I love.

I do wish it was easier to follow the blogs. Perhaps next year I’ll program a spreadsheet and tick off the blogs I’ve already visited. Except, I happen along an interesting blog and want to return (or, worse, subscribe) and then I’m overwhelmed. It may not be an A to Z Challenge issue but a personal issue. If I program that spreadsheet, I’ll make it available to any who want it.

Thank you for such a lovely challenge. I’m looking forward to next year. Who knows, I might have a theme.

Five Minute Friday: Door

NarniaWardrobeThe image of as Lucy as she peeps through the wardrobe door remains vivid in my mind though I was five when my first grade teacher read us The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. Opening and looking inside is what I do when I encounter a door (as long as I have no reason to believe there is danger).

On the first day when the firm I worked for moved to new office space, instead of unpacking my office and determining that my cases had been safely transported, I went from floor to floor trying doors. One led to a room that held a huge tank and various bits of machinery — it seemed a good place to hide the bodies if there ever were any bodies. (After that first day, the door was always locked; I checked several times.)

I want to know what is behind a door but more so, I want to know where a door leads. Maybe… Just maybe…

There is a door between earth and heaven. I know the way. Jesus taught us the way. My heart is still torn between the two — earth is so lovely but I, who have longed so much for home, know this isn’t really home. For now I’m content to wait and work towards the day when that door is open for me and I rush through it because I also know Who will be there with outstretched arms.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Z is for Zenith

“Our Lord has declared that we are ‘better than many sparrows:’ well, if not better than many a phoenix too, it were no great thing. But must men die once for all, while birds in Arabia are sure of a resurrection?” (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, chapter XIII)

phoenix1I hunger to reach a zenith far beyond my imagination. It’s there. Though I can’t see it, I can feel the tug pulling me, the hunger — and hunger exists to be satisfied.

I want so much more than I can ever accomplish in this life. Like St. Therese of Lisieux, I want everything — to do everything, to learn everything, to love everyone, to create endlessly. Those zeniths call me towards them.

Yet I walk within time that limits how high I can go, at least this side of heaven. But heaven will come. I will soar like a phoenix from the fire, reach zenith after zenith.

Beloved, please make me willing to accept the fire.

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