Saturday, December 31, 2011

Parenting in the Presence

When we become His disciples we accept this gift of Mystery and Oneness in our own life, albeit in an in perfect sense. Are we really open to search awesome Mystery in the midst of the mundane things of our daily life?  (John Michael Talbot on Facebook, December 30, 2011)

This is certainly the challenge in my life.  Yesterday, I was noting that I spend about 30 hours a month doing laundry.  Yes, you read that right.  I like doing laundry, thankfully, but how often am I open to "search awesome Mystery" while I am doing it?   What about the 70 hours a month I spend cooking?  Where is that openness when my children are not making wise choices and I am charged with teaching them another way?

It's a tall order, this opening of our hearts to God.  It's the fiat of fiats, isn't it?  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." 

I love you, Lord, but loving my neighbor is so hard!  Especially when "my neighbor"  is a 3-year-old choosing obstinance.

So much more is meant by "keeping my commandments" than following the letter of the law, isn't it?  What if "Love the Lord your God" really encompasses me loving the Lord my God the way it is expressed in the Great Commandment, "Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength."

My whole being.  My whole being.  It sounds like a tall order and yet, on the other hand, it is also the path of least resistance.  Love is always easier than "not love" but my brain gets in the way and chooses the other path.

Perhaps the path to searching "awesome Mystery in the midst of the mundane" is really just a matter of discipline.  Just as I have taught myself to tune out the sounds of traffic or the television show the kids are watching, I can teach myself to tune in to awesome Mystery.  It is possible to be in the midst of my life and in the Presence at the same time.

I know it is possible because I am thinking  through this blog entry and typing it with a two-year-old literally on my lap between me and my laptop, a three year old warming her ice cold feet under my legs, a 4-year-old chatting away on the floor and "Dora the Explorer" on T.V.  It takes practice.  If I can write blogs and parent, I can "search awesome Mystery" and parent!

Tonight as I raise a glass to welcome a new year, I am also welcoming a new year of parenting in the Presence of "awesome Mystery."  May God richly bless ALL our efforts!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Conversion - Part Two

It's Christmas Eve.  For the last many years, I have gone to midnight mass.  Not last year, not this, but perhaps by next year, I can resume the practice.  I love being in church the moment it truly becomes Christmas; it makes little sense to be elsewhere!

At First Church, we had a lovely Christmas Eve service every year ending at midnight.  Just as the tower bells tolled midnight (yes, even Methodists can have real bells!), the congregation would complete lighting our candles while singing the many, many verses of Silent Night.  We passed the light throughout the congregation as Catholics do at Easter Vigil; it was lovely and moving indeed.  Then, singing these beloved verses, we would spill into the streets of downtown Houston, eventually filling Clay Street in front of the building.  As we sang, many cars drove by on their way to or from the bars and parties taking place downtown.  I always thought of the "angel on the shoulder" of those who witnessed the hundreds of us standing there with our candles and thought, for a moment, of the true meaning of Christmas.

At some point, a couple of years into my membership there, I became drawn to a public chapel in the Galleria area of Houston.  I worked nearby at the time and at lunch, I used to visit the chapel for a moment of quiet reflection.  It is an ecumenical chapel, built in a lovely outdoor space, but to get there, I passed by a large Catholic church.  I often noted the office workers filing in or out of the building for daily mass and longed for such an expression of my faith.  One day as I was leaving my little chapel in the woods, I noticed on the church sign the times for Midnight Mass.  I casually mentioned this to a friend of mine in the Singles at First Church, and he confessed that for the past several years, he had been attending midnight Mass at that very worship space instead of our own Methodist congregation.  Hmmm.

That Christmas, I ditched the Christmas Eve service at First Church and headed for Mass.  I was very nervous.  It was my first time in a Catholic church since I had been in Junior High; I had never been there alone.  I knew I could not receive the Eucharist but I simply wanted to be there.  I watched those sitting near me for when to kneel and when to stand, I sang with the hymns.  I was surprised there was no passing of the candle flame; it would be a few years before I learned that is a part of Easter Vigil.

I was changed as I walked out that night.  I would never have dreamed that I would one day be Catholic but I felt a kinship to the Catholic church that would remain with me always.

Tonight as I prepare my children for the Christmas Eve vigil, I will be mindful that the true magic of Christmas is not Santa Clause, but the birth of the baby born in a lowly manger.  I can't wait to show my little ones the creche and to hear their wonder as we enter a building transformed from the starkness of advent to the brightness Christmas.

I hope the wonder of Christmas is alive in your hearts tonight.

Part One of my story
Part Three of my story
Part Four of my story
Part Five of my story

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Conversion - Part 1

In today's gospel reading (Luke 1:39-45) we are reminded that Mary's body became the temple of the living God.  It is this very concept that caused me to begin my search for the "true church."  This was a concept I could relate to - the idea of God within, but I wasn't quite getting hold of it in the way I wanted to.  I am going to tell the story of my conversion to Catholicism in several posts.  I'm doing this for my children so that some day when they are interested, they can have the facts for themselves.

I was raised as a United Methodist so this was also my church of choice in my college years.  I did not attend church every week, but went frequently enough to identify with the denomination.  As a young single adult, I stumbled upon a large congregation in downtown Houston and that church was instrumental in forming my religious identity.  First United Methodist - also known as "First Church" -- was led at that time by Dr. William Hinson, an inspiring preacher from Georgia.  I think I attended the first time close to Christmas.  I loved not only Dr. Hinson's preaching, but I loved the "high church" atmosphere - the liturgy, the responsorial psalms, the participate aspect of church.  I appreciated the way the scripture upheld the service rather than being brought in as proof for the preaching.

I do not remember how it happened, but eventually I began attending an adult Sunday School class, something my parents had set the example for when I was growing up.  Through Sunday School, I learned about the single's group.  The congregation had a vibrant and growing Single's group.

This group became a formative influence on me.  I was in the group for many years and through my association with them, became involved in many other areas of ministry, eventually going to work for First Church.  In this nourishing environment, I began my search for the true church;  I was strongly influenced by a program called "Disciple" which I will talk about later.

So back to today.  It's the fourth week of advent, only a few days before Christmas.  My question for today is now that I'm here, how am I going to honor the presence of the Holy Spirit in me? And how am I going to encourage the same in my children?

Part Two  - Midnight Mass
Part Three - Crucifix Ephiphany
Part Four - Seeker
Part Five - Signs and Wonders
Part Six - Annulment
Part Seven - Taking it on Faith

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Fiat

It's interesting -- and probably not coincidental -- that on the very day I decided I would finally start this blog on my journey as a Roman Catholic, the readings would include these striking words of Mary from Luke 1:38:
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."

Mary's fiat, the pronouncement by the Angel Gabriel that would change the course of history, was her opportunity to change the course of her own history.  Something about Mary's fiat -- and her "yes" -- has always spoken to me.  Even as a child, I was inspired by her solemn words of faith, "May it be done to me according to your word."
I have often found myself in a place of unknowing, of wondering and even of confusion; saying"yes" to what is is what empowers that next step in my journey.

So yes.  Yes to my life as it is, this very moment;  Yes to the unknown; Yes to a new blog recording my journey to Catholicism; YES!