The idea of Satan used to be unpalatable to me.
He felt mythological, fairy tale-ish. A way to scare children.
But that was when I wasn’t such a good listener.
Since I have tried to let God be the Alpha Dog in my life, the existence of dynamic evil is something I can’t ignore. At the risk of sounding all Jonathan Edwards, I need to share this story.
I have a colleague who has been a successful realtor for 16 years. The last few months have been dry, which is normal for the market—buyers and sellers tend to hibernate for the winter—but in a smaller town with 1200 agents, those months can be long and dark and start to feel like there will never be customers again.
Like any good veteran agent, in the meantime, she has taken advantage of the classes our brokerage offers on marketing and social media and farming and what not. She could probably teach the classes, but she knows that there is always something new to learn.
So she picked a farming strategy for her favorite neighborhood and sent a letter out, introducing herself and talking about the market. Her letter was light and kind and full of experience, because that’s the kind of agent she is.
She sent out 500 letters.
This week she got one back.
It came from a man named Clint in Nevada. By his perfect cursive, I will guess he is in his 70s or 80s and at some point in his elementary years, was taught by the good sisters at a Catholic school.
I can tell you though, the only thing he learned from those sisters was handwriting.
Clint took it upon himself to copy her letter, correct it like he knew what he was talking about, and send it back to her with this charming note at the bottom:
It crushed her.
“I have great faith”, she told me in tears, “and I have prayed and prayed and asked God if this is what I should be doing and promised to follow His plan. Every time I think I’m going to do something else, I feel that I should stick with it. And then this happens. What kind of a person does this?”
The fact that her letter fell into the hands of a nasty old man in Nevada who was so bent on hurting someone that he copied the letter, corrected it and mailed it back to her in Oregon says that this is more than coincidence.
For one hard, tear-filled hour this morning, she was filled with doubt and hurt. Those feelings tried to teach her a lesson about the world, that people are mean and selfish, and she should pack it up and go home because the world is a nasty place. That also is not coincidence. That is what Clint meant her to feel.
Satan works in big ways, like despots and starving babies and chemical weapons.
But he also works all the time to steal the joy, faith and love right out of our hearts, and he uses people like Clint to do it.
Luckily, there is a large contingent of faithful women at our brokerage and one by one, after hearing the story, we said the same thing to her: “That letter is Satan trying to derail you. Don’t let him.”
She made the changes to her letter that Clint suggested.
Then she copied that sucker and sent out 100 more letters.
Three weeks ago, I did a walk through Holy Week for the Sunday School kids.
In order to get it right, I had to sit down with all four Gospels next to each other. I’ve never looked at the Passion that way before. Having all four together helped me see some things I didn’t remember.
For instance, the naked dude in Mark.
But also, how in Luke 22, it says “Satan entered Judas”.
It was a Huh moment for me. I contemplated that—to be fair—Satan was going to be stronger than Judas since this was before Jesus died for our sins so…what is Judas’ culpability in the betrayal of Jesus?
Then I decided it was above my spiritual paygrade and moved on.
Until Easter Sunday when I sat down to watch Jesus Christ Superstar.
We don’t know much about Judas, other then he committed the nastiest betrayal of all time. We don’t know why he did it, other than those words from Luke. We can, and do, speculate that when the Gospels talk of an Apostle questioning Jesus especially in terms of money, acts of service and inclusion of Gentiles, that perhaps this is Judas beginning to feel that Jesus was not what he had said he was.
(See what I did there?)
This is Superstar’s interpretation for sure. Judas sings:
|Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned –
One thing we absolutely know about Judas? He was human and let his fear outweigh his faith. I like the tidy Superstar presentation of Judas’ fears driving his disillusionment because I can relate to that. I’ve said before that given my personality, it would have been hard for me to follow Jesus in his day. Jesus’ ministry was on a “need to know” basis and I’m more a “know, then go” kind of gal. I think I would have been exhausted by all the mystery.
The question though is this: Would I have been converted by the Resurrection?
The answer—and I know this with every fiber of my heart—is yes.
Because Jesus kept his word. And that would have been enough for me to let go of what I didn’t understand, lay down my fears and never look back.
So I wonder—what would have happened if Judas had lived? Would his remorse have become conversion?
The greater point of course is this—there was a plan, the greatest plan of all. It had to play out and needed the benefit of hindsight before it made sense, but I think we can all agree the wait was worth it.
Judas couldn’t wait and missed it all. Maybe beyond the vilification of 2000 years—Dante was especially tough on the guy—that’s the real lesson we can learn from Judas.
Most of the protesters drove by in cars.
But this guy stood on our side of the street. Since we were walking on the sidewalk, he was standing in the bushes, inches from the marchers.
“WE NEED OUR GUNS” he yelled. “WE AREN’T SAFE HERE.”
Then, strangely “IF YOU DON’T LIKE GUNS, GO TO MEXICO.”
A grandmother in front of us stopped. She spoke softly: “We don’t mind guns. I have guns.”
“THEN WHY ARE YOU MARCHING?” he yelled in her face.
“Because I don’t think teachers should carry guns.”
“YEAH, YEAH” he yelled, “TEACHERS NEEDS GUNS. GUNS TO KEEP THE KIDS SAFE. MORE GUNS!”
Gabriel turned around and looked at me with a raised eyebrow and a laugh. “Mom, what the HECK is that guy talking about?”
Sweet bud. I’m glad you think it’s laughable. It was odd and laughable to me too. But I was proud of you, and your sister, who asked me why he was yelling. I told her that he disagreed and that he gets to disagree. She said “Yeah, but why is he yelling?”
I think that’s what makes this pack of kids so threatening to the “pray, pay and obey” crowd. They have demonstrated remarkable ability in a couple key ways: 1. They are inherently geared toward consensus 2. They tolerate disagreement and 3. They aren’t scared. They don’t give a rat’s behind for who’s against them. They care about who is with them.
This makes their momentum hard to control and predict. They threaten the status quo because they show what the status quo could be. Should be.
The grown-ups who make their money in destruction instead of building won’t be able to stop themselves from trying to make these kids get in line.
It’s already started, with the photoshopped picture of Emma Gonzalez tearing up the Constitution. They were willing to take a 17 year old trauma survivor and make her a villain.
And Rick Santorum? I can’t even. Marie Antoinette. He was Marie Antoinette, times about a hundred.
But it didn’t matter. The kids were not distracted.
The kids laughed. Then they got back to work.
This is why I think they are the answer and not just for the gun control problem. They are the answer to the nastiness, the kitchen sink fighting that has become the norm in our national discourse. They remember the lesson that we, their parents, taught them when they were little and scared of the dark:
The monster under the bed lives on fear and darkness.
Don’t feed the monster.
My friend Tonya posted this on her Facebook page. I paid close attention because she doesn’t usually say this much. It’s pretty phenomenal, so I asked if I could share it here.
My children all unanimously decided I was “an average mom”. We were all having a deep and insightful conversation over dinner last night, and at one point in the dialoguing, I was coined this term….”average”.
Now….let it be known that I’m extremely sensitive and take most direct and potentially opinionated comments towards me personally. However? I found myself laughing inside and out, that my children were all on the same page regarding this fact!
They, in true insightful form, had reason to back their theories! I listened and opened my mind as best I could. I was captivated at their strong and researched hypothesis….case in point…I am a “mom”, I am a “hairdresser” and “photographer” and I am, at times, a homemaker that doesn’t bake.
I am comfortable submitting to my children’s opinions and theories. I am comfortable seeking their opinions and their perspectives and I am VERY comfortable confiding in them and trusting them, because they are “beyond average” and have shown me though example and concrete evidence, that they are worthy.
After we all went to bed…I pondered this and realized? I’m glad that I am average in their eyes. In my humble opinion, that moniker makes me “approachable”, “attainable” and “real”, and, let’s be honest, it makes me human to them. All of a sudden, I felt a little “average” tinge of victory as a mom!
I want to enable them with all the artillery they need to achieve their dreams. I want to applaud and encourage their journeys. I want to see their successes and failures shape them into the best versions of themselves. I want to empower their unique gifts and qualities and help illuminate to the world all they have to offer. I want to take the brunt for them and elevate my 3 to the heights they are meant for. And the person best for this job? Is their “average” mom! Because? Sometimes? It takes a mediocre type of thinking to see the magic and beauty within others.
We are all instrumental in the big picture…we all play a role and we all bring something unique and special to the table. Whether we are “average” or “above average” or “below average”….(whatever those guidelines mean???) We all have something to offer. Let’s honor “us” and support others, and let us begin to look beyond…for we all matter and we all have something to say; average or not! Thank you to my beautiful children for the insight I crave and need. NO better three I can think of, that have this ability to help me witness these truths within myself. I wish for you all great things, and in “great”, I MAY mean average;) Because you know what??? I may know a thing or two about what I’m talking about!
Every time someone hands me a personality test, they laugh. I’ve gotten used to this and I understand it.
My personality is not a light hidden under a bushel. It shines like a beacon in the night and speaks with a voice loud and clear.
Last week, I took a Spiritual Gifts test for a retreat team I’ve joined.
At least this time, the nice lady who gave us the test didn’t laugh at me until she gave me the results.
On a scale of 1 (Almost always true) to 4 (No desire towards it), and with five questions for each gift—this means the lowest score (and strongest affinity) would be a 5 and the highest score (and weakest affinity) would be a 20—I scored a 5 on Administration.
Also, a 6 on Faith and 7s on Discernment, Hospitality, Leadership, Service, Teaching and Wisdom.
I’M NOT A MARTHA. YOU’RE A MARTHA.
Ok, I’m a Martha.
And really, I don’t want to be a missionary, healer, evangelist or believer in miracles. I want to teach the catechism, say the prayers, honor the traditions and keep the calendar. I want to organize gatherings where missionaries and healers and miracle believers and evangelists come share their stories because we need that. All of us need that. We need to listen to those with the gifts.
And I need to build the agenda for that meeting, perfectly scheduled down to the last snack break.
I can see what needs to happen and how. I can make that vision come true. I can find and convince the right people to show up.
I may not move the mountain. But I know who can.
I used to think that the payoff for these gifts was a job well done, mostly because my OCD had yet to be diagnosed and treated.
Just like Martha, I had to learn: my gifts are all front-loading. Which means, if I’ve done it right, I get to be present for the very thing I built. I get to see the fruits. It only works if I let myself be done. I can’t try to control what I have wrought.
If I’m still trying to administer, lead, serve and teach unto the very last moment, I miss it.
But when I trust my gifts and my boundaries, then I see this little boy, waiting on God to call.
I see 70 kids singing joyfully at the end of Mass. A 17 year old boy standing in tearful awe of a famous painting in the Louvre. My daughter and her friends dancing in the sunlight in their First Communion dresses. Teenagers giving up their first week of summer sleeping-in to work at church. A young woman we have loved and cherished finding the man God meant her to find and planning a life with him.
So now that’s what I do. I plan and lead and serve and administer and then I send it out into the world and watch what happens next.
I can’t share the test I took on the blog because someone paid for the rights to use it. But if you search “20 Spiritual gifts test” you’ll find some iteration of what I took.
We’ve lived in our smaller house for a year now. It’s been an adjustment, but we’ve figured it out. Mostly. Just don’t open the hallway closet.
Still, as another birthday passes and the weather turns towards Spring, my heart starts to want. More square footage. A third bathroom. A self-cleaning dog run. I cruise the MLS and Pinterest. I dream.
At some point, the wanting steps out of my heart and becomes a monster in my chest.
The Want Monster.
It is naturally in my personality to obsess, and the Want Monster needs obsession to survive. At first, it seems harmless, like I’m considering. Let’s just see, the Monster says.
But then when Common Sense kicks in, or Shea puts his foot down, the Monster roars.
Why do we have to be patient? Why do we have to wait? Now, now, now!
And that’s when the Want Monster begins to steal my joy.
Shea and I have been mostly calculated and patient financially our entire marriage. We’re planners. Right now we are in year 3 of a 5 year plan and we are on track.
In the last month, the Want Monster has tried to tell me that this life is not enough.
I know it is a lie. But once the Monster is born, it takes a minute to beat him back.
Last week, I prayed for God to ease the wanting. I don’t want to want. I don’t want to have my head turned by things away from our life, which is good and solid and manageable.
I think a lot of us struggle with the Want Monster, whether in our homes, our marriages, our jobs, our families. Someone will always have it better, or have something we think we want.
I also think it is an act of grace to be happy with what you have built, with what you have been given. God calls us to live our best lives according to His time and guided by His plan. But best lives doesn’t relate to accumulation of things and the Want Monster is not the voice of God.
Knowing is half the battle. Prayer is the other half. This Lent, I am coming in armed for hunting monsters.
St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.
This post first appeared last year. When I reread it this morning, I realized that it means something different to me today than it did last year. And since it’s still January, I reflected: In the last year, did I rise?
The story of the eagle who thought he was a chicken is a reminder to all of us that we are gifted by God with our dreams and our freedom, and no human law can strip us of those gifts.
On Sunday at Mass, our visiting priest from Tanzania told this story:
A farmer was given an egg. He didn’t know what kind of an egg it was so he put it with his chickens and waited to see what might happen.
The egg hatched. It was an eagle. But the eagle didn’t know he was an eagle, so he grew up as a chicken.
One day a wild eagle landed nearby and said “Friend, what are you doing among the chickens?” And the eagle said “I AM a chicken.” The wild eagle shook his head. “No, my friend. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. You can fly. You can hunt. The world is yours.” But the eagle said “I have always been here, in this coop, eating corn and termites. I know nothing about those other things. I am a chicken.”
The wild eagle flew away. But the next day he came back. “You know what life is like as a chicken, cooped and corn and termites. Come with me for one week and see what life is like as an eagle.”
The eagle agreed to one week, and the two eagles flew away. For a week, the eagle flew as high as the heavens and saw all the world below him: mountains, oceans, prairies, lakes. He hunted fiercely and visited nests built in the tops of the tallest trees and clinging to the steepest cliffs. He saw all the vagaries of life and death, beauty and pain, courage and fear.
But at the end of the week, he went back to the chickens.
The wild eagle flew after him. “What are you doing?” he asked. “You’ve lived the life of an eagle! Why would you go back to the chickens in their coop, eating corn and termites and never having the chance to fly???”
And the eagle said “I like the chickens. I belong with the chickens. I am a chicken.”
The world calls us to be chickens, content in our cages, heads down, eating what we are fed.
But we are not chickens.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are beloved children of God.
We are eagles.
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
This picture. It’s from the Women’s March in 2017, but the message resonates even a year. Maybe more, after Charlottesville and Roy Moore and #metoo and all the other mind boggling crap that happened this year.
I didn’t vote for Trump, because I’m a pro-life Christian. But I’m white and I KNOW that with those lame ass pink hats and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Persistence, we made the women’s social justice movement Pinterest-able, and then acted like we invented the damn thing.
It’s not that #metoo isn’t important, because it is and, #metoo.
It’s not that women are not marginalized, not abused, not underrepresented, not all of it.
But there’s something off about the pampered and privileged white women of Hollywood taking a diamond-laden and perfectly coiffed stand against sexual abuse in the workplace while still clamoring to act in movies that objectify women, glorify violence and desecrate marriage.
It’s in this picture too, where white women stand with carelessly curled hair and memorialize their “social justice girls weekend” with selfies.
As if this is the first moment, the first rally, the first battle.
As if this outrage didn’t exist until we felt it.
That black woman with the bored look on her face and the searing truth on her poster? She is LITERALLY keeping it real. God bless her, because that’s the business. And she’s probably been doing the business, like her mother and her mother before her and back and back.*
She’s also been waiting on us to show up. She is our dose of humility. This is not about a girls weekend or stylized pink ear pictures on Instagram. It’s not supposed to be fun. There won’t be wine later, for the love of God.
Show up. Be humble. Change the world.
*Turns out, she has. Her name is Angela Peoples and she was the director of GetEQUAL before leaving to start her own consulting group called MsPeoples. Her friend Kevin took that picture. You can follow her on Twitter at @MsPeoples.
In our church we celebrate Epiphany—Little Christmas, or the arrival of the Wise Men—as evidence that Jesus was sent to save us all, not just the Jews. King of ALL Kings, baby. Everybody’s in.
Christians have been known to forget this. We all like to think our church is the best, even though we know that’s not the name of the game. The Wise Men serve as a reminder that our ways are not God’s ways and we don’t know what we don’t know.
But in case we missed the point, on Sunday, Father Arje told this story at church:
There were three coconut farmers, and they all lived on the other side of the island from the market. This required them to haul their harvest across the island. One day they were sitting in the shade, sipping cool coconut milk. Two of them were having an argument about the best way to get to town.
“To go around the east side of the island is the best way!” said the first. “It’s the way people have always gone.”
“Bah!” said the second farmer. “That path is old and crowded. Too many people. The west side is new and less crowded. No towns. No one but farmers on the road. It’s faster!”
They continued to argue back and forth until finally they turned to the third farmer. “What do you think?” the first farmer asked.
“Well,” he said, “I have gone to the east and I see the value. But I have gone to the west and there is value there as well. And recently, my sons and I forged a new path right through the mountains, and it seems solid.
“So here is what I think. You can go to the east, and he can go to the west, and I can go straight ahead. But we’ll all arrive at the market. And when we get there, does the owner ask us ‘Which way did you come?’ No—he asks us ‘How good are your coconuts?’”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if this year we worried less about what the other farmers were doing and focused instead on growing good coconuts?
You might be tempted to kick 2017 in the behind and then slam the door on it tonight.
I sure was.
Then on the way to church this morning, Kate said she was going to miss 2017. I snorted, but Shea asked her why.
We swam with turtles! she said.
Yeah, and my football team had a really great season, said Gabe.
And I started kindergarten and played soccer, said Annie.
My volleyball team only lost one game!
I got my favorite teacher!
Mama got a job!
We got a new house!
I have the coolest man cave bedroom ever!
We got a new puppy!
I was in my first play!
One of my best friends from my old school came to my new school!
Teresa got engaged!
All the way to church they shouted out the “highlights” of the year.
Jesus knew what he was about when he said to let the children come and be among us. Adults are burdened by noise and stuff and fear. We let it steal our joy and narrow our vision. I almost let it make me feel like a year–a whole freaking year–was not worthy of my gratitude.
But my babies and their simple love of life reminded me this morning that 2017 was full of blessings and love and goodness.
It really, really was.
Happy New Year, friends. May God’s peace and joy be yours in 2018.
Look at this girl. I met her in 1994, when she was 18 months old. With those twinkly eyes and saucy curls, she worked her way into the hearts of my family.
She was in my wedding:
I was her Confirmation sponsor, five weeks postpartum:
She loves on my babies:
She went to college and she dated and that was a thing because there were some practice guys who were lovely young men, but not The One. One or two of them might have been Almost The One, or Probably Could Be The One With A Lot Of Prayer, Patience and Counseling.
But this is not what we dream for the people we love. We want them to find The One.
Two years ago, praise be to God, this guy walked carefully into her life.
The light began to shine, the angels sang, everything fell into place as God ordained it and two weeks ago, this happened:
I never thought about what it felt like for my parents, who surely prayed Shea into my life, to see me joined with him in marriage. Then Mike called us to say he was going to ask Teresa to marry him and I was flooded with gratitude to God. All parents and godparents and side parents pray for The One, but kids are stubborn.
Mike is for sure The One and I know that because of how he makes Teresa feel. She is so well-loved by him that she glows. She laughs without cares. She shakes the small stuff. Her future is here, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death does part them.
The second best thing about them, after the way they love each other, is the prayerful and faithful nature of their relationship. They are going to do big things as they build their family and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
But first, there’s a wedding in the works! I am the mother of a junior bridesmaid, a flower girl and a lector. There’s a shower to plan and dresses to buy and general squealing into the phone over every little detail.
It’s going to be amazing.