faith, holidays

Skydiving with Jesus: Thoughts on Good Friday

(This post has been recycled from the now defunct sister blog, TheBlurryandtheBeautiful)

When I was in college, there was a priest at our church named Father Jim Curran.  I used to love his homilies and would often call Mom after going to church just to reiterate what he had said.  One day, he spoke to us about how he went skydiving as a younger man.  He had gone with a group of friends and could still remember how he felt the terrifying, breath-taking, awe-inspiring moment he stood at the plane’s door, ready to jump…and he could still recall the relief and thrill of landing safely back on the earth.  Over the course of the next few weeks, he would listen to the friends who had jumped with him retelling their experience.  Sometimes, he would think to himself, “No…that’s really not how it felt.  It’s not exactly right.”  Other times he’d nod in agreement…”Yeah, that’s just about it.”  When he really wanted to return to those exact emotions, however, he turned to the videotape he had taken during his free fall.  And immediately, the fear and the thrill returned.  But it didn’t matter who watched the video or how vividly the experience was described.  The only people who truly understood what that day had been like were the boys that took that leap.

Father Curran segued from here into talking about the resurrection.  As much as we think of Good Friday as being…well…”good,” it wasn’t.  Back then, it was a depressing-end-of-the-road-what-have-we-sacrificed-the-last-three-years-for-question-mark experience.  And after Jesus died, what did the apostles do?  According to John and Luke, they locpeaceked themselves away in mourning and fear.  They huddled together because, having spent the past few years of their lives on this epic journey, they were the only ones who really understood how devastating this loss was.  When Jesus rose, He went into their midst.  His first recorded words to them after His resurrection were “Peace be with you.”  (John 20 and Luke 24)  Jesus didn’t come back flaunting His triumph over death.  The next forty days, this Man was pretty low-key.  Why?  Because one purpose of the resurrection was to give the apostles back the vitality and sense of peace they felt when they walked with Jesus; a vitality and peace that was shattered by the cross.  And after these emotions had been restored?  Well, it’s 2000 years later…and many of us still follow a religion the apostles spread for the rest of their lives.

Happy Good Friday, everyone.  May your Easter be blessed!

faith, memorial

Thoughts of my grandmother come unbidden and I smile.  I should really give her a call, I think, trying to remember the last time we spoke.  A second passes and my memories crash down on me.  There will be no phone call, not tonight, not ever.  She is no longer here and although she died a year ago, there have been moments in my life that I forget she’s gone.  And the thundering realization breaks my heart wide open every time.  I want to hear her voice so badly, my soul aches and my heart feels like it’s collapsing upon itself.

This–this vast emptiness I feel–this is heartache, heartbreak, and love all rolled into one.  It’s through this tearful heartache that I find a salty, curious hope: that I may crave conversation with my God as much as I yearn for it with her.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~1 Corinthians 13:7

faith

Tonight is just a prayer.  Today I was in desperate need of it, so prayed some of this over and over and over…hopefully, it’s rambling it’s way to God’s heart.

Dear Father, Savior, Redeemer, please unsettle me.  Please help me grow discontent in my daily life, help me to not settle for complacency in my existence.  Help me long to do good, be good, and be a power for good.  Help me show others today the love that You have shown the world through our creation and the gift of Your son, Jesus.  Grant that I may use the gifts You have given me to help those You choose to put in my path today.  Allow me to share the love and the light of Your glory to rekindle the hearts of those I meet on this day.  Even when I am weary, Lord, I rejoice that I can do great things through You, as You lift me up and strengthen me day by day.  To You I give thanks, glory, and honor and I ask all these things humbly through the name of Christ our Lord.

Amen.

faith

A few Sundays ago, like usual, I went to church.  After the service was over, I prayed a little longer, as is my custom, then walked out the door.  I had to stop at a store on the way home for items like shampoo.  After I checked out and was heading to my car, a woman stopped me.

“Excuse me,” she started, “Did I see you at St. Mary?”

I smiled and told her I had been there.

“You always pray after the service is over.”

I told her this was a custom my father had taught us when we were children.  We proceeded to talk about the service, the weather, and winter as we walked to our cars.

Driving home, I thought about how kind the woman had been and how she had recognized me as a Christian by where she had seen me.  How many people, I wondered, recognized me as a Christian without knowing where I spend my Sundays?  How many people recognized me as a Christian by my behavior alone?

When thoughts like this hit you, they require a profound shift in your life.  You might not overhaul your existence, but you take a beat, thinking, how can I show God’s love better?  What can I do right here, right now, to help someone in need, someone suffering?

I started by immediately changing little things in my life.  I donated clothes, I became a more considerate driver, and I started praying for opportunities to truly help people.  If someone is in need, God, someone that I can help, please put them in my way.  And He has.  Whether it’s getting the opportunity to pray for the recently deceased, giving children in need blankets to keep them warm, or driving a stranger walking in 20 degree weather across town, there has been abundant need.  And in looking for those situations with which I can help on a daily basis, I am noticing Him so much more in all the details of my life.

God has put the body together…that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

~1 Corinthians 12:24-26
faith
Follow.
Trust.
Listen.
Faith.
Hope.
There’s a catching movement in the world called One Word.  Instead of a New Year’s resolution, you are supposed to choose a single word that calls to you and meditate on your life and God’s involvement in it, through that single word.  I had the hardest time discerning what that word should be.
But this is my year of hope.

By the end of this year, I hope to better understand God’s plan for my life; I hope to know what He is calling me to do.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift,
the purpose of life is to give it away.”
faith, random, teaching

Any Given Sunday

Today began like any other Sunday.  I squirmed out of bed long after the alarm had screeched at me.  I made it to church, still tired and sore, and afterwards, came back home to take a nap.

But today was no ordinary Sunday.  Today was the first official day of summer vacation.  The first day where I did not have to report to my classroom or spend hours writing lesson plans and grading papers.  Everything is done, finished, put away until autumn draws close and the days shorten once more.  But for now, it’s summer.  And the freedom tastes delicious.

This was only my second year teaching.  But last year, I spent most of the summer searching for an apartment and a roommate.  It’s nice to be settled this year, with no real plans to go anywhere.  So, instead, I made a list of this I hope to accomplish this summer:

1) Deep clean my bedroom.
2) Read a book a week.
3) Go on 3 awkward first dates
4) Work out every weekday.
5) Learn to cook 10 new dishes.
6) Read a Purpose Driven Life with Karen.
7) Make baby shower gifts for upcoming showers.
8) Get up before 7 every morning.
9) Keep up with foreign news.
10) Keep in touch with students who email me.

I’m spending part of this summer volunteering with inner-city families at a rural retreat in Connecticut.  So, I took a good look at my summer list.  Then I created another one of things I probably won’t completely accomplish this summer:

1) Deep clean my bedroom.
2) Read a book a week.
3) Go on 3 awkward first dates
4) Work out every weekday.
5) Learn to cook 10 new dishes.
6) Read a Purpose Driven Life with Karen.
7) Make baby shower gifts for upcoming showers.
8) Get up before 7 every morning.
9) Keep up with foreign news.
10) Keep in touch with students who email me.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be marvelous!

faith, teaching

Speak the Words on Your Lips

Drench yourself in words unspoken.
Live your life with arms wide open.
Every year, I try to reinvent myself. Toss off bad habits, strive to become the person I know I could be if I really tried. Every year, new year’s resolutions are made and broken. Every year ends with me promising myself that I’ll do better next year. But this blog is not about resolutions or promises or anything that can be broken. It’s about goals and becoming, every day, more and more like the ideal individual I am confident I could be if I really tried. I have five goals to start working on now. Some will be added, others replaced, as I make headway in this constant reinvention of the soul that is life. But the point of this blog is to catalogue change and provide a forum of self-reflection.
Current Goals:
  1. Build faith.
    I go to church every weekend, but there is so much more I should do, so much more I need to do. Read the Bible more. Pray more. Reflect more. Volunteer more.
  2. Revitalize self.
    I need to get in shape. I need to eat healthier food and beome more active. I now go to Zumba classes twice a week, but I need to add more jogging to my schedule. I don’t have the money for a gym membership right now, but there is so much I can do without one. I just need to get moving.
  3. Room makeovers.
    I am a teacher. My classroom is cluttered. My bedroom is cluttered. The only reason my entire house isn’t a wreck is that I have two roommates I try to minimize piles of paper for. I need to clean up my act (most literally) and get to the point where I deal with papers once before finding a long term home for them. I’m tired of the shuffling.
  4. Indulge.
    Reading and writing are like the desserts of life. And I don’t do either enough. I need to read some, every night and write, even if only on here, as often as possible.
  5. Say yes and no.
    My work life is beginning to get more and more hectic. I’m starting up a club this year with a fellow teacher, starting to tutor, applying for grants for next year, attending conferences and classes, et cetera. I love it all. And can comfortably handle it all. I just need to make sure that I don’t take on more than I can handle.
So that’s it for right now. Five things to work on. Easy enough, right?
Today is where your book begins.
The rest is still unwritten.
-Natasha Bedingfield