Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What does it take to know He's near?

There are things in this life that can seem like unnecessarily burdens.

Sickness.  Pain.  Loss.  Hard days at work.  Difficult conversations with those we love.  A seemingly unquenchable longing.

What if I told you that God wanted to reach you?  But the way that He wanted to reach you was through those things that you thought were horrible inconveniences in your life?

Laura Story penned this thought beautifully in her song "Blessings."  Perhaps the phrase that speaks the message the loudest is:

"All the while, You hear each spoken need.  Yet you love us too much to give us lesser things. Because what if Your blessings came through raindrops? What if Your healing came through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?  What if trials in this life, are Your mercies in disguise?"

Yet as lyrically beautiful and poignant as this is, it does little to take away the sting of a heavy cross we can pick up and put on our shoulders in union with Christ.  It is easy to talk about burdens, and another to carry them.

It is, in fact, easier, to talk about the burdens of others and watch God work in their life than to turn our gaze inward and admit the assistance that we ourselves need.  Because to us, our life is boring.

Drudgery.  Day in and day out. Always the same.  Void of excitement.  

Steve Furtick, a pastor in North Carolina, said, "The reason that we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel."

Have you thought about what your life looks like to others?  Your daily grind is new to them.  Your everyday is their once-in-a-lifetime.  And maybe they are looking at your life and wishing they had what you found by doing the little things.

Of course we can't say that phrase, "little things," without connoting the beautiful St. Therese of Lisieux.  She dedicated her life to God through the form of a life in a convent.  After her final vows, she didn't see any other view than that which was within her four walls.

Look at her life. Some may say boring.  Deprived.  Worthless.  Waste

But God saw dedication.  Total surrender.  Love without thought of self.

And He turned the small action of a woman giving up her life to Him into a series of hardships that has taught the world how to love through the little things.

Your life is a series of choices.  You can choose who, what, where, why and how to love.  You can choose to pick up your cross and walk a hard-yet-worth-it journey with God.  You can choose to never pick up that cross, but rather stare and complain.

But the life rocked with burdens is a life with countless opportunities to draw nearer to the one who we desire to spend eternity with.

"What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?" (Laura Story).

We all know the story of the woman at the well in John chapter four.  After her conversation with Christ, she didn't have to stop getting water to fill her watering pitcher.  We know she had to return to get water to drink again to quench a physical thirst.  Yet the the burning desire for a Savior?  That was quenched in more ways she could imagine.  She knew what it was like to search for something to fill the aching.  She had been married many times, and the man she was with when she met The Lord wasn't even her husband.

Yet with Christ there was forgiveness and unconditional love.  She would not thirst without a source of relief any longer, because now she knew where the true source of love was.

Pick up your cross.  Come to the source of love and He will help you with your load.

God bless,

Chloe

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Be Bold. Be Catholic.

Today in class, I got a front row seat to a Catholic-bashing party that I would have rather sent my regrets to and not attended.

Fifty straight minutes of an attempt at a humorous, border-line blasphemous class period in which the dissection of the medieval Church was put on display.  Where the sacraments were portrayed as fantastical illusions with no support, Popes were painted as hating bigots with selfish and greedy spirits, and woman priesthood was nodded towards as a possibility.

What's a Catholic to do?  What's a college student who is Catholic to do?

Pray

Some people will try to tell you this a worthless step.  "I'll pray for you" sometimes can come off as a cop out, perhaps what Catholics say when there isn't anything else we can humanly do to make a situation better.  Yet that isn't the truth.  Prayer is a powerful tool - and can move mountains.  Blessed Pope Pius IX once said, "Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world."

Do you have a professor who is shaking your faith? Pray for them.  Know a friend who is struggling with juggling college life and a spiritual life? Pray for them.

God can work in the hearts of all of His children. He isn't bound by our human perception of the word "impossible."  Is the person you are struggling to be a witness to seem beyond the point of reaching?  Pray to Saint Monica, who prayed for years for her son to leave his life of sin and come to God.  He did.  And he became a doctor of the Church.  So, don't say you can't witness through prayer to these people.

Speak up


This is such a hard step, believe me, I know.  I had to hold my tongue in class today because everything I was going to say was uncharitable and accompanied by a few choice adjectives.  But you don't have to stay silent.

You do however have to be Jesus in the life of the others around you - and in a classroom setting that involves both the teachers and the students.

Persecution is an amplifier. You can spend all your time on social media praising God, pray before meals in public and only wear Catholic t-shirts to the gym.  But when the going gets rough and your faith needs defending, people are going to watch and see how your respond to that situation. And if your life in the midst of a challenge is as strong, if not stronger, than it was when the going was great, people are going to wonder what you have.

Don't be afraid that people won't like you.  Mother Teresa said, "In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."



Step Three: Be Not Afraid
Moses was called to free the people of God from slavery in Egypt.  Yet when he was called out of his comfort zone by God's voice in a burning bush, he put conditions on his acceptance of God's will.

"Sure God! Sounds like a great plan.  But it turns out that I have a stutter, so Aaron is going to speak for me."

Do you think that God forgot that Moses had a speech impediment?  That it slipped His mind while picking out the man for this divine mission?

No.  God knows you  He knows your struggles, your weaknesses, your strong points, and your hidden secrets.  He knows the very count of hairs on your head. Which is pretty impressive, given that is my head and I don't even know how many hairs are on it.

Saint Pope John Paul II famously said, "Be Not Afraid."

Do you think you'll make a fool of yourself if you try to stand up for the faith?  Don't.  Say a prayer that the Holy Spirit will work through you and jump in.

Never be afraid to say, "You know, I'm not sure about the answer to that question.  However, I know there is an answer.  Can I meet with you next week and share with you what I learned?"

Be bold.  Be Catholic. Be Not Afraid.


God bless,

Chloe M. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jesus Loves You This Much

We all have parts of our lives that we struggle with.  There are so many days when we wake up, look in the mirror and just want to go back to bed. 

I know I do.  I wake up unintentionally channeling my white-as-a-vampire anti-tan in the summer and am surprised I’m even able to see a reflection in the mirror! 

On a more serious note, though, there are days that we all have beaten ourselves black and blue and just asked one heart wrenching question.  “Who could love me?  I am so broken.  I’m damaged goods.” 

I always have imaged people walking around with back packs on our back all through life.  We stuff them full of sin and draw into ourselves the more the weight is added.  Sometimes we weigh it down with insults and weight more than others do.  We can be our worst enemy.


Guess what?  I know who could love you despite your brokenness.  God.  And we've heard this message since we could first sing along to bible songs, in the back of our mom's minivan.  “Jesus loves me this I know….” It’s still true.  That song is still as annoying as it was when we were seven, but the message itself is pretty timeless.  

God loves you.  Amazingly just not despite of your brokenness, but he wants to love you out of your brokenness?

How much does God love you?

<--- This much.  Hands splayed open, nailed through the wrists to a rough wooden beam, hoisted up so the entire world could laugh at him.  Beaten to an inch of his life and then forced to walk what should have been a quick eight minute walk down the street but turned into a heart breaking journey.  Tripping in the cracks of the road beaten until he had to get up.  So exhausted that He couldn't even carry the cross the rest of the way up to the place that He would breath his last breathe.

Do you know what he was thinking about when He was up there?  What was running through His mind when the crowd jeered at Him prove His divinity and come down from the cross?

"I can't come down from the cross. I have to stay up there for (fill-in-your-name-here).  Because sometime in their life, the journey is going to get rough and they are going to look at the journey I went through for them and they're going to have strength and consolation.  I can't get down, I just can't."

What is our excuse to not give 100% of our love back to God? Romans 5:8 says, “And this But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners.  He didn't get on the cross after we said "I'm sorry."  He died for every sin that had ever been committed and every sin that would ever be committed, knowing that people wouldn't be sorry.

It's time to love God back. 

Matt Maher wrote a beautiful song about Christ's experience on the cross and why He stayed on it....for you.  Listen to this song, the lyrics are just thought-inducingly beautiful. 

It's time to love God 100% with every aspect of our life.  Because He loved us first - and we're called to love in return.

Are you ready for that journey?

Chloe M. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I can't wait to go to Heaven

I don't know if anyone has ever told you this, but God has incredible plans for you.

Like beyond your imagination, amazing without compare, make you shake your head in wonder at every move phenomenal plans.

This past weekend I was at a Catholic teen retreat and my eyes were just opened to the incredible love of our Lord and the beauty of His children.

Sometimes people touch your lives and you never get the chance to tell them that.  Sometimes you touch people's lives unknowingly and you never know what affect you have when Christ works through you.  This weekend I had the chance to tell people that they had changed my spiritual trajectory and people told me that I was able to help them on their journey.

Do you know that Christ can reach down and help people using your hands? That He can hug people using your arms, talk to people using your voice and love people using your heart?  He can, and He will if you just let Him in.

Do you know even the littlest things you do can affect people?  The way you sing, the way you carry yourself, the way you talk to people or interact with them non verbally?  That those little things can make a difference you'll never see?

A dear friend of mine said something this weekend that has stuck with me. "I haven't changed the world.  I haven't cured cancer or won a Nobel prize.  But I have thrown a pebble into the ocean and I've made ripples."

I cannot wait to get to Heaven and get a God's eye view of how far those ripples went and who they touched.

There was a point in my life not too long ago when I was scared to die.  Deathly afraid, pun intended, to leave behind everyone I knew and go to a place that I knew so little about.

The more I build these incredible friendships and communities, the more I can't wait to get to Heaven. Friends who I haven't seen forever? Going to see them for eternity.  People who I run into while I'm rushing around my busy schedule and can't sit down with them to have a heart-to-heart? Going to be there forever.

The saints who I have prayed to since I could pray?  Going to meet them face to face.  It's like a pen-pal who you know through their writings but don't know them face to face and suddenly you get to meet them.  Saint Maria Goretti?  Be right back, fangirling.  Getting to hug Saint Cecilia? Induce heart melting.

Guys, it's going to be beautiful.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1.
Mystery of the Universe #1: Why is it that guys' cologne can smell good for hours on end, but I put on perfume and literally it's gone after three seconds.
2.
This article about what things to consider before marriage is phenomenal - I love the references back to the Hebrew words concerning love.
 
3.
My baptism anniversary was Tuesday and Mom and Dad gave me a great book.  "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  Her writing is so beautiful, it's like reading a poem.  The message of the books is just as beautiful.  So far I'm on chapter three and I've already cried and laughed.  Very much worth the read.
 
4. 
Summer is winding down, just in time for school to start.
The countdown begins today - I have 18 days before I start the
last semester of sophomore year. 
Guys, I'm almost halfway done with my undergrad.
Cue the confetti drop and wheel out the eighteen foot banana split.
 
5.
Next week I'm headed out of town to help on a
Teens Encounter Christ weekend.  It's my fourth
time with this retreat, and I actually have been asked
to give a talk on the Trinity.  I'll post the talk after
that weekend.  Prayers that I don't fall all
over myself and completely mess up :)
 
6. 
I've also been reading Dannah Gresh's book
Get Lost. Wow, this is a book that has every message
that I've needed to hear.  Favorite quote so far:
"I'm certain that a part of you desperately wants to get lost in God's love. 
At least some small piece of us always seems to be aware that we are wired
to seek God's heart and let Him touch our own.  But it's so difficult. 
After all, the love of a guy is so stinkin' tangible.  You can see a guy.
Smell a guy.  Touch a guy.  Text a guy. Get gifts from a guy.
And they are everywhere! There are more than 139 million men
in the Untied States alone.  No wonder we get distracted from seeking God's love!"
Needless to say, this book gets my recommendation.
 
7.
If you have extra time this weekend,
this website has podcasts from Father Mike Schmitz.
He works at the Newman Center for University of Minnesota Duluth.
You may have heard him on one of the Lighthouse CDs
in the kiosks in the back of your church. 
Phenomenal, solid Catholic talks - check them out.
 
God bless and have a great weekend!
Chloe M.



 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The case against the bikini

I am one of those girls who generally does not like to swim.  It’s not that don’t know how to swim, but I just haven’t ever enjoyed it that much.  My innate fear of fish probably does not help the case, either. (Guys, fish breathe out of the side of their face. Lakes literally are giant fish toilets. Need I say more?)

However, as summer is in full swing, I have noticed that there is an issue with pools that reaffirms my hesitancy to venture out to the pool with my vampire-white skin and tubs of sunscreen and stacks of poolside books.

The bikini.
Please keep reading, despite your feelings on the subject.  Maybe you agree.  Maybe you disagree.  Maybe you are reading this post by the pool, wearing a bikini.  Read on, dear readers, read on.

My inner history major is coming out, so I’d like to start off this discussion with a brief history of the bikini.  Louis Reard was a French man who worked in his mother’s lingerie shop.  He went to work every day and looked at women in their underwear.  I’m sure his complaint list was pretty low in relation to his work environment.

One day he had the idea that women should wear these kinds of style in public, and the place that made sense to introduce the fashion trend was the beach.  So he made a swimsuit that was, essentially, water proof lingerie.  If you look at the style through the lenses of the modern era, this swimsuit is now considered “conservative” in comparison.  However, back in the year 1946, it was scandalous. 

Time came for the fashion show to introduce the debut of the new swimwear, and Louis began to recruit his runway models.  It was harder than he thought – no model would have anything to do with waterproof lingerie, poolside wear or not.  So who did he have model this fashion?

A Paris stripper named Micheline Bernardini. 

So we have water proof lingerie, and now a days it seems that most swimsuits actually cover less than what is worn under our clothing.  Even if modern opinion of the appropriateness of a swimsuit has changed, the brain has not. 


Let’s try this in a different situation with a different vantage point – this first scenario is from Jason Evert. 

As a young woman, you are at your house getting dressed and, for some unknown reason, your bedroom wall fell down.  If a group of people were running by, would you stand there in your underwear and wave hello?  Basically the same coverage as a bikini, right? NO! In this case, you would dash for cover as soon as possible.

Then why is it socially acceptable to wear this kind of coverage, if not much less, if there is a body of water around?

What if your dad has his friends over to watch the football game and you need something from the kitchen? Would you ever walk down there in just your underwear?  No! Yet why if you were at the pool is it okay to walk around in water proof underwear around those same people?

Some will say “Well, a guy’s brain is his own responsibility and if he can’t control himself, it’s his fault.”  Others say, “If a woman wants to dress in a way that will objectify her, it is her fault.”

Grow. Up. 

Since when was a problem solved by blaming either side of the issue?  We should be viewing our interactions with others as a way to help each other to Heaven.  It needs to be a mutual endeavor, and finding ways to place blame and never solve the problem is not going to help the situation in the least bit. 



It is not that bikini shows too much of you – it is that it reveals too little.  This was written about extensively by Saint Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body discussions.  A bikini does not reveal your talent as a daughter of God.  Or that you have a brilliant mind, beautiful heart, and eternal soul.  It only reveals your body – and that is not near close enough to who you are as a child of God.

How “hot”, fit, or attractive you look in a bikini does not define who you are as a human being with an immortal soul.  Your figure is not your greatest accomplishment.  How sun-kissed (or in my case, burned) you look at the end of summer and where your tan lines are is not the sum of your being.  You are more than a body and are so much more than the tone of your skin – despite what society tells you. 

On top of this, you are being reduced to an object when you wear a bikini – and this is not a stab in the dark guess, either.  There have been multiple studies done, but one of the most convincing is the scans of a male brain while looking at pictures of women in bikinis.  The study was conducted by National Geographic.

Men would look at pictures for a portion of a second, while their brain was being scanned.  In the rotation of pictures was nature, cities, random events, and, of course, pictures of women in bikinis.

Without the men consciously willing their brains to do so, the scans revealed that when showed pictures of women in modest attire, the part of the brain that uses the terms “She walks, she talks,” and other third person verbs was activated in a guy.  Yet when shown pictures of women in bikinis, the brain automatically switches to the part that is used when using tools, objects and first person verbs (“I move, I walk”)

What does this mean? Why is this significant?   Because bikinis are not helping any of us (regardless of gender) get closer to God or Heaven. 

The reason to wear a modest swimsuit is not because you are ugly.  You are a beautiful daughter of God.  So, if you are beautiful, why cover your body?

Not because it is horrible.  Not because we don’t want to see you.  But because we veil things that are beautiful.  Why are veils encouraged at first communions? Because those girls are beautiful, and going up to receive the very body and blood of Christ for the first time. Why does a bride wear a veil on her wedding day? Because she is a beautiful treasure.  Why do we have a curtain in front of the tabernacle?  Because it is beautiful. 

No one looks at the first communicant, the bride, or the tabernacle and says “Oh, how ugly.  Glad we got that covered up.”   The mystery surrounding the girl, the woman, or the Eucharist is amplified because something is left to the imagination.

Do you want people at the pool looking at you and appreciating you as a child of God, or do you want them looking at you and appreciating what you would look like without any clothing on?

You are loved.  You are cherished.  You are desired by a God who would rather die than risk spend eternity without you.  You deserve more than water proof lingerie. 

Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M.