God is a Gentleman

Lately I’ve been asking myself why some people seem to get the God stuff and others do not.  Why is it that I feel so loved by God and my neighbor does not?  Matthew Kelly’s new books, “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic,” points out that only about 7% of Catholics are actually involved in their faith.  I put it to you in a different way:  Only 7% of Catholics feel loved in their faith.  Why? Why do so few people KNOW God?

The answer came to me a few weeks ago while I was listening to a talk at our local young adult group.  The young priest simply said in passing, “God is a gentlemen.”  That was it!  The answer to the question I had been asking.  Peace came and I had understanding.   God will not force Himself on anyone.  In fact, He cannot. If He is love itself than it would go against His  nature to do so.  What does scripture tell us about the nature of Love? The famous passage reads:

“Love is patient and kind: love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). (Note: it is in his bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring  that we get the image of God as fighter).

If these are the attributes of God and God is a gentleman then these are the attributes of a gentleman.  Now I ask one more time:  Why does the world feel so unloved and unknown by God?  Could it be because the world no longer knows gentlemen?  For years now our society has had to suffer this great loss.  Men hold the power of God’s image in a very tangible way.  After all we are taught to call God Father.  Yet, we live in a fatherless culture.  We are taught that God is the great romancer, the image of the lover from the Song of Songs, and yet women are treated as objects of pleasure.  We are taught that “He is wise in heart” (Job 9:4)  and yet men are portrayed as brutish idiots with no direction, no passion, and no courage.  We are taught that God is the great warrior, the Psalmist writes over and over, “He is my Fortress”, “My Refuge”, “My Stronghold,” and yet the family crumbles, leaving in its wake a path of toxic debris with which we are left to build culture and society .  These things are not a coincidence.  If we want the world to know the the love of the Father, the world must know the love of gentlemen.

To all my sisters in Christ:   Allow the men around you to rise.  Expect this of them; encourage and help them in it.  We need them.

Dear Man,

You must take hold of the image you bear as a Son of God.  Our world desperately needs you.  Perhaps if we would see the rise of gentlemen we would also see the rise of God.  After all, “This task was appointed to you… if YOU do not find a way, no one will.”

Name Them One by One.

The Hubs and I recently celebrated the joyful arrival of our third baby girl! Although I didn’t expect the rest of the world to be as excited as we are, what I wasn’t quite prepared for was the excessive quantity of off-color comments in regard to our new family size. Now, mind you, I am the 2nd oldest of 7, so the “are they ALL yours comments!?” are nothing new to me! I’ve heard them directed toward my mother for as long as I can remember, and her clever responses never ceased to respectfully put people in their place. My problem, I suppose, is that I was unaware that having just three children was both uncommon enough that people feel it necessary to draw attention, AND such an overwhelming feat that I best not leave the house lest I become a spectacle at the grocery store! While I realize my youngest two are especially close in age (15 months, to be exact) and they’re all pretty little still (4, 18 months, and 2 months) they’re usually well behaved! *knock on wood* Yet, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard an exasperated, “Wow! You have your hands full!” or “Oh my! You’re brave!” I could probably pay for a fancy date night! 😉

 

As I shared my frustrating experiences with a good friend of mine last week, her mom piped up, suggesting that next time I say something like, “I’m so sorry for whatever it is that has made you feel like children are a burden, but mine are truly a blessing to me!” In that moment I laughed, but as I thought about those words more and more, as I stripped away the tinges of sarcasm and really focused on the truth at its core, I became convicted, deeply and truly convicted! Because, while I could say those words to someone and mean them with everything in me, is that truly the image I portray to the world when I leave my house? Do I show the world that these precious little ones are indeed a blessing? As I stroll through Schnucks (the local grocery), with our infant in my Ergo, toddler in the basket, and preschooler trailing behind with her mini shopping cart, am I a witness to the joys of motherhood? Do I model love as I dialogue with my four year old while picking out vegetables? Do I exemplify gentleness and patience when I correct my toddler for grabbing an unwanted item off the shelf? And do I illustrate peace as I bounce up & down in the check-out line because my 8 week old is no longer sleeping soundly, and everyone is tired and hungry? The answer, if not “no,” is “rarely,” and I find something terribly wrong with that!

 

I’m not implying I need be fake, or portray a false image of “got it together” to everyone I encounter, but rather that I simply be intentional in the witness I bring to the world around me! My childhood piano teacher always said, “practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent,” which my mother then modified to “what you practice is what you will become.” So what do I “practice” in my daily life that is in turn laid bare when I leave my home?

 

The French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is credited with saying, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” So, go with me for a moment…..If I really received an indwelling of the Holy Spirit with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and if I truly become a tabernacle of Christ Himself when I receive the Eucharist, should I not also be a living, breathing, walking, talking, JOYFUL sign of the presence of God? Now, this is of course, MUCH easier said than done, but if I truly believe these little ones are a blessing and a gift, I also believe it should be obvious to those I encounter!

 

So, I’ve decided to try something…. Everyday I’m going to choose to get up, get dressed, put myself together for the day, and that includes adding a smile to my face (or, on those rough days, at the very least, a pleasant expression! ;)) Last Tuesday (grocery and errand day in our house) I did just that….and then we went to the store! Only this time, I smiled cheerfully, I was attentive, and most of all, I was an intentional and joyful mother to the little blessings that accompanied me….and what happened? I was met with pleasant glances and comments like, “What a blessing your little ones are!” “What a precious family!” and “How beautiful that you brought them with you today!” …..coincidence? Perhaps! But either way I got home that afternoon uplifted and empowered, not only because of others’ words of encouragement, but because I was successful in practicing joy, and that joy then overflowed into my interactions with others!

 

So I now challenge you, whether it be in your workplace or the supermarket, the back of church or the gym, SMILE! Count the blessings in your life, name them one by one! Big or small, we all have them! My favorites tend to have messy faces, sticky fingers and loving hearts. What do yours look like? A place to call home? Friendship and community? Or a comforting hug at the end of a long day? Whatever they may be, make the choice to recognize them and not only will it change your countenance, but I can almost guarantee it will change the countenance of those you encounter!

 

 

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” ―Marianne Williamson

 

 

St. Peter’s Gift

“We profess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  2Peter1:19

Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!

These words from St. Peter’s letter struck my heart this morning. Lately I’ve been in a “woe is me” mood. Perhaps you can relate? Last Sunday’s words from scripture were especially difficult for me to listen to (the feeding of the 5000). The idea of God giving in abundance was hard to receive. My head was telling me it was true while my heart was saying, “oh sure you fed the 5000, what about me?!” I’d been asking but not receiving, seeking but not finding. But is that what its all about?

My complaints were over work, family and friends, the usual. But I think for a moment I forgot my mission. I consider my personal mission Out of Eden, that is, “Challenging men and women to walk in the truth of their creation.” However, I forgot about the primal mission, the original mission to which we are all called. The mission to preach the gospel at all times. I’ve put so much pressure on myself that I momentarily forgot the purpose of the mission itself. “To profess the prophetic message.”

The Lord asks great things of us, no doubt. For example, He asks Peter to come to Him on the water. Where Peter fails is in thinking he can do this by himself. Deep down Peter knows he needs a miracle from Jesus to accomplish this. After all, isn’t this why he asks the Lord to call to him in the first place? Like all of us at times, Peter takes on too much. He thinks, for just a moment, he has the power to walk on water without the Lord and of course he sinks.

I wonder if it was this instance that gave him the profound insight written above, “you would do well to be attentive to it.” What is “it”?? THE GOSPEL! I’ve been so wrapped up in fulfilling MY mission that I forgot about THE only mission; the Word of God. The Word that tells us not to worry, to trust, to love and be loved. The Word that tells us JESUS is King and therefore has dominion, honor, glory, and power over all things. The Word that saves, renews, forgives, and unites us all. The Word that was beaten, murdered, and triumphant over death.

What a wonderful gift St. Peter has given me today, of all days. The gift of weakness! This gift has transfigured my outlook and my heart. Through his constant weakness, Peter came to write those wonderful words.  What can the Lord do with my weakness or with yours?

With this new heart I want to transfigure the world. Who’s with me?  Let our transfigured hearts be the lamps that shine in darkness. Let our weakness be someone else’s strength. Let us be the ones that bring the Gospel message so that Christ, the morning star, can rise in MANY hearts.

Lord, today I give you my weakness.  Make of it what you will!