27 February 2009

Sorrowful, part two

(Decided not to wait a whole week....)

The Sorrowful Mysteries, part two


2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the pillar

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” John 19:1

Let this mystery teach us purity, and to accept God’s will.



Flogging… they used a whip made of several strips of leather that were embedded at the ends with pieces of bone and lead. No Roman limitation was placed on the number of lashings inflicted, and often the victim didn’t survive the flogging. Jesus did.


“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5


Every blow from that cruel whip was for my sake. Every vicious tear in His flesh, every drop of precious blood that flowed was for my healing. Every agonizing moment of pain he endured was to secure my peace. His punishment, my freedom.


My impurities are not beaten out of me; they were beaten out of Him.


God deals with me gently and patiently, always with love. I can’t even fathom the harsh treatment Jesus received in my stead. He must have screamed in pain, but He never protested. He never even tried to whisper a plea to the Father, “Stop! Please stop!”

He would do anything to rescue a lost child.

Me.

You.

©2009 Jennifer Hartline


3rd Mystery coming soon…I hope you’ll check back.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Peace to you,
Jennifer


1st Mystery

24 February 2009

Sorrowful, part 1

From now until Easter we offer all our rosary prayers within the context of the Sorrowful Mysteries. I have found throughout my life a tendency to resist dwelling on these painful events – a common human experience, I think. We instinctively turn away from pain and try to avoid it at all costs.


But as they say, “No pain, no gain.” There is so much to be gained from thoughtfully considering, and yes, dwelling on the events leading to Calvary. But this is uncomfortable stuff and very hard to face with a serious degree of reflection. (I still have to squelch the urge sometimes to skip over these cruel and heartbreaking scenes and go straight to the Glorious!)


I never hesitate to proclaim there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for one of my children because I love them so.


I love my Jesus, too. This year I feel challenged to sit still and do the uncomfortable…reflect on the agony, contemplate the wickedness, listen to the hatred, wince at the excruciating pain…and see myself in all of it.


He did it all…for me. He loves me so.



The Sorrowful Mysteries, part one


1st Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden


“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:42-44


Let this mystery teach us true contrition for our sins.



True contrition… it seems to me that before we can have true contrition, we have to first truly understand that we have sinned.


I think our self-obsessed, modern, “enlightened” culture would very much like to proclaim Sin as an archaic, prohibitive concept whose time is over. Moral restrictions, clearly defined standards of right and wrong, and consequences for violators are all antiquated notions wrongly imposed on people of free will.


To dare to suggest that Someone outside ourselves, higher than ourselves has the authority to define right and wrong, good and evil, and then establish the just punishment for wrongdoing, well, that’s practically blasphemous in this age of moral relativism.


How can we be truly sorry if we’re not thoroughly convinced we’ve done wrong? Okay, maybe we can admit that we’ve sinned, but we haven’t done anything truly terrible, so it’s not really that bad. It can’t be that big a deal.


Think about that scene in the Garden again. Jesus was in so much anguish that he sweat blood as he prayed! He asked God to change the plan and find some other way, so it’s obvious this Sin problem is a very big deal, indeed. The torture He was about to suffer wasn’t due to something small or trivial.


But I can’t help wondering… what grieves Him more – that we sin, or that we try to cover our sin, make light of it, and even delight in it?


Is it the arrogance that inhabits our sins and causes us to deny that we haven’t just broken a rule or made a little mistake – we have sinned against a perfect and just God who also happens to love us beyond our comprehension?! Our sin is aggravated by prideful indifference. Insult is added to injury.


Why? Because it is scary as all hell, literally, to fully grasp the gravity of our own sin and the consequences of it, and were it not for the Cross and the unspeakable love of the Father, none of us could bear it. Contrition that begins out of fear of the just punishment for sin is a good place to start, but God isn’t satisfied with leaving us there. He wants to overwhelm us with His love; that crazy, illogical, endless love that took our hideous sin upon His perfect Self and endured our punishment for us.



We no longer have anything to fear. Now we are free to be repentant out of sorrow, not terror or despair. We can face our wretched condition and own up to our sins honestly, because what awaits us is forgiveness, not wrath. Once that reality takes root in our hearts, then gratitude inspires us, humility enables us, and LOVE compels us to true contrition.



“Blessed is he who transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:1-5



“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge…Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:1-4, 7


©2009 Jennifer Hartline



Check back here next week for the 2nd Sorrowful mystery, and have a very blessed Lenten season.

Jennifer

20 February 2009

Giving Up...?

Lent will soon be here, and I hate to admit it, but I've always dreaded Lent. Somewhere, at some point early in my life, I got it stuck in my head that Lent is a sad, boring, dreary time. So it just seems so gloomy and LONG...ugh.

But this is not what Lent should be, nor what it's meant to be, I've come to believe. So, I'm retraining my little brain and disciplining my spirit for a rich, blessed -- yes, even joyful! -- Lenten season.

Most folks run around asking each other "What are you giving up for Lent?" I'm tired of all the usual suspects -- sweets, TV, computer, ice cream, etc. It's always the same old thing.

I have nothing against a little self-denial. On the contrary, self-denial for the right reason is a very useful spiritual practice. I could use more of it, for sure!

But, can't I come up with something better to deny myself than sweets? (Okay, you're on to me....I can't give up my chocolate!!)

How about "giving up" my habit of laziness in doing my household chores?

How about giving up my habit of sarcastic remarks?

How about giving up my impatient reactions to other people?

How about giving more of myself, consciously, in sacrifice to my family?

What if, instead, I got up, decided to wash those dishes out of love for Jesus, and offered Him my gratitude for all the creature comforts I enjoy?

What if, instead, I held my tongue until I had something kind or life-affirming to say?

What if, instead, I asked Jesus to show me His heart for that person who's really irritating me, and I prayed silently for God to meet their needs today?

What if I chose someone else instead of myself a little more often?


What if I actively decide that I will give up ME for Lent?


After all, isn't that what we all desire? More of Christ, less of me. "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

I want to spend the season not just mindlessly giving up something I can live without anyway. I want to spend the time building stronger spiritual muscle...cementing new devotional habits that will stay with me long after Lent is over.

How sweet it would be to feel the renewal in my own spirit that was in sync with the arrival of spring outside...to experience a small, internal "resurrection" at the same time we celebrate Christ's rising.

If the "giving up" is purposely replaced with "doing" something higher, something holy, then it will be time very well spent, and the blessings that flow from it will be significant.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:22-25



Blessings,
Jennifer

19 February 2009

REAL FOOD... Fast Food?


Sunday morning at Mass I looked around quietly during Communion, and I was struck by a most heartbreaking thought.

“I don’t think we even know what we have here. I don’t think we realize WHO we have here.”


It was the Angelic Doctor who once wrote:

"Material food first changes into the one who eats it, and then, as a consequence, restores to him lost strength and increases his vitality. Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the con­ver­sion of a man into Christ, so that he may no longer live, but Christ lives in him; conse­quent­ly, it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual strength he had lost by his sins and defects, and of increasing the strength of his virtues." (St. Thomas, Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences, d.12, q.2, a.11)


Admittedly, it is a truly mind-blowing thing to accept that the true presence of our indescribable GOD is contained in that small piece of bread we take and eat, and in the wine we drink. (I could go on here for a hundred pages of adjectives attempting to capture the awesomeness of God and I couldn’t even come close.) So for our teensy little human brains to understand this extraordinary mystery is a very tall order indeed.


Every Sunday we gather with joy and gratitude to worship and we sing and pray and praise Jesus with our whole hearts, our minds focused only on Him. We absorb like sponges the Scriptures we hear and the teaching given to us by our priest or deacon, before we finally stand up and approach the altar of grace to consume our true LIFE. And when we approach, we fall down on our faces, unable to stand, because we know Whom we are about to receive and the knowledge is too great for us. We are overwhelmed by Him.


Right?


Shouldn’t it be that way? Shouldn’t we strive for that experience?

But it wasn’t like that this morning. It seemed more like a line of folks at a cafeteria-style restaurant than faithful souls approaching their Lord for DIVINE LIFE.


People were chatting with the person behind them…staring blankly at the floor or the wall…smiling or waving at someone a few rows away…shuffling along as though going nowhere special. And perhaps worst of all, people casually receiving the Lord and then walking right out the door…leaving, without stopping even a moment to pray or show reverence and gratitude.


I know I am guilty of distraction, too. I’m often trying to direct my children in front of me (“cross your arms, sweetie…”) and keep them moving forward, while the 2-year old in my arms is squirming to get down. I feel tired. My arms ache. My mind is 2 hours ahead of me on the day’s schedule. This is not terribly conducive to deep spiritual focus.


Still, this morning I heard Jesus whispering to me, wanting my full attention, wanting the full attention of everyone in the room. I felt Him tugging on my heart, as one wanting very much just to be noticed. Do we not know that we are receiving an unspeakable gift? How is it that we allow ourselves to be so distracted by trivial and even ungodly things during the most important moment of our lives? We seem to rush by Him so quickly…it must wound His heart.


Jesus gave us everything, down to the last drop of His blood on the cross, and now that Body and Blood is present in all its holiness and power to nourish and strengthen us…yet somehow that understanding doesn’t penetrate our hearts enough. In all honesty, I think someone looking in from the outside would think we were just lining up for a snack of crackers and juice.


The Eucharist is the single most important distinction between Catholics and many other Christians. What we proclaim about this Sacrament - and about the holy priesthood - is different than what many other Christians, (other than our Orthodox Christian brethren) believe. We profess that we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as we approach that altar of sacrifice.


It is an astounding truth. So astounding, I think, that our minds alone will not be able to process it and come up with an affirmative belief. Only the heart, only the spirit can accept this magnificent reality, and from the looks of things, it seems we have a hard time getting in touch with our spirits.


It’s a tragic symptom of our human nature that we fail to recognize what we see all the time. Something profound has become ordinary. Something unfathomable has become so familiar we barely give it a second thought. We have it all, and it doesn’t impress us anymore.


I know that we all come with our own burdens and problems and hassles weighing on our minds. It isn’t easy to set all that aside and give our full concentration to the Mass. But those burdens and problems and hassles are precisely the reason He wants to feed us! Our Jesus is waiting, wanting, eager to give Himself to us, hoping we will truly see Him and receive Him. He ordained to give Himself to us in a way we can touch, taste, and consume into our frail bodies in order to be fortified in our daily struggles. But we are weak and afraid, or lazy and indifferent, or self-absorbed and hard-hearted, so we do not find Him. We are not strengthened by Him. We are not changed by Him.


We may take, but do we really receive? We may eat, but are we truly fed? We came, sat down, and a miracle happened right in front of us. Are we so accustomed to it that it no longer ignites our sense of wonder and awe? I certainly hope not. Heaven help us if we cease to be amazed.


We desperately need the Holy Spirit to penetrate our hearts with a renewed conviction of our most sacred beliefs. Perhaps we need to exercise some self-discipline and gain control of our wandering minds during Mass, and train our hearts to “tune in.” We must come with faith, however small, and really look at the Lord we are being fed. If we are faithful to do that, I have no doubt that God will meet us and take us the rest of the way to understanding in our spirits what our minds may find inconceivable. He will sustain us in body, mind, and soul.


Can you imagine what would happen then?

14 February 2009

I need your vote!

Feb 18 UPDATE:
I'm begging you! VOTE! I'm currently tied for votes with a blog called The Daily Profaner! ICK! People, this is not a blog whose company I want to be in, so please go vote for me and get me away from this nonsense. Even the Atheist blog has more votes than I do! C'mon, we can beat the Atheists, can't we? Atheism is, it seems to me, the specific lack of religion, so why it's even in the Religion blog category is beyond me, but let's chase 'em down! Help me!
The link below should take you more directly to the voting area. You do have to sign up and confirm by email, and I know that takes a few minutes, but did I say how much I APPRECIATE YOUR VOTE?
Thank you!

My beloved bloggy friends and followers:

Here's your chance to root for the Underdog!
ME!

A very dear friend has nominated my humble little blog for:
My site was nominated for Best Religion Blog!


Pretty cool, eh?

I'm up against some very heavy hitters, and I know I don't stand a snowball's chance in you-know-where, but that doesn't mean I can't go down swinging!

So, PLEEEEZZE go vote for me!!!

I could at least get into the double digits! Yippee!

I'll be eternally grateful! Thank you!


Blessings,
Jennifer

13 February 2009

I'll Take 'Em!!

FaithButton

I chanced upon this on one of my favorite blogs, and I couldn't believe it... I had been thinking of doing this exact same thing for days now! It's been the theme of my week -- Little Victories! It seems to be the theme of the week for a lot of people!! So here goes my Small Successes...



First: I repaired a tear in my daughter's pants. By hand. Needle and thread. This is a very exciting success for me because I don't sew. I can barely do buttons. But, the tear was right along the seam, and so I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? You can't even find the tear anymore! Yay for me!



Second: Goes along with #1. I sewed five buttons on my jammies. Did a pretty good job, too!



Third: Tried a new trick while decorating valentine cookies: got my royal icing to make really pretty swirlies just using a toothpick. Two shades of pink swirled together... looks so adorable!



Fourth: This one is HUGE. My oldest daughter got braces on her teeth this week, and the victory is that she sailed through the appointment without a fuss! VERY BIG DEAL FOR HER! She's a rather high-strung child. She goes from zero to Freak Out! in less than a nanosecond. But we prayed before her appointment, and she was fantastic! It was a miracle -- really! I am sooooooooooo proud of her!



Little Victories, people! I'll take 'em!!

Praise Jesus!

06 February 2009

Pruning

I’ve seen a lot of folks out lately with big clippers, ladders, heavy gloves and hard hats…and the evidence of their labor lying on the ground.


It’s time for pruning.




I’m feeling it in my own heart as well. Like a gangly and barren tree, I am in need of some reshaping in preparation for spring. I, too, am carrying around dead branches that must be cut off if new life is to have room to arrive.

I happen to love winter. I prefer being cold to being hot, and I don’t mind cloudy, grey days. I find a certain peace and comfort in the stillness while nature sleeps. I’m never in a hurry for spring to come… call me crazy.


God is up to something wonderfully painful this time, though.


For weeks now it has seemed as dormant within me as the wintery world around me. There’s an absence of warmth that goes beyond just the temperature outside. It reaches to the very bottom of my heart, where there are deeply-rooted faults and covered-up transgressions I stubbornly cling to. Something in my spirit is telling me…God is up to something…He is scheduling me for an amputation.


I have prayed for a new heart, and He is answering, if I am ready to receive. It begins with the sting of exposure. My first instinct is to turn away and cover myself further, but oh, that God will grant me the courage to remain still and see with honest eyes the bitter truth!


Some of the wounds I carry have become like old “friends.” I know them well, and they justify my lazy, sinful habits. They keep me helpless and hopeless, yet I welcome them in time after time, and give in to their excuses.


Still deeper I hide grievances unforgiven, bitterness, and judgments that feed my self-righteous pride. If I continue to draw my life from these cold, decaying roots, He knows I will die.



I need to endure this exposure.


I need the hidden, buried, secretly nurtured sins in my life to be discovered and named out loud. Only then can Jesus come to change me.


Oh yes, indeed… it’s time for pruning.



Knowing my frailty, He comes to me not with a saw or an ax to chop me into pieces and leave me ruined, but with a scalpel…perfectly, delicately fashioned just for me.



His loving hand is steady and gentle; every cut precise and necessary. My Sovereign Surgeon leaves no unsightly scar…instead He leaves more of Himself where my offense once grew. His tender love for me remains within me.



I don’t relish the pain of this surgery. It is so tempting to resist and stay in this familiar, though frozen, ground. But I am so hungry for new life, and I am so desperate for transformation!


Lord Jesus, help me not shrink from Your cut!



Though it hurts so much, these dead and lifeless branches must GO.


Pruning is what Lent was made for. It is the season set apart for the purpose of cutting off all that is dead, cold, lifeless, decaying, unyielding, twisted.


Though it brings me to tears, I must take courage and remember there is no need to fear or dread His shearing, for He is saving my life and my soul!



Hold me still when I am afraid, Lord, and do not stop until this dead weight is gone. Change me. Renew me. Do what You came to do. Make me whole.


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