26 September 2010

When Prayer is a Struggle: Just Do It

at Catholic Online


It feels like a terrible thing I’m about to say, but here goes:  I often have a very hard time with prayer.

I wish I didn’t.  I wish I had a heart like St. Therese or John Paul the Great or St. Francis de Sales, but right now I don’t.  I’ve been struggling greatly with discouragement and futility and a lack-luster, ho-hum spirit.  Combine that with the busyness of homeschooling, childcare, housework, and other responsibilities and it’s a recipe for defeat.

Why is it such a struggle?  Everything in me wants to be closer to Jesus.  There’s nothing in my heart that wants to reject Jesus and choose the world instead.  Yet I continually seem to be clawing my way up the mountain loaded down with frustration and doubt instead of walking steadily along the path of trust and devotion.

I love Jesus.  There is no doubt about that.  He is my Wonderful, merciful Savior.  I will not let Him go.  That much I know for sure.  So why doesn’t that translate into a vibrant, rich, colorful, fulfilling prayer life?  What’s wrong with me?

What’s wrong is that I’m me and not the idealized, perfected image of me that I want to be.  I have many weaknesses to overcome.  If I am ever to do that, I need help.  And Jesus, being ever wise and helpful, gives me what I need – struggle.

The struggle is a gift because the most important thing I need to learn is simply to be faithful.  To commandeer Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.”  Like strengthening a muscle through repeated exercises, my heart needs some strength training, and some days the weight is heavier than others.  There are those sweet times when prayer is joyful and rewarding and inspiring, but then there’s times when it’s like schlepping through thick mud and it feels utterly pointless.

It is a test of my faithfulness.  It’s the weight of perseverance.  It will strengthen me if I carry it.  I don’t have to run with it, only walk.  But if I truly want to grow in devotion and holiness, I am obligated to struggle.  There’s no assurance that I won’t fall or fail miserably – quite the opposite.  Sure as the sun will rise, I will fall.  I’ll screw up.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m obligated to struggle anyway.

Devotion is proven during the hard times; the flat, stale, monotonous times.  It’s easy to fall in love, but staying in love requires great effort.  God has heard me say I want to love Him more, and He obliges my request by giving me ample opportunities to prove it.  It’s up to me to push my weak heart to resist the complacency and excuses and distractions and come to Him in prayer.

I recently read “The Sustaining Power of Ritual: Emotions, Celebration, Boredom” by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser and it was a good dose of encouragement.  He begins like this:  “Never travel with anyone who expects you to be interesting all the time.  On a long trip there are bound to be some boring stretches.”

He writes in a reassuring way about the purpose of ritual and habit in our spiritual lives.  Everything is not exciting, brimming with emotion and romance all the time.  That does not automatically mean there’s something wrong.  There is something important to be said for routine and duty.

“Duty and commitment without heart will not ultimately sustain themselves.  However, with that being admitted, it is important to recognize and name the fact that any relationship in love, family, church or prayer can only sustain itself over a long period of time through ritual and routine.  Ritual sustains the heart, not vice versa.”

“Anyone who prays only when she can affectively bring along her heart and soul will not sustain prayer for long.  But the habit of prayer, the ritual, simple fidelity to the act, showing up to do it irrespective of feelings and mood, can sustain prayer for a lifetime and reign in the roaming of the head and heart.”

Jesus knows what meager, pitiful things I have to give Him even on my best days.  It’s not Jesus who tells me I must prepare an extravagant banquet for Him every time I pray, but the enemy of my soul.  That way he can persuade me to skip prayer when I am feeling stressed or disinterested or unmotivated.  It’s pointless to pray when your heart isn’t in it, he lies. Why bother?

Well, I need to bother because it’s the only way to resist the liar.  It is never pointless to pray and Satan knows it.  And whether I say, “Amen” and feel any better for the time I spent in prayer or not is beside the point.  I’m building spiritual muscle and training my will.  I’m showing the Lord in my small way that I’m not a fair-weather friend but a sincere follower.

The good news is that as Catholics we have a rich storehouse of prayers at our disposal to help train our weak prayer muscles.  The Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Angelus, etc., are all tailor-made for developing a sustaining ritual of prayer throughout the day.  There’s also no shortage of wonderful devotional books with daily readings to jump-start your prayer and focus your heart in the right place.  My favorite right now is the In Conversation with God series by Francis Fernandez.  (It’s easy to find on Amazon and most Catholic bookstores.)

Whether the prayers spill out of a full heart and roll off the tongue or whether it feels like schlepping through mud or as dull as watching paint dry, it’s all good.  The hardest part may be just showing up and doing it.  It takes repetition, time, determination, and humility.  It’s a struggle I don’t think is going to go away anytime soon.  But fidelity through the hard times is the evidence of love; faithfulness when it’s easier to give up is the mark of devotion.

So there is only one thing to do – pray.  If it doesn’t come easily, pray all the more.  And be assured that by doing so your heart will be strengthened, your faith increased whether you can immediately perceive it or not.  The struggle is not there to frustrate you or discourage you but to condition your soul for the battle.

Just do it.  And remember you’re not alone.  I’m schlepping right along with you.

Praise!


"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."  Psalm 19:1


Praise God for the new season!  It's finally autumn!  Yippee!!  Only problem is, the weather here has been SO HOT.  Ugh.  Double ugh.  But at least summer is officially over.

Praise God for my wonderful husband who celebrates a birthday tomorrow.  Happy Birthday, my love!  Here's to a few more decades together.

We have the joy of seeing deer come right up into our backyard almost every night (the apples and carrots I throw out helps!) and it's so much fun to see them.  Such beautiful, gentle creatures.

I'm thanking God for 4 weeks of homeschool completed!  We're doing it!

I'm just bursting with the need to fill my house full of autumn things... colors and candles that smell like pumpkin spice and apple orchards and cinnamon, leaves and scarecrows, "Thankful" messages, tokens of harvest and good food.... mmmmmmm!!  Thank you God for autumn!!

What's on your list of Praises today?

 

20 September 2010

The Case For Marriage: National Review Article Makes A Strong One

at Catholic Online


The September 20th edition of National Review magazine contains an editorial called “The Case for Marriage” that is, in my humble opinion, one of the best I’ve ever read on why our society needs to protect – rather than redefine – the institution of marriage.

This reasoned and objective article wastes no time getting right to the point:

NR: “If it is true, as we are constantly told, that American law will soon redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships, the proximate cause for this development… will be that the most influential Americans, particularly those in law and the media, have been coming increasingly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as irrational at best and bigoted at worst.”

Setting aside the drama currently mucking up the issue, isn’t it prudent to consider the merits of the case?

NR: “But we should first consider whether the historic and cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman really has so little to be said for it.”

Indeed.  Before we just pitch marriage out the window in an emotional ballyhoo, let’s stop for a moment and put our thinking caps on.  I believe we’ll discover the case for marriage is much stronger than its remodelers care to admit.

NR: “We think there is quite a bit to be said for it: that it is true, vitally true.  But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood.  Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy.”

So what is marriage for?  The emotional fulfillment of the people involved?  To ensure people have someone to care for them in sickness and old age?  No.  Yes, marriage is an emotional union and yes, it encourages spouses to care for one another til the end, but the real reason for marriage is far more “other-oriented.”

NR: “So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life…The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children.”

It’s about the children.  It’s about the family.

NR:  “Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity.  It has always been the union of a man and a woman…for the same reason that there are two sexes:  It takes one of each in our species to perform the act that produces children…the institution is oriented toward child-rearing.”

“What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.  That is also what a sound law of marriage does.”

It is rightly pointed out that our society today is overflowing with broken homes where children are not residing with both parents in a common household.  (This is not an argument in favor of further altering marriage, but a clarion call to rebuild the family as it should be – father, mother and children together.)  One of the many undesirable effects of this is that now the government must be more involved than ever in the lives of children.  Courts assume greater and greater responsibility for children’s welfare the more our marriage culture crumbles.  For anyone desiring less government intrusion in their lives, this alone should be a great reason to encourage a return to a child-oriented view of marriage.

NR:  “Our culture already lays too much stress on marriage as an emotional union of adults and too little on it as the right environment for children.  Same-sex marriage would not only sever the tie between marriage and procreation; it would, at least in our present cultural circumstances, place the law behind the proposition that believing that tie should exist is bigoted.”

As NR goes on to say to those who object that it is unfair to tie marriage to procreation,
“Harm, if any, to the feelings of same-sex couples is unintentional:  Marriage, and its tie to procreation, did not arise as a way of slighting them.” 

Marriage must not be required to morph into an expression of the ever-changing feelings of society. A married father and mother is what our children need and deserve and what we are obligated by God to give them to the very best of our ability.  We know this is God’s perfect and loving plan for humanity because Christ Himself came to us as a child, born into a home with a father and a mother.  God has unequivocally declared the family unit to be holy and worthy.

Finally, the truth the marriage remodelers least want to hear is that redefining marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would require accommodating nearly every other conceivable partnership or group.

NR:  “The argument that same-sex marriage cannot be justified without also, in principle, justifying polygamy and polyamory infuriates many advocates of the former.  There is, however, no good answer to the charge; and the arguments and especially the rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents clearly apply with equal force to polygamy and polyamory.”

“Legal recognition of same-sex marriage would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent.  The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples – in an institution that makes no sense for them – would be coupled with another message:  that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.”

Exactly.  Serving the good of the next generation has become almost passé in our culture that lives for self-satisfaction, pleasure and immediate gratification.  It’s why we are so willing to justify the killing of our babies in the womb.  We have forgotten that the focus of our lives as adults should be those to come after us along with those who already surround us looking for guidance and protection.  We think too little of the future and too much of the present.

NR:  “If our understanding of marriage changes in this way, so much the worse for the future.”

You'll want to read this excellent article in its entirety.  I don’t know how the lawyers defending marriage in court are arguing their case, but I sincerely hope they read this astute analysis and take copious notes.

19 September 2010

Praise!


"O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise."  Psalm 51: 15

This beautiful morning I am Praising God for the COOL air coming in through the window!  It got down to 65 degrees last night!  Woohoo!  Now if only it would be 65 degrees during the day...or colder!  Can you tell I love cold weather?

Praise God for the joy of praising Him, for knowing Who He is and believing His promises.  This past week I interacted with someone who does not know Him and is very hostile toward God.  It made me very sad.  I can only imagine how it makes God feel.

For the mercy He shows, new every morning.  What is behind is done and His love for me is unwearying.  He reminds me I can only look at my faults and sins through the "lens" of the Cross.  Yes, I am pitiful and wretched sometimes, but I have been redeemed.

For the love of an affectionate husband and three sweet and joyful little girls.

For the homeschooling we have accomplished!  I have much to learn and we have some bumps to smooth out, but we're doing it!  Thanks be to God.  I've never been this busy in my life!!

For clean windows... Hubby and I worked hard yesterday together cleaning several windows that were just loaded with disgusting, nasty stuff like bugs (dead and alive) webs, dirt and grime, etc.  It was enough to make you lose your lunch, but now they're clean and we can open the windows without fear!

For the day ahead and the down-time it holds.  A nap is on the schedule this afternoon, along with some cookies or brownies or something yummy.... a day of rest.

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!  Sing Praise to God!

12 September 2010

Praise!



"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good."

I Praise the Lord today for my country.  Though it grows increasingly wicked each passing day, it is still the Land I love, where my family and I live in greater freedom than any other place on earth.  Lord Jesus, have mercy on us and turn our hearts back to You.


For the courage and heroism of all those who died 9 years ago this weekend.  I re-read their stories yesterday and watched the videos of all the horror and vowed once again to never forget.


For every man and woman in uniform today, serving in hostile territory, facing a very real threat of death.  I thank God for each one of them and beg His constant protection for them.  God grant them a swift victory and bring them home safely.


I'm thankful today for those public servants who still serve with honor and integrity.  I'm praying for the man God will raise up to lead our nation out of the hellhole we're in.  Thy will be done, Lord.




For the clouds in the sky giving relief from the hot sun, the rain, a quiet day to be lazy at home, setting up "Mom's Beauty Salon" with my girls (pink nails all around!), a good mocha, some chocolate chip cookies... for all of this, thank You, Lord.

Please join me in giving Praise to God today for the blessings in your life!  Link up below.
Have a wonderful week ahead everyone!

09 September 2010

Abortion Doulas and the Twisted Message of the Abortion Industry

at Catholic Online


I thought I had heard it all, but then I read about the abortion doulas.

Yep.  Doulas – women who are trained to assist women during labor and childbirth – for abortions.  The Doula Project’s website says they “provide free and compassionate care and emotional, physical and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy.”  They also now offer support to women who are having an abortion via the “abortion pill.”  How comprehensive of them.

In the perverse world of abortion doulas, pregnancy is a “spectrum” and it’s not women any longer, but “female-bodied people.”  One such doula consistently refers to her patients as “pregnant people,” not women.  Why?  Is it now demeaning to be called a woman?  Can men also become pregnant?  Surely men need not be considered at all in the grand scheme of abortion – pardon me – “reproductive rights.”  The only “people” the pro-aborts are interested in are women, so why the neutral, silly new terminology?

The whole concept of an abortion doula is oxymoronic.  I thought abortion was supposed to be a great thing for women, all that freedom and choice and autonomy and such.  Who needs compassion and emotional support for something so wonderful? 

This is the tiger giving you bandages for your wounds right before he mauls you, plus arranging for a “companion” to hold your hand and remind you how painless and great it’s going to be.

The abortion industry wants – no, needs – to seem caring and compassionate, not indifferent to a woman’s feelings.  They’re stuck having to play both sides.  On the one hand, abortion is a “legitimate medical procedure,” a “choice,” a “right,” and simply the ending of a pregnancy.  It’s not a baby but a mass of insentient tissue.  A non-person.  No big deal.

On the other hand, when it suits their purpose they passionately describe the heart-wrenching choice some women are forced to make, and the personal and private pain they go through.  They decry the interference of government into such a complex and difficult decision.

They can’t have it both ways.  There is absolutely nothing heart-wrenching about “terminating a pregnancy.”  There’s nothing sad about vacuuming out a blob of insentient tissue.  There’s nothing heartbreaking about getting rid of a non-person.  By their own definitions of the inanimate, nonviable, insentient, non-person in the uterus, they are eliminating nothing but a condition that resulted from someone’s sperm getting too cozy with their egg.  What’s so troubling about that?  But saying that out loud at fundraisers and rallies, or during political campaigns, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.  It’s a public relations nightmare.

So they twist themselves into a bloody pretzel trying to perpetuate the delusion that abortion isn’t murder, or cold-blooded, or heartless, or violent, or bad for women in any way.  They flip-flop between being nonchalant about the normalcy, the routineness of abortion and then protective and compassionate toward the suffering women who “must” undergo such a painful procedure because they have no other options.

They insist it’s so simple and safe these days, in fact, that they want “instant- abortion-at-home-in-a-pill!” dispensed long distance to women who’ve never even seen the doctor prescribing the meds that will cause their body to spit out the unwanted thing.  (And hopefully not several liters of blood along with it.)

Yet, now they want to promote their softer side and provide women with a doula to help them deal with the unpleasantries of this completely routine yet heart-wrenching procedure, or any anxieties they might be having about ceasing to be pregnant.  After all, it’s emotionally draining to be pregnant this morning, and not pregnant anymore by lunch.  Just imagine if there was actually a death involved!

Don’t want to see that ultrasound image of your baby who’s about to die?  No problem, says the abortion doula.  I’ll stand in front of the monitor and tell you jokes to take your mind off it.  Don’t want to hear the sound of your child being killed?  Yeah, that vacuum machine is kinda loud.  I’ll get you some headphones and blast Lady Gaga for you.  Are those cramps getting painful?  How about a massage?  I’m here for you, hon.  You’ll be outta here real soon.  Just think about all the things you’ll be able to do, the dreams you can fulfill once this is over.

Abortion can’t be both routine and heartbreaking.  It can’t be both the termination of a pregnancy, the removal of meaningless tissue and a sad, painful loss.  If abortion truly is what the pro-aborts insist it is, there is absolutely no need for a doula; there’s no need for emotional support of any kind or any reason to extend compassion.

Who feels sad at the removal of an intrusive parasite in his belly?  Anyone in their right mind would celebrate being rid of such an undesirable, nutrient-robbing worm.  Whose heart is broken by the cessation of an unwanted medical condition?  If my rheumatoid arthritis disappeared tomorrow, I would not shed a tear.  If it’s merely tissue, then women should be skipping in and out the door of the abortion clinic.

All we’ve heard from the pro-aborts for decades is that abortion does not leave women with grief or trauma.  They hiss that pro-lifers have made up the phenomenon of post-abortive stress just to make abortion look bad and sound terrible and saddle women with needless guilt.
  
We’ve no need to manufacture any lies.  The truth is so much easier.  The brutal facts of abortion speak for themselves.  It’s simply impossible to make abortion look worse than it is and equally impossible to make it look all shiny and beneficial.  You can’t dress up the killing of babies and make it seem pretty.  Those who defend the child in the womb have the easy job. We don’t have to constantly change our definition of life, of pregnancy, or invent new rationalizations for why we do what we do.

It’s the pro-aborts whose job is difficult.  “Abortion should be rare!”  “Women need greater access!”  “Post-abortive grief is a cruel ploy whipped up by those who want to deny women their rights!”  “Abortion is a deeply personal and often heart-wrenching decision!”  “The fetus is not a person!”  “The government has no right to force a woman to carry a child!”

It’s enough to make your head spin.  As my mother says, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!”  The pro-aborts have got themselves in such a tangled mess of lies and contradictions that they can’t even keep up with their own message.

The baby-killers know exactly what happens within their clinic walls.  They can’t stop themselves from admitting it.  It is murder.  It is cold-blooded.  It is heartless.  It is violent.  It destroys one life and deeply wounds another.  And they know it.  

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