Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Much Needed Break

My original intention was to get all the posts on the seven deadly sins up before Christmas but it looks like this will be impossible due to lack of time. Michaela has been out of school all week due to a terrible stomach bug and I am packing stuff for the move. It's hectic around here.

Well, I might not be able to post about the seven deadly ones right now but I'm sure getting plenty of opportunity to conquer them! Sorry about the delay. I'll tackle the remaining sins after things settle down a bit around here.

I hope everyone is having a blessed Advent!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Deadly Sin of Wrath

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons 

I prefer the term wrath rather than anger when speaking of this deadly sin. Wrath denotes a form of rage  while anger is an emotion that can, if it is just, bring about good. As in the case of acedia and sloth, wrath and anger can mean two separate things. When we think of the term wrath we imagine an  anger out of proportion to its cause. The deadly sins have been watered down a bit over the years and I believe we may have somewhat lost their true meaning as in the case of sloth/acedia. Acedia was the sin the early church wrote about but this was changed to sloth eventually. This also seems to be the case with wrath. Though the two are used interchangeably and I will use them this way in the post, I think wrath conveys the true definition of this deadly sin (Latin - ira) and we could consider anger a little offshoot of the much bigger sin of wrath. It's like comparing a forest fire with the flame from a match stick - one is far easier to put out than the other. Both can burn you if you  get careless though.

1. strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.

2. vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.

Anger: a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.

I liked the comparison of words denoting the various degrees of anger I found at because this expresses the point I'm trying to make when defining the two words and their offshoots.

Synonyms: anger, rage, fury, wrath, resentment, indignation

These nouns denote varying degrees of marked displeasure. Anger, the most general, is strong displeasure.Wrath applies especially to anger that seeks vengeance or punishment. Resentment refers to indignant smoldering anger generated by a sense of grievance while indignation is righteous anger at something wrongful, unjust, or evil.
In terms of sin, it's clear that wrath is more than simply anger. Wrath is a distortion of anger. True anger seeks justice, wrath seeks vengeance. There's a big difference there. An anger that stems from a yearning for justice motivates, wrath annihilates. Anger properly channeled can build, wrath destroys. Anger can be merciful, wrath abhors mercy. Anger often stems from a love that seeks to change things, wrath from  hatred. Righteous anger has boundaries, wrath very few.  Righteous anger condemns the behavior, wrath condemns the person. In a nutshell, anger has its good points at times but wrath takes anger and becomes destructive instead of constructive.

Some of the signs and symptoms of wrath (unjust anger):
~ vengeful thoughts and behavior
~ irritability
~ fear
~ manipulative behavior
~ depression (can sometimes be a symptom of repressed anger)
~ mood swings
~ impatience
~ addictions (can be outlets for suppressed anger)
~ being overly sweet or too nice (weird but true sometimes)
~ compulsive behaviors
~ destructive behaviors such as road rage
~ insomnia
~ "bad" thoughts  that pop up often (the anger has to go somewhere)
~ chronic tardiness
~ passive aggressive traits
~ difficulty forgiving
~ neck and back problems ( anger makes people stiff and more vulnerable to injuries)
~ chronic illnesses and illness in general (stress compromises the immune system)
~ heart problems
~ strokes

Anger may not be the direct cause of all health issues but it certainly aggravates them. Humans are both body and soul and stress definitely affects our health.  Whether anger is sinful or not depends on the will. If the will consents to the anger then this is when sin comes into play.

What about repressed anger?

This is the area where I ran into trouble. Outwardly, I am very mild mannered and if someone had told me years ago that I had a problem with anger I probably would have laughed. "Me? But I rarely lose my temper!" And that would be true...I didn't get angry very often. (Barely ever, which in itself should have been a clue that things were awry. After all, anger is an emotion and it's not like God forgot to give me the full set.) So, you can imagine my surprise when the Lord decided to reveal that I most certainly DID have a problem with anger. God showed me that I had learned to completely shut down my anger as a child because I wasn't "allowed" to get angry. The thing is - people can't totally shut down their anger without harming themselves, can they?  Even to this day I struggle with calling anger what it is. (Probably the reason I study it so much too.) If we think of the words suppressed, repressed, oppressed,  and depressed  we see the word "pressed" in all of them. Anger is crushing, pressing, and heavy and that's exactly how I often felt inside. If we aim it at others we crush them and if we aim it at ourselves we crush ourselves. People can only handle a certain amount of pressure before it takes its toll and anger is not something we want to carry around with us every day.

Some would say that when we are angry it's better to "let others have it" rather than suppress it. To "let it fly" and to heck with the consequences. The trouble with this is that the consequences of being on the receiving end of this type of anger can be tragic because everyone suffers the brunt of it. Those who "let others have it" do indeed pile their anger on others while still keeping it themselves at the same time. Anger is one of those things that grows and spreads when you share it too generously.

Anger turned outward can bring about oppression, while anger turned inward can bring on depression. Neither of these is healthy, both harm people. Anger can also bring on physical illnesses. Stress really IS a killer.

The opposing virtues to anger/wrath are meekness and patience. The more someone practices patience, the stronger this virtue gets. We all have daily opportunities to develop this virtue - during traffic jams,  in long lines at stores, dealing with cranky customers, etc...

If I were to recommend Scripture passages for the battle against anger (including suppressed/repressed anger), the Psalms would win hands down. We find reflected in the Psalms every emotion under the sun and I believe praying the Psalms gives us a safe place to release our own emotions without harming ourselves or others.

Empathy is another weapon against anger. When we place ourselves in someone else's shoes and understand that they are wounded just like us it takes the sting out of anger. As with envy, it's important to pray for those who have offended us in some way.

 It's not uncommon for those raised in dysfunctional families to suppress their emotions. There may be a lot of hurt, pain, and fear hiding underneath suppressed/repressed anger so forgiveness will likely play a key role when the Lord helps you work through these issues. Trust the Holy Spirit to set the pace for your healing - it can be somewhat overwhelming if we try to push things too quickly. Healing will come over time if we allow the Holy Spirit to go about his work without trying to outrun Him (which leads to a loss of peace).

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.
                                                                                    Eph. 4:26-27

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Suppressed, Repressed, Oppressed, Depressed - The Many Shades of Anger

Anger, also known as wrath, is the deadly sin I'm tackling this week. This capital sin is one I've
struggled with over the past ten years in the form of "repressed" anger. Outwardly, I am very mild
mannered and if someone had told me years ago that I had a problem with anger I probably would
have laughed. "Me? But I rarely lose my temper!" And that would be true...I didn't get angry very much.

You can imagine my surprise when the Lord decided to reveal that I most certainly DID have a problem with anger. As a matter of fact, I was a very angry girl (and girl, not woman, is the right term here) inside and the Lord was about to start dredging this stuff up. Underneath the sweet exterior there was a raging volcano  just waiting to explode some day. I soon became aware that the question wasn't so much "Who was I angry at?" as "Who wasn't I angry at?"  I didn't even realize I was angry at anyone. (I prefer "angry at" to "angry with" because "angry with" almost seems to imply that the other person is angry too.) So, not only was I mad at half the world, come to find out...I was even angry at myself.

Uhm...I was even mad at God for creating me. I know that sounds pretty bad but... it is what it is. I was angry at the Lord of the entire universe, the Author of Life himself. Of course, I didn't know this all at was revealed gradually over a period time. First, God showed me that I had learned to completely "shut down" my anger as a child because I wasn't "allowed" to get angry. The thing is - people can't totally "shut down" their anger without harming themselves, can they? Not without God.  Even to this day I struggle with calling anger what it is. I sometimes have to ask God what this emotion is I'm feeling. If we think of the words suppressed, oppressed, repressed, and depressed  we see the word "pressed" in all of them. Anger is crushing, pressing, and heavy and that's exactly how I often felt inside. If we aim it at others we crush them and if we aim it at ourselves we crush ourselves. People can only handle a certain amount of pressure before it takes its toll.

Walking through the steps of forgiveness with the Lord, we worked in this manner:

First He helped me forgive others. This took a long time because I often didn't even know I harbored resentment toward anyone. Next, I had to forgive Him. And finally, I had to forgive myself (which we are still working on). Hiding beneath my anger was a boatload of hurt and pain and we worked (and continue to work) through this as well. It's not uncommon for those raised in dysfunctional families to suppress their emotions like this and to have to deal with the repercussions later on in life.

Some would say that when we are angry it's better to "let others have it" rather than suppress it. To "let it fly" and to heck with the consequences. The trouble with this is that the consequences of being on the receiving end of this type of anger can be tragic because everyone suffers the brunt of it. Those who "let others have it" do indeed pile their anger on others while still keeping it themselves at the same time. Anger is one of those things that grows and spreads when you share it too generously.

Anger turned outward can bring about oppression, while anger turned inward can bring on depression. Neither of these is healthy, both harm people. Anger can also bring on physical illnesses. Stress really IS a killer.

In my next post I'll list the signs and symptoms of this deadly sin and discuss ways to overcome it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sabbath Moments

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Come check out Colleen's site and read some of the other Sabbath Moments linked there!

We've had very warm weather the past few weeks- Springlike with temperatures in the sixties! I've even been able to leave the slider open for a while each day! Usually by this time of the year it's pretty cold and I'm enjoying this gorgeous weather while it lasts. We are doing some house hunting. We've looked at a few houses in a nearby town and have an appointment to look at another one tomorrow. I hope it's as pretty as it looks online. It sits on a two acre lot and is just a couple of minutes away from a lake. After living in a condo for so long we are looking forward to having land of our own. Maybe I'll finally get a chance to plant a garden of my own (and that makes me smile) soon!

I'm caught between laughter and horror while writing the series on the seven deadly sins this past month. On one hand it's humorous how blind I can be, on the other hand I'm a teeny bit horrified by the amount of work still ahead of me. No wonder the Lord impressed the words "Put your hands to the plow" upon me because I have the sinking suspicion that I was sitting beside the plow in his eyes. Being a bit dense when it comes to where I am spiritually, it has even crossed my mind that I may have been laying down next to the plow. No doubt God thinks he's being pretty funny by inspiring me to post on the seven deadlies...He knew what I'd find. To be honest, I often find the means He uses to reveal things about myself (that I'd maybe prefer to ignore?) rather humorous too. I admire his gentleness.

Speaking of humor, I loved your new book, Victor! Thank you for all the laughs!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Facing Off with Envy

Envy is sorrow when faced with the talents, gifts, material goods and blessings of others. Envy isn't looking at others and noticing their gifts and virtues. Emulating someone is not envy. Looking up to someone is not envy.  Wanting what they have AND feeling sad or wishing they did not have it is envy. Looking upon someone as a hero or model is good and can help us by motivating us to improve ourselves. Saints come to mind here and having a saint as a role model can help one progress in virtue. There's humility in looking up to someone else. Humility looks up, envy looks down. This makes perfect sense since one is from heaven while the other is from hell. The humble person may try to emulate his or her hero, an envious person has no heroes because envy distorts truth and seeks to strip the heroic qualities away from others. Humility applauds, envy belittles.

Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue, has this to say  about envy: Envy removes joy because envy is the opposite of gratitude, and gratitude is the seedbed of joy. This particular sentence stuck with me because it shows us one of the ways to combat envy ...gratitude. Cultivating a grateful heart is one of the first steps toward living a life of joy and  peace. One of the ways we can do this is by meditating on God's deep and individual love for each and every one of us. In God's eyes we are each unique and utterly irreplaceable. Every single person on this planet has a mission and purpose that is unique to that person. No other person can do this particular "job for God" because they are not equipped for it. I can't fulfill your mission and you can't fulfill mine. We live in a culture that has lost it's respect for the sanctity of human life and the end product of this "ingratitude" is a society that sees people as easily replaced. Simply being immersed in such an atmosphere can result in  feeling unlovable and disposable. God, on the other hand, sees everyone as "special". He loves us so much that He refuses to live without us and has gone so far as to have a place in heaven waiting for each one of us. He even tells us this is so! We are the ones who reject Him... He NEVER rejects us. Pure love is incapable of rejecting anyone. When we begin to really understand and trust in the immensity and purity of this love a grateful heart becomes very easy to cultivate.

While writing these posts on the seven deadly sins I have noticed a common thread that weaves through them :


Another blogger commented on this too. The seven deadly sins seem to be fear-based for most of us. Fear of not being lovable, fear of not measuring up, fear of our own sinfulness, fear that, because there IS a hell, then maybe we could just possibly end up there. Perfect love casts out fear and this is the reason that I believe meditating on God's love is the surest path of healing for us. When we grow in the knowledge of God's tremendous love for us gratitude comes easily and a grateful heart is a loving heart.

Along with practicing the virtue of charity, envy can be opposed by meditating on Scripture passages that speak of God's great love for his people as a whole and for the individual person. I'll list a few Scripture verses that are helpful at the end of this post. Another thing that I think may be helpful to those battling against envy is understanding that other people make us holier. It's very difficult to grow in holiness alone. One of the ways we grow in virtue is through our interactions with others. Also, when we help others grow in holiness...we grow in holiness. God likes it when we ask Him to make saints out of others. I ask him to do this all the time because God loves to answer this particular prayer. One of the drawbacks of living in such a competitive world is that it can pit us against one another if we allow it to. This is not God's way but man's way. God wants us to help one another grow in holiness. Praying for those we envy is very helpful in overcoming this capital sin.

Here are some helpful Scripture passages on love and gratitude:
~ John 3:16
~ Eph 2: 4-5
~ Rom. 8: 37-39
~ Jer. 29:11
~ Psalm   86
~ 1 Jn 4: 9-11
~ Gal. 2:20
~ Psalm 136
~ Col. 2: 6-7
~ Heb. 12:28-29

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Sad Face of Envy

As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.
                                            St. John Chrysostom

St. Thomas Aquinas defines the capital sin of envy as "sorrow at another's good". No wonder very few people admit to envy... even the definition sounds terrible. It's hard to believe we actually may become sorrowful when good things happen to others, or if others have special gifts and talents, but most of us have been here at some point. As a child and young adult I remember envying others a lot. I would actually feel sad and wish that they did not have the gifts they had. Envy is one of the first things that God worked out of me and he did this by showing me his love. Once we understand the greatness of God's love for us envy tends to fall by the wayside because we understand the one true need in our life is God himself and that this gift is given to everyone without exception. Many of the seven deadly sins are fear based and envy is one of these. The problem with envy is that it is completely lacking in charity. It not only sorrows because someone else has been blessed in some way, it wishes the person had not received the gift or blessing. It  may even wish ill on others. I started this post with the quote from St. John Chrysostom because of the truth it contains... envy consumes a person from within if it is not stopped in its tracks.

Envy is a sin against charity. Love seeks good for others, envy the opposite. One common sign that envy is at play is when you hear someone praise a person and then proceed to rip them apart. For instance:
"Don't you just love Mabel?! She is so talented! Still, it's just terrible that she doesn't know how to keep those children of hers in line. As smart as she is you would think that her mothering skills would be better. And did you see that AWFUL dress she wore to the wedding? It matched that plaid sofa she's got in her living room! Bless her heart! That woman has no taste...(yap, yap, yap)." The conversation goes on and by the end it is clear that Mabel is one slothful/ugly/mean/crazy/ungrateful, but don't forget talented, woman in the eyes of the speaker. Gossip often has its roots in envy.

Spiritual envy goes one step further. It actually sorrows over another's relationship with God. I found this quote by St. John of the Cross at Portiuncula: the Little Portion and it gives an example of just how unloving envy can be:
"Certain beginners feel disappointed when they perceive the goodness of another. They suffer from profound envy and can hardly bear it when they realize that someone else is ahead of them on the spiritual path. They would rather not hear another be praised. When they find that another's virtues are being celebrated, they can't stand it and are compelled to contradict them. Because no one is saying such great things about them, their annoyance grows; they yearn for preference in all things."
                                                                                         St. John of the Cross
Envy is dangerous because it leads to so many other sins - detraction, calumny, lies, uncontrolled anger, and other sins against charity.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of envy:
~ bitterness
~ fault finding
~ resentment
~ fear
~ low self-esteem
~ depression (a note: depression can have physical causes too so this takes discernment)
~ judgmental attitude toward others
~ contempt for others
~ lying
~ gossiping
~ detraction
~ slander
~ ingratitude
~ a lack of peace and joy

Similar to the distortion pride brings, those who struggle with envy have a warped view of God, themselves, and others. All the deadly sins distort truth in some way and envy does it with a vengeance. If sloth makes it seem as if one is constantly trudging through water, envy is like stumbling through the rough waters after a storm and then throwing down stones in hopes of making the way more difficult for others. I say this because sloth has no storms whereas envy is filled with them. One is more apathetic than the other. Those who are envious end up walking alone because envy (like pride) is against unity and God is all about unity. Sloth may not even notice that someone is next to them while envy is perfectly aware that someone is with them and resents it. Sloth is more apt to sin through omission, envy - commission. Both are deadly. You can find out more about the sin of sloth in my post, The Joy Thief.

It probably comes as no surprise that envy's opposing virtue is charity. This in itself shows the deadliness of envy. In my post, Facing off with Envy, you can find some practical ways to tackle envy.  Practicing the virtue of charity is helpful but what I found most helpful in this area is meditating on the love of God. Gratitude is another powerful weapon against envy and I speak more about this in Facing off with Envy. I also speak about what envy is not because this deadly sin can be confusing at times.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Need or greed?

A few years back I wouldn't have written these posts on the seven deadly sins one right after the other. I think I probably would have become a bit discouraged at what I found and probably would have made a million excuses for my behavior. I'm good at that. As a matter of fact, I had to ask the Lord for the grace to take a good look at myself without getting upset because I really wanted the truth...but not truth without the mercy that is necessary for examining oneself. The point is to recognize where I need to
improve but to do it without anxiety, trusting that the Lord will provide the grace for an honest examination of my heart. I have learned the hard way that trying to push before it's time to push just stops all progress and sometimes causes despair. I have had to learn (and am still learning) to be gentle but firm with myself. To not be so spiritually greedy, wanting it all at once, but to slow down a bit and learn what the Lord is trying to teach me about both myself and Him.

Thinking about greed this week, I have realized that most of us live in a time and place where it's hard NOT to be greedy. We live in a society that breeds discontent. Companies promote a "must have" mentality through their advertising and sales tactics. What used to be "wants" have become "needs" and people are often judged today by what they have rather than who they are.  While there is nothing wrong with having a few extras, do we really improve the quality of our lives when we add the "latest, greatest, thing" to our households? Or are we trying to distract ourselves in some way? Are we happier today than our grandparents were in the past?

The day after Thanksgiving has been termed "Black Friday" and when I consider this name I can't help but think how fitting it is. The fact that it comes right after Thanksgiving just seems to add to the day's darkness. There's something very ugly about Black Friday and something very sad too. Over the years, many stores have started opening up earlier and earlier and, now, some even open up their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself. Where does this frantic consumerism end?

I wonder what God thinks about Black Friday? I was wondering about that today after reading a post by another blogger. Food for thought. Instead of being thankful for what we have, we want more. Sounds like a good definition of greed, doesn't it?

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of greed:
~ lack of trust in God
~ fear
~ a distrust of others
~ being dissatisfied with one's life
~ a pessimistic outlook on things
~ hoarding
~ being manipulative
~ a worldly outlook and a spiritual dullness
~ stinginess (tightfisted with money and goods)
~ boredom
~ ingratitude

Greed's opposing virtue is liberality (generosity).  The generous giving of one's time, money, or goods to those in need is the way to overcome greed. Praying for an increase in the virtue of charity is key when tackling this vice.  I find praying the Rosary and reading Scripture very helpful when it comes to greed. It helps combat the spirit of worldliness that we carry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More is Never Enough - Greed

This week I am trying to root out greed, also known as avarice. Though it cannot be overcome in a week, simply being aware that greed may still be a part of my life is a step in the right direction. After all, acknowledgement of our failings leads to repentance and forgiveness. Sin cannot be forgiven if one does not admit that he or she needs forgiveness. Admitting our faults is a basic requirement.   I can go through my life seemingly unaware that I am affected by the seven deadly sins but this would be feigned ignorance on my part because with conversion comes the light to know oneself and this grace cannot be denied easily.  If I look away each time the Lord taps me on the shoulder asking me to look more deeply into my heart I will pay a heavy price for that turning away some day. Better to search here than in Purgatory.  It's a lot less painful to do it here on earth. Maybe not painless but certainly less painful.

Greed is the inordinate desire for money or earthly goods. We see manifestations of this capital sin everywhere we look in today's society, a good example being the avarice that gripped our large financial institutions a few years back to such an extent that they needed government bailouts to stay afloat. An article I read when this happened said the downfall of our financial institutions was "bad banking decisions" but the truth is that greed was the culprit here and many of the banks have continued basing their banking practices on greed rather than using money justly. Good old common sense tells us where this will land us once again.

A hunger for power may be one of the more dangerous manifestations of greed. We see the damage dictators have wrought in our century but ordinary people can be "little dictators" too. Some folks lord it over their families and run their household with an iron hand that brooks no disobedience. Right or wrong is not the issue here because a "little dictator" does not respect the free will of others. Greed and pride make a volatile mixture. If gluttony causes a narrowing of the spirit, the mixture of greed and pride bring about a deadly spiritual rigidity that is difficult to pierce. Pride believes it is always right and greed walks all over others to get what it wants. And after it gets what it wants... it wants more. They are very dangerous partners.

Greed is often fear based and uses the goods of the earth as a "physical" blockade of the heart. Greed does not trust God or others. Nor does it trust itself. It uses "stuff" as protection and "lording it over others" as proof that it is self-sufficient but once these things are taken away it becomes obvious that this is not the case. Greed is the refusal to entrust oneself into God's hands... which stems from fear. The problem is that we must learn to trust God totally. The more greedy we are, the more painful our separation from this earth at death will be because dying well requires an complete abandonment of ourselves into the hands of God. If we trust things more than God this poses a big problem, doesn't it?

Greed is unhappy because it confuses "having" with "being". Because it confuses these two it always seeks more because what it has is not enough to fill what can only be filled by God.

In my next post I'll write about some of the signs and symptoms of greed and about greed's opposing virtue.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dainty Eating Habits?

Hieronymus Bosch: Gluttony

I have to admit that I don't know as much about gluttony as I thought I did. Most of the information I had on this sin was from Peter Kreeft's book Back to Virtue. I don't know why I thought it was as simple as overeating or drinking too much...I should have known there was much more to it.

The easy definition of gluttony is eating or drinking inordinately. Who hasn't been guilty of this sin at times? Very few of us I'm sure. For those who say, "Wait a minute! I never overeat or drink too much!" I have some bad news for you (well, it was bad for me at least):

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, gluttony consists of :
~eating food that is too luxurious
~eating too much food
~eating daintily (fussiness about food preparation)
~ eating at inappropriate times (for example too much snacking at night or between meals)
~eating too eagerly


 I have done most of these things. I've definitely shovelled food down my throat without paying much attention to what I was doing. I've eaten at inappropriate times too. Though these things may seem nitpicky, St. Thomas warns us about each of these because gluttony generates other sins. Plus, it is selfish. I guess in our day many of us consume too much of the world's goods. As if the above definition is not enough, gluttony can also carry over to areas other than eating or drinking. 

What are some of the signs and symptoms of gluttony?
~ mindless eating
~ hiding or sneaking food
~ hoarding food
~ being picky about how your food is prepared
~ snobbery when it comes to food (only the best, costliest or most exotic food will do)
~ using food to soothe emotions
~ addictions (alcohol, drug, caffeine, etc...)
~ eating disorders
~ insomnia
~ ill health
~ lethargy
~ lack of zeal for God

The list could go on but these are the most obvious ones. I didn't put being overweight on the list because thin people can have as much of a problem with gluttony as heavy people. Gluttony is more about having a "malnourished" soul. Our selfish over consumption of the things of this world lead to a narrowing of the spirit and a lack of generosity toward others. This is conquered by praying for and practicing the virtues of temperance and charity. Fasting is a great help with this deadly sin. We can also pray for a heart that's rightly ordered because a disordered heart is one that is too focused on oneself.

I won't even get started on the subject of spiritual gluttony...I'll leave that to an expert - St. John of the Cross

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Mean Sloth Aggravates Gluttony?!

Yes, sloth makes it harder to implement the remedies that need to be applied to tackle other sins.

This week I am working on the sin of gluttony. This doesn't mean that I've stopped battling against sloth or acedia - that one will likely be a lifelong process as it definitely seems to be the "king pin" when it comes to my spiritual life. As a matter of fact, acedia plays a big role in my inability to overcome certain sins, even more so than pride, though that too has a place in the bigger picture when it comes to sin. I have no idea whether these posts will even be helpful to others since everyone is unique but the possibility is there so I'll attempt to explain this connection:

Gluttony is by no means my worse fault but it is there to a degree. Maybe not so much in the area of my total food consumption as in my proclivity to addictions to certain foods (drinks too). My nemesis is ice cream. Diet Coke, too, when I don't put a hold on it. I could happily eat ice cream every single day...along with my Diet Coke. My ice cream eating is more than just a simple sweet tooth. By paying attention, I've noticed that I'm most inclined to open the freezer when I'm upset about something. I used to think that I just "liked" the taste, which I do, but it's more than that. I don't like when there is not a lick of ice cream in the house. I like to have it on hand "just in case".

"Just in case of what?" you may ask.


Here's where the problem with sloth has adverse effects on my ability to conquer the other deadly sins. (Though sloth and acedia have slightly different meanings I am going to use the term sloth rather than acedia because sloth is used more often today and seems to have mostly replaced the word acedia.) Sloth says, "I'll work on gluttony tomorrow. Today is not a good day as I have a headache/cold/backache (pick your ache of choice...they all work just fine I've noticed). Surely God wouldn't deny me a sweet treat when I'm feeling so ill. Besides, I'm offering up my sufferings today and certainly that's more than enough. I mean, good grief, the size of my cross is enormous already! Anyone can see that. (We could get into talking about pride here as well...but I don't want to make it too complicated). And I also have soooo many things to do today. It's just not a good day to fast. I'll do it tomorrow when there's less on my plate for the day..."

I could go on and on but I'm sure you get my drift. It's probably more honest to simply say, "I'm not going to fast today" and forget all the self justification that goes along with sloth. I'm really good at justifying myself. Sadly, this just makes matters worse in the long run, as you can see.

Sometimes my attempts at justifying myself become so humorous that I laugh and wink at God. It's not that I'm trying to insinuate by my laughter that it's not important to overcome bad's my feeble attempts at excusing my actions that crack me up. How obvious they are to God! Do I really think He doesn't see right through this?

The point is: I have difficulty applying the remedy, in this case fasting and practicing the opposing virtue of temperance, because of the problems with sloth. How can I not laugh at the inanity of my dilemma?  It's at times like these when I thank God for the sense of humor He has given me! How easy it would be to get upset about the tasks in front of me instead and throw my hands in the air. Except for one up discounts grace and grace is more than capable of tackling the vices.

You can see at this point why I chose to tackle sloth first, in my case. If I tackled gluttony first it would be like trying to move water out of a bucket with a leaky cup. Obviously, the deadly sins take a lot longer than 7 weeks to overcome but writing about these sins is helping me to understand just how much of a part they have played in my life. Plus, I am learning a great deal about virtues to boot.

There is more to gluttony than just the over consumption of food and drink and I'll get to this in my next post. In this one, I wanted to show the interplay and the connection between certain sins such as gluttony and sloth. All the deadly sins are intertwined to a degree but don't let this make you feel overwhelmed because virtues are like this too and virtues are stronger because they come from God.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sabbath Moments

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the moments we "let go and let God" and live in the present moment. Here are some of my special moments:

~ Going to morning Mass after I drop Michaela off at the bus stop. I really look forward to this. Praying the Rosary before Mass helps me to prepare my heart for Communion.

~ Our puppy is so funny! His antics keep us in stitches! Today we gave him a bath and he ran like a maniac through the house afterward. He's lovable, sweet natured, and full of energy. Very difficult to train though. He still thinks that the world is one giant chew toy...and bathroom. Oh well, there's a plus to all this - no doubt the folks who put out disinfecting wipes love me. And I love them too, of course. What else kills 99.99% of germs?

~ Beautiful "indian summer" weather this week. Wow!

~ I think my battle against sloth is going pretty well. This next week I am tackling gluttony! Wish me luck. Goodbye choco-caramel-vanilla swirl ice cream with heaping chunks of fudge. Sigh. Who invents these things anyway?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Joy Thief

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
"We would like to get back to our innocence and joy, but they are cold and sepulchered."          
                                                                             Archbishop Fulton Sheen

The Seven Deadly Sins steal your joy. But perhaps none so much as the deadly sin of sloth. If you lack joy in your life this may be the deadly sin to look at first, so great are its detrimental effects on the soul. Sloth is the head "joy thief" because, well...that happens to be its job description. It is sadness in the face of joy, sorrow for the things of God. Or as Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue, so bluntly describes it:

"Sloth is the most depressing thing in the world. It is hell on earth. It finds our very highest joy - God himself - joyless. If Joy himself is joyless, where can we find joy? If salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be restored? If the very light in us is darkness, how great is that darkness?"

This is the best explanation of sloth that I have ever seen. Sloth finds Joy himself...joyless.

Scary, huh? Sloth is like walking around in the bright sunshine with a huge black cloud hanging over your head. You can't see the light for the darkness that surround you.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that sloth is a "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good...its evil is in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away from good deeds". So, sloth is not only joyless, it is neglectful as well.

Those who are encumbered by this deadly sin walk this world in a half-hearted fashion and I believe it is one of the biggest problems that this century is faced with. Those who are lukewarm almost always have a problem with sloth. Sloth is a spiritual torpor, a listlessness of the spirit that leads most often to sins of omission rather than sins of commission. Rather than confronting this joyless spirit head-on, many try to escape it by frantically rushing around in an attempt to outrun the heaviness in their hearts and the sword of sorrow hanging over their heads. This is where sloth gets ugly, for in trying to escape it we make matters worse. Sloth doesn't like to confront, it likes to avoid. It is a spiritual languor that says, "I still have time...I'll take care of spiritual matters tomorrow. Today I just have too many things to do - I have to get this shopping done, the game is on, these e-mails have to go out, my blog is waiting (hmmm), etc...

Here are a few of the signs (or symptoms, one could say) of sloth:
~ An aversion to prayer - this can be mild or great depending on how deeply rooted this vice is
~ Aridity
~ Lack of zeal
~ Disorganization
~ Confusion (spiritual)
~ Apathy or discouragement
~ Boredom
~ Putting off tasks or leaving them undone without good reason
~ A lack of awe
~ Ingratitude
~ Sadness (melancholy)
~ Excessive activity that hides a spiritual languor - too busy for God

The seven deadly sins tend to be "intertwined" with each other like interlocking pieces of a hellish puzzle. For most of us there tends to be one particular deadly sin that takes precedence over the others. In other words, it is the "kingpin" and hitting the kingpin helps take down the other deadly "pins" that have attached themselves to our souls.

Sloth is sneaky, irresponsible (good advice on this link), and apathetic when it comes to God but there are remedies for this vice and one of the ways we tackle it is by practicing the opposing virtue. In the case of sloth/acedia the opposing virtue is diligence. Exercising virtues builds your spiritual muscles. Another virtue which opposes sloth is charity. 

It's important to remember that joy isn't a "thing" to be grasped. Joy is alive. Joy is a person.
Set your heart on God and there you will find your Joy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Knowing God, Knowing Ourselves

I titled this post  Knowing God, Knowing Ourselves because the two walk hand in hand. Sin prevents us from knowing God as much as we should.The more we are purged of sin the more we come to know God and ourselves. We are always being purged and healed, each and every day, provided that we  cooperate with God's graces. However, this cooperation is key. Without it, our souls stagnate and eventually backslide. A person cannot stay in one place spiritually, we either move forward or backward. Responding to the graces God gives us is crucial. He knows the condition of our souls far better than we do and guides us in the areas where we need to progress. And what constitutes progress? Simply this...growth in virtues. If we see this growth we know we are progressing. There's no way to write about these things without a certain amount of bluntness so I'll try to be direct.

Sometimes, I feel as if I have bumped into a "wall" spiritually. What seems to help me get past this is taking a long, hard, look at myself. If done with honesty, under the light of the Holy Spirit, the obstacle usually becomes apparent. For example, after scrutinizing myself last week it became obvious to me that I'm struggling with sloth lately, especially in my spiritual life.  This is an area of weakness for me, maybe more so than the other deadly sins. Except pride, which we all have to work on constantly because, to put it bluntly...we like to make gods of ourselves. Some people may say that this isn't so, but this in itself is a sign of pride. It kind of works along the line of "if you think you are humble... you think too much of yourself ". The entire human race suffers from pride. It's a lot easier for God to work in this area if we accept this as the truth.

Back to sloth. How do I know I am having trouble in this area spiritually? For me (I don't know if this will be helpful to others) the symptoms are fairly clear:
~ I am vaguely "repulsed" by prayer. This means that I have to really force myself to pray.
~ Aridity in prayer
~ Lack of zeal for the things of God
~ Procrastination

For example, I don't really "feel" like praying, reading the Bible, or going to Mass lately. I feel either numb or mildly disgusted during prayer. Just wanting to get it over with so I can move on to something else. I seem to be lacking my usual zeal for God (as embarrassing as it is to admit). St. Padre Pio knew what he was talking about when he said, "Aridity is the fruit of our defects", that's for sure.

Seeing that there are 7 weeks left until Christmas I thought I'd tackle the seven deadly sins by working on one each week. I am starting with sloth since I seem to be so affected by it lately. Another reason I am beginning with sloth is that once this is moved out of the way (at least to a degree) it will be easier to work on the other sins. I am hoping that this will prepare me for Christmas... that Christ will have a clean heart to rest his head upon and that this "house" will have plenty of room for Him.

Each week I will write about the measures I am taking to overcome these sins. Wish me luck!


feel free to join in!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Blog Jesus Award

Many thanks to Jennifer at Faith and Family Connections for passing this award on to me! I loved this badge! I'm a frequent visitor to Faith and Family Connections and I highly recommend this site to those who are raising families. You can find topics such as prayer, the saints, and other subjects related to the Catholic Faith here. They also have crafts and activities for children! A great site!

This award was created by Monica at Equipping Catholic Families and is for blogging moms who:

~Strive for a stronger Faith and closer relationship with Jesus.

~Aspire to grow spiritually through a vocation as a "King's Kid"... a daughter of God, and a Catholic wife and mom.

~Seek to encourage others in their own spiritual journeys and Faith formation in their families through the Catholic training tools and gifts that they create and yes...through their blog.

I'd like to pass this award on to these special mothers who have touched my heart through their grace-filled blogs:

* Anne Bender at Imprisoned in my Bones - I have always loved this blog!
* Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii - Another favorite!
* Colleen at Thoughts on Grace - Ditto! Both her blog and website are wonderful!
* Vicky at Creating with Wisdom - A new favorite!

Words cannot express how grateful I am for your friendship, Ladies, but I hope this award speaks for me. All four of you truly blog for Jesus and I have been immensely blessed through each of you. Thank you!                   

Sabbath Moments

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the times when we "let go and let God" and live in the present moment :

I wanted to share a picture that made me laugh! With most of the city without power this week I'm not sure how well this went over with some people but it sure tickled my funny bone!

Love it! We lost power again yesterday right after I went grocery shopping (Murphy's Law) and my husband sent me this picture from his cell phone. I'm glad people haven't lost their sense of humor :)

The kids went back to school yesterday. Is it rude to jump for joy? (Hey, at least I'm honest.) It's not that I don't enjoy having my house full of kids but quiet time gives me a chance to put my inner house in order. I went to Mass, prayed the Rosary, and had the opportunity to spend some extra time in intercessory prayer. I felt spiritually recharged after. Got power? Yes, thank you, Lord...I do.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Dog is Buzzed

My elderly dog was put on a new pain medication for his arthritis today and I could swear that he is buzzed. I just watched him try to get a drink of water and he had trouble lining up his head with the bowl. When he DID get it over the bowl his tongue missed the water at first. I only gave him a quarter of a tablet as the vet recommended so I was surprised at how odd his behavior is. I can only assume that it made his head fuzzy. It's quite funny to watch. Hilarious actually. (Down PETA!) At least I know he's getting a bit of relief! He's very old (fourteen) for his breed; they usually only live for about twelve years. Hopefully, he'll adjust to the new medication because the stuff he was on before bothered his stomach. I'm not sure bumping into things will help the arthritis though.

Don't ask me why I'm posting this.

It's this or scrubbing down the bathroom I guess.

Unfortunately, it's tough to post spiritual stuff with 4 girls under the age of nine running around here. Plus, there's only one bathroom...

Anyway, offering up high-pitched squeals and shrieks is helpful to the souls in purgatory, you know. I'm getting a lot accomplished despite how things look. Goes to show how looks can be deceiving, doesn't it?

I had to look up high-pitched on Google because I couldn't remember if it was one word or not. So, I tapped in high-pitched and Google suggested "high-pitched bowel sounds". Is it only me or are computers taking over the world lately?

As a side note, my husband says PETA means "people eating tasty animals". Unfortunately... he tells PETA that too.

And, yes, he's from Texas...

Life is still a bit crazy up here

Things are improving slowly but there are almost a million homes still without power here in the Northeast. Amazing how much damage an early storm can do - the heavy, wet, snow was simply too much for the delicate infrastructure up here. The schools are still closed and there are downed power lines and trees littering our neighborhoods even after 5 days, despite help from our neighbors in Canada. Restaurants have been packed because folks have no way of keeping food refrigerated. The temperatures have been in the fifties during the day and twenties at night so storing perishables outside isn't really safe. Still, I think people are grateful that the temperatures aren't in the single digits like they were in the terrible ice storm a few years back. We had to wear hats and coats to bed that time and we could see our breath indoors! According to the linemen who have been restoring the electricity, this storm caused far more damage than the ice storm. It looked like a war zone here for a few days. It makes me realize that we are totally unprepared for a major emergency here in the Northeast.

You know what cracks me up? The daily lines for coffee up here! I never saw anything like it! We are a bunch of caffeine addicts in this country :) Makes me glad I keep my coffee intake down to about half a cup a day! Lol!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October Nor'easter Slammed Us

New England is well known for its crazy weather but this particular storm caught most of us off guard. A big storm like this in October? Very rare. I'm not sure I've ever seen a storm like this. The snow was so wet and heavy that it took down trees, branches, and power lines throughout New England and over three million people are still without electricity. We were one of the lucky ones and our power was restored within 24 hours but most of our city is in the dark. It will be a week before some folks have electricity again. What's hard is that with temperatures in the twenties, no electricity means no heat for many people. I guess it's a little better than when the ice storm hit us a few years back, the temperature was in the single digits that time. We had to sleep with coats and hats on!

One of the power lines that leads to our building caught on fire during the storm. It was dropping sparks on the cars in our parking lot (we live in a condo) and was working its way to the building. The fire department came and looked at it but simply told us to call them if the line came down. I watched the fire worm its way down the wire and it made me quite nervous. "Lord," I prayed, "I'll never be able to get to sleep with that wire on fire so close to the building. Could you put it out, please?" Less than three minutes later a tree above the wire let go of a huge load of snow and the snow put out the fire. "Wow! Lord, you work quickly!"  Fire wouldn't be my first choice when it comes to dying. Not that we get a choice but it never hurts to give the Lord a heads up.

The roads were cleared of snow fairly quickly this morning so we attended Mass ( dirty, because there was no hot water and nobody takes a cold shower when there's no heat in the house) and then went to my parents' house for breakfast since they have a gas stove. As we drove and looked around we were shocked by the damage the storm left in its wake. There were tree limbs and downed trees everywhere! On cars, houses, in the was crazy! No one seemed to escape this storm unscathed. Heavy snow and high winds can cause a lot of damage. The clean up around here will take weeks... if not months.

It seems that we are constantly breaking weather records these past few years. What next? Tornadoes in the Winter?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sabbath Moments

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Here are a few of my special moments this week:

~ My sister and I visited St. Joseph the Worker Shrine in Massachusetts this week. We went to Confession and visited the gift/bookstore while we were there. The store has a used book section and I hit the jackpot! Someone had just dropped off a huge stack of great books, some of which I had been wanting to read for a while, and I left with just about the whole stack! It felt like Christmas in October! I love when this happens! They sell the used books for dirt cheap and I would never have been able to buy them all new...well, not all at once anyway.

~ It snowed a few nights ago! When I woke up the next morning and looked outside I was awestruck by how beautiful the trees looked wearing their bright fall colors topped with a layer of white fluff. We don't usually get snow this early so it was a nice surprise. We are supposed to have a huge snowstorm tonight too! My puppy, Caesar, ate his first snowball and loved every bit of it!

~ After Mass Friday morning, I met a friend for breakfast and we spent an hour and a half talking, laughing, and simply enjoying each other's company. We've known one another since high school and try to get together regularly. Thank you, Lord, for good friends!

~ I enjoyed my break from blogging...maybe a little too much. I got a lot accomplished this week and am tempted to extend my blogging break a bit longer :) Not too long, though!

I hope everyone had a great week!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Cleaning Break

I'm taking a short break from blogging to do my fall cleaning. When the handprints on your walls start waving at you and the dust bunnies are having litters under your bed and in your closets it's a sign that your house is trying to tell you something. Be back soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Link to a Great Post

Barb at Suffering with Joy has written an excellent post on reading the Bible. I highly recommend reading her article How to Get More from Reading the Bible. She has also listed a number of resources that she has found helpful. Well worth checking this out!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hey! I've got a bit of time on my hands...

...anyone want me to +1 them for a while?

I need a "test market".

What's all this +1 Stuff About?

What is the purpose of the +1 symbol I'm seeing everywhere lately? Does anyone know anything about it? Out of curiosity I tried to click on it a short while back but it said that only certain people had been selected to take part in it.  Can anyone do it now? I can see that it's to recommend sites and articles but what exactly does it do? Raise your Google standing?

 Yes, I'm looking for the logistics behind it.

Puff? You know "stuff", right?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Vicky at Victoria Leach - Portrait Art has passed on to me a Stylish Blogger Award. Vicky is a gifted artist and an incredibly sweet lady that I am honored to have met online. Many thanks for the award, Vicky!

One of the rules is to share 7 things about yourself and then pass the award along to 5 other bloggers. Here are seven things about me that you might not know:

1. I am a total bookworm and passed the bookworm gene down to my daughter. My parents owned a bookstore when I was a child and I was allowed to read as many books as I wanted to as long as I handled the book very carefully and did not crease it in any way. Randy bought me a Kindle last year because my books clutter up the house. I am currently deeply absorbed in a book titled The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal who is also a blogger. The book is so engrossing that I went to sleep two hours later than planned Saturday night because I had a tough time putting it down.

2.When the Lord healed me of Myasthenia Gravis He threw in a couple of bonus healings that I was too embarrassed to mention before now. He healed a large cyst on my head that I had for twenty was gone within three days of the healing service. I had never bothered having it removed because it required shaving an area of my scalp almost two inches wide and my hair is too fine and would not have covered the bald spot. He also healed my toenail fungus :) Yeah, I gross! This cracked me up and made me realize that God has a very good sense of humor.

3. As strange as it may sound, shortly after these healings I mentioned above, God also healed a hip and foot problem I had since birth. The healing took place while I was reading the book The Third Floor Window by Colleen Spiro. Colleen had sent me a copy of her book...little did I realize the impact it would have on my life.  God works in funny ways at times. My gait, while not perfect, is more like a regular person's now and I have much less back trouble. Weird but true.  What is it with me and books, anyway? It was a book that first led me to attend a healing service in the first place.

4.  For a couple of months after these healings took place my body was as flexible as a child's - it was remarkable! I was a teeny tiny bit disappointed when this extreme flexibility went away :)

5. My vision is terrible and stayed that way! Lol! If it weren't for the fact that I wear contacts (or glasses) I would be considered legally blind. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

6. I love to doodle and to sketch but could not draw for many years because the Myasthenia Gravis had affected my hands so much. One of the things I did after being healed was that I started drawing again. Am I very good? No, but it brings me joy.

7. I cry when I write poetry about God. Am I very good? No, but it brings me joy :)

I'd like to pass this award on to :

~ Anne Bender at Imprisoned in My Bones
~ Colleen Spiro at Thoughts on Grace
~ Karinann at Daughter of the King
~ Esther at A Catholic Mom in Hawaii
~ Sarah at Harbor of Aloha
~ Barb at Suffering with Joy
~ Mary at Hope Echoes
~ Puff at Puff's Blog About Stuff
~ Victor at Time for Reflections

I's only supposed to be passed on to 5 people, but I'm very nosy and like to know more about people. If you've already received it, please ignore :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Saint Maker

 Willem Joseph Laquy - credit Wikimedia Commons
God is determined to make saints out of us. And believe me, He has an endless supply of saint making material and most of these materials are other people. If you ask God for a particular virtue you will get plenty of chances to practice said virtue.

For instance, did you ever notice that when you ask God to increase your patience, everyone, and I mean everyone, wakes up grouchy the following morning? Including the cat? You wonder who stole your family and replaced them with the sour-faced aliens glaring at you across the breakfast table. Let the games begin.

 I won't tell even you what happened after I prayed the Litany of Humility by Cardinal Merry Del Val but let me assure you that it wasn't pretty and involved a sick person, a clothespin, and a ton of scrubbing in the ladies room at church. And that was just the morning.

Did I mention that I only prayed the prayer once? I planned to pray it regularly, I really did, but I'm still recovering from the first time. I figure a year or two should do the trick.  I really DO want humility just not quite yet.

Afraid? Who me? Hey, if  procrastinating worked for St. Augustine it should work wonders for regular people, right?

 Of course, I use the term "regular" people loosely. In truth...there is no such thing as a "regular" person.  The irate lady honking her car horn at you to make you go faster? The apple of God's eye. That screaming toddler hanging from your leg? His beloved (albeit grumpy) child. And that bald, chubby man behind you at the grocery store impatiently drumming his fingers on the checkout counter as you paw your way through your messy purse trying to find that dumb rewards card? A saint-in-the-making. If you were to see his soul with the glorious indwelling of the Trinity your jaw would drop in awe.  We are, each and every one, children of the King. And the glory of God surrounds us. It's a good thing that God blinded us to a degree or not much work would get done here on earth. We would spend all our days lost in wonder at the glory of God, both in ourselves and in others. We are temples of the Holy Spirit and this is no small thing.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
                                                                                       C.S. Lewis

Chew on that one for a while. Leave it to C.S. Lewis to state the truth so bluntly. Made me think twice about yelling at my child, that's for sure. I am likely losing my temper with a future saint. I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis last year and  to say it affected me is an understatement. With a few simple words it puts life into its proper perspective, doesn't it?

We may not see this splendor in others yet...but it is there.

God sanctifies his people and usually uses ordinary, everyday circumstances to do so.  I joked around at the beginning of my post about the means He uses to form a holy people for himself but in all actuality... it's no joke. The everyday circumstances of our lives (that may seem so pointless, monotonous or possibly disgusting  in our eyes) have the ability to produce great saints if we cooperate with the grace God gives us. Virtues have the chance to flourish and vices can be overcome just by our day to day responses to the challenges the Lord allows to be thrown in our path. There are no circumstances on this earth that God cannot use as saint making material. Even scrubbing a public
bathroom that a stranger was very sick in.

Sorting through junk mail, scrubbing floors, taking care of children, dealing with frazzled customers - each small (and large) detail of our daily lives has God's signature written all over it.

It's all saint making material...every single bit of it.

We choose whether to use it as such.

What can I say? I mean I was traumatized.

But you are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
                                                                      1 Peter 2:9

Simple Laws of Life - How "Regular" People Become Holy

I have learned a lot thus far during my years here on earth. Here are some of the lessons I've learned:

~ If you knock something off the counter in the bathroom it's almost a guarantee that it will fall into the toilet. Especially if it's a toothbrush or dental floss. This is God's way of teaching us "to be neat and close the seat".

~The grocery bags with the glass jars of red tomato sauce are always the ones that rip. This is God's way of teaching us not to swear.

~ Even if your house is mostly flooring, a new puppy will find the two carpets in your home and do his "business" on them. Pups like to "go" in comfort and carpets are softer and warmer on their paws. The chances of a puppy "going" on your rug rises to almost 99.9% if the puppy has diarrhea. This is God's way of teaching us humility. Picking up "dog poo" will do that (yes, humble you) after the 100th time. It also may be God's subtle way of hinting that you just might be a bit smellier than the dog and that it's time to go to Confession.

~ If you are in a terrible rush driving to an appointment that you waited until the last minute to leave the house for, you will most likely be stuck behind two elderly nuns off to do the convent grocery shopping and travelling at 15 miles per hour because they took a vow of poverty and the grocery store tempts them. Never try to pass said elderly nuns, they drive in "beastmobiles" or other very large sedans and take up most of the road. They'll throw you to the curb in a heartbeat. This is God's way of teaching us patience. Yes, and prudence also. Trust me on this one.

~ If a store is having a 75% off sale and you have a 25% off coupon do NOT, I repeat, do NOT, go to the store that rhymes with "Bohl's". This is a subtle tactic of Satan's to get you to spend money frivolously and works on most women because women believe that 75 and 25 equals 100. The devil is a liar, though, and makes the 75 and 25 add up to just 76. How he does this I'll never know... but the Lord allows it to help teach us to be good stewards of money and to rid us of greed. (And, personally, God, I think this one is very unfair for teaching us wisdom. A simple two-by-four over the head might work more quickly.)

~ If you decide to take "just a quick dash down to the store" with greasy hair, no make up, and ratty sweatpants, you are likely to run into every old school friend (male and female) you've ever known but haven't seen for twenty years and the words, "Boy, did she go downhill..." will echo through your ears as you stand in the longest checkout line in history. God allows this to teach you not to be vain. It also teaches you not to be a glutton as you realize that "just maybe" that pint of "Ben and Edy's Maximum Choco-power Caramel Swirl Delite" is NOT a necessity...not even on "those" days. He also uses this to teach you that you actually DO NOT have ESP and cannot read the minds of others. This is a great one (in God's eyes) because it kills three birds with one stone.

P.S. (Those coupons don't work at "Lacy's" either. Not even at "J.C. Pennypinchers".)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I would feel bad for a robber...

...if he picked me to mug. Yesterday, Randy and I headed to his work's credit union which is about twenty minutes away. You have to take a toll road to get there. About 30 seconds before we got to the tollbooth, Randy glanced over at me:

"Hon, you got any money?"

"Uhmmm, nooo, how 'bout you?"

"Nothing in these pockets  'cept lint."

"Well, lint won't work. You think they take debit cards?"

 "Don't think so. Can't you scrape something out of that bottomless pit you call a purse?"

"I'll try." So we pulled over into the breakdown lane while I started digging into the pit purse. Ten balled up gum wrappers later I handed Randy my "treasure".

"That's only 70 cents! That's all the change you have?!"


 "Dig deeper, please. We can't turn around, there's no place to do that!" I scraped up three more pennies from the dregs of my purse and handed it to him.

" goes nothing." We pulled up to the tollbooth, heads hanging, and showed the lady our 73 cents. The three pennies had little bits of gum encrusted on them. The lady frowned down at it and handed us a bill for $1.50. Red-faced we drove away.

Moral of the story:

When you go on trips that require toll money, don't forget to bring the kid who collects all your spare change and keeps it in her little Hello Kitty coin purse.

And, just as a side note for those whose deepest desire in life is a career as a tollbooth operator - you must past a lip curling and eyebrow waggling exam to apply. This is not an's a requirement.  Just a friendly reminder for all you tollbooth operator wannabes out there.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sabbath Moments - The "Good Thief"

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the moments when we "let go and let God" and live in the present moment. Here are a few of them :

This is "Porky" and she lives in the woods next to our home. She, along with "Foxy Roxy" (sorry, no picture) are the neighborhood "pets" (yes, this is an anagram).

And this little guy below? Well, I'll let him speak for himself:

I chew on everything!

      Including Mommy's books. That's what she gets for leaving them in piles behind the sofa. Slob! I
      steal them and drag them under the sofa sometimes. I steal from her purse when she forgets to put it
      on the table as she comes in. I can't get it when she puts it in the fridge. Why does she do that? She
      says it's hormones but Daddy says she's been doing it all her life. I believe him because I saw her
      put ice cream in the cabinet once. Plus, she loses her keys every single day. (I help her lose them.)

                  I can hear you even when I'm asleep. These ears aren't just for show you know!

                                She won't know what hit her when I wake up! I better hide my grin!


                  Five minute naps are too long! Now, where did I hide Michaela's new shoes?

Friday, October 7, 2011

I am curious...

Am I the only one who is still having trouble commenting on the sites of my fellow bloggers? Every single day at least half the comments I leave do not go through. Is this happening to anyone else? It was suggested to me that the problem may be with my browser, Internet Explorer, so if anyone else is having this problem I'd be interested in hearing from them. Thanks.

Though it wouldn't surprise me if I'm the problem. Technology and I never did get along very well...

Community of Catholic Bloggers

I posted at the Community of Catholic Bloggers today. If you have not yet visited this new site, I invite each of you to come on over and check it out. It's a community effort and we would love to have your feedback! Thanks!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Scoop

My puppy has giardia. He has the runs as he runs...I kid you not. And he never stops running.

Run, Caesar, run.
See Caesar run.
Stop, Caesar, stop.
Caesar won't stop.

- My puppy is leaking  :(
- I can't catch him  :(
- Pooper scoopers don't work on diarrhea :(
- The medication takes weeks to work fully :(

Sigh. Poor little tyke.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Father Gordon MacRae - Removing the Scales from Our Eyes

Pedophilia. Such an ugly word. People everywhere are quick to close their ears, shut their eyes, and seal their lips at the mere mention of the word. At times I believe that some people (including me for a little while?) would rather see an innocent man in jail "just in case" rather than take the time and the trouble to look at the facts of a case such as Fr. Gordon MacRae's with clear and unbiased eyes. There is so much evidence pointing to this man's innocence and yet he still sits in jail after 17 years. I ask, for the sake of truth and justice, that those who visit here take the time to read this article by Ryan A MacDonald. It (along with his other articles) shows how easily lies can steal a man's freedom.

Where is the public outcry? Why aren't people demanding that this case be reviewed? Where is the outrage over the imprisonment of a man who may very well be innocent?

I just don't get it. Even when speaking of myself. If you've read my previous post (see here too) about Fr. MacRae you'll see what I mean.  Are we so blinded by the ugliness of pedophilia that we would cast a good man to the wolves "just in case" rather than peel back the scales from our eyes and admit that "just maybe, just innocent man may be falsely imprisoned?"

It crossed my mind that if Fr. MacRae had been accused of murder and that if there was as much proof pointing to his innocence as there is in his case...he would have been out of jail years ago. Actually, no, I take that back...he would never have been convicted. It is only because of the type of crime he was accused of that he was convicted. Had it been a murder trial it would have been tossed out of court in a heartbeat.

If I'm being completely honest:

For a short while there was a little part of me that just wanted to close my eyes and seal my lips and ignore the fact that an innocent man may be in jail for a crime he didn't commit. All because of one word...pedophilia. After reading about the case I just couldn't do it though. I hated that part of me that would even consider such a thing in the first place. What ugliness was there in me that I would even consider turning a blind eye to an innocent man's plight? What does that make me?

Sometimes it's hard to look at myself in the mirror. This was one of those times. I like to believe that people are basically good... but maybe the truth is that we are very often selfish and if something doesn't directly affect us we have a tendency to ignore it? After all, a man sitting in prison for 17 years doesn't directly affect me, does it? What? Am I my brother's keeper? So he lives and dies in a jail cell for a crime he didn't commit? What can I possibly do about it? does matter. Letting a man rot in jail and not speaking up if I believe in his innocence says a lot about a person's integrity. None of it good. It shows a heart completely lacking in compassion. It shows a heart of stone.

Sometimes stone walls do a prison make.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sabbath Moments - This and That

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the moments when we "let go and let God". Here are some of my Sabbath Moments this week:

- I love going to Mass after seeing my daughter off to school. I have just enough time to do a Rosary (or most of one) before the 9:00 AM Mass. I used to go to Mass at noon but I much prefer the morning Mass. Receiving the Eucharist in the morning fills me with grace for the day.

- I started a Novena to St. Therese this week. I had been having trouble with insomnia and as soon as I started the Novena my sleep improved...and it wasn't even one of my prayer intentions. Thank you, Lord! Those who suffer from insomnia regularly know how frustrating it can be. I have to battle grumpiness all day when I get minimal sleep.

- The leaves are starting to change color around here! Hurray for Fall! My favorite season of all!

- My new puppy is adorable, sweet, and a bundle of energy! It takes all three of us to keep up with him. For the first time we have tried crate training and it's working out well. I leave the door to the crate open so that when he feels overwhelmed he has his own "special spot" to retreat to. He uses it too! I was never one for crate training but have since changed my mind. It's his "comfort zone". He actually sleeps through the night in it without a whimper. I thought we would be getting up a number of times per night because he is so tiny (two and a half pounds) but he doesn't wake up, much to our surprise. The minute he DOES get up he has to go outside though! Still, I didn't think such a young puppy would have that much bladder control.

- We had a family gathering at my parents' house last week. My parents have been married for 51 years! My entire family came, except for one niece who was ill. I love how close we all are to each other. The entire family gets together on a regular basis and I treasure each and every one of them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't forget to vote...

...over at the Crescat. One of my favorite bloggers, Kathryn from Heart for God has been nominated as "Best New Kid on the Block" and in my eyes she is certainly that! I hope those who love Kathryn's blog will pop over and vote for her!

These Stone Walls is also up for nomination in the "The Most Under Appreciated Blog" category. It has my vote!

 Voting ends this Sunday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Meet Caesar

Caesar is the newest addition to our family! He is a purebred Papillon puppy and very good natured, playful, and totally irresistible. He likes to take his owners for a lot of walks and thinks the world is one giant playground...or one giant chew toy. His little teeth are attached to my jeans as we speak. He is kid-friendly, easy to train (we haven't worked on the chewing yet), and my nickname for him is "Tumbleweed" because he loves somersaulting around the room.

Please note:
I did NOT put that hideous necklace around his neck for the above photo. This picture came with his papers. Me, I would NEVER put such a thing on a dog. How crass. It looks quite silly, to boot. I quickly exchanged it for a green bandanna ;)

The newspapers are for "just in case" (though I'm not sure how well he can read) but he has already figured out that the great oudoors is not only a giant playground but also a great place to take care of "business". And if he IS caught off guard in the house, well, reading the paper will help get things running smoothly. After works for my husband.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Great King and "the pretender to the throne"

Like most people, I have a duplicitous heart and have struggled to cede control over my "little world" to the one who is the Creator of the world. As a matter of fact, I am, unwittingly, often my own worse enemy. My "little world" is a false one and the queen of this "world" is a pretender to the throne:

 She must be unseated but she fights to keep her position. God is gentle but firm in dethroning her. It is taking years but she has ceded much ground to Him. He often sends foot soldiers in to pierce her dreadful armor and at this point the armor is ragged and torn and helps little in the way of defense. During each skirmish she is quicker and quicker to wave the "white flag" and is beginning to gracefully concede her "powerlessness" in the eyes of the great King. One day He will surely "disarm" her completely. She is secretly looking forward to this day. You see, He has promised to share with this "pretender to the throne" his own kingdom and has given her many glimpses of the treasures within. But first... first she must cast her own crown of "fool's gold" to the ground along with the baubles she clutches in her hands if she wants to enter HIS kingdom. But what will happen to her own little kingdom? Will it just dissipate into thin air? After all the years she spent building it? Still, if she was being honest she would admit that the baubles and crown were growing heavier each year and bowing her head and back down under their great weight. What good is a kingdom with one subject anyway? Maybe she should take the chance and toss them down right now?

She once thought He was her enemy and was deeply afraid of Him. At one time, He spent day and night scaling the walls of her little kingdom. She grew utterly exhausted trying to keep Him out. As time wore on she got used to his intrusions into her small world and her heart would begin to quicken when she heard his footsteps. She didn't admit that to Him back then for fear He would crush her with his strength and collapse her little kingdom with one blow.  He was never one to follow the rules though and she began to realize that He was actually quite fond of her and had no wish to destroy her, but, merely to dismantle her kingdom piece by piece. At first she cried when He looted her kingdom but she quickly came to realize that the loot He "stole" were things she had borrowed from Him when she was young (they were close friends back then, you know) but had misused and forgotten to return. She could hardly get angry at Him for taking what was rightfully his, could she? There were times she missed her "borrowed things" but mostly she felt happy that she had less to worry about. It gave her more time gaze at Him in secret. She thought He must know by now that deep inside she loved Him but felt unworthy to do so. Once during their more peaceful moments He had told her that "love makes things worthy" and that his love would make all things new. He had others who lived in his Kingdom and they assured her that what He said was true.

Slowly but surely she began to believe. Still, there was the small problem of her kingdom. Had all the others had to give up their kingdoms too? 'Yes,' they assured her, 'but you shall see that your kingdom is nothing compared to the Great King's.'

They sure looked happy. Peaceful too. Maybe it was time to throw all caution to the wind? Here He was again looking at her patiently with a smile in his eyes. She took off her "gold" crown and laid it at his feet. The baubles silently slipped from her hands and her "kingdom" dissipated in the wind.

She did not look back.