Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mortified Musings - The Lenten Special

"A bit of cake with that sprouted grain bread, my lovely?"

Did you ever see a lassie,

Go this way and that way,

Go this way and that way,

Did you ever see a lassie,

Go this way and that?

   Well, you have now.

Lent has the strange knack of bringing out the worst in me. I have these great intentions that slowly but surely DIE as the season goes on. Think fasting, sprouted grain breads, green drinks, brussel sprouts - you know, all those things that taste nasty times two, but are good for you. That's how it starts.

(And, trust me, those foods TRULY mortify the senses. You'll have to grant me this one, folks. No fake mortification going on here. Hair shirts have nothing on certain green drinks. My senses are so mortified after they eat these things that the souls in purgatory are LEAPING into heaven. Yes, leaping.)

( Not that I've ever worn a specific hair shirt, mind you, but when you live in a house with shedding pets they are ALL hair shirts. )

It's tough to be human though. We like give in to ourselves a lot.

 (That "we" is that universal "we" which reads, "I like to give in to myself a lot". But I don't want to    be a post hog on a public blog so I am including you.)

Me, sailing through Lent. Note the brussel sprouts,
sprouted grain, and asparagus tips in the prow. 
I see beautiful mental pictures of myself breezing through Lent, sailing all the way to Easter... only to be caught with my hand in the cookie jar less than a week later.

In other words, instead of being led by love we (oops, sorry, there's that universal "we" again) are driven by our attachments. The mind wants to go one way, the body another:

"It's best not to have that right now."

"But I want it, I want it!"

So, you choose what you want instead of being guided by what's best. I do this all the time, only to regret it a few minutes later.

A common scenario 'round these here parts:

Gluttony moans, "Another piece of chocolate cake, my dear chubs?"

Reason, led by love, whispers, "No, you don't need that second slice. One's enough, two is overkill, my sweet."

Sweet? Who said sweet? My hand edges toward the platter...

"Hee, hee! She's going to blow Lent again!"

I pull back my hand as if it's been burned by Ole Dragonbreath, himself.


Too much information.

I know.

(I don't know WHAT made me bake cinnamon rolls for my daughter as a special treat this morning. I thought Will Power would be staying until Holy Saturday at least. He was certainly invited. But he vacated the premises without a word after that first batch came out of the oven. Hopefully, Grace didn't leave too.)

(Feel free to scroll down to other posts so I don't leave you with a bad taste in your mouth...)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Penny for your thoughts? Or not.

William Holbrook Beard: For What was I Created?

For after the four books which have been composed on the customs of the monasteries, we now propose, being strengthened by God through your prayers, to approach the struggle against the eight principal faults, i.e. first, Gluttony or the pleasures of the palate; secondly, Fornication; thirdly, Covetousness, which means Avarice, or, as it may more properly be called, the love of money, fourthly, Anger; fifthly, Dejection; sixthly, Accidie, which is heaviness or weariness of heart; seventhly, Vain glory; eighthly, Pride.

                              St. John Cassian, Institutes (Book V)

St. John Cassian was a student of Evagrius Ponticus. Evagrius was a monk in the 4th century who was the first to write about the "eight bad thoughts" and who coined the term "Noonday Demon", which refers to the acedia (now called sloth) which plagued The Desert Fathers toward the middle of the day. These eight tempting thoughts are the precursors to the seven deadly sins. Pope Gregory the Great revised the list of eight bad thoughts by combining acedia with sorrow, calling the combination the sin of sloth, and vainglory with pride. He also added envy to the list. St. Thomas Aquinas questions vainglory and pride being lumped together since St. Gregory called pride the "mother" of the deadly sins and says St. Gregory did not lump these two together. Either way, this is where we received our current list of the seven deadly sins.

In this post, I want to briefly address the deadly sins as those "bad thoughts" because it gets to the bottom of what the deadly sins are and how they operate.

The deadly sins start as temptations and temptations always begin with thoughts.

In the case of vainglory, the temptation to sin comes through our vanity. We want people to like us and sometimes we will do terrible things to avoid their displeasure. "Pilate, wanting to please the crowd, released to them Barabbas."  We get an example here of how dangerous vainglory can be.

When we are subject to vainglorious thoughts (which we are NOT subject to), and if we give into them regularly, we become bound to those we are attempting to please. Yes, we become bound to others instead of God. Can you imagine being bound to what others think of us? Yet, this is what can happen. All the deadly sins create a type of bondage to something or someone who is not God. This creates huge problems for us. Using the example of vainglory, when we constantly do things to please people instead of God our souls become filled with a deep confusion since it opposes our relationship with the Lord as his children. It opposes the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me. We create idols for ourselves that are not God. We serve that which we give ourselves over to.

How can you follow the Shepherd when you are trailing the pack of wolves? The heart is divided within itself.

And all of this begins with a thought.

What a mess. No wonder the deadly sins are so deadly.

It's scary when we first see how much of a part the deadly sins play in our lives. When I first recognized it, it paralyzed me. I couldn't believe I had let this happen. And I had no idea which deadly sin to tackle first.

The seven deadly sins poison your thought life. When you give in to the "bad thoughts" and sin, more come crowding their way in. Over time, our minds can become a cesspool of vice. Confusion reigns because a person is pulled in so many directions and it becomes hard to sort through the morass. Imagine a series of ropes tied to you and pulling you every which way. Your mind has difficulty focusing on the "one thing necessary" to obtain eternal life because it is not yet detached from its idols and these "gods" are constantly clamoring for the soul's attention.

So, it can become overwhelming. Until we remember that the reason Jesus came is to save us from our sins. None of this is new to Him. Recognizing the seven deadly sins is the first step to overcoming them. And God helps us do so. One of the best ways to begin to battle the deadly sins is to pray for the virtue of humility. Humility allows us to see the truth about ourselves and our great need for a redeemer. Humility protects the soul and is the foundation of the virtues, which further protect the soul. It is impossible to know God without a certain degree of humility and humility opens the door of the soul to receive God's help and mercy. The more humility a person has, the more light comes in.

Every person on this earth struggles with the seven deadly sins.

Think of humility as the beginning of the deadly sins' end.

"They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD.                         Jeremiah 1:19

Monday, February 22, 2016

Stage Fright

John Singer Sargent: Marionettes

All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players                                                          
                                       William Shakespeare

When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
                                                                                                                                                  William Shakespeare, King Lear

Vainglory gets very little press these days despite its large presence in the world around us. Like the deadly sin of sloth it has been relegated to the dusty archives of "what used to be considered sin but is sin no more". While pride still has negative connotations associated with it, pride's deadly "daughter" is usually unobtrusive and overlooked.

Which makes vainglory deadlier than ever. When you can no longer see your enemy it gives your enemy a great advantage over you.

Why IS vainglory so deadly?

As I mentioned in The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America, each of the deadly sins makes an idol of something other than God. For instance, pride makes a god of self while greed makes money its idol. In the case of vainglory, its idol is other people.

Vainglory is very much tied up with the negative trait of people pleasing. While this is not as overbearing as pride, it can be dangerous because it can get to the point where we are more concerned with pleasing people than God. It's important to remember that we are bound to that which we love and in the case of vainglory this can leave us tied to another's opinion of us and who we are. I've written about this many times on my blog because this was such a problem for me for so many years and is still something I battle against. It's one thing to love a person, another thing altogether, their opinions.

The problem with vainglory is that it can make you feel as if you are a puppet while others are the puppeteers. Whenever we are bound to something other than God we are giving the reins of our lives over to something other than God.

And the last thing we want is to be enslaved to other people whose nature is fallen just as our own is. Especially since vainglory uses fear of others as its shackles. We act a certain way because we fear what people think about us. We follow the crowd because we fear that we will end up alone and rejected. We want to look good before man because we fear others will speak ill of us. Fear, fear, fear. We end up driven by fear.

All the deadly sins use fear as their fetters in some way or another and only perfect love casts out fear. We could say that "perfect love" casts out the seven deadly sins and as long as we do not have perfect love we will be troubled by them to some extent. Do you want to know your idols? Look at your greatest fears. When we fear others won't approve of us and we do things to garner this approval instead of doing it for the right reason, we have gained our reward.

Man, sometimes after writing about the seven deadly sins I feel sick to my stomach.


(In my next post I speak about the deadly sins, our thoughts, and the importance of humility in our battle against them.)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dust Makers

 A post from my archives. Enjoy!

Do I HAVE to take a bath?!

Do I really trust God?  Do I have total faith in Him and in his love for me?

As much as I'd like to answer those questions with a big fat YES, I can't do that. I WANT this total faith and perfect love... but I just don't have it yet. I have faith and love but it's not perfected yet.

"Perfect love casts out fear."

Simply put ... I have fears. And what are fears but little pockets of despair that need casting out?

Fears that I fear "Perfect Love" has not yet rid me of.

Mostly I fear my own obstinacy. I see certain attachments so clearly and still procrastinate in ridding myself of them.  I'm afraid I'll get caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Or  worse. What if my time comes while I'm trying to down a heaping bowl of Dana's Double Delite Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge Swirl Brownie Ice Cream? 

 Because, as St. Augustine so bluntly eloquently puts it, "Having You, I might have naught besides."

Naught. Nothing. A big fat zero of nothingness. And that I'll have to wait for years in this state of nothingness until the Lord sees fit to end the nothing period and fill me so full of Himself that the nothing disperses into everything.I wonder if I'm the only person on the planet with this fear? I hope nobody answers that.

So I cling to my "somethings". I call them my little "dust makers".

Because that is what they'll eventually be, right?

 Dust. I cling to dust. Though I must admit that chocolate flavored dust is especially yummy. If I graciously thank the Lord for it often enough I wonder if He'll excuse my over consumption of this very fine dust product.

A bigger fear?

That I won't detach myself from all these little dust makers in time and I'll go before the Lord and clouds of lingering dust will surround AND trail my soul.

Kind of like Pigpen from Peanuts.

And my biggest fear?

The Lord will cough and choke out, "Let's get you off into Purgatory and give you a nice bath!"

And that the "bath" water will be too hot.

Just sayin'.

Okay! Nice and clean! You can come out now!