Make No Mistake About It: You’re Loved!

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

I laid on my bed and bawled. My pillowcase was damp on the edge, and I was desperately trying to muffle my sobs because I knew, I just knew, If I didn’t, that my mother would hear me, and then she would walk in and gently ask, “What’s the matter, honey?”

That always makes it so much worse.

And the pain. It would never end. Because… He… [choking]… He didn’t like me!

That, my friend, is junior high. I don’t even remember that guy’s name. His face, yes. His name, no.

*****

You’ve probably doubted it. At least once in a while. You might even doubt it right now.

Everyone has that feeling from time to time. “Nobody loves me.” Sometimes, we even question whether someone likes us.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Except for Abraham Lincoln. Man, everybody loved that guy, right?” Wrong.

“Well, except for Mother Teresa. She was certainly someone everyone loved.” Wrong.

“Okay. Fine. Jesus. Everyone loved Jesus.” Wrong.

I think you get my point. Everyone has feelings of being unloved. But most of the time, those feelings are based on things we do (/or don’t do).

People didn’t get angry at Lincoln because he was a big jerk, but because he did something jerky. Or, as this example illustrates, he said something jerky:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,”1

People didn’t think Mother Teresa was a big jerk. Probably ever. But they did (and some still do) think she was misguided (or worse, which you can see here), and some even think she’s in hell (some balderdash to that account is here—I don’t want people to think I make up everything on this blog).

As for Jesus, I think the crucifixion is all the example I need. (You can Google that, if you need to, here.)

When someone doesn’t like people don’t like someone, it’s generally because of what they do. (Cheats at poker, for example.) Not because of who they are. (Left-handed brunette.) God’s not like that. God loves us in spite of who we are.

Let’s anthropomorphize a bit here. (It makes things easier.) God never has a moment when, looking down, God says, “That Cynthia, she thinks she’s doing okay, but I’ve got news for her. She’s really quite a loser. In fact, by My standards, she does some pretty nasty things. That’s just wrong. I don’t even like her.” Guess what? That never happens. Nope. (God didn’t even say that about Hitler. I know, I wasn’t going to bring up Hitler. I hate bringing up Hitler. But, you’ll have to admit, in this case, it’s pretty useful. Because… Hitler.)

I, as a Christian, can point to various Biblical passages when I talk about how God loves me (and you).

But other faith traditions also believe this. Rabbi Shohama Harris Wiener writes poignantly of this in his article, “Does God Love Me?” For a Muslim perspective, there is this lovely piece by Quthrun Nada Djamil,  “Allah loves His servant more than a mother who loved children.”

I can feel confident that God loves me. So can you. Rest assured, you are loved.

_____

1That nonsense was uttered on September 18, 1858, in Charleston, Illinois, at the fourth debate with Stephen Douglas, the transcript of which you can read here. Obviously, Lincoln’s position evolved over time.

*****

I’m joining up with the delightful Holley Gerth for her series, “Coffee for Your Heart.” You can read about it by clicking on the illustration at the top, and read more entries (or link up yourself) here.

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Bold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Camel Caravan

“There!”
“Where?”
“Out there! See?”
“Oh, now I do. In the East.”
“Yes. That cloud of dust.”
“That’s a caravan, isn’t it, Aziz?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Tell Nathan to go into town, and tell them a caravan is coming. It looks large.”

*****

“There must be twenty camels.”
“And, look! They have horses!”
“Hmmm… that’s not something you see every day. Not around here.”

*****

Adoration of the Magi Gaspare Diziani 1718 Oil on Canvas Museum of Fine Arts Budapest

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” … and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:2b, 11 NABRE)

*****

That’s bold.

“Hi. You don’t know us. But…uh… we saw a star… Um… It’s been kind of a long trip…”
”Two years, really…”
”Yeah, two years.”
”Can we see him? Your son?”

That’s a vision, and a true belief, and a solid faith that what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

That’s the kind of bold I want. Magi bold. Keeping after the task at hand, not being dissuaded. Following the star. Even when it gets tiresome. And it does get tiresome.

Bold is what keeps you going.

*****

If there’s one thing I’m pretty dismal at, it’s being prepared for unexpected company. Oh, I’ll do the best I can, but it’s not like I’ve got an extra casserole in the freezer and can put fresh sheets on the bed in a twinkling. They’ll be lucky if I have a cold beverage.

But we never hear that Joseph was ill at ease around these pagan shamans. We don’t read that Mary was ambivalent about having foreign dignitaries dandle her boy on their knees.

And the gifts. Let’s not forget the gifts. Oh, they had probably seen the frankincense before, at the temple. We do know that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to a priest, so it’s very likely that Mary and Joseph were frequent visitors to the temple (at least, as frequently as their schedule allowed). At that time, village women were accustomed to preparing the dead for burial, so maybe Mary had seen myrrh before. And yes, if they had been to the temple, they had obviously seen gold. But touched it? Even the little coffer of gold that we see in most paintings would’ve been enough gold to set them up for life. And then some.

But they remain unruffled. They don’t say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” Or, “Oh, this is too much.”

They are gracious, and welcoming, and take everything in stride.

That’s bold. Mary bold.

That’s the kind of “yes, life, I’m taking what you’re offering, even though it’s about the most outlandish thing possible” attitude that I want this year.

Ready to take on whatever wise men are coming.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have gifts!

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Them thar’s fightin’ wurds!

Just shut your beak!I got in a fight yesterday.

It may not have been a fistfight, but it wasn’t any prettier.

I didn’t start it (though I’m sure the other person didn’t think that, either) and I didn’t finish it, but that doesn’t make it right. Or wrong. It just was.

I know, I know. I should’ve known better than to step into the ring. These things never end well. (Sometimes it seems they never end.) But when somebody jumps you in an discussional back alley, with a lead pipe of doctrine, and they’re part of a gang you thought you were already a member of, well, things quickly escalate. I started thinking.

“I’m just trying to defend my position.”

“There must be some misunderstanding.”

“Maybe I could try a different angle.”

“Aarrgghh….”

That never works. Well, it hardly ever works. And I’m not saying the other person was wrong. I’m just saying I don’t think I was either.

Finally, I just gritted my teeth and backed out. Then I called a friend and we hashed it out. There’s really not much more soothing to the wounds of intellectual violence than the healing balm of shared opinion.

“No, I think you’re right. I feel the same way.”

I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn. But some days, I think I’m getting better.

Five Favorites: Volume 1

Five Favorites Moxie Wife“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…” Those were certainly Maria’s favorites, and while I’m not saying they’re not adorable, I’ve got some other things in mind.

This week I’m linking up with a delightful blog called Moxie Wife for a little doo-dad she calls “Five Favorites.”

And away we go, though not necessarily in order of favoritism!

1. Antique holy cards.

Holy family Turgis 1040

I can’t get enough of them, and really, how can that be a sin?
The site for this card is here!

2. Best parody song video. Ever.

Russian Unicorn

Look, I love me some Michael Bublé, but this is a scream.
You know it’s great when Mr. Bublé himself loves it. Watch this!

3. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Therese of Lisieux as Jeanne d'Arc

Oh, she’s just the best. If you don’t like her, it’s only because you don’t know her.
This picture shows her dressed as Jeanne d’Arc.

4. My utterly brilliant daughter, Sophia

gardening 008

Choosing her name was easy.
It had to have significant religious meaning,
and be suitable for a Supreme Court Justice.

5. Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book

Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book Updated Version

The only bread-making book you’ll really ever need.

Five Minute Friday: What Mommy Did

5-minute-friday-1My mom. Saint Harriet the Pious. Yup.

Lots of moms teach their daughters many things. How to paint your nails. How to make potato salad. How to get-eight-and-a-half-million-things-done-while-a-baby-is-napping. You know the stuff…

My mom taught me those things, and one more. She taught me how to be Catholic.This gives you the idea.

Catholicism is filled with many things. It’s a rich tradition that sometimes looks like the underside of a very complicated needlepoint cushion. There’s a lot of messy threads there, and you’re not sure where they all lead to on the right side, but oh my goodness, that’s an awful nice place just to put your bum!

There was no jewjaw she wouldn’t buy me. Rosary? Check. Prayer book? Check. Scapular? Check. Holy cards? Check.

One of my very first memories of being specifically with my mom is going to daily Mass. I don’t remember her holding my brother, so I know I was very, very small (like maybe three years old!). The only thing I do remember is going to Holy Communion with her, and we knelt on the cold marble altar railing, piously folding our hands, and then I looked up, and realized I could see my reflection in the bottom of the shiny gold paten that the altar boy held under my mommy’s face in case the Host fell (which it didn’t).

Train up a child in the way [she] should go: and when [she] is old, [she] will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6]

*****

What’s Five Minute Friday?

A blog-prompt project dreamt up by LisaJo Baker, which you can read about here. The skinny is that you spend five minutes of writing, generally unedited (I correct typos, WAY too OCD not to do that, and set up links), on a prompt that she provides just after midnight via a tweet, then spread the word, and link up. Interested? Join up. Check it out.

Unashamed: Part Deux

UnashamedCompared to the time I wet my pants in second grade, it was nothing. (Yeah, we’ll talk about that another time. Maybe.)

It was the first day of first grade, in my new parochial school, Saint John the Baptist. My class had the lay teacher, Ms. Ditton. (There was a mix by then of both lay teachers and sisters.) She was one of the nicest teachers on the planet. (I’ve been blessed in that regard. I can’t remember really having a bad teacher. Less effective? Yes. Bad? Nope.)

I guess I was probably as terrified as a dorky nerd-ette could be. Lots of children (most of whom I didn’t know), new building that had multiple floors, having to sit at a desk that was probably a little too big. All curiosity and wonderment, confusion and not a little bit of awe.

Time for lunch. In those days, our school didn’t have a cafeteria. We went down to the basement, which doubled as a church “hall” where church-related clubs like Rosary Sodality, Legion of Mary, and the Knights of Columbus met for their meetings. There was a kitchen where actual lunch “ladies” prepared home cooked food. (No white uniforms, no hairnets, just dresses and aprons. For real. They were probably grandmothers from the parish.) We walked up to the open “window” and picked up a tray filled with honestly delicious food. Sloppy Joe sandwich (we never had that at home), and corn and something else obviously less memorable. Dessert was, I kid Little Debbie Star Crunchyou not, a Little Debbie Star Crunch Snack Cake (which remains a favorite of mine to this day)! We were instructed to take our trays back upstairs to our classroom to eat. (So much for food fights.)

I made it to the first floor landing when it happened. I don’t know how. I must’ve tripped, or had a hard time balancing the tray, or something. (I distinctly do NOT remember being tripped or any other boy-oriented nonsense.) But the next thing I knew, the tray was all over the floor and I was crying and some kids were laughing and Miss Ditton was drying my eyes and shushing them and giving me a hug and taking me back down for another tray. I think I was almost as sad about having someone else clean up my mess as I was for making it in the first place.

I think that was the first time I felt ashamed. It wasn’t the last. (I still haven’t talked about wetting my pants, but believe me when I tell you, it won’t end there. Nope.)

You see, I didn’t understand then, about the difference between shame and guilt. Even at the tender young age of six, I had developed an idea that something I did had a direct relationship to who I was. That doing something bad (yes, I know, it was really an accident) meant that I was bad.

How ridiculous.

As if our value as human beings can ever be determined by or the equivalent of our actions. Doing bad things can never diminish our worth, our inherent human value. Likewise, all the good things we are capable of doing, all the Mother-Teresa-Wanna-Be actions we’re adding up on the goody-goody scorecard can’t increase the value we, as human beings created by God, have as our personal endowment.

I had nothing to be ashamed of, and neither do you. (Even wetting your pants in the second grade.)

Dreamless

Forest Fire Ashes

My mouth is full of ashes. I’m choking on dust. I can’t breathe any more…

You, there. Yes, you, God. Up in the sky, in my heart, whatever. I’m mad at You. You already knew that. I know that much. I’m not dumb. I never said You didn’t give me gifts, I’m just saying I can’t use them. It never works out. I’m always caught in the starting gate, left out in the cold, stuck on base and never crossing home plate.

“If we persevere, we get the promise.”

Why do we only get the promise in heaven? Why do the evil seem so victorious now? Why are You so far away? I’m so, so, sick of this. Sheesh, these same attitudes are all over the Bible, and things don’t seem to have gotten any bit better. But I’m not taking that well right now. Feeling like the hero of a Bible story, while giving me good company, doesn’t make me feel better, it just makes me feel sick. Yay! “Hey David, and you, Jonah, why don’t you all come and join me and Job around the self-pity campfire so we can moan and groan about God and all He’s NOT done for us. It’s not like you haven’t spent time practicing!” Proverbs 13:12 tells us that it is the deferring of hope that makes our hearts sick, and that the fulfillment of longing is like a life-giving tree. I’m tired of being heartsick. I’m worn out. I don’t feel like I’m getting any of my longings fulfilled.

“He doesn’t hold back because He is not a kind master. He holds back because in the pursuit we become like Him.”

Really? I guess I’m to the point where I can no longer see how I’m becoming more like You. If anything, I’m becoming LESS like You. Grumbling, tired, and bitter. If You’re really on my side, and all things are supposed to be working out for my good, why isn’t that happening? Seriously, I’m forty-seven. How much longer do I have to wait?

You told me, yes You did, right there in Proverbs 37:4, that if I found my delight in You, You would give me my heart’s desire. Yup. You did. Still waiting. Really, do I have to be in a nursing home before anything good happens? What good will it do me then?

I don’t have a God-sized dream. I don’t have any dream anymore. Why bother? Everything is ashes and I’m tired of the sand and dust in my mouth.