Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions November Update!

It's the most wonderful time of the year. At least it is one of the most busy times of the year.

This post comes almost a month late, and right before 2013 comes to a close, I find it appropriate (if tragically late) to update my New Year's Resolution.

I have stuck with this for almost a year! Unfortunately, as the year is coming to a close, it hasn't been a consistent ride.

But enough of that! Let's review my New Year's Resolutions for the month of November.

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

It hasn't been that great of a month. At least what I can remember from this month (remember, I'm writing this a month too late). I have found difficulty finding, or better said making, time to exercise.

I usually start work at 9 AM and get off at 5 PM. By the time I'm off it's already dark, and I feel uneasy about going out and exercise. My neighborhood is not safe. If anything it is infamously unsafe.

Going out at that hour by yourself and for a long period of time is not only unwise, but borderline insanity.

Of course, I have the option of waking up early enough to do some exercise before going to work. I know that seems like a wise option. But I'm sleeping okay?! Enough said.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

There was a point around mid-November that I got tired of my messy room, and I said to myself "enough is enough!". I proposed that I'd spend at least 30 minutes cleaning my room, and be done with it for goodness sake.

Unfortunately, the time came to clean it, and I spent close to 20 minutes cleaning it. Being overwhelmingly happy about the progress I decided to stop.

Of course, the room wasn't completely unmessy at that time, and has remained so for the rest of the month.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

Seriously? Whoever thought of that resolution! Turns out that updating your blog demands some serious work. Who knew?

Anyways, I am glad I made this resolution, in spite of the fact that I failed miserably for the month of November.

I am glad because this blog has been updated with more regularity than before, and that, my friends, is progress. Trying to remain positive here.

Well friends. It is dark outside. I'm almost ready for my New Year's party. The city lights are dimly shining outside my windows. It is time to go for now.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Church should be a Hospital

[Mar 2:16-17 ESV] 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

I believe that we as Christians, as "little Christs" and followers of Him, we are to model Him, not only in His vision of ministry, but also in His attitudes toward sinners.

My heart is warmed when I read this passage, as I see Jesus' spending His precious and valuable time eating with sinners and tax collectors, what people considered the "scum of the earth" in those days.

Eating, in Jesus' time, was more than just eating food. It was a time to share food, ideas, experiences and simply life.

Eating was communal. Jesus was making community with sinners.

Think about it. He could have chosen to make community with the elite; the religious leaders, those in positions of authority in the roman world, and yet he chooses to spend his precious time and beautiful presence with sinners.

This blows my mind.

What also blows my mind is how different the church can be from Jesus.

I have observed and heard from many an attitude from churchgoers that mirrors more the Pharisees' than it does Jesus'

I look at my parish and wonder, if a smelly, homeless, drug addict walked in to church, would he feel welcome? Would people sit next to him or her? Would they try to keep their kids away from that person?

If a transgender individual walked in, would he feel welcomed and loved?

If someone suffering from alcoholism walked in, still with a hangover, would he or she feel welcomed and loved?

When I walk in my church, I wonder, "where are the homeless, the drug addicts, the prostitutes and pimps? Where are the drug dealers and the gangsters?"

Are our churches devoid of such people because the so called "sinners" are uninterested about God?

Or is it because they don't feel welcomed and loved?

Sure, we can shortcut to the first option, but I believe all of us have a hunger for God, for our hearts are restlessly yearning for its creator until they rest in Him.

I believe they don't usually come because they don't feel loved and accepted.

The church should be looking for the sinners. If Christ is our redemptor, if He truly is our savior, then our main interest should be sinners.

If the church (and I talk here not of the institution or a building, but of the community of believers, the mystical body of Christ) is like a hospital, then it should be filled with sick people.

But we can be so busy criticizing the sick that we forget that Christ is our cure! What a dysfunctional hospital we can be! A hospital full of doctors so busy criticizing and commenting and complaining about the sick and yet refusing to take care of them!

And when we do "take care of them" is usually so unChrist like. We Bible thump and call to repentance, we quote scriptures and point fingers. We remind them of their "shameful" sins and worldliness and their need to just "repent and change".

But we don't see this in Christ dealing with sinners. He had community with them.

The Bible tells us that He ate with sinners, not used-to-be-and-now-converted-sinners, meaning He never waited for them to repent before making community with them. He simply accepted them into His presence before they even repented! How opposite is that from what many of us do!

No brothers and sisters, it is in community that mutual repentance must come, not apart from community.

And before we can have community we must accept each other into our collective presence.

Community comes first, repentance and change as a result from community with Christ and His body.

We have it twisted. We demand that sinners repent and get "sanitized" enough before they are accepted into our community.

Brothers and sisters, let us fill our churches and our communities with the sinners the world most hate; the rejected, the drunk and the hungover.

Let us hold the hand of the drug addict on the streets, even if his or her other hands is still busy injecting their bodies with drugs.

Let us not just give food to the poor, but also sit down in the same table with them, eating the same food we give them while we share our life with them.

Let us go and make community with  the one prostituting their body on the street, even as they wait for their next "client".

Let's go and eat with sinners again, just as Jesus did. Maybe in the end we will realize we are just sinners like them.                                                                                                                              

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Year's Resolutions October Update!

What a month! I've been recently occupied with retreats, backpacking trip, and the much needed restful collapse.

The fall colors are in full bloom, with reds, yellows and browns sporadically glazing over the vast green. It is a beautiful time of the year, the in betweeness of summer and winter leaving us with unpredictable weather.

But enough of that! Let's jump into my New Year's Resolutions...

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.
So my first backpacking trip really helped with this resolution. We hiked for 10 miles and drank lots of water.

It was a beautiful, uncomfortable, and great experience!

Earlier on November (I know, I know, this is an October update, but I still want to share this. So to all the over-technical pharisees: please indulge me) I started a juice fast! I was originally shooting for 7 days, but I only managed 4 days and a half.

The first day was absolutely horrible. Headaches, nausea, weakness. Second day I woke up with migraines that lasted till late afternoon.

Third day was much better. I felt more clearly headed. I didn't feel as hungry as I did the first day.

Fourth day was equally good. And then the fifth day...

The migraines returned. I felt weaker and weaker. Light headed and nauseous. After three juices at 12 PM, things only got worse.

I felt the world turned upside down. Cold sweats, shaking. Darkness slowly covering my vision. I looked at my shaking hands and they looked pale, and then, I got scared.

I had to break the fast early. I ate two oatmeal cookies and felt almost instantly better.

I guess I have to be extra careful with fasts when I'm diabetic.

I wish I had weighed myself at the beginning of the month to see how much weight I lost, but I can say that I did lose weight. People have made comments on how "skinnier" I looked.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

I have been trying to go back to my old trick of cleaning up my room for short intervals of time every day, making the dreaded task more bearable.

While my room looks a bit better because of this feeble attempt, it still is a long way from being clean.

Part of this is my lack of consistency, as I find myself doing other things.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

It has been almost a month since I last updated this blog. True, I have been more busy as of late, but whenever I made time for writing I took off for more entertaining and less mind demanding experiences.

But I have some things brewing inside my mind and heart that I want to share with all of you soon, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Loneliness vs. Solitude

Believe it or not, one of the most difficult things for me about moving into my own place is not so much the responsibilities this would entail, but a sense of loneliness that was and at times is, difficult to shake off.

I rent a small room in a house full of disconnected people. There's like 7 of us living in a house, with hardly any connection with each other.

We share bathroom, kitchen, and sometimes words.

My room is small. Being there can feel very trapping.

I hardly felt at home at this place.

Sundays were the worst days. I would go to Mass in the morning, talk with some friends, and then, disappear into my room.

I mean, what else could I do? Pray? Check. Watch a movie? Check. Listen to music? Check.

The loneliness still persisted.

I would usually try to escape this feeling of loneliness by going to spend a weekend visiting my parents, escaping with friends from church on odd adventures, or visiting friends nearby.

A few months back I had an intuition that God was and is trying to use this time for something.

I felt Him speaking to me, one lonely Sunday afternoon, "Why don't you use this time to practice solitude with me?"

The obvious became clear, as it's often the case when one encounters some wise words. Herein lies my solution; not in escapades or in entertainment, but in solitude with God.

I mean, I've done solitude before. I had some solitude retreats before, and while it can be difficult at times, it usually is a calm, healing and reflecting time with God.

But what was missing with my Sunday afternoons was simply intentionality. If I were intentional in using that time as "solitude time with God" then the loneliness would usually leave me.

There is huge difference between loneliness and solitude, though outwardly it may look the same.

Loneliness may be a part of bigger issues that we need to address with God, and solitude may be our dealing of those issues with God. Both can be painful, but one leaves you thirsting while the other satisfied.

Loneliness is a thirst for water, solitude is drinking from the fountain of living water.

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Year's Resolutions September Update!

The month of September is one of the few months were I felt I made some tangible and recognizable progress!

It hasn't been perfect. It never is.

It is one month, however, where I felt more in control in many areas of my life. It didn't start with a happy sunrise, but with a gloomy and cloudy environment. I was in a funk.

God took all of this and transformed it by reminding me of some lessons learned and ignored with the helpless passing of time.

More on that later! Let's dive in into my 2013 resolutions.

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

I lost some weight! I have decided to exercise more. Last week, for example, I started running!

I always hated running. It seemed to me like a torturous punishment, and seeing how many types of effective exercise are out there, it seemed pointless to me.

Impulsed by some friends I decided to give it a try. Who knows? Maybe I'll get used to it and start liking it.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

Okay, my room is still a mess, but at least it's less messy than before! I have made small but important improvements.

I have said many times before in this blog that the opportunity to mature comes at you daily, even in seemingly unimportant tasks.

What I have discovered this month, however, is that it goes beyond tasks. It can all be covered under the umbrella of decisions.

Life is full of decisions. To some of us, accustomed to the habitual MO of life, it can be incredibly easy to live it in autopilot.

This can take away from us the power of conscious decision making, and I have come to believe that the best way to grow is by taking this power back.

Anyways, small conscious decisions have helped me clean up my room a bit.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

I am glad to say that I've done this for the month of September!

This blog serves to me an utilitarian purpose. It really helps me to keep focused on the journey I decided to take a year ago.

The commitment I took to update this blog has helped me in being focused and accountable in this journey. 

I'm glad I took it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God is committed to us

It's been a year since I started this blog! Back then I realized that I needed some serious changes in my life if I was to continue doing the work God is calling me to do.

I made the commitment to God to mature more in His image. This blog was a way to document and share those struggles.

There are a few things I have learned this year. Maturity comes slowly, painfully slow.

It's not like I naively believed that by the end of the year I would be a complete new person, equally balanced in all the right places.

But I never thought it would be this slow.

I also learned that growth comes not steadily, but in stages. This is important to know, since disappointment can quickly sink in at seeing how you sometimes take 3 steps forward and then two back.

The most important thing I learned, however, is that God remains heavily committed to us throughout this process.

No matter how little growth we bring back to Him, no matter how hopeless we may feel in some stages, He never gives up on us.

He never gave up on me.

There were times were I thought change was almost impossible, too difficult for me, and therefore felt hopeless about the whole enterprise.

I felt weary, and wanted to try no more.

I didn't see, however, how God in His Grace was working behind the scenes.

I didn't see how He slowly brought subtle changes, not because I made the changes, but because in every encounter with Him, in every single moment of intimacy, His presence slowly changes you.

I was driving home one night after work when it suddenly dawned on me how God has remained committed to me.

Those who have been reading this blog know that I struggle with being firm. It is in fact, one of the most difficult traits I need to grow in my life.

At the beginning of the year, the owner of the gas station called me in to the office.

He said "you really need to pay more attention to shoplifters. I haven't seen anyone as bad as you for keeping shoplifters out! They know when you work and they come here to steal! I told you this many times now. At this point it would be cheaper to hire somebody else. Please do this!"

I know I needed to pay more attention. I know I needed to be more firm with shoplifters, otherwise I would lose my job. I took this as an opportunity to grow in my firmness.

After a few months of trying, my assistant manager told me one night before leaving work, "I just talked to the owner and he is very pleased with how you've been working. You are like one of our top 4 know in keeping shoplifters out!"

As I was driving home that night, still digesting those words, I felt as if God was speaking in my heart "I'm committed to you".

Hallelujah! He is committed to us!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Practicing Virtues - Temperance (Update)

Almost two months ago, I published a post on temperance, where I committed to practicing that virtue, and also to give an update about my experiences.

You can view the original post here.

So, how has it been?

Good and bad, to be honest.

As I said in my last post, New Year's Resolutions August Update, my body and mind seemed to rebel against resolutions and commitments right after I made them.

In observing myself, however, I have learned a few things.

Right after I started I was mildly temperate, fluctuating between abstinence and indulgence, at least when it came to eating.

I was heavily distraught by the ebb and flow of my behavior, and thought myself, at one point, utterly incapable of any substantial change in this regard.

I continued to observe myself, and I realized that I needed to go deeper into my problems. It's not just about making a commitment, sit back, and observe how the changes come naturally.

It is not as if behavioral change comes naturally, mysteriously fed by the powerful force of commitments.

I forgot something I mentioned earlier in this blog: maturity doesn't come naturally. It comes with a fight.

Every opportunity that present itself in life is an opportunity to fight or fly, to deal with them with the mind of Christ, or with the mind of the world (Philippians 2:5).

I remembered something that I discovered almost a year ago, where I felt I grew faster than before; that is, that growth has to be intentional, and that every task is an opportunity to ask yourself, "How would Christ do this?"

This simple, and even cliched question, forces you to observe your actions and how they mirror the image of Christ or not.

I started to ask this question more frequently, and the changes it has brought to my life are remarkable!

If we truly believe, that we, as sons and daughters of God, have the mentality of Christ, then we can trust in the subtle guidance of the Spirit when we submit ourselves, and our tasks, to Him.

How would Christ deal with my job? Would He take extra minutes when He has a break?

Would He clean halfheartedly this garbage can? Would He shout back insults to the rude customer?

How would Christ deal with this meal choice? Would He stuff himself with unhealthy food to satisfy His stomach?

Would Christ leave His clothes on the floor because it is more convenient to do so?

These difficult questions, easier ignored, has helped me in making small changes in my behavior. I feel more temperate than before. I feel more in control of the choices I make mostly because, well, I'm giving myself the opportunity to make them.

And that is the key to practicing virtues: giving yourself the opportunity to make constant choices in your life, instead of allowing the old behavioral autopilot of our lives.

For if we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Year's Resolution August Update!

It hasn't been a good month when it comes to my resolutions.

I didn't lose any weight.

My room is a mess.

My blog has been neglected.

Okay, I'm done. Bye.

Actually, let's dig a little bit deeper into this.

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

My nutrition sucks, to put it bluntly. I've been less careful with what I eat. It is almost as if I do worse when a resolution is made. It is as if my body rebels against my mental desires to eat healthy and simple.

If you recall, my last post was about eating healthier and simpler. While I did this a couple of times, I haven't been consistent.

Why is this the case? Why am I like this? If I try to not be distracted I am usually more distracted. If I try not to think of food then my mind is occupied by thoughts of food. Maybe it is better not to make resolutions at all.

But I believe the problem is not in the making or not of resolutions. It goes deeper than that. Call it the good ol' Pauline dilemma as expressed in Romans 7 (For what I want to do I do not do...). Call it our fallen nature. I do not know.

It is a place in my being in great need of the healing grace of God.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

Am I ready to call this a resounding failure? Not quite. Let this resolution suffer a long, miserable and agonizing death!

Not to sound too negative but I feel I've been less attentive in my room cleanliness than I have in the past. You would think that making a resolution, along with monthly updates in this blog, would make a positive difference in the overall cleanliness of my room.

It hasn't. Ditto to what I said in resolution #1.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

Okay, okay, last month I made an apparent mental Freudian slip, since I erroneously wrote "once a month" instead of once a week.

If my initial resolution was "once a month", then I wouldn't be eating this hearty crow.

But in being fair, this is one resolution that has actually impacted positively my behavior. I have updated my blog rather consistently, despite my occasional slips into the mud of inconsistency.

That is it for this month. I will see you next month!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tackling Consumerism - Food

Consumerism seems to be ingrained in me since birth. It runs through my veins as an essential part of my being. At least I act like it...

Born in a middle class family in Nicaragua, I was raised used to the luxuries and privileges that others around me seemed to lack.

These luxuries and privileges slowly transformed themselves into entitlements. This sense of entitlement only seemed to augment once I arrived in the United States.

One of these so perceived entitlements is food. I love food. Better said, I'm addicted to food.

The overabundance of food in this country can overwhelm my senses, and now I find myself trapped in between overindulgence and self denial.

The food addiction can manifest itself in many ways, besides overeating:

  • I don't feel satisfied unless I have 3 full, hearty meals. I must have dinner, for example, even If I'm not hungry, which in itself is illogical.
  • Meals can't be simple, but have to be complex enough to be considered meals. Many in my country have a tortilla with one small cup of coffee for breakfast and call it a day. If I have a sandwich for lunch then I'm not satisfied, but feel like I'm missing out on something. 
  • It is difficult to stop eating unless I'm full, and not simply satisfied. If I do, then the old, uncomfortable sense that I'm missing out on something comes back.
One common thing these 3 attitudes have is the feeling that I'm missing out on something unless I do all these things. I feel dissatisfied. I feel empty.

Can it be that my stomach has become my idol? Oh, I certainly feel convicted whenever I read Philippians 3:19.

Not surprisingly, my addiction to food has made me an over consumer of food (well duh!).

After rent, I probably spend most of my money on food.

How can overindulgence reflect the gospel and the kingdom of God, where many suffer the health hazards of going hungry while others suffer much different health hazards from over eating?

Why is it that I have to eat complex and hearty meals in order to feel satisfied? Why can't a simple meal be sufficient? How can I get rid of these illogical, culturally constructed attitudes?

I'm not sure exactly how, but I figure one way I can deal with this is by going the opposite way.

What If I eat simply and call it a day? What would happen to me and my attitudes? Will they change or remain the same after months of self denial?

I honestly don't know, but I think is worth the try!

I'll start experimenting with simpler meals and observe how my body and mind react to it. I will ask God to reveal where the attitudes and behaviors and feelings are coming from.

If I feel emptiness I will ask God to fill the void. If I feel like I'm missing out on something then I will take notice of this feeling and offer it up to God.

I honestly hope this will help me not just losing weight, or becoming healthier, but reflecting the joy of being more balanced in Christ, where He can fulfill all my desires and appetites instead of other worldly things.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Year's Resolutions July Update!

I've exhausted my introductions to these updates, so let us just begin...

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

I am happy to report that I've lost some weight this month. Just a couple of pounds, but still! Thanks in no small part to my practice of temperance I have been able to lose this weight.

Speaking of temperance, I'd be lying if I said it has been successful. Well it depends on how you define success. There have been many days where I simply send temperance to pound salt in a far away foreign country.

On the other hand, I have been slightly more temperate ever since I started this challenge. So that in itself is a success.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

I have to be honest. There is little progress in this area.

I have been slowly getting rid of my old stuff.

I recently got rid of my video game consoles that I no longer use. With the money I got from it I was able to replace my broken kindle.

I'm still getting rid of a bunch of CDs and books. It has taken me this long because I'm burning copies of the ones I really want to keep, and this can be a painfully slow process.

I'm hoping this will only take me another week.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a month.

I feel like I have slowly getting back on track into a rhythm I'm comfortable with. I have been updating my blog at least once a week, and I have done so for most of the time during this year.

I am happy about that!

So there it is! I'll see you next month.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Practicing Virtues - Temperance

As I was praying one Saturday afternoon, hoping to receive something from God to help me, I heard Him say "practice the virtue of temperance".

I heard those words clearly in my mind, especially the word "practice".

"Practice?" I thought, with a bit of disbelief. "That sounds so Pharisaical" was my first thought.

After all, I thought the whole thing about the pharisees' self righteousness came from their focus on virtues, to the point that God became paradoxically secondary to them. My focus is Christ and my relationship with Him, not virtues.

But I feel this view is myopic, and a focus on God shouldn't necessarily mean an unfocus on virtues. God and virtues are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they should go, by necessity, hand in hand.

Practice also denotes a sense that we will become holy by our own will and force, another mistake of the pharisees. This is something we also want to avoid.

But this is not necessarily so. Practice doesn't exclude grace. What we need more of is not idle grace, but intentional grace.

This is where practice comes from. If we seek God's grace in every step of our practice, knowing full well that we are depended on Him for every godly action, then we can be sure of avoiding the yeast of the pharisees.

All relationships need to be intentional. They don't simply "grow naturally", though some might give the impression that they do.

At the centerpiece of every relationship is love, and real love is intentional.

When Jesus tells us to love our enemies He is also calling us away from this vulgarization and degradation of love, where we water it down to good and happy feelings.

He is calling us into intentional love. He is calling us into real love, not infatuation.

Love is always a choice.

You can't be intentional without planning any actions, and you can't perfect actions without practice.

And so it is, that practice, and indeed, the practice of virtues, is a necessity if we wish to grow in our loving relationship with God.

But enough of that! Let's talk about temperance.

Temperance is defined as moderation in thoughts, actions and feelings. Restrain, self-control. These are all words that come to mind when we think of temperance.

Titus 2: 11-12 tells us "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (ESV).

How do we practice temperance? Good ol' self denial is a good way.

Whenever an opportunity comes to satisfy a desire, we can intentionally delay its gratification, or deny it altogether.

Fasting. Having one serving during dinner. Avoiding the snooze button the next morning. No coffee for one week. These are all great ways we can practice temperance in our lives.

I have been trying to work on temperance this week, and I intend to do so for the next month, in many ways.

I'm controlling with more diligence what I eat. Ever since I started practicing this I seem less and less preoccupied with food.

One example of this is how I control my time of eating while I work in the mornings.

I usually wake up with hunger. When I got to my job at 5 am I grabbed something to eat as soon as I got there.

Now I wait until 8 am to eat my breakfast.

Another way is to avoid oversleeping. I overslept a lot last week. This week, I'm trying to wake up earlier and spend the time I slept in prayer.

I feel much better now! So much more balanced! The effort is worth it.

What is your opinion on practicing virtues? Does it lead to Pharisaical self-righteousness? How do you practice temperance in your life?

Friday, July 26, 2013


"He is just frugal" said a brother from the Augustinians, with a look of disdain, referring to one of our superiors when we were in the order.

Father would buy his clothes in thrift stores. We never had paper towels or paper napkins. Sometimes we didn't use the dishwasher as washing the dishes by hand required less water.

I always been big on spending.

I always thought of frugality as something negative. Some call people who are frugal "cheap" and other less gentle terms.

In Nicaraguan culture you could be socially ostracized if you are perceived cheap by others, especially when it comes to sharing with your friends.

But looking deeper into simplicity and frugality, I realize now that being frugal is not about being cheap, but simply about being prudent in what you spend your money on.

Frugality has been recently brought to my attention by reading Walter Isaacson "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life".

Benjamin was big on frugality, and he praised this virtue, along with industry, as his key to success.

I do believe frugality is a virtue, but being honest, I just hate being frugal.

Whenever I practice frugality there is this sense that I'm missing out on something. It feels like being frugal actually takes more work. It hardly feels practical.

But virtues are not necessarily about being comfortable, or finding an easier way out. I believe, paraphrasing Richard J. Foster, that a virtuous life is a life that works.

We perform virtues because they need to be done, not because they are the easier way out.

In a world filled with consumerism and materialism, where over consumption is putting a toll not only on God's creation, but also the marginalized poor around the world, I see frugality as a virtuous necessity.

I believe that our over consumption (this time paraphrasing Pope Francis), our wasting away of goods, is like stealing from the poor.

And yet I do it time and time again.

I know I talked about simplicity before here, but now I want to work on this virtue, and be more intentional about it.

This Sunday I plan to get rid of a bunch of stuff that are still cluttering my room.

I will get rid of a bunch of CDs and books and just plain old stuff I never really use.

I am already excited about doing this and will report about it in a later post.

What is your take on being frugal? How do you practice this virtue? How can you grow in this virtue?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gentleness, Firmness and Boundaries

"Work on being firm and do not worry about being gentle, since you are naturally gentle" said my mentor in one of our sessions.

I always worried that in being firm I'd be rude, but this new approach to firmness that my mentor was suggesting was something I never thought of before.

This is one of the most difficult traits I've been working on. Growth is painfully slow, filled with fear and anxiety.

I'm afraid that If I become more firm I will be disliked.

I'm afraid that I will become rude.

I'm afraid I will say or do the things that hurt me in the past.

As irrationals as these fears may be, they are persistent and require a lot of mental energy to shake off. Besides, there is a grain of truth in all of them. Firmness may come across as rigidness, and your will undoubtedly hurt someone's feelings.

People will get angry and hurt, and this is okay.

The "this is okay" part is the latest realization of mine. It came almost suddenly in my head, an almost spontaneous eureka moment.

No, it is not okay to intentionally hurt people and get them angry. But if after being gentle and firm about your boundaries someone else gets angry and offended, then one should see this as part of the process of being firm. A natural process of living life.

After all, Jesus, gentle and meek as He is, still managed to hurt, anger and offend many people during His ministry, especially the religious authorities.

Prophets were killed for speaking the truth. Truth not always hurts, but the liberation it brings can hurt.

We all want to be liked. The reality of life, however, is that we will be liked, disliked and even hated. Our goal in life is not to mold our personalities in the most likable fashion, but to be the individuals (and community) God created us to be.

We are not called to be liked but to grow in the likeness of Christ.

The goal of becoming the golden coin everyone likes is met with many perils and it can bring the opposite, dreaded consequence.

We can have loose boundaries, camouflage the truth with little lies, be as nice as you can be.

Then people can come and walk over you.

Your self esteem suffers. Your self image suffers. And with it the ability to connect with more people in healthy ways. You lose friends. You are less liked.

How much better is to simply be who God created you to be! The freedom that comes from pursuing Christ and His purpose for you, instead of pursuing people's desires and fleeting fancies!

Grow in Him. Pursue Him. Love Him and love your neighbor as yourself, for the law consists of this. All the rest will be given to you.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Politics and the Kingdom of God

I want to write my opinion on something that's been bothering me for quite some time now. Christianity in America is often lived out in ways that I think is not Christlike.

One of this is our enamored commitment to politics and trying to bring the kingdom of God through politics.

This is often seen in the Christian far-right, where you see people, in the name of Christ, fighting for laws against homosexual marriage and abortion, and at the same time, supporting "the war on terror", gun rights, deportation of "illegal immigrants" and a bunch of other stuff.

This post is not about my views on these highly politicized issues, but on how I think we are missing the point.

Christianity, they seem to claim, is a political package that you have to adhere to in order to be considered a true Christian. You have to vote right, and in some churches, you won't even receive communion if you voted for Obama!

In this political package that they seem to offer, it doesn't really matter (or you can still receive communion) if you pollute God's handiwork of creation, pay no attention to how our over-consumerism affect the poverty of others, etc,etc..

But reading the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, I see no trace of this strange Christianity. Oh, imagine if we brought the economics found in Acts in our Christian communities! We would probably be labeled as communists!

Jesus answers Pilate when asked if He is truly a king "My Kingdom is not of this world" John 18: 36. Christianity in America seems to want to prove Jesus wrong.

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight against injustices and bring change politically. But trying to force our moral views on others through laws is not how we should spend our energy.

True change won't come through worldly politics. True change will come, and is coming, through the kingdom of God, which, strangely enough, is not of this world.

We never see the Apostles trying to change the politics of their time by changing the laws, which not only permitted homosexual acts (it was quite the fashionable thing for the elite back then) but also prostitution.

They were only concerned of preaching and living out the gospel. Why? Because they knew that God's kingdom was not of this world.

And here we are, trying to enact laws on things we are against, and thus trying to force this nation into a "Christian" one.

We are called to change hearts, not laws.

Let's say they manage to win every political argument and put them in action. Let's say we outlaw homosexual marriage, abortion and a bunch of other stuff. Would this really change anyone's hearts?

I thought the whole thing of the new law of grace was to free us from the law of the Old Testament. And now that we are free we want to force others into our moralized laws...

"Society is corrupt and we need to defend Christian values! It is our duty as citizens of this country" someone may say.

Christian values. Christian living. These are not things that need to be defended, but things that need to be lived out by those who accept the call of Christ.

And what do they mean by Christian values anyway? That's a whole other issue.

If we feel our society is morally corrupt, for whatever reason, then our duty as citizens, not of this nation, but of the kingdom of God, is simply to be Christ's image to this world.

We are called to be salt, to flavor the earth with the love of Christ, and to be light, not just show where the light is and demand "that's how you should live, and in case you don't want to, I'll make a law so you just have to!"

It is so much easier to show the light than to be the light. It is so much easier to change laws than to change hearts with the sacrificial love of Christ.

Don't just say "love the sinner, hate the sin". Embrace the sinner. Hang out with them. Have dinner with them.  Listen to their struggle and try to understand them. Invite them over to your house. Show hospitality to them. Give your life for them.

After all, that's what Christ did.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Year's Resolution June Update!

It is that time of the month again, where I share about my failures and achievements on my New Year's resolutions.

It has been an interesting month, one where I feel I'm finally taking control on my resolutions.

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

After last months' disappointment, I began to watch more what I ate. I also started exercising more. My exercises consist on simply walking. I enjoy walking, and this month I have been rediscovering my joy of walking.

I am happy to announce that this month I lost 5 pounds! Not bad!

I also want to pay more attention to what I eat. I have watched and controlled my calorie intake, but the quality of the food is still lacking. This will be my goal for this month: healthier food instead of less food.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

My room has been a mess this month, but its looking better! I have new bed sheets thanks to my girlfriend (thanks!) and I have done some cleanups.

I resolved to clean my room once a week on Saturday afternoons. I haven't done this every week, but only twice this month. It makes a huge difference though.

I still need to get rid of a bunch of books and clothes and CDs and other stuff I don't really need. My hope is for the next month to have less stuff cluttering my room.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

Yes, my blog has been updated at least once a week. I'm beginning to enjoy it once again. Once I stopped writing my blog for almost two weeks it was difficult to get back on track. It is so much easier to take life as it gets, and there were many times I didn't want to write. What huge gain am I getting from keeping this blog updated?

It's not like I'm making money out of it I thought.

But I want to be persistent and consistent because those are good things in themselves. I'm practicing consistency. I'm training myself out of this instant gratification mindset I'm still relying on.

That's it for this month! See you next!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Culture of the Kingdom of God

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" Galatians 3: 28 (ESV).

"It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning" Martin Luther King Jr.

I've been noticing something in church that's been bothering me for some time. After services are over, I see people gathering into their usual circles to chat and hang out.

Upon closer inspection, I notice that these groups of people are usually composed by people of the same nationality and cultures. These circles can be so closed that it can be really difficult to be "in".

Despite the fact that my congregation is mostly Latino, and as Latinos we all share some common cultural threads, we can still be very segregated.

And yet this is so normal that it hardly surprises us. After all, it is perfectly normal to feel more comfortable with people who share the same culture. If I had more Nicaraguans going to my church, I would probably hang out more with them than any other cultural group.

It is normal in our collective cultures, but seeing the scriptures it is clear that it is not normal in the kingdom of God.

I feel God has been putting this issue in my heart in the past months.

What is more important for me, or for us as a church, that we belong to a specific culture or that we belong to Christ?

If our answer is, of course, that we belong to Christ, then are our actions reflecting this?

There is a study by Rice University sociologist Michael Emerson that found that only 8% of U. S. congregations are racially mixed, that is, where no one racial group is more than 80% in a congregation.

It is certainly not easy to step into another culture and learn from it and be acquainted with it. It can be really uncomfortable, but I feel that unless we do this, we are not witnessing the kingdom of God to the world.

Living out the gospel is not a matter of comfort, but of continual denial of oneself, even if that means holding on lightly to our culture if in doing so we are holding on tightly to the culture of the kingdom of God.

Following Christ is not about patriotism or, in some cases, being a model citizen. Many times it is counter-cultural and offensive to our cultures.

The culture of the kingdom seems to be the opposite of our cultures: Give to the poor all that you own; lose your life and you will find; the first will be last and the last first. This is a kingdom where prostitutes and tax collectors are entering before many!

Are these issues in your congregation? How can we participate even more of this kingdom in our churches?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Job Well Done

There is a scene in the film The Passion of the Christ that always impacted me, where Jesus is being mercilessly beaten by the roman guards.

Jesus seems to be there with diligence and purpose. He is not simply there receiving this punishment with passivity. He is there doing a job out of love, where our redemption was being bought.

And then He falls and with great effort He picks Himself up again to receive more punishment. The guards look surprised. They can't believe Jesus' nerves, and the punishment continues.

I know this incident in the film, that is of Him falling and picking Himself up while being scourged by the roman soldiers, is extra biblical, but I think it reflects Jesus' character.

How was Jesus as a carpenter? Did He slack and did things halfheartedly? I certainly don't think so.

I have a confession to make: Lately, I have been slacking somewhat at my job. No, it is not as it was many years ago, but little by little, I've been slowly relaxing my standards and work ethic.

With this came a dreading for my job, so much so that as soon as I start I can't wait for my shift to end.

God has been gently bringing this to my attention. And it is surprising how long I can go ignoring His gentle whispers.

But I'm finally starting to listen to His call to work for Him. He calls me to give witness of Him at my job.

By giving witness I don't think  He means just to share the gospel to my coworkers, though that's what we might think of when we hear of witnessing Jesus to our coworkers.

I believe we are to be a living witness, where our work ethic is such that it gives praises to God, without the need of uttering one single word.

He is calling us not to just preach the gospel to our coworkers but to be the gospel to our coworkers.

And whenever I slack and relax my work ethics, I fail to give witness of Christ.

Yes, there are many aspects of my job that I honestly don't like. Working in the environment where I work, in a gas station in one of the poorest and dangerous neighborhoods in Oakland, can bring a lot of stress. We have to keep panhandlers and shoplifters out. I have been robbed at gun point, threatened and verbally abused by countless customers.

And yet He calls me to give Him glory and reminds me that I'm not serving my earthly boss, but that I can serve Him with my job.

Paul instructs servants in his days "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

While being a slave or servant in 1st century Palestine was not as bad as the slave trade of more recent times, it wasn't a walk in the park either. It can't compare to my job. Not even close.

And yet if they were to work with all of their hearts to that trade, why can't I? Why do I have to complain and moan about my job? Why can't I be joyful in serving Jesus this way?

How easy it is to lose perspective when routine takes over and we work for our paychecks!

Lord, help me to a witness of you at my job, and work for your glory and not because I need to. Amen.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

New Year's Resolutions May Update!

It's that time of the month again...
Actually, I should have posted this a  week ago!

Resolutions wise, this has been a bad month. It is as if I forgot all my resolutions completely, or willfully neglected them. My room is close to being an unholy mess, my weight loss is practically non-existent (more about that later) and my blog neglected.

Thank goodness for June!

Resolution #1: Achieve my ideal weight.

I have bad news. Today I weighed myself and I actually gained 8 pounds this month! I feel bad about this!

I actually thought I was doing better this month...

I have been watching what I eat more diligently. I have exercised a little bit more. I was actually expecting this to be a month of weight loss!

But there has also been days where I haven't watched what I eat. It is time to be more careful about those days.

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

My room is in a better state at this moment, but a couple of weeks ago it was really messy!

I spent some time cleaning some of its mess and I realized how little time I actually spent this month in maintaining my room clean.

I realize now that I need an scheduled time, at least once a week, where I can clean my room. If I don't do this my room will never be clean and organized.

Saturday afternoon it is!

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, minimum once a week.

I broke this resolution as well. I didn't post anything this week.

In a way, I'm glad I broke all my resolutions this month, because it really helps me to refocus on the things I committed and it's a reminder to being serious toward my commitments.

It is also very humbling, and it helps me escape a sense of superiority from Pharisaical achievements out of pure will force.

See you next month!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who Am I that You are Mindful of Me?

Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131 ESV

and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Mathew 3:17 ESV

I haven't been feeling well lately. I don't how it started or what started it, but in the last couple of days I've felt as if my life doesn't really amount to much.

Maybe it is my father going back to Nicaragua last week and not being sure when I will see him again, or if I'll ever see him again, because of our not so peculiar situation as immigrants.

Maybe it is the realization that my own sinful nature seems to keep me back from my lofty ideals.

Maybe it is the realization that if I look back on my life, all I see are half attempts and unfinished goals.

Whatever it is, I have been down.

You wouldn't know it by a superficial look at me. I still seem the quintessential me. The jokes, laughter, and even joy are still there.

But if you look deeper...

Perhaps it is the heavy darkness that clouds my judgement at this moment, but looking back I can see these things:

I see that I rarely been the first choice, or that I rarely excelled in anything.

I see that I haven't achieved much. Not even a High School diploma.

I see that I'm still working what I started out 10 years ago when I came to this country, a gas station cashier.

I see that my work performance is nothing to be proud of. I have been fired. Even in seasons of mindful diligence, it doesn't amount to much.

Even in the ministry, what I consider my true calling, where my gifts are most fitting, all I can see is mediocrity and a bunch of loose ends and unfinished business.

God knows I'm still a missionary by His grace when I was given a second chance by someone in the order, when I thought myself on the way out.

When I look back, all I see is unharvested and neglected potential.

Yes, maybe all of these reflections are exaggerations of half truths that are fitting in self-pity parties in the midst of difficult moments in life.

I honestly don't know if they are exaggerations or not. I can't seem to make good arguments against them, or seem to lack the mental energy to make them.

So they take over me with the seeming strength of truth, whether they have that characteristic or not.

And in these moments, all I have left is God.

When I feel like I've never been the first choice, He reminds me that He chose me.

When I see others achieve what I have not, He reminds me that I am His and He is mine.

When I get disappointed of my lack of achievement in the ministry He reminds me that is not my ministry, but that I'm only here to serve.

When I get disappointed of how some people treat me and don't respond to me in the way I desire or expect, He is there to remind me that I'm here just to love them and leave the rest to Him.

It is only because of Him that I can still joke, laugh, and have joy, even if I feel like I don't amount to much as compare to others.

It is only because of Him that I can be like a weaned child, quiet and content, even if I lack the list of accomplishments to show to the world.

It is only because of Him that even in my sinful nature, He says "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased".

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

St. Teresa of Avila.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Self-righteousness and Self-esteem

Two weeks before Lent was over, God was calling me into a deeper intimacy with Him.

I can't tell you exactly how it started, but I remember a thirst growing inside of me to learn more about contemplative prayer, and even the monastic life.

There was also a desire to pray. I saw how minutes flied in prayer, and many times even hours in prayer felt short.

I started praying the divine office with more diligence. I started to attend mass more frequently.

I felt more at peace. I felt more joyful. I also felt more self-righteous.

Slowly these nagging voices started to come into my head. Look at all these people, they don't pray as you do. Why they don't come to mass as frequently as you do? Look at this neighbor, trying to be a show off with his 3 huge cars and look how simply you live.

These voices kept coming almost inadvertently into my mind. I tried fighting them, but many times the thoughts and its feelings were difficult to shake off.

Then one morning during prayer, I had this vision of me as a toddler struggling and learning to walk. I saw Jesus with His arms stretched, smiling, encouraging me to keep walking.

And then He told me "Don't think of yourself as an adult in this, but as a baby who is barely learning how to walk in my steps. Walk my son, for I am guiding you".

It was a humbling vision. I haven't even learned to walk and I think myself as spiritually superior to others.

And then came the fall. Sin is always chasing us around.

The voices turned sour this time. You are not a true follower of Jesus. You are not worthy to be a missionary. You are probably the most sinful and worthless of all the missionaries here.

How to believe this voice in my head? At one point it exalts me and canonizes me before dying, at in the same breath it condemns me to hell and tells me I'm not a true christian!

I have wondered whether there is a connection between having a low self-esteem and being self-righteous.

I have been told that bullies love put downs because of their own lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Can something similar be happening here with self-righteousness?  How is that after discovering my sinful nature I am so quickly prone to think of myself as worthless? Why do I feel so spiritually powerful and then, in the middle of my weakness, the most hideous heathen?

I can come out from the whole of low self-esteem, see a glimpse of spiritual growth, and then hold on to that moment in time, allowing my self-esteem to rest on it. The result are self-righteous thoughts, feelings and attitudes.

When that moment in time is gone, my self esteem, seeing no base to rest on, falls to the floor.

Pride and self-righteousness then, seems to come not from high self-esteem, but from a low self-esteem.

And maybe self-loathing and self-deprecation leads not to humility but self-righteousness.

How different it would be to truly see my sinfulness and yet, at the same time, the immense grace of God that adopts me into His family?

How different it would be if all of us would find our identity and worth in God, and not in our jobs, careers and degrees, or even worse, our spiritual growth.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New Year's Resolutions April Update!

It's that time of month again, where I get to divulge my progress (or lack of) in my New Year's Resolutions.

Oh dear New Year's Resolutions! Cursed is the day that I met and found you! You lured me in with your sweet promises and your captivating dreams, and when I come to you, you run and taunt "catch me if you can!". With those big dreamy eyes, how difficult it is to forget you!

Okay, enough of that. Let's get into the details.

Resolution #1 Achieve my ideal weight:

To be honest, I didn't lose any weight this month. To say that I'm disappointed is an understatement. More than disappointed I feel trapped.

It is easy to forget how difficult weight loss actually is. When you look at the formula of weight loss (less caloric intake + more exercise = weight loss) it seems very simple and easy. But lost in the equation is the human factor.

I have to recognize that I simply have a food addiction, and the only way I can lose and maintain my weight is through managing this addiction.

Anyone who has gone through an addiction knows that it is not easy to get out of it. Granted, getting out of a food addiction is not as glamorous (or as difficult) as, say, drug addiction, but it is still difficult to control.

I have been eating a bit less this week. My body feels dissatisfied, as if I'm depriving it of something that it needs, even though I have eaten what I need.

When my body asks for more food, indeed, demands that it needs more food, I stop and try to listen to it. Why are you saying this? Where is it coming from? Is it true what you are telling me?

You see, it was easy to listen to this voice and believe it simply because it felt true. Besides, the body is usually trustworthy in telling you what it needs, like rest and water for example, and one has learned from experience to do what it says.

And whenever I neglect this seeming need, there is an emptiness in me, like something is missing. It almost feel as if I'm missing out on something. These are the voices I need to listen and challenge.

God, fill the emptiness that I'm trying to fill with food. This is usually my prayer, and slowly, my emptiness goes away.

Resolution #2 Keep my room clean, year long:

At the beginning of this month, my room was fairly clean, and then I had an excuse for not keeping it clean.

The past two weeks have been really busy, what with retreats to plan and camping trips to attend. But now that my life is getting back to "normal", it is time to get back on track.

I have started yesterday, slowly reorganizing some books that I got from my old place (yes even more) and today getting rid of my mounting laundry.

Oh boy, what a never ending task this is!

Resolution #3 Update my blog regularly, at least once a week:

I honestly love writing and I love writing on my blog, so you would think this would be the easiest resolution to keep.

But there is a difference between loving what you do and being disciplined in it. I didn't post anything last week! I have to be careful of these small slips because it can be a slippery slope for me!

That's it for this month, see you next!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Healing Wounds Part III - Healing Prayer

Click here for part II and here for part I.

There comes a time, however, that we need to bring our wounds to God.

It is worth repeating what I mentioned before: God desires to heal us from these wounds. He waits patiently until we decide to meditate on these painful wounds with the guiding help of His Holy Spirit.

I will share what I found helpful in healing some of my wounds, that is, my way of practicing healing prayer. I owe much to  Brad Jersak's book Can you hear me?, materials from Charles Kraft and my mentor in InnerCHANGE.

Set aside some time for healing prayer. Depending on the wound (or wounds) some may take longer. I know of people who go through their entire life in one long session, bringing every painful memory to God for healing.

The first step is to invite the Holy Spirit to guide you and guard you throughout this whole process. Trust yourself in His arms, and knowing full well that by yourself you are vulnerable in the spiritual world, entrust yourself like a child to the guidance of God's spirit.

Secondly focus on one wound, or a multitude of wounds, or a painful memory that keeps reoccurring and affecting your daily life.

For example, if anxiety and fear is a constant issue for you, you could ask God to heal you from this excessive anxiety.

Ask Him "where is this anxiety coming from? What are the past events that are causing this anxiety? What wounds are causing the anxiety?"

Pay attention to the images and memories that come to your mind. Don't ask yourself "is this just my imagination?" because God can use your imagination during this process.

Concentrate on one memory of the event. Perhaps you may experience a memory that was long forgotten, or repressed in the mind. This is usually a very painful experience, as many of us prefer to stay away from such memories.

But this pain is part of the healing process.

Stay in the memory until the pain of it starts to slowly fade away, or until the pain is bearable.

Ask God "Where were you when this was happening?" Wait and see what happens.

Is there someone that needs to be forgiven? Ask God help in forgiving them. Even better, ask God to help you see that person as He sees them.

Guidance of the Holy Spirit is important at this point, and He will give you promptings on how to go about the memory. He can reveal hidden motives, where you need to forgive and be forgiven, the consequences of such actions. Many times He will tell you that you were not to blame for many of the actions you thought yourself responsible.

Finally ask for healing. At this point God, in the memory, may do a number of things. I have seen Jesus, for example, writing on my forehead "forgiven" and then hugging me, laying hands on my chest and seeing a fresh wound closing.

He may show you a number of things, and at this point there is no guidance needed other than the Holy Spirits'.

This is just an oversimplified guide of how I practice healing prayer, and simply a starting point for those who have not practiced it.

I encourage you to read more about it and practice healing prayer. Healing is painful, but there is freedom to be found in this healing pain.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Healing Wounds Part II - Ok I Need Healing, Now What?

Click here for part I.

"Okay José, you told me that I need healing, and that there are some wounds that time cannot heal. So...what do I do now? It's not like I can just wait for my healing"

There is one thing we can do before we are completely healed from a wound.

Intentional healing takes time and energy, and I don't think (while some claim you can) you can simply go through a healing session of a couple of hours and declare yourself completely healed.

But life's demands are immediate and walk we must, even in our wounded state.

And so it is unreasonable that we should wait until our healing is complete so we can finally move on with our life.

In fact, I don't think we can ever get to a point where we can say "I'm completely healed". Life is one of continual intentional healing.

But there is something we can do in the meantime, something we can do about a particular wound before that wound is healed.

Every wound has a voice. This voice can be turned on inadvertently when certain situations in life activate the wound.

It can tells us many things, like you are worthless or you'll never amount to anything  or they don't really love you.

These wounds' voices, and the pain its bleeding leaves, can paralyze us and make us act in ways that are not Christlike.

It can make us avoid and hide from certain situations. It can make us sulk in our room, refusing to be consoled and yet yearning for it. It can make us proud and arrogant, convincing ourselves that we don't need someone or something, and thus a cold treatment to the situation or person ensures.

So what do we do with this voice?

One way to go about it is to ignore it. I tried this many times, but ignoring it only seems to make it worse in the end.

We could also listen to it and believe everything it says to us. This only seems to augment the pain, and in the end, we can believe things about ourselves and others that are not necessarily true.

I believe the best way to deal with it while we heal is to acknowledge the voice, and say "it is okay that I feel this way, but this voice is not telling me truth".

In doing this we are not ignoring the wound, we are paying attention to it, and yet we refuse to believe what it has to say as true.

The wound has a voice for a reason. It is like a child crying for attention, asking for help, trying to manipulate us or coerce us into submission.

We would be foolish to ignore it, and we would be miserable if we believe it.

The wound is not saying the truth, but it is saying a truth. It is saying that it needs healing and attention, demanding it with its bleeding and screeching screams.

Whenever a situation arises where I feel my wounds bleeding and telling me something, I have tried this, and I can say that after a while these voices slowly leave me alone.

This is the first step of healing the wound. With this we are paying attention to the wound and refuse to believe what it has to say. We do this before we bring the wound to God, where He can heal it completely.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Healing Wounds Part I

One of the things I know I need is healing. The past always deals us cuttingly, leaving us more than just bittersweet memories.

Events that occurred in the past, even the ones we don't remember, can leave in us a wound that time never heals.

These wounds can manifest themselves in many ways, from anxiety and fear and even small personalities quirks. Unfortunately, these wounds can also prevent us from becoming what God created us to be.

These wounds can prevent us from being who we really are.

Anxiety and fear, for example, can create walls and avoiding behavior that serve as defense mechanisms against the object, event or person that creates the anxiety and fear.

Walls are divisive and can ultimately imprison us.

This is just one example of how wounds prevent us in living and being the life Christ calls us to be.

Healing is therefore essential in our spiritual growth, in our growing in likeness of Him.

One time I took a retreat to look deeply into the wounds that are causing my anxieties. It was a 3 day retreat in a ranch far away from the city. Silence and solitude were unavoidable. Even my guitar and Bible were left behind.

It was just me and God during most of the time.

What I found during my time with Him were memories from my childhood, some of them I had even forgotten about but were later confirmed by my parents as true events.

I could only go through some of my memories, and there is still much more healing to be done, but my anxiety has become more controllable ever since.

We can't simply wait out our healing, as present events can resurface old forgotten wounds. Sometimes we may not know why we feel how we feel because the memory might be lost, but the wound is still lurking behind, working behind the scenes with our emotions.

Healing is therefore intentional.

Christ is longing to heal us. He comes to us as He did with many of the sick people of His time, asking us "What do you want?"

I hope our answers will be "Lord I want to see".

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New Year's Resolution March Update!

It's amazing how fast this year is passing by! Though this should hardly surprise us, since we probably said the same thing about last year.

Anyways, it's that time of the month again, where I get to divulge my commitment (or lack of) on this year's resolutions. It is my way of giving value to these otherwise forgotten resolutions.

So let's start with Resolution #1!

Resolution #1 Achieve my ideal weight:

I still weigh the same, around 260 lbs. Yes, no weight loss this month, unfortunately. But I am not disappointed or discouraged, because I know that I will lose this weight.

I have decided to stick with my flexitarian diet, eating meat on weekends or in special occasions. Unfortunately, my criteria for what constitute a special occasion can be very loose and flexible.

I am eating a lot less meat now, however, and I hope that this diet is healthier for me.  

I am thinking of even making more changes to my diet. I'm thinking of even limiting what kind of meat I eat. I have no desire of eating more meat from these meat factories of today, where animals are simply treated as products.

Buying only grass fed beef, where cattle is treated humanely, is more expensive, and therefore not realistic to my budget, but on the other hand, my budget will guarantee that I really only eat meat on special occasions. The alternative of cheap meal is simply less attractive to me.

This is more than a leftist liberal turn to me but a Franciscan one, as St. Francis was one who cared deeply for animals, even calling them "brothers".

Resolution #2: Keep my room clean, year long.

I have seen some progress on this. I have rearranged some stuffs in my room and have more space in it. Things are more organized and clean than they were last month. But I still have too much stuffs and a desire has grown in me to give away a good part of it.

I was thinking of why I hate moving so much, and one reason of course, is moving all the stuff that I accumulated over the years.

My mounting collection of CDs. Seriously, why do I need so many of them?!
Having more stuff also means that I need to devote more time to clean them, organize them, and taking care of them. It is too much work, and I don't want to work so much for my possessions.

Resolution #3: Update my blog regularly, at least once a week.

Okay, I didn't post on my blog one week during lent! But other than that I have updated my blog pretty regularly, and I plan to continue doing so.

In fact, I want to update my blog more than once a week, maybe more than twice a week.

That's it for this month, see you next!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Early Rising

       It is 4 am. My phone's alarm blasts off insistently. My eyes reluctantly open, as I struggle to get off the gluing bed.

I'm at my job a few minutes before 5 am. The morning sun is still way off, nowhere to be seen. "What are you doing here Jose?!" asks my manager surprised. "You are off today!"

I'm very confused. I go and see the schedule, and indeed, I'm off today. An odd synergy of gladness and anger is brewing inside me.

I see my new schedule, and it shows that I only work afternoons. I return home, glad that I can continue resting. 

"Yay! No more waking up early! Goodbye 4 am!"

Well, as we say in my country for good news that prove to be false, "great joy of donkey!" Because the next week, the opposite, dreaded news are received: I work only mornings now.

"Are you freaking kidding me?!"

That was all I could say.

I love mornings. Unfortunately I almost always sleep through them. I guess you could say I'm a night owl. 

Waking up at 4 am for a night owl is quite possibly a form of corporal punishment, a horrendous practice that is asked of us only in special, extraordinary circumstances.

I felt however, the need and desire to embrace this new change. Perhaps there is a blessing here. I love mornings after all, and experiencing every early morning might be a good thing.

I slowly started to adjust my internal clock by gradually waking up earlier and earlier on my days off. Slowly but surely, my body is adjusting to the change. Nowadays I usually wake up at 6 am.

We tend to see early rising as a form of virtue, productivity and diligence. 

I don't think early rising is good in and of itself, nor a religious practice by which we gain spiritual growth. But it can be an open door for many blessings.

We are told in Mark 1:35 that Jesus rose very early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went to a desolate place to pray.

Early rising makes sense in a society where life starts in the morning. If there is any virtue in early rising is simply this: time of solitude with God before our activities begin.

If our early rising is not accompanied by this time of solitude, then it is devoid of its most sacred potential.

It is the most essential and therefore important part of our day. It is our first date with our Creator. It shouldn't be negotiated, nor should there be a commandment of it either.

It should come first as a practice, then a necessity, to finally arrive at the precious moment of grace: a fulfillment of a desire.

So, if this is not part of our routine, why not make it so? Why not try to wake up one hour earlier than we are accustomed, and dedicate that hour in solitude with God?

Imagine our days if we start them out with God!

This has been the great blessing in disguise for me. It is not experiencing every sunrise while birds tweet away. It is not seeing the calming view of a world asleep and slowly rising, even though these blessings are still appreciated.

It is simply spending time with my Father, before my activities begin.