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.