Friday, December 23, 2011

A little bragging

My Great-Aunt Lucy Toal is one of the featured local heroes of Tucson in the Tucson Weekly. (Scroll to the 9th feature)
It's such a neat story because she is just doing what she can to help others. It's not a one-time gradiose gesture, but faithfully doing what she can [still do] that, in turn, immensely blesses those who need a bit of hope the most.

 She is my Grandpa Joe's sister (mom's dad). This idea of 'Christian duty' was instilled in them through the strict 'Catholic discipline' of their parents, as my Grandpa related to me in a letter. Grandpa lived his out differently than Lucy; as a public servant, elected to the state legislature representing the people of his district. When I was in an elected position through our professional organization, I wrote him for some advice. In our generation what we see as 'outstanding' and worthy of recognition as a 'local hero,' Grandpa described it as just doing his duty. As a life-long, faithful Catholic, I think he just viewed his 'goodness' and 'acts of service to others' as a simple responsibility to the Gospel; a calling to live faithfully with the 'Golden Rule' always in mind.
As a descendant of such humble faithfulness, I hope I live out that same sense of caring and commitment to others. As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Words

If you read my last post, you can see that Advent has been on my mind lately.

I am a "words" person. I love words. God speaks to me in words. It may not surprise you that my love language is "words of affirmation." When in Thailand, my roommate and were feeling particularly beat-up (spiritually) and need to be reminded of truth. What did we do? Create the "Wall of Truth" - where we wrote all the attributes of God in different colors on separate notecards. What resulted was a VERY faith-affirming work of art.

This Advent, while in church, God would lay different words on my heart from scriptures, Psalms, homilies, and songs. One Sunday, I wrote them down and then asked my friend Nicole to create some "Subway Art" with the words in 'Advent' colors. (purples and pinks)

The result is one thing that I will put up in our house for years to come to remind us of the reason for the Advent season. If any of you are interested in getting a little postcard of the wall art, comment on the blog and I will send it to you.

Isn't it awesome? Seriously, everyone needs a Nicole in their lives! To check out her blog and other creations, click here.


The last time I posted was the beginning of Advent, which was entirely appropriate, as the post was about God beginning a new work. Advent is a season of preparation. During this time, we are to prepare our hearts, minds and lives to receive a new the promise of a Messiah coming to dwell WITH us.

Unlike many other Advent seasons, I truly feel God doing a new work within my heart. This past year has been one of many, many...many life-changes. Naively, I thought that none of it would be a big deal. After all, "I can do all things through Christ." While this is true, getting married, leaving a job, looking for a job, getting a job, leaving your HOME (and many friends and family), joining the church, looking for friends and entering the desert (in so many more ways than one) all take a toll.

At our parish, on Monday nights there is a women's faith sharing group. I have only been able to make it twice. The first Monday of Advent, I went. Our book selection was The Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander. The book focused on Mary's "yes" to believe God, receive the miracle of Emmanuel, and bless the world by birthing Him. Houselander likened Mary to 'the Reed' (as in a musical instrument - like the clarinet) God used to bring the music of Christ.

The premise of the first few chapters (which were all I read, as I only went one time) were that we, too, are vessels (reeds) like Mary. For vessels to hold anything, they must be hollowed out. During Advent, we must be emptied of the sins that have taken root/entangled us, so that we can receive the grace of Christ. In turn, then, that grace may flow out of our vessel into the lives of others.
Houselander used three examples of vessels (although I can only remember two): the reed and the chalice. Both are hollowed, so that they can fulfill their purpose. The reed and chalice have two very different purposes, but both are filled to bless another. The take-away thought was two-fold: a) our hollowing out/emptying serves a purpose - so that we may receive something greater - and carry that into the world; 2) the shape of the vessel is designed for its purpose. What 'hollowing' out are you experiencing? How may God want to fill that for blessing?

I was reminded of the what Paul wrote in 2nd Timothy 2:20-21:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

The message states the end of verse 21 poetically:
Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.
Advent is a time to make ready, to prepare to receive a gift. How is God asking you to get ready? What stumbling block is He nudging you to remove? His nudging is so that we may be ready to receive His gift so that we can bless this world.

Let us make ready. Come, Lord Jesus, come.