Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's a meaningful (and wonderful) life

Today I woke up to a bird singing near my window. Now you might think, 'oh how fairytale-like, a girl waking up to birds chirping and the sun shining.' If you have ever had the joy of seeing me what I am like in the morning you know it is far from a fairytale. Needless to say, I did not appreciate the bird's song.

As I was thinking about what to write in today's blog, I couldn't help but think of that bird. And all the other signs this morning. Signs of life. Signs that God has given me another day to live in His creation. It is important to remember though, that living, truly living, in His creation is more than making sure you have a heartbeat. It is living with a purpose, and it is hard to remember sometimes to live with intention.

I've gotten caught up in it. I bet you have too. We go through the motions of life; get up, eat breakfast, go to your respective professions, come home, converse with friends and family about your day, do busy work before going to bed to wake up(hopefully) and do it all over. Somewhere in there God expects us to do more. He expects us to do something with our lives. I pray a lot, and ask a lot of people to pray for me, to live with intention. If I don't have a reason to do something, then why do it? God gave me this wonderful life, full of opportunity, for me to make something of myself and I don't want to waste it.

This made me think of one of my favorite books, along with my favorite teacher from high school. Tuesdays With Morrie is the book, and Mr. Eden is the teacher, he is the teacher for both the newspaper and yearbook. If Mr. Eden taught me anything about myself when I was on staff, it was that what I was doing for the paper(selling advertisements) was important and had a purpose. I think that is why I liked the paper so much, is because it gave me a purpose to do what I was doing, what I love. I love a challenge, and being able to meet a goal. I love feeling like I was a part of something.

At the end of the year, Mr. Eden gives the senior editors a copy of the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, with a little note at the end, a passage of the book highlighted for all of us, and another for the specific recipient. Such a great idea! For me, Eden highlighted the passage, "Remember what I said about finding a meaningful life? I wrote it down, but now I can recite it: Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning. You notice...there's nothing in there about salary."

If you haven't read the book, you should. If you want to borrow my copy, I'd be more than happy to loan it to you! In short, the book is written by a man who is rich in material wealth,  who goes back to his old college professor who has been diagnosed ALS(Lou Gehrig's disease) and becomes rich in educational and moral wealth through his professor's lessons of hardship. I don't want to tell you any more, because I want you to read the book.

The passage Mr. Eden highlighted for me works so well in every aspect of my life. Morrie, the professor, encourages the author, Mitch, to live with intention, with meaning. To not just go through the motions and gain wealth, but to love others and develop relationships. Morrie, throughout the book encourages Mitch to not focus on material wealth, as so many do and measure their success based on that, but to focus on making his life something he is proud of.

Now, I know that Morrie in this book is not a replacement for God,  but he is really catching onto what God wants for us. He wants us to be devoted to love, to those around us, and to be devoted to purpose.

Every once in a while, I need a reminder to live with intention, but I try so hard to find a purpose in all that I do. I'm getting an education to be useful to my future community of peers. I'm writing this blog to hopefully reach out to people about my faith. I'm learning about different people, different lifestyles, so I'm not ignorant to the world around me. I'm making mistakes to know what I believe is right. Sometimes those mistakes are unintentional on my behalf, maybe not on God's. However, what I do after them should be intentional. I should learn from them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Deepening Compassion-a healthy religion

If you only have 15 minutes, please watch this video. If you have 20 minutes, watch this video and read what follows!

I have said before and I will say it again, I love my church. It is on Washington University's campus in St. Louis, so it is about a 20 minute drive for me when I am home, but worth much more than that. It is Catholic, yes, but it is homilies like this one that give me chills and put my faith back in the Catholic church that has a reputation for being a bit boring.

Father Gary in this homily talks about good religion versus bad religion; something I have brought up here. One of the comments that Father Gary made at the beginning of the talk that hit home for me was this, "Healthy religion understands we need to listen lived experience of people across world especially those around us. If a religion can't be honestly criticized by its own and others, its not an honest religion and it will not be healthy." The Catholic church isn't ALL good. It has areas that can stand to be critiqued. We need to listen to its people and respond.

I can't help but think of one of my oldest friends Kelsey when listening to this homily. I have known Kelsey since Kindergarten, and have learned many lessons from her. The biggest one; making religion fit me, not trying to fit into religion.

Kelsey and I grew up in the Catholic church, going to a private Catholic school is how we met. While I still go to the Catholic mass, Kels has opted out, but has continued to deepen her relationship with Christ. For a period of time Kelsey, in a way, lost her faith. At least faith in the Catholic church. (Now Kelsey, if you're reading this, correct me if I'm wrong!) It was so difficult for me to see Kelsey lose faith in the Catholic church because I know she felt like she was being shamed. Why? Kelsey had the courage to admit she is gay during high school.

Unfortunately, I think the unhealthy part of religion got to Kelsey. Father Gary says in his homily that an unhealthy religion creates outsiders, and that's the truth. So many times a church seems to create rules and regulations for people to 'belong' but that isn't what Jesus wanted. That isn't what God wants. We hear, or observe so often, unhealthy churches preaching, "You don't sing the right way? You don't pray the right way? You don't name God the right way? You don't love like I don't belong, sorry." But that just isn't right. The church, the Christian religion for that matter, should be about inclusion. It should be about love.

I got to stick around to see Kelsey change her faith yet again, and I am forever grateful to my God for doing so. She realized she can be gay and be loved. Loved by both her physical family and friends, and by her eternal Father. He's not going anywhere just because she is attracted to women. Why would He?

Father Gary made a beautiful point at the end of his homily. He said, "if we are a healthy religion, if any religion is healthy, it's deepening compassion. It's what it's for." I googled a definition of compassion and liked what I found. Wikipedia claims compassion to be "the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love..." Our religion isn't supposed to shame those that are different. It isn't supposed to create insiders and outsiders. It is supposed to be a "springboard into loving those who are other than us...which is the hallmark of a healthy religion" as Father Gary puts it.

I'm on that train. I'm all about loving people for who they are in the present. I'm all about making them feel a sense of inclusion, a feeling of being welcome. What grounds do I have to tell people that because they 'stray from the norm' that they can't practice my religion, they can't love my God? Who knows if I am the norm?

I urge you again to watch that video. I urge you to try and take into action what Father Gary talks about. Don't let your faith become toxic. Don't let your church make you feel ashamed.

(Love you Kels! Thanks for letting me talk about you!)