3D

We took the family to see Madagascar 3 in 3D the other day.  (A great family movie for all ages!) The nine of us filed into our seats and got settled while I helped the two youngest (ages 4 and 2) with their special glasses, which went over very well and they were oohing and aahing over the scenes jumping out at them.

Real D glasses

Real D glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little while into the movie there was a particularly awesome 3D scene and I excitedly turned to the little girls to share their reaction because I just knew they must be almost overwhelmed with the awesomeness of something they don’t see everyday – or really ever!  But instead of childlike awe and wonder they were staring blankly at the screen – without their glasses on!  I couldn’t believe they were missing the experience.  What happened to the initial oohing and aahing?   Surely they just didn’t understand that if the glasses stayed on there would be more of that?  So in a screeching whisper I coaxed and cajoled until they put their glasses back on and sure enough their sweet little faces lit up again!  For about 5 minutes…  and then the glasses were off again.  I coaxed and cajoled again and glasses went on and so it went for the rest of the movie because I could not stand the fact that they were watching a dull and blurry screen when those little glasses so easily changed the whole game.  It made no sense really.  They saw and experienced how much better it was with the glasses on so why would they ever want to take them off?  But what could I do?  Forcing the glasses on would have been counterproductive, not to mention rude if crying and fighting ensued.  I was forced to watch the movie and simply accept the fact that I had done all I could to help my little girls experience the magic of a 3D movie, and failed.

This parenting moment reminds me an awful lot of the gift of free will God our Father gives His children.   He teaches and guides and coaxes and cajoles but ultimately we have the choice to follow and live in his will or not.  He gave us the gift of being able to freely choose for ourselves to accept Him or reject Him, that is, to live out our 3D life with or without our glasses on!  Of course He wants us to experience the fullness and beauty of our world, and creation itself was designed to elicit our awe and wonder, but if we won’t wear the glasses then we get the grainy and dull version.  How heartbreaking for God our Father to watch us partaking in life with less than He intended and less than we deserve.   He’s set us up Royally and at times we choose the pauper’s lot, hurting not only ourselves but also our ever-loving Father in Heaven.

Why would we do that??  I suppose it’s one thing if we don’t know any better, but even when we do  we often still reject God’s more excellent way.  Like my 4 and 2-year-old rejecting their glasses for no apparent reason, even after they had experienced the wonder of having them on.  It makes no sense!  Why not do it the way God has prescribed?  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The answer lies partly in the cunning voice of our most ancient adversary.  The distractions and enticements that lead us away from the simple and obvious path of truth cause us to question the truths we’ve seen with our very own eyes.  The evil one deceives and conceals while obscuring our minds from counting the cost.  This is what Jesus warned against when He said,

 Mt. 7:13-14  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There is one path that leads to Heaven and It’s a path of Love.  We were created to know God and as such to Love.  We are called to be like little children, not only to Love but to be Loved.  Jesus is saying, buyer beware, the wide and varied paths lead directly to the manipulator of all that is good, for the evil one creates nothing of his own.  And when his work is done he can count on our own pride to perpetuate the lie.   After all who wants to admit they’ve chosen unwisely or wrongly?

God our loving Father wants so much for us to put on our glasses and expose the lies for what they are but more importantly to see the Love He offers so vividly that it seems we can reach right out and grab it!

Lord we pray that you illuminate the narrow road and give us the grace to choose to be on a path straight to you! Amen.

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Bedtime or is it???

Putting my younger kids to bed sometimes takes the patience of a saint! And while I am certain that by the grace of God I will one day achieve that status, I haven’t yet done so.   Anyone with toddlers probably knows the drill; brushing teeth, reading one story or many, saying prayers, tucking in, going potty, getting a drink and all in a certain ritual order and probably more than once!  The other night I was particularly exhausted and tried to take shortcuts to hurry up the bedtime stuff so I could crash-land myself into bed.  But what’s that cliché about haste making waste?  The more I tried to hurry the process the more they tried to prolong it!  It was an exercise in pure frustration and after a while I threw up my hands and stormed off leaving them crying and upset and anything but nicely tucked in and settled.

While I will not be taking any mommy-of-the-year awards for this particular episode, God nevertheless used the opportunity to teach me.  In my human weakness I have limits.  God our father does not.  I will always lose my patience when I’m pushed far enough.  God our father will never lose patience with his children.  I will always falter and fail but God will turn my failings into fruit.  I won’t always set the best example but Jesus came and gave us the perfect example once for all.

Icon of Jesus Christ

Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In those moments that I felt guilt and failure God himself offered me a do-over.  It is in recognizing and accepting our weaknesses and faults that we give Glory to God by our humility.  I failed.  I will fail again.  With the help of His Grace,  I will try to do better.  This is the very Truth the Church has taught and offered sacramentally in the confessional since Jesus instituted it,  and we affirm it every time we say the act of contrition, “…I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin”.

God in His infinite mercy and endless love doesn’t merely forgive us our transgressions, though that is a priceless gift in itself, rather he renews and restores and builds us up.  He transforms us through our weakness when we turn to His loving counsel.  He turns an exhausted and guilt-laden mother into a creature of Joy and Love and renewed energy and strength by His Love and Mercy. He is constant in His example of being merciful to others, as well as to ourselves.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:48)

I will always be an imperfect parent but He will always be guiding me perfectly.

Lord I thank you for your loving example and perfect guidance.  Amen

Another Bag

I put out a family favorite dish of homemade salsa and tostitos chips for snack the other day. My younger kids were gathered around and devouring it with gusto.  As the chips started to dwindle the kids started getting nervous. You could tell because they went from taking one chip at a time, to a few, to all-out fighting for the bag before their own little stockpile was gone.  Screeching and complaining ensued and my pleas to share and not be greedy went largely unheeded.  It was clear that they heard nothing I was trying to teach them! They became so focused on hoarding chips they didn’t even realize that they probably couldn’t eat them all.  All that fuss obscured the goal; happy healthy snack time together.

It struck me as familiar. How often do we get so caught up in our own desires and wants that we fail to see the error of our ways in achieving them? Sometimes we lose sight of a path that God lays before us because we think we have a different and better path. Or just because we, in our limited human capacity,  don’t see the wisdom of God’s plan plainly, perhaps we dismiss it as less worthy than our own.  Perhaps we are simply so driven and so focused on our own course that we neglect the critical prayer for discernment. How often does God try to get our attention and teach us in our “teachable moments” of life but we can’t or won’t hear Him?

Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

If my kids would have stopped to listen for a minute, they would have heard me trying to tell them something important, “Fear not, Mom is the savior of snack time.!” I have another bag!”  In teenager speak that would be “I got you”. How much nicer snack time would have been if they had taken the hand I held out to them.

And how much more is that true of God in the whole of our lives?   He is Sovereign and He’s got us covered!   When our own plans go awry and we feel like we’re swimming upstream, we need to understand and trust that God definitely has a better way or a better plan.

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

Turmoil, confusion, dissatisfaction, and hurt are not God’s “ways” for us.  Achieving any end by means of sneaking, cheating, lying, being greedy and selfish is never in God’s plan.  Any course we embark on that neglects Love at its core is less than Excellent.

Lord help us to be attentive to your teaching in all the situations of our lives and always show us your “still more excellent way”(1 Cor 12:31) Amen!

God’s-eye view

My kindergartener recently had a conversation with grandma that went something like this.
Grandma: Pretty soon you will know how to read Andrew, and then you can just pick up a book and read it!
Andrew: You mean I will just go into school one day and I will be able to read?
Grandma: Well you will have to work and learn how to do it but then you will know how to do it forever.
At this point he shrugged indifferently and ran off to play…

If only he could see what he’s missing from an adult perspective!!  How do you make a 6-year-old understand  that the whole world will start to blossom  once they do the relatively short work of learning to read?  At age 6 he simply has no idea what he’s missing and how his window to the world will expand exponentially!

God our Father must feel this way about his children all the time!  He sees not only the great potential we have of our own power but the limitless potential we have when we live through Him.   He knows the world will blossom in ways we simply can not imagine when we trust in His ways.  But to do this requires work, it requires obedience and prayer and humility and a desire to serve the will of our father more than our own. It requires perseverance in the face of self-doubt and worldly failure. Sometimes it requires a single-minded focus that is near impossible to come by in a world full of distractions. It requires patience so at odds with the attitude of instant gratification prevalent in American culture.
God is always ready and willing to teach us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)

I wanted to shout after Andrew and call him back and explain all the wonders awaiting him.  I wanted, somehow, to make him understand.  Even as I write this I’m at a loss.  The impact of knowing how to read is so undefinable.

The same thing can be said of our Loving God.  We can’t begin to define Him or understand all that he has in store for us.  Only through the steady and faithful building of a relationship with Him will our eyes be opened, will our minds be enlightened, will our hearts be filled.  Are we eager and excited to know Him or do we shrug indifferently and run off to carry out our own plans?

Lord, help us tune out the world so we can focus our attention on you, who makes the world blossom in our minds, our hearts and our souls!  Amen

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen