Discipline

Are you more disciplined that a 1st grader?

As my 6-year old is discovering, first grade is a big year. He has new and increased responsibilities and expectations that are proving tough for a little boy with tons of energy!  He would much rather be dressing-up and playing superhero or playing Mario Bros on the Wii than practicing reading or spelling.  He would definitely rather play on the gameboy or the Ipad or go outside and shoot hoops than think about tomorrow for even a minute. We’ve been working on some strategies to help him get organized and stay focused but there is just so. much. distraction.  What I don’t understand is that he loves reading when I make him do it, yet it is never his first choice.  He loves being able to spell words and is proud of his ability to figure it out and understand. I can sense his feelings of accomplishment and empowerment and excitement and his smile speaks for itself.  The time we spend together is rewarding for both of us.  So why isn’t he looking to read with me from the moment he walks in the door?

The concepts of discipline and obedience are challenging for most adults so it’s not surprising that they are difficult for a 6-year old.  He is being given clear and true expectations and goals and knows exactly what the consequences will be should he choose not to obey.  I think this is where we, as a society, struggle. Who or what should we be obedient to and why?   What consequences might we face?  We live in a world that preaches relativist attitudes and absolute Truths are easily hidden.  We are taught to think of ourselves as our own sole authority.   As obscure as the idea might seem today, there is a more supreme authority than this trinity of self (me, myself and I).  Even if our consciences are formed enough to recognize God and his laws as supreme and absolute, discipline and obedience are essential to living that faith.

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is far too easy to let the busy schedules and demands of day-to-day life keep us from doing what is essential for our souls.  Furthermore, the essential is so obscured that a soul no longer even knows what it is longing and striving for.  We seek and work for worldly ideals that can never satisfy, all the while avoiding or ignoring the nourishment we really need.

And it is only by filling ourselves with God that we can navigate all of it in the first place.

Think of all the ways you nurture a relationship with your spouse, or child or parent or friend.  God deserves the same care times 10!  That relationship is the only way we can successfully battle the storms of the day.  It doesn’t always have to be a big effort either.  Sometimes it is momentary silence in His presence, adoring Him, other times it is the simple honest communication of our moments.  Or how often do we call a friend with our need to ‘vent’ instead of ‘venting’ to God? He should be the go-to shoulder we cry on since He’s the one with all the answers anyway.  At times you may have a few quiet minutes that can be put to good use.  The other morning I had about 5 minutes until wake-up call and wanted to ‘hurry up’ and get my prayer time in.  I spent about 3 minutes trying to empty my brain of the considerable to-do list ahead, 1 minute ordering God to please hurry and just give me a little something to bless my day and finally for my last minute I shut-up and got out of my own way long enough to open my Magnificat to the morning readings.  As I read those few words of scripture I swear I heard a choir of angels sings as I slowly felt my whole being come alive.  The living word spoke to me in the exact way I needed that morning and I was renewed and ready to slay dragons for the Lord ( in my kitchen and laundry room at least!)  God worked a little miracle in my soul in under 1 minute despite my somewhat rude behavior.  Imagine saying to a husband or friend, “hurry, you have exactly one minute to be with me so make it good”.  But He did and managed to put a smile on my face for the whole day.

Luckily for Andrew it is my job to help him stay on track and meet his responsibilities until he is mature enough to be self-disciplined.  It is for his good that I turn off the television, and the wii and take away the Ipad.  Left to his own devices he might never choose to do actual work.  Then he would never become a good reader, and consequently wouldn’t learn all that he needs to learn.

The church acts in this same capacity for all of us on behalf of Jesus.  It is her job as ‘parent’ to lay out the absolute truths we are to live by and uphold the authority Jesus gave her so we can know exactly who and what to be obedient to and consequently what disciplines to practice.  By trusting in her almighty wisdom and being obedient to her prescriptions for our spiritual life we have a better chance at staying on the narrow road.  At a minimum we are obligated to go to mass on Sundays and holy days and meet Jesus in the sacraments of Eucharist and Confession.  We can further meet Jesus through spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  We can call upon our Lady who leads us to her Son through the meditations of the Rosary.  The lives and writings of thousands of martyrs and saints have so much to teach us.  Prayer groups, praise and worship service, adoration chapels, along with countless ministry and outreach programs are active in churches everywhere and are a great way to feed a hungry soul and serve the Lord.  All of these things take discipline however.  We are busy and surrounded by so much noise all the time.  The demands of keeping up are high.  Choosing an hour in adoration or a half hour meditation on the sorrowful mysteries is not always as easy and glamorous as chatting on the phone or watching something great on TV, but God never disappoints and our efforts for Him will be met with reward.  I can tell you that when I choose God over some other enjoyment or pleasure, I am NEVER disappointed.  I NEVER feel as though I have missed out on anything.  I NEVER feel empty and unfulfilled.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer 29:13

God has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Like my first grader’s desire to play, people often relate the sentiment that they want to enjoy their life, not worry about spiritual ‘work’. Certainly God wants us to enjoy our life!  He filled the world with goodness and beauty and light precisely for our enjoyment.  It is a simple matter of priority and recognizing that there is a time for all things.  There is time to spend with the Lord and time to spend in the world and time to spend with the Lord in the world.  Our relationship with Him will lead to the ultimate enjoyment but it takes discipline to choose, again and again, to drown out the noise of the world and seek Him.  It takes discipline to be obedient to the Supreme authority that has ordained this same discipline for our good and ultimately for our enjoyment.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)

*As the election approaches may God Bless our Country and may we all vote in obedience to God for the good of all mankind.*

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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