Grace: The Electric Toy Sports Car

Under the hot sun this morning, I was vacuuming out my car. Yesterday, my grandma and I had discovered that Hermine had left the inside of my car nice and wet. It smelled like a swamp. You almost didn’t want to breathe. And that is pretty accurate description considering the water came from the marsh when my street flooded. My car during the flood had managed to become a poor excuse for a Transformer and became a little golden submarine. Gilda, my car, had to be driven to higher ground before the water got any higher, and thus become a submarine to make it to higher ground.

As I was vacuuming up the muddy water from beneath the seats and footboards, an old lady and her grandson were walking up my street. The little grandson, maybe 3 or 4, was chugging along in an electric toy yellow sports car. The grandson had been instructed to follow behind grandma. At that moment, I had an epiphany about grace.

I  pictured sweet and strong Jesus walking in a path in front and young children struggling to keep up and not be left behind. Their little legs were scrambling to try and close the distance between Jesus and them. They just couldn’t keep up no matter how fast they moved their little feet, and the distance grew and grew.

However, Jesus had given us grace to help us follow him. This grace I pictured as the electric toy car the little kid was riding in this morning. The car gave us a faster and better means at following Jesus. We could keep up and not grow so tired. The car, or grace, was a needed gift from God to help us in our disadvantage. There was no way the small gait of a child could keep up with Jesus and his grown up size strides. So, God gave us an electric toy car to chug along in behind Jesus. We wouldn’t lose Jesus as along as we followed behind him. Of course, there was still the option to turn right or left or to crash and break the car. It was the children’s choice to decide if they wanted to follow Jesus, but we would not lose sight of him in the distance from the ever widening gap between his walking strides and the walking strides of the children.

We all have access to the rideable electric toy car called grace. Without this, there would be no way to heaven. We cannot earn heaven, and so God gave us the grace to help us attain it. Though, to keep up with Jesus, and then get to heaven, one has to cooperate and follow directions. Grace is amazing, but one has to work with God, and with grace. There is a cooperation between man and God in the incredible gift called grace.

Finding Myself Again

My goal, recently, was to try and stay off Facebook, texting, and etc. Originally, it was an attempt to protect myself and to give myself some more time to do things. After the first day I realized I needed it. I needed it to find myself again.

Somewhere I had lost myself amongst all of the expectations of others. After that one day things felt so good. I came to see I needed to make my own judgements and not rely on other people. My opinions on theological things needed to be my own. I needed to research and form my own conclusions. I also needed to reconnect with things I liked doing and discover new things about myself. I hadn’t played video games in a while. And I’m sure other things got neglected that I was unaware of.

My plan in theory aimed to limit my contact with others to where it was just work and necessary things. However, I have also come to realize that finding myself also includes being able to share ideas and things I learned with people who can appreciate it. A part of finding myself is realizing the need to talk to someone when you are excited about something and know that they can connect with it, or at least try.

I don’t think I’m done with my little break from social media and etc, but I have come to find something surprising. I have found that without the influences of others and forming my own judgements I think I lean to more traditional Catholic stance. In this break, I have allowed myself to explore areas that I may not have thought of if I was not set on finding myself outside of the other people around me.

Finding myself in this exercise is like turning off all the noise and just letting yourself be. Letting yourself not be enmeshed in others and just be inside yourself. Outside of people’s expectations, problems, and emotions. Be in your own skin and regain your sense of self. 

I think everyone should give it a try. But, remember part of finding yourself is also sharing your joy that you can’t help but tell someone about!

The Tragedy of Contemporary Christian Lingo

My focus these past few weeks have been about issues that I see within the Catholic Church and in all churches. These issues, I believe, are a relatively recent phenomenon that has resulted because of the last 300 or 200 years of Christian “events,” for a lack of a better word, in American society. I plan on writing a book when I feel like my investigation is complete and I’m able to offer practical solutions to ministers.

I’m writing this at the present moment because I do not feel I can keep quiet about this issue on language. In the contemporary Christian culture the language used has emotionalism and this lack of awareness about it. To clarify, examples of these statements include, “I feel led to go to (X place),” “God laid it on my heart to tell you (X thing),” “I felt in my heart I should do (X thing),” and etc. I do not feel I should have to list all the common phrases used by, at least young, Christians today. If you are involved in ministry or a church you should know exactly what I am referring to.

This language is very flawed. It shows a desperate need for a true interior life and the awareness of something called “discernment.” It lacks the idea of divine providence acting in circumstances without your “feelings” or “emotions.” It focuses so much on how someone feels at that moment which is very likely to be a temporary feeling and not from God. What one is doing when using these phrases is applying authority that they are not certain of, or they are blissfully ignorant in understanding that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” This jargon also lacks humility and tries to assert something that may not be true. What is the better course of action is just to acknowledge that you desire to do something. This is more truthful. Only time and much discernment can lead to the understanding if such a feeling is not just originating yourself.

In Catholicism, this jargon, I believe, is a consequence of Protestant influences and is born out of the faulty movement in Protestantism that focuses on feelings and emotions. This emphasis is because they lack something solid that the Catholic church has, so they put authority on how they “feel” as they think it is the “Holy Spirit” and to assert that they truly have the Holy Spirit.  The Church is having such views leaked into it via popular Protestant singers, at least, to the youth who do not understand the complexities of Christian spiritual life and living for Christ. Additionally, there MAY be a chance Catholics are using the same techniques as a way to ensure that people do not leave the Church. If this is the case, then what we have is a church that is having Protestant social ideas leaking into the Church and creating a mixture of spiritual understanding. This mixture is very likely not stable as I consider most entertainment and emotionalism tactics to be missing the key point of Jesus. It creates a spiritual idea where only the loud and boisterous “passion” or “love” is truly someone following Christ. The mature passion and love of Christ are one that is quiet and reverent.

To clarify what I mean by mature, C. S. Lewis states:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Most experiences where God teaches you or have you do something will not be a drama of emotion. What I see as the issue that is creating problems is the emotionalism which is a result of consumerism in American society. People want something that is not really “Catholic.” Baptism can be accompanied with emotions or it may not be, but just because there are no emotions does not change the beauty of what happens at baptism. There is a stable reality that can be known and is not limited to subjective feelings that tend to be very unreliable.

Now before I let my musings sink in, I want to remind you that this information is a work in progress. It is a tentative theory for things that I see which are problematic in everyday life as someone heavily involved in Catholicism and Christianity. Take my information and think about it. Chew on it. Reflect on it and come to your own conclusion about if the Christian jargon is uneducated and harmful. What I said is not set in stone, but only a tentative perspective.

Sites that helped me put this into words: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/02/828/

http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=333051

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2014/02/06/faith-and-emotion/

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/07/08/the-spirit-the-modern-world-pentecostalism-and-orthodoxy/

 

The Catholic School Kid

Since August, I have started work at a Catholic School. I am, currently, a substitute teacher and an extended care assistant. My job at the school and my involvement in children’s lives are a very enlightening experience. In many ways, I expected Catholic School to be different from my own experience of growing up in public school. In a certain way, I was right, but some of the ways it is different are not a good thing.

The school system is fine. What is different is the environment the kids grow up in. I expected prim and proper families as a private school is not cheap. However, a lot of the parents I meet are single moms. One of the sweetest kids I have met so far, his father is in jail. It seems that there isn’t much of a stable nuclear family anymore. Kids have to remember which parent they have to go home with for the weekend. A group of sisters that I interact with a lot has five other step-siblings who are also from divorced parents. That is eight children that one has to keep track of who goes where. Going into this job, considering it is a private school, much of what I hear about the condition of the family unit is surprising.

As a millennial with constant articles and elders complaining about my generation, I can’t imagine what they will say about these elementary kids. The only people we can blame for how these children turn out is ourselves. In public school, it seemed like everyone I knew still had a stable family unit and their parents were not divorced. It was the same in college. Thus, it was very surprising to me see that most kids, I get to interact with at least, do have a “broken” family.  In addition, we, millennials, are complained about like it is a new accessory to wear to make you look sophisticated. Therefore, if these kids have more family trouble than us “entitled millennials” then I do not know what the older generation will cook up about these kids. As a facility member of the school, I have come to realize that the school offers some children an assured stability. No matter who they go home with, and which bedroom they sleep in, the school will always be a constant place for them to go when home is traveling between two locations.

God has shown me that despite the conditions these kids live with they are beautifully resilient. There is a giant light for them in their life through the school and the Catholic faith. Today, the group of sisters I previously mentioned were re-enacting mass. A dictionary was used as a pretend Bible for the readings and prayer book. During their fun, they were trying to teach me how to be an altar server as they had gone through training to be altar servers. It was a very sweet moment for me to witness, granted the eldest and the youngest started fighting over who would be the priest. Eventually, the middle sister joined in too over the quarrel of the priesthood. I made sure to remind them in real life only men can be priests, but there is a study going on to see if the Church can ordain deaconesses. As a Protestant, I have never seen kids playing a church service for fun. The kids enjoy Mass and the traditions that come with it. Today, this little moment showed me that even though life is confusing for the kids, there is a light in the darkness for them.

God’s love for these young children is truly boundless. Even with all the sin in the world, He somehow reaches the hearts of these kids in such a unique way. And He uses the Catholic faith to light up these little hearts for Him. I hope He continues to show me what the fullness of truth and tradition can efficiently accomplish.