Archives for January 2015

January 18, 2015

Learning How to Look at Others

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There’s a little detail in this Sunday’s Gospel reading that made me pause and think about how I approach ministry.  
It’s one of the classic moments in the Gospels, where we hear about the Call of the First Disciples in John 1:35-42. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples decide to follow Jesus, which leads to Jesus telling them to “Come and see…”.  Then Andrew, one of the two, goes and gets his brother Simon Peter and tells him “We have found the Messiah” and then he takes his brother to Jesus.  
And this is where I think it gets really interesting.  It doesn’t say that Andrew took Peter to Jesus and then Jesus started preaching to the group.  It also doesn’t say that Peter showed up and Jesus started rattling off orders of what he needed to do.  
It says:  Jesus looked at him…
Those words really made me think for a second. 

It’s such a small detail… I mean, you’d assume Jesus was looking a Peter when they met for the first time.  But the fact that John 1:42 specifically says “Jesus looked at him before going on about the big moment when Jesus tells him what he is going to be called, makes me think that Jesus wasn’t so much concerned with pushing his own plans on Peter as he was focused on recognizing who Peter was.  

Jesus looked at him.  

This is a skill that can be tempting to forget, especially when we’re involved in ministry of any kind.  It’s easy to hear about someone’s situation and say “Oh well you just need to get your kid baptized…” or “You should get your marriage convalidated so you can return to the sacraments…”.  It’s easy to tell people that “all they need is Jesus”, or that they just need to pray a certain prayer, or better yet that they just need to go talk to the priest, or counselor.  And all of those things may very well be true!  Sometimes we really do need to enthusiastically encourage people to get involved in the life of the parish and invite them to go deeper in their faith journeys.  
But before any of that can happen, we have to be able to see people.  
I know for myself working in full-time to ministry, there can, at times, be a temptation to just go through the paperwork for baptism or marriage preparation without ever really getting to know the people sitting in my office.  It’s easy to fill out census forms, hand people checklists, and pass on my business card.  It’s another thing entirely to step back and spend time getting to know who someone is, and listen to their story.  
When I think about the moment that Jesus looked at Simon Peter, I don’t think it was an awkward silence or stare down from Jesus before giving the poor guy a new name.  I think was more like Jesus’ eyes met Peter’s, he probably gave one of those classic Jesus smiles, and Jesus’ heart was full of love and compassion for this new disciple for whom God had some pretty big plans.  I mean, spoiler alert, he called him “Cephas” (which means “rock”).  
Jesus looked at Peter and all of the disciples as children of God first as foremost, which means he loved them as God does from that very first encounter. 
photo credit

It makes me wonder, do I see people the way that Jesus does?  Do I care about who they are and what their unique story is?  Do I see them as children of God or do I see them as another person who needs another “thing” and then send them on their way?  

Honestly, there are moments where I fail big time in this area.  A couple will show up 15 or 20 minutes late for their appointment, they will be gruff or short with me, and in the end I’m just happy to get the meeting over with.  But then there are other times in which I really get to know a person or their family and I hear incredible stories.  
I get to hear stories like the mom who wasn’t coming to Mass every weekend, but her husband had died a few months earlier and she was finally at the point of functioning again and finding hope in her faith.  
Or the adults who grew up far away from any kind of faith life or spirituality and have discovered the beauty of the Catholic Church and are hungry for more. 
Or the couple who comes in wanting to start marriage preparation after decades of cohabiting because they have had an encounter with Christ through a retreat or prayer service and are longing for the sacraments. 

There are some inspiring and beautiful stories that I get to hear, often when I least expect it.  But it requires taking the time to really see people, and to focus on who they are more than what I can offer them.  

Before we send people off to another formation program, or tell them to talk to a priest, or give them paperwork to fill out, we have to look at them.   We are called to look at them, to love them and to hear their story

Sometimes what people need to hear before the checklist or form are pulled out is that we recognize who they are as a brother or sister in Christ and that we care.

Lord, teach us how to look at others.  
Teach us how to see them as you see them, 
and to love them as you love them.  
Give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to love.

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

January 7, 2015

2015 Word of the Year: Be

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At the beginning of 2014 I really felt called to embrace the words “Your will, not mine, be done.”  Six words, sprinkled with lessons in surrender and humility.  I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake, but I don’t think I realized how God would lead me to learning the significance of those words in every aspect of my life.

Sure, I knew it was going to be a busy year:  thesis writing, new changes and challenges in ministry, plus we were just navigating through our first year of marriage, which is a whole new adventure in itself.  But I think the place where God really taught me the meaning of those words was when we were trying to get pregnant.  It took me a little while to realize that “Your will not mine be done” is NOT the same as “My will should be done on my timeline.”  Go figure.  In the end, I realized that God’s timing is absolutely perfect, and His will and plans are much better than anything I could come up with on my own.

Now here we are at the first week of 2015.

When I was praying about what the “word” for the New Year might be, I was surprised by how short and simple the answer was: BE.  While that word doesn’t seem like much, I feel called to live it out in on three different levels:

 Be {still and know that I am GOD}.

Psalm 46:10

In a world of constant go go go! and schedules that are always full of something…. then add a baby on top of all of that, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the things to do and forget the simplest of tasks: to be still and simply be with God.  No lofty or complex spiritual plans or agenda… just the constant reminder to be still and acknowledge that God is God, and I am not.  That’s more important than trying to read 10 spiritual books or telling myself I’ll pray the rosary every single day before breakfast (though those are great goals to have!).  It all begins with learning to be still, to be silent, and to really soak in who God is. 

Be {in the moment}.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go.”  – Joshua 1:9  
As I step into my new role as Mom I know that there are many new moments ahead.  There will be beautiful moments of soaking in the the miracle of life, the joy of being a parent, and how our lives have been changed forever.  And of course there will also be some sleepless nights, diaper bombs, a lot of tears from both Mom and baby, and I’m sure there will be times of wondering whether I’m really cut out to do this.

But no matter what I am facing, beautiful or frustrating, I need to remember to step back and just be in the moment.  This is a new adventure!  It’s going to be a year of humbling moments mixed with baby giggles and spit up :).  In every moment, every struggle and every success, I need to learn to just be in the moment.  This will mean letting go of my expectations at times, and soaking in whatever it is we are facing.  

Be {Deanna}.  

When I was thinking about this last one I wondered if it was a little silly or childish to say it this way.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize it might be one of the more challenging aspects of life this year.  This year I’m going to learn a lot about myself, and discovering my role as “Mom” is just a small part of that.  I really want to be the woman that God created me to be.  I want to embrace who that is.  I want to be authentic and honest with myself, and not get distracted by trying to fit a perfect image of what I think the world expects me to be.  Of all of the models of Motherhood and Femininity, Our Blessed Mother is really the only one that I should be striving to imitate.   Knowing myself, this will be a hard one.  But I think that learning to be still and to be in the moment are going to help me to be myself.
2015 is going to be a great year.  In just a few more weeks our first child will come into the world and life will be different.  As tempting as it is to worry or wonder about the unknowns of this year, I’m more excited knowing that God is faithful and that His plans are far beyond anything I could imagine for myself or my family. 

I am looking forward to learning how to “be”.  
What is your word of the year?

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid