Thursday, April 29, 2010

I will always be emotionally yours

Fifteen years ago today, Dennis and I were married at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the Bronx. It was a beautiful Mass on a beautiful day followed by a beautiful reception and a beautiful married life. That's a lot of beautiful.

Our wedding song was "Emotionally Yours" by Bob Dylan. All these years later, the words of this song still bring me back to that wonderful day and remind me of what brought us together and what keeps us together. I'm a lucky girl. Happy anniversary, sweetie!

Friday, April 23, 2010

When Jesus writes you a letter...

Here's my current Life Lines column about my recent Cornerstone retreat experience:

My plan all along was to use this column to tell you about the grace-filled experience I had on my Cornerstone women’s retreat. But to focus on all the sweetness and light without giving you the back story would be a little dishonest, so I want to rewind to the week leading up to the retreat, a time when I was in a dark and foreboding place, a place that felt like a pit of gloom that I simply could not escape.

Only two days before the retreat I wished I could get out of it because, as I told Dennis, I was not in the right place to stand before 50 women and witness to them about my faith and my life in Jesus. Dennis, of course, reminded me that the retreat was just what I needed to get back to that “right place,” but I felt like a hypocrite knowing that I would be leading others on a spiritual path that I was, at that moment, being dragged down kicking and screaming.

I’ve been in dark places before, but this one was different. It felt like it could swallow me whole. I don’t know if was the overwhelming amount of work deadlines staring me in the face, the onset of menopausal mood swings staking their claim (unfortunately not a joke), or Satan himself trying to keep me from bringing other people to Jesus (also unfortunately not a joke). But through the grace of God, I pulled it together only hours before the retreat and hoped for the best.

And the best is what I got. Surrounded by so many other women of faith, I immediately felt myself lightening. The other women on the core team with me seemed to pour life back into me minute by minute. By the time we opened the retreat on Friday night I was excited and joyful but still leery of how my talk -- “A New Life of Grace” – would go first thing Saturday morning.

As I got up to the microphone to speak, I felt a sense of calm, knowing that I had put this in the Spirit’s hands and I was just the instrument. I finished my talk unsure of how it had gone. People didn’t seem to be crying as they had during talks the night before. Was the tear barometer an indication that my message had missed the mark?

I stood in the hall as they played the song I had chosen for reflection. I returned when it was time to do the activity I had planned. I asked every woman to write herself a letter from Jesus, to see herself through God’s eyes. I sat down and did the activity with them. I joked later that had I written that letter even two days earlier, it might not have been such a happy experience. Even then, bathed in the glow of God’s love, my letter from Jesus began like this: “What am I going to do with you?” Because when I imagine Jesus looking down on me, I imagine him shaking his head, a slight grin on his face, as he wonders with exasperation when I’m finally going to “get it,” to recognize that his love is unconditional.

When the letter writing was over, many women took the microphone to say that this was a difficult but powerful activity, that it allowed them to let go of the guilt they have over not being perfect, that it made them see themselves for the first time as good enough just as they are.

Today I invite you, challenge you, to take out a piece of paper and write yourself a letter from Jesus. See yourself as God sees you, His wonderful and amazing creation. And then, if you ever find yourself being swallowed up by darkness, take out your letter and walk back into the light of God’s love, for you are His beloved child.

To read previous Life Lines columns, visit my website by clicking HERE.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Greetings from Austin, Texas

At St. Edward's University in the bluebonnets...

Chips and salsa and creamy jalapeno at Chuy's. Yum...

Easter morning...

Down on the grounds of the State Capitol...

Boys posing with George W...

Girls with Ann Richards...

At Zilker Park...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seven Last Words

Father forgive them, they know not what they do...

We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?

Today you will be with me in Paradise.

The “good thief” has always been a favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.

Woman, behold your son...

At last a comfort in the midst of all this misery. God gives us a mother for all time. He reminds us that his mother is our mother, who, with a mother’s unconditional love, will open her arms to us when we are desperate, when we are hurting, when we are searching for peace and a way back to the Father.

My God, my God, why have you foresaken me?

Despair, despair. If Jesus can feel despair, what hope is there for me? Then again, Jesus’ moment of despair reminds me of his humanness and that gives me hope even in this dark moment. God became man, walked on earth, suffered torture and death beyond our comprehension. My God is fully human and fully divine. My God knows what it means to live this earthly life, and so my God knows my small sufferings and heartaches and will not turn His back on me.

I thirst.

The wretched physical anguish of the Crucifixion is coming to bear. It is almost too much for us to take. Jesus, water poured out for the world, thirsts. And yet in the midst of this suffering, we remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, the woman to whom he first revealed his identity: “...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:14)

It is finished.

Jesus has completed his mission of redemption. Darkness descends, the earth shakes, the temple curtain tears in two. We see Jesus’ anguish near its end. We should be reduced to trembling at the enormity of his suffering, his gift to us. Unlike his followers who were plunged into fear and despair at this moment, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what is coming. We know that his Crucifixion was cause for our salvation. His death a victory. His earthly end our eternal beginning.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Jesus is going back to the Father, back to where he started before time began, but he will not leave us orphans. We patiently wait to celebrate his Resurrection, to rejoice in our unearned windfall. We wait, pray, watch, listen -- hopeful, trusting, faithful. We begin our vigil now, waiting for the darkness to turn to light.