Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Jesus Post on Your News Feed

I'm a Jesus freak. You don't have to tell me; I know. And even if you wouldn't go so far as to say "freak," I know what you mean.

For some, maybe there's a negative connotation in regards to Jesus-freakness. Don't worry, I get you. I was the same way. Like I've mentioned in a few past posts, seeing Bible verse tweets and "too blessed to be stressed" (and the like) on my News Feed once made me cringe; I was weirded out by Jesus freaks. Totally.

And then la-de-daa, time passed, stuff happened, and BOOM. Now I'm the Jesus freak. And it's not tough for me to imagine that this is weird to some people. After all, I know for certain that old Faith would want nothing to do with new Faith. So, this post goes out to those who may be a bit apprehensive of or flat out disturbed by Jesus freaks:

The way I see it, guys, I can't not talk about my faith. Like Acts 4:20 says at the banner of this page, it's literally impossible. I'm too happy about it to keep it inside.

Old Faith would think that was weird. It is actually possible: just keep your mouth shut and voila. Besides, it's just some obsession you want to share. Nothing special there. You'll outgrow it. Keep it to yourself please. Get off your pedestal and be a normal teen for once. And please, just please, stop posting links to another Jesus post on Facebook. It's clogging my News Feed.

Okay, if you know me, you know I am obsessive. Whether it's details/perfectionism or my favorite band, I find a lot of stuff to become obsessed with. Let's take this example: I'm obsessed with twenty one pilots, a band that merges rap with ukulele with piano with good messages and interactive live performances. I could go on and on. I learn their songs on piano...and guitar...and ukulele, and I would learn it on more instruments if I knew how to play any more than that. I know every rap by heart. If I see an opportunity to bring it up in a conversation, I will take it. If "Holding Onto You" comes on the radio, I will ensure all around me know that I knew them before they were big and that I've seen it live. Twice. If you know me, you know that really all it takes is one mention of them, and I will start the whole schpiel. The same thing happened in my Les Mis phase. I would want to break into song every time someone said "at the end of the day" and discuss the under-appreciated talent of Russel Crowe to just about anyone who would listen. So, trust me, I get obsession.

But here's the thing. Nothing is comparable to being in love with Christ. Nothing.

An obsession? It fades. Les Mis no longer occupies my iTunes top 25 most played list. I like it still, of course, but I've gotten the obsession part out of my system. And yeah, twenty one pilots is still up there. But I'd never make a blog and run it for two years merely to discuss my obsession. And yeah, it makes me happy, but I can keep the happiness inside. If I were gonna be shot for talking about that band, I am 100% sure I would keep my mouth shut. It's not worth it. It doesn't run my life.

Faith's not like that. Faith is an obsession (with Jesus) that doesn't fade and has lasted for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. There have been twists and turns along the way, but to claim that faith disappeared from this earth at any point in our Christian history would be false. There's always been people in love with Christ since He first arrived as a little bundle of baby cuteness.

And in the face of death? Yeah, people wouldn't keep their mouth shuts. They died for faith. They still do. Countless human beings have been shot, stoned, tortured, crucified (upside down, at that) all because they loved their faith too much to deny it. It's worth it to someone in love with Christ. It's not the end to them, anyway.

And running one's life? Well, although an obsession can infiltrate into many aspects of one's life, it can't compare to faith. Faith dictates people's very core beliefs about themselves, their worth, and their purpose. It drives some to devote their lives to God and leave behind family and friends. Faith can give us our names (quite literally for me) and dictate what we do every Sunday for the rest of our lives. I could go on. The point is, faith matters to the faithful. It's not just an obsession. It's a way of life.

Music makes me happy. But you know what makes me happier? Jesus. I am a Jesus freak and I'm proud of that. I have a source of joy each day. I have consolation when the going gets tough. I have hope that when my loved ones die, I'll see them again. I believe that Jesus is everywhere and inside me radiating beauty. And when I'm forever alone on Valentine's Day, I can say "hey Jesus loves me" and have that inner peace that, regardless of a lack of gifts from anyone besides my parents, I am loved.

So, I'm not going to tell you that you'll be miserable without faith. I'm not going to answer every doubt or question you have about faith (because I don't have all the answers). And I'm not going to promise you rainbows and butterflies because you decide to love Jesus. I can't do any of that. All I can do is show you what I've seen. If you're weirded out by the Jesus thing, I hope you can relate to me, or at least the old me. I thought it was weird. I had no idea what was going on in the head of a Jesus freak. What was making them so incapable of just not talking about it? And this is coming from someone who had been raised in Catholicism for my entire childhood! But I noticed that some people just had a joy I was missing. I connected the dots and they all pointed to God. So I took a leap of faith, and now I couldn't be happier that I did. Literally. I could not be happier about anything. Ever.

So my question for you is this: Ever wonder if you're missing something? If not, I invite you to stop and think about it.

If you have questions hit me up in the comments section or Facebook/Twitter/text. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Blessing and a Curse

My post originally appeared on Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse on February 12, 2014, Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time.

Mk 7:14-23

From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.

God gave us beautiful hearts, capable of magnifying His love to all we encounter. Through these hearts, we find passion. We create. We love. We live.

But God also gave us free will. Both a blessing and a curse, free will allows us to actualize our heart’s desires. We’re not just robots on some pre-destined, uncontrollable route to the grave. We control the route we take.

Our Father could keep us like puppets on His string, but instead, He trusts us with free will. He allows us to choose whether or not we want to live life beside Him. And when we do, when the will of our hearts is aligned with the will of God, perfect harmony ensues. We’re living the life He wants for us, a life that—although not devoid of tribulation—is rooted in Christ and can overcome any trial.

The discord comes, however, when our hearts stray, when we abuse free will and turn away.  Our paths no longer point to Christ and the evil within our hearts creeps out without Him to combat it. The devil now guides our actions. All the vices and sins this gospel passage speaks about surface. God is left chasing after us trying to pick up the pieces we savagely tear apart and throw in our wake.

It’s important for us to be aware of the evil capacities of our own hearts. It’s the reason we see war, oppression, violence, slavery to sin, death, and more. Men created with a good purpose allow the devil to win the battle for their heart. Their view of God becomes distorted and evil springs forth within them. No one forces it upon them; rather, quite ironically, it is through their very own freedom that they enslave themselves to their sins.

It’s a danger that always follows close behind the path of a Christian. Our sin and our selfishness, the devil within our own hearts, wishes to watch us abuse God’s gift of free will. The devil wants to see us crash and burn.  And the faster we run toward Christ, the harder he tries to trip us up. That’s why being a Christian is never easy.

If you set heaven as your goal, getting there won’t be a walk in the park. Each time you think you’ve finally figured God out, something will come and knock you off your high horse, something that can either cause you to turn to God for comfort or away from Him and toward false, fading comfort.

Within your heart, undoubtedly, evil will creep up. It’s a fact of humanity we can’t deny. It will be tempting to say yes, but it will harm your connection to Christ. And each subsequent denial of your purpose is like cutting another cord that links you to God. So how, then, do we combat it?

How do we keep this connection intact? How, as Christians, can we fight the good fight and resist the evil within us that will undoubtedly attempt to surface?

A relationship with God and a relationship with others are key. There are countless ways to go about this, but I’d like to share with you a method that has worked wonders for my faith community.

Prayer buddies. My youth minister (featured in Fr. Alfonse's Jan. 16 post “The Leper and a Catholic Hater”) proposed this idea a few months ago as a means of making us more comfortable praying. Three people pray three days a week for three intentions. You can meet, call, or text. Since we’re on different schedules, my group texts. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, we send three intentions and all pray for each intention. That’s 9 people prayed for (by three people) in one day. 27 per week. 108 per month!!!! 108. Crazy. Just think of the effect this system could have if any of you reading this gave it a shot, too. (And this is Fr. Alfonse’s blog, so there must be a lot of people reading. Thousands of prayers each month….now THAT is powerful.)

This practice is not only an awesome way to expand the power of prayer, but also a way to stay focused on Christ. Each week since we began, I find myself looking for people in need of prayers. I’m more receptive to others’ needs. And I’m more willing to share my own struggles when sometimes I’m the one in need of prayers.

A mere group text has become, for us, a prayer community. It’s hard to let evil seep in when you’re reminded each day to spot those in need of God’s love.

Combat the evil within your own heart. Pray. Pray for your own strength and the strength of those around you. It will be hard to maintain a close relationship with Christ. It will be hard to keep the evil from surfacing. But with a Savior who never stops loving you and a faith community who recognizes the power of prayer, you’ll find all the strength you need.