Tuesday, November 29, 2005


So in my Psychology class on againg we have been watching a movie called "Tuesdays with Morrie". Its an excellent film! It stars Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria, and is based upon a best selling book of the same title. It is the story of a retired college professor (Morrie Schwartz) that is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), who has inspired a past student of his (Mitch Albom) to write and record his philosophies on life, loving and learning. It is an amazing story, and i would recommend the book or the movie to anyone. Mitch Albom is the author, and he recently came out with a book called "The Five People You Meet in Heaven".....im kinda interested in that one too.

Anyway, in the movie.....our main character has certain epiphonal (is that a word?) moments, and comes up with some brilliant statements...or "Morrieisms". I had to reflect about them in a paper this week, so i thought id share.....since i have no time to update! Hope you enjoy! God Bless

"Life is a tension of opposites – pulling you back and forth like a rubber band"
The idea that life is pulling you back and forth, stretching you from end to end, and snapping you back into place, really resonates with me. Some days we may feeling like we aren’t being stretched at all and life is going fine. We are happy in our inflexibility, in our state of motionless inertia, enjoying the comfortableness of knowing we don’t have to change. Yet life is not like that in Morrie’s mind, nor is it in reality. Reality stretches our rubber band so thin that we feel we are going to break sometimes. We certainly don’t enjoy being stretched that far, but it always leaves us more flexible, knowledgeable and experienced. Morrie lived his life knowing he would be pulled back and forth, yet relished it rather than regretting it. The realization that life will continue to do this until we die can only help us in preparing for and dealing with the ‘tugs’ we will face in the future.

"Love always wins"
This statement is so simple yet so profound. Our bodies are wired in such a way that it makes it almost too easy for us to respond to moments of conflict, anxiety and stress with fear. Yet fear can present itself in so many ways: anger, frustration, retaliation, revenge, etc. Morrie’s statement is advice to approach every situation that might causes us to question, with one act: love. Love is also expressed and presented in many different ways: openness, kindness, self-control, generosity, etc. One could almost argue that all conflicts, arguments and even wars come to resolution one the basis of love. Yet in our daily lives this can also be applicable. To every situation, one can respond in anyway we choose; will we decide to let our instincts and emotions drive our reactions, or will we choose to respond in love?

"If you’re in bed you’re dead"
I have a story that will help illustrate this point for me, and hopefully you! I came home from church on Sunday feeling just generally inadequate. The service had been great however: the worship was inspiring, the sermon was very applicable and the fellowship was excellent. Yet I came home feeling like I’d been thrown in a ditch; wish I could explain it. So, I decided my only remedy was to get some sleep and forget about everything for a couple of hours. I prayed before my nap that God would send me a dream to help inspire me for the rest of the day and get me back on track; that didn’t happen. Instead, my sleep got interrupted by a phone call (someone needing a key to the church), and later by an unexpected visitor that wanted someone to talk to. My plan for forgetting never worked, and God showed me how true this Morrieism really is. He knew a nap, or a dream wasn’t going to solve my issue of inadequacy, but life would. Sometimes a short nap can help you relax and catch up on some much needed rest, but that was not my problem on Sunday. I needed to feel the reins on the horse of liberation, and ride unrestrained in the field of life. OK……so, I went a little overboard on my story, but Morrie’s statement ties it all in perfectly. I wasn’t living by sleeping through my issue, I was stuck in Dr. Suess’s “waiting place”. Thankfully, God pulled me out!

"There is nothing innately shameful of being dependent"
This Morrieism has been reinforced for me by my meetings with Sr. Marie Carmel. She has an incredible outlook on the way that she ages, and has fully realized and accepted that there are now and will also be in the future, things that she will be incapable of doing by herself. She once said that “when you’ve lost enough, the doing is no longer important, it is the being that is”. She is the kind of person that looks at the idea of dependency as another opportunity to explore the freedom in her limitations. She is the one that tries to stretch the rubber band when life decides not to stretch it anymore. Although there are times where she feels the need to be independent in doing certain things, she doesn’t wallow in the times she is dependant, yet looks for an opportunity to develop something new in her life. For her dependency is not a matter of shame, it is a matter of growth. Morrie’s physical inabilities didn’t allow him to do the things he wanted to do, yet it never diminished his ability to love. He strived for that in his dependence, and was not reduced by pride even in his final days.

"Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live"
In Morrie’s case, he had learnt how to deal with death and the process of dying physically; therefore he could live courageously in the realization that one day he would be gone. Yet this statement can be applied in so many ways. We don’t need only to learn how to die physically in order to live, but also materially. I have a t-shirt I picked up from a concert once from a band named “Die to Self”. I feel that sometimes we really need to do that in order to live. Feelings of selfishness, inadequacy, self-pity and even self-glorification will give us as much short term relief as a cigarette. Paul, a one-time Christian persecutor turned deliverer of God’s word said this to the Christians in Rome: “Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died in Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ we will also share his new life.” (6:6-8). I believe we all have the opportunity to ‘die’ to the things in our life that bring us down and we don’t have to do it alone. Dying to ourselves and dedicating our lives to a man that dedicated His death to our burdens gives us life. Morrie’s statement speaks to this not only on a physical level but also on a spiritual level.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Elijah's Jug is filled with prayer

1 Kings 19:1-8
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jug of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

One day last week in Old Testament (class) i opened my Bible to find a verse that we were reading, when i stumbled across a page that had not been closed properly. It was all folded up, and crunched between the other pages (probably just from not taking enough care of my Bible!). Anyway, a page like that always stops and make you think "Hmmm, i bet God had something in mind for me on that page". I don't even think i stopped to read what was on it; but i unfolded the page and placed it neatly as i went to the verse i was looking for.

Last night, i was doing some reading for a class and read about this idea that, it is not enough to know where we should be going in life; but how we must question our heart, energy and will power in order to sustain us on our way there. I might have some assurance that i'm on the right path....but that's not enough. It also requires that I am able to continually find and drink from "Elijah's Jug"; or in Ronald Rolheiser's words: "the sustenance that God promised to provide to those who are walking the long road toward the divine mountain".

Sure enough, when i looked up the passage associated with this curious metaphor of Elijah's jug, i landed at 1Kings 19:1-8.......the same page that had been crumpled in my bible a couple of days ago.

Literally and spiritually I had found Elijah's jug! It was just what i needed to hear. With my busy schedule, and just basic calamity (sorry only word i could think of....probably not accurate!) of my life in general, i had found strength from that passage and from God's promise. It's awesome when He works like that!

But i got a lot more out of it than i expected. After reading some more out of Rolheiser's book (The Holy Longing......a great one if ever you want to get it), I got the conviction that the answer to all my problems, and the problems of most Christians is.................get ready for it......................private prayer!

Ewww, how does that one stick to ya? I was thinking about what private prayer is to me, and there is one thing i think i can honestly compare it too......cafeteria food! Anyone that has eaten the food here at Saint Mary's will tell you that it's pretty gross.....somewhat sub-par. Somedays you can walk in there starving, take one sniff of the kitchen and completely lose your appetite. Other days, (once in every 4 weeks....maybe), the food is incredible and you come out feeling like you've eaten like a king! I guess it's the same way for me in my time apart with God in prayer.....its just not appealing.....and sometimes i feel like im getting nothing out of it....and yes...that is most of the time! (Shock horror!).

A Christian writer, Henri Nouwen, puts it really well:

[My time apart is not a time]....of deep prayer, nor a time in which I experience a special closeness to God; it is not a period of serious attentiveness to the divine mysteries. I wish it were! On the contrary, it is full of distractions, inner restlessness, sleepiness, confusion, and boredom. It seldom, if ever pleases my senses. But the simple fact of being for one hour in the presence of the Lord and of showing him all that i feel think, sense and experience, without trying to hide anything, must please him. Somehow, somewhere, I know that he loves me, even though i do not feel that love as I can feel as a human embrace, even though i do not hear a voice as I hear human words of consolation, even though I do not see a smile, as I can see in a human face. Still God speaks to me, looks at me, and embraces me there, where I am still unable to notice it.

Just like the food at the cafeteria, even if i don't have an appetite for it, i still have to eat it, because i know that if i don't i will go hungry the rest of the day; basketball practice will be tough, and my body will probably collapse from lack of energy.....eventually. It's the same way with private prayer. Sometimes i can't feel what prayer is doing for me, or if God is really there, or if what I am saying to God is making any sense. But somehow, that prayer is filling me up, feeding my soul, and giving it energy.....just like the food at the cafeteria.

Still, with all that being said, private prayer can be really hard. Its not easy to take an hour out of your day and devote it to yourself, let alone God. I think, however, that private prayer is easier than we think. Praying is not an isolated activity; it takes place in the midst of all the things and affars that keep us active. In prayer a "self centered monologue" becomes a "God -centered dialogue".

Private prayer doesn't have to be sitting in a room by yourself, on your knees with your hands held together. Private prayer can happen when you're walking to class, talking to friends, thinking about life or playing sports! You might want to ask yourself, how often when i'm doing these things (pretty much just living life in general) do i dedicate my actions to God and the purpose of seeking His will? How often when you are catching up with friends and are talking with them do you think, "I wonder what Jesus might have said there". Just the act of thinking this is a form of private prayer.....it is time spent apart from our world to focus on the Spirit-lead actions that we are all consumed by, in being a Christian.

OK, so before i really do go and write a book of what i've been feeling today, i want to offer a simple prayer for myself, and any of you that maybe be needing a sip from Elijah's Jug.

~Lord, i praise you for allowing me today realize the need i have for you. Father, i cannot do this alone. My life is full of stuff that i have no control over and sometimes i feel guilty that i do not give enough of my time to you. I petition to you, for me....and for all who are reading this, that we may be as dedicated as Elijah in seeking out Your will for our lives, and that in our stress we may find ourselves collapsed by a tree with you waiting to give us bread and water to sustain us for our long journey ahead towards you. We praise you Father. Thank you for sending your Son for us. Please help us this day. In Christ's name. Amen~