Because He Can

John has given up sugar for Lent and, once in a while, Joshua will ask, “Why did John give up sugar?” John’s response has been, “Because I can.” (Joshua is still puzzled!) That comment came to mind while I was listening to a talk on Confession and the question was posed, “Why does God forgive us?” The simple answer is, because He can. Because He loves us. Because that is who He is and no matter how much or how little we’ve sinned, He wants to forgive us. He longs to do so and bring healing and wholeness to us once again.

God is in the business of salvation. Salvation is the healing of our souls. Unlike Luther’s idea that we are snow-covered dung, we are truly healed and God seeks to remove as much scarring as we’ll let Him until we are whole, complete, and beautiful just as He intended us to be.

I once met a young man who had every bad thing that had happened to him tattooed onto his body—hypodermic needles, alcohol, a prison number, a friend’s suicide method—all there to remind him of the pain of his life. I was completely taken aback that someone would want to engrave all those reminders onto their very flesh. Yet, quite often we’re like that. We try so hard to remind God of the sins He’s forgiven us by showing Him the scars and telling Him again how we’ve messed up instead of letting Him heal them completely.

Guilt over sin is what God uses to bring us to repentance so that our relationship with Him and with others can be restored. Once we have confessed that sin and received forgiveness, it’s gone forever, never to be brought up again. Shame, however, is of the evil one. Shame comes at us again and again with the accusation, “You are a worthless failure! How could anyone love you? If they knew, really knew, what you are, they would despise you.” That is the moment when we must “speak truth” to that voice of evil and choose God’s healing.

This is particularly true when we have already confessed that sin to a priest and received absolution (John 20:22-23). Scripture says that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Those sins are gone forever, removed from us as far as the east is removed from the west (Ps. 103:12). They will never be brought up again by the only One who has a right to do so.

As part of the sacrament of Confession we are given a penance; a way to heal the scar left by the sin. Like an infected wound that has been cleaned out, the sin is gone, but it leaves a scar. If we apply the penance, the scar will heal. Unless, of course, we keep picking off the scab, which is what we do when we keep reminding ourselves (and God) of that sin. Each time we pick off the scab, the healing process is slowed down. Eventually, even if the wound finally heals over, there’s a mark and we look at that and say, “Ah! Remember that!”

Whatever sins we have taken to Confession and humbly said our penance for, even if we think It’s too light (after all, what penance could possibly “fit the crime” anyway?), is forgiven and forgotten by God. We need to do the same, because, after all, we can.

A Week and Half Later…

It’s been a week and half since I deactivated Facebook so I thought I’d do a progress report.

Interestingly, I’ve found the sense of relief of not deciding whether “to share or not to share” stuff has made internet surfing more fun.  I check through the news, but just to keep up with the world without it coming pouring across my screen endlessly.  Although I enjoy watching people’s auditions on the various talent shows, I can enjoy it and go one without feeling on obligation to let the world know how good it was.

Since I’ve not been on FB, those hours have been spent working on projects around the house (the sewing room is almost done!), listening to Joshua read, studying the curriculum I’ll be teaching to our church youth this year, and generally enjoying the  “politics free” environment I’m not living in.  I’ve found I’m feeling more at ease.  This morning as I was driving home from town I thought about how much I haven’t even thought of FB, yet realizing as well how much it had invaded my life.

Now, lest someone think I’m living an un-connected life, let me assure you I have one social media outlet–Instagram!  However, I’ve made it a private account so that I can be very selective and keep it from getting out of hand like FB did.  I have many wonderful friends and acquaintances (let alone family!), but trying to keep up with the 200+ people on FB was a fail and I don’t have any illusions about Instagram being any different.  So, if you follow me on Instagram, don’t be offended if I don’t “follow” you back.  It’s just that there are certain people I want to be sure I don’t miss–like my nieces and nephews whom I love, but live too far away to see often.  Instagram is my picture into their lives and I’m grateful my sister-in-law and oldest niece are so good about posting photos and comments.

The other neat thing about Instagram is that there aren’t any ads–nothing popping up on the sides that makes me cringe or try to aim the screen away from general viewing lest my 9-year old comes into the room.  Today he saw a quick video Steph had posted of Tate.  We watched it several times and then Joshua asked if he could scroll through the other photos.    I realized, with great joy, that I could let him do that!  There would be nothing on there that he couldn’t see.  In fact, he saw a quote posted by the USCCB from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, “The face of God is merciful.  The face of the Church must be merciful.  We must be the face of mercy.”  Joshua’s response?  “Wow!”  It gave him something to think on worth thinking about.

I’m not suggesting Instagram is perfect, but I am glad to have a fun bit of social media I can enjoy without it taking over my life or bringing things into my home I don’t want.  And I’m rather proud of myself for taking this step and doing something concrete about becoming “the best version of myself.”  (Thanks, Matthew Kelley!)

I Finally Did It. I Deactivated FB

There have been times in the past when I’ve thought I should perhaps try to seek out a Facebook Anonymous group (except FB requires you to identify yourself, so I’m not sure how that would work).  Anyway, let’s just say that my obsession with FB is probably the reason this blog gets so little attention.  I mean, why go through the effort of writing when I can just scroll and “like” & post what other people have written?  Where I don’t have to struggle to really express my own thoughts, I just point to someone else and say, “Yeah!  What she said!  Sort of….”  But it’s been obvious for a long time that FB is a problem for me.

I’m not sure what year I started FB, but I remember clearly the day.  Daniel was then a young teenager (he’s now almost 22) and he was playing Farmville and needed neighbors to progress.  So, I got a FB account and started playing the game.  He eventually gave it up and went onto bigger and better games, but I played for a long time giving it and FB more and more of my time and attention.  One year I gave them up for Lent because I knew it would be a real sacrifice and that helped me slow down.  In fact, most years I have given up FB for Lent.   What I’ve found, though, is that it doesn’t take long after Lent is over for me to fall back into my old habits of excessively/obsessively scrolling, even when I’ve read it all already, just in case something new has been posted or will show up in my feed.

I’ve come up with many ideas of how to control my time.  For several weeks I had a timer set on my phone that would go off at 9:30 pm to remind me to shut down the computer.  Unfortunately, I would shut it off and say, “I just have to finish this post” and, voila!  1:30 am would all of sudden appear on my computer clock.  There have also been many times I’ve neglected work or been late because I was writing a post (I didn’t always just re-post). But the two things that have really convicted my heart on this issue have been my spiritual life and my family.

Each one of us has 24 hours in each day.  Those hours should be spent doing things worth doing.  What defines “worth doing?”  Although some things are required (eat & sleep, a job), the rest is up to each one to decide, however I should hope that each one would prioritize God and family above all else.  For me, that had gotten badly skewed.

When one struggles to find time for prayer, but not Facebook, that’s a problem.  When one gets irritated with the interruptions of the kids because they interfere with following an online conversation, there is something very wrong about that.  As a Christian, my first attention is to be given to God.  My vocation as wife and mother comes after that and nothing else should usurp fulfilling the responsibilities of my state in life (given me by God).

For a long time I have justified my time on FB by saying that I am staying connected with family and friends.  After all, I live in a rather isolated corner of the world and a long way from all of my family.  But the reality is that very little of my time is spent keeping up on their lives.  It’s mostly re-posting funny or meaningful (to me) memes and videos.  Sure, there have been some good things, but mostly it’s just adding more information into my already-over-saturated brain.  And although I have friends who see FB as a valuable way to engage in political and spiritual conversations, I have yet to see such conversations make any real difference in people’s lives.  Meaningful conversation requires just that–conversation.  FB is not conversation.

In the last couple of years it has entered my mind on more than one occasion that the only way this is going to stop is if I delete my account. So what made me finally do it?  I guess it was just one night too many going to bed at 2 am for no other reason than I was endlessly scrolling FB.  I knew when I saw the time on the clock that it meant I wouldn’t get enough sleep, my personal prayer time would most likely not happen at 6 am as it needs to, and I would be fighting grumpiness and wanting to gorge carbs all day.  And then I recalled the wonderful two and half days my daughters and I spent at a convent this past week.

The rhythm of life, the priority of prayer, the work that is done on a regular basis without rushing to constantly “catch up.”  The Sisters of St. Francis Dillingham are an active order and many work full-time in healthcare and teaching, yet they accomplish so much because life’s priorities are firmly set and, despite interruptions, they stick to their priorities and eliminate those things that detract from them.  One sister has a blog and is on FB, but only for the purpose of the blog.  She is careful to be on it as little as necessary for her work.

While I was there I found myself relieved to be without FB or any other online distractions.  I checked e-mail and kept my phone with me for texts because my sons were at home juggling job, chores, etc. so the girls and I could go.  But I realized as well how weary I am of all the constant information, interruption, and distraction that the internet has become for me.  So, as I got out of the shower last night I thought, “I need to deactivate my account.  Well, in the morning since I’ve already shut down the computer.”  And then I thought, “No. Now.”

As I sat searching FB settings to find where to deactivate, I considered leaving a message up for a couple of days before deleting the account.  Then I thought, “No.  I need to do this now.  Anyone who really needs to keep in contact with me knows where I am.  And, besides, an alcoholic doesn’t make the round of the bars announcing he’s going dry to his old drinking buddies.  He quits and leaves the lifestyle that contributes to his addiction behind.  It’s time to be done.”

And so, FB is now a thing of my past.  An interesting thing happened already when I was reading an article from my e-mail.  For the first time I realized I was reading it just for the enjoyment of reading it without considering if I should post it.  It was rather relaxing, actually.

Thinking Ahead

Years ago I learned that one reason the Amish made the decision to eschew electricity was because they felt it would fragment the family, even within the home itself. With an easy way to light the rest of the home, family members would be more likely to go do something on their own rather than spend their evenings together as a family.  Although there were other reasons as well, it impressed me that that kind of long-term thinking was applied to such a decision.  Now another one of those decisions has been made in our culture, one that has surprised many.

The college my oldest son attends made national news this summer for making the decision to not accept Federal Financial Aid for or from its students.  In other words, anyone wishing to attend Wyoming Catholic College will not do so with the help of Pell Grants, Federal student loans, or any other aid option offered by the Federal government.

The acceptance of Federal aid could have brought in in the neighborhood of $700,000 to the school, no small amount for a young, growing institution only ten years old.  It would have made financial aid easier for students and, most likely, there will be potential students who will opt to attend elsewhere due to this decision.  However, like most of the parents of students, we are 100% in agreement with the unanimous decision of the WCC Board of Directors.

We have, unfortunately, come to a place in our country where the government has become more and more intrusive into people’s most closely held religious convictions.  One example is the HHS mandate that requires all employers to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees regardless of the employer’s religious and moral beliefs.  Since the government could have provided free contraception in some other manner, the Supreme Court has consistently voted against the HHS Department in the cases brought before it because it is an undue burden on religious freedom.  Now we have the legalization of same-sex “marriage” and few thinking people doubt that soon there will be lawsuits to force employers of any kind to hire homosexual/lesbian workers even when such lifestyle choices violate the faith of those who own the companies.

WCC is doing what it can to stay out of the Federal web of power.  There may still be battles to be fought, but money won’t be able to be used for leverage.  Another fore-thinking decision that will help preserve a valuable institution.

Dynamic Catholic

I’d like to recommend a source of encouragement during Lent.  It’s Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever series.  Matthew Kelly is a transplanted Australian who writes and encourages people to be “the best version of yourself;” the person God created you to be.  His series for Lent comes via e-mail and is usually a thoughtful quote or a short video.  Check it out!  You’ll be glad you did!

Embracing Change

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Did you make any?  Perhaps, like me, you lost the fascination with resolution-making a long time ago when the sense of failure began before the end of December 31st.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve made so many plans in my life that have either not gone as I’d hoped or just simply failed that I tend to avoid making resolutions.  However, having a “try it and see how it goes” perspective doesn’t really work either if a person desires lasting change.  So, this year, I’ve decided to try something different:  I’m embracing change, one month at a time, without getting hung up on making The Great Plan That Cannot Be Changed.  Here’s how it works for me:

Each month I’m choosing one thing I’d like to see changed or at least improved and moving in the right direction.  Whether I tick it off at the end of the month as accomplished really isn’t of great concern to me.  And I’m also leaving open the option to change it if it seems there is opportunity for a better direction.  After all, with twelve months in a year, I can always move a project to another month.

For example, January was supposed to be the month I finally got my old books on ebay to sell.  I’ve been dragging my feet on that project for a long time because I’m intimidated by the process and the unknowns of it.  Well, I did watch the ebay instruction videos in January on how to do this, but I haven’t listed anything yet.  Why?  Because in January Emily decided she didn’t want the big roll-top desk in her room anymore.

I’ve been desperate for some kind of office space for a long time with no success in getting anything to work long-term.  Here was the perfect opportunity–a desk large enough to handle my needs, attractive enough to be in the living room (the only practical spot in the house for an office for me), and has a beautiful roll-top that can be shut at a moment’s notice to hide any paper mess that needs to be hidden!  (As opposed to my kitchen counter that usually had the mountain of paper on it.)  So, January turned into “make me an office” month rather than “list books on ebay month.”  And, in truth, that’s what I’ve needed most.  It’s incredible how much headache that desk has eliminated for me (and my counter!).  A good start for the year.

February’s project has been to eat more healthfully and tone down the sugar intake.  That’s a big one for me!  I have completely eliminated sugar before and ended up gaining ten pounds the moment I started eating it again, so I know radical change like that is a definite “no.”  Besides, when God created food He said it was good, so I’m not going to argue! 🙂  My problem is eating too much and eating to relieve stress, so eating healthfully means choosing better foods, smaller portions, and knowing why I’m eating.  Has this been a resounding success yet?  Nope.  However, I have come to realize how attached to food I am and see more clearly what it is going to take for me to turn food back into a pleasure rather than an obsession.  So, February isn’t a fail, it’s part of a long journey of healing.  I want food to become to me what coffee and wine are:  A pleasure to be enjoyed without “having” to have it.

When I started the New Year and got to thinking about resolutions, the only thing that came to my mind was “embrace change.”  I realized that change is often assumed to be scary.  But, I’m ready for change.  Perhaps it’s being in mid-life or perhaps it’s simply realizing that there’s nothing dignified about never changing and acting as though the way I am now and have been is just fine.  Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic encourages people to “become the best version of yourself,” the version God had in mind when He created me.  To become that requires change, and change can be an adventure rather than a scary proposition.  So, that’s where I am, embracing change; one month at a time.