Sunday, May 29, 2011

Late Arrival

I slept in late today and skipped my usual Mass. Instead I went to the 11:30a.m. and arrived late, on accident of course. The opening hymn was over as soon as I crossed the threshold, and Fr. Tom began his greeting just as I found a seat in the very last row. Though I will say that I really enjoyed the change in perspective from my usual seat.

Is it really all about location, location, location? Perhaps. Today, though, I felt that I paid attention a bit more and the readings stuck with me. They haven't for awhile, so that's surprising! More often than not, I tend to get distracted and accidentally zone out.

Today's readings were just perfect. I don't need to say anything else, really.

2nd Reading - 1 Peter 3:15-18

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.

Gospel - John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some Semblance of An Understanding

The other night, I went to bed after praying. It was a good, meaningful, fruit-bearing meeting. I heard and finally understood what I had been trying to soak up for quite some time now. My evening prayer started with this reflection:
"It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should both believe in Him and suffer for Him." -Philippians 1:29

The greatness of our God must be tested by the desire we have for suffering for His sake...Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you! -St. Philip Neri
And from here I was led to a new place of understanding. Within the past year, I have struggled with the concept and actual, physical nature of suffering. It manifests in various forms, and sometimes, it's a sneaky little thing. Sometimes, it is a garish brute that comes at you from straight ahead. I've asked myself and God, what is suffering's purpose?

I still don't have the answer, and I know I will never fully grasp what suffering is and why it is a part of the world. What I do know, however, is that it maybe sorta kinda is a necessary part of life.

Yes. Because without it, I feel like many people would think that because nothing was going wrong in their lives, they would feel no need to have a relationship with God. If life was perfect, we would still rejoice and be thankful of course...for the only thing that we would know - the good, material stuff, but I don't think we would rejoice and say thank you for the very reason that we should be thankful.

But if all of a sudden suffering existed in this pretend-world where everything worked and life was peachy, what would happen? When we think we need God, when we're in whatever crisis, that's when we would reach out. That's when we pray. That's when we say, oh hey God, could you help me out? If you felt that you didn't need God, would you make any effort to sustain your relationship? I'm afraid that many, perhaps even myself, would not feel the need to recognize God's presence. That's a scary thing to think. Perhaps because there is some truth in that statement.

Oftentimes I am guilty that when things are great and awesome, I at times forget to say thank you. In moments of suffering, I do reach out, with both arms and every cell in my body. But I shouldn't be conversing with God only when I feel that I need Him. I, you, we need to be constantly growing in faith and praying and nurturing our relationship with God...all the time.

We shouldn't do those things only when life sucks. We should be doing those things all of the time. When life is beautiful and wonderful, when the sun shines on your face and you receive the summer's first sunburn, when you make excellent grades and pass that test, when you score that sweet deal at the store, when you enjoy good food with your loved ones...rejoice and be thankful. Pray. Talk with God.

When your house is leveled by a natural disaster, when people go their separate ways for whatever reason, when physical pain becomes the rule instead of the exception, when you save every penny just to make sure you can get food on the table, when the million things that could go wrong in one day do...when life just really sucks big time...Pray. Be thankful for what you do have. Recognize the blessings that are around you, because they are there. Though it is at times really difficult to see, peace and love and goodness are there. We should rejoice always, and we should also make sure that we are thanking the right person...God. We don't need to turn objects and situations into idols. Thank the Creator, not the thing itself. And know that suffering doesn't have to be a characteristic but a state that you will pass through, periodically throughout our earthly life. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that suffering ceases to exist once we leave this earth and join our Father in heaven.

I mean, would we really have learned anything if Jesus didn't suffer on the cross? Every year with the start of Holy Week, we hear the Passion. So we all know what happened. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't painless, physically or emotionally, for all those who loved Jesus and were present. Just as they suffered at the foot of His cross while Jesus was in agony, so too does God hurt when we hurt. He doesn't enjoy when we suffer. In fact, God knows what it feels like because Jesus himself was fully divine and fully human.

In my sufferings, yes, I reach out to God. Through them, I do learn more about myself and about my relationship with God, but I also grow more in my appreciation for everything that is in my life, good and bad. I may not understand why it all happens the way it does, but I'm not supposed to!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Few Thoughts

Keeping it short today...lots of Spanish homework and studying to do for this little lady!

A few days/short weeks ago, I talked with two of my friends, on separate occasions. Through our meandering conversations, we talked about what we're majoring in and what we think we want to do after graduation.

I still harbor some reservations when I answer because, well, I know myself and my often fickle tendencies. But, I am pretty positive that I won't be changing majors again. I'm pretty happy with communications and the possibility of minoring in Spanish.

After graduation, heck, even before that...I think I want to work with immigrants and refugees or work in the non-profit sector. If it's in the cards, at some point in my life I'd also like to volunteer for a year with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.

I'd also like to see Mumford & Sons live and then be best friends with all of the guys from the band. But that's a completely different dream...

I'm feeling quite cheery today, in spite of a looming oral quiz over the imperfect subjunctive that is sure to be loads of fun! Que tenga un buen día!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Say What?

I've been taking my mini-term class for over a week now, and surprisingly, it isn't that bad. I mean, it isn't the most exciting thing I've ever done, but it has a little more than slightly exceeded my expectations. I kinda maybe sorta like it. Say what?

Upper level Spanish class for 3 hours a day every day does get a bit tiresome, but the way my professor teaches the class, most days it doesn't feel like I've been there for 3 hours. And to my initial surprise and joy, my classmates and I are quite chummy. I think it has something to do with our mutual bond of "part self loathing, part self-imposed insanity, part just-plain-we're-all-funny."

We all, for whatever reason, purposefully signed up for this 3 hours a day for 3 weeks, intensive, upper level Spanish class. All of those descriptive words basically sum up why most people look at me (or my class friends) with such amusing looks of pity and awe. I love it.

What's also interesting is campus life. I should actually say lack of campus life. There is literally no one else here! Most everyone cleared out by the last day of spring semester finals, which was May 10. Mini-term started the 11th, and the only people I see are: guys working on various road and campus building-related construction projects, UT staff and maintenance people, professors, and lethargic looking mini-term students. Some grad and undergrad students are here doing research as well, but for the most part, there is no one! It is so different. Campus is its own little ghost town.

That'll change come June when official summer classes start. Freshmen orientations and the like will probably start around then or sometime soon after, so campus will liven up a bit. But not that much.

Spring semester grades came out today. With the relatively new (and crappy) online system, you can't see any of your final grades until over a week after the last day of finals. The anticipation sucks. I made 3 A's and one A-. An A- isn't much fun because it drops your GPA. I don't know one student/friend on this campus who loves getting an A-. Just give me a B instead, seriously. Give me a few more hours though, and I'll stop lamenting. As my friend reminded me earlier, there's no use crying over spilled milk. Or grades that you can't do anything about.

So I leave you with a video that I accidentally came across just a few minutes ago. It is something actually worth getting a little teary-eyed over (if you're a mush pot like me). Be proud! I understood most of the Spanish without the help of subtitles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Three Things

I feel like the only things I ever talk about on this blog are horses, college, and Mumford & Sons. If you knew nothing else about me other than my love for horses and Mumford & Sons and my experiences at the University of Tennessee, I'd feel alright with the information you can glean from those three things.

This past Saturday at Horse Haven, we picked up and brought home 6 new horses. We usually don't go to the western end of the state, as in Memphis!, but it was a special situation. I'm so glad we were able to help. I happened to be at the barn when Elvis, Shelton, Grace(land), Duchess, Priscilla, and Reba arrived. They are all incredibly malnourished, but most of them are so friendly and just love people. As I was on my way out, I was asked to refill their water buckets...they were so thirsty that they drank most, if not all, of their water soon after they settled into their stalls. Duchess came up to me, nosing around. She is 7 months old, and she's freaking adorable! I love horses.

Next to Hans Zimmer, I don't think I've ever really loved a musician(s) as much as I do Mumford & Sons. My lovely friend and future roommate sent me a link the other day to a page that compiled "lesser known original, rare, and cover songs" by Mumford & Sons. It seriously made my day. The page did ease my sadness a bit. Funny story, at least to me when I think about that day...a few weeks ago I discovered that the guys would be coming to Asheville and Raleigh, NC and Atlanta for shows this summer. My discovery came too late, as all of the cheap tickets were sold out. But for a few weeks, I hoped and tried in vain that I would be able to go see them (for cheap, the tickets left on 3rd party sites run at least $80 now). Then one night, the cold reality that I would not see them this summer hit me. I literally pouted and moped around the rest of the day. I was so bummed that I willfully did chores without being asked.

Here's one of the songs from that super-awesome website.

My spring semester officially ends later today when I take my last final. When most of my friends and collegiate peers are rejoicing for the end of the semester and summertime, I really can't bring myself to their level of exultation. You see, I'm doing what I said I wasn't going to do ever again...I'm taking summer classes. My mini-term class, Spanish 300, starts tomorrow (Wednesday). It only goes for 15-16 days, and then it's over. On June 2, my 1st session summer class (Business/Professional Communication) starts. Because it is only half of the summer semester, I'll be done on July 6. Then I can have a break. In the mean time, though, this reflection was a nice reminder that I won't have to go it alone.
I can do all things in Him who gives me strength. -Phil 4:13

By myself I can do nothing, but in union with God I can do all things. Out of love for God, I want to do all things! -St. Vincent Palloti
I'll do my best to not let summer classes be a drag. I promise. Pray for my mind though, if it hasn't disappeared already. I'll see you in I-don't-know-how-many-days.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Take Em Away

I found this song to be appropriate for finals week...

I also just love this song and the guys singing it. I mean, how much more awesome can you get on one stage? Old Crow Medicine Show and some of the guys from Mumford & Sons? I can't remember the name of the guy who walks onstage a few minutes into the song, never heard of him, but the point is...

That's a lot of awesome! I would love to see both bands play, but play together? Whew, don't get me started. I also love this picture because it is filled with some incredibly talented people (Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Sons, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and John Paul Jones). I love music.

Until we meet again friends. While I'm busy moving out and doing finals, you should check out more videos with all the aforementioned bands/people. It'll make your day, I guarantee it. Made mine.