From Darkness, Light

This time last year, I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my best friends. It was a happy and glorious occasion indeed, but it had certainly not been a smooth ride. They had originally planned to have a longer engagement, but pushed the wedding forward due to an unexpected gift of another life. Unfortunately, my friend lost her baby, and there is never a nice way to finish that sentence, but…but God moves in mysterious ways, and out of such a terrible happening has been one of the most enlightening years of my life.

Of course, there is never praise to the Devil when he interferes with our lives and tests our faith, but I find that the best way to look at evil is for the strengthening of the soul, a la the Irenaean theodicy.

As Godmother to the angel now in Heaven, I experienced the loss quite severely, and it was one of those moments in life – to use the phrase from the recent Arrival film trailer: “days that define your story beyond your life”. I never realised how much I cared for the child until she no longer walked among us. Of course I was upset; of course I felt angry that death had yet again claimed me and my friends.

I didn’t blame God, though. If I had to blame anyone, it would be myself for questioning the events that unfolded, doubted the love two people have, found fault with the most natural of circumstances.

All things happen for a reason, we are reminded. My friend is blessed that she has already been called to her vocation in this life. And me, through osmosis, came to realise how small we all are in life. From the darkness and the pain came a light and trust in God’s plans that I might otherwise have disregarded.

From evil, if it was, comes the joy to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

Fire, Not Fireworks

There is nothing like an evening Mass to perk up the spirits. I am blessed to be able to attend the UCL student masses with Father Stephen (I might even reblog the audio of the homily if it goes online), the topic of which somewhat thought about keeping the faith, keeping being a practising Christian, including keeping a circle of Christian friends.

I am lucky to have many Christian friends and Catholic friends who support me and share my faith, which is a great feeling. One part of the homily that resonated with me was this idea. The spirit as a fire, an effort to maintain yes, yet warming and persistent, not a firework, a once-off flash*. Of course, it’s easy to say that one has support, but harder to really use that support to be a good Christian.

Fire, Flame, Burn, Hot, Brand, Inferno, Light, Torch
I have never been a great at praying. It is my human failing. In the Thursday Sycamore (think Alpha but for Catholics) group I am helping to facilitate, we discussed prayer. It’s easy to forget that phrase ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’ or to have it lost in translation, but it is essentially suggesting that the best prayer is not that of structure and length and monotony, but of heart. Don’t like the repetition of the Hail Mary? Pray by voicing your own thoughts, or pray in silence. Don’t like to sit and pray at once? Go for a walk. Find God in nature, praise him through your eyes and your feet. Pray by verbally punching the air! Even witnessing to God by recognising His role in our lives is prayer.

For me, I like to notice God during the day because it reinforces His presence in my past, present, future. He’s done so much for me already, but it’s easy to get swept in the worries of materialism that I forget to remember his good deeds.

For instance, I have always been one for spotting the times of providence and God’s work, and this weekend was no different. I was with the girls, doing some wedding dress shopping and one appointment down and midday having past I’d seen lots of lovely dresses, but none The One. The thing is, I’d been looking for a certain type, not realising that the dress was right in front of me, just waiting to be found. Isn’t it funny how some things just catch our eye at the right moment, where we might have missed them if it were not for some blink of a moment?

Anyway, to tie my two points together, and without all the fluff an explanation would give, I prayed and God answered my prayer, just as He has always been doing, regardless of whether I’ve been paying Him any attention and grace or not. I was worried and he soothed me.

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*Coincidentally, this is what I’d have at my wedding: a nice hearth welcoming and no dark skies with loud explosions in them.

Sunday Scripture

Gospel reading for Sunday 4th September, 2016, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

26 ‘Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple. 27 No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple.

28 ‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying, 30 “Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish.”’

Luke 14:25-33

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Which this scripture might seem contradictory to what else Jesus taught – to love without condition one’s parents, friends, and even those who want to harm one – he is making a clear point here, not only about having to lift one’s own cross, ie. to go through hardship, but also about what is required, or rather not required, when it comes to being a disciple of Christ.

The trials of the earth are base and seemingly heavy. However, Christ advises that these gifts weight us down. We shouldn’t be obsessed with our material products, as they will, in the long run, get us nowhere. This scripture, too, advises against a pretence (for, surely, one cannot not hate one’s closest, by human nature that we have expectations, which will undoubtedly be broken and cause anguish in relationships) of happiness for a life of honesty, even if it that causes judgement our way.

“…would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it…“ We ought to give our all and be honest with our all. In this same way, it is not easy to give up what we love or habits that seem natural in the modern secular, but in God’s world as close to useless. In this way, we have sacrifices just as Jesus made the Ultimate Sacrifice. When we take up our individual crosses, we become closer to Christ and his suffering that was solely for to save our souls from sin. An honour that we can but repay via discipleship.

7 Quick Takes: Prayer, Trust, and All the Choices

I’m back for the Friday 7 Quick Takes today. Hosted, as usual, by This Ain’t the Lyceum. Check ‘em out!

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Choices, Choices, and More Choices. I’ve been trying to make a few *big* choices, difficult choices. Retrospectively, they’re not things that would seem that important to other people, but making choices is something I struggle to do definitely. I’m a maybe person; I like things in the middle. And, so, making a singular yes is difficult.

~2~

Inviting God into the Everyday. After going to World Youth Day, I have been trying to put God first (or, being honest, more first) in my daily life, even in just waking up and thinking about my day. That was one thing that helped me during exam revision. God and I working together.

~3~

Prayer is Enough. I will admit, however, that I’m not one of the best people to stick to a daily prayer schedule. I am trying, though.

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~4~

Thankfully… I am definitely doing a Masters in London. I have officially finished my pre-enrolment, so all that is left to do is wait the days out until my new term.

~5~

There Are Always Options. I’ve got to remember the mind-set that whatever happens and comes to be is part of God’s ultimate plan for me. Things go wrong, as they always seem to do around me, but in the end, they were always meant to go wrong; or, rather, they were always meant to happen differently to what I might have expected or even hoped for.

~6~

How is life, though? It’s good. I am enjoying the company of the three cats with which I am now living. Thus, the photo below. That’s Bovril, and she’s a sweetie.

~7~

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7 Quick Takes: Exam Confidence

7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Work at things until they’re rote. If revising a certain topic bores you, you’re probably at the stage where you understand it.

~2~

Use acronyms, aphorisms, ascriptions. Start associating the names you probably won’t remember by themselves with phrases that you’ll be able to roll off your tongue.

~3~

Talk to yourself. Stare out of the window. Just don’t read over what you’ve written time and time again. It does nothing to your long-term memory; there are very little significant or vibrant chemical associations that will occur from reading. Your short-term memory might be fine, but I assure you that tomorrow will have swept the knowledge from your head.

~4~

Instead, opt for writing essay plans or structuring sentences as arguments so that you’re contemplating what you will have to in the exam.

~5~

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some things do need clarifying – some topics are tricky to get one’s head around. As such, you won’t always be able to go it alone. Ask, confirm, support. It’s the best way to understand a topic.

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Revision.

~6~

Relax. Actually, the worst thing one can do in an exam is overthink and spiral into anxiety. A clear mind is a successful mind, and through that, exam essays are simpler than you think.

Plus, God does not judge by one’s academic score, for He knows your true knowledge.

~7~

Pray. Not out of desperation, of course, but in an optimistic in-God-I-trust approach. Acknowledge that He is there for you; appreciate that He has guided you this far. He is on your side, and will continue to support you.

As funny as it sounds, God is my ultimately cheerleader. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without his support.

Have a blessed weekend.

My Peace I Leave You

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was one of my favourite – it’s from where we get the peace saying in the Mass. There is more to the passage, of course, but what one can essentially take from it is the power and strength of the peace that God brings, in this case, via Christ.

The point of Jesus’ pronouncement is to separate the Holy Spirit’s peace from the superficial and temporary peace one encounters with worldly goods. God wants us to find peace, but He also wants us to find the right kind of peace and not be so bogged down or obstructed by material wishes that we cannot make time for God or for others.

Yes, we can everything from this: the big message that without God, we are left in a level of peace that will forever be unfulfilling for us.

I wouldn’t say there is a specific reason why this is one of my favourite Gospel readings. It in itself brings a sense of peace; and the fact that God is here, and we are made aware that His is the peace available forever to us is something memorable in itself.