Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sorry + Big = Amends

"Sorry" is for little things or little people.  If we bump while passing in the kitchen, a quick "Sorry" works.  If a little kid destroys a one-of-a-kind autographed baseball that was snagged at an out-of-state Major League Baseball game while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, "Sorry" is the most one can expect.  Since you don't want to be seen as a little kid and you will make big mistakes, be ready to do more, to make amends.

Show remorse as soon as possible.  If you aren't really sorry, consider why.  All people make mistakes.  It's what you do about your mistakes that matters.  If a big mistake is made that isn't fully your fault, own the part that is, even if small in comparison.  Be brave and be first to make amends. 

Say, "I'm sorry" and add details of what went wrong.  Avoid adding, "if", because making amends is about owning mistakes.

No:  "I'm sorry if you think I called you a jerk."  Yes:  "I'm sorry I called you a jerk."

Make it right.  Say, "I won't (describe mistake) again.  I will (explain how you will make it right.)"

Yes:  "I won't borrow your stuff and damage it again.  I'll replace this broken ipod this weekend."

Ask for forgiveness.  Say, "Will you forgive me?"  Give the person as long as they need to forgive you.  Don't expect forgiveness.

Admitting mistakes can be hard work and feel embarrassing.  Yet, asking for and receiving forgiveness is worth the effort because of the rewards it brings: relief, peace, clear conscience, confidence, and positive relationships.

Feeling burdened? Feeling distant from people you care about? Consider making amends.  You can do it!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Be Confident

Be confident.  Sounds like good advice, but I suspect it is too broad, vague, and confusing.  I may be confident in my ability to eat breakfast, but I'm definitely not confident in my ability to throw a baseball without looking like a fool.  Confidence in oneself alone doesn't magically bring about wanted results.  Consider all the contestants on Wipe Out who lose. 

I find it more realistic, and less burdensome, to look for specific ways to place confidence, much of which is outside of oneself.  Be confident in love.  Be confident in good character such as being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, and serving.  Be confident in talent and interest combined with skill and hard work.

God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.  Isaiah 12:2
Ultimately, be confident in God.

And know that I have great confidence in you.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Look Up

Looking down on another person is weak, selfish, dramatic, and dumb.  The person looking down can often look strong, important, popular, and smart.  Look again.  The act of looking down on another person - their personhood (dignity, soul, mystery) is objectively wrong at all times.  Looking down is weak because it is easy.  Looking down is selfish because it builds one up at the expense of another.  Looking down is dramatic because it is often unnecessary public posturing.  Looking down is dumb because the list of reasons to be looked down upon is often arbitrary and superficial; skin color, grades, weight, clothes, neighborhood, team affiliation, articulation, quirks, physical limitations, style of worship...really?

It takes a lot of strength to be kind to, and respect, others; especially those who are different from us, those who we disagree with, and/or those whose behaviors are awful.  Thinking beyond oneself to see the other person is hard, especially when their behaviors are hurtful or wrong.  Taking garbage from others while holding firmly to personal dignity is courageous.  Sifting through the differences between the person and their behaviors, objectively knowing right from wrong, and prioritizing behaviors worth addressing is really, really, smart.  To pray for those who act as our enemies is heroic.  

Dr. Suess tells us, "A person's a person no matter how small."  The bible tells us, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  We are each perfectly small and of infinite worth to God.  Whether we're being tempted to look down on someone or someone is looking down on us, God is above it all.  He is the one who will love and guide us, strengthen our character, and comfort us in our suffering.  We simply need to look up.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Very Funny

I'm convinced that God gave you to me to ensure (among other things) that I laugh. Your sense of humor is refreshing, silly, biting, and blunt. Seeing humor in life through your eyes lightens my load...when I let it.

It is with some relief that you are no longer the child that I must constantly guide in what is right and wrong. When you were little I corrected your attempts at humor gone wrong (mainly bathroom humor - do you remember when "underwear" was a funny word without compare?) I would listen with a straight face, hoping I wouldn't laugh out loud. Now I'm not so obliged to guide and worry. Sometimes you still miss the mark of appropriate humor, yet it is worth the mistakes for the majority of time when you hit the mark. Sometimes truth via humor isn't completely appropriate or comfortable.

Shockingly, there was a time when I was funny...or at least funnier than I am now. With a strong desire to do right for you (and God) I became serious. Sometimes too serious. You are laughing me back to what is true; that life is difficult and choosing to laugh in the face of fear, ridiculousness, and adversity, is a way to allow God's grace and light to flow into and out of our hearts. Very loving. Very funny.

Thank you! and Love,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good Morning!

Good morning! 

Before I said "Good morning!" to you and everyone in the house and the neighbors and the UPS guy and the little kid at the store and the store clerk and my friend...I said "Good morning!" to God.

A cheerful "Good morning!" pours love into those I know, builds relationships with those I'm getting to know, and offers common courtesy to those I don't know at all.  I've shouted out my door, "Good morning!" to the UPS guy so often and for so many years that I came to know him by name and now we can chat about baseball, our kids, and how I sure do purchase a lot of stuff online.  You know that neighbor who drives by you daily but you've never officially met?  Or that kid you see regularly but who always seems to be on the other side of the room, hall, cafeteria, gym, or church?  A way to start a relationship is to make eye-contact and give a quick nod, smile, wave, "Hi," or "Good morning!"  Over time, you may become neighborly or develop a friendship.

To build a relationship with God, a "Good morning!" is a great place to start.  It only takes a second.  Consider it, at least, a common courtesy to the Creator.  When you feel distant from Him, no worries; by saying "Good morning" to Him each day you will grow closer.  That's just how it works.  Have a few more seconds to build the most important relationship of your life?  Start talking to Him.  Tell Him what you are sorry about, what you want, what you're thankful for.  It's just between you and God.

Catholics can consider learning a formal Morning Offering.  Here is one example:
O Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, the reunion of Christians; and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
Rise and shine and thank you for saying, "Good morning!" to me.  I'm praying for you and your day, every day.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Conditional Love

Unconditional love is rare on earth. Ideally an infant should be loved without condition because he or she is completely dependent upon the ongoing tenderness of adults who should be able to delay their own gratification for the sake of the needy child.  Infants are super cute and attracting, but they cannot be independent and personally responsible.
Heavenly speaking, God in his infinite mercy, loves in a way that is mysterious - not to be pegged down, contained, or limited. "You love everything you created and you despise nothing of what you have made" (Wis 11,24). He loves you because you are His.  He also shows and tells us how to love Him and others, for example, through the Bible.  He loves us perfectly, both unconditionally and conditionally.

Conditional love is respectful and responsible love between maturing people.  When two people avoid selfishness and want each other's well-being, they are willing to place conditions on their relationship for the betterment of both.  For example, when we agree that you will arrive home by curfew, our relationship grows stronger because a reasonable curfew gives me peace of mind (and a decent night's sleep!) and gives you the opportunity to prove your trustworthiness (and get a decent night's sleep!)  Loving conditions and limits set us up for success.

I love you because you are mine.  I respect you enough to encourage you to live within the responsible conditions of family, the just rules of society, and the full truth of God's love.  With God's help, we can learn how to love perfectly.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Choose Well Suffer Well

Emotionally speaking, I don't want you to suffer.  I want to protect you forever.  Will you consider Safety Tip #7 from Officer Buckle and Gloria and wear a helmet at all times, for my sake? 

There is much suffering in our hearts, bodies, relationships, and world that is out of our control. There are some who choose to inflict gratuitous suffering upon themselves wrongly. Yet, there is a way to choose to personally suffer - to do what is hard - for good reason and purpose. Athletes choose to suffer physical pain to improve their skills and strive for victory. Academics choose to suffer mental tension in order to delve more deeply into subject matter and/or to get good grades. Workers choose to suffer when they smile at a cranky customer, follow the directions of a bully boss, or allow a subordinate an unearned mercy, in order to earn income. Patients choose to follow treatment plans to heal. Each suffers and sacrifices, gives up, something less important in order to gain something more important.

As we begin Lent, we are asked to sacrifice, let go, or give up something - to do something hard in order to draw closer to God.  Lent is a perfect season to learn how to choose and suffer well.  From EWTN:

Give up complaining - focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism - become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments - think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry - trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement - be full of hope.
Give up bitterness - turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred - return good for evil.
Give up negativism - be positive.
Give up anger - be more patient.
Give up pettiness - become mature.
Give up gloom - enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy - pray for trust.
Give up gossiping - control your tongue.
Give up sin - turn to virtue.
Give up giving up - hang in there!
Reasonably speaking, I know you suffer.  My love, prayers, support, and encouragement to hang in there are with you.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Your Extraordinary Smile

Thank you for smiling at me today.  Your smile reassured me; told me in a small way that you were OK and that we were OK.  Your smile let me know that you could see I needed feedback; you saw beyond yourself to see me.  I remember the first time you smiled at me.  That smile came at just the right moment, when I was tired and wondering if I could be a good mom to you as a baby.  After so many years, I'm still often tired and wondering.  I appreciate even more now than then, the reassurance that your smile brings to me.

Technically, smiling is ordinary and easy to do. But in actuality, smiling is extraordinary and difficult.  It is hard to smile when you're tired, hungry, angry, lonely, overwhelmed, bored, hurting, or confused.  Yet, you chose to smile your one-of-a-kind smile.

As we leave the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time to enter Lent this Ash Wednesday, it seems fitting to consider the act of ordinary smiling and how something ordinary can be full of purpose, meaning, and love. Consider your extraordinary smile as proof!

Thank you for smiling at me today. Can you see me smiling back at you? :)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Love Songs to Sing

Whether in a great book or film, the scene of a heroic man serenading his beloved woman strikes the heart as gutsy and intimate. And the greatest love songs of all time, aren't found on a billboard chart or music video.  They are found in the Book of Psalms. Here are a few examples chosen from 150...
Test me, LORD, and try me; search my heart and mind. Your love is before my eyes; I walk guided by your faithfulness. 26: 2-3

I will rejoice and be glad in your love, once you have seen my misery, observed my distress. 31: 8

Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your kindness. 31: 17

But I shall sing of your strength, extol your love at dawn, For you are my fortress, my refuge in time of trouble. 59: 17

Lord, you are kind and forgiving, most loving to all who call on you. 86: 5

Good indeed is the Lord, Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. 100: 5
Be gutsy and sing, talk, pray, and love God "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27) He loves you intimately. Your voice is music to His ears.