Love Languages and The Crucifixion

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Throughout the season of Lent, if there is one thing that has become increasingly apparent to me in my spiritual life, it is how God loves our hearts so well. That may seem like a very naive realization - after all, we've been singing "Jesus loves me" since kindergarten, so the idea that God loves us on a personal level shouldn't be a shocker.  But the further I fall in love with the maker of my soul, the more I realize that His love is radical and specific to the desires of our heart. Which makes sense of course - the very essence of God is love (1 John 4:8).  His ultimate gift to us is salvation and the gift of Heaven  - if we choose, through acts of the will, to align our lives in accordance with His plan.  For a God whose very essence is love, it makes sense that the cross has the ability to be inclusive of every human being's love language.  Christ's love demonstrated on the cross is not an exclusive, members-only love.  Instead, it is an all-encompassing love affair between God and His people.

Gary Chapman is the famed author of the book "5 Love Languages," in which he explains that every person has a love language that they speak - one that best fills their love tank to the brim.  In relationships, romantic especially, two people can speak different love languages, and misinterpret the other's desire to love them.

"In the book, I share some of my encounters with couples through the years that brought me to realize that what makes one person feel loved does not necessarily make another person feel loved. For a number of years, I have been helping couples in the counseling office discover what their spouse desired in order to feel loved. Eventually, I began to see a pattern in their responses. Therefore, I decided to read the notes I had made over twelve years of counseling couples and ask myself the question, “When someone sat in my office and said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what did they want?” Their answers fell into five categories. I later called them the five love languages."

But there never has to be that confusion from God concerning how to love YOU.  He made you and knows the count of hairs on your head.  So loving you but failing to speak your love language isn't possible with Him. His sacrifice on the cross encompasses ever love language possible.

Find your love language below and discover Christ's love for you and your heart on the cross.

Quality Time: Christ loves you so desperately that he would rather hang on a tree than run the risk of not spending eternity with you. There is an incredible amount of love through the language of  quality time felt throughout the crucifixion process and even after Christ's death here on earth.

The Crucifixion opens up an incredible potential for quality time with Christ - essentially because the crucifixion is not bound by the human concept of time.  Christ died for every sin that was and would be, so his crucifixion exists out of time.  This means that even today, in 2016, Christ's crucifixion is still present, and our interaction with Him and with sin have potential to add weight to the cross.

Yet, because of Christ's actions during the last supper, He is available all the time even today through His true presence in the Eucharist. He's never not present in the consecrated host.  In my life, There are times when I desperately ache for interaction with my boyfriend, my best friend, and my sisters.  Yet they're not there constantly, they aren't always accessible.  They're in meetings, in different towns, at the doctors, working on homework, eating dinner, out with friends, you name it.  But Christ is always there, waiting for interaction and quality time with me.  That quality time originates at the Last Supper, and is brought to fruition on the cross.

Physical Touch:

Beautifully, the tangible love of God is not bound by the nails that hold His hands and feet to the cross. Instead, the physical aspect of His love continues with the sacrament of the Eucharist.  In Persona Christi, through the priest, Christ offers His body relentlessly in the Mass daily throughout the world.

Christopher West speaks about this when he talks about his wife's father, who he never met.  He tells the story  “At Mass the day after his wedding, having just consummated his marriage the night before, he was in tears after receiving the Eucharist. When his new bride inquired, he said, ‘For the first time in my life, I understood the meaning of Christ’s words, ‘This is my body given for you.’”

Christ gives us His very body - not holding any part of Himself back.  His sacrificial love is a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift for His bride, the Church.  Beautifully, here at the cross, Christ also embodies the beauty Pope Saint John Paul II taught about through Theology of the Body...but that's a whole other blog post.

Acts of Service:

Christ hung on the cross for over three hours, His breath ragged, His body desperately yearning for relief.  He hung on that cross for you - the ultimate act of service, especially in comparison to our human attempts at acts of selfless love.  Christ's death on the cross was not for your temporary good  - Dear, let me unload the dishwasher for you so that you have more time...even though I'll have to unload it again tomorrow too.  Nor was it for His own benefit - Here, let me help you go get groceries so we can get the pantry stocked and make dinner.

His death was the most selfless act of service that has ever existed.  Christ was not tainted by the presence of sin, yet He took upon Himself the weight of your sins so that He could love you eternally.

Words of Affirmation:

Gary Chapman touches on this, pointing to Luke 23:24, "Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'"

Yet Catholicism offers a continuation of that love thanks to the beauty of Holy Thursday.  Christ gave his disciples the power of the persona of Christ - whose sins they forgave, they were forgiven.  Whose sins they retained, they were retained.  And so, the most beautiful words of affirmation that a human being can hear are those in the confessional:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.  Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace.  And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Gift Giving:

There are an incredible amount of gifts that Christ gives to you during His time on the cross.

"When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." Christ gives us His mother, with his disciple representing humankind.  Mary becomes a channel through which we can grow closer to the heart of Christ, thanks to her intercession.

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit." Matthew 27:50  The Son of God, the Second person in the Blessed Trinity, gives the gift of His life so that you can live eternally with Him

It's a gift - it isn't forced, or mandatory or non-returnable.  The beauty of the gifts that Christ pours out on the cross lies in the fact that you have the choice to accept them.  Will you?

I Gave up Makeup for a Month...Here's What I Found.

I was seventeen years old when I first cracked open a bottle of mascara.  Granted, if it had been completely up to me, I would have been a makeup aisle regular long before the tender age of seventeen.  I had been eyeing makeup tutorials since freshman year of high school, and the countdown til the age of initiation into the makeup-wearers club seemed to tick away subconsciously until that blessed day.

Then the birthday rolled around, along with a select amount of makeup items and I integrated makeup into my morning routine almost immediately.  Granted, yes, it did add time to my already busy morning schedule (that mostly consisted of sleeping in twice past my alarm and drinking numerous cups of coffee) but it I thought it was worth it.  I felt polished, pretty, noticeable.

You were born to be real, not to be perfect | 22 Quotes About Self-Confidence That Will Brighten Up Your Life: Yet, for a variety of reasons, I decided to give up makeup for a month.  When preparing, I thought that as the amount of makeup on my face diminished, so would my self-confidence, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

During all my time on Pinterest or YouTube, trying to find the perfect make-up routine, I had forgotten that I wasn't supposed to be perfect (in the physical sense of the word).  Instead, I was meant to be real - myself - and confident in who I was created to be.

Then I turned to my Bible for reassurance before the whole experiment started, and I couldn't have found more assurance and love than in the words that the God who created me wrote for me.

In Jeremiah 31:3, I was told by a Divine Lover that He had loved me long before I had put makeup on.  In 2 Corinthians 3:18, He spoke and said that I was being transformed to be more like Him everyday.  In Psalm 46:5, He told me that as I find my confidence, faith and trust in Him, I would have His help at the break of every day.

Thus, the month began.  Benefits abounded - there was something freeing about being able to take off my glasses and rub my eyes when I was tired without having to worry about black eyeliner streaking on my face.  There was a confidence felt in the assurance that people interacting with me were getting to see me for me - my personality, my quirks and Chloe-isms, and not just for what I looked like.  Slowly but surely, I was taking off a mask.

And no one said anything.

Not one thing.  Not at work, school, or social nights with friends.  Not at the coffee house, the drive-through or the line at the grocery store.

"I struggle with my skin, but who doesn't? There will always be something about ourselves that we find troubling, but in the end, we have love and that is worth more than all the accolades we could have ever received for being beautiful" - Christopher Poindexter 

As my normal interactions with those who came in and out of my life continued throughout the month, my confidence didn't diminish...it grew.  I was delighting in being seen for myself, and realizing that the weight that I put on my shoulders, this pressure to look perfect, was not a shared burden with those in my life who were close to my heart.  I was not being told by my closest friends that things had changed, or that they noticed I didn't look right.

I discovered that if I viewed makeup as a mixture of colors and pallets used to make ugly things beautiful, than I was doing makeup {and life} wrong.  Makeup is a way in which to magnify a beauty that already exists.  It's a morning routine that shouldn't cover up or distract from the beauty that comes from within - confidence, self-esteem and an awareness of the fact that God doesn't make mistakes.

Then, finally on the day I had designated as the end of my makeup fast, I pulled out my makeup bag from the cabinet it had sat in, untouched for almost thirty days.  And it felt different, putting on lipstick and making sure everything was in place for stepping outside the door.  I'm not saying that women shouldn't put effort into how they look, but it was strange to have to map out time for my morning routine again, instead of just waking up and delving into the day.

I learned that I want to be beautiful - a desire that had been in my heart while I had been anxiously waiting to be allowed to wear makeup just as much as it was a desire when I had my own little case full of colors sitting on the bathroom counter.

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis 

Double exposure portraits: a simple tutorial for making surrealist images: My desire is still to be beautiful - but not like the pictures of the super models and Miss Universes or the photo-shopped falsity that is plastered across the grocery store check out lanes and billboards on the highway.  I want to be beautiful for the way that I think, the crazy thoughts that run through my head that with hard work and a lot of prayer from my friends upstairs, can be turned into a reality.

I want to be beautiful for the way I can make people smile and laugh and forget their worries, even if it's just for a little while.  I don't want to be labeled as beautiful for something that will fade - whether that be my lipstick color or even my physical appearance in a more general sense.  I want to be beautiful at a soul level - and that is something that cannot be attained by an eye shadow shade.

"That's the thing about inner beauty: unlike physical beauty, which grabs the spotlight for itself, inner beauty shines on everyone, catching them, holding them in its embrace and making them more beautiful too." 

Appreciating Women

In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it's wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.

The world defines feminism as equality.  Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.

What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?

I believe in the distinct equality of the human person - but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders...not one.

I'm a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut.  I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others.  And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.  

I'm tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I'm giving up on what should be my 'real dreams' if I pursue something so archaic. I'm tired of an angry feminism that says it's my body and I can do with it whatever I want.  I'm sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.

I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women.  For too long, today's culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it's reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look...which is more objectifying than empowering.

In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, "Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic." 

A valuing of women and Catholicism aren't two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman.  The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman's role in salvation history.  Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, "The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind." Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature.  If that honor isn't something that values a woman, I don't know what is.

Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I'm strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.

Being a woman isn't about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life.  It isn't about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders' charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is.  Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.

"It's about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts." Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, "The Feminine Genius."

We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism.  But the culture's answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.

Femininity is not a burden or a set back.  Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ's love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, "The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood.  In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love.  That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood."

The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call - a call to love.  A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.

If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, "We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly.  It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way."

Viva La Difference....Viva La Feminine. 

NFP as a single, college age girl

You wouldn't think that the words "Natural family planning" and "single Catholic college girl" would work together in one sentence very well. Well, until now that is.  It's not just for married couples - the concepts introduced with Natural Family Planning are concepts that can affect every one's life, regardless of what stage you're at.  So why now? 

Because you shouldn't wait until you are married to start thinking about your fertility.

It's easy to think that the time we have right now while in college is not the time to be worried about fertility and all that jazz.  We're young.  We've got our whole lives ahead of us.  Yet let me tell you something - it is becoming more and more obvious to me that life is literally flying by quicker than I can blink.  My little sister just graduated from high school.  My co-worker just got married and now has a beautiful little baby.  My college peers are graduating.  Life is happening, and snap you're fingers and you'll be at another stage of your life.  Don't wait until you're married to start thinking about how to take care of your health and fertility.

Because you should know where you stand on the issue of birth control before you are in a relationship.

The number one reason marriages don't last anymore? Failed communication.  When birth control was first introduced to the public scene in the early 1960s, it's affect on issues like divorce wasn't something that was on people's minds.  This was about improving marriages! Less stress around pregnancies, littles, and a general well being of the family.  But come in the 1970s, and divorce rates doubled.  And it didn't stop in the 70s  - the number of divorces tripled from 400,000 in 1962 to 1.2 million in 1981.

Why? Because birth control in a marriage says one thing and does another.  Sex, by it's unitive and procreative nature, says "Here is all of me!" but the addition of birth control tacks on "Well, all of me except my fertility.  And our future children."  And that communication can tear down a marriage that is meant to be, according to the Catechism, "ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring" but instead reduces both members down to the sum of their parts.

Because it's not birth control...which is what my doctors want me to be on.

It seems now a days that any medical issue that arises in a girl's life is a case where birth control is prescribed by her doctor.  According to a study conducted in the United States, from 2006-2010, 62 percent of all women in the United states who are of reproductive age are currently prescribed some form of contraceptive birth control.

I've been there.  I've sat down with my doctor and heard how medical issues would be easily, quickly, and painlessly resolved if I would just let her write a prescription for birth control for me.

But there are a lot of risks associated with just the pill - most of which are not gone over in the doctors office when the pill itself is prescribed.  The pill is actually a combination of two different hormonal medications: estrogen and progestin.  Because of this increase in hormone presence in the body, the pill carries with it many side affects, one of them being breast cancer.  Research indicates that the birth control pill itself will increase the risk of a woman getting breast cancer by over 40% if she takes the pill before she has her first child.  After she delivers her first baby though, the chances rocket to over 70% increase of breast cancer risk if she continues for more than four years.

My family has a very high risk of breast cancer on both sides of my family, so taking the pill for me would be not only putting my current health at risk, but also placing the time I spend with my future family at jeopardy
 as well.  Other than just breast cancer risks though, the pill's side affects also include higher blood pressure, heart health issues, blood clotting, a lack of fertility once off the pill prescription, increase of liver and cervical cancers, difficulty breast feeding and a lowering of the immune system to AIDS and HIV.  

On top of all this, the cost of being on the pill for just five years is over $1,000.  I'm in college.  And I drink a lot of coffee.  The budget that I have for medication is very small - and to be purchasing something that acts as a band-aid for the medical issues that I do have, only to increase my future medical risks and costs isn't a cost effective choice. 

Studying the concepts of Natural Family Planning - such as the charting and tracking of fertility - is one way that NFP has been a blessing to me as a single Catholic woman.  Instead of relying on artificial hormones, I'm able to utilize the concepts of NFP to track my fertility and expose a lot of the underlying issues that birth control might have covered up - like the simple addition of vitamins into my diet and a better awareness of my fitness and general health.  

Also, this book was incredibly helpful for that reason.  

Because your body is amazing...and knowing how it works is fantastic too.

Even if you're not married, or heck, if you're in the same boat as me and you're not even dating, it's no excuse to not appreciate how stinking amazing the human body is.  One of my dearest friends is in veterinarian school and sends me facts about the body and the reproduction system and it's amazing. For instance, did you know that, for women, the smell of a newborn baby triggers the same part of the brain reward center as a drug addiction does?  God has literally thought of everything imaginable and to be able to learn about it is the bomb.

Although it may not seem like it, in your early twenties is the ideal time to learn all of this as well.  Down the road you may have a family, a full time career, graduate degree work, or any other number of amazing thing God has planned for you.  Right now is the perfect time to dig into the amazing work He's laid out for us in our creation.

Because life is beautiful no matter what stage of life you're in.

This morning at church I sat behind a family with five littles.  They were gorgeous - all of them under ten and full of life and energy.  And it was beautiful.  Am I utilizing NFP right now to plan my family with my spouse? Nope.  However, knowing how NFP works and the Church's teachings concerning families right now helps so much when both interacting with families now and when I, God willing, have my own family in the future.

God's plan for your fertility doesn't start when you put on a wedding dress.  Or when you are called to start a family.  Or even if you are not called to marriage at all.  Your body is good. It makes it possible for you to be Christ's hands and feet to the world around you.

This weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension - yet another way that Christ tells us that our bodies are important.  He rises, body and soul, and ascends into Heaven.  If the body wasn't important, Christ wouldn't have a glorified one.

So take the time now to learn more about your fertility.  It is never too early to glorify the Lord with your whole self.

For further resources, check out these amazing websites:

Couple to Couple League: A great way to learn the basics of NFP and how they interact in a - marriage.

- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: This website has some great articles about the religious explanation of why the Catholic Church supports NFP.

- Carrots for Michaelmas: Haley Stewart is probably the most incredible Catholic mama blogger in my opinion.  She's sassy, has an incredible sense of style, and, in her own words is a "homeschooling, bacon-eating, coffee-drinking southern girl with a flair for liturgical feasts and a penchant for bright red lipstick."  In other words, who I want to be when I grow up.  She has a fantastic piece on her NFP experience over on her blog.

There are countless of other bloggers who have written on their experience with NFP - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you're looking for some more information on the subject, drop me a note in the comment box and I'll get you set up.

Need

More than I ever thought it could have been, my dating fast has been such a blessing - irony of ironies -  becuase it has let me really focus in on what relationship looks like with an objective point of view.  I was thinking about this quite a bit today while I was running - because, face it, the best thinking is either on the treadmill or in the shower.  Let's be real. What are some of these thoughts then? 

I don't want a man to need me. 

I don't want to be the reason a guy goes to Church.  I don't want to be the middle man (or lady) between a man and the Lord.  This isn't to discount the beauty of marriage and willing the good of the other as other.  But to be needed? No thanks.  It sounds harsh, but let me explain. 

Let's say a man needs me emotionally. What would happen when he doesn't need me anymore? When I'm not the reason that he's standing, he can lean weight back on his own two feet and I become the pair of crutches that he needed until things got sorted out and healed? Or if a relationship with me is the substitute for what he really needs?

Because he doesn't need me.  He needs God

I'm not the one who has seen him at his worst and still can make him whole.  I'm not the one who created his soul and who began his existence in his mother's womb.  I'm not the one who can forgive all his sins with a single word, and welcome him with open arms and unconditional love.  But you know who can fulfill all of that and more?

Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.



"For in Christ all the fullness<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29504P" data-link="(P)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of the Deity lives in bodily form,
 and in Christ you have been
brought to fullness.
He is the head<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-29505Q" data-link="(Q)" style="background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">
 over every power and authority."

Yet not wanting to be needed is a two way street - I don't want to need him either.

Whether that be the elusive him, the could be, who I 'need' in my life before I grow in my faith life...or the actual him who pursues me.  I want who I am as a child of God to be defined without him.  Because when two incomplete, half-people marry each other, they don't complete each other.  They are just two halves that are struggling to find out who they really are.  I don't need someone to complete me, because that is my maker's job.

I don't want to be defined by the need to be needed.  My definition of who I am is found in the fact that I am child of God. 

What does this all boil down to? A healthy relationship is a relationship that is built on the basis of an identification in God.  You are not defined by who you are with or who you aren't.  You are not the sum of your failures, weaknesses or needs.  You are summed up by the Father's love for you. (JPII).  Don't fall in love with the idea of being needed by someone.  Don't be in a relationship just because you don't want to not feel lonely. The healthy relationship is one that works like a triangle.  You're common need is not each other, or affirmation, or affection.  Your commonality lies in the common goal of God and eternity with Him. Each side of the triangle (both the guy and the gal) are working towards a commonality that is not themselves and is not each other.  Instead, they are working together towards a greater good that is outside themselves and requires sacrifice.  That's what marriage is - not someone fulfilling your needs, but instead you both bringing each other closer to the one who is the author of love.  

Don't need someone.  Don't be needed. Instead, find your identity in the unmovable.  Feelings change.  Needs Change.  Wants change.  But the Lord? Not so much.  In fact, Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."  That sounds like a constant to me.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think on the subject.

In Christ,
Chloe 

Obsession with Perfection

I find it very easy to obsess over the desire for perfection in my life.  I want everything to be just right.  From my grades and extracurricular activities to my closet and how my car is organized.  My heart to hearts with God are are filled with constant reminders that I need to really align my will with His, and not the other way around.  

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." Isaiah 55:8

Yet it's easy to think we know best.  We know what would be perfect for us.  If God could only get on the same page that our dreams are written on, things would fall into place.

We don't ask for too much, just perfection, for crying out loud.  We want the perfect school experience.  We want the perfect best friend.  We want the perfect significant other.  We want the perfect littles.  We want the white-picket-fence perfect house. 

Why do you think Pinterest is so popular?  It gives a glimpse, even if it is just a fleeting one, at what life could look like if it were perfect.  If you had time to workout everyday, had the decorating skills to rival HGTV and cooking abilities to shock Gordon Ramsey.  We strive for perfection in almost every aspect of our lives.

Yet the worst place that we demand perfection is with people.  I have found this to be exceptionally true in my life lately.

I want a world without collision.  In a play called "Master Harold and the Boys," by Athol Fugard,  one of the characters compares human interaction to ballroom dancing.  


“Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we're sick and tired of it now. It's been going on for too long. Are we never going to get it right?...Learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of beginners at it?”

But that's the beauty of Christ's work in our lives.  He enters as a savior to a broken world, but not to declare that the imperfections experienced by us are too much for God.  Instead, He sees the mess we've made of things and creates beauty from the ashes.  

Yet how easy is it to demand perfection of others while completely ignoring the struggles in your own life?  To see other's burdens, and instead of helping to lift them, critique them and advise them. 

Then I realize that the things that I'm calling them out for struggling with are the exact same things that eat into my life.

"I would never marry a guy with a horrible temper because I have a bad temper and I need someone to even me out."

"I would never go out with someone who struggles with envy because my struggle is envy and I need someone to tell me that what I have is good enough."

"I can't be friends with someone who struggles with __________ because I struggle with ______ and I need someone to call me out and be accountable with."

I'm desiring divine fulfillment through the channels of other children of God instead of through God Himself.  

We shouldn't be constantly yearning for the perfect girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, best friend or confidant, with who we can finally be ourselves and they can fix everything for us.  We shouldn't be looking for another person to 'balance us out.'  That's not what friendship, accountability, or marriage is about.  


What if we started interacting with people not for how they could 'make us whole' or 'fix our problems' but how we could find someone to struggle towards holiness together?  Instead of looking for the perfect guy/gal, realizing that they aren't out there. There is no perfect match who everything will work out with.  What if we desired to experience the same issues with someone and strive towards holiness with the same goals? To know each others struggles and not condemn, but encourage? To see the beauty in the immortal soul?  

C.S. Lewis once said, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

What about with our relationships? Romantic and friendships? How does an obsession for perfection change those interactions? Matt Fradd had a beautiful photo that he wrote on that summarizes this fantastically:



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"The next date you will go on will be with a sinner, FYI. It’s interesting to me how a line like that—the one I just wrote—doesn't shock us. Nor do people feel ashamed when they say, “Hey, I’m a sinner.” But a sinner is one who sins, right? And I never hear people act so nonchalant about the particular sins they commit, “Hey, I’m a fornicator.” But back to your next date. Swap “sinner” with one of the following and notice the difference in your reaction. The next date you will go on will be a person who is a liar/selfish/arrogant/racist/a glutton/greedy/slothful/hateful . . . See what I mean? Sin sucks." Matt Fradd 

Darn it Adam and Eve, sin is here and will be until Christ comes back.  But that doesn't mean that all is lost.  Heck, we're all in this boat together - we've all sinned and fallen short of the beauty that God orginally had planned for us.  We're bumping into people like crazy down here.  We're bumbling around and trying to dance through life perfectly, but we're too busy yelling at people for dancing wrong to hear God telling us what steps go perfectly in time to the music of His plan. 
Should we strive just for the perfect? Surround ourselves with only perfect people and do only perfect things? You can try, but I'm pretty sure you'll end up discouraged, lonely and doing nothing.  So what is the answer?  Doesn't Christ Himself call us to be perfect?  He says so in the Bible in Matthew 5:43-48 - "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23278AX" data-link="(AX)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23279AY" data-link="(AY)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> that you may be children<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23280AZ" data-link="(AZ)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-23281BB" data-link="(BB)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
So are we called to perfection? Not in the sense that we will never stumble, never fall, never collide (if we could, we wouldn't need the sacrament of confession).  
God loves perfectly, with an Agape type love that has no conditions.  He doesn't keep a score card, tallying up the times we were imperfect so that he can punish us at the end of our lives.  Rather, He desires our good and our fullness, and loves accordingly.  
Our love towards our neighbor (ie, everyone in the world) should mirror His perfect love.  It won't be a perfect reflection because our sins get in the way.  But to look at other people and will the good of the other as other? That's striving for loving perfection.  We'll miss the mark.  We'll fall down, get scraped up and have to dust ourselves off.  
But there is beauty in the imperfection and holiness that can arise from the realization of our faults.  
Thank Heaven for a God who can love the imperfect perfectly. 

In Christ,

Chloe 

Christ's Wedding Day

Good Friday.  The day we set aside once a year to commemorate the death of Our Lord for our sins and the opening of the gates of Heaven for our salvation. We remember God, who took on human nature and all of it's messiness in order to spend eternity with us, His beloved children, and His beloved bride, The Church.

What if we thought of Good Friday as a a wedding feast in conjunction with Christ's sacrificial love?  In his book, Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Brant Pitre examines the actual event of the crucifixion in the light of historical Jewish wedding.  He places Christ as the Heavenly bridegroom and the Church as His eternal bride.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how Christ yearns to be intimate with us, emptying Himself into something so simple as bread and wine so that He can physically be within our very bodies.  In Mass tonight, the Homily focused on Christ's desire for us to know God - to be intimate with Him.  Not just to know about Him, but to really know Him as the most important thing in our lives. 
In Biblical terms, the phrase "to know" indicates a physical relationship, or an absolute knowledge of the other. The Hebrew word is "Yada."  John  W. Ritenbaugh in his study of the old testament Hebrew language wrote, 

"At times, the Bible uses "to know" as a euphemism for sexual intimacy. Paul is not saying here [in Philippians 3:8-10] that he desires sexual intimacy with Christ, but that he greatly desires spiritual intimacy with Him. He wants to be so close to Him that he experiences the same level of life as Jesus did—even to the point of suffering or dying as He died, if that is necessary to be made like Him in every possible way. He desires to glorify God in every aspect of his life just as Jesus did."

 In Joshua 23:14, Joshua gathers the people to tell them about their relationship with the Lord.  "Behold this day I am going into the way of all the earth, and you shall know with all your mind that of all the words which the Lord promised to perform for you, not one hath failed. " 

In Luke 1:34, Mary's eternal virginity is emphasized with her lack of previous intimacy and full knowledge with any man. "And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?"

Christ desires to be intimate with us.  To have absolute knowledge of us.  In John 17:3-4, He prays to the Father before His passion. "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do."  
And what is more physical than Christ's passion and death for our salvation?  He is betrayed with a kiss from a close follower, and then goes through the most physically excruciating death imaginable for a person in the fist century.  He is covered in His own blood, the physical life of His body (and the spiritual life of ours), and drags a wooden beam through streets crowded with the jeering of the souls He is on His way to die to save.  His body is fastened and hoisted in the sky, where He physically must thrust Himself up to fill His lungs. 
All the while, He thinks of you.
And when the crowds yell at Him to come down from the cross and prove that He is God, He thinks of you.  "I can't come down from the cross.  I have to stay up here for (insert your name) because one day, even if it's over two thousand years in the future, they are going to need me.  And how can I teach them of the beauty of suffering if I give up now?"  
And then, "It is finished."  There is a spear thrust into His heart that is so full of overflowing love for our soul despite how much pain we have caused Him that blood and water flow from His side.
Brant Pitre points out the significance of this final physical aspect of Christ's death. "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took out one of his side (Greek pleura) and closed up its place with the flesh; and the rib which the Lord had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to man....so too Jesus falls into the sleep of death, and blood and water flow from his side (Greek pleura) And just as the miraculous creation of the first bride from the side of Adam is the foundation of marriage of man and woman, so the miraculous flow of blood and water from the side of Jesus is the origin and foundation of the marriage of Christ and the Church."
So Christ pours out His very life on the altar of the Cross on Good Friday, that supposedly dark day that ushered in the redemption of our souls from a debt that we could never pay off.  And the Catholic Mass taps into the eternal sacrifice at Calvary.

 In The Faith of Millions, John A. O’Brien said, "The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the cross in the sense that it offers [Jesus] anew to God . . . and thus commemorates the sacrifice of the cross, reenacts it symbolically and mystically, and applies the fruits of Christ’s death upon the cross to individual human souls. All the efficacy of the Mass is derived, therefore, from the sacrifice of Calvary."

What will your wedding gift to Christ be?  A Sunday morning hour when convenient for you? He sacrificed His entire life for you...are you willing to do the same for him? 

I heard the voice of Jesus say

Japan, 1603.  The art of Kabuki Theater begins - and it is something that has never been seen before. Actors emerge onto a stage with painted faces which indicate who their character is.  Their movements are so graceful that often the viewer cannot distinguish which movements are dance forms and which are the acting.  Actors train for years to be able to possess the honor of being in a public performance.  It is as if you are learning an entirely new language - the stylized motions convey the emotions that the heart speaks and the mouth has no words for.

Japan, 2015.  A Kabuki Theater performance is staged.  Actors and actresses perform, pride showing in their actions.  They have trained for year for this.  Not to shine as theater stars themselves, but to accurately portray the Kabuki performance the same way the actors before them did.  A Kabuki performance stands frozen in time - performed the same way over and over again.


The performance given in 2015 is the same performance one saw in 1615.

There is great pride in the preservation of the traditional Japanese theater - the actor who plays the part of a great hero says the same words, does the very same actions and wears the very same costume design that the original master actor said, did and wore.



The Last Supper, 33.  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."  Then he took the cup and when had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:26-30).

Mass on the First Sunday of Lent, 2015.  The priest leans over the host, elevates it and says, "Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you." And taking the wine, he says, "Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood.  The blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this in memory of me."

As Catholics, we gather in Church and are able to participate in the same sacrifice that occurred 2,000 years ago on Calvary.  

Yet our journey does not start by the foot of the cross.  Through the Mass we also are able to experience Christ as we are seated at His Last Supper, and then, (spoiler, my favorite part of the Mass) we join our voices with the angels and saints as we sing in adoration to a God who rose and is in Heaven.  

The Mass is not simply a performance or a ritual performed the same way and preserved for over two thousand years.  The words of consecration are not recited lines said by a priest who wants to be the best priest on the altar since Christ.  Instead, they are Christ's words, spoken by a man who stands in the person of Christ.  

In Luke 10:16, Christ tells his priests that "He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me."  The words "This is my body" does not come from the priest who stands in front of us.  We are not called to eat the flesh of Father fill-in-the-blank and drink his blood.  Instead, the priest acts as another Christ - in persona Christi.
  
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this belief as such: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person, his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration, which he has received, is truly made like to the high priests, and possess the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ Himself." 

It is not simply a rote rehearsal of words to make sure that we get everything "just right" and preserve the perfect tradition the way Christ would have liked it if he were still here.  Rather, HE is still here, in the very real way through His physical presence on the altar.

It is also not a simple show, costumes included, of bravado and strict and regulated art.  The priest does not 'dress up' as Christ and carry on actions as to imitate him.  Rather, he puts on Christ Himself.  Rather, even the vestments of the priests symbolize this participation in the person hood of Christ. 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, "The fact that we are standing at the altar clad in liturgical vestments must make it clearly visible to those present that we are there "in the person of an Other". Just as in the course of time priestly vestments developed, they are a profound symbolic expression of what the priesthood means...the essence of the priestly ministry, interpreting the liturgical vestments themselves..."

And then we lay people get to participate in that same sacrifice of Calvary on the altar and receive the body and blood of Christ, crucified and risen, into our bodies through the hands of the priest. 

How beautiful! To be given the actual body of Christ through the hands of His priest, who stands in as another Christ.  Saint John Vianney, patron saints of priests, wrote, ""When you see the priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Saint John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church, said in 391 AD, "Neither angel nor archangel is able to do anything in respect to what is given by God; rather Father and Son and Holy Spirit manage it all; but the priest lends his own tongue and presents his own hand."

There is great beauty in the priest acting in the person of Christ - and the beauty of interacting with the God of the Heavens and Creator of the Universe in such a physical way.  And while priests are given the honor of such an intimate way do not forget the fact that we too are asked to share in Christ's life here on earth. 

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter five, he wrote, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children.  Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 

Act as Christ in your world.  Not as an actor, whose life after he is done impressing people returns to it's state of normalcy or even discontented malice.  Instead, let Christ invade your live and take over so that we can say like Paul in his letter to the Galatians , "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  

Justin Timberlake and Love

This morning my little six year old brother Liam rushed into my room, waving a Valentine's Day card from our grandparents.  He was ecstatic, but also a little frustrated.  

"They spelled my name wrong!! My name isn't spelled L-O-V-E! It's spelled L-I-A-M!"  

And while this super adorable little man is needing some spelling lesson improvement, he's actually got a beautiful life lesson wrapped into his ability to only recognize the letter 'L'.

Although those in our family know us by our name, what we define as important, our passions and our jobs, we are so much more than that.  And we're more than our plans, hopes and mistakes.  

Because when God looks into your contrite heart, He doesn't see what you think makes you.  Your trip ups, your failings. He sees love.  He sees you - His Child and His creation...and His good.  But sometimes that unconditional and infinite love can be scary.  So we huddle in our plans and hide behind our will and what we perceive as our good.  

It's safe, and it's secure.  And when you take a break from all the security, you realize you feel completely and utterly alone.

And that's now how you were created to be.  Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  You don't have to impress people. We strive to follow and obey, and, in essence, fall in love with God.

There is a song that explains this b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y. And it's by Justin Timberlake. Didn't expect that combination, did you?

The song is called "Mirrors" and while it is regularly sang by a gentleman with a certain lady in mind, but my challenge to you tonight is to read through the lyrics and read it as if God and you are singing it to each other.

Aren't you somethin' to admire?

Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."'

'Cause your shine is somethin' like a mirror
And I can't help but notice
You reflect in this heart of mine


Genesis 1:27 "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them"

If you ever feel alone and
The glare makes me hard to find
Just know that I'm always
Parallel on the other side 


Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin."

'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go .


Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"

Just put your hand on the glass
I'm trying to pull you through

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 

You just gotta be strong
'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me. 
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is the space that now you hold 


Romans 8:38 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

Show me how to fight for now
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy 
Comin' back here to you

John 14: 1-3 "
 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."


You were right here all along
It's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me. 

Colossians 3:10 "And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator"

I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making two reflections in one 

Song of Songs 2:13 "Arise, come, my darling;my beautiful one, come with me"

'Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.
Aren't you somethin', an original
'Cause it doesn't seem merely a sample
And I can't help but stare, 'cause
I see truth somewhere in your eyes


I can't ever change without you
You reflect me, I love that about you
And if I could, I would look at us all the time. 



Romans 5:8
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."


'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul

I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go.

Romans 8:31 "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"


Just put your hand on the glass
I'll be tryin' to pull you through
You just gotta be strong


1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

'Cause I don't wanna lose you now
I'm lookin' right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is a space that now you hold


Romans 5:5 "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Show me how to fight for now.
And I'll tell you baby, it was easy
Comin' back here to you once I figured it out
You were right here all along.


Luke 15:20
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."


It's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me.
I couldn't get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it's clear as this promise


2 Peter 1:4 "Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

That we're making two reflections in one.
'Cause it's like your my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me.

Yesterday is history. 

Psalm 103:12 "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."


Tomorrow's a mystery

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I can see you lookin' back at me.
Keep your eyes on me

Baby, keep your eyes on me. 

Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand,<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-14101A" data-link="(A)" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;"> I will not be shaken."

Now you're the inspiration for this precious song.
And I wanna see your face light up since you put me on


So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone
And I can't wait wait wait wait to get you home
Just to let you know, you are, you are the love of my life.  


You're my reflection, all I see is you

Songs of Songs 8:6 "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame."


My reflection, in everything I do. 
You're my reflection and all I see is you. 

My reflection in everything I do. 

God has loved you at your darkest.  Your brightest.  Your best and worst.  And despite seeing you at both ends of the spectrum, He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.

Will you open the door to your heart and let His love into your life?

Will you love Him in return?