Love is More than an Open Door: Chivalry in Today’s Culture

I’m going to make a bold statement that some of you may not agree with.  The modern day gentleman who respects women and values human beings for who they are and not what they can give him is out there.

Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. Because I thought it for so long as well.

That sounds great, but there aren’t any good guys out there anymore. They just don’t exist.  If they’re out there, they aren’t in my life and they probably never will be.  

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.  They do exist, and not just in fiction or Hallmark Movie Christmas specials.  Instead, they could be on your campus, in your church, in your family or on your way to work.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver (1864-1943); botanist, agricultural chemist, inventor, educator: But in order to appreciate chivalry as a woman, that means that we have to accept the beautiful gift of a man respecting us.  And sometimes that’s hard for a generation of women who have been told that their body is the only thing that a man wants, and it’s not worth it to have self-respect.

I don’t love chivalry because I’m weak, or lack self-esteem, or simply don’t have the desire to open doors – but because I’m honoring the God-given position that has been given to the men in my life {whether that be my dad, boyfriend, or brothers in their own way} to lead me to Heaven.  Not because they’re better than me, or holier than me.  But because in Ephesians 5, Christ calls men to lay down their lives for the women they love, which speaks of the love story between Christ and His bride, the Church.  Do you know what that love story involved?  Dying.  Stretched out on a wooden beam, heaving for breath, forgiving those who were torturing him, agony and pain.  Out of love for Her.  And out of respect for the amazing plan that God had for Her in the story of the salvation of His people.

Perhaps it is not the chivalry is dead…perhaps it is that we’ve started settling for a lot less.  A quick look onto the Billboard Top 40 Hits right now is a testimony to the deep ache felt by the general population for something more.  Something deeper.  Something meaningful.  

Selena Gomez is sick of that same old, her body has had enough.  Alessia Cara would rather be home all by herself not in this room with people who don’t even care about her well being.  Cam has been sleepwalking, wandering all night, trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right.  And Justin Bieber just wants to know what his lover means when she nods her head yes but she wants to say no.  This culture is looking for a sweeter song – something satisfying.  Yet, ironically, it simultaneously rejects everything that resembles respect for one another as human beings made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father {especially in a romantic relationship, which often sink into utilitarianism} because it’s old fashioned and the future has to have something better in store…right?

so many pictures of holding hands in the car and yet they never get old: Maybe I’m biased.  I am exceedingly blessed to have an earthly father who has loved me from day one and never been afraid to show that through his actions.  I am tremendously blessed to be dating a man who constantly puts my good above his own and makes me so proud of him through the way that he loves me.  My little brothers respect me and honor me in their own unique way – which usually involves giving me a Nerf gun before they start firing.  Hey, to each his own.

Chivalry is so much more than just opening the car door or walking on the outside side of the sidewalk. It isn’t just giving a girl your jacket or helping her carry things.  It would be a great disservice to the men who practice chivalry to reduce that virtue down simply to the fruits of the actions performed.  Chivalry is a state of mind.  Chivalry is valuing a woman’s heart not for what she can do for you, but for who she is integrally.  Chivalry inspires those around it to be more, do more and act with integrity.

                      God assigns to every man the dignity of every woman. (JPII)  

Not just the woman you love romantically.  Not just your mother, or your sisters, or your dear friends.  No, every woman is deserving of respect…especially when she herself has forgotten that she is worthy of a passionate and self-giving love.

Gentleman.  In the amazing and continuously applicable words of Saint Pope John Paul II – Be Not Afraid.  I know, I know, I say that phrase so much, but it is so beautifully encompassing of the point I’m trying to articulate.  There are women who won’t appreciate the gift that you’re trying to give them through respecting them.  Give it anyway.  There are people who will call you old fashioned and tell you to get with the times when you take the time to go the extra mile in any relationship.  Ignore them.  You’re tapping into the greater call of manhood when you respect a woman.  Every woman, regardless of her recognition of the fact, deserves men in her life who respect her as a child of God.  And every man deserves to be appreciated for his effort.  So, for those who don’t recognize your acts of chivalry, thank you.  Thank you for putting our good ahead of yours in a very tangible way.  Please, I beg you, continue to stand against the current of the modern culture and show women the love that they so deeply deserve.

Ladies.  If the men in your life are showing you that you are worthy of respect…value them for it.  If the man in front of you at the convenience store or the classroom holds the door – thank them.  It’s not because you are weak.  I know you can get that door for yourself.  But your brother is stopping and consciously reflecting the love that God has for you as His daughter.  We can’t let that pass us by because we are too proud to say thank you.  The radical feminist movement has ruined a lot for women, but one of the greatest injustices that it perpetrated was the emasculation of the men in our lives.  In their own way, they are sacrificing for you.   Don’t let the vicious cycle of use continue in our world.

On Sunday at Church, the priest who said Mass talked about the inherent intertwining that happens with masculine and feminine spirituality.

                      The strength of every man lies in the heart of the woman he loves. 

The interaction between the two sexes while here on this earth is meant to reflect the love that the Heavenly Father has shown and continues to show us.  Don’t miss out on partaking in that exchange because of pride…on either end of the equation.

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.” 

12 Ways to Express Your Love in a Relationship

   We live in a world that reduces love {a beautifully complex process of willing the good of the other above one’s own desires} down to sex.  What a depressing concept – to take what is good, beautiful and, frankly, amazing, and have the audacity to say that the only way you can show romantic love to another human being is through physically giving them everything.

   There are a multitude of ways to touch a person’s soul and spirit without ever using your hands.  Not that I’m in any way an expert, but here are twelve ways to show your love in a relationship uniquely.

1.

Help Them to Christ
Faith is at the core of a relationship that is Christ-centered.
Whether this manifests itself through a stop into the adoration chapel
at the end of a date, or even something as simple as a rosary walk
or quick prayer together before the night ends, you will not
be disappointed when you let the divine author of Love itself
into your relationship.

2.
Ask About Their Day 
The monotonous happenings of week in and week out living
can result in days blending into each other.  Yet a intentional
question of how someone’s day was, or letting them know
that you thought about them while you were away can break
the same-ness of a routine schedule.  


3.

Remember the Little Things 
You know that big promotion that he put in for at work? What about
the new book that she’s anxiously waiting for the release of?  Little
details of someone’s life might seem insignificant, but remembering
the small celebrations and struggles in the life of the one you love
shows an ability to listen and care about them.


4.
Compliment Who They Are, Not Just How They Look
Words of affirmation are a unique way to show affection
in a relationship.  Don’t default just to complimenting someone
on just their physical appearance – although these compliments are not
without merit.   However, you have a unique view into someone’s life when
you are in a romantic relationship, and the time spent together reveals
things about the other person that most may not recognize or appreciate
 as you can.  Maybe it’s the way she laughs or the way he says a certain phrase.
Don’t be afraid to bring attention to the characteristics that you love
 out and compliment them. Additionally, the culture puts an
incredible amount of emphasis on how someone looks, and not
on who they are, their interest or their identity as a child of God.
Don’t be afraid to notice the things the world deems as unimportant –
it’s okay to be counter-cultural.
5.
Spend Time With Them
This may seem like a very simple way to show your affection for
someone, but the reason that today is called the ‘present’ is
because your time is a gift.  Anyone can give gifts, money,
or conversations.  When you give someone the gift of your
time, you give away something you will never get back.  You
cannot rewind the clock – once minutes have ticked by on the clock,
they’re gone – so don’t be afraid to share those with your significant other. 
6.

Read a Book Together

Perhaps this is entirely biased of me – the girl with a stack of books about as high
as she are  that are calling her name over winter break.  But as an avid reader,
there is something incredible about reading a book with someone.
Edmund Wilson once wrote, “No two people ever read the same book.”  The
perspective that another fellow reader can bring to the reading process is amazing.
So whether that is opening up a book on a shared interest or delving into fiction
together, open up the world of conversations
that can be ignited through the pages of a book read together.
7.
Put Their Will Before Yours
So often “will the good of the other as other” is tossed around
when the discussion of how to demonstrate love is brought up.  Yet in
practical terms, what does that phrase mean?  It could be on a
large scale, in terms of relationship details unique to each couple.
Or it could be in the simple things – like letting the other decide what
to have for dinner, or which movie to go see.  Will their good and
desires by putting yourself on the back burner for a while.  The result
is a giving of yourself – which is undeniably an expression of love. 

8.


Write Them Letters
Writing down your feelings for someone is sometimes a challenge
in a world that is filled with instant-gratification communication.
The time it takes to pull out paper and an envelope, put your emotions
into words on a paper, and then send those words, full of meaning,
off in the hands of a postman seems to be a concept of those good old days
we always hear about.  But writing a old fashioned letter can communicate
much more than just the words that you put on the paper.  The time, thought
and surprise of a envelope in the mail (that is not a bill to be paid) is a way to
show your affection to your loved one. 

9.
Try Something New Together
From my own experience, it is easy to stay in a comfort zone in your
personal life as well as in the life of your relationship.  Try changing
things up during the time that you spend together.  It could be a new
activity (the last time you went bowling was sixth grade? Pull out those
shoes and hit the lanes!) or a new restaurant, but change things
around and enjoy the adventure together.
In the words of the wise Saint John Paul II,
“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.” 

10.
Take Interest in Their Interests 
This can be challenging – but while your in the adventurous mood,
take genuine interest in hobbies or favorites of your loved one.  You
weren’t a super hero fan before you met him? Ask him to explain
the latest plot of the comic he’s been reading.  Never tried her favorite
drink? Today’s the day then, friend.  It may not end up being a mutual
interest, but the thought behind trying something new for the sake 
of your loved one goes far beyond the shared experience or interest. 

11.
Put Away Technology
Yet another product of our time, the good old cell phone
can distract incredibly from time spent with your partner.  When
you spend time with your loved one, put technology away and
appreciate the genuine face to face time (not Face Time) you can
spend with the person who you love.  

12.
 Pray FOR Them
So often, the phrase “I’ll pray for you” is discounted.
Never discount the incredible power of praying for someone.
Through prayer, you are able to take concerns, struggles, successes and dreams
and offer them up to Christ.  This way of showing love could take various forms.
Perhaps it’s offering up a Hail Mary for your loved one when you wake up
every morning.  Or it could be remembering their intentions during your Mass.
Whatever way this form of affection manifests itself, there is nothing more
attractive than a lover who sees the significance of the eternal beauty of the other’s soul. 


   And there are my twelve, perhaps rambling and unconnected thoughts.  Don’t get me wrong – physical expression – appropriate to the level of relationship experienced – of how much you appreciate and desire the good of your loved one is an amazing expression of your emotions and decisions.  However, don’t discount the beauty of expressing your love in your relationship with time, words and actions.  You won’t regret it, I promise. 

Give Me a Rose: Why We Swoon for the Bachelor

   In exactly 20 days, the 20th season of The Bachelor will start.  There are two reactions to this news.  You’re either the person on the left, or the person on the right.
                                     WE tv excited not amused the bachelor marriage boot camp

   If you haven’t been around for the past twenty seasons, the premises of the show is that one, {lucky?} single guy starts out with having to choose from a pool of around 25 women to go on dates with.  Ultimately, he selects one of them.  Romantic dates, travels and drama ensue and he gives roses to the ladies in the contest who he can see himself with in a relationship.  The end of the season culminates with a proposal and eventual {probably televised}wedding.

   Which would be great, if it didn’t involve so much drama.  It can be expected of course, but the amount of tears that are shed and hearts that are broken rack up quite quickly as the season progresses.  

Drama. 
More Drama. 
Oh, and over here I found some more drama.  Imagine that. 

                                       
You may think I’m crazy, but I think that at the core of The Bachelor, the producers are drilling into some deep yearnings of the human heart.

Despite the multitude of overly-flirtatious interactions, hot-tubs, and not-so-upright conversations, The Bachelor, and its counterpart, The Bachelorette, taps into a deeper desire for ultimate love and commitment within a relationship.  Our culture is saturated with sex.  Need an example? Just check out the magazine covers in the grocery store.  Today’s culture has told us that a relationship requires sex NOW and commitment way later, if at all.  It’s why cohabitation is becoming more and more prevalent, because the safety net of trying things out is directly correlated to our fear of commitment with one person.

Today’s culture seemingly offers one option – hang out and hook up.  Articles on why people don’t date anymore are run rampant on Facebook.  Culturally, the emphasis has switched from couples to the power that an individual has in their school choice, career path, and ultimately deciding when (or if) they are going to settle down and share with someone else.

The idea of being selected out of a crowd, given a rose, and pursued intentionally appeals to the human heart.  It is intriguing to be seen, found attractive for who you are as a human being, and then be purposefully pursued.  Even a simple thing like someone taking interest in a shared hobby can mean a lot, and being found interesting for who you are inherently as opposed to solely what you look like is rare in the visual world we find ourselves in.

The beauty found in an engagement and marriage – the hopes of relationship reality TV shows like The Bachelor  shows that there is a desire in the human heart for commitment to another, not just interest.  Interest is something that occurs when there isn’t something better to do and when it’s convenient for your schedule.  Commitment is saying you’ll be there, and loving the other as other, not for what they can do for you to return the favor.

Our culture is sick of commitment.  Have you been invited to a Facebook event lately? Long gone are the good ol’ days of “No,” “Yes,” and “Maybe.”  Now you only have the option of “Interested” “Going” or “Ignore.”

Interested? How much more of a non-committal statement can we get?  The next option should be “I’m coming if nothing else better comes up or cooler people invite me to hang out with them.”  Let’s be honest and stop trying to sugar coat it.  Instead of seeing events and opportunities to spend time with people as a chance to connect with another human being on the same journey to Heaven, we’re reducing people down to the pleasure they can bring us.

Not just sexual pleasure in a relationship, but even the pleasure of a good time, fun conversation or instagram worthy shots.

“Treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love.”
– Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

What you’ll see week after week in The Bachelor, as Ben goes through girls and tries to discover in a few short weeks the woman he’ll be asking to discern marriage with him, is that it will be easy for pleasure to get in the way.  And let’s be honest, it’s ‘reality television,’ so there will inevitably be {scripted}drama.  Yet if you are glued to the screen and have a countdown ticking down the days until January 4th, don’t miss out on the deeper message that Ben and the ladies are begging for, whether they know it or not.

“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of Love, not as an object for use.”
 – Saint Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility 

The Bachelor is popular because our souls were made for ultimate completeness, a desire that can only be fulfilled in God’s unconditional, Agape love for us.  The answer to this ache in our hearts that can only be filled with love is not going to be satisfied here on this earth – even if you were picked out of all the 25 girls and Ben chose you.  You’ve already been seen out of all those who have ever walked this earth and will ever walk it, and God sees and loves you.  And that’s better than any bachelor rose can ever be.  


Pope Francis opened Saint Peter’s Holy Door yesterday to start the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

I’m torn on how excited I am over this celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of unity and forgiveness and joy concerning the faith and our relationship with others and Christ.  

But the idea of the Year of Mercy makes me very uncomfortable. My very twisted human heart does not want to give mercy to others.

I love receiving mercy myself, but giving it to others who have hurt me? That’s a whole different story.  My selfish desires keep tugging at my heart, whispering “No, you don’t have to forgive.  They hurt you.  Remember what they said? Remember what they did?  You don’t have to give that up.  Just let those wounds sit for a while longer.  You need time to work through that.”  
Ironically, I’ll rejoice and happy-dance my way out of confession, singing “A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains”….yet I’ll replay ways people have offended me a thousand times over, and begrudgingly grasp onto the power and control I feel that I have by not forgiving them. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s quote “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness” is re-quoted over and over and over, but the reason for the repetitive aspect of this saying is that the concept is so applicable to the life we’re living. It is easy to sink into routine, comfort and commonality. It is when we leave our comfort zone that our relationship with God become real and active. 

How is God making you uncomfortable today?
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your GOD ask of you but to fear the LORD your GOD, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Christ calls us to love Him with a radical love, especially when it is uncomfortable and when He is calling us to something tough. He is calling us to love Him with all of our heart and soul without even the tiniest bit of us left lagging in desire for His will in our lives and in the lives of others.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves other has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Ultimately, Christ calls us to be perfect as His Heavenly Father is perfect. This does not mean that we are going to be perfect in the sense that there is no way we could be better or develop further in our faith life. Our perfection is found when we are fully alive in the person God created us to be. Fully dedicated to His plan in our life, and willing His will above our own.

But that fulfillment of His call for us means that we have to love others like we love ourselves. We’re made in the image of God, and so are those who have hurt us…despite what we think of them or what they’ve done to us.  Without the beauty of forgiveness, we’re owing others the debt of love and denying ourselves the beauty of perfection in a life lived fully in conjunction with Christ and His plan for our lives. Those who have hurt us are still brothers and sisters in Christ…and no amount of pain that they have put us through could ever nullify that identification. They are worthy of an authentic love just as much as people who are nice to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” (Luke 60:30-35). I’m not pretending this is going to be easy for anyone. Honestly, writing this post is like a knife to the heart that keeps twisting around with every additional word that I type.

Forgiving someone and admitting that I’m holding a grudge means having to admit that I’m wrong. And for someone whose biggest struggle is pride, that is not an easy pill to swallow. 

The extreme irony is that by withholding forgiveness from someone, the person who is really taking a brunt of that hurt is ourselves. We’re piling even more hurt, pain, and regret onto ourselves as a result of our pride. We’re withholding ourselves from the freedom experienced after recognizing a pain but not holding that against another human being who is loved by Christ and redeemed by the cross just as much as we are.
Then there is this realization: Forgiving someone does not mean that everything will melt away in a sea of contentment and peace. Forgiveness cannot hinge on a persons’ reaction or lack of acknowledgement of forgiveness. That’s another direct hit to pride – forgiveness of someone who has caused pain may just be between you and God…there may not be closure. Yet if you’re wanting the offender in your life to come to you, say they’re sorry and accept your forgiveness on bent knee, it’s time for a gut check, because you’re not forgiving for the right reason. Instead, you’re continuing the vicious cycle of control found by holding a grudge and forgiveness over someone.
Forgiveness is not as much of a reaching out to another person for closure here on earth, but instead a reaching up to Christ with an acknowledgement of pain and a cry for Him to help with this burden. You fully forgive someone by not just wanting their good but willing their good.

There is a distinct difference in “wanting” someone’s good versus “willing” someone’s good. Let’s put it into a different context and explore that concept real quick.

I’m a college student, here in my senior year, and as can be expected from a perfectionist such as myself, I want good grades.  I like seeing a well-rounded transcript and I track my success in college, however faulty this is, by the number or letter at the top of my papers.  I want good grades.  But I can want good grades and not get them.

Just like the cat that I’ve asked for Christmas for the past 17 years of my life and never got.  I wanted that cat to be under the Christmas tree and was sure each year that this would be the year of the Christmas kitten.  Nope, not yet.  {Cough, Mom if you’re reading this, there’s still fifteen days to fulfill that wish}  I really wanted that cat – yet even that strong desire did not magically make a kitten appear.

Instead of just wanting those grades, or wanting the Christmas kitten, I have to will it.  Will – an active verb which requires action both in the future and the present.  I will good grades – meaning that I have a goal in mind and I’m going to do what is required to achieve it.  Studying, talking with classmates, being present for class, visiting the office hours of my professor, taking lecture notes and turning in assignments are all ways in which I actively will good grades.

That active “willing” applies to forgiveness too.  You cannot passively say, “Yeah, I kind of forgive them and want their good.”  That doesn’t work – quit with the cop-outs that mean nothing but lip service.  And don’t think I’m blatantly calling everyone else but myself out on this subject – this blog post is written to myself just as much if not more than it is written to be read by you.  

WILL someone’s good – that means action.  The action required is forgiveness. Let it go.  His mercy is His to give, and not your’s to deal out among His children. 
“And the land owner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly.  Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage?  Take what is yours and go.  I want to give this last man the same as I gave you.  Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me?  Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20: 15-16).  
If you look inward, you’ll find that you are just as much in need of God’s mercy and love as the person who has hurt you.  You honestly have more in common with them than you think – you’ve both fallen short of the glory of God and tripped yourself up in sin.  The response to that fall is your choice (thank you free will!) and you can hold onto your pride and implode, or you can give that up and watch the trans formative power of forgiveness in your life.
Do not consider yourself to be the one who has worked in the field better or longer than those who have personally hurt you and are in need of your forgiveness.  Do not wish that the person who hurt you to not be treated with mercy because that is not how you would treat them.  In doing so, you completely discount the fact that God can treat your enemies with the same love, compassion and concern that He treats you with, despite all the times that you have personally messed up.
Quit being jealous of God’s generosity in the life of His children.

Give the gift of forgiveness this Advent and Christmas season, truly celebrate the Jubilee year of mercy in your life, and Be Not Afraid. 

My TOB Twin 

Last Thursday night I had the incredible honor of getting to hear one of my favorite authors talk on one of my favorite subjects.  Theology of the Body, Sex and God.  Can we just pause and relish the beauty of that combination and the fact that Christopher West spoke on a stage that was literally less than 30 feet away from me?  Or the fact that I was surrounded by almost four hundred primarily college aged men and women who were striving for sainthood alongside me and were interested in the same subject?

Christopher West spoke on a beautiful variety of subjects, but one that has hit me over and over this week while processing the whole talk was about how we live in a world that tries so desperately hard to distract us.  Christopher talked about a time during his college years where he did a miniature social experiment of his own, and decided to stay sober for one weekend of the school semester.  He wanted to see what his crazy life looked like from an outside objective opinion.  What he saw shocked him.

He talked about how his roommate came home so sick to his stomach from excessive drinking that he passed out in their living room on the floor when he walked in the door.  He talked about witnessing the rape of a young woman and being so shocked at the lack of respect for human beings and their inherent worth that he couldn’t do anything about the rape situation…and how he still regrets that to this day.

Striving for Sainthood with these amazing people 

Have you heard Alessia Cara’s new song Here? It’s relatively new to the music scene and is actually what they call a “sleeper hit,” or a song that has had quite a bit of air time but no official promotion or sponsorship.  It’s a song that sneaks onto the airwaves and makes a huge wave, despite the fact that no one really knows the singer, but can connect at a deep level with the lyrics.  And boy, does Alessia’s lyrics ever hit home in today’s culture.

Alessia sings about her experience at a party that she really does not want to be at.

But since my friends are here, I just came to kick it.  But really I would rather be at home all by myself, not in this room with people who don’t even care about my well being.  

How did it ever come to this? I should’ve never come to this.  So holla at me, I’ll be in the car when you’re done.  I’m stand-offish, don’t want what you’re offerin’ and I’m done talkin’, awfully sad it had to be this way.  

Oh  oh oh here, I asked myself, what am I doin’ here? Oh oh oh, here oh oh oh.  And I can’t wait ’til we can break up out of here.  

Whoa.  Talk about an honesty hour.

I don’t know what your weekends look like.  Maybe they’re a lot like mine and involve sitting around with good friends and large cups of coffee, chatting about life.  Maybe they involve hours spent in the library, pouring over that one last final that you are so close to finishing.  Perhaps they’re spent distracting yourself from something whose ache and hurt has rooted itself deep within you at a soul level and you just want a moment of relief from it…so that you can not think about it for just a few precious minutes.

If that’s where you are at, if you’re in the “here” that Alessia sings about and Christopher was shocked to his core about, then the amazingly beautiful thing is that Christ isn’t throwing in the towel on your relationship with Him.

That ache that we want to get away from, to numb ourselves from, to escape from, is an indication that something that can fill that ache is out there.  And we spend a lot of time trying to fill an infinitely deep, God-shaped hole with finite substitutes.

“In essence, Christ’s life proclaims: “You don’t believe God loves you? Let me show you how much God loves you. You don’t believe that God is ‘gift’? This is my body given for you (see Luke 22:19). You think God wants to keep you from life? I will offer myself so that my life’s blood can give you life to the full (see John 10:10).

You thought God was a tyrant, a slave-driver? I will take the form of a slave (see Philippians 2:7); I will let you ‘lord it over’ me to demonstrate that God has no desire to ‘lord it over’ you (see Matthew 20:28). You thought God would whip your back if you gave him the chance? I will let you whip my back to demonstrate that God has no desire to whip yours. I have not come to condemn you but to save you (see John 3:17).

 I have not come to enslave you but to set you free (see Galatians 5:1). Stop persisting in your unbelief. Repent and believe in the good news” (see Mark 1:15).” (Christopher West) 

Run to Him.  Get out of “Here” and into His heart.  Find those along the way who are striving for His heart and push you to His side.  Be Not Afraid 

     Despite the common misnomer, college is probably not the best four (or perhaps five, six, or even eleven) years of your life.  If your ability to learn, develop, think and process declines automatically after an emblazoned diploma is hung in a glass case, then the reason for college has not been fully identified nor tapped into.  Often, parents pack away possessions of their child and remnants of a childhood into Rubbermaid totes and unpack them into an entirely different world.  Eighteen year olds are transplanted into an environment that is seemingly centered on success and class schedules. 

     The new environment of college is one of many springboards to dive deeper into the process of critical thinking, human communication and a process of questioning and determining the truths of life.  However, the college experience is not significant because of classrooms, lectures, paper assignments or group projects.  The experience of college is momentous because it is an environment in which the human experience thrives through a process of questioning, failing and succeeding. 

    The human condition is experienced in the context of emotions, communication and shared experiences.  Human beings are collectively part of a beautifully unique species of creatures.  The separation factor between human beings and any other living being that roams the earth is that humans desire to know the answer to one question: “Why?”  A broad range of contexts for that question exist, but the environment that a higher education presents is one that fosters the questioning and answering process.  The college experience offers its participants an invitation to dig deeper into the meaning of particles, phonemes, the interaction of the neurons of the mind and perhaps the meaning of one’s own place on the earth. 

College offers a chance to question normalcy and look for new ways to accomplish tasks.  Yet, too often, this proposal is squandered and squelched by an emphasis on perfectionism.  The perfect GPAs are awarded scholarships, the top athletes are lauded as heroes of the colleges and universities that they attend.  All the while, the most important lesson that college offers in the human journey is overlooked and often hidden under the rug of worldly success.  The superlative lesson college offers is the mistakes.  The experience of staying up too late after a night out because a paper is due that reminds college students of their time management faults.  The fingernails bitten down to the quick that serve as a road map to the times when the gravity of decisions hit a student like a hammer to his or her chest.  The pile of coffee cups, stained with lipstick, that litter the hallway trashcan because, once again, there were not enough hours in the day.  

     Or perhaps the ever-truthful computer history, besieged with trains of lost thought and distraction that stole away the attention of a student.  These are the lessons that college leaves in its trail, the should-haves and could-haves that keep college students up at night and awake during classes.  The extra push that those mistakes fuel, lighting the fire of perseverance past limits and previous expectations of success from others and oneself.

          The university experience is a chance for some to boldly go where no one has gone before: inside oneself.  College serves as a map, offering a chance to explore the definition of the human condition and to fall deeper in love with the pursuit of knowledge and answers to the constantly present questions that stack up alongside life experiences.  The practices fashioned by a university education cannot be summed up in the transcript that prints at the desk of a future employer, or the countless social media pictures that will serve as a reminder of the experiences during those short years.  College is significant because it offers an opportunity – and the impact that the opportunity creates is left completely up to the human individual who is given the gift.