The miracle.

Sunday I sat silently while the priest read the gospel — John 11:1-45, which I’ve heard a million times. Lazarus dies, Jesus cries, and then, the miracle. But something sticks out now that never had before.

Jesus had received a message from his friends Mary and Martha. Their brother, Lazarus, was sick.

And Jesus didn’t show up.

He waited two days before he left for Judaea. In the meantime, Lazarus died. His sisters’ souls hurt. And what Jesus said about it to the disciples rocked me. Continue reading “The miracle.”

I want to tell you what happened last week.

I am a journalist. Spent about a decade working for the Tampa Bay Times before I quit and moved to Virginia, where I freelance write full-time for Virginia’s largest paper.

Last week, I pursued four or five stories. Conducted interviews. Took pictures. Didn’t sleep enough.

Business as usual.

But multiple times in a few days, the subjects of stories I’d planned to write asked a question that grinds my gears: “Can I read what you write before it prints?”

HECK no. Continue reading “I want to tell you what happened last week.”

What I learned about our lives from a lightning bolt.

As the sky darkened, lightning lined distant clouds while my dog — a red brindle longhaired dachshund — crossed the mulch in our back yard. The thunder’s rumble, too far from us to faze to him, warned of an impending storm, a norm for five at night in a Florida summer.

I watched from the porch while Rudy frolicked, and I wondered if we should hurry, ’cause there’s a reason we call where I live the “lightning capital.” He wagged his tail and sniffed the earth with curiosity and bliss and innocence — until the lightning struck. Continue reading “What I learned about our lives from a lightning bolt.”

Good Friday and fortitude.

It is not easy, and sometimes it’s not possible, to think while we suffer that suffering is good for us.

In whatever way we suffer, be it by voluntarily giving something we like up for Lent, or involuntarily going through a breakup, or a job loss, or an illness, or a death, there will be discomfort. There might be pain and tears.

But accepting it is how we become more like Christ.

This is what Jesus teaches us about suffering.

We live in a culture that encourages us to avoid suffering at all costs, but we believe in a God who encourages us to embrace it, a God who sent His son to teach us how:

Jesus was condemned to death. He carried the cross. He fell on the way and the cross landed on top of Him. He saw his mother suffer because it hurt her to see him suffer. He humbly accepted the help of Simon, who helped him carry the cross. He had blood all over his face. He fell again. He stopped to comfort others while he walked the road he knew would lead to his death. He fell a third time. He had his clothes ripped off his body, his body nailed to a cross, and then he died. They took his body off the cross, and they put it in a tomb.

And we call this Good Friday.

How dare we?

Because of the rest of the story.

Because Christ’s pain and suffering results in salvation.

Because in his passion and death, he taught us fortitude.

“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” -the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Imagine if instead, like we so often do, Christ had avoided suffering at all costs.

Imagine if like Christ, we chose to obey God and accept the pain instead of trying to escape it.

We learn that suffering is redemptive – it happens for a reason, and it ends well.

We begin to model fortitude like Jesus did.

We learn self control, and discipline.

We get better at resisting temptation.

We learn that God created us stronger than our culture tells us we are.

And ultimately, we become more like Christ.

“Do not worry about your life.” -Jesus

For a year or so in college, I lived in a constant state of on-edge.

I was the journalism major who worried all the time, who suffered from anxiety.

My body held down the here and now, but my mind wouldn’t sit still. Thoughts raced, and I entertained “what-ifs” and concocted all kinds of scenarios.

Which is why I really needed it one night when I stumbled upon this quote:

“Anxiety is a temptation in itself and also the source from and by which other temptations come.
Sadness is that mental pain which is caused by the involuntary evils which affect us. These may be external – such as poverty, sickness, contempt of others – or they may be internal – such as ignorance, dryness in prayer, aversion, and temptation itself. 

When the soul is conscious of some evil, it is dissatisfied because of this, and sadness is produced. The soul wishes to be free from this sadness, and tries to find the means for this.
If the soul seeks deliverance for the love of God, it will seek with patience, gentleness, humility, and calmness, waiting on God’s providence rather than relying on its own initiative, exertion, and diligence. If it seeks from self-love, it is eager and excited and relying on self rather than God. 

Anxiety comes from an irregulated desire to be delivered from the evil we experience. Therefore, above all else, calm and compose your mind. Gently and quietly pursue your aim.”

The quote comes from St. Francis de Sales.

In it, I found hope.

And later the same week, I found another anxiety quote, by chance:

“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then. Put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

That quote, as it turns out, also comes from St. Francis de Sales.

Two in a week? This is too much, I thought. Who is this guy? So the journalist in me did a little digging. Which is how I discovered that Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalists. Which is how I knew that my finding those quotes when I did wasn’t an accident.

That God knew I needed the reminders.

That I had forgotten what Jesus said, in what is probably now my most-read passage of scripture:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” (Matt. 6:25)

May we remember today and always that He said it with sincerity.