Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seeing and Loving People for Who they Really Are

Davy Jones has passed away today at age 66.

To say that the Monkees had a large impact on my life as a kid would be an understatement. I was 10 when I discovered them in 1978 in re-runs. My newly-found best friend and I watched the show religiously. We learned their songs, we learned to play guitar, we wrote and performed plays based on their shows, we memorized facts, learned to do real library research, went on record-hunting expeditions to resale shops. My young brain synapses formed with the Monkees right in the middle of it all. I exercised my already somewhat proficient skill at crushes on Davy first, and then on Michael Nesmith. To this very minute, if I hear Monkees music (especially songs other than the first five that come to everyone's mind when you say "Monkees music"), something kicks in deep in my limbic system to elicit a sense of pure, childlike joy and innocence.

And one day, I met Davy Jones.  I was 18, and they were doing their 20th reunion tour. They came to my home town; my friend and I were squished as close to the front as we could get. We loitered until they left the venue, and we followed them. I drove madly through town chasing their limo, somehow parked the thing, jumped out, ran into the hotel lobby. Micky and Peter had vanished, but Davy lingered to amuse folks like us. I wanted his autograph, but had nothing for him to sign but the shirt I wore (the one under my sweater). I pulled it out for him to sign. My eyes met his. And he sneered at me. Like I was pulling off dirty underwear for him to sign or something. He signed it, never letting up his disgusted look. I probably didn't say anything, even to ask him to sign.

My friend and I went to Burger King afterwards and meditated on what just happened. Suddenly I realized that this man was a mere human being. He had nothing to do, really, with that joy and innocence and my happy limbic system and everything I'd learned and gained. He was a tired, middle-aged man with a big enough ego to want to sign autographs.

I met him a few years later at a book signing, and he was smiling and polite and "friendly." Or well behaved. Like we all can manage to do when we're in public, usually. Nothing anyone can really take personally, because it is really all about not wanting to be a social embarrassment to oneself.

I don't fault him for his sneer, and I don't judge him. And of course, the fact is, he was a real person whom I didn't know. Like all of us, probably few people really knew him. Perhaps, like many, he didn't even really know himself, except in what he saw in other people.

My point is this: somewhere under this all, there's a lesson for me today. People are instruments in the hands of God, and we can learn truths or at least be led toward truths through people. We can love and be loved. Yet, wisdom says that it is God in and through all of the process Who leads, and Whom we seek.

It all gets hazy because of our souls being impure with sin and disordered attachments. Our desire to be known, our desire to be connected to others -- it can all get weird to the degree that we have this impurity of soul. Fame can seriously mess with people's minds; in their own minds they can cease to exist except as they are in the minds of other people. And even in relationship with people who aren't particularly famous, we can dishonor them by recreating them as extensions of our own minds instead of honoring them as the mysterious image of God as God created them.

But, we are made for connection with others, and worship is an element of that. Just not an idolizing kind of worship. We are made for heaven. We are made for God. "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself" Jesus said. Gathering at the cross, gathering around the glorified Lord in Eucharistic worship, and ultimately in the liturgy of heaven, we find the deep unity and harmony for which we are all created.

When I see another person whom I love, I must always think of the Lord, the source of that love and our fellowship itself. And I must bow my heart in worship, which ultimately means, "Lord, I surrender my entire life to You."

Every person is a divine call to my heart to worship our Creator.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sentenced to Life

Yesterday at an Ash Wednesday gathering someone made a comment that really struck me. It was striking in that "here's my Lenten motto" sort of way -- a little phrase that, in the greater context of my walk with God, packs a huge significance. And the phrase, itself of course with a context that renders it meaningful, was, "You have been sentenced to life."

Being sentenced to life was being contrasted with being sentenced to death, in the sense of being doomed to die. Hmm, what is the positive contrast to being "doomed"?

All of this touches, for me, on matters of the will. My sort of primal and unconscious  formation, theologically and philosophically, concerning the human will was confused from the get-go. For the first couple decades of my life I wallowed in a passivity that was rather severe. I was also enveloped in a kind of depression that made dealing in desires of any sort to seem totally meaningless. Merely wanting things to be different seemed futile, pointing nowhere. The most I could muster was a wish -- the sort of desire that is locked in a room with walls of thick glass, with no doors anywhere.

Theologically that was compounded in my younger days with a firm catechesis about the total inadequacy of human effort to reach God. Sola fide meant Christ's work was applied to me; His righteousness was to cover up who I actually am, like the famous snow on the dung heap, as Luther described it.

The question nagged me in my depressed, passive state -- if Jesus did and does everything for me, what's the point of living? Does anything I do -- any choice or action I might make -- have any real significance at all? And if not, why wouldn't suicide be an attractive option? If Jesus paid my price for heaven, why not just get myself there now?

It really took bumping up against an ultimate question like that to help kick start my ability to make choices for good. I couldn't, for example, choose to attend a Christian college because of benefits this environment promised, but I did choose it because staying in the State university on the course I'd passively drifted into seemed to have a suicide of one form or another in its short-term future. Yes, I did make a good choice, but only after driving with one wheel off the edge of the cliff for a time.

So -- sentenced to life.

Since those college days I slowly but consistently exercised myself out of this intense passivity. In short order (as I can see in hindsight) the Lord began to teach me an entirely new thing -- to cooperate with His grace. Grace had been an abstraction to me: an idea of how I was "made right" with God. Then, grace became an offer: as the song goes, "If you want it, here it is. Come and get it..." This was how I was introduced to the spirituality of the charismatic renewal. The concept that I could ask God for the Holy Spirit and receive something intangibly tangible (namely, the Holy Spirit) electrified my life (cf. Lk. 11:13).

But -- sentenced to life.

I had to learn to ask God for things and receive, but I also had to learn that God is not a gumball dispenser. Grace is not so much about getting things from God as it is about growing deeply attached to Him. For me, God has always used the things (or people... usually people) I've become attached to in some degree of a disorderly way to purify my attachment to Him, as well as to those things or people. But grace isn't even just about being tight with God. It's about our fulfilling His desire as He fulfills us -- and He thirsts for souls. His passionate love for His people thwarted by His people -- that is His pain which He asks us to alleviate through the intimate union of our souls with Him, our lives with His.

Sentenced to life.

There is a certain inescapable sense here, but it feels like the inescapable, magnetic, compelling drawing of lovers' hearts one to another in a passionate embrace. One cannot speak of force or coercion in any extrinsic sense at all. The only force at work for the human party is the force of the desire for the fulfillment in God for which we were in fact made. It is the Lord who is totally free and who works in us to will and to do according to His purpose (Phil. 2:13).

Sentenced to life.  I am captured by the Lord, totally caught up in Him. It doesn't depend on my work. I do not work for God's favor -- how laughable! But I am in it! I don't have to wonder whether tomorrow the Lord's presence in my life will fade away or fall into question, just like a prisoner on death row anticipates no surprises about release. I can, of course, walk away from life and my love and choose death. But I don't need to fear that I will destroy myself. When I'm in trouble, I just turn in my heart to my Lord, and His loving presence sustains me. Despite my weakness and sinfulness, the Lord holds me, strengthens me, forgives me as we walk together in the life to which He has brought me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Can't Stand what you Hear on the Radio?

Just yesterday I spent an hour listening to some of the top pop music of the day. It hurt my head a bit.

If you are not much of a fan of it, you'll be happy to know that my music doesn't sound much like it at all. This album features real musicians, my real voice (no autotune!), and songs with thoughtful lyrics. Take a listen, and if you like what you hear, share it with someone else.

Marie Hosdil: Unleashed

Friday, February 17, 2012

Faith, Works and Doing Good

The first reading for today's liturgy is James 2:14-24, 26:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

I admit I was glad I did not lector this morning so that I did not need to restrain myself from saying "ignoramus," with too much gusto (and perhaps making myself, or at least my children, giggle).

But other than that, this reading has always sat strangely with me, and I think I've figured out why.

This is of course the Scripture that Lutherans have to do handstands to make sense out of. One college professor pointed out (in the translation we used) it says that you can "see" that a person is justified by works and not by faith, insisting that the point is how other people know we are justified by faith alone. Yeah, headstands.

But what has niggled at me hasn't been so much along the lines of the justification debate. It's more this: I suppose you know, just like I do, a few people of a non-Christian religion, or of no religion at all, who are really exemplary in caring for the needs of others. Some of the most anti-Christian people I've known have also been some of the most willing to help or welcome others in need. And perhaps you've also known people who have been very concerned about the necessities of the body for others, but seem to have an agenda behind their giving. It's really about getting something for themselves, even if it is a self-pat-on-the-back for being a really great Christian.

But what I saw today was that there's a cultural context that needs to be understood to take in what St. James is saying. Last night I was just reading Louis De Wohl's book on the history of the Church, and he made the case that the pagan society in which the early Christians lives took very little regard for anyone's human dignity. People were bought and sold; they were mere means to ends, and this was the accepted standard. And into this world came Jesus Christ, whose love empowered the Christians to act with His love for people. They were human then just like we are human now, and love is what we all ultimately hunger for. It was the Christians' love for one another that attracted so many to the gospel and gave the doctrine of Jesus Christ a hearing. It was this love they were not to forget nor to neglect practicing.

It is easy for Christians to forget that we have had a tremendous influence on the shaping of our culture, even if it is becoming deformed. I was shocked when once I asked one of my adult Japanese students who was plenty wealthy whether she might consider donating money for orphans in India. If an American was going to object to this, typically I'd expect to hear of money woes. But her objection was philosophical. She said she believed that if people in India were suffering, that was their fate and the way it should be. The Japanese would bend over backwards for those in their own families, for guests, or others in their circle. But that was my first experience in learning that in that culture, charity to the "outside" makes no sense.

We can do good because we are compelled by the love of Christ. We can do good because somewhere inside we are in search of a reason, in search of the One who calls us to do good and be good. Or, I can shut down and take care of just me. I think St. James wants to make sure we don't shut down into ourselves and make our "faith" into an abstraction, a mere set of ideas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

St. Claude's Feast, and the Challenges of the Day

Today is the feast of St. Claude de la Columbiere (1641-1682) who has been the patron saint of my recording project. This came as a surprise to me today -- that it was his feast day, I mean. I had known the date of it at one point, but obviously forgot. When I chose this saint through my favorite Saint's Name Generator I had no idea who he was. But then as I read about him and especially when I read his writings, I could not doubt or deny the perfect fit he has been for me in this project. Although it is hard to convey the particulars, I read one passage from him on Holy Saturday last year that shifted something very significant in my soul. I believe I am still working through the fruit of that. I have asked his intercession every day over the last year, and in particular whenever I've face some moment of critical felt need with recording. And I see now I'll need to continue doing so as I am faced with getting this music into the hands, ears and hearts of listeners.

Which reminds me! Click right here right now to go buy that album, and reassure my husband that this was a worthwhile investment! That's

Every day lately the Lord seems to be rather sternly challenging me with a directive of faith. To say that more plainly, every day I feel convicted to stand in faith, and to act in faith, even though emotionally I feel flatter than a pancake about it. This is exactly how it struck me when I realized this morning it was St. Claude's feast day: it is another sharp reminder to live in faith. I feel weak and silly. I feel suddenly how terribly self-centered my life has been, without my even realizing it. And yet God calls me to great faith. I suppose this is really why I feel weak, silly and selfish. God's light reveals the crud. I don't want to say "no more light!" so I face the crud. And my children ask me why I keep spontaneously exclaiming "Lord, have mercy!" throughout the day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Faithlessness, Music, and the Freaky Priest

It's not often that a homily at a daily Mass at my parish hits me between the eyes, but one did this morning. The gospel of today is Mark 8:11-13, where Jesus is hitting a spiritual brick wall with the Pharisees who come to argue with Him. And the homily I heard went something like this: Remember that Jesus has been doing tons of miracles, healing people, feeding people, casting out demons. And these Pharisees come asking for a sign. "Gee, Jesus, what can you do? Let's see something impressive so that we might consider whether you are worth considering."

And my pastor went on to muse that he figured that just seeing one of Jesus' miracles would be enough to convince him and get him firmly on the side of following the Lord. And what was blocking the Pharisees from doing just that? Their lack of faith.

I thought back to an interesting incident that happened just last week. I don't believe in reading tea leaves or finding directives from God in the shape of a cheese curl or a smudge on the wall, but I do believe that God's ironic sense of humor shines through reality pretty clearly. Last Thursday my crates of 1,000 copies of my CD Unleashed arrived. And I knew they'd be arriving later that day when I went to Mass at Noon, and there encountered The Freaky Priest. Oh, I don't say that because he himself is freaky, but because of some freaky interactions -- between God and myself -- that have happened because of this priest.

It was last year in February that I was wrestling hard in my heart over whether or not I should pursue recording a CD. I had this sense of a call in my heart, this sense that God was actually asking something of me, but I wanted, like, all my questions and concerns answered beforehand and a written statement stamped by God Himself pointing out His Divine Will. A run-of-the-mill powerful drawing in my heart, nourished by prayer, fortified by favorable circumstances and punctuated by a sense of the need to obey just wasn't enough.

And I went to Mass one day and was complaining to God about this. I reminded him that once, a year before that, I had felt a similar overwhelming compelling need to invite a certain priest to our house for dinner. I don't invite strangers to dinner lightly, so this was pretty unusual for me. In fact, I passed up one chance to speak to him and felt so compelled that I promised God if I had another chance I would do it, but I let another chance pass by, too. A few rounds of embarrassing phone tag ensued, and the dinner never did pan out. He had been a priest in town only for a few weeks on sabbatical and shortly after my attempt he left for his home. So I reminded the Lord of that: "And what came of that weird compelling need, huh?!"

Not 30 seconds later that very priest, whom I had not seen in a year, processed in as a concelebrant at that  Mass. I was dumbfounded, and only came to myself again when he started reading the gospel, in which Jesus chastised his disciples for their lack of faith and their slowness to understand what He was teaching them. I was still dumbfounded when, about two hours later, my son came running in from playing saying that a woman had fallen on the sidewalk and was having a seizure, and that I had to come immediately and deal with it. That experience in turn grabbed me by the innards, turned me inside out and shook me so hard that that evening I felt like I experienced the emotion of every traumatic event I had ever witnessed but had not been able feel. It was like some sort of psychic-spiritual cyclone picked me up and threw me down really, really hard.

Days later when I finally recovered equilibrium, I knew that I should no longer dicker with my heart nor with God about doing His will with this music thing, and I officially set out to make Unleashed. I still didn't understand everything or feel secure, but I knew I shouldn't make Jesus "sigh from the depth of his spirit" anymore as He does in today's gospel.

And, yeah, Thursday that same priest was there at Mass, visiting again. It's odd how just the sight of a person can remind one of a lesson once taught. And today there was the homily. Do not be faithless. Have faith in God, obey in what He shows today. Do it. It matters. God is holy; do not toy with Him.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What Makes for Beauty in the Eyes of Jesus?

On the first of every month, our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.

February 1, 2012


Dear apostles, your faith makes you beautiful.  I am watching you as you receive graces from heaven.  Your heart is transformed, little by little, and your service to Me is purified and becoming more unblemished by self interest.  Your life is changing in many ways.  Perhaps you are leaving one type of service for another or completing a task that has held your attention for a long time.  Perhaps you are laying down a heavy cross of suffering and being released from it so that you can serve more freely in another way.  Perhaps, dear apostle, you are awaiting your next heavenly assignment and you are eager to move on to it.  Or you are simply serving faithfully as best you can in the work that is yours each day.  Regardless, you believe, and you are trying to live that belief.  This makes you beautiful to Me.  Yes, faithfulness to Me consoles the world.  The little pocket of faithfulness you contribute is like a sign that directs the eyes of others to the next life.  Others look at you and understand that not everyone lives for this life.  They understand that even if you are wrong about eternity, hope in eternity exists.  My friends, you do not realize the value of that hope for someone in a moment when all hope seems lost.  Poor humanity.  We must bring hope to the world through our committed service to the Father.  And if you find your hope challenged, then you must explain to Me the source of your pain.  Come to Me in the silence of your heart and I will listen to your grief.  I will console you.  I will show you that the power of heaven can heal the gravest hurts and the cruelest sufferings.  I will restore you.  Please believe Me.  It is in the interest of all of humanity that you possess the hope needed for others.  Yes, you are beautiful to Me, dear apostles.  You are beautiful.