Monday, April 29, 2013

Dear friend: stop judging

Dear friend:

Why do you do that sometimes--judge other people? You're too old for that, aren't you? Didn't mom tell you back when you were in Mrs. Satterwhite's class that we are all children of God? And that God loves each one of us infinitely? Yes, even the bad guys and the kid that stole your favorite pencil.

Didn't you learn later what her words truly meant, lots of times, but especially that one time in the chapel, when you felt lower than low and you couldn't believe that you looked up and felt God smiling at you? It was like this: you know when a parent, especially an older one, looks at their children and their eyes water because they are overflowing with love and pride? That's what that moment was like, after you had come clean. You felt it personally, didn't you feel that infinite love personally? And didn't you learn also that God loves you too much to leave you that way?

So what are you doing wasting your time finding the low in others? You're a busy 23 year-old, aren't you? Isn't that what you tell everybody? Then you shouldn't have time for what Gab calls porquerias like that. Who cares if that person's shoes match their outfit or if that girl needs to visit a dictionary? It's not up to you to decide if that makes them less of a person or not.

And the best part is, you don't have to make that call. Would you put "judges unnecessarily" on your LinkedIn account under your list of skills? I didn't think so. Judging the worth of others is not your job. Really, it isn't. Hallelujah! It's the job of someone else, "the big G" -- God. So that's another load off. You get to go enjoy life more as a result with all the free time you're going to have from now on. Take a walk. Write a poem. Heck, wave at people on the street and smile, but don't judge them or their weird outfits or their wrinkled faces or their manner of living. You don't know what kind of day other people are having; what kind of past brought them to where they are right now; what kind of future they will have.

Friend, judging is for unhappy people. It's for broken people. It's for bored people. And you have way too much to do already.

So remember, friend, you're better than that.

Best wishes,

Monday, April 22, 2013

You Shall Love

"You shall love, whether you like it or not. Emotions--they come and go like clouds. Love is not only a feeling. You show love. To love is to run the risk of failure, the risk of betrayal. You fear your love has died. It, perhaps, is waiting to be transformed into something higher. Awaken the divine presence which sleeps in each man, each woman. Know each other in that love that never changes." -To the Wonder trailer

Sunday, April 14, 2013


There I sat on the front desk. The sea of closed eyes rippled before me as I dropped a pebble of my life into the stillness. Whether my classmates knew it or not, I was inviting them to swim in a part of my world. You know, the personal part. 

I took a deep breath and pressed play. Instantly, the haunting melody began. No, not my greatest hits collection or the latest radio jam. Sacred music—the kind that touches the soul, brushes the cloak of God, causes the heart to dance.

The windows were open and the afternoon sun poured in patterns across different faces.  My peers sat in reflective silence as foreign languages sang to them of God. Many had a lot on their mind, many might not understand, many might not care. But when asked the week earlier who wanted to lead the next meditation, my hand shot up before my brain could tell it otherwise. So there I was at the front of the classroom—a place I’ve dreaded for years—sharing something of untold value to me and guiding my Life Writing class in a fifteen minute meditation. It was their first time hearing music from the Taize community.

My first time had occurred not so long before.  I remember I sat in sweaty splendor on the floor of a church in Spain among hundreds of other young people, the sticky summer heat hovering around us. Lights were extinguished. Candles flickered. The music began. German, English, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian. We all started singing. Afterwards, I was never quite the same.

I was like a child stepping into a blossoming garden. Each song was a different flower. Each tune had an allure all its own. I moved within this new world gently, wanting to cultivate each thing I found.

The fragrance of the same music now transports me across the Atlantic to the French countryside, to the Taize community itself. Once again, I sat with hundreds of young people from around the world, only a year had passed. I didn’t just go to one service, but over two dozen. And I sang. I sang loudly and deeply and freely. As St. Augustine says, I sang as wayfarers do. I sang on the journey. I sang and keep singing.

In those months, I was particularly ravenous, my thirst insatiable. It was like I woke up and realized how thirsty I was, how long I’d  been running without stopping for a drink. This music, for me, was water. Maybe not the full cup, but drops in it. Drops so refreshing that all my inhibitions seemed to evaporate. All I wanted to do was share it, to refill cups, and hold them out to the thirsty. Countless people had done this for me. Now, it was my turn.
You who are beyond all things, 
what mind can grasp you? 
All that lives celebrates you;
the desire of all reaches out towards you. 

Taizé : Ô toi l'au-delà de tout

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a bad day

*Cue Daniel Powter song and a violin

You know, it was just one of those days. The kind that doesn’t want to be had. They happen every so often, and when they do, and when you survive them, you wonder if it was really all that bad. It usually isn’t. Regardless, the dense fog of your mood doesn’t want to be lifted. 

During these kinds of days, of course, you usually can’t think of anything but your bed. Or of not talking to people. Or of going into a hermitage and brooding it out real good and pensive-like. That way, maybe you can at least come up with something slightly hipster or artsy and put your bad mood to good use. But life doesn’t really afford you any of these things, not for hours anyway. You have to go to work and do stuff. Or look like you’re doing stuff. You have to not only be around people, but smile at them, talk. Even if asking them about their day is the last thing you care about. Where’s your bed? Where’s your cave? 

You try to simulate fake cave-like status in your office by not turning the lights on and instead basking in the glory of natural light from your massive windows. Maybe some of the sun's brightness will be contagious. You sit back at your desk and soak. You’ve been basking there for 2 minutes when your co-worker, only there on certain days, asks to turn the light on. “Of course, of course,” you say through clenched teeth, grumbling internally, “fluorescent light is much more wonderful than the shining sun outside.” Lunch finally rolls around but your appetite doesn’t seem to. You’re pretty sure the carrots you munched on are old. Your salad is soggy. The coffee from earlier is bitter and stale. You eat at your desk. Then, lunch is over and you are unsatisfied. It’s just one of those days.

Even though the sun is shining. Even though you’ve been productive. Even though you have a meal and general health and a loving family and a job. Even though you have wonderful community and prayer and a roof over your head. It’s just one of those days. So breathe, allowing yourself to have a bad day, allowing yourself to be human. There's no use pretending. Every day is not going to be rainbows and flowers and tears of joy. Admit it. Admit that you're having a bad day. Then be thankful. Because you had another day. And that's better than not having one.

Monday, April 8, 2013


"What is it you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body? Why?
For God is in love with all these things
and He might weep when they are gone."
St. Catherine of Siena

Sometimes, you just pity people. You observe them and see that they are walking around without the slightest inkling of their own greatness. "You are beautiful!" you want to tell them--yell. Like that goofy priest Nikki told you about at University of Dayton, who years ago would go up to students, get right in their faces, and say "Hey, you are the light of the world!"

You want to do that, sometimes. You want to be that slightly nutty. 

It happens on the bus ride home, on the metro  to work, on your daily walks, in your fitness class, at your office--anywhere that people are--this feeling of love, of tender compassion. You want to share it, hold it up on a sign for the entire world to see, hand it out to people like balloons.

"Do you know how precious you are? How much you are loved?" you want to ask the girl next to you with the tight skinny jeans and downcast eyes. But no, she doesn't seem to know. Nor do many other people either. And for now, you just remain silent.

We walk around as if embarrassed by our humanity--ashamed of ourselves or unaware of our own divinity. We drown it in our headphones, blind it with our computer screens, cheapen it with revealing clothes, mask it with makeup, stifle it with obesity, change it with cosmetic surgery, deaden it with alcohol. We go along with standards impossible to reach, then chide ourselves for not radiating perfection. We point out our flaws and fixate on them. Or worse, we believe happiness is found in shiny pages and wrapped in boxes, but never in our reflection.

Why do we need these things? Why can we not see? Who has forgotten to tell us how much we are worth? That we are infinitely loved? Who has ingrained in us the notion that we are not good enough, that we must change and adjust to be accepted? Who forgot to hug us day to day, to say, "I love you," to tuck us in at night or cut the crusts off of our sandwiches? Who taught us to look down when confronted with a mirror? When did human beings lose their dignity, their self-worth, their inner peace? When did hollow eyes and hardened faces become the uniform?

We are the lights of the world. Like stars, we shine brightly in the darkness, attempting the light of the sun, attempting the light of our Maker. When we are our truest selves, we shine all the brighter. And we give others a reason to smile. We remind each other to soar. We twinkle like no tomorrow. And together, we form art in the sky.

Together, we are beautiful.