Impossible Prophecies to Show the Way

Well it’s been a while and a lot has changed since I shared the Lenten devotionals for this year. We’ve moved to Kansas as Ben will be flying a new plane for the Air Force. We also were blessed in March to have baby number 6 join the clan. Nathan Patrick is doing wonderfully and just started smiling this week. He has filled our family with so much joy as each sibling squeals with delight when he gives them his goofy baby grin.

Ben has had a significant amount of training for his new assignment which has kept him from home. We continue to marvel at how fortunate and blessed we are to have parents with such flexible schedules. I am not sure how we all would have survived without the help of our moms and dads during this time. Big shout out to our families – we love you!

Perhaps you are already in the know, but only since my mom was with me to help with the kids did I begin watching the TV series The Chosen. My mom mentioned watching the first few episodes and enjoying it, though hadn’t gotten far and wanted to start at the beginning again. I hadn’t watched any and had some reservations about how the story would be told. But, I went along with her desire and I am so glad that I did!

I have found many things fascinating about this show. I love how it’s asking the viewer to really pause and consider all that went into following Jesus. The logistics, the questions, the backgrounds and social complications. I have found most of the assumptions and explorations into the lives of the apostles to be plausible and worth considering. I also very much appreciate that the writer has found consultants from Jewish, Evangelical and Catholic backgrounds to help find balance and respect for the vast range of tradition encompassed in these stories.

I have especially enjoyed seeing how Mary has been involved in the story. While she isn’t in every episode, she is clearly one of the group and the apostles listen to what she has to say.

I watched the most recent episode as of this posting (Season 2 Episode 4) twice because I wanted to catch everything in a conversation Jesus has with the apostles and Mary over dinner. Big James (James the son of Zebedee) questions Jesus about the feasibility of a particular prophecy concerning Jews and Gentiles coming together being fulfilled. “How can this be possible?” He and the other apostles ask, looking expectantly at Jesus. After going back and forth a few times, it’s not Jesus who ultimately satisfies them, it’s Mary. Mary looks around the table and simply says,

I know a thing or two about prophecies that sound impossible.

The impact of Mary’s words, of her presence at the table, cannot be overstated. I can imagine now, better than before, just how radical Jesus’ very presence was for the apostles. If they truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then all the old prophecies about about peace among nations, Jews and Greeks coming together, lame walking and the blind seeing – everything ought to be coming true.

They had witnessed healings, so those prophecies seemed easy now. They had experienced them firsthand. But others seemed more impossible to come true. How could all the nations come together to worship the King, they were enemies after all.

The power of Mary’s witness to the possibility of the impossible causes everyone to expand their imagination. Not only is the Messiah present before us, but here is His mother. She, who is human, draws them into the impossibility of what happened to her so that she can direct them to her Son, the fruit of that impossibility.

There is a famous Byzantine icon of Mary which is called the Hodegetria, translated from Greek to mean, “The One who Shows the Way.” I love this icon of Mary in all it’s forms. Mary is shown holding Jesus. While Mary is the larger of the two, you are still drawn to the figure of Christ because of how Mary is positioned. Her eyes are fixed on you, the one experiencing the icon. Her hand not holding Jesus is extended, her fingers often a bit elongated, in an open hand gesture toward her Son. She is not the point, her purpose isn’t to draw attention to herself. She is there to draw you in through her gaze and then gently bring you to her Son, the Messiah. In this moment of the show, I was immediately felt the iconic weight of what she said and how she said it. She was not drawing attention to her own prophecy’s fulfillment, but rather used it to gently draw the apostles into that new space of the possible that Jesus was trying to present to them.

Virgin Mary Directress Icon

Virgin Mary, Directeress

For a show that is not explicitly Catholic, I found this a very Catholic moment and I loved it! If you haven’t given The Chosen a try, I highly encourage you to. The first few episodes, in my opinion, take some getting used to as the show settles in. It really hits its stride around episode 4 or 5 and has an awesome conclusion to Season 1.

I’d love to know your thoughts about the show! Have you watched it, what did you like or dislike. Did you have any particularly moving moments? The app is free to download and watch all the episodes. Or you can find most of them on YouTube.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Somebody’s Got a Name

“Would somebody cut my meat?”

“I want somebody do my buttons!”

“Why won’t somebody help me!?”

My sweet little 4 year old, Clare, seems to have discovered a new way to ask for help. Instead of addressing the person she wants to help her directly, we’ve all collectively been renamed. Somebody.

Reflecting back, I think this peculiar manner of addressing us really hit its stride after Gabriel was born. Our time and attention have undergone pretty major adjustments and every child handles a new baby differently. We’ve had both of our mothers come to stay with us, plus we delivered Gabriel in a city near some family. There have been lots of extra hands and a rotation of helpful faces. Which don’t get me wrong, is a HUGE blessing! But somewhere in the beautiful chaos Clare has forgotten how to ask politely for help. “Somebody” was always around so obviously “somebody” should be able to help her.

My new response in all this is, “My name isn’t ‘somebody.’ When you remember my name I’d be happy to help you.” I’m happy to help once she respectfully asks for it.”

While this might be a good response for a child in need of some retraining, how wonderful our God doesn’t have a similar response for us! Human history is riddled with examples of complaining, mistakes, anger, pride and ungrateful behavior. Just check out the wandering in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Or the Babylonian Exile in Lamentations. Let’s not even get started with what the prophets had to go through!

Humans (Aka me) are notorious for being rude, impolite, snarky and plain old difficult when things aren’t going our way. This happens especially when the circumstances are beyond our/my control. “If only somebody would let me have my way/listen to my idea/help me achieve my goal/etc.”

Did you notice all the me’s and my’s in that? The more I focus inward the less I look at who is actually helping me.

Did you know that in these moments of testing and trial there is a very simple prayer which could be said? Conveniently, it even gives “somebody” a name – Jesus. The prayer is called ” The Jesus Prayer.”

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

You probably already have it memorized, right? Or could in just a few minutes of effort. This little prayer can revolutionize your daily life. Whole books have been written about how, but here are a few highlights:

  • This prayer clearly identifies who is in charge here and to whom we ought to be speaking to
  • We are reminded of Jesus’ divinity as God and His ability to extend mercy and love
  • We recognize that we are not in charge, that we are sinners and that we are always in need of Jesus’ merciful love
  • This prayer can instantly center us by pulling our focus back from whatever trouble we are having in order to see the bigger picture. God is God, we are not, and whatever joys or sorrows we have today will be better understood from a place of peace and prayer.

Interested in learning more about this prayer? Check out these writings:

The Way of the Pilgrim

Peter Kreeft on the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox Tradition which has a very rich history of study and use.

The next time you wish somebody would come to your aid, slow down and take a breath. Inhale the first words of the prayer. Fill yourself with Jesus’ name. As you exhale, breathe out the second half. Release whatever your struggling with and place it at Jesus’ feet. Continue allowing yourself to be filled and emptying what you do not need to carry. With practice, you will find a peace within yourself you may not have had before.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Interview with Julia Hogan

As promised, here is my interview with Julia Hogan. Julia is the author of It’s Ok to Start with You which I reviewed here last week. I enjoyed this book so much and was so honored to be asked to be part of this blog tour. You can go back and see the previous posts of the tour here, on Julia’s website. Or you can click on the links at the bottom of the interview.

My interview with Julia focuses primarily on the spiritual element of self-care. Enjoy!

Hi Julia! It is so refreshing to hear about self-care that includes a spiritual dimension! Can you share a story or two that demonstrates why having spiritual self-care is so critical to a whole self-care plan?
When we hear the term “self-care”, I think the physical side of self-care comes to mind easily. We think of getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, etc but you are absolutely right that your spiritual life requires just as much self-care as your physical, emotional, and relational life. Why? Well, when you make the time for prayer, the sacraments, and spiritual reading, you are spending time with the one person who knows you best, Jesus. I think that when you are strengthening your relationship with God, you gain a deeper understanding of your priorities and direction in life and this knowledge has a spillover effect into other areas of your life. When you recognize and embrace your worth as a woman or man created and loved by God (as you are right this moment), you want to take better care of yourself, you are more courageous in your life, and you are more confident in who you are and what you need to be at your best so that you can be whatever your are called to be in this season of life.
For so many people, the idea of self-care comes laden with all kinds of stereotypes, buzz words, and even guilt. It was so good of you to very clearly define what self care is, and what it isn’t. So often when it comes to prayer, it is easy to become either 1. Discouraged if you feel like you aren’t seeing “results” or 2. Distracted by life and loose the routine. How would you encourage someone feeling either of these emotions about their prayer life?
I think that it’s helpful to think about your prayer life as time spent deepening your relationship with a friend. Just as you will make it a point to schedule time with friends, send them a quick text, or give them a phone call, in order to deepen your friendship with that person, you can do the same thing with your relationship with God. Think of prayer as keeping the lines of communication between you and God open and as a way to deepen your relationship with Him. And when you feel discouraged, remember that when you spend time with friends, even if you aren’t discussing some incredibly deep topic or doing something amazing and adventurous, you are still enjoying your time with that friend. I can think of many times where my friends and I went for a walk around the block and it was so refreshing. We didn’t have any earth shattering conversations but it helped strengthen our friendship. It’s the same thing with prayer. Not every prayer is going to amazing and you won’t gain some deep insight every time you pray. Set aside those expectations and see prayer as a way of keeping the lines of communication open between you and God.

Thinking about the spiritual element of self care specifically, it can be hard to know where to start. As Catholics, we are blessed with some built in spiritual practices like the Mass and the sacraments. What have you found to be an effective place to start for someone just embarking on a conscious, intentional, spiritual self-care plan within their daily routine, rather than only on Sundays?

I’m a big fan of signing up for a daily email Gospel reflection. I personally like Bishop Robert Barron’s reflections and Blessed is She. They don’t take long to read (5 minutes max) but they help to get you thinking about what the Gospel means for you and your life. I recommend reading it first thing in the morning so that you can reflect on it throughout the day.

I think the most critical lesson for me to take away from the spiritual section of your book was “Don’t aim for spiritual perfection, but commitment.” What would you say to encourage those of us who get so wrapped up with the “right way” that we lose sight of simply following “the way”?

I think that our quest for perfection holds us back from even getting started when it comes to so many things in life but especially when it comes to self-care. We get stuck on finding the “perfect” spiritual practices and quickly become discouraged when we aren’t perfect at them. So instead of aiming for perfection (because it will only leave you feeling disappointed), try instead to start spiritual practices that work well for your season on life. Maybe you can’t go for an hour of adoration but you can make a quick stop in the chapel once a week. Maybe you can’t make it to daily Mass but you can make time for a novena. The point is, let go of the expectation that you have to be perfect and instead find little ways to bring God into your day whether that’s making a short gratitude list, praying before starting to work, or listening to a spiritual podcast on your way to work. When you find what works best for you (and not for someone else), it’s incredibly freeing and you’ll find that it’s so much easier to dive into your spiritual life with this mindset.

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Here are my take-aways from Julia’s interview. Isn’t she so good?!

  • God loves me and wants a relationship with me. But, this relationship is most often built in little ways.
  • Not every prayer is going to amazing and you won’t gain some deep insight every time you pray. Set aside those expectations and see prayer as a way of keeping the lines of communication open between you and God.
    • Find what works best for me, not someone else, and be open to trying things out (but also be willing to change my routines if self-care needs to take greater priority)

    When you find what works best for you (and not for someone else), it’s incredibly freeing and you’ll find that it’s so much easier to dive into your spiritual life with this mindset.

    • I’m not perfect! (No matter how many times I think about this, write about this, it’s still so hard to let go of). I will not be perfect in my efforts for greater self-care. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
    We get stuck on finding the “perfect” spiritual practices and quickly become discouraged when we aren’t perfect at them. So instead of aiming for perfection (because it will only leave you feeling disappointed), try instead to start spiritual practices that work well for your season on life.
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    MONDAY – Physical Self-Care with Barb from FranciscanMom

    TUESDAY – Mental Self-Care with Laura Mary Phelps

    WEDNESDAY – Emotional Self-Care with Erika Marie of Simplemama

    THURSDAY – Relational Self-Care with Sarah of Snoring Scholar

    Also, be sure to enter Julia’s contest to win a free copy of Its OK to Start with You

    Contest details: For a chance to win a copy of It’s Ok to Start with You, visit Julia’s Instagram blog tour post and comment with the new self-care practice you will try. Contest ends Friday, September 14th, 2018 and the winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 17th, 2018.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com