Busted Halo

Our writers invite you along on their journeys through Lent. Follow the play-by-play of their personal spiritual practices and share your own.

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April 5th, 2014

meditation

AP

AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

In C.S. Lewis’s classic The Screwtape Letters, an elder demon advising a younger devil talks about the importance of one’s position during prayer.

As Father Robert Barron recounted in a blog this week, “[T]he veteran orders his young charge to encourage his ‘client,’ a budding Christian, to envision prayer as something very ‘interior’ and ‘mystical,’ having little to do with posture or the position of the body. He wants the poor Christian to think that whether he stands, slouches, sits, or kneels is irrelevant to the quality of his communication with God. This, of course, is the Cartesian voice, the belief that our bodies and souls are independent and have little to do with each other.”

Father Barron goes on to highlight the value of prayer made in a kneeling or bowing position, saying, “It is not so much keen feelings of devotion that force us to our knees as kneeling that gives rise to keen feelings of devotion.”

I agree with Father Barron; the physicality of prayer is far from irrelevant.

But I would add that one needs to find the position that best allows her or him to revere God. For …

April 4th, 2014
Saying "No" to Snacks, Soda, and Sweets this Lent

600385_445431692142259_886736633_nNo, it’s not a typo– today, I’m talking about dessert and fasting, particularly in regard to the story of Jesus’s temptation in the desert and my Lenten sacrifice so far. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the story (or just want a quick refresher) it goes like this: following His Baptism, Jesus went out into the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights in order to prepare for the start of His public ministry. While He is there, Satan appears to tempt Him, offering food and power and doubting that He is truly the Son of God. Jesus rejects his offers, and when the devil departs, angels appear to tend to Him.

So how does this relate to our Lenten journeys? Well, as you can imagine, the segment where “the tempter” offers a hungry Jesus the opportunity to create some bread really hits home with me this Lent. Quite often in the month since Ash Wednesday I’ve felt temptation like that, and in light of my recent failings in particular, I’m going to keep this story in mind (especially Jesus’s reaction to the devil’s taunts and temptations) as a deterrent the next time I’m stared …

April 4th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

Con algunos amigos peruanos.

Con algunos amigos peruanos.

My decision to commit to praying in silence for 10-15 minutes each day seemed pretty simple. In the weeks leading up to Lent, I was overwhelmed by words, both others’ and my own. I felt like I was surrounding myself in noise almost all the time, and I knew I needed to do something deliberate, however insignificant, to address it. No matter how inconsequential or small the stretch of time was, I felt it was a first step in hopefully bringing some peace to the rest of my day and, even more hopefully, going deeper in my spiritual life.

I have been operating under the assumption that this is not a luxury, that it is really not too much to ask in life. In a sense, I still feel that way. I think we all need an occasional moment’s rest, a few seconds in which nothing calls our attention, if only to maintain our sanity.

What I have begun to consider in a new light, however, is that while we who yearn for silence in a modernized society must go against the grain to choose it, many others have no choice at all. For better or …

April 3rd, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

gmailIn writing handwritten notes the past four weeks, I’ve learned a few things:

1. You don’t put links in notes – One distinct difference between writing notes/cards v. writing e-mails is links. I mean — sure, I could jot down the url to that great vegan recipe I tried last night or even a link to this very blog, but it just feels somehow wrong when you’re writing a handwritten note to someone. Not to mention cumbersome. That’s what e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter are for. Handwritten notes are personal. You might even say emotional because they are an expression of how you feel about someone or something that’s happening to someone (birthday, wedding, loss, etc.).

2. This Lenten challenge is brought to you by the Post Office – You know — that place where you go to mail things. I’m not talking about a Google server in North Carolina or another part of the world that’s filtering e-mails. I’m talking about a building in your neighborhood with a flag waving outside and people wearing Post Office uniforms inside. A place where — at least in New York City — there is always a line. Mark my words, it might …

April 2nd, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

typing-296047_1920I’ve always admired people who read books on buses. I’m an avid window gazer, so I’m often lost in my thoughts, staring at the scenery going by. And, to be honest, I’ve never been much of a reader. When I see someone reading on a bus, I often think: I should be doing that. There’s something about their apparent habit that is committed to self-growth. Instead of doing nothing, they’re doing something. Something worthwhile.

Earlier this week, I stopped by our IT department for a one-on-one software help session. After the session, the IT employee and I began to make small talk about Macs versus PCs and where we think the future of technology is going. He talked about how he remembers when having a laptop was cutting-edge, and now, laptops are becoming obsolete. Obsolete?! I was surprised by how quickly I became protective of my laptop. “Everything is becoming phones and tablets,” he said. “But what about typing?” I demanded. “People are more interested in consuming these days, not producing,” he replied.

The phenomenon he was referring to is that we have become avid consumers of online … anything: Candy Crush, Farmville, iTunes, surfing the web, viral Youtube videos, …

April 1st, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

Sending encouraging words on sushi-nery this week.

Sending encouraging words on sushi-nery this week.

We can all use them from time-to-time. And maybe especially now — in middle of the desert of Lent and whatever specific fast or challenge you’ve taken on in your personal/spiritual life.

My best encouragement this a.m. is to remember that you are not alone. One of the Lenten stories of Jesus’ temptation in the desert — the one in Mark — says that when Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and tempted by satan, he was with the wild animals and the angels waited on him. He was not alone. God — and God’s creation — was there.

Today — that means that when the sun is shining, God is there. When the temperatures climb into the 50s (THE 50s!!!), God is there. When I meet “wild animals” and even angels on the street, in the grocery store, at Starbucks, God is there.

And know this — I feel ya. What was I thinking writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days. And then blogging about it! But in my moments of frustration or writer’s block I have found a gift — the presence of God through the presence …

March 31st, 2014
Lenten Gratitude: 5x40

So, this past week was nuts. I’m in the process of a pretty significant and incredibly exciting job transition. So, I’ve been traveling, meeting tons of great new people and pondering new opportunities. When you’re thrown into wonderful new things, finding gratitude is easy. But, it’s even cooler to stumble upon amazing things when you least expect it.

At the end of my long work trip, I had to take a plane back to NYC. I’m not a huge fan of the act of traveling. Mind you, I LOVE travel — discovering new cultures, meeting wonderful people, and seeing things that I’ve read about in books or seen in movies. But, I’ve never loved sitting on a plane for infinitely many hours because, inevitably, I get stuck next to less than desirable situations. And, tho I’ve been called a champion plane sleeper (once I slept about 8 hours on a trip back to New York from Cairo)…I get grumpy when I wake as I usually have to deal with all sorts of overall plane dysfunction a la uncomfortable seats, inconsiderate people and more. Other gripes: You pay for every minor little thing, the bathrooms are gross, the planes are old …

March 31st, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

post-officeSocial media pervades our everyday lives. It interrupts us with alerts on our phones or laptops. It brings us the latest news, updates from family, and topics of conversation — think YouTube videos and Grumpy Cat memes — with our friends.

Part of the reason for doing this particular Lenten challenge (writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days) was because I think it’s important to keep and further develop personal connections in ways that don’t involve instant messaging and emojis.

But the other day these two worlds — the tradition of Lent and social media — collided.

Now, I guess you could say that basically every day of my life the more traditional ideas and practices of faith and spirituality intersect with digital media because I work in the fields of digital media and, well, faith. However, I try to have some balance in my life. I don’t want to give my whole self over to social media or online everything. One way I fight against so much screen time is with magazines — the kind that come in the mail. Another: I don’t play many games on my mobile phone. And that would actually be no games …

March 31st, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

The past couple days, I’ve been more aware of what I’ve missed about Facebook. As I wrote earlier, two Boston firefighters passed away earlier this week while fighting a fire not far from my dorm. The past few days, I’ve wondered what the outpouring of support must look like on Facebook. Every time a tragedy happens, I’ve taken some comfort in seeing other people’s thoughts and feelings towards the events unfolding, even if it’s from a virtual distance.

However, being off of Facebook has challenged me to find new ways to seek out what I feel I’m missing out on. Last night, after listening to a very moving homily from our pastor, who has been spending time with the families of the firefighters, I remembered that the firehouse was only a couple blocks away from the church, which contributed to our pastor knowing the firefighters in that firehouse so well.

After Mass had ended, in the drizzling rain, I went to the firehouse and looked at all the flowers and written letters of support left by fellow Bostonians. It was a very moving sight, as you could tell some of the gifts left were from families whose members are …

March 31st, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

ap-biblePrayer is dynamic and fluid. Like everything, it is always changing, so much so that the words I say today might feel entirely different tomorrow. Though forming habits, common practices and routines can be helpful in developing and deepening one’s prayer life, I have also found it important to introduce new elements into my daily meditations.

My spiritual director recently suggested praying with scripture. I have tried this in the past on a limited basis and without strong feelings as to its success or lack thereof. I decided to give it another go on Friday.

Adding to the “newness” of the experience was the location. Having gotten out of work early, I swung by a small, university chapel instead of my usual prayer spot in my bedroom. I read the daily mass readings, paying attention to any phrases that jumped out at me. “I am the Lord your God; hear my voice” was the Psalm refrain and a clear candidate, as was “[L]ove your neighbor as yourself.” The latter especially called my attention. Several hours before seeing it was that day’s Gospel reading, I had been pondering this commandment.

As I prayed and repeated Christ’s words to myself, I began …

March 30th, 2014
Saying "No" to Snacks, Soda, and Sweets this Lent

JellyBeansIt happens to all of us, and it’s happened to me: I caved in and broke my Lenten promise. Here’s what happened: I have a jar of jellybeans on my dresser– my girlfriend’s little sister gave it to me a while back because of a joke we have about the little candies, and it’s become a staple of my decorative entourage (which, for context, also includes a little Thor and a “World’s Best Brother” puppy plush I got from my little brother at Christmas a few years ago. I’m trying to paint the scene for you here.) Anyway, I was walking by said dresser last night and, without really thinking about it, opened the jar up and grabbed a handful. As I chewed up the candies, I realized what I’d just done. I would love to tell you it ended there.

But alas, I ate more and more of them, and by the end of my spree I had consumed about half of what was in the jar (so much for self-control!) It’s not the first time I’ve caved on my Lenten sacrifice, sadly, but I’m also not letting it beat me, and I think that’s what’s important here– to …

March 29th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast
Trucks lining up before the procession of the body of one of two fallen Boston firefighters on March 28th 2014.

Trucks lining up before the procession of the body of one of two fallen Boston firefighters on March 28th 2014.

Earlier this week, Boston began to mourn the tragedy of the death of two firefighters, who died on Wednesday, March 26 while fighting a fire and saving victims.

The death of a firefighter is something that is felt not only by those who knew him or her but also by the entire city or community. Upon hearing the news on Thursday morning that two firefighters had died in Wednesday’s fire, I felt awful. Firefighters are not people you have to know in order to mourn their passing. There is an unspoken understanding that anyone who would die for you, without even knowing you, is worthy of your grief, without even knowing them.

All day Thursday, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling. I remembered meeting members of the two fallen firefighters’ firehouse, very randomly, at a hockey game last year. The two-degrees of separation added to my feeling down. Firefighters live among the community as otherwise ordinary citizens, and when they work, their work is extraordinary.

Yesterday, I boarded the shuttle home from school when I noticed an unusually …

March 28th, 2014
Saying "No" to Snacks, Soda, and Sweets this Lent
Water
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

That passage, from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is pretty much the opposite of my Lenten experience so far. Yes, there has been “Water, water every where,” but there has also been plenty to drink. I’ve been having quite a bit of water (and juice, lemonade, iced tea, and such) as part of my commitment to not drinking any soda this Lent, and it actually hasn’t been too bad.

What has started to kick in, though, is the realization that Coke, Pepsi, and the like had become akin to water for me. The first few weeks of Lent, I felt like that Ancient Mariner in the poem, surrounded by “water” but with none of it fit to consume. Looking back (and still struggling to keep up my personal soda ban) I’ve come to realize just how often I’d grab a glass or can of soda without even thinking about it or considering an alternative, because I was thirsty and that’s what was around.

Looking forward toward the end of Lent (Easter’s only a few weeks …

March 28th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

My meditation time has been abnormally silent this week.

This is probably an odd claim to make. Silence, after all, is one of the principal goals of my Lenten enterprise. Acknowledging silent prayer as being quiet is a little like recognizing a sunny day for being bright.

I am beginning to learn, however, that no matter how calm I manage to become on the interior, I have only so much control over the racket around me.

I — we all — have to reckon with noise pollution. It really is extraordinary how much sound there is in each of our little pockets of life. It is a rare moment there is not something humming in the air. I have personally become so accustomed to a world dense with sound that I do not actively notice it anymore. I imagine many of us feel this way.

I try to be intentional about my meditation, but it is simply beyond me to stop a car horn from honking or prevent my landlord from using power tools upstairs. I do what I can to insulate myself from these disturbances, but they nevertheless feel like disturbances.

That is why I have …

March 27th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

samaritan-womanLast Sunday’s gospel lesson was the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. At church, when it was time for the reading, three of our youth stepped up to the microphone. They proceeded to read — one as the voice of the gospel writer, one as Jesus, one as the woman at the well.

My pastor then broke the scripture open for us in his sermon — talking about the intimacy between Jesus and this woman. How well Jesus knew her and how well she knew the situation she was in as a Samaritan woman serving water to a Jewish man. And later how she goes to tell everyone about the encounter — wondering, thinking, that maybe this could be the Messiah.

It’s a good story for our Lenten journey today because it invites us into that same intimate relationship with Jesus. We can grow closer to a God who knows our hearts, knows our past, and wants to offer us something to sustain us on life’s journey.

Back to the reading — one of the young women who read was the pastor’s daughter and someone I’ve known for almost 11 years of her young life. I …

March 27th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

AP File Photo

AP File Photo

I am never so aware of my mind’s busyness as when I am trying to clear it. So much of my day is spent thinking, processing, judging, analyzing…using and abusing my head to no end. I am so accustomed to this way of being that it is no simple task to simply turn off for a few minutes.

Some of these thoughts are easy enough to ignore. A funny memory or recollection of something I read demands no action from me.

But often, the thoughts that come to me during my designated time of prayer command attention, calling out that I notice them immediately.

Sometimes, I think of something I need to remember to do later. Frequently, I mull over a problem that, for whatever reason, seems to have a pressing need to be solved.

I have found that forcing oneself not to think of something is pretty unhelpful. As Anthony de Mello pointed out, we are forever tied to that which we reject. Best to simply let the dilemmas enter and drift out of our minds in due course.

On days when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed going into my quiet time, however, I have found …

March 26th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast
The College Church on Saint Louis University's campus, where my love for Jesuit spirituality developed.

The College Church on Saint Louis University’s campus, where my love for Jesuit spirituality developed.

I love the Jesuits. I’m quite outspoken about this love, in fact. I often refer to myself as a “Jesuette,” a Jesuit cheerleader.

I’ve always liked the idea of taking something on during Lent (in addition to giving something up), and this year, I decided to both give up Facebook and take on deepening my relationship with God. Given my deep love for the Jesuits, it comes as no surprise that when I decided to work on my relationship with God during Lent, I turned to a dear friend, who is a Jesuit. After hearing where I’m at with God and where I’d like to be, my friend lent me his copy of the Spiritual Exercises. To be honest, I was quite touched. For a Jesuit to lend his personal copy of the Spiritual Exercises — that’s a pretty big deal, at least to me. I know he did it because he’s my friend, but still.

I’ve been working through the exercises each day, and in a way, I feel as if I’m going through them with my friend, too. His notes in the margins, …

March 25th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

My pilates mat and stretching band.

My pilates mat and stretching band.

Tonight I will go to my church for a pilates class and I will be grateful.

Grateful for a church where every summer we have a series of events focused on “sharing our stuff.” Are you a cultural anthropologist who has written a book about “the role of religious communities in the recent migration of Fuzhounese from southeast China to New York City”? You’re taking us on a walking tour of Chinatown. Are you a songwriter? Cake decorator? Then you show others how to write songs and decorate cakes too.

Are you training to become a pilates instructor and need to log “instruction hours” before getting your certification? You lead a weekly pilates class.

I’m grateful that Nancy, pilates instructor, at the end of that summer class several years ago, asked the class if we wanted to continue and people said, “Yes.” Nancy said yes too.

I’m grateful for the connection between my physical well-being and my spiritual well-being that going to pilates class at church provides. To me it’s a powerful extension of what’s at the heart of church ministry — to not only meet the spiritual needs of people but to make …

March 24th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

sabbathOver the weekend, I was thinking about the idea of “sabbath.” After two weekends away — traveling for a wedding and then work — it was good to be home. I was glad for the time to relax, spend time with my husband, go to church and then out to brunch with a friend, cook dinner. Sometimes it’s the little things that bring me the most joy.

Back to sabbath. Growing up — I was taught sabbath was a day of rest and a day of worship. My father was always trying to teach us to prepare ourselves for church/worship the night before. Imagine it — trying to pry children away from Saturday night TV in order to quiet our minds and prepare for church the next day. What???? Not gonna happen. Dad set a good example — finishing whatever farmwork or project around the house he was working on and relaxing in his chair — generally reading a book or his Bible. He was physically resting and slowing down, setting his intention for the next day.

Today, I have to admit that my Saturday nights and even Sunday mornings are most times far from restful. I’m usually in a …

March 24th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

steve-jobs-156930_640Steve Jobs was a visionary. A decade ago, I probably wouldn’t have admitted that. I’ve always been a loyal PC-user, and I never really got into the whole Mac craze. A couple things have softened me. One, I am a photographer, and I do think photo editing on a Mac is superior to editing on a PC and two, Steve Job’s death. Not to be morbid, but his death softened me.

In the weeks following the death of Steve Jobs, I was really impressed by the outpouring of testimonials from all over the world. I was more tuned into the news footage than I expected to be, actually. There was one line, however, that always stuck with me. I don’t remember where I read it, heard it, or even who said it, but it was something to this effect: Steve Jobs gave us something we didn’t even know we needed.

That something was, well, everything: the iPhone, the iPad, the Macbook, iTunes, etc. It is uncanny when you really think about it: this guy invented things that consumers didn’t even know they were looking for or wanted. A true visionary.

If I had ever come face-to-face with Steve Jobs, I …

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