Simplemama

Advent Songs of Hope {#WorthRevisit}

{Today I’m sharing part of my Advent Songs of Hope post from last year for Allison Gingras’s Reconciled To You #WorthRevisit link-up. I changed the playlist’s title from Advent 2013 to just Advent and I’ve added/taken out some of the songs from last year but it’s still mostly the same beautiful songs of Hope and Promise as we await the celebration of our Savior’s birth! I also added my favorites at the end.}

Advent Musics of Hope

I love music. I can’t tell you the names of many artists or the names of their songs or when they wrote them and what number on the billboard their songs reached. I probably couldn’t even tell you the name of my favorite song. I could hum it for you but it wouldn’t sound the same to you as it does in my head. But I love music nonetheless.

There are some songs that cut right through my flesh and penetrate right into the depths of my soul.

It’s really amazing how powerful music is. I can be in the middle of an incredibly horribly awful mood and then I’ll turn on some music and instantly the storm cloud fizzles and I’m uplifted to a better place.  (And then I wonder why I didn’t turn it on sooner.)

Music calms me, strengthens me, guides me, inspires me, soothes me, energizes me. It speaks to me and makes my soul dance.

For every situation in life, there’s a perfect song to go along. Music isn’t just another form of entertainment – not good music anyway. Real, true music is beauty in song form. It’s genius.

I know we only have 8 days left of Advent (!) but I finally put together my own Advent playlist. (Although I keep changing and adding to it as I find new songs.) I love listening to it while making dinner or while cleaning-up. The songs I found fill my heart with HOPE. Real hope. Hope of a promise of a Messiah, a Savior, an ANSWER. Mercy, forgiveness, redemption. The fulfillment of a long-awaited promise. A promise of hope and an answer that all this – our lives, our struggles, joys, sufferings – that it is all worth it…that there is a reason.

Here is the link to my Spotify’s Advent 2013 playlist so you may also be filled with songs of Hope and Promise.

My Three Favorites from this playlist are:

Go light Your World  I once heard this song sung in highschool by a friend who really inspired me my faith during that time of life. She played the guitar and had a beautiful voice. No singer has sung it quite as beautifully as Susanna did that day but I’ve never forgotten that song. This is the one song I’d love sung at my funeral, well that and For the Beauty of the Earth. (Sorry if that’s strange that I think about songs to be sung at my funeral. )

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Robbie Seay Band – I love the upbeat rhythm of this song and of course the words are perfect for this season.

Wonder by Marian Grace  – I love her smooth voice, it penetrates the darkness and brings light into silence. If you aren’t familiar with Marian Grace I highly recommend you become acquainted with their beautiful music.

Runner Up: Only Hope by Mandy Moore Yes this is the song from the movie, A Walk to Remember, which is one of my all-time favorite sappy love story movies. Though this song isn’t specifically “Advent/Christmas” or even particularly religious I think the words are perfect for Advent as we prepare to open our hearts to be His.

What are some of your favorite Advent songs?

A Visit to My Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Earlier this year, I had the great blessing to take a trip to Mexico City to visit family and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a truly amazing journey.

I don’t know why but for some reason I only wrote a few quick thoughts about it once here. I talked about the delicious authentic Mexican food, just not the miracle. :) It was a wonderful trip and I think I needed to process it for a while before writing about…that and I got very distracted with all the goings on of family life and other such things.

I offered that trip as a mini pilgrimage, asking friends for their prayers and carrying their intentions in my heart and a notebook that I brought with me to the Basilica. I learned a lot from my time there. Most importantly, I learned it’s not about the Tilma but about Jesus and His Mercy and desire to continuously offer His salvation to us all.

A Mass is celebrated every hour at the Basilica so I offered Mass for everyone in my notebook.

The image of Our Lady is hanging high on a gold-plated wall.

To get there, you go around behind the main church into a sort-of tunnel under the alter, to some moving sidewalks (like in airports).

You get on one of the the sidewalks with everyone else and then, you look up,

and you see her –

At first it was very crowded since Mass had just let out but after the big crowd died down, it cleared out nicely. I went on the sidewalks, looking up as the belt moved me from one end of the room to the other, cranking my neck so I could see.

While I did this, I went through all the names in my notebook and prayed for each person and for their intentions. I brought their sorrows, their hopes, their struggles, their doubts and I lifted them into her loving arms.

I lost track of how many times I went on those sidewalks, over and over. Looking up, praying, gazing…searching…wondering. Looking for something. Proof? A sign? Maybe a wink or something. ;) (That would have been creepy actually.)

The image looked so…ordinary. I’d been here once before but this time was different. I’ve lived more, seen more of life, had more questions, more doubts. The only way I could think of to describe this image is to say that it looked like a big stamp, like a graphic image in a way. definitely not a painting as there are no brush strokes of any kind. It really looks like it was just…set or pressed onto the tilma…like a stamp. You can see creases where it had been folded but other than that, no other major damage or tears or holes of any kind. For something that came from the year 1531, it was in amazing condition.

Aside from the image, the other thing that really struck me was what was around the image. A Church with Mass every hour during the day. Dozens of confessionals all around the back of the church were there was a constant line. And Eucharistic Adoration in a separate chapel, a peaceful alcove behind the main sanctuary.

I didn’t see anything “special”, no shining light or angelic singing, no eye movements or even a slight turn of her lips. When I came home, I read about all the “proofs” about this miracle and I also read all the “proofs” against it. And I wasn’t really sure what to believe. Honestly, I’m still not.

But I do know this. When I was there, I looked around at all of this and thought – Mission Accomplished. Though there are still many who do not understand the real significance of Our Lady’s image – myself included – the Sacraments are present. His Mercy and Grace are constantly available to all who come.

People flock to see the image for various reasons and when they come, if their hearts are open, they receive our Mother’s loving and comforting embrace and God’s Grace through His Sacraments. And this is why she came. This is why He sent her.

The miracle of Our Lady’s image on the Tilma started it, but that’s not what the real point was and it still isn’t. It’s not about the Tilma. It’s about Jesus. It always has been, always will be.

 

There’s so much more to this story than I can tell you in one blog post, or that you could read in one setting.

You can read more about the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Catholic Online

You can read more about the the deeper technical and scientific findings about the image here. 

Here’s a good visual of some of those:

And this article – ST. JUAN DIEGO’S MIRACULOUS PROOF - is also very interesting.

So for this to be a forgery, the forger would have had to not only be a masterful artist, painting something so beautiful on hemp (instead of campus), but also be well-versed in Scripture, Aztec culture and symbology, Mexican topography (and not just the area around Guadalupe, but all of central Mexico), astronomy, and Spanish religious devotions.  Or we can just accept that this is plainly miraculous, and an event which led to the salvation of millions of souls, those very souls which seemed most lost to satanic forces.  At some level, “skepticism” simply requires a level of incredulity that belief doesn’t.

 

My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.

What is God’s Will and How do I follow It?

{I have many random thoughts about God, Faith, and Life swirling around constantly in my mind. I stall, waiting for the “perfect” and theologically sound and wise words or for the “right” time to share them in an organized and logical manner but there are never perfect words or perfect timing. So I’m going to do what my WordPress screen says and Just Write. If you want more official theological or scholarly articles about these subjects, I suggest the Catechism of the Catholic Church – to begin with.}

I’ve been thinking a lot about “God’s Will” lately. And by “lately”, I mean since I was a young girl.

As a “cradle” Catholic, I’ve heard the phrase “God’s Will” as long as I can remember. It’s been ingrained into my mind with a sharp chisel.

Over the years, I’ve seen and heard many a variation of the meanings of “God’s Will”.

Some have said God’s Will means God has predestined everything, set every single part of our story in His “book”. Every action, every step, every breath we take. All pre-planned.

Others say “God’s Will” is more like an outline, a rough sketch of how He’d like things to go in our life, and a general idea of how we will live but nothing hard and fast or without room for any re-writing.

We often hear a variation of one of those in one way or another and in various circumstances.

We pray that “God’s Will be done” and passively use it as an explanation for what has already transpired – “Well, it must have been God’s Will”.

I struggle with this. My brain groans and my soul stretches as I try to understand and discern what “God’s Will” is exactly? And how do I know if and how I’m following “God’s Will”?

agonize over whether I’m doing what He Wills or if I’m completely daft and am shooting at the wrong goal and then asking for His High Fives after “my amazing dunk”.

Paralyzed, I sometimes stare at the ceiling…or a glowing screen…desperately searching, hoping to find His Will written out verbatim in HUGE BLINKING LETTERS – maybe even some loud and and ceremonious trumpets as accompaniment just to make it crystal clear this message is indeed from God Himself and not more of my neurotic delusions.

The back-and-forth dialogue in my mind drives me bonkers.

If “God’s Will” meant that He has already pre-planned everything we’ll ever do, then that basically takes all the work out of for me. In that case, I guess ascribing to this mindset would be the easier way to go. If everything is already planned for me then why bother trying to figure out what His Will for me is? That takes care of stressful decision making!

On the other hand…

If I blame everything that ever happens to me or others on “God’s Will” then I would understand why many see God as a selfish and vengeful ‘god’ and not an all loving and merciful one. 

Sometimes I wonder if we all complicate God’s Will, making it harder than it is. Obviously I do.

Maybe God doesn’t have multiple “Wills” for each of us. Maybe there is only one “Will” and each of us is part of this Will in our own unique ways and relative to our own circumstances and choices.

Here’s what I’m thinking as my the thoughts tumble out through my keyboard-tapping fingers:

In its simplest form, God’s Will is for the salvation of souls. He Wills all souls to be with Him in permanent and eternal happiness. That’s all.

Heaven, as seen by my 8-year-old son.

That may sound too easy but the more I think and pray about it, the more sense it makes. It really is that simple.

But what does that mean for me? How do I “follow God’s Will” in my life? What do I do? 

Well, to make things even simpler, I follow God’s Will by embracing His salvation and by participating in His work of salvation.

Wow.

Stop and think about that a little.

He wants us - sinful humans – to participate and help Him save all souls?

That’s quite the job He’s asking of us. We know He doesn’t really need our help. He’s all powerful so He could just sign an Executive Order and open His Heavenly Gates to all of us.

But He doesn’t.

Not because He can’t or doesn’t want to or because people wouldn’t vote for Him if He did. (I’m pretty sure everyone would vote for Him though.)

He invites us to be His partners in the salvation of Souls. He chooses us as His partners, His ambassadors to all people. He wants to accomplish His Will with us and through us. He chooses to do His work of salvation with Him. 

Our only job is to say, Yes. Yes to his invitation to participate in His Will of Salvation. If we offer every part of our lives to the fulfillment of this one goal, the salvation of all souls, then we follow His Will.

There are two people I think of who knew and understood this and truly lived God’s Will.

1. Mary

2. St. John the Baptist

Mary is the epitome of following God’s Will. An angel came to her, told her God chose her (out of ALL women ever) to be the mother of God. Her response? Tell me what you need me to do and I will do as you ask. (Luke 1:38)

She had no idea exactly how this was going to happen, no idea of the full scale of what this meant, she couldn’t know everything that would happen and what she would have to endure. It didn’t matter. She knew this was part of God’s Will – part of the “salvation of all souls”. So she said Yes. Simple. And everything she did from that moment (and probably the ones leading up to it) was done in service to this work of salvation, God’s Will.

John the Baptist. Before he was even born, he knew. He knew what his purpose and mission in life was: Prepare the way of the Lord – for the salvation of souls. God’s Will.

He went out into the dessert, wore dead animal skin, and ate bugs. And he waited. And waited. And waited. He knew it was all part of God’s Will – part of the great work of the salvation of souls. He didn’t question it. He just obeyed and trusted that what he was doing was for this greater purpose. He didn’t need to figure out how exactly this would be done. He just did his part and knew God would take care of the rest. And He did.

Slowly, I’m getting it. Slooooowwwlly. God is very patient with me and knows I can only take one teeny tiny wobbly baby step at a time.

It starts with knowing and understanding that His Will is big. It’s HUGE. Colossal. It’s also simple.

Save All Souls: Bring them to Heaven and provide Eternal and Complete Happiness for All. 

I’m still trying to figure out the where and the how of how exactly I’m supposed to help Him accomplish this. I think if I stay focused on the basics of what His Will is, then all the details will fall into place.

What does “God’s Will” mean to you and how do you follow God’s Will in your life? 

 

 

 

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