Thursday, January 31, 2019

The blessing of Now!




Right now I am waiting for the teapot to boil so I can make a nice hot cup of coffee on this very cold "polar vortex", day number two.  I'm focused on that teapot. I am grateful for that teapot right now because I am struggling today. I am struggling with living in the present moment. Actually, I must confess, this has been a constant struggle.

Do you struggle with living in the present moment? I believe it is a human struggle. A real human problem.  We are persons of hope and so many times we find ourselves confusing longing for hope. Hope is intricately tied to Divine union. Longing away our present and losing sight of the blessings of now is certainly not hoping. God is hope and God is the God of the present moment.

So here are five tips on how to stay in the blessing of the present moment.

1. Contemplate God's name:

We worship a God of the present moment! A God who, although He knows all things, blesses us in the here and now. Tomorrow? Well, that is just up to Him to gift us with or not!

In Exodus, Moses asked God “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?”

And God replied: "I am who I am." And added. "This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."

If you think about it, God could have said anything to Moses. I mean he is God after all. But He chose to say "I AM".

Not, He was.
Not, He will be.

I AM!

Our God is the God of blessing and He blesses us Now!
It is now that we have to count our blessings. It is now that we must choose to live. Not when that addition is finally finished or the last ten pounds are finally lost. When our toddler is finally out of diapers or when we'll have the time to finish that project we started over two years ago.

Contemplate His name. Contemplate how God is good and how his goodness is presently in your life right now. 

2. Count your blessings immediately, right now! 

I do this by walking around my house literally cataloging all the things God has blessed me with. And I am not just referring to the material things. I thank God for my children, relationships, health, experiences etc. But if you want to focus on the present, try to literally thank God for what you are presently in front of, what you are doing, what you are feeling and seeing. Use the fives senses to list all the blessings you are living this minute. 

This is why I thanked God for my boiling teapot. He is a God of details. Yes, He even takes care of those little tiny details like that great cup of coffee as you look out onto the snowy white landscape. 

3. Practice Lectio Divina:

Lectio Divina is a way of reading and contemplating Scripture in the here and now. The great thing about Lectio Divina is you must focus on what God is trying to tell you in the right now.  Basically, there are four parts to Lectio Divina: read, reflect, respond and rest. The steps are pretty self-explanatory. You read the Scripture passage/passages. What grabs your attention? You reflect on what God is saying to you. Respond to God by reading the passage a third time and answering to His message to you (you can also journal your answer). And finally, rest. Read the passage a fourth time and rest in God's Word and God's love through His word. 

There is nothing more grounding than God's Word. His Word is alive! The beauty of Lectio Divina is that today God will say one thing to your heart and then two weeks from now, the same passage will say something totally different. That is because God's word is for the present moment and it is in the present moment that we are living and that is when He speaks. 

4. Beware of Social Media:

Social media has a way of robbing us of the present moment. The dangers of social media are not only a loss of precious time that we will never ever get back again but it also robs us of our gratitude. It has been reported that "those who used social media the most were about 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than participants who used social media the least. Why do we get depressed when we are on social media too long? Because we are focusing on the edited life and happiness of others and not on reality. Not on our reality. The time we could be spending living the present moment is lost in a world that tempts us to focus on what we do not have. 

Social media in and of itself is not evil, it's how we use it that can become a problem. Many women reported feeling depressed after going on Facebook and Instagram. Let's be vigilant and live more in the moment and interact with those around us rather than getting lost in a virtual world where we are mentally comparing ourselves to other peoples edited lives. 

5. Set more short-term goals:

Goals are great! I love setting goals. Shoot, I am constantly writing up lists of things I would like to accomplish. It keeps me on my toes and helps me to accomplish things I would otherwise put off. But long term goals can get in the way of living the present moment. Although we should have them, we should also focus on short-term goals. I mean short-short term goals, for today. 

These short-short term goals are not a list of chores. It's not a grocery list. It is a goal that I will set for today that I need to accomplish now. Some examples? Pray. Count blessings. Not yell. Offer up the mundane chores for those who need it. To be joyful when my husband walks through the door even though the kids are on my last nerve. Those kinds of short-term goals. Goals of becoming a better you rather than waiting until...whatever it is will make you a better person in the future rather than today.


This is how I try and overcome the temptation of living way out into the future. These are the ways in which I can stay focused in the here and now. The blessing of now is fleeting. The blessing of this moment is all we have from God. He does not give us the grace for tomorrow because He is the God of now. I AM he said to Moses. He is the God of love. He is the God of the present. He is our first blessing. Now. Today! 




Photograph courtesy of Pixabay


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Transforming our Culture from a Dream (continuation)




You can read the first part here.

Time passed and it was time that was on my side. Our children are still very small and attend a very good school in the suburbs. It is Montessori (a Catholic-based educational method that is student-led) and it is bi-lingual (Spanish-English) which works really well for our bi-lingual family. But the Lord was not going to wait very long to start working on His project.

We scheduled a visit to our community out in Minneapolis in the Summer of 2017 where there happens to be an excellent classical Catholic school that we wanted to check out. It is called Chesterton Academy. We decided to pay them a visit while we were out there. Our encounter with the founder was providential. He ended our very lively conversation with these words "Why don't you open a Chesterton Academy in Detroit?" It's as if the words hung in the air and all of a sudden I was transported back to that evening I sat in the back of the Church asking the Lord what we would do for our kid's future education. "Open a school!" I heard in my heart.

The two events were fused together through God's providence. I knew in my heart that this was the right formula. Chesterton Academy had recently set up a program for parent-led initiatives to open Chesterton Academy's in other parts of the country. It was almost a packaged deal. All we needed was local interest, donors and benefactors and a building. Easy, right?

Needless to say, we returned that summer, I got pregnant and things were put on hold. We picked it right back up in December and started to scout out interest in a Chesterton Academy of Detroit. We had a great turn out and things began to roll. For a bit, it seemed as though we would be able to open the school in the Fall of 2019. But the government has put a damper on our plans. We are not defeated though. Between beaurocracy and an all-out paper-chase, we have seen a recent inspiration of the Holy Spirit in many local Catholic citizens who have forged a great support system for us. I mean, who were we but Mr. and Mrs. Miller with a dream and a lot of desire. It was God who was handling this, we were just his instruments.

Needless to say, the opening of the school has been pushed back to the Fall of 2020 but we are well on our way to making this dream a reality. The dream is not only to provide this type of education for our own children but for countless other families. These families not only wish to provide their children with the right tools to be persons of great faith and service but also so that they may grow into adults who will be able to think and decide for themselves.  We need to equip our young people with the means to exist and thrive outside the suppressive society we are living in. We want to form real ambassadors that lead and forge a culture of change, a change towards hope, freedom, and love.

I must say that this grass-roots effort of Christian homeschool education, hybrid schooling, and Classical education is not a mere coincidence. Many parents are realizing that the public educational system is broken and that our Catholic schools, since after Vatican II, do not have much more to offer. What once set Catholic education apart, the teaching of the faith and the quality of education that surpassed other private schools is now almost non-existent. Parents are waking up and realizing that they cannot leave such a precious aspect of their children's formation in other people's hands. It is the parent who is the first and most important educator of their child.

Please pray for us. We still have many things to iron out but we are very well aware that God is in charge and that He will take care of the details. We move forward in hope and faith.






Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Transforming our culture from a dream!


For a little over a year now I have not been too consistent with my blogging endeavors. So many times I have a great desire to write but I just cannot seem to carve out the time. I've decided to share with you, dear reader, what is going on in our lives that has caused me to have less time.

Besides welcoming our red-headed princess last spring, we have also decided to open a high school! That's right, you read that correctly. We are trying to open a Classical Catholic high school. But before I can get into the details of that, perhaps I should begin with how this all came about!

I am a Catholic school teacher. I have been involved in education, on and off since I was 19 years old. But it wasn't until right before I earned my second degree in Theology that I decided that teaching was truly my calling. Since 2002 I have been working in some way, shape or form in Catholic education.

I've seen a Catholic school from the inside! I mean, I've really seen it!

It's not pretty!

In fact, it's mostly disappointing!

Since 2002 I worked both at the middle school and high school level. Teaching theology is not for the faint of heart. In the world we are living in today, theology is just completely counter-cultural! I fought against the popular culture every day in my classroom. It was interesting at best, but really it was completely revealing as to what we are up against.

The culture is powerful!

But we are not defeated! Jesus is victorious and I will tell you how we can begin to make headway against the tide of this monstrous, ubiquitous, absolutely seductive culture that has a stranglehold on our young people and even ourselves...

Education!

But not just any education.

Real, honest to goodness, old-fashioned Catholic education!

Classical Catholic education.

Classical education is a way of educating young minds through the basics of learning to read, think and speak. Sound simple enough? For centuries this is the way all Catholic schools from the youngest of minds all the way through college taught.

It is called the "Trivium" which is grammar (read), logic (think) and rhetoric (speak).  It allows children to learn according to their developmental stages.

At a young age (elementary or grammar), children are like "sponges" and through repetition and memorization, they soak in everything from phonics, to grammar, to history and poetry and math. The next stage, known as logic (middle school) is when children begin to question everything. As we all very well know, when children become teenagers they begin to rebel and question everything from our authority, faith to why the world works the way it does. This is when we are able to teach them to think deeply and critically. By using the Socratic method, children are not spoon fed their information so that they can then "pass a test". Their questions are answered with more questions and it is the student, not the teacher, that arrives at the truth. Through all the information they have absorbed in the grammar years they are able to access all their learning and come to a conclusion. And this conclusion is always, always hinged on the truth.

But what truth you ask?

Let's get to the third stage first.

Finally, the third stage is rhetoric (high school) and this is where it all comes together and young minds discover ways in which to argue and discuss subjects eloquently. They essentially learn to speak with logic and truth as opposed to emotion. All this is done through the Catholic lens and is centered on the One truth which is Jesus Christ. All truth, goodness, and beauty are acquired throughout the years because the children understand, on their own, that it all comes from the One source: the Incarnation of God in the world.

This, my dear reader, is what will help to transform our culture! The faith they will receive in schools like this and other authentic Christian schools paired with the faith hopefully imparted at home. Classical education will help to release our young people from the grips of a culture that wants to convince them that emotion is king. "Do what makes you feel good!" Authentic Catholic education will help young people realize that they are not slaves to media or to their peer groups. By teaching them how to think and speak, young people will finally understand that anything that is true, good and beautiful in this world comes from God and God alone.

This is what will help bring about a new revolution of love and life in our world.

I began to search for this in our hometown. I found nothing. Sure, we had the typical menu of Catholic schools: the academically centric ones where the faith was watered down at best and the end goal was getting to the best universities across the country. The sports driven ones where boys or girls with money or talent flocked to in order to get that ever coveted scholarship to top State universities.  The all too familiar elite Catholic schools with the well-known name that has graduated generations of families and has a large and faithful donor base but barely anything to be called Catholic. And then there is your run of the mill Catholic school; Catholic on the outside, public school education with a fat price tag on the inside.

I was not impressed! Nor did I ever imagine sending our children to these.

Yet, the only offering of classical education was homeschool programs or the new programs of hybrid schooling: three days at home, two days at school. The programs were excellent but I did not feel up to it, at least not for now.

I felt called to something more. As if God was nudging me to continue to search.

So, I began to pray.

Then one day, during Mass, it all became clear! We would open a school! The thought was crazy! Even crazier because it had come to me during prayer. But it seemed right. I knew it was going to happen. I didn't know how or when, but I felt it in my gut.



(To be Continued...click here to read part II)






Photograph courtesy of Pixabay.