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Anni Discipleship Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Journeying to Christ

Last year, The Shepherd on a Search was all the rage. Touted as a Christian-based answer to the Elf on the Shelf, the premise seemed to follow one of the shepherd children on a search for the newly born Babe in a manger. While my family participates in “Elf on the Shelf,” – to the extent of moving said creature nightly – I never thought about participating in The Shepherd on a Search. The elf took enough brainpower to remember to move!

This past year, I didn’t see much about The Shepherd on a Search. I also didn’t see many posts about Wise Men traveling to the nativity set in homes, as their movement toward the nativity is similar to that of the shepherd.

However, this time of year inevitably leads all of us to embark upon our own quest for a deeper relationship with the Babe, turned Man, in the manger. During the Christmas season, the Church readings remind us of the Christ Child’s lineage, His mother’s fiat, and the Holy Family’s. Days later, the tragic fate of the Holy Innocents, whose martyrdom serves as a clear reminder of the hunt for Jesus from the time of His birth. We are reminded of the safety, security, and love of the members of the Holy Family, which provides the perfect example of safety, security, and love to emulate in our own homes and families. Lent is a time in which we reflect on the Man the Babe grew to be – the One who would prepare for and ultimately sacrifice His life, for all of us.

Which leads me to ask, what about our own search for Jesus? During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and the inevitable exhaustion of post-holiday euphoria, where do we go to find Jesus in our hearts?

Where do we go to find Jesus in our homes?

Is it…

  • in the stillness of the early morning, before the rest of the household awakes?
  • when the house winds down, the lights are off, and the house is tucked into bed?
  • in the middle of the day, amidst the hectic pace life finds us scurrying?
  • that we find Jesus in the smallest or most inconvenient times of the day when we look to the heavens and ask why?

Everyone’s search for Jesus is as unique and individual as our fingerprints. No two searches are the same, although many times there are similar features and themes throughout the journey. We can pretty much be guaranteed there will be peaks. Where we experience the glow of love, shining as radiantly as the sun on a warm summer day. There will also be valleys, in which we feel a void, a chasm of silence in our souls. We will turn and wonder why, or wonder if we are truly alone.

Yet, all of our experiences are meant to do what the star did for the shepherd and the wise men centuries ago – our experiences are meant to draw us closer to our Savior!

Jesus was not born imposing Himself on us. In fact, even before His death, He gave those who doubted Him an opportunity to walk away during the Last Supper. He doesn’t force Himself on any of us!

Instead, He awaits our journey to Him with open arms. Gently, He calls to us. Patiently, He travels with us, waiting for us to recognize and acknowledge Him.

And, when our travel to Him is complete, He openly embraces us.

Lent is the perfect time for us to assess our individual quest to Jesus. It’s the perfect time to consider how close we are desiring to get to Him. We desire to see Him face to face the way the wise men did centuries ago. If there is something holding us back from desiring that intimate, we should seek the close relationship He offers.

DISCUSS

Where are we on our journey?

What help do we need to move forward?

How can we help others along their travel?

Where will each of us find Jesus during Lent 2018?

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Anni Faith Formation Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Finding God in Trolls

Not too long ago, my family purchased the Dreamworks movie, “Trolls.” It quickly became a hit with our oldest, who immediately began acting as the lead hero before the end of the first viewing. The obsession with that movie meant daily viewings – at least, until our family purchased “Moana.”

Without spoilers, the general premise of the new Trolls is this: the Bergen are ogre- looking, listless creatures determined to believe the only thing which will make them happy is to eat a troll. The trolls, as the persecuted victims of the movie, find the positivity in life through their belief in music, spending their days in song, and stopping hourly for a well-timed hug. Events conspire to allow the trolls to bring happiness to all – themselves, and the Bergen! The two main characters are Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick).

I am not one to usually find the moral meaning, which can sometimes be overtly obvious to everyone else… for example, I didn’t get the religious tones of The Shack until after I read a review long after my initial reading of the story. And yet, as I sat and watched Trolls for the umpteenth-hundredth time, I stopped short. I realized I was reading far deeper into Trolls than I would wager even the writers ever imagined…

…or intended.

That night, watching the Bergen mope around their town, I realized they represent our lives… they are our lives without God. In Matthew Kelly’s recent book, Resisting Happiness, the author asserts on page 11:

Nothing on earth can satisfy your desire for happiness.

The reason is very simple: you have a God-size hole. You cannot fill it with things, money, status, power, sex, drugs, alcohol, other people, experiences, or accomplishments. Only God can fill the hole…”

At least the Bergen knew nothing would make them happy… save eating a troll. And, even eating the troll would result in momentary happiness. Instead of searching for happiness in other avenues, the Bergen wandered around aimlessly, doing chores and caring for each other. Yet, their song was dull, and the rote manner in which they attended their tasks, and each other, lacked in enthusiasm.

The trolls, on the other hand, have a vivacious demeanor. Most of them are able to find the silver lining in their darkest hour. They are energetic, and radiate warmth, kindness, and love. They go about their tasks with a skip in their step, and when hard times befall them, they turn to each other and pull each other up. Quite simply, they maintain hope.

This is strikingly similar to living a life with God. For, as Jesus instructs in Matthew 19:26:

For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.

Struggle as we might in this life, living a life with God in our sights allows us to maintain hope that we are not alone, that we will come out the other side intact, and that our suffering in this life is not in vain. As difficult as it may be, living a life with God allows us to find a silver lining in our experiences.

So, where is God in this movie?!

He was where He always is – He was everywhere. Unseen, but heard…

God is the music in this movie.

Never forcing Himself on us, He still tugs gently at our souls, inviting us into a relationship with Him. And, those moments we accept that invitation, as we see with the Bergen king and his love interest, we are given an insight into the splendor of His love for us!

God is in our actions – the way we conduct ourselves, and the way we look out for others. He’s in those moments we try to push Him away, the way we see the character of Branch doing in the movie. He’s willing to lie dormant under the surface, until we have time to process through our pain and hurt. He’s in the moments we recognize the pain and hurt in others, and when we encourage them to allow us to journey with them through their pain.

God is infused in our lives, waiting eagerly for us to recognize Him and invite Him to be active in our lives.

The question only becomes,

Will we accept Him and His presence, the way the trolls do?

Or, will we overlook His offer, and toss His gift of love aside?

The choice is up to us.