Lenten journey

In a few weeks Lent will begin. It is a time of reflecting in the darkness. Its a journey being transformed through the light by the death and resurrection of Christ which brings new life to each of us. For several years, I taught kindergarten faith formation. I have to say although chaotic at times, it is one of my favorite groups to teach. Their little minds are easily fascinated and soak in everything you teach them. One of my favorite lessons was teaching about Lent with the analogy of the butterfly.

Dear friends, there is a butterfly in each of us waiting to be transformed in beauty, and released from the captivity of the cocoon.

Our sin is the cocoon that traps us within. It is the blanket of death in spirit that wraps us tightly, imprisoning us from life, joy and happiness.

During Lent, we reflect on these things that separate us from God, the sin that kills our soul, entrapping our spirit. Through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are cleansed, set free from the chains that tie us down. The beauty within, the butterfly, emerges revealing the new life of joy. At this point in our journey, we reach a peak moment on the mountain of our faith and are closer to God than any other moment in that season of our journey.

I think the beauty is that each liturgical year, we are able to go through this process of transformation, of growing closer to God, unlike the butterfly who only goes through it once.

Think about Lent as the season of the cocoon. The season leading up to Lent is a season of gluttony. During Lent, we begin to look within and abstain from those things that we have indulged in, particularly our sin. During Holy Week, at Easter we see the transformation, the great release of our spirit, freely embracing our faith and the love God pours out for each of us. This is the height of the season, the Agape of love that covers us, lightening our load on our journey to strengthen us for the new road ahead.

This Lent, I invite you to look at it as a journey of reflection, release and transformation. Receive the ultimate sacrifice and love as if it were the first time you went through this season, as if you had never heard the Passion of Christ. Embrace it and be strengthen and fed for the journey that lies before you.

Value of a penny

“The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

Did you pour out your heart to your Valentine Thursday?  Perhaps you showered them with flowers, their favorite chocolate or a romantic dinner.

February is the month of love.  Love is something we should celebrate.  Love comes in so many different packages.  It can be a romantic love with a significant other, the love for a child, the love for a parent, love for a friend, etc.  The form of LOVE I want to talk about is the LOVE that pours out on to each of us that is unconditional.  It is a love with no restrictions.

This love can only come from one source, God through the POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT.

I was listening to a talk by a priest earlier on this very topic.  He read a letter he received from a young lady who had felt she was incapable of being loved by God.  In this note, she discovers God’s unconditional love in a penny.

What she says is that no matter how dirty or beaten up a penny gets, it’s worth is still the same.  There are shiny pennies and there are black dirty pennies.  The shiny pennies don’t go through all the stuff the black dirty pennies go through yet their VALUE, their WORTH are the same.

money coins currency savings
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I really thought this was a very powerful analogy of the unconditional love God has for each of us.  No matter how beaten we are, how dirty we are, how sinful we are, God values us, desires us and most of all loves us just the same.  He wants to pick us up, dust off all the dirt, and smooth all the rough edges so that we can see His light shine and reflect from us.

Whether you are the shiny penny or the dirty, beaten penny, God wants you to know He loves you.  If you celebrated Valentines day or you love a family or friend, you experience this love “because He first loved [you],” 1 John 4:19.

If you feel incapable of God’s love because of your past, because of your sins, remember the dirty penny – it doesn’t lose it’s VALUE, no matter how beaten, run over, stepped on or dirty.  Jesus carried your crosses over 2000 years ago to demonstrate this phenomenal love and God is breathing in love through the Holy Spirit everyday with every breath of life you take.  When you need to feel the love of God, pause, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and imagine Jesus before you carrying the cross, beaten and bruised, whispering God’s very love for you.

 

Crazy in love…with Jesus!

 

“Crazy in love with Jesus!”

“Crazy in love with Jesus,” a message one of my awesome sister’s in Christ sent me.  I think that’s the best crazy comment I have ever received.  If I’m going to be called crazy, YEP, I want to be CRAZY in LOVE with JESUS.

What about you?  Are you CRAZY IN LOVE WITH JESUS?

I can’t think of any better Valentine than Jesus.  I can’t think of anyone who has ever loved me more.

When I think about His love, I know I am precious in His eyes.  He desires my heart completely and pours out His love, compassion, mercy and protection daily just for me.  He thinks I’m perfect just the way I am, with all my flaws and blemishes.  I am valued more than gold and jewels.  I am beautiful to Him, a perfect flower, created just for Him.  How could I not give my heart completely to Him?

red heart on a old opened book ii
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Ironically Valentine’s day is the feast day of St. Valentine who was brutally beaten to death for defying the Roman Emperor by marrying couples.  Interesting that the day we celebrate love around the world is a feast day of a saint who was martyred in the name of love.  Similar to the story of my Valentine, Jesus, who was brutally beaten and crucified out of love for me and for you.  It’s His love I want to receive this Valentine’s day.  Because God is present in all things in my life, I receive this love in scripture, in my children, my friends and family, in nature – breathing in the fresh air and observing the birds of the air.

God has promised me a greater love story in my life.  The only thing He asks of me is to allow Him to fill every crevice of my heart, for me to “be satisfied” in Him.  This Valentine’s day, I am giving Him my heart, the ultimate Valentine card and my time will be spent adoring Him, soaking in His very presence.

As you peer into the eyes of your loved one on Valentine’s Day, remember that each of us reflect the love of Christ.  Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and may you each be filled with the love of your HEAVENLY FATHER and be embraced in the arms of JESUS.

The next time you think of CRAZY, ask yourself am I CRAZY IN LOVE WITH JESUS?  If your answer is YES, then you are right on target with the best kind of crazy.

Broken and glued…

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak and as many as touched it were healed.  Mark 6:55-56

Have you ever felt broken? Or perhaps even damaged goods?  Something or someone hurt you in a way that you feel has impacted you in some way? It can be something that happened 20 or 30 years ago, that is still affecting a small part of who you are today.

There’s hope!

I was reading the Gospel reading this morning from Mark 6:53-56. Wherever Jesus was, people were desperate for healing and wanted so bad to just touch the tassel of His cloak because they knew that they would be healed.  When Jesus walked the earth in human flesh, people saw the miracles of healing. Today, many lose hope because sometimes these miracles aren’t as apparent.

Is it their faith that is being tested or is it that they completely lack faith?

We are each in different places in our spiritual journey and I firmly believe that God meets each of us wherever we are. I also believe He brings people in our lives and that Jesus is alive in each of us.  Through us, through our actions and our prayers, He delivers healing power.  Many times, it’s subtle and takes time.  In some cases, we may not see the healing we are expecting, especially when the underlying healing is within the person’s soul.  When it comes to spiritual brokenness, matters of the heart and the mind, it is our brothers and sisters and our relationship with Christ, our prayer, our openness to see and feel His healing power sweep through us that repairs that brokenness, preparing us for something much greater.

There have been many moments where I have felt I was too broken from things in my past, that I was damaged goods and could not move on when it comes to matters of the heart. Over the last several years, I have surrounded myself with wise, spiritual sisters and brothers.  They have helped me to grow in my spiritual life and to see beyond my pain.  They have showed me how much life God brings amid the suffering.  Most of all they have helped me to see God’s promise of love, His love letter to me. The weeds in my garden were there for a reason.  Although they needed to be pruned, they served a purpose.  Their purpose was not to keep me in the brokenness of my life but to move me beyond it.  They were there to show me how to embrace life, a life full of beauty, full of life giving flowers.  Although there are moments I still go back to my past and begin to weep for that woman that endured the heartache, I draw back to the present and rejoice with the woman that is thankful for God for all the brokenness throughout her life.  It is in my pain and suffering throughout my life that I have flourished into the beautiful flower that God has created me to be.  It is in His promises that I look forward to life from this present moment.  My heart has found a new purpose and it has been repaired through the healing power of my savior.  Although I have not touched the tassel from His cloak, I have received Him – body, blood, soul and divinity.

My dear friends, we need to “be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)”. The enemy is looking for opportunities to knock us down and keep us down. This is what happens when we feel broken and damaged. I love the image of a piece of pottery that has been broken in pieces and then glued back together and repurposed for something even greater. This is how we defeat the enemy. We allow ourselves to be glued back together through the gifts of our faith and the gifts of each other.

If you are that person who feels broken or damaged, I invite you to find a sister or brother grounded in their faith to talk to, to bring the healing power of Christ to you. If you are not that person feeling broken or damaged, I invite you to look around you, there is someone who needs you to bring Christ’s healing power to them.  Let them touch the tassel of your heart with their story so that you can be Christ like to them.

Life’s greatest sustenance

What sustains you in life, through your struggles, illness, pain? How do you find peace in knowing this life is not permanent?

Today, as I sat in the infusion room waiting for my IV of ferritin, I peered around the room. Surrounded by patients receiving treatment for cancer or other disorders, my heart poured out to these men and women. I visit this room twice every two years and the sadness I feel is always the same, yet part of me finds thanksgiving for the many blessings in my own life, especially my own hardships and struggles. Perhaps a bit of guilt sweeps over me knowing I’m only here to treat one of the two forms of anemia I battle that mainly results in exhaustion and tiredness with occasional feelings of faintness.

My disorder is mild and manageable in my daily life. As I think about these patients and how many or all are fighting for their life, I ponder my own peace and life sustainability. Often I’ve thought about facing the last moments of my life when that time comes – will I be afraid or at peace. Over the past few years when I contemplate this, I feel at peace knowing where I am in my faith journey and that because of it when that day comes I am on my way to a place that is beyond my own imagination. I love this simple quote by Pope Pius X.  It’s simple yet it speaks volumes.

“Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven”.

We can look at this quote from two perspectives.

  • Receiving the Eucharist is like Heaven on earth. One may ask WHY? After receiving the Eucharist, we truly walk with Jesus within us. He can only take that place if we are in the state of Grace, meaning our souls are clean and welcome to receiving Him. Isn’t that what Heaven will be like? A state of grace walking with Jesus….
  • The second perspective is that if we are receiving Jesus then hopefully we are also following Him and striving for holiness as God desires us to. In this case, it also is the shortest path to Heaven because it leads us straight there.

The Eucharist is the center of my faith and my journey and it is in the Body and the Blood of Christ that I am strengthened and sustained in all life throws at me. Some may not truly understand what is contained in this bread and wine present in a Catholic Mass. If not, I challenge you to watch the link below on the miracle of the Eucharist at Buenos Aires. May your eyes and your heart be open to Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist.  Blessings to each of you!

Light in the darkness

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Have you strayed from the path God was leading you on?  Perhaps during some phase of your life, you took a different path, away from your faith.  Looking back, can you see how easy it was to stray from God’s will in your life, to take a detour?  May be one path looked more attractive, easy, or entertaining than the other.

This morning God let me in on a mini lesson. 

I love to walk around the pond at work before starting my day.  I sense God present around me as I walk prayerfully around the pond.  I often ask God to reveal Himself to me, teach me or inspire me.  Many times, He does just that.

This morning I started my day a little early.  The sun had not yet risen, so the path I walked along was dark with light sprinkled around for some visibility.  After praying, I allowed myself to be present to my surroundings.  As I maneuvered through the darkness, I could hear the pleasant sound of the waterfall and the birds singing.  Music to my ears.  As I walked along the path, I noticed a little bird just as the path makes a small fork.  I watched him and began to follow him.  I detoured to the path that I normally do not take as I walk around the pond so that I could follow the bird.  Even though I didn’t get lost, it reminded me how easy it is to wander from the path, to stray from God.  I began to ponder this for a minute.  In the struggles of my marriage, I could have fallen into hopeless despair instead of falling into my faith.  Through my divorce, I could have run into the arms of another man, instead of being embraced by God.  If I would have strayed from the path God was leading me on during the darkest days of my life, I would not be content in who I am, and who God is for me.  I would not have seen all that God was doing for me, how He was holding and carrying me.  Perhaps, eventually, I may have found the path again as the two paths merged.

foggy path
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It’s so easy, especially when we are struggling with something, to turn to something else that may not be healthy for us.  Sometimes it presents itself as the “thing” that will take away all our pain or something that looks more enticing.   My mini lesson this morning validated John 1:5 “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Darkness is never dark when we allow God to be present within us.  So in the darkest moments of our life, when we carry the Word of God within us, He is the “lamp for [our] feet, a light for [our] path” (Psalm 119:105).

I have seen this prevail in my own life as I allowed the tiny shimmer of light guide my path.  It was Jesus in the Eucharist that shone upon my path guiding me closer to God as I walked through my struggles.  This path wasn’t always easy but it has been a joyful ride, full of mountains and valleys, but it has never been dark because the darkness has always been overcome.

Have you allowed the light to shine upon your path in your journey?  God’s light is never extinguished, as long as we accept the invitation to carry it.

 

 

A small box and a big God

“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31

Have you ever prayed for something and felt God was ignoring you and so you begin to take control and force the outcome to fit your prayer request?  If so, how did it turn out in the end?

I think sometimes just as in Natalie Grant’s song “King of the World,” we “try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world.”  We forget how big God really is and how small we are.  As a result we put God in a box that we design.

adult birthday birthday gift box
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Many years ago, I remember putting in for a position that would have been a promotion.  I really thought I was the best candidate for the job.  Hands down, I was going to get the job.  To my amazement and a kick in my pride, I was turned down for the position.  I remember being upset, knocked down, even a little embarrassed that I didn’t get the job.  A year or so later, another position became available that would lead me to a higher promotion as well as provide the perfect work/life balance I needed.  Reflecting back, I realized that the job I wanted would not fit in with work/life balance I would need later in life. As I look back on this very example, I realize how big God really is and how small I made Him when I was turned down for the first position.

Circumstances don’t happen by chance.  God allows them or God wills them.  When they are allowed, He will pick us up and carry us through it.  When He wills it, it will be better than we would have ever imagined, definitely better than our own plans.

I humor myself sometimes when I start to think how many years I’ve been single.  This is definitely a part of my life I have learned to put in God’s hands and every time I start to think about it, God reminds me of all the things He has been placing in my path that I could not do if I were not single.  He also reminds me that His love sustains me and is enough every time I go to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and my eyes begin to weep because of the love He pours in me.

Just as in Romans 8:31, God gives me and you everything we need at each given moment, even His Son.  It’s a great reminder for each of us that He is the “king of the world.”  How can we put  Him in a box based on our criteria?  How can we draw lines and tell Him that He has to stay between those lines?  Why do we think we can take control from the God who knows all, the God who is “for us,” the God “who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us?”

I think the answer is found in our human trust experiences.  Over the years, through our human relationships, we learn to not trust because of circumstances that hurt us in relationships.  I think this affects our trust in God as well.  When we lack trust in God, we want to take control because we can only trust ourselves to deliver the outcome we expect.

Trusting God seems to be one of the hardest things to do, yet it’s in this trust that makes life simpler, easier, more joyful and peaceful.  Look at your life circumstances in your past, when the thing that you thought was best for you fell apart and something better came up – was that God’s hands?  When you went through suffering and came out of it more alive and joyful – was that God’s hands?

Think about how life would be if we allowed God to be the “KING OF THE WORLD” in all our life circumstances.