The roller coaster of life

“I command you be strong and steadfast!  Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

Have you ever rode a roller coaster?  Have you stood in the line watching it go up and straight down, twisting and jerking those riding, while they scream to the top of their lungs?  Did you stand there in excitement or a part of you fighting fear of the sudden drop?

black and white roller coaster
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I think life comes at us often like a roller coaster.  As we watch from the sidelines, we anticipate what may happen and some emotions begin to form within, most often fear of what may happen on the ride.  Once you are strapped in your seat, you are secure by that of mankind.  Then the ride begins and you build yourself up with excitement as you begin to climb to the highest point.  Then it hits as you are at the top for a split second, fear of the unknown of what may happen as you descend rapidly.  Once you reach the bottom, you realize it’s not so bad and your safety belt held.  You are secure.  As the ride continues, you get twisted and jerked here and there and continue climbing steep tracks and descending.  After the ride is over, you are exhilarated.  You did something very daring, but most of all you placed your trust in the security of your safety belt and the human engineering of the roller coaster.  You can also look at it from the perspective of freedom.  On the coaster, you let go and felt freedom from your own control as you had no where to go but where it took you once it started down the track.

One can compare this to life and our relationship with God.  On the roller coaster, we are placing our life in the security of man, the designer, construction crew,  the quality control and maintenance of the coaster and not ourselves.  In life, through FAITH, we place our life in the security of God.  Of course, we have to hop on the coaster of life and let God be in control of the highs and lows, the twists and jerks.  Sometimes we may be challenged greatly as the descend takes us directly into a twist and flips our world upside down.  Even in that moment, He still has you on the track guiding you through to the next.  As you are at the bottom, He begins to prepare you for the ascend to the top, to the space freely created to accomplish His will in you, to trust Him when you begin to descend again.  The wheels will remain on the track.  As you trust in the security of His love and His Word, you will remain planted, grounded in Him.

I find myself often faltering from my trust in God.  Usually it is in that split second that I realize life has just challenged me and I’m about to descend into a twist and turn, I begin to rely on my human nature of taking control and doing everything on my own.  Sometimes, it’s not until I get halfway down the sudden drop when I realize, God is in control of this and as long as I place my trust in Him, I will stay on the track and life will not fall apart.  I know I will falter that is my nature.  But if I realize at some point down the slope, that God has this and I’m in the security of His hands, then I have still won the battle.  God will always be there ready to keep me on the track and safely secure in the seat of the roller coaster of life.  When He delivers His message of assurance through His Word or another’s reflection, it is overwhelmingly exhilarating.

How does God’s thrill ride compare to man’s?  How exhilarating is it?  Do you want to ride it over and over again?

Fruit in the Silence

“Attend to the sound of my cry, my King and my God”  Psalm 5:3

Have you ever been in a place or a state when all you feel like doing is crying, hoping that it will bring you solace?  What about prayer – have you sat down in silence and struggled and found your self resting, being consoled and comforted?

I found myself today practicing being present to God in silence.  I must say this is a total struggle for me at times.  My mind tends to wander all over the world and back.  As I sat in the chapel in Adoration, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I settled my mind and engaged in silence and total presence.  As I sat there, an image popped into my head.  The image, at the time I found to be intriguing.  It was the ocean washing ashore.  At first there was a wall present and then I realized the wall was gone and the water was just washing away the sand before me as it came ashore.  Because I was centering myself in prayer, I didn’t want to analyze this too much but felt that the wall was a blockage for me to be present to God and as the water washed ashore, He removed it so that I could center myself.  Then I realized as the sand began to wash away, that God was washing away the top layers of my being and revealing my inner self, my center in Him.  At that moment, I don’t think I realized the impact this would have later in my day.  This created free space for me to be present with God, in preparation for what would come later.

sea landscape beach landmark
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Later as my day emerged, more things began to surface affecting my peace and I found myself crying out to God and found myself centering my inner being in His presence unveiling a greater peace and comfort.  As I am faced with a challenge ahead of me, this presence and act of centering my soul in a cry to “my King and my God,” prepares me with great strength, with peace, and with trust.  These are the moments when my prayer life struggles yet strengthens and my faith grows leaps and bounds.  It is where my heart meets the heart of Christ, and my pains, His wounds.

So I asked myself and I ask you, have you sat in silence lately, centering your being in Christ, crying out to Him from the deeper core of your heart, allowing Him to comfort, hold and whisper His will for you?  Silence can be scary in a world of noise, but it can also be comforting and restful to heart that is in need.

 

Are you carrying your cross with joy?

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 27:34

Are you carrying your cross with joy?  Where do you place your trust, in yourself, or God?  Do you try to maintain chaotic control or do you allow God to maintain perfect control?

The other day, a dear friend, reminded me of bearing my crosses.  I had allowed anxiety and fear to settle in.  In doing so, I was not allowing Christ to help me carry that cross.  I was relying on my own ability to carry it.  I was not carrying it with joy but with anger.  What she sent me to read was a reflection by Gus Lloyd iterating how bloody Christ’s cross was and that ours is also not pretty or easy.  All the same, we should imitate Christ as we carry that cross and allow Him to help us.  Over the years, I have had moments where I carry the cross with joy and moments when I don’t.  When I look to the cross, to Christ and lay down my struggles at the foot of the cross, He gives me the strength and the overwhelming joy to carry it.  That is an amazing feeling.  So, I ask myself why do I still try to maintain my own chaotic control and try to carry it on my own?

My first response would be I’m human and I’m going to falter, especially to my old habits of self reliance.  Another response I ponder on is that when I falter, my faith becomes stronger.  In the midst of that struggle in my self reliance, God sends someone or something to remind me that it is He who I should look to as I carry this cross.  Although it may still be a dirty, ugly cross, He will bring me “across the finish line” with joy running through my heart and soul, the joy of Christ.

It is not the cross that we should focus on but it is the one who is beside us within us that is bearing the weight of that cross.  This is the focus of joy, not sorrow; happiness, not anger; trust, not anxiety.

Today as I read the Gospel reading with my girls, Mark 27:34 hit me like a train as it was my second reminder to not rely on myself but to pick up my cross with the love of Christ and carry it along side Him with all the splinters, rough edges, dirt, and blood.  This is where my life shines and bears fruit.  This is where my heart sings and rejoices.  Today, I am filled with this reminder that my cross is where Christ delivers me and my relationship with Him is strengthened.

Are you ready to pick up your cross and follow Christ?  Are you prepared to surrender your self will, self reliance?  Are you ready to be filled with overwhelming joy and grace as you carry your cross, allowing Christ to bear the load with you?

Are you patiently allowing God to mold you?

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.”  Jeremiah 18:6

Ever watched a feather fall to the ground?  Notice how long it takes?  Ever prayed about something and it seemed to take God forever to answer your prayer, just like it took forever for that feather to fall?

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were talking about praying for something she was struggling with and she looked at me and told me “but God takes too long to answer.”  As we discussed God’s timing, I thought to myself, good point to reflect on deeper.

I see two parts of the lesson,

  • God teaching us patience as we wait for His answer.
  • God ensuring everything lines up to provide us with a perfect answer given all circumstance, present and future.

I often am humored when I am asked about my pursuit of a relationship with the opposite sex.  This is one of these areas that I feel God is asking me to be patient and is molding me in preparation for what He Himself has in store for me.  God knows that I cannot truly have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex that is healthy, stable and grounded in Him unless I have healed, am grounded myself, and whole in Him and my faith.  When I know and understand my identity in Him, then I am ready to share myself and my love with another that He has prepared for me.

handmade ceramics pottery workshop
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As my life journey moves forward, I see His hands molding and shaping me “like clay in the hand of the potter” through my healing of many deep wounds in several relationships in my life.  I see my life like the feather falling to the earth.  It is slowly moving towards the center of who I am in God, towards my body’s universal pull of love of my Eternal Father.  The virtue of patience is my vehicle to enjoy and embrace the marvelous view along the way.  Sometimes it isn’t easy and the view seems a bit dull, but I know that waiting on God in all things in my life is worth the wait.  The view will be more spectacular as His plan unfolds.

The potter does not form his work of art in a hurry.  He takes his time allowing his hands to gently mold and shape it into his creation.  So to is the work of God.

Are you allowing God to form you like the potter forms the clay? Are you allowing Him to sculpt the intricate details of your inner being? Are you resting in patience as he writes your story unfolding His plan for your well-being?  Just as the feather slowly falls to the ground in the exact place it was intended, so will your life fall into place as you trust and allow God to work in your life.

Traveling together, a journey with one focus

“Just as the wise men traveled together to find Jesus in the manger, so we travel together to find Jesus born in our souls.”  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling

Have you encountered a companion along your journey that has helped you grow in your relationship with God, perhaps in the form of a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a guide?  Have you encountered companions that seem to draw you further from God?  Which one brings you life?

I have had many companions in my short life.  Some have taught me about life, love and faith, some have comforted me, some have inflicted pain and some have guided me.  They all have one thing in common, the journey they accompanied me on was headed to one final destination.  My journey has been a walk through the valley, the desert, the mountainous terrain, along the beautiful springs rushing by and through the fields of a thousand flowers.  I have swam the depths of the ocean and soared on the wings of eagles.  All the while being accompanied by others to a destination in my heart to find Jesus waiting for me.  In the pain and in the joy, in the hardships and in the simplicity of life, there has always been one compass pointing to one direction.  The beauty of it all was that my companions helped me to see this path forward, whether they intended or not.

beige analog gauge
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There are going to be positive guides and companions in my life, spiritual friendships and mentors.  There will also be negative companions that will rip at my spirit, test my strength and weaknesses and prey on my vulnerabilities.  At the end of each day, it is I who am the one discerning the path to take to reach my destination.  When I don’t have my eyes focused on Jesus, I will miss the path to take.  I will wander off onto a path that is lonely and treacherous.  I will have no companion and I will only seek the desires of my self will.  This is when I find myself broken and damaged, depressed and forgotten, hopeless and in disparity.  I will find myself needing companionship to be alive, to continue along my journey.  When I see myself in such a desolate state, it is imperative that I seek companionship.

In the book the “Inner Compass,” Margaret Silf draws on a unique perspective of companionship and our need for others in guiding us to our final destination.  In 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah sees Elisha and when “he came to Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself with the twelfth, Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him.”  What she goes on to describe is the act of plowing a furrow, “your furrow of life.”  Ahead of you, you have 11 oxen, helping you carry the load and keep your eye on the focal point so that you stay on a straight path as you plow.  You are not alone in your journey, you have companions that will help guide you and keep you focused on the destination, Jesus.  We all have a story to tell along our journey, our faith share.  It is in this story, that we see our 11 oxens, our companions that help keep us focused on Jesus.  Perhaps, a few of these companions may be your anamchara, Celtic for “soul friend”.   We also see those that help us become stronger in our faith because of the trials we endure.  In all circumstance it is you and I that are the ones making the choices that mold our story into a faith share that only we can claim.

Are you going to allow others to travel with you “to find Jesus born in [your] soul?”   Are you going to allow them to help you companion with you to keep your eyes on the focal point, Jesus?  He is the destination and the ultimate companion, but He gives you others in your life to let you know you are not alone.  He speaks to your heart through them as they guide you, mentor you, keep you grounded in His love for you.  Have you thought about who are your 11 oxens, who are your “soul friends”?

Magnificence in the details

“Countless, unseen details are often the only difference between mediocre and magnificent.” Author unknown

What details in your life seemed mediocre at the time but brought about a magnificent encounter with your relationship with God once you realized His goodness, His presence and His grace?

What about in your trials and sufferings or in times that seem to not be going the way you planned?  Have you wondered how sweeter they would be if you accept the fullness of God’s grace and surrender to His will in the midst of what is going on in your life?

Almost every morning, I begin my day with a walk to clear my mind and to ask that God be present with me in my day.  When I begin my walk, I ask God to reveal to me what He would like for me to see on my walk.  Sometimes He teaches me about life or connections in my life through observation of the ducks or the movement of the water.  Today as I walked along the quiet path seeking God’s guidance, I noticed the remnant of a recent storm that cluttered the path with leaves, twigs and pine needles.

As I continued to walk, my mind kept wondering back to the debris on the path.  How often in my own storms of life have I felt everything had been blown around, cluttered, out of “wack”?  I walked back around to the spot on the path that appeared to have the most debris.  As I looked down, I noticed the pine needles touching one another, the leaves over lapped each other and was reminded how intricate each detail of my life is connected.  Even in the storms, there are connections to the beauty and joy in my life.  In fact, it is through the rubbish that I am able to see the beauty and God’s goodness in my life.  Often times, it isn’t until after the storm has passed when I see His grace.

So I sit and wonder how much sweeter would it be to see the fullness of His grace in the midst of the storm?  Would I feel an immense joy?  Would the suffering appear to be full of love?  Would my heart feel alive?  Would I be overcome with peace?  What emotions would sweep over me?  Would I experience the same feelings Jesus felt as He experienced His passion?  If so, what would those feelings look like?

Whatever the feeling may be it would be Divine experiencing the grace that God gives me in that moment. To see the details, when I am in the middle of these moments of chaos and trials, through the eyes of God could only be magnificent compared to the mediocre view that I see when I don’t allow myself to receive His grace in these times of struggle.

Each day as I grow closer in relationship to God, I am beginning to pay attention to the small details in my life and see the beauty He reveals to me on my continued journey with Him. I truly see the magnificence in the smallest details of life as I become more aware. Through awareness, I can piece these details together like a puzzle and find meaning that speaks to my heart and my discernment in life.

Are you allowing yourself to be open to the fullness of God’s grace in the midst of whatever it is you are struggling with in life? Can you see the details that radiate His magnificent goodness present within these moments or are you caught up in the moment and only see the mediocre rubbish of the storm? Have you taken a short walk and experienced the tiniest detail in nature that speaks directly to your soul, revealing God’s love to you? If not, take a 10 minute walk and just pay attention to all that is around you, the rubbish on the ground, the butterfly on a blade of grass, even the tiniest ant walking along the sidewalk. You will be amazed at the connection and the beauty you discover.

Discovering purpose in the ashes

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  1 John 3:1

“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

Ever wonder what your purpose is in life?  Have you asked God what He created you for – what your purpose is?

Over five years ago, I found myself asking that very question.  My life felt very numb.  I thought I had a purpose but wasn’t sure what it was.  I remember praying, asking God what my purpose was.  A few months later, I was asked to be involved in a new ministry in the church, which was a catalyst in my relationship with God.  On the surface, I thought the invitation to start the new ministry was God answering that question and leading me to a purpose of being more involved in the church.  What I realized through the events in my life that followed and through my growing relationship with Him in my faith and through the foundation I was establishing in the Church,  that the answer God was revealing to me was that my purpose was to receive His love.

Today that message is so vivid as I look upon the ashes in my life, the chains I have broken.  With those chains, I could not receive the LOVE of God in its entirety.  I had to release my past, my feelings of rejection, fear, not being good enough, and not being loved.  Today, those ashes of my past have revealed a love so great that I know my purpose and it is a very simple purpose – TO RECEIVE THE LOVE OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER.  There were things in my past that prevented me from being able to receive His love.  When I cried out to Him over five years ago, He placed me on a path to see that my purpose was simple – allow myself to be loved by Him.

Everything else freely falls from accepting God’s love.  Fulfilling His Will becomes incredibly easy once we embrace this love by living it, breathing it, tasting it, giving it to others and receiving it from others.

Have you opened your heart to receiving the LOVE of God, completely?  Do you have walls or chains preventing you from receiving this immense love?  Perhaps you have some unforgiveness buried deep within your heart that is building a dam from this life giving water of love?  Perhaps you are hanging on to a lie that you aren’t good enough to receive it?  Whatever your story may be, your past, place them in the fiery pit and let the ashes be swept away by the breath of the Holy Spirit as you embrace the greatest gift in your life, a gift of LOVE that your Heavenly Father wants to give you because you are His child and nothing can take that away.