Are you treading the muddiness of life or seeking life giving springs?

“Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”

This morning as I walked along the pond at work before starting my morning, I noticed murky water surrounding the outer boundaries of the pond. As I asked God to reveal himself to me along my walk, I peered towards the fountain towards the center of the pond. As my eyes moved towards the center, I noticed the water wasn’t as murky.

As I continued to walk, I began to contemplate my exterior and interior being. Just like the outer realm of the pond, there are things on the external that muddy my life, causing confusion and lack of clarity. When I gazed towards the fountain, I could see the life giving springs at the core of who I am. That spring is God Himself living within me. I can choose to go to this core and clear up the murky waters or I can choose to live on the exterior treading through the muddiness of life.

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Of course God didn’t stop there out at the pond.  As I entered the building, on the wall I noticed a poster hanging that said “Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”  Funny – this poster has probably hung in this same spot since I’ve worked at this campus the past 10 years.  I have walked past it quite a number of times and never really realized the words printed on it.  Yet, today as I’m reflecting on the gradient changes in the pond, I see this poster and realize the words on it are more food for thought for me in this very moment.  You think it was a God moment?  You bet it was.

I asked myself what does it mean to me to go to that center, that living water that resides within me and each of you?

  1. Asking God to desire Him, to desire holiness, to desire life.
  2. Receiving the graces He offers us.
  3. Change.

I’ve been reading “Finding God in all things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, by William Barry, S.J.  In the book, he points out that our desires are not under our control.  If we are unhappy with what we desire, then we must ask God to change or help us overcome those desires.  It is only through our realization that God is in control of our being, even our desires, that we can request to desire Him first, to desire sanctity and this life giving water.

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Once we have the desire for this life giving water, then we will search out and take part in that which offers us grace – the Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I believe when we receive the graces God offers us, we begin a transformation within us that is life giving and brings us into the core of who we are in Christ.  This starts with our conversion but doesn’t end there.  The more we are open to receiving the gifts God offers us through this living spring within us, the more change we undergo and the greater God illuminates through us, revealing Himself to others.  This is our call to discipleship, to building the Kingdom of God.  My friends, the greatest vision I have had is to look upon another sister or brother in Christ and see Jesus looking back at me through that person.  Over the years, there have been many sisters and brothers that have reflected the very essence of Christ in my presence through their unending love, compassion and mercy.  Today, that is our challenge, in a world full of brokenness, to reflect the image of Christ from the core of our being onto our brothers and sisters, especially those that hurt us the most.

Where there is love

“Where there is love, obstacles disappear, thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls.”  Before the Altar, Concepcion Cabrera De Armidarose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469.jpeg

In our life, God gives each of us a tool – His gift of love.  Love is not just a feeling, it is an action.  Love is the basis for trusting in Jesus and accepting God’s will.  Trust in Jesus is absent without love.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida explains it perfectly in her meditations Before the Altar,“ where there is love, obstacles disappear thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls”.  Filling our soul with Jesus’ love allows us to trust Him, to detach ourselves from the things of this world and rely on the will of God.  This love is an infinite love that pours out and satisfies all desires of the heart.  With that satisfaction comes a renouncement of self and reliance on God.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida also states, “where there is love, the heart is filled with the most sublime aspirations, with irrepressible zeal and fiery ardor, with a thirst for purity, a hunger for martyrdom, endless crosses and an unlimited confidence in God.”

What does it mean to fill your soul, your heart with Jesus?  Can Jesus occupy your heart if it is filled with self-love, pride, egotism?  One must renounce oneself, surrender to God, void the heart and soul so that only Jesus can occupy it.  Allow Him to come into your heart and occupy it completely, to reign as King in your heart.  You will be consumed with a love that is larger than anything and God will reveal more to you.  He will give you more trials with more victories.  He will show you areas in your life where you have relied on yourself versus Him.  

This is where I found myself many years ago, embracing this love.  As I embraced it and consumed it, releasing myself, God revealed much more to me in my life.  He revealed areas that I knew I had to change.  The struggles came and the strength overpowered them.  There were times that I would reflect on a situation and wonder how I was able to react the way I did, how I was able to overcome it.  In many cases, it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t the way I would have normally reacted.  It was larger, it was an act of a consuming love, a greater confidence in God.  It was Jesus reigning in my heart as King, His heart beating in unison with mine.  He was the center of it all. 

Love is the foundation of it all.  It allows you to trust in God and let Him provide the strength to lift the burdens of your crosses you bear in your life.    

How does love provide this foundation to trusting God and carrying you through your struggles?  Concepcion Cabrera de Armida speaks of three dimensions of love in her meditation of charity in What Jesus is Like.  She states that we must first love Jesus with all of our heart and soul.  Most of us have this love for Jesus.  Where we begin to struggle is to allow Jesus to love us, the second dimension of love.  Once you have established a love for Jesus, then you can open your heart by your own will to allow Him to love you.  After you have allowed Jesus to come into your heart and love you, then you are giving up your own will to that of the Father.  Jesus wants you to look at Him, gaze upon Him and see this reflection of love He has for you, embrace it and exhibit it.  By soaking in His gaze and reflecting His love, you must completely empty yourself and then you will see the Father through Him and will your life over to Him.  By loving Him and allowing Him to love you, you will surrender to His desires.  This leads into the third dimension of love, to surrender the soul to only pleasing God.  By surrendering the soul to think only of pleasing God, you will resemble Jesus.  Jesus came into the world to seek your love and to surrender His love to you.  By resembling this dimension of love, your eyes and heart will be fixed on God and you will “live in God”.

What is it like to resemble this dimension of love, the goodness of Jesus?  This was another question that pondered my thoughts in the struggles in my life.  How can I resemble Christ – love as He did?  He graciously, lovingly, selflessly carried His cross for mankind.  With every thorn in my life, I weep, I complain, I ask God to take it away.  Is that the solution?  Does God want me to resemble Jesus in these moments?  Does He want me to rely on Him, embrace His love and allow it to overflow during my darkest hours?  How can we resemble Jesus’ goodness to forgive, to love unending, and to be compassionate to suffering?  It is an act of self-sacrifice. 

What does this self-sacrifice look like?  It is emulating Jesus’ compassion, His love and forgiveness to bear the crosses you are given just as He did.  It’s accepting these crosses in your life and asking for strength to bear them.  In What Jesus Is Like?, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida mentions an analogy of the striking of a harp and picking of the petals of a flower to a good soul.  She states that the good soul is like a harp and a flower.  “When it is wounded by criticism and torn apart by ingratitude, it can only respond with harmony and the perfume of goodness.”  This is what Jesus’ soul is like.  He radiates with self-sacrifice and kindness even though He was/is persecuted by mankind.  Through all the trials you experience, you are called to do the same.  You must seek kindness, compassion and love in each moment versus anger and pride.  You must humble yourself, holding true to God, seeking His guidance and strength in each moment of persecution.  Through these acts of love, kindness and humility, He will shower you with His love and He will carry you through any circumstance, big and small. 

How Many Labels Do You Wear?

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Do you wear a label or several? Most of us wear labels. It could be a label that others placed on us or perhaps something we were taught as a child that influenced a belief. Being A Christian, especially Catholic, and being separated and getting divorced caused me to feel like a label was placed on my forehead. The church celebrates family. And I felt I was no longer a part of that because I had placed this label on me based on my belief in the sacrament of marriage. Early in my separation I remember feeling like I would be judged by those who I attended Mass with every Sunday. I was embarrassed, I felt I had gone against church teaching. The feeling was so strong I started attending other Mass times to not feel confronted, questioned or judged. The one constant at the time was my faith in God and the overwhelming grace He gave me to deal with the hurt. I did understand deep within me that this was a path I had to take and that God was holding me and carrying me through it but I still had this label, a “divorced person” in the church. It was a label I placed on myself and wore each time I attended Mass alone or with my two girls. One of the messages at a comedy show I attended was that we should not let our relationship status define us. Who we are in Christ should be what defines us, our status as a daughter or son of a King, and not just any King, “The King”. That goes for all labels we place on ourselves or others place on us. There is a children’s book by Max Lucado that points this out so perfectly, “You are Special”. As long as you allow the labels to stick they will. When you realize Your creator doesn’t place these on you, they will not stick because you are special and perfect. Today ask God to help you see who you are in His eyes without any labels.