How much do I love thee?

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us; God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10

Have you told yourself you love you lately?  If not, take a moment and do so.  And then take a moment and ask God how much He loves you?  How did He respond?  Did you find the answer unexpected?  What about when you told yourself you loved you?  Did you find that difficult?    

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:  The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.  This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.  For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”

Love seems so natural and so simple yet we struggle with it.  We probably struggle with loving ourselves more than anything.

WHY?

I think we are the hardest critics of ourselves.  We see every fault, every failure.  We know every hurt, every negative word said to us.  I think these things aid us in the inability to truly love ourselves, to truly love the person God created in us.  We fail to see the person God sees in us because of the awesome critics we are.  So if you truly listened to God once you asked Him how much He loved you, I’m sure you received a very different answer than you expected.  Sometimes, we just don’t have the capacity and the ability to see how unconditional God’s love is.  It is a hard thing to grasp because of our sin and what we see within us.

I want to share a personal story of a young woman who knew God, yet didn’t have a friendship with Him.  She had not allowed Him to companion with her for many years throughout her life.  Her vision of God was as a disciplinary, one who saw her faults and was displeased with her.  One day, she found herself lost.  She looked up to the Heavens and began to pray.  As the days went by, she began to notice this growing desire for something.  She began to read books about God and her faith.  As she read and as she went to Mass, her heart began to desire more.  As the “bread of life” was raised before her eyes, she felt this ache in her heart.  When she approached the Eucharist, she felt this grave anticipation and hunger as her heart began to beat faster.  She had received Holy Communion for years and had not felt this deep desire to consume the Host of her Lord.  As she consumed it and drink the blood of Christ, she felt this warmth consume her and immediately a tear fell from her cheek.  In that instant she realized the love that her Heavenly Father had for her.  Every Mass thereafter, she longed to receive Jesus, to feel herself being transformed through the love He has for her in the sacrifice He made for her and does each time she goes to Mass.  This desire continued to grow throughout the days, the weeks and months.  She found herself almost daily at the foot of the Host, soaking in the very presence of Jesus in Adoration.  His comforting embrace in her sorrows of her days were her “refuge and fortress.”  She couldn’t wait to rush off to go have lunch with Him, to soak in His love that radiated in the silence of her heart when she was before Him in the chapel.  This love grew beyond what she could ever have imagined.  He was present when she was weak, when she needed comfort from her tears.  He gave her strength to endure the days ahead and courage to follow Him.  He protected her and calmed her fears and lifted her up on eagles wings to fly over the sea of despair into the heights of the mountains.  As she saw all that He was doing in her heart and in her life, she began to place her trust in Him.  Her life, through suffering, flourished in love as she had found her first true love and entrusted her life into His hands.  She had discovered a loving friendship that had been pulling her from the day she was born that would fulfill her greatest desire of communion with Him into an unimaginable happiness – through her joy and pain.  She knew this flame of love would never burn out.  It may be a little dim at times but will always be refueled through the thirst and hunger that is always fulfilled in the love of her Heavenly Father and the sacrifice of her Lord as she receives the grace from the “bread of life” and “the fruit of the vine.”

God meets us where we are and when we are open and ready to receiving Him.  Sometimes that time is in the midst of a trial in our lives.  When that time comes, a true love story is sprouted.  It is an unimaginable love that grows beyond anything you have experienced.  If you haven’t opened your arms to receive the love God is waiting to share with you, today may not be a bad day to start.  Blessings always.

 

Heart of the matter

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Have you been struck with unforgiveness?  If so, have you looked at the weeds surrounding your heart?  Do you want to de-weed your garden planted within you?

For some reason, I feel a great desire to write about “love”.  It seems everything I have been reading is about love.  The daily readings have been about love, a few devotions I have read, and a book on friendship with Christ.

It is difficult for us to love when our heart is “of stone”.  Typically, our hearts become rigid and crystallize into a hardened substance that prevents love from being able to filter through when we have been hurt or lost trust with someone and we can’t forgive them or won’t forgive them.  In Ezekiel 36:26, God tells us He will give us a heart transplant by removing the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh.  The only way He can do that is if we create space for Him to do so, chiseling a small crack in the stone by forgiving those who have hurt us, those who have betrayed us, those who have trampled our pride or caused pain and discontent of some sort.

Forgiveness is hard because we often feel that person isn’t deserving or that it is justified to be angry or upset with that person.  What we don’t realize is that the pain doesn’t go away until we forgive.   The anger and bitterness is what crystallizes our hearts to the point of separating us from “LOVE”, from God.  When forgiveness surfaces, breaking even a tiny pinhole in the stone, God is able to do His work and renew the heart of stone with a heart of flesh, literally melt away the hardness and de-weed His garden within you.

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I personally have wrestled with acts of forgiveness with people who have hurt me, betrayed me or dampened my pride.  What I have discovered is that when I have allow myself to break the wall of unforgiveness, my spiritual being becomes victorious, joy flourishes and in that joy I find love and a closer union with Christ.

God commands us to love one another.  In fact, Jesus gives us this as the second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-39.  Love is crucial to our Christian faith, because if we don’t have love, we become separated from God.  If we cannot forgive our neighbors or ourselves to allow love to overcome our heart transforming it from stone to flesh, then we become lost in the weeds that surround our heart.  God created us to desire Him.  He has written it within our hearts (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27) and it’s what draws us closer in relationship with Him, to a friendship with Him.  It is through the love of God we were created and through the love of God, the sacrifice of His “only begotten Son” that we exist through all of eternity.

St Teresa of Calcutta said that “joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.  A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”  To fulfill God’s will for us to help each other reach the gates of Heaven, we must first have love, love of self and love of one another.  Let God’s desire for you written within your heart, flourish and nurture the seed He planted when He created you.

The affect of self gratification

For St. John Paul II, the opposite of love is not hatred; rather, the opposite of love is to use someone as a means to our own selfish ends.  “Theology of the Body for Beginners”

This is not a topic I feel comfortable writing about but it is a topic I feel God is tugging at me to write about.

Have you read “Theology of the Body for Beginners”?  If not, you should hop on Amazon and order it now.  This little book contains the greatest secret to love – to give of oneself.

When I read this book, God’s desire for me became so clear.  His desire for me is to praise, honor and serve Him (St. Ignatius of Loyola “The Principal and Foundation”) by loving others as He loves me.  By loving one another, we are gifts to each other.  So why is love a difficult topic to write about?  Perhaps is not so much love that’s hard to write about but the affects of distorted love.

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Two topics I want to explore: self gratification and pornography, one being the result of the other.

What is self gratification?  It is seeking satisfaction for oneself and not considering another.  You cannot love someone if your love consists of “what’s in it for me?”  This is exactly what our late Pope, St. John Paul II states the opposite of love is.  If your expectation is for someone to satisfy your every desire, you will never be full.  This kind of love is the definition of lust, “personal inclination,” as defined by Webster.  In the “Theology of the Body for Beginners,” Christopher West, states that “only a person who is free from the compulsion of lust is capable of being a true gift to another.”  If self gratification is our method of love, then we are using others not loving them and we can never be a gift to another as God desires us to be.  We can only love by giving of ourselves to another, through our actions of selflessness.  Love becomes an object of lust when we only look for what the other person can do for us in a relationship, how they can satisfy our needs.

Our society has distorted love through the sinfulness of lust.  The greatest source of this being pornography.  Pornography has desensitized our society in what is moral and what is not.  Not too long ago, I was wearing a white ribbon for the end to pornography, a lady at work stopped me in the hall and asked me what the ribbon was for.  I told her that it was for the fight against pornography.  She looked at me and told me, “but that’s where all the good ideas come from.”  I think my face displayed a grave expression of shock.  The sad fact is that a large percent of our society thinks that pornography is okay and would respond just as this lady did.  Pornography is an act of treating another person as an object for the self gratification of another – the viewers.  God never intended us to be used for the purpose of another but to be loved in regards for ourselves.  The domino affect from pornography filters into so many areas of our society – human trafficking, sexual abuse, affairs, broken marriages, etc.  It is binding the hearts of so many and creating a world of objective love, distorted from the true love of God present in our lives, in the Eucharist.

How do we end pornography?  I think it starts with prayer for those engaged in pornography to see it as the object of lust and the opposite of love, to begin to take control of the heart and exhibit love that supports a giving of self instead of taking of another’s dignity.  We can also educate our younger generation on the affects of self gratification, of lust and teach them to love as Christ loves.  The Sacraments are also another vehicle to ending this plague, by receiving the graces from God, freely given to each of His children, to fight the temptation and desire of self love and lustful desires.

God created us to love one another, not to use one another for our own selfish desires.  Emptiness is a result of seeking love through self satisfaction.  Let’s pray for fulfillment through the true act of love for one another and an end to a distorted selfish view of love.

If the human heart is a deep well, it is true that murky waters abound.  But if we press through the mud and the mire, at the bottom of the well we do not find grime and sludge.  We find a spring that, when activated, gradually fills the well to overflowing with pure, living water.  This spring is the ‘deeper heritage’ of our hearts. “Theology of the Body for Beginners”

 

The voice of those with no freedom of speech

“You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb.”  Psalm 139:13

As we approach the day of our independence and celebrate our freedom, I wanted to ask you to be the voice of those who have no freedom of speech, the unborn.

Abortion is a very hot topic in our society and has become a choice that many feel has no consequence, as if the life never existed. For others, the pain of that choice lasts a lifetime.

I know a few women who have made the choice of abortion and as they tell their story, a sorrow comes over their eyes, revealing an unbearable pain. It is an event in their lives they will never forget and will always wonder what could have been. Their love for the aborted baby is deep within searching for forgiveness as they bear the weight of the choice they once made.

Why do people make the choice to abort? Why do people support and practice the act of abortion?

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I watched a movie the other day called “Life Changes Everything”. In the movie, a young man asked his girlfriend to abort their child. The story unfolds as if she made the choice to not abort and the father left her alone to raise the child. The child grew up to be a doctor, a doctor who finds the cure for cancer and cures his father in a human trial. At the end of the movie, you realize the mother made the choice to abort and the story was a story of what could have been.

Consider another major life in our history.  Think about the Annunciation, when St Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she will have God’s son. If Mary would not have accepted God’s will to carry Jesus in her womb, the history of salvation would have never been as it is. If she said no, would it have been any different than a mother’s choice to not carry a life within her womb by choosing to abort?

Just as in Mary’s obedience to accept the life of God’s son within her womb, we as humans should also accept the life of God’s children that He Himself has formed in the womb. It is His will that this life is created.  He knit each in the mother’s womb.

How many aborted babies could have been world leaders that change the face of our society? How many could have discovered the cure for cancer, or saved hundreds of lives as an ER doctor or a trauma surgeon? How many could have been priests or ministers sharing God’s love to the world? How many could have led causes to end poverty, aid in sheltering the homeless, adopted an abandoned child? This list could be endless on what God’s plan for each one of these seeds of life could have been or done.

So again why does one human life choose to end another life that has no voice, no freedom of speech? Is it the lies of fear, selfishness, shame, acceptance, and pride that cause disobedience to the will of God? My friends, Satan has a great target – the voice unspoken, the voice with no freedom of speechthe unborn. If we, God’s children do not speak up, do not pray for these lives, then who will? Today, say a prayer for the end to abortion, for the mothers discerning the decision to abort, for those who practice the act of abortion and support it. Through prayer, you are being their VOICE.

How do you view God?

“He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.” Psalm 91:4

How do you view God?  Is He a loving and compassionate God?  Or a tyrant with boundaries?  Does He offer you safety and comfort or does He abandon you?

I think throughout our life our vision of God may change depending on the stage we are in, our particular season. It’s quite interesting because God is never changing. It’s difficult for our minds to grasp that because we relate God to our human relationships. These change, sometimes daily, and so we think God’s relationship with us also changes.

I’ve struggled a lot with how I see God. In my feeble mind, I often viewed God as a task master and if I didn’t follow the rules or the task, he would reign down a judgement of dissatisfaction.

My dad was very strict on me as a child. I was a Navy brat for some time. If I didn’t follow the rules, there were consequences. I also don’t recall being very close to my dad as a child. He was absent a lot in my life as I was growing up, some because of work and other times due to circumstances between him and my mom. As I grew into a young adult, my relationship with my dad was very strained, resulting in feelings of dissatisfaction and judgment in my relationship with my dad.

I share this because I think this has had a huge impact on who God was to me. People in our lives, especially our male relationships, tend to be our connection on how we envision God. If those relationships are not so good, we can have a very despairing vision of who God is for us. Today, my relationship with my dad is much better and my vision of God is morphing into a God of comfort and protection, a God who has all the best intentions for me because of His enormous love for me.

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I find nature can teach us so much of who God is. Yesterday, as I was walking around the pond at work, I noticed 2 ducks. At first, I did not see the very tiny ducklings nearby. These ducklings were a short distance away from the adult ducks, assuming the parents. When they saw me nearby, they all waddled to the parents, hovering under and around. This painted a perfect picture of how God provides refuge to us as King David states in Psalm 91, “He will shelter you with His pinions and under His wings you may take refuge”. As I watched, my heart filled with completely peace and love because God had just revealed to me exactly how He protects me, provides me shelter and loves me each day of my life.

What have you seen lately that has revealed God’s protection, comfort, love and compassion? If you open your eyes and your heart, He will uncover who He is for you through everything around you. Pay attention to nature, you never know what He will show you.

An Intimate Relationship With Jesus

“Let me caress your soul. Let me soothe its wounds… Have great confidence in me…, Have a great love for me. See here, I will feed you from my own hands and let you drink from the inside of my heart, like a little white dove. There I will give you even more, more love… I will feed you with my substance…because I am yours… because I was born to come near to you… because I died so that even in eternity you would be all mine.”  Holy Hours, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

What if Jesus spoke these words to you? What if he is speaking to you now but your mind is too busy to hear him? What kind of emotions would it stir? How would you feel? Let your walls down, breathe in and out and reread the quote above from Holy Hours and hear Jesus speaking these words to you.

Open your mind and let him feed your soul. Open your heart and let him pour his heart into yours. Do you feel the immensity of life bursting from your soul? Is your heart burning with a fiery love for him?

Now imagine his body before you – in the tabernacle, the monstrance, the host raised before you. Do you want to take part? Do you want to be fed?

He says “this is my body… this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-28) and if you eat it and drink of it, you will have eternal life (John 6:54).

He is yours and you are his. Let him caress you, hold you close and love you. Take part in this intimate relationship.

Now that you have imagined, evaluate your relationships in your life.  Do they resemble this intimate love, intimate relationship?

This past week while I was on vacation, there was a couple in line behind me.  Not intending to listen to their conversation, I overheard something that was very familiar and close to my heart.  The wife, in a very frustrated, upset tone, made a comment to her husband about how he was looking at other women while she was next to him.

I mention this story because this is a result of a relationship that lacks the intimacy of Christ’s love.  If we are fed by Christ, then we would not desire this self gratification of sexual desire or lust.  He would guide us in what true love, true sacrifice of self, true connection of heart and soul is like as we embark in intimate relationships with the opposite sex.  In knowing this truth of sacrificing love, true intimacy and beauty of life, the world would have less failed marriages.

Ladies, if you are not married, date Jesus before you embark on a serious relationship.  If you are married, hopefully your spouse doesn’t have a problem with you dating Jesus together to improve the intimacy and selfless love of each other.  Feel what true intimacy feels like.  Experience the meaning of self sacrificing love.  Then model this love and if you are not married search for it to be reciprocated.  If you find it, you have met your soul mate, the one intended for you by God.

Be fed by the body of Christ and satisfy your thirst from the depths of his heart.  Let him caress you and set you on fire, bringing you life through all eternity.

Not good enough syndrome

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”  Psalm 139:13-14

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Do you struggle with self worth?  Do you tell yourself you aren’t good enough?  May be you tell yourself you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or worthy enough?

Many of us suffer from the “not good enough” syndrome.  In most cases, we don’t see our worth and value but everyone around us does.

Were you ever caught off guard when someone told you that you had a beautiful smile and were beautiful?  May be someone complimented you on a project you completed that you didn’t think was done well?  May be in your weakness, someone saw your strength and endurance prevail and you were awestruck by their comment on how strong you are?

Sadly, we are the hardest on ourselves.  We are often our own worst enemy.  We find it hard to love ourselves, feel deserving of love, and worthy.  Yet our hearts desire love.  We were made for love, made to receive and to give love.  Why is it so difficult to love ourselves?  Why is it difficult to see ourselves as God sees us, “wonderfully made”?

I have suffered greatly with self worth and acceptance.  Growing up, I had low self esteem.  I would rather be hidden, blended into the background, than draw attention to myself.  My family often told me I was pretty.  I never believed them.  I didn’t feel pretty.  I didn’t think I was.  I just thought they told me that because they were my family.  As I became an adult, this low self esteem expanded like a marshmallow in a vacuum chamber.  If you haven’t seen a marshmallow in a vacuum chamber, as you pull vacuum on the chamber, the air bubbles trapped in the marshmallow have a higher pressure than the surrounding chamber and the pressure of the air causes the marshmallow to expand and it gets really big.  This expansion of low self esteem became very evident in my marriage.

In my marriage, my self worth was the size of a tiny seed.  I never felt beautiful, never felt I could do anything right. It wasn’t until after my separation that I began to find myself and my self worth. It was my faith that pointed me in the right direction, the direction to my heart, centered on a God who loves me.

I won’t say that I still don’t go back to the “not good enough” syndrome, because I do. Today, that often hits me when it come to my role as a mother and sometimes even the things I think God is calling me to do. Fear is not good enough’s best friend. Both keep you from being the person God created you to be. Both place you in a cave and fill your mind with lies.

Are you going to let the lies convince you, you aren’t good enough? Are you going to turn off the vacuum chamber and shrink the marshmallow called “not good enough” into a small speck? Are you going to tell yourself, you are “wonderfully made”? And lastly, are you going to thank God for the wonderful work you are?