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.

l o v and e scrabble pieces
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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?

shoes child clothing pregnancy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

ducklings-chicks-mama-duck-160509.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

cave near body of water at sunset
Photo by Jeff Nissen on Pexels.com

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?

What walls obstruct your view of God?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you…. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you…. Fear not, for I am with you;”. Isaiah 43:1-7

stones wall
Photo by 500photos.com on Pexels.com

Who is God for you? How does God see you? Is God a loving, tender and forgiving Father? Or is He a tyrant, task master, and disciplining Father? Do you think God sees you as a beautiful child of His, wonderfully made, faults and all? Or do you think God sees you as a constant screw up, someone He is ashamed to call His?

Our experiences in earthly relationships sometimes dictate who God is to us and how we think God sees us. If you have bad experiences with earthly relationships, it can have a negative impact on your relationship with God. You may build walls that prevent you from growing in a deeper, more intimate, loving relationship with Him. You may have walls of judgement, lack of trust, inability to feel loved, shame, failure and the list goes on. Each of these separates your ability to experience the greatest love of your Heavenly Father.

Walk through this journey with me. Each day, you get up, go to work or may be you stay at home doing daily tasks.  Your day ends, you go home, rest and get up the next day and do everything over again.  Simple, nothing extraordinary or bad happens and life goes on.  One day, you wake up and the day is different, life suddenly becomes complicated and it feels like you are caught in a raging river and are drowning.  You reach up and feel a hand holding on to you.  It is God holding you because He will not allow you to be “swept away”.  As your life spins out of control, this trial you are suffering through feels like you are being consumed by a blazing fire.  Suddenly, you feel an immense feeling of peace, a warmth in your heart you never have felt before.  As you suffer in this heated moment, you are being purified just as the impurities of gold are separated from its surface in extremely hot temperatures.  God is purifying you into the precious gem he formed you to be and you can feel the transformation.

As you are emerging from this fire, He speaks ever so gently to your heart telling you what you mean to Him. He says you have been redeemed. So all the sin and shame you feel, is not the judgement He passes on to you. When you screw up, He wants you to let Him embrace you tightly with His loving forgiveness, not punish you for your wrong doing. When you didn’t hear Him call you, He wants to continue to direct you towards His calling by sending you His voice in another or direct you by means of another way that you can hear Him.

He wants you to know that you are precious in His eyes and He loves you. If you have been in unloving relationships or an unloving family, you may have trouble with accepting and receiving this unconditional love from God.  Over time, you built walls that place limits on God’s love, preventing you from seeing Him as a loving Father or being able to receive His love for lack of loving yourself yet He looks at you and sees a gem within you, behind the walls you have created.

So how do you remove these walls that are invading your view of who God is and how he sees you, so you can experience His unconditional love and mercy, see Him as the loving and forgiving Father? How do you see yourself through His eyes, see how beautiful and precious you are to Him?  Perhaps it starts with uncovering the cause of the wall, loving and forgiving yourself, loving and forgiving others, and looking to God like a little child. Pick up your sledge hammer, His Word and prayer, and destroy these walls.  Open your arms and heart and receive His love, see yourself as He sees you – the most beautiful pearl shining before His eyes.  Let His hands lead you through the waters and through the fire, accepting His forgiveness and knowing He is always there giving you love and mercy.  He is not dictating, judging, and punishing you for who you should be and are not, for what you should do and have not.  He is embracing you for who you are, even in your weakest, most sinful moments.

Motherhood – A Unique Gift

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I wanted to honor all mothers on the beautiful gift of motherhood that God reserved just for you.

A delicate flower
Grown from a seed
A design like no other
One would concede

As strong as an army
As gentle as a dove
She inspires and uplifts
With a nurturing love

Patient and trustworthy
Supportive and caring
Clothed with beauty
Vibrant and glaring

A heart like the ocean
Stretching to no end
She embraces her role
Like the touch of the wind

Grown in His garden
A mother is she
To fulfill His desire
Through all eternity

God created mothers with very unique gifts.  He knew that she would be exhausted at times, so he made her stronger and more determined.  He knew that she would be unappreciated at times, so he gave her little embraces of love.  He knew that she would feel that she wasn’t good enough at times, so he gave her little rewards of her hard work.  

Men were created with a physical strength and women were created with the strength of compassion.  I know there are many times that many mothers feel exhausted, underappreciated and that they are failing their children as they try to balance life or experience tough teaching moments.  Some moms stay at home, some are working moms, some are single moms and some are beautiful moms to others.   With each variety, each mom has a role and that role is unique to each child.  It’s unique in the way she loves each child, unique in the way she supports and encourages each child, and unique in the way that she teaches each child discipline and to survive in this world.  Each mom has one thing in common, she was created with compassion and love that connects her heart from that of God to another.  As she recognizes this, she fulfills his role as mother perfectly.

Along my journey as a mother, I have struggled and adjusted wanting to make sure I teach my children to love God and others, be accountable, responsible, trustworthy, respectful and above all the “best version” of who they are.  In doing so, I have tried many techniques, some that were successful with one child and not the other and some that failed miserably.  Above all, 3 things that have never failed:

1.       Praying with them before bed

2.      Reading the Bible with them and/or a devotion centered on a verse

3.      Encouraging and challenging their abilities

There have been frustrating moments where I felt they were not listening or paying attention and what I was doing had no value.  Just when I needed it most, God would send me a message through one of them revealing the impact in their lives.  One of these moments happened on an evening I was exhausted and needed reassurance that I was fulfilling my role as a mother and role model in my children’s lives.  That evening, one of my daughters told me she needed to tell me something.  She said, “Mom, thank you for having us read the Bible.”  She continued to tell me why this made such an impact and then told me, “Mom, you are a good mom.”  My heart was full and I knew God was beside me, letting me know that I’m doing my role to my best, that I am making an impact on these young souls.  I am not going to always get it right, but the things I will get right are the things that will matter the most.

Today as Mother’s Day approaches, know that you were created for this role as a mother and no one else could do it but you.  He knew that your children would need empathy and compassion, so he gave them you.