Refuge in the rubble

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.  Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea.”  Psalm 46:2-3

Have you experienced the summit of the mountain and suddenly your world begins to shake and you find yourself in the midst of despair?  Or may be you feel your life has always been shaken and you just want a break from the quake that is ever present?

Our life can be shaken by so many things.  It can be loss of a loved one, terminal illness, divorce, addictions, a miscarriage, an unexpected birth – the list goes on and on.  When the rocks start tumbling, where do you run to?  To whom do you turn?

God promises to be our refuge, our fortress, our strength, yet most of us still struggle.  I have been reading a book called “A Friendship Like No Other”.  One of the key points in the book is having a relationship with God, with His Son, just as we have relationships with those before us in the flesh.  In order to have a friendship with someone, you have to converse.  As your friendship grows and trust grows, you begin to share more with that person, perhaps in some cases you share deep thoughts and feelings that you don’t share with others.  If your friendship is stable and strong, you are comfortable talking about moments when you don’t agree, moments you become angry with each other over a disagreement.

What about with God?  Have you felt angry with God when life throws a curve ball and all the rocks begin to crumble, crushing you from the inside?  Do you feel comfortable telling God you are angry with Him, that you don’t understand His ways, that they are too difficult and you can’t follow His ways.  In Matthew 19:16-22, a young rich man approaches Jesus and ask what he needs to do to have eternal life, Jesus tells him to go sell his things and then come follow Him.  The young man goes away sad.  The author of “A Friendship Like No Other”, William Barry, proposes a question, what if the young man stayed and had a conversation with Jesus?  What if he told Jesus how difficult it was to sell all his things, that he just couldn’t do it and he needed help?  Do you think the story would end differently?  Do you think a friendship would have been sprouted if he had stayed and told Jesus just how he felt?

What if we are totally honest in conversation with God, just as we may be with a friend about our life situations that shake our world, turning it upside down?  In the song by Micah Tyler, “Even Then”, in the pre-chorus he sings “Where could I run to?  Where could I go?” and in the chorus when he talks about our world being shaken and the waters rising, he ends with “no matter how it ends You’re with me even then.”  If we are honest with God about our feelings, if we tell Him everything and then ask Him to help us to not be angry, to understand, to follow Him, even then He will stand with us, give us all we need with love, compassion and mercy.  He will carry us through the rubble no matter how long the journey takes.  He does this because His greatest desire is a relationship with us.  He longs for our friendship.

I ask you, dear friends, is your relationship with God a friendship?  Can you converse with Him, just as you do with your best friend?  Do you listen for His response, receive Him?  If not, start today to tell Him everything that is on your mind.  When you can’t pray, tell Him you can’t pray.  When you are busy and you don’t have time for Him, tell Him you don’t have time for Him.  When you are angry because He didn’t answer your prayer, tell Him.  When you find it difficult to accept the things around you and you struggle with following Him, tell Him.  He loves you no matter where you are in your relationship with Him.  As you are more open with Him, your friendship will grow and when your world is shaken, you will know that “even then”, He’s with you clearing the rubble and carrying you through.

In your struggles, when the boulders seem too heavy to move, always remember that with “God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Have you performed open heart surgery on yourself? – God is waiting

“When you look for Me, you will find Me. Yes, when you seek Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me and I will change your lot.”  Jeremiah 29:13-14

Have you or any one you know had open heart surgery?  What about a conversion of faith from darkness to light?

What is the difference between physical open heart surgery and a spiritual open heart surgery?

In the physical sense, open heart surgery consist of any repair to the heart where a surgeon has to create an incision to access the components of the heart.  It’s not really a physical opening of the heart but an opening of the chest.

What about the spiritual sense?  What does it consist of?  I think that when we have “spiritual open heart surgery,” the heart of the spiritual self cracks open as one begins to mindfully seek God and God  begins widening that crack as He pours His light into it.  This is the heart of our spiritual conversion.

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A dear friend of mine reminded me recently that this process has to begin with us.  God does not force Himself into our heart.  He doesn’t make the incision, in a sense.  He waits until their is a tiny crack of true longing for Him within the heart and then He pours into it.  We are the surgeons that make the incision, God then provides all the instruments to repair it, transforming our lives through His light and truth.

I can pin point the exact moment when this happened to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, pray, thank Him or celebrate Him.  I didn’t really know Him as I know my best friend or a member of my family.  I didn’t have a relational connection with Him.  When my mind began to search for a purpose in my life and my heart began to seek God in prayer, longing for more of Him, my life began to change.  A tiny crack was opened and God began to widen that crack by pouring into me, changing me.  My eyes opened, my mind opened, and my soul longed for more as I hungered and thirst for God.  The more I longed for Him, the more He fed me, pouring people into my life, knowledge of Him, love, truth and trust.  My journey hasn’t stopped since.  The crack continues to widen and I continue to grow through the struggles and through the joy filled moments.  He hasn’t stopped pouring people into my life, knowledge, love, truth and trust.  Even when I stumble, I still know the journey is and has been amazing as my heart continues to open – opening a world of truth, miracles and wonder.  This is the spiritual sense of open heart surgery that I have experienced – as my heart has completely undergone a transformation on another level that is divine and exquisite.

Perhaps, you have experienced this transformation in your own unique way.  If not, are you prepared to perform “open heart surgery” on yourself by seeking God with all your heart and allowing Him to do the rest?  A tiny crack is all He needs to fill you with all His glorious wonder.  This Advent seek Him by opening your heart and receive the greatest gift, His friendship.

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.

Love a deeper force of attraction

St John of the Cross, “soul is in God like a stone buried in the earth. The soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth. This attraction is mutual. The force of attraction between the soul and the center of God is not gravity but love.”

Where is the anchor of your heart? What about your soul? Do you feel an attraction to something that is unexplainable? A deep desire for something bigger than your physical life?

St John of the Cross’ metaphor of our soul’s attraction to God by love being similar to a stone attracted to the earth by gravity is a beautiful image.  It reminds me of Margaret Silf’s road map of our lives in the book Inner Compass.  She explains that our lives are comprised of layers: Where I am? How I am? Who I am? The deepest center – I am.

Where I am is my connection to circumstance, the things in my environment I cannot change. This is my past.  It is my family, where I come from, the outer part of me.

How I am is how I respond to the environment, my circumstance and to others. I can love. I can be angry. I can be afraid. I can be merciful and compassionate.  I can accept things or not.  This is where I make choices and affect changes within in myself and the world.

Who I am is my true being. It is who I truly am, where I face my indifference. It’s the comfort and peace of my being and it is the challenges I face as I see the differences between the outer me and the person created by God. This is my spiritual being in the I am that lay at the deepest part of my soul. This is where my relationship with God is, where my seed of God’s love grows and produces fruit.  This is where I journey through prayer, the very essence of my journey.

In our lives, we will move between each of the layers – back and forth. Some people may never move into the who I am because of the risk and the challenges they may face by approaching a relationship with God.  Those of us who do move here may be faced with challenges by seeing the gap between life in the where we are and the person God created us to be.  In this space we gain wisdom, strength, and love.  We begin to find acceptance with joy to circumstance that we cannot change.  It challenges us to see the things where God is calling us to transform to be resurrected from.  This is where our intimate relationship with God fuels a trust in Him.

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As we continue to dive deeper the love of God attracts us to the center, to the deeper core of us. This is where our deepest desires lay. Where we are most in touch with who God is in us and who He created us to be. This is where our anchor is. And everything else should be centered and directed from this point as we transition through each layer of ourself back and forth. Processing circumstance into our action based on who we truly are in the one who created us.

Through this movement, there are times we may have an experience that is not explainable, that is providential.  It is something that is tangential to all the layers of our being.  It is a moment when we have truly been touched by God and he has moved and united all layers fusing our where I am to the how I am and the who I am, driving roots to the center, anchoring our total being to Him.  When this happens His light shines around us, glowing from our center for all to see.  This is a point of spiritual freedom, the top of the mountain in our journey.

Have you allowed yourself to be open to move into the who I am, allowing God to anchor Himself from your where I am to the center of your being, to your heart?

Do you desire holiness?

Before writing these blogs, I try to seek God’s guidance because He knows this audience better than I do. He knows what that one person needs to read to grow closer to Him. In doing so, I pray about what to write and try to be in tune through out my day on anything God may be directing my focus towards. I do believe this technique is how we should each discern God’s will for us in all that we do.

Somedays I see, hear or feel nothing that God is placing before me to write about and other days like today I see connections that I know are not coincidences.  This morning, I flipped a devotion on my desk to today’s date – about a week of flipping, because I do not look at it everyday. The devotion was about holiness. Stormie Omartian the author of The Power of a Praying Woman writes, “God has made a way for us to live in holiness. And He is able to keep us Holy. When our heart wants to live in purity and do the right thing, God will keep us from falling into sin. It is only by the grace of God that we can live in holiness, even after we have chosen to do so. That’s because God enables us to do what He asks us to do. But we still need to ask Him to do it.”

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When I read this, a conversation I had with a beautiful sister in Christ struck me. Just yesterday, I was in a “funk.” I was being the victim. I was needing to vent a little, share my heart a little – just needed a listening being. My friend, whom God has given a gift to nurture others, received my victim mode – for that I am grateful. In the midst of my rambling, I shared with her how I was praying and she made a comment of me being “holy.” I think I had a burst of laughter – thinking to myself, me holy? In fact, I responded, “not really, just found many years ago that my relationship with God is key to life.”

When I examine myself, my life, there is no way I can see myself as being holy. I strive to do what’s right. I feel I’m grounded in my relationship with God. Yet, I sin, I fall, I complain when things don’t align with me, and I’m selfish. My list goes on and on why I cannot achieve holiness.  The slow learner that I am did not realize that my response stated two things my lack of belief in my ability to be holy and my relationship with God that is key to my holiness.  I have heard and read that anyone can achieve sanctity and that is our primary goal as children of God so why do I not see myself as being holy or capable of holiness?

I think God has many lessons for us to learn. Those lessons involve His grace so that we can be open. And this is where my lesson on holiness began this morning. When I read this devotion, I realized that holiness is not a perfection. I’m going to falter. I’m going to fill the victim role at times but it’s God’s grace and my desire to receive it that grounds me in holiness, creating the role as victor in my life. It is ‘my relationship with God’ that brings holiness upon me, not my faults.

Friends, holiness is our strive to see, hear and follow God’s will for us. It is the grace He gives us to do what’s right. It is seeking Him in prayer and the Sacraments to receive this grace freely offered to us. It is in this grace that we receive all we need to align with His will, making it easier to avoid temptations of sin and be righteous. It is here that we are not the victim but the victor and arise to holiness.

Do you desire holiness? Do you embrace your relationship with God above all things? Are you open to hearing Him throughout your day so that your will aligns with His? My dear friends, I think this is our journey to holiness.

 

 

Journey through the desert

Take a journey with me. Let’s walk along a path that seems to have no foot steps in front of us. Perhaps there have never been any or perhaps they have been covered up by the sands.

There is nothing living among the path we walk, everything appears to lack life. As we walk, let’s look at the moments in our journey that did not bring life into us. Look at them closely. Is there anything you can learn from those moments that will breathe life in you today? Something present that will help you with a trial, tribulation or a feeling of unrest?

Walk along this desert floor and feel the heat of each of these moments. Feel the dryness of your faith. Do you thirst for God as you trodden this warm, sand filled land? Do you see a mirage of your Heavenly Father before you inviting you to sift through the sands of the desert in your life, to draw closer to Him by offering these feelings to Him, bringing life upon you? Or do you see a mirage of something that isn’t from God, tempting you to turn back and dwell in the journey behind you suffering death within, clouding your vision to move forward – to see God in the moments of hurt and pain? Which mirage will you turn to? Which one draws you near?

You continue to walk along this journey and notice above your head there appears to be a dove. He flys just in front of you. You have to glance upward to see him. You wonder what is a dove doing in the middle of the desert. Yet you feel an exuberant amount of peace. Could it be the dove’s presence? Can you feel his guidance along your path? Follow him. See where he takes you.

It looks like he is guiding you to a spring ahead? It appears to be a spring of life giving water. Is it another mirage tempting you? Or is it a spring from your Heavenly Father inviting you to dive in His love, accept the grace He has given you? Will you drink from it? Will you dive in? Or will you pass it by because your vision is cloudy and the reality of the spring has been covered up by your conscience?

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It is your choice to drink from the spring of life to come to the table and receive the Eucharist, the life giving body and blood of Christ. It is your choice to dive into the moments of desolation, the moments when God feels distant and search for His presence, His invitation. It is your choice to allow Him to bring life into your being or remain in the desert of death. Which choice will you make today? God will draw close to you in the desert filling you with a spring of life.

Doubt – discovering a deeper relationship

Doubt is but another element of faith. St Augustine

Have you ever considered doubting God or your faith a good thing? Has your doubt sparked a stronger relationship with God? Has God drawn you closer to Him by using this doubt as a catalyst to get your attention?

Doubt is a good source for deeper, more intimate prayer, a deeper, more intimate conversation with God which leads to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. Perhaps the moment where Jesus asks “why have you abandoned me” gives us a pathway to meet Him in a deeper level through His suffering. Although He did not doubt God’s plan, He bore “the same sufferings of our doubts” revealing God’s mercy. Often in the midst of our sufferings we doubt the most. We wonder where is God and why has He abandoned us. We may question His answers or His timing, or we may question His love and compassion. Doubt stirs up a search within us for the God we’ve read about, we’ve heard about and we know.

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There was a time in my marriage when I had great doubt. I was growing in my faith and my relationship with God. My desire for God had gone from about fourth or fifth place to first. Yet there was one major issue that baffled me. My marriage had really begun to spin out of control. What I knew about the church’s teaching on marriage didn’t align with the struggle in my heart. My struggle had become a tug of war between my marriage and my relationship with God. I remember having a conversation with my father-in-law while picking blackberries. He told me that God wants our whole heart but I had chosen to be married and I couldn’t give God all of it. This really confused me. Although I could feel God’s presence and this deep desire for Him, I was uncertain of His plan in my marriage and in my life – the path He had placed me on. As a result of this doubt and confusion, I began to talk to God more intensely, seeking direction. What I discovered was a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him that led me to understanding His will and presence in my life. Through my doubt, I sought clarity and answers and found truth and peace.

Often when you doubt, you are generally out of your comfort zone. You begin to question reason and faith, resulting in questioning God. When you question God, you dig deeper for truth. When you seek truth, it leads you to God’s deep desire – a relationship with you that takes precedence over all things. My dear friends, when you doubt and begin to search, you open the doors for the Holy Spirit to enter. Once that happens, all things are clearer and your oneness with God’s will is ignited. This is truly your “faith in the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

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When you doubt and question God, see it as a gift of discernment, a gift of seeking God deeper. It is in our questions that we are awakened and set on fire in our faith, and our relationship with God. It is in the journey for truth in our lives that He meets us and welcomes us with a love burning bright. Open your heart to doubt and let it bring you closer to your Heavenly Father as you seek Him beyond the depths of the sea.