Wide open lens… endless possibilities through faith

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the unveiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.”  Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Landrieu Klein

Are you operating in a box?  Are you open to the possibilities God has for you?  Are you constantly looking back or dwelling in your past, unable to move beyond it?

I love these sentences from the book Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God.  The Blessed Mother through her faith and trust in God had an openness when she was visited by St. Gabriel and he told her she would carry the son of God in her womb.  So what about us are we able to place so much trust in our faith and love of God, to be this open to say yes to whatever direction He may be guiding us to, to whatever path He is leading us on?

Today’s readings I find interesting to unpack in relation to my life, especially after reading Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. In the first reading “Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen.”  In her book, Margaret Silf writes about this very passage. One of her dear friends asked her to meditate on it. To his surprise, her reflection was centered around the eleven team of oxen plowing ahead of Elisha.  She goes on to describe the skill of plowing.  When a farmer is plowing, he finds a fixed point to focus on and steadily moves towards it.  She says that when she reflected on this passage, she realized the fixed point in the spiritual life was Jesus and that the oxen teams ahead of us represent those in our life that are guiding us on our journey to the point of reference, Jesus.  In other words, the oxen represent our spiritual friendships, saints, anyone or moment that provides a beacon for us to move forward towards Jesus.  I love this visual because I can see my own yoke of oxen in my life, those that do keep me focused on Jesus.

photo of grass field
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

This morning upon the very great advice of one of my spiritual friends, I meditated on this reading and today’s Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.” As I sat there reflecting on these verses in silence waiting for God to reveal what my “path to life” is, where are my “joys in His presence,” and how will I be able to “delight at [His] right hand forever,” tears were pooling in the corners of my eyes. As I felt them, I asked God what they meant? I guess He thought I needed more tears because that question opened a flood gate of tears. I’m like “really God, not sure that’s an answer.” As I continue to wait for Him to respond on the tears, I could sense that these readings were really talking to me and the last few weeks of me flipping rocks or should I say boulders over in my life that have buried deep feelings within me. My realization in that moment was that these tears were a piece of letting go and opening myself up to a new season in my life – a season of discovery.

I have the beauty of the most amazing spiritual friends, my oxens. They keep me in check and guide me in my journey – whether they know this or not. They help keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as they help me carry the load in my journey. When Jesus says Matthew 11:30, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” I think He helps us to bear the load by placing these people in our life that keep us focused on Him.  This is a very important reminder, another message I was reminded of by one of me spiritual friends this past week.

I also think a key for me today is that with a wide open lens through my faith, there is “life beyond the grave” – this is the “delights at [His] right hand.” And it is the ground of hope that inflames my faith in my heart. So this new season for me becomes a season of discovery, discovering a new path of my life, not looking back at my past but pushing forward with the oxen in my life keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who will always give me joy in His presence.  Perhaps the tears during my meditation were tears of dumping, cleansing the burdens of my past that have filled my vessel so that I can begin to press forward in searching who I am in Christ and what my path of life will unveil.  Part of me is excited to begin this new search, yet a little afraid.  I am blessed that God has given me a gift to turn over the boulders and look deep within myself and recognize that I have a process that isn’t complete.  I also know now why the song “God’s not done with you” by Tauren Wells keeps playing and flooding my eyes when I’m in my car.  God isn’t done with my story.  My story thus far has had a lot of pain, yet a lot of growth and love.  The hands of God have swooped in my life in many ways and taught me there is life beyond the cross, the sun does shine above the clouds.  Now I am ready to begin this new journey of finding myself and moving beyond my crosses.  I embrace what they have taught me and where they have brought me in my faith journey.  Now it’s time to let them go and discover new life, new crosses and new growth.

My dear sisters and brothers, I invite you to allow your faith in God to open your lens and be open to what God has in store for you – may be it’s a new path, may be it’s growth and discovery on the current path.  Whatever it is, be open and obedient, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus as you plow through life with your set of oxen that He has given you to be yoked together, lightening the load. I think this will guide you in seeing your path to life, joys in Christ’s presence and hope in awaiting the delights at the right hand of God.  Blessings on this day the Lord has made.

 

 

A path covered in crosses

“For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you. ‘Don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 NLT

Do you sit and imagine places you will travel?  Roads and trails you will walk?  Perhaps, you sit and dream about walking along the beach on a quiet morning as the sun begins to rise?  Or you imagine walking near the streets of Paris?  Whatever your dreams are, do you imagine a walk with your Lord?

I long for moments I can spend with God, especially in nature.  Nature is where I connect the most with Him.  It’s where I feel I’m open the most to hearing Him and seeing Him in the things around me.  I learn so much about myself and the things in the world that affect me within through watching nature.

Earlier in the week, I was walking around the pond at work and I just asked Jesus to take a walk with me.  Funny thing about it was that He reminded me that He has been walking with me, EVERYDAY.  He reminded me of these little visible signs of His presence in my life – crosses that I see along my path.  These aren’t just any crosses.  These crosses are my crosses.  They are the ones He has helped me carry in life.  They each have a story.  Some of the stories are harder and more painful – I think those are the tougher twigs.  Some are quite small, most likely the pine needles I see in the shape of a cross.  Some have been really hard to carry, they have been buried or embedded within – these are the ones found in the concrete.

img_5399Somedays, I may only see one cross in my path, others 20.  When I see these crosses, my heart leaps for joy and my face morphs a smile.  WHY?  Because I know that each of these crosses has a story that has led me closer to God.  Each has created a greater dependence on Him.  I know this is how to discover trust in God, accepting my crosses with joy.

Of course many of these crosses have come and gone but some still linger.  Today I struggle with the one that is embedded in the concrete.  This cross is one that will reshape me within.  It’s the one that bears the greatest level of pain.  It’s the one that will give me the greatest peace of who I am as God continues to pour into me.

I love hearing songs, reading Bible verses, or reading books that talk about God not being finished with us or Him writing our story, creating music from the chaos, reforming us from the dust.  It is truly in these crosses that God is rewriting our story.  He is rewriting it to align with His story, His plans for us.

The greatest message I could ever tell in my story is trusting in God’s Divine Will and discerning what His Will is by aligning your life to His Will.  Are you willing to allow Him to rewrite your story by accepting your crosses, allowing Him to carry you through them?  I invite you to stretch out your hand and ask Him to take it and walk this journey with you.  And if you happen to see a cross in your path, remember your crosses that He has helped you carry.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and your desires align with His desires.  Blessings!

 

 

A journey defined

“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD.  The LORD will be their trust.  They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream.  It does not fear heat when it comes.  Its leaves stay green.  In the year of drought, it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Have you ever had a Bible verse or two, just speak volumes to you?  What about a few lyrics in a song?  May be you have read a passage in a book by your favorite author or heard words of wisdom from a sage soul that spoke to the inner core of your heart?

Almost three years ago, I attended a retreat and heard the verses in Jeremiah 17:7-8 for the first time, deep within my heart.  I’m not sure that I understood then how much these verses would be the verses that would truly describe my journey.  Although my life began in my mother’s womb, my true journey of faith began six years ago.

I think my story is amazing.  It is amazing because God has laid small and large stepping stones in front of me with an intended purposes.  And I truly believe the intended purposes that He has been leading me to is exactly Jeremiah 17:7-8 -to grow in trust in Him and through this to strengthen my roots in my faith so that no matter where life takes me, it will always produce fruit.

This amazing story of mine is a story of trust.  But this story began with tremendous hurt and lack of trust.  In the darkest hour of that pain, God answered my call.  He literally lifted me out of my situation and He began to lay before a new path.  This path would still not be easy but would refine me, purify my heart and cleanse me from my past.  It would provide me with a new compass and a new focus – “the Lord [would] be [my] trust.”

Through the last six years, my journey has gone through many phases that have lead precisely to this moment.  These stepping stones I have been walking on have each served a purpose of leading me to trusting in God.  I could write a book on the details of God’s hands and feet along the way, the people He placed in my life, the obstacles placed before me and those removed, the books, the readings from the Bible and the list goes on.

Some of the amazing details are centered around the obstacles that seemed to be removed that were in my way at times.  There was no doubt that God’s hands and feet were a part of it.  Most of the phenomenal movements of God’s presence was internally within me.  This is the purification process that has been leading me on the path of trust.  It is the interior spiritual movement that is the description of my journey expressed in Jeremiah 17:7-8.  This is where the external stepping stones have led me to the deep roots, nourished by life giving water, bearing fruit in my life.

In one of Lysa Terkeurst latest books, “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way,” she describes an image of life being shattered to dust.  What she goes on to say in the book is that sometimes our life has to be shattered to the point of dust so that we can be reshaped.  It is through the reshaping that God’s perfect plan for us is placed in motion.  As I look back on my life, I see this very process – my life shattered to fine dust and God picking every ounce of that dust up and reshaping me – from the inside out into exactly what He wants of me.  The root of this process is trusting Him to do so, being vulnerable to the shattering and reformation.  It is here where the fruit is produced, where the dead branches begin to grow new life.

So, when I heard the song on the radio by For King and Country, “God Only Knows,” and tears stung my cheeks, I knew that “God only knows what [I’ve] been through… God only knows the real [me]… God only knows where to find [me]… God only knows how to break through… There’s a kind of love that God only knows.”

Each of us go through some form of struggle in our life where the branches seem to be bare and darkness filters in.  In many cases, life as we know if feels like it has shattered into a million pieces and we don’t know how to pick up the pieces.  I invite you to trust in God to pick up the pieces and reshape you as He leads you on a path of reformation, purifying and perfecting your path He has laid before you.

 

A Merciful Love

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena

Have you met someone you admire?  That one person that has taught you how to be a better person?  That one person that opened your heart to your Heavenly Father, that was a catalyst igniting your faith?

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It’s a day of celebrating God’s mercy.  The devotion of Divine Mercy is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina.  Most importantly, I think this devotion, the messages St. Faustina received and this day of Divine Mercy is a realization to each of us of God’s great mercy that He gives each of us in the graces we receive and ultimately the merciful love He asks of us to give to each other.  This mercy is another expression of God’s unconditional love for us and is illustrated throughout the pages in the Bible.

Divine Mercy

Our response to this devotion of Divine Mercy should be an expression of bringing the love of Christ to those who are broken physically and spiritually.  It is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sharing the love of Christ with those who feel forgotten.  It is as simple as giving a hug to someone who is going through a difficult time and letting them know that God’s goodness is the ultimate consequence of their trial.  It is as simple as volunteering to serve the community in some way.  It is as simple as sharing hope and comfort with an elderly person by spending a little time with them.  There are so many ways we can share in God’s Divine Mercy.  He gives us opportunities everyday. I think the quote by St Catherine of Siena is so fitting – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” That is truly what the message of Divine Mercy is for us in our daily life – to be the person God created us to be by showing His merciful love to the world.

One of the more personal experiences I have had in my life of Divine Mercy was through a few ladies in my life.  These women have impacted my faith journey immensely.  They have been examples to me and have guided me in my faith.  They always pointed me in the right direction when my compass seemed a little out of whack.  They have touched me in a way that led me on the journey of my life, my relationship with Christ.  Jesus said “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. (John 17:20 NLT Catholic Edition)”

I never thought in a million years that I could ever be as they were to me to another.  To share in this gift of God’s Mercy by sharing my faith through my journey, through my continued growth in trusting in God’s Divine Providence is a great blessings that I never realized was so impactful.  Until the other day, I never connected my journey over the last few years as a vehicle of participating in God’s Divine Mercy.  It was the words of a dear friend and sister that helped me to see that my own journey has been an example of God’s Mercy and has impacted those around me even when I didn’t see it.  My heart smiles to see how God can use my own story, my own experience and the transformation in my faith to reveal His unending love to others, His goodness in all things, even the pain and sufferings.  It is in this that I know my pain has produced much fruit in me and through me.  It is humbling to be to others as those who were catalyst in my faith journey were to me. It’s another way of paying it forward – revealing God’s merciful love.

Sharing in God’s love story, His Divine Mercy, is simple.  It’s sharing His love with one another.  It’s taking the opportunity to love on someone in need, to pray for one another, to assure someone that God’s goodness is in everything, especially in those things that appear to be hopeless to our human eyes.

The greatest story I could ever share through my own experiences is the message of Divine Mercy – “Jesus I trust in you”.  It is a message I was introduced to 6 years ago. One of the ladies that impacted my faith journey used to tell me to say these 5 words when my struggles were at their peak.  May this message be a catalyst to many just as it was to me during a period I needed to hear it the most.

“JESUS I TRUST IN YOU”

 

Prayer – my design or God’s?

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

Do you feel frustrated when you sit down to pray and your mind is cluttered with distractions? Do you think the clutter is really clutter or a distraction or is it there for a reason?  Does this clutter or distraction have a purpose in that moment, in your prayer?  What is God inviting you to discover?

Many years ago, I remember walking into my very first meeting with my spiritual director and telling her that I couldn’t pray, my mind was cluttered with all this stuff.  Her response to me was – perhaps you should bring this clutter into your prayer.

I had to chuckle today as I was reading today’s message in “An Ignation book of days” by Jim Manney.  It was exactly this topic – What to do about distractions.  There was a quote from the book “Finding God in All Things” that said exactly what my spiritual director had mentioned to me about 5 years ago – “make the distraction the content of [your] prayer, to hear God’s word in this person, situation, whatever it might be.”

For me during that time period, prayer was a place I went to in order to remove myself from what was going on in my life.  It was my escape, my refuge from my life.  I felt so at peace in my prayer time.  In other words, my moments in prayer FELT GOOD.  They were shear moments of me conversing with God about how He was moving me internally at the time.  At the time, He was helping me move through a key time in my life, so I think that I needed to feel this refuge and fortress from my life -this inner peace, comfort and protection.  So when the clutter hit, it through me for a loop.  It didn’t feel peaceful or comforting – it was far from GOOD.  I know today, it was God inviting me to deal with the things that were cluttering my life, not just my mind.

Over the years, I still feel uncomfortable when a ton of things fill my prayer time that I don’t intend to bring to prayer.  I want my prayer time to be peaceful, to just bask in the presence of God.

As I have grown in my faith journey, I have come to realize that this is me placing God in a box.  When I am frustrated with the clutter, I’m not happy with inviting God to do some of the conversing.

Prayer is a key part of our relationship with God.  In fact it is the kick of flavor in our recipe of our faith journey.  Just as in our earthly relationships we have to allow the other person to do some of the conversing.  We can’t always monopolize the conversation or we won’t really have a great relationship with that person.  When we control or monopolize our prayer time, it is no different than taking the steering wheel from God in our life and directing what we want in our relationship with God and not what He may be inviting us to.

Listening is necessary in any relationship, especially the one we have with God.  Next time, you feel distracted in prayer, listen to what God is inviting you to bring to the conversation and deal with in your life.  It could be the next best thing in your life, a golden opportunity in your journey of life.

I love this song “King of the World” by Natalie Grant.  It speaks volumes to me when I’m trying to control my life, especially what goes on in my moments of prayer.  May God always be the King of your world.

 

Your cross

In the still of the morning, my mind wanders to the path you walked. 

What did you feel when you were condemned to death?  Were tears welling up in your eyes for the love you felt for me as I placed my own sins on the cross that you would carry?

When you picked up your cross, did the thought of me cross your mind as you knew you were offering yourself up for me?  

Each time you fell from exhaustion of carrying your cross, burdened with the weight of the world, did your heart ache?  

When you saw your mother Mary, did sorrow fill your wounded body?

When God sent Simon of Cyrene to companion this journey with you, lifting the weight of the cross from your body, did you feel His overwhelming love and the power of His Will within you?

When Veronica wiped your face, did you feel her kind heart?

With each swing of the mallet when they nailed you to the cross you were carrying, did you feel the sting of each of my sins that you carried along your journey?

This journey I travel through life has a familiarity.  Every corner I turn on my path is strewed with crosses.  Some of these come with great pain and suffering that seems unbearable as I try to carry it alone. Yet some seem light and airy.

You carried one big cross for many and I carry many small crosses.  When I feel burdened with the weight of my cross, you tell me I’m not alone and you send me a companion to aid me in carrying that cross.  Along my path, our Blessed Mother meets me and comforts my sorrowful body with her gentleness.  You send many Veronica’s to show kindness to me, lifting my head and wiping my tears.  

It is in these crosses I pick up and carry along my journey, that I meet you.  I meet you in those around me, the companions you send.  I meet you in the pain, suffering, love and mercy.  I embrace you when I trust in your presence within me as you lift the burdens of the cross.  It is these crosses that become light and airy.  And it is in these crosses that I find true joy, love and forgiveness.  

Have you felt a familiarity with Jesus’ passion?  Do you see the similarities of your crosses in life.  Do you recognize the Simon’s of Cyrene He sends to help you carry your crosses?  Do you recognize the Veronica’s that show kindness lifting your spirits?  Do you feel the gentle embrace of the Blessed Mother comforting you?  Although Jesus endured much more pain and suffering than we may ever endure, our journeys are similar to His when we carry our crosses.  It is in our crosses that we empathize with Jesus’ passion, that we feel close to Him, where we meet Him more intimately.

As Holy Week approaches, I invite you to look at your crosses in your journey – where you were sent a companion, or a kind person, or an embrace of comfort.  Truly feel the passion of Jesus through your own crosses, your own pain and suffering and thank Him for laying these crosses before you.

May God keep you and bless you this Easter season.

How well are you known?

Lord, You have probed me, You know me; You know when I sit and stand; You understand my thoughts from afar.  You sift through my travels and my rest; With all my ways You are familiar.  Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord You know it all.  Psalm 139:1-4

Have you ever sat in a quiet place, perhaps beneath the stars in the dead of night or under the blanket of the suns warmth near a creek or a lake and just wandered how well God knows YOU?

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite Psalms.  I could sit and meditate on this Psalm for hours, bathing in God’s presence as He probes me.  Of course, there may be days I don’t want God to probe me but He does.

brown book page
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I have struggled with seeing God as a God who judges and disciplines.   Viewing God in this light and reflecting on Psalm 139, can be a little bit of a fear factor – seeing God as someone who knows every nook and cranny of my being.  Someone who knows my thoughts, my actions, and my feelings even before I do. What does He think when He sees my ugliness, my sinfulness?  Does He judge me then?  Does He nod His head and say, “there she goes again?”  When I first read Psalm 139, this was my reaction.

Oh no, God knows what I was thinking when I saw Betsy Sue take the last piece of that delicious cake and I’m going to have to go to confession.

God may see the ugly thoughts I have and all my sins but where I find the AWESOME SAUCE in this Psalm, is that God knows me so well that He guides me through life.

I think sometimes we don’t realize this until we go through something major in our lives and we see God’s hands guiding our steps and those around us.  In some cases, we may not see it in the midst of what is going on in our life but it’s revealed to us later.  Other times, it may be something simple, something we read or see.

One day, I was humored when my daughter was reading a daily devotion that spoke directly to her with something she was dealing with that day.  She paused and looked at me and said “how does He do that? How does He know what I was going to be dealing with today?  Did He swap the pages?”  I often wonder this exact thing when I read something that speaks directly to me about what I have been dealing with.  Often it is in a devotion or opening the Word of God and reading scripture.

After reading Psalm 139, I’m not sure why I am ever surprised when God speaks directly to me or guiding me.  After all, He knows exactly what is on my mind, what is in my heart.  I could give testimony after testimony on where I have seen God’s hands guiding my life.

This my dear friends is where surrender and a journey of trust begins.  It’s seeing God’s presence in your life, seeing His hands guiding you, reading something that speaks to your heart because He knows what is on your mind and in your heart.

Wherever you are in life, “even there [His] hand guides [you], [His] right hand holds [you] fast.” (Psalm 139:10)  “[Your] days were shaped, before [you] came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Are you ready to surrender and trust your God who knows you better than you know yourself?  Are you willing to allow Him to guide you along the path that He has already mapped out for you?

Tauren Wells says it so well in his song Known…. “It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known fully known and loved by You.”