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.

Are the small sins devouring you?

“Confession is like a bridle that keeps the soul which reflects on it from committing sin, but anything left unconfessed we continue to do without fear as if in the dark.”

–Saint John Climacus

I have been observing this momma duck and her ducklings for about a week or so around the pond at work during my morning walk. Yesterday, as I walked around and noticed the mother duck, I only saw one duckling nestled under her wing. About a week ago, there were around 13.

As I ponder the fact that some other animal had been lurking around and devouring these poor little ducklings for a nice meal, I  couldn’t help but think about how often in my own life the enemy of my soul lurks around waiting to devour me. Ever so sneaking, he preys upon me. He does it in little things – mostly in the small sins I commit and tuck away.  And so often the impact is to my family and friends.

Do you often feel like you are prey to darkness? Have you hidden away small sins or may be big sins deep within?  Do you ever feel like these small sins are consuming little bits of you?

Like many, I struggle with ongoing sins, those I commit over and over again.  They come in various sizes and degrees. Perhaps you struggle with some of these same things.

Anger

All the enemy has to do sometimes is just strike at my heal and cause something to not go my way or as I expected.  I become frustrated and say words that I never meant to say but just rolled off my tongue.  How many friendships have ended because of that very thing?  How many family relationships become strained because of the slaying of the tongue in anger?

Jealousy

Jealousy is such a lovely sin because it’s one that springs most often from a feeling of not being loved.  No matter what our brains know and understand about one’s love for us, the enemy preys on our heart, our emotions and tells us that the other person doesn’t love us or love us as much as someone or something else and our friend jealousy strikes.

Pride

This one is a definite struggle.  Who doesn’t want to accept a pat on the back and think they are the best?  Who doesn’t want everyone to know that they are good at something?  Accepting a pat on the back is not bad but the enemy very slippery will come on in and enlarge that pat on the back into the sin of pride.  Have you had a friendship that was strained because you were overly proud of your capability and squashed their ability?

Procrastination

I think, often, procrastination affects us when we ignore God and His will for us.  When you have the gut wrenching desire to go help at a food pantry, a shelter, or join a ministry and you put it on the back burner, telling yourself, “I’ll do it later when I have more time.”  Perhaps at that very moment you were intended to be at that place to fulfill God’s plan in you or someone else’s life.  How many opportunities have you passed up that God was calling you to because you procrastinated?

Gossip

I don’t think anyone does this, right? Perhaps this is one that most people struggle with over and over again.  I use to work with a coworker that use to start off her gossip conversations with “I mean this in a Christian way, but …..”  It baffled me.  How in the world can you put Christ’s name in a conversation where you are going to talk about or judge someone?  Gossip is the double sworded tongue.  The enemy comes in and he gives you a sense that you will feel better about yourself if you share things about another.  In other scenarios, he tells you that you are helping someone by sharing something they confided in you with another.  A chain reaction kicks into play – very quickly.  How many relationships have been ruined over gossip?  How many stories have been misconstrued over gossip?

Lying

This is one I love. My girls and I often get in very good debates on the existence of a “good lie”. Sure there are lies that are told for very good intentions, such as keeping a surprise. Our debate normally is about a “good lie” or “the white lie” that it is still a lie no matter how you slice it. If we get in the habit of justifying a lie as a “good lie”, then we are being the judge of what is sin and what is not. We are essentially playing God.

Of course there are more little sins than what I mentioned above but these are probably the more common ones that are repeat offenders for most. In each of these, I think the enemy finds a little crack, perhaps our weakness, and strikes.

After the enemy preys on us and devours a small piece within us, he falls to the floor giggling with laughter because he has defeated the light God places within us and sheds darkness upon it.  My girls watch the series “Once Upon a Time”.  It’s a very twisted version of the fairy tales most of us grew up reading.  I find it quite interesting that when a good person does something that is sinful, their heart darkens and they become an antagonist in the story line.  I kind of view that same analogy with our own battle with sin.  When we allow these small sins to devour us internally little by little, we are allowing it to spread darkness within us.

So how do you get rid of it?  How do you illuminate the dark areas of sin in your life?  You could repair some of the damage by doing good deeds and works.  But that doesn’t repair your soul, it helps to repair the relationships and connectivity of your sin to the world, which is called penance.  It is imperative that you go to confession often, seeking forgiveness for all sins, especially the smallest sins that are tucked away in darkness.  It is in this very Sacrament that God’s love, mercy and compassion fills the dark crevices within you, illuminating you with His very light.

Dig deep within and uncover those small sins tucked away and go to confession.  Jesus defeated the enemy on the cross and offers you this forgiveness to defeat the enemy so that he does not devour you, separating you from the grace God offers you every microsecond of the day.

Has God placed a friend or a community in your life?

“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe

Do you have that one true friend that would lay down their life for you?  What about a community of friends?  Is there one friend or many friends that have been there in the midst of most or all of your struggles? In a moment of weakness, has a friend or your community of friends given you strength as a result of their support?

Today as I was taking my morning stroll around the pond on our company’s campus to clear my mind and talk to God, there was a momma duck and 3 babies at the edge of the pond and 4 ducks were sitting on the bridge rails above her. As I approached, one duck began making lots of noise. I watched for a while. I realized these 4 ducks on the rails were protecting the mother duck and her ducklings by giving her a warning signal of my presence nearby, potential danger.

I thought that was quite interesting and began to reflect on the example these ducks revealed to me of a community of friends, a family. Like the mother duck protecting her ducklings, God protects us when we are in trouble. And just as the 4 ducks on the rail were on the outside looking in, serving as warnings and advisors, our community of friends and family do for us.

It is important in times of struggle and need to have a support system. Often in the midst of your issues, you don’t see clearly or see the entire picture. Your support system is your wide lens, helping you to see the things you don’t. The friends in your life that guide you in accordance with God’s will are unique in your life. They are hand selected. They are not placed in your life on accident but for that very moment where God knows not only do you need the protector at your side but an advisor to be present with you on His behalf to guide you away from danger.

Over the years, God has strategically brought many friends into my life at pivotal moments to support me in accordance with His will. I know I can call several people in my community of friends in a moment and ask for a flood of prayers, guidance, or just a listening ear. Often I feel guilty that I may be wearing my prayer line out or the ears on which I pour out to. At the end of the day, these ladies will always be advisors, comforters, and words of warning when I am in danger or just in need of a reminder of His presence. God placed them in my life to reveal His very own love and guidance to me.

We are all connected in God’s divine plan and it is no coincidence when new friendships are formed. It is no coincidence when you need help in the midst of a struggle and a friend calls you or drops by to just say hi. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your friends are advocates in fulfilling God’s plan in you through support, love, and guidance.

Treasure the community around you that God put in your path. Call them to tell them thank you for being a part of your life. Let them know that their love reveals the love of your Heavenly Father and how much you need and appreciate their comfort and compassion. If you are at odds with a friend, go to confession, ask for forgiveness and ensure to contact your friend with an apology and an act of love and kindness.

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.

Are you seeking spiritual freedom?

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Have you been exploring your spiritual journey internally? Uncovering roots of the disorders in your external self?

When I began my spiritual journey, like most, I was seeking God to help me with things in my life that were on the surface, my external self. At the time, I didn’t see this as being an easy journey, very difficult in fact. As I continue to grow after scratching the surface of my life challenges, I am diving internally and uncovering the roots of the external feelings that seem to continue to circle me and feed sin and pain in my life. Walking my internal feelings, the ones I buried deep within that stir up the feelings externally, is ten times more challenging than dealing with the emotions and circumstance on the surface. I think that’s why there are psychologists and therapists.

To better understand your external and internal feelings envision an iceberg. If you are in an industry that focuses on safety, you are very familiar with the iceberg analogy.  Above the surface there is a narrow triangle and all this is what you see externally and deal with daily. Below the surface lies the base of the iceberg, the internal emotions and feelings that no one can see not even you that are the base of all the things on the surface.

I think that these things externally that continue to show up in your life through confession or repeat offenders in every struggle you deal with in life is God inviting you to take a deeper look, to begin discerning the root of these disorders.  For God to transform you completely through Christ within you, you have to look at the internal life and uncover the source of the sins and the pain on the surface.

Do you see patterns of sin in your life or patterns in the pain you feel or the struggles you deal with routinely?  Name these disorders and ask God to help release you from them.  Let Him help you unpack them and reveal the roots to you. Just like weeding your garden, you have to get to the root of the problem to fully remove it from the fruitful garden within you. You can’t just pull the top of the weed and expect it to be gone from your garden, you have to pull it from the root.  The same is true with dealing with things on the surface in your life. If you don’t search internally and determine where the sin and pain are coming from, they will continue to surface in the things in your life and you will not have spiritual freedom.

These disorders come in many packages, wrapped with various layers from your life. They affect our relationships with others, ourselves and God.

Are you repeatedly saying things to a loved one out of jealousy that affects your relationship?  If you peer within, you may uncover that throughout your childhood and adulthood that you are afraid of not being loved because you have always had to compete for love in key relationships.

Do you find yourself always afraid and passing up opportunities that you feel God is asking you to step out of your comfort zone and do? Look deep and you may realize that in your childhood, when you stepped out of your comfort zone, you were made fun of or rejected.

Do you find yourself confessing often your anger towards those you love? Search your inner core and you may discover feelings of hurt from emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child or an adult that you thought you dealt with on the surface but the residual of this anger, the roots are still dug within.

I have learned through my walk on my own spiritual journey that looking within, although challenging, uncovers things that are binding me to sin and pain.  As I discover and begin to deal with the internal sources, I begin to reach a freedom, to unravel the chains binding me.

I sort of see it as God purifying me into a gem. Just like purifying gold, I am purified. He helps me to bring the impurities to the surface to learn from them and seek Him at a deeper level in removing the impurities from within so that my relationship with Him and myself is as pure as a precious metal.

Are you seeking spiritual freedom? Have you searched within to discover the internal disorders that are roots to those disorders that are external?

Take the challenge, search your internal being and discover what God is inviting you to pay attention to and learn from that has been tucked away in a little crevice within.

Is the seed in you being nourished?

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit”  Mark 4:26-28

Is the seed God planted within you growing and bearing fruit?  Have you been nourishing it with the proper sustenance?

I remember a conversation with my dad some time ago.  One of my daughters loves any and everything about nature.  We decided we would buy some seeds and plant them in a pot and watch them grow.  I was telling this to my dad.  In our conversation, I remember telling him that I don’t have a green thumb.  His response was that it isn’t a matter of a green thumb or not, it’s making sure you give it attention and water the plant.

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My lesson from that conversation with my dad and from the gospel reading today is that we have to give our bodies – heart, soul and mind – the proper nutrients for the seed of God to grow in us to build His kingdom. It is through the proper ingredients of prayer, the Bible and the church that the seed will grow into abundant fruit by the will of God, just as the land yields fruit.

One thing I am discovering within is that the more I provide nourishment to the seed in my heart, God reveals a disorder internally through turmoil whirling around externally. As He reveals this disorder through the Holy Spirit, He guides me in unpacking it or as my spiritual director says, guides me in peeling a layer of the onion.  Lately, it seems I have a lot of layers to peel and sometimes it feels exhausting.  The one truth I do know about each time I unpeel a layer is that I learn the roots of sin and lies that are buried within me.  God gives me the grace through the Holy Spirit to illuminate my mind, stir up my faith and trust that God will grow His love within me through the tiny seed He planted during my creation.  The more layers I unpeel the more fruitful branches grow within and the closer my relationship with God is.

Do you feel that you are growing daily in your relationship with God or do you feel you are growing further away?  Are the branches in your life bearing fruit or are they withering away?  Are you nourishing your mind, heart and soul with the right ingredients to grow the tiny seed within you into a massive tree where others can dwell in its shade?

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Nurture this seed that God has planted within you to flourish and by the will of God, you will be a vessel in your community and family – pouring out generosity, love and the Word of God.

One last thought on this day where we honor all fathers, remember that it is also important to equip our children with the ingredients to grow the seed God planted within them so that they too may nourish it and produce healthy, fruitful branches within.

Thy will or I will, which is your response?

“Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

Reread the verse above and focus on the second sentence of Mary’s response and say it out loud. What do you hear and feel as you say these words out loud? Can you feel 100% release of your will, your control to God as you speak these words?

Mary doesn’t say to God I will do your will, but she says let it be done in me. She relinquishes her whole self to God in that moment. When the angel Gabriel came to her with this message from God that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit, she was initially frightened and afraid. In that pivotal moment, she releases it all and places herself in God’s hands.

If she would have said I will do your will, would she still have placed 100% trust in God? Would she have allowed God to perform His work in her through Jesus? Would she have remained afraid or released her fear of what God was asking and about to accomplish through her? Just as you reread Mary’s response out loud, say I will do your will. How does both phrases speak to you? Does one lift heaviness from your chest and shoulders? Does the other phrase give you a sense of control, everything is still in your court?  Do you feel more comfortable with one over the other.

I think our human nature, feels very comfortable when we feel we have a sense of control.  Sometimes by holding on to this need to feel in control, we miss out on opportunities of God transforming us into a better version of ourselves, better disciples for His Kingdom on earth.

When you say to God, “your will be done in me”, you are giving Him all the freedom to mold you and your life. You are also freeing yourself from the chains of your self control, your self will.

Have you ever said something like this – “I wish I were a kid again so that I wouldn’t have the responsibility and someone else took care of everything”? If you answered yes, like me, isn’t it a bit ironic because God is right there asking you daily to surrender your will to Him. He is waiting for you to release your shackles of self control to Him and say “let it be done according to your will”. He wants to take care of your every needs as your Father.  All you have to do is allow Him.

Are you telling God you will do His will or are you asking Him to accomplish His will in you? If you struggle with releasing yourself and trusting God, meditate on the Annunciation and look to Mary, the Blessed Mother as a role model of trust in God.