Where there is love

“Where there is love, obstacles disappear, thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls.”  Before the Altar, Concepcion Cabrera De Armidarose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469.jpeg

In our life, God gives each of us a tool – His gift of love.  Love is not just a feeling, it is an action.  Love is the basis for trusting in Jesus and accepting God’s will.  Trust in Jesus is absent without love.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida explains it perfectly in her meditations Before the Altar,“ where there is love, obstacles disappear thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls”.  Filling our soul with Jesus’ love allows us to trust Him, to detach ourselves from the things of this world and rely on the will of God.  This love is an infinite love that pours out and satisfies all desires of the heart.  With that satisfaction comes a renouncement of self and reliance on God.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida also states, “where there is love, the heart is filled with the most sublime aspirations, with irrepressible zeal and fiery ardor, with a thirst for purity, a hunger for martyrdom, endless crosses and an unlimited confidence in God.”

What does it mean to fill your soul, your heart with Jesus?  Can Jesus occupy your heart if it is filled with self-love, pride, egotism?  One must renounce oneself, surrender to God, void the heart and soul so that only Jesus can occupy it.  Allow Him to come into your heart and occupy it completely, to reign as King in your heart.  You will be consumed with a love that is larger than anything and God will reveal more to you.  He will give you more trials with more victories.  He will show you areas in your life where you have relied on yourself versus Him.  

This is where I found myself many years ago, embracing this love.  As I embraced it and consumed it, releasing myself, God revealed much more to me in my life.  He revealed areas that I knew I had to change.  The struggles came and the strength overpowered them.  There were times that I would reflect on a situation and wonder how I was able to react the way I did, how I was able to overcome it.  In many cases, it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t the way I would have normally reacted.  It was larger, it was an act of a consuming love, a greater confidence in God.  It was Jesus reigning in my heart as King, His heart beating in unison with mine.  He was the center of it all. 

Love is the foundation of it all.  It allows you to trust in God and let Him provide the strength to lift the burdens of your crosses you bear in your life.    

How does love provide this foundation to trusting God and carrying you through your struggles?  Concepcion Cabrera de Armida speaks of three dimensions of love in her meditation of charity in What Jesus is Like.  She states that we must first love Jesus with all of our heart and soul.  Most of us have this love for Jesus.  Where we begin to struggle is to allow Jesus to love us, the second dimension of love.  Once you have established a love for Jesus, then you can open your heart by your own will to allow Him to love you.  After you have allowed Jesus to come into your heart and love you, then you are giving up your own will to that of the Father.  Jesus wants you to look at Him, gaze upon Him and see this reflection of love He has for you, embrace it and exhibit it.  By soaking in His gaze and reflecting His love, you must completely empty yourself and then you will see the Father through Him and will your life over to Him.  By loving Him and allowing Him to love you, you will surrender to His desires.  This leads into the third dimension of love, to surrender the soul to only pleasing God.  By surrendering the soul to think only of pleasing God, you will resemble Jesus.  Jesus came into the world to seek your love and to surrender His love to you.  By resembling this dimension of love, your eyes and heart will be fixed on God and you will “live in God”.

What is it like to resemble this dimension of love, the goodness of Jesus?  This was another question that pondered my thoughts in the struggles in my life.  How can I resemble Christ – love as He did?  He graciously, lovingly, selflessly carried His cross for mankind.  With every thorn in my life, I weep, I complain, I ask God to take it away.  Is that the solution?  Does God want me to resemble Jesus in these moments?  Does He want me to rely on Him, embrace His love and allow it to overflow during my darkest hours?  How can we resemble Jesus’ goodness to forgive, to love unending, and to be compassionate to suffering?  It is an act of self-sacrifice. 

What does this self-sacrifice look like?  It is emulating Jesus’ compassion, His love and forgiveness to bear the crosses you are given just as He did.  It’s accepting these crosses in your life and asking for strength to bear them.  In What Jesus Is Like?, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida mentions an analogy of the striking of a harp and picking of the petals of a flower to a good soul.  She states that the good soul is like a harp and a flower.  “When it is wounded by criticism and torn apart by ingratitude, it can only respond with harmony and the perfume of goodness.”  This is what Jesus’ soul is like.  He radiates with self-sacrifice and kindness even though He was/is persecuted by mankind.  Through all the trials you experience, you are called to do the same.  You must seek kindness, compassion and love in each moment versus anger and pride.  You must humble yourself, holding true to God, seeking His guidance and strength in each moment of persecution.  Through these acts of love, kindness and humility, He will shower you with His love and He will carry you through any circumstance, big and small. 

Who’s the Author of Your Story?

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“My days were shaped before one came to be.” Psalm 139:16

Are you like me and try to predict the end of the story as you read a book or as you watch a movie?  Anticipation builds as you read or watch and you have a hunch of what is going to happen.  How do you feel when the author surprises you with the ending?  Catches you off guard – you were not expecting it to end the way it does?

When I look at my life, past, present and future, I often think of it as a story.  My past is written, my present is being written as I type, and my future is yet to be written.  But is that really so?  Or is my present and my future already written?  Often I find myself, not only trying to predict the future in my story but also to force it the way I want it to be, the way I think is best for my happiness and well being.  And often, the author of my story, God, surprises me with the outcome.

Many years ago, I was struggling in my marriage.  There were lots of things that were not healthy in my marriage.  In my mind, I could save it.  If I was submissive and agreed to everything, things would be ok.  That ended up being momentary fixes.  Then I thought, well if we seek counseling that will help, or if I reach out to these people, they could influence the situation and all will work out.  After exhausting all my humanly possible solutions that I thought would make the marriage work, I prayed to God asking him to fix it all, fix the disorders so that our marriage could be healthy and happy for our family.  The disorders were fixed.  They were removed when it became clear to me how unhealthy it was.  This was definitely not the outcome I was expecting in my story.  It wasn’t the ending I thought was best at first, nor what I was trying to create.  It was the story that God created.

I know this is God’s story.  The fruits in my spiritual life were abundant and glorious from the pain and the struggles of my marriage.  I often look back at this time period in my life and I can see God’s hands swooping down and picking me up.  I can still feel the love of Jesus as I rested in his presence.  There were things that happened that some may call a coincidence but I call the pages of my story, hand written and authored by a loving Father.  When I hear the song “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave, I hear my life through the lyrics.  “You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go… You would hear Love that never gave up… You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine… If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin, of when justice was served and where mercy wins, of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.  Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

Sometimes it takes us a while to realize that we aren’t the author of our story but God is.  He has already written our story and it sits in his divine library.  We try to be the editors all the time and when we do things get all out of sorts.  If we just trust that our story needs no editing, it would be an easy read with unending joy and happiness as each page turns.  Today as you struggle, think of it as an adventure or a climax in your story that has the best ending.  The author always knows the best ending for his story.  And so does your Father, the author of your story.

 

God Always Wins

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Have you felt like you have been losing a battle lately in life?  Perhaps you feel like you are losing a battle against an illness?  May be, your spouse, a family member or a friend has been very bitter, controlling, or abusive and you feel you are losing the battle?  May be your finances are deep in the red and you feel you can never reach the green?  Are you fighting the battle alone or are you asking God to fight it for you?

One evening, my daughter was reading me a story called “The Weight of a Mass”.  In the story, an old lady asks a prestigious baker for crumbs of bread and tells him she will offer a Mass for him.  Cocky and rude, he asks her how much bread he would owe her.  He proceeds to place a piece of paper with the words “one Mass” written on it on one side of the balance and on the other he places a slice of old bread.  The side with the piece of paper never rises.  He continues to place more and more on the opposite side of the paper, pastries and chocolates, with the same results.  The scale never budged.  As my daughter begins to read about his challenge of the weight of “one Mass”, she says “God always wins”.

“God always wins!”  I thought about that for some time afterwards.  I evaluated my own past and could see so many instances where I tried to fight the battle alone and couldn’t keep my head above water.  In some of these moments, I even hindered God as he tried to work in me, resisting any help he would give me.  When I looked through the rearview mirror of my past and saw the moments that I called out to God in prayer and asked him to fight for me, those battles bore fruit, polished a gem.  They didn’t always come without a struggle or pain but they were victorious battles.

No matter what is going on in your life, if you are open to receiving God into your circumstance, he will always win.  Sometimes the outcome may not be what you intended or thought was best, but later when you look back you will realize that it was the perfect solution in your life.  Trust in his plans and be open to whatever they may be.  Let him win the battle for you, because “God always wins”.

The Endless Well

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Imagine you are the woman at the well.  You travel a short distance to go to the well at an hour that you know no one will be there.  You feel lonely and ashamed.  There are things hidden in your heart that are unwanted guests.  You feel unvalued, unloved, ugly, broken, alone, ashamed, guilty, humiliated, and hopeless.  As you approach this place to draw water, the basic necessity of life, you see a man standing near the well.  You’ve never seen him before.  As you draw near, he ask you to fetch him some water.  His tone is gentle but surprised, you ask him “you ask me for water?”  Why would anyone want to associate with you?  He looks at you with love in his eyes and he tells you that “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water [he] shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14).  You look at him in wonder.  “What is he talking about?  He doesn’t even have a bucket.  How will he get any water?”  His words “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst” resonates in your head.  So you lift your eyes to his and ask him, “can I have this water that you speak of?  I wish to never thirst.”  As he casts a smile upon you, it feels as if he sees all these things that are weighing on your heart, tucked away and hidden within.  You feel this warmth of love wrap you and all the feelings of your unwanted guests are lifted from your heart.  “Who is this man?”  You ask yourself.  “He knows my heart, my past yet he looks upon me with love and compassion.”  He is like no other.  As you look upon him and feel the embrace of his loving eyes, you know he is not like any other man you have known.  

Just then, he tells you that he is Jesus, and he loves you.  He tells you that there is nothing in your past that you should be ashamed of.  He tells you that you are beautiful and that if you drink from the well of his love that you will have eternal life.  You will never be alone, hopeless or broken again.  Your eyes begin to glisten with tears.  Tears for each of the unwanted guests that you know are no longer hidden in your heart and tears for your joy knowing that you will never thirst and hunger for love, beauty, hope and joy because you have found the endless well, the love of Jesus.  Peace settles as you return to the town square to proclaim the love you have just found. 

Who is the pilot?

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“Many are the plans of the human heart, but it is the decision of the LORD that endures.” Proverbs 19:21

None of us ever want to just take the reigns or the wheel and go full speed ahead, knowing exactly where we are going and where the next turn is, do we? This is our constant nature. We want to be in control. We know what’s best for us, our family and even sometimes our friends.

And then one day, something clicks and you realize that you aren’t in control. May be it was that moment you fell ill, or lost a job, or found yourself in an unwanted divorce. Whatever the circumstance, at some point you realize you do not have control, you never did.

Several months ago, I found myself in the emergency room. This visit initiated a long process of healing. I am a very independent person that struggles with being still and resting. A couple of months after the emergency room visit and lots of downtime and rest, I found myself needing another surgery. This series of surgeries has caused me to rest a lot. Something I’m not very good at. As weeks go by, I find myself so ready to get back to normal, normal routine of juggling work and everyday motherhood. I must be insane.

When I think about that insanity… stresses of everyday life versus resting what am I thinking? As I reflect on that, I find myself saying to myself I want to be in control of life again. I want to be able to do everything that is normal to me. Isn’t this typical of us? Instead of resting in God and letting him take the wheel, we always want to drive and him be our passenger. God probably chuckles every time we do it, thinking to himself, why can’t they make it easy? I’m in control anyway, why don’t they just rest and enjoy the ride. We may think we have the wheel and are driving but in reality we don’t. Next time you are faced with the choice of rest or taking the reigns, just rest and let God be God.

Another truth I’m learning from my surgeries is having patience and allow the process to take shape as needed.  Today I had a follow up appointment with my doctor. Weekly visits, high maintenance healing process is what I heard him say. Frustrated, I thought – REALLY? When I had a moment to think, I sat down and digested in prayerful thought. I heard God tell me that my life is high maintenance, a slow process of refining me into the gem he created me to be. Just as my doctor is refining my healing little by little so is God in my life. Each little moment, each painful struggle, each moment of healing internally and externally is a step closer in this slow process to the glorious moment of eternity.

This healing process from day 1 emergency room visit is teaching me 2 things:

1. God is in control, rest and enjoy.

2. Life is a slow process, have patience and trust God.

Today, I ask you are you struggling with letting God pilot and you copilot or are you asking God to be copilot? Are you wanting to speed up the healing, get rid of the struggles, get rid of the frustrations, or the stress before God says your ready? God, like your doctor, knows the best path forward for your treatment. Trust in that, let him be the pilot.

Your Will be Done

Have you ever heard a song that spoke volumes to you?  The lyrics in the song, described your life perfectly at that moment?  Or may be the lyrics helped you to learn something about yourself or your situation, past or present?  Or may be God just has something He wants you to hear and reflect on?

I’ve often heard people say that songs are a form of prayer.  Rightfully true, I think.  We can gain so much wisdom from a song.  Some songs can literally cause us to drop to our knees or open the flood gates of our tear ducts.

Over the last few days, I’ve been wrestling with understanding God’s will and conforming to it.  Trying to understand things of my past and what God has done in me through it.  One of the big questions that I’ve been trying to unpack is God being the author of all things, good and bad.  This morning as I turned on the radio, the song by Hillary Scott, “Thy Will be Done,” was playing.  The story behind this song is a story of loss.  In the song, she finds acceptance of the pain and attributes it to God, knowing that He has good plans for her even in this moment of brokenness and hurt.  She does this by calling out in prayer with “these four words – thy will be done”.

Many people would not like to think that God can be the author of pain and suffering in our lives.  Although He does not take part in our choice to sin or that of others, He does allow circumstances of those sins to affect us.  Also, if we unpack it more, we see that God is a good God and He sees and know all that is best for us and this is His ultimate plan in our lives.  In that plan, there could be pain and suffering that is ultimately better for us.

  • If He knows that something, say money, has become deadly to your soul or your happiness, He may bring hardship up on you or allow a thief to rob you to save your soul and bring a greater joy into your life.
  • Perhaps you find out one day that you have a terminal illness.  Rather than give you a few more years on this earth, He would prefer you come home to Him in a greater glory than what is present here.
  • Perhaps your friend you confided in is no longer there for you.  Rather than confide in a friend, He is wanting you to come to Him with your worries and concerns or He may send another soul to help you bare this burden.
  • Perhaps you have lost a child.  Rather than that child suffer greatly on this earth, God has called him/her home to dance amongst the angels.
  • Even in circumstances of sin, He delivers goodness, if you open your heart and follow His will to receive it.

I ask is it not God that is the author of it all, the painter of His masterpiece?  Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not at the word of the most High that both good and bad take place?”

In Job 1:21, he attributes his misfortune to God when he says “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”.  In Isaiah 45:7, God says “I form the light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.”  In Deuteronomy 32:39, He tells us “I alone, am He, and there is no God besides me.  It is I who bring both death and life.  I who inflict wounds and heal them and from my hand no one can deliver.”

God is in control, the author, of all things in your life, even when you think you are.  The only thing that He is absent of is your choice to sin.

Nothing can exist or happen without Him allowing it.  The final outcome of all things is goodness for you, even when it doesn’t seem so, when it hurts and it’s difficult.  You may be confused, you may not understand all the things you are struggling with, but He does.  He knows the outcome, the best plan for you.  “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” Romans 8:28.

If you choose to accept all things in your life attributed to an all knowing and all loving God that has the best plans for you in this life and the next, then you will always have a life of peace and happiness, even in the greatest trials of your life.  “Thy will be done.”

In closing – a quote by St. Augustine, “All that happens to us in this world against our will (whether due to men or to other causes) happens to us only by the will of God, by the disposal of Providence, by His orders and under His guidance; and if from the frailty of our understanding we cannot grasp the reason for some event, let us attribute it to Divine Providence, show Him respect by accepting it from His hand, believe firmly that He does not send it [to] us without cause.”

A Captivating Banquet

eucharist-body-of-christ-church-mass-161081.jpegWhen I am invited to your banquet, you captivate me.  My heart is wide open.  I’m ready to embrace all that you offer.  I kneel in your presence anticipating this feast.  I long to taste all that you are, to be consumed as I consume your body and blood.  The moment draws near, my heart beats faster with eagerness and delight.  I slowly approach and bow in your presence.  My heart skips a beat as my body becomes weak.  There in front of me your body is revealed, illuminated and perfect as the priest offers it to me.  I see you veiled in the priest.  You place yourself up on my tongue, the sweetness of honey, the bread from heaven.  To your cup I approach and your blood I intake.  How precious and great is this kiss to my lips?  As I walk to my pew, I feel your presence through my veins and in my heart, your body imparts the sweetness of love.

In this beautiful gift small and meek, a grand entrance of love manifests within me.  I can’t contain the tears as they flow from my eyes offering praise and thanksgiving for all you have given.  You sacrificed yourself upon that cross that I glance up on in this moment.  A river of mercy and love for me and mankind streamed as my tears do right now.  How can I repay you for such a grand gift?  You whisper to my ear “accept my love and follow me”.  I can no longer refuse.  “Here I am at the foot of your cross, waiting for your hand and your guidance.”

Have you been captivated lately?  Have you taste of the sweetest love, savoring within your heart and soul?  Have you longed for a greater love?

Open your invitation that was sent to you this week to the most marvelous banquet.  You are sure to fall in love with the one who is waiting for you to celebrate his love for you.