The Companion

When I walked in the desert, I felt alone.  My heart was distant, anxious and alone.  I thirst but was not satisfied.  I longed for something more but could not find it.  My mind searched as my feet shifted the grains of sand beneath them.  The desert winds tossed me here and there as the sand whirled around me and I could not see.  I was blinded by all that was swirling around me until I caught a glimmer of movement.  “Please rescue me from this storm” I yelled.  “I can’t breathe any longer.”  I began to focus on this movement beyond the whirlwind around me that was within my reach.  Suddenly, the winds calmed and there You were, my constant Companion, my Refuge.

When I walked along the river alone and distracted.  I hungered for something but could not find satisfaction from the fruits along the path.  I longed for more and searched here and there with no gratification.  My mind wandered into the past as I stumbled and fell.  Into the raging river, my body was swept away.  I was tossed and turned beneath the water’s furious current.  From beneath the water surface I could see a hand reaching down.  I yelled, “Help me. I’m drowning.”  As I focused on this hand above me, I was pulled from the raging waters and there You were, my constant Companion and Refuge.

A volcano is where I ventured to dwell in my pain and suffering.  My fears surrounded me and overcame me as I ventured alone.  When I approached it’s base, it began to erupt.  The lava surrounded me, trapping me as the heat around me intensified.  Nearby I could see a figure.  As I looked upon it, I began to yell, “Help me, please.  Release me from this fire.  Please don’t let it consume me.”  As I focused on this figure, I was lifted from the fiery lava and there You were, my constant Companion and Refuge.

As I dwell in the desert, drown in the raging river or am consumed by the fiery heat of a volcano, You are my Companion, opening your arms with love and telling me I’m never alone.  Your love and companionship is constant.  It is I who ventures off, leaving You, ignoring You.  When I place my focus on You, “Through rivers, [I] shall not be swept away.  When [I] walk through fire, [I] shall not be burned, nor will flames consume [me].”

We are never alone when we welcome Jesus to be our Companion and Refuge.  Your anxieties, distractions, pain and sufferings, although present are second to His presence.  He rescues you and provides all that you are longing for – His loving presence.

Community

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ…  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share in its joy.  1 Corinthians 12:12,26

When you read these verses, what does it mean to you?  How do you view your Christian community?  Is it the body of Christ, made up of many parts, many people that work together to serve others, that suffer together, that rejoice together?

We live in a culture that tends to highlight all the ugly in our communities, in our world.  Many people may believe that the body of Christ is non existence, the community is broken and everyone is in it for himself.

When Christ is the heartbeat of the community, the parts of that community make up one body and do serve others, suffer together, and rejoice together.  Love overflows from each individual into the other, connected by the blood flow from the heart of Christ.  In order to thrive, the parts of the community must each be life giving to one another.  If the arm is broken, the rest of the body compensates to help heal the brokenness.  So does the parts of the community.   If one individual is hurting financially, medically, emotionally, the rest of the community pours out love in various ways to heal the individual who is hurting.

Several months ago, I found myself in the ER facing an unexpected surgery.  Being a single mom and not having any family around, I was full of anxieties.  “What was I going to do?  How was I going to take care of everything?  This can’t happen to me.”   Little did I know, I was a part of the body of Christ.  I had reached out to a few new sisters in Christ I had recently met asking for prayer.

I lay in a room in the ER crying because I had no control of what was happening and couldn’t take care of the things I was responsible for.   As I lay there, there was a knock on the door to my room.  I thought it was just the nurse.  As the door open, one of my new sisters, peaked her head through the door.  At that moment, I felt a release of the anxiety that had been holding on to me.  She sat with me and comforted me until I was called to surgery.  After surgery, several of my new sisters visited me in the hospital, bringing moments of joy and laughter.  I was flooded with phone calls and texts asking me what I would need when I was released from the hospital.  Anytime I mentioned a concern or worry, within minutes it was already taken care of.  They tended to my needs in the hospital, departing the hospital and at home.  Before I knew it, I had my aftercare taken care of by two of my beautiful sisters that were retired nurses, food to last for a week and my weekly groceries taken care of.  I was appalled with emotions of the love that these ladies in my church community poured out on me.  They, as the various parts of Christ’s body, were an extension of my suffering as they nurtured my needs.  Their strength compensated for my weakness.  Today, I find myself in a similar situation, and yet again am overwhelmed with love from the support and care of my church family, my beautiful sisters in Christ.

These beautiful ladies, my community of sisters in Christ are one of the examples of what St. Paul meant in his letter to the Corinthians when he told them they were the parts of the body of Christ.  As Christians and a community, we are called to use our talents to support one another.  We are called to suffer when one suffers and aid in their suffering.  We are called to rejoice when one is honored.  We are each given different gifts, strengths and weaknesses, to use together to make up the unity of the community, the one body of Christ.  This is the will of our Heavenly Father as He has intricately placed each of us in our community to aid as sisters and brothers, part by part, as one body.

A Walk On The Seashore

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Have you walked along the beach lately?  Have you ever taken delight in combing the beach for seashells or perhaps other interesting things?  I remember when I was a kid, we lived on a naval base in Florida.  We visited the beaches often.  I recall searching for sand dollars, seashells and shark teeth.  I also recall being stung by a jellyfish.  When we walk along the seashore there is no telling what we may discover as we intentionally search the sand below our feet.

Today, walk along the seashore with me.  Delight in the quietness around you as you hear the crashing waves of the ocean and feel the coolness of the water wash over your feet.  Notice the water turning over the sand as it washes ashore.  Do you see anything below?  Does anything stand out before you?

Now look at your day, your week, the footprints that are trailing behind you in the sand.  Has anything significant happened?  Let your thoughts turn over the events of the day or week, searching for those feelings that have been the strongest in your day or week.  Pause for a moment and listen to those feelings, what are they telling you about your day or week.  Wash the sand away from them and discover the gem of those feelings.  Are they feelings of joy and happiness or are they feelings of anger and resentment.  Perhaps they are feelings of peace or regrets.  Whatever they may be, search them deeper, uncover what God may be revealing to you through those feelings.

As you search deeper to understand these feelings, to discover what they are and what they mean for your journey, you notice someone walking towards you.  He approaches you with gentleness and love and invites you to breakfast that he has prepared right there on the shore of the sea.  You feel you know him but you are uncertain.  As you accept his offer for breakfast, your feelings you just uncovered reveal the fruits of your journey to you.  You know what God is telling you through these feelings, what He is asking you to do in your journey.  Everything is so clear to you and you realize this person offering you breakfast is Jesus, and He is guiding your thoughts as you overturn and uncover your feelings.  He comforts any feelings that are troubling you and He illuminates any feelings of joy and peace.  Sit by the shore with Him for a little while, be present with Him and embellish this moment of comfort and peace of all that you are feeling from the day or week.

In John 21:1-14, Jesus appears to His disciples at the sea, just as He has appeared to you.  They are out fishing one night and are not successful in catching anything.  Jesus is standing on the shore and asks them about their catch and then tells them to throw the nets over the right side of the boat and they catch a plentitude of fish.  At this point Peter realizes it’s Jesus standing before them.  Their disappointments of not catching any fish have turned into a moment of comfort and joy, not because they caught fish but because they see Jesus.

Just as the disciples delight in the presence of Jesus, may you as well because He is present with you whether you are on the shore of the sea or in your house staring out the window.

Gazing

pexels-photo-574116.jpegIf I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” – darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day.  Darkness and light are but one.  Psalm 139:11-12

Have you gazed up at the night sky lately?  Have you embraced the wonders of the universe through the blanket of darkness, sprinkled with tiny little lights, revealing the end of the day and the hope of a new day?  Can you feel the intimacy of the creator by gazing up on His magnificent creation of the universe that is far from your grasp, yet closer than your next breath?

The night sky is magnificent to gaze up on.  A few months ago, I visited this quiet little cottage in the middle of nowhere.  This cottage is a place where I can intimately speak to God without any distractions from my daily life.  During this visit, I had decided I would just lay out on the ground under the night sky and gaze up on the beauty of the night.  As night began to fall, the clouds blanketed the sky and there appeared to be no stars in view.  Of course I knew they were there, hidden behind the clouds.  As I continued to gaze the stars began to surface one by one filling the night sky with a beautiful light in the great darkness.

As I gazed up on the sky, I was reminded of the darkness in my life and how in that darkness, light was sprinkled in.  That small glimmer of light sparked a journey full of hope and joy.  It became my compass, just as the star was the compass for the 3 wise men. God knows when I’m in darkness and need Him to guide me. He knows when to send that small twinkling light to guide me into a brighter light, a joy filled place of hope and love. Just as He knows when I need a shimmer of light, He knows when you do.

Next time you look upon the night sky remember that God is present in the darkness as well as in the light.  Just as you gaze up on the night sky, God gazes up on you.  He knows every move you make, every thought you think, how many cells are in your body, and how many hairs are on your head.  You cannot run from Him or hide from Him.  He takes your hand and guides you.  He brings light into the darkness as “darkness and light are but one”.

How Many Labels Do You Wear?

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Do you wear a label or several? Most of us wear labels. It could be a label that others placed on us or perhaps something we were taught as a child that influenced a belief. Being A Christian, especially Catholic, and being separated and getting divorced caused me to feel like a label was placed on my forehead. The church celebrates family. And I felt I was no longer a part of that because I had placed this label on me based on my belief in the sacrament of marriage. Early in my separation I remember feeling like I would be judged by those who I attended Mass with every Sunday. I was embarrassed, I felt I had gone against church teaching. The feeling was so strong I started attending other Mass times to not feel confronted, questioned or judged. The one constant at the time was my faith in God and the overwhelming grace He gave me to deal with the hurt. I did understand deep within me that this was a path I had to take and that God was holding me and carrying me through it but I still had this label, a “divorced person” in the church. It was a label I placed on myself and wore each time I attended Mass alone or with my two girls. One of the messages at a comedy show I attended was that we should not let our relationship status define us. Who we are in Christ should be what defines us, our status as a daughter or son of a King, and not just any King, “The King”. That goes for all labels we place on ourselves or others place on us. There is a children’s book by Max Lucado that points this out so perfectly, “You are Special”. As long as you allow the labels to stick they will. When you realize Your creator doesn’t place these on you, they will not stick because you are special and perfect. Today ask God to help you see who you are in His eyes without any labels.

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

pexels-photo-953075.jpegAt his first Easter Vigil Mass as the Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, . . . to remember the road we have traveled—this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future” (Easter Vigil Homily, March 30, 2013).

Easter is a time of hope, new life. On this day, we acknowledge that Jesus is not in the tomb but He is journeying along side us. He is risen and resides within our hearts, the core of our being.

It is a time to reflect upon our past and all the times God’s hands were present, picking us up when we fell, giving us strength to endure, filling our hearts with joy, giving us peace in a difficult moment. When we reflect upon what He has done in our past journey, we must look for a new hope, a new journey before us, that is full of His love, and His peace.

Today we celebrate that He lives within us as “our hearts [burn within us]”, Luke 24:32. He gives us His peace and no one can take that from us unless we choose to give it to them. This peace and new life within us is the result of pain and suffering, death on a cross. It is a result of a greater love that burns within us each day. So today as you celebrate the risen Lord, celebrate hope for a new journey guided by Christ as He is in you.

Is Love Always Happy?

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What is love?  Is it always happy or is it sometimes sad?  Yesterday, I witnessed several acts of love.  I heard the passion of our Lord and witnessed a cross about the size of the “True Cross” process into our church and then I watched hundreds of people, in reverence of our Lord and His love for us, kneel down to kiss this cross.  This was a demonstration of love from our community to our Lord for His sacrifice and His sacrifice was an act of His love for us.  It is a great example of mutual sacrifice of oneself for another.

So I think the answer is that love is not always happy.  Many years ago, I heard this very thing at a counselling session with my ex-husband.  My ex proceeded to tell the counsellor that God is love and He did not want us to not be happy.  The counsellor looked at him and said “Jesus died on the cross that was love, but it wasn’t happy”.  You see that very act is a model for us that love is not about our happiness but about what we do for others, about our actions.  That is what Jesus demonstrated for us when He died for us.  He showed us what love is, sacrificing oneself for another.  This is the love we should each practice daily with everyone we encounter, especially our family.

Yesterday, I came across a note my daughter wrote several years ago.  She called it “Mom Love”.  In her note she pronounced how much she loved me.  She also mentions the ways that I show love to her by helping her through difficult times and encouraging her.  It’s the small acts of kindness that we show one another that reveals our love to one another.  It’s not our own feelings of happiness but how we nurture another and sacrifice our own needs for another.  So as you reflect on the crucifixion today, the day before the resurrection, think about the act of love Jesus modeled for us by sacrificing Himself and how you can make sacrifices in your life to love others, not just your family and friends but the stranger next to you.