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.

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.

Is your life a game of Twister?

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands, turning your ear to wisdom, inclining your heart to understanding; Yes, if you call for intelligence, and to understanding raise your voice; If you seek her like silver, and like hidden treasures search her out, then will you understand the fear of the LORD; the knowledge of God you will find;” Proverbs 2:1-5

Ever feel like your life is like a game of Twister?  It’s twisted in this direction and that direction – your mind on green and your feet crisscrossed on red and blue, while one hand is behind your back and the other moving forward?  Do you most often feel like this when you are not looking to God for discernment and help?

It may seem easy to spin the arrow in life and land on a color and then another and img_2271before you know it, you find yourself in a mangle that leads to off balance and a tumble.  On the opposing side, if you take a few minutes to pray asking for wisdom and understanding, you may just find that your mind, hands and feet are all in alignment.

Over the years, I’ve been learning a lot about discernment, trusting and conforming to God’s will through the wisdom of others more seasoned in their faith and through reading books that just seem to fall into my lap.  It’s definitely been a slow process. I feel like I’m still in the elementary school of discernment, with a graduation date that is beyond my horizon and into eternity.

When I first began reading about discernment, I thought some giant NEON sign would just appear to me telling me what to do.  WRONG!  Now, I am beginning to realize that discernment has a lot to do with being present and observing things around me, the encounter of God through all things.  As I move through this journey of discernment, I’ve begun to pay more attention.

Often the things I read speak directly to what God is wanting me to do or see in a particular situation. When I need to work on forgiveness and relationships, everything I seem to get my hand on talks about forgiveness and my own faults. When I am worried and full of anxieties, I pick up devotions or read random verses on peace, rest and God’s will.
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I also see things around me that cause me to ponder and connect my circumstance and God’s guidance. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and feel I can’t carry it no longer, I notice an ant carrying something that is 20-100 times it’s weight and realize the strength of God carrying the weight on my shoulders.  When I am troubled, I see a cross displayed before my eyes and I’m reminded of the peace and rest found in Christ.

When I am in tune to hearing God, listening to others, songs or peace around tend to guide me to think more and seek more understanding. Often when I am seeking wisdom and guidance, I hear lyrics to a song so much clearer. If I’m afraid, they tell me that “fear is a liar”. When I need strength I’m reminded that “I am a warrior”. When I need to trust, I hear “thy will be done”. When I am not including God I hear He “will always be the king of the world”.

Most recently, I was experiencing difficulties in my relationship with my daughter.  I prayed for direction and also for God’s will in our relationship and in both our hearts.  Each day, there was something subtle that popped up pointing me in the direction in which God wanted me to handle the situation with my daughter.  I conformed to this and today I feel that we have repaired a part of our relationship I felt was breaking. Prior to asking God, I was spinning and the colors I was landing on were not coming out the way I had hoped. I found myself knotted like a strand of Christmas lights that had been in storage for a while. Not a place you want to be in a key relationship in your life. Something had to change, I had to seek guidance and let God spin for me and guide me in accordance with His will.

THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON I’m learning is that my self compass is not better than God’s.  When I pray for His will to be done, I am not disappointed in the outcome.  When I don’t, I find myself wondering where God is and when He will answer my prayers.

When you take time to pray, asking God to spin the spinner for you, you will be less tangled, less unstable by the mangle of spinning the arrow and listening to your own selfish guidance.  Give it a shot and just may be your feet and your hands will line up and not be twisted this way and that way.

Where do you encounter God?

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Where do you encounter God?  Do you just encounter Him in your prayer time?  Or do you see Him in everything around you?

Do you see Him in the strength of the rocks, the sturdiness and height of a pine tree, the depths of the ocean, in a smile or in the peace of a loved one as their earthly bodies begin to fade from this temporary home?  Do you hear Him in the songs of the birds, the sound of the water falling, in the laughter of a child, the kindness spoken through a stranger or words you read in a book?  Do you feel Him in the caress of a loved one, through the touch of the wind or the warmth of the sun?  Do you know His presence is with you when you smell the scents of the wild flowers or the newness of spring after fresh falling rain?  Do you taste His sweetness in the most delighted pastry or His passion in the bitterness of a glass of wine?

Are you aware of His presence through each of your senses?  Everything around you, within you, that is a part of you encounters the presence of God.  Are you too distracted to recognize Him in the smallest detail surrounding you?

I’ve read that when you lose one of your senses, the brain rewires and  enhances other senses.  Over a year ago, I began to notice that I was losing my hearing.  There were some low tones that I absolutely could not hear.  I love nature and I love walking or sitting near running water from a fall, a fountain or just across a bed of rocks.  I also love to sit and listen to the birds.  I find so much peace and rest in God’s presence when I am outdoors tuned into the sounds of nature.  Losing my hearing was a bit scary and losing this piece of God’s presence in my life was just as bothersome.

In the spring of last year, after visiting my ENT, I was diagnosed with a genetic hearing disorder.  My options were surgery that had a 1% chance of total hearing loss or hearing aids the rest of my life.  After consulting with the surgeon, I decided to have the surgery.  I remember contemplating a bad day in surgery, resulting in losing my hearing.  The more I thought about it and the more I prayed about it, I began to feel at peace that if I lost my hearing perhaps God just wanted me to tune my other senses and see His presence through my sight, taste, touch and smell.

Through this experience and others in my life, I am realizing in this journey with God I can see, hear, taste, feel and smell His presence all day and all around me.  And so can you – all it takes is to awaken your senses and awareness.

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In nature, you can see the possibilities and strength of God by observing the strength of the rocks and the height of the pine trees.  You can discover how intricate and special you are by observing the details of a flower, a leaf, or a butterfly.  You can watch the bees as they move from flower to flower and only pollinate the flowers they are intended to and recognize you have a unique purpose just as these bees do.  You can taste of His passion each time you consume the Eucharist and are transformed through Him.  You can feel the embrace of His love through the hug of a child or a dear friend.  As the wind blows across your face, you can feel His breath, breathe life into your being.

Today, I challenge you to pay attention to the smallest of details and see God revealing Himself in some way to you in your unique life as you journey closer to Him in this temporary home.

An Intimate Relationship With Jesus

“Let me caress your soul. Let me soothe its wounds… Have great confidence in me…, Have a great love for me. See here, I will feed you from my own hands and let you drink from the inside of my heart, like a little white dove. There I will give you even more, more love… I will feed you with my substance…because I am yours… because I was born to come near to you… because I died so that even in eternity you would be all mine.”  Holy Hours, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

What if Jesus spoke these words to you? What if he is speaking to you now but your mind is too busy to hear him? What kind of emotions would it stir? How would you feel? Let your walls down, breathe in and out and reread the quote above from Holy Hours and hear Jesus speaking these words to you.

Open your mind and let him feed your soul. Open your heart and let him pour his heart into yours. Do you feel the immensity of life bursting from your soul? Is your heart burning with a fiery love for him?

Now imagine his body before you – in the tabernacle, the monstrance, the host raised before you. Do you want to take part? Do you want to be fed?

He says “this is my body… this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-28) and if you eat it and drink of it, you will have eternal life (John 6:54).

He is yours and you are his. Let him caress you, hold you close and love you. Take part in this intimate relationship.

Now that you have imagined, evaluate your relationships in your life.  Do they resemble this intimate love, intimate relationship?

This past week while I was on vacation, there was a couple in line behind me.  Not intending to listen to their conversation, I overheard something that was very familiar and close to my heart.  The wife, in a very frustrated, upset tone, made a comment to her husband about how he was looking at other women while she was next to him.

I mention this story because this is a result of a relationship that lacks the intimacy of Christ’s love.  If we are fed by Christ, then we would not desire this self gratification of sexual desire or lust.  He would guide us in what true love, true sacrifice of self, true connection of heart and soul is like as we embark in intimate relationships with the opposite sex.  In knowing this truth of sacrificing love, true intimacy and beauty of life, the world would have less failed marriages.

Ladies, if you are not married, date Jesus before you embark on a serious relationship.  If you are married, hopefully your spouse doesn’t have a problem with you dating Jesus together to improve the intimacy and selfless love of each other.  Feel what true intimacy feels like.  Experience the meaning of self sacrificing love.  Then model this love and if you are not married search for it to be reciprocated.  If you find it, you have met your soul mate, the one intended for you by God.

Be fed by the body of Christ and satisfy your thirst from the depths of his heart.  Let him caress you and set you on fire, bringing you life through all eternity.

What walls obstruct your view of God?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you…. Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you…. Fear not, for I am with you;”. Isaiah 43:1-7

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Who is God for you? How does God see you? Is God a loving, tender and forgiving Father? Or is He a tyrant, task master, and disciplining Father? Do you think God sees you as a beautiful child of His, wonderfully made, faults and all? Or do you think God sees you as a constant screw up, someone He is ashamed to call His?

Our experiences in earthly relationships sometimes dictate who God is to us and how we think God sees us. If you have bad experiences with earthly relationships, it can have a negative impact on your relationship with God. You may build walls that prevent you from growing in a deeper, more intimate, loving relationship with Him. You may have walls of judgement, lack of trust, inability to feel loved, shame, failure and the list goes on. Each of these separates your ability to experience the greatest love of your Heavenly Father.

Walk through this journey with me. Each day, you get up, go to work or may be you stay at home doing daily tasks.  Your day ends, you go home, rest and get up the next day and do everything over again.  Simple, nothing extraordinary or bad happens and life goes on.  One day, you wake up and the day is different, life suddenly becomes complicated and it feels like you are caught in a raging river and are drowning.  You reach up and feel a hand holding on to you.  It is God holding you because He will not allow you to be “swept away”.  As your life spins out of control, this trial you are suffering through feels like you are being consumed by a blazing fire.  Suddenly, you feel an immense feeling of peace, a warmth in your heart you never have felt before.  As you suffer in this heated moment, you are being purified just as the impurities of gold are separated from its surface in extremely hot temperatures.  God is purifying you into the precious gem he formed you to be and you can feel the transformation.

As you are emerging from this fire, He speaks ever so gently to your heart telling you what you mean to Him. He says you have been redeemed. So all the sin and shame you feel, is not the judgement He passes on to you. When you screw up, He wants you to let Him embrace you tightly with His loving forgiveness, not punish you for your wrong doing. When you didn’t hear Him call you, He wants to continue to direct you towards His calling by sending you His voice in another or direct you by means of another way that you can hear Him.

He wants you to know that you are precious in His eyes and He loves you. If you have been in unloving relationships or an unloving family, you may have trouble with accepting and receiving this unconditional love from God.  Over time, you built walls that place limits on God’s love, preventing you from seeing Him as a loving Father or being able to receive His love for lack of loving yourself yet He looks at you and sees a gem within you, behind the walls you have created.

So how do you remove these walls that are invading your view of who God is and how he sees you, so you can experience His unconditional love and mercy, see Him as the loving and forgiving Father? How do you see yourself through His eyes, see how beautiful and precious you are to Him?  Perhaps it starts with uncovering the cause of the wall, loving and forgiving yourself, loving and forgiving others, and looking to God like a little child. Pick up your sledge hammer, His Word and prayer, and destroy these walls.  Open your arms and heart and receive His love, see yourself as He sees you – the most beautiful pearl shining before His eyes.  Let His hands lead you through the waters and through the fire, accepting His forgiveness and knowing He is always there giving you love and mercy.  He is not dictating, judging, and punishing you for who you should be and are not, for what you should do and have not.  He is embracing you for who you are, even in your weakest, most sinful moments.