Good vs Evil

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45 NLT Catholic Edition

Have you ever watched the series “Once Upon a Time”.  My kiddos absolutely love this series and I have to say I have also developed an interest in it – although I often am lost in the twisted story line.

“Once Upon a Time” is a very twisted series of all the fairy tale stories we heard growing up and even some of the current fairy tale stories produced by Disney.  I have found it extremely interesting to understand good and evil in this series.  What is most intriguing is that good and evil is dictated by a person’s heart.  The more the heart becomes dark the more evil the person becomes.  The heart literally becomes black as a person embraces evil.  Evil is dictated by the person’s choice to do harm to others, in most cases by using dark magic.  An evil person, like the “Evil Queen” from Snow White, can become good by choosing to help the heroes save others by defeating those that are inflicting dark magic to harm others.

Reflect on that for a minute and what Jesus says in Luke 6:45.  Pause for a second and think about how sin eats away at you when you haven’t sought reconciliation.

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When you are carrying your sins within you, do you feel this dark cloud hanging over you?  Does your actions come from a place that is not of love?  Do you see small little signs that reveal a relationship of darkness in your heart from sin and your choices, especially your choice of words to others?

Dear sisters and brothers, when we carry sin, we are right where the enemy wants us.  He directs our heart away from God by covering it in darkness.  As we continue to carry it, the darkness continues to grow and we become more separated from our Father in Heaven and our ability to hear Him begins to fade.

Jesus says in Luke 6:42 “get rid of the log in your own eye.”  A little further, in Luke 6:48, Jesus describes what it looks like for a person who listens and does what He says.  He compares it to a person who builds a house on a solid foundation that can withstand the floodwaters that break against it.

In the context of these verses, I find a lesson of reconciliation and a strong statement of what our heart produces and the strength of our faith when we don’t reconcile our sins against our sisters and brothers.

I have been in this place a number of times and I’m sure you may have as well.  We dwell in the sins of anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, resentment, and judgement and our heart reflects that place of establishment.  This may weaken our faith when we need it most as it begins to separate our heart from God.  In some cases, it may totally fill the vessel within us so that we are not able to allow God to reside within, disabling us from reflecting the spirit of light onto others.

We are all called to shine the light of Christ to our brothers and sisters.  In order to do so, it is essential to reconcile our sins and fill our heart with the goodness of our Lord.

God bless each of you.

Managing expectations, not disappointments

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – the reading during my wedding ceremony.  It seems forever and a day but I remember the voice of the person who read it.  As my dear friend read this reading during my wedding ceremony, many dreams and expectations filled my head.  Love was this GREAT EXPECTATION.  It was supposed to be exactly like 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Why?  Because God said it was.

I’m sure no one else has done this – had GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Towards the end of my marriage another set of verses filled my head as they were repeated to me often, Ephesians 5:22-23 “wives should be subordinate to their husbands…. for the husband is head of his wife.”  Everything in between and afterwards was strategically omitted during these reminders of the Word of God.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of my past.  The important thing I want to point out is I started my marriage with expectations of this blissful marriage with no problems, with an image of love as in 1 Corinthians 13.  And I ended my marriage with grave disappointment.  My ex-husband is human and I am human, neither of us are God and the marriage could never be perfectly blissful, with the perfect love of 1 Corinthians 13.  In a relationship, both individuals should definitely strive to uphold God’s definition of LOVE but we are not perfect.  We are going to miss the mark sometimes and that’s ok as long as we respond to the missed mark with this definition of LOVE.

My marriage seemed to be the exact opposite of what I think God intended in the covenant of marriage.  Towards the end of the marriage when I kept hearing the verses from Ephesians 5, I thought something was wrong with me.  I was broken and therefore my marriage was broken.  I was failing at fulfilling what I thought the expectations (key word) God had in Ephesians 5.  Part of that could very well be my own fault as I was ignorant to what God really meant in Ephesians 5 – perhaps because most of the message was missing when it was told to me over and over again and I accepted that as it was.

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Ok – now, I’m hoping to tie both of these things together.  I want to first focus on expectations and disappointments.

We wrestle in our lives with disappointments because of our expectations.  If our expectations aren’t aligned with accepting God’s plan, His Will in our lives then we are greatly disappointed when something happens or doesn’t go the way we planned or we prayed for.  I’ve blogged a lot about God’s Divine Providence in our lives and sometimes it involves bad circumstances in our lives to bring the beauty or fruit.  If our expectations are anything other than what God has in store for us, disappointment rears its ugly head.

What often happens when we become disappointed?

We start pulling away from God.  We start questioning God’s motive in our lives and whether He is a good God, a loving Father.  Our faith starts to suffer.

So when Ephesians 5 kept being brought before me in some things that I felt weren’t healthy, I really began to question God and who I was.  This was embedding inside of me an image that I was a failure in my marriage, not good enough, a disappointment to my husband and to God.  Fast forward to where I am in my faith today, I have a more informed knowledge of the entire message of Ephesians 5:21-30.  As I read Theology of the Body, a wonderful book by the way, I began to put these verses in perspective.  Here is my new perspective and new understanding of Ephesians 5:21-30.  God does intend for wives to submit to their husbands and He also intends for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church.  So, God’s intentions are exactly 1 Corinthians 13-4-7 in Ephesians 5.  In order to be obedient to Ephesians 5:21-30, both husband and wife have to give themselves freely to the other.  Christ loved the Church so much that HE gave Himself to His bride, the Church, by offering His life.  So in order for a husband to “love [his] wife, even as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5: 25),” he must give himself completely to his wife.  A wife in return must submit to her spouse, giving herself entirely to him.  It also says that the Church, the bride of Christ, is subordinate to Christ.  I think this is fulfilled by desiring all that God desires for us – alignment to His Will.

Going back to my own story, at the end of my marriage, I had become disappointed in myself because of another expectation.  Looking back, this is a very good lesson to me on my expectations and disappointments and it reinforces my desire to be aligned with God’s expectations, His Will in my life.

I invite you to evaluate your expectations – may be they involve your children, your parents, your spouse, your job, a friendship or an illness.  Are they aligning with God’s Will?  Are your expectations flexible to accepting circumstance that is part of His plan for you?  If so, you will have less disappointments and more life giving joy.  Blessings!

“Do not, my child, approach Jesus Christ with the hope of bending his will to yours: what I desire is that you yield yourself to him and that he receive you, so that he, your Savior, may do with you and in you whatever he pleases.” St. Cajetan

 

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!

 

 

The deeper meaning

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

When you read Psalm 46:10, what comes to mind? What do you think God is asking you?

This verse has been a headline in my head for years.  In fact, it has been a part of me so much that my phone case has the verse on it.  Several years ago, I found myself hearing this in so many things I was reading and the music I heard.  I even remember a session in spiritual direction on this very topic during that same time period.  I remember it so vividly because at the time I was hearing this message, I had signed up for not one but two retreats, back to back weekends – insanity perhaps or may be divine intervention. My spiritual director looked at me and asked me to pray about this because one of the retreats she was very familiar with was not “be still”.  I can vouch for that, neither retreat involved resting in the stillness of God.  

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After I had attended the second retreat I found myself on the floor in my study surrendering something that had overcome me – “fear”.  At the time, I knew that the retreats were definitely meant to be because of the fruits I received that I desperately needed at the time.  What I didn’t realize was that God was about to lead me on a journey of learning to surrender and trust Him.  Several months after the retreats, a defining moment in my life and spiritual journey began as my ex-husband began to pursue custody of our children.  I began reading a book on surrendering to the divine providence of God that spoke volumes to me.  What I saw was how much God’s presence in my past had impacted so much goodness in my present; how much He had delivered me from and how much He held me and loved me.  As the reality of my struggles in my past shed light on my present and the goodness God had brought out of my past, I began to learn about trust, trusting God.  The moments when I truly placed my trust in God, I found inner peace.  I knew things would be ok, no matter what the outcome would be.

Why? BECAUSE ALL THINGS ARE FROM GOD AND OF GOD… GOD CAUSED OR GOD ALLOWED. AND HIS GOODNESS WILL ALWAYS BE REVEALED EVEN IN THE MESSES.

Last night, I was driving home from a meeting and on the radio the DJ was talking about the Hebrew meaning of “be still” from Psalm 46:10.  What he said really spoke to me about my journey.  He said that the meaning was to let go, to surrender.  I was amazed as I began to reflect on my journey of trust that began 2 ½ years ago. When I was trying to understand and discern what God meant when He was telling me to “be still and know that I am God”, really was a discernment of trust and not so much stillness as I had assumed.  I was embarking on a path in which I would need to surrender and trust Him and His ways, knowing that all good things come from Him. This surrender would begin during these two retreats as they began to open me up to see fear within me and to allow me to let it go by dropping to my knees that Sunday afternoon after returning from the second retreat.  

TRUST and surrender are still illuminating my path as I journey through my life, now with a beautiful family of ACTS sisters. This year the theme for the retreat I am teaming on, the same retreat I attended first 2 ½ years ago, is “my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust,” Psalm 91:2.  

Although sometimes, I do believe God is calling me to rest in stillness with Him, I now know that when He called me to “be still,” He was telling me to let go and let Him be my God, taking care of what is dearest to my heart – my children.

God has a beautiful plan for each of our journey’s.  Sometimes we may not understand at first, but the more we are open and in tune with Him, He sheds a bright lamp upon the path and reveals more to us about our journey and His plans as He molds us.  

I will not be shaken

“I keep the Lord always before me.  With Him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

Are you aware of God’s constant presence with you?  If He was sitting next to you, whispering to you, would you hear Him?  If He stood behind you and gently pulled a strand of hair to get you attention, would you notice it?

Over the summer, I bought my girls each a tree frog.  When it was feeding time, I went to feed them live crickets.  In doing so, I removed the top lid from the terrarium and placed it on the ledge the terrarium was seated on.  I had only noticed one frog when I began to place the crickets inside.  I just figured the other frog was under the moss.  When I went to put the lid back on, as I picked it up I noticed something had fallen off the lid.  I quickly realized it was a frog.  I screamed and jumped backwards, dropping the lid.  Yesterday, I was met with a similar fear of a small reptile.  As I was eating breakfast with my kiddos, my daughter began to get my attention and was pointing down at the table within one foot of my plate.  When I realized that she was pointing at a lizard, I jumped and screamed creating quite a bit of excitement and adventure in catching the lizard.

You may say, what does the presence of God have to do with tree frogs, lizards and a screaming woman?  Actually it has an interesting perspective and parallelism.  You see, in either case – the instance with the tree frog and with the lizard – I did not see the small creature right away.  I was not expecting either to be within my personal space and when I did notice I was very startled.

It can be the same way with God.  When we are not attentive to our relationship with God, we may not recognize His presence or His call to something He is wanting us to do or say.  When we finally realize God is there, we may become startled, especially if He is calling us to something and we are headed the other direction.  On the other side of the coin, we may not have a relationship with God and are shaken by many things in our lives, especially in moments of struggles.

The very essence of it is that God is always with you and it is your attentiveness to your friendship with Him that is the key to all things in your life.  God has paved the road in front of you.  He has constructed the scenery along the path and He is directing you.  It is your awareness of Him along your journey that creates the peace in the adventures of the joy filled moments and the painful moments.  Being aware that God is on the journey with you carrying your baggage when they are too heavy and running carefree along the countryside when there are none to carry prepares you so that you won’t be surprised, but filled with peace and excitement.

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Although He is always near, God does not force Himself into any of our lives but if we nurture a relationship with Him and know He is “at [our] right hand, [we] shall never be shaken.”  Even in the biggest trials along our journey, we will not be overcome.

Are you nurturing your friendship with God, tuning in your awareness to His presence?  Will you notice when God taps you on the shoulder or whispers to your conscience?   Are you prepared for the unexpected or will you be startled?

When the unexpected comes to visit, fear may stop in to visit as well but it can turn into peace knowing that God is present guiding you in all things.

Just say YES

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Have you had intentional or unintentional moments when you did not say yes to God when He called you to something?  Have you brushed that feeling off, that little nudge to help the person on the side of the road or the homeless person at the corner?  Perhaps you keep telling yourself you will write that book, talk to your friend about going to church or serve in that ministry you keep being asked about?  Sometimes I think procrastination and fear of stepping out of our comfort zone are Satan’s favorite in keeping us from saying YES to God in the moments He is calling us.

What if Mary procrastinated or just didn’t feel comfortable saying YES when St. Gabriel told her she was chosen by God to carry and deliver His son.  What would that story look like?  Would the Bible end at the Old Testament?  Would Christmas even be a day of celebration?  What about Easter?  What about us?  What would life be like for us sinners?

I think it’s interesting to look at salvation history if Mary had not said YES, if she had not trusted God and His plan for her.  Seriously, could you imagine the fear she must of had, being so young and told that she would be the mother of God’s son?  The fear of potential shame of being pregnant and not for the one she was betrothed to?  In our world that’s a scary thought and would be considered a heavy burden.

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In this perspective of Mary’s YES, I think about the many times that I have said NO out of fear or I procrastinated something that perhaps God was calling me to do.  I wonder how much richer life would be if I said YES and trusted God at least 75% of the time when He is nudging me.  I honestly wish I could just kick FEAR to the curb and didn’t make so many excuses of why I don’t have time to do something except put it off.  As I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating writing two other pieces because I’m afraid of what others may think about it.  In fact, my plan as my day started in prayer was to spend my day writing.  I found so many menial tasks to do today and didn’t pull my laptop out until 8 pm.  At that point my mind is restless and ready for bed.

Some time ago, I noticed an elderly man on a chilly morning sitting near the curb in front of a department store.  I felt this nudge to give him some cash and then began to talk myself out of it.  I could feel this sense deep within me to help him out.  I drove by where he was and lowered the window.  Gave him the cash I had.  The smile on his face and the words of blessings that he spoke told me that this was a God moment.  I’m not sure what that little bit of cash was able to do for this gentleman but that wasn’t for me to know or understand.  I was only to say YES to the feeling in the pit of my stomach to do something that would make some difference in God’s plan.  What if I had just kept driving?  Would God have nudged someone else?  Would that person have helped him out?  Would that poor elderly man been able to get something warm to eat or drink?  What if this man was the face of God calling me, calling you to compassion and mercy, love and kindness?

When St. Gabriel came to Mary, did she know or understand God’s plan?  Or did she just trust that God knew what He was doing and she was His humble servant?  I’m always astonished by Mary’s model of trust.  She is one of the greatest example of trust alongside Abraham in my opinion.  This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s take a minute to thank Mary for her YES and ask Jesus for the courage to resemble the trust that His mother had in accepting God’s plan for her, for Him and for us.  Without her YES – would we be celebrating Christmas, would we celebrate Easter, would we have eternity to look forward to?

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror?

Do you often feel like you get drawn back into your past?  Perhaps, you go back to relive a very happy moment?  May be, you haven’t healed from an event in your past and you go back wondering what went wrong, you ask a bunch of what if’s or you just can’t move forward because of the pain?

Why does the past often seem so attractive? Can we relive an exact moment in our past, re-create it?

Our past is never meant to be re-created.  In fact, it never can be.  Even if I walk the same path today as I did yesterday, my foot prints will be different, my thoughts will not be exactly the same and the environment around me will be slightly different, even though it is the same path as yesterday.  No matter, where or how we walked the journey yesterday, we are meant to always be in the present moment.

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So, why does God give us this capacity to remember the journey we have already traveled?

I think He does so to reveal moments of joy and happiness and moments of sadness and pain to aid us in the present moment.  They either will help us through a learning experience or they will bring a smile in the moment when we need it.

Sometimes, I think in my own personal life, I feel I get sucked back into my past through current circumstances. I have two choices in those moments. I can either allow myself to be sucked into a place that no longer exist or I can choose to move forward in the present moment by choosing to deal with the circumstance through the grace of all things God has provided in that moment to aid me to continue the path forward, only looking back to learn how to best proceed.

Then there are memories in my past I cherish, memories that bring pure joy. Being a mom of two beautiful young ladies, I cherish the memories I have of their childhood, the moments they brought laughter to my day by their actions and words, the moments when they made their first accomplishments as they grew into the the young ladies they are today. I also embrace the memories of those who have gone before me or who have provided me with great wisdom and love through my childhood and young adult life. These memories are things I can look back on and be filled with joy and also learn from as I embrace the current moment.

As I reflect on my own journey, God provides these memories to me for a purpose and that purpose is not for me to try to relive the moment or to go back and stay in the past.  He gives them to me to learn from them, to rejoice in them, to strengthen me and remind me of all the gifts He has provided for me in the journey.

If we try to drive looking through the rear view mirror, we will never move forward and reach our ultimate destination.  The rear view mirror is there to help us journey forward by seeing what is behind us and using that to make the best decision to maneuver as we travel the road ahead in the present moment, where God is, providing the ultimate compass of guidance.

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror or are you using it to aid you as you maneuver the challenges of life?