Find yourself in the minefields often?

Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”   Ephesians 6:10-17

Ever feel like you are at war?  Fighting a battle you feel you can’t win?  Do your battles tend to be with people?

I work in an environment that is primarily men.  In fact, I spend about 95% of my time around men at work.  Often times they humor me with their comments.  One day, we were sitting talking and they began to laugh and started describing images of me putting war paint on under my eyes.  I often do go to battle for these men as they are my direct reports and as their leader, I do my best to be their voice.  Although I thought it a funny image, I later began to reflect on that image of putting on war paint to go to battle and what do I put on to fight my personal battles in my life.  I’m not sure war paint is the answer.  Seriously, what purpose would that solve if you weren’t using it to camouflage yourself as you try to sneak up on the enemy?

Almost every day, we are faced with battles in our lives.  Sometimes those battles start the minute we open our eyes until the time we go to bed.  So how do we best fight these battles?  In Ephesians 6:10-17, I think we are given the perfect recipe for fighting the war – putting on the armor of God.  We may not see that armor as being effective if we don’t realize that our battle is not with the person beside us, but our fight is “with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”  Until we realize that key point, we talk until we are blue in the face, shout as loud as we can, resist doing kind things, and in some cases retreat in silence and solitude.  The flesh and blood placed in front of you, the one you are struggling with is not your enemy.  In fact, God placed that person in your life or allowed that person in your life for some reason.  I guarantee that.

When I begin to unpack Ephesians 6:10-17, the first thing I notice in verse 10 – “Draw your strength from the Lord.”  That first verse tells me that the key to putting on the armor is to first trust God in your weakness and let Him be your strength.  In verse 14, St Paul tells us to gird our loins in truth, to prepare and strengthen ourselves in God.  He also tell us to be clothed with righteousness as a breastplate.  In the book of Wisdom 5:16 it says that God will “shelter [the righteous] with His right hand and protect them with His arm.”  So put your armor on, prepare yourself with God’s strength, His truth and allow Him to protect you by wrapping His arms around you.  In verse 16, St Paul tells us to hold our faith as a shield, protecting us from the arrows.  When it feels like your struggles are piercing you and the arrows are coming from every direction, hold on to your faith – trust in your Heavenly Father that all things work for His good.  Finally in verse 17, he tells us to protect our heads with the salvation delivered by our Lord and use the Word of God as our weapon.  Being Catholic, I look upon that last verse twofold.  My sword, is both the Word found in the Bible and the Word made flesh found in the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus through His death, our salvation.

black steel helmet near black and gray handle sword
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What I find in Ephesians 6 is that when I place my trust in God, allowing His strength to prevail in my weakness and Him to cover me in His arms, my faith burns like a fiery shield as I walk through the battle with the body and blood of my Lord and the love letter of my Heavenly Father lighting the darkness as I trod the battlefield of my life.  Our battles will be numerous and the field will be treacherous, but if we fight with the right armor and the right weapon, we will always be victorious.  Our God is a good God and His purpose in our lives is far beyond the battlefield.  The battlefield is where He strengthens us because it is His strength that we draw on to win the wars in our lives.  Next time you find yourself in the minefields, put on the “armor of God” and pick of the “sword of the Spirit.”

 

Is your deepest desire a communal relationship with God?

“…our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments” Pope Francis

What is your deepest desire?  Is it a communal relationship with God?  These are both good questions to ponder and reflect on today as you read the Gospel of John, chapter 6.

Todays Gospel reading is one of my favorites.  In fact the series of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, has always been my favorite series at Mass.  I think the reason is that over the years, I have realized the true meaning of the Eucharist in my life.  It is the “communion with Him”.  Before receiving the Eucharist, my heart desires so greatly to be consumed by Jesus as I consume His body and blood and when I receive the Eucharist at Mass, I receive this gift of Jesus’ presence within me that is like no other.

Today at Mass, something happened that brought a deeper meaning to me in the blessings and healing of the Eucharist and the communion with God.  Just before Mass, I was reading The Better Part which is reflections on the Gospel.  In The Better Part, Christ as friend, I had read

“You want more out of your life; I do too.  I am what you’re looking for.  Know me better; listen to me; trust me more.”

Today, before the consecration of the bread and wine, I heard this small voice whisper to me to offer up this Mass for my ex-husband.  A little resistant at first, I remember thinking that is a lot to ask and not so easy today.  After recalling what I had read before Mass, I knew that when the body and blood were raised up, I was to offer the Mass up for my ex-husband.  I was to listen to that inner voice and trust that Jesus knew me better and knew what I needed today.  So, I offered the Mass up for my ex.  After receiving communion, when I went back to my pew to pray, I felt a release as tears cleansed me while I prayed.

I wanted to share this because I think this is an example of desiring and embracing a communal relationship with God.  It’s through the Eucharist that the communal bond – as Father mentioned today – with Jesus as the wedding ring, a union between man and God takes place.

Jesus says in the Gospel today,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6:35

If you do not believe or have trouble believing that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, read the Gospel of John, chapter 6 carefully and let the words soak in – ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read this beautiful reading.  He came to earth to not only die for us but to give us life and fulfill us by being present with us in this beautiful Sacrament.

Toxicity in relationships

“So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Ephesians 6:14-17

Are you a victim of a toxic relationship?  Have you been a victim of a toxic relationship?

In the chemical industry, toxicity is always a concern with certain chemicals.  We are always made aware of the toxicity of the things we work with and how to safely handle them through labels or safety data sheets. In some cases, we have to put on layers of protective equipment to protect us from exposure to the toxic chemical.  It is the awareness that something is toxic that triggers our response to protect ourselves with additional safety gear.

purple liquid poison on brown wooden surface
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In relationships, we often don’t receive this awareness.  There are no labels or documents that come with the people we are engaged in a relationship with. The toxicity is not revealed until we are embedded in the relationship.  In some cases, as with a family member, it has always been a part of our life.  And in many instances, it goes unrealized, it’s just normal.

What does a toxic relationship look like? Webster defines toxic as containing poisonous material that is capable of death. If you have been in or are in a relationship with a spouse, a friend, or a family member and you feel they are draining the life out of you, there is a high probability you were in or still are in a toxic relationship.

So, how do you deal with toxicity, especially with people you love? How do you protect yourself from the poison that is capable of death, death of your spirit?  Perhaps the answer is the armor of God?

ancient antique armor armour
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What do you think the armor of God is that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-17?  I think the armor of God that is stated in Ephesians is Jesus, the truth that gives us righteousness through His love and His peace that no one can take away.  It is our faith in this truth, love and peace and it is the Holy Spirit that guides us in the word of God, establishing our faith in Christ.

You may say, okay that’s nice.  I get that but how does this help me in my toxic relationship or dealing with the affects of a past toxic relationship?

If the relationship is life threatening, seek help.  You may need to leave the relationship. 

If the relationship is causing spiritual death or has caused spiritual death, start in prayer.  Seek God’s help.  Pray for the person and forgive the person.  Embrace the word of God by reading the Bible.  Embrace the forgiveness and love of Christ.  Soak up Christ’s peace through the Eucharist and know that the person cannot take this away unless you allow them to.  Become a warrior with the armor of God on and  the army of your community supporting you on the battlefield in prayer.

We alone cannot fight toxicity but God can do it for us.  It is our faith and trust in Him that allow us to wear His armor and shield our hearts from the venom present in the relationship.  Don’t allow toxicity to poison you and cause spiritual death within you.  Protect yourself with “the armor of God”.

Journey through the desert

Take a journey with me. Let’s walk along a path that seems to have no foot steps in front of us. Perhaps there have never been any or perhaps they have been covered up by the sands.

There is nothing living among the path we walk, everything appears to lack life. As we walk, let’s look at the moments in our journey that did not bring life into us. Look at them closely. Is there anything you can learn from those moments that will breathe life in you today? Something present that will help you with a trial, tribulation or a feeling of unrest?

Walk along this desert floor and feel the heat of each of these moments. Feel the dryness of your faith. Do you thirst for God as you trodden this warm, sand filled land? Do you see a mirage of your Heavenly Father before you inviting you to sift through the sands of the desert in your life, to draw closer to Him by offering these feelings to Him, bringing life upon you? Or do you see a mirage of something that isn’t from God, tempting you to turn back and dwell in the journey behind you suffering death within, clouding your vision to move forward – to see God in the moments of hurt and pain? Which mirage will you turn to? Which one draws you near?

You continue to walk along this journey and notice above your head there appears to be a dove. He flys just in front of you. You have to glance upward to see him. You wonder what is a dove doing in the middle of the desert. Yet you feel an exuberant amount of peace. Could it be the dove’s presence? Can you feel his guidance along your path? Follow him. See where he takes you.

It looks like he is guiding you to a spring ahead? It appears to be a spring of life giving water. Is it another mirage tempting you? Or is it a spring from your Heavenly Father inviting you to dive in His love, accept the grace He has given you? Will you drink from it? Will you dive in? Or will you pass it by because your vision is cloudy and the reality of the spring has been covered up by your conscience?

adventure alone arid barren
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It is your choice to drink from the spring of life to come to the table and receive the Eucharist, the life giving body and blood of Christ. It is your choice to dive into the moments of desolation, the moments when God feels distant and search for His presence, His invitation. It is your choice to allow Him to bring life into your being or remain in the desert of death. Which choice will you make today? God will draw close to you in the desert filling you with a spring of life.

Are you the hemorrhaging woman?

“And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.  Immediately her bleeding stopped.”  Luke 8:43-44

Do you sometimes feel like the hemorrhaging woman?  Have you been afflicted with uncontrollable loss?  Has one trial after another poured out upon you and you feel that you cannot go on?  Has a relationship in your life drained the life out of you?

How often do you feel overwhelmed with affliction and pain, leaving you depleted of life?  Do you think this is what God wants in your life?

Did the ‘hemorrhaging woman’ touch Jesus’ tassel on His cloak out of lack of options or did she touch it because she believed in Jesus and his ability to heal?  In Luke, chapter 8, Jesus tells us that it was her FAITH that saved her.  Her FAITH!  She didn’t touch it out of ‘lack of options,’ she knew He could heal her if she just touched His clothing.  She didn’t have to go as far as touching Him, but just His clothing.  That is quite a demonstration of belief in Jesus’ power to heal.

IMG_2532.PNGThere have been many times I have felt just like the hemorrhaging woman.  The only difference is, I was not suffering from a physical bleeding.  I was suffering from a hemorrhaging spirit.  As I dig deeper within, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am uncovering so much about my past that has affected my present.  I see the results of that lack of healing, perhaps the lack of faith at the time.  Things that I suffer from and have suffered from, as a much older adult, are continued outpouring, bleeding of the wounds inflicted from my childhood and early adulthood.  As my faith has become stronger and I receive the Sacraments on a regular basis, my open wounds are being revealed to me and I can feel the healing, the bleeding slowing down.  Is it ironic or is it my FAITH in Jesus’ healing?  Prior to five years ago, my relationship with Jesus was very much on the surface.  Today, my relationship with Him is deeper and I know the power of that relationship with Him.  I know the healing power of the Eucharist and reconciliation.  I know the power of prayer.  I know because I have had a personal encounter with it.  Friends, Jesus’ healing power is real and it is right before our eyes in prayer, a relationship with Him and in the Sacraments.

Why is it hard for us to see it, to believe it?  Is it our culture, the world that tells us it’s not real?  Are we just too busy to stop and see it, to stop and take part in quiet time with Jesus, to go to Mass and go to confession?

He is waiting for each of  you, right there on the altar.  Come to Him in the Sacraments and be healed.  Stop your spirit from bleeding by touching the cloak of Jesus in the Eucharist and reconciliation.  Believe in the healing power of the Son of God and stop hemorrhaging.

Where do you encounter God?

green mountain near river under cloudy sky during daytime
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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.

animal beautiful biology bloom

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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.