Forgiveness scores!

One of my memories as a young girl is learning about the “Saints”. Before you sit back and think, well that’s nice and wholesome, I want to explain a little. The Saints I grew up watching and learning about were the New Orleans Saints. Growing up in Louisiana, many of my family members gathered around the TV on Sunday to watch the Saints play football. There was lots of yelling and screaming, jumping and clapping, coupled with some minor frustrations when they didn’t play well, which happened to be often when I was growing up.

These Sunday afternoons coupled with playing football with my brother and his friends, I learned the language of football. I learned about offense and defense, scoring and blocking. I learned running plays and passing plays. You may ask yourself what does this have to do with a “faith blog?”

Ever consider your struggle with forgiveness in the form of a football game?

white american football helmet and pigskin ball
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Humor me as I explain a little.  On the field, you have forgiveness on the offensive side, while anger, resentment and bitterness are on the defensive side. As forgiveness catches the ball and runs down the sideline, anger tries to knock him over, causing him to stumble. Then from out of nowhere, bitterness and resentment come from different angles, diving in for the tackle. At first glance, forgiveness appears to be tackled among the pile of anger, bitterness and resentment and then out of the entanglement, forgiveness emerges. It is as if he gained strength from another source and he gracefully escapes the pile, running towards the ultimate touchdown of glory and peace.

Quite a game! When forgiveness is on the offensive side in the football game, glory and peace will always emerge and will always score. This is a promise from our Heavenly Father as He proved this very thing when His only son, Jesus, died for us so that we may be forgiven.  He also promises to give us the strength we need to emerge from the bottom of the pile to score the touchdown.

So, I ask myself when have I struggled with forgiveness and I ask you, have you battled with forgiving someone?  Although you know it’s the right thing to do, you want to hang on to the anger or hurt within you.  You may even feel justified to not forgive.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when we are on the receiving end of the hurt and the other person continues to go for the tackle.  There is nothing worst than the bondage of unforgiveness.  Our hearts are unable to be free when we cannot forgive.  If we suffer from hurt or brokenness, we are unable to heal and move forward if we cannot forgive.  This keeps us shackled to the past, the brokenness, the pain, the anger, the bitterness and resentment.  None of these are lifegiving for our physical and spiritual needs.  What holds us back from seeking forgiveness if we seek a joy filled life?

Are you ready to be on the offensive side or the defensive side?  Do you want to be bound by anger, resentment and bitterness in the pile up on the football field or do you want to emerge glorious and peacefully through the triumphant offensive moves of forgiveness?

Dear friends, forgiveness is an awesome gift that each of us has been given.  No matter how difficult it may seem and how justified you feel to not forgive, take a leap towards the goal and place your bet on forgiving others.

If I saw You walking by…

If I saw You walking by, would I be a beggar, the one who gave all she had,  the blind man, the hemorrhaging woman or the Pharisee?  I ponder this question as I journey through life.  Am I at times the Pharisee, persecuting You with my ignorance to who You are, what You have done for me?  Do I, like the blind man and the hemorrhaging woman know who You are and desire Your healing?  Am I the beggar, searching for what You have to offer, seeking Your riches?  Or may be I am the one who gave all I had, honoring Your presence?

seashore under white and blue sky during sunset
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Through my journey, I have been each of these.  I have persecuted Jesus through my earthly desires and selfishness.  I have thought of myself when I have meditated on the Passion as one who has spit on Jesus, that screamed “crucify him”.  When I see myself in the Passion in this role, I identify with the affect of my sins.  My sins affect not just my small world and inner being.  They have a greater affect, a ripple affect that extends to my community and beyond.  In essence, my sins today are the people of yesterday that persecuted and crucified Jesus.  Sometimes that is a little hard to swallow – to consider my own sins a part of Jesus’ Passion.

Then there are times when I am the blind man or the hemorrhaging woman, seeking healing and knowing that Jesus is the source of that unending gift of life giving water.  My healing comes in the form of both physical and spiritual healing.  More often, my healing takes the form of spiritual healing and it is through the deeper relationship with Christ that I find that healing, through embracing the Body of Christ, found in both the Eucharist and the Church.

When I see myself as the beggar, I ponder the riches I seek.  When I have fulfilled this role, have I sought from Jesus only to gain for myself or I have sought from Jesus riches to pour out upon others?  Through my journey, I have done both.  I remember when I was in college, I would pray my rosary or kneel down in prayer to ask for God to assist me in making a good grade on my exam.  In my mind, I always felt that if I had studied and did my part, then prayed and asked God to do His part, I would be successful in making the grade.  I guess it worked.  But I think in my shallow faith at the time, I was begging God to help me make the grade for my own personal success, not considering what His intention was for that success.  On the flip side, as I have grown in my faith, I often find myself praying for things that help me to be the person allowing God to fulfill His Will in or to accept His Will in the outcome of something I am praying for.

When I look at all these roles, I think I personally prefer to be more of the person who gave all that she had, honoring God’s presence.  This is the role that I feel will provide holiness.  This is the role I want to fulfill more often in my life as I journey forward to my final resting place.  It is in this role that I accomplish all other roles and unite with God.

I think in our journey we each go through phases of each of these roles.  It is important to do so because I think this is where growth in our relationship develops and becomes deeper so that we can establish holiness, our ultimate goal on this earth that God has given each of us.  As we go deeper in our faith and develop a more prayerful relationship with God, we begin to move further away from some of the roles such as the persecutor.  I know through my own journey that we are often relearning to walk.  Each time we relearn, the falls and the time it takes to relearn to walk the journey become smaller and smaller as our conscience and heart unite to the one who created us to be Holy.

I want to end this post with a thought.  What does it take to give all that we are, honoring God’s presence in all that we do on a daily basis?  I don’t think it means we are perfect.  I think it implies that we are doing the best that is capable of us, which is what God created you to do – hence holiness.  God Bless!

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.

person on a bridge near a lake

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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?

Good and faithful servant

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” Matthew 25:21

Do you long to hear those words “well done my good and faithful servant?”

Over my adult life, there have been many good and faithful servants in my life but often times I may not have truly recognized there service as so.  Throughout my life, I have been a very selfish, independent young woman.

When others serve me, I tend to find it hard to accept, mainly the root being my independence.  I also have noticed in my adult life that I may have taken others’ service towards me for granted, the root being my selfishness.  Since my faith was ignited, I have been trying to recognize and be more attentive to my old habits and be more in tuned to being a good and faithful servant.

This past year, God has been teaching me a lot about service, through events in my life.  I have been on the receiving end of many wonderful women’s service and I have walked along side many as they served others.  It has been a beautiful journey learning to accept it when I need to and appreciate those that are giving their time and talents.  It also has been joyous serving along side these beautiful women.

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This weekend, I was reminded of a different kind of service, a service that is humbling and small.  I never considered, visiting another person who is going through a difficult period service.  This weekend, I experienced a form of service that brought joy to my soul, yet sadness to my heart.  In my past, this is the service that was given to me, yet I never recognized it as service.  This person I visited was a person who cares about me and has offered me support and comfort.  Today I realize that it was Jesus acting through her.  Jesus suffering with me.  At Mass today, one of our parish Deacon’s beautifully painted the picture of a good and faithful servant.  He said that there are 3 things that a person who serves will undergo.

  1.  He/she will undergo suffering.  To serve another, you have to make a sacrifice.
  2. He/she will be united in suffering with that person, just as we are united to Jesus in His suffering on the cross.
  3. He/she will carry a piece of the load of the person being served, just as Jesus carries our load.

The Homily spoke so greatly to my heart and highlighted my weekend visit.  My friend is a good and faithful servant and has been by my side picking me up and providing me shelter through some very tough times.  I have prayed and spoken to her a number of times during her suffering but had not gone to sit with her to share moments of laughter.  This weekend I cleared part of my day to do just that, go sit and share a smile with her.

Serving is not just about doing big things, such as volunteering to clean up after a hurricane, or at a soup kitchen.  It’s more than that.  Serving is also showing love to your neighbor through humble, small acts.  It’s sitting with an old man or old lady that has no family, but smiles at the site of your presence.  It’s saying a kind word to the person at the register, that looks like she has had a rough day and bringing joy in that very moment.  Serving is picking someone up when they are down, lifting the load off their shoulders, even if it’s for a split second.  It’s feeling their suffering and walking their journey beside them.

Even in the small things, we can serve one another spreading the joy of our Lord and bearing the suffering with one another.  When you think of serving, don’t just think of the big ticket items but think of the small acts of love and kindness.  Take a little extra time and bring a smile to someone’s face by feeling their suffering and lifting the weight from their shoulders by bringing a joy filled smile upon their face.  By sharing in the small matters, you will be given great responsibility, sharing in your Father’s love – go and be a “good and faithful servant.”

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.

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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.”

 

Are you filled with the fulless of God or are you running on empty?

“That He may grant you in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

Are you filled with the fullness of God or are you running on empty?  Perhaps your cup of faith is half full and is being depleted?

Often times as we walk through life, we find ourselves checking the boxes when it comes to our faith because life is too busy to do anything more.  We have very good intentions and we make sure we are doing the things we know are right, like go to church regularly.  In the midst of it, our faith becomes stagnant or it may begin to deplete.

I think just as we all have financial bank accounts and emotional bank accounts, we also have faith bank accounts.  Frequently, we withdraw a lot from our faith bank account as we push through each day.  If we fail to deposit into our faith account, our roots may begin to dry up and the strength we once had is weakened.  If our faith bank account is not full, when trials and struggles hit us, we are less equipped to handle them.  We begin to question God instead of lean on Him, accepting and surrendering to His will.

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Many things are invested in through our faith bank account – trust in God, joy, grace, love and forgiveness of others, etc.  It is important for us to constantly deposit into our account.  God places so many things at our fingertips to invest or pour into our faith accounts.  In order to fill our inner self with the Spirit, we have to utilize these tools He places before us.  We have to take a breather from the business of life and invest time in some of these tools He gives us such as:

Prayer – consistently show up to converse with God, to sit with Him, to listen to Him

Bible (our how to book) – reading the Bible, learning and receiving God’s message

Church – attending church, worshipping and praising Him, serving your community and fellowshipping with the body of Christ

Friends and Family – companions to walk our journey with

Retreats, Bible Studies, Theological and Spiritual resources – resources that help us grow in knowledge and love of Christ as we experience our faith through the eyes of others and with others.

Recently, I found myself in a situation where my cup, my bank account wasn’t full enough to handle the boulder that dropped in front of me.  I wrestled as I stumbled.  I began to question myself and my ability to handle the things that God was placing before me because of the way I was dealing with my boulder.  In doing so, I fell into the “I’m not good enough syndrome.”  Am I good enough to be the daughter He is calling me to, the daughter He is asking to walk along side others?  I attended a women’s conference this weekend, with around 4800 other women – phenomenal.  As I listened to the speakers’ stories and their messages, my faith bank account began to fill.  My spirit was infused with the love, strength and knowledge of Christ.  I realized that God is calling me as His qualified daughter based on His merits and not mine.  I am good enough, especially for His purpose in my life.  He will utilize the gifts He has given me to overcome this boulder in my life as He has done before and to serve Him in the capacity He is calling me to as I  walk along side others with all my brokenness sharing His love, compassion and mercy.

God utilizes everything for His goodness and the tools He gives us to fill our faith account helps us to be “grounded in love… have strength to comprehend… what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”  When we are filled with the fullness of God, we can handle the boulders that fall in front of us with His grace by accepting and trusting that His plan surpasses anything we could fathom.

Are you filled with the fullness of God or are you running on empty?  Does your faith bank account need a little deposit so that you can invest more in trusting God and in the joy that’s buried in your heart waiting to burst through?  If you are feeling depleted, take time to pray, invest in time with your spiritual friends, attend a retreat or a conference if you can, spend time in all capacities that radiate with the love of Jesus.  I’m certain that you will begin to fill your cup of faith.

Where is your focus when the wind is strong and the water is deep?

“The wind is strong, the water is deep;  My heart is heavy and my mind won’t sleep; Oh can you heal, my fear it breathes; I need to know if You’re the shadow I can see;  I wanna run to You when the waves break through;  I wanna run to You and not turn back;  There’s no turning back;  Nothing in my past; My eyes are on You again; Can’t see nothing at all; But Your outstretched arms; Help me believe it; Though I falter; You got me walking on water;  The ocean’s singing, the song of grace; But if I’m honest with myself, I am still afraid….”  Walking on Water by NEEDTOBREATHE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh49C6vxB40

Ever felt like you were on the mountaintop of life and then stumbled, falling into the valley?  Or perhaps you were walking on water and lost your focus as life hit you from nowhere and you began to sink?

Sometimes our faith may be tested and we lose focus.  Our trust in God may falter.  The things we feel we have overcome and conquered find there way back into the cracks of our inner being, leaving us breathless, hurt and afraid.  The great thing about our faith is that God knows we are going to fall off the mountain or sink to the bottom of the deep waters but He is there each time to pick us up.  God reveals this to us in Matthew 14:27-32.  Upon Jesus’ command, Peter begins to walk on water towards Jesus, but when he becomes afraid and takes His focus off of Jesus, he begins to sink and cries out to Him, “Lord, save me!” and “immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.”  When we take our focus off of Jesus when the storm frightens us, we may falter but He will stretch out His hand each time and lift us back up.

Today I found myself reflecting on my own moments of faltering as life hit me like a train.  The things I thought I had overcome and put beside me knocked me into the deep waters.  The strength and trust I felt I had built up over the years, began to crumble like a wall that had been hit by a wrecking ball.  This song “Walking on Water” by NEEDTOBREATHE and the passage in Matthew 14 speaks to my heart so much in this season of faltering and losing focus when life feels out of control.   It leads me back to the truth of my faith, that even in the moments that I feel helpless, God is there sorting everything out, calming the storm as He lifts me from the depths of the sea of self-pity, fear, doubt and whatever other feelings that are surrounding my core of His grace and love.  Of course, as I watch this unfold I see my faith and my trust strengthen a little bit more.  In Isaiah 43:2,4 I am also reminded that as I “pass through waters, [He] will be with [me]; through rivers, [I] shall not be swept away.  When [I] walk through fire, [I] shall not be burned, nor will flames consume [me]… [I am] precious in [His] eyes and honored, and [He] loves [me]…”  His truth breathes life into me as He reminds me who I am in His eyes and how to depend on Him in the storms of my life.

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Dear friends, what will you do when the storms hit and the walls begin to crumble?  When the winds are strong and the water is deep, will you focus your eyes on Jesus?  Will you turn your back on your past and walk on the waters of life into His outstretched arms as He calms the storms in your life?