Look up and embrace His love

As we approach Holy Week, I have been trying to refocus myself.  Throughout Lent we should have been looking within and uncovering sin in our lives.

My last blog, invited you to look at your own crosses in your life and see the resemblances of those crosses to Christ’s passion and be thankful for your crosses. I think this helps us to relate in a sense to what Christ endured. Just as in our relationships today with those beside us when we connect to someone through similarities in our stories, our bonds grow deeper. I think this is an important dynamic for us as humans – to empathize and discover companionship in our lives. When we can empathize with Christ, we can also go deeper in our relationship with Him.

As I embark on this refocus in my own spiritual life leading up to Holy Week, I am also reading “No Greater Love” written by Dr Ed Sri. This book is an awesome read. One of the things I found interesting in the book is that Dr Sri talks about when Peter denies Christ three times. After he realizes, he goes away and weeps. During Lent, we really begin to look at sin in our lives which brings us to repentance. What is important is that when we recognize this sin that we don’t go into a selfish mode feeling upset about our weakness, that we weren’t as good or as holy as we should have been. In essence, we don’t go into the mode of beating ourselves up over what choices we have made resulting in sin and the consequences that come with it. I am so guilty of this. Instead of focusing on a selfish, beating myself up point of view, look at it from how did I offend my Lord, how has this hurt my relationship with my Lord and/or others. Instead of “looking down”, “look up” at the cross, see your Lord on that cross.

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When Dr Sri talks about Peter going off, isolating himself and weeping bitterly, he talks about how remorseful he was. He wasn’t upset with himself because he knew better. He was truly sorrowful that he had denied his Lord, he had caused damage in his relationship with Jesus through his actions. This is how we as sinners repent and go through transformation in our lives, turning away from sin. It is through true remorse of how we have offended God, how we have moved further away from a deeper relationship with Him that brings us closer to Him.  When we come to Him with a contrite heart, sorry for our offenses against Him, exposing our true self, our weaknesses as sinners, He embraces us with His love with all our hurts, faults, and fears.

During Holy Week, not only do I invite you to look at your crosses and feel Jesus’ passion through your life but I also invite you to look up, and evaluate how your sins have impacted your relationship with God and truly offended Him. This will give you the graces through your reconciliation to turn away from sin and be embraced by the love and mercy of God – JUST AS YOU ARE, A WRETCHED SINNER WHO HAS FLAWS.

Finding love and forgiveness – A lesson from grandma

My grandmother passed away March 30, 2016.  As I was thinking about the Lenten season today and what forgiveness means to me in my own life and those who have left deep scars, I was reminded of my grandmother.  I wanted to repost this blog post I wrote last year.  It talks about one of the greatest lessons I learned from my grandmother.  Her actions spoke volumes on forgiveness that I know resided in her heart.  Forgiveness is an essential part of our spiritual journey, the health of our souls and the quality of our lives.  I pray that I will be an example as great as she was in forgiving and showing love and kindness.pexels-photo-334978.jpeg“You have never been in love” Antonia Lipari Mire

Words spoken by my late grandmother as we sat on her front porch swing. I was in my early twenties. I was a baby in my career, just graduated college, on my own in a small town in Arkansas. I was cocky, independent and lacked wisdom. My grandmother lived about 45 minutes away from where I lived after graduating college. I often would pay her a visit on the weekends. One conversation I remember clearly was talking to her with a very self centered attitude about marriage. I remember telling my grandmother that I was glad I had a college education so that I, unlike my aunts, would not have to put up with marital issues due to lack of the ability to support myself. My grandmother put me in my place in a matter of seconds. She looked at me and told me, “you have never been in love”.

Later I realized how much that conversation really impacted me. As I grew wiser and settled into my own marriage, I recognized what my grandmother meant. My grandmother was a model of love, love to her family and love to my grandfather. My grandparents had separated for as long as I could remember. My grandfather from what limited knowledge I had of him was not a very kind person to my grandmother. He appeared to be very lonely and didn’t have great relationships with his kids. When he was dying of cancer, 20+ years after they separated, my grandmother with the loving heart she had, moved in with him to take care of my grandfather until he passed away.

I remembered that story from my college days, yet the love and forgiveness didn’t sink in until after my grandmother had told me “I had never been in love” and after I was married. Both of those memories of my grandmother merged and gave me a lot of food for thought as I struggled in my own marriage and a divorce. The example my grandmother showed me was an extraordinary example of love and forgiveness. My grandmother had an immense capacity to love and she also had a great ability to forgive. Both of these were gifts that came to fruition when she took care of my dying grandfather, a man that did not treat her with love and respect.

It’s been a little over 2 years since my grandmother’s passing.  As I think of this memory of her,  my heart sings with joy because of the impact her words and example of compassion has had on me.  I truly believe as God has worked in my own heart, the example of my grandmother is a gift that has helped me to love and forgive even when it has not been reciprocated.

How many times should you forgive your brother or sister? Jesus tells us that we should forgive seventy times seven.  I’m sure he really meant infinitely.  St Paul also tells us in Colossians 3:12-14, that we should put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.  If one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”  Forgiveness is very difficult when you have so much pain buried with in you.  It is important to lift that pain to God and trust he will fill your heart with love to pave a path for forgiveness and healing in your heart.  In order to forgive you have to love.

 Are you practicing your capacity of love and forgiveness, especially to the one person who has inflicted the greatest pain upon you?

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?

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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.

Discovering purpose in the ashes

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  1 John 3:1

“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

Ever wonder what your purpose is in life?  Have you asked God what He created you for – what your purpose is?

Over five years ago, I found myself asking that very question.  My life felt very numb.  I thought I had a purpose but wasn’t sure what it was.  I remember praying, asking God what my purpose was.  A few months later, I was asked to be involved in a new ministry in the church, which was a catalyst in my relationship with God.  On the surface, I thought the invitation to start the new ministry was God answering that question and leading me to a purpose of being more involved in the church.  What I realized through the events in my life that followed and through my growing relationship with Him in my faith and through the foundation I was establishing in the Church,  that the answer God was revealing to me was that my purpose was to receive His love.

Today that message is so vivid as I look upon the ashes in my life, the chains I have broken.  With those chains, I could not receive the LOVE of God in its entirety.  I had to release my past, my feelings of rejection, fear, not being good enough, and not being loved.  Today, those ashes of my past have revealed a love so great that I know my purpose and it is a very simple purpose – TO RECEIVE THE LOVE OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER.  There were things in my past that prevented me from being able to receive His love.  When I cried out to Him over five years ago, He placed me on a path to see that my purpose was simple – allow myself to be loved by Him.

Everything else freely falls from accepting God’s love.  Fulfilling His Will becomes incredibly easy once we embrace this love by living it, breathing it, tasting it, giving it to others and receiving it from others.

Have you opened your heart to receiving the LOVE of God, completely?  Do you have walls or chains preventing you from receiving this immense love?  Perhaps you have some unforgiveness buried deep within your heart that is building a dam from this life giving water of love?  Perhaps you are hanging on to a lie that you aren’t good enough to receive it?  Whatever your story may be, your past, place them in the fiery pit and let the ashes be swept away by the breath of the Holy Spirit as you embrace the greatest gift in your life, a gift of LOVE that your Heavenly Father wants to give you because you are His child and nothing can take that away.

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”.

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.

The voice of those with no freedom of speech

“You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb.”  Psalm 139:13

As we approach the day of our independence and celebrate our freedom, I wanted to ask you to be the voice of those who have no freedom of speech, the unborn.

Abortion is a very hot topic in our society and has become a choice that many feel has no consequence, as if the life never existed. For others, the pain of that choice lasts a lifetime.

I know a few women who have made the choice of abortion and as they tell their story, a sorrow comes over their eyes, revealing an unbearable pain. It is an event in their lives they will never forget and will always wonder what could have been. Their love for the aborted baby is deep within searching for forgiveness as they bear the weight of the choice they once made.

Why do people make the choice to abort? Why do people support and practice the act of abortion?

shoes child clothing pregnancy
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I watched a movie the other day called “Life Changes Everything”. In the movie, a young man asked his girlfriend to abort their child. The story unfolds as if she made the choice to not abort and the father left her alone to raise the child. The child grew up to be a doctor, a doctor who finds the cure for cancer and cures his father in a human trial. At the end of the movie, you realize the mother made the choice to abort and the story was a story of what could have been.

Consider another major life in our history.  Think about the Annunciation, when St Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she will have God’s son. If Mary would not have accepted God’s will to carry Jesus in her womb, the history of salvation would have never been as it is. If she said no, would it have been any different than a mother’s choice to not carry a life within her womb by choosing to abort?

Just as in Mary’s obedience to accept the life of God’s son within her womb, we as humans should also accept the life of God’s children that He Himself has formed in the womb. It is His will that this life is created.  He knit each in the mother’s womb.

How many aborted babies could have been world leaders that change the face of our society? How many could have discovered the cure for cancer, or saved hundreds of lives as an ER doctor or a trauma surgeon? How many could have been priests or ministers sharing God’s love to the world? How many could have led causes to end poverty, aid in sheltering the homeless, adopted an abandoned child? This list could be endless on what God’s plan for each one of these seeds of life could have been or done.

So again why does one human life choose to end another life that has no voice, no freedom of speech? Is it the lies of fear, selfishness, shame, acceptance, and pride that cause disobedience to the will of God? My friends, Satan has a great target – the voice unspoken, the voice with no freedom of speechthe unborn. If we, God’s children do not speak up, do not pray for these lives, then who will? Today, say a prayer for the end to abortion, for the mothers discerning the decision to abort, for those who practice the act of abortion and support it. Through prayer, you are being their VOICE.