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.

Are the small sins devouring you?

“Confession is like a bridle that keeps the soul which reflects on it from committing sin, but anything left unconfessed we continue to do without fear as if in the dark.”

–Saint John Climacus

I have been observing this momma duck and her ducklings for about a week or so around the pond at work during my morning walk. Yesterday, as I walked around and noticed the mother duck, I only saw one duckling nestled under her wing. About a week ago, there were around 13.

As I ponder the fact that some other animal had been lurking around and devouring these poor little ducklings for a nice meal, I  couldn’t help but think about how often in my own life the enemy of my soul lurks around waiting to devour me. Ever so sneaking, he preys upon me. He does it in little things – mostly in the small sins I commit and tuck away.  And so often the impact is to my family and friends.

Do you often feel like you are prey to darkness? Have you hidden away small sins or may be big sins deep within?  Do you ever feel like these small sins are consuming little bits of you?

Like many, I struggle with ongoing sins, those I commit over and over again.  They come in various sizes and degrees. Perhaps you struggle with some of these same things.

Anger

All the enemy has to do sometimes is just strike at my heal and cause something to not go my way or as I expected.  I become frustrated and say words that I never meant to say but just rolled off my tongue.  How many friendships have ended because of that very thing?  How many family relationships become strained because of the slaying of the tongue in anger?

Jealousy

Jealousy is such a lovely sin because it’s one that springs most often from a feeling of not being loved.  No matter what our brains know and understand about one’s love for us, the enemy preys on our heart, our emotions and tells us that the other person doesn’t love us or love us as much as someone or something else and our friend jealousy strikes.

Pride

This one is a definite struggle.  Who doesn’t want to accept a pat on the back and think they are the best?  Who doesn’t want everyone to know that they are good at something?  Accepting a pat on the back is not bad but the enemy very slippery will come on in and enlarge that pat on the back into the sin of pride.  Have you had a friendship that was strained because you were overly proud of your capability and squashed their ability?

Procrastination

I think, often, procrastination affects us when we ignore God and His will for us.  When you have the gut wrenching desire to go help at a food pantry, a shelter, or join a ministry and you put it on the back burner, telling yourself, “I’ll do it later when I have more time.”  Perhaps at that very moment you were intended to be at that place to fulfill God’s plan in you or someone else’s life.  How many opportunities have you passed up that God was calling you to because you procrastinated?

Gossip

I don’t think anyone does this, right? Perhaps this is one that most people struggle with over and over again.  I use to work with a coworker that use to start off her gossip conversations with “I mean this in a Christian way, but …..”  It baffled me.  How in the world can you put Christ’s name in a conversation where you are going to talk about or judge someone?  Gossip is the double sworded tongue.  The enemy comes in and he gives you a sense that you will feel better about yourself if you share things about another.  In other scenarios, he tells you that you are helping someone by sharing something they confided in you with another.  A chain reaction kicks into play – very quickly.  How many relationships have been ruined over gossip?  How many stories have been misconstrued over gossip?

Lying

This is one I love. My girls and I often get in very good debates on the existence of a “good lie”. Sure there are lies that are told for very good intentions, such as keeping a surprise. Our debate normally is about a “good lie” or “the white lie” that it is still a lie no matter how you slice it. If we get in the habit of justifying a lie as a “good lie”, then we are being the judge of what is sin and what is not. We are essentially playing God.

Of course there are more little sins than what I mentioned above but these are probably the more common ones that are repeat offenders for most. In each of these, I think the enemy finds a little crack, perhaps our weakness, and strikes.

After the enemy preys on us and devours a small piece within us, he falls to the floor giggling with laughter because he has defeated the light God places within us and sheds darkness upon it.  My girls watch the series “Once Upon a Time”.  It’s a very twisted version of the fairy tales most of us grew up reading.  I find it quite interesting that when a good person does something that is sinful, their heart darkens and they become an antagonist in the story line.  I kind of view that same analogy with our own battle with sin.  When we allow these small sins to devour us internally little by little, we are allowing it to spread darkness within us.

So how do you get rid of it?  How do you illuminate the dark areas of sin in your life?  You could repair some of the damage by doing good deeds and works.  But that doesn’t repair your soul, it helps to repair the relationships and connectivity of your sin to the world, which is called penance.  It is imperative that you go to confession often, seeking forgiveness for all sins, especially the smallest sins that are tucked away in darkness.  It is in this very Sacrament that God’s love, mercy and compassion fills the dark crevices within you, illuminating you with His very light.

Dig deep within and uncover those small sins tucked away and go to confession.  Jesus defeated the enemy on the cross and offers you this forgiveness to defeat the enemy so that he does not devour you, separating you from the grace God offers you every microsecond of the day.

Has God placed a friend or a community in your life?

“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe

Do you have that one true friend that would lay down their life for you?  What about a community of friends?  Is there one friend or many friends that have been there in the midst of most or all of your struggles? In a moment of weakness, has a friend or your community of friends given you strength as a result of their support?

Today as I was taking my morning stroll around the pond on our company’s campus to clear my mind and talk to God, there was a momma duck and 3 babies at the edge of the pond and 4 ducks were sitting on the bridge rails above her. As I approached, one duck began making lots of noise. I watched for a while. I realized these 4 ducks on the rails were protecting the mother duck and her ducklings by giving her a warning signal of my presence nearby, potential danger.

I thought that was quite interesting and began to reflect on the example these ducks revealed to me of a community of friends, a family. Like the mother duck protecting her ducklings, God protects us when we are in trouble. And just as the 4 ducks on the rail were on the outside looking in, serving as warnings and advisors, our community of friends and family do for us.

It is important in times of struggle and need to have a support system. Often in the midst of your issues, you don’t see clearly or see the entire picture. Your support system is your wide lens, helping you to see the things you don’t. The friends in your life that guide you in accordance with God’s will are unique in your life. They are hand selected. They are not placed in your life on accident but for that very moment where God knows not only do you need the protector at your side but an advisor to be present with you on His behalf to guide you away from danger.

Over the years, God has strategically brought many friends into my life at pivotal moments to support me in accordance with His will. I know I can call several people in my community of friends in a moment and ask for a flood of prayers, guidance, or just a listening ear. Often I feel guilty that I may be wearing my prayer line out or the ears on which I pour out to. At the end of the day, these ladies will always be advisors, comforters, and words of warning when I am in danger or just in need of a reminder of His presence. God placed them in my life to reveal His very own love and guidance to me.

We are all connected in God’s divine plan and it is no coincidence when new friendships are formed. It is no coincidence when you need help in the midst of a struggle and a friend calls you or drops by to just say hi. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your friends are advocates in fulfilling God’s plan in you through support, love, and guidance.

Treasure the community around you that God put in your path. Call them to tell them thank you for being a part of your life. Let them know that their love reveals the love of your Heavenly Father and how much you need and appreciate their comfort and compassion. If you are at odds with a friend, go to confession, ask for forgiveness and ensure to contact your friend with an apology and an act of love and kindness.