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.

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?

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.”

 

The roller coaster of life

“I command you be strong and steadfast!  Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

Have you ever rode a roller coaster?  Have you stood in the line watching it go up and straight down, twisting and jerking those riding, while they scream to the top of their lungs?  Did you stand there in excitement or a part of you fighting fear of the sudden drop?

black and white roller coaster
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I think life comes at us often like a roller coaster.  As we watch from the sidelines, we anticipate what may happen and some emotions begin to form within, most often fear of what may happen on the ride.  Once you are strapped in your seat, you are secure by that of mankind.  Then the ride begins and you build yourself up with excitement as you begin to climb to the highest point.  Then it hits as you are at the top for a split second, fear of the unknown of what may happen as you descend rapidly.  Once you reach the bottom, you realize it’s not so bad and your safety belt held.  You are secure.  As the ride continues, you get twisted and jerked here and there and continue climbing steep tracks and descending.  After the ride is over, you are exhilarated.  You did something very daring, but most of all you placed your trust in the security of your safety belt and the human engineering of the roller coaster.  You can also look at it from the perspective of freedom.  On the coaster, you let go and felt freedom from your own control as you had no where to go but where it took you once it started down the track.

One can compare this to life and our relationship with God.  On the roller coaster, we are placing our life in the security of man, the designer, construction crew,  the quality control and maintenance of the coaster and not ourselves.  In life, through FAITH, we place our life in the security of God.  Of course, we have to hop on the coaster of life and let God be in control of the highs and lows, the twists and jerks.  Sometimes we may be challenged greatly as the descend takes us directly into a twist and flips our world upside down.  Even in that moment, He still has you on the track guiding you through to the next.  As you are at the bottom, He begins to prepare you for the ascend to the top, to the space freely created to accomplish His will in you, to trust Him when you begin to descend again.  The wheels will remain on the track.  As you trust in the security of His love and His Word, you will remain planted, grounded in Him.

I find myself often faltering from my trust in God.  Usually it is in that split second that I realize life has just challenged me and I’m about to descend into a twist and turn, I begin to rely on my human nature of taking control and doing everything on my own.  Sometimes, it’s not until I get halfway down the sudden drop when I realize, God is in control of this and as long as I place my trust in Him, I will stay on the track and life will not fall apart.  I know I will falter that is my nature.  But if I realize at some point down the slope, that God has this and I’m in the security of His hands, then I have still won the battle.  God will always be there ready to keep me on the track and safely secure in the seat of the roller coaster of life.  When He delivers His message of assurance through His Word or another’s reflection, it is overwhelmingly exhilarating.

How does God’s thrill ride compare to man’s?  How exhilarating is it?  Do you want to ride it over and over again?

Fruit in the Silence

“Attend to the sound of my cry, my King and my God”  Psalm 5:3

Have you ever been in a place or a state when all you feel like doing is crying, hoping that it will bring you solace?  What about prayer – have you sat down in silence and struggled and found your self resting, being consoled and comforted?

I found myself today practicing being present to God in silence.  I must say this is a total struggle for me at times.  My mind tends to wander all over the world and back.  As I sat in the chapel in Adoration, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I settled my mind and engaged in silence and total presence.  As I sat there, an image popped into my head.  The image, at the time I found to be intriguing.  It was the ocean washing ashore.  At first there was a wall present and then I realized the wall was gone and the water was just washing away the sand before me as it came ashore.  Because I was centering myself in prayer, I didn’t want to analyze this too much but felt that the wall was a blockage for me to be present to God and as the water washed ashore, He removed it so that I could center myself.  Then I realized as the sand began to wash away, that God was washing away the top layers of my being and revealing my inner self, my center in Him.  At that moment, I don’t think I realized the impact this would have later in my day.  This created free space for me to be present with God, in preparation for what would come later.

sea landscape beach landmark
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Later as my day emerged, more things began to surface affecting my peace and I found myself crying out to God and found myself centering my inner being in His presence unveiling a greater peace and comfort.  As I am faced with a challenge ahead of me, this presence and act of centering my soul in a cry to “my King and my God,” prepares me with great strength, with peace, and with trust.  These are the moments when my prayer life struggles yet strengthens and my faith grows leaps and bounds.  It is where my heart meets the heart of Christ, and my pains, His wounds.

So I asked myself and I ask you, have you sat in silence lately, centering your being in Christ, crying out to Him from the deeper core of your heart, allowing Him to comfort, hold and whisper His will for you?  Silence can be scary in a world of noise, but it can also be comforting and restful to heart that is in need.

 

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.

Will you allow God to shape and form you?

“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever wish life were simple, everything worked out, there was no pain, no suffering? Do you think if you had no pain and suffering you would be the person you are today?

So often I wish God would take away all my pain and suffering, just put me in a bubble and protect me from all inflictions. If only each piece of sin and suffering would bounce off the wall of the bubble and I can watch in peace. When I sit and dream of such a beautiful, perfect life with no heart ache, no unhappy tears, I’m reminded of all that I have gained in the midst of pain and suffering. If I had not suffered pain and inflictions, I may not have the relationship I have with God. It is through these trials that I have grown the most in my faith and relationship with God. It’s in these moments that I cry out to God and seek His love and guidance the most. It’s in these moments that I learn to trust God more and more because I know there is much more greatness God has in store for me.

As a parent, I am always wanting to place my girls in a bubble, protect them from all things in the world that can inflict pain, hurt, heart ache. But being a parent, I also know that putting my kids in a bubble and not letting them experience these things is not good for them. In order for them to grow, I have to step back sometimes and give them space to experience situations.

God does the same for us in so many ways. He knows what we need and He allows us to go through these moments so that the happiness He designed for us through love for Him is pruned and blooms.

What masterpiece can be created when you fire up a slab of metal and mold and shape it? What can you create when you twirl around a piece of clay, guiding its formation? Is God not the artist and the potter? Will you let Him shape and form you today through your pain and suffering, because you are His perfect work of art?