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.”

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.

Are you carrying your cross with joy?

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 27:34

Are you carrying your cross with joy?  Where do you place your trust, in yourself, or God?  Do you try to maintain chaotic control or do you allow God to maintain perfect control?

The other day, a dear friend, reminded me of bearing my crosses.  I had allowed anxiety and fear to settle in.  In doing so, I was not allowing Christ to help me carry that cross.  I was relying on my own ability to carry it.  I was not carrying it with joy but with anger.  What she sent me to read was a reflection by Gus Lloyd iterating how bloody Christ’s cross was and that ours is also not pretty or easy.  All the same, we should imitate Christ as we carry that cross and allow Him to help us.  Over the years, I have had moments where I carry the cross with joy and moments when I don’t.  When I look to the cross, to Christ and lay down my struggles at the foot of the cross, He gives me the strength and the overwhelming joy to carry it.  That is an amazing feeling.  So, I ask myself why do I still try to maintain my own chaotic control and try to carry it on my own?

My first response would be I’m human and I’m going to falter, especially to my old habits of self reliance.  Another response I ponder on is that when I falter, my faith becomes stronger.  In the midst of that struggle in my self reliance, God sends someone or something to remind me that it is He who I should look to as I carry this cross.  Although it may still be a dirty, ugly cross, He will bring me “across the finish line” with joy running through my heart and soul, the joy of Christ.

It is not the cross that we should focus on but it is the one who is beside us within us that is bearing the weight of that cross.  This is the focus of joy, not sorrow; happiness, not anger; trust, not anxiety.

Today as I read the Gospel reading with my girls, Mark 27:34 hit me like a train as it was my second reminder to not rely on myself but to pick up my cross with the love of Christ and carry it along side Him with all the splinters, rough edges, dirt, and blood.  This is where my life shines and bears fruit.  This is where my heart sings and rejoices.  Today, I am filled with this reminder that my cross is where Christ delivers me and my relationship with Him is strengthened.

Are you ready to pick up your cross and follow Christ?  Are you prepared to surrender your self will, self reliance?  Are you ready to be filled with overwhelming joy and grace as you carry your cross, allowing Christ to bear the load with you?

Traveling together, a journey with one focus

“Just as the wise men traveled together to find Jesus in the manger, so we travel together to find Jesus born in our souls.”  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling

Have you encountered a companion along your journey that has helped you grow in your relationship with God, perhaps in the form of a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a guide?  Have you encountered companions that seem to draw you further from God?  Which one brings you life?

I have had many companions in my short life.  Some have taught me about life, love and faith, some have comforted me, some have inflicted pain and some have guided me.  They all have one thing in common, the journey they accompanied me on was headed to one final destination.  My journey has been a walk through the valley, the desert, the mountainous terrain, along the beautiful springs rushing by and through the fields of a thousand flowers.  I have swam the depths of the ocean and soared on the wings of eagles.  All the while being accompanied by others to a destination in my heart to find Jesus waiting for me.  In the pain and in the joy, in the hardships and in the simplicity of life, there has always been one compass pointing to one direction.  The beauty of it all was that my companions helped me to see this path forward, whether they intended or not.

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There are going to be positive guides and companions in my life, spiritual friendships and mentors.  There will also be negative companions that will rip at my spirit, test my strength and weaknesses and prey on my vulnerabilities.  At the end of each day, it is I who am the one discerning the path to take to reach my destination.  When I don’t have my eyes focused on Jesus, I will miss the path to take.  I will wander off onto a path that is lonely and treacherous.  I will have no companion and I will only seek the desires of my self will.  This is when I find myself broken and damaged, depressed and forgotten, hopeless and in disparity.  I will find myself needing companionship to be alive, to continue along my journey.  When I see myself in such a desolate state, it is imperative that I seek companionship.

In the book the “Inner Compass,” Margaret Silf draws on a unique perspective of companionship and our need for others in guiding us to our final destination.  In 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah sees Elisha and when “he came to Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself with the twelfth, Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him.”  What she goes on to describe is the act of plowing a furrow, “your furrow of life.”  Ahead of you, you have 11 oxen, helping you carry the load and keep your eye on the focal point so that you stay on a straight path as you plow.  You are not alone in your journey, you have companions that will help guide you and keep you focused on the destination, Jesus.  We all have a story to tell along our journey, our faith share.  It is in this story, that we see our 11 oxens, our companions that help keep us focused on Jesus.  Perhaps, a few of these companions may be your anamchara, Celtic for “soul friend”.   We also see those that help us become stronger in our faith because of the trials we endure.  In all circumstance it is you and I that are the ones making the choices that mold our story into a faith share that only we can claim.

Are you going to allow others to travel with you “to find Jesus born in [your] soul?”   Are you going to allow them to help you companion with you to keep your eyes on the focal point, Jesus?  He is the destination and the ultimate companion, but He gives you others in your life to let you know you are not alone.  He speaks to your heart through them as they guide you, mentor you, keep you grounded in His love for you.  Have you thought about who are your 11 oxens, who are your “soul friends”?

Have you been kissed by God or heard His heartbeat?

“There is an ancient legend that holds that when an infant is created, God kisses its soul and sings to it.  The legend says God’s kiss and His song, as well as the song of the angel, remain in that soul forever – to be called up, cherished, shared and to become the basis of all our songs.  But to feel that kiss, to hear that song, requires solitude…. The sound of God’s heartbeat is audible only in a certain solitude and in the gentleness it brings.”  Prayer Our Deepest Longing

Have you been kissed by God lately?  Have you heard Him tell you He loves you lately?  Have you sat intimately with Him, allowing His embrace so that you could hear His heartbeat.

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I think the quote from the book “Prayer Our Deepest Longing” is such a beautiful image of the love of God as our creator and how intimate His relationship has been with us from the time we were formed.

Today, as I contemplated that image in the solitude of my heart, I realized that not only do I long and desire this intimate relationship with God but I also long and desire it with my earthly relationships.  I realize that no one  on this earth can possess the unconditional love God has for me but I also recognize that there are people in my life that imitate this intimacy of God through Christ in them.

As I have matured in my life and embraced my journey with Christ, I realize how important each person in my life is.  Discerning my friendships and those that help guide my direction in my life has become very important.  When a doctor performs surgery or any procedure for that matter, he has a set of instruments that are necessary to do the task that he needs to accomplish.  The same is the case with an orchestra.  To play a certain melody that resonates beautiful sound, the orchestra has to have certain instruments that precisely play certain notes at particular times.  I think our friendships and other relationships are instruments in our lives that help guide us in directions that resonate with the very heartbeat of God and “His song” in us.  Perhaps, it is in our solitude that we can truly hear the sound of His heartbeat, hear that song and embrace His kiss.

In my life, discerning the relationships that are healthy, the instruments in my journey, has been critical for me to ascend to this summit of solitude where I can lay on the chest of my Lord and hear His heartbeat and embrace His kiss.

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After reading the excerpt of this ancient legend in “Prayer Our Deepest Longing,” I know that His song and His kisses that remain in my soul have been called up, cherished and shared in the intimacy of my dear brothers and sisters I have connected with in my walk with God.  Each of my sisters and brothers are the instruments in the song God played for me during my creation as His beautiful daughter.  And each of your brothers and sisters that are in your life guiding you along your journey with Christ are the instruments in the orchestra God created just for you to hear His harmonious heartbeat in the beautiful song they play.  Embrace your sisters and brothers that guide you closer to God along your faith journey.  Share the kiss of the Lord with each of them.