A small box and a big God

“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31

Have you ever prayed for something and felt God was ignoring you and so you begin to take control and force the outcome to fit your prayer request?  If so, how did it turn out in the end?

I think sometimes just as in Natalie Grant’s song “King of the World,” we “try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world.”  We forget how big God really is and how small we are.  As a result we put God in a box that we design.

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Many years ago, I remember putting in for a position that would have been a promotion.  I really thought I was the best candidate for the job.  Hands down, I was going to get the job.  To my amazement and a kick in my pride, I was turned down for the position.  I remember being upset, knocked down, even a little embarrassed that I didn’t get the job.  A year or so later, another position became available that would lead me to a higher promotion as well as provide the perfect work/life balance I needed.  Reflecting back, I realized that the job I wanted would not fit in with work/life balance I would need later in life. As I look back on this very example, I realize how big God really is and how small I made Him when I was turned down for the first position.

Circumstances don’t happen by chance.  God allows them or God wills them.  When they are allowed, He will pick us up and carry us through it.  When He wills it, it will be better than we would have ever imagined, definitely better than our own plans.

I humor myself sometimes when I start to think how many years I’ve been single.  This is definitely a part of my life I have learned to put in God’s hands and every time I start to think about it, God reminds me of all the things He has been placing in my path that I could not do if I were not single.  He also reminds me that His love sustains me and is enough every time I go to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and my eyes begin to weep because of the love He pours in me.

Just as in Romans 8:31, God gives me and you everything we need at each given moment, even His Son.  It’s a great reminder for each of us that He is the “king of the world.”  How can we put  Him in a box based on our criteria?  How can we draw lines and tell Him that He has to stay between those lines?  Why do we think we can take control from the God who knows all, the God who is “for us,” the God “who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us?”

I think the answer is found in our human trust experiences.  Over the years, through our human relationships, we learn to not trust because of circumstances that hurt us in relationships.  I think this affects our trust in God as well.  When we lack trust in God, we want to take control because we can only trust ourselves to deliver the outcome we expect.

Trusting God seems to be one of the hardest things to do, yet it’s in this trust that makes life simpler, easier, more joyful and peaceful.  Look at your life circumstances in your past, when the thing that you thought was best for you fell apart and something better came up – was that God’s hands?  When you went through suffering and came out of it more alive and joyful – was that God’s hands?

Think about how life would be if we allowed God to be the “KING OF THE WORLD” in all our life circumstances.

 

 

Heart of the matter

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Have you been struck with unforgiveness?  If so, have you looked at the weeds surrounding your heart?  Do you want to de-weed your garden planted within you?

For some reason, I feel a great desire to write about “love”.  It seems everything I have been reading is about love.  The daily readings have been about love, a few devotions I have read, and a book on friendship with Christ.

It is difficult for us to love when our heart is “of stone”.  Typically, our hearts become rigid and crystallize into a hardened substance that prevents love from being able to filter through when we have been hurt or lost trust with someone and we can’t forgive them or won’t forgive them.  In Ezekiel 36:26, God tells us He will give us a heart transplant by removing the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh.  The only way He can do that is if we create space for Him to do so, chiseling a small crack in the stone by forgiving those who have hurt us, those who have betrayed us, those who have trampled our pride or caused pain and discontent of some sort.

Forgiveness is hard because we often feel that person isn’t deserving or that it is justified to be angry or upset with that person.  What we don’t realize is that the pain doesn’t go away until we forgive.   The anger and bitterness is what crystallizes our hearts to the point of separating us from “LOVE”, from God.  When forgiveness surfaces, breaking even a tiny pinhole in the stone, God is able to do His work and renew the heart of stone with a heart of flesh, literally melt away the hardness and de-weed His garden within you.

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I personally have wrestled with acts of forgiveness with people who have hurt me, betrayed me or dampened my pride.  What I have discovered is that when I have allow myself to break the wall of unforgiveness, my spiritual being becomes victorious, joy flourishes and in that joy I find love and a closer union with Christ.

God commands us to love one another.  In fact, Jesus gives us this as the second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-39.  Love is crucial to our Christian faith, because if we don’t have love, we become separated from God.  If we cannot forgive our neighbors or ourselves to allow love to overcome our heart transforming it from stone to flesh, then we become lost in the weeds that surround our heart.  God created us to desire Him.  He has written it within our hearts (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27) and it’s what draws us closer in relationship with Him, to a friendship with Him.  It is through the love of God we were created and through the love of God, the sacrifice of His “only begotten Son” that we exist through all of eternity.

St Teresa of Calcutta said that “joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.  A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”  To fulfill God’s will for us to help each other reach the gates of Heaven, we must first have love, love of self and love of one another.  Let God’s desire for you written within your heart, flourish and nurture the seed He planted when He created you.

Just say YES

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Have you had intentional or unintentional moments when you did not say yes to God when He called you to something?  Have you brushed that feeling off, that little nudge to help the person on the side of the road or the homeless person at the corner?  Perhaps you keep telling yourself you will write that book, talk to your friend about going to church or serve in that ministry you keep being asked about?  Sometimes I think procrastination and fear of stepping out of our comfort zone are Satan’s favorite in keeping us from saying YES to God in the moments He is calling us.

What if Mary procrastinated or just didn’t feel comfortable saying YES when St. Gabriel told her she was chosen by God to carry and deliver His son.  What would that story look like?  Would the Bible end at the Old Testament?  Would Christmas even be a day of celebration?  What about Easter?  What about us?  What would life be like for us sinners?

I think it’s interesting to look at salvation history if Mary had not said YES, if she had not trusted God and His plan for her.  Seriously, could you imagine the fear she must of had, being so young and told that she would be the mother of God’s son?  The fear of potential shame of being pregnant and not for the one she was betrothed to?  In our world that’s a scary thought and would be considered a heavy burden.

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In this perspective of Mary’s YES, I think about the many times that I have said NO out of fear or I procrastinated something that perhaps God was calling me to do.  I wonder how much richer life would be if I said YES and trusted God at least 75% of the time when He is nudging me.  I honestly wish I could just kick FEAR to the curb and didn’t make so many excuses of why I don’t have time to do something except put it off.  As I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating writing two other pieces because I’m afraid of what others may think about it.  In fact, my plan as my day started in prayer was to spend my day writing.  I found so many menial tasks to do today and didn’t pull my laptop out until 8 pm.  At that point my mind is restless and ready for bed.

Some time ago, I noticed an elderly man on a chilly morning sitting near the curb in front of a department store.  I felt this nudge to give him some cash and then began to talk myself out of it.  I could feel this sense deep within me to help him out.  I drove by where he was and lowered the window.  Gave him the cash I had.  The smile on his face and the words of blessings that he spoke told me that this was a God moment.  I’m not sure what that little bit of cash was able to do for this gentleman but that wasn’t for me to know or understand.  I was only to say YES to the feeling in the pit of my stomach to do something that would make some difference in God’s plan.  What if I had just kept driving?  Would God have nudged someone else?  Would that person have helped him out?  Would that poor elderly man been able to get something warm to eat or drink?  What if this man was the face of God calling me, calling you to compassion and mercy, love and kindness?

When St. Gabriel came to Mary, did she know or understand God’s plan?  Or did she just trust that God knew what He was doing and she was His humble servant?  I’m always astonished by Mary’s model of trust.  She is one of the greatest example of trust alongside Abraham in my opinion.  This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s take a minute to thank Mary for her YES and ask Jesus for the courage to resemble the trust that His mother had in accepting God’s plan for her, for Him and for us.  Without her YES – would we be celebrating Christmas, would we celebrate Easter, would we have eternity to look forward to?

Dying to self, realizing that all is God’s

 

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

What does it mean to die to self and be a follower of Christ?  In this world we live in today, what does that look like?  How can I truly be as Christ is to me?  How can I, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, “produce much fruit,” John 12:24?

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Pretty serious questions.  I often ponder these questions in my life along with am I fulfilling God’s Will by  acting on the answers to the above questions.

Is my heart truly mine?  Are my hands and feet truly mine?  How about the money in my bank account, my possessions or the children I am blessed with?  The more I contemplate this, the more my answer is – if I die to self and follow Christ, the answer to those questions would be no, they are all God’s.

When I lay down my heart and allow it to be in union with Christ, I will love others as He loves me.  I will embrace each person as if he or she were my brother or sister.  I would pray for them as if they were a part of me.

When I allow Christ to be my hands and feet, I will feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked.  If I see one of my sisters and brothers injured, I will pick them up and attend to their needs.  I will be a true servant to each of my brothers and sisters, giving of myself.

When I accept that my possessions are not mine but God’s, given to me to use to build His kingdom, I would trust that when my brothers or sisters reach out to me in financial need, I would give what I had to give, knowing that it was God’s to give in accordance with His will.

When I accept that my children are God’s, I would have less anxiety, trusting their lives into the hands of their true Father, their creator.  I would know that the hands that created them within me will direct their paths and their journey in life.

When I truly know that all I have is God’s, when I truly die to myself, my trust and peace will reach the heavens.  I would live the life God intended and I would be fulfilling His Will, building His kingdom here in this temporary home.  I think this is what it means to me to die to self and bear much fruit, just as the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it is then that the wheat is useful.  And so we, like the grain of wheat, will feed God’s people by bearing fruits of the kingdom through our service, love, compassion, and mercy given to us to be Christ in this world that needs it.

Dear friends, is your heart God’s heart?  Are your hands and feet that of Jesus?  Are your possessions God’s gift to use to aid His people?  Are your children His, given to you to spiritually guide and produce abundant fruit in the kingdom of God?  How simple would our lives be when we accept that all that we are and all that we have is God’s and was given to us to serve and love our brothers and sisters.

Have you performed open heart surgery on yourself? – God is waiting

“When you look for Me, you will find Me. Yes, when you seek Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me and I will change your lot.”  Jeremiah 29:13-14

Have you or any one you know had open heart surgery?  What about a conversion of faith from darkness to light?

What is the difference between physical open heart surgery and a spiritual open heart surgery?

In the physical sense, open heart surgery consist of any repair to the heart where a surgeon has to create an incision to access the components of the heart.  It’s not really a physical opening of the heart but an opening of the chest.

What about the spiritual sense?  What does it consist of?  I think that when we have “spiritual open heart surgery,” the heart of the spiritual self cracks open as one begins to mindfully seek God and God  begins widening that crack as He pours His light into it.  This is the heart of our spiritual conversion.

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A dear friend of mine reminded me recently that this process has to begin with us.  God does not force Himself into our heart.  He doesn’t make the incision, in a sense.  He waits until their is a tiny crack of true longing for Him within the heart and then He pours into it.  We are the surgeons that make the incision, God then provides all the instruments to repair it, transforming our lives through His light and truth.

I can pin point the exact moment when this happened to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, pray, thank Him or celebrate Him.  I didn’t really know Him as I know my best friend or a member of my family.  I didn’t have a relational connection with Him.  When my mind began to search for a purpose in my life and my heart began to seek God in prayer, longing for more of Him, my life began to change.  A tiny crack was opened and God began to widen that crack by pouring into me, changing me.  My eyes opened, my mind opened, and my soul longed for more as I hungered and thirst for God.  The more I longed for Him, the more He fed me, pouring people into my life, knowledge of Him, love, truth and trust.  My journey hasn’t stopped since.  The crack continues to widen and I continue to grow through the struggles and through the joy filled moments.  He hasn’t stopped pouring people into my life, knowledge, love, truth and trust.  Even when I stumble, I still know the journey is and has been amazing as my heart continues to open – opening a world of truth, miracles and wonder.  This is the spiritual sense of open heart surgery that I have experienced – as my heart has completely undergone a transformation on another level that is divine and exquisite.

Perhaps, you have experienced this transformation in your own unique way.  If not, are you prepared to perform “open heart surgery” on yourself by seeking God with all your heart and allowing Him to do the rest?  A tiny crack is all He needs to fill you with all His glorious wonder.  This Advent seek Him by opening your heart and receive the greatest gift, His friendship.

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?

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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!

Have you noticed the sprinkles decorating your faith

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6

With the holidays coming around the corner, many of us will be making some yummy goodies.  Some of them may be sprinkled with little candies for decoration or added flavor.  You will bake and decorated them with either joy or stress of trying to bake them with a ton of other holiday things to do.  Either way those who delight in them are filled with sweet joy as they admire and taste your delicious and beautiful holiday treats.

Making holiday treats sprinkled with decorative candies is a way that many people celebrate and share their love during the holidays.

So what about our faith?  Are there times when God sprinkles your life with sweet grace decorating your faith and trust in Him?

The past few days, I have seen so many simple graces sprinkled upon my faith guiding me to trust in God’s divine will in my life.  These sweet sprinkles have come in several different ways to remind me of His presence and His hands in all that is surrounding me.

Just the other day, I found myself praying for guidance in a circumstance in my life and when I was calling out to God, I received a message from a sweet sister in Christ that began with “Lord, thank you that you are near when I call upon you.  Today, I cry out to you for help…”

Today, I hear the song by Pat Barrett “The Way (New Horizon)”, not once but twice on the radio when I got into my car.  The sprinkles began to pour out two days ago when the verse John 14:6 was playing in my head reminding me that Jesus is my way, truth and life as I lean on Him and the Word of God, placing my trust in His hands.

You may ask what does this have to do with baking and sprinkles?  Often I think we walk through our journey of faith going through the motions of going to church, reading our Bibles, may be doing some Bible study.  And often as this is intermingled into everything else in our lives, we don’t realize the sweet decorative sprinkles God is pouring out in our faith through reminders of His presence and His will in our lives in some of the small things that align with where we are in a moment.  Being open to seeing, hearing, feeling God’s presence reveals a beautiful, decorative faith of trust.

I’m often amazed at the little things that remind me of His presence, His love, His protection, His promise and His mercy.  God hears every word we say.  He knows every thought we have.  He knows our circumstances, our pain and our joy.  And just when we least expect it, He sends us little sprinkles to reveal Himself in that present moment, decorating our faith with His love.  Just as in baking for the holidays, we may be in a joyful moment or a stressful one but His decorative sprinkles will always fill us with joy and delight as He shares His love for each of us, His children.

Listen to the lyrics in the song by Pat Barrett, “The Way (New Horizon).”