Your cross

In the still of the morning, my mind wanders to the path you walked. 

What did you feel when you were condemned to death?  Were tears welling up in your eyes for the love you felt for me as I placed my own sins on the cross that you would carry?

When you picked up your cross, did the thought of me cross your mind as you knew you were offering yourself up for me?  

Each time you fell from exhaustion of carrying your cross, burdened with the weight of the world, did your heart ache?  

When you saw your mother Mary, did sorrow fill your wounded body?

When God sent Simon of Cyrene to companion this journey with you, lifting the weight of the cross from your body, did you feel His overwhelming love and the power of His Will within you?

When Veronica wiped your face, did you feel her kind heart?

With each swing of the mallet when they nailed you to the cross you were carrying, did you feel the sting of each of my sins that you carried along your journey?

This journey I travel through life has a familiarity.  Every corner I turn on my path is strewed with crosses.  Some of these come with great pain and suffering that seems unbearable as I try to carry it alone. Yet some seem light and airy.

You carried one big cross for many and I carry many small crosses.  When I feel burdened with the weight of my cross, you tell me I’m not alone and you send me a companion to aid me in carrying that cross.  Along my path, our Blessed Mother meets me and comforts my sorrowful body with her gentleness.  You send many Veronica’s to show kindness to me, lifting my head and wiping my tears.  

It is in these crosses I pick up and carry along my journey, that I meet you.  I meet you in those around me, the companions you send.  I meet you in the pain, suffering, love and mercy.  I embrace you when I trust in your presence within me as you lift the burdens of the cross.  It is these crosses that become light and airy.  And it is in these crosses that I find true joy, love and forgiveness.  

Have you felt a familiarity with Jesus’ passion?  Do you see the similarities of your crosses in life.  Do you recognize the Simon’s of Cyrene He sends to help you carry your crosses?  Do you recognize the Veronica’s that show kindness lifting your spirits?  Do you feel the gentle embrace of the Blessed Mother comforting you?  Although Jesus endured much more pain and suffering than we may ever endure, our journeys are similar to His when we carry our crosses.  It is in our crosses that we empathize with Jesus’ passion, that we feel close to Him, where we meet Him more intimately.

As Holy Week approaches, I invite you to look at your crosses in your journey – where you were sent a companion, or a kind person, or an embrace of comfort.  Truly feel the passion of Jesus through your own crosses, your own pain and suffering and thank Him for laying these crosses before you.

May God keep you and bless you this Easter season.

How well are you known?

Lord, You have probed me, You know me; You know when I sit and stand; You understand my thoughts from afar.  You sift through my travels and my rest; With all my ways You are familiar.  Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord You know it all.  Psalm 139:1-4

Have you ever sat in a quiet place, perhaps beneath the stars in the dead of night or under the blanket of the suns warmth near a creek or a lake and just wandered how well God knows YOU?

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite Psalms.  I could sit and meditate on this Psalm for hours, bathing in God’s presence as He probes me.  Of course, there may be days I don’t want God to probe me but He does.

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I have struggled with seeing God as a God who judges and disciplines.   Viewing God in this light and reflecting on Psalm 139, can be a little bit of a fear factor – seeing God as someone who knows every nook and cranny of my being.  Someone who knows my thoughts, my actions, and my feelings even before I do. What does He think when He sees my ugliness, my sinfulness?  Does He judge me then?  Does He nod His head and say, “there she goes again?”  When I first read Psalm 139, this was my reaction.

Oh no, God knows what I was thinking when I saw Betsy Sue take the last piece of that delicious cake and I’m going to have to go to confession.

God may see the ugly thoughts I have and all my sins but where I find the AWESOME SAUCE in this Psalm, is that God knows me so well that He guides me through life.

I think sometimes we don’t realize this until we go through something major in our lives and we see God’s hands guiding our steps and those around us.  In some cases, we may not see it in the midst of what is going on in our life but it’s revealed to us later.  Other times, it may be something simple, something we read or see.

One day, I was humored when my daughter was reading a daily devotion that spoke directly to her with something she was dealing with that day.  She paused and looked at me and said “how does He do that? How does He know what I was going to be dealing with today?  Did He swap the pages?”  I often wonder this exact thing when I read something that speaks directly to me about what I have been dealing with.  Often it is in a devotion or opening the Word of God and reading scripture.

After reading Psalm 139, I’m not sure why I am ever surprised when God speaks directly to me or guiding me.  After all, He knows exactly what is on my mind, what is in my heart.  I could give testimony after testimony on where I have seen God’s hands guiding my life.

This my dear friends is where surrender and a journey of trust begins.  It’s seeing God’s presence in your life, seeing His hands guiding you, reading something that speaks to your heart because He knows what is on your mind and in your heart.

Wherever you are in life, “even there [His] hand guides [you], [His] right hand holds [you] fast.” (Psalm 139:10)  “[Your] days were shaped, before [you] came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Are you ready to surrender and trust your God who knows you better than you know yourself?  Are you willing to allow Him to guide you along the path that He has already mapped out for you?

Tauren Wells says it so well in his song Known…. “It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known fully known and loved by You.”

Eye of the storm – revealing God’s presence

“You have been with me from birth; from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.” Psalm 71:6

Have you seen the hands of God throughout your life?  Have you seen Him carrying you in a moment, in a circumstance, through your lifetime?  Have you ever sat down and written your spiritual biography, spiritual journey, from childhood?  From the moment you first remembered God?

Perhaps it’s a good exercise.  And you may uncover moments that God was there and at the time you just didn’t see Him or feel Him.  Many of us don’t open up to an awareness of God until later in our lives.  If you really sit down and review your life, I’m sure He will reveal Himself to you in a moment when you needed Him but you didn’t realize that He was right beside you – catching your tears, embracing you with a hug, removing you from a situation that wasn’t healthy or was dangerous, or just paving a path for the successes in your life by guiding your choices in accordance with His will.

I once read a testimony written by a lady and the image she described of God’s presence is one I can relate to living in the south near the Gulf of Mexico and in my own testimony.  She painted the picture of a storm, a hurricane to be exact.  If you know much about hurricanes, you know that one side is very windy, one side is very wet and rainy and the center is calm – no wind and no rain.

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Life is kind of like the hurricane, it can get very windy and rainy.  The storm will rage but in the center, God is there waiting for us.  He never leaves the storm, never steps away from our life.  He’s there in the calm, in the center of it all.  The outer realms of the hurricane doesn’t necessarily have to be a trial or struggle your going through, it could just be the craziness of life.  God is right in the center waiting for you to meet Him there.

When I think about this center, I think about the core of my being.  Deep within me is where God is waiting for me.  This center is where His will and my will align, where my heart and His love align, where the graces are poured out upon my life, where the strength is renewed and refreshed, where my joy radiates.  There is no room for fear there, no room for anger, unforgiveness, anxiety, selfishness.  Those are on the outer realms.  They are the windy, rainy layers of my being.  The more I go to this center, the more in touch of who I truly am, who I was truly created to be before I was “formed in my mother’s womb.”

There are so many things that go on in our outer circles of us that influence where we are in a moment in time.  These environmental affects involve people, events, circumstances.  Sometimes they can really influence the winds and the rain of our being.  They can really stir up the storm.  These are the moments I think we don’t see God in our life.  It isn’t until we go to that “eye of the storm,” the core of our soul that we see God and what He has done in our life or is doing in our life.

I recently had to look back on my life and uncover a place that I never want to go back to.  Although it was painful, it strengthened my faith and my trust in God.  Looking back I could see that it was only through the grace of God, His strength present in the center of my storm, the center of my being, that brought me out of this place to a place of love and joy.

One of the things I notice when I go back to my past is that it isn’t until I was open to seeing God that I went into the center and allowed Him to align my path to the journey He had prepared for me.  Although He was there, as long as I stayed in the circumstance of the storm, the outer layers, I didn’t see Him.  It was when I was ready to go deeper within me that I became aware of God’s presence and allowed Him to pull me to a place that aligned with His will for me.  I think this is where our faith grows to a deeper level in our relationship with God.  It is this realization that opens us up to surrender and trust in God in our life.  This reality proves that He is and always has been with us and cared for us.

Have you faced your Goliath today?

“…it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.  For the battle belongs to the Lord who shall deliver you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:47

I’m sure that everyone has heard the story of David and Goliath as a child. We each probably thought it was an awesome story of courage and strength and deep within wanted to be someone like David.

Have you ever asked yourself if it was David’s precision that knocked Goliath to the ground and allowed him to kill Goliath or was it David’s faith, strength and courage from God that precisely brought Goliath tumbling down so that David could kill him?

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We know the rock that David used was the impacting action that brought Goliath to the ground and we know that the rock had to hit Goliath at the precise location.  These were the physical actions that we see happen.   The underlying spiritual actions that had to take place were definitely God’s presence within David to give him the courage and the skill to accomplish His Will in freeing His people from the Philistines.

Four things David had to do to free the Israelites from the Philistines by conquering the bully:

  1. Believe God existed
  2. Trust God
  3. Surrender to God
  4. Answer God’s call by acting

There are a lot of Goliath’s in this world.  They come in many different forms.  Your Goliath may be a mountain that you have to climb, a fear you have to face, a person who is bullying you, someone who has controlled the world around you, financial debt or an illness you are struggling with?  It can be anything that is preventing you from being free, anything weighing you down, taunting you.

These Goliath’s in our lives bind us by telling us we aren’t good enough, we are weak, we are too small, we are powerless, we will never beat what we are dealing with, and the list goes on.

When we are faced with our own Goliath, we feel weak and alone.  We may even retreat into hiding just like the Israelites became frightened and retreated in 1 Samuels 17.

The good news is that there is a David within each of us that can crush any Goliath in the way.  And just like David, we are victorious through our belief in our Heavenly Father, trust, surrender and answering His call in our circumstance, for great is our glory in God’s victory (Psalm 21:6).

When you are faced with your Goliath today or tomorrow, remember that “the Lord is [your] strength and [your] might (Isaiah 12:2)” and you are never alone for God is with you always.  “When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you (Isaiah 43:2).”

“Face [your] GIANTS with confidence (Confidence, Sanctus Real)”  today with faith in a God who loves you, and trusting and surrendering to His Will.

Broken and shattered – reshaped in goodness

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

Does your life feel broken and shattered or may be it has at some point in your life?  Perhaps, you have a close friend or family member who feels broken and shattered?

It so easy to tell you there is hope.  All you have to do is trust God and He will make everything new, that His goodness will prevail.  Instead of spending one minute telling you this, I would like to share a little piece of my story that reveals this hope, this newness that comes from trusting God.

I recently took a road trip with my daughters.  I find road trips can be very awesome times with God, especially when everyone in the car is sleeping.  As I was driving along the uninteresting interstate, I found myself reflecting on my life as my playlist was rolling through.  As some of the older songs in my playlist were playing, I began to reflect on a few significant moments in my life.  I tend to like these moments of reflection on my past because they reveal how far God has carried me and how far I have grown in my faith through my past.  In some cases, it helps me to move another step forward.

As the song by Matt Maher, “Lord I need you,” began to play, my mind became very vivid reflecting on the very day I first heard this song.  This day would be one of the most difficult days in my adult life as I was driving to see my counselor with my daughters to tell them that their daddy and I would no longer be together.  I had made a decision that would change their lives forever.  My heart was broken and my life seemed to be shattered as I heard the song playing in my car that day.

When the song came on, tears just streamed from my eyes.  In that moment, I really needed God to be with me.  I needed Him to guide my heart so that I would not fall apart.  I was so broken during this period of time that falling apart seemed so easy.  This would be one of the many moments during my journey where God revealed His presence to me, giving me strength that I would need.  He knew I needed Him at that moment in the car and there is no coincidence this song came on.  He wanted me to know that I needed Him to get through this and that He was holding my hand.

This wasn’t the only song that sparked reflection for me on my road trip.  A little further down my playlist was a song by Danny Gokey, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  As a dear friend recently reminded me, this song also speak volumes to my story.  One of the hardest things I think I have had to do during my healing is to forgive myself and to love myself.  God taught me a lot about myself and He began to lead me down a path of healing as He began to mold the shattered pieces and glue my brokenness.  Sometimes I still see the scars and the broken path and I’m reminded where I have been.  This is who I use to be and it has been through the loving hands of God that I was carried through to the person I am today.  I no longer “live there anymore.”  It was His grace and companionship in this journey with me that helped me to persevere.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my adult life is that sometimes we shatter.  It’s in the shattered pieces that God reshapes our lives into something new and good.  It’s not easy being reshaped but it’s essential and possible.  It is made possible through trust, trusting God with the shattered pieces.

If you are feeling broken and shattered or someone you know is, surrender your brokenness, the shattered pieces, to God.  Allow Him to reshape you into the one He created you to be.

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.