Ripples of the Holy Spirit – are you open to receive them?

Do you struggle with listening and hearing God? Do you struggle with being still and resting in His presence? How about being open to everything around you and how He will speak to you or reveal Himself to you?

Do a little exercise. Get in a comfortable place, somewhere that is peaceful for you. Perhaps a place where you have experienced God before.  Take two deep breaths and release them.

Now, imagine you are sitting next to a calm lake. The water is still. There is absolutely no observable movement on the surface. The surface is flat throughout. It is absolutely undisturbed.

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Now close your eyes, keeping this image with you. Imagine you are this body of water. You are still. Your mind is clear. Your body is at rest. Allow the Holy Spirit to drop something into this body of water, into your presence, your being. Open your mind to receive it.  Release all the pressures of the day and receive what God is offering you in this moment.  Do you hear a whisper, feel something within, or envision something? Perhaps it’s a word? Perhaps it’s an answer to something you’ve been discerning to do? Perhaps it’s an object or a scenery? May be it’s a person’s face?  Or perhaps it’s a feeling of love embracing you?

Does it make a ripple when it hits the surface of stillness within you? Do you have an overwhelming feeling throughout your body? A feeling of joy, comfort, or rest? May be you feel a peace of some resolution that has taken place within or that needs to take place?  Whatever it is, soak it up.  Stay in this moment and rest.

Just as the stillness of the water creates a ripple through the lake when something is dropped within it, does our inner space when we allow the Holy Spirit to drop His thoughts upon us.

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The ripples fill the lake as the Holy Spirit fills us. The ripples are only bound by the edges of the lake. We too place boundaries upon the ripples in our lives when we aren’t open to receiving all the Holy Spirit has to give us. His presence is boundless if we are open to it.

Open your eyes and always be prepared for God’s surprises.  Let Him drop a single thought into your mind, a single smell of freshness into your nose, a song of beauty resonating in your ears, and a sight of art and feel His love surrounding you.  God presents Himself to you in everything around you.  He whispers to you His plans for goodness in your life and fills you with rest in times of despair.  The key to it all is being open to receive it.  Allow your Heavenly Father to walk your journey with you today.  He seeks your friendship and will drop His very thoughts into your being, creating ripples in your life that are endless and perfect.  Trust in His will for you and joy will overflow from you as the water overflows from any body of water when it fills every ounce of its reservoir.

Is your deepest desire a communal relationship with God?

“…our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments” Pope Francis

What is your deepest desire?  Is it a communal relationship with God?  These are both good questions to ponder and reflect on today as you read the Gospel of John, chapter 6.

Todays Gospel reading is one of my favorites.  In fact the series of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, has always been my favorite series at Mass.  I think the reason is that over the years, I have realized the true meaning of the Eucharist in my life.  It is the “communion with Him”.  Before receiving the Eucharist, my heart desires so greatly to be consumed by Jesus as I consume His body and blood and when I receive the Eucharist at Mass, I receive this gift of Jesus’ presence within me that is like no other.

Today at Mass, something happened that brought a deeper meaning to me in the blessings and healing of the Eucharist and the communion with God.  Just before Mass, I was reading The Better Part which is reflections on the Gospel.  In The Better Part, Christ as friend, I had read

“You want more out of your life; I do too.  I am what you’re looking for.  Know me better; listen to me; trust me more.”

Today, before the consecration of the bread and wine, I heard this small voice whisper to me to offer up this Mass for my ex-husband.  A little resistant at first, I remember thinking that is a lot to ask and not so easy today.  After recalling what I had read before Mass, I knew that when the body and blood were raised up, I was to offer the Mass up for my ex-husband.  I was to listen to that inner voice and trust that Jesus knew me better and knew what I needed today.  So, I offered the Mass up for my ex.  After receiving communion, when I went back to my pew to pray, I felt a release as tears cleansed me while I prayed.

I wanted to share this because I think this is an example of desiring and embracing a communal relationship with God.  It’s through the Eucharist that the communal bond – as Father mentioned today – with Jesus as the wedding ring, a union between man and God takes place.

Jesus says in the Gospel today,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6:35

If you do not believe or have trouble believing that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, read the Gospel of John, chapter 6 carefully and let the words soak in – ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read this beautiful reading.  He came to earth to not only die for us but to give us life and fulfill us by being present with us in this beautiful Sacrament.

Are you searching for God today?

“Faith is trusting that what God reveals is true; hope is trusting that what he promises will come about; love is trusting that what he asks us to do is what we should do. If we put our trust in God, and not in ourselves, we will find God.” The Better Part

Is God at the center of your life? Or have you been searching for Him, seeking Him? Have you prayed for His help lately and wonder if He will ever answer you?

About a week ago, my precious little one, was struggling with something. I asked her if she had been praying about it. She looked at me with a hint of frustration and told me she had but God just takes too long. I chuckled but a part of me certainly knew where she was coming from.

Many years ago, when I started my faith journey, I remember reading something about searching for God. The analogy that the author used was that of a storm. Sort of interesting… no, I’m not going to explain the wrath of God. What she said hit me in a very deep way. She explained that in the midst of the storm in life, the hurricane in my case, we are so focused on the outside. We search and search for God in the storm – in the rain, the lightening and the wind; but we don’t feel Him, we don’t see Him. We wonder where is He? Why isn’t He present with us? What she goes on to explain is that when we transition into the eye of the storm, hence my hurricane, we realize that is where God is present. He has been there the entire time. He is in the center, the calm of the storm. We didn’t need to search. We didn’t need to yell out to Him, seeking Him. He was there waiting for us.

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One of the Gospel readings last week was Matthew 11:25-30. In this reading, Jesus says ” Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Christ teaches us that when ‘we put our trust in God, and not in ourselves, we will find God’. Isn’t that what happens when we transition to the calm of the storm. It is in that moment, we place our trust in God. And in that moment we feel His very essence of comfort and love that gives us hope and grounds us in our faith.

I have had a number of storms in my life and today when I reflect on those storms, I see God’s hands embracing me.  I see His presence with me in the storm but at the moment I was so focused on the storm that I couldn’t see Him, I couldn’t feel Him and I cried out in prayer.  Just as my daughter stated, I felt some days that He took a long time to answer.  Listen to the lyrics to “Just Be Held”, by Casting Crowns.

“If your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still.  But if your eyes are on the cross, you’ll know I always have and I always will.”

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Today, if you are in the midst of a storm, perhaps a hurricane, know that God is there.  Go to the eye of the storm, the center, focusing on the cross and anchor your faith, hope and love, trusting in God and not yourself to calm the storm swirling around you.

Which path will you choose?

“Never say or do anything until you have asked yourself whether it will be pleasing to God, good for yourself, and edifying to your neighbor.” St Ignatius of Loyola

In discernment, there are always two paths. One leads to God’s will and the other to your will. Which will you choose? And how do you know which is which?

I think these two paths can be broken down into more paths in the decision making. Each can have a variety of answers aligned with God’s will or your will; but there are always two main paths.

Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola. St Ignatius started the society of Jesus and is also known for his spiritual exercises. In his spiritual exercises, he teaches his pupils to meditate in prayer, seeking indifference, to contemplate their feelings and to ponder the spiritual movement of those feelings.

Why feelings? Our feelings tell us what our deepest desires are. If God has control over our desires and He places them in our hearts, then we should search our deepest desires for direction. Just as in the picture above where a red flower has grown in the center of the trees between the two paths, God is at the center of our being. When we have feelings that are joyful, satisfying, fulfilling that gives us life coming from this core, then we know with no uncertainty those are from God. The choices in life that produce these feelings within that center are from God. This, my friends, leads us to the path aligned with the will of God.

What happens if I choose the other path, the path of my will? Will I be struck down by lightening? Will God be disappointed in me? By no means will God bring wrath upon you or discontent. There are no wrong paths as long as they do not involve sin. God will walk with you no matter the path. A wise person told me the flower in the middle of the path can also represent that God will bring fruition on both paths, whichever we choose.

Why discern if God will bring fruition upon either path? I think it is important to search and make the best choice. Perhaps in doing so, one will bring more joy and peace in fulfilling the will of God and the other less. One will be more life giving than the other, yet God is still present in both.

As you discern your life choices, don’t forget to include God in your discernment. Don’t forget to search deep within to identify with your deepest desire and ponder the feelings that bring exuberant life.

Your measuring stick or God’s?

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena

Do you carry around a measuring stick?  Is your measuring stick perfection?  Or is your measuring stick someone else?  Are you constantly pulling it out and measuring yourself against it?  When you don’t measure up, do you beat yourself up over it?

Food for thought and a real struggle for many of us.

I guarantee I’ve been pulling mine out a lot.  One of the toughest job roles I have is being a mom.  This is the role I pull out my measuring stick the most to compare against.  In this role, I feel I have to be perfect.  Why?  Because God entrusted these two souls into my care.  There is one person that knows my parenting better than my kids.  She can attest that I evaluate my parenting style and if it isn’t working I adjust.  At the end of the day, I still do not meet the measuring stick of perfection and it leaves me feeling I am not good enough.

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The Blessed Mother, Mary, is the ideal mother.  She exhibits total trust in God.  She is a very humble and loving mother to our Lord and to us as her spiritual children.  She is the role model that I look to as a mother.  My own relationship with my mother hasn’t been the greatest and there are a lot of things about mothering that I don’t quite get or understand.  Often I feel like I am treading water with my good intentions of teaching my children to love God above all things, read the Bible, practice their faith, be respectful, accountable, honest and kind.  Then there are these moments of affirmation in things my girls say or do that confirm I don’t have to be perfect in my sense of perfection, according to my measuring stick.  I only have to fulfill the things that God asks me to do as their mother and allow Him to do the rest.  When I do as He asks me, I am fulfilling this role in perfection, in God’s perfection – not my ideal measuring stick I have tucked away.

I always have to chuckle at God’s hidden messages.  I had started writing this last night and this morning I read a memory on my Facebook page from 2013 where I was reflecting, at the pond at work, what my oldest daughter had told me.  She had told me that she told her friends that God made everything perfect, even the trees.

I think children hold the secrets to life sometimes.  If even the trees are perfect then so am I.  I think the key to that perfection is conforming to God’s will in my life, just as the trees conform to all God provides.

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As my role as a mother, there are two most important things that I can do for my children in conforming to that will and that is to teach them to love God above all things and to look to Him for guidance in making the right choices.  If I instill these two values in them, everything else doesn’t really matter.  They will make mistakes and I will make mistakes but if we always come back to those key learnings, our life will be perfect, perfect in conformity to God and not a measuring stick in my pocket.

This applies to all things in our lives, not just our roles in life.  Often we have trouble loving ourselves because we compare ourselves to others or perfect ideals on our measuring sticks.  We only see our faults and never feel good enough.   Our flaws are like neon signs and they tend to take away any peace that Jesus has given us.  Today, chunk your measuring stick of PERFECTION in the trash.  Tell yourself you will not pull it out again.  Look within at the person God  created you to be and place your trust in Him, conforming to all He has in store for you and that is where you achieve PERFECTION.  You are perfectly made to love and be loved.  Don’t let lies of the enemy tell you any different.

Are you treading the muddiness of life or seeking life giving springs?

“Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”

This morning as I walked along the pond at work before starting my morning, I noticed murky water surrounding the outer boundaries of the pond. As I asked God to reveal himself to me along my walk, I peered towards the fountain towards the center of the pond. As my eyes moved towards the center, I noticed the water wasn’t as murky.

As I continued to walk, I began to contemplate my exterior and interior being. Just like the outer realm of the pond, there are things on the external that muddy my life, causing confusion and lack of clarity. When I gazed towards the fountain, I could see the life giving springs at the core of who I am. That spring is God Himself living within me. I can choose to go to this core and clear up the murky waters or I can choose to live on the exterior treading through the muddiness of life.

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Of course God didn’t stop there out at the pond.  As I entered the building, on the wall I noticed a poster hanging that said “Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”  Funny – this poster has probably hung in this same spot since I’ve worked at this campus the past 10 years.  I have walked past it quite a number of times and never really realized the words printed on it.  Yet, today as I’m reflecting on the gradient changes in the pond, I see this poster and realize the words on it are more food for thought for me in this very moment.  You think it was a God moment?  You bet it was.

I asked myself what does it mean to me to go to that center, that living water that resides within me and each of you?

  1. Asking God to desire Him, to desire holiness, to desire life.
  2. Receiving the graces He offers us.
  3. Change.

I’ve been reading “Finding God in all things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, by William Barry, S.J.  In the book, he points out that our desires are not under our control.  If we are unhappy with what we desire, then we must ask God to change or help us overcome those desires.  It is only through our realization that God is in control of our being, even our desires, that we can request to desire Him first, to desire sanctity and this life giving water.

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Once we have the desire for this life giving water, then we will search out and take part in that which offers us grace – the Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I believe when we receive the graces God offers us, we begin a transformation within us that is life giving and brings us into the core of who we are in Christ.  This starts with our conversion but doesn’t end there.  The more we are open to receiving the gifts God offers us through this living spring within us, the more change we undergo and the greater God illuminates through us, revealing Himself to others.  This is our call to discipleship, to building the Kingdom of God.  My friends, the greatest vision I have had is to look upon another sister or brother in Christ and see Jesus looking back at me through that person.  Over the years, there have been many sisters and brothers that have reflected the very essence of Christ in my presence through their unending love, compassion and mercy.  Today, that is our challenge, in a world full of brokenness, to reflect the image of Christ from the core of our being onto our brothers and sisters, especially those that hurt us the most.

Seeing God in all things

Is your heart open to receiving God?  Is your mind open to allowing Him to reveal Himself to you?  Are your eyes and ears open to seeing and hearing Him around you?

God is present in all things, I have no doubt about that.  He has revealed Himself to me in so many things, small things on the ground, on my windshield, in a person, in a hug, in a book, and through life of the animals and plants around me.  I have written a lot about seeing God in all things.  I want to share an experience I had where God revealed Himself through the Bible and nature.

As I was looking for something, I ran across something in a journal that I had written during a weekend I spent at a Bed N Breakfast two years ago.  I decided to just sit with my Bible on the porch, read and reflect. I flipped to my favorite Psalm, Psalm 139, read it, placed my Bible down, and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what God wanted me to see.  I never imagined what God had in store.  The pages in my Bible flipped.  I picked it up and read something, jotted it down.  Put the Bible back down and the wind turned the pages again, so I picked it back up and jotted the verses I read.  This went on for quite some time.  The most interesting part of it all was that what I was jotting down was in sync with what I was seeing and hearing around me as I peered in the distance from the view of the porch.  This Bed N Breakfast has become a spiritual encounter for me each time I spend a weekend there.  This is my spot to connect with God through nature.  Through this place and what I have learned over the years from the teachings of St. Ignatius, I find that God reveals Himself to us in so many things throughout our day.  It’s just a matter of opening our minds, heart and eyes.  I want to share what I wrote, a composite of all the verses I read.

Why do I seek You Lord when You are with me.  You sit beside me.  You hold me and comfort me.  You rest Your hand upon me.  From Your presence I cannot flee.  You are all around me.  (Psalm 139:5, 7)  I hear a melody as You whisper to my heart a new song, a song of love.  (Psalm 144:9)  I see the birds of Heaven perched in a tree.  Among the branches, he sings a melody.  I know this is meant for me, to know that You are near, that You are singing to my heart.  Your melody is found in the chimes of the wind as You turn the page of Your Word, speaking to my heart.  You tell me You guard my steps by day and my sleep by night for You never slumber nor sleep.  I find rest in knowing Your hand will guard me from the enemy.  (Psalm 144:4,7)  For You tell me that You are my Father, I am Your daughter.  You are the Rock of my salvation.  (Psalm 89:27)  You fill me with Your mercy as I am poor and needy. (Psalm 109:22)  You give me food for my soul as I marvel in Your wondrous works.  For great are Your works, majestic and glorious. (Psalm 111:2-3)  The trees sparkle like fluttering butterflies as they dance to Your harmony.  The birds are so carefree as they spread their wings and are lifted to the Heavens.  My mind is in awe as I watch the light of Your presence sweep across the grass like a lamp for my feet guiding my path. (Psalm 119:105)  Your hand is my compass as it brushes the grass saying follow me.  The wind is Your messenger guiding my journey, never fleeing and always patient.  Your light is a cloak covering my soul.  The clouds are Your chariot on the wings of the wind lifting my heart and my soul to a place of rest in Your presence. (Psalm 104:1-4)

As the pages were turning in my Bible and I was jotting down verses and taking in everything around me I noticed a few things.  I observed, a bright colorful cardinal perched in a nearby tree, a beautiful coat of red contrasting the leaves of the tree.  I heard songs of the birds as I listened attentively.  I knew this song was for me to hear, to know God was near, present in the melody.

In the distance, I watch as the light and the shadows brushed the meadow.  The winds moved the grass as if God’s hand was gliding over it.  The light moved across the field followed by a shadow, as if the chariot of the clouds was traveling ‘on the wings of the wind.’  The view, the sounds and the verses I read all made sense.  God was speaking to me through the wind.  The Holy Spirit was turning the pages of the Bible and my eyes and ears were drawn to things surrounding me to let me know that this was meant for me to hear and to see, to feel God’s presence, to know He was with me always guiding and protecting me.

The last verses I read as I sat on that porch were:

  • “Teach us to count our days aright that we may gain wisdom of heart,” Psalm 90:12.
  • “Fill us at day break with Your mercy that all our days we may sing for joy,” Psalm 90:14.
  • “If only I had wings like a dove that I might fly away and find rest.  Far away I would flee; I would stay in a desert.  I would soon find a shelter from the raging wind and storm,” Psalm 55:7-9
  • My message to you my friends as I write this is that we never journey alone. God is with us in each moment, in the subtlety of life. Ask Him today to reveal Himself to you. Open your heart, mind, eyes and ears to receive Him. Perhaps in your path, you will see a cross on the sidewalk from the formation of pine needles or the warmth of air will brush your face in a moment of need. In these moments, He is letting you know He’s there.