A Merciful Love

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

Have you met someone you admire?  That one person that has taught you how to be a better person?  That one person that opened your heart to your Heavenly Father, that was a catalyst igniting your faith?

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It’s a day of celebrating God’s mercy.  The devotion of Divine Mercy is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina.  Most importantly, I think this devotion, the messages St. Faustina received and this day of Divine Mercy is a realization to each of us of God’s great mercy that He gives each of us in the graces we receive and ultimately the merciful love He asks of us to give to each other.  This mercy is another expression of God’s unconditional love for us and is illustrated throughout the pages in the Bible.

Divine Mercy

Our response to this devotion of Divine Mercy should be an expression of bringing the love of Christ to those who are broken physically and spiritually.  It is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sharing the love of Christ with those who feel forgotten.  It is as simple as giving a hug to someone who is going through a difficult time and letting them know that God’s goodness is the ultimate consequence of their trial.  It is as simple as volunteering to serve the community in some way.  It is as simple as sharing hope and comfort with an elderly person by spending a little time with them.  There are so many ways we can share in God’s Divine Mercy.  He gives us opportunities everyday. I think the quote by St Catherine of Siena is so fitting – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” That is truly what the message of Divine Mercy is for us in our daily life – to be the person God created us to be by showing His merciful love to the world.

One of the more personal experiences I have had in my life of Divine Mercy was through a few ladies in my life.  These women have impacted my faith journey immensely.  They have been examples to me and have guided me in my faith.  They always pointed me in the right direction when my compass seemed a little out of whack.  They have touched me in a way that led me on the journey of my life, my relationship with Christ.  Jesus said “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. (John 17:20 NLT Catholic Edition)”

I never thought in a million years that I could ever be as they were to me to another.  To share in this gift of God’s Mercy by sharing my faith through my journey, through my continued growth in trusting in God’s Divine Providence is a great blessings that I never realized was so impactful.  Until the other day, I never connected my journey over the last few years as a vehicle of participating in God’s Divine Mercy.  It was the words of a dear friend and sister that helped me to see that my own journey has been an example of God’s Mercy and has impacted those around me even when I didn’t see it.  My heart smiles to see how God can use my own story, my own experience and the transformation in my faith to reveal His unending love to others, His goodness in all things, even the pain and sufferings.  It is in this that I know my pain has produced much fruit in me and through me.  It is humbling to be to others as those who were catalyst in my faith journey were to me. It’s another way of paying it forward – revealing God’s merciful love.

Sharing in God’s love story, His Divine Mercy, is simple.  It’s sharing His love with one another.  It’s taking the opportunity to love on someone in need, to pray for one another, to assure someone that God’s goodness is in everything, especially in those things that appear to be hopeless to our human eyes.

The greatest story I could ever share through my own experiences is the message of Divine Mercy – “Jesus I trust in you”.  It is a message I was introduced to 6 years ago. One of the ladies that impacted my faith journey used to tell me to say these 5 words when my struggles were at their peak.  May this message be a catalyst to many just as it was to me during a period I needed to hear it the most.

“JESUS I TRUST IN YOU”

 

The Unseen Journey Beyond the Struggles

 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now, rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NLT)

How do you view your journey? Is it a narrow view or wide angle view?

Sometimes I think we become very focused on the narrow view of our circumstance. In some cases, we allow this to control the things around us, affect our life in a way that may not be life giving. When we look from the narrow lens, we look at what is happening in our lives and become hopeless of what is to come in life. This may create a sense of feeling stuck.  I think we can become very stuck in a whirlwind of life. Circumstances can clutter life, creating feelings of being lost, disoriented, negative, angry, sad, and/or broken.

HOPELESSNESS

Yesterday as I was listening to the radio, they played the fairly new Christian song, “Scars” by I Am They. This song tends to bring tears to my eyes as it reminds me of my own scars. The beauty of this song is not the focus on the SCARS but that of thanksgiving. I don’t know what you may be going through or have gone through in your journey but healing is a process that is never complete. Our scars are present and always will be but it is through the scars that the glory prevails just as in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

When we open ourselves to seeing life through the wider lens, we are able to see that these scars, although significant at some time in life, are small when compared to the glory that is produced from them. It is the unseen process of healing that will last forever. It is through a faithful relationship with Christ that these weeds will wilt and new life and fruit are produced in the garden of your heart.

As I walk my own journey, the things of yesterday are revealing the things that were not seen then but that were present. I have come to realize that the journey is not just a road we travel but it is a process of purifying us. Gold is purified by being heated to very high temperatures and the impurities are then removed from the surface of the molten liquid. I joked around with my coworkers one day and said “you know I think by the time God is done bringing me through all this fire in my life I will be as pure as the finest gold and as shiny as the most precious gem.”

The process in the journey is the glorification. The troubles we go through are what’s on the surface waiting to be purified revealing the beauty that is deeper within, behind the scars – the fruitful garden that gives life to those who desire what God has in store for them.

When you look at troubles of today, I invite you to look through the wider lens and fix your eyes on the things that you can’t see, the grace that God is giving you to persevere in hopefulness. And when you see the scars of your life, be thankful for what they have produced.

 

Lenten journey

In a few weeks Lent will begin. It is a time of reflecting in the darkness. Its a journey being transformed through the light by the death and resurrection of Christ which brings new life to each of us. For several years, I taught kindergarten faith formation. I have to say although chaotic at times, it is one of my favorite groups to teach. Their little minds are easily fascinated and soak in everything you teach them. One of my favorite lessons was teaching about Lent with the analogy of the butterfly.

Dear friends, there is a butterfly in each of us waiting to be transformed in beauty, and released from the captivity of the cocoon.

Our sin is the cocoon that traps us within. It is the blanket of death in spirit that wraps us tightly, imprisoning us from life, joy and happiness.

During Lent, we reflect on these things that separate us from God, the sin that kills our soul, entrapping our spirit. Through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are cleansed, set free from the chains that tie us down. The beauty within, the butterfly, emerges revealing the new life of joy. At this point in our journey, we reach a peak moment on the mountain of our faith and are closer to God than any other moment in that season of our journey.

I think the beauty is that each liturgical year, we are able to go through this process of transformation, of growing closer to God, unlike the butterfly who only goes through it once.

Think about Lent as the season of the cocoon. The season leading up to Lent is a season of gluttony. During Lent, we begin to look within and abstain from those things that we have indulged in, particularly our sin. During Holy Week, at Easter we see the transformation, the great release of our spirit, freely embracing our faith and the love God pours out for each of us. This is the height of the season, the Agape of love that covers us, lightening our load on our journey to strengthen us for the new road ahead.

This Lent, I invite you to look at it as a journey of reflection, release and transformation. Receive the ultimate sacrifice and love as if it were the first time you went through this season, as if you had never heard the Passion of Christ. Embrace it and be strengthen and fed for the journey that lies before you.

Light in the darkness

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Have you strayed from the path God was leading you on?  Perhaps during some phase of your life, you took a different path, away from your faith.  Looking back, can you see how easy it was to stray from God’s will in your life, to take a detour?  May be one path looked more attractive, easy, or entertaining than the other.

This morning God let me in on a mini lesson. 

I love to walk around the pond at work before starting my day.  I sense God present around me as I walk prayerfully around the pond.  I often ask God to reveal Himself to me, teach me or inspire me.  Many times, He does just that.

This morning I started my day a little early.  The sun had not yet risen, so the path I walked along was dark with light sprinkled around for some visibility.  After praying, I allowed myself to be present to my surroundings.  As I maneuvered through the darkness, I could hear the pleasant sound of the waterfall and the birds singing.  Music to my ears.  As I walked along the path, I noticed a little bird just as the path makes a small fork.  I watched him and began to follow him.  I detoured to the path that I normally do not take as I walk around the pond so that I could follow the bird.  Even though I didn’t get lost, it reminded me how easy it is to wander from the path, to stray from God.  I began to ponder this for a minute.  In the struggles of my marriage, I could have fallen into hopeless despair instead of falling into my faith.  Through my divorce, I could have run into the arms of another man, instead of being embraced by God.  If I would have strayed from the path God was leading me on during the darkest days of my life, I would not be content in who I am, and who God is for me.  I would not have seen all that God was doing for me, how He was holding and carrying me.  Perhaps, eventually, I may have found the path again as the two paths merged.

foggy path
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

It’s so easy, especially when we are struggling with something, to turn to something else that may not be healthy for us.  Sometimes it presents itself as the “thing” that will take away all our pain or something that looks more enticing.   My mini lesson this morning validated John 1:5 “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Darkness is never dark when we allow God to be present within us.  So in the darkest moments of our life, when we carry the Word of God within us, He is the “lamp for [our] feet, a light for [our] path” (Psalm 119:105).

I have seen this prevail in my own life as I allowed the tiny shimmer of light guide my path.  It was Jesus in the Eucharist that shone upon my path guiding me closer to God as I walked through my struggles.  This path wasn’t always easy but it has been a joyful ride, full of mountains and valleys, but it has never been dark because the darkness has always been overcome.

Have you allowed the light to shine upon your path in your journey?  God’s light is never extinguished, as long as we accept the invitation to carry it.

 

 

Refuge in the rubble

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.  Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea.”  Psalm 46:2-3

Have you experienced the summit of the mountain and suddenly your world begins to shake and you find yourself in the midst of despair?  Or may be you feel your life has always been shaken and you just want a break from the quake that is ever present?

Our life can be shaken by so many things.  It can be loss of a loved one, terminal illness, divorce, addictions, a miscarriage, an unexpected birth – the list goes on and on.  When the rocks start tumbling, where do you run to?  To whom do you turn?

God promises to be our refuge, our fortress, our strength, yet most of us still struggle.  I have been reading a book called “A Friendship Like No Other”.  One of the key points in the book is having a relationship with God, with His Son, just as we have relationships with those before us in the flesh.  In order to have a friendship with someone, you have to converse.  As your friendship grows and trust grows, you begin to share more with that person, perhaps in some cases you share deep thoughts and feelings that you don’t share with others.  If your friendship is stable and strong, you are comfortable talking about moments when you don’t agree, moments you become angry with each other over a disagreement.

What about with God?  Have you felt angry with God when life throws a curve ball and all the rocks begin to crumble, crushing you from the inside?  Do you feel comfortable telling God you are angry with Him, that you don’t understand His ways, that they are too difficult and you can’t follow His ways.  In Matthew 19:16-22, a young rich man approaches Jesus and ask what he needs to do to have eternal life, Jesus tells him to go sell his things and then come follow Him.  The young man goes away sad.  The author of “A Friendship Like No Other”, William Barry, proposes a question, what if the young man stayed and had a conversation with Jesus?  What if he told Jesus how difficult it was to sell all his things, that he just couldn’t do it and he needed help?  Do you think the story would end differently?  Do you think a friendship would have been sprouted if he had stayed and told Jesus just how he felt?

What if we are totally honest in conversation with God, just as we may be with a friend about our life situations that shake our world, turning it upside down?  In the song by Micah Tyler, “Even Then”, in the pre-chorus he sings “Where could I run to?  Where could I go?” and in the chorus when he talks about our world being shaken and the waters rising, he ends with “no matter how it ends You’re with me even then.”  If we are honest with God about our feelings, if we tell Him everything and then ask Him to help us to not be angry, to understand, to follow Him, even then He will stand with us, give us all we need with love, compassion and mercy.  He will carry us through the rubble no matter how long the journey takes.  He does this because His greatest desire is a relationship with us.  He longs for our friendship.

I ask you, dear friends, is your relationship with God a friendship?  Can you converse with Him, just as you do with your best friend?  Do you listen for His response, receive Him?  If not, start today to tell Him everything that is on your mind.  When you can’t pray, tell Him you can’t pray.  When you are busy and you don’t have time for Him, tell Him you don’t have time for Him.  When you are angry because He didn’t answer your prayer, tell Him.  When you find it difficult to accept the things around you and you struggle with following Him, tell Him.  He loves you no matter where you are in your relationship with Him.  As you are more open with Him, your friendship will grow and when your world is shaken, you will know that “even then”, He’s with you clearing the rubble and carrying you through.

In your struggles, when the boulders seem too heavy to move, always remember that with “God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Have you asked God to re-gift you?

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”  Psalm 139:13-14

Have you re-gifted a gift someone gave you before?  You took the gift and wrapped it in the most beautiful paper and placed the best bow you have on it, giving it to your mother-in-law.  Couldn’t resist the humor in that but I think just about everyone can say that they have re-gifted a gift.  Now hold that thought.

adult birthday birthday gift box
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Have you sat down to pray, totally fell to your knees, and asked God to take away your trials, your suffering, your pain?  And as the days go on, it’s all still there.  You are still going through the trial, may be, you are still suffering and in pain.  What if you flipped the prayer and asked God to walk with you through the trial, lightening the burden of the suffering and the pain?

I want to talk about something that struck me listening to Chrystal Evans Hurst this past weekend at the Women of Joy conference.  It so fitting in my life and helps me to place the right perspective and see the process that God is asking me to see.

In Chrystal’s talk, she spoke about the package that God made when He made you and I.  He didn’t make the package lacking anything.  The package includes your gifts, talents, career, physical features, family, your joy and happiness; and it also includes your trials, suffering and pain.  You could not be you if you do not go through the trials that God allows.  If you do not go through the trials He allows you may not bring forth the fruition of the gifts that He has given you.  All things in our lives are “God given” or “God allowed.”  And all things work together for the glory of God, for His purpose.  When you ask God to take away the trial, the suffering, the pain, you are asking Him to re-gift the gift He gave you, the package He created and designed – YOU.  When you were formed, God wrapped you in a beautiful package and placed the most perfect bow on you that is unique to you and delivered you into the hands of your mom.

 Why would we want to change, re-gift His “wonderfully made” package?  

I totally understand that sometimes the pain is too much, the trial is a huge burden and drains the life out of you.  Sometimes I feel like my trials will never end, they begin to just merge together and I find myself restless, asking God to take it away that I’ve had enough.  But then there is the glimmer of hope, my FAITH that jumps in and opens my eyes and shows me that the package is made complete in my trials and through my trials.  My trials and my suffering will produce perseverance, they will provide growth within me, they will ultimately flourish the gifts God has given me and ultimately, they will make me stronger for the next trial.  God is equipping us in our trials, suffering and pain.  I think what He wants from us is to not ask Him to take away the trial, but to ask Him to help us get through it by companioning along the journey with us and by lightening the load by helping us carry the cross that rest upon our shoulder, just as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.

Accepting the entire package is difficult.  Sometimes I just want to kick and scream but God grabs my hand and tells me “get up and let’s fight this battle together.”  You are not alone and He will walk along the journey with you, carrying you when you need to be carried, embracing you when you need to feel loved, lifting the cross so it’s not so heavy when you begin to fall under the weight of it, and providing you rest and protection under His wings when you become weary and afraid.

img_3265I want to share this poem I wrote.  It is a poem of feeling beaten down, yet hopeful, longing and finding God after a fresh rainfall in a droplet that remained on the tip of a leaf.  God refreshes us daily if we open our eyes, ears, minds and heart to His presence in all things surrounding us.

Rays of sunshine

In the ark of the morn

As birds perched above sing

To a heart that’s been torn

Darkness has crept

Through the cracks of my being

Depleting Your goodness

My heart started fleeing

Crushed and broken

My heart cries out

Where are You?

Why do I doubt?

A quiet path

Your presence I longed for

To refresh my spirit

On this path You implore

Light of grace

Reflecting on the leaves

Revealing a droplet

A newness conceived

Your presence refreshes

As I sit before You

A whisper of Your love

My spirit is made new

My faith prevails

Your Word running deep

Rooted in my heart

I’m perfect and complete

Where is your focus when the wind is strong and the water is deep?

“The wind is strong, the water is deep;  My heart is heavy and my mind won’t sleep; Oh can you heal, my fear it breathes; I need to know if You’re the shadow I can see;  I wanna run to You when the waves break through;  I wanna run to You and not turn back;  There’s no turning back;  Nothing in my past; My eyes are on You again; Can’t see nothing at all; But Your outstretched arms; Help me believe it; Though I falter; You got me walking on water;  The ocean’s singing, the song of grace; But if I’m honest with myself, I am still afraid….”  Walking on Water by NEEDTOBREATHE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh49C6vxB40

Ever felt like you were on the mountaintop of life and then stumbled, falling into the valley?  Or perhaps you were walking on water and lost your focus as life hit you from nowhere and you began to sink?

Sometimes our faith may be tested and we lose focus.  Our trust in God may falter.  The things we feel we have overcome and conquered find there way back into the cracks of our inner being, leaving us breathless, hurt and afraid.  The great thing about our faith is that God knows we are going to fall off the mountain or sink to the bottom of the deep waters but He is there each time to pick us up.  God reveals this to us in Matthew 14:27-32.  Upon Jesus’ command, Peter begins to walk on water towards Jesus, but when he becomes afraid and takes His focus off of Jesus, he begins to sink and cries out to Him, “Lord, save me!” and “immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.”  When we take our focus off of Jesus when the storm frightens us, we may falter but He will stretch out His hand each time and lift us back up.

Today I found myself reflecting on my own moments of faltering as life hit me like a train.  The things I thought I had overcome and put beside me knocked me into the deep waters.  The strength and trust I felt I had built up over the years, began to crumble like a wall that had been hit by a wrecking ball.  This song “Walking on Water” by NEEDTOBREATHE and the passage in Matthew 14 speaks to my heart so much in this season of faltering and losing focus when life feels out of control.   It leads me back to the truth of my faith, that even in the moments that I feel helpless, God is there sorting everything out, calming the storm as He lifts me from the depths of the sea of self-pity, fear, doubt and whatever other feelings that are surrounding my core of His grace and love.  Of course, as I watch this unfold I see my faith and my trust strengthen a little bit more.  In Isaiah 43:2,4 I am also reminded that as I “pass through waters, [He] will be with [me]; through rivers, [I] shall not be swept away.  When [I] walk through fire, [I] shall not be burned, nor will flames consume [me]… [I am] precious in [His] eyes and honored, and [He] loves [me]…”  His truth breathes life into me as He reminds me who I am in His eyes and how to depend on Him in the storms of my life.

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Dear friends, what will you do when the storms hit and the walls begin to crumble?  When the winds are strong and the water is deep, will you focus your eyes on Jesus?  Will you turn your back on your past and walk on the waters of life into His outstretched arms as He calms the storms in your life?