Good always wins

“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

I’m sure everyone has watched at least one Disney princess movie, if not several.  Each is a story of love and each has some version of good and evil.  What I love about these movies is that good always prevails in the end and most of all LOVE.

LOVE can be easy at times and it can be very challenging.  Have you had those relationships where it was very easy to love the other person?  They made it so easy because they loved you back with a selfless kind of love.  What about those challenging relationships?  Some of these can be within our own families.  It can be a mother, a father, a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a good friend.  They may have hurt you in some way or their form of showing love was demanding and selfish.

I think when Jesus was giving this commandment to love one another as He loved us, He may have had these difficult relationships in mind.  I can’t remember where I read this but in this piece I was reading the author was comparing what it would look like for us today to resemble what Jesus did on the cross.  Would you every consider volunteering to take the place of a man who is about to be executed for murdering your child?  Consider what Jesus did for each of us.  That kind of love for another is pretty hard to swallow for probably all of us – to take the place of another on death row who murdered your child.

Truly let that sink in for a bit in alignment with this very commandment Jesus gives us to love one another and the very action Jesus did by giving His life for each of us, who was on death row for our sins against our Father.

sunrise under cloudy sky illustration
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I’m not a saint by any means but I want to share a personal story that helped me to realize what Jesus meant in relation to me when He said “love one another as I have loved you.”  After Mass on Sunday and hearing the nice homily that the deacon delivered, I went about my normal business.  Later in the week, I attended a banquet with my daughters.  It was my evening to have my daughters.  My daughters saw their dad and went to tell him hi and returned to my table.  After sitting for several minutes, waiting for our table to be called up to get food, I caught a glimpse of their father on the other side of the cafeteria alone.  I whispered to both my daughters to go sit with their dad until our table was called up for food.  Now, this may seem like a normal story to most people and you may be saying I don’t get it.  What I want to share is that deep down I knew that my ex would never do this for me.  His actions have repeatedly been quite the opposite – and this past week was proof of the repeated offenses.  My actions were a result of Christ within me and not a result of me as my selfish human form.  It was Christ’s love that flowed through me to give me the grace to turn the other cheek and show love to a person who has hurt me deep within, who has left very deep scars and continues to inflict me.  It wasn’t until later that I realized the connection between my actions that night and the reading and it brought some peace to me.

I won’t pretend it’s easy to respond in love to those that hurt us or someone who just makes it difficult to love them, because it isn’t.  It is expected of us.  Even those individuals are God’s children and He loves them just as much as He loves us.  To love like Him, we MUST love those that we may feel don’t deserve our love.  Look at the cross, we didn’t deserve God’s love either, yet He freely gave it to us.

Choosing to do what Jesus would do will always bring light in the darkness.  GOOD ALWAYS WIN – just as in the Disney princess stories.  So the next time you are faced with the challenge of showing love to someone who has made it difficult for you to love, take that initiative and act in loving kindness just as Jesus would do for you after you committed your worst sin.

Seasons – a life journey

“God has made everything appropriate to its time…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

If you could choose a season for all year long, which would you choose – spring, summer, fall or winter?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have our favorite season all year round?

That’s a nice thought.  Kind of the same with life.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best season of our life hang around all the time?

Throughout life, we go through all these different seasons.  Some are more joyful than others.  Just like the seasons throughout the year, the seasons in our life have purpose.

Spring brings in new life.  Summer shines the bright warmth of the sun.  Fall begins the transition of releasing as winter approaches killing the vegetation and preparing it for new life.  Then the cycle starts all over again.  Kind of like life.

If we had only one season, how could we sprout new life within us?  We cannot experience new life within us until we release the old and surrender.

 

green leafed plants
Photo by Vikas Sawant on Pexels.com

Life flourishes from change. Transformation is a must in our faith journey. Each season of life brings forth new struggles, death to those burdens and new life.

I love the thought that God is still writing our story. He tells us that He knows every single thing about us. So He knows every season of life we will go through. Recall the time when you may have veered off the path God had you on.  Your choices led you on a path away from your faith or you struggled with a recurring sin that separated your heart from God.  Perhaps this took place over a day, a year or several years.  Now, remember the day that you discovered the path again or reunited your heart to God.  Do you see God taking all those things in the detour and writing more pages in the book of your life that will uncover joy in your heart?  Do you see Him transforming those events or circumstances into something good and fruitful?  Often times this is when we experience the death and newness of our lives. This is when our lives begin to feel more complete and full. It’s when the transition occurs in that season of life.  And we witness this every single year through nature.

Don’t you just love how nature teaches us about life? How everything in nature in some way presents a lesson for us, God’s studious students?

Will you welcome the next season in your life with open arms? Will you welcome what God may have in store for you so that you can grow like a sturdy oak tree fulfilling His purpose in you?

Listen to the lyrics of this song.  Find the patience in each season of life as there is always fruit waiting to sprout even when it seems to be hidden.  Uncover the newness of your journey.

Hillsong “Seasons”

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
And I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter

 

The masquerade

He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall. They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball? Do you feel like sometimes life can be like a masquerade ball, you are masked on the outside with something that is totally opposite of what’s on the inside?

I’m sure many can say that they have at least once or many times said everything was fine when someone asked but in actuality it wasn’t.

Often it seems like social media is a masquerade ball. Each of us can hide behind the things that we post, keeping our inner vulnerabilities hidden or portraying that everything is amazingly awesome when we are completely broken apart.

The masquerade ball I wanted to unveil is the one that traps us within. It’s the one where our reality seems trapped behind a mirror and we take control instead of surrendering to God.

assorted color mask
Photo by hitesh choudhary on Pexels.com

My daughter has been watching Once Upon a Time. If you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s a somewhat twisted combination of a lot of the Disney fantasies. A spell is cast and all the characters find themselves in another world trapped in a town and have no recollection of their former life. I think sometimes life can seem just like this series. We are trapped in a world that is not the one we are meant to be in. Perhaps the spell or the illusion is masked by sin or the ideals of the world we live in.

My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31. I love this verse because it’s a constant reminder of where my strength comes from when I am weary and restless. Like a spell bound world, sometimes I feel like my weakness is trapped behind the mirror of what I perceive as strength to others and in some cases to God. In other words, I don’t allow myself to really be unveiled. In many cases this leads to me trying to be in control, not allowing any defenses down and be vulnerable to support – Jesus carrying that cross for me. I will do this until I absolutely become restless and weary. In these moments I think the tornado starts to whirl around me and I get lost in the center of the darkness.

Let’s draw some focus on the part in Isaiah where it says “they that hope in the Lord”. It is this hope that is the rope in the well that we draw this strength from.

Exposing ourselves, stripping away the mask, whatever it may be that is separating us from God, allows us to grab on to the rope of hope and draw in this strength to truly face the things we need to.  I can go another step further and call the threads of this rope that bind it – trust in God.  This well is the living water that we draw in, refreshing and strengthening our spirit.  It’s the nourishment we need for the journey but we first have to leave the masquerade party and be vulnerable.

When you feel like life is beginning to look like smoke and mirrors, try unveiling the mask of whatever is preventing you from being stripped and bare before God – allowing Him to do His amazing work in you and through you by strengthening you.  Shatter the mirror, exposing whatever is trapped behind the illusion and grasp the rope of hope, drawing your strength from the well of life giving water – Jesus.

 

A path covered in crosses

“For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you. ‘Don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 NLT

Do you sit and imagine places you will travel?  Roads and trails you will walk?  Perhaps, you sit and dream about walking along the beach on a quiet morning as the sun begins to rise?  Or you imagine walking near the streets of Paris?  Whatever your dreams are, do you imagine a walk with your Lord?

I long for moments I can spend with God, especially in nature.  Nature is where I connect the most with Him.  It’s where I feel I’m open the most to hearing Him and seeing Him in the things around me.  I learn so much about myself and the things in the world that affect me within through watching nature.

Earlier in the week, I was walking around the pond at work and I just asked Jesus to take a walk with me.  Funny thing about it was that He reminded me that He has been walking with me, EVERYDAY.  He reminded me of these little visible signs of His presence in my life – crosses that I see along my path.  These aren’t just any crosses.  These crosses are my crosses.  They are the ones He has helped me carry in life.  They each have a story.  Some of the stories are harder and more painful – I think those are the tougher twigs.  Some are quite small, most likely the pine needles I see in the shape of a cross.  Some have been really hard to carry, they have been buried or embedded within – these are the ones found in the concrete.

img_5399Somedays, I may only see one cross in my path, others 20.  When I see these crosses, my heart leaps for joy and my face morphs a smile.  WHY?  Because I know that each of these crosses has a story that has led me closer to God.  Each has created a greater dependence on Him.  I know this is how to discover trust in God, accepting my crosses with joy.

Of course many of these crosses have come and gone but some still linger.  Today I struggle with the one that is embedded in the concrete.  This cross is one that will reshape me within.  It’s the one that bears the greatest level of pain.  It’s the one that will give me the greatest peace of who I am as God continues to pour into me.

I love hearing songs, reading Bible verses, or reading books that talk about God not being finished with us or Him writing our story, creating music from the chaos, reforming us from the dust.  It is truly in these crosses that God is rewriting our story.  He is rewriting it to align with His story, His plans for us.

The greatest message I could ever tell in my story is trusting in God’s Divine Will and discerning what His Will is by aligning your life to His Will.  Are you willing to allow Him to rewrite your story by accepting your crosses, allowing Him to carry you through them?  I invite you to stretch out your hand and ask Him to take it and walk this journey with you.  And if you happen to see a cross in your path, remember your crosses that He has helped you carry.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and your desires align with His desires.  Blessings!

 

 

The journey continues

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

In my last blog, I wrote about how much Jeremiah 17:7-8 described my journey and how amazing my journey has been.

I want to start by asking if you have a unique descriptive of your journey?  Can you see your story still unfolding before your eyes?  Does your past surface from time to time, unraveling more of your path ahead?

What if the story continues to unfold by taking the deeper wounds illuminating and enhancing the new creation that God has reshaped from the dust?  What if the most painful memories were surfaced, skimmed off the top, fired up, crystallized into tiny jewels and used to ornate the outer surface of the newly formed you?

A few weeks ago, I sat in my study frozen as I held several pieces of paper that were written in my hand writing.  The only movement was the droplets falling from my eyes.  There were things written that I had forgotten about, had buried.  They were words that brought grave painful memories rushing back into my mind.  As I read the words on these papers, I felt like I was trapped back in a place I had traveled as the pain stung so sharply deep within me.  I knew I didn’t want to be in this place, yet it was something I had to do.

Going back to that place, uncovered an area I have not dealt with along my amazing journey.  I can’t tell you how many times I feel like I am totally healed from my past and then something else surfaces that causes me to look deeper, to realize I have more cracks to mend.  This was exactly one of those moments.  As my eyes peered through each page I had written and the hurt rushed in, I knew God had more He wanted me to see.  I had more work to do, there was more fruit to bear but I had to first pull up the weeds and lay down the new soil.

Our story is written, yet our journey of being refined is never complete.  The purification, the reforming is a known fact in our spiritual journey.  It is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to look deeper within and uncover the areas that need refining and/or healing.  To move closer to God’s perfect plan for us is allowing Him to shed light on the dark areas in our lives, to illuminate them and bring goodness from them.  I always like to go back and compare my refinement to the process of purifying gold or the formation of a diamond.  It takes extreme conditions to form this precious metal and valuable gem, just as it does in us.

antelope canyon arizona
Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

Next time your past surfaces and the flood of emotions roll in, take a look deep with in and see what gem God is perfecting to ornate the outer surface of His new creation in you because He is not done with you.  He is inviting you to uncover more, to move forward, closer to Him.

Just as in the lyrics of Tauren Wells song “God’s not done with you.”

There’s a light you don’t notice
Until you’re standing in the dark
And there’s a strength that’s growing
Inside your shattered heart
God’s not done with you
Even with your broken heart and your wounds and your scars
God’s not done with you
Even when you’re lost and it’s hard and you’ve fallen apart

 

A journey defined

“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD.  The LORD will be their trust.  They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream.  It does not fear heat when it comes.  Its leaves stay green.  In the year of drought, it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Have you ever had a Bible verse or two, just speak volumes to you?  What about a few lyrics in a song?  May be you have read a passage in a book by your favorite author or heard words of wisdom from a sage soul that spoke to the inner core of your heart?

Almost three years ago, I attended a retreat and heard the verses in Jeremiah 17:7-8 for the first time, deep within my heart.  I’m not sure that I understood then how much these verses would be the verses that would truly describe my journey.  Although my life began in my mother’s womb, my true journey of faith began six years ago.

I think my story is amazing.  It is amazing because God has laid small and large stepping stones in front of me with an intended purposes.  And I truly believe the intended purposes that He has been leading me to is exactly Jeremiah 17:7-8 -to grow in trust in Him and through this to strengthen my roots in my faith so that no matter where life takes me, it will always produce fruit.

This amazing story of mine is a story of trust.  But this story began with tremendous hurt and lack of trust.  In the darkest hour of that pain, God answered my call.  He literally lifted me out of my situation and He began to lay before a new path.  This path would still not be easy but would refine me, purify my heart and cleanse me from my past.  It would provide me with a new compass and a new focus – “the Lord [would] be [my] trust.”

Through the last six years, my journey has gone through many phases that have lead precisely to this moment.  These stepping stones I have been walking on have each served a purpose of leading me to trusting in God.  I could write a book on the details of God’s hands and feet along the way, the people He placed in my life, the obstacles placed before me and those removed, the books, the readings from the Bible and the list goes on.

Some of the amazing details are centered around the obstacles that seemed to be removed that were in my way at times.  There was no doubt that God’s hands and feet were a part of it.  Most of the phenomenal movements of God’s presence was internally within me.  This is the purification process that has been leading me on the path of trust.  It is the interior spiritual movement that is the description of my journey expressed in Jeremiah 17:7-8.  This is where the external stepping stones have led me to the deep roots, nourished by life giving water, bearing fruit in my life.

In one of Lysa Terkeurst latest books, “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way,” she describes an image of life being shattered to dust.  What she goes on to say in the book is that sometimes our life has to be shattered to the point of dust so that we can be reshaped.  It is through the reshaping that God’s perfect plan for us is placed in motion.  As I look back on my life, I see this very process – my life shattered to fine dust and God picking every ounce of that dust up and reshaping me – from the inside out into exactly what He wants of me.  The root of this process is trusting Him to do so, being vulnerable to the shattering and reformation.  It is here where the fruit is produced, where the dead branches begin to grow new life.

So, when I heard the song on the radio by For King and Country, “God Only Knows,” and tears stung my cheeks, I knew that “God only knows what [I’ve] been through… God only knows the real [me]… God only knows where to find [me]… God only knows how to break through… There’s a kind of love that God only knows.”

Each of us go through some form of struggle in our life where the branches seem to be bare and darkness filters in.  In many cases, life as we know if feels like it has shattered into a million pieces and we don’t know how to pick up the pieces.  I invite you to trust in God to pick up the pieces and reshape you as He leads you on a path of reformation, purifying and perfecting your path He has laid before you.

 

Prayer – my design or God’s?

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

Do you feel frustrated when you sit down to pray and your mind is cluttered with distractions? Do you think the clutter is really clutter or a distraction or is it there for a reason?  Does this clutter or distraction have a purpose in that moment, in your prayer?  What is God inviting you to discover?

Many years ago, I remember walking into my very first meeting with my spiritual director and telling her that I couldn’t pray, my mind was cluttered with all this stuff.  Her response to me was – perhaps you should bring this clutter into your prayer.

I had to chuckle today as I was reading today’s message in “An Ignation book of days” by Jim Manney.  It was exactly this topic – What to do about distractions.  There was a quote from the book “Finding God in All Things” that said exactly what my spiritual director had mentioned to me about 5 years ago – “make the distraction the content of [your] prayer, to hear God’s word in this person, situation, whatever it might be.”

For me during that time period, prayer was a place I went to in order to remove myself from what was going on in my life.  It was my escape, my refuge from my life.  I felt so at peace in my prayer time.  In other words, my moments in prayer FELT GOOD.  They were shear moments of me conversing with God about how He was moving me internally at the time.  At the time, He was helping me move through a key time in my life, so I think that I needed to feel this refuge and fortress from my life -this inner peace, comfort and protection.  So when the clutter hit, it through me for a loop.  It didn’t feel peaceful or comforting – it was far from GOOD.  I know today, it was God inviting me to deal with the things that were cluttering my life, not just my mind.

Over the years, I still feel uncomfortable when a ton of things fill my prayer time that I don’t intend to bring to prayer.  I want my prayer time to be peaceful, to just bask in the presence of God.

As I have grown in my faith journey, I have come to realize that this is me placing God in a box.  When I am frustrated with the clutter, I’m not happy with inviting God to do some of the conversing.

Prayer is a key part of our relationship with God.  In fact it is the kick of flavor in our recipe of our faith journey.  Just as in our earthly relationships we have to allow the other person to do some of the conversing.  We can’t always monopolize the conversation or we won’t really have a great relationship with that person.  When we control or monopolize our prayer time, it is no different than taking the steering wheel from God in our life and directing what we want in our relationship with God and not what He may be inviting us to.

Listening is necessary in any relationship, especially the one we have with God.  Next time, you feel distracted in prayer, listen to what God is inviting you to bring to the conversation and deal with in your life.  It could be the next best thing in your life, a golden opportunity in your journey of life.

I love this song “King of the World” by Natalie Grant.  It speaks volumes to me when I’m trying to control my life, especially what goes on in my moments of prayer.  May God always be the King of your world.