Good and faithful servant

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” Matthew 25:21

Do you long to hear those words “well done my good and faithful servant?”

Over my adult life, there have been many good and faithful servants in my life but often times I may not have truly recognized there service as so.  Throughout my life, I have been a very selfish, independent young woman.

When others serve me, I tend to find it hard to accept, mainly the root being my independence.  I also have noticed in my adult life that I may have taken others’ service towards me for granted, the root being my selfishness.  Since my faith was ignited, I have been trying to recognize and be more attentive to my old habits and be more in tuned to being a good and faithful servant.

This past year, God has been teaching me a lot about service, through events in my life.  I have been on the receiving end of many wonderful women’s service and I have walked along side many as they served others.  It has been a beautiful journey learning to accept it when I need to and appreciate those that are giving their time and talents.  It also has been joyous serving along side these beautiful women.

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This weekend, I was reminded of a different kind of service, a service that is humbling and small.  I never considered, visiting another person who is going through a difficult period service.  This weekend, I experienced a form of service that brought joy to my soul, yet sadness to my heart.  In my past, this is the service that was given to me, yet I never recognized it as service.  This person I visited was a person who cares about me and has offered me support and comfort.  Today I realize that it was Jesus acting through her.  Jesus suffering with me.  At Mass today, one of our parish Deacon’s beautifully painted the picture of a good and faithful servant.  He said that there are 3 things that a person who serves will undergo.

  1.  He/she will undergo suffering.  To serve another, you have to make a sacrifice.
  2. He/she will be united in suffering with that person, just as we are united to Jesus in His suffering on the cross.
  3. He/she will carry a piece of the load of the person being served, just as Jesus carries our load.

The Homily spoke so greatly to my heart and highlighted my weekend visit.  My friend is a good and faithful servant and has been by my side picking me up and providing me shelter through some very tough times.  I have prayed and spoken to her a number of times during her suffering but had not gone to sit with her to share moments of laughter.  This weekend I cleared part of my day to do just that, go sit and share a smile with her.

Serving is not just about doing big things, such as volunteering to clean up after a hurricane, or at a soup kitchen.  It’s more than that.  Serving is also showing love to your neighbor through humble, small acts.  It’s sitting with an old man or old lady that has no family, but smiles at the site of your presence.  It’s saying a kind word to the person at the register, that looks like she has had a rough day and bringing joy in that very moment.  Serving is picking someone up when they are down, lifting the load off their shoulders, even if it’s for a split second.  It’s feeling their suffering and walking their journey beside them.

Even in the small things, we can serve one another spreading the joy of our Lord and bearing the suffering with one another.  When you think of serving, don’t just think of the big ticket items but think of the small acts of love and kindness.  Take a little extra time and bring a smile to someone’s face by feeling their suffering and lifting the weight from their shoulders by bringing a joy filled smile upon their face.  By sharing in the small matters, you will be given great responsibility, sharing in your Father’s love – go and be a “good and faithful servant.”

Love a deeper force of attraction

St John of the Cross, “soul is in God like a stone buried in the earth. The soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth. This attraction is mutual. The force of attraction between the soul and the center of God is not gravity but love.”

Where is the anchor of your heart? What about your soul? Do you feel an attraction to something that is unexplainable? A deep desire for something bigger than your physical life?

St John of the Cross’ metaphor of our soul’s attraction to God by love being similar to a stone attracted to the earth by gravity is a beautiful image.  It reminds me of Margaret Silf’s road map of our lives in the book Inner Compass.  She explains that our lives are comprised of layers: Where I am? How I am? Who I am? The deepest center – I am.

Where I am is my connection to circumstance, the things in my environment I cannot change. This is my past.  It is my family, where I come from, the outer part of me.

How I am is how I respond to the environment, my circumstance and to others. I can love. I can be angry. I can be afraid. I can be merciful and compassionate.  I can accept things or not.  This is where I make choices and affect changes within in myself and the world.

Who I am is my true being. It is who I truly am, where I face my indifference. It’s the comfort and peace of my being and it is the challenges I face as I see the differences between the outer me and the person created by God. This is my spiritual being in the I am that lay at the deepest part of my soul. This is where my relationship with God is, where my seed of God’s love grows and produces fruit.  This is where I journey through prayer, the very essence of my journey.

In our lives, we will move between each of the layers – back and forth. Some people may never move into the who I am because of the risk and the challenges they may face by approaching a relationship with God.  Those of us who do move here may be faced with challenges by seeing the gap between life in the where we are and the person God created us to be.  In this space we gain wisdom, strength, and love.  We begin to find acceptance with joy to circumstance that we cannot change.  It challenges us to see the things where God is calling us to transform to be resurrected from.  This is where our intimate relationship with God fuels a trust in Him.

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As we continue to dive deeper the love of God attracts us to the center, to the deeper core of us. This is where our deepest desires lay. Where we are most in touch with who God is in us and who He created us to be. This is where our anchor is. And everything else should be centered and directed from this point as we transition through each layer of ourself back and forth. Processing circumstance into our action based on who we truly are in the one who created us.

Through this movement, there are times we may have an experience that is not explainable, that is providential.  It is something that is tangential to all the layers of our being.  It is a moment when we have truly been touched by God and he has moved and united all layers fusing our where I am to the how I am and the who I am, driving roots to the center, anchoring our total being to Him.  When this happens His light shines around us, glowing from our center for all to see.  This is a point of spiritual freedom, the top of the mountain in our journey.

Have you allowed yourself to be open to move into the who I am, allowing God to anchor Himself from your where I am to the center of your being, to your heart?

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.

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.
  • Journey through the desert

    Take a journey with me. Let’s walk along a path that seems to have no foot steps in front of us. Perhaps there have never been any or perhaps they have been covered up by the sands.

    There is nothing living among the path we walk, everything appears to lack life. As we walk, let’s look at the moments in our journey that did not bring life into us. Look at them closely. Is there anything you can learn from those moments that will breathe life in you today? Something present that will help you with a trial, tribulation or a feeling of unrest?

    Walk along this desert floor and feel the heat of each of these moments. Feel the dryness of your faith. Do you thirst for God as you trodden this warm, sand filled land? Do you see a mirage of your Heavenly Father before you inviting you to sift through the sands of the desert in your life, to draw closer to Him by offering these feelings to Him, bringing life upon you? Or do you see a mirage of something that isn’t from God, tempting you to turn back and dwell in the journey behind you suffering death within, clouding your vision to move forward – to see God in the moments of hurt and pain? Which mirage will you turn to? Which one draws you near?

    You continue to walk along this journey and notice above your head there appears to be a dove. He flys just in front of you. You have to glance upward to see him. You wonder what is a dove doing in the middle of the desert. Yet you feel an exuberant amount of peace. Could it be the dove’s presence? Can you feel his guidance along your path? Follow him. See where he takes you.

    It looks like he is guiding you to a spring ahead? It appears to be a spring of life giving water. Is it another mirage tempting you? Or is it a spring from your Heavenly Father inviting you to dive in His love, accept the grace He has given you? Will you drink from it? Will you dive in? Or will you pass it by because your vision is cloudy and the reality of the spring has been covered up by your conscience?

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    It is your choice to drink from the spring of life to come to the table and receive the Eucharist, the life giving body and blood of Christ. It is your choice to dive into the moments of desolation, the moments when God feels distant and search for His presence, His invitation. It is your choice to allow Him to bring life into your being or remain in the desert of death. Which choice will you make today? God will draw close to you in the desert filling you with a spring of life.

    The Endless Well

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    Imagine you are the woman at the well.  You travel a short distance to go to the well at an hour that you know no one will be there.  You feel lonely and ashamed.  There are things hidden in your heart that are unwanted guests.  You feel unvalued, unloved, ugly, broken, alone, ashamed, guilty, humiliated, and hopeless.  As you approach this place to draw water, the basic necessity of life, you see a man standing near the well.  You’ve never seen him before.  As you draw near, he ask you to fetch him some water.  His tone is gentle but surprised, you ask him “you ask me for water?”  Why would anyone want to associate with you?  He looks at you with love in his eyes and he tells you that “everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water [he] shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14).  You look at him in wonder.  “What is he talking about?  He doesn’t even have a bucket.  How will he get any water?”  His words “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst” resonates in your head.  So you lift your eyes to his and ask him, “can I have this water that you speak of?  I wish to never thirst.”  As he casts a smile upon you, it feels as if he sees all these things that are weighing on your heart, tucked away and hidden within.  You feel this warmth of love wrap you and all the feelings of your unwanted guests are lifted from your heart.  “Who is this man?”  You ask yourself.  “He knows my heart, my past yet he looks upon me with love and compassion.”  He is like no other.  As you look upon him and feel the embrace of his loving eyes, you know he is not like any other man you have known.  

    Just then, he tells you that he is Jesus, and he loves you.  He tells you that there is nothing in your past that you should be ashamed of.  He tells you that you are beautiful and that if you drink from the well of his love that you will have eternal life.  You will never be alone, hopeless or broken again.  Your eyes begin to glisten with tears.  Tears for each of the unwanted guests that you know are no longer hidden in your heart and tears for your joy knowing that you will never thirst and hunger for love, beauty, hope and joy because you have found the endless well, the love of Jesus.  Peace settles as you return to the town square to proclaim the love you have just found.