Have you performed open heart surgery on yourself? – God is waiting

“When you look for Me, you will find Me. Yes, when you seek Me with all your heart, I will let you find Me and I will change your lot.”  Jeremiah 29:13-14

Have you or any one you know had open heart surgery?  What about a conversion of faith from darkness to light?

What is the difference between physical open heart surgery and a spiritual open heart surgery?

In the physical sense, open heart surgery consist of any repair to the heart where a surgeon has to create an incision to access the components of the heart.  It’s not really a physical opening of the heart but an opening of the chest.

What about the spiritual sense?  What does it consist of?  I think that when we have “spiritual open heart surgery,” the heart of the spiritual self cracks open as one begins to mindfully seek God and God  begins widening that crack as He pours His light into it.  This is the heart of our spiritual conversion.

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A dear friend of mine reminded me recently that this process has to begin with us.  God does not force Himself into our heart.  He doesn’t make the incision, in a sense.  He waits until their is a tiny crack of true longing for Him within the heart and then He pours into it.  We are the surgeons that make the incision, God then provides all the instruments to repair it, transforming our lives through His light and truth.

I can pin point the exact moment when this happened to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, pray, thank Him or celebrate Him.  I didn’t really know Him as I know my best friend or a member of my family.  I didn’t have a relational connection with Him.  When my mind began to search for a purpose in my life and my heart began to seek God in prayer, longing for more of Him, my life began to change.  A tiny crack was opened and God began to widen that crack by pouring into me, changing me.  My eyes opened, my mind opened, and my soul longed for more as I hungered and thirst for God.  The more I longed for Him, the more He fed me, pouring people into my life, knowledge of Him, love, truth and trust.  My journey hasn’t stopped since.  The crack continues to widen and I continue to grow through the struggles and through the joy filled moments.  He hasn’t stopped pouring people into my life, knowledge, love, truth and trust.  Even when I stumble, I still know the journey is and has been amazing as my heart continues to open – opening a world of truth, miracles and wonder.  This is the spiritual sense of open heart surgery that I have experienced – as my heart has completely undergone a transformation on another level that is divine and exquisite.

Perhaps, you have experienced this transformation in your own unique way.  If not, are you prepared to perform “open heart surgery” on yourself by seeking God with all your heart and allowing Him to do the rest?  A tiny crack is all He needs to fill you with all His glorious wonder.  This Advent seek Him by opening your heart and receive the greatest gift, His friendship.

Forgiveness scores!

One of my memories as a young girl is learning about the “Saints”. Before you sit back and think, well that’s nice and wholesome, I want to explain a little. The Saints I grew up watching and learning about were the New Orleans Saints. Growing up in Louisiana, many of my family members gathered around the TV on Sunday to watch the Saints play football. There was lots of yelling and screaming, jumping and clapping, coupled with some minor frustrations when they didn’t play well, which happened to be often when I was growing up.

These Sunday afternoons coupled with playing football with my brother and his friends, I learned the language of football. I learned about offense and defense, scoring and blocking. I learned running plays and passing plays. You may ask yourself what does this have to do with a “faith blog?”

Ever consider your struggle with forgiveness in the form of a football game?

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Humor me as I explain a little.  On the field, you have forgiveness on the offensive side, while anger, resentment and bitterness are on the defensive side. As forgiveness catches the ball and runs down the sideline, anger tries to knock him over, causing him to stumble. Then from out of nowhere, bitterness and resentment come from different angles, diving in for the tackle. At first glance, forgiveness appears to be tackled among the pile of anger, bitterness and resentment and then out of the entanglement, forgiveness emerges. It is as if he gained strength from another source and he gracefully escapes the pile, running towards the ultimate touchdown of glory and peace.

Quite a game! When forgiveness is on the offensive side in the football game, glory and peace will always emerge and will always score. This is a promise from our Heavenly Father as He proved this very thing when His only son, Jesus, died for us so that we may be forgiven.  He also promises to give us the strength we need to emerge from the bottom of the pile to score the touchdown.

So, I ask myself when have I struggled with forgiveness and I ask you, have you battled with forgiving someone?  Although you know it’s the right thing to do, you want to hang on to the anger or hurt within you.  You may even feel justified to not forgive.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when we are on the receiving end of the hurt and the other person continues to go for the tackle.  There is nothing worst than the bondage of unforgiveness.  Our hearts are unable to be free when we cannot forgive.  If we suffer from hurt or brokenness, we are unable to heal and move forward if we cannot forgive.  This keeps us shackled to the past, the brokenness, the pain, the anger, the bitterness and resentment.  None of these are lifegiving for our physical and spiritual needs.  What holds us back from seeking forgiveness if we seek a joy filled life?

Are you ready to be on the offensive side or the defensive side?  Do you want to be bound by anger, resentment and bitterness in the pile up on the football field or do you want to emerge glorious and peacefully through the triumphant offensive moves of forgiveness?

Dear friends, forgiveness is an awesome gift that each of us has been given.  No matter how difficult it may seem and how justified you feel to not forgive, take a leap towards the goal and place your bet on forgiving others.

If I saw You walking by…

If I saw You walking by, would I be a beggar, the one who gave all she had,  the blind man, the hemorrhaging woman or the Pharisee?  I ponder this question as I journey through life.  Am I at times the Pharisee, persecuting You with my ignorance to who You are, what You have done for me?  Do I, like the blind man and the hemorrhaging woman know who You are and desire Your healing?  Am I the beggar, searching for what You have to offer, seeking Your riches?  Or may be I am the one who gave all I had, honoring Your presence?

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Through my journey, I have been each of these.  I have persecuted Jesus through my earthly desires and selfishness.  I have thought of myself when I have meditated on the Passion as one who has spit on Jesus, that screamed “crucify him”.  When I see myself in the Passion in this role, I identify with the affect of my sins.  My sins affect not just my small world and inner being.  They have a greater affect, a ripple affect that extends to my community and beyond.  In essence, my sins today are the people of yesterday that persecuted and crucified Jesus.  Sometimes that is a little hard to swallow – to consider my own sins a part of Jesus’ Passion.

Then there are times when I am the blind man or the hemorrhaging woman, seeking healing and knowing that Jesus is the source of that unending gift of life giving water.  My healing comes in the form of both physical and spiritual healing.  More often, my healing takes the form of spiritual healing and it is through the deeper relationship with Christ that I find that healing, through embracing the Body of Christ, found in both the Eucharist and the Church.

When I see myself as the beggar, I ponder the riches I seek.  When I have fulfilled this role, have I sought from Jesus only to gain for myself or I have sought from Jesus riches to pour out upon others?  Through my journey, I have done both.  I remember when I was in college, I would pray my rosary or kneel down in prayer to ask for God to assist me in making a good grade on my exam.  In my mind, I always felt that if I had studied and did my part, then prayed and asked God to do His part, I would be successful in making the grade.  I guess it worked.  But I think in my shallow faith at the time, I was begging God to help me make the grade for my own personal success, not considering what His intention was for that success.  On the flip side, as I have grown in my faith, I often find myself praying for things that help me to be the person allowing God to fulfill His Will in or to accept His Will in the outcome of something I am praying for.

When I look at all these roles, I think I personally prefer to be more of the person who gave all that she had, honoring God’s presence.  This is the role that I feel will provide holiness.  This is the role I want to fulfill more often in my life as I journey forward to my final resting place.  It is in this role that I accomplish all other roles and unite with God.

I think in our journey we each go through phases of each of these roles.  It is important to do so because I think this is where growth in our relationship develops and becomes deeper so that we can establish holiness, our ultimate goal on this earth that God has given each of us.  As we go deeper in our faith and develop a more prayerful relationship with God, we begin to move further away from some of the roles such as the persecutor.  I know through my own journey that we are often relearning to walk.  Each time we relearn, the falls and the time it takes to relearn to walk the journey become smaller and smaller as our conscience and heart unite to the one who created us to be Holy.

I want to end this post with a thought.  What does it take to give all that we are, honoring God’s presence in all that we do on a daily basis?  I don’t think it means we are perfect.  I think it implies that we are doing the best that is capable of us, which is what God created you to do – hence holiness.  God Bless!

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.