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?

white american football helmet and pigskin ball
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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.

Have you noticed the sprinkles decorating your faith

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6

With the holidays coming around the corner, many of us will be making some yummy goodies.  Some of them may be sprinkled with little candies for decoration or added flavor.  You will bake and decorated them with either joy or stress of trying to bake them with a ton of other holiday things to do.  Either way those who delight in them are filled with sweet joy as they admire and taste your delicious and beautiful holiday treats.

Making holiday treats sprinkled with decorative candies is a way that many people celebrate and share their love during the holidays.

So what about our faith?  Are there times when God sprinkles your life with sweet grace decorating your faith and trust in Him?

The past few days, I have seen so many simple graces sprinkled upon my faith guiding me to trust in God’s divine will in my life.  These sweet sprinkles have come in several different ways to remind me of His presence and His hands in all that is surrounding me.

Just the other day, I found myself praying for guidance in a circumstance in my life and when I was calling out to God, I received a message from a sweet sister in Christ that began with “Lord, thank you that you are near when I call upon you.  Today, I cry out to you for help…”

Today, I hear the song by Pat Barrett “The Way (New Horizon)”, not once but twice on the radio when I got into my car.  The sprinkles began to pour out two days ago when the verse John 14:6 was playing in my head reminding me that Jesus is my way, truth and life as I lean on Him and the Word of God, placing my trust in His hands.

You may ask what does this have to do with baking and sprinkles?  Often I think we walk through our journey of faith going through the motions of going to church, reading our Bibles, may be doing some Bible study.  And often as this is intermingled into everything else in our lives, we don’t realize the sweet decorative sprinkles God is pouring out in our faith through reminders of His presence and His will in our lives in some of the small things that align with where we are in a moment.  Being open to seeing, hearing, feeling God’s presence reveals a beautiful, decorative faith of trust.

I’m often amazed at the little things that remind me of His presence, His love, His protection, His promise and His mercy.  God hears every word we say.  He knows every thought we have.  He knows our circumstances, our pain and our joy.  And just when we least expect it, He sends us little sprinkles to reveal Himself in that present moment, decorating our faith with His love.  Just as in baking for the holidays, we may be in a joyful moment or a stressful one but His decorative sprinkles will always fill us with joy and delight as He shares His love for each of us, His children.

Listen to the lyrics in the song by Pat Barrett, “The Way (New Horizon).”

Is your deepest desire a communal relationship with God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says in the Gospel today,

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

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

Are the small sins devouring you?

“Confession is like a bridle that keeps the soul which reflects on it from committing sin, but anything left unconfessed we continue to do without fear as if in the dark.”

–Saint John Climacus

I have been observing this momma duck and her ducklings for about a week or so around the pond at work during my morning walk. Yesterday, as I walked around and noticed the mother duck, I only saw one duckling nestled under her wing. About a week ago, there were around 13.

As I ponder the fact that some other animal had been lurking around and devouring these poor little ducklings for a nice meal, I  couldn’t help but think about how often in my own life the enemy of my soul lurks around waiting to devour me. Ever so sneaking, he preys upon me. He does it in little things – mostly in the small sins I commit and tuck away.  And so often the impact is to my family and friends.

Do you often feel like you are prey to darkness? Have you hidden away small sins or may be big sins deep within?  Do you ever feel like these small sins are consuming little bits of you?

Like many, I struggle with ongoing sins, those I commit over and over again.  They come in various sizes and degrees. Perhaps you struggle with some of these same things.

Anger

All the enemy has to do sometimes is just strike at my heal and cause something to not go my way or as I expected.  I become frustrated and say words that I never meant to say but just rolled off my tongue.  How many friendships have ended because of that very thing?  How many family relationships become strained because of the slaying of the tongue in anger?

Jealousy

Jealousy is such a lovely sin because it’s one that springs most often from a feeling of not being loved.  No matter what our brains know and understand about one’s love for us, the enemy preys on our heart, our emotions and tells us that the other person doesn’t love us or love us as much as someone or something else and our friend jealousy strikes.

Pride

This one is a definite struggle.  Who doesn’t want to accept a pat on the back and think they are the best?  Who doesn’t want everyone to know that they are good at something?  Accepting a pat on the back is not bad but the enemy very slippery will come on in and enlarge that pat on the back into the sin of pride.  Have you had a friendship that was strained because you were overly proud of your capability and squashed their ability?

Procrastination

I think, often, procrastination affects us when we ignore God and His will for us.  When you have the gut wrenching desire to go help at a food pantry, a shelter, or join a ministry and you put it on the back burner, telling yourself, “I’ll do it later when I have more time.”  Perhaps at that very moment you were intended to be at that place to fulfill God’s plan in you or someone else’s life.  How many opportunities have you passed up that God was calling you to because you procrastinated?

Gossip

I don’t think anyone does this, right? Perhaps this is one that most people struggle with over and over again.  I use to work with a coworker that use to start off her gossip conversations with “I mean this in a Christian way, but …..”  It baffled me.  How in the world can you put Christ’s name in a conversation where you are going to talk about or judge someone?  Gossip is the double sworded tongue.  The enemy comes in and he gives you a sense that you will feel better about yourself if you share things about another.  In other scenarios, he tells you that you are helping someone by sharing something they confided in you with another.  A chain reaction kicks into play – very quickly.  How many relationships have been ruined over gossip?  How many stories have been misconstrued over gossip?

Lying

This is one I love. My girls and I often get in very good debates on the existence of a “good lie”. Sure there are lies that are told for very good intentions, such as keeping a surprise. Our debate normally is about a “good lie” or “the white lie” that it is still a lie no matter how you slice it. If we get in the habit of justifying a lie as a “good lie”, then we are being the judge of what is sin and what is not. We are essentially playing God.

Of course there are more little sins than what I mentioned above but these are probably the more common ones that are repeat offenders for most. In each of these, I think the enemy finds a little crack, perhaps our weakness, and strikes.

After the enemy preys on us and devours a small piece within us, he falls to the floor giggling with laughter because he has defeated the light God places within us and sheds darkness upon it.  My girls watch the series “Once Upon a Time”.  It’s a very twisted version of the fairy tales most of us grew up reading.  I find it quite interesting that when a good person does something that is sinful, their heart darkens and they become an antagonist in the story line.  I kind of view that same analogy with our own battle with sin.  When we allow these small sins to devour us internally little by little, we are allowing it to spread darkness within us.

So how do you get rid of it?  How do you illuminate the dark areas of sin in your life?  You could repair some of the damage by doing good deeds and works.  But that doesn’t repair your soul, it helps to repair the relationships and connectivity of your sin to the world, which is called penance.  It is imperative that you go to confession often, seeking forgiveness for all sins, especially the smallest sins that are tucked away in darkness.  It is in this very Sacrament that God’s love, mercy and compassion fills the dark crevices within you, illuminating you with His very light.

Dig deep within and uncover those small sins tucked away and go to confession.  Jesus defeated the enemy on the cross and offers you this forgiveness to defeat the enemy so that he does not devour you, separating you from the grace God offers you every microsecond of the day.

Has God placed a friend or a community in your life?

“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe

Do you have that one true friend that would lay down their life for you?  What about a community of friends?  Is there one friend or many friends that have been there in the midst of most or all of your struggles? In a moment of weakness, has a friend or your community of friends given you strength as a result of their support?

Today as I was taking my morning stroll around the pond on our company’s campus to clear my mind and talk to God, there was a momma duck and 3 babies at the edge of the pond and 4 ducks were sitting on the bridge rails above her. As I approached, one duck began making lots of noise. I watched for a while. I realized these 4 ducks on the rails were protecting the mother duck and her ducklings by giving her a warning signal of my presence nearby, potential danger.

I thought that was quite interesting and began to reflect on the example these ducks revealed to me of a community of friends, a family. Like the mother duck protecting her ducklings, God protects us when we are in trouble. And just as the 4 ducks on the rail were on the outside looking in, serving as warnings and advisors, our community of friends and family do for us.

It is important in times of struggle and need to have a support system. Often in the midst of your issues, you don’t see clearly or see the entire picture. Your support system is your wide lens, helping you to see the things you don’t. The friends in your life that guide you in accordance with God’s will are unique in your life. They are hand selected. They are not placed in your life on accident but for that very moment where God knows not only do you need the protector at your side but an advisor to be present with you on His behalf to guide you away from danger.

Over the years, God has strategically brought many friends into my life at pivotal moments to support me in accordance with His will. I know I can call several people in my community of friends in a moment and ask for a flood of prayers, guidance, or just a listening ear. Often I feel guilty that I may be wearing my prayer line out or the ears on which I pour out to. At the end of the day, these ladies will always be advisors, comforters, and words of warning when I am in danger or just in need of a reminder of His presence. God placed them in my life to reveal His very own love and guidance to me.

We are all connected in God’s divine plan and it is no coincidence when new friendships are formed. It is no coincidence when you need help in the midst of a struggle and a friend calls you or drops by to just say hi. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your friends are advocates in fulfilling God’s plan in you through support, love, and guidance.

Treasure the community around you that God put in your path. Call them to tell them thank you for being a part of your life. Let them know that their love reveals the love of your Heavenly Father and how much you need and appreciate their comfort and compassion. If you are at odds with a friend, go to confession, ask for forgiveness and ensure to contact your friend with an apology and an act of love and kindness.

Thief of JOY

padlock-lock-chain-key-39624.jpeg“The joyfulness of the heart is the life of a man, and a never-failing treasure of holiness, and the joy of a man is length of life” (Sir. 30:23)

Have you been robbed lately? Not of material things, but have you been robbed by the thief of JOY?

How many of you have an alarm system on your homes? Savings account to secure your finances? Lock your cars when you go into the grocery store?

We lock up and secure the things we value in our lives, our possessions. Yet one of our greatest treasures that is freely given us we hardly ever secure, our JOY. We allow the enemy to step right up and steal our JOY with ease.

Perhaps, someone cut you off in traffic and you said a few choice words. A friend may have made a hurtful comment to you and you wept. Your toddler spilt milk everywhere making you late for work. You were excited about an idea for a project and your boss didn’t like it. There are so many scenarios throughout our day that can take our smile and turn it upside down. It’s amazing how instantaneous it can be, how easy the enemy takes our gift and chunks it in the trash.

I remember years ago, I had put a lot of thought into a gift for my husband at the time for our anniversary. I had bought him a book and a ring with a scripture verse inscribed on the inside of the band. Both had a significant value in my eyes and a message from my heart. When I gave him the gifts, there was no response of gratitude. The ring he returned to the store and the book he had placed on the floor next to the trash can in the broom closet. My heart was broken and my excitement and JOY were met with sadness and hurt.

Why is it so easy for us to guard our material treasures we store up on earth yet so hard to protect the spiritual treasures given to us by God? Is it a lack of faith and trust in God that we are emotionally vulnerable and the enemy slivers his way in to attack? How can we protect our JOY from the thief that steals it? I’ve come to believe that the best answer is being steadfast in prayer which will allow us to respond in love.

I have learned over the years that when I pray before responding to someone who has said hurtful words to me that I tend to respond in love and I don’t lose my joy. I may momentarily become frustrated until I pray asking God to guard my heart and fill it with his love. When I am emotionally hurt, I am unable to humanly respond in love. I need the grace of God. So prayer is extremely important in securing my treasure, my JOY.

Don’t allow the enemy to steal your JOY. Pray that God guards and fills your heart with love when the person cuts you off in traffic, the friend says something hurtful, your toddler spills milk and your running late, or when your idea is not the one your boss is looking for at that time. And may be next time the thief of JOY will not be successful in his heist.

Forgiveness

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How do we forgive?  Is there a magic formula to forgiveness?  Why is it harder to forgive sometimes than others?  Is there a time factor in this magic formula?

I was asked not too long ago, how did I forgive a person in my life who brought so much pain and suffering.  My first inclination was, “Mmm, I’m not quite sure.  It just happened some how.”  I’ve had some time to reflect on it a bit recently.

The more I ask myself about forgiveness, I can only come to one conclusion – LOVE.  It’s love in 2 dimensions.  The first dimension of this love is the love that God poured out on the cross, His Divine Mercy.  The second is accepting that love and mercy that He freely gives us, knowing that we don’t deserve it but He still offers it.  I think once you have knowledge of that love and receive it in it’s entirety, you can offer that love and mercy to anyone through forgiveness.  It doesn’t remove the event or circumstance but it does offer healing of the wound(s).  Since we are not perfect, it may take longer and be harder in different circumstances.  But as long as we have knowledge of God’s love and mercy and accept it, forgiveness is possible in any circumstance.

In the book, “Unbound”, the author talks about the parable where the king cancels the servants debt after he begs him to be merciful.  Later the servant punishes another servant who owes him a debt for not being able to pay it, instead of showing mercy as the king showed him.  What is brought to light by Jesus through this parable is that for us to be merciful to others, to forgive others, we must first receive that mercy.  In the parable, the first servant truly did not receive that mercy and was not able to provide mercy to the other servant who owed him money.

In order to receive the mercy God gives us, we must receive His love, the love He offered us through salvation on the cross.  This has to come through a relationship with God, through Christ.  If we don’t have a relationship with Him, receiving this love and mercy is impossible.  It’s one thing to know Him, to read the Bible and walk the walk but to have an intimate relationship is a different level that goes deeper within our hearts.  It opens our hearts to receive and pour out love.  That’s how we forgive others.