How much do I love the?

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us; God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10

Have you told yourself you love you lately?  If not, take a moment and do so.  And then take a moment and ask God how much He loves you?  How did He respond?  Did you find the answer unexpected?  What about when you told yourself you loved you?  Did you find that difficult?    

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:  The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.  This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.  For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”

Love seems so natural and so simple yet we struggle with it.  We probably struggle with loving ourselves more than anything.

WHY?

I think we are the hardest critics of ourselves.  We see every fault, every failure.  We know every hurt, every negative word said to us.  I think these things aid us in the inability to truly love ourselves, to truly love the person God created in us.  We fail to see the person God sees in us because of the awesome critics we are.  So if you truly listened to God once you asked Him how much He loved you, I’m sure you received a very different answer than you expected.  Sometimes, we just don’t have the capacity and the ability to see how unconditional God’s love is.  It is a hard thing to grasp because of our sin and what we see within us.

I want to share a personal story of a young woman who knew God, yet didn’t have a friendship with Him.  She had not allowed Him to companion with her for many years throughout her life.  Her vision of God was as a disciplinary, one who saw her faults and was displeased with her.  One day, she found herself lost.  She looked up to the Heavens and began to pray.  As the days went by, she began to notice this growing desire for something.  She began to read books about God and her faith.  As she read and as she went to Mass, her heart began to desire more.  As the “bread of life” was raised before her eyes, she felt this ache in her heart.  When she approached the Eucharist, she felt this grave anticipation and hunger as her heart began to beat faster.  She had received Holy Communion for years and had not felt this deep desire to consume the Host of her Lord.  As she consumed it and drink the blood of Christ, she felt this warmth consume her and immediately a tear fell from her cheek.  In that instant she realized the love that her Heavenly Father had for her.  Every Mass thereafter, she longed to receive Jesus, to feel herself being transformed through the love He has for her in the sacrifice He made for her and does each time she goes to Mass.  This desire continued to grow throughout the days, the weeks and months.  She found herself almost daily at the foot of the Host, soaking in the very presence of Jesus in Adoration.  His comforting embrace in her sorrows of her days were her “refuge and fortress.”  She couldn’t wait to rush off to go have lunch with Him, to soak in His love that radiated in the silence of her heart when she was before Him in the chapel.  This love grew beyond what she could ever have imagined.  He was present when she was weak, when she needed comfort from her tears.  He gave her strength to endure the days ahead and courage to follow Him.  He protected her and calmed her fears and lifted her up on eagles wings to fly over the sea of despair into the heights of the mountains.  As she saw all that He was doing in her heart and in her life, she began to place her trust in Him.  Her life, through suffering, flourished in love as she had found her first true love and entrusted her life into His hands.  She had discovered a loving friendship that had been pulling her from the day she was born that would fulfill her greatest desire of communion with Him into an unimaginable happiness – through her joy and pain.  She knew this flame of love would never burn out.  It may be a little dim at times but will always be refueled through the thirst and hunger that is always fulfilled in the love of her Heavenly Father and the sacrifice of her Lord as she receives the grace from the “bread of life” and “the fruit of the vine.”

God meets us where we are and when we are open and ready to receiving Him.  Sometimes that time is in the midst of a trial in our lives.  When that time comes, a true love story is sprouted.  It is an unimaginable love that grows beyond anything you have experienced.  If you haven’t opened your arms to receive the love God is waiting to share with you, today may not be a bad day to start.  Blessings always.

 

Refuge in the rubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart of the matter

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Have you been struck with unforgiveness?  If so, have you looked at the weeds surrounding your heart?  Do you want to de-weed your garden planted within you?

For some reason, I feel a great desire to write about “love”.  It seems everything I have been reading is about love.  The daily readings have been about love, a few devotions I have read, and a book on friendship with Christ.

It is difficult for us to love when our heart is “of stone”.  Typically, our hearts become rigid and crystallize into a hardened substance that prevents love from being able to filter through when we have been hurt or lost trust with someone and we can’t forgive them or won’t forgive them.  In Ezekiel 36:26, God tells us He will give us a heart transplant by removing the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh.  The only way He can do that is if we create space for Him to do so, chiseling a small crack in the stone by forgiving those who have hurt us, those who have betrayed us, those who have trampled our pride or caused pain and discontent of some sort.

Forgiveness is hard because we often feel that person isn’t deserving or that it is justified to be angry or upset with that person.  What we don’t realize is that the pain doesn’t go away until we forgive.   The anger and bitterness is what crystallizes our hearts to the point of separating us from “LOVE”, from God.  When forgiveness surfaces, breaking even a tiny pinhole in the stone, God is able to do His work and renew the heart of stone with a heart of flesh, literally melt away the hardness and de-weed His garden within you.

close up of tree against sky
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I personally have wrestled with acts of forgiveness with people who have hurt me, betrayed me or dampened my pride.  What I have discovered is that when I have allow myself to break the wall of unforgiveness, my spiritual being becomes victorious, joy flourishes and in that joy I find love and a closer union with Christ.

God commands us to love one another.  In fact, Jesus gives us this as the second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-39.  Love is crucial to our Christian faith, because if we don’t have love, we become separated from God.  If we cannot forgive our neighbors or ourselves to allow love to overcome our heart transforming it from stone to flesh, then we become lost in the weeds that surround our heart.  God created us to desire Him.  He has written it within our hearts (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27) and it’s what draws us closer in relationship with Him, to a friendship with Him.  It is through the love of God we were created and through the love of God, the sacrifice of His “only begotten Son” that we exist through all of eternity.

St Teresa of Calcutta said that “joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.  A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”  To fulfill God’s will for us to help each other reach the gates of Heaven, we must first have love, love of self and love of one another.  Let God’s desire for you written within your heart, flourish and nurture the seed He planted when He created you.

A Christmas twinkle that never burns out

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

lighted candle
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Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the decorations, the atmosphere and the excitement of all the children.  There are times, when Christmas seems rushed, running around trying to make everything perfect but at the same time missing the moments.  At other times, their is sadness, painful reminders of the past or loneliness that fills the air.  I think each of us can relate to some of these seasons through our life journey this time of the year.  Yet, we each know that the season of Advent is not about the decorations, the presents, the rushing, the perfection, the pain, the sadness, or the loneliness.

It’s a season of waiting, waiting for Christ.  

Interesting that in the midst of all the preparations so many of us go through that the focus of the season is to wait.

So, let’s explore what this “waiting” may look like? 

Perhaps it’s a time of stillness, a time of anticipation, a time of readiness.

In the waiting are we preparing our hearts?  Are we excited in a joyful anticipation?  Have we made space, reviewed the areas in our lives that are too busy, preventing us from sitting with Jesus?  Are we hopeful that the darkness in our lives will be brightened by the light of Christ?  Are we open to seeing God around us?  What about welcoming change within us to be a good and faithful servant?

A few days ago, there was a heavy fog present as I walked along the pond at work.  I always look for God’s presence as I walk around this pond.  It gives me a peaceful start to my day, a hopeful anticipation of what God may reveal to me throughout my day.  During these walks,  I listen to the sounds around me, open my eyes to see all that I can take in and I just talk to God.  On this morning, I thought about the limited view that I have, the dark areas that have not been uncovered, not illuminated.  As I circled around the pond, I noticed a white pelican.  He walked cautiously into the shallow end of the pond’s edge, rapidly dipping his bill into the water in search of food.  I wondered if he could sense the feel of where the fish may be or if he just randomly dipped his bill in, in hopes he would scoop up some fish.  I think this is kind of what Advent is.  It’s that stillness, being open to where God may reveal Himself to us.  Yet, it’s also a time of anticipation and hopefulness of what God has in store for us that we cannot yet see.

It reminds me of the crosses I often see, many times I see them along my path during my morning walk.  Each time I see a cross, I smile as I know that God is opening my eyes to see His presence in my life.  When I come across a cross that has been formed by two twigs, pine needles, or branches, God is shining light upon the darkness in my own life, my crosses.  But He isn’t reminding me of the pain, He is reminding me of His presence in my journey as I carry these crosses.  He is opening my heart and my mind as I wait for Him to reveal what He wants me to see, hear, touch or smell during my walk.  He is showing me hope in the cross, reminding me how He has carried me or has lifted the weight and the burdens of these crosses.  But most of all He speaks to me within the transformation from the darkness through His love.

This Advent as I sit and wait for the coming of our Lord, I’m reminded that Jesus came humbly as a baby, born in a stable and died humbly through an unconceivable love.  It is the cross that was His destiny and it is through our crosses that we will reach our destiny, our journey home.  During this Advent, I pray for humbleness, stillness, peace, an anticipated hope and joy, knowing that life may have moments of darkness but that darkness can never overcome the light that Christ brings into this life when we are open to receiving Him.  Blessings and Merry Christmas!  May Christ shine His light upon all areas within you as you companion with Him.

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).”

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror?

Do you often feel like you get drawn back into your past?  Perhaps, you go back to relive a very happy moment?  May be, you haven’t healed from an event in your past and you go back wondering what went wrong, you ask a bunch of what if’s or you just can’t move forward because of the pain?

Why does the past often seem so attractive? Can we relive an exact moment in our past, re-create it?

Our past is never meant to be re-created.  In fact, it never can be.  Even if I walk the same path today as I did yesterday, my foot prints will be different, my thoughts will not be exactly the same and the environment around me will be slightly different, even though it is the same path as yesterday.  No matter, where or how we walked the journey yesterday, we are meant to always be in the present moment.

person on a bridge near a lake

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So, why does God give us this capacity to remember the journey we have already traveled?

I think He does so to reveal moments of joy and happiness and moments of sadness and pain to aid us in the present moment.  They either will help us through a learning experience or they will bring a smile in the moment when we need it.

Sometimes, I think in my own personal life, I feel I get sucked back into my past through current circumstances. I have two choices in those moments. I can either allow myself to be sucked into a place that no longer exist or I can choose to move forward in the present moment by choosing to deal with the circumstance through the grace of all things God has provided in that moment to aid me to continue the path forward, only looking back to learn how to best proceed.

Then there are memories in my past I cherish, memories that bring pure joy. Being a mom of two beautiful young ladies, I cherish the memories I have of their childhood, the moments they brought laughter to my day by their actions and words, the moments when they made their first accomplishments as they grew into the the young ladies they are today. I also embrace the memories of those who have gone before me or who have provided me with great wisdom and love through my childhood and young adult life. These memories are things I can look back on and be filled with joy and also learn from as I embrace the current moment.

As I reflect on my own journey, God provides these memories to me for a purpose and that purpose is not for me to try to relive the moment or to go back and stay in the past.  He gives them to me to learn from them, to rejoice in them, to strengthen me and remind me of all the gifts He has provided for me in the journey.

If we try to drive looking through the rear view mirror, we will never move forward and reach our ultimate destination.  The rear view mirror is there to help us journey forward by seeing what is behind us and using that to make the best decision to maneuver as we travel the road ahead in the present moment, where God is, providing the ultimate compass of guidance.

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror or are you using it to aid you as you maneuver the challenges of life?