Superhero in the spiritual life

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“but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’  I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Mom, what is your favorite superhero?” a question my youngest daughter asked me as we walked to feed the turtles. 

At that moment, I’m not sure I had a great answer for her because I never really thought about who my favorite superhero was.

The Avenger movies are quite popular these days.  There are so many it’s hard to keep track of all the Marvel movies starring our childhood superheroes.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Webster defines a superhero as a fictional hero that has extraordinary powers, in other words superhuman powers. The image of being a superhero has swept through our minds since childhood as we imagined ourselves saving the world from the villains.  As we became adults, we developed a different image of a superhero.  Our superhero within us involves doing everything we can for our families, always being strong and never giving in to or revealing weakness. Being vulnerable has no room within our superhero world – US.  I think we have an idea that being vulnerable and being weak limits our abilities to protect ourselves and our families.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, St Paul tells us that Jesus says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  Jesus tells us that He is enough.  He is our superhero but it’s in our weakness that His extraordinary powers are made “PERFECT”.

My life has never been easy.  I have always worked hard to achieve the goals I made for myself.  I became independent and goal driven at a very young age.  My superhero essentially became myself.  Jesus was not prominent in my life as a child.  Growing up, I had to always be strong for myself, my mom, my sister and brother.  As I became a wife and then a mother, being weak and vulnerable was not an option.  In the early days of my marriage and motherhood, Jesus was still not the focal point in my life.  Reality in my life was that being weak and vulnerable was the opposite of survival.

Today, my world is different.  Christ is in my life and although revealing my weakness and vulnerabilities is the scariest thing for me, I know that it is in this weakness that Christ dwells within and makes me strong.

WHY? 
  • He says so in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  When He says so, I’m certain He means it….
  • If I break down what I know of my faith and trust in God, I know that when I am strong, I cannot allow Him to work within me because I am unwilling to surrender myself to Him.  It is in my weakness that He does His best work in me.  It is in the vulnerabilities that I am most open to surrendering all I am to Him and allowing Him to fill me with all He is.

I wish that made me less afraid of being weak and vulnerable.  Simple fact is it doesn’t but I know it is essential in my spiritual growth, especially when it comes to placing my past behind me and moving forward in life.  Now, I don’t want you to take away that when we have to be strong against worldly things or defend ourselves against harmful acts that we should be weak and not do what is necessary.  I think in those cases, it’s a matter of opening oneself up to surrendering to God to aid in such circumstances to guard us against sin and against harm.  I think that is what St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 – it is an acceptance, contentment with our weaknesses that allows us to depend on God to be with us in these moments, for Christ to dwell within us, to be our superhero living within.  It is in our weakness that we are strong, we are truly a superhero through Christ who gives us strength.

I think if my daughter were to ask me today who my favorite superhero is, I would answer with great clarity that it is JESUS who lives in me and gives me strength to overcome all things.

What about you?  Who do you say your favorite superhero is?

 

Gratitude – A mountain of graces

“Gratitude is the thing that brings us the most grace…I have learnt from this experience; try it, and you will see. I am content with whatever God gives me, and I show him this in a thousand little ways.” St. Therese of Lisieux

Do you desire a love with God that is beyond anything you could ever imagine?  If so, I want to invite you to focus a little on gratitude.

Have you extended gratitude to God for all things – the small stuff, the big ones, the joy, and the suffering?

I’m sure each of us find it easy to give God gratitude for the joyful moments in our lives.  But what about those moments that are tough, that hurt within us, wash our faces in tears?  These moments are a bit more challenging to offer gratitude to God.  I’m sure 90 % of the time we question God in these circumstances.  I’m definitely guilty as charged.
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St Therese tells us that gratitude brings us the most grace.  St Ignatius of Loyola also tells us in his prayer of gratitude that when we are filled with gratitude for all things, we will love and serve God in all things.  My dear sisters and brothers, that also means our pain, our suffering, the things we don’t like or appreciate, and the moments we aren’t feeling appreciated.

Think about that for a moment.  Imagine how you felt when someone did something nice for you and you extended thanks to them, appreciation for what they did.  I’m sure it brought joy and love into your heart as well as theirs.  Do you think the love and joy was filled because of their act of kindness, your act of gratitude or both?

If God is the creator of all things and is present in all things, do you think He is present within the moments that hurt, anger, and disappoint?  If God allows you to suffer, do you think He loves you less?  Do you think He is more present in those moments – those when you need His strength the most?  I’m pretty certain He was present on the cross, the greatest moment in history that endured the most suffering.  By our Christian faith, we do offer Him thanksgiving for this, the moment He laid everything down to save us.

Why wouldn’t we offer gratitude for even those not so fun times when we are at our worst?  If we offered gratitude during the rough circumstances in our lives, would we feel more loved instead of disappointed, lost and unloved.

I want to circle back to my first question at the start of the blog…. Do you desire a love with God that is beyond anything you could ever imagine?  If you answered yes, then why would you not try offering gratitude in all things, even the worst moments, just as St Therese and St Ignatius suggest?  What do you have to lose?  Face with the person who angered you?  What about a love so great that satisfies every ounce of your being beyond anything you could fathom – THE LOVE EXCHANGED BETWEEN YOU, YOUR CREATOR, YOUR REDEEMER, AND YOUR SANCTIFIER?  Give it a try, you may be surprised at the graces you receive.

 

Wide open lens… endless possibilities through faith

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the unveiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.”  Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Landrieu Klein

Are you operating in a box?  Are you open to the possibilities God has for you?  Are you constantly looking back or dwelling in your past, unable to move beyond it?

I love these sentences from the book Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God.  The Blessed Mother through her faith and trust in God had an openness when she was visited by St. Gabriel and he told her she would carry the son of God in her womb.  So what about us are we able to place so much trust in our faith and love of God, to be this open to say yes to whatever direction He may be guiding us to, to whatever path He is leading us on?

Today’s readings I find interesting to unpack in relation to my life, especially after reading Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. In the first reading “Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen.”  In her book, Margaret Silf writes about this very passage. One of her dear friends asked her to meditate on it. To his surprise, her reflection was centered around the eleven team of oxen plowing ahead of Elisha.  She goes on to describe the skill of plowing.  When a farmer is plowing, he finds a fixed point to focus on and steadily moves towards it.  She says that when she reflected on this passage, she realized the fixed point in the spiritual life was Jesus and that the oxen teams ahead of us represent those in our life that are guiding us on our journey to the point of reference, Jesus.  In other words, the oxen represent our spiritual friendships, saints, anyone or moment that provides a beacon for us to move forward towards Jesus.  I love this visual because I can see my own yoke of oxen in my life, those that do keep me focused on Jesus.

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This morning upon the very great advice of one of my spiritual friends, I meditated on this reading and today’s Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.” As I sat there reflecting on these verses in silence waiting for God to reveal what my “path to life” is, where are my “joys in His presence,” and how will I be able to “delight at [His] right hand forever,” tears were pooling in the corners of my eyes. As I felt them, I asked God what they meant? I guess He thought I needed more tears because that question opened a flood gate of tears. I’m like “really God, not sure that’s an answer.” As I continue to wait for Him to respond on the tears, I could sense that these readings were really talking to me and the last few weeks of me flipping rocks or should I say boulders over in my life that have buried deep feelings within me. My realization in that moment was that these tears were a piece of letting go and opening myself up to a new season in my life – a season of discovery.

I have the beauty of the most amazing spiritual friends, my oxens. They keep me in check and guide me in my journey – whether they know this or not. They help keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as they help me carry the load in my journey. When Jesus says Matthew 11:30, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” I think He helps us to bear the load by placing these people in our life that keep us focused on Him.  This is a very important reminder, another message I was reminded of by one of me spiritual friends this past week.

I also think a key for me today is that with a wide open lens through my faith, there is “life beyond the grave” – this is the “delights at [His] right hand.” And it is the ground of hope that inflames my faith in my heart. So this new season for me becomes a season of discovery, discovering a new path of my life, not looking back at my past but pushing forward with the oxen in my life keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who will always give me joy in His presence.  Perhaps the tears during my meditation were tears of dumping, cleansing the burdens of my past that have filled my vessel so that I can begin to press forward in searching who I am in Christ and what my path of life will unveil.  Part of me is excited to begin this new search, yet a little afraid.  I am blessed that God has given me a gift to turn over the boulders and look deep within myself and recognize that I have a process that isn’t complete.  I also know now why the song “God’s not done with you” by Tauren Wells keeps playing and flooding my eyes when I’m in my car.  God isn’t done with my story.  My story thus far has had a lot of pain, yet a lot of growth and love.  The hands of God have swooped in my life in many ways and taught me there is life beyond the cross, the sun does shine above the clouds.  Now I am ready to begin this new journey of finding myself and moving beyond my crosses.  I embrace what they have taught me and where they have brought me in my faith journey.  Now it’s time to let them go and discover new life, new crosses and new growth.

My dear sisters and brothers, I invite you to allow your faith in God to open your lens and be open to what God has in store for you – may be it’s a new path, may be it’s growth and discovery on the current path.  Whatever it is, be open and obedient, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus as you plow through life with your set of oxen that He has given you to be yoked together, lightening the load. I think this will guide you in seeing your path to life, joys in Christ’s presence and hope in awaiting the delights at the right hand of God.  Blessings on this day the Lord has made.

 

 

Unbinding through desolation

“We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever feel like running into a closet to get away from everything in your life? To get away from all your struggles, the pain, the noise, family drama?

I had a friend who once shared a story with me that as a grown adult she literally wanted to escape the noise and the demands of family life and went into a closet and was careful not to breathe heavily, hoping no one would find her.

As she told me this I laughed but I think we can all relate to that moment when we just want to hide from the world.

In theses moments, sometimes, we may also feel the absence of God or a desire to give up on Him. It is important to recognize these moments. St Ignatius teaches us of two movements in the interior spiritual life, consolation and desolation.

Consolation are periods when we are on fire, on a spiritual high (after an ACTS retreat for all my ACTS sisters). During these times we can’t contain what God is moving within us. We literally want to tell the whole world and want them to be a part of it.

Consolation is an awesome experience but I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to talk a little bit about desolation. Desolation can be crucial to our spiritual journey, although it is more critical to recognize it. During these movements in our spiritual journey, we really begin to deal with areas that in turn will produce great growth in our spiritual journey.

I’m not an expert on either desolation or consolation but I guarantee you I’ve been on both roads many times…. kind of like that roller coaster I once wrote about. My spiritual director once told me that consolation helps us to prepare and move through the desolation that will come – like the coaster you need potential energy to give you the kinetic energy to keep that roller coaster moving up and down.

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Today I find myself in a period of desolation. At first I didn’t recognize it, but it became very prominent when I wanted to just retreat from everything, even my prayer life and community of friends.

As I work through my own desolation, I have been uncovering darkness found in my deepest wound that has rooted itself in sin. God has revealed to me that this wound I have buried is not allowing me to move forward, that it is binding me to my past and from my happily ever after. It is a deep source of unforgiveness and unlove. It has created weeds such as fear, anxiety, anger, frustration and exhaustion. This is the junk I mentioned in my last blog filling my vessel preventing me from being able to shine the light of Christ onto others.

So how am I handling this period of desolation? Through spiritual direction and my own experiences, small bits of wisdom from God, I have learned a few steps or techniques to journey through desolation. When I begin to feel this way, actually when I recognize these feelings, I know I do have to retreat. I have to retreat into solitude with God. It is essential for me to find time to pray. I do this by carving time, whether I want to or not to pray at home or go to Adoration. In prayer, I am completely open with God about what I’m feeling which eventually leads to asking for graces I need in that time. I also try to find days that I can go to daily Mass, to receive Jesus and be fed. Both help me to sort and discover the roots of what God is inviting me to dig up or fertilize into something fruitful. If I uncover sin at the base of this root or a resulting weed through this process, confession is another stop for me.

I think each of us will go through both consolation and desolation. Some of us may experience it as a result of God inviting us to see the consolation period as a gift and to invite us to discover Him in a new, fresher light and not necessarily from a dark root or sin.  Each of us may have different techniques to walk through it.  What’s important is that we identify it and take the necessary steps to journey this interior spiritual movement and grow closer to God.

Whatever may be the cause of desolation for you, will you be prepared to tackle it and grow leaps and bounds in your spiritual journey?

Good always wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A path covered in crosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The journey continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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