Find yourself in the minefields often?

Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”   Ephesians 6:10-17

Ever feel like you are at war?  Fighting a battle you feel you can’t win?  Do your battles tend to be with people?

I work in an environment that is primarily men.  In fact, I spend about 95% of my time around men at work.  Often times they humor me with their comments.  One day, we were sitting talking and they began to laugh and started describing images of me putting war paint on under my eyes.  I often do go to battle for these men as they are my direct reports and as their leader, I do my best to be their voice.  Although I thought it a funny image, I later began to reflect on that image of putting on war paint to go to battle and what do I put on to fight my personal battles in my life.  I’m not sure war paint is the answer.  Seriously, what purpose would that solve if you weren’t using it to camouflage yourself as you try to sneak up on the enemy?

Almost every day, we are faced with battles in our lives.  Sometimes those battles start the minute we open our eyes until the time we go to bed.  So how do we best fight these battles?  In Ephesians 6:10-17, I think we are given the perfect recipe for fighting the war – putting on the armor of God.  We may not see that armor as being effective if we don’t realize that our battle is not with the person beside us, but our fight is “with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”  Until we realize that key point, we talk until we are blue in the face, shout as loud as we can, resist doing kind things, and in some cases retreat in silence and solitude.  The flesh and blood placed in front of you, the one you are struggling with is not your enemy.  In fact, God placed that person in your life or allowed that person in your life for some reason.  I guarantee that.

When I begin to unpack Ephesians 6:10-17, the first thing I notice in verse 10 – “Draw your strength from the Lord.”  That first verse tells me that the key to putting on the armor is to first trust God in your weakness and let Him be your strength.  In verse 14, St Paul tells us to gird our loins in truth, to prepare and strengthen ourselves in God.  He also tell us to be clothed with righteousness as a breastplate.  In the book of Wisdom 5:16 it says that God will “shelter [the righteous] with His right hand and protect them with His arm.”  So put your armor on, prepare yourself with God’s strength, His truth and allow Him to protect you by wrapping His arms around you.  In verse 16, St Paul tells us to hold our faith as a shield, protecting us from the arrows.  When it feels like your struggles are piercing you and the arrows are coming from every direction, hold on to your faith – trust in your Heavenly Father that all things work for His good.  Finally in verse 17, he tells us to protect our heads with the salvation delivered by our Lord and use the Word of God as our weapon.  Being Catholic, I look upon that last verse twofold.  My sword, is both the Word found in the Bible and the Word made flesh found in the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus through His death, our salvation.

black steel helmet near black and gray handle sword
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What I find in Ephesians 6 is that when I place my trust in God, allowing His strength to prevail in my weakness and Him to cover me in His arms, my faith burns like a fiery shield as I walk through the battle with the body and blood of my Lord and the love letter of my Heavenly Father lighting the darkness as I trod the battlefield of my life.  Our battles will be numerous and the field will be treacherous, but if we fight with the right armor and the right weapon, we will always be victorious.  Our God is a good God and His purpose in our lives is far beyond the battlefield.  The battlefield is where He strengthens us because it is His strength that we draw on to win the wars in our lives.  Next time you find yourself in the minefields, put on the “armor of God” and pick of the “sword of the Spirit.”

 

Have you asked God to re-gift you?

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”  Psalm 139:13-14

Have you re-gifted a gift someone gave you before?  You took the gift and wrapped it in the most beautiful paper and placed the best bow you have on it, giving it to your mother-in-law.  Couldn’t resist the humor in that but I think just about everyone can say that they have re-gifted a gift.  Now hold that thought.

adult birthday birthday gift box
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Have you sat down to pray, totally fell to your knees, and asked God to take away your trials, your suffering, your pain?  And as the days go on, it’s all still there.  You are still going through the trial, may be, you are still suffering and in pain.  What if you flipped the prayer and asked God to walk with you through the trial, lightening the burden of the suffering and the pain?

I want to talk about something that struck me listening to Chrystal Evans Hurst this past weekend at the Women of Joy conference.  It so fitting in my life and helps me to place the right perspective and see the process that God is asking me to see.

In Chrystal’s talk, she spoke about the package that God made when He made you and I.  He didn’t make the package lacking anything.  The package includes your gifts, talents, career, physical features, family, your joy and happiness; and it also includes your trials, suffering and pain.  You could not be you if you do not go through the trials that God allows.  If you do not go through the trials He allows you may not bring forth the fruition of the gifts that He has given you.  All things in our lives are “God given” or “God allowed.”  And all things work together for the glory of God, for His purpose.  When you ask God to take away the trial, the suffering, the pain, you are asking Him to re-gift the gift He gave you, the package He created and designed – YOU.  When you were formed, God wrapped you in a beautiful package and placed the most perfect bow on you that is unique to you and delivered you into the hands of your mom.

 Why would we want to change, re-gift His “wonderfully made” package?  

I totally understand that sometimes the pain is too much, the trial is a huge burden and drains the life out of you.  Sometimes I feel like my trials will never end, they begin to just merge together and I find myself restless, asking God to take it away that I’ve had enough.  But then there is the glimmer of hope, my FAITH that jumps in and opens my eyes and shows me that the package is made complete in my trials and through my trials.  My trials and my suffering will produce perseverance, they will provide growth within me, they will ultimately flourish the gifts God has given me and ultimately, they will make me stronger for the next trial.  God is equipping us in our trials, suffering and pain.  I think what He wants from us is to not ask Him to take away the trial, but to ask Him to help us get through it by companioning along the journey with us and by lightening the load by helping us carry the cross that rest upon our shoulder, just as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.

Accepting the entire package is difficult.  Sometimes I just want to kick and scream but God grabs my hand and tells me “get up and let’s fight this battle together.”  You are not alone and He will walk along the journey with you, carrying you when you need to be carried, embracing you when you need to feel loved, lifting the cross so it’s not so heavy when you begin to fall under the weight of it, and providing you rest and protection under His wings when you become weary and afraid.

img_3265I want to share this poem I wrote.  It is a poem of feeling beaten down, yet hopeful, longing and finding God after a fresh rainfall in a droplet that remained on the tip of a leaf.  God refreshes us daily if we open our eyes, ears, minds and heart to His presence in all things surrounding us.

Rays of sunshine

In the ark of the morn

As birds perched above sing

To a heart that’s been torn

Darkness has crept

Through the cracks of my being

Depleting Your goodness

My heart started fleeing

Crushed and broken

My heart cries out

Where are You?

Why do I doubt?

A quiet path

Your presence I longed for

To refresh my spirit

On this path You implore

Light of grace

Reflecting on the leaves

Revealing a droplet

A newness conceived

Your presence refreshes

As I sit before You

A whisper of Your love

My spirit is made new

My faith prevails

Your Word running deep

Rooted in my heart

I’m perfect and complete

Consider it joy!

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

In this blog, I wanted to share how great our God is and how intentional He is through an experience I had today in Adoration.

As I sat in the presence of Jesus in the Adoration chapel, I looked upon the Blessed Sacrament and became overwhelmed with joy.  The monstrance was radiating as the sun passed through the stain glass windows above and recent events in my life passed before my eyes.

I thought about Lysa Terkeurst’s talk from this past weekend and the verses from James 1:2-4 that she phenomenally unpacked.  This morning, I was reminded of those exact verses by a friend from work that had absolutely no idea about the talk at the conference.  And last week, my youngest daughter read a devotion about thanking Jesus when our life feels more and more out of control.  As I sat there, I was reflecting on these encounters of considering it joy and thanking God when I am in the midst of my trials, knowing this will press me and test me and the fruits of perseverance will be produced.  Most recently, I have really been tested yet I sat there smiling with joy.  As I was sitting in the chapel looking upon my Lord I also began to see how God’s love and grace transformed my life.  I was reminded of my story and how I am visibly transformed from the mere telling of my story from the pain and darkness into the love and light of Christ.  My resurrection story is a place I can go to and see the result of God’s pressing and molding.  It is not a place I go to and drag up my pain and hurt.  When I am reminded of my story, I can only smile as there is joy in my story, despite the pain.  I have risen from a place that was unhealthy and it was only from the hand of my God and the love I found in my faith in Christ.  As I see the smile this produces, I am strengthened in the trial I go through today because I know that the God I love, my Lord, my Jesus will be intentional in this trial as much as He was in the one I endured many years ago.  Through the perseverance, He will make me “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  I wanted to share this from a place of joy and acceptance, a place of strength and endurance, a place of perseverance that is within me and each of you through our faith and trust in God and His intentional plan in our lives.  May His presence radiate within you the joy that is found in the midst of your trials as He produces perseverance and makes you “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

May God’s blessings be upon each of you.

 

 

Are you filled with the fulless of God or are you running on empty?

“That He may grant you in accord with the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

Are you filled with the fullness of God or are you running on empty?  Perhaps your cup of faith is half full and is being depleted?

Often times as we walk through life, we find ourselves checking the boxes when it comes to our faith because life is too busy to do anything more.  We have very good intentions and we make sure we are doing the things we know are right, like go to church regularly.  In the midst of it, our faith becomes stagnant or it may begin to deplete.

I think just as we all have financial bank accounts and emotional bank accounts, we also have faith bank accounts.  Frequently, we withdraw a lot from our faith bank account as we push through each day.  If we fail to deposit into our faith account, our roots may begin to dry up and the strength we once had is weakened.  If our faith bank account is not full, when trials and struggles hit us, we are less equipped to handle them.  We begin to question God instead of lean on Him, accepting and surrendering to His will.

white piggy bank on brown wooden surface
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Many things are invested in through our faith bank account – trust in God, joy, grace, love and forgiveness of others, etc.  It is important for us to constantly deposit into our account.  God places so many things at our fingertips to invest or pour into our faith accounts.  In order to fill our inner self with the Spirit, we have to utilize these tools He places before us.  We have to take a breather from the business of life and invest time in some of these tools He gives us such as:

Prayer – consistently show up to converse with God, to sit with Him, to listen to Him

Bible (our how to book) – reading the Bible, learning and receiving God’s message

Church – attending church, worshipping and praising Him, serving your community and fellowshipping with the body of Christ

Friends and Family – companions to walk our journey with

Retreats, Bible Studies, Theological and Spiritual resources – resources that help us grow in knowledge and love of Christ as we experience our faith through the eyes of others and with others.

Recently, I found myself in a situation where my cup, my bank account wasn’t full enough to handle the boulder that dropped in front of me.  I wrestled as I stumbled.  I began to question myself and my ability to handle the things that God was placing before me because of the way I was dealing with my boulder.  In doing so, I fell into the “I’m not good enough syndrome.”  Am I good enough to be the daughter He is calling me to, the daughter He is asking to walk along side others?  I attended a women’s conference this weekend, with around 4800 other women – phenomenal.  As I listened to the speakers’ stories and their messages, my faith bank account began to fill.  My spirit was infused with the love, strength and knowledge of Christ.  I realized that God is calling me as His qualified daughter based on His merits and not mine.  I am good enough, especially for His purpose in my life.  He will utilize the gifts He has given me to overcome this boulder in my life as He has done before and to serve Him in the capacity He is calling me to as I  walk along side others with all my brokenness sharing His love, compassion and mercy.

God utilizes everything for His goodness and the tools He gives us to fill our faith account helps us to be “grounded in love… have strength to comprehend… what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”  When we are filled with the fullness of God, we can handle the boulders that fall in front of us with His grace by accepting and trusting that His plan surpasses anything we could fathom.

Are you filled with the fullness of God or are you running on empty?  Does your faith bank account need a little deposit so that you can invest more in trusting God and in the joy that’s buried in your heart waiting to burst through?  If you are feeling depleted, take time to pray, invest in time with your spiritual friends, attend a retreat or a conference if you can, spend time in all capacities that radiate with the love of Jesus.  I’m certain that you will begin to fill your cup of faith.

Fruit in the Silence

“Attend to the sound of my cry, my King and my God”  Psalm 5:3

Have you ever been in a place or a state when all you feel like doing is crying, hoping that it will bring you solace?  What about prayer – have you sat down in silence and struggled and found your self resting, being consoled and comforted?

I found myself today practicing being present to God in silence.  I must say this is a total struggle for me at times.  My mind tends to wander all over the world and back.  As I sat in the chapel in Adoration, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I settled my mind and engaged in silence and total presence.  As I sat there, an image popped into my head.  The image, at the time I found to be intriguing.  It was the ocean washing ashore.  At first there was a wall present and then I realized the wall was gone and the water was just washing away the sand before me as it came ashore.  Because I was centering myself in prayer, I didn’t want to analyze this too much but felt that the wall was a blockage for me to be present to God and as the water washed ashore, He removed it so that I could center myself.  Then I realized as the sand began to wash away, that God was washing away the top layers of my being and revealing my inner self, my center in Him.  At that moment, I don’t think I realized the impact this would have later in my day.  This created free space for me to be present with God, in preparation for what would come later.

sea landscape beach landmark
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Later as my day emerged, more things began to surface affecting my peace and I found myself crying out to God and found myself centering my inner being in His presence unveiling a greater peace and comfort.  As I am faced with a challenge ahead of me, this presence and act of centering my soul in a cry to “my King and my God,” prepares me with great strength, with peace, and with trust.  These are the moments when my prayer life struggles yet strengthens and my faith grows leaps and bounds.  It is where my heart meets the heart of Christ, and my pains, His wounds.

So I asked myself and I ask you, have you sat in silence lately, centering your being in Christ, crying out to Him from the deeper core of your heart, allowing Him to comfort, hold and whisper His will for you?  Silence can be scary in a world of noise, but it can also be comforting and restful to heart that is in need.

 

Are you carrying your cross with joy?

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 27:34

Are you carrying your cross with joy?  Where do you place your trust, in yourself, or God?  Do you try to maintain chaotic control or do you allow God to maintain perfect control?

The other day, a dear friend, reminded me of bearing my crosses.  I had allowed anxiety and fear to settle in.  In doing so, I was not allowing Christ to help me carry that cross.  I was relying on my own ability to carry it.  I was not carrying it with joy but with anger.  What she sent me to read was a reflection by Gus Lloyd iterating how bloody Christ’s cross was and that ours is also not pretty or easy.  All the same, we should imitate Christ as we carry that cross and allow Him to help us.  Over the years, I have had moments where I carry the cross with joy and moments when I don’t.  When I look to the cross, to Christ and lay down my struggles at the foot of the cross, He gives me the strength and the overwhelming joy to carry it.  That is an amazing feeling.  So, I ask myself why do I still try to maintain my own chaotic control and try to carry it on my own?

My first response would be I’m human and I’m going to falter, especially to my old habits of self reliance.  Another response I ponder on is that when I falter, my faith becomes stronger.  In the midst of that struggle in my self reliance, God sends someone or something to remind me that it is He who I should look to as I carry this cross.  Although it may still be a dirty, ugly cross, He will bring me “across the finish line” with joy running through my heart and soul, the joy of Christ.

It is not the cross that we should focus on but it is the one who is beside us within us that is bearing the weight of that cross.  This is the focus of joy, not sorrow; happiness, not anger; trust, not anxiety.

Today as I read the Gospel reading with my girls, Mark 27:34 hit me like a train as it was my second reminder to not rely on myself but to pick up my cross with the love of Christ and carry it along side Him with all the splinters, rough edges, dirt, and blood.  This is where my life shines and bears fruit.  This is where my heart sings and rejoices.  Today, I am filled with this reminder that my cross is where Christ delivers me and my relationship with Him is strengthened.

Are you ready to pick up your cross and follow Christ?  Are you prepared to surrender your self will, self reliance?  Are you ready to be filled with overwhelming joy and grace as you carry your cross, allowing Christ to bear the load with you?

Are you patiently allowing God to mold you?

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.”  Jeremiah 18:6

Ever watched a feather fall to the ground?  Notice how long it takes?  Ever prayed about something and it seemed to take God forever to answer your prayer, just like it took forever for that feather to fall?

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were talking about praying for something she was struggling with and she looked at me and told me “but God takes too long to answer.”  As we discussed God’s timing, I thought to myself, good point to reflect on deeper.

I see two parts of the lesson,

  • God teaching us patience as we wait for His answer.
  • God ensuring everything lines up to provide us with a perfect answer given all circumstance, present and future.

I often am humored when I am asked about my pursuit of a relationship with the opposite sex.  This is one of these areas that I feel God is asking me to be patient and is molding me in preparation for what He Himself has in store for me.  God knows that I cannot truly have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex that is healthy, stable and grounded in Him unless I have healed, am grounded myself, and whole in Him and my faith.  When I know and understand my identity in Him, then I am ready to share myself and my love with another that He has prepared for me.

handmade ceramics pottery workshop
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As my life journey moves forward, I see His hands molding and shaping me “like clay in the hand of the potter” through my healing of many deep wounds in several relationships in my life.  I see my life like the feather falling to the earth.  It is slowly moving towards the center of who I am in God, towards my body’s universal pull of love of my Eternal Father.  The virtue of patience is my vehicle to enjoy and embrace the marvelous view along the way.  Sometimes it isn’t easy and the view seems a bit dull, but I know that waiting on God in all things in my life is worth the wait.  The view will be more spectacular as His plan unfolds.

The potter does not form his work of art in a hurry.  He takes his time allowing his hands to gently mold and shape it into his creation.  So to is the work of God.

Are you allowing God to form you like the potter forms the clay? Are you allowing Him to sculpt the intricate details of your inner being? Are you resting in patience as he writes your story unfolding His plan for your well-being?  Just as the feather slowly falls to the ground in the exact place it was intended, so will your life fall into place as you trust and allow God to work in your life.