Dying to self, realizing that all is God’s

 

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

What does it mean to die to self and be a follower of Christ?  In this world we live in today, what does that look like?  How can I truly be as Christ is to me?  How can I, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, “produce much fruit,” John 12:24?

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Pretty serious questions.  I often ponder these questions in my life along with am I fulfilling God’s Will by  acting on the answers to the above questions.

Is my heart truly mine?  Are my hands and feet truly mine?  How about the money in my bank account, my possessions or the children I am blessed with?  The more I contemplate this, the more my answer is – if I die to self and follow Christ, the answer to those questions would be no, they are all God’s.

When I lay down my heart and allow it to be in union with Christ, I will love others as He loves me.  I will embrace each person as if he or she were my brother or sister.  I would pray for them as if they were a part of me.

When I allow Christ to be my hands and feet, I will feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked.  If I see one of my sisters and brothers injured, I will pick them up and attend to their needs.  I will be a true servant to each of my brothers and sisters, giving of myself.

When I accept that my possessions are not mine but God’s, given to me to use to build His kingdom, I would trust that when my brothers or sisters reach out to me in financial need, I would give what I had to give, knowing that it was God’s to give in accordance with His will.

When I accept that my children are God’s, I would have less anxiety, trusting their lives into the hands of their true Father, their creator.  I would know that the hands that created them within me will direct their paths and their journey in life.

When I truly know that all I have is God’s, when I truly die to myself, my trust and peace will reach the heavens.  I would live the life God intended and I would be fulfilling His Will, building His kingdom here in this temporary home.  I think this is what it means to me to die to self and bear much fruit, just as the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it is then that the wheat is useful.  And so we, like the grain of wheat, will feed God’s people by bearing fruits of the kingdom through our service, love, compassion, and mercy given to us to be Christ in this world that needs it.

Dear friends, is your heart God’s heart?  Are your hands and feet that of Jesus?  Are your possessions God’s gift to use to aid His people?  Are your children His, given to you to spiritually guide and produce abundant fruit in the kingdom of God?  How simple would our lives be when we accept that all that we are and all that we have is God’s and was given to us to serve and love our brothers and sisters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.