Will you allow God to shape and form you?

“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever wish life were simple, everything worked out, there was no pain, no suffering? Do you think if you had no pain and suffering you would be the person you are today?

So often I wish God would take away all my pain and suffering, just put me in a bubble and protect me from all inflictions. If only each piece of sin and suffering would bounce off the wall of the bubble and I can watch in peace. When I sit and dream of such a beautiful, perfect life with no heart ache, no unhappy tears, I’m reminded of all that I have gained in the midst of pain and suffering. If I had not suffered pain and inflictions, I may not have the relationship I have with God. It is through these trials that I have grown the most in my faith and relationship with God. It’s in these moments that I cry out to God and seek His love and guidance the most. It’s in these moments that I learn to trust God more and more because I know there is much more greatness God has in store for me.

As a parent, I am always wanting to place my girls in a bubble, protect them from all things in the world that can inflict pain, hurt, heart ache. But being a parent, I also know that putting my kids in a bubble and not letting them experience these things is not good for them. In order for them to grow, I have to step back sometimes and give them space to experience situations.

God does the same for us in so many ways. He knows what we need and He allows us to go through these moments so that the happiness He designed for us through love for Him is pruned and blooms.

What masterpiece can be created when you fire up a slab of metal and mold and shape it? What can you create when you twirl around a piece of clay, guiding its formation? Is God not the artist and the potter? Will you let Him shape and form you today through your pain and suffering, because you are His perfect work of art?

Are the small sins devouring you?

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

–Saint John Climacus

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

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

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

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

Anger

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

Jealousy

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

Pride

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

Procrastination

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

Gossip

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

Lying

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been pruned lately?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit and every one that does he prunes’ so that it bears more fruit.” John 15:1-2

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What does it mean to be pruned?  Why is it so important to prune the branches on the vine?

To harvest a bountiful, delicious crop of grapes, pruning is super important. If the branches aren’t pruned enough, the health and the quality of the grapes would suffer.  When pruning the branches, the old wood is removed so that the new can grow and flourish with delicious, tasty grapes.  Pruning is typically done in the winter, when things are dormant to prepare for the new growth.

When Jesus shares this parable, and uses the personification of branches and vines as us and him, what does this me for you and I?

Many people who know me know that I like to analyze things in my life to determine the roots of my issues and my sins, where I can improve in my life and relationships, to see where I’ve grown and what was the contributing factor in my growth. I think this is an important aspect of healthiness in my life. In doing so, I see my past as a part of me, in that it refines me but doesn’t define me. When I read this parable that Jesus tells his disciples, I relate the unfolding of my life, the pruning in me. I know that in all the storms I have whirled around in, he was removing the things that hinder me in my relationship with him. He was removing the things that did not bear fruit or did not bear healthy, plentiful fruit.  This process each time prepared me for new growth that flourished inward and outward producing useful fruit for the kingdom of God. The amazing thing is that in most cases he did this when I was dormant in my faith. How about that? I’m a true branch in the grape vineyard.

Sometimes there are things in your life, habits, relationships, sinfulness that cause impediments to you being greater in your journey to holiness. These obstructions or things that hinder your growth need to be removed as much as can be so that the “new wood” can begin to grow and produce beautiful, healthy, delicious fruit.

God will prune you, remove the “old wood” so that he can refine you into the person he has created you to be. You may walk through fire or have to cross a raging river as part of this refinement; but in the midst of it, he will be right there with you in the fire and in the river, carrying you through it all. “When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.” Isaiah 43:2

The fruit you will bear are the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
  • Charity
  • Generosity
  • Modesty
  • Chastity

When God is pruning you, he is strengthening you and perfecting the fruits of the Holy Spirit in you so that you can grow closer to him and establish a deeper friendship with him. These healthy crops will bring you closer to holiness, closer to sainthood, your ultimate destination.

Have you been pruned lately?  Are you being pruned today? Open your heart and allow God to prune you in all areas of life.

Can you imagine a world full of ripe fruits of the Holy Spirit? Wow what a world that would be!