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)

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.

If I saw You walking by…

If I saw You walking by, would I be a beggar, the one who gave all she had,  the blind man, the hemorrhaging woman or the Pharisee?  I ponder this question as I journey through life.  Am I at times the Pharisee, persecuting You with my ignorance to who You are, what You have done for me?  Do I, like the blind man and the hemorrhaging woman know who You are and desire Your healing?  Am I the beggar, searching for what You have to offer, seeking Your riches?  Or may be I am the one who gave all I had, honoring Your presence?

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Through my journey, I have been each of these.  I have persecuted Jesus through my earthly desires and selfishness.  I have thought of myself when I have meditated on the Passion as one who has spit on Jesus, that screamed “crucify him”.  When I see myself in the Passion in this role, I identify with the affect of my sins.  My sins affect not just my small world and inner being.  They have a greater affect, a ripple affect that extends to my community and beyond.  In essence, my sins today are the people of yesterday that persecuted and crucified Jesus.  Sometimes that is a little hard to swallow – to consider my own sins a part of Jesus’ Passion.

Then there are times when I am the blind man or the hemorrhaging woman, seeking healing and knowing that Jesus is the source of that unending gift of life giving water.  My healing comes in the form of both physical and spiritual healing.  More often, my healing takes the form of spiritual healing and it is through the deeper relationship with Christ that I find that healing, through embracing the Body of Christ, found in both the Eucharist and the Church.

When I see myself as the beggar, I ponder the riches I seek.  When I have fulfilled this role, have I sought from Jesus only to gain for myself or I have sought from Jesus riches to pour out upon others?  Through my journey, I have done both.  I remember when I was in college, I would pray my rosary or kneel down in prayer to ask for God to assist me in making a good grade on my exam.  In my mind, I always felt that if I had studied and did my part, then prayed and asked God to do His part, I would be successful in making the grade.  I guess it worked.  But I think in my shallow faith at the time, I was begging God to help me make the grade for my own personal success, not considering what His intention was for that success.  On the flip side, as I have grown in my faith, I often find myself praying for things that help me to be the person allowing God to fulfill His Will in or to accept His Will in the outcome of something I am praying for.

When I look at all these roles, I think I personally prefer to be more of the person who gave all that she had, honoring God’s presence.  This is the role that I feel will provide holiness.  This is the role I want to fulfill more often in my life as I journey forward to my final resting place.  It is in this role that I accomplish all other roles and unite with God.

I think in our journey we each go through phases of each of these roles.  It is important to do so because I think this is where growth in our relationship develops and becomes deeper so that we can establish holiness, our ultimate goal on this earth that God has given each of us.  As we go deeper in our faith and develop a more prayerful relationship with God, we begin to move further away from some of the roles such as the persecutor.  I know through my own journey that we are often relearning to walk.  Each time we relearn, the falls and the time it takes to relearn to walk the journey become smaller and smaller as our conscience and heart unite to the one who created us to be Holy.

I want to end this post with a thought.  What does it take to give all that we are, honoring God’s presence in all that we do on a daily basis?  I don’t think it means we are perfect.  I think it implies that we are doing the best that is capable of us, which is what God created you to do – hence holiness.  God Bless!

Magnificence in the details

“Countless, unseen details are often the only difference between mediocre and magnificent.” Author unknown

What details in your life seemed mediocre at the time but brought about a magnificent encounter with your relationship with God once you realized His goodness, His presence and His grace?

What about in your trials and sufferings or in times that seem to not be going the way you planned?  Have you wondered how sweeter they would be if you accept the fullness of God’s grace and surrender to His will in the midst of what is going on in your life?

Almost every morning, I begin my day with a walk to clear my mind and to ask that God be present with me in my day.  When I begin my walk, I ask God to reveal to me what He would like for me to see on my walk.  Sometimes He teaches me about life or connections in my life through observation of the ducks or the movement of the water.  Today as I walked along the quiet path seeking God’s guidance, I noticed the remnant of a recent storm that cluttered the path with leaves, twigs and pine needles.

As I continued to walk, my mind kept wondering back to the debris on the path.  How often in my own storms of life have I felt everything had been blown around, cluttered, out of “wack”?  I walked back around to the spot on the path that appeared to have the most debris.  As I looked down, I noticed the pine needles touching one another, the leaves over lapped each other and was reminded how intricate each detail of my life is connected.  Even in the storms, there are connections to the beauty and joy in my life.  In fact, it is through the rubbish that I am able to see the beauty and God’s goodness in my life.  Often times, it isn’t until after the storm has passed when I see His grace.

So I sit and wonder how much sweeter would it be to see the fullness of His grace in the midst of the storm?  Would I feel an immense joy?  Would the suffering appear to be full of love?  Would my heart feel alive?  Would I be overcome with peace?  What emotions would sweep over me?  Would I experience the same feelings Jesus felt as He experienced His passion?  If so, what would those feelings look like?

Whatever the feeling may be it would be Divine experiencing the grace that God gives me in that moment. To see the details, when I am in the middle of these moments of chaos and trials, through the eyes of God could only be magnificent compared to the mediocre view that I see when I don’t allow myself to receive His grace in these times of struggle.

Each day as I grow closer in relationship to God, I am beginning to pay attention to the small details in my life and see the beauty He reveals to me on my continued journey with Him. I truly see the magnificence in the smallest details of life as I become more aware. Through awareness, I can piece these details together like a puzzle and find meaning that speaks to my heart and my discernment in life.

Are you allowing yourself to be open to the fullness of God’s grace in the midst of whatever it is you are struggling with in life? Can you see the details that radiate His magnificent goodness present within these moments or are you caught up in the moment and only see the mediocre rubbish of the storm? Have you taken a short walk and experienced the tiniest detail in nature that speaks directly to your soul, revealing God’s love to you? If not, take a 10 minute walk and just pay attention to all that is around you, the rubbish on the ground, the butterfly on a blade of grass, even the tiniest ant walking along the sidewalk. You will be amazed at the connection and the beauty you discover.

Love a deeper force of attraction

St John of the Cross, “soul is in God like a stone buried in the earth. The soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth. This attraction is mutual. The force of attraction between the soul and the center of God is not gravity but love.”

Where is the anchor of your heart? What about your soul? Do you feel an attraction to something that is unexplainable? A deep desire for something bigger than your physical life?

St John of the Cross’ metaphor of our soul’s attraction to God by love being similar to a stone attracted to the earth by gravity is a beautiful image.  It reminds me of Margaret Silf’s road map of our lives in the book Inner Compass.  She explains that our lives are comprised of layers: Where I am? How I am? Who I am? The deepest center – I am.

Where I am is my connection to circumstance, the things in my environment I cannot change. This is my past.  It is my family, where I come from, the outer part of me.

How I am is how I respond to the environment, my circumstance and to others. I can love. I can be angry. I can be afraid. I can be merciful and compassionate.  I can accept things or not.  This is where I make choices and affect changes within in myself and the world.

Who I am is my true being. It is who I truly am, where I face my indifference. It’s the comfort and peace of my being and it is the challenges I face as I see the differences between the outer me and the person created by God. This is my spiritual being in the I am that lay at the deepest part of my soul. This is where my relationship with God is, where my seed of God’s love grows and produces fruit.  This is where I journey through prayer, the very essence of my journey.

In our lives, we will move between each of the layers – back and forth. Some people may never move into the who I am because of the risk and the challenges they may face by approaching a relationship with God.  Those of us who do move here may be faced with challenges by seeing the gap between life in the where we are and the person God created us to be.  In this space we gain wisdom, strength, and love.  We begin to find acceptance with joy to circumstance that we cannot change.  It challenges us to see the things where God is calling us to transform to be resurrected from.  This is where our intimate relationship with God fuels a trust in Him.

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As we continue to dive deeper the love of God attracts us to the center, to the deeper core of us. This is where our deepest desires lay. Where we are most in touch with who God is in us and who He created us to be. This is where our anchor is. And everything else should be centered and directed from this point as we transition through each layer of ourself back and forth. Processing circumstance into our action based on who we truly are in the one who created us.

Through this movement, there are times we may have an experience that is not explainable, that is providential.  It is something that is tangential to all the layers of our being.  It is a moment when we have truly been touched by God and he has moved and united all layers fusing our where I am to the how I am and the who I am, driving roots to the center, anchoring our total being to Him.  When this happens His light shines around us, glowing from our center for all to see.  This is a point of spiritual freedom, the top of the mountain in our journey.

Have you allowed yourself to be open to move into the who I am, allowing God to anchor Himself from your where I am to the center of your being, to your heart?