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?

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.

air atmosphere beautiful blue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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?

Do you wrestle with stillness?

“Be still and know I am God.”  Psalm 46:11

Do you struggle with stillness?  What is God saying to you when He says “be still and know I am God?”

A couple of years ago this verse danced in my head and I questioned what it really meant to me, what was God saying to me when He said be still and know I am God? 

A few weeks later, I had gone to see my eye doctor just for a regular exam so I could get some contacts.  As I’m sitting in the chair, my doctor looks at me concerned and began asking me a series of questions.  He asked if I was dizzy and having headaches.  I looked at him very confused and slowly stated, I was fine and no I hadn’t been having any issues with headaches or dizziness.  He explained to me that my optic nerve looked swollen.  He said it could be one of two things, it was swelling, which would indicate neurological issues or there was calcium deposits causing it to look like swelling, which would affect my peripheral vision.  He referred me to a neuro ophthalmologist to run further tests.  Of course, like most people, I go home and search the internet, not very wise.  Everything bad under the sun comes up, heightening my anxieties.  I made an appointment to see the specialist.  I spent an entire day undergoing several exams on my eye and was becoming very concerned through each exam.  After all the tests, she still could not make a determination what was going on with my eye and made me an appointment at another facility to have an ultrasound done on my eye.  I was alone and frightened as none of these tests revealed a definitive answer.  I had a couple of hours before the appointment for the ultrasound.  I found myself longing to go sit quietly in a church.  I found a church just down the road from where my ultrasound was scheduled.  When I walked in, I noticed they had Adoration in a small chapel.  I went in to sit, to “be still,” with Jesus.  Being there brought about a calmness and tranquility and all my anxieties on what could be wrong with my eyes were gone.  I was in a state of stillness and I knew that God was in control.  I knew that no matter what the doctor found, this was part of God’s plan in my journey.

Now, when I read that verse and contemplate its meaning, I know that God is telling me, “relax, I have this figured out, you are mine and I am your God, your Heavenly Father who loves you, who has a plan for you and all things in  your life.”

Being still and allowing God to be God, does not mean you have to go to a church or a chapel and find complete solitude or quietness.  You can find this stillness in your home or outdoors.  God is all around you and anytime you find yourself needing to be still, find a comfortable spot, pause and allow Him to reveal to you that He has everything under control because He is God.  This stillness is a moment of focus on God in all matters in your life.

Is your deepest desire a communal relationship with God?

“…our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments” Pope Francis

What is your deepest desire?  Is it a communal relationship with God?  These are both good questions to ponder and reflect on today as you read the Gospel of John, chapter 6.

Todays Gospel reading is one of my favorites.  In fact the series of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, has always been my favorite series at Mass.  I think the reason is that over the years, I have realized the true meaning of the Eucharist in my life.  It is the “communion with Him”.  Before receiving the Eucharist, my heart desires so greatly to be consumed by Jesus as I consume His body and blood and when I receive the Eucharist at Mass, I receive this gift of Jesus’ presence within me that is like no other.

Today at Mass, something happened that brought a deeper meaning to me in the blessings and healing of the Eucharist and the communion with God.  Just before Mass, I was reading The Better Part which is reflections on the Gospel.  In The Better Part, Christ as friend, I had read

“You want more out of your life; I do too.  I am what you’re looking for.  Know me better; listen to me; trust me more.”

Today, before the consecration of the bread and wine, I heard this small voice whisper to me to offer up this Mass for my ex-husband.  A little resistant at first, I remember thinking that is a lot to ask and not so easy today.  After recalling what I had read before Mass, I knew that when the body and blood were raised up, I was to offer the Mass up for my ex-husband.  I was to listen to that inner voice and trust that Jesus knew me better and knew what I needed today.  So, I offered the Mass up for my ex.  After receiving communion, when I went back to my pew to pray, I felt a release as tears cleansed me while I prayed.

I wanted to share this because I think this is an example of desiring and embracing a communal relationship with God.  It’s through the Eucharist that the communal bond – as Father mentioned today – with Jesus as the wedding ring, a union between man and God takes place.

Jesus says in the Gospel today,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6:35

If you do not believe or have trouble believing that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, read the Gospel of John, chapter 6 carefully and let the words soak in – ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read this beautiful reading.  He came to earth to not only die for us but to give us life and fulfill us by being present with us in this beautiful Sacrament.

Your measuring stick or God’s?

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena

Do you carry around a measuring stick?  Is your measuring stick perfection?  Or is your measuring stick someone else?  Are you constantly pulling it out and measuring yourself against it?  When you don’t measure up, do you beat yourself up over it?

Food for thought and a real struggle for many of us.

I guarantee I’ve been pulling mine out a lot.  One of the toughest job roles I have is being a mom.  This is the role I pull out my measuring stick the most to compare against.  In this role, I feel I have to be perfect.  Why?  Because God entrusted these two souls into my care.  There is one person that knows my parenting better than my kids.  She can attest that I evaluate my parenting style and if it isn’t working I adjust.  At the end of the day, I still do not meet the measuring stick of perfection and it leaves me feeling I am not good enough.

measurement-millimeter-centimeter-meter-162500.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Blessed Mother, Mary, is the ideal mother.  She exhibits total trust in God.  She is a very humble and loving mother to our Lord and to us as her spiritual children.  She is the role model that I look to as a mother.  My own relationship with my mother hasn’t been the greatest and there are a lot of things about mothering that I don’t quite get or understand.  Often I feel like I am treading water with my good intentions of teaching my children to love God above all things, read the Bible, practice their faith, be respectful, accountable, honest and kind.  Then there are these moments of affirmation in things my girls say or do that confirm I don’t have to be perfect in my sense of perfection, according to my measuring stick.  I only have to fulfill the things that God asks me to do as their mother and allow Him to do the rest.  When I do as He asks me, I am fulfilling this role in perfection, in God’s perfection – not my ideal measuring stick I have tucked away.

I always have to chuckle at God’s hidden messages.  I had started writing this last night and this morning I read a memory on my Facebook page from 2013 where I was reflecting, at the pond at work, what my oldest daughter had told me.  She had told me that she told her friends that God made everything perfect, even the trees.

I think children hold the secrets to life sometimes.  If even the trees are perfect then so am I.  I think the key to that perfection is conforming to God’s will in my life, just as the trees conform to all God provides.

nature forest trees park
Photo by veeterzy on Pexels.com

As my role as a mother, there are two most important things that I can do for my children in conforming to that will and that is to teach them to love God above all things and to look to Him for guidance in making the right choices.  If I instill these two values in them, everything else doesn’t really matter.  They will make mistakes and I will make mistakes but if we always come back to those key learnings, our life will be perfect, perfect in conformity to God and not a measuring stick in my pocket.

This applies to all things in our lives, not just our roles in life.  Often we have trouble loving ourselves because we compare ourselves to others or perfect ideals on our measuring sticks.  We only see our faults and never feel good enough.   Our flaws are like neon signs and they tend to take away any peace that Jesus has given us.  Today, chunk your measuring stick of PERFECTION in the trash.  Tell yourself you will not pull it out again.  Look within at the person God  created you to be and place your trust in Him, conforming to all He has in store for you and that is where you achieve PERFECTION.  You are perfectly made to love and be loved.  Don’t let lies of the enemy tell you any different.

Have you named and claimed the pain stealing your joy?

As I stood up, I could feel blood streaming down my face.  I was 5 and had been standing behind an aluminum horse swing.  I had just been told not to stand near the swing and like a typical kid, I did anyway.  The results – a gash on my forehead requiring stitches.  Interesting fact:  when our bodies bleed, a signal is sent from our brain to the blood vessels to try and constrict them to stop the bleeding – initiating the healing process.

Just as our brains recognize the physical wounds, we must also recognize our emotional wounds to begin to heal and ‘stop the bleeding’ of our hearts.  Accepting that there is hurt and it’s time to move past it is important to start the healing process. Often, we become so deeply a part of what is embedded in our daily trials that it becomes a part of our identity, dwelling in this place of pain and hurt.

So how do you recognize something is wrong?  How do you uncover this pain, name it and claim it?

When my check engine light comes on in the car, it is a warning sign that something is definitely not right and I need to have someone take a look at it.  If I fail to acknowledge it and continue to drive my car with the check engine light on, I may be able to get several miles out of it before something happens that may leave me on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck and cost me more money than if I would have had it checked when it first came on.  Unlike our cars, we don’t have a flashing warning light that is visible right in front of us.  We just feel this emotional pain constantly piercing our hearts.

light heart clouds summer
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you ignore the piercing of your heart, refusing to name it and claim it, the pain continues to grow, binding you and strangling your joy – costing you more, just like ignoring the warning light on your car.

Name it 

I remember the day after I left my ex-husband, how bruised and broken I felt.  It wasn’t until after I left and reality began to settle that I realized how much I was bleeding internally from the open wounds of my marriage.  Within an instance my world was shaken up and now I had to name what seemed normal in my life.  Without giving it a name, I could not deal with it, eliminate its constant infliction upon me and move past it.  I had to know what it was to begin to deal with it, to heal from it.

Until you give it a name, even though you have recognized that you are hurting, you can’t move into the healing phase.  Naming it gives you this affirmation that there is a wound that needs to be healed.  It provides you a focal point and identification of what you need to heal from.

When you go to the doctor because you have stomach pain or some other ailment that is bothering you,  he performs a diagnostic based on your symptoms.  Then he tells you the name of the ailment and how he is going to treat it.  He can’t treat it unless he knows what he is treating.

This is the same with our spiritual and emotional healing.  Until you know what your ailment is, give it a name, you can’t move on in the healing process.

Claim it

Now that you have given it a name, you have to accept it.  It is a part of your life journey but it does not define you as an individual.  Accepting the pain allows you to surrender to God to enable Him to walk with you and heal you.

The most vivid image I have of this part of my own healing process is peeling the layers of an onion.  This is an image that crops up often in my spiritual direction meetings.  Just when I think I am healed, another layer begins to come off.  And just like peeling an onion, tears are shed.  The more layers I peel, the deeper I go within my heart, uncovering roots of the pain in my life.  The grace of peeling that onion is the wisdom gained as I face the deeper pain and accept God’s help.  What I have discovered is that the closer to the core, my relationship with God deepens, my dependence on Him strengthens.  This is how I know that I am personally healing spiritually.

Are you feeling a piercing in your heart?  Have you named it and claimed it?  If not, start today so that you can heal within and unravel the chains that have been binding your joy.

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.