Superhero in the spiritual life

boy child clouds kid

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“but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’  I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Mom, what is your favorite superhero?” a question my youngest daughter asked me as we walked to feed the turtles. 

At that moment, I’m not sure I had a great answer for her because I never really thought about who my favorite superhero was.

The Avenger movies are quite popular these days.  There are so many it’s hard to keep track of all the Marvel movies starring our childhood superheroes.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Webster defines a superhero as a fictional hero that has extraordinary powers, in other words superhuman powers. The image of being a superhero has swept through our minds since childhood as we imagined ourselves saving the world from the villains.  As we became adults, we developed a different image of a superhero.  Our superhero within us involves doing everything we can for our families, always being strong and never giving in to or revealing weakness. Being vulnerable has no room within our superhero world – US.  I think we have an idea that being vulnerable and being weak limits our abilities to protect ourselves and our families.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, St Paul tells us that Jesus says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  Jesus tells us that He is enough.  He is our superhero but it’s in our weakness that His extraordinary powers are made “PERFECT”.

My life has never been easy.  I have always worked hard to achieve the goals I made for myself.  I became independent and goal driven at a very young age.  My superhero essentially became myself.  Jesus was not prominent in my life as a child.  Growing up, I had to always be strong for myself, my mom, my sister and brother.  As I became a wife and then a mother, being weak and vulnerable was not an option.  In the early days of my marriage and motherhood, Jesus was still not the focal point in my life.  Reality in my life was that being weak and vulnerable was the opposite of survival.

Today, my world is different.  Christ is in my life and although revealing my weakness and vulnerabilities is the scariest thing for me, I know that it is in this weakness that Christ dwells within and makes me strong.

WHY? 
  • He says so in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  When He says so, I’m certain He means it….
  • If I break down what I know of my faith and trust in God, I know that when I am strong, I cannot allow Him to work within me because I am unwilling to surrender myself to Him.  It is in my weakness that He does His best work in me.  It is in the vulnerabilities that I am most open to surrendering all I am to Him and allowing Him to fill me with all He is.

I wish that made me less afraid of being weak and vulnerable.  Simple fact is it doesn’t but I know it is essential in my spiritual growth, especially when it comes to placing my past behind me and moving forward in life.  Now, I don’t want you to take away that when we have to be strong against worldly things or defend ourselves against harmful acts that we should be weak and not do what is necessary.  I think in those cases, it’s a matter of opening oneself up to surrendering to God to aid in such circumstances to guard us against sin and against harm.  I think that is what St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 – it is an acceptance, contentment with our weaknesses that allows us to depend on God to be with us in these moments, for Christ to dwell within us, to be our superhero living within.  It is in our weakness that we are strong, we are truly a superhero through Christ who gives us strength.

I think if my daughter were to ask me today who my favorite superhero is, I would answer with great clarity that it is JESUS who lives in me and gives me strength to overcome all things.

What about you?  Who do you say your favorite superhero is?

 

Unbinding through desolation

“We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever feel like running into a closet to get away from everything in your life? To get away from all your struggles, the pain, the noise, family drama?

I had a friend who once shared a story with me that as a grown adult she literally wanted to escape the noise and the demands of family life and went into a closet and was careful not to breathe heavily, hoping no one would find her.

As she told me this I laughed but I think we can all relate to that moment when we just want to hide from the world.

In theses moments, sometimes, we may also feel the absence of God or a desire to give up on Him. It is important to recognize these moments. St Ignatius teaches us of two movements in the interior spiritual life, consolation and desolation.

Consolation are periods when we are on fire, on a spiritual high (after an ACTS retreat for all my ACTS sisters). During these times we can’t contain what God is moving within us. We literally want to tell the whole world and want them to be a part of it.

Consolation is an awesome experience but I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to talk a little bit about desolation. Desolation can be crucial to our spiritual journey, although it is more critical to recognize it. During these movements in our spiritual journey, we really begin to deal with areas that in turn will produce great growth in our spiritual journey.

I’m not an expert on either desolation or consolation but I guarantee you I’ve been on both roads many times…. kind of like that roller coaster I once wrote about. My spiritual director once told me that consolation helps us to prepare and move through the desolation that will come – like the coaster you need potential energy to give you the kinetic energy to keep that roller coaster moving up and down.

gray cave near body of water
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Today I find myself in a period of desolation. At first I didn’t recognize it, but it became very prominent when I wanted to just retreat from everything, even my prayer life and community of friends.

As I work through my own desolation, I have been uncovering darkness found in my deepest wound that has rooted itself in sin. God has revealed to me that this wound I have buried is not allowing me to move forward, that it is binding me to my past and from my happily ever after. It is a deep source of unforgiveness and unlove. It has created weeds such as fear, anxiety, anger, frustration and exhaustion. This is the junk I mentioned in my last blog filling my vessel preventing me from being able to shine the light of Christ onto others.

So how am I handling this period of desolation? Through spiritual direction and my own experiences, small bits of wisdom from God, I have learned a few steps or techniques to journey through desolation. When I begin to feel this way, actually when I recognize these feelings, I know I do have to retreat. I have to retreat into solitude with God. It is essential for me to find time to pray. I do this by carving time, whether I want to or not to pray at home or go to Adoration. In prayer, I am completely open with God about what I’m feeling which eventually leads to asking for graces I need in that time. I also try to find days that I can go to daily Mass, to receive Jesus and be fed. Both help me to sort and discover the roots of what God is inviting me to dig up or fertilize into something fruitful. If I uncover sin at the base of this root or a resulting weed through this process, confession is another stop for me.

I think each of us will go through both consolation and desolation. Some of us may experience it as a result of God inviting us to see the consolation period as a gift and to invite us to discover Him in a new, fresher light and not necessarily from a dark root or sin.  Each of us may have different techniques to walk through it.  What’s important is that we identify it and take the necessary steps to journey this interior spiritual movement and grow closer to God.

Whatever may be the cause of desolation for you, will you be prepared to tackle it and grow leaps and bounds in your spiritual journey?

Mending the path, uncovering the treasure

“For God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

When you were a kid, did you run around the neighborhood? Perhaps played in the nearby creek or hopped over rocks and broken paths?

When I was kid, we lived on a naval base and I remember running around the neighborhood by myself often to the nearby creek.  I guess you can say from my childhood I was discovering God through nature, yet unaware of my discovery.  The creek would have stones laid throughout, creating a broken path.  I would walk or hop across the rocks, carefree and childlike.

 

person wearing blue pants standing on rocks across green and orange trees
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Today, I sometimes find the path I’m walking on broken.  Unlike when I was a kid, I don’t walk this path carefree.  I walk it with heavy burdens.  If I don’t recognize it and continue to walk the path the burdens fill the vessel God has given me to hold His treasure, the light of Christ, within.

In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of going to confession and how sin can cover our hearts in darkness and can continue to manifest that darkness within us, separating us further from God.  I also find connections of this and carrying heavy burdens.  When our burdens fill our vessel, it hinders our ability to carry the treasure God gives us and therefore we are unable to shine the light of Christ outward to aid in building God’s kingdom, something we are each created for.

I don’t think the broken paths are necessarily bad.  I believe they are there to draw us closer to God.  Where we may get into trouble is when we don’t see this as an opportunity to look within and see what God is wanting to mend on that broken path.  Some may continue to let the brokenness linger and the burdens grow, further filling the vessel with unwanted “junk”.

I personally don’t want to carry these burdens and I’m certain if you are reading this you don’t either.  I encourage you to consider the invitation that God may be presenting to you when you are walking on the broken path and carrying these burdens.  Is He asking you to pick up the stone, hold it in your hands, examine it and ponder your feelings surrounding it?  Is He asking you to then hand it to Him and let Him fill the gap, the brokenness it has created with His treasure, His love, His grace?

Sometimes when I’m faced with brokenness in my path, I look back at the times that God has filled these gaps and filled me.  Sometimes the path seems more shattered.  When I allow this brokenness to linger, I find myself spiritually empty.  The vessel fills up and God has no space to shine His light within.  Personally, recognizing this is crucial for me because it has tremendous affect on other areas in my life.  I don’t think wisdom is found from the intellect of math and science.  It is found through our journey and awareness of how all things affect each other.  What I have discovered is that when my vessel is full of junk, it can have an affect on a number of things, including my relationships with other and my relationship with God.  The last thing I am able to do is be a spiritual light for others to help build God’s kingdom.

What steps do we take when we find our path broken?  What does that invitation look like?  It may look different for each of us and different during the different seasons of our lives.  Some things I think that help to discern clarity of the invitation is to start by looking within to see what the feelings are, find quiet time to spend with God asking Him to reveal these feelings, to overturn this rock and give you direction.  Perhaps that direction may lead you to confession, to forgiveness.  May be it’s just God helping you to understand what it is, refining you and refueling you.  In some cases, it just may be down time, rest in Him that He is calling you to.

Whatever you may be faced with today or tomorrow, accept God’s invitation in those moments to uncover the relationship He desires with you.

The journey continues

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

In my last blog, I wrote about how much Jeremiah 17:7-8 described my journey and how amazing my journey has been.

I want to start by asking if you have a unique descriptive of your journey?  Can you see your story still unfolding before your eyes?  Does your past surface from time to time, unraveling more of your path ahead?

What if the story continues to unfold by taking the deeper wounds illuminating and enhancing the new creation that God has reshaped from the dust?  What if the most painful memories were surfaced, skimmed off the top, fired up, crystallized into tiny jewels and used to ornate the outer surface of the newly formed you?

A few weeks ago, I sat in my study frozen as I held several pieces of paper that were written in my hand writing.  The only movement was the droplets falling from my eyes.  There were things written that I had forgotten about, had buried.  They were words that brought grave painful memories rushing back into my mind.  As I read the words on these papers, I felt like I was trapped back in a place I had traveled as the pain stung so sharply deep within me.  I knew I didn’t want to be in this place, yet it was something I had to do.

Going back to that place, uncovered an area I have not dealt with along my amazing journey.  I can’t tell you how many times I feel like I am totally healed from my past and then something else surfaces that causes me to look deeper, to realize I have more cracks to mend.  This was exactly one of those moments.  As my eyes peered through each page I had written and the hurt rushed in, I knew God had more He wanted me to see.  I had more work to do, there was more fruit to bear but I had to first pull up the weeds and lay down the new soil.

Our story is written, yet our journey of being refined is never complete.  The purification, the reforming is a known fact in our spiritual journey.  It is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to look deeper within and uncover the areas that need refining and/or healing.  To move closer to God’s perfect plan for us is allowing Him to shed light on the dark areas in our lives, to illuminate them and bring goodness from them.  I always like to go back and compare my refinement to the process of purifying gold or the formation of a diamond.  It takes extreme conditions to form this precious metal and valuable gem, just as it does in us.

antelope canyon arizona
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Next time your past surfaces and the flood of emotions roll in, take a look deep with in and see what gem God is perfecting to ornate the outer surface of His new creation in you because He is not done with you.  He is inviting you to uncover more, to move forward, closer to Him.

Just as in the lyrics of Tauren Wells song “God’s not done with you.”

There’s a light you don’t notice
Until you’re standing in the dark
And there’s a strength that’s growing
Inside your shattered heart
God’s not done with you
Even with your broken heart and your wounds and your scars
God’s not done with you
Even when you’re lost and it’s hard and you’ve fallen apart

 

A journey defined

“Blessed are those who trust in the LORD.  The LORD will be their trust.  They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream.  It does not fear heat when it comes.  Its leaves stay green.  In the year of drought, it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:7-8

Have you ever had a Bible verse or two, just speak volumes to you?  What about a few lyrics in a song?  May be you have read a passage in a book by your favorite author or heard words of wisdom from a sage soul that spoke to the inner core of your heart?

Almost three years ago, I attended a retreat and heard the verses in Jeremiah 17:7-8 for the first time, deep within my heart.  I’m not sure that I understood then how much these verses would be the verses that would truly describe my journey.  Although my life began in my mother’s womb, my true journey of faith began six years ago.

I think my story is amazing.  It is amazing because God has laid small and large stepping stones in front of me with an intended purposes.  And I truly believe the intended purposes that He has been leading me to is exactly Jeremiah 17:7-8 -to grow in trust in Him and through this to strengthen my roots in my faith so that no matter where life takes me, it will always produce fruit.

This amazing story of mine is a story of trust.  But this story began with tremendous hurt and lack of trust.  In the darkest hour of that pain, God answered my call.  He literally lifted me out of my situation and He began to lay before a new path.  This path would still not be easy but would refine me, purify my heart and cleanse me from my past.  It would provide me with a new compass and a new focus – “the Lord [would] be [my] trust.”

Through the last six years, my journey has gone through many phases that have lead precisely to this moment.  These stepping stones I have been walking on have each served a purpose of leading me to trusting in God.  I could write a book on the details of God’s hands and feet along the way, the people He placed in my life, the obstacles placed before me and those removed, the books, the readings from the Bible and the list goes on.

Some of the amazing details are centered around the obstacles that seemed to be removed that were in my way at times.  There was no doubt that God’s hands and feet were a part of it.  Most of the phenomenal movements of God’s presence was internally within me.  This is the purification process that has been leading me on the path of trust.  It is the interior spiritual movement that is the description of my journey expressed in Jeremiah 17:7-8.  This is where the external stepping stones have led me to the deep roots, nourished by life giving water, bearing fruit in my life.

In one of Lysa Terkeurst latest books, “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way,” she describes an image of life being shattered to dust.  What she goes on to say in the book is that sometimes our life has to be shattered to the point of dust so that we can be reshaped.  It is through the reshaping that God’s perfect plan for us is placed in motion.  As I look back on my life, I see this very process – my life shattered to fine dust and God picking every ounce of that dust up and reshaping me – from the inside out into exactly what He wants of me.  The root of this process is trusting Him to do so, being vulnerable to the shattering and reformation.  It is here where the fruit is produced, where the dead branches begin to grow new life.

So, when I heard the song on the radio by For King and Country, “God Only Knows,” and tears stung my cheeks, I knew that “God only knows what [I’ve] been through… God only knows the real [me]… God only knows where to find [me]… God only knows how to break through… There’s a kind of love that God only knows.”

Each of us go through some form of struggle in our life where the branches seem to be bare and darkness filters in.  In many cases, life as we know if feels like it has shattered into a million pieces and we don’t know how to pick up the pieces.  I invite you to trust in God to pick up the pieces and reshape you as He leads you on a path of reformation, purifying and perfecting your path He has laid before you.

 

The Unseen Journey Beyond the Struggles

 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now, rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NLT)

How do you view your journey? Is it a narrow view or wide angle view?

Sometimes I think we become very focused on the narrow view of our circumstance. In some cases, we allow this to control the things around us, affect our life in a way that may not be life giving. When we look from the narrow lens, we look at what is happening in our lives and become hopeless of what is to come in life. This may create a sense of feeling stuck.  I think we can become very stuck in a whirlwind of life. Circumstances can clutter life, creating feelings of being lost, disoriented, negative, angry, sad, and/or broken.

HOPELESSNESS

Yesterday as I was listening to the radio, they played the fairly new Christian song, “Scars” by I Am They. This song tends to bring tears to my eyes as it reminds me of my own scars. The beauty of this song is not the focus on the SCARS but that of thanksgiving. I don’t know what you may be going through or have gone through in your journey but healing is a process that is never complete. Our scars are present and always will be but it is through the scars that the glory prevails just as in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

When we open ourselves to seeing life through the wider lens, we are able to see that these scars, although significant at some time in life, are small when compared to the glory that is produced from them. It is the unseen process of healing that will last forever. It is through a faithful relationship with Christ that these weeds will wilt and new life and fruit are produced in the garden of your heart.

As I walk my own journey, the things of yesterday are revealing the things that were not seen then but that were present. I have come to realize that the journey is not just a road we travel but it is a process of purifying us. Gold is purified by being heated to very high temperatures and the impurities are then removed from the surface of the molten liquid. I joked around with my coworkers one day and said “you know I think by the time God is done bringing me through all this fire in my life I will be as pure as the finest gold and as shiny as the most precious gem.”

The process in the journey is the glorification. The troubles we go through are what’s on the surface waiting to be purified revealing the beauty that is deeper within, behind the scars – the fruitful garden that gives life to those who desire what God has in store for them.

When you look at troubles of today, I invite you to look through the wider lens and fix your eyes on the things that you can’t see, the grace that God is giving you to persevere in hopefulness. And when you see the scars of your life, be thankful for what they have produced.

 

Broken and glued…

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak and as many as touched it were healed.  Mark 6:55-56

Have you ever felt broken? Or perhaps even damaged goods?  Something or someone hurt you in a way that you feel has impacted you in some way? It can be something that happened 20 or 30 years ago, that is still affecting a small part of who you are today.

There’s hope!

I was reading the Gospel reading this morning from Mark 6:53-56. Wherever Jesus was, people were desperate for healing and wanted so bad to just touch the tassel of His cloak because they knew that they would be healed.  When Jesus walked the earth in human flesh, people saw the miracles of healing. Today, many lose hope because sometimes these miracles aren’t as apparent.

Is it their faith that is being tested or is it that they completely lack faith?

We are each in different places in our spiritual journey and I firmly believe that God meets each of us wherever we are. I also believe He brings people in our lives and that Jesus is alive in each of us.  Through us, through our actions and our prayers, He delivers healing power.  Many times, it’s subtle and takes time.  In some cases, we may not see the healing we are expecting, especially when the underlying healing is within the person’s soul.  When it comes to spiritual brokenness, matters of the heart and the mind, it is our brothers and sisters and our relationship with Christ, our prayer, our openness to see and feel His healing power sweep through us that repairs that brokenness, preparing us for something much greater.

There have been many moments where I have felt I was too broken from things in my past, that I was damaged goods and could not move on when it comes to matters of the heart. Over the last several years, I have surrounded myself with wise, spiritual sisters and brothers.  They have helped me to grow in my spiritual life and to see beyond my pain.  They have showed me how much life God brings amid the suffering.  Most of all they have helped me to see God’s promise of love, His love letter to me. The weeds in my garden were there for a reason.  Although they needed to be pruned, they served a purpose.  Their purpose was not to keep me in the brokenness of my life but to move me beyond it.  They were there to show me how to embrace life, a life full of beauty, full of life giving flowers.  Although there are moments I still go back to my past and begin to weep for that woman that endured the heartache, I draw back to the present and rejoice with the woman that is thankful for God for all the brokenness throughout her life.  It is in my pain and suffering throughout my life that I have flourished into the beautiful flower that God has created me to be.  It is in His promises that I look forward to life from this present moment.  My heart has found a new purpose and it has been repaired through the healing power of my savior.  Although I have not touched the tassel from His cloak, I have received Him – body, blood, soul and divinity.

My dear friends, we need to “be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)”. The enemy is looking for opportunities to knock us down and keep us down. This is what happens when we feel broken and damaged. I love the image of a piece of pottery that has been broken in pieces and then glued back together and repurposed for something even greater. This is how we defeat the enemy. We allow ourselves to be glued back together through the gifts of our faith and the gifts of each other.

If you are that person who feels broken or damaged, I invite you to find a sister or brother grounded in their faith to talk to, to bring the healing power of Christ to you. If you are not that person feeling broken or damaged, I invite you to look around you, there is someone who needs you to bring Christ’s healing power to them.  Let them touch the tassel of your heart with their story so that you can be Christ like to them.