Consider it joy!

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

In this blog, I wanted to share how great our God is and how intentional He is through an experience I had today in Adoration.

As I sat in the presence of Jesus in the Adoration chapel, I looked upon the Blessed Sacrament and became overwhelmed with joy.  The monstrance was radiating as the sun passed through the stain glass windows above and recent events in my life passed before my eyes.

I thought about Lysa Terkeurst’s talk from this past weekend and the verses from James 1:2-4 that she phenomenally unpacked.  This morning, I was reminded of those exact verses by a friend from work that had absolutely no idea about the talk at the conference.  And last week, my youngest daughter read a devotion about thanking Jesus when our life feels more and more out of control.  As I sat there, I was reflecting on these encounters of considering it joy and thanking God when I am in the midst of my trials, knowing this will press me and test me and the fruits of perseverance will be produced.  Most recently, I have really been tested yet I sat there smiling with joy.  As I was sitting in the chapel looking upon my Lord I also began to see how God’s love and grace transformed my life.  I was reminded of my story and how I am visibly transformed from the mere telling of my story from the pain and darkness into the love and light of Christ.  My resurrection story is a place I can go to and see the result of God’s pressing and molding.  It is not a place I go to and drag up my pain and hurt.  When I am reminded of my story, I can only smile as there is joy in my story, despite the pain.  I have risen from a place that was unhealthy and it was only from the hand of my God and the love I found in my faith in Christ.  As I see the smile this produces, I am strengthened in the trial I go through today because I know that the God I love, my Lord, my Jesus will be intentional in this trial as much as He was in the one I endured many years ago.  Through the perseverance, He will make me “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  I wanted to share this from a place of joy and acceptance, a place of strength and endurance, a place of perseverance that is within me and each of you through our faith and trust in God and His intentional plan in our lives.  May His presence radiate within you the joy that is found in the midst of your trials as He produces perseverance and makes you “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

May God’s blessings be upon each of you.

 

 

Ripples of the Holy Spirit – are you open to receive them?

Do you struggle with listening and hearing God? Do you struggle with being still and resting in His presence? How about being open to everything around you and how He will speak to you or reveal Himself to you?

Do a little exercise. Get in a comfortable place, somewhere that is peaceful for you. Perhaps a place where you have experienced God before.  Take two deep breaths and release them.

Now, imagine you are sitting next to a calm lake. The water is still. There is absolutely no observable movement on the surface. The surface is flat throughout. It is absolutely undisturbed.

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Now close your eyes, keeping this image with you. Imagine you are this body of water. You are still. Your mind is clear. Your body is at rest. Allow the Holy Spirit to drop something into this body of water, into your presence, your being. Open your mind to receive it.  Release all the pressures of the day and receive what God is offering you in this moment.  Do you hear a whisper, feel something within, or envision something? Perhaps it’s a word? Perhaps it’s an answer to something you’ve been discerning to do? Perhaps it’s an object or a scenery? May be it’s a person’s face?  Or perhaps it’s a feeling of love embracing you?

Does it make a ripple when it hits the surface of stillness within you? Do you have an overwhelming feeling throughout your body? A feeling of joy, comfort, or rest? May be you feel a peace of some resolution that has taken place within or that needs to take place?  Whatever it is, soak it up.  Stay in this moment and rest.

Just as the stillness of the water creates a ripple through the lake when something is dropped within it, does our inner space when we allow the Holy Spirit to drop His thoughts upon us.

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The ripples fill the lake as the Holy Spirit fills us. The ripples are only bound by the edges of the lake. We too place boundaries upon the ripples in our lives when we aren’t open to receiving all the Holy Spirit has to give us. His presence is boundless if we are open to it.

Open your eyes and always be prepared for God’s surprises.  Let Him drop a single thought into your mind, a single smell of freshness into your nose, a song of beauty resonating in your ears, and a sight of art and feel His love surrounding you.  God presents Himself to you in everything around you.  He whispers to you His plans for goodness in your life and fills you with rest in times of despair.  The key to it all is being open to receive it.  Allow your Heavenly Father to walk your journey with you today.  He seeks your friendship and will drop His very thoughts into your being, creating ripples in your life that are endless and perfect.  Trust in His will for you and joy will overflow from you as the water overflows from any body of water when it fills every ounce of its reservoir.

Are you searching for God today?

“Faith is trusting that what God reveals is true; hope is trusting that what he promises will come about; love is trusting that what he asks us to do is what we should do. If we put our trust in God, and not in ourselves, we will find God.” The Better Part

Is God at the center of your life? Or have you been searching for Him, seeking Him? Have you prayed for His help lately and wonder if He will ever answer you?

About a week ago, my precious little one, was struggling with something. I asked her if she had been praying about it. She looked at me with a hint of frustration and told me she had but God just takes too long. I chuckled but a part of me certainly knew where she was coming from.

Many years ago, when I started my faith journey, I remember reading something about searching for God. The analogy that the author used was that of a storm. Sort of interesting… no, I’m not going to explain the wrath of God. What she said hit me in a very deep way. She explained that in the midst of the storm in life, the hurricane in my case, we are so focused on the outside. We search and search for God in the storm – in the rain, the lightening and the wind; but we don’t feel Him, we don’t see Him. We wonder where is He? Why isn’t He present with us? What she goes on to explain is that when we transition into the eye of the storm, hence my hurricane, we realize that is where God is present. He has been there the entire time. He is in the center, the calm of the storm. We didn’t need to search. We didn’t need to yell out to Him, seeking Him. He was there waiting for us.

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One of the Gospel readings last week was Matthew 11:25-30. In this reading, Jesus says ” Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Christ teaches us that when ‘we put our trust in God, and not in ourselves, we will find God’. Isn’t that what happens when we transition to the calm of the storm. It is in that moment, we place our trust in God. And in that moment we feel His very essence of comfort and love that gives us hope and grounds us in our faith.

I have had a number of storms in my life and today when I reflect on those storms, I see God’s hands embracing me.  I see His presence with me in the storm but at the moment I was so focused on the storm that I couldn’t see Him, I couldn’t feel Him and I cried out in prayer.  Just as my daughter stated, I felt some days that He took a long time to answer.  Listen to the lyrics to “Just Be Held”, by Casting Crowns.

“If your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still.  But if your eyes are on the cross, you’ll know I always have and I always will.”

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Today, if you are in the midst of a storm, perhaps a hurricane, know that God is there.  Go to the eye of the storm, the center, focusing on the cross and anchor your faith, hope and love, trusting in God and not yourself to calm the storm swirling around you.

Thy will or I will, which is your response?

“Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

Reread the verse above and focus on the second sentence of Mary’s response and say it out loud. What do you hear and feel as you say these words out loud? Can you feel 100% release of your will, your control to God as you speak these words?

Mary doesn’t say to God I will do your will, but she says let it be done in me. She relinquishes her whole self to God in that moment. When the angel Gabriel came to her with this message from God that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit, she was initially frightened and afraid. In that pivotal moment, she releases it all and places herself in God’s hands.

If she would have said I will do your will, would she still have placed 100% trust in God? Would she have allowed God to perform His work in her through Jesus? Would she have remained afraid or released her fear of what God was asking and about to accomplish through her? Just as you reread Mary’s response out loud, say I will do your will. How does both phrases speak to you? Does one lift heaviness from your chest and shoulders? Does the other phrase give you a sense of control, everything is still in your court?  Do you feel more comfortable with one over the other.

I think our human nature, feels very comfortable when we feel we have a sense of control.  Sometimes by holding on to this need to feel in control, we miss out on opportunities of God transforming us into a better version of ourselves, better disciples for His Kingdom on earth.

When you say to God, “your will be done in me”, you are giving Him all the freedom to mold you and your life. You are also freeing yourself from the chains of your self control, your self will.

Have you ever said something like this – “I wish I were a kid again so that I wouldn’t have the responsibility and someone else took care of everything”? If you answered yes, like me, isn’t it a bit ironic because God is right there asking you daily to surrender your will to Him. He is waiting for you to release your shackles of self control to Him and say “let it be done according to your will”. He wants to take care of your every needs as your Father.  All you have to do is allow Him.

Are you telling God you will do His will or are you asking Him to accomplish His will in you? If you struggle with releasing yourself and trusting God, meditate on the Annunciation and look to Mary, the Blessed Mother as a role model of trust in God.

God or Coincidence?

Ever turn on the radio and hear a song that speaks directly to you? Or may be you pick up a book and the message is just what you needed to hear? Or you hear someone say something and you feel it’s directed towards you even though they are talking to an auditorium or church full of people?  What do you think, coincidence or God?

Many years ago, I was on my way to do one of the hardest things that I have had to do. My children are most important to me next to my faith. On this day, I knew I had to tell them the one thing that I never wanted to have to tell them, something that would affect the rest of their lives. I was on my way that day to see my therapist so that I could tell my children that their dad would not be coming home. As I was driving, the song “Lord I Need You”, by Matt Maher came on. At that moment, I just cried because I did need God. I needed him to not only comfort me and give me the courage and strength for this moment but I needed him to comfort my children. That song gave me a peace that prepared me for this moment of pain that awaited each of us.

This isn’t the only time a song has come on at just the right moment with a message that guided, comforted me or gave me reassurance about a decision.  In fact, just today as I was leaving Mass “Come to the Table” by Sidewalk Prophets came on just as I was thinking about some things in my past that feel my heart with shame and discontent about myself.  As I listened to the lyrics of the song and knew I had just went to the table to receive Jesus, I was comforted knowing that I have been set free and this is no longer a part of who I am.

I also love how books,  devotions or the readings for the day, speak directly to me regarding something that I’m dealing with or discerning.  One evening, my children and I were reading a children’s devotion and as we read it, my daughter looks at me and says “How does he do that?  How does he know what happened today?  Did he just swap the pages?”  I had to chuckle a little as she was questioning God’s method of talking to her through this devotion on an issue she was having with her friend.  It was a very good teachable moment on being open to hear God and how he speaks to us through things we read, things someone says, what we see or even a song.

I believe these moments, when something speaks to our hearts in whatever way it may be, that it can only be attributed to God, not coincidence.  He knows exactly what you need to comfort you or to guide your decision.  If you are open, you will hear him at just the right time and just the right place.  If you need direction, he will guide you.  If you need comfort, he will console you.  If you need peace, he will provide it.  If you need love, he will embrace you.  The form he uses may be different each time.  Be aware.  The next person that approaches you may be someone he sends to help you with something you are struggling with.  The next song you hear, may bring you peace in a situation that has brought you discontentment.  A book you read may guide you to discerning an important decision or direction in your life.

Tune in to everything and everyone around you, he is speaking to you at this moment.  Are you open to receiving the message God is sending you today through your radio, through your friend, through your children or spouse, through the Bible or words in a book?

 

Your Will be Done

Have you ever heard a song that spoke volumes to you?  The lyrics in the song, described your life perfectly at that moment?  Or may be the lyrics helped you to learn something about yourself or your situation, past or present?  Or may be God just has something He wants you to hear and reflect on?

I’ve often heard people say that songs are a form of prayer.  Rightfully true, I think.  We can gain so much wisdom from a song.  Some songs can literally cause us to drop to our knees or open the flood gates of our tear ducts.

Over the last few days, I’ve been wrestling with understanding God’s will and conforming to it.  Trying to understand things of my past and what God has done in me through it.  One of the big questions that I’ve been trying to unpack is God being the author of all things, good and bad.  This morning as I turned on the radio, the song by Hillary Scott, “Thy Will be Done,” was playing.  The story behind this song is a story of loss.  In the song, she finds acceptance of the pain and attributes it to God, knowing that He has good plans for her even in this moment of brokenness and hurt.  She does this by calling out in prayer with “these four words – thy will be done”.

Many people would not like to think that God can be the author of pain and suffering in our lives.  Although He does not take part in our choice to sin or that of others, He does allow circumstances of those sins to affect us.  Also, if we unpack it more, we see that God is a good God and He sees and know all that is best for us and this is His ultimate plan in our lives.  In that plan, there could be pain and suffering that is ultimately better for us.

  • If He knows that something, say money, has become deadly to your soul or your happiness, He may bring hardship up on you or allow a thief to rob you to save your soul and bring a greater joy into your life.
  • Perhaps you find out one day that you have a terminal illness.  Rather than give you a few more years on this earth, He would prefer you come home to Him in a greater glory than what is present here.
  • Perhaps your friend you confided in is no longer there for you.  Rather than confide in a friend, He is wanting you to come to Him with your worries and concerns or He may send another soul to help you bare this burden.
  • Perhaps you have lost a child.  Rather than that child suffer greatly on this earth, God has called him/her home to dance amongst the angels.
  • Even in circumstances of sin, He delivers goodness, if you open your heart and follow His will to receive it.

I ask is it not God that is the author of it all, the painter of His masterpiece?  Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not at the word of the most High that both good and bad take place?”

In Job 1:21, he attributes his misfortune to God when he says “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”.  In Isaiah 45:7, God says “I form the light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.”  In Deuteronomy 32:39, He tells us “I alone, am He, and there is no God besides me.  It is I who bring both death and life.  I who inflict wounds and heal them and from my hand no one can deliver.”

God is in control, the author, of all things in your life, even when you think you are.  The only thing that He is absent of is your choice to sin.

Nothing can exist or happen without Him allowing it.  The final outcome of all things is goodness for you, even when it doesn’t seem so, when it hurts and it’s difficult.  You may be confused, you may not understand all the things you are struggling with, but He does.  He knows the outcome, the best plan for you.  “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” Romans 8:28.

If you choose to accept all things in your life attributed to an all knowing and all loving God that has the best plans for you in this life and the next, then you will always have a life of peace and happiness, even in the greatest trials of your life.  “Thy will be done.”

In closing – a quote by St. Augustine, “All that happens to us in this world against our will (whether due to men or to other causes) happens to us only by the will of God, by the disposal of Providence, by His orders and under His guidance; and if from the frailty of our understanding we cannot grasp the reason for some event, let us attribute it to Divine Providence, show Him respect by accepting it from His hand, believe firmly that He does not send it [to] us without cause.”