The Battle Against Fear

What lies have you been told today?  Have you been fed the lies of fear?  Are you trapped in his cage, held captive and breathless by his hold on you?

Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do what you are being called to do?  Are you afraid of what tomorrow may bring, a doctor’s appointment, financial burdens, your children’s safety?

Fear is one of those lies that the enemy plants within you to draw you from the comfort of God’s love.  It is the root of so many other lies.  It is a little seed that produces many little weeds within you and it tries to strangle the seed of love and trust that God has planted within you.  It binds you and sucks the life out of truth so that you believe the lies it tells you.

Don’t get me wrong, some fear is necessary and a gift from God to be able to react to a situation of danger for survival. This is realized fear. If you come upon a poisonous snake on your walk, fear kicks in and tells your body you need to do something to defend yourself. It is crucial that you react to that instinct and do what is necessary to stay out of harms way of the snakes venom.

On the other side of the coin, fear shows up in your life as unrealized fear or imagined fear. This is the lies that the enemy burdens you with. It’s the message that tells you to not speak about your faith in fear of offending someone. It’s the undue stress and worry you put on yourself anticipating bad news from your doctor, predicting a lay off from your job, imagining your child being hurt when you are not there to protect them.

Imagined fear is the opposite of trust in God. It is a reliance on yourself and the world and not God. This is exactly where the enemy wants you to be. It strips you of the freedom and joy that is only found in relying on God’s will.

Fear is a major struggle for me. It is the one thing that binds me in so many areas and prevents me from the freedom of joy and happiness found in trusting God and His will in my life. Many days, I want to place my children in a bubble to ensure they won’t be hurt. I’m always questioning my role as a mother in fear of losing my relationship with my children. I doubt my decisions in my role as a leader and fear I’m not doing what’s best for those I lead and will someday not have financial means to support my children. I am afraid of people who have had control over me and how they may still be able to impact my life. I find myself often questioning things that drop me in the depths of the ocean, out of my comfort zone, where I have to swim or drown. My list goes on and on. At the end of the day, these are all imagined fears. They are in my head, right where the enemy wants them.

When I don’t move out of my comfort zone in fear of the unknown, I may miss an opportunity God has in store for me that will bring great joy in my life. When I am afraid of what others can do to me, I am allowing them to steal my peace as I let them occupy my mind. When I lead and am afraid of not making the right choices for my group, I constrain the opportunities for them and myself. When I question how I’m raising my children, I may choose to do the wrong thing that will affect their growth and relationships with God and others.

I wonder how many opportunities I lost that God was calling me to; or how much time of joy and happiness I lost while I was imprisoned by fear of circumstance that “could be”.

“Fear, he is a liar

He will take your breath

Stop you in your steps

Fear he is a liar

He will rob your rest

Steal your happiness

Cast your fear in the fire

‘Cause fear he is a liar”

Lyrics by Zach Williams “Fear is a Liar”

The lies fear implants constrains us from doing the will of God, from moving forward and making choices that align with God. It places us in a mindful box that sits and recycles imagined scenarios that threaten our emotional or physical sense, making him our God.

When I sense fear is taking control, the weeds are growing to a noxious level, I have to sit in the Word of God and pray. We are on a battle field my dear friends and fear is one of the leaders on the opposing side. Our greatest defense is the weapons God graciously gives us

  • His Word
  • Prayer

Both of these cover you in love and trust, knowing that His will prevails and it is the best outcome for you. Whenever fear begins to take over the garden God planted in you, tend it and remove the weeds with the power of prayer and the Word of God. Place your trust in what He tells you.

Are you ready to defend the truth of God’s love and His will in your life? Are you ready to kick out fear in the beautiful garden within you and rejoice in the freedom of God’s will? Start by praying – God’s will be done.

Jesus I trust in You!

Have Your Dreams Come True?

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Have you had your happily ever after?  Have your childhood dreams come true?

When you enter a Disney Park, you read the words, “where dreams come true” and every fairy tale has a happily ever after. I’ve been to Disney World 4 times and Disney Land once and my dreams have not come true.  At least the dreams I had as a child of finding my prince charming, living in a big house on the top of a hill with horse stables and open green space.  And don’t forget the maids…. Does that mean that my dreams will never come true?

The greatest aspect of childhood is the imagination and dreaming.  Exploring imaginations as children opens a world of adventures and dreams.  As a child you were open, the world had no limits, life seemed simple and you could do anything you imagined.  In an instant, you could climb into a spaceship and fly to the moon, slay a dragon and rescue a village, find yourself in an African safari roaming with lions or being rescued by a handsome prince and living happily ever after in a castle.

Then one day, you grew up and reality set in.  Your imagination dwindled, your dreams faded and your openness became constrained.  Why?  Why did your dreams as a child or even as an adult not come true and fade into the wind? Why was your openness placed in a closet and your imagination disappeared?  Why did you not have your happily ever after?

Although you can imagine and dream what your life would be, but if your dreams are yours and not aligned with God, you won’t have your happily ever after.  You may have a temporary happiness but it won’t be permanent.

One of my favorite saints, St Ignatius of Loyola, discovered this lasting happiness when his imagination aligned with the saints and Jesus.  When he was seriously wounded, the only material available to him was books on the saints and Jesus.  What he realized was that when he would imagine himself fighting for the King of Spain and winning the hearts of the most beautiful ladies, he had a temporary joy.  When he found himself imagining the adventures of the saints and fighting for another King, Jesus, his happiness lasted longer.  This was the birth of his conversion and the spiritual exercises.

As it was with St. Ignatius, when your dreams align with God, they do come true and you do receive your happily ever after.  Your dreams and openness are keys in your life to the doors God has ready for you to open.  In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says that “for God all things are possible.”  Right there, He tells you that your dreams are possible with God.  If your dreams are His will in your life, they will be fulfilled.

Today, my dreams no longer consist of finding prince charming, living in a big house on a hill.  These are the things that the world wants me to dream of having.  My dreams consist of what’s impossible for me alone, but with God is a reality.  It is a dream of love, joy and charity.  My dream is of peace in knowing that God has greater things in store for me, a greater purpose for my life.  It is a dream of listening and receiving the key to the kingdom of Heaven.

What is your dream today?  What does your happily ever after look like?  Does it involve conforming your will, your dreams to that of God’s?  Do you have joy and hope knowing that it aligns with God’s dream for you?

The Great Ascent

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Imagine, you are walking in a nearby field at the base of a mountain.  You marvel at the height of the mountain.  Each day, you feel invited to draw closer to the mountain.  One day, you begin to walk and realize you are ascending up the mountain.  As you continue the journey, you come across steep rocks in the path and you think to yourself, there is no way I can go any further.  I’ll have to turn back and head back to the field.  As you begin to turn around, you feel something tugging at you but you don’t see anything there.  You pause for a second and then begin to move downward and then you notice someone approaching you.  He is carrying a shepherds staff.  You are a little startled.  You know that you didn’t see anyone a second ago and now here is a person, a shepherd with no sheep in site.  As he draws nearer, you begin to feel something sweep over you, strength and courage.  He stands beside you and looks at the path ahead.  He nods in agreement on how steep the rocks look and he tells you give it a shot that he is right there beside you.  You begin to climb and what seemed impossible, now seems doable.  You are astonished.  Once you have reached the other side of the rocks, you look back and no longer see the shepherd.  You tell yourself, I thought he would be right beside me.  It looks like he left.  Before persisting onward, you notice 3 small rocks that look unusual.  You take the 3 rocks and stack them at the location you have just conquered over the steep rocks.

Then, you continue to pursue the path laid before you.  As you proceed up the mountain, you reach a place that has two paths.  One of the paths looks easy and wider than the other.  The more narrow path appears to be steeper, has very rugged terrain, and gives you a sense that you could fall below with just the wrong footing.  You stop and analyze both paths, thinking of all the consequences that could possible happen on either path.  As you begin to walk towards the path that appears wider and easier, a boulder falls and blocks the path.  You again assess the situation and with fear, you want to turn around and return back to the field.  Just then, you see the shepherd again.  He doesn’t say a word as he stands beside you.  You then begin to journey on the narrow path.  You notice this time he is behind you as your foot slips and dust and rocks fall below.  Your heart is beating very fast with fear of falling.  Suddenly a calmness sweeps over you and you feel strengthened to move forward ascending the mountain.  As the narrow path comes to an end and it opens  up again, you notice the shepherd is no longer behind you and there are 3 small stones before you.  You stack these stones as you did before and press on.

You are beginning to feel hungry and thirsty.  Just then you notice a spring and some wild berries.  You stop to eat and drink from the spring.  You sit a while to rest as you delight in the view along the bank of the spring.  There are vibrant, colorful flowers and greenery that you have never seen before.  It looks like a painting hung in an art gallery.  Just as you are about to get up and restart the journey, the clouds roll in and a storm begins to cover the sky.  No place to run and no place to hide, you wonder what you are going to do as the rain begins to pour.  A storm on a mountain can’t be a good thing.  As the lightening begins to strike, towards the eastern side of the path, you notice the shepherd and what appears to look like a small crevice, like a cave that could provide shelter from the storm.  He signals for you to join him.  You sit in this small space for shelter.  Your clothes are wet and you begin to shiver.  You feel an embrace and realize the shepherd is holding you and you begin to feel warm and comforted.

Once the storm has passed, you look around and the shepherd is gone yet again and you see 3 small stones again and begin to ponder. Each instance you began to feel afraid, resistant, weak, or faced with adversity along this path, you saw this shepherd and found 3 small stones.  Who could this be? And why 3 small stones?

You walk further up the mountain and as you ascend, you can sense a newness, a freshness in the air.  Your shoulders seem lighter, your mind feels clearer and you sense freedom.  You feel there are no longer things binding you to the field, to the world.  You spin around with your hands in the air, taking in this new found freedom, resting in it.

At that moment, you realize that each time you were afraid, you met adversity, weakness, and resistance, the shepherd was guarding you, his sheep.  When you were afraid to go on when you thought you couldn’t take on the task at hand, he helped you and showed you it was possible with his help. When you were faced with 2 directions to discern in life, a difficult path and easy one, he guided your decision and walked with you along the difficult path. When you were hungry and thirsty, he provided your nourishment. When the storms covered your life, he gave you shelter in his arms, comforting you until it blew over. He was guiding you and as you pushed pass each of these instances you stacked remembrance stones to signify the areas in your life where you were faced with challenges and Jesus carried you, guided you, nourished you, comforted you, gave you shelter.  At the top of this mountain you just ascended, you are rejoicing in the freedom that he has given you through your trust in his will in your life as you prepare for eternity in his glory.

Can you feel the freedom? If not, have you let go of your own will and fears and allowed him to carry you, nourish you, and guide you as you ascend to holiness, to sainthood?

Have you allowed your peace to be swept away?

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” John 14:27

Have you ever woke up in a great mood, ready to take the day and then life began and it all went downhill? You struggled to get your children out of bed. You found yourself cleaning up a mess of spilt milk. Then you realized you are late for work. Rushing out the door, you forget your keys and spill your coffee on your blouse. I’m sure no one has mornings like that, except me.

I use to live in a more open area of the suburbs. I loved waking up before anyone and going outside on my porch in the stillness of the morning to pray and sit in the presence of God. There is something so peaceful about the newness of the day before the sun begins to rise and everyone is still asleep. The birds begin to sing welcoming the day. The air seems fresh and new. I could just feel and breathe in the peace of the present moment. Everything seemed to be in perfect harmony.

And then, my day started. All that peace I just experienced goes tumbling down as I begin to rush through my morning waking everyone up, getting lunches made, and preparing for the unexpected events of spills. My peace from my moment in the stillness of the glorious morning God set before me has just vanished.

Why? Why do we allow our peace, the peace Jesus plainly tells us he gives us, be taken away? Do we confuse the peace of Jesus with the world’s definition of peace?

When Jesus tells you he gives you his peace and it’s not of the peace of the world, he is telling you that his peace is within you. It’s the peace of harmony of all things working within you, with him at your core. It’s the morning peace on the porch, where everything is perfect and new. It’s the present moment of trust in him that he is with you and whatever the outcome of any circumstance good or bad, it is the best outcome for you. It’s the peace that produces everlasting joy and happiness because you have a trust in the greater outcome of all things in life. This peace is you knowing that God has harmonized your life as he does the morning setting of nature. But so often the expectations or how the world defines peace creeps in and when you lose that type of peace, anxieties, frustrations and anger surface. If you center on the peace of Christ, then none of the things of the world – good or bad – can take away your peace. Peace of Christ be with you always.

Have you been pruned lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where there is love

“Where there is love, obstacles disappear, thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls.”  Before the Altar, Concepcion Cabrera De Armidarose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469.jpeg

In our life, God gives each of us a tool – His gift of love.  Love is not just a feeling, it is an action.  Love is the basis for trusting in Jesus and accepting God’s will.  Trust in Jesus is absent without love.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida explains it perfectly in her meditations Before the Altar,“ where there is love, obstacles disappear thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls”.  Filling our soul with Jesus’ love allows us to trust Him, to detach ourselves from the things of this world and rely on the will of God.  This love is an infinite love that pours out and satisfies all desires of the heart.  With that satisfaction comes a renouncement of self and reliance on God.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida also states, “where there is love, the heart is filled with the most sublime aspirations, with irrepressible zeal and fiery ardor, with a thirst for purity, a hunger for martyrdom, endless crosses and an unlimited confidence in God.”

What does it mean to fill your soul, your heart with Jesus?  Can Jesus occupy your heart if it is filled with self-love, pride, egotism?  One must renounce oneself, surrender to God, void the heart and soul so that only Jesus can occupy it.  Allow Him to come into your heart and occupy it completely, to reign as King in your heart.  You will be consumed with a love that is larger than anything and God will reveal more to you.  He will give you more trials with more victories.  He will show you areas in your life where you have relied on yourself versus Him.  

This is where I found myself many years ago, embracing this love.  As I embraced it and consumed it, releasing myself, God revealed much more to me in my life.  He revealed areas that I knew I had to change.  The struggles came and the strength overpowered them.  There were times that I would reflect on a situation and wonder how I was able to react the way I did, how I was able to overcome it.  In many cases, it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t the way I would have normally reacted.  It was larger, it was an act of a consuming love, a greater confidence in God.  It was Jesus reigning in my heart as King, His heart beating in unison with mine.  He was the center of it all. 

Love is the foundation of it all.  It allows you to trust in God and let Him provide the strength to lift the burdens of your crosses you bear in your life.    

How does love provide this foundation to trusting God and carrying you through your struggles?  Concepcion Cabrera de Armida speaks of three dimensions of love in her meditation of charity in What Jesus is Like.  She states that we must first love Jesus with all of our heart and soul.  Most of us have this love for Jesus.  Where we begin to struggle is to allow Jesus to love us, the second dimension of love.  Once you have established a love for Jesus, then you can open your heart by your own will to allow Him to love you.  After you have allowed Jesus to come into your heart and love you, then you are giving up your own will to that of the Father.  Jesus wants you to look at Him, gaze upon Him and see this reflection of love He has for you, embrace it and exhibit it.  By soaking in His gaze and reflecting His love, you must completely empty yourself and then you will see the Father through Him and will your life over to Him.  By loving Him and allowing Him to love you, you will surrender to His desires.  This leads into the third dimension of love, to surrender the soul to only pleasing God.  By surrendering the soul to think only of pleasing God, you will resemble Jesus.  Jesus came into the world to seek your love and to surrender His love to you.  By resembling this dimension of love, your eyes and heart will be fixed on God and you will “live in God”.

What is it like to resemble this dimension of love, the goodness of Jesus?  This was another question that pondered my thoughts in the struggles in my life.  How can I resemble Christ – love as He did?  He graciously, lovingly, selflessly carried His cross for mankind.  With every thorn in my life, I weep, I complain, I ask God to take it away.  Is that the solution?  Does God want me to resemble Jesus in these moments?  Does He want me to rely on Him, embrace His love and allow it to overflow during my darkest hours?  How can we resemble Jesus’ goodness to forgive, to love unending, and to be compassionate to suffering?  It is an act of self-sacrifice. 

What does this self-sacrifice look like?  It is emulating Jesus’ compassion, His love and forgiveness to bear the crosses you are given just as He did.  It’s accepting these crosses in your life and asking for strength to bear them.  In What Jesus Is Like?, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida mentions an analogy of the striking of a harp and picking of the petals of a flower to a good soul.  She states that the good soul is like a harp and a flower.  “When it is wounded by criticism and torn apart by ingratitude, it can only respond with harmony and the perfume of goodness.”  This is what Jesus’ soul is like.  He radiates with self-sacrifice and kindness even though He was/is persecuted by mankind.  Through all the trials you experience, you are called to do the same.  You must seek kindness, compassion and love in each moment versus anger and pride.  You must humble yourself, holding true to God, seeking His guidance and strength in each moment of persecution.  Through these acts of love, kindness and humility, He will shower you with His love and He will carry you through any circumstance, big and small. 

Who’s the Author of Your Story?

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“My days were shaped before one came to be.” Psalm 139:16

Are you like me and try to predict the end of the story as you read a book or as you watch a movie?  Anticipation builds as you read or watch and you have a hunch of what is going to happen.  How do you feel when the author surprises you with the ending?  Catches you off guard – you were not expecting it to end the way it does?

When I look at my life, past, present and future, I often think of it as a story.  My past is written, my present is being written as I type, and my future is yet to be written.  But is that really so?  Or is my present and my future already written?  Often I find myself, not only trying to predict the future in my story but also to force it the way I want it to be, the way I think is best for my happiness and well being.  And often, the author of my story, God, surprises me with the outcome.

Many years ago, I was struggling in my marriage.  There were lots of things that were not healthy in my marriage.  In my mind, I could save it.  If I was submissive and agreed to everything, things would be ok.  That ended up being momentary fixes.  Then I thought, well if we seek counseling that will help, or if I reach out to these people, they could influence the situation and all will work out.  After exhausting all my humanly possible solutions that I thought would make the marriage work, I prayed to God asking him to fix it all, fix the disorders so that our marriage could be healthy and happy for our family.  The disorders were fixed.  They were removed when it became clear to me how unhealthy it was.  This was definitely not the outcome I was expecting in my story.  It wasn’t the ending I thought was best at first, nor what I was trying to create.  It was the story that God created.

I know this is God’s story.  The fruits in my spiritual life were abundant and glorious from the pain and the struggles of my marriage.  I often look back at this time period in my life and I can see God’s hands swooping down and picking me up.  I can still feel the love of Jesus as I rested in his presence.  There were things that happened that some may call a coincidence but I call the pages of my story, hand written and authored by a loving Father.  When I hear the song “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave, I hear my life through the lyrics.  “You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go… You would hear Love that never gave up… You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine… If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin, of when justice was served and where mercy wins, of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.  Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

Sometimes it takes us a while to realize that we aren’t the author of our story but God is.  He has already written our story and it sits in his divine library.  We try to be the editors all the time and when we do things get all out of sorts.  If we just trust that our story needs no editing, it would be an easy read with unending joy and happiness as each page turns.  Today as you struggle, think of it as an adventure or a climax in your story that has the best ending.  The author always knows the best ending for his story.  And so does your Father, the author of your story.