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?

 

Wide open lens… endless possibilities through faith

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the unveiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.”  Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Landrieu Klein

Are you operating in a box?  Are you open to the possibilities God has for you?  Are you constantly looking back or dwelling in your past, unable to move beyond it?

I love these sentences from the book Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God.  The Blessed Mother through her faith and trust in God had an openness when she was visited by St. Gabriel and he told her she would carry the son of God in her womb.  So what about us are we able to place so much trust in our faith and love of God, to be this open to say yes to whatever direction He may be guiding us to, to whatever path He is leading us on?

Today’s readings I find interesting to unpack in relation to my life, especially after reading Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. In the first reading “Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen.”  In her book, Margaret Silf writes about this very passage. One of her dear friends asked her to meditate on it. To his surprise, her reflection was centered around the eleven team of oxen plowing ahead of Elisha.  She goes on to describe the skill of plowing.  When a farmer is plowing, he finds a fixed point to focus on and steadily moves towards it.  She says that when she reflected on this passage, she realized the fixed point in the spiritual life was Jesus and that the oxen teams ahead of us represent those in our life that are guiding us on our journey to the point of reference, Jesus.  In other words, the oxen represent our spiritual friendships, saints, anyone or moment that provides a beacon for us to move forward towards Jesus.  I love this visual because I can see my own yoke of oxen in my life, those that do keep me focused on Jesus.

photo of grass field
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This morning upon the very great advice of one of my spiritual friends, I meditated on this reading and today’s Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.” As I sat there reflecting on these verses in silence waiting for God to reveal what my “path to life” is, where are my “joys in His presence,” and how will I be able to “delight at [His] right hand forever,” tears were pooling in the corners of my eyes. As I felt them, I asked God what they meant? I guess He thought I needed more tears because that question opened a flood gate of tears. I’m like “really God, not sure that’s an answer.” As I continue to wait for Him to respond on the tears, I could sense that these readings were really talking to me and the last few weeks of me flipping rocks or should I say boulders over in my life that have buried deep feelings within me. My realization in that moment was that these tears were a piece of letting go and opening myself up to a new season in my life – a season of discovery.

I have the beauty of the most amazing spiritual friends, my oxens. They keep me in check and guide me in my journey – whether they know this or not. They help keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as they help me carry the load in my journey. When Jesus says Matthew 11:30, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” I think He helps us to bear the load by placing these people in our life that keep us focused on Him.  This is a very important reminder, another message I was reminded of by one of me spiritual friends this past week.

I also think a key for me today is that with a wide open lens through my faith, there is “life beyond the grave” – this is the “delights at [His] right hand.” And it is the ground of hope that inflames my faith in my heart. So this new season for me becomes a season of discovery, discovering a new path of my life, not looking back at my past but pushing forward with the oxen in my life keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who will always give me joy in His presence.  Perhaps the tears during my meditation were tears of dumping, cleansing the burdens of my past that have filled my vessel so that I can begin to press forward in searching who I am in Christ and what my path of life will unveil.  Part of me is excited to begin this new search, yet a little afraid.  I am blessed that God has given me a gift to turn over the boulders and look deep within myself and recognize that I have a process that isn’t complete.  I also know now why the song “God’s not done with you” by Tauren Wells keeps playing and flooding my eyes when I’m in my car.  God isn’t done with my story.  My story thus far has had a lot of pain, yet a lot of growth and love.  The hands of God have swooped in my life in many ways and taught me there is life beyond the cross, the sun does shine above the clouds.  Now I am ready to begin this new journey of finding myself and moving beyond my crosses.  I embrace what they have taught me and where they have brought me in my faith journey.  Now it’s time to let them go and discover new life, new crosses and new growth.

My dear sisters and brothers, I invite you to allow your faith in God to open your lens and be open to what God has in store for you – may be it’s a new path, may be it’s growth and discovery on the current path.  Whatever it is, be open and obedient, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus as you plow through life with your set of oxen that He has given you to be yoked together, lightening the load. I think this will guide you in seeing your path to life, joys in Christ’s presence and hope in awaiting the delights at the right hand of God.  Blessings on this day the Lord has made.

 

 

Seasons – a life journey

“God has made everything appropriate to its time…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

If you could choose a season for all year long, which would you choose – spring, summer, fall or winter?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have our favorite season all year round?

That’s a nice thought.  Kind of the same with life.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best season of our life hang around all the time?

Throughout life, we go through all these different seasons.  Some are more joyful than others.  Just like the seasons throughout the year, the seasons in our life have purpose.

Spring brings in new life.  Summer shines the bright warmth of the sun.  Fall begins the transition of releasing as winter approaches killing the vegetation and preparing it for new life.  Then the cycle starts all over again.  Kind of like life.

If we had only one season, how could we sprout new life within us?  We cannot experience new life within us until we release the old and surrender.

 

green leafed plants
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Life flourishes from change. Transformation is a must in our faith journey. Each season of life brings forth new struggles, death to those burdens and new life.

I love the thought that God is still writing our story. He tells us that He knows every single thing about us. So He knows every season of life we will go through. Recall the time when you may have veered off the path God had you on.  Your choices led you on a path away from your faith or you struggled with a recurring sin that separated your heart from God.  Perhaps this took place over a day, a year or several years.  Now, remember the day that you discovered the path again or reunited your heart to God.  Do you see God taking all those things in the detour and writing more pages in the book of your life that will uncover joy in your heart?  Do you see Him transforming those events or circumstances into something good and fruitful?  Often times this is when we experience the death and newness of our lives. This is when our lives begin to feel more complete and full. It’s when the transition occurs in that season of life.  And we witness this every single year through nature.

Don’t you just love how nature teaches us about life? How everything in nature in some way presents a lesson for us, God’s studious students?

Will you welcome the next season in your life with open arms? Will you welcome what God may have in store for you so that you can grow like a sturdy oak tree fulfilling His purpose in you?

Listen to the lyrics of this song.  Find the patience in each season of life as there is always fruit waiting to sprout even when it seems to be hidden.  Uncover the newness of your journey.

Hillsong “Seasons”

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
And I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter

 

The masquerade

He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall. They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball? Do you feel like sometimes life can be like a masquerade ball, you are masked on the outside with something that is totally opposite of what’s on the inside?

I’m sure many can say that they have at least once or many times said everything was fine when someone asked but in actuality it wasn’t.

Often it seems like social media is a masquerade ball. Each of us can hide behind the things that we post, keeping our inner vulnerabilities hidden or portraying that everything is amazingly awesome when we are completely broken apart.

The masquerade ball I wanted to unveil is the one that traps us within. It’s the one where our reality seems trapped behind a mirror and we take control instead of surrendering to God.

assorted color mask
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My daughter has been watching Once Upon a Time. If you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s a somewhat twisted combination of a lot of the Disney fantasies. A spell is cast and all the characters find themselves in another world trapped in a town and have no recollection of their former life. I think sometimes life can seem just like this series. We are trapped in a world that is not the one we are meant to be in. Perhaps the spell or the illusion is masked by sin or the ideals of the world we live in.

My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31. I love this verse because it’s a constant reminder of where my strength comes from when I am weary and restless. Like a spell bound world, sometimes I feel like my weakness is trapped behind the mirror of what I perceive as strength to others and in some cases to God. In other words, I don’t allow myself to really be unveiled. In many cases this leads to me trying to be in control, not allowing any defenses down and be vulnerable to support – Jesus carrying that cross for me. I will do this until I absolutely become restless and weary. In these moments I think the tornado starts to whirl around me and I get lost in the center of the darkness.

Let’s draw some focus on the part in Isaiah where it says “they that hope in the Lord”. It is this hope that is the rope in the well that we draw this strength from.

Exposing ourselves, stripping away the mask, whatever it may be that is separating us from God, allows us to grab on to the rope of hope and draw in this strength to truly face the things we need to.  I can go another step further and call the threads of this rope that bind it – trust in God.  This well is the living water that we draw in, refreshing and strengthening our spirit.  It’s the nourishment we need for the journey but we first have to leave the masquerade party and be vulnerable.

When you feel like life is beginning to look like smoke and mirrors, try unveiling the mask of whatever is preventing you from being stripped and bare before God – allowing Him to do His amazing work in you and through you by strengthening you.  Shatter the mirror, exposing whatever is trapped behind the illusion and grasp the rope of hope, drawing your strength from the well of life giving water – Jesus.

 

Managing expectations, not disappointments

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – the reading during my wedding ceremony.  It seems forever and a day but I remember the voice of the person who read it.  As my dear friend read this reading during my wedding ceremony, many dreams and expectations filled my head.  Love was this GREAT EXPECTATION.  It was supposed to be exactly like 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Why?  Because God said it was.

I’m sure no one else has done this – had GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Towards the end of my marriage another set of verses filled my head as they were repeated to me often, Ephesians 5:22-23 “wives should be subordinate to their husbands…. for the husband is head of his wife.”  Everything in between and afterwards was strategically omitted during these reminders of the Word of God.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of my past.  The important thing I want to point out is I started my marriage with expectations of this blissful marriage with no problems, with an image of love as in 1 Corinthians 13.  And I ended my marriage with grave disappointment.  My ex-husband is human and I am human, neither of us are God and the marriage could never be perfectly blissful, with the perfect love of 1 Corinthians 13.  In a relationship, both individuals should definitely strive to uphold God’s definition of LOVE but we are not perfect.  We are going to miss the mark sometimes and that’s ok as long as we respond to the missed mark with this definition of LOVE.

My marriage seemed to be the exact opposite of what I think God intended in the covenant of marriage.  Towards the end of the marriage when I kept hearing the verses from Ephesians 5, I thought something was wrong with me.  I was broken and therefore my marriage was broken.  I was failing at fulfilling what I thought the expectations (key word) God had in Ephesians 5.  Part of that could very well be my own fault as I was ignorant to what God really meant in Ephesians 5 – perhaps because most of the message was missing when it was told to me over and over again and I accepted that as it was.

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Ok – now, I’m hoping to tie both of these things together.  I want to first focus on expectations and disappointments.

We wrestle in our lives with disappointments because of our expectations.  If our expectations aren’t aligned with accepting God’s plan, His Will in our lives then we are greatly disappointed when something happens or doesn’t go the way we planned or we prayed for.  I’ve blogged a lot about God’s Divine Providence in our lives and sometimes it involves bad circumstances in our lives to bring the beauty or fruit.  If our expectations are anything other than what God has in store for us, disappointment rears its ugly head.

What often happens when we become disappointed?

We start pulling away from God.  We start questioning God’s motive in our lives and whether He is a good God, a loving Father.  Our faith starts to suffer.

So when Ephesians 5 kept being brought before me in some things that I felt weren’t healthy, I really began to question God and who I was.  This was embedding inside of me an image that I was a failure in my marriage, not good enough, a disappointment to my husband and to God.  Fast forward to where I am in my faith today, I have a more informed knowledge of the entire message of Ephesians 5:21-30.  As I read Theology of the Body, a wonderful book by the way, I began to put these verses in perspective.  Here is my new perspective and new understanding of Ephesians 5:21-30.  God does intend for wives to submit to their husbands and He also intends for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church.  So, God’s intentions are exactly 1 Corinthians 13-4-7 in Ephesians 5.  In order to be obedient to Ephesians 5:21-30, both husband and wife have to give themselves freely to the other.  Christ loved the Church so much that HE gave Himself to His bride, the Church, by offering His life.  So in order for a husband to “love [his] wife, even as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5: 25),” he must give himself completely to his wife.  A wife in return must submit to her spouse, giving herself entirely to him.  It also says that the Church, the bride of Christ, is subordinate to Christ.  I think this is fulfilled by desiring all that God desires for us – alignment to His Will.

Going back to my own story, at the end of my marriage, I had become disappointed in myself because of another expectation.  Looking back, this is a very good lesson to me on my expectations and disappointments and it reinforces my desire to be aligned with God’s expectations, His Will in my life.

I invite you to evaluate your expectations – may be they involve your children, your parents, your spouse, your job, a friendship or an illness.  Are they aligning with God’s Will?  Are your expectations flexible to accepting circumstance that is part of His plan for you?  If so, you will have less disappointments and more life giving joy.  Blessings!

“Do not, my child, approach Jesus Christ with the hope of bending his will to yours: what I desire is that you yield yourself to him and that he receive you, so that he, your Savior, may do with you and in you whatever he pleases.” St. Cajetan

 

A path covered in crosses

“For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you. ‘Don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 NLT

Do you sit and imagine places you will travel?  Roads and trails you will walk?  Perhaps, you sit and dream about walking along the beach on a quiet morning as the sun begins to rise?  Or you imagine walking near the streets of Paris?  Whatever your dreams are, do you imagine a walk with your Lord?

I long for moments I can spend with God, especially in nature.  Nature is where I connect the most with Him.  It’s where I feel I’m open the most to hearing Him and seeing Him in the things around me.  I learn so much about myself and the things in the world that affect me within through watching nature.

Earlier in the week, I was walking around the pond at work and I just asked Jesus to take a walk with me.  Funny thing about it was that He reminded me that He has been walking with me, EVERYDAY.  He reminded me of these little visible signs of His presence in my life – crosses that I see along my path.  These aren’t just any crosses.  These crosses are my crosses.  They are the ones He has helped me carry in life.  They each have a story.  Some of the stories are harder and more painful – I think those are the tougher twigs.  Some are quite small, most likely the pine needles I see in the shape of a cross.  Some have been really hard to carry, they have been buried or embedded within – these are the ones found in the concrete.

img_5399Somedays, I may only see one cross in my path, others 20.  When I see these crosses, my heart leaps for joy and my face morphs a smile.  WHY?  Because I know that each of these crosses has a story that has led me closer to God.  Each has created a greater dependence on Him.  I know this is how to discover trust in God, accepting my crosses with joy.

Of course many of these crosses have come and gone but some still linger.  Today I struggle with the one that is embedded in the concrete.  This cross is one that will reshape me within.  It’s the one that bears the greatest level of pain.  It’s the one that will give me the greatest peace of who I am as God continues to pour into me.

I love hearing songs, reading Bible verses, or reading books that talk about God not being finished with us or Him writing our story, creating music from the chaos, reforming us from the dust.  It is truly in these crosses that God is rewriting our story.  He is rewriting it to align with His story, His plans for us.

The greatest message I could ever tell in my story is trusting in God’s Divine Will and discerning what His Will is by aligning your life to His Will.  Are you willing to allow Him to rewrite your story by accepting your crosses, allowing Him to carry you through them?  I invite you to stretch out your hand and ask Him to take it and walk this journey with you.  And if you happen to see a cross in your path, remember your crosses that He has helped you carry.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and your desires align with His desires.  Blessings!

 

 

A Merciful Love

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

Have you met someone you admire?  That one person that has taught you how to be a better person?  That one person that opened your heart to your Heavenly Father, that was a catalyst igniting your faith?

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It’s a day of celebrating God’s mercy.  The devotion of Divine Mercy is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina.  Most importantly, I think this devotion, the messages St. Faustina received and this day of Divine Mercy is a realization to each of us of God’s great mercy that He gives each of us in the graces we receive and ultimately the merciful love He asks of us to give to each other.  This mercy is another expression of God’s unconditional love for us and is illustrated throughout the pages in the Bible.

Divine Mercy

Our response to this devotion of Divine Mercy should be an expression of bringing the love of Christ to those who are broken physically and spiritually.  It is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sharing the love of Christ with those who feel forgotten.  It is as simple as giving a hug to someone who is going through a difficult time and letting them know that God’s goodness is the ultimate consequence of their trial.  It is as simple as volunteering to serve the community in some way.  It is as simple as sharing hope and comfort with an elderly person by spending a little time with them.  There are so many ways we can share in God’s Divine Mercy.  He gives us opportunities everyday. I think the quote by St Catherine of Siena is so fitting – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” That is truly what the message of Divine Mercy is for us in our daily life – to be the person God created us to be by showing His merciful love to the world.

One of the more personal experiences I have had in my life of Divine Mercy was through a few ladies in my life.  These women have impacted my faith journey immensely.  They have been examples to me and have guided me in my faith.  They always pointed me in the right direction when my compass seemed a little out of whack.  They have touched me in a way that led me on the journey of my life, my relationship with Christ.  Jesus said “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. (John 17:20 NLT Catholic Edition)”

I never thought in a million years that I could ever be as they were to me to another.  To share in this gift of God’s Mercy by sharing my faith through my journey, through my continued growth in trusting in God’s Divine Providence is a great blessings that I never realized was so impactful.  Until the other day, I never connected my journey over the last few years as a vehicle of participating in God’s Divine Mercy.  It was the words of a dear friend and sister that helped me to see that my own journey has been an example of God’s Mercy and has impacted those around me even when I didn’t see it.  My heart smiles to see how God can use my own story, my own experience and the transformation in my faith to reveal His unending love to others, His goodness in all things, even the pain and sufferings.  It is in this that I know my pain has produced much fruit in me and through me.  It is humbling to be to others as those who were catalyst in my faith journey were to me. It’s another way of paying it forward – revealing God’s merciful love.

Sharing in God’s love story, His Divine Mercy, is simple.  It’s sharing His love with one another.  It’s taking the opportunity to love on someone in need, to pray for one another, to assure someone that God’s goodness is in everything, especially in those things that appear to be hopeless to our human eyes.

The greatest story I could ever share through my own experiences is the message of Divine Mercy – “Jesus I trust in you”.  It is a message I was introduced to 6 years ago. One of the ladies that impacted my faith journey used to tell me to say these 5 words when my struggles were at their peak.  May this message be a catalyst to many just as it was to me during a period I needed to hear it the most.

“JESUS I TRUST IN YOU”