The roller coaster of life

“I command you be strong and steadfast!  Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

Have you ever rode a roller coaster?  Have you stood in the line watching it go up and straight down, twisting and jerking those riding, while they scream to the top of their lungs?  Did you stand there in excitement or a part of you fighting fear of the sudden drop?

black and white roller coaster
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I think life comes at us often like a roller coaster.  As we watch from the sidelines, we anticipate what may happen and some emotions begin to form within, most often fear of what may happen on the ride.  Once you are strapped in your seat, you are secure by that of mankind.  Then the ride begins and you build yourself up with excitement as you begin to climb to the highest point.  Then it hits as you are at the top for a split second, fear of the unknown of what may happen as you descend rapidly.  Once you reach the bottom, you realize it’s not so bad and your safety belt held.  You are secure.  As the ride continues, you get twisted and jerked here and there and continue climbing steep tracks and descending.  After the ride is over, you are exhilarated.  You did something very daring, but most of all you placed your trust in the security of your safety belt and the human engineering of the roller coaster.  You can also look at it from the perspective of freedom.  On the coaster, you let go and felt freedom from your own control as you had no where to go but where it took you once it started down the track.

One can compare this to life and our relationship with God.  On the roller coaster, we are placing our life in the security of man, the designer, construction crew,  the quality control and maintenance of the coaster and not ourselves.  In life, through FAITH, we place our life in the security of God.  Of course, we have to hop on the coaster of life and let God be in control of the highs and lows, the twists and jerks.  Sometimes we may be challenged greatly as the descend takes us directly into a twist and flips our world upside down.  Even in that moment, He still has you on the track guiding you through to the next.  As you are at the bottom, He begins to prepare you for the ascend to the top, to the space freely created to accomplish His will in you, to trust Him when you begin to descend again.  The wheels will remain on the track.  As you trust in the security of His love and His Word, you will remain planted, grounded in Him.

I find myself often faltering from my trust in God.  Usually it is in that split second that I realize life has just challenged me and I’m about to descend into a twist and turn, I begin to rely on my human nature of taking control and doing everything on my own.  Sometimes, it’s not until I get halfway down the sudden drop when I realize, God is in control of this and as long as I place my trust in Him, I will stay on the track and life will not fall apart.  I know I will falter that is my nature.  But if I realize at some point down the slope, that God has this and I’m in the security of His hands, then I have still won the battle.  God will always be there ready to keep me on the track and safely secure in the seat of the roller coaster of life.  When He delivers His message of assurance through His Word or another’s reflection, it is overwhelmingly exhilarating.

How does God’s thrill ride compare to man’s?  How exhilarating is it?  Do you want to ride it over and over again?

Fruit in the Silence

“Attend to the sound of my cry, my King and my God”  Psalm 5:3

Have you ever been in a place or a state when all you feel like doing is crying, hoping that it will bring you solace?  What about prayer – have you sat down in silence and struggled and found your self resting, being consoled and comforted?

I found myself today practicing being present to God in silence.  I must say this is a total struggle for me at times.  My mind tends to wander all over the world and back.  As I sat in the chapel in Adoration, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I settled my mind and engaged in silence and total presence.  As I sat there, an image popped into my head.  The image, at the time I found to be intriguing.  It was the ocean washing ashore.  At first there was a wall present and then I realized the wall was gone and the water was just washing away the sand before me as it came ashore.  Because I was centering myself in prayer, I didn’t want to analyze this too much but felt that the wall was a blockage for me to be present to God and as the water washed ashore, He removed it so that I could center myself.  Then I realized as the sand began to wash away, that God was washing away the top layers of my being and revealing my inner self, my center in Him.  At that moment, I don’t think I realized the impact this would have later in my day.  This created free space for me to be present with God, in preparation for what would come later.

sea landscape beach landmark
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Later as my day emerged, more things began to surface affecting my peace and I found myself crying out to God and found myself centering my inner being in His presence unveiling a greater peace and comfort.  As I am faced with a challenge ahead of me, this presence and act of centering my soul in a cry to “my King and my God,” prepares me with great strength, with peace, and with trust.  These are the moments when my prayer life struggles yet strengthens and my faith grows leaps and bounds.  It is where my heart meets the heart of Christ, and my pains, His wounds.

So I asked myself and I ask you, have you sat in silence lately, centering your being in Christ, crying out to Him from the deeper core of your heart, allowing Him to comfort, hold and whisper His will for you?  Silence can be scary in a world of noise, but it can also be comforting and restful to heart that is in need.

 

Are you carrying your cross with joy?

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 27:34

Are you carrying your cross with joy?  Where do you place your trust, in yourself, or God?  Do you try to maintain chaotic control or do you allow God to maintain perfect control?

The other day, a dear friend, reminded me of bearing my crosses.  I had allowed anxiety and fear to settle in.  In doing so, I was not allowing Christ to help me carry that cross.  I was relying on my own ability to carry it.  I was not carrying it with joy but with anger.  What she sent me to read was a reflection by Gus Lloyd iterating how bloody Christ’s cross was and that ours is also not pretty or easy.  All the same, we should imitate Christ as we carry that cross and allow Him to help us.  Over the years, I have had moments where I carry the cross with joy and moments when I don’t.  When I look to the cross, to Christ and lay down my struggles at the foot of the cross, He gives me the strength and the overwhelming joy to carry it.  That is an amazing feeling.  So, I ask myself why do I still try to maintain my own chaotic control and try to carry it on my own?

My first response would be I’m human and I’m going to falter, especially to my old habits of self reliance.  Another response I ponder on is that when I falter, my faith becomes stronger.  In the midst of that struggle in my self reliance, God sends someone or something to remind me that it is He who I should look to as I carry this cross.  Although it may still be a dirty, ugly cross, He will bring me “across the finish line” with joy running through my heart and soul, the joy of Christ.

It is not the cross that we should focus on but it is the one who is beside us within us that is bearing the weight of that cross.  This is the focus of joy, not sorrow; happiness, not anger; trust, not anxiety.

Today as I read the Gospel reading with my girls, Mark 27:34 hit me like a train as it was my second reminder to not rely on myself but to pick up my cross with the love of Christ and carry it along side Him with all the splinters, rough edges, dirt, and blood.  This is where my life shines and bears fruit.  This is where my heart sings and rejoices.  Today, I am filled with this reminder that my cross is where Christ delivers me and my relationship with Him is strengthened.

Are you ready to pick up your cross and follow Christ?  Are you prepared to surrender your self will, self reliance?  Are you ready to be filled with overwhelming joy and grace as you carry your cross, allowing Christ to bear the load with you?

Magnificence in the details

“Countless, unseen details are often the only difference between mediocre and magnificent.” Author unknown

What details in your life seemed mediocre at the time but brought about a magnificent encounter with your relationship with God once you realized His goodness, His presence and His grace?

What about in your trials and sufferings or in times that seem to not be going the way you planned?  Have you wondered how sweeter they would be if you accept the fullness of God’s grace and surrender to His will in the midst of what is going on in your life?

Almost every morning, I begin my day with a walk to clear my mind and to ask that God be present with me in my day.  When I begin my walk, I ask God to reveal to me what He would like for me to see on my walk.  Sometimes He teaches me about life or connections in my life through observation of the ducks or the movement of the water.  Today as I walked along the quiet path seeking God’s guidance, I noticed the remnant of a recent storm that cluttered the path with leaves, twigs and pine needles.

As I continued to walk, my mind kept wondering back to the debris on the path.  How often in my own storms of life have I felt everything had been blown around, cluttered, out of “wack”?  I walked back around to the spot on the path that appeared to have the most debris.  As I looked down, I noticed the pine needles touching one another, the leaves over lapped each other and was reminded how intricate each detail of my life is connected.  Even in the storms, there are connections to the beauty and joy in my life.  In fact, it is through the rubbish that I am able to see the beauty and God’s goodness in my life.  Often times, it isn’t until after the storm has passed when I see His grace.

So I sit and wonder how much sweeter would it be to see the fullness of His grace in the midst of the storm?  Would I feel an immense joy?  Would the suffering appear to be full of love?  Would my heart feel alive?  Would I be overcome with peace?  What emotions would sweep over me?  Would I experience the same feelings Jesus felt as He experienced His passion?  If so, what would those feelings look like?

Whatever the feeling may be it would be Divine experiencing the grace that God gives me in that moment. To see the details, when I am in the middle of these moments of chaos and trials, through the eyes of God could only be magnificent compared to the mediocre view that I see when I don’t allow myself to receive His grace in these times of struggle.

Each day as I grow closer in relationship to God, I am beginning to pay attention to the small details in my life and see the beauty He reveals to me on my continued journey with Him. I truly see the magnificence in the smallest details of life as I become more aware. Through awareness, I can piece these details together like a puzzle and find meaning that speaks to my heart and my discernment in life.

Are you allowing yourself to be open to the fullness of God’s grace in the midst of whatever it is you are struggling with in life? Can you see the details that radiate His magnificent goodness present within these moments or are you caught up in the moment and only see the mediocre rubbish of the storm? Have you taken a short walk and experienced the tiniest detail in nature that speaks directly to your soul, revealing God’s love to you? If not, take a 10 minute walk and just pay attention to all that is around you, the rubbish on the ground, the butterfly on a blade of grass, even the tiniest ant walking along the sidewalk. You will be amazed at the connection and the beauty you discover.

Will you allow God to shape and form you?

“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever wish life were simple, everything worked out, there was no pain, no suffering? Do you think if you had no pain and suffering you would be the person you are today?

So often I wish God would take away all my pain and suffering, just put me in a bubble and protect me from all inflictions. If only each piece of sin and suffering would bounce off the wall of the bubble and I can watch in peace. When I sit and dream of such a beautiful, perfect life with no heart ache, no unhappy tears, I’m reminded of all that I have gained in the midst of pain and suffering. If I had not suffered pain and inflictions, I may not have the relationship I have with God. It is through these trials that I have grown the most in my faith and relationship with God. It’s in these moments that I cry out to God and seek His love and guidance the most. It’s in these moments that I learn to trust God more and more because I know there is much more greatness God has in store for me.

As a parent, I am always wanting to place my girls in a bubble, protect them from all things in the world that can inflict pain, hurt, heart ache. But being a parent, I also know that putting my kids in a bubble and not letting them experience these things is not good for them. In order for them to grow, I have to step back sometimes and give them space to experience situations.

God does the same for us in so many ways. He knows what we need and He allows us to go through these moments so that the happiness He designed for us through love for Him is pruned and blooms.

What masterpiece can be created when you fire up a slab of metal and mold and shape it? What can you create when you twirl around a piece of clay, guiding its formation? Is God not the artist and the potter? Will you let Him shape and form you today through your pain and suffering, because you are His perfect work of art?

Love a deeper force of attraction

St John of the Cross, “soul is in God like a stone buried in the earth. The soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth. This attraction is mutual. The force of attraction between the soul and the center of God is not gravity but love.”

Where is the anchor of your heart? What about your soul? Do you feel an attraction to something that is unexplainable? A deep desire for something bigger than your physical life?

St John of the Cross’ metaphor of our soul’s attraction to God by love being similar to a stone attracted to the earth by gravity is a beautiful image.  It reminds me of Margaret Silf’s road map of our lives in the book Inner Compass.  She explains that our lives are comprised of layers: Where I am? How I am? Who I am? The deepest center – I am.

Where I am is my connection to circumstance, the things in my environment I cannot change. This is my past.  It is my family, where I come from, the outer part of me.

How I am is how I respond to the environment, my circumstance and to others. I can love. I can be angry. I can be afraid. I can be merciful and compassionate.  I can accept things or not.  This is where I make choices and affect changes within in myself and the world.

Who I am is my true being. It is who I truly am, where I face my indifference. It’s the comfort and peace of my being and it is the challenges I face as I see the differences between the outer me and the person created by God. This is my spiritual being in the I am that lay at the deepest part of my soul. This is where my relationship with God is, where my seed of God’s love grows and produces fruit.  This is where I journey through prayer, the very essence of my journey.

In our lives, we will move between each of the layers – back and forth. Some people may never move into the who I am because of the risk and the challenges they may face by approaching a relationship with God.  Those of us who do move here may be faced with challenges by seeing the gap between life in the where we are and the person God created us to be.  In this space we gain wisdom, strength, and love.  We begin to find acceptance with joy to circumstance that we cannot change.  It challenges us to see the things where God is calling us to transform to be resurrected from.  This is where our intimate relationship with God fuels a trust in Him.

air atmosphere beautiful blue
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As we continue to dive deeper the love of God attracts us to the center, to the deeper core of us. This is where our deepest desires lay. Where we are most in touch with who God is in us and who He created us to be. This is where our anchor is. And everything else should be centered and directed from this point as we transition through each layer of ourself back and forth. Processing circumstance into our action based on who we truly are in the one who created us.

Through this movement, there are times we may have an experience that is not explainable, that is providential.  It is something that is tangential to all the layers of our being.  It is a moment when we have truly been touched by God and he has moved and united all layers fusing our where I am to the how I am and the who I am, driving roots to the center, anchoring our total being to Him.  When this happens His light shines around us, glowing from our center for all to see.  This is a point of spiritual freedom, the top of the mountain in our journey.

Have you allowed yourself to be open to move into the who I am, allowing God to anchor Himself from your where I am to the center of your being, to your heart?

Do you wrestle with stillness?

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

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

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

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

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

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