Category Archives: Forgiveness

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue Teach Us How to Pray

May is Mary’s month. Today, my children and I held a May Procession to honor the Blessed Virgin. My eldest daughter was voted “May Queen” and carried the crown of roses. We sang our favorite hymns, processing to our statue of Mary in the front yard. My daughter crowned her as we sang, “Immaculate Mary.” We honored Our Blessed Mother as best we could out of love.

My devotion to Mary is a deep part of my faith life. I completely understand why St. Pope John Paul II chose the motto, “Totus Tuus” for his pontificate. He, too, had a very deep devotion to Our Lady. You see, Mary is the reason I found my way back to Jesus and God. Just like a good mom, she waded down into my mess and helped me rise up through it. She didn’t yank my arm or scold me. She just gently nudged me then offered her hand. Actually, it started one Christmas.

My husband and I had gone to university and become “brilliant.” We both walked away from our faith, although we both now acknowledge we really didn’t even know our faith. We went to a state university and got liberal arts degrees. We listened to the “enlightened” and questioned everything we had been taught, including our faith. Thankfully, neither one of us chose to go agnostic or atheist. We were Christians, but had no clue how to put that into practice outside of the Catholic Church.

We started visiting all different denominations to “church shop.” Sometimes, we would stay for a month or a year. We would always get involved, help serve, join Bible studies and try to get to know the Truth. But, when we asked the hard questions, the minister would either dodge or give a non-answer. The congregation was no help either. Half of them didn’t even understand why we wanted to know these answers. Honestly, we didn’t realize that the questions we were asking were theology questions. That’s how ignorant we were. Most of these denominiations’ theology was illogical or fundamentally flawed. Somehow, we both saw through this pretty quickly. That’s why we never stayed at a church long. To be sure, we were lost, but at least we were seeking the Truth.

Then, one Christmas, we were shopping at Barnes & Noble for Christmas gifts. I have mentioned before that books are my weakness. But after a few hours, even I was “booked” out. My husband suggested we stop at the in store Cafe for a refreshment. The store was absolutely packed. We decided to cut through a row of book shelves to beat the crowd. As we are speedily walking through, I abruptly halt, turn my head and pull a book off of the middle of a shelf. I say to my husband, “I am supposed to get this book.” He says, “What are you talking about? What book is it?” I didn’t know. I read the title, “Medjugorje: The Message” by Wayne Weible. My husband asked, “What is it about?” I said I didn’t know but Mary was on the front cover. He thought I was crazy but said, “Get it if you want.”

As I read this book , it changed my heart. After reading it, I wept in the shower for days. I turned to Mary for guidance and direction. I converted and handed my life over to her in a big way. I didn’t say a word of this to my husband. It was the beginning of a long journey back to our Catholic faith.

A few years later, I met the author Wayne Weible at a Catholic seminar. I introduced myself and shared my conversion story. He smiled and said that Mary has used him as an instrument for conversion. His book is not his own. It belongs to Mary. He shared enough stories with me that I realized that many, many people are finding their way home because the Blessed Mother is gathering them under her mantle. She is so gentle and loving. She shows us the surest path to her Son and like a good mother, makes sure her little ones are cared for along the way.

In all my brokenness, I had turned away from God. The sins of my past life weighed me down like an anchor. Seeking the Truth felt like running in circles because we could not find answers to our deepest questions. Enter Mary. Mary taught me how to pray. She opened the doors of my heart and allowed me a graceful return to my faith. When I was ready, she began to walk me through the life of her Son and explain what He has done for me. I haven’t always been the most disciplined or humble daughter, but she has never given up hope in me. Now, I see just how precious our Blessed Mother is for all of us. Jesus’ gift from the cross of His Mother is indeed one of the greatest gifts we could receive from Him. It is with deep gratitude and humility I pray, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”

 

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The One-Two Punch of Forgiveness

I’ve decided that a relationship is like a bank account. You must make deposits to be able to draw anything out. And trust is one of the crucial factors that hold a relationship in tact. When a friend or family member does something which is totally untrustworthy, they bankrupt the account. And “sorry” isn’t enough to fill it back up.

A wise friend of mine counsels married couples. Usually he finds that they are struggling because of an affair or gambling or some behavior which has broken trust entirely. The person who made the offense will say they are sorry to their spouse and expect that their relationship should be back where it was before. This offender does not understand the relationship bank account system! When they broke trust, they bankrupted their account. They are basically starting over as a couple, having to build the trust back up in the account. And that always takes time.

I am amazed when I hear others who know about these type of situations saying things like, “Well, if she had really forgiven him, she wouldn’t be treating him that way.” Or “If you really forgave her, you wouldn’t mind if she came to the family event. Let’s just all get along.” But what they won’t say is the rest of the sentence, “… even if she hasn’t ever acknowledged she stole $100,000 from you or that she did anything wrong.”

People want forgiveness without reparation, especially if they were not the ones who were offended. But forgiveness, although merciful, also requires reparation. For example, if your son breaks the neighbor’s window, marching him over to the neighbor’s house to ask forgiveness is just step one. Step two is the neighbor saying, “You are forgiven.” Step three is having your son mow the lawn for the summer to pay off the cost of replacing that window.

Somehow, in today’s world, we let go of step three. We just expect others to forgive and call on God’s mercy as the reason why. Yes, God is all merciful, but He is all just, too! The justice part is overlooked when we don’t make reparation. Scripture tells us that we are called to forgive our neighbor over and over and over. However, we are also told to pay back any debts owed and right any wrongs. Mercy and justice go hand in hand. They are the one-two punch of forgiveness. Without these two together, I think you end up at that lukewarm notion called tolerance.

 

 

Honesty is such a lonely word

“Honesty is such a lonely word/ Everyone is so untrue/ Honesty is hardly ever heard/
And mostly what I need from you” – Billy Joel

This morning I am pondering honesty and deceit. I’m struggling with this because both myself and people I know and love are dealing with people who strongly feel a lie is true and the truth is a lie. I have many questions about this:

1) How did they come to believe the lie so thoroughly? I think because it conveniently allows them to do whatever they want to do without consideration for anyone else but themselves. By believing the lie, they can continue to get what they want at all costs. Or they can continue to ignore a huge problem in their lives by blaming others around them.

2) How can they continue to believe the lie when all reality tells them otherwise? I guess that they are blind to all reality. Just like a horse in the races, their blinders are keeping them free and clear from facing the truth that may hurt or cause them to change course.

I think it’s like what Father Abraham said to the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31, where the Rich Man said: ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house,28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

There was nothing which would open their eyes to the truth, even someone rising from the dead!

3) How will they ever see the truth if they really like the lie? This is where I turn them over in prayer to the Holy Trinity. I ask for unilateral forgiveness for them every day. I ask the Holy Trinity to surround them with love. I pray for clarity in my own life to see where I am blind to the truth in my life. I know that I do not have the power by myself to remove the blinders because I have tried to no avail. I have been humbled and must let our good God find a way into their hearts.

Busted with Juicy Fruit Gum

This morning I was reminded of a time when I was 5-years-old and my brother was 4-years-old, and we went grocery shopping with our mom. Since our family was rather large, grocery shopping was always a two-cart trip, and check out took quite awhile or at least it felt that way to us as kids. As we were standing there, my brother pointed out a giant bin full of Juicy Fruit gum. As kids, we had no idea there was a fake bottom to the display, so it appeared to be full of double packs of gum from the floor up to our noses. He was brilliant, as I mentioned in an earlier post, so I usually believed what he said to be true. He said to me something like, “Gee, that’s a lot of gum. It will probably go bad before they even have a chance to sell it. We should help them and take a pack.”

I would like to say that I replied something like, “Well, that would be stealing, and it is wrong.” But I’m as weak as the next person, so I said, “Okay.” I promptly stole a pack of gum, unbeknownst to my mom. His argument had sounded reasonable to me in my Kindergarten thought process.

When we arrived home, the usual routine was that every child helped unload the station wagon full of groceries. As my mom headed inside to gather the rest of my siblings, my brilliant brother and I headed around back of the house to the backyard. We quickly unwrapped a piece of gum for each of us and started chewing. “If Mom catches us, we’ll be dead,” I think I said. So, we decided to open all the gum and chew it all at once. Now, remember, this is a double pack of Juicy Fruit. Our little mouths could barely hold one half of the gum. And here comes Mom around the corner, “What are you two doing?” With full mouths and silver wrappers blowing in the wind around our ankles, we try to answer. “Did you steal gum from the store?” she asked. Oh boy. This is going to be painful.

Once the groceries were inside, Mom plopped us back in the station wagon and headed to the grocery store. I know I was crying, but I cannot remember what my partner in crime was doing. She marched us in the store and asked for the Store Manager. We had to admit we stole the gum and apologize for what we had done. The Store Manager felt bad for us, and said he accepted our apology and appreciated our honesty. My mom paid for the gum, and we had to earn that money to pay her back by working  around the house. Lesson learned!

Fast forward 30 years. My family is visiting a Shrine with a souvenir shop. My son asks if I will buy him a small trinket. I decline. He pockets the item, only to be discovered when we arrive home 2 hours later. Do you know what I did? That’s right. We headed back to the Shrine the first thing the next morning because it would be closed by the time we could have arrived on that same day. I marched him into the Shrine and asked for the Store Manager. He had to admit he had stolen the trinket and apologize for what he had done. I paid for the trinket and he had to earn that money by working around the house.

But wait, there’s a problem we encountered. The Store Manager actually said that it was okay that my son stole the trinket, and that my son could keep the trinket for free. What? Hello? I couldn’t believe it. Here was an adult telling my child that stealing was okay? At a religious shrine, no less? If he had said that he forgave my son, but that my son needed to pay for the trinket, that would have made sense. Or if he had accepted my son’s apology and appreciated his being honest, that would have made sense. But to say that my son was innocent was insane.

I spent the drive home discussing why the Ten Commandments are crystal clear about stealing, and how even if other people, including adults, would like to say it is otherwise, stealing is wrong. Through this experience, I saw even more clearly why our world today has problems. I sure hope my son learned the lesson I learned as a child, not the “tolerant” one that the Store Manager at the Shrine hoped to teach.

I Found the Hidden Treasure

Remodeling is hard work! My son and I just finished ripping out most of our kitchen. We also pulled up carpeting in our front room. In my earlier post, “What Lies Hidden Beneath?” I was sharing that I was a bit afraid of what I might find underneath the carpeting. I found myself comparing the carpet removal process to our spiritual lives.

To recap:
Pristine carpeting yet full of dust = our souls  partially clean, partially murky
Carpet pad (with crumbling sections) = our hardness of heart/unforgiveness
Hardwood floor = beauty of ourselves (body and soul) made in God’s image
Staples (brittle, stuck deep) = sin that needs to be removed

So, we started working on the staple removal process. And let me tell you, it is S-L-O-W going! You cannot stand to do very much at a time because it overwhelms you. For every few staples we can easily remove, the next few break in half, right at the wood floor. Our knees and elbows hurt and are bruised (and we are even using knee pads!)

This was the most mentally demanding work of all because it was no fun and felt like progress was at a snail’s pace. This is much like getting rid of those long festering sins in our lives. When we finally decide to work on them, we think it will be easy. It is not. It can definitely be discouraging at first. Perseverance becomes a real word that means something more than you ever realized before in your life!

As you can imagine, my son and I were high-fiving each other when we pulled the last staple and swept up the final, horrible remains of the crumbling, chalk-like carpet pad. We were so proud of persevering and finishing the job. That’s when our friend arrived and pointed out to us that when they sand and refinish these hardwood floors, all those little holes from the staples will show right back up. We will have to use a special tool to tap the tiny staples that we could not extract back down into the wood. I suppose these small, unextractable “sins” are like what St. Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 12 when he says, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

But that’s not all! After tapping these down, we have to carefully find each single hole created by the staples or nails along the edges and fill them with a special filler. Aha! Now this is exciting and makes tremendous sense. I feel like I found the hidden treasure! It just came to me that once we are cleansed of sin, we must always remember to ask the Holy Spirit to fill those places we have emptied. I think St. Paul says it best: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” I think we’ll keep that as our prayer in mind as we are on our knees slowing filling each little hole…

What Lies Hidden Beneath?

I’m in the midst of a remodeling project. Because I am thrifty, my family is doing as much of the work as we can. This means tearing things apart which my sons find quite wonderful. We have pretty much redone this entire house except for the kitchen and two bathrooms. This week, we are dismantling the kitchen and pulling up carpeting. It was our hope and prayer that the hardwood floors would still be in good shape. The question we all were wondering as we began the ripping out process is “What lies hidden beneath?”

Okay, you may find this odd, but I am constantly finding that God speaks to me even through carpet that is 40+ years old! Think of a green from the 1960s…not avacado but a more of a classic light green. This carpet looks pristine because it is wool and apparently no one was allowed to “play” in this area. However, as we rip into the carpet, layers of dust come at us as we choke . This is like our souls. We may look fresh and clean and well-kept on the outside, but beneath this “surface” is some pretty awful stuff.

Next, we get to the carpet pad. It is thick and red. “Wow, this was nice stuff when they bought it,” I say to my son. However, some portions of this thick, red padding have become hard as rock! Crumbling, chunks of substance like chalk. “Huh,” I think to myself, “this is like parts of our hearts where we sealed off ourselves because of unforgiveness. There’s nothing left to work with here. It’s just crumbling away into dust.”

Finally, we get to the floor. It’s hardwood and it is beautiful. Oops. I forgot. There are rows and rows and rows of large carpeting staples that need removing. I try my usual method (pliers), only to find that these staples have been in here so long, they are brittle and just break, leaving me to wrestle the tiny nubs out of the hard, hard wood. These are like our sins that have gone deep into the depths of us. They have become us, and we must work hard to ply them out of the beauty that God made us.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of this remodeling job has in store for me. I must admit though I’m a bit afraid of what lies hidden beneath.