Tag Archives: God

A Poem for B

A bird fell from the sky today,

Its broken wing, so hard to see.

The rain like tears washed its body,

As we gathered round deciding what to do.

 

It chirped and pecked to keep us out.

We stood confused not knowing what to do.

Too long, too long and our worry grows

Our prayers and sighs slowly rise.

 

Please heal, restore and mend, we pray.

Keep this sweet bird within Your hand.

So many tangled webs around it,

and only You can set it free.

Advertisements

The Book Whisperer

I’ve been praying for God to show me those areas of my life where I am blind to my own sin, and boy has He decided I’m ready. Yesterday, a friend handed me a couple of boxes full of books that she no longer will be using. She explained that she had tried to sell them, but for a whole host of reasons, they never were sold. As she explained all the shenanigans (is that a word?) she went through to sell the books but to no avail, she then realized and knew that they were supposed to be given away. She is someone who listens to the Holy Spirit, but also must get banged over the head like me sometimes to listen. So, she saw me and felt compelled to hand all these books over to me.

I have to admit books are my weakness. I know the whole world is in love with e-books and kindle and nook, but me, I like a book in my hands. I like the whole experience–carting it with you places, marking it up, deciding not to mark it up because it is just too good, picking which books to keep on your low shelf or high shelf. If you saw my bedside table, and you like orderliness, you might fall over dead. I have the active book pile, the intermittent book pile, and the near-future book pile. In the active pile, I have many books because I can read three books at one time. The intermittent pile is for when the content is just too much to process or I am not ready for it, so I read a little and then I sit the book aside. The near-future pile are the books I have ordered because they just sounded so great and I want to read them, but I must finish the three I am currently reading.

Okay, so God talks to me through books quite often. Some blog, I will have to share the story of how a book changed my life. But for now, suffice it to say, in that pile of books I found a book I needed to read. I started it right away (preempting all piles on my bedside table) because it was written for young men entering adulthood. I thought to myself, “That’s my son!” I started glancing through it and got hooked. Why? Because the author uses real life examples and his advice is so wise. It is very different from any other book for young men that I have ever seen or heard about. I am about halfway through it, but I realized that some of his advice was for me. As he explains why a person should handle themselves a certain way, I realized that I don’t do that well or at all. I saw so clearly where I am weak, that it became hard to read. I don’t know how to explain this well but it is a bit like watching a train wreck that you are part of?!  I felt thrilled that my son could read such wonderful advice and appalled because I really have some voids in a lot of these specific areas.

So, as you can tell, this was quite a “ride” reading this book. Before panic took over me, I realized that this is why God brought my husband and I together! I started thinking about my glaring weaknesses, and realized that my husband is strong in almost all of them. Seriously! It’s like God saw me as I am really am and said, “She needs some help in these areas.” Meanwhile, God saw my husband and said, “He needs some help in these other areas.” Together, we are a pretty good team, as long as we stay centered on God.

Hopefully, this weekend I will finish reading the book and pass it on to my son. Then, he will have his Dad’s example to help him through those weaknesses of mine. How blessed we are to have each other!

 

Making All Things New this Easter

I awoke this morning with this thought:  “See, I make all things new.” I knew this was a Bible verse, but I just didn’t know quite what it meant for me. Since God knows I can be a hard-head, these words just kept popping up in my mind all day long–during Easter Mass, at brunch with Grandma, on the porch with the children, and praying tonight as a family. So, I finally pulled out my Bible to see in what context these words were said and found the passage:

The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. (Revelations 21: 5-6)

I immediately recognized so many of these words, but not from Revelations. Do you remember what Jesus said from the Cross? I turned to John 19:

28After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” 29There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.30 When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:28-30)

32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs,34 but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (John 19:32-34)

How amazing and appropriate that St. John would be God’s choice for writing the Book of Revelations. John was the only Apostle who stood at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother and heard first hand Christ’s final words and was an eye-witness to all that transpired during these most holy moments of all history.

But what’s even more awe-inspiring is the message of Hope this passage of Revelations gives us all. Only God can make all things new again. New means God can take suffering and defeat and anger and sadness and loneliness (also known as the Cross) and transform it into life and hope and love and laughter and joy and peace (also known as the Resurrection)! And the life-giving water mentioned above comes from the side of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He spoke of this with the woman at the well:

13Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13-14)

This Baptism of Water and Blood converted many of the everyday people who were employed at that time to carry out the Crucifixion. Just simply being touched by that precious water and blood from the side of Jesus changed them forever. Today at Mass, we repeated our Baptismal vows and through the “sprinkling rite” received that precious water as a reminder of the Promise of our Baptism.

Tonight, my family prayed the Divine Mercy novena. This is a special devotion started by St. Faustina, who was told to create an image of Jesus which shows the blood and water flowing from him. He “thirsts” to give His mercy and graces to souls, if only they would allow Him. Oh my, such great Hope along with such great Love!

I cannot find the words to express what the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday means to our souls. It is a love without limits. It is hope beyond hope. It is an ocean of mercy. Hmmmm, perhaps the Word says it best: “Behold, I make all things new.”

 

Imagination and Reality

Have you ever had a dream that was so real that when you woke up you were still feeling the intense emotions you had during the dream? This is the power of imagination. Our imaginations are a huge gift from God. It’s where we can create and discover, just like our Creator. Afterall, we are made in His image!

Lots of famous inventions came about because of dreams, for example the design of the needle that would make a sewing machine actually work. Mothers and grandmothers across the world felt a load lifted from their shoulders when this machine was invented. Making the family’s clothing became a much easier task. Today we don’t even think about sewing out of necessity. Everything comes ready-made. Clothing the family is as easy as choosing the style you like and can afford. All because of one man’s imagination taking a creative idea and making it a reality.

As amazing and wonderful as our imaginations are, we can misuse our free will with our imaginations which can create some serious dilemmas for us. One clear example is that we can let fear overtake us in our imagination. When something difficult happens in our lives, we tend to imagine all types of outcomes or ways to respond to the difficulty. The “what ifs” can overwhelm us and rob of us any real peace. Or we can decide that life is supposed to be a certain way, and to keep it that way, we simply ignore the reality staring us in the face. You can call this a game of pretend, but let’s be honest–that’s Satan’s territory.  He has a lot of freedom in the realm of our imaginations, and many times we willingly or unknowingly allow him in.

On the other hand, God is all about reality. He owns it because it is true. When we are faced with difficulty and suffering, we sometimes avoid facing reality. It seems so easy to rename what we are seeing or experiencing. If we pretend or ignore reality enough, we start believing that our pretend is real. That’s when Satan starts having a field day. The longer we keep up the pretense, the stronger hold Satan has on our lives. We even are willing to limit our view of God and His love for us, just to keep our “pretend” game going.

All of this to say that we are called to use the gift of our imaginations for good. We are also asked to accept our lives as they really are. When we suffer or face a difficulty, we are told to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And remember that God isn’t the one behind suffering, pain or death! To quote Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady character, “Can you say Satan?”

As for me, I will consider myself much farther down the road of spiritual growth when I can embrace these three things fully. When my thoughts and imagination are only focused on good things. When I can accept my life and all of its circumstances as it really is. And when I can face serious suffering and/or difficulty and my first response is “Thank you, God!” instead of my current response which is more like “Why me?” 

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.

The Secret Multiplier

It is amazing what 5 pairs of hands can accomplish in a few hours. All of my children pitched in and helped my son and I remove old carpeting, carpet pad, tack board and staples from our dining room. When my son and I did this by ourselves in our front room, it felt like a very long, laborious process. We were glad we had each other, but it still took a long time.

Fast forward to last night. You have heard the adage, “Many hands make light work.” Well, we lived that last night. Suddenly, we had teams going with plans made for the best way to extract  staples quickly and efficiently. We also discovered “specialists” who had certain gifts. For example, my oldest daughter can yank out even the smallest nub of a broken staple, and did so with pride! And although there was some grumbling, mostly we were laughing and singing and joking.

I am thinking that when Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs of two, that was a really solid idea. They had each other to lean on or encourage when things got tough. But Jesus had an even more amazing plan than that. He established a Church. He wanted all people to experience community. Community is the great multiplier. Because when you have a solid faith community, suddenly you are able to accomplish way more for the glory of God than you could do on your own. Ten people do not equal just 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, but more like an exponential multiplier, such as 10 to the 10th power or 10,000,000,000! Pretty awesome, I think. I felt a hint of that last night, just working on a simple project with 5 of my dearest people.

 

 

Grace pouring down like rain

It’s been raining all day today. My youngest daughter has been watching the weather and shared with us that she saw a clear pattern: light but steady rain, followed by a downpour, then thunder and lightning with no rain, finally stillness, and then the pattern repeats. I am looking outside as I type this and realizing that suddenly there is a whole lot of green grass and budding yellow bushes all around me. Where did those come from? Just yesterday, I do not think it was this fresh and green and full of life!

This pattern reminds me of God’s grace in our lives. He give us a steady and gentle dose of grace, as He reminds us to keep on the right path. Then He’ll send the downpour of grace right before tumultuous times in our lives that feel like the thunder and lightning. We don’t always recognize this downpour because we don’t even know we need it yet! And once we get through those difficult times, we find peace and stillness. We take a moment to look around and see all the newness that our spiritual growth has brought forth.

This new growth was hiding as a seed in our Baptismal grace. It takes walking through all that life serves us to grow spiritually. God gives us just what we need for our faith to grow and bear real fruit.

 

Which Poverty Would You Pick?

Poverty is on my mind today. As an American, I do not think that I fully understand true material poverty. I have always had food to eat and a roof over my head. But this isn’t the only type of poverty. There is spiritual poverty. I have been debating which is worse: material poverty or spiritual poverty?

I have some experience with material poverty. Being in a large family, I saw all the sacrifices my parents made to ensure that our needs were met, yet we definitely had no excess. My mom stayed home with us while dad worked long hours. When other children came to our home, they couldn’t understand why each person was limited to 2 slices of pizza (homemade, of course!) My older sister and I shared clothing. I remember a time when all I had was a uniform which I wore to school, a pair of jeans, a top, a Sunday church outfit and hand-me-down pajamas.

I also have experience with spiritual poverty. As a liberal arts major at a public college, I was given a heavy dose of Marxism and Existentialism which rocked my world view. I was not wise enough to question these philosophies, nor was I formed enough in my own faith to combat the questions they raised. I actually believed my professors who said things like, “Forget everything that your parents have taught you. Their ideas are outdated. We are open-minded here and consider all thoughts.” These statements were lies on a very fundamental level which I won’t go into now. However, I did believe these professors and I let their agenda influence me. Over time, I found myself in a deep spiritual poverty. The choices I made during this dark time of my life were harrowing to say the least.

I guess in the end I would look to two world figures who probably know poverty better than most people, or at least show by their actions that they care for the poor. First, there is Blessed Mother Teresa. In A Simple Path: Mother Teresa, she says: “There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

Blessed Mother Teresa would visit America only out of obedience. It was very hard for her to be amidst such spiritual poverty. The material of poverty in India was easier for her to deal with than the spiritual poverty here. I feel her pain. I believe that spiritual poverty is much more challenging than material poverty. As I typed that last sentence, I am realizing that now that I have written this, God will probably let me experience true material poverty, which is scary indeed!

But the real difference in the types of poverty and how to respond to them is wonderfuly stated by the second world figure who I think deserves to be listened to because of his actions. That is Pope Francis. I think this excerpt from Pope Francis’ Lenten message for 2014 sums it up quite nicely:

“In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelisation and human promotion.

 

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.

How to Accept Gifts With Grace

Graciously accepting gifts is harder than it sounds. In my family, accepting a compliment was like bragging. If you were gifted in any way, that was obvious and so it didn’t need to be mentioned. Since I was raised in this type of environment, I didn’t even realize that I had a problem graciously accepting gifts, even as small as a compliment. So this post is for those of you out there like me, who need some ideas on how to be a gracious “receiver” of the gift.

First, let me help you identify if you have this problem. Here are some of the ways it might manifest in your life:

Situation #1:
A co-worker gives you a simple compliment such as, “I like your new haircut.” You immediately respond, “Oh, well, I think it’s too short for what I really wanted and I’m not sure I can even manage to style it right.” That is not the way to accept a compliment.

Instead, you should say, “Well, thanks!” It’s as simple as that. How I came to realize this is a co-worker told me that I would never accept her compliments and it bothered her. She gave me specific examples, and I realized she was right. I have learned to say, “Thank you,” although if feels like my mouth is full of rocks.

Situation #2:
While visiting a neighbor’s house, she offers you a bottled water or something to eat. You immediately say, “Oh, I’m fine.” And you may have just had lunch and are truly full. That is not the way to accept your hostess’ gift.

Try this instead: out of courtesy, accept the water or food. You do not have to finish it and that is not wasteful. Breaking bread together (or drinking water) is a simple way to show you are friends with someone.

Situation #3:
A  friend points out that you have a natural talent at (fill-in-the-blank). You laugh it off and say, “Oh, I am not really that good at (fill-in-the-blank). That is not the way to accept your God-given gifts. 

God does not make junk! You were given some amazing gifts that only you have. They are irreplaceable and there is no one on this planet who can come close to being you! I suggest you respond with, “Why, I never realized that before now. I am so glad you pointed that out because you are right, I am good at (fill-in-the-blank).” Then thank God the next time you pause in prayer!