Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Baby

I love babies. Anyone who knows me well knows this statement to be true. There’s just something incredibly wonderful about new life. I feel such a sense of wonder and awe when I catch sight of a bundle in it’s mother’s arms and am instantly drawn into their charm. I usually stop whatever I’m doing to take a closer peek and tell the mother what a beautiful baby she has.

Today I had the pleasure of meeting baby Matthew, a two month old sibling of one of my students. Mom had come in for a conference toting the little fellow. Before I knew it, I began to unbuckle his little infant seat and then immediately realized I needed to get his mother’s permission to hold him. She laughed and generously allowed me to pick him up. He gave me a giant toothless grin with eyes shining brightly at the new attention he was getting. I proceeded to completely melt right there on the spot. As I cooed and spoke unintelligible jargon to the baby, I wondered if this mother could ever take anything I said during the conference with any credibility. However, when I looked at her, she seemed to delight in the fact that someone was so taken with her precious child. For a few priceless moments, time seemed to slow down and the simplicity of life, the joy of caressing such purity, and inhaling the sweet scent of a baby overshadowed any other demands of my day.

Later in the afternoon I hurried about running countless errands. I had so much to do and I began to get anxious thinking about how I was going to accomplish so much before Christmas. The tree isn’t up, the decorations are still packed away in boxes. There are presents to buy, cards to be written and cookies to be baked. And then I remembered the calmness, the peace, the joy I experienced holding little Matthew. That thought gave birth to another and soon my mind wandered. I began to ponder the Baby Jesus. Just as I had approached the young mother this morning, in my mind’s eye I saw myself approach Mary, holding her newborn son in her arms. That same peace I had felt earlier returned and enveloped me. I understood that this interior vision was taking me to the stable in Bethlehem. Will you come with me? Let’s allow our minds to take a little Advent journey together.

The bright star in the sky has led us here. We shiver in the cold night air and we find ourselves just outside the stable. As much as we long to fling open the doors and see this Heavenly spectacle, we wonder if we have the courage to enter the place where we know the King of Kings has come into the world. Yet we remember that He is a Baby, a tiny Child resting in the arms of His mother. He did not choose to come in splendor with much pomp and circumstance. He came in humility and poverty so that we could easily draw near without any fear of rejection. And so we enter quietly so as to not disturb Him. Mary looks up to see new guests arrive and smiles with great tenderness. With her eyes she shows us that she is happy to see us and then motions for us to come closer. Our hearts race as we draw nearer. And then, His eyes open. He knows we are there. Joy floods our entire being as we drop to our knees to adore Him. Mary looks lovingly at Joseph and then lifts her child to place Him in our arms. With brightened eyes that seem to see into our very souls, He smiles. His little Hands reach out to touch our face. The chill that was in the air disappears and warmth embraces us. We press Him close to our hearts, kiss His tiny head, and whisper a prayer. His peace fills us to overflowing and our joy is unspeakable. Tenderly we place him back into His mother’s arms, and as we depart, we realize we will never be the same again.

That short spiritual journey is one we should take often during Advent. How easy it has become for us to forget why we celebrate Christmas. God became like one of us. He came to us as a little Baby. He came to save us. Perhaps we need to try a little harder to keep that awareness during the busy days that lie ahead. And when the anxiety and stress starts to rise up, remember the Baby.

In ending, I want to let you know something very interesting about little Matthew. He was chosen to be the Baby Jesus in our school’s Christmas pageant.

Blessed Advent to all of you and may your Christmas be filled with wonder and awe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thank you!

During this past election cycle I was struck with the amount of negativity that surrounded most of the campaigns. The incessant commercials and robo calls became a form of slander to justify a means of getting elected for office. I don’t know anyone who looked forward to hearing these messages over and over, yet our ears became used to the same old tirades against the opponents. I felt disheartened and saddened that our so-called leaders would stoop to such despicable means in order to become our civil servants. I only wish that this kind of negative speech was limited to political campaigns every two or four years. However, the poison of negative speech is spreading across humanity. Or has it been there all along and I am just now becoming more keenly aware of it?

Encouraging and uplifting words are hard to come by these days. Kindness, humility, and respect for our fellow man are becoming fleeting virtues and I miss them. They are being replaced by pride, greed, selfishness and a critical spirit. I find myself repeatedly asking, “What happened?” Why have so many people embraced, perhaps unwittingly, this idea that putting yourself first is satisfying? I know that whenever I’ve done that, I have felt terrible and nothing good has ever come from it. Giving has always proven to be so much better than receiving. Patting someone on the back has always felt better than stabbing the same.

I have often thought that one of the main reasons why those who are intent on destroying someone’s name or reputation is that they must think so little of themselves. They don’t respect themselves for a variety of reasons, therefore, they know little of respect for another human being. They function and are fed by gossip, rumors, and other negative speech. Is there an antidote for someone who truly desires to change this kind of behavior? And is there hope for someone who is in this kind of environment? Yes, there is hope! There’s always hope!

I believe that having an attitude of gratitude is the best medicine for the negativity sickness. Complaining, criticizing, judging, and making excuses for our own weaknesses is bad for the heart and bad for the soul. It hardens us and makes us less sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We can be sorely tempted to drown out that small whisper of a voice and give in to our selfishness. Yet we must try to follow what we know is good and right.

Because it is the month of November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, it is traditional for us to stop and give thanks to God for all His blessings. We take that one day to ponder all the goodness and beauty in our lives and gather with our loved ones to have a most enjoyable day. What if we made Thanksgiving Day a daily event? Ok, we wouldn’t have to eat turkey every day, but could we be thankful for the food on the table? Can we be thankful that we had money to buy our basic essentials? Can we have a grateful heart for a roof over our heads, and gas in the old clunker? Oh, we have a newer car? That’s another thing for which to be thankful. Get the idea? You know that cranky co-worker? Have you ever tried to tell her or him what a good job she or he has done on something? Have you stopped to thank someone who gets very little attention? What about the brother or sister that hasn’t spoken to you in years? Have you tried to write a note asking for forgiveness and let bygones be bygones?

Let’s all try to make a sincere effort to turn every negative thought into something positive and good. It is true that we are living in very difficult times and it’s not easy being joyful. The economy is bad, people are without work, money is tight, yet we as a country, as God’s people, are so incredibly blessed in immeasurable ways. I truly believe that an attitude of gratitude is so desperately needed today and that it can change our own little world in which we live.

"Lord God, forgive us for the times we have taken so many blessings for granted. Forgive us for not seeing the good in others and not finding value and worth in each person we encounter. Help us to see them through Your eyes, to hear them with Your ears, and to love them with Your heart. May we be ever aware of Your presence wherever we are and in every circumstance, knowing that You are working everything out for our good. And, oh yes, thank You.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ordinary Times

When I was a little girl attending Catholic school, reading the lives of the saints was required reading. I actually enjoyed frequently leafing through those colorful little picture books and learning about these remarkable people. I was awestruck by their courage, their fierce loyalty to God, and their willingness to die for their faith. We all know about Joan of Arc and being burned at the stake. I remember asking myself at a young age if I would die for Christ. I can’t remember what my interior answer was but I’m sure the good nuns who taught me would have encouraged a “yes”.

The Catholic Church is fond of the saints, as they should be. We celebrate their lives during our liturgical year, remembering all they did during their lifetime to draw others to God. I like to think of them as our older brothers and sisters who have gone before us and are cheering us on and praying for us to live holy lives.

All this is an introduction to something profound that my husband said recently. He is a wise man, but since he’s my husband I take it for granted a lot of times. But one day I had to write down his words and meditate on them. We were getting ready to pray together and I asked him if it was a feast day of a saint. He responded saying that it was “Ordinary Time”, meaning there is not a special feast or celebration. Then he said, “We are made saints in ordinary time.” That statement caused me to stop dead in my tracks.

All my life I have admired the saints of old; the ones who were martyred, the ones who founded hospitals and religious orders, the ones who preached the Gospel in foreign lands, and who cared for the poor and dying. But what John said made me think about the saints of today, the ones who will never be officially recognized by the Church and canonized. It made me think about all of us who live ordinary lives in ordinary times.

Most of us will never become missionaries or be asked to give up all we have for the sake of Christ. Many of us are simply wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, teachers, nurses, salesman, or whatever other daily duties we have. Is there a minute possibility of sainthood in those places? Actually, it really isn’t where we work or what our education is that matters. What counts is what we do with what we have been given. What counts is how we treat our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, how we speak to others, how we give of ourselves without calling attention to it and without complaint. I believe sainthood lies in all of that.

So how is it possible to do that, be that, live that kind of sacrificial life? It’s only possible through a relationship with the One who gave us the example of holy and selfless living, Christ Himself. He is the One who strengthens us, encourages us, gives us the graces we need to follow His way.

The saints of old are pretty amazing. But the saints of today have many of the same challenges that they faced. We may not have to shed blood but we have an opportunity during each ordinary day to make a difference in the lives of all around us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Many years ago, I came across a prayer for humility. It was actually a litany. As I read it, I stopped almost immediately and had to make sure God knew that I was just reading it and not praying it. It was a heart stopper for me, something that I didn’t feel I could say from the heart. “Who could ever pray this prayer?” I thought to myself. Why would anyone desire to be despised, suspected, forgotten, or humiliated? Why would anyone ask that others be more loved, chosen, praised or preferred? Why would someone pray to go unnoticed, or set aside? Those are terrible things. Or are they?

A few weeks ago, I came upon this prayer once again. I decided to READ it. (notice, not pray it) I almost had to laugh, because all those things that I had feared in the past have happened to me so many times I couldn’t even count them. And I’m still here. I didn’t faint away or die from it. I didn’t run away and become a recluse because of being wronged or ridiculed. Of course, there was a lot of pain associated with making many mistakes, being humiliated in front of a lot of people, and not getting credit for something I worked hard to complete. I have been forgotten and looked over many times. There were even times I truly felt like I was invisible.

Over the years, these experiences have strengthened me. I don’t know if it’s an increase in the virtue, but I am becoming more detached from myself. It’s a rather odd feeling but I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously, to be able to move on past my mistakes and not to dwell on them or mull over every detail of my errors. That is so freeing!

The fear of praying this litany has greatly diminished and the repugnance of it has changed to something almost sweet. I still wince at parts of it but I know that God is working in my life to mold me into the person He wants me to be. He’s chipping away at my pride and that’s a very good thing. For those of you who are my friends, you know, as I do, that I have a long way to go. And my family and spiritual brothers and sisters have played a most important part in my spiritual journey. For they were the ones who encouraged me, listened to me, and counseled me whenever the virtue of humility was being tested. I am grateful for their willingness to love me and be patient with me as I continue to be pruned.

In case you have a burning desire to see the litany that I have been writing about, I have included it. Try praying it. (ok, you can read it first.) I promise good fruit will come from it.

(accustomed to be said after celebration of Mass,
by Merry Cardinal del Val, secretary of state to
Pope Saint Pius X)

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Gift

The other morning I received the most wonderful gift! And it was just what I needed! Have you ever gotten a present from someone you love and it seemed to be perfect? It shows that the person really knows you and cares deeply about the things you care about. It’s quite touching when you see them experience just as much joy as you have as they watch you open up the gift they’ve chosen specifically for you. Their excitement seems to overflow as they know how happy the gift will make you feel.

My gift was a surprise, actually. It wasn’t for a special occasion or anything. It was just an ordinary day. That made it even more wonderful. I guess by now you’re wondering what the present was and who gave me such a perfect gift? Well, it was from my Father. I’m sure you noticed the capital “F”, meaning it was from my Heavenly Father. In a moment I’ll tell you what He gave me.

I must be pretty dense, I think. Because I know that God gives me gifts and blessings all the time. He has given me a loving spouse, the miracle of children, terrific friends, a home in which to live, food on the table, etc. The list is endless. Why, then, was this such a surprise to me to receive one more gift? I think I had some sort of an epiphany about it and I want to share it with you.

That particular morning I was swamped with things to do. I had lots of errands to run, phone calls to make, laundry a mile high, bills to write, and so forth. But I had this nagging in my spirit to stop my running around and take time out to pray. I was trying to drown out the voice that was telling me to slow down, and have some time with the Lord. I finally gave in and sat down with no particular prayer in mind. I just quieted myself and waited. Soon a great peace and calm came over me and my body began to relax. My heart stopped pounding and my breathing slowed. I didn’t speak any words but I felt God’s presence with me. I stayed in this place for quite some time and didn’t want to leave. I felt so comfortable and very loved. I wondered to myself why I had fought this call to prayer. Why would I ever deny myself this incredible time of inner joy and peace? That was the gift I received that day. With all that I had planned to do, He knew I needed to be strengthened with these gifts.

The following day I remembered what had happened and I went to prayer once again, this time without a fight. He was teaching me, after so many years, that each day He has something new for me, a new gift, something perfect for me for that day. For He alone knows exactly what I will have to face, what I will come up against, where the challenges will be. It reminds me of a beautiful Scripture from Lamentations, chapter 3 vs. 22-23 that says, “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, His mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” God never tires of blessing His children. He loves to do it. But in order to receive the blessings, I need to open my hands and my heart.

God has a special gift waiting for each one of us every day. Perhaps some days the gift may be wrapped in the shape of a cross. We may not want to open that one because we are afraid. But when I think back to those times in my life when I received a cross, He always included strength, grace, courage and wisdom to go along with it. Special companions were included as well to lighten my load.

What was your gift today? Think about it. We are all so consumed with many things to do. Our lives are jam- packed with, well, life. It’s easy to grow anxious, worried, fearful, and confused with all that needs to be done. We drop into bed at night totally exhausted. I don’t think that’s what God meant when He said He wanted us to live the abundant life. He meant, I think, that He wants to fill us with His presence to overflowing. He understands us like no one else can. He knows our many needs and longings. He knows the emptiness and loneliness we feel sometimes. That’s why he says, “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” Rest is a gift.

What is it that you need? He knows what it is even before you even ask. So just take a little time to be in His presence. I promise that He will surprise you with something special.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who is Your Enemy?

Yesterday, as I read Psalm 59 at Mass, I was made uncomfortable with parts of the passage. It said, “Rescue me from my enemies, oh my God; from my adversaries defend me. Rescue me from evildoers; from bloodthirsty men save me. For behold they lie in wait for my life; mighty men come together against me.”

This struck me as incredibly strong language and I wondered how this could be relevant to my life. I thought to myself, “Lord, I don’t think I have any enemies or someone who would be out to destroy me. Who are these evildoers in my life? Perhaps there are some who are mildly irritated with me about something I said. Maybe they have been hurt by something I inadvertently did. But an enemy? I don’t think so.” However, I began to wonder why the Holy Spirit seemed to make these words jump off the pages. Why did I need to pay attention to this psalm?

Perhaps the “enemy” is something that I cannot see with my physical eyes. Perhaps I am actually blinded by this enemy, so that I don’t even realize that the adversary is someone with whom I feel very comfortable. I’m talking about sin. I know, it makes me squirm, too. But it’s very real. However, no one really talks about it much anymore. The word” sin” is almost antiquated. These days sin is referred to as a personality quirk or a weakness. Sin is such a strong word. It means I actually choose to do something outside of God’s love. Why would I do such a thing? Maybe it would be good to name these enemies. If I put a name on them I might be able to better understand who it is that is truly out to destroy me and my relationship with God. We must know our enemy before we can fight it, right?

The Church gives us seven names.
They are “Pride”, “Envy”, “Gluttony”, “Lust”, “Anger”, “Greed”, and “Sloth”. They are also known as the seven deadly sins. They sound so ominous, don’t they? They couldn’t possibly be out to overtake me, could they? I mean, I’m a good and decent person and I try my best to follow God’s will. I don’t need to be bothered with this, do I? But it’s for this very reason that I should very much pay attention. Because if I am working to build up the Kingdom of God, if I care for the poor and needy, and if I love and work for peace and justice then I become a prime target.

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the ways of the world. I mean we’re living in it, we have to earn a wage to support our families, we interact with people every single day. We find ourselves in challenging situations all the time. This earthly life is not easy. Temptations are all around us and sometimes I feel like my senses have been assaulted. Watching some television programs, movies, even the daily political rants, are ways that can open the door to the enemy. If we are not careful in guarding our spiritual health, then those seven deadly sins can sneak in when we least expect it, and in the blink of an eye, the enemy can strike. At first we may not be able to feel the blow. But after while, the mind becomes used to seeing scantily clad women, improper relationships, violence, casual drug use and eventually, our senses are dulled to, yes, sin. There’s that word again.

The enemy is indeed all around. So what do we do about it? First of all, we do not fear. We must be on our guard and alert. We need to pray. Pray with our whole heart for protection. In our own strength we are totally powerless against these enemies. But the Church gives us so many “weapons” with which to fight. We have the Mass, receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ to strengthen us; we have our Mother Mary to pray for us along with the saints who intercede for us. They are like our older brothers and sisters who are encouraging us to fight the good fight of faith. And finally, we must never lose heart if we fall because we are also given the sacrament of reconciliation that draws us into the merciful heart of Jesus where we are forgiven. The graces we receive help us to combat further “attacks.”

The end of the psalm that caught my attention says, “Oh my strength! For you I watch; for you, Oh God You are my stronghold. As for my God, may His mercy go before me; may He show me the fall of my foes.”

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word. You reveal so much of who You are through it. Please watch over us, protect us from our enemies, and help us to battle our sinfulness with the virtues of humility, patience, temperance, chastity, kindness, charity and the unwearied zeal to do good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Waiting. It’s a part of life. It’s a big part of life. Would we be shocked to discover how much time we spend waiting? I think so. We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait in line for movie tickets, we wait for documents to download onto our computers, and we wait for the interminable long red light to change to green. We wait at the airport when there’s a long flight delay. We wait for a dear friend who’s always late to show for a lunch date. We wait for the phone to ring with good news about a job. We wait on hold to resolve a billing issue. We wait nine months for our babies to be born. We wait with our kids to catch the bus and we wait for them to return safely into our arms. As they grow into teenagers, we wait up for them to come home from being out with their friends. We wait in hospital waiting rooms searching for a sign of the doctor to tell us our loved one made it out of surgery. The list is endless, is it not?

The question is, “How do you handle waiting?” Do you pace the floor, or do you find yourself getting angry? Do you keep your eye on the clock or the calendar wondering when the waited object will come? Do you worry until you feel sick? Do you smoke feverishly or drink a beer or glass of wine to ease the anxiety? Do you grab the chips and salsa to calm those nerves? Do you complain to whomever will listen to your rants? I’ve been know to do all of the above at one time or another. But if we spend a good chunk of our lives waiting, then wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a less negative, a less destructive way of dealing with it? And could it be possible that waiting is a good thing?

Waiting involves that special virtue of patience. Have you ever heard the little expression that says, “Lord, give me patience, but hurry!”? Today’s world is a fast-paced one. We have become used to instant gratification. Whatever we need is at our fingertips. But our loving God gives us many opportunities to grow in the fruits of the spirit, one of which is patience. Therefore, we must learn to wait, not only in the physical realm for our many needs, but we must also wait on God to answer our prayers. We pray and then we wait. Where is God? What is taking Him so long? Doesn’t He hear us? Of course you know He does, but whatever we need, we need it NOW!

Years ago, someone I knew treated me very badly. She was in my life for good but it was very unsettling and upsetting to be around her. One day I was ready to write her off, to make a decision to let go of her insults and rude behavior. When I discussed this action with a priest friend, he asked, “If you don’t love her, who will?” I wasn’t expecting this insight and was taken aback by the truth of his question. He said, “You don’t have to be with her all the time, but send her notes and little gifts to let her know you are thinking of her.” I took this advice to heart and did as he said. Twenty years later, this person has finally come to love me and has been so grateful for all that I have done for her over the years. She has grown into a most pleasant and agreeable woman and is absolutely delightful to be around. She is nearing the end of her days and is at peace. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had abandoned her because I felt unappreciated and hurt. The wait was definitely worth it! God’s timing was perfect. He not only gave this person time to become more accepting and grateful, but He gave me many opportunities to die to myself and rely on His grace and strength to love someone who was unlovable. The waiting involved stillness, times of prayer, a daily turning to God for help, trusting that He would give me all I needed to endure. But it also involved actions of love on my part.

Waiting is a big part of our lives. It always will be. But we have a choice on how we choose to wait. Will we curse those precious seconds that fly by? Will we fret and worry about why things aren’t going our way? Or will we quiet ourselves, whisper a prayer to our Heavenly Father, and trust that He will give us exactly what we need at exactly the right time?

<< Isaiah 40:31 >>

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It’s so easy to give someone advice on how they should be hopeful. It’s easy to tell them how much God loves them and cares about them. It’s so easy to say that all will be well, when all is well in our own life. We’re pretty good at giving advice and being there for a friend or neighbor or even a stranger. We can easily console and comfort them. But how about when we’re the one who’s hurting, when we’re the one in pain? Can we believe the same words that we speak to others?

The times when we are struggling are the true tests of our faith. It’s where the spiritual rubber meets the road. Those same scriptures that we give to those entrusted to us are there for us to claim, as well. We can so easily give to others but it’s the receiving part that can be difficult. So what might be the barriers that would hold us back from believing God’s words for ourselves? Are we afraid that we aren’t worthy of receiving God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s healing? Do we believe those promises in His Word are for everyone else except for ourselves?

Pride is a rather sneaky sin. It can be blinding and disguise itself as humility. Pride can make us say things like, “I never pray for myself.” Or "God has other things to think about besides me.” Perhaps we think that we can pretty much take care of ourselves, and if we hurt or struggle it’s because we deserve it. A person with true humility will go before the throne of God and always ask for mercy and grace. One who has true humility knows that on her own she/he can do nothing or be anything. True humility seeks God for the salvation of it’s soul and understands that it has to have God's Hand on it’s life or it will cease to exist.

God loves you so much that He gave his only begotten Son. He longs for you to receive healing, joy, mercy, and the abundant life. If you are hurting, if you are lost, discouraged, dismayed, ill, depressed, anxious, without a job, without food or money or whatever it may be, the Shepherd leaves the others to go and find YOU and carry you safely back. Do you believe that? That is the truth because it is in His Word. Believe for yourself. Trust that He loves YOU and wants the best for you. That is the real test of faith.

Lord, I am sorry for the times that I have doubted Your love for me. I am ready to place myself in Your very capable Hands and believe that You will work everything out for my good. Even if things look very bad right now, I trust in Your goodness and place myself in Your ocean of mercy. Heal my woundedness and blanket me in Your protection. I am ready to receive your blessings for my life. Amen

Friday, May 7, 2010

Come Holy Spirit

Recently, while away on retreat, I became increasingly aware of the need for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in my life. I don't know about you, but sometimes I get bogged down with everything that has to be done and the craziness of my life. Things get so busy and my schedule so crowded that at times I forget that Christ dwells within me and that His Spirit lives within my soul. It takes getting away from it all to once again realize that I am a child of the King and that He is truly present in every aspect of my life. Why am I not aware of that miracle every moment?

A lot of the scripture readings lately have been leading the way to Pentecost. The particular passage that caught my attention was from Acts 2:1-4.

"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong, driving wind, and it filled the house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."

How powerful! Have I forgotten that this same power is available to me right now? Do I really believe that the Holy Spirit can and does come down on me in a very real way to enable me to live out God's desire for my life? I know for a fact that I can do nothing on my own. It is only through and by His Spirit that I can speak a word of encouragement, can touch the heart of someone who is hurting, can heal the sick, sing and praise God, can walk, talk, breathe, etc. etc. Jesus said in John 14:12 "...Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these..."

I know that I need this Presence in my life. Perhaps you have that same longing. Sometimes we all feel weak, afraid, lonely, sick, lost, distracted, angry. We are busy, distracted, preoccupied, searching for some kind of relief from the stress of the things of this world. We are human, flesh and blood, and our bodies suffer from the demands placed on us. But we also have the Divine within us. At our baptism we received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God! Our Creator gave us this marvelous gift to help us in our every need.

A friend found something that I had written a long time ago and just gave it to me. The words prompted today's meditation. I want to share it with you.

In Every Need

Holy Spirit, my Light, my Life, my Love, my Strength, be with me now and always.

In all my doubts, anxieties and trials,
*Come Holy Spirit!

In hours of loneliness, weariness, and grief,
*Come Holy Spirit!

In loss, and in disappointment,
*Come Holy Spirit!

When others fail me, when I fail myself,
*Come Holy Spirit!

When I am ill, unable to work, depressed,
*Come Holy Spirit!

Now and forever, and in all things,
*Come Holy Spirit!

Let us be open to allow the Holy Spirit to come to us, to fall afresh on us. Let us expect the fire of His Spirit to make our hearts ablaze with His love, as it did on the apostles on that first Pentecost. Let it burn away self-doubt, fear, and the desire for things that the world gives. May our hearts be set on fire for those things that are unseen and that last forever. May it empower us to do His will with hearts filled with courage and conviction.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Glimpses of Heaven

A long time ago when my youngest son was a little boy, I used tell him that before he came to us, he was in Heaven with God. One day I playfully asked him if he remembered anything about being there. To my utter surprise, he began telling me in all sincerity that he loved playing with the angels and that it was so beautiful there. It was such a precious thing to say, and I began to ponder his innocent words. It caused me to think about the Scripture that says, “Before you were born, I knew you.” I wondered if my little one had experienced the presence of God. What an awesome thought! When he got a little older, I asked him the same question about Heaven and he looked at me with a puzzled expression. He had forgotten.

Young children are so pure and relatively untouched by the world. They are simple creatures with a basic need to be loved and cared for. They have no worries, no concerns, no responsibilities. They respond to their mother’s smile with delight and hold tightly to their daddy’s hand when they venture out into the world. Their world is secure because someone loves them. As they get older, life becomes more complicated. They experience rejection, heartache, illness, sadness, confusion, loss, and troubles of every kind. Life becomes hard and sometimes very painful. “Playing with the angels” is nowhere in their memory.

We were all once little children. We began this life as a gift of Love from the Creator who “knit us” within our mother’s womb. Our souls were created by the Divine One. By virtue of our baptism, we carry within us the Holy Spirit who inspires us to call out to our Abba. But what has happened to all of us? Have we forgotten who we are and where we came from? Are we aware that we are the apple of His eye, that we are precious in His sight, that He has numbered every hair on our head? We may at times feel detached from our Father in Heaven, but we are, without doubt, closely connected to Him. The Lord our God has not forgotten us, and I believe that He reveals Himself to us each and every day. But have we gotten too old, too cynical, too immersed in the world, too preoccupied, to see God’s Presence in our daily lives? Are we missing the glimpses of Heaven? I assure you they are there!

One day I woke up quite early in the morning while it was still dark outside. I made a cup of tea and then went to look out my back window. In the distance was the most amazing sight. The tops of the trees were brilliant with light. The sun was just beginning to rise and the light was shining only on them. Everything else was very dark. I was stunned at the sight. I went quickly to the front window to see if I could see the sun coming up but it was still too low on the horizon. I went back to watch the trees all aglow but it had already vanished. It was but a moment of grace, a quick glimpse into the beauty of Heaven. I thanked God for allowing me to see such a spectacular sight and I realized that I need to become more aware of these “glimpses”.

Lord, open our eyes to see that You are there, that You make yourself known to us in so many different ways. You reveal your majesty, Your personality, Your love for us through Your creation, through Your Word, through the encouragement of a friend, through the smile of a stranger. Help us to become more like little children so that we can be filled with joy and awe and wonder at the gifts You give us and the many ways You remind us of where we came from…..and where we are going.

Please share your own "glimpses of Heaven".

Monday, April 5, 2010

Have you said "Alleluia" today?

One of our Easter songs begins with the words, “The strife is o’re the battle done…” Such a joyful song and so many “alleluia"s voiced. But those words might be hitting a painful chord within us today. Yes, it is the Easter season within the Church, but we as the body of Christ continue to carry the cross. And many times it is a heavy cross. Why can’t we have the victory now? Why do we still have to see so many suffering? Why do we feel such sorrow in our hearts for those friends and family members who are struggling? It’s Easter, after all. Lent is over. We are supposed to be a joyful people, are we not? Then why might our souls feel downhearted during this joyous time within the Church?

Christian living is definitely not for the faint-hearted. This path we have chosen to follow is not an easy one, to be sure! But St. Paul tells us that we must be a people dressed for battle, a battle not against flesh and blood as he says in Ephesians chapter 6, but against the powers and rulers of this present darkness. These unseen forces cause us to feel discouraged and weak, powerless and fearful, angry and resentful. Many wonder if their life has purpose, giving into a spirit of hopelessness.

So the question becomes, how do we remain strong, courageous, and yes, even joyful in the midst of these difficult times? Well, first of all, we must acknowledge that the victory has already been won. That’s the promise and the hope of Christ’s resurrection. Christ shed His precious blood and died for all and rose from the dead to give us hope of eternal life. And then He commissioned us to continue to fight the good fight of faith. But sometimes, as a “soldier”, we become weary, frustrated, tired of waiting for the “war” to be over. What is St. Paul’s answer to this? He says, “Pray at all times, on every occasion, in every season in the Spirit. Keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints.” (Amplified Bible)

Prayer; it is a simple thing, yet so very powerful; a conversation with God, telling Him everything in our hearts, speaking with honesty about what we are enduring, and then listening with great care to what He may wish to speak to us. Our God, who knows us through and through, hears our every utterance, our every sigh. His Heart is filled with great love for us and He longs to bless us with His gifts of peace, joy and healing. This time of prayer will be the source of our strength, will be what enables us to live life with a greater vision, will ultimately help us to sing out with conviction those Easter alleluias even in the darkest of days.

Perhaps if we haven’t experienced the joy of Easter, we should take some time to spend with the Lord in prayer. Even if we can’t find any words to speak, if we let him into our hearts, the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead will come and restore each of us to new life. Then we can truly sing with all our hearts, "Alleluia!"

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Final Countdown

Where did Lent go? I am amazed that we have already entered into Holy Week. Every year about this time, I begin to have regrets about how I could have better spent these past 40 days. There was so much I wanted to do, so many things I needed to work on. As usual, it seems I have missed the mark and squandered many opportunities to improve the state of my soul. Could I have spent more time in prayer? Could I have been kinder, more compassionate? Could I have held my tongue and just nodded my head in understanding instead of giving my opinion? Could I have been a better listener, attended Mass more frequently, and so on. Of course, the answer is “Yes”. I lament as I wonder how I let this precious time get away from me. But God, in His infinite mercy, reminds me that I have one week left to do those things that I longed to do to draw closer to Him.

I am reminded of the laborers who came into the field at the last hour and received a full day’s wage. When you’ve worked all day it seems unfair that those who come at the end of the day should get the same pay. But when you are the one who comes late, you are so grateful to be paid the full wage. What a merciful God we have!

It is late, but Lord, I come. I long to labor these final hours. I need your grace to guide me through this holy Week so that I can stay awake with You, walk the Via Dolorosa with You and sit beneath the Cross alongside Your holy Mother. May my heart rejoice with all those who have worked hard this Lent in drawing closer to You. Thank You for Your merciful love which assures me that I will reap the blessings of Easter.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It seems only fitting that I should begin this series of reflections, meditations, and prayers as we enter into Holy Week. For it was many years ago on Good Friday that I made a decision to put God in control of my life. Prior to that, I had been only half-heartedly seeking the Lord, and I wasn’t really sure how to make progress on a spiritual journey.

I was mid-way through my second pregnancy when I developed a condition that was potentially deadly for the child I was carrying. The fear of losing this baby, whom I had already grown to love, was nearly paralyzing and I could do nothing but place my situation into the Hands of God. I remember that I made that prayer of surrender with a most sincere heart. The months that followed were life-changing. Doctor directives were to have total bed rest. The problem with that, however, was that I had a very lively two year old son and I was in a new city with no friends or family to help me. My husband had a brand new job and I wondered how we would get through the five remaining months of the pregnancy. But God heard my cry for help and he sent “angels” to assist us. Women from the church I hadn’t yet had a chance to attend, came to help with housecleaning, cooking, and caring for our young son. They brought spiritual books and many words of encouragement. I read scripture for the first time in years and found the passages amazing, as if I had never heard them before.

One day a woman called and asked if she could come and pray over me. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but I knew it was something good. Connie came and it felt like we had been old friends. She was funny and we had much in common. I felt so comfortable in her presence. Then she prayed from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, the passage about the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed. The words became very personal, as if written for me. I was the woman with the hemorrhage, and Jesus was next to me. And then, as Connie prayed, I felt the baby move. That was not unusual, of course, but it felt different.

That night I was healed, although at the time I didn’t know it. All I knew was that the hemorrhaging had ceased. Two weeks later, I called my doctor, and after examining me, he said I could get out of bed and resume normal activity. When I told him what happened with the prayer, he said I had had a physical healing. I delivered a healthy baby boy right on his due date.

Since that amazing experience, I have witnessed many personal healings within my own family and with many others. Sometimes they seem like everyday occurrences. I believe that God longs to touch His people and heal them. The Scriptures are filled with the loving touch of Christ curing the many ailments and diseases of the people. He is the same yesterday, today and forever so His word is relevant for us right now.

We all are wounded in some way, either physically or emotionally or spiritually. God is longing to make us whole. We just need to place ourselves into His loving Hands and surrender our personal situation. Let Him have control. Trust that He knows what is best for your life.

May you receive His love, joy, peace and healing during this Holy Week. God bless you!