Monday, April 30, 2012

If Faith Is A Gift From God, Why Don't We All Have It?

This was a question posed to me yesterday by a dear friend who is an agnostic.  We had a running email conversation over the weekend about what she believes (basically the tenets of the Humanist Manifesto) and my thoughts on those beliefs.  She says belief in God is something that "rings true" for you or it doesn't.  If God loves everyone, and we're all equally worthy (which is not at all), why doesn't everyone have the gift of faith?

We discussed that all of humanity can be put into one of four groups:
1.  Motivated to do good.  Believe in God.  (Me)
2.  Motivated to do good.  Do not believe in God. (Her)
3.  Not motivated to do good.  Believe in God.  (Questionable belief, if it doesn't translate into action)
4.  Not motivated to do good.  Do not believe in God.

All in all, our lives look very similar from the outside.  We are both motivated to do good to our neighbor, live mindfully, compassionately, etc...  These are the things that bind us in friendship.  How is it that I have this gift of faith and she does not?  Am I more worthy or deserving than she?  No.  A resounding NO.  Then, what could possibly explain this glaring discrepancy in our lives?

I believe life ceased to be fair when God gave us free will, which is a necessary condition for love.  As soon as He allowed us to make our own choices, other people were necessarily impacted by those choices.  If we are born into a long line of people who have said "No" to God and life in Him, we are going to have to acquire (receive) the gift of faith from somewhere other than the people God intended (our parents).  Is this ideal or does it please God that some people have the gift dropped in their lap and some have to work incredibly hard to find it?  No.  However, He knows that those who labor intensely find the reward much sweeter.  They have a much greater appreciation for it, as they have not had it all along.  Those who have always had it, risk not appreciating it.  They risk being the lukewarm that God spits out of His mouth.  This is the greatest travesty of all - to know He exists, but to be remain indifferent.  (This is why so many people struggle with Christianity - They know we believe in God, but they can't see that it makes any difference in our life).  God can use a life of belief and a life of unbelief equally well and to the same end.  He wants everybody to receive the gift.  He gave His only Son so we could more readily recognize the gift of faith and receive it.   

For me, accepting the gift of faith was simple.  My parents gave it to me.  They beautifully wrapped up this gift for me in their unconditional love, faithful attendance at Mass, and their devotion.  They helped me unwrap it when they presented me for Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.  Further, when they paid for me to join millions of other kids to see the Pope and experience the unity of our faith at World Youth Day - in Colorado and France.   They have "bathed" me in grace with their prayers and intercession since I entered this world.  This is the way God intended it.

The upside is that if you weren't born into the faith, or have anyone spoon-feeding you through your youth, or paving the way for you, God can redeem the shortcomings of those who should have done it.  They probably suffered from the same "transmission" problem.  They didn't get it from their parents.  He is calling all of us to Himself, continually.  We have many, many, many chances as long as we remain open to Him and what He speaks into our hearts.

As Jesus promised the thief on the Cross, "This day you will be with Me in paradise", we are promised that as long as we have life within us, it is never to late to say "yes" to Him.  Our life on earth is but a fleeting moment compared with life in eternity.  Ultimately, if we believe in Jesus Christ and His divine Sonship on our last day, how many days you believed before that simply no longer matters.

Dear God, Thank you for the gift of faith.  Thank you for parents who have given it to their children.  Thank you for loving us.  Lord, please bestow many graces on those who did not receive the gift of faith from their parents, as you intended.  Lord, please bless them superabundantly.  Where they were slighted, Lord, let us, the Body of Christ, intercede for them.  Please accept our prayers on their behalf.  Please help us to show them Your love that they may believe in You.  Amen. 


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Merciful Outlook

We have incredible power with and over one another.  I am the transportation coordinator for my Church and through that ministry am developing a relationship with a 52-year old woman who suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (although I have not seen any symptoms).  She says she is in remission right now, her symptoms are well-controlled with medication.  Anyway, in our conversation on Friday, I asked her if she had struggled with this her whole life.  No, it started when she was 17.  I asked her if something happened.  She said Yes, but she'd rather not say in front of my 3-year-old son.  The only other thing she said was, "At the time, I thought I was the only one it ever happened to, but now I think it happens to a lot of people."

Someone, or multiple people, changed the course of her life in a single day.  How many times has this happened in the course of history?  We have incredible power and tremendous responsibility to the people whose lives we touch.  Even with our gaze.

In Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Michael Gaitley, it is written, "The person who receives the merciful outlook from another sees reflected in the eyes of the other the words "You are great."  However, these words are also a call to greatness.  For, while the greatness truly is there - the other person sees it! - it's not fully there.

The person who receives the merciful outlook knows that the greatness he sees reflected back at him in the eye of the other is tragically not all there in him, because he can also feel the gaze of his own "inner eye", his conscience.  This inner eye makes him tragically aware of not being who he's meant to be, which is terrible.  For, there's still the gaze of the other, at least in memory, constantly echoing the words, "You are great."  So, the person feels himself in the midst of the terrible drama of having to choose either to be the person he presently is or the person he's called to become, either the person of mediocrity or the awe-inspiring person he was destined to be from before the foundation of the world (See Mt. 25:34, Eph. 1:4)..."

Beautiful.  I hope you have and recognize the times when someone has looked at you this way.  I do.  We can (and should) do this for each other.  There is incredible power in it.  Let's use our power to elevate and add to the dignity of the other.  My prayer is that I can give the merciful outlook to everyone I meet, especially those that live under my roof.

Dear God, thank you for Your mercy.  Thank you for making all things work to the good of those who love You, especially those things that change the course of a life. Thank you for Your merciful gaze.  Please help me extend it to all of the people You place in my life.  Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Selfish to Deny Help to Family or Friends?

This is Part 2 to the babysitting conversation.  Around the same time I made the journal entry that I posted yesterday, I emailed the following question to a Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction website.  Dear Father John, if Christians are called to charity, and we assume that our charity must cost us something (like time, comfort, or money), is there a time when we can justifiably deny a request without being selfish?  I'm an at-home mom and my friends often ask me to babysit for their children.  I always say "Yes", but only because it is difficult for me to do so, and I wonder if God is increasing my capacity to give.  Please visit the link below to see my question answered (in two parts) by Fr. John Bartunek.  By the way, this is a great website for all things Catholic and if you're interested, you can subscribe and get the daily post in your inbox.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Babysitting - An Exercise in Many Virtues

This journal entry is from September 2011.  I'm including it today, because God keeps giving me opportunities to work on this thing I'm not very good at.  He keeps sending me little boys who are in desperate need of a family setting.  I often ask God for opportunites to prove my love, but don't always recognize or love the ones he sends very well.  I daresay I am making progress (with God's grace) and time.  Everything seems to be getting easier as my boys get older.

It is really hard for me to babysit (Sorry, friends - Hang with me on this one and you'll see why).  Is this a lack of charity due to selfishness?!  I hate whining, picky-eating, bad manners, lots of noise, and chaos.  Is it pride?  Because I think my kids are better than their kids?  Lack of mercy because I haven't needed their mercy (because I have an awesome mother-in-law 2 doors down)?  It steals my peace.  I feel like my plate is already full and is simply too full with more kids. 

I think I should be able to do it well - with no thought of self, without any reservations, or feelings of negativity.  It bothers me that I don't do it well, but pretend that I can.  I don't feel like I can say "No" without being uncharitable or selfish.

It requires me to be mindful of another person's state in life.  COMPASSION.  God is calling me to suffer, albeit a trifling matter, in this way.  It is suffering because I am embarassed about the way I feel about it and I wish I felt differently.  HUMILITY.  It demands more of my time, which is already so painfully little.  GENEROSITY.  It requires me to be merciful, gentle, and patient in the face of whininess, demanding natures, bad manners, and bigger messes (KINDNESS, PATIENCE, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL).

Wow!  It is requiring of me the practice of all the virtues I pray for!!  Kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control, generosity, humility, and compassion!

Wow!  Thank you, God for this clarity.  This is the answer to the prayer I requested when I entered into Your Presence (in the Adoration Chapel, where I was writing this).

You are so merciful, generous, patient, and gentle!  Help me to be more like You!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note to friends - Please don't feel like you can never ask me to babysit when you are in a bind!  Clearly, you would be depriving me of an opportunity to work on many virtues that I need a lot of work in!

Note to friend, Janet - You amaze me that you always have kids with you that are not your own.  You take it all in stride and I can see that God gives you this grace.  Thank you for your example in living this generosity so well!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heaven is For Real

Thoughts on Heaven is for Real – Becoming like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven

I am writing to recommend the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.  It is the true story of a little boy who visits heaven during emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.  It is an easy read (possibly the only book I've read in one sitting) and very, very compelling!  God must love us so much to give us these little windows into eternal life with Him!  My mind is swirling today with thoughts of what me must do to be more like the little children as Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:3,  "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  These are the things that come to mind when I think about what we should imitate in our children.  They are, in a word, humility.
What Children Do:
1.  Forgive easily
2.  Live in the moment
3.  Find joy and wonder in everything
4.  Have zeal
5.  Believe easily
6.  Offer unconstrained love (without fear)
7.  Wait expectantly when they ask for something
What Children Don't Do:

1.  Look in the mirror other than to make funny faces
2.  Wonder what other people think about them
3.  Filter their thoughts
4.  Hesitate to ask for help

Journal date: 4/15/11

Self-love, a sneaky pirate

I've been told God has given me the gift of being "good with words".  If God gives a gift, it is to be used for His glory.  It is edifying to be able to do something for God, but it is difficult not to attach self-love to that thing.  After all, it brings pleasure and enjoyment.  How do you kill or avoid self-love while living for the Lord?  Do you just proceed, suspicious of the pirate called self-love?  This pirate is waiting to jump on a ship (in this case, a blog-for-God ship) that isn't his, but that he lies in wait for.

Maybe, as long as I remember that the pirate lives and he's close at hand, he will not render me ineffective in my love for Christ!

I think it is better to set sail for God and keep your eye out for the pirate, than to stay anchored in Comfort bay with your spiritual treasure locked safely away in your soul.

We are the body of Christ.  We don't deal in treasure chests and storehouses.  We're for the Kingdom!  What's mine is yours, so we sail for the Lord!  Watch out, lonely pirate.  We're not staying in the bay for fear of you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where is Jesus?!

March 28, 2012 - Adoration Chapel

Jesus is covered with a purple cloth.  I am so thankful He is present in the Host!  It grieves me to not be able to see Him, but only see where His head is hanging forward under that cloth. 

Oh, Jesus!  How awful were those hours after your death, before your resurrection?!  The world was hell - the world without You in it.  Maybe the only thing that kept it from being hell was Your mother and the love You had for each other. 

If You died at 3pm on Good Friday and rose, let's say at 6am on Sunday, the world was at a loss for 33 hours?!  You were 33 when You died!  Were You dead for one hour for each year of Your life?!  What time did You leave the tomb, Lord? 

How did it feel to all of the people who read Scripture, who spent their entire lives awaiting the Messiah, when they realized they just murdered Him?!  How can you kill the man who is going to save your life?!  How do you feel after that has happened?

Lord, I wonder if Your generosity turns us away.  You are always available to us.  We know that, so we come seldom.  If You deprived us from time to time, we would probably walk for miles and climb mountains to get to You.  To receive You.  To gaze upon You in the form of bread or hanging on the Cross.  How depraved are we?!!  The greater Your availability and Mercy, the less we acknowledge You, or receive it, or long for it.

Lord, please never let me fall into this lukewarm pit.  I have a great fire burning for You.  I have zeal for You because You put it there.  All I did, was let You in. 

Please channel this fire.  I am already Yours.  Here I am, Lord.  Where do You want me to bring Your fire?!  You don't need me, but You've got me!  Use me!

I want to console You!  I want to please You!  I want to make You smile!  I want to contribute to Your joy!  Please show me how. 

(After a time in silent prayer, it came to me) - My goal is to engage people spiritually...To ask questions, so we can live the questions, so we can become active in our thoughts about Jesus and pursue loving Him more.

"Holy meditation should be your chief occupation; to speak with God should be your foremost office.  Whatever you see or hear should elevate you to God."
-Blessed Henry Suso

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thankful for the flu

Today, I am thankful for the flu.  Or, maybe just the perspective that the flu brings.  I am thankful I got it this weekend instead of next weekend, when my husband is scheduled to work.  I am thankful I can walk around my house without feeling like I'm going to throw-up, fall down, or die.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for the health of my family.  I am thankful I have an exuberant amount of energy most of the time.  I am thankful to be able to play in the sandbox and be outside.  Not just listening to the bustle from my bed.    I am thankful to be able to clean a bathroom and am looking forward to mopping the floor - tomorrow. 

I can only imagine how difficult it is for the couples who deal with chronic illness.  One feels put out because they have to do everything.  One feels left out because they can't do anything. 

Dear God, thank you for my health.  Please buoy up those people, couples, and families who struggle with health issues and the wrench that they throw in their every-day lives.  I am reminded how I am unable to anything without Your grace.

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes 

O Ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, you are the refuge of sinners and the comfort of the afflicted.  Look with mercy on us.  By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes you gave the world hope.  Your Son has healed many, thanks to your compassionate intercession.  Therefore, I come humbly before you to ask for your motherly intercession for all who are sick in body, mind, and spirit.  Holy Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of death.  Amen.
-Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Waiting on the Lord

March 27, 2012

I am trying to wait patiently on the Lord.  I want to bring Him many, many souls.  I want them to console Him with me.  However, I think He's purifying my impetuousity by having greater opportunities on hold, especially the path to becoming a spiritual director!!  I desire this so much and yet it always eludes me and seems just beyond my grasp.  Dear God, if it is your will that I become a spiritual director, please confirm this for me.  If not, please remove the desire.  I love you and unite my will to yours.

From Abandonment to Divine Providence-

"What you want, my dear sister, is to find support and comfort in yourself and your good works.  Well, this is precisely what God does not wish, and what He cannot endure in souls aspiring after perfection.  What?!  Lean upon yourself?  Count on your works?  Could self-love, pride, and perversity have a more miserable fruit?"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ode to Mary

March 7, 2012

I was watching my two-year-old in his bed
He'll be three next week
He was singing The Farmer in the Dell
until he fell asleep

I found my thoughts turning to you,
watching the child Jesus where He lay
and recalling Simeon's prophetic words
about your heart being pierced one day

How could you bear it?
Did you know His days were numbered?
And great suffering before they were through?
The only thing greater than your love for Jesus
was God's love for you

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Voice for Jesus

March 6, 2012

I want to be a voice for Jesus.  After speaking to my women's group about my experience at the foot of the Cross and emailing it far and wide, it is hard for me not to look for the harvest.  I planted the seeds out of obedience and know God wanted me to,  I know my intention is pure at the outset.  But, then I get too eager to see how God is going to use it.  Who is it really going to penetrate and change - bring closer to Him?

I know I need to leave the results to Jesus.  He is the Divine Farmer - the harvest is His business.  I only have to plant seeds.  He will handle the rest.  Jesus, please give me the grace to let go of the results.

I also feel like Jesus is asking me if I am willing to be "nobody" and do "nothing" for Him.  Nothing, in that it will be seen nor heard by anyone and will be contained within the four walls of my home.

Yes!  If that is what He wants.  I feel called to be an apostle, but I can live in silent obscurity, as well.  My will is God's will.

God be praised!

Three hours

February 29, 2012 - Adoration Chapel
Dearest Jesus, I'm in Your physical Presence again and I am trying to follow Your call.  I feel like You are asking me to share my experience with the women in my parish.  Please tell me exactly what message You want me to bring to them.  I don't want to do anything of my own volition, but only Your holy will...

(This is what poured out from my pen in the following hour)
Three hours.  For three hours, Jesus lived on the Cross.  10,800 seconds of dying.  Of pouring His life, breath, and blood out for us.  And at the very same time, pouring out His forgiveness upon us and interceding for us before His Father.  This doesn't even begin to account for His agony in the garden, the merciless scourging, the crown of thorns, carrying the Cross, His falls, and the endless mockery He endured.
Can you imagine standing at the foot of the Cross and telling Jesus that His sacrifice is insufficient?!!  That you need greater proof of His love?!  This is what we are saying when we fail to trust Him.  That we need something more.
If your trust is the measure of your love.  Do you really love Him?  Ask yourself if you have received His mercy, His forgiveness.
If you haven't or feel like you are unable to, beg Him for the grace to accept it.  Only He can do this for us, but we have to ask Him.  He poured out His life for us moment by moment to give us this gift.  He will not refuse you
If you can accept His forgiveness, you can accept His love, with His grace.  Ask Him for it.  Once we can begin to truly love Him, we can begin to trust Him.
It is only when we begin to trust Him, that His total and perfect sacrifice is made perfect in us.  It is only then that we stop adding to His agony.
During our retreat Fr. Scott said "God's greatest joy is forgiveness.  Our own forgiveness is what makes us most like God.  Jesus wanted the nail marks to remain after His resurrection to remind us how much He loves us and how important the Cross is in our lives.  This Lenten season, cast yourself freely and fully into the merciful arms of Jesus. Ask God for the grace to take this step.  Take the Nestea plunge of faith".

Conversation with Christ

February 25, 2012 - In the Adoration Chapel for the last time on retreat

Me - Jesus, I don't want to leave.  I want to stay with You.

Jesus - You can stay with Me, but you cannot stay here.  Take Me with you, everywhere and in all things.  Your conversations, your car rides.  Everywhere you are, I AM.  I love you.  Remain with Me.  Take Me to your children, your husband.  Take Me to the women of your parish.  Take Me to your friends who are unbelievers.  Take Me to your family.  People need Me.  You can bring them to Me.  I need you to do this for Me.

Me - Yes, Lord.  I will do as You ask.  Show me the way.  I love You and never want to be separated from You.

Jesus - I know.  

Jesus is 2 doors down

February 24th, 2012 (Still on retreat)

Ah!  Will I always underestimate our Lord?!  I just finished Confession and am sitting in the Adoration chapel.  I just tore to shreds the lime green sticky note recording the sins I've been accumulating since my last Confession.  They are in pieces at the bottom of a tiny trash can in the room with my precious Savior.  They have lost their power.  If I died in this moment, I would fly straight to Heaven!  "This day you will be with Me in Paradise."  What grace!  What love!  What compassion!  What mercy! 

What if Jesus was always physically present 2 rooms away from where I was?  Like here, at Moye Retreat Center?

He is!  He is!  He is!  Go through the room of the mind and He is in the next room!  The room of my soul!  I don't need to look any farther than that.  Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, April 20, 2012

At the Foot of the Cross

During my silent retreat this past weekend, I felt like I was on the mountain with Jesus for 3 days.  I am convicted now, more than ever before of His love for me and for each one of us.  I learned that I continually underestimate Him, which with His grace I hope to stop doing!  He is asking me to be bold for Him and to tell you of His great longing to be trusted.  By each and every one of us.  So, as a response to His call, I would like to share my journal entry with you about my experience at the foot of the Cross.

I begin here because it is when everything changed for me. I got it. God loves us and it hurts Him beyond our wildest imagination that we neither love nor trust Him. There are many, many writings I will share with you before this time and a few after, but I have never been more convicted than at the foot of the Cross.

 February 23, 2012 - 8:44pm

I just came in from outside.  I was looking for the moon as Fr. Scott suggested, but I found Jesus instead.  Jesus hanging on the Cross, in the cold, dark night.  I stood under Him and saw the space between His back and the Cross.  I saw His elbow and his stretched shoulder joints.  I saw the nail penetrating His foot, but I could not see His face in the shadow.  His chest seemed to rise and fall just once to remind me that before He died on the Cross, He was alive on the Cross.  Alive and in agony - forgiving us.  How can I fail to trust Him?!  He gave everything.  Not just in a moment, but in thousands of suffering moments.
He did all of that for love.  He asks that we trust Him.  There was NOTHING more He could do.  If we still don't trust Him, what recourse does He have?
Oh, sweet Jesus, please forgive our lack of trust.  You have proven your love.  Help us to prove ours. 
You have suffered so much already.  I shudder at the thought of adding more pain because I'm telling you that your sacrifice wasn't enough.
Please, let me never forget the sight of your naked body hanging on your Cross in the shadows.
Please, don't hide Your face from me.  I love you.

That is the end of the journal entry. It occurred to me later that this was the first time I ever REALLY saw Jesus’ body on the cross.  I wear Him around my neck.  I see Him at Mass and every time I walk in and out of a room.  But, He’s always “over there” or behind the altar.