Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Core Fact

So, if you have been following my blog for any length of time, you have probably figured out that I like analogies. It is also the way God gets my attention and speaks to me.

I believe the Lord gave me an analogy that some people reading this blog post may need to hear. I share it in order to encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

You may especially need to be encouraged during times like Lent when you are fasting and trying to draw closer to the Lord. It can almost feel as if you are going backwards instead of forward. Be encouraged however and don't trust your feelings; you are probably closer to Him than you think!

Imagine your soul is like a body of water and Jesus is an anchor. We are called to allow this anchor to go deep into our soul. The way to do this is through fasting and prayer. As we fast, pray and draw closer, eventually this anchor is going to hit bottom. When the anchor hits bottom or the depth of our soul, it stirs up all kinds of muck. It can even uncover creatures like crabs and such. The crabs don't like to be uncovered and brought into the light so they may try to pinch and attack.

If you will persevere, find a quiet retreat in your soul to commune with God, the light of his face will cause the enemy to flee and the mucky water to become clear again!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Let's Find Our Way Back!

Recently I watched the new Disney animated movie, Moana. The Producers spent 5 years researching and visiting the islands in the South Pacific before making the movie. In doing so, they were able to get acquainted with Polynesian culture. Under the special features section of the Moana DVD, one can learn about the culture as well. 

While I was watching the "making of the movie", it occurred to me just how far we have strayed from the way God originally intended the world to be.

On these little islands in the South Pacific, the people have held onto their cultural heritage. They have handed down their traditions and history through stories passed onto their children. They also have a real sense of family and community. They even help raise one another's children, considering everyone in the village, family and they share everything they have with one another. One thing that struck the directors was the sincerity and friendliness of the teenagers that lived there.

Along with respect for people, the Polynesian culture has a great respect for the land and ocean. They live off the land, using all the natural resources available to them. They have the mindset that the land owns them, they don't own the land. Their faith is also a big part of who they are and worship with their community is very important to them.

Another thing that is interesting about them is, despite modern technologies, they have stuck with their own way of doing things that has worked for them. For example, many still rely on the stars as a way of navigation instead of GPS.

It occurred to me while watching the movie that in this day and age, with the technology we have, we are able to connect with people all around the world but we are no longer connecting with our own family, neighbors or community. Modern technology has become our Tower of Babel. With technology we have attempted to become like God apart from God and have failed to recognize God in our neighbor and working within nature. We've become out of touch and blind as we have sought bigger and better advancements; no longer seeing Him in the details of everyday life.

It all started in the Garden of Eden. Man chose knowledge over Wisdom and Life. True Wisdom and Life can only be found in God. We wanted to become our own little god instead of eating from the source of Life to become like the one true God. We thought we could attain perfection by gaining more and more knowledge but instead it has caused us to become less of who we were made to be and whom we were made for. We have strayed farther from our roots, our true identity, our heritage. We have strayed far away from the way life was meant to be lived.

Although it doesn't sound half bad, I don't think the answer is to sail off to a little island and start a community. In Christ there is hope! Jesus can redeem anything! Through the cross of Christ we have the opportunity to once again eat from the Tree of Life and become like Him! We can put Jesus first instead of being distracted by the latest technology. We can begin connecting and reaching out to our neighbor and those around us. In Christ we can live life to the fullest, build community and be an example to others of the joy that comes from following Him!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's Not Too Late!

We are almost a week into this Lenten season. How is your Lent going so far? Are you keeping your Lenten promises? Are you drawing closer to the Lord?

A good thing to keep in mind is that God desires our hearts, not our sacrifices just for the sake of sacrifice (Matt. 9:15; 1 Sam. 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16)!

If you want the best Lent ever, think of those things that distract you from drawing close to the Lord; those things that hinder your walk with him and prevent you from receiving all of his love for you! Then refrain from those things. It's not too late! We still have 34 more days!

Joel 2:12-13 Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Desolation Dog

Lent starts in just a few days. The first day is Wednesday, March 1st. If you are looking to grow deeper in your faith this Lent, you might want to consider reading the book, Discernment of Spirits  by Fr.Timothy Gallagher. It is based on the rules of discernment by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The rule I personally found most helpful and one of the hardest to follow is rule number 5. Rule number 5 advises that you do not make a change during times of spiritual desolation.

The best thing to do in times of desolation is to wait upon the Lord, sit in his presence and allow Him to do a purifying work. That is so hard to do especially during times of desolation when we don't feel his presence! It is very difficult to sit still and wrestle with our own thoughts, weaknesses and sin. It is easier and feels more natural to run to idols or distractions.

We all have our own vices and means we use to distract ourselves. My personal weakness has been cute little furry animals. During times of desolation I have fallen into the temptation of adopting them (this is not a temptation or a sin if you aren't trying to fill a longing in your heart with it). The only problem is they don't always stay little and cute. They have also not always worked out for our family and we have had to find some of them new homes.

We currently have a desolation dog. I got her as a cute little puppy, two years ago, during a dry period in my spiritual life; reasoning that our kids needed the experience of having a pet, specifically a puppy. The only problem is now she is an adult dog who barks at anything that moves 25 yards from our house and she nips at kids. We can not bring her around other people, especially little children.

Hindsight, I should have sat with the Lord in the uncomfortable dryness instead of trying to fill that emptiness in my heart with a furry creature. I should have turned to the Creator instead of one of his creatures.

Failing to wait for God's best is nothing new to God's people. The bible is full of stories of people who didn't always wait for His best. Even Abraham who had tremendous faith in God, decided to take matters in his own hands when he took Sarah's handmaid, Hagar in an attempt to fulfill God's promise for a child. Ishmael was the result.

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Rerouting, I talked about how God doesn't just have a plan "A" for us. If we mess up plan "A", he will give us plan "B" and so on.

It isn't too late however for us to resolve to wait upon the Lord and receive his best! We can choose His plan "A" for today!

What distractions are you tempted to run to when faced with dryness in your soul? This Lent let us resolve to let go of idols and distractions. Let us sit at the Lord's feet and allow Him to do a purifying work in us so we can grow closer to Him. Let us become more aware of his merciful love for us and that we are his beloved!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Who is My Neighbor?

This past weekend, the first Mass reading was from Leviticus 19 which talks about loving your neighbor as yourself. The Gospel reading was from Matthew 5 and was about not only loving your neighbor but also your enemy.

I believe that we are asked to love our neighbor because sometimes our neighbor is the hardest to love. They can often annoy and frustrate us the most! Especially those neighbors who are rude, obnoxious and do not understand boundaries.  Often, if we can learn to love our neighbors, we can love anyone. Also, if we are not able to love our neighbor whom we can see, how can we love God whom we can not see (1John 4:20)?

It's interesting how people often do not make the connection and Christians pick and choose what bible verses they want to follow!

Currently, the person who bought out house in Florida and our previous neighbor are feuding. Ironically, they are both professing Christians. They are feuding over trees.

You see, our previous neighbor has huge trees that almost completely hang over the pool of our previous house. When we lived there, I did find the trees annoying and it was frustrating trying to keep the pool clean but I also understood that our neighbors didn't have the extra money to trim them and we didn't have the extra money to trim them so I tried to look at the positive side of things (at least I had a pool to clean leaves out of, it was much needed exercise that I wouldn't otherwise be disciplined enough to get, etc.). Also, as I cleaned the leaves out of the pool, dumping them in the trash can I kept nearby, I would offer the frustration of it as a prayer for others. Being able to offer that up as a prayer kept the peace in the neighborhood.

Well, it turns out that the new owners do not share the same sentiment. They have been scooping the leaves out of the pool and throwing them over the fence of the neighbors. Needless to say, that isn't going over so well with the neighbors and I am hearing about it as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Suddenly this peaceful neighborhood I once lived in, isn't so peaceful anymore.

Like I said before, both families are professing Christians. Now this is not a blog post about immigration but I find it ironic that my old neighbor is also very angry over the "immigration ban".

How can we love immigrants and foreigners if we can not even love our neighbor?!

No matter where we move to, there is always going to be THAT neighbor. We currently have THAT neighbor at our new home. She is a very grumpy, middle-aged woman whom doesn't seem to like life much. I keep being kind to her. Maybe eventually she will open up to me and I will find out why she is so miserable. If she doesn't though, I will keep loving her.

Even though loving our neighbor doesn't necessarily mean just the person next door, If we would all start there first, the world would probably be a lot more peaceful of a place.

I remember a story Mother Theresa once told of a Muslim woman whose family didn't have anything to eat and was starving. Mother Theresa gave her food for her family. The Muslim woman ended up giving half of the food to her neighbor. This Muslim woman proved to be a better Christian than most Christians!

If you are a Christian, Christianity isn't just a nice philosophy or idealistic notion! If we are true followers of Jesus, we are called not only to be kind but to lay our life down for others, pick up our cross and love even our enemies!






Monday, February 13, 2017

Rerouting...

This past summer, our family underwent a major life change! After living in sunny Central Florida for seventeen years, we moved to the Hoosier state. One of the most difficult challenges to living in a new place is navigating the area. This is especially hard for me because I have no sense of direction. I seem to be directionally impaired, which seems to be genetic and handed down to me by my father. We both even have a hard time getting out of parking lots and neighborhoods.

I am eternally grateful for GPS and Google Maps! I am not sure how people found their way around before these technological advances! Even with the help of Google Maps however, I still manage to get lost and turned around. Sometimes I misinterpret the map and where I am being told to turn. Somehow I always manage to head in the opposite direction of where I need to be.

Fortunately for me, the GPS gives me many chances. If I mess up and start going in the wrong direction, it will reroute and take me on a new path to get me where I need to go. It will do this limitless times for me.

God is the same way! We can often think that God has a Plan A and if we blow it, that's it! We think he will give up on us and we will never be able to be used by him. That isn't true however. God has a way of making straight our crooked paths. He is the God of second chances and limitless mercy! If we mess up our "Plan A", he will give us a "Plan B". If we mess up our "Plan B", he will give us Plan C and so on.

If we look at God's people in the bible, most of them did not follow his "Plan A". I think Mary, Jesus' mother was probably the only fully human person that followed "Plan A" (thank goodness!). Most of the others messed up. Abraham tried to make God's will happen according to his own understanding by being with Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah. King David had a child with Bathsheba and was responsible for the death of her husband. Peter denied Jesus and initially ran. I could go on and on. Mainly what they are known for however is their faithfulness, God's love for them and their willingness to repent and get back up.

I don't think we have a clue or can even begin to grasp and comprehend just how kind and merciful the Lord is! He has big plans for us and wants to use us! He also has our best interest at heart and wants to see us succeed! The key to hearing the re-routing directions and plans he has for us is to first be still, rest in him and listen. When the directions come, be ready to rely on his grace and obey!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Climbing the Mountain of the Lord

So, if you haven't figured out by now, I can be a little out there. It is funny because sometimes the Holy Spirit will lay something on my heart; I will feel compelled to write about it but then I will have this sinking feeling, like, "Oh, crap! What did I just do?! What are people going to think?!"

Often when insecure feelings sneak up on me like that and I care too much what others think, I know purification is needed and is probably the season I will be coming into. Those feelings are usually a symptom of a stronghold that is in my heart.

We can often think that the spiritual life and our journey to heaven is just a straight line but it is not. We are called to climb the mountain of the Lord.  This mountain however is not like other mountains. You can not just go straight up this mountain. The path on this mountain has dips and valleys. Every time you make a dip and take advantage of the valley, you go up a little higher when you come out of it and obtain greater freedom. I like to think of a spiral staircase that with each turn slopes down before it goes up. A staircase like this can not really be found because it isn't natural. No one would naturally choose to go down before they go up. Naturally, it isn't very practical and it would take longer. This is more of a supernatural concept. God's ways aren't always our ways!

There are ways to know if we are higher up on the mountain or in a valley. When we are higher, usually we feel good about ourselves, feel close to God and connected to others. When we are in a season of being in the valley or lower on the mountain, all kinds of dross can surface in our heart and can make us feel angst or restless. This dross needs to be skimmed off and purified. 
Some of the things that can surface in our heart when we are in a valley are anxieties, fears, lust, insecurities, anger, etc. When these things surface, it is usually a symptom of a deeper issue. It can signal a root or stronghold in our life. The temptation is to busy ourselves with distractions. It isn't always easy to sit with our own thoughts.

The best thing to do in the valley however is sit and be still at the Lord's feet. Silence is also imperative and fasting can also be very helpful.

Memories will often come to mind during this season as well. It is best not to push them under the rug and ignore them. Usually if memories surface, it is because they need to be dealt with and the Lord is bringing them to mind. Memories can reveal root causes and motives for our negative behavior and attitudes. Usually negative things that happen in our life can cause us to buy into lies about ourselves, those around us, and even God. If we are going to experience greater freedom, these lies need to be replaced with God's truth. You can only hear and receive this truth if you are humble enough to sit in an uncomfortable place and deal with self examination in light of the Lord's face. 

After dealing with unpleasant memories and strongholds, it is important to replace this empty space with God's love and his presence. This will also bring us out of the valley and into a higher place, closer to the Lord.

Psalm 24:3 - Who will climb the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in his Holy place?

For more details regarding strongholds, here are a couple more blog posts I wrote on the subject:

Dealing with Strongholds


Jesus Wore Purple Knickers