Friday, March 27, 2015

Behind the Name, Beautiful Thorns

Years ago I went through a severe trial and very intense spiritual warfare. After that happened, I cried out to the Lord and told him, "I just want a normal, leisurely life"! Well, he heard my prayer and he left me alone for the next 6 years. Needless to say, I was miserable! There were no spiritual consolations; I did not sense or hear from the Lord at all during that time. The worst part about it though was my passion towards him was gone! I had no desire to pray or to serve him. I felt like Jesus could have appeared in all his glory right in front of me and I would not have been moved. It was a very scary place to be and even made me question my salvation.


At first I did not recognize that this was an answer to my prayer. When I finally realized it, I repented for praying that way and began pressing in to have God's presence again in my life.  I cried out to the Lord and asked for passion to return. I also asked for the intercession of St. Raphael (an Archangel found in the book of Tobit, associated with bringing God's healing). Well, to put it mildly, he heard and answered my prayer. I received a great spiritual and emotional healing. It was more like St. Raphael took a burning coal from the throne room of God and touched my heart with it and it caused me to bawl like a baby for hours.


Since that happened, I have been very careful not to go back to that place of desolation and lack of passion for the Lord. I even told the Lord never to let me go back to that place again and to do whatever it takes to keep me from it. You see, I am human and when given the choice between comfort and carrying my cross, I usually choose comfort. I flinch at the idea of fasting and doing penance. The Lord knows that my flesh is weak so he sometimes gives me what I call "thorns". He lovingly hands me thorns from his crown, an opportunity to share in his sufferings. He does this so I can come up higher and deepen my relationship with him.

I have not always received these thorns well and out of fear and false humility would tell Jesus in my heart, "Oh, I could never handle even a fraction of what you went through!". I have learned over time however that he knows best and I can trust him. He knows the best and quickest way to transform me into his image and draw me closer to him. When everything is going well, I am less likely to cling to him and recognize my need for him.

When the thorns or trials of life come and when I am not feeling well physically, the temptation is still there to get discouraged and depressed but I am learning to lean back in him and let him do a work in me. When I do cling to him and he pulls me through it, I usually come to a place of greater love for the Lord and others and am able to receive greater revelation. Hence the name Beautiful Thorns!
2 Corinthians 4:17 -For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lenten Deep Cleaning


Once we had a vacuum cleaner that would only suck up a certain amount of dirt. For some reason the dirt was not going into the canister and was only going through the hose. We kept cleaning the dirt out of the hose and it kept getting clogged up. We knew there must be a blockage somewhere that was hard to get to but we didn't have the time or energy to take the whole vacuum apart to discover where the blockage was. Finally it got rather old; vacuuming a little, cleaning out the hose, vacuuming a little, cleaning out the hose. So, we finally got out the screw driver and took apart a whole section of the vacuum. It was then that we discovered that there was a toy stuck in a very narrow section at the beginning of the hose right by the canister and it was preventing dirt from getting through. The air flow was blocked.

Often in our own lives, we keep dealing with the same sins over and over again. We even confess these sins but get discouraged when we can not seem to overcome them. Even so, we recoil at the thought of actually being still and seriously seeking God in order to discover what is in our own heart that is blocking the flow of his Spirit and the root cause of our sin. However when we finally do decide to deal with the root cause of our sin, amazingly, we feel so much better and experience a greater level of freedom in our lives. We can also once again experience God's loving presence.

Lent presents itself with a great opportunity for self-examination. An opportunity to slow down, take a step back, be still and reflect on our lives in light of the cross. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we will realize that when God seems distant, it is often because we would rather conform him to our image and likeness instead of us being conformed to his image and likeness. Being conformed to God's image and likeness requires a little effort on our part. It requires us to fast and do penance from those things that we turn to instead of God. It requires us to be willing to take a deeper look at the dirt in our own hearts. We naturally want to flinch at the idea of fasting and doing penance. Our flesh cries out and we want to run in the other direction and drown out God's voice. If we persevere however and are willing to go deep into the desert of our lives, it is there that we will find Jesus and a greater level of freedom as we allow him to get to the root of our sins instead of us just dealing with the symptoms.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is Prayer?


I don't know if anyone else suffers from this problem, but I tend to forget things easily. I am also not a very organized person and can be scatter-brained so if I don't write things down, I easily forget. One spiritual thing I realized I forgot about recently was "The Jesus Prayer". I used to do a version of this quite often but as life got busy, I got away from it. This Lent, the Lord reminded me of it. By his grace, I picked it up again, repeating this prayer often throughout the day. 

One version I say is "Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner."  I also like to repeat the verse from Revelations 4:1-8 "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty  who was and is and is to come!" Do you know what began to happen? As I began saying these prayers, I found myself getting a lot less agitated and becoming more patient, especially with my kids. You see...it is not necessarily about the words and how many times they are spoken. It is about being mindful of God and becoming aware of his presence; being aware that we are in him and he is in us and walking in the knowledge of that. It is about leaning back in Christ and receiving his grace and strength; uniting ourselves with him. Ultimately, that is what prayer is. It is not about how many words we say. Scripture even says, "Do not babble like the pagans." (Matthew 6:7). It is about uniting ourselves with Christ and abiding in him. Repetitious prayers like "The Jesus Prayer" and the rosary are wonderful tools that can help us do that.   




Another powerful form of prayer that unites us with Christ is adoration. When we adore Christ, we stand in awe of his greatness. This is a way to honor and worship him. A beautiful form of adoration is Eucharistic Adoration. This is when the Eucharist (which Catholics believe to be fully Jesus) is exposed on the altar. This makes it easy to adore him, because even if he is hidden under the appearance of bread, his presence is usually very tangible. Since my church only has Eucharistic adoration once a month, I have found other ways to spend time in adoration. I personally like to gaze at a picture of Jesus, like an artist's rendition from the Shroud of Turin. This has proved to be very fruitful in my own prayer life. In fact, I believe the Lord once told me that he left this image for us as a gift and he wants his face to be imprinted on our hearts.



I also want to talk about intercessory prayer because I think it is often misunderstood. I know I have talked about this before and I don't want to sound like a broken record but it is something I feel passionate about and want others to understand. Intercession is about us acknowledging God's goodness and mercy. It is about us being aware of what he already wants to do and then participating with him. Through intercession we should be joining our hearts to his heart  for the person or situation that needs prayer. What intercession should not become is us begging God to act as if he is an ogre withholding good things from his children. I think he even finds this insulting and one of the reasons we don't always see our prayers being answered. He is pleased when his children trust him and believe in his goodness. 



There are many different types of prayer and ways to pray, but the true goal of all prayer should be to encounter God and to become more united with him through Christ! True prayer is transformative! True, faith-filled prayer that unites us with Christ causes heaven and earth to collide and we begin to experience God's Kingdom in the here and now!   


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bread That Does Not Satisfy

This Wednesday, February 18th, is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I happen to love Lent! Lent is a time when we can take stock and reflect on the things in our life that we may be turning to and trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment in other than God. It is a time to do penance and fast from these things.

Often without even realizing it, we turn to "bread" that does not satisfy.  "Bread" that the world offers us. "Bread" that leaves us longing and still hungry. Our God is so good and kind that sometimes he allows us to have this worldly "bread" so we can get it out of our system and realize that we do not really want this "bread" and the only bread we really want is HIM. Jesus is the true bread that came down from heaven and the only bread that can truly satisfy the longing in our heart!
Isaiah 55:2 - Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
John 6:35 - [Jesus said] I am the bread of life. he who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  
During Lent there is abundant grace available for us to come up higher and grow closer to God. It is a much quicker way to fast and be purged from earthly desires and attachments than to give into them and find out the hard way that they are not going to satisfy. Lent gives us this opportunity.
Colossians 3:1 - So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Let us take advantage of this Lenten season, being willing to be purged from worldly attachments so we can come up higher and be transformed into his glory!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Roller Coasters, Puppies, and Learning to Fly!

The past eleven days has been a real roller coaster ride! I am not a big fan of roller coasters, either at amusement parks or in real life! They make me nauseous and I'm not a fan of the thrill. Sometimes however the trials of life that feel like roller coaster rides can help us grow the most in faith. Hopefully the story I am about to tell will produce growth in me. After-all, the Lord can use anything (Romans 8:28)!

Our children have been begging us for a while for a puppy. My husband and I have been researching what would be a good breed for our family. We have tried big breed dogs and they usually knock the children over and can be pretty destructive so that did not work for our family. We once had a Miniature Schnauzer and she was a really good dog. She was smart, easy to house-break and good with the kids. Pure bred Schnauzers however are a lot more than we could afford. I ended up finding some mixed breed Schnauzer/ Havanese puppies that were available. They cost a lot less and were very cute. So, January 4th we surprised our children with this new puppy because for some reason Tom and I thrive off chaos ;) We had her for four days when suddenly she started vomiting, not just once but multiple times. I took her to the vet where they performed some tests on her and discovered she had Parvovirus. From everything I read online, Parvo was often times fatal in puppies. The prognosis looked pretty bleak!

Ironically right before all this happened, the Lord gave me a word for this year. He told me this year would be a year of learning to walk in Kingdom authority; the authority I have as a daughter of the King. Now, if you are like me, you know this stuff in your head but it hasn't necessarily reached your heart yet. That is the place I think I am at. The Lord also told me he wanted me to come up higher and take my rightful place among royalty. I then saw an origami fortune teller like we would often make in middle school and I saw an origami bird. He told me I could either choose to worry about the future or I could choose to become like a bird and fly.

I am thinking it can be a really powerful thing to truly know who we are in Christ and walk in the knowledge of the authority we have in him! We are God's children and we have full access to his Kingdom. In the story of the prodigal son, the father reminded the elder son that everything he had was available to him and at his disposal. This applies to us as well! If we could walk in the knowledge of that, we could move mountains!

Often times however, we choose to get caught up in worldly affairs and worry. If you are like me, you worry about the here and now and what the future holds. By doing this, we rob ourselves of our inheritance.

The younger son understood that he could have full access to his inheritance in the present. What he did not understand is that he was made for greatness. If he had chosen to stay in his Father's house, he would have been able to walk in that greatness. Instead he chose what the world was offering him and lost his dignity until he repented and came back to the father.

One thing I have learned through the late John Wimber and his book "Power Healing" is  we do not need to beg God for things. He is our loving Father and longs to pour out on us the richness of his mercy and grace. It is available for the asking. Once John begged the Lord for healing for a sick woman and the Lord gave John a vision of a huge honey-comb overflowing and dripping with honey. He showed John that he did not need to beg for healing. He was a loving Father, longing to pour out his goodness.

Now, I don't fully understand everything about the Kingdom. I don't understand why God would heal a puppy and not always people. Scripture says that God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). There have been times in the past I have prayed for terminally ill people and even children. I was believing for healing for them as were their loved ones. The Holy Spirit led me to pray for them and when the burden to intercede lifted from my heart, I heard the Lord say, "It is finished!" and then they died. I believe they did receive their healing, just not in the way we wanted to see. They must have received their healing in the after-life and their suffering was worth something, it was redemptive.

So, back to our puppy. I figured if I could believe in healing for a puppy, I could believe more fully in healing for people who are made in the image and likeness of God. She ended up being my guinea pig to learn how to pray more perfectly for healing. I believed that God wanted to heal her. I tried to stand in faith of God's healing for her but my faith was tested greatly! As she was getting over the Parvovirus, she was developing a whole new set of symptoms not related to the Parvo. She was experiencing pain all over her body, especially in her hind legs. At first the vet thought she had a liver problem but then it was discovered that she had a bad case of hook worms that had migrated into her muscles. All week long it was touch and go as to whether she would live or die. Meanwhile, we imagined our pocket book shrinking and the dog not even making it. The reason it felt like a roller coaster ride was because I let what the vet was telling me and the circumstances dictate whether I had faith or lack of peace and discouragement. This showed me that I still had a long way to go and a lot to learn. I believed I was supposed to pray for her healing but my faith for that was definitely tested. Amazingly she did live and she is home with us. She still has some pain, can't walk well and is weak but I am continuing to pray for her and believe in a full recovery. Oh, and on the financial end of things, the breeder gave me my money back for the puppy plus money for the vet. The vet bill didn't come to nearly as much as I thought it would and what the woman gave me almost paid for all of it.

I believe the Lord wants to get us to a place where our faith and trust in him is unwavering and not dependent on our circumstances. When the storms of life come he wants us to not be shaken. A couple years ago the Lord gave me a word that a great harvest was coming into the Church. I was also told that "Now is the time to get ready!". The Lord, through the storms of life is preparing people to be a light to others. He is preparing us to be able to stand even in the midst of adversity and give hope to those around us! He is calling us to help manifest his Kingdom here on earth!



Friday, January 2, 2015

Jesus Wore Purple Knickers

I recently realized I hadn't blogged the whole month of December. It wasn't because I was too busy or because I didn't have anything to write about but because I have been pondering some things and have been letting them take root before sharing.

One truth I have been reflecting on is how Jesus took on our shame. He literally took on our shame when he died such a shameful death on the cross. Since he took on our shame, we do not need to walk in shame. Often however we do walk in shame because of past hurts and sin we have experienced. The enemy would like to use these hurts to keep us down and keep us from doing the works God has called us in advance to do (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord however would like to help us overcome these hurts and then would like to use these healed hurts to help others and bring glory to his name.

One such incident in my own life was from middle school. In 7th grade, I was bused to an inner city school in Alexandria, Louisiana. My mother had just taken a trip to Chicago and discovered new fashions that she had not yet seen in my little town of Pineville, Louisiana. One such fashion she witnessed was on a mannequin in a high end department store. She thought it was adorable so she bought it for me. It consisted of dark purple knickers and knee high yellowish, orange socks. Please do not google purple knickers because good things will not come up, but basically they were pants that went to the knees with elastic. This was not yet something my little town in Louisiana had seen in the early 1980's. Reluctantly I decided I would wear them to school since my mother was so excited about them and she lovingly bought them for me. Let's just say it did not go very well. In the morning before classes started, everyone would gather under the outdoor pavilion. On this particular day, not even my friends would stand by me. Many of the students stood in a circle, with me in the middle as they pointed, laughed and called my knickers another name that sounds similar. I was beyond humiliated and it turned out to be the longest day ever. I hung my head low in shame each time I had to switch classes and then in the afternoon, get on the bus. I thought I would die and the day would never end!

That incident happened years ago and I had pretty much forgotten about it. I definitely did not think it still affected me, but one day the memory reared it's ugly head. As the memory surfaced, I realized I still felt embarrassed and shameful regarding it. That incident made me feel like a loser. I prayed about it and asked Jesus to show me where he was when this happened. Do you know what he showed me? Something that made me laugh and put a smile on my face; He showed me himself standing next to me when all my peers were standing around me taunting and making fun of me. Not only that, but he was proudly wearing purple knickers!!! I get teary eyed even thinking about it.

That is what it means that he took on our shame and humiliation. He really did experience everything that we experience. That is what the incarnation was all about! He didn't just redeem us from a distance, he became one of us! His entire life was an act of redemption!
Philippians 2:6 - Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.
And I will end with this awesome scripture passage that I read just this morning: 
Philippians 3:20-21 - Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 
Have a very blessed New Year!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Be a Living Rosary!

Drawing by Anna Ponchak
I believe God calls us to the vocation that is going to best help us encounter him and help us grow in holiness. The more we encounter him and grow in holiness, the more joy we will have. For me, that vocation is Motherhood. 

My children have definitely helped me in my quest for holiness and have helped me grow closer to Christ. Through my first two, the Lord started teaching me about resting in him and receiving his grace. The next two helped teach me perseverance. Number six, our boy taught me that God is faithful to his promises. Through my fifth child however, I feel like I have grown the most. You see, she was miserable from day one and continued to be that way until she turned four. She cried all the time, even when I would hold her. She also would not go to anyone else but me and she constantly wanted to be held and nursed so I never got a break. 

One day I was sitting in the rocking chair, that she dictated I sit in, and nursed her while also reading a book a friend gave me. The book was Interior Freedom, by Fr. Jacques Philippe. I read stories about people that had been prisoners in concentration camps but still had joy and peace because they had found an interior freedom that came from knowing Christ. I cried as I read this book because like them, I also felt like a prisoner, just to a lesser degree. Before my fifth daughter was born, I kind of had it all together, or at least I thought I did. Everything was somewhat under control. I was usually able to complete my "to-do-list" every day. After Sarah showed up however, my world seemed to fall apart. That book helped me to see that there was a lot of work that the Holy Spirit still needed to do in my heart. I realized he was calling me to a higher level of surrender.

I began to realize that my main goal everyday was to complete my mental "to-do-list". I even had prayer on that list. If anything stood in the way of me getting my list completed, I would lose my peace and my joy and my family suffered. After two years of struggling to row upstream and cry out to the Lord, "WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!", he finally showed me my problem. He impressed on me that my main goal every day needed to be to encounter him and help my children encounter him. I then realized, that even though I was making it a priority to pray everyday, I wasn't necessarily taking the time to encounter him. By just trying to complete my "to-do-list" everyday, I had become like a hamster on a hamster wheel and life lost it's joy and felt like drudgery.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said, "The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all those who encounter Christ."

When our main goal is to encounter Christ, well, we can do that no matter what is going on in our lives. We can encounter Jesus in the joys of life. We can encounter him in the sorrows and the cross. We can encounter him on the mountaintop or the valley. We can find him in the mundane and the thrilling. Most everything we experience, Jesus experienced. He was and is a person. These are also the things we meditate on when we pray a Rosary. For my Protestant friends who may think the Rosary is all about Mary, it really is not. Through the Rosary, we meditate on the Gospel, the life of Jesus. Yes, there are also Marian prayers. Through these we ask Mary for her intercession and to bring us into a deeper relationship with her son. There are also a few things we experience, especially those of us who are mother's, that Mary instead of Jesus experienced. She experienced the joy and sorrow of being a mother. It is okay to meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8). Jesus gave her as a gift to us (John 19:27) and we can find comfort in her story because it is our story too. Unlike Jesus who was also fully God, Mary was fully human and yet she was highly favored and full of grace (Luke 1:28). This should encourage us of how much we also are loved and the level that God desires to elevate us and how we, like Mary are also called to magnify him (Luke 1:46). This is also what we as Catholics meditate on when we pray a Rosary. Mainly though, through the Rosary we meditate on the life of Jesus. We meditate on his joys, his adventures, his sorrows, and his glory. It is all covered in the Rosary. The goal then is to join our lives to his. In this way, we become a living Rosary.