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 in you. That is so hard to do especially during times of desolation when you don't feel his presence! It is very difficult to sit still and wrestle with your 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 cute little furry baby animals (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 empty ourselves 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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Writing is on the Wall

I probably do not need to make this statement because it has become rather obvious but there is a lot of civil unrest, anxiety and fear right now in our nation and in the world. Some of it is justified, some of it is not. 

The Writing is on the Wall! 

The definition of that statement originally came from the book of Daniel in the bible and means: There are clear signs that something unpleasant or unwelcome is about to happen. You can also read the story from Daniel 5 and draw your own conclusions.

Not to be the bearer of bad news but it's about to get even uglier out there!

The good news is that God is in control! He will use these times for his purposes and glory!

People are learning that you can not put your trust in man. Obama was not the answer. Trump is not the answer. Only Jesus is the answer!

If you are a Christian, it is your time to shine! Especially if you have been in a place of hiddenness and rest, receiving God's love for you and his transforming work. You are about to get your moment! As conditions worsen in the world, people are going to be looking for answers and are going to turn to the Church. You will have the opportunity to point people to the Way!

Now is not the time for confrontation or heated arguments. It is not the time to blame or vilify. 

It is the time however to show the world what true, sacrificial love looks like! Hold on, trust and keep your eyes on Jesus. It might be a wild ride!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What the World Needs Now

Often we are forced to take sides. As fragmented humans we have a tendency toward extremes and society often forces us to extremes. We can think that things are either/or when it is really both/and or neither. Also the truth is usually found somewhere in the middle.

However, it is thought that if we are not on one side of an issue or political party, well, we must be on the other. If we don't agree with something one political party stands for, then we must agree with everything the other stands for.

If we don't agree with certain behaviors, well, we must not love a person engaged in that behavior. 


The same holds true in Christian circles because we are still sinners, trying to figure this all out. 


I love the scripture from Hebrews 4:16! It says, we can approach the throne of grace with all confidence!


I have noticed a tendency however for Christians to water down the Gospel message in order to feel worthy to approach the glory of God and the throne of his grace.They think it is either/or. They also think the Gospel message needs to be watered down in order to reach people with Christ's love even though real love is rooted and grounded in truth; in the cross. If it isn't, then it isn't real love.


The other extreme is to realize the greatness of God but put up walls out of a feeling of unworthiness to approach him, as well as condemn and judge others whom they feel are falling short.


Both sides and attitudes miss the mark!


This is a situation where it is both/and! God is Great, Glorious, and Holy but we can still approach him in all his awesomeness, in all our sinfulness and receive his infinite love and mercy! It is a free gift!


How do we get to this place of both/and? We approach God, in all his Glorious Sacredness, recognizing our sinfulness and we sit, surrender, and rest in his extravagant love for us! We let him pour the oil of his mercy and love over us and transform us from the inside out! Then we go out and show others this kind of radical, sacrificial, extravagant love! A love that is sacrificial loves without compromise; a love that is willing to sit with someone in their pain and their struggles! A love that hurts! A love that doesn't back down! A love that recognizes the dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God! If this kind of love is received, it encourages people to come up higher instead of choosing the easy way out!


This is what the world needs!!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Will the Real Women's Movement Please Stand Up?!

It has been a while since I have blogged. Not because I haven't had anything to say but more because I have had too much to say concerning various topics and trying to organize my thoughts and focus on just one topic seemed too hard and time consuming!

There have been lots of changes in our household! Two of my daughters are now going to the Catholic school connected to our parish. They were previously homeschooled. The Lord often calls us to persevere through hard circumstances but when he is in it, there is usually an underlying peace and joy. If something feels like drudgery and against the current, I think we need to question and re-evaluate whether we are in God's will. That is ultimately what caused my husband to leave his insurance job and for us to end up in Indiana. That is also what led me to start sending my kids to school instead of homeschooling. It has been a big transition but I think it will be really good for them. I also feel a weight lifted off my shoulders! I am still homeschooling one of my daughters who has some learning difficulties and I feel good about that. She benefits more from one on one interaction than she would in a classroom setting.

On another topic, the women's march this past weekend got me thinking and remembering. About 7 years ago, the Lord started speaking to me about a women's movement that he was going to raise up. I do not believe this feminist, pro-abortion women's movement is it. Why do I think this? Well, because it seems to be vulgar, self-serving, self-promoting, exclusive and does not allow pro-life women to be a part of it.

Then I got to thinking and praying about what a true women's movement, led by the Holy Spirit would look like. I believe it would be just the opposite. The devil must sense something is about to spring up. He loves to copy and counterfeit. Everything that God has, Satan has a counterfeit for. There is even a counterfeit for all the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

There is false love, peace, joy, etc... True love is sacrificial, just look at the cross for an example! True love is also rooted in truth. True peace surpasses all understanding! True joy isn't just a feeling of happiness but a euphoria that comes from being in the will of God despite external circumstances!

A true women's movement led by the Holy Spirit would not be self-serving, 'my body, my choice' but would be concerned about and respect the rights and dignity of all women from womb to the tomb. A true women's movement would be concerned about human rights abuses, human trafficking, pornography because it objectifies women, and sex-selection abortions that has killed millions of baby girls around the world, especially in China and India. I believe a true women's movement would also celebrate the beauty and femininity of women as God created them!

Okay, off my soap box but praying that the real women's movement will rise up and show the world what real women and sacrificial, Christ-like love looks like!

*Edited to add - I just would like to clarify that I do not think women who participated in the Women's March are evil. I know some really good women with good hearts that went to the march. Their intentions were pure and reasonable. I also admire the courageous pro-life groups who went even though they were spat upon, charged and pushed to the ground. I think it is good that they were a presence there. My take on the March however is it fell short and missed the mark, and did not represent all women.