Friday, February 28, 2014

My Story - Part I

I realized I never really shared my conversion story on my blog. When I started my blog, I started with a little bit of my background story but it was really part 2 of my story. Here is the rest or should I say, beginning of my story:

I was born in Jefferson City, Missouri and grew up in a little town called Mexico, Missouri. We lived in the country and had cows in our back yard. My parents as well as extended family lived in or near Jeff City. I was also raised Catholic. We went to mass every Sunday but I do not recall God ever being talked about in our home and I do not remember us ever praying together except grace at meal times.

Since it was the Midwest, people were very friendly. It was pretty common to say hello to people you didn't know. So, if I had any faith at all, it was in people. When I was 11, we moved to Louisiana. Again, people were very friendly and I didn't have any trouble making friends. When I was 15 however and a sophomore in high school, we moved to Coral Springs, FL. South Florida was a lot different than the Midwest and the little town in Louisiana where I grew up. It was especially difficult to move there and try to make friends in my second year of high school. Kids already had their friends and their cliques.

By the time I was 18, I lost the only faith I really had, which was in people. I became very discouraged, started to doubt the existence of God and stopped going to church. I fell into a life of sin and deeper and deeper despair. One thing that I would not do was drugs. My friends and even my boyfriend at the time would do drugs even right in front of me but I would not join in. One day I decided I would give it a try. I told my boyfriend, expecting him to have something on hand. To my surprise he did not. We had to drive into a shady part of town after dark looking for his dealer. So, here we are driving along when all of a sudden we had to come to a stop because there were five really big guys lined up across the road and three of them were holding rifles. They surrounded our car while shouting at us as one of them pointed his gun right at me. My life flashed before my eyes. I seriously thought they were going to kill us. All I could think about in that moment was that they were going to kill us, bury us somewhere and no one would even know what happened to us. I had never been so scared in all my life. Before I knew it however, they had let us go and we were driving away.

Needless to say, that incident began my conversion process. After that situation, I stopped hanging out with my friends and I stayed in my room for nearly two weeks straight and thought about my life. I started to question if there was a God; if there was a heaven and a hell and where I would have gone if I had died. After those two weeks, I decided to go to church after being away for a year. That Sunday seemed different however and during the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass, it's like my eyes were open for the first time and I recognized Jesus. I experienced his love and mercy towards me. I felt his presence. I realized at that moment that that was what I was longing for and I gave him my life that October day in 1988. That is when life really began!

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I do not have anything too profound to share tonight. Exhaustion has set in from taking care of sick kids all week as well as being sick myself. I am however really looking forward to Lent which starts next Wednesday. Lent is my favorite liturgical season. There is so much grace available to go deeper into the heart of Christ through meditating on his passion and the cross. A book I read last Lent that was really beneficial in my spiritual life is called Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do It Yourself Retreat- Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by Rev. Michael E. Gaitley. I might read some of that book again as well as The Way of the Mystics: Ancient Wisdom for Experiencing God Today by John Michael Talbot.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What does love look like?

A couple days ago I blogged that the main word for the church right now is to love one another. I think however that there are a lot of misconceptions about what love looks like so I thought I would compile a list. It is not an exhausted list. Some of the points are self explanatory and with other points I give a little bit of an explanation. Of course there is also the list from Corinthians 13, some of which I list here as well.

First and foremost we can not give love away unless we first receive from the source of all love which is God himself. You can not give away what you do not have! Mother Theresa and her community of sisters would pray for an hour in Eucharistic adoration every morning before they even attempted to serve the poor. We need to be able to first receive Christ's love and then be willing to give it away. The most perfect example of love can be found in the cross.

Love isn't always taking the easy route.
True love is self-sacrificing, putting the needs of others first and our needs last. Love is willing to lay our own lives down for the sake of others.

Love isn't always saying the easy things. Love is willing to say the hard things.
Sometimes because of our love for others and concern for their spiritual well being, we need to be willing to say the hard things that others are not willing to say even when it doesn't seem convenient or popular.

Love is not the same as tolerance.
Especially in our day and age there is a lot of confusion about this. People think it is loving to be tolerant of all behaviors.

Love does not get easily offended.
Have you ever known someone who gets easily offended?  Especially when it is a family member or someone close, it can feel like walking on egg shells. Usually if people are easily offended it is because they are not yet perfected in love. These people need to be shown extra grace instead of getting offended back and getting into arguments.

Love is not arrogant or boastful.
We need to regard others as better than ourselves. We must always be first willing to look at the plank in our own eye before looking at the speck in another person's eye.

Love is patient and kind.
My children challenge me on this one all the time!

Love is not rude.
I'm not sure all churches got this memo when they hired their church receptionist. Of course not my church :)

Love might look different towards a believer and a non believer.
Sin is sin and there are moral absolutes but a believer who knows better will be held more accountable than a non believer. What is most important is that we help non believers encounter Christ and then we can show them the road map. Believers are held to a higher standard. Church leadership and people on the worship team even a higher standard. Believers who know better but continue to deliberately sin need to be confronted. This is a corporal work of mercy.

Love isn't just letting someone do whatever they want.
I belonged to a church once where grace was preached on a regular basis but they had the wrong idea of what true grace really looked like. Their idea of grace was more of a 'cheap grace' like Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about where there was no cost. This idea of grace is actually harmful to the people involved, hinders their freedom and is not safe for those around them. Real freedom isn't letting someone do whatever they want but helping them be set free from their addictions and mental anguish.

Love is having boundaries.
A child who is able to do whatever he/she wants and whose parents do not set boundaries usually does not feel loved. The reason there are rules in life is for our protection and safety. When we break the rules and fall into sin, we become a little less human. We were all made in the image and likeness of God. Each time we sin, it chips away at our dignity as human persons and tarnishes God's image in us. God, out of his love for us, has rules for us to abide by for our protection. Sometimes love requires us to warn others of the ramifications of their actions.

Love is willing to risk your own reputation for another and be willing to be misunderstood.
Doing the loving thing does not always equal the popular thing and can easily lead to misunderstandings and make us look like we are being unloving.

Love is not judgmental.
There is a difference between deliberately sinning and someone who is struggling with sin. Someone struggling with sin but yet wanting to do the right thing needs to be shown a lot of grace and mercy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expect the Miraculous!

This evening in prayer I saw an image of a lotus flower growing in the middle of a desert. I wasn't sure what a lotus flower was so I did a little research and found out that the lotus flower in some cultures is seen as a very sacred flower. It really only grows in water sources like ponds, lakes and where there is watery mud. It would be a miraculous occurrence for one to grow in the desert where there is only dryness and heat.

The sense I had was that many right now in the Body of Christ are experiencing a spiritual dryness and type of desert. The Lord seems very distant to you even when you try to pray. The Lord wants to encourage you tonight that if you persevere, press in and stay rooted in Christ's love, you will bloom like a lotus flower even in the midst of the desert.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Even the Rocks Will Cry Out!

Luke 19:40 - Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."

One doesn't need to just look in religious circles to know what the Lord is currently saying and doing. Often the Lord speaks through current events and even from movies. We just need to ask the Lord to give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

A couple of kid movies that are currently out that I see the Lord speaking through is the movie by DreamWorks, "The Croods" and Disney's "Frozen". Both are powerful movies that focus on self-sacrificing love, the power of the family, and stepping out and taking risks.

In "The Croods", the Crood family, out of fear stays secluded from the outside world and day after day, they stick with only what they know. One day, their world is shaken and they are forced to go outside their comfort zone and take a huge leap of faith. What they encounter is both frightening and beautiful. In one scene, Guy and Eep are attacked by flying piranha like creatures. Guy then lights a torch and holds onto Eep. As they cling to each other under the light of the torch, all the flying piranha fly past them and they are protected. In the same way, when we put Christ who is our light, first in our life and relationships, we are protected from the evil forces around us. Like the David Crowder song, "I Am", we need to hold on to Christ even in the middle of the storm.

Another scene in "The Croods" that was powerful and reflected the self-sacrificing love of Christ was toward the end when the Father decides to put himself in harms way in order to save the rest of his family. The only way they can get to safety and cross over the wide gap is if the father throws them to the other side, which inevitably means disaster for the father.

In the movie, "Frozen",  both Anna and Elsa who are sisters take turns sacrificing their lives for one another. In the end, it is only an act of true love that can save Anna. Anna is willing to sacrifice her idea of what she thinks this act of true love is for her sister, Elsa which actually ends up saving her and thawing out her "icy heart".

I believe one reason we are here on this earth is to be perfected in love. One way the Lord does this work in us is through difficult people and difficult situations. We can try to avoid people and situations and avoid sin but that doesn't mean we are virtuous. We are only as virtuous as we are in the worst of situations. In other words, even if we avoid external sin, sinfulness still resides in our hearts. Sometimes we don't need to go far because the most difficult people can be found within our own family. If we will yield to the Lord even in these difficult situations and relationships, clinging to him, the Lord will perfect us more and more in his love. The word right now for the Body of Christ is "Love one another!". Not a warm fuzzy, filial love but Christ-like agape, sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that can dispel the darkness, get us through the storms of life and melt icy hearts! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Knowing the Signs of the Times - The need for discernment part 2

These are exciting times that we live in! Yes, there is a lot of sin in the world but where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20)! A word the Lord keeps giving me is, "A new day is dawning! What others in the past have longed to see, you will see!" John 14:12-14 says we will do even greater works than Jesus did when he walked the earth. I believe these are the times we are coming into. The things we are going to see and do will be amazing! The key is to stay on the right path, keep our eyes on Jesus and not grow weary. 

Galatians 6:9 - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The Lord has shown  me a harvest of souls that is coming. It is going to be unprecedented! In the early church, thousands were added to the church every day. We are going to see this type of harvest again, I believe in our lifetime. NOW IS THE TIME TO GET READY!!! 

Now is not the time to fall asleep and get bored with the faith and doing good. It might be tempting because the water of the Holy Spirit might seem like drops right now and your spiritual life might seem stagnant, kind of like a Ferris wheel that stops frequently before it gets going. It is normal however for a person's spiritual life to go through peaks and valleys. It may appear that not much is happening right now in the spiritual realm. It may even be tempting for some to get off the ride.

If you have ever ridden a Ferris wheel, you know that in the beginning it stops frequently to let people off and on but then once it gets going, it is thrilling and the view is breath taking! It might seem like this in the spiritual realm. Right now in the Body of Christ, the Lord is realigning leadership. He is strategically placing people where he wants them and in areas that will be best to be able to handle the harvest that is coming. This could feel like a Ferris wheel that is stopping to let some people off and others on. Persevere!!! If we take advantage of all the drops of grace the Lord is offering us right now, they will build up into an over-flowing fountain. 

Let's be like the five bridesmaids who kept oil in their lamp and were ready for the bridegrooms return (Matthew 25:1-13)!

Now, the enemy also has an idea of what God is up to and is doing everything in his power to distract God's people and get them off track. The key is to walk in humility and never think we are beyond deception. Just because something appears to be holy and from God, does not mean it is. If deception was easy to spot, it wouldn't be deception. 

I believe two of the biggest schemes of the enemy is to distract and cause anger which leads to division. Just because something appears holy, has truth to it, and seems to be bearing some fruit does not automatically make it from God. Miracles also are not an automatic sign that something is from God. Satan is able to perform some miracles and may I even dare say, limited healing. 

Matthew 24:23-24 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘The Messiah has arrived at such and such a place, or has appeared here or there,’ don’t believe it.  For false Christs shall arise, and false prophets, and will do wonderful miracles so that if it were possible, even God’s chosen ones would be deceived. "

The miracles Satan performs however are not original. He is not able to create and will copy or counterfeit something that has already been done. Also, usually the miracles he performs are illusions. An example of a true, authentic miracle would be the miracle at Fatima where everyone present witnessed the spinning of the sun. At a false, counterfeit apparition site, some people might experience this phenomenon but it is more of an optical illusion that is only experienced by some.  It also does not bother the enemy if his deception is causing some people to come to faith and if it is bearing some good fruit. If it is also distracting people from the true gospel mission and causing division he feels successful. For example, there could be a strong push to pray for peace which is a good thing to pray for but could distract people from praying for what is most important, which is conversion of hearts. When hearts are converted there is true peace. Without conversion of hearts, peace is superficial. Anger, hatred, and division could really be brewing underneath. The personal feeling of peace is also not proof that something is of God. The feeling of peace can be counterfeited. Satan can counterfeit every gift and fruit of the Spirit that comes from God. 

It is also important to look at the general tone of a message or phenomenon. A message can contain mostly truth but is unconditional love conveyed or does the message come across more like a strict parent reluctantly putting up with his/her wayward children?

Another thing to look at is humility. When someone is questioned about a certain phenomenon, are they open to criticism or do they get defensive about it. Does their faith depend on this certain thing being true. If it was declared as false, would they humbly submit or would it cause division?

As you can see, deception can be very difficult to spot. You might be wondering, how does anyone keep from being deceived especially if Satan can counterfeit the things of God. One thing I really like about being Catholic is we have the teaching authority of the Church to help us discern. She takes her time and is very careful in investigating different phenomenon in order to protect the faithful. I trust her that she is guided by the Holy Spirit and this makes me feel safe.  Obviously I am open to prophetic revelation but when  private revelation has become popular to the public, I prefer to remain cautious and discerning until it has been approved by the Church.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 - Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.