Monday, April 28, 2014

The Heart of the Matter

This past weekend our family went on a retreat with the BSCD. It was our annual regional gathering. We had it at St. Leo Abbey in St. Leo, Florida. It is always good to get together, reconnect with other like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ and encounter the Lord together. It was a powerful time and the Holy Spirit definitely showed up and blessed us!

The Lord started speaking to me right off the bat when we arrived. We were letting our children run around on the beautiful monastery grounds before we went up to our room. My five year old daughter was enjoying herself at first but then she kept encountering bugs which were scary to her. She asked me, "Mom, why are there so many bugs here?" I told her it was because there was a lot of nature and bugs like nature. I then said to her,"Just focus on the nature and don't pay attention to the bugs." Immediately I knew the Lord was speaking to me. So often in life I pay more attention to little annoyances, frustrations and objects of stress in my life rather than the beauty and blessings around me. By doing this, I rob myself of joy.

Another way I think we rob ourselves of joy is by choosing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life. We get caught up in what we should or should not be doing instead of making it our main goal to encounter Christ and rest in his love for us.

Saturday afternoon we had time for worship and the Lord showed me an image to share. It was of a big, bright red, fully ripe strawberry hanging from a tree. It was so ripe it was dripping with juice. I knew the strawberry represented the heart of Jesus. I heard the Lord say, "Pick from the choicest of fruit which is love! Taste and see that the Lord is good! Then go out and give this love away to those who do not know about my love!" The word was full of emotion as I experienced the Lord's heart for his people. This word also went right along with what the Lord has been showing me over the last few months. We can be doing all the right things, keeping up with our responsibilities and even having a daily prayer life but if our main goal isn't to actually encounter Jesus and experience his love for us every day then life ends up feeling burdensome and lacking joy.

Last week Pope Francis tweeted, "Each encounter with Jesus fills us with joy, with that deep joy which only God can give."

Nehemiah 8:10 says, "The joy of the Lord is our strength."

Encountering Christ and his love everyday is how we eat from the tree of life. This is what gives us joy and propels us forward with the strength we need. It is this joy that will attract others to Christ and our way of life.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Let the Little Children Come

I have a lot of of Protestant friends whom I love dearly. I am always encouraged and built up by their faith. One thing they often worry about however that I do not have to worry about as a Catholic is when my children will allow Jesus to come into their heart. You see, Jesus already lives in their heart through baptism. It is now up to me to cultivate that and help them fall in love with Him. Some ways I do this is through the rosary, reading scripture, playing worship music in our home and helping them to encounter Him everyday.

Through the sacrament of baptism, we are brought into the family of God and we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We baptize babies because the Jewish people never would have thought about leaving their children out of the Covenant. It makes sense that we wouldn't either with a new and even greater Covenant! We do not need to wait until our children have an understanding of who God is before He comes into their hearts. What a perfect picture of grace!

I also do not usually focus on getting my children to memorize different bible verses that deal with behavior. Instead every morning we say a decade of the rosary and for each mystery we talk about that aspect of Jesus' life and read the scripture that goes along with it. I want my children to love Jesus above anything else. When they hear the stories of Jesus' life hopefully it will help them fall in love with Him. His law will then be written on their heart and good behavior will naturally flow out of that relationship with Him.

The Lord has put it on my heart that my main goal before anything else each day needs to be to encounter Jesus and help my children encounter Him as well. The way I help my children to encounter Him every day is to have them pick a place in the house and seek Jesus for a few minutes. I tell them that if they are distracted to close their eyes and say His name over and over and then be still and listen. It is pretty amazing! They almost always hear from Him or see visions. I then have them write or draw pictures of what they see and hear in a prayer journal they keep.

Jesus said "Let the little children come to me" (Matthew 19:14). They are never too young and often grasp mysteries a lot better than most adults!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Enough is Enough!

I was talking with a good friend of mine recently. We were making the observation that we really lack energy these days but then there are others, even older than us that could probably run circles around us. We were wondering what they were doing that we weren't. We were discussing nutrition and exercise, wondering if we just needed to exercise more and eat better. We both came to the conclusion however that even if we did those things it still would not be enough. I think sometimes the Lord allows us to struggle so we can come to the conclusion that we can not even lift a finger without Him. This is a tremendous grace. Some people never come to this realization and they think that they are enough and can get through life on their own.

In the last twenty years, one of the main things the Lord has been trying to teach me is to rest in Him and the fact that I can do nothing apart from Him. He continues to bring me to new levels in this awareness. There are days I feel like I am spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. One thing that came to me is that my main goal each day needs to be to encounter Jesus and help my children encounter Jesus above anything else. I have been committed to starting each day with prayer, reading scripture and ending my day with prayer but after I felt the Lord put that on my heart, I began to examine my prayer life. I realized that even though I made sure I started my day off with prayer, I was often rushed and distracted, thinking about all I needed to do that day. I was viewing prayer more like a box to check off on a 'to do list'. Spending the time to rest and soak in the Lord's presence at the beginning of the day often seemed like a luxury I could not afford instead of a necessity I could not live without.