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.