Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I’ve fallen in love with sunsets all over again. I have always been drawn to them, but lately, they have been extra special. As a kid, even though I moved around a lot, I always seemed to live in a place where it was hard to really see a sunset because trees or buildings hid the horizon. So when we went to visit my family in Oklahoma where the land is flat and the trees are few, I always looked forward to watching that moment when the light surrendered to the darkness. When day and night come together, they create a beautiful scene for the eyes to behold. God’s artistry in the sunset is far greater than what any artist can capture on paper, film or otherwise. It was a glorious experience to see such vivid beauty unfold right before my eyes.

When we moved to north Texas, I was excited to be reunited with the beautiful sunsets of my childhood. I enjoyed watching them with my husband and children. I loved being in the middle of something greater than myself. But, it was only recently that I came to appreciate their divine beauty in a whole new way. A few weeks ago, I read an article where the author spoke of the beauty in God’s creation (When God Shouts at You by Jason Kotecki). And how God uses His beautiful creation to touch us – to whisper “I love you” in our ears. That statement stuck with me in the week that followed. And then it came true. At the end of a very busy Sunday, I was leaving a home of a family who was preparing to invite Jesus into their home and hearts. After we finished praying together, I got into my car and turned down the street to leave their neighborhood. As I started driving up the hill, I almost had to stop the car. The sunset the Lord painted in the sky was the most breathtaking I had ever seen. God’s “I love you” rang in my ears as I gazed at the brilliant and pretty colors all dancing in harmony with the wispy and perfectly made clouds. As my eyes took in the moment, I could feel His arms around me and hear His voice in my ear. Yes, sunsets would never be the same again – they are now special “I love you” moments I share with my Lord.

I have shared several more sunsets with the Lord since that day. And through them, the Lord has shown me glorious sights, whispered sweet words in my ears and filled my soul with divine love. But today, the sunset was a little different. Once again, I found myself in my car and driving west at that perfect time of day. I was anticipating the beautiful display that would unfold right before my eyes. But, it never seemed to come. Today’s sunset just didn’t appear to be that glorious. The little devil on my shoulder said, “Ha! See! He doesn’t always give you that sunset. He doesn’t always show you His love. You just aren’t always that important to Him.” I didn’t want to believe him. But I was tempted to. You see, there was something that I really wanted to work out. There was something I really wanted to happen. And then the circumstances aligned so it seemed as if it would happen. And so I prayed. At first, I prayed for God’s will. But in the end, I shamelessly begged God for my will to be His will. To make a long story short, it didn’t work out. God said “no”. And I was disappointed. It is hard to hear that word – no. When we hear that word, our minds want to know why. And God doesn’t always make the why obvious. He doesn’t explain the ins and outs of His will to us. He doesn’t tell us what lies ahead on the road; He just gives us what we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Then He asks us to trust Him and hold His hand as we walk along on the dark and ill-traveled road together.

One scripture that comes to me frequently is Matthew 6:25-34, where Jesus tells us not to worry. He explains that God takes care of the birds and the flowers so why wouldn’t He take care of us? He loves us more than the birds or the grass in the field, so surely He will make sure we have what we need. Jesus tells us that, rather than worry, we should seek out the kingdom of God. In other words, don’t let worry steal your precious moments with God. Instead of worry, we should worship.

I’m also reminded of Job’s story. God allowed horrible things to happen to His beloved Job. God knew that Job’s love for Him was greater than any of the blessings Job experienced in his life. So, God let the devil take all those blessings away one by one. And Job, although distraught, never wavered in his love. Job never stopped worshipping. He continually turned to God when the world told him he had every reason to turn away. Job did not let worry steal his love or his precious moments with the Lord.

As I continued to drive my car towards the setting sun, I pondered all these lessons. I thought about my specific situation. Although I don’t know how things are going to work out, I do know I shouldn’t worry about it. My future is in God’s hands. I know His plan for me is much greater than I can imagine. My purpose is to seek out the kingdom of heaven- not to worry about tomorrow. And as I came to these conclusions, it happened. The so-so sunset began to give way to a beautiful and splendid sight. As the vivid colors began to dance across the horizon, those three little words rang in my ears once again. And in that moment, hope filled my heart as I realized just how perfect God’s timing really is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Celebrate that Night

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the land,
Every creature was anticipating the celebration at hand.

The stockings are hung and the Christmas tree is trimmed,
And we all take a moment to slow down and find meaning within.

With all the hustle and bustle we often lose sight
Of the glory, majesty and wonder in this beautiful night.

With humility and love, He took on man’s form;
And all nature rejoiced when God was born.

He walked on this earth and talked of God’s love;
He spoke of God’s mercy and preformed signs from above.

Then the time came when He used more than words and signs;
The time came for Him to show God’s love to mankind.

He was sold by a friend for 30 pieces of silver,
And then beaten beyond all reasonable measure.

He was mocked, ridiculed, belittled and scorned,
And then they pressed on His head a crown of thorns.

His broken body struggled with the cross to Calvary,
Where they nailed Him to it and hoisted Him up for the whole world to see.

He hung on that tree in unimaginable pain,
And, when the time came, He gave up His spirit- the lamb was slain.

The world shook and the veil in the temple tore,
For the covenant God made with Abraham was no more.

A new sacrifice was made; an unblemished lamb;
God’s blood had been poured out in a new covenant with man.

After three days, He walked on this earth again,
And showed us that perfect love conquers sin.

He showed us from the depths of His heart and soul
What true love is and how to be whole.

The love that burns inside His Sacred Heart for man
Is greater than our minds can ever imagine.

So, we pause from the hustle and bustle we’ve created for this season,
And remember who we celebrate and His magnificent reason.

We dance in the love and joy He brought to this earth,
And rejoice in the glorious miracle of His birth.

By His stripes we are healed, by His death we are free;
All He asks from us is to love Him back for eternity.

So on this beautiful night, give Him the best present of all;
Give Him your heart and answer His call.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

33 Blessings

I’ve been blessed with 33 years of life, love and happiness. Here are 33 things I am thankful for on each and every one of those days(in no particular order):

1. The soldiers who stand on a wall and protect the freedom that I take for granted.

2. The man who has held my hand, dried my tears and shared my laughter as we have journeyed on this great adventure we call life.

3. Chocolate.

4. The faith of 12 men who lived 2000 years ago and all the Christians who have taken up their cross ever since.

5. Clean water.

6. The two people who brought me into this world and taught me what love really is.

7. All the children in my life.

8. The girl who said yes to an angel and the Holy Spirit.

9. The doctors and nurses at Christus Santa Rosa in San Antonio who brought a 32-week old baby safely into this world.

10. The people who raised my soul mate into a man.

11. Peppermint mocha coffee creamer.

12. The God who died for me.

13. A full pantry.

14. Music.

15. The girl that shared my room, my clothes, my CDs and all knows all my stories.

16. The sweet smell of country air.

17. A car that works.

18. The ten-year-old boy who inspires me to be a better person.

19. Priests.

20. The way rain makes everything new.

21. The perfect pair of jeans.

22. Every new breath I breathe in and then let go.

23. My CRHP sisters.

24. Beautiful sunsets.

25. My 3 year old little king who despite coming to this world 8 weeks early is perfectly healthy.

26. Friends, old and new who teach me that family is more than flesh and blood.

27. The roof over my head.

28. Peanut butter M&Ms

29. My best friend who has become my sister who knows what I’m thinking before I say it and encourages me to be who I really am.

30. Appliances that work.

31. The Eucharist.

32. All the people who make my children happy.

33. Family- immediate and extended. They are living proof that God’s love does reign on this Earth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Conversation

Lord, I don’t like this place. I don’t like where I am. The worry of tomorrow is stealing the joy of today. How do I cope with this uncertainty? Will tomorrow destroy me?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat[or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6:25)

Lord, I will give myself over to your will. I will do what you ask. If I only knew what you were asking. Waiting is so hard. What am I waiting for? Where are you taking me? Will I know when you show me? Will I be able to see your will?

For I know well the plan I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

Lord, I am praying. Find me Lord. Find me in this place. This journey is not easy. The road less traveled is scary. Send your peace to my heart. If I know you are here, then I can bear this storm. Because I know, Lord that you are “my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Lord, I here I am. Teach me to be meek and humble of heart. I trust you. I know I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because you have told me “do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”(Matthew 6:34) But what shall I do while I wait? What is my purpose here?

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; worship the Lord with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song. Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving. Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the Lord, whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. (Psalm 100)

I have been having this conversation with God for a couple weeks now. We are facing some uncertainty that will require us to make some big decisions in the near future. But it’s not the big changes that are making me uncomfortable. It’s not knowing what those changes will be. I’m in a place of waiting and waiting is hard. I don’t even like to wait in line at the grocery. So waiting for God to show us the right path to take that will forever change our future is almost unbearable. But, in this conversation, God revealed to me something important. We are not made to worry. He will take care of us. He loves us more than we can understand. All the trials and triumphs in our path are there to mold us into the people he calls us to be. I shouldn’t worry while I wait. I should do the one thing that he created us to do. Worship.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The New Tree of Life

I had an “ah-ha!” moment yesterday. Now, I have to admit that my “ah-ha!” discoveries aren’t as shocking to my cradle catholic brothers and sisters. But they are exciting for me because I have one more piece of the puzzle; one more chapter to the story; one more taco on the combination plate. And since my deck of cards is a little more complete, I celebrate.

Earlier this week, I read Genesis Chapter 3 and saw a verse that I had completely forgotten about:

Then the Lord God said: “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take the fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)

So, to recap, God kicked Man out of the garden to keep him from eating from the tree of life. Once Man chose to disobey God and eat from the tree of knowledge, the tree of life is no longer an option. Man could not eat from both trees. So God had no choice but to kick Man out of the garden since Man cut himself off from the tree of life.

Okay, so now read what Jesus says according to the Gospel of John (6: 35, 53-58). He is talking to the crowd who is asking him for a sign. They point out to Him that Moses provided a sign in manna from Heaven. Jesus first tells them that God, not Moses, provided the manna, and that those who ate the manna still died. Then he said:

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst……unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

I think the parallel here is so painfully obvious that it does not warrant an explanation. How awesome it is that Jesus is offering us the food that Adam threw away? Jesus has become the new tree of life. And we are all invited to partake of this life giving fruit which he offers through his own flesh and blood in the Eucharist. Wow. How can we refuse that gift?

When I was growing up in the Baptist church, we were taught that what Jesus said during the last supper was not to be taken literally. We learned that the bread represented his body and the wine represented his blood. It never occurred to me to question that teaching because, let’s face it, the bread and wine actually changing into Jesus is a little far-fetched for our finite and human minds to grasp. When I went to a Catholic church for the first time, I learned that they actually believe that the bread was Jesus’ body and the wine was His blood- it wasn’t a representation. I was taken aback by that. How could they believe in such a preposterous idea? I even had to go a few times to be convinced that this is what they actually believe. I thought that I could never believe that myself and stopped going for a little while. But then my curiosity drew me back. I got to thinking that this is what the people of the Catholic Church have believed for 2000 years. That’s a long time. And then I started to think about what great faith the Catholic people must have in order to believe in such a crazy thing. I didn’t think I had what they had. I didn’t have the faith to believe in what they believed in. But I wanted to be around them. I wanted to worship with them. So I kept going to Mass.

And then one day, Mass was different. I had just picked up a book about Eucharistic Miracles(Eucharistic Miracles by Joan Carroll Cruz). My boyfriend and I were in a Catholic book store and I happened to see it on the shelf. Given my new found fascination I had with Catholics and the Eucharist, I couldn’t help but want to read that book. Were there really miracles related to this idea of the Eucharist? I had to know what it said. I wasn’t ready to believe what was in the book, but I had to know what was in the book. The very first chapter was about the miracle at Lanciano, Italy. In this miracle, a priest was questioning the actual presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This got my attention, because that was exactly what I was doing. Then, at a mass he was presiding over, the host became an actual piece of flesh and the wine became real blood. When I first read that, I was like, yeah right. But, I kept reading and learned this miracle is preserved and on display to this very day. AND they did some tests on the “flesh” and “blood” and determined that it was real human flesh and blood. And that the flesh was muscle from the human heart. That last part is what got me. The flesh was from the human heart. If it really was Jesus, then He was giving us a piece of His heart.

The Mass I attended after reading about this miracle was different. I felt very connected to everyone around me. It was if I knew their secret. As the mass progressed, I became more and more focused on what was happening on the altar. And when the Priest held up the host and said “This is my body, to be given up for you”, something clicked. I didn’t hear “This is my body.” Instead, I heard “This is my heart.” If I hadn’t already been on my knees, I would have fell to them. At that moment, my spirit explained to my intellect what was happening. You see, all my life in the Baptist Church, I was taught that I should give my heart to Jesus. In fact, that is what you do when you pray the special prayer to be saved – you invite Jesus to live in your heart. So, I grew up inviting Jesus to live in my heart. I invited Him to be a part of me. I wanted Him to live in me, and I liked to think that my heart was His. And then, there He was, up on that altar, offering me His heart. It was as if everything had come full circle and a whole new world was revealed to me. The Lord was showing me a part of himself I had never seen. My hunger for the Eucharist began that day. On the way home from that Mass, I remember telling my boyfriend (who later became my husband) that I wanted to be Catholic. He gave me a knowing look and then signed me up for RCIA. And here I am.

Receiving the Eucharist is the highlight of my Christian experience. There is a reason why the Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ. The relationship we have with Christ is very intimate through the Eucharist. When we receive Him in the Eucharist, He physically becomes part of us. He nourishes us spiritually AND physically. I think that this is a hard concept for us to understand because of what happened in the garden. When Man chose to eat from the tree of knowledge, he separated himself, body and soul from God which destined Man to die. This is what Adam passed along to us in original sin. Out of His love for us, God himself came down to earth and died an innocent physical death, and then conquered death through the resurrection. By this act, He creates a way for us to gain eternal life with him. Through baptism and our faith, we become part of the Bride of Christ and are brought into His family. And He tells us that our souls will be saved and our bodies will eventually be raised up, made new and reunited with our souls on the last day. In all of this, we see that there is a connection between the physical and spiritual; a connection that died in the garden but then is reestablished through Christ. This connection is nourished in us by Christ through His presence in the Eucharist. Jesus becomes the new tree of life in the Eucharist. How can we not fall to our knees and accept His gift?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Removing the Blindfold

I have to admit that I have a hard time believing in miracles. It’s a strange thing because I believe in the miracles chronicled in the bible. But I have a hard time believing the miracles that happen around me. The gospel reading this Sunday really spoke to me. Jesus healed 10 leapers, but only one came back to give thanks to God. What happened to the other 9? Did they believe in their miraculous healing? Did they see what happened to them with their hearts? Would I be the leaper who came back to thank and praise God, or would I be completely oblivious to what happened? Or worse yet, would I be ungrateful for the miracle?

I am a product of today’s modern society. As a society, we have made tremendous gains in technology, science and industry. And as a result, we tend to be blinded by our own knowledge. We are distracted by our own achievements. In some cases, we have explained away God or the need for God. The pride we gained through our accomplishments has made us blind to the spiritual forces around us. We are quick to explain away those little miracles with science or chance. We are reluctant to give God the credit. Our society has become very secular. And I am right in the middle of it. How do I take off the blindfold? How do I regain that innocent child-like faith that so easily recognizes influences of God in everything around her? How do I live in the world but not be of the world?

I think the first step is to acknowledge that the blindfold exists. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. So, since I know the blindfold is there, I can seek to remove it. But I find the process of removal is not easy. I have been convicted lately by pride. In fact, I would not be remiss to assume the majority of the threads that make up the fabric of my blindfold are strong and stubborn pride. In my latest trip to the confessional where I once again poured out my sin of pride, Father gave me the Litany of Humility as my penance. After praying this prayer, I realized that pride can disguise its self in many ways. Not only are the desires of praise, extolment, and honor rooted in pride, but also are the fears of humiliation, ridicule, and suspicion. If we could rid ourselves of pride, then we would not fear being wrong or being suspected or being forgotten. We would not seek honor, praise or recognition. Imagine how free we would be. If I could remove the pride from my eyes, I wonder what miracles I would see?

So how do I take off the pride? How do I see with those child-like eyes again? Jesus shows us what it is like to live without pride. He never worked to gain anything for himself. He never feared what people would think of Him. He never sought the approval of anyone but His Father. He sacrificed His perfect, pride-less lifeblood to gain our lives. He laid all of Himself on the altar at Calvary in complete surrender to the will of the Father. And in that surrender, God conquered hell for us. He found a way to bring us home to His presence. Jesus shows us the awesome beauty in surrender.

So, I think that the key to conquering pride is found in surrender. When we truly lay everything down on the altar and seek the Father’s will, we become free. We don’t spend energy seeking glory, praise and approval. We are not afraid of being wronged, despised or forgotten. We put others before ourselves so that they may become holier- even more holy than you or I. Isn’t that what Jesus asks us to be? To be an arrow pointing to Him? To be His mirror so that when we gaze at Him, others see His reflection in us? St. Augustine says:

You who do not see God will, by loving your neighbor, make yourself worthy of seeing him. By loving your neighbor, you cleanse your eyes so you can see God.
When we completely surrender ourselves to Him at the foot of the cross, He reaches down and removes our blindfold. He pays the price so that He can remove it and He frees us from ourselves- our pride. But first, we must surrender-wholly and completely surrender. And then He takes our surrendered beings molds us into the creatures we were meant to be; creatures who love Him and each other as He loves us. And with that love, we see the world through His eyes. We see Him along with His miracles in every person He places in our path. And then we can’t help but to serve and love our neighbor because, in doing so, we serve and love Christ himself.

I fear that this kind of surrender is going to take me a lifetime. There are some days when I surrender a little more of myself and the blindfold falls away for a moment. And there are other days when I am clearly trying to navigate my own way through life completely blinded by the world. When the blindfold falls away, I do see things differently. The beauty of the world is so vivid. The exhaustive love in my heart overflows into the deepest corners of my being so that I can’t help but share it with others. I am easily overwhelmed by all the needs in the people around me. And that leaves me happy to rejoice in my own suffering in order to provide some relief for theirs. But when I am blinded, creation’s beauty isn’t as spectacular as the world’s distractions. The instinct to succeed and win approval takes over. The fears of ridicule and failure guide my thoughts and decisions. Suddenly, my neighbor’s problems are not nearly as big as my own. And before I know it, I am surrounded by the cold grayness the world and my blindfold have to offer.

It is my prayer that the Lord will keep calling me to the foot of the cross. That He will continue to bring me to my knees in surrender. And with every piece of myself I place in His hands, He molds me into the person He created me to be. I pray that one day my blindfold will fall off forever- that I will have surrendered everything to my Lord just as He surrendered everything to me. How beautiful it will be to see the world be through His eyes. How lovely it will be to see Him in everyone around me. How privileged I will be to love and serve all the neighbors the Lord places in my path with a happy heart. And then, how magnificent it will be to witness His miracles and then give Him all the praise, glory and honor forever and ever.

Litany of Humility

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...

From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mary, Queen of Heaven

Up until 13 years ago, Mary was just a woman to me. She was just the woman God chose to bring His son into this world. The only thing special about her was her yes. But she was just a woman- like you and me. That was what I was taught. Mary was not that special. I’m not sure why my Baptist Church downplayed her and her role in salvation history. The more I learn about Mary, the more confused I am by their stance.

But even 13 years ago when I was becoming Catholic, I still didn’t “get” Mary. I accepted that her role was greater than I first believed, but I didn’t really understand why she was all that special. Over the years, I have collected tidbits here and there of her greatness. And recently, I have been mulling it all over. A while back, I learned that in Jewish tradition, the Queen of a Jewish kingdom is not the King’s wife. It is his Mother. This really made sense as to why Catholics call her the Queen of Heaven. She is the King’s Mother. Another thing pointed out to me was the fact that God made His own Mother. He made the woman who would bring Him into this world. He created the womb that He would humble Himself into and become a flesh and blood human to be delivered into the hands of mankind. Why wouldn’t he make her special? She had to be worthy enough to receive God’s very life in her body. She had to be worthy to raise Jesus into a Man. She had to be worthy to watch Him reveal himself to the world and then die at the hands of those she was raised to respect. Yes, God made her especially for Him.

The first thing that blows my mind about her is that she was willing to say yes. Now, let me tell you that if an Angel appeared in my living room and asked me to be the mother of Christ, then I would probably pop a few more Xanax and make an appointment to have my head examined. Mary, after hearing about how she would conceive as a virgin(which is mind-boggling in itself), said “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) There was not a doubt in her mind as to the validity of what was happening. She completely believed and trusted God. I am the Handmaid of the Lord- those are the words that get me. Not only did she say yes, but she totally and completely gave herself over to God. His will became her life. And she didn’t say to the Angel let me think about it. She didn’t ask him to come back in a week. She didn’t feel the need to rush out and get advice on the situation. She just said yes and completely gave herself over to God. Then she trusted and never looked back. Yes, God made her especially for Him.

Another thing that awes me about her is her joy. Here she is pregnant, unmarried and living in a society that stones women for adultery. And she is joyful. She doesn’t worry about what the world thinks. She is totally focused on God and His child within her and her joy knows no bounds. Catholics call Luke 1:46-56 The Magnificat. That prayer has so much more meaning now that I understand where that joy comes from. The depths of that joy are incredible. The roots of her joy are so intimately intertwined with God that it’s hard to see where God ends and her joy begins. She celebrates a closeness that we only dream of. Yes, God did make her especially for Him.

I think that if we were to identify just one superhero power in Mary, it would be her strength. Her strength is incredible. Not only did she bring the Son of God into the world, but she let Him go. She joyfully let him live out the Father’s will which included His torture and death. She watched the elders of her society ridicule her Son for teaching about the love of God- a love she intimately experienced. She was there when they beat him beyond recognition and then sentenced him to die. I can’t even imagine what she went through. And not only did she witness His Passion, but she was there, by His side the whole time. She was His earthly support. Her strength is supernatural. Yes indeed, God made her especially for Him.

And then God did something incredible. He took this great work of art that was His mother and He gave her to us:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

And that is yet another lesson to us about Agape love. Jesus lived His whole life doing the Father’s will. He did nothing for Himself. Everything He did was to glorify the Father. And then He invited us into this Agape love when He stretched out His hands between heaven and earth and gave up His life for our sins. And in the moment before He gave us His innocent life, He gave US the woman He created and loved as a son loves a mother. Not only did he give us His life, but He gave us His mother- the woman whom He created for a perfect relationship with Him. How awesome is that?

So, I finally get Mary. But I didn’t have the same prayer experience with her as some of my other Catholic brothers and sisters. I didn’t really get the rosary or the other Marian prayers. I knew she was there and present, but I didn’t experience her like I do Jesus or the Holy Spirit. So, I decided to really seek her out. I prayed the rosary more often. I prayed the other Marian prayers. And I called upon her in those moments that needed a woman’s touch. Still, I didn’t feel anything special from her. So, I got a little frustrated. And, in that moment of frustration, I looked up and saw the picture of Jesus’ Sacred Heart above our fireplace and that is when I realized what was happening. Mary is a window. Since she is an incredible work of art created especially for God, she possesses the humility necessary to have that perfect relationship with God. When you pray to Mary, she prays for you and leads you to her Son. That is her purpose- to bring her children to Jesus. And when I looked back at my effort to know Mary better, I actually drew closer to her Son. She allowed me to see Him through her eyes. She focused me right on the source of all her love and joy. She is a beautiful window to Christ. Yes, the Lord created her especially for Him. And then the Lord turned around and gave her especially to us. How awesome is that?

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Blast from the Past

So, I got a call from a boy that I dated 20 years ago. I don’t know if you can really say that I dated him. We were in the sixth grade and I wasn’t allowed to go on dates at such a young age. He was the boy that sent me the note asking me to “go out with him” that included the big square for “yes” and the little square for “no”. What girl doesn’t dream of getting that note passed to her during math? So, he was my first boyfriend. But shhhhh…. I didn’t tell my Daddy about him because I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. This forbidden relationship was quite exciting for me and my envious girlfriends!

Anyhow, we “went out” during 6th grade and part of the summer after. I moved just after starting 7th grade. I am a Navy brat and my Daddy started a new tour in Washington D.C. that school year. I remembered that we broke up during that summer but I didn’t remember why. In fact, I find that I have a hard time remembering a lot of the details of my childhood. Since I moved so much, I was always adjusting. I was always saying good bye and then having to make new friends all over again. I didn’t hang onto people because they were always leaving my life. Because of that, I don’t have the luxury of old friends to talk about the past with so the memories stay alive. Also, there wasn’t a lot of closure in my childhood relationships. If I had a fight with a friend right before I moved, then that was that. There wasn’t opportunity to possibly work things out and have that closure. My closure was that I didn’t have to see that person again, which wasn’t always the healthiest way to go about living life and learning about relationships. And that brings me back to my 6th grade boyfriend.

He found me on Facebook. When I saw his friend request, my first thought was “why does he want to friend me?” That should have been my first subconscious clue into the past. Flattered, I accepted his friend request. Then we started e-mailing back and forth with all the usual “how are you” and “what have you been up to all these years” and it almost seemed as if 20 years had never passed. Then he brought up that infamous summer of ‘89. Even though my memory was failing me, I didn’t have a good feeling about it. When I admitted to him that I didn’t know what he was talking about, he called me…on the phone. Now, before I go any further, let me say that Mike is a really nice man. He and his wife are raising beautiful children in the Catholic faith. He serves in our Armed Forces and dreams of being a math and science teacher when he leaves the service. He is a really great person. So, imagine how embarrassed I was when he very politely told me about the nasty note he received in the mail during the summer of ‘89.

Way back in the olden days, we didn’t have computers or cell phones. At my house, we didn’t even have a cordless phone, which meant that any conversation you had on the phone was overheard by all who wished to be in the kitchen. This probably made it difficult to maintain a forbidden relationship during the summer. Anyhow, I must have decided to send him notes in the mail as a way to communicate. The problem was that he didn’t write me back. He also never tried to risk his own safety by calling me on the phone. Now, you also need to know that I had a team of advisors to coach me through this relationship. Me and my equally-psychotic girlfriends must have been taking notes from the unwritten book of How Boys are Supposed to Behave When They Are Your Boyfriend. And since we didn’t have any attempts at communication from him over the summer, we decided he must be dumped. So I fired off a nasty letter giving him the boot. I am sure this letter was met with great enthusiastic approval from my team of advisors before hitting the post office. After I mailed that letter, Mike and I never really talked again. I saw him at school that fall and I remember being embarrassed. Even though I had gotten approval and admiration from my girlfriends, I knew I probably hurt his feelings. And, like I said earlier, I moved shortly after school started that fall, so moving away from the situation was my closure. I never needed to see Mike again - until he found me on Facebook and called me on my iPhone. How ironic.

Embarrassed is just not a big enough word. Here was a very nice man telling me about my psychotic behavior all those years ago. I must conclude that if he remembers what I did to him 20 years ago, then he must have been impacted by it. I must have hurt his feelings. I apologized many times. After we got off the phone, I started to wonder why he brought this up. The whole situation put me in a very reflective mood. And what do I do when I am reflective? I clean, or organize, or find some project that needs attention. This time I assaulted the garden.

The morning after his call, I found myself elbow deep in dirt, weeds, and dead flowers, all while pondering what I did to this boy all those years ago and wondering why he chose to contact me. I certainly would not want to find me if I were him. He was clearly a braver person than I could ever be. As I was pulling the weeds, I realized that even though I didn’t understand why he called me, he gave this Navy brat a rare opportunity. He gave me a chance to ask for forgiveness. He gave me a chance to pull those weeds I planted 20 years ago and find a little closure. He gave me the gift of mercy.

I have to say that Catholics talk a whole lot more about mercy than my Baptist church ever did. In my Baptist church, you asked for forgiveness when you prayed the prayer to ask Jesus into your heart. Beyond that, we didn’t talk much about asking God to forgive our sins. All of our sins were forgiven in that one prayer. Catholics don’t see it that way. We are encouraged to always examine our conscience. We are encouraged to acknowledge our sins and then take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation where we ask for forgiveness of those sins. It is a necessary ongoing process that brings us closer to the Lord, each other and heaven.

As an adult convert, the whole idea of confession to a priest was a hard sell for me. I now understand that our lips have to speak our shortcomings and our ears have to hear our shortcomings in order for true acknowledgement to take place. And when we acknowledge that sin and ask for mercy, our ears need to hear that we are forgiven. That is how the Lord lifts the burden from our shoulders and nails it to his cross. And from that cross, love and mercy flow and carry us to His presence. I understand with my head and heart the importance of the sacrament, but that doesn’t make it any easier to wait in that line. It doesn’t make it any easier to look at myself in the mirror and admit who I really am.

Lately, I have been feeling very unworthy of God’s presence. No matter how hard I try to be worthy, I fall far short of the goal. And I have been frustrated by my inability to be the person God calls me to be. This experience with Mike has made me realize that I can’t be who God is calling me to be unless I weed the garden. Just as Mike called me, the Lord is calling me and offering me the opportunity to ask for forgiveness. Even though I don’t deserve it, He is offering me mercy. Weeding the garden will always be a dirty, but necessary, task. I must not let the weeds choke out the flowers God is trying desperately to plant in my heart. I must ask for His mercy and live in His love so the flowers have a chance to blossom for His glory.

P.S.  This article was written and published with Mike's blessing.  Thanks Mike!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Holy Chalice

When I walked into the church for Mass this past Sunday, I was immediately accosted by a Knight. “Excuse me,” he said while trying to balance a squirming toddler in his arms, “Can your family take the Elijah cup this weekend? We don’t have a family signed up.”

Considering that I walked into the church alone (my husband was parking the car), I was surprised that the Knight knew I was part of a family. I could chalk it up to luck on his part or perhaps divine providence. I went for the latter and after assessing the desperate look on his face (Mass was just seven minutes away), I gladly accepted and promptly went over to the book to officially sign up. The Knight was relieved.

Each week in our community, a family takes the Elijah cup home and promises to pray for an increase in religious vocations. The cup is a blessed chalice used at Mass for the precious blood. The family is presented with the cup at the end of Mass and brings it home where they put it in a place of honor. Every day, the family gathers around the cup and prays for an increase in vocations with the same faith of the widow in 1 Kings 17: 7-15. In this passage, the Lord asked the widow to feed Elijah her last bit of food and in return the Lord promised that he would provide her flour and oil until rain fell again and the famine ended. She obeyed and because of her faith and obedience, there was always flour in her jar and oil in her jug and they didn’t go hungry. We too need to pray with the same faith that the Lord will continue to call priests, deacons, brothers and sisters to guide and nurture His sheep. And those called will answer and dedicate themselves to religious life so that the sheep will not go hungry during the famine.

All during the mass, I watched the cup. I watched our pastor pour the wine and hold it up to heaven. I watched and was humbled at the awesome moment of consecration. This cup was holding the precious blood of our Lord. This cup was holy. Our family would be trusted with this cup – to pray with this cup. What an awesome responsibility we had been given just seven minutes before the start of Mass. At the end of Mass, our pastor called us forward and handed the cup to my very excited 10 year old son. The reverence I felt for this holy cup could be seen in the enthusiasm on my son’s face as he held the cup. My heart expanded with joy because he got it. He understood the Eucharist with his heart.

Recently, our family dedicated ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We Enthroned Him as King of our family and home. We invited all our friends and family to witness as we placed his image above our fireplace, got on our knees and dedicated ourselves – mind, body and soul to Him. Since we have made this dedication to Him, I can see how we are changed. We are drawn to the Eucharist. Mass is more meaningful. Adoration once a month isn’t enough. The other day, my husband and I were lamenting over the fact our schedules don’t allow us to attend daily mass. I have even started watching mass on EWTN only to find myself frustrated that I couldn’t be physically there to receive our Lord. We are drawn to the Eucharist like a moth to a flame.

I think this is why I was so enamored by the cup. After Mass, we brought the Elijah cup home and placed the holy chalice on our mantle – right below our image of Jesus and His Sacred Heart. It was so fitting to see the cup there with the image. We prayed around the cup as the week went on. And then one morning, I came downstairs and stopped in front of the cup. I started to thank God for allowing that Knight to stop me in my tracks on the way to mass – to thank Him for letting us have this holy cup in our home, this cup that contained His precious blood. And that is when I heard His voice in my head say “but you are my living cup. I was present in that holy chalice, but now I am present in you. You came to the table, partook of that cup and now I live on in you – my holy, living chalice.”

Suddenly, the cup on my mantle wasn’t as shiny. The Lord was present in that cup, but now He is present in me. All week I had been walking around my home captivated by that cup without realizing that what was in that cup was now in me. He is part of me. He nourishes me. While that cup is just a cup that the wine can hold, my body is a living thing that the Lord’s precious blood can nourish and become one with. The Lord’s heart truly becomes one with mine in the Eucharist. He dresses me physically and spiritually in His salvation.
As I let these words sink into my understanding, I immediately felt unworthy. Am I holy enough to be a living chalice? Am I worthy enough for the Lord to be present in me so intimately? The answer is no. I am not. I fall far short. And when I quickly came to this realization, I heard Him say, “But I’m doing it anyway. I love you in spite of your unworthiness.”

I understand why the Church calls it a mystery. As I am drawn closer to the Eucharist, the light I am walking in becomes brighter and brighter, and my unworthiness is more and more apparent. And when I stop to take in the state of my soul and see my unworthiness in His light, He takes the opportunity to tell me that He loves me in spite of my unworthiness. He knew how unworthy I was before He let them nail Him to that cross. He knew of my wretchedness before He allowed the crown of thorns to be pressed into His head. He knew of my nature before He offered His back to that first whip. He knew about me in the garden. He knew. And He did it anyway. And He keeps doing it over and over, humbling himself into the hands of the priest at the altar and becoming present in the Eucharist, all because He loves me and He wants to live in me. This is a great mystery my finite brain cannot understand. This is a love foreign to my human heart. This is salvation my soul doesn’t deserve. But all my spirit wants to do is be present with and in the Eucharist; to be present with and in Him. I pray that He will continue to give me the strength, courage and desire to keep flying towards Him like the ugly moth to the beautiful flame.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Transfiguration Prayer

Transfigure my mind, O Lord, transfigure my mind. Change my thoughts to your perfect will. Use my words to seek you out. Give me wisdom so I may find you in the midst of this world. Give me understanding so I may know your truth. Give me knowledge so I may know you and know myself. Rain down your light so I may see your path. Take my mind, O Lord, and make it a worthy gift for the Father.

Transfigure my heart, O Lord, transfigure my heart. Bring my stony heart to life. Place my cold heart in the furnace of your divine love and allow your fire to melt the ice, soften the hardness and enlighten the darkness. Infuse it with your love and mercy. Give me courage to die to this humanity so that my heart may truly be yours. Take my heart, O Lord, and make it a worthy gift for the Father.

Transfigure my soul, O Lord, transfigure my soul. Have mercy on my unworthiness. Have pity on my fallen nature. Allow your body and blood to wash me white as snow. Clothe me in your salvation. Give my dying soul your life. I long to lose myself in you for eternity. Take my soul, O Lord, and make it a worthy gift for the Father.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The West Sun

During my first summer here in Texas, I learned about the “West Sun”. In my opinion, this is the hottest sun known to mankind. Soon after moving here, I was at a drum corps rehearsal on a particularly sunny afternoon in July when some poor corps member said, “Where are we rehearsing? The face of the sun?” In fact, it gets so hot here that there are many rules in place for any school activities that practice outside in order to keep kids safe from the scorching heat of the West Sun. To sum it up, the afternoon summer sun in Texas is HOT- fryin’ an egg on the concrete kind of hot.

And unfortunately for me, my house faces the West Sun. Which means you can’t touch the handle on my front door after 2pm without being branded. But for me, even more unfortunate than accidental branding is the annual death of my garden. Every year, my garden is baked in the West Sun. I live in a cookie cutter neighborhood where all home owners are expected to keep up their gardens and landscaping. We are supposed to plant flowers and make it look nice and good and suburbanish. Oddly enough, I enjoy the challenge and try to live up to these expectations, but the West Sun has thwarted me at every turn during my seven year tenure here in Texas. Every spring, I go to the garden store with renewed hope that this will be the year. This time, I will find the plants that will grow and flourish on the face of the sun. This will be the year my garden will thrive instead of bake. And every year, the newly-planted flowers succumb to the heat and hand their lives over to the West Sun. It’s very frustrating.

So, over the years, I have gone head to head with the West Sun. And each year, I think of new ways to battle this unrelenting warrior. In the early years, I had an important weapon in my arsenal- water. Before the reign of water restrictions, I was able to let my sprinkler system water my garden every day. And this was a big help. This allowed the flowers to survive through the end of July. However, when the water restrictions were imposed, I was forced to water the garden by hand either in the early morning or evening. Because I am a busy mom, this didn’t always happen, and the garden was baked by the beginning of July. Since the water restrictions, I have not come up with any more solutions to keep the plants alive, and so every summer by the 4th, my garden is a flower graveyard- a sad sacrifice to the West Sun.

But this year, something strange has been happening. As always, I planted the “full sun” plants this spring with renewed hope. And as soon as the summer West Sun shone hot in the June sky, the plants started to succumb, and my hope faded. But then, it started to rain. We have been in this tropical weather pattern for a few weeks now, and the clouds and rain have chased the West Sun away to tolerable levels. And the flowers are starting to recover. I have never seen a recovery in my garden, and I am at a loss for words. But the whole point of this overly long diatribe about the salvation of my baking garden is this: the garden could not be saved by any solutions I could come up with, but rather the unlikely and somewhat miraculous event of extended tropical weather in North Texas.

As I have walked on this road less traveled, I have struggled a bit in my prayer life. I have to admit that I lacked trust in God. I did not like to pray for specific things because I did not want to be disappointed when they didn’t come to pass. I didn’t want the evidence of unanswered prayers to shake my faith in my Creator. I didn’t want to be tested in this way. But then I discovered that if I didn’t trust God with my specific problems, then I was keeping myself from growing in Him. If I don’t ask God for the water, then how can I bloom into the beautiful flower He longs to see in His garden?

So, I tried it. I stepped out of the boat and immediately sank in the water. I specifically prayed for the resolution of some financial issues my husband and I were having, and the specific resolution did not come to pass. My fear of unanswered prayer was realized. But it didn’t shake my faith like I thought it would. After I let go of the anger and went to reconciliation, I heard His voice tell me “stop giving me solutions and just let me have the problem. Trust that I have the solution.”

So, I have been mulling this over. And I have realized that we cannot go to God with our problems along with a list of solutions He is allowed to choose from. God does not work that way. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the best way to work something out so that we will be able to see Him better and walk that much closer to Him. He already knows the end and His goal is to draw us closer to Him so we can feel His love and peace as we live this life to that end. And that is what I have to have faith in.

I must trust. I must trust God with my specific problem and then trust that He has a specific solution. I can’t go to Him asking for fewer restrictions with water so that I may water the garden, but I must go to Him asking Him to nourish the dying flowers in the best way He sees fit. My prayer must be for Him to change my heart to His will and to open my mind to His ways. I must give up my desires and trust that the desires He has for me are greater than I can imagine. When I find His will, then the miracle of tropical rain will wash away the dust and help me see the world from His perfect perspective. I must trust.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Finding Heaven

“What is heaven?” the little girl asked, big blue eyes staring at the Sunday school teacher with curious wonder.

“It is paradise.” The teacher answered.

The little girl pondered her answer while twirling the lace on her shoe. She looked up again with the same curious look, “What is paradise?”

“It is a place where everyone is happy and has everything they ever wanted.” The teacher seemed pleased with her answer as a smile started to spread across the little girl’s face.

The girl’s eyes began to dance as she imagined the dolls, doll houses, and endless doll playthings. “What a wonderful God we have!” thought the little girl. She couldn’t wait to get to heaven.

As I grew older, I learned that heaven is where God is, and when we get there, we will spend eternity worshipping Him. The little girl in me couldn’t help but be disappointed that there would be no time for dolls. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the idea that just worshipping God would be paradise. I loved God. I wanted to meet God. I wanted to live forever in heaven. But really, spending forever worshipping Him? Was that my destiny? Was that paradise?

In the Baptist Church where I was raised, there was a lot of preachin’ about heaven and hell. My Daddy likes to call them “fire-and-brimstone” sermons. At the end of these sermons, we were pretty much scared to death of hell or anything we could do to earn a place there. Those of us who were saved were inspired to evangelize to those who had not yet committed their lives to Christ and were in danger of spending eternity in hell. If you were not saved, then after listening to these sermons, you were inspired to sprint to the altar in order to avoid a “fire-and-brimstone” destiny. So, growing up, I had a fear of hell and thus desired heaven as a way to avoid it. I knew that heaven would be great, but I just didn’t have any idea what it would be like. Worshipping God forever wasn’t a concept I was mature enough to grasp.

But now that I’m older, and somewhat more mature, the concept of heaven seems quite different to me. It has helped because I have walked a little farther along in my journey with the Lord. I’ve had experiences with Him I can’t quite explain. I have had moments with Him I don’t quite understand. But they have all been wrapped up with this overwhelming Divine Love that I am completely unworthy of feeling. With each new step I take, I fall completely head-over-heels in love with Jesus all over again. Now that I have been nourished by the waters of life, I can’t seem to leave the river. I just want to live on the river bank and bathe in the Divine Love that holds me together. I imagine that heaven is where I will experience this divine love with all my senses, completely adore its beautiful source and wholly give myself over to Him forever.

So, now I think I get it. The desire for heaven is the Father’s goal for our lives. He doesn’t want us to desire it because it is better than hell, or because it is paradise. He wants us to desire it because it is where He is. To desire heaven is to desire the presence of God. Our purpose in life is not to get to heaven, but to grow in love for God so that heaven, or being in the presence of God, is the desire of every fiber in our being. He longs for us to grow in His divine love so that we willingly give up our lives to Him just as he gave up His life for us. And when we let go of ourselves and replace the empty space with His love, mercy, and will, we will find ourselves in that place where our hearts beat for Him and our soul’s deepest, overwhelming desire is to bask in the glory of God forever.

And who knows, when I finally get to heaven, maybe Jesus will play dolls with me after all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Driving From Distraction

A jack hammer is the best description I can find for the sound that roused me awake. I glanced at the clock- 5:30. Why would they be jack hammering the alley outside my bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning? Then I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I stumbled out of bed and turned off the air conditioner. The hammering stopped along with my heart. I fell back on the bed. As I lay there wondering what in the world could be wrong with the condenser, the promise I made the night before came floating to the front of my mind- I wasn’t going to let anything distract me from doing my prayers and quiet time this morning. Lately, I have been surrendering to distraction and skipping this vital beginning to my day. Little did I know the challenge I would face on this particular morning.

My distracted nature drives me crazy. My mind is in constant motion. While I am working on one task, my brain is busy planning its assault on the next task. I am always concerned about managing what little time I have in the best way possible. I usually cannot watch TV or sit through movies because the lists in my mind of what I could be doing haunt me until I get up to do them. And, since it is my nature as a woman, I tend to put what I need to do for myself at the end of the list. When I am finally alone and ready to be quiet or prayerful or even asleep, relaxing my mind takes effort. Once my eyes close, the events of the day play over and over like a broken record. And before I know it, my mind is miles away from where it should be usually robbing me of prayer or sleep. Needless to say, not only can my distracted nature be a stumbling block to my spiritual growth but it also threatens to rob me of the joy of life in general.

I get particularly upset with my distracted nature when I am at mass. Mass is a place where I go to meet Jesus. Our Eucharistic Lord becomes present among us and that thought makes my spirit soar. Mass should be a place where I can let go of all the stressors of life and just bask in the glory of God. Unfortunately, I am most distracted at mass. I am worried about the noise my children are making. I am worried about the world that is waiting for me after mass. I am worried about all the burdens I want to lay on the altar. And sometimes, I am so distracted that I forget to put them there. I feel particularly guilty when I receive the Eucharist in a distracted state of mind. I try to focus but there are some days when my child is throwing a fit all the way to the front of the line and I just need to get him out of there. And then the guilt I feel for not savoring the experience or not fully appreciating the sacrifice the Lord is making for me robs me of joy. During the times when I put the distractions away and am truly present at mass, it is a glorious experience. I wish that I could do it every time.

Receiving the Eucharist is the high light of my Christian experience. When I am completely present in the moment, my experience with the Lord is extraordinary. I can feel his blood coursing through my veins. I can feel the warmth of his life in me. At that moment, His presence in me is all that matters. Before I became Catholic, I felt a little left out that I couldn’t share in the Eucharist. After I was received into the church, I understood why they made me wait. I needed to fully understand and appreciate what was happening. This understanding is one of the things that makes the moment so powerful. When you are received into the church, you are forever committed to the Lord. You are part of the body of Christ. Christ lives in you and through you. The commitment a Catholic makes to the Lord is similar to a marriage commitment. And meeting Jesus at the table and sharing in the Eucharist is the culmination of that commitment. It is our communion with Him. It is how He touches us from Heaven.

I think there are many Catholics who are like me- distracted. Whether it is they are distracted by their own lives or things that are going on in the Church. Some are distracted by a past hurt or wrong doing. Others are distracted by temptations or burdens of this world. And just like my experience, these distractions rob them of their special moment with Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, we need to rise to the challenge. We need to set our distractions aside and be present with our Eucharistic Lord. We need to let Him fill us. We need to let Him touch us with His love. Distracted or not, He gives us His heart. It’s our choice to be present with Him and feel the life and love flowing from His heart. We should come to the table with eager anticipation. We should come to the table completely focused on His beautiful sacrifice to us. We should come to the table empty of ourselves so He can fill us to the brim with His divine joy and love. He is waiting and hoping we will come.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Living With Passion

I heard a wise father once say “If I can just instill passion in my children’s heart for their faith and their God, then the rest will come.” He is right. Facilitating the desire for God is our vocation as parents. And there is no better way to facilitate that desire than to model our passion for God to our children. Sharing our passion with our children shows them who we really are and what we really value. Our true hearts are reflected in our passion. Ultimately, our children will learn that passion is what people seek. Because discovery of our passion is where we find our true selves. Living with passion gives our lives purpose and our souls peace.

Catholics call Jesus’ last day on this earth His passion. And it’s because His willing death is a true reflection of His heart which burns with great divine love for mankind. Love is Jesus’ passion and He showed us the boundless depths of himself and of His passion by willingly giving up His unblemished life for love of our unworthy souls. Jesus models passion for us just as we should model it for our children.

I have thought that I have found my passion at different points in my life. First, it was music. Then it was teaching. Of course I am very passionate about my family. But this week I think I found my true burning passion. I have been trying to put my finger on it since I was a teenager with little success. I now know that my heart was still forming and you have to have heart before you can have passion. As I reflect on all the moments that led me to my God, and then to the Catholic Church and see them in the light of the events of this week, it all makes sense. Everything ties so perfectly together and has brought me to this moment of discovery.

I think I can safely say that I had a very different experience growing up in the Southern Baptist Church than many of my Catholic brothers and sisters. The focus of my spiritual upbringing was on a personal relationship with Jesus. It was discussed constantly. We were encouraged to talk to Jesus, to turn to him in our hour of need, to celebrate with him in our hour of triumph, and to love him with all of our being. I was taught a simple faith devoid of all the rich history and tradition. Our only focus was to discover the love the Lord had for us and then to love Him back. It was a great experience and a vital part of my spiritual journey. Although I am somewhat jealous of the knowledge “cradle Catholics” have of the church, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing in the Baptist Church for anything. It was in this church where Jesus found me, watched me grow, challenged me, loved me and called me to Himself.

Walking away from the Baptist church hurt. My faith was challenged on many levels. It was like leaving home knowing you are not welcome back. Even though I know if I walked back into a Baptist church today they would welcome me with open arms, I still feel like I can’t go back. I left because my faith was challenged and the church of my childhood could not provide answers. Jesus placed people in my life that could answer my questions and light the path to the Catholic Church. When I arrived in the Catholic Church, my faith was still challenged. The Catholic Church was very different from faith in which I was raised. For a long while, it felt like I had no home. I was that weird Catholic who prayed to Jesus in my own words. Jesus wasn’t distant to me like He was to many of my Catholic friends. Many of those friends disconnected their faith from their everyday life. I was confused by that and I missed sharing my faith journey with my brothers and sisters in Christ. For a number of years, my life in the Catholic Church was lonely. But I couldn’t leave it. Jesus was there. I was hungry for the Eucharist. I was lonely for community but filled with my Lord.

Then I went on the CRHP(Christ Renews His Parish) retreat in my community. And I found the people who wanted to know and did know the Lord like I did. I discovered that I was not alone in the Church. I found the other weird Catholics and I couldn’t have been happier. Once again, I could share my journey with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I could sing with them, worship with them, and learn with them. But what I was most excited for is that I could pray with them. And I could ask them to pray for me.

While I was praising God for this gift of Christian community, my heart ached for my catholic brothers and sisters who lacked this personal relationship with Jesus. I have been privy to several conversations recently where it was admitted that the Catholic Church has failed to instill this desire for passion in at least the past two to three generations. Although the Lord touches us through the Eucharist, Catholics have not been encouraged to seek Him out with their hearts. The effect of this lack of evangelization by the Church to its own family of believers is still evident in the faith of many Catholics today.

This week, I had the pleasure of being on a mission. I have been on a core team that brought a Redemptorist Priest and Lay missionary from the Sacred Heart Apostolate to our parish community. The purpose of the mission is to begin a new ministry where families will enthrone Jesus’ Sacred Heart in their homes and lives. Now here is the exciting part- by enthroning Jesus in your home, you are engaging him in a personal relationship. There it is. There is the answer to my aching heart. Jesus set this up so perfectly.

I was brought up in an environment where I cultivated a personal, heart to heart relationship with Jesus. That relationship was culminated when I was received into the Catholic Church- a choice I made through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In the Catholic Church, I encountered many Catholics who did not have this personal relationship with Christ. I was lonely. I was sad for them. Little did I realize that Jesus was forming my heart during this time. When I was ready, he gave me the community I so desperately needed and desired. He ignited a burning love in my heart for Him and His community. In this small way, He made my heart like His heart.

And then He called me. I was kneeling in the fourth row. It was the second night of the mission- the night where everyone is invited to venerate the cross and then go to reconciliation. Because I was in the fourth row, I had no idea how many people were in the church. For a church of our size, 50-70 people usually turn out for special events and we were hoping for such a turn out. I was so blessed to see over 230 of my brothers and sisters in Christ walk down the aisle one at a time, kiss the cross and then happily stand in very long lines for confession. My heart expanded with joy. I felt as if I were in the middle of 230 celebrations of the prodigal son coming home. I felt as if I were seeing this spectacular event through the eyes of Jesus whose joy overtook every ounce of my being. The call was very clear. Promoting a personal heart to heart relationship with Jesus to my brothers and sisters in Christ is my passion. It is the burning desire of my heart- the heart the Lord has spent 32 years forming in me.

For now, my call is to my parish community. I am called to promote this ministry. I am called to evangelize my brothers and sisters and invite them to know the Lord with their hearts. I am called to outwardly model this heart to heart relationship in my everyday life. I am called to fervent prayer for my brothers and sisters. By living this call, I am finally living with passion. And the endless joy and love placed in my heart will be the fuel for the passionate fire that burns first for my Lord and then for my brothers and sisters in Christ whom the Lord loves more than human hearts can imagine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finding the Heart in My Depression

So, I’ve been a little depressed lately. I get this way sometimes. It’s frustrating because there is no reason to be in a bad mood. Life is unchanged and all is good. But no matter how hard I try to talk myself out of it, the darkness still creeps in and sucks the life right out of my happiness. Before I know it, I’m surrounded. I can’t see my way around. The darkness is now my world. When I get this way, I don’t want to be around people. I want to hide in my dark world and let it conquer me for a little while. I know I need to make an effort to let in some light, but I lack the will to do so. All of my effort to live goes into my kids- trying to hide the darkness inside of me from them.
I especially despise the way the darkness conquers me spiritually. I lack the will to pray. I lack the will to be inspired. I lack the will to be happy in God’s presence- to be awed by his awesomeness. I let the darkness smother the fire that usually burns with great fury for my Lord. I surrender to the world and to my humanity. I do not rise to the challenge anymore. And out of my lack of fire, cold hard guilt is born. I hold onto the guilt and let its coldness seep into my world of darkness. Lately, I have noticed that with each new plunge into my dark world, I feel more conquered spiritually. It seems that with every step I take towards the Lord in my moments of happiness, that many more moments are stolen from me in these battles with the darkness. With each new round of depression, I grow guiltier, more sullen and angrier with the life that is taken from me. The turning point to the war being waged in my soul is drawing near. I almost feel as if I may be split in two.

I know that the Lord has not abandoned me in these moments, but rather I have taken a step or two away from the Lord. I have let the darkness cloud the path where I normally walk. That blinding darkness has stolen the prize I normally see at the end of the road and banished the light that illuminates my path to claim it. But now that I have taken these steps away from the light, how do I find my way back? How do I find the light when all I can see is darkness? When depression attacks, my rational is gone. I know with my intellect what makes sense, but my emotions do not reflect any kind of rational thought. I find it very frustrating to be in a place where my emotions have no reason to react the way they do. But I am blessed with a very logical mind. And even though my emotions want to live in the darkness, my mind tells me that there is light- if I ask. All I have to do is call upon it. This choice is my saving grace- as long as I can muster the will to ask.

This time, my journey out of the darkness began with my run at the gym. For the first time since the darkness trapped me, the will to pray arose. Since I wasn’t feeling well, I prayed that the Lord would help me get through my 3 mile run. I ran 7 miles in 75 minutes burning 770 calories. The sevens were his message to me that he is here and cares about what matters to me. My run wasn’t helping anyone but myself and he gave me the ability to go way beyond my expectations.

Soon after, my dear friend invited me to a charismatic prayer meeting which was the last place my guilty, cold, dark world wanted to be. I had been before and I was taken aback by their courage and faith in their prayer. They were very open to the Holy Spirit and proclaimed their experiences as they happened without hesitation or reflection- without all the questioning that usually goes on in my mind when the Lord speaks to my heart. Their courage was amazing to me- something I did not think was in my future to experience. So, I wasn't sure if I should go back. I put it on the shelf of future things I may consider being a part of. However, out of my dark world, I heard the Lord calling me to go. He spoke to me in songs on the radio and in the voice of my child. He made it clear where I was supposed to be on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.. So, reluctantly, I went. During the songs of praise, I had scenes pop into my head. And during their sharing, I knew that I was supposed to share what I saw. The Lord did speak to me like he speaks to them. I am not made to sit and admire, but to participate. My light was turned back on and I could finally see my way out of the darkness. I pray that my courage to walk towards the light will soon follow.

I don’t know if this will be my last battle, or if the war has just begun. I don’t know if the darkness will steal anymore of my light or of my life. I don’t know if I will always come out okay at the end. But I do know that Jesus will never leave my side. That he will always be near me. I may not always see him with the darkness seeps in. I may not always feel his presence when I allow the coldness to envelop me. But I will always know that he will light my candle if I can muster enough will to ask. He is the master of miracles, and in these moments, I feel I am his greatest task. May my experiences of darkness ultimately bring Him glory for this is the purpose for which I am existing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unrelenting Independence

As I scooped him up in my arms, he let out a blood curdling scream. I was sure that everyone within a 5 mile radius would conclude that I was kidnapping my little three year old blond-headed likeness from the play ground. I made the decision to scoop him up after his third “I have to make pee-pee” announcement. Potty training my little strong willed tyrant has been the bane of my existence for the past year. Yes, you heard me correctly, YEAR! We are now in the “I don’t want to stop playing, mommy so please make my pee-pee feeling go away without the potty” phase. He screamed all the way to the car, then the nearby store and then the bathroom where he relieved himself of a full gallon of fluid after which we both felt so much better.

Naturally, my prayers lately have been for patience and wisdom. How do I foster his independence without giving up all control? At three, he obviously still needs boundaries and direction but I don’t want to squash his little forming and wonderful personality. I don’t want his world to turn into No!, Don’t!, and Stop! At times, I feel like I walking a difficult tight rope and hoping there is a net down there somewhere to catch me.

While walking my well traveled tight rope the other day, I wondered if God feels this frustration with me. A resounding YES immediately rang through my brain. I chuckled. I have to admit that my little three year old tyrant owes is strong independent spirit to his mother. My own mother has a book full of similar stories that she has recounted to me over the years. She is very familiar with my tightrope. And I am very sure she is enjoys watching her grown tyrant try to parent a little tyrant clone.

My mother’s frustration with my childhood independence is probably only a fraction of the frustration God feels with my adult independence. He is very patient with my unwillingness to surrender. He waits as I give up control a little bit at a time. He showers me with unconditional love no matter how hard I try to hold onto the steering wheel. I am fully aware of the boundless infinite love and patience of God.

Being that God is my creator, I have to wonder why he made me this way. Why do I have such an unrelenting independent streak? Why is He making it so hard on Himself to parent me? And then what I learned in my adult catechism class came rushing back: the gift of choice. God made us to love but he does not make us love. Love is our choice. My independence is the result of His gift of choice. The trinity shares a perfect agape love. It’s a love with no conditions or expectations. The three persons in the trinity completely give themselves to each other. God wants to share this love with us. He completely gives himself to us on the cross and in the Eucharist. And his heart aches for us to give our hearts to him. Even though he is the all powerful God, he doesn’t make us love him. Love cannot be forced. He gives us our independence, loves us with his agape love and waits for us to love him back. So, maybe I need to stop kicking and screaming and just surrender and let him scoop me up into his strong and loving arms.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Passion of the Christ

Last night, I went to the cross. I watched our Lord sold for 30 pieces of silver. I watched his best friend turn his back on him. I watched his blood stain the ground as his flesh was ripped from his body. I watched men of God call for his death. I watched them hammer nails into his hands. I watched his heart break. I watched his mother weep. I watched him suffer and die.  And I watched in horror. For the first time, I watched the Passion of the Christ. I have avoided it all these years. I had no desire to see my Lord suffer. I did not want that visual image to haunt me like I know it will.

I felt the nudge to watch it when I ran across images from the movie on YouTube. I was preparing a presentation on salvation for the middle school youth and I was looking for an inspirational video that would grab their attention. The attention that was grabbed was mine as images of the movie kept rolling across the screen. I resisted. I told Jesus that if he wanted me to watch that movie, then it better be easy to find- like be on HBO when I happen to be flipping channels. I wasn’t going to go to great lengths to watch my Lord tortured and killed. He has been answering a lot of my prayers lately and this one was no exception. My dear friend just happened to bring up the subject of the movie on our way out of mass on Sunday. I promptly shared my reservations about watching it. She empathized and said that she was thinking about watching it again but was pretty sure she would have a hard time renting it during holy week. I told her that if she happens to find it, then maybe I would be interested in borrowing it- maybe. To my shocking surprise, she arrived at my house 30 minutes later with the movie. She found three copies at the video store and promptly rented two and told me it was a sign. So I was trapped. I couldn’t say no anymore.

In my Baptist church, we really didn’t talk about how Christ suffered. I can’t recall a preacher standing at the pulpit describing how Christ suffered. In fact, my Baptist church uses a cross instead of a crucifix because they don’t want to focus on the suffering Lord but rather the risen Lord. My first encounter with our suffering Lord happened in the Catholic Church where I came face to face with the crucifix. It took me a while to get comfortable with this image. But once I did, I realized that by knowing more about his suffering, I could know more about his love. I went from the crucifix to the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary and stopped there. That was the extent of my knowledge of his suffering- until now.

Horrified is not a big enough word to describe how I felt through the entire movie. Although I knew how it was going to end, I found myself pleading for someone to make it stop. How could they do this to a person- any person? How could they call themselves priests of our loving God and murder someone like this? One emotion I was surprised to feel was anger. How could Judas betray my Jesus and sell him for 30 pieces of silver? How could men of God incite a crowd to kill their messiah? How come no one came to his senses and called for the torture to end? I am angry. This was my Jesus. And they tortured and killed him. I know that I will go through many different emotions as I try to unwrap myself from this movie. At least that is what I keep saying to myself. I hope that the anger will give way to something different soon. I feel guilty taking this anger with me into the Triduum. However, I do feel a little peace with my anger so maybe that is what Jesus wants me to feel before I enter into Holy Thursday.

It has helped to talk it out with my husband. He pointed out to me that the society Jesus was born into was a lot more brutal than what we know today. This is how he is able to justify some of the torture. But that got me thinking. God could have brought his son into any point in history. Why did he do it at such a brutal time? Or if he did choose modern times, would we do the same? Would Jesus meet the same end? Would he suffer like he did? Where would I be in the story? Would I be anointing his feet with oil and drying it with my hair? Would I be weeping with Mary? Or would I be standing in the crowd and calling for his death? There is a reason I was born 2000 years after his crucifixion. He knew I couldn’t handle it. He knows that had I been there, I may not be with him. Had I been there, I may not have heard him call me. I may not have recognized who he was. I may have been standing in the crowd like all the rest of them. He knows me so well.

I am blessed to have been born at this point in history where I can experience him with my spirit while surrounded by the sacraments and holding hands with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And the reason I can experience him is because of his willing crucifixion. He can call me to himself because his suffering and death won the salvation of mankind. All I have to do is step out of the crowd and live in his love. And that love has so much more meaning and depth now that I have seen his passion and watched him suffer. I am completely unworthy of that suffering, but he did it anyway. He loves me anyway. And in return, all I can do is give myself to him. Since his heart stopped beating for me, mine must beat for him.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Set Me Free

I long to be in your presence,
call me, Lord.

I long to bask in your glory,
save me, Lord.

I long to live in your will,
guide me, Lord.

I long to feel your love,
surround me, Lord.

Be my God and I your creation.
Be my King and I your servant.
Be my Father and I your child.
Be my Light and I your candle.

Show me what I have not yet surrendered.
Show me where to walk with you.
Show me who you want me to be.
Show me how to live in your love.

I long to be in your presence.
Set me free, Lord.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Denial of Our Lord

I have to go to confession. I have done it yet again. I have denied my Lord.

I grew up in a solid Southern Baptist family. A family that was a corner stone in many of the churches we called home. A family that preachers stand at the pulpit and call families to be. A family that not only seemed solid on the outside, but full of God's love on the inside. I lived it. I grew up in it. I was part of it. I am so blessed for this experience.

And then I had to make a choice. Either follow Jesus to the Catholic Church or stay with my family in the church that raised me. It was not an easy choice. It was clear to me which path to take, but I knew my family would be hurt in the process. I knew they would be confused. I knew they would pray for my return. I knew that this choice would separate me from them and they knew it would separate them from me. It was not an easy choice. But because of the love that reigned in our family, we were able to accept the different person I had become. The person Jesus was and is calling me to be. They were able to look past the differences in our faiths and find the love that bound us from the beginning. Although there is still some sadness, there is a glimmer of joy once again. And I am deathly afraid of crushing that glimmer.

I find it so hard to be Catholic in front of my family. It’s easy to invite them to baptisms, first communions and mass on holidays when they are visiting us, but it’s totally different to be Catholic in front of them. To share my experiences with the Eucharist or our Lady is like I am slapping them in the face. It’s like I am celebrating my betrayal of their faith. Most of what they believe is wrong with the Catholic faith is where I am finding my deepest experiences with our Lord. So, the idea of really sharing my faith with them is like twisting the knife I threw at their hearts on my way out of their church. I don't want to twist that knife. I don't want to hurt them anymore. So I stay silent.

And in that silence, I hear Jesus asking me to speak, to share, and to be who he is calling me to be. I have ignored him. I have not obeyed. I don't want to twist that knife. I lack courage. I lack faith that Jesus knows what he is doing. I lack faith that he will heal the hurt my sharing will inflict. My finite brain cannot see past the pain my exodus brought to their hearts. I must trust that he does see past it. I must trust that the separation imposed by my choice will ultimately bring Him glory. I must trust.

It's in moments like these that I can relate to what Peter must have felt. I love the Lord with an all consuming love that I can't quite understand. It’s a love that must be from God because I am completely unworthy of feeling it. It envelops me. Its alive in me.  I can only imagine how much more love Peter felt having actually walked with Jesus. He felt his hands wash his feet. He listened to his voice speak the wisdom of God. He watched him walk on water, feed the hungry, and transfigure before the heavens. Oh, how Peter must have loved our Lord. And when the moment came for Peter to declare that love, he failed. And he was given a second chance, and he failed. And then the third opportunity came, and he failed again. Peter shows us how easy it is to let our humanity smother the burning love. He shows us how easily our fear can overcome our courage. And our Lord knows this. And he is ready to forgive when we fail. Peter went on to be the rock upon which our Lord built his church. In order to be that person, Peter must have not only been forgiven, but he also must have forgiven himself. How else could he have had the courage to go on and build Christ's church?

So must I. I must ask for forgiveness and then accept that forgiveness. I must ask for Jesus to help my unbelief. I must ask for courage and step out of the boat. I must trust that the impossible will be made possible by the one who wills it so. I must be who Jesus is calling me to be. I must be confident that although my family may label me as zealous or crazy, Jesus wants me to speak of my experience with him. When I step out of that boat, I will pay a price. I will sacrifice a piece of myself that binds me with them once again. And when the hurt causes my faith to sink in the water, Jesus will extend his hand and lead me to do the impossible. I must trust.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Leaving the Jail

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Have you ever wondered what the pre-incarnate Christ was up to before the incarnation? I have never really thought about it before. He was in the beginning. He is the word of God. The word was with God in the beginning. I never thought of the pre-incarnate Christ standing next to the father in the beginning. All things were made for him and through him. He participated in creation. God the father made creation out of love for the son. He made us for Christ and both have loved us like they love each other. Imagine how they felt when Adam and Eve fell to temptation and forever separated themselves from the love of God. Imagine how devastated they were when the effects of that fall passed through the generations and their beautiful creations chose to die rather than be with God. Imagine how desperate they were to find a way to save us from ourselves. They came to our level. They came to us. Christ took upon our humanity to bring us the message of God’s love. And then he paid the price for our sin. He showed us God’s unending and overwhelming love for us by dying an innocent and horrible death so that we may have a way back to God.

Christ’s death on the cross is such a mystery to me. I am a very logical thinker and logic is not very clear in this act by Christ. My finite brain has a hard time wrapping itself around this event which is frustrating because this is the major event for Christianity. This is the defining moment for us. This event restored our relationship with God and allowed him to touch us with his love in a whole new way.

Dying for someone is the ultimate act of love. But Christ didn’t just die for us. It’s not like he pushed us out of harm’s way from a speeding train and ended up getting killed. No, Christ’s death was a lot more complicated. Our punishment for original sin is separation from God- a spiritual death. We were not going to be spending our eternity with God because of our sinful nature. Our sin got us the death sentence. That is our punishment. So, imagine your children get into trouble and end up on death row. What would you do? Not only can you not share in the wonderful life you dreamed for them, but you know that they are going to die there and you will never see them again. That is what God felt for us. So he went to work. You can see him working all over the Old Testament making covenants and making more covenants when covenants were broken. He molded a nation so that at least some of his earthly children would be somewhat prepared to recognize him when he did come to earth to bargain for our lives. And then he did come and walk among his children- he came to the jail. He taught about life outside of the jail. And then he talked the jailer into taking his life instead of ours. He volunteered to serve our death sentence- our horrible death sentence. And when the hour came, he was killed. And at that moment, we were set free. We were free to leave the jail.

I think that is where we are. We are all sitting in the jail and God is inviting us out. He is inviting us to take his son’s hand and walk out. He wants us to feel the sun on our face and the fresh air in our lungs. He wants us to see the vivid colors he painted in the sky as the sun takes upon a new day. He wants us to feel the warm sand between our toes and hear the beautiful songs he gave the birds. He wants us to experience life the way he created it for us. All we have to do is take Christ by the hand and walk out.

Sounds inviting doesn’t it? It sounds like a dream come true for us criminals. But, I think that it is harder to walk out of that jail then we realize. We are taken care of in that jail. They give us meals, a roof over our head and provide books and TV and the like to help us pass the time. We are comfortable. We have been in the jail so long that we have forgotten about what the outside world is like. The experience of God’s perfect world has become a myth- a story of long ago meant for dreamers or crazy people. The world we know is the jail and the world outside the jail is the unknown. Leaving that jail takes faith.

God knows how hard it is for us to leave. Although it breaks his heart that the children he died for are so reluctant to claim their lives with him, he understands that leaving the jail is a struggle. That is why he gives us so much to help- scripture, the sacraments, the church, angels, graces, and most of all, the Holy Spirit. He is hoping that we will leave and not go back. That we will take Christ by the hand and follow him to the life God wants us to experience. That we will accept the love poured out to us in the cross and live in it. He is waiting for us with open and loving arms. So, will you do it? Will you step into the unknown and leave the jail? I can only imagine the joy on Christ’s face when you reach for his hand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Love. Now that is a big word. Just when I think I have learned enough to figure out love, I find that I am just scrapping the iceberg. I know that I crave love. I know that I need love more than I realize. I know that love belongs in my being like water belongs in a well. The desire to find that water to fill my soul is overwhelming. That desire has driven me to my knees. It has meant the choice between happiness and despair. I have found that love is where I am made to live.

I have been learning about triune love- the love of God- the love of the trinity. Altruistic love is a completely unselfish love that two beings share. It is a love that gives everything of one’s self to another and expects nothing in return. It is loving someone for who they are and not for what they have done or accomplished or have given. In the trinity, the Father and the Son share this perfect altruistic love for one another. Their love is so powerful that it takes on a being all its own in the Holy Spirit.

God created man in his own image. Our souls are vessels to hold love. Our souls need this love like our lungs need air. God desires with all of his being to share this love with us. He wants so much to fill our souls. But we have to say yes. We have to choose it. What would this love mean to us if he didn’t give us the choice to choose it? What kind of lover forces his love on his beloved? God loves us so much that he wants us to choose his love. He is patient enough to give us our lifetime to make this choice. His desire to share love with us is greater than we can ever imagine.

Because of original sin, we have been separated from God. Our ability to share in his love was greatly compromised when Adam chose to believe a lie. God has gone to great lengths to restore that relationship with us. God’s desire to give that love to us drove him to do the unthinkable. God gave up his beloved for us. The father sacrificed the second person of the trinity for us. He gave us the object of his powerful love. And Christ, for the love of us and the Father also did the unthinkable. He chose to leave the father’s presence and come to earth and become vulnerable to us. He became a helpless baby. He became a man in a world absent of the love that possessed every ounce his very being. He delivered the message of divine love to a generation that didn’t understand it or accept it. And when they rejected him, he continued to give- to love. When they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand His message, he showed them- he showed us. He completely gave himself to us. He took upon himself the punishment of our sin. He sacrificed himself so that we may share in the powerful love of God. This act by Christ is a mystery that I will spend my life unraveling. But I know that the love God shows us in this act is greater than my mind can imagine and my heart can understand.

So how do I grab a hold of this love? How do I come to accept the love of God and let it flow in my soul? Its one thing to say that I want to accept the love- but it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it. I am learning that accepting this love is a process. He gives me as much as I am ready to receive. I have chosen Christ. I am open to him. I have shared my life and I daily invite him to live in my soul. But I found that it doesn’t stop there. He asks for something greater from me. He wants me to love him like he loves me. Am I even capable of this kind of love? After suffering rejection and humiliation by the people he loved, he got up on a cross and died a horrible death so that I may share in eternal life with God. Is it possible for me to return this kind of love? I know that he doesn’t expect me to because altruistic love has no expectations. But I feel him asking me to try it. I think that the more I love, the more love I am able to accept. Sacrifice of one’s self to the other is the birth of this perfect love. I have to sacrifice my humanity. I have to surrender.

To surrender is to give up control. To surrender is to place myself in his hands. To surrender is to make His will my will. Out of love, he gave his life for me so I must surrender my life to him . I must free fall backwards into the arms of God- arms I cannot see with my humanity but whose strength I must trust with my spirit. I must let him take the wheel, let my life be his and allow him to live through me.

Even though I am the biggest control freak on the planet, over time I have managed to surrender some aspects of my life to God. And in each surrender, love flows. Love abundantly flows. It fills my soul and overflows into every aspect of my life. My spirit experiences a joy that words fail to describe- a joy that transcends my daily struggles. So that even though the storm rages all around, as long as my focus is on my Lord, the joy sustains me and the love flows.

Not only do I find joy in the surrender, but I find freedom. When I completely surrender to the Lord, freedom reigns. First, trust drives out fear which allows peace to replace worry. Then love flows more freely and joy overtakes my spirit. I am free to be loved, free to give love and free to live the life God wants me to experience. I am free to do the one thing I am made to do- worship and love my God.