Friday, March 24, 2017

Lent Day 24 - Love

It's been 10 years since the death of my mother. Today as I write my blog, I'm reminded of all the love she tried her best to give to her family as we tried our best in return despite her lifelong mental illness roller coaster. Loving in a difficult situation can be challenging, frustrating, and, unexpectedly entertaining:

It was a quiet evening at Hope Hospice that night back in 2007. Unresponsive at this point, Mom seemed comfortable in her hi-tech bed. My sister Diane and I spent three and a half long weeks by Mom's side, 24/7. One night, in particular, we had the TV show "Jeopardy!" lingering in the background. I will tell you right upfront, I suck at this game (of course, depending on the subject . . . 70's music and movies I can be fierce competition!). As usual, I half-listened to the "answers" not quick enough to figure out the "question." The final Jeopardy! "answer" was read . . . something about a Spanish painter and I knew the answer! I yelled out "Miro!" The response from the players . . . "Who is Miro!" I started woohooing, proud I finally got one right! Within seconds, Mom's nurse came running in. "Is everything ok?" she asked calmly with an empathetic look on her face. All of the sudden, I realized I was in hospice, and loud noises coming from a room are usually cries of grief at the loss of a loved one. I assured her there was no change in Mom, and I just got a little excited about getting the final Jeopardy! question right. She just smiled and nodded, closing the door behind her, I'm sure, to keep the noise level down!

In today's Gospel (Mark 12:28-34), Jesus accentuates that love is the key to His Heart:

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,  with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, 
with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Boy does this quote from Anne's book Staying in Place nail why God's Love is crucial in creating a healthier, healed self:

"When we insist on healthy practices which reject superstition and which put people directly in relationship with God, we will feel lighter and more effective as Christians called to create what is fresh and healthy. When people insist on talking about Satan and evil we will equally insist on talking about Jesus Christ and His goodness. Mercy and love will replace fear, hatred, suspicion and distortion. Mercy and love. What was terribly incomplete must now be replaced with what is at least MORE complete and aimed at ever greater completeness."

Lay apostles, even in the most difficult situation, search for the good . . . the love that can be infused. Whether that love is for God, another person, or even yourself, make it a habit to bring every obstacle faced to the Foot of the Cross. Sometimes it's hard to determine good in adversity, but it can be done. Give it a try today if you are blessed with a challenge . . . He is waiting to send you heavenly love and graces.

Thank you, Lord, for continually reminding me through the Gospels and Anne's exquisite writing that God = Love. And, with His Love comes healing and peace.

God bless,

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lent Day 23 - Overcomes

Two of my daughters have been skydiving.  A friend skydives almost every weekend, with a total of over 700 jumps to date. The thought of leaping out of an airplane scares me to death. What if the parachute doesn't open?  What if you forget when to pull the cord to release it?  There are rules and regulations to assure the best outcome when jumping.  An experienced instructor teaches you about the equipment so you understand everything about the huge thing strapped to your back.  And, you listen very carefully, right?  You don't want to plunge 100 mph to your death! I am not an adrenaline junky in any way, shape or form.  But ask anyone to describe the experience and they will tell you it's liberating.  One minute of pure heaven . . . a leap of faith.  

Isn't belief in God like skydiving?  We need Christ, priests, and pastors (instructors) to guide and teach us about the Bible (equipment) so we are ready for the day we are called to heaven (the jump).  Take a leap of faith.  Overcome fears. Start implementing those rules and regulations daily knowing the Great Instructor wants us to arrive safe and sound. Believe.

The Gospel reading today (Luke 11:14-23) leaves me with this thought . . . Jesus is and was one patient, focused Man:

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, "By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons." Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself,  how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."

Anne a lay apostle encourages us to overcome negativity and remain connected to each other in her book Staying in Place:

"If I believe in God, then I must accept that at times I am acting outside of His will. I must be interested in His pain at any separation from me that He experiences from these actions. Humanity being what it is, I must be encouraged to acknowledge these ruptures in relationship and set about healing and forgiving myself through the acceptance of responsibility. I must remain open to experiencing the sorrow that this causes both of us, meaning self and God. We, working together in relationship, overcome the negative actions and Jesus brings about healing for us. The beauty of this is the humble and contrite spirit that comes after this process. If we contemplate the mind of God in all of the areas of our lives, we will begin to allow God access to every corner and then something wonderful will occur."

I would like to end with a great quote from one of my favorite saints, St. Therese, the Little Flower:

Many people say, "I don't have the courage to make this sacrifice." Let them do what I did: exert a great effort. God never refuses that first grace which gives one the courage to act; afterwards the heart is strengthened.

Thank you, Lord, for all the lessons/Scriptures You have given us to overcome anything . . . please give me excellent recall of those lessons when I am confronted!

God bless,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lent Day 22 - Law

Why did the word "law" jump out from the Gospel today? Hmmm . . . after the Comey hearing yesterday, it's hard to swallow the degree to which our country was compromised over the last 8 years. When our own FBI and NSA can't even tell the truth, it's no wonder the lawlessness has grown out of hand. It's been an education making sense of what is really taking place in DC (and the world)! But I have discovered a gold mine in truth . . . a radio show called YourVoice radio hosted by Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii). Bill's "tweets" kept me off the edge prior to President Trump's election. His radio broadcast provided an incandescent positivity along with solid explanations as to what was actually happening (and not being covered by #FakeNews) in politics. Bill's show is comprised of extremely informed co-hosts and guests from all realms.  Real people, the #NewMedia. President Trump inherited quite a mess, but I have full confidence he is a big part of the answer. He has been chosen to restore the law in this country. As Christians, our calling is the same . . . to shine the Light of Christ to all those in darkness. Live the commandments to the best of our ability, knowing we are all imperfect and will falter at times. The "laws" of Christ are there to protect and guide us, just as the U.S. Constitution was written to safeguard every American. Obedience to the laws allows us to live the freedoms so many have died for, especially Our Savior, Jesus Christ!

In today's Gospel (Matthew 5:17-19), Jesus asks us to set a good example for others:

Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven."

I love Anne's quote below from Staying in Place . . . especially the implications when a law is not taken seriously:

"We cannot accuse others but excuse ourselves. We must allow for God to come through all, regardless of their condition, regardless of their wounds and fallen natures. Why is this important and why does it sound so basic? Well, it is basic. But the law of gravity is also basic, and the ramifications of that law are layered and sometimes end in tragedy when that law is ignored."

Lay apostles, today, let's focus on how we are following the laws . . . God's and our country. We must set an example of peaceful obedience, kindness replacing anger. In a world full of conflict, the laws of God and His Truth will always prevail!

Thank you, Lord, for people like Bill Mitchell who want to see prosperity and peace cultivated among Your Children.

God bless,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lent Day 21 - Forgive

Me? Stubborn? No, it's not stubbornness, it's just strength of mind or will the way I see it! When I feel very passionate about my viewpoint, it's hard to convince me otherwise. But when it's my way or the highway, how does that allow another to have their own point of view? I used to see everything as black or white . . . no shades of gray. Either you do or you don't. With age comes wisdom (thank GOD!). I can accept opinions in conflict with my own. I may be hurt or upset at first, but the love of Christ always leads me to forgiveness. I never want to disappoint Him. And when I don't forgive, I'm only hurting Our Lord. As long as I keep Him in the middle and see everything through His Eyes, compassion replaces vindication.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus is probably not offering Peter the explanation he was looking for:

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

In the quote below from Staying in Place, Anne's words give me such a great visual . . . as a nurse, I know how crucial oxygen can be in those where it is deficient:

"God’s mercy is like oxygen. His friendship is so inviting, so unconditional and ever-present that we cannot avoid its eagerness to forgive and restore to relationship. God does not want people to teach limited mercy, but rather fullness of mercy."

Lay apostles, today let's strap on the oxygen mask and remember how loved we are by Our Creator. No matter our sins, He is ready and waiting to forgive. Let go of the anger or hurt clouding judgment of the offender. Remember, we are all imperfect. Contemplate how much we crave God's forgiveness for our own sins, allowing us to view others with this same compassion.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to let go of pride and ego enough to forgive quickly when I am hurt or offended. This "forgiveness" stuff is hard work, but the end result is seeing You Face to face someday!

God bless,