Friday, August 31, 2012

We Only Have Today

Note: I am a little behind due to having BOTH grandsons with me for a week! 

None of us know when we will be called home to heaven.  Over the past year, I have worked on living in the present . . . not worrying about next year or even tomorrow.  My days of being a control freak are slowly fading out the more I rely on Christ.  I am a list person.  If not a physical list (I do have a "ToDo" app on my iPhone!), then a mental list. But last weekend, while waiting to see where Hurricane Isaac was going to hit, I thought it would be a good day to make a list of things I needed to do around the house. I started creating the list mentally, then stopped.  Jay and I were spending the day together.  We ended up talking and reading and praying.  The most wonderful day spent focused on each other and God, in the moment, without need to check off items on a list.  We only have today.  Do everything for the glory of God.

In the Gospel (Matthew 24:42-51) reading for Thursday, Jesus warns his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples: "Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."

In the Monthly Message from December 2010, Jesus wants us ready:

"Your joy in service offers others a glimpse of where abandonment has taken you. Please be joyful. Your joy offers the world hope. Joy is infectious. And hope is infectious. Suffering passes away and what remains is your offering. I am returning. I tell you this because it is true and I want you to be prepared and to help others to be prepared. All is well. The infant King looks out upon a world which craves Him. Bring Me to others, that they may also herald My return."

Lay apostles, take time each day to focus on Christ.  Whether it be five minutes before breakfast, 20 minutes on your drive to work, or one hour at night with your family, straighten out your priorities. Checking off chores on a list must take the back burner when your daughter or son ask you to read them a book. Love Jesus.  Love your family and friends.  Then everything else seems to fall into place.

Thank you, Lord, for all the joy in my life.  Through You, I am learning to prioritize!

God bless,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Matter of Influence

Post from yesterday's Gospel (8/29/12)

Children are acutely aware of our behavior and attitude at all times.  They learn to pray when we pray, curse when we curse.  Learn to treat others with disdain when they have seen, as an example, a parent yell at a waitress for the wrong order.  We all want our children to be healthy and well-adjusted.  When they aren't, don't you think, as parents, we need to take a look at our own behavior before we ground or criticize them? 

In todays Gospel (Mark 6:17-29), think about Herodias' daughter and what kind of woman she may have grown up to be:

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him
and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias' own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

In Anne a lay apostle's book Lessons in Love, she clearly defines the erroneous statements made by those who make excuses about their lack of commitment to the Church:

“Many Catholics see themselves as separated from the Church, even exhibiting anger and rebelliousness against the Church. They make statements like this: “The Church is only after money. All priests are pedophiles. The Church is all about rules.” Let me translate these statements in order and try to guess what is really meant. “I don’t want to give away any of my money. I can use pedophilia as an excuse not to go to Church. I personally do not want to obey God’s rules.” Clearly, some claiming to represent the Church have made mistakes and committed sins and abuses. The enemy tempted them efficiently and, for whatever reasons, they were not armed against the temptations. The ones abandoning God’s path allowed many to be lured out of safety through their actions. But I ask each person to look at the Church. If one studies the Church, one will see that Her guidelines are protective in nature, most priests serve ably and truthfully, and each Catholic should, if possible, give some money so that the individual parishes can be maintained and so that the wider goals of the Church can be achieved. If the Church flourished financially in one period, rejoice. If there are those who then squandered the Church’s assets through either criminal behavior or fiscal irresponsibility, God will hold them accountable. It is still no reason for us to abandon the Church, and a financially poorer Church will not do us any harm at all. We must think of Jesus Christ when we think of the Church. What does He need us to do to help raise up the Church? Again, to repeat a point almost to tiredness, the misbehavior of some is no excuse for others to abandon God’s cause in the Catholic Church.”

Lay apostles, think before you speak when your children are around.  If you speak ill of our beautiful faith, what kind of impression are you leaving for our future generations? Do you want your children to love Christ despite human failings?  YES!!!  You do. Stop the negative thoughts within yourself. Remember, all eyes are on you.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me to love and respect my Catholic faith and understand humans are fallible whereas You are steadfast. 

God bless,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Internal Discipline

Actions speak louder than words.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. Pretty basic concepts, right?  Well, at least you'd think so. Last Friday a clinical study I had been working on ended enrollment.  It was an acne study for healthy subjects ages 12-40.  Throughout the four week enrollment period, the number of no-shows astounded me. If a potential subject was 15 minutes late, one of the office staff would place a courtesy call to confirm their arrival.  Most of the time the reminder calls went to voicemail with no return call from the subject to reschedule.  Other times they were yelled at, disrespected, hung up on or flat out lied to. One woman, on the last day of enrollment, going on 4pm, said she was on her way with her three teens.  We waited around until 5:30pm (after calling her cell several times) and she never showed.  Not even a phone call to let us know she wasn't going to make it.  What happened to being polite? Have we become a culture needing Miss Manners to educate all in the basics of human kindness? 

The problem is, if we don't demonstrate in our actions and words the love of Christ to our children, how can they move on to be good, kind and loving Christian people and parents themselves? It's never too late to change behavior.  It's never too late for internal discipline.

Todays Gospel (Matthew 23:23-26) is all about cleaning up the inside to shine His light on the outside:

Jesus said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean."

And in Anne a lay apostle's book Serving in Clarity, she shows us when we disregard how we treat others, let alone ourselves, we bruise our dear Jesus:

“Jesus pulls us in, close against Himself, even though in doing so the Lord risks injury. And it is true that we often wound Jesus. We wound Him intentionally, through sin, and unintentionally, through neglect and mistrust.”

Lay apostles, it takes time and discipline to make behavioral changes within ourselves.  Instead of looking pious on the outside yet unholy on the inside, make a commitment to yourself to eliminate anything detrimental to your soul.  There isn't one bad behavior you cannot overcome with Jesus by your side, in your heart, and on your mind.  Maybe you're thinking it's too late to change a behavior others have become accustomed to.  The change would upset everything.  Well, guess what?  If you are making the the decision for Jesus, others will adapt.  They may even agree it's the right decision!  Making one small change today will bring you one step closer to a large change tomorrow.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the courage and internal discipline I needed to make an important decision for You.  And, for the graces You gave me in return!

God bless,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No Disrespect, Please?

My best is all I can do.  Writing this blog creates vulnerability to attacks from those who don't agree with or like my observations.  Seems my blog post about divorce a few days ago generated quite an array of negative comments.  Disrespectful comments expose an unhealed wound somewhere in the writer's heart.  By lashing out at someone on the right path to Jesus, it somehow makes them feel better about their hidden sins . . . the flaws and mistakes they have buried deep within, and if revealed, would make them just as much a sinner as I am.  Acting piously and judging actions in another's past is not what Jesus asks of us.  He desires to draw His children closer to Him, not push them away.  Why is it when we come to terms with our past and expose our wounds, some want to infect it to the point of ulceration?  Punishment doesn't work.  Ask my daughter who is a Behavior Analyst!  Jesus knows I will falter once in a while. But I will continue, despite the negativity, to put myself out there and expose my blemished past in hopes one person will read it and realize Jesus is kind and merciful, patiently waiting with open arms and all the graces needed to heal. 
Todays Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14) couldn't have been better timing for my post today:
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, "The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast."' Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then the king said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.' The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.' Many are invited, but few are chosen."
Basically, He has invited us . . . so come prepared. Draw others to Him by shining His Light, not criticizing to send them toward darkness.  
In Anne a lay apostle’s book Climbing the Mountain, she encourages us to move past disrespect from others.  I have quoted the bolded line below many times to help those who are criticized understand where the venom is coming from:

“But let’s look not only at the service but also at the spirit of the service. We opt to cook and clean and do so in union with Christ, and in great love and prayer for the others who are not serving but enjoying the party. Well done again and even better if we are here. Conversely, cooking and cleaning resentfully is not the idea. If we are here, we must ask Jesus to fill us with love for those we serve. Let’s move a bit further. We opt to cook and clean in union with Jesus, in prayerful petitioning for the ones enjoying the party. Those souls are ridiculing and mocking us for the very service we perform. They show us that they feel superior to us and even treat us with pitying disrespect. Because our service shines a light on their non-service and exposes them, they strike out at us in their guilt. They deliberately misunderstand our motives, which wounds us terribly. We take this and offer it to Jesus in union with His Passion for these very souls and beg Him for conversion graces and clarity for them. We feel the stings but soldier on, overcoming any urges to retaliate by showing them that we are not fools to be taken advantage of, but willing victims for heaven. We correctly see these urges as temptations to be overcome. This is very good and if we are not here, we must be at peace, as we will surely arrive at this destination if we have the desire.”

Lay apostles, when others speak about past sins, don't judge or criticize them if they are trying to get back on the path to Christ.  Show them through Scripture or the Volumes or some sort of spiritual literature the love Jesus freely gives no matter the transgressions . . . as long as we ask His forgiveness and truly leave sinful behaviors behind. And more importantly, accept His forgiveness by letting go of the guilt or shame.  Remember Divine Mercy . . . Jesus, I trust in You!

Thank you, Lord, for bulking up my spiritual muscles! I am an open vessel to do Your Will. Please keep those who judge and criticize in Your loving hands, giving them the power to draw others to You instead of shoving them toward the enemy.

God bless,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greed Creates Contempt

Keeping up with the Joneses.  Where exactly did this phrase come from?  Curious, I googled it.  From Wikipedia:

"Keeping up with the Joneses" is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to "keep up with the Joneses" is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

The phrase was popularized when a comic strip of the same name was created by cartoonist Arthur R. "Pop" Momand. The strip debuted in 1913, distributed by Associated Newspapers. The strip ran in American newspapers for 26 years, and was eventually adapted into books, films, and musical comedies. The "Joneses" of the title were neighbors of the strip's main characters, and were unseen characters spoken of but never actually seen in person.
I was surprised it had been a comic strip! And, ran for 26 years!  Why are people so obsessed with having more than their neighbor?  A bigger house, a prettier wife, or a fancier car reflect what is on the outside.  But do people really think about the blood, sweat and tears it took to acquire the big house or the heartbreak endured behind closed doors with a beautiful mentally ill wife? Usually not.  Yesterday after we finished with patients, I showed one of the young girls a video book trailer my youngest daughter produced and directed on my computer (ok, plug for my baby girl and author Joseph Rakowski:  After watching the very impressive video, with a sigh she commented I had such an exciting life with so many good things happening to me.  I looked at her, gave her a hug, and said, "I am 50.  You are 19.  I better have some exciting things happening by this age!"  She smiled and said that made sense.  She doesn't know what I've been through in my life.  She is only able to see what I reveal externally. There is always going to be someone with more than we have and some with less.  Be thankful for what God has given you. Whether it is for good health, a job, or food and shelter, appreciate your circumstances. Becoming greedy and wanting what others have can generate negativity leading to disrespect or dislike for nothing other than they have a fancy car and you drive a lemon.  Is that really worth stealing, hating or criticizing for?

In todays Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16), Jesus uses a parable which may find greedy people agreeing with the first laborers.  But look deeper into what Jesus is explaining:

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.' When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

In Volume One, Anne a lay apostle has some good advice when it comes to our role on earth:

"I often compare my parenting of my children with God’s parenting of us on earth. He hates us to fight. He loves us to give in and make peace, forgive, and console each other. He must get so aggravated when we fight over possessions, thinking, I gave you that and it is Mine. I can easily take it away. If you want to know how to please our God, just consider a child, and what that child would have to do to please his parents. Be good. Be nice. Be obedient. Take direction when it is given. Laugh a lot. Smile. And clean up your messes. Don’t be greedy or unkind and whatever your job is, do it cheerfully."

Lay apostles, no matter what your circumstances, praise God.  The Lord knows much better than we do what is required to get to heaven.  Have faith He knows what He's doing. Don't look at others for their value on the outside.  For within each of us is something priceless . . . we are children of God!

Thank you, Lord, for helping me focus on being thankful for what I have, not greedy for what others have.  I will continue to build my worth internally in anticipation of the day You call me home!

God bless,

How To Endure Suffering

(Note: I forgot to hit "Publish" on my blog post yesterday so it is showing today's date.  Scripture quoted is from August 21, 2012 . . . thanks Joyce!)

Here we are again with that "suffering" word.  As I gracefully (well, attempting it!) grow older, I try to keep my aches and pains to myself, although grunting as I stand after sitting for extended periods screams old age!  Easily, there are far worse conditions to endure in life, one of them being separation from loved ones. It's difficult enough when people you love pass away or your children leave for college or get married.  These are natural events taking place in everyday life for most.  But what about uprooting your family for the Lord's work?  And, leaving the country to do it. The following is from Volume One, written by Anne, a lay apostle:

"Various circumstances compelled my husband and me to move with our children far from my loved ones. I offered this up and must say it is the most difficult thing I have had to contend with. Living in exile brings many beautiful opportunities to align with Christ’s will; however, you have to continually remind yourself that you are doing that. Otherwise you just feel sad."

Truly, we have to be willing to suffer and sacrifice with Christ in mind.  For Him. How else can we escape feelings of sadness, loneliness, or isolation?  Flat out, we can't.  
Todays Gospel (Matthew 19:23-30) demonstrates all the money and power in the world will get you nowhere unless you use it to glorify His Name:

Jesus said to his disciples: "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." Then Peter said to him in reply, "We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

In Heaven Speaks to Those Who Suffer from Financial Need, St. Augustine gives us his view on sacrifice:

"Dear brothers and sisters, we in heaven remember being on earth. We remember having great wants and suffering from poverty. Some of God’s saints were wealthy on earth, of course, but many were not. The time in which you live is a time of great abundance for some. It would make God happy if this abundance were shared so that few experienced hunger that resulted in disease and death. There will always be poor people, it is true, but this fact does not excuse anyone from failing to assist them. If you are wealthy, you may say, “What can I do?” I will answer you today. Give. Give often and give more. Work for others with your power and influence. Spread holy principles of responsible use of material and financial wealth. Also, deprive yourself of something. Sacrifice. Perhaps you are in a situation where you were accustomed to a high standard of living and now you find that you have had to reduce your standard. Praise God for this. Rejoice because in this circumstance you will learn many things. You will learn to trust God. You will learn to have compassion for others. You will learn that not everything has to do with bodily comfort."

Lay apostles, is something making you feel anxious today?  Fearful? Angry?  If you are suffering, rejoice in it as St. Augustine says above.  Look at suffering as life lessons Jesus feels we need at this moment in time.  I used to try to figure out solutions to all my problems causing such anxiety and fear. Through this apostolate I have learned to face what it is I'm fearful of or worried about and then hand it off to Christ to figure out the solution.  Boy is life calmer . . . more joyful. And I don't walk around with 10lbs on my shoulders anymore.  I have finally learned how to endure suffering.

Thank you, Lord, for supplying the sacrifice and suffering I needed and continue to need to align myself with Your Will.  I promise to continue practicing keeping the complaints to a minimum!

God bless,

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Just Stuff

My purse collection is extensive.  Maybe not the volume of Imelda Marcos (after she and her family fled Malacanan Palace, they found 1,000 handbags left behind!), but I have accumulated a nice assemblage in an array of colors. One thing you must know, I don't collect designer bags.  I go for cheap and unique. If Macy's is having a 60% off sale and I have an extra 20% off coupon . . . well, let's just say I love a good deal. But as much as I delight in the rainbow displayed on hooks in my closet, I would give any one of them away in a heartbeat.  One insight (among many!) I have taken away from this apostolate is detaching from worldly possessions in order to focus on accumulating heavenly assets. This is an easy task when we are talking about handbags.  But what about our homes?  Our cars? What would we do if our creature comforts were taken away?  Well, whine and complain a bit, I suppose. Perhaps fear would ensnare our minds causing unethical decisions to be made in order to retrieve what we had lost. I'm not saying give up everything you have worked hard to achieve.  I'm saying don't place such a high value on material things you can't take with you . . . after all, it's just stuff.

In todays Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22), Jesus honestly answers what appears to be a simple question:

A young man approached Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?" He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He asked him, "Which ones?" And Jesus replied, "You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

In the February 2005 Monthly Message, Jesus provides guidance in regard to possessions on earth:

"I wish to tell the world of My love.  Dearest children of God, you will be welcomed in heaven.  You have a family here who prepares for your arrival. Each soul on earth is steadily making progress in their earthly journey in that you are steadily approaching the end of your life, even if you will live to a very old age.  If we begin with that thought, My next thought will make even more sense to you: I wish you to consider what it is you will bring Me when I come for you.  Will you bring Me kindness to others? Will you bring Me service to your family? Will you bring Me a duty fulfilled in obedience and dignity? You see, little souls, I will not ask you for your material possessions because they will have no value here, unless you use these possessions to help others.  Only then can material possessions acquire heavenly value.  I have placed you in the world to serve.  I am with you in each day but you must also be with Me.  Dearest children, ask Me for guidance and I will tell you how I wish you to serve."

Lay apostles, are you placing a higher value on your material possessions than on your spouse or children?  On accumulating rather than loving?  What's the worst thing that could happen if you lost a treasured item?  You would be sad; you would miss it; and then life goes on, right?  Why spend precious time and energy fretting over "things" when there are plenty of people around us needing kindness and love? 

Thank you, Lord, for showing me earthly "things" aren't as important as love and kindness. Continue to place people in my life to love and show accumulating heavenly virtues is much more important than handbags!

God bless,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Divorced . . . But It Doesn't Define Me

(Note added 28Sep2012: I am free to marry in the Catholic Church via "lack of Canonical form" annulments . . . my wonderful priest assisted in this process!)

Divorced once, what a shame.  Divorced twice, well . . . not something I want to reveal to the world.  Alas, the fact remains I am divorced twice.  I am not proud of this and wish it wasn't a reality. In fact, I used to cringe when people asked about my marital status.  I don't cringe anymore. As a matter of fact, if the situation merits, I divulge this little tidbit up front. Within the first 5 minutes of meeting Jay (my new love!) and finding out he was Catholic, I leaned over and told him he should know my situation and asked if it mattered to him.  He responded by saying, "Is this the same Bonnie from the two previous marriages or a better version of Bonnie who has learned lessons and taken time for some spiritual healing?" Wow, huh? The thing is, divorce doesn't define who I am, just my journey. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for the lessons I've learned about myself through the divorces.  A few days ago Jay shared with me someone told him to look at exes as teachers, not enemies. I love this because after all is said and done, God is affectionately supplying necessary circumstances which will lead us to Him and our reliance on His graces to become whole again. Some of us have harder heads than others requiring desperate measures on His part.  Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to see the Light. 

Todays Gospel (Matthew 19:3-12) is read in almost every Christian wedding ceremony. If only everyone listening took it to heart, divorce would be less common:

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

The following quote from Anne a lay apostle’s book Climbing the Mountain gave me (and continues to give me) immense comfort going through my last divorce when I struggled with feeling like a failure:

“Who can turn away from the love of Christ? Jesus loves with such acceptance. Living in unity with Jesus is like having the most perfect friend. He will never judge us harshly. Jesus sees our motives and understands that often we fail as the result of the wounds that have been inflicted on us. A treasured friend is this way and helps us to deal with our mistakes charitably because the close friend has been with us in our past and views us as a whole, made up of a lifetime of experiences. A treasured friend can usually guess what we will do in a given situation and this is the same with Jesus. Jesus allows us to be tried and He allows us to fail, often so that we will learn.”

Divorcing or divorced lay apostles, you can survive the aftermath of detachment from your marriage.  And, with a lot of prayer, become stronger, healthier, and happier.  Divorce is a two-way street. Take a good hard look at what worked and what didn't work.  When you discover the part you played in the demise, no matter how big or small, write it down.  Pray about it.  Do a lot of spiritual reading.  Work on creating a better version of yourself.  We are all destined to fail once in a while. Thank God He is kind and merciful!

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to fail. I know I had to experience the things I have in order to grow closer to You. Can I please request no more failures in the relationship department? I think I've learned my lessons!

God bless,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Forgive and Ask For Forgiveness

The devil always chooses the weakest link to prey on.  He plays with low self-esteem like a game of Twister, causing confusion, fear and despair.  Sensitivity runs high, and egos easily bruise.  Why do we let evil cloud our judgement causing hatred to spew out?  Even at those we are closest to, our own families.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined an attack from those whom I was closest.  No way.  Not my family.  We had been through so much in our lifetime.  We were glued at the hip.  Bound to each other.

The more my love for this apostolate grew, the more I wanted to focus on heaven instead of the world.  But a tumultuous childhood caused defects in my personality.  I was ultra-sensitive to any criticism, insult or mood swing.  This trait runs in my family.  A mentally ill mother spouting all your insufficiencies; never being able to do enough to make her happy makes one become quite defensive.  The Volumes made me calmer, able to handle insults, forgiving easier and faster.  Drawn to evangelizing anyone who’d listen, I began to really change inside.  I wanted to clear all the junk out of my life.  TV had become boring and offensive.  Shows I loved for the excitement and drama bordered on indecency.  Christ was nowhere to be found.  In the process of cleaning up my life for Jesus, I offended a close relative.  In my heart, I was doing it for Him.  I was taking a stand.  I tried to be as nice as I could without revealing all the reasons for my decision.  Didn’t work.  It was no longer between the two of us.  My entire family was drawn into the situation.  The assault was rapid and venomous.  I attempted to apologize via email to no avail.  World War III had erupted. 

The old Bonnie would have sent a letter defending her actions, which would only fuel the fire.  I had an entire email typed out detailing why I was justified in my decision.  Before I hit the send button, the Lord prompted me to get up and take a walk.  Humility.  Humility.  Take the hit.  I went back, deleted that email, and sent another one in its place apologizing again.  I just didn’t have the energy or the need to fight. Months went by with no communication.  I attempted phone calls, but things had changed.  Relationships were no longer the same.  A bond was broken and damaged beyond repair. 

In February 2009 I attended an Evening of Renewal to see and hear Anne a lay apostle a few weeks before Lent began.  I took advantage of going to confession while there.  My struggle to forgive was eating me alive.  I would say I had forgiven when in reality, my heart was still broken.  I entered the confessional greeted by a cheerful priest waiting for the next sinner to enter.  I explained my inability to forgive in this particular situation and my worry due to the length of time to recover.  He gave me some very good advice: to give up worrying about forgiving for Lent.  To pray for these family members and repeat the Glory Be whenever it crossed my mind.  He promised by the end of Lent my heart would be healed.  Sounds good to me, I thought.  It should be easy giving up worry, right?  Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought.  But, I managed to do as he suggested and by Easter, my heart had healed about 90%. 

The week after Easter during daily Mass, Father mentioned the word rejection.  That word never crossed my mind . . . rejection.  This loved one felt rejected by me.  All the other stuff that erupted didn’t matter anymore.  I had to do the right thing.  Be humble.  Ask for forgiveness.  Blocking out all the hurtful emails aimed at me was a chore.  I needed to bring in the Big Guns.  I needed all of heaven to help me.  Then I remembered the Heaven Speaks to Those Who Struggle to Forgive booklet.  Until this point, I never felt the need for it.  I had learned so much from the Volumes.  But, boy, I needed it now.  The Blessed Mother summed it all up for me in this:

“I want to explain something to you so that you know that we understand your predicament. Your difficulty in forgiving is understandable. I had to forgive those who crucified my Son.”

Point taken.  Her words gave me the strength I needed to make a call to ask for forgiveness.  About to hit the send button on my phone, I threw in a little request for Jesus.  “Best case scenario, Jesus, would be voicemail.  But Your will be done!”  The phone rang.  Aw, shucks, voicemail.  It gave me the opportunity to say what I needed to say and ask for forgiveness, staying focused on my offense of rejection. 

Once I started talking, it became easier and easier to continue.  I truly, in my heart, felt and wanted forgiveness.  No matter the outcome, I had to do the right thing, in Jesus’ eyes.  I was on cloud nine after hanging up.   As I’ve gotten to know Christ, really know Him, all I want to do is make Him happy, pleased with His little lay apostle.  And, humility’s not such a bad thing after all.

I love todays Gospel (Matthew 18:21-19:1)!  It always reminds me of reading it to my oldest daughter at a time when she was struggling to forgive:
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 the fellow servant 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 his brother from his heart.”

And in the Heaven Speaks to Those Who Struggle to Forgive booklet, another valuable lesson from Jesus:
"It is clear to Me that many suffer from hidden wounds. The only way for these wounds to heal is for the carrier of the wound to forgive the one who inflicted the injury. My dear child, this can be difficult. When a wound finds a home in the heart, it becomes comfortable there. It must be loosened and shifted. Both a willingness to forgive and a spirit of forgiveness are necessary because it is these things that make the wound uncomfortable. The wound then begins to dislodge. This reawakens the pain but only temporarily until the wound is removed altogether."

Lay apostles, take the time to read all the Heaven Speaks booklets, even if you think you don't need them. Every one of them contain messages from our Savior, the Blessed Mother or cherished saints. And every one of them include a message we all can relate to in one way or another. You might even discover a hurt or struggle hidden so deep you were unaware of the damage it was causing your soul. 

Thank you, Lord, for creating in me a need to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Less anger and hurt equals a much happier and serene Bonnie!

God bless,