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Archive for July, 2012

Let go and let God!

a children's toy vehicle, red, n°1Most of you have heard the story about a young man who brought his toy to God and asked Him to fix it. After a while the man came back and complained to God the toy was still broken. God explained that he couldn’t fix it because “my child, you never did let go”.

Many years ago I attended a charismatic conference, and one of the guest speakers was Patty Mansfield.  Patty is an amazingly talented writer, speaker, mother and wife. In her session she spoke of a time in her life when she became overwhelmed by all the burdens of her responsibilities, which were crushing her under their weight.  I loved the way she demonstrated by getting down on her hands and knees to witness just how downtrodden she felt.  Patty finally realized that she couldn’t “do it all”, and she dramatically stood up to show the freedom this realization gave her.

Patty’s experience really touched my heart, because shortly before that weekend, I learned my dad had terminal cancer. I was definitely feeling buried under my cares and concerns. I worked long hours, six days a week at both my husband’s restaurant and my bookstore, plus I was involved in several ministries.  In fact, the following weekend I drove down to Florida to bring my dad back to Georgia, so that I could care for him. With my two sisters, we placed a single mattress in my dad’s station wagon, and loaded him in the back with lots of pillows to make him comfortable on the long 9 hour drive.

The week after the conference, I complained to God that I simply couldn’t juggle everything.  Of course God gently whispered “I’m not asking you to do it all”; and I knew instantly that I had to step away from Cursillo and my other ministries. I simply had to focus on running our businesses and caring for my dad. 1st Peter 5:6 “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”

That experience was a valuable lesson, but I’m pretty hard-headed, so God definitely had more for me to learn.  I tend to be over-protective of my family and friends, and have this strange idea I’m in control and that I’m responsible for the happiness of others.  If my husband was having problems at work, or if my daughter was having anxiety or other issues, I would become quite upset.  I couldn’t bear to witness their suffering, and thought it was my responsibility to solve their difficulties. Finally I heard God tell me that He was trying to help my family grow spiritually, and that I was getting in the way! When we obsess and worry over a dilemma, when we try to control a situation, we tie God’s hands and don’t allow Him to provide a solution.

On another retreat during mass Fr. Nick gave a wonderful homily about Hagar, Abraham’s mistress.  Since WOMEN IN THE BIBLE:HAGAR: HAGAR IS SENT INTO THE DESERTSarah was unable to conceive a child, she asked Abraham to father a child with her handmaiden, Hagar.  After Sarah’s son, Isaac was born, Sarah became jealous of Hagar, and insisted Abraham send Hagar and Isaac away.  Abraham was horrified, but God reassured him that He would care for them. So Abraham sent them into the desert with “some food and a skin of water“. Hagar was terrified, and when the water ran out, just knew that she and Isaac were doomed to die in the suffocating heat.  So she set Isaac down and moved a distance away, because she couldn’t bear to listen to his cries as he slowly died. It was then God opened her eyes to a nearby well, filled with refreshing and life-giving water. (Genesis 21)

Notice it was only AFTER Hagar set Isaac down and moved away, did God reveal Himself and provide nourishing water.  As I heard Fr. Nick’s homily, a light-bulb went off in my head!  I knew God was revealing to me  I needed to surrender my family, and all their problems, and quit thinking the world depended on me and my resources!  It’s a day by day process to surrender, and sometimes when I find myself fretting over a loved one, I visualize handing them off to Jesus, and physically walking away.

The scripture verse that really helped me to surrender God to my family was 1st Peter 5:10 “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after you have suffered a little”.  Even though it is sometimes excruciatingly painful to watch my daughters or husband go through difficult circumstances, I remind myself when I start feeling stressed, God is holding my family in His arms,  that HE has their situation under control, and the suffering won’t last forever!

Surrender Prayer

Come to me my friend! I call you to my freedom. Unloose your heart, surrender again to me today.  I will give you all you need.  Believe and trust in me.  I know you will not understand.  Only know my way is the perfect way, my plan is a perfect plan for your life.  

Turn yourself to me again today. I wish to deepen my life in you; I wish to give you my love.  I want you to believe in my power to transform you, to heal you.  I want to bring you into a deeper truth, a deeper freedom.  Do not limit what I can do.  There is still so much more I want to do with you and through you.

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Most of you have heard the story of John Newton, who composed the words to the song “Amazing Grace”.  Newton was captain of a slave ship for many years, until he underwent a dramatic religious conversion while steering his vessel through a storm.  Deeply sorry for the horrific treatment of the thousands of human cargo he had transported for many years, he devoted his life to the Church, and composed this song to describe his amazing conversion.

jesus_23Over and over in the New Testament, Jesus criticized the scribes and pharisees for their spiritual blindness. In Matthew 13:13 Jesus told them You shall indeed hear but not understand; you shall indeed look, but never see.”

Many of the Jews simply couldn’t understand the message Jesus shared with them; they denied his divinity, and were appalled when he forgave the paralytic’s sins. They were indignant when he cured the crippled woman on the sabbath; they argued with Him when He warned them about divorce and remarriage.  But “you gave us divorce under Moses”! They were scandalized over the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with her hair and perfume. And when Jesus proclaimed his discourse on the bread of life, that His disciples were to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”, they were so horrified by His words, he lost over three-quarter of his followers.  John 6 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him”.

St. Paul was fierce in his persecution of Christians, and was present at the stoning of St. Stephen.   Then one day  Jesus struck him with a flash of light, and asked Paul why he was persecuting Him.  Paul was struck blind for three days, until Ananias came and laid hands on him in Acts 9  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.”  Saul became known as Paul, and became such a powerful witness for Christ, that he was martyred and beheaded.

English: Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 i...I can relate to St. Paul, because I have literally had every single one of my beliefs turn upside-down, on every issue. I used to wonder why Pope John Paul II didn’t “get with the program”. The reason I didn’t join the Catholic church for so many years after I married a Catholic, was that “no pope was going to tell me what to do”!

Governor Zell Miller used to believe that abortion was an acceptable choice for women. Then his grand-son proudly showed the family a sonogram of his “yet unborn, but so alive daughter.  New science and technology can now show the heart of the unborn baby beating in the mother’s womb,” Miller says. “I saw it on the front page of Newsweek, no less.”  “I began to seriously wrestle with where I was on the real question,” he writes. “I began to pray earnestly for God’s guidance.”* The scales came off his eyes, and he became pro-life.

One thing humanity shares in common is our pain and this pain can affect us in different ways.  The trauma I experienced as a child caused my heart to harden like a rock and turn away from God, basically becoming an atheist in high school. The more I turned away from God, the more bad choices I made, which hardened my heart even more.  After my two girls were born, I wanted a different life for them than the one I had experienced growing up, and somehow I was drawn to raise them in a church environment. Even though I didn’t believe anything Pope John Paul II taught, his holiness and conviction were clearly visible, and somehow I knew the church was a vehicle to break the cycle of my family’s abuse and addiction.

Then I met my Debs. Three beautiful women named Debbie, who poured out kindness and friendship. Their love melted the ice wrapped around my heart.  I have to remind myself when I meet people who have turned their back on God, or call me vicious names for my beliefs, that their hearts are hardened with pain, and they can’t see the truth. Only love will soften the pain, and bring truth and healing. 1st John 4 perfect love casts out fear“.

The blindness today in our world can be overwhelming, but there is nothing new under the sun. Even Jesus’ own disciples were clueless most of the time.  Right after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fed the 5,000, he then walked on the water and in the gospel of Mark we’re told of the apostles reaction:

Mark 6:51  “Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,  for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Jesus’ own disciples, who were his constant companions, who were with Him night and day, who heard Him speak directly into their hearts, were blinded to the truth; so we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of understanding today. We must have patience and much love for our family and friends who don’t seem to grasp God’s truth. I know I still have blinders and a “beam in my eye”.  But I know God can take that beam out of my eye, and make it into a bridge!

*Excerpts from Zell Miller’s book “National Party No More”.

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My heart broke Friday morning learning of the tragic shooting in Colorado.  Like most people, I struggle accepting such senseless violence against so many innocent people.  Since God is omnipotent, I question where He was in the midst of such horror.

Years ago I gave a talk on obedience, which I always thought meant to “follow an order”.  This definition is true, but limited. True obedience is accepting God’s will.  Love for God consists in the full identification of our will with that of God the Father, who always wants the best for His children. Even though WE think we know what will make us the happiest, God has arranged everything to our advantage.

Happiness then, consists in finding out what God wants for us in each moment of our lives.  St. Teresa of Avila tells us the highest perfection consists in bringing our will so closely into conformity with the will of God, that as soon as God wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might.  So when life throws us a curve, we can say “I want want God wants”!  As you can imagine, this is difficult, and takes a lot of practice.  I tend to get resentful when I make plans, and something happens to disrupt my life.

Back in 2004 there was a massive tsunami on December 26 in Thailand, killing over 200,000 people, many of them children.  Strangely enough, December 26 was the feast day of the Holy Family, and two days later, December 28, was the feast day of the Holy Innocents, a remembrance of the small children in Bethlehem murdered by Herod.  I couldn’t get the images out of my mind of countless children drowning in such a horrible disaster.  For months I struggled to make sense out of this terrible catastrophe; then a group of us were privileged to have a private meeting with Sr. Briege McKenna.

Sr. Briege is a delightful, holy nun from Ireland, with a gift of healing.  She is friends with a mystic in Ireland, who has received messages from Jesus and other saints.  One of the messages had a profound impact on me. The mystic was given visions of the tsunami, and saw huge numbers of children drowning.  She was horrified, but Jesus reassured her the children that died English: A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao N...were not alone – as each one ran away from the waves, they ran straight into his arms.  This image was immensely comforting, and replaced the other painful images.

We look at events through our limited human eyes, but God looks down at us from the perspective of Heaven, and sees our lives here on earth as simply the train ride to get to our final destination.  As He tells us in Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

Whether we experience financial problems, sickness, or lose a loved one, accepting God’s will in these circumstances is never easy.  While God does not will the sin, He does will our humiliation, or wounded pride, because He is pruning us of our selfishness and willfulness. He does this with discipline; Hebrews 12 They (our fathers) disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

When your children are sick, they may fight you tooth and nail when you try to dispense their medicine. As a parent, you know the medicine is to make them better, but all the child can see is that you are forcing a vile liquid down their throat!  Does that mean God wanted these tragedies to occur, simply because He allowed them to happen?  Absolutely not! God’s will takes two forms – what He “wants” to happen, and what He “allows” to happen.  It’s the age old battle between our will vs. God’s will.  When we pray for someone’s conversion, it is a complete mystery as to when that person’s free will ends, and God’s grace takes over.

I love the way St. Francis de Sales describes the relationship between grace and free will:
“Grace is so gracious, and so graciously seizes our hearts to draw them, that it in no ways offends the liberty of our will. It touches powerfully, yet so delicately the springs of our spirit that our free will suffers no violence from it. Grace has power, not to force but to entice the heart.”

Personally I don’t think we deserve free will, when I look around at the evil in the world today. But God, in His infinite wisdom, wanted us to love and serve Him voluntarily, and not as robots.  Conformity signifies that we join our will to the will of God. Uniformity means more; it means we unite God’s will and ours, so that God’s will alone is our will.

In Philippians 4:12 St. Paul proclaims I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.” I always wondered what his secret was; then I learned it was accepting and being at peace every moment of the day, no matter how stressful, because God permits everything for His glory, and our greater good. But just because I learned his secret, doesn’t mean I always put it into practice.

I will be spending the rest of my life learning to abandon myself to God, and to be content no matter how events unfold!

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What do you see when you look in a mirror? I have a friend, and when she looks in the mirror, all she can see are wrinkles, thinning hair and too much weight. I told her “when I look at you, all I see is your kindness, compassion and unconditional love”.  What does God see when He looks at you? I know for certain He doesn’t focus on your weaknesses; instead He looks into your heart, and sees amazing gifts of light, laughter, joy, creativity, strength, passion and love.

As we’re told in Is. 43:4 “…you are precious in my eyes and glorious,  because I love you“.  When a woman has a baby, she adores her baby with every fiber of her being. God loves you, His children, immensely more than any mother.  God loves you intimately, passionately and tenderly and has given each one of us a special nickname. One friend told me her special name is “Apple of My Eye”.  My special name was easy to discern, as my name, Cherie, means ‘darling’, or ‘beloved’.  Every time I read the word ‘beloved’ in scripture, I feel a warm glow, because it is a reminder that I am God’s “darling daughter”.  Sometimes my husband serenades me with Stevie Wonder’s song “Ma Cheri Amour”, so I made this song his ring-tone on my phone. Whenever he calls, I get a thrill as I remember that I am his “darling love”, and an even warmer glow that I am God’s “darling love” as well!

But if you had a dad who was abusive or alcoholic, it can be really difficult to clearly see God as a father who cares for you, guides you tenderly and intimately, and wants only the best for you. Since my dad wasn’t the most nurturing father, I had a definite block when it came to understanding my role as a daughter of God. Then, several years ago, I was helping to lead a teen retreat, and after the last session, the youth minister showed us this incredible, heart-warming video about a father and his paralyzed son running the Boston Marathon.

When Rick Hoyt was born, he was brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. The doctors advised institutionalizing him, but his parents persevered and were able to find an engineer at a university to rig up a computer that allowed Him to communicate by touching a switch with the side of his head, which moved the cursor.  Rick was finally able to communicate! Then Rick heard about a charity run and asked his dad, Dick, if they could participate. After running the race Rick typed out to his dad, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”

Since then, eighty-five times Dick has pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming, and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day. Dick has also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike.

I literally sobbed as I watched this video, and felt God whisper into my heart that I WAS his beloved daughter, revealing the truth of his love for me. I knew with every fiber of my being, that for every astounding and amazing sacrifice Dick made for his son, God the father wants to do even more!

The words of Matthew 10:29 became engraved on my heart Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

The link to view Rick and Dick Hoyt:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUQeUsqQuVc

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Chosen

Think of all the factors that had to be in place for you to be born. Millions of details; DNA and atoms all had to come together at just the right time and at just the right place to create you, and only you.  Our bodies and souls did not come about haphazardly; they were engineered by an all-powerful God. Before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, God already knew the color of your hair and eyes.  Before the creation of the world, He knew your name and the day you would be born.  He created your utterly unique soul out of nothing.  In Jeremiah we’re told “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; and before you were born, I consecrated you“.  He personally picked out your personality, gifts, passions and weaknesses.  So why were you chosen?

God has a special, unique mission for each and every one of us to accomplish, that only WE can do! Our lives are full of inexplicable twists and turns to specially prepare us for this challenge. In spite of our defects and weaknesses, we are called to tackle specific problems in the universe. We live in a broken, fallen world – one badly in need of fixing. A world full of violence, rape, confusion, poverty, and greed.

Your mission could be big, like Mother Teresa’s, or it could be something quite ordinary. You might write an inspiring book, like the classic “Imitation of Christ”, or you may invent a special fishing net, which catches fish, but lets the sea turtles escape. A simple conversation might motivate a future teacher, nun or even president! You might bear a child who will find a cure for AIDS. Whatever it is, no matter how small or big, you will be immensely important to the world.

My vocation is to be a wife, mother, and business owner of a Catholic bookstore. When I was in middle school I worked as a library aide, and the moment I walked into the library, I felt a mystical bond with the endless rows of books. I remember yearning to one day work with books. But I had to be patient; it was 25 years before my mission came to fruition, and I opened my first Catholic bookstore.

Cover of To find your mission, have faith and trust in God, and be willing to go down unfamiliar roads.  Do you remember the movie the “Sound of Music”? Maria was a young woman who became Catholic in college, and entered a convent with the intention of becoming a nun.  She went from an active lifestyle, to the cloistered, sedentary life of a novice. Her health started deteriorating, and her doctor ordered her to take a break and lead a more active lifestyle.

She “temporarily” became a nanny for Captain von Trapp and his 7 children. The reality of her story is different from the Hollywood version. The Captain fell in love with Maria and wanted to marry her, but she was certain she was called to be a nun.  After a retreat with the rest of her convent, it became clear that she was called to marry the Captain and become a mother to his children. The family formed a singing group, which provided a living for them when they immigrated to the USA during WWII. They opened a world famous hotel in Stowe, Vermont, and have inspired millions of people with the story of their strong faith and gift of music.

Think of the times you have been chosen for something – perhaps to lead a group, or handle an important project; to be chosen is to feel special. But what about the times you haven’t been chosen? Does this mean you aren’t worth anything? Our culture tells we have to be brilliant, or look like Angelina Jolie, or else we don’t really matter.

Too often we have a negative view of ourselves “we’re not smart enough, thin enough, sexy or productive enough”; and these negative images are reinforced by the media.  In Acts 4, the twelve apostles were described as unschooled, ordinary men, yet they were chosen to be Jesus’ closest companions.  His disciples were a motley crew; tax collectors, public sinners, prostitutes, adulterers. In the book “Bad Girls of the Bible”, there is a chapter about Rahab.  Rahab was a prostitute, but helped Joshua and his men sneak into Jericho, so that he could capture the city.  In return, Joshua had her hang a scarlet rope from her window, and his men would spare her and her entire family.  So her kindness saved them all.  Now fast forward to Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus. Guess who is listed? Rahab the prostitute! She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, who became the great-grandmother of King David, and one of Jesus’ ancestors.

Mother Teresa 1985 croppedYou may have a doctorate in theology, or you may not even have a college degree like me; you may be a politician, or scientist, or a mother, or a restaurant manager like my husband. His vocation is first of all to be my husband and father to our daughters, and then to provide a living for us, at the same time guiding and shepherding his employees.

You may be artistic and create beautiful paintings, or you may be a math genius,  you may have a stutter like Moses, or you may be autistic.  Whatever your gifts and talents, or your weaknesses, if you offer them to God, He can do amazing things!  Mother Teresa based her spirituality on St. Therese’s “Little Way”, “to do small things with great love”. Whether it is scrubbing toilets, or acting as CEO of Microsoft, your efforts are equally as important to the body of Christ.  St. Therese became a doctor of the church, but when when she died, the other nuns felt she had lead an insignificant and inconsequential life!

Ask God to lead you to your destiny, and I guarantee your life will be productive and filled with faith and fun! So remember John 15:16It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you“.

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God and chocolate

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

I love chocolate! I adore chocolate chip cookies, warm and fresh from the oven, exquisite as it melts in my mouth! I love chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate milk, chocolate with almonds; anything chocolate! If you are my age, you might remember the old Calgon commercial of a lady after a difficult day, pictured in a bathtub surrounded by bubbles, singing “Calgon, take me away”!  This is what chocolate is for me…a distraction when life becomes too painful. I suffer from arthritis in my neck and sinus headaches, and when I have a day when the pain is overwhelming, I can always count on chocolate to make me feel better!

Some days when I might be experiencing depression or anxiety,  chocolate gives me a lift, at least temporarily. Since I have suffered from major depression on and off since I was 9 years old, my coping mechanism has been to shy away from my emotional pain, usually with a good book with an absorbing story-line, that lifts me into another world of adventure, suspense and romance, separating me from my inner turmoil. But chocolate and good books only distracted me for a short time; it became increasingly harder to escape.

When I started meditating on scripture many years ago, I was lead by the Holy Spirit to bring the emotional turmoil I was experiencing into my daily prayer time, and really examine it closely. I’ll never forget the first time I did this, because it was such a novel experience to break the life-long pattern of running away from a reality that was too harsh to face. After a particularly bad bout of depression, I started looking at my depression squarely in the face, every day. After several weeks, I realized that every time I thought of a certain friend, the depression was worse. I took another step in facing the darkness, and asked God why thinking of this friend triggered such emotion. After several more weeks, the answer came, clear as day. My close friend had starting drinking quite heavily. This triggered a maelstrom of emotion, bringing up memories of my dad and his drinking problem. It had always hurt that alcohol mattered more to my dad than I did.

One warm summer day when I was around 8 years old, dad dropped me off in the morning at the local pond, where I could go swimming.  Dad left me by myself, and went to the local bar, where he spent the day drinking with his buddies. Unfortunately, he forgot all about me; it was scary spending the day there by myself without anything to eat. That evening the park closed, and I had to decide what to do next. I pulled my courage together, and decided to walk on the shoulder of the busy road to make my way home. It was terrifying walking in the dark. My dad finally remembered me, and picked me up on the now darkened road when I was half-way home.

This memory was so painful, that every time it tried to surface, I would distract myself with a good book or movie, or my faithful chocolate. I had gotten so successful at disconnecting from my pain, that it took a while to connect the dots and bring to light the source of my depression. But oh the joy of bringing light into darkness!

Film poster for Pretty Woman - Copyright 1990,...St. Ignatius discussed three steps in growing spiritually. The first is to be AWARE, to become aware of the tension inside. I loved the scene in the movie “Pretty Woman”, when Richard Gere tells Julia Roberts that he spent $10,000 in therapy to discover that he was “angry at his father”.

The second step is to develop UNDERSTANDING; reflecting on the stirrings in our heart gives us insight to understand its meaning and to follow the guidance of the Spirit. The third step is ACTION, to reject any negative thoughts that lead us away from God, and to accept those thoughts affirming the truth of God’s faithfulness.

When this painful memory surfaced, I was able to examine the lies the devil whispered in the midst of my pain. Buried deep in my heart was the lie of abandonment; that God didn’t really care about me, and that I was all alone. I rejected this lie, and reflected on the truth contained in John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” I knew deep in my heart that absolutely nothing could snatch me out of God’s hand!

Since then I have had many bouts of depression, anger, anxiety and shame. Sometimes in my examination I will shuffle through memories, like a stack of photographs, testing them to see if any pain is attached. When I can look at a memory without pain, then I know that part of my heart has been healed.  If I still wince when a memory comes up, I know I have to keep looking at it, bringing it to the light, asking God to heal me, which he always does!

I had an image of my heart one day, and it was in the shape of a 10 gallon aquarium.  The aquarium was full of brown, murky water.  But every time I faced a memory, and let God heal that part of me, a gallon of water was removed. I am glad to report my aquarium is 90% empty!

Related Articles:  

Lectio Divina http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina

Consolation or Desolation http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2013/02/21/consolation-or-desolation/

 

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I have a tendency to blame myself whenever I make a mistake, small or large, expensive or insignificant. Years later, a mistake made in raising my children, or in my relationship with my husband, will cause me angst. I learned to meditate on scripture back in 1998 when I started spiritual direction.  To overcome bad tendencies, I would meditate on the opposite virtue. Since I struggle to accept God’s love and forgiveness, I keep several scripture verses handy to remind me that I am God’s precious daughter. One favorite is John 8 Has no one condemned you?“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

English: GPS navigation solution running on a ...Earlier this year I went to a conference in Clearwater presented by Fr. Peter Ryan, SJ on discernment and the spiritual exercises. Fr. Ryan explained that God gave us free will so that we can become a unique person with our own unique experiences. God gives us freedom to make our own moral choices, which shapes our character. When we fail or make a mistake, God readjusts his plans for us, similar to the way a GPS readjusts when we are trying to reach a destination.

Last weekend I was in Savannah driving my daughter’s car, and since I am geographically challenged, I used her GPS to get back home. It was the first time I had used a GPS, and I had a hard time understanding the speaker, who had an Australian accent. I also didn’t want to take my eyes off the road to look at the screen, so I wound up going in circles for about 20 minutes, until I finally made my way to I-16.  Just as the GPS kept readjusting and giving me new directions after I had made a mistake, so God patiently makes a new set of plans just for us after each misstep. Just as He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Fr. Ryan’s words were so freeing! It made me realize that if God allowed me to make the mistake, that this was already included in His plans, and it took the burden off me. I recalled Joel 2God will restore what the locusts have taken.  It helped me to realize that God will make up for all my mistakes!

That night we were lead through a guided meditation on forgiveness, and one section focused on forgiving ourselves. Our pride leads us to have a puffed up sense of our own importance, and leaves us with self-condemnation and bitterness. I had the memory of when I was nine years old, and my parents were divorcing. Both parents would pump me for information about the other, which lead me to think their divorce was my fault. This event started me on the path of believing that when something bad occurred, it was somehow my fault.

The next night of the conference we were meditating on Jesus walking on the water, and I was privileged to sit on the porch of the retreat house, which is located on Tampa Bay. Framed by a colorful sunset, sat a small boat anchored off-shore on the tranquil water.  I had an image of Jesus and I stepping out of the boat; I watched us stroll on the water, arm-in-arm back to the shore. As I looked back at the boat, I felt as though I were saying goodbye to my pride, self-condemnation and pride. I turned to Jesus, and felt the warmth of his love and tenderness flow over me! It was one of the  most freeing and serene weekends I have ever experienced!

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Extraordinary lessons in ordinary moments

Into Stillness

All will be well and all will be well

MCCatholic - Making Scripture Known

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Mark S. Camp, Th.D., retired - Convert to the Catholic Church

A Pastor's Thoughts

Looking at the Contemplatives and Mystics

Integrated Catholic Life™

Mary's Garden Gifts has closed, but through our blog, we bring you thoughts about prayer, faith, scripture, church doctrine and anything else related to the Catholic faith.