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Archive for August, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

I am an extremely impatient person.  If there is a problem, I want it solved immediately!  If someone has different beliefs, I want them to understand things MY way!  If someone is sick, I wanted them healed right away.  After I opened the bookstore the amount of work involved, ordering and receiving merchandise, waiting on customers, taking care of the paperwork, etc. were so time consuming, that I found myself munching on chocolate all day.  I didn’t want to be bothered to plan, shop and prepare meals.  By being so impatient, my health suffered.

Growing up, my dad’s favorite joke was “have patients doctor”, (get it? patients/patience) and he would laugh uproariously every time!  I thought of this a few weeks ago when I was in Seattle with family.  We only had one full day in Seattle, so I wanted to see everything possible.  We rode the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, and on the way back, we missed the ferry by one minute.  Which meant we had to sit and wait an hour for the next one.  I was obviously frustrated, but my dear sister-in-law reminded me we were together enjoying family time, and that was all that mattered.  She was so right!  We hadn’t seen my husband’s sister and niece in years, so I thanked God for our time together.  It was one of the best vacations ever!

St. Rose of Lima, who joyfully embraced all her trials and difficulties, said “We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions… We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”  I don’t like suffering, and I certainly don’t go through my day asking God to bless me with problems.  But it helps to remember when we enter the “thicket of suffering” St. John of the Cross describes, we receive fountains of grace and share more deeply in God’s supernatural power and all His gifts, leading to unity with Christ, which is perfect happiness.

“For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labours, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.” St. John of the Cross

St. Rose also tells us the “unfathomable treasure of grace…is the reward and the final gain of patience.”  Psalm 27  tells us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  One explanation of this verse is that when we are patient, God stretches our heart and helps us to be strong.

“Long spiritual training”…The thought of enduring suffering makes me tremble; I would rather avoid suffering, whether it is sickness or financial difficulties, at all cost! But Romans 5:3-5 tells us that “we should glory in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”   In other words, suffering builds our character, makes us stronger and more faithful people; with a caveat.  We have to choose to let God work in our hearts.  Otherwise we can become bitter and resentful.

Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, tried for years to have a child, but was unable.  And in the culture of her day, it was The Visitation by Carl Bloch, Luke 1considered disgraceful to be unable to bear a child. You can imagine her delight and astonishment when Zechariah returned home—mute—from serving the Lord in the temple and wrote on a tablet that an angel had visited him and they would have a son.  It was during this special time of waiting that Mary came to visit with her own amazing news.

We don’t know Elizabeth’s age, but in Luke 1, Elizabeth and Zechariah were  described as “very old”.  Day by day, year after year, Elizabeth waited for God’s blessing.  Finally, at long last, a beautiful baby boy was placed in Elizabeth’s arms. As she held her miracle, she joyfully declared “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”  Elizabeth never wavered in her faith, as she patiently “waited upon the Lord”, and is an amazing example of fortitude and perseverance.

We can certainly pray for the patience and perseverance of Elizabeth and so many other barren women throughout the bible who were richly provided for their faith: Hannah, Rachel, Sarah, Rebekah and Samson’s mother and many others.

In the barren places of my life I can be assured that God is there as He is when life is fruitful, and that the time is coming (give me patience, Lord, to wait!) when He will fulfill His word: “I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this” (Isaiah 41:19-20).

Barrenness can come in many different ways; you may have spent years getting a college degree, but are unable to find a job in your field.  One may have spent time and energy to start a ministry in church, but have little response; the farmers in the mid-west are currently experiencing a terrible drought, causing a barren crop.  Writers can develop blocks and have dry times when they just can’t seem to produce anything worthwhile.  You may be going through the loss of a loved one, and feel little joy.  We all experience dry and barren times.

Many work at jobs that are boring and unfulfilling, or are stuck in a job with no chance of a pay increase or room for advancement.  Sometimes one can experience doubt concerning the existence of God, or feel far from Him; prayer might be dry and feel meaningless.  Being a mom with several children means loads and loads of laundry, millions of dishes to wash, and endless hours of missed sleep; sometimes we women feel unappreciated and that our sacrifices are just wasted effort.

I love the image of a potter working on his clay, as God describes in Jeremiah 18:6 “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…”  Through the “thicket of suffering” God molds us and shapes us into his liking; pushing out impatience, arrogance and unkindness, and forming virtues of humility, patience, prudence, charity, peace, self-control and courage.

So as my dad always said “have patients doctor”!

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Sometimes I’m so caught up in the daily grind of running a business and caring for my family, I forget God’s amazing ability to provide for my needs, and I worry about making ends meet.  Any small business owner (especially in retail) can describe in painful detail the difficulty in trying to keep their business steady in such a weak and fragile economy.

Before the Industrial Age, people were much more likely to trust in God’s providential care.  Many people lived in rural areas and in an agricultural environment, so they were used to relying on God for good weather and good crops.  With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, people became used to relying on their own strength and ingenuity.

So I love hearing about God’s inexplicable capacity to foresee and arrange every detail of our lives for our benefit.  As we’re told in 2nd Corinthians 9:10The one who supplies seed to the sower and the bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”  So not only does God supply our every need, He pours out enough grace to make us holy!

One favorite story is about the Loretto Chapel in New Mexico.  In 1873 some nuns out west decided to add a chapel to their girls’ school.  They painstakingly raised the funds, bought the land and hired a contractor.  Only as the chapel was almost finished did the Sisters realize a staircase to reach the choir loft, 22 feet above, had been left out of the plans.  They had no access to their choir loft, except by ladder. A staircase would take up too much space in the small chapel.

Yet climbing a ladder to the choir loft would be too difficult for the Sisters. This posed an impossible dilemma that no architect or carpenter seemed able to solve.  According to the story, the Sisters, seeking an answer to their problem, made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

Legend says on the ninth and final day of a novena, a man showed up at the chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work.  Within several months an elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks.  Some believe that he was St. Joseph himself.  Whoever the carpenter was, the staircase is a wonder. Experts are still perplexed today at the complexity of some of the designs.

Built without nails (only wooden pegs) the staircase has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support — a kind of double helix design in the Old West — and with no railing. The railing was added years later.

There are also design questions about the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction — some of which appear not to have been available from any known local source. *Info from link below

Have you ever been in a predicament, and at your “wit’s end”?  Have you ever felt like giving up? And that your “cup” was just too full?  You’re in good company!  In Exodus 17, Moses was tired of all the complaints from the Israelites as they wandered in the desert.  They constantly complained about being hungry, and then when God supplied them with manna, they griped about being tired of the same food, because they wanted meat and vegetables.

After God provided them with quail, the Israelites came to a camp where the well was dry.  So of course they whined and complained about being thirsty, and demanded water. Then Moses cried out to the Lord, What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me. (Ex. 17:4)  Moses was fed up with the complaints from the ungrateful crowd, and was at his “wit’s end”.  Moses and his people were in the middle of a dry, barren desert as far as the eye could see, so he had no other option but to throw his hands in the air, admit defeat, and turn to God for help.  And just as God had provided for them bountifully for so many years, He again provided refreshing water by commanding Moses to strike the rock with his staff.

So when you are at your “wit’s end”, when the bills are piling up and you are flat broke, when you or a loved one has terminal cancer, when there doesn’t seem to be a solution to your dilemma, remember to have the faith of Moses. Remember that if you have “faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain ‘move here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.” Mat. 17: 20

*http://www.evanderputten.org/special/newmexico/loretto.htm

 

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Many years ago we visited a family with several children.  The parents were rather strict, and the first night at dinner while barbequing, the dad badly burned the hotdogs. Some of the hotdogs looked so disgusting we refused to eat them, but the dad declared “the rule in this house is that we don’t waste food”.  He proceeded to serve the nauseating hotdogs.  Throughout the next few days, we repeatedly heard the words “the rule in this house”!  In the years since, whenever my husband and I meet someone rigid or inflexible, we look at each other and recite “the rule in this house”!

Some people seem to have a similar image of a forbidding God handing out an enormous list of rules and regulations compelling us to obey Him.  Some view God as stern and harsh, with little regard for their cares or concerns.  I certainly viewed God this way for many years, and resented the Catholic church’s teaching on contraception and sex before marriage.  Then I read a book by Scott Hahn, called “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”, about our covenant relationship with God.

A covenant is an agreement between two people and involves promises to each other. The concept of a covenant between God and His people is a continuous theme of the Bible. In the Biblical sense, a covenant implies much more than a contract or a simple agreement between two parties.  God promised to provide and care for his people, and as part of the covenant with the Israelites, his children promise to follow the Ten Commandments.  So God who is holy, omniscient, and omnipotent, desires to enter into covenant with man, who is weak and sinful.

Noah was a righteous man, but the wickedness in the world became so pervasive, the great flood was sent to destroy everything and everyone, except for Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.   After the waters receded, the Lord promised Noah and his descendants that He would never destroy the world again with a universal flood (Gen. 9:15 ). The Lord made an everlasting covenant with Noah and his descendants, establishing the rainbow as the sign of His promise (Gen. 9:1-17 ).  Every time we see a rainbow, it is a reminder from God of His love for His people.

Our covenant with God remained unshaken and was renewed through Abraham, Moses and David; no matter how many times the Israelites were disobedient and turned away, God remained faithful and constant.  And each time his children became immoral and turned away to follow other Gods, God withdrew his protection, and “allowed” them to experience plagues, droughts, slavery, famine, pestilence and other difficulties.  In desperation, His people would cry to God for deliverance; in turn, God would send prophets and judges like Deborah and Samuel to lead them back home.  Then the prophet would die, the people would backslide, and the cycle repeated itself.

In spite of the faithlessness of His children, God remained constant.  In the book of Hosea, in chapter 1, Hosea was commanded to take a Gomer as his wife, who would later become a prostitute.  The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is as an example of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Hosea was to manifest God’s patience and love with his adulterous people.

Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ established a new covenant through which we are justified by God’s grace and mercy as described in Heb. 9:15:   “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Every time we receive the Eucharist, we are renewing our covenantal promise to God to follow his commandments, knowing in return God will spread his mantle of protection over His children.  1st Corin. 11: “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Photo of James Caviezel from The Passion of the Christ (2004) with Christo JivkovUnder the new covenant, God would accomplish for His people what the old covenant had failed to do. Under this new covenant, God would write His Law on human hearts as described in 2nd Corin. 3:3 “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”

The Ten Commandments are an expression of God’s natural, moral law, and are encompassed by the “great commandment”, love toward our Creator and love toward our neighbor. “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, you shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shalt love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).

If we treat our neighbor with love and respect, and love God with all our heart, we won’t cheat on our husband, we won’t steal from our neighbor, we will put God first, and we will reject anger and jealousy.

In Matthew 5, Jesus declared that He came to fulfill the law, not do away with the law.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

But note there were TWO kinds of law in the Old Testament: the ritual Judaic law, and the natural, moral law.  So which law did Jesus come to fulfill?  It helps to know the ritual laws concerning eating diet (shellfish, pork), cleansing of the body, contact with women or carcasses, etc. were given to teach the Israelites obedience, and for the purpose of cleanliness and safety.  These laws were changeable; similarly, the man-made Christian laws, such as fasting from meat on Sundays or fasting before communion, are for spiritual growth and and to foster respect.

On the other hand, God’s natural moral law, which is engraved on our hearts, has been unchanged for thousands of years.   It is immutable and permanent.  Upon this natural law, man builds moral rules and communities establish a moral foundation.  Virtually every society has a code of ethics concerning morality.

“Natural law is the light of understanding placed in us by God through which we know what we must do and what we must avoid” (St. Augustine).

So the law Jesus would bring to fulfillment is His natural, moral law.  When we break this moral law, a nudge in our heart tells us we have made a mistake.  But if we consistently ignore this little “voice”, called our conscience, eventually that voice won’t bother us anymore, and we can sin without remorse.  Examples of God’s unchanging moral law are the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, contraception, divorce and remarriage, and sex before marriage.

Does God give us his moral law because He wants to control us?  Of course not!  God’s moral law, such as sex before marriage, is designed to protect us from harm.  Remember our covenant?  We follow His “rules”, and He takes care of us.  Think of the consequences when we don’t follow his law.  When people are sexually active before marriage, they are at risk for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, guilt, shame, abandonment, and anger.  This casual view of sex has lead to higher divorce rates, which has a devastating effect on children, leading to rising rates of poverty, crime, addictions and abuse.

What about the hot issue of the day – homosexuality?  In Matthew 19 Jesus tells us ““Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  If you look at it logically, how in the world can two men or two women become “one flesh”, as designed by God?  The main purpose of marriage is to help the other reach heaven, and to procreate, which involves unselfishness and sacrifice.  In contrast, gay marriage is the epitomy of self-fulfillment; consequently gays suffer from much higher rates of unstable relationships, physical problems, disease, addictions, abuse, depression and suicide.

More and more people are becoming aware of the tragedy of abortion, and the way it hurts women. I have met many women who have had abortions, and the pain they experience is simply unimaginable. Any woman who loses a baby grieves, because it is a loss; so it makes sense the pain is still there in an abortion, because it is still a loss. Some of the trauma post-abortion women experience are guilt, shame, depression, anger, and suicide.  There are wonderful groups, such as Rachel’s Vineyard, available to aid these women in the healing process.

God wants only the best for His children, and has given us His moral teachings through the Church to protect us and keep us from harm.  He cares tenderly about every detail of our lives and wants to keep us from sin, because we know in Roman 6 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.“.  By our baptism we enter into God’s covenant, and at our confirmation we confirm and renew our covenant with Him.  We are called to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” Micah 6.  By staying in His covenant we wrap ourselves in His protection.  God confirmed this promise in Psalm 91 “If you say, “The Lord is my refuge, and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

No matter how many times we turn away from Him, God remains faithful;  every time we repent and turn back to Him, He welcomes us with open arms.  When we understand the purpose of His rules, it can change our perspective so that we can think of Him as a loving, caring deity, who tenderly and continuously watches over every part and parcel of our lives, sometimes encouraging, sometimes disciplining, but He always heals, comforts, strengthens and sustains His children.

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Pride Goes Before a Fall

The definition of pride is an “excessive belief in one’s own abilities, that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God.”

Pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, because it is the root of all the others.  Pride makes us arrogant and smug, and makes us think we are vastly superior to others.  We refuse to listen to other opinions, and are sure that we are “never wrong”, especially when we think we are smarter than everyone else.  We become conceited and full of our own perceived self-importance.  Pride leads us to excessive love of self.

The root of Eve’s sin of disobedience was pride, believing SHE knew better than God the key to happiness.  God created the Garden of Eden, abundant with every kind of food imaginable, filled with exotic flowers and overflowing waterfalls, giving Adam and Eve eternal life in paradise.  He then pointed out the Tree of Knowledge, and asked for their obedience to not eat any fruit from this Tree.  Adam and Eve were warned that if they disobeyed, they would die.  With the serpent egging her on, Eve became puffed up with her own self-importance and despite the stern warning, decided God surely wouldn’t punish her.

Pride blinds our understanding, and causes us to be self-delusional, imagining ourselves to be virtuous, when in fact we are overbearing, critical, obnoxious and argumentative.  We become conceited and attribute our good qualities to ourselves, forgetting our abilities are gifts from God.   It can make us self-centered; we want to be the center of attention and seek the admiration of others.  With pride we are touchy and easily offended, and develop a strong self-will, making us inconsiderate of the rights of others.

My temperament is melancholic, so pride leads me to self-pity and being overly sensitive. This sin also causes me to be resentful, angry and to hold on to grudges.  Quite often we are self-complacent, and though shocked by others’ faults, we fail to pick the “plank out of our own eye” and notice the way we are controlling and domineering.  It makes our will rigid and unbending to authority. We obstinately follow our OWN will, rather than the will of God.

Captain Edward Smith of the infamous Titanic received warnings of massive icebergs in their vicinity, but even though visibility was limited at night, arrogantly refused to reduce the speed of the massive ship, reasoning that it was virtually unsinkable.  The designer of Titanic, Thomas Andrews, made several crucial mistakes when designing the watertight compartments and failed to include enough life rafts, again assuming they weren’t necessary since the ship was unsinkable.  Because of the pride and arrogance of these men, thousands died needlessly.

Pride causes us to be strongly opinionated and refuse to accept the truth of the teachings of the Church. Ignorance results, and pride causes us to leave or refuse to come back to the Church.  If you look at the different Christian denominations which keep splitting and dividing, it is generally because of arrogance over little details; sometimes as trivial as the color of cushions in the pew! I was raised Presbyterian, and sadly my old church is called the “split P’s”, because of the number of times it has been splintered.

Do you remember Satan, whose name was Lucifer (which means angel of light)?  Revelation 12 describes the child, Jesus, who would be both human and divine, to be born of “woman” (Mary).  Lucifer wanted to be equal to God and was horrified that God was willing to be born as a lowly human.  So he rebelled and there was a huge battle between Michael the Archangel and his angels, and the devil and his angels.  Michael prevailed and cast Satan and his “demons” out of heaven. It was Lucifer’s pride (his desire to compete with God) that caused his exile from Heaven, and his resulting transformation into Satan.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels” -Augustine of Hippo.

The sin of pride of independence leads us to be disobedient, to refuse advice and help, and to be overly reliant on our own strength.  We believe we are perfect, but instead become condescending, often ridiculing or criticizing others.  On the flip side, sometimes pride can trigger insecurity, allowing the opinions of others to determine our actions.  Over-scrupulosity becomes an issue, and we can become obsessed about our appearance or the cleanliness of our home.  (Reference “The Seven Capital Sins” by St. Benedict Press)

True humility consists in not presuming on our own strength, but in trust to obtain all things from the power of God”.   St. Thomas Aquinas

It takes honesty to examine yourself closely for any of the characteristics above, which might indicate you suffer from the sin of pride.  Padre Pio always taught his followers the only way to fight pride and arrogance was with humility and obedience.   One great scripture verse to review daily is Mary’s “fiat” in Luke 2:38 Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  She humbled herself and said “here I am, do with me whatever you want”.  Another verse is Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I meditate daily on the “Litany of Humility”.  To gain humility we must first ask for this and other virtues, and then be patient and willing to accept humiliations, seeking God at all times.

Thomas Aquinas said of Pride “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin … the root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule.”

               Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
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. (repeat after each line)
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.

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I previously wrote this two years ago to the day, but in light of the suicide of the talented and iconic actor, Robin Williams, I felt called to share it again.  Those who simplify depression and mental illness as just a ‘chemical imbalance’, are doing a grave disservice to the mentally ill.  Many on Facebook are warning those with depression to be sure and ‘get help’.  Robin Williams was getting treatment.  My brother was in treatment when he committed suicide at the age of 41.

I too have reached that excruciating moment when the pain is so overwhelming that you feel you have to end your life, in order to end the pain.  And then I realized that I was in the palm of God’s hand, and that nothing could snatch me out of his hand.  Absolutely treat your depression and mental illness with therapy, medication, exercise, and diet, but realize that only your faith can heal you.

And you have to train your mind to turn from darkness, toward the light; away from despair and hopelessness, toward hope.  Moment by moment, day by day, you have to fight the debilitating, paralyzing mental anguish and pain, but fight you must, with all your strength and will. It might take years, but you can’t ever give up.

Think about the woman with the hemorrhage, in Mark 5.  This woman had spent everything she had on doctors, but only seemed to get worse.  When she saw Jesus, she just KNEW Jesus would heal her, if she could just reach out and touch his cloak.  Boldly she reached out, and was instantly healed.  Jesus said to her “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well. – Mark 5:28

She touched the hem of his garment, she approached him in a spirit of faith, she believed, and she realized that she was cured. . . . So we too, if we wish to be saved, should reach out in faith to touch the garment of Christ.  Ambrose of Milan

This woman’s faith and tenacity is to be admired.  We are all in need of healing; but more important than physical healing is our need to be healed emotionally and spiritually.  Through our own bad choices, through abuse and trauma, through the difficulties in life, we become spiritually wounded.  One of the worst kinds of trauma a child can experience is to grow up feeling unloved or unwanted.

As our bodies must be fed, so must our spirit.  Children needs lots of attention, both physical and emotional.  “When affection is given in normal, healthy ways, people’s spirits stay whole and express itself in healthy ways. In families where there is little of this, children’s spirits are starved and grieved.  If a parent fails to provide warm nurturing, wounding happens, crippling the spirit.  The inner spirit is hurt and angry, whether the heart and mind are aware of it or not.”*1

Someone may not seem to be angry at their parents, but the anger and hurt is buried, showing up as depression, or as “misplaced” anger – inappropriate explosions or raging as an adult toward spouses, children and friends.  When people experience hurt and trauma, their hearts become hardened and locked up. Imagine a river flowing quickly around a huge boulder, never budging it.

Because so many people’s spirits are starved and crippled, many never fully come alive.  “They are isolated, going through life’s motions like zombies.”*2  Before WWII, families stayed together more frequently.  Even when the parents failed, there was a large network of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins to help children feel loved and secure.  However, once families became separated, more and more children grew up emotionally and spiritually crippled.

Everyone has suffered pain at some point in their lives – especially betrayal, rejection and abandonment, which Fr. Richard McAlear explains are the three worst wounds to experience. Jesus never advised people to bury their hurt, or to simply put bad things out of their mind.  Instead, Jesus calls us to face our pain squarely and deal with it honestly.

Jesus Collecting Disciples“When Jesus asked Peter three times ‘do you love me’, he was taking Peter back to the past.  He didn’t want Peter to deny or forget that terrible evening when he betrayed Christ.  Rather, Jesus gently healed the memory so that what had been a gaping, open wound, was turned into a healed scar.  Just as it had been a three-fold denial, so it had to be a three-fold restoration.”*3

A history of abuse can result in self-condemnation and an extremely poor self-image.  Quite often surface-level problems are connected with something much deeper in someone’s life.  Auto-immune problems can be caused by extreme rejection, self-hatred and guilt.  Intestinal problems can be linked to physical and sexual abuse.

One big hindrance to God’s healing is our habitual reactions to events.  We learn to develop ways of responding to the various situations we encounter, which come automatically and are very difficult to control.  To change these patterns of behavior, we have to discover the roots that need to be healed; we have to ask ourselves certain questions.  Am I controlling, judgmental? Do I get angry easily?  Do I have problems relating to God or others?  Remember, we can be ‘sandpaper’ for each other, bringing out tension in ourselves and others.  “Being prone to strong negative emotions is a sign of spiritual and emotional problems.  These include anger, hate, depression, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, etc.”*4

“Quite often, present events, such as illness, loss of a job or parent, retirement, children leaving home and other changes, can trigger depression, because it opens the door to the pain of trauma from the past (even if we have buried the memory, the pain is still there).*5  Depression is almost always a sign that you have buried pain or anger.  Just as a panic attack is caused from something in the present triggering a past memory, causing the “fight or flight syndrome”, so do past memories trigger depression, which some doctors think  is caused by a drop in serotonin.

“Our mind and bodies are linked – the soul consists of intellect, will, emotions, memories and personality.  People who have walled off their feelings, such as anger or anxiety, are much more likely to contract cancer.  If you never cry, chances are you have walled off your emotions.  Tears are a gift from heaven – tears release pent-up emotion, and can bring a fresh perspective.  While crying, you may be more likely to remember long-forgotten or repressed memories.”*6

Until I was 37, I rarely cried.  When I started the healing process, I cried for about 6 months straight.  Crying can be a release, like lancing a boil, to release all those emotions bottled up in our hearts.  I like to watch “Terms of Endearment”, or other sad movies once a year, because it helps me to cry and release all the pain in my heart!

So how do we heal?  It’s pretty simple, but not easy.  First, face your emotions instead of running from them.   Next, identify your feelings – you know, mad, sad, bad or glad! Last, verbalize or journal, and let them go.  Find someone you can trust; friend, spouse, or counselor.  But it must be someone you can trust to accept your sharing without judgment.  And of course, pray and ask God to heal you.  Counselors can give you coping tools, but only God can heal.

Will we be instantly healed as the the woman in the above bible story?  It’s doubtful, but possible.  The woman was impoverished from seeking medical help, but she wouldn’t give up.  This brave soul sought healing from Jesus by touching the hem of his garment, even in the face of ridicule and humiliation.  It is also entirely possible that while she was seeking help from doctors, God was working on her heart, preparing her for her moving encounter with Christ.  Don’t automatically expect an instant healing just because you believe in Jesus.  As I said above, try to eat more nutritiously, seek counseling, make sure you see a physician, pray and take the steps above to train your mind away from feelings of abandonment, anger and shame, toward love, mercy and joy, just as we are told in Romans 12:2 “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.  Will it be easy?  No.  Will it take time?  Yes.

Do you remember Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was abusive to her maidservant, Hagar?  Hagar fled from the mistreatment, but an angel of the Lord appeared and told her to “Go back to your mistress and submit to her”, because she was pregnant.  Facing our pain can be similar to facing the “abusive mistress”. At times it is extremely difficult, and takes much courage.  But the freedom and joy that follows, is priceless!

  • 1. “Healing the Wounded Spirit” by John and Paul Sandford
  • 2. Ibid
  • 3. “Deep Wounds, Deep Healing” by Charles H. Kraft
  • 4. Ibid
  • 5. Healing the Wounded Spirit” by John and Paul Sandford
  • 6. Ibid

Related articles:

“How to Let Go of Anger”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roya-r-rad-ma-psyd/emotional-healing_b_3305704.html

“Catholics and Depression”
http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/1855/catholics_and_depression.aspx

Psychotherapy and Depression
http://www.webmd.com/depression/psychotherapy-treat-depression

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Trusting God

Pride is a big area of sin in my life; I have an issue with trusting God.  Growing up I learned to rely on myself and my own strength.  Through the years, many people have let me down, so often I feel I am all alone and that I can’t rely on anyone else.

A long time ago I read the story of Corrie Ten Boom in her book “The Hiding Place”,  and it greatly impacted me.  One story she told was that when she was a little girl, she read about Christian martyrs, and was frightened that her dad might die.  This was her father’s response:

“Tell me” said Father,“When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket?  Three weeks before?  No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.   Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

This advice was great solace to Corrie during World War II, when she was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Ravensbruck concentration camp for helping Jews escape Holland.   Corrie and and her sister Betsy suffered terrible abuse, starvation and bitter cold in the camp; Betsy eventually died there.  Corrie had smuggled a small bottle of vitamins into the camp, and seeing the sickness and illness of the other prisoners, she felt moved to share the small bottle of vitamins.  Even though the bottle was almost empty, she generously shared the drops with the other women.  No matter how many times she shared that little bottle, day after day those nourishing vitamins inexplicably continued to sustain the starving women.  The bottle never did run out until shortly before Corrie was released.

English: Catalina Pottery oil jarThe other women in the concentration camp were amazed, which gave Corrie an opportunity to share the story of the Bible in which a widow had no money, and whose two sons were being forced into slavery to pay the family debts, and the way God miraculously provided for their needs. In 2nd Kings 4, Elisha, the prophet asked the widow what she had, and she replied that she had nothing  except a small jar of olive oil.”   Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”  She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.  When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”  But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.   She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

With the miracle of the vitamin bottle, Corrie was able to share her faith, and by speaking of God’s bountiful providence, was able to give others hope and inspiration.  After the war Corrie traveled the world sharing her story and bringing encouragement and light to a dark and hurting world.

Since I have such a hard time trusting God, He gives me plenty of opportunities to acknowledge my weaknesses, as St. Paul learned in 2nd Corinthians 12 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Over and over I encounter situations beyond my capabilities, and time after time God always comes through with a miraculous solution.  One amazing experience was back in 1998, when I was trying to sell my father’s house after he died.  My parents had bought this house in 1957, when my mom was pregnant with me.  It was a brand new house that my dad helped build, and even after their divorce, my dad lived there for the remainder of his life.  Since he was a carpenter, he did all the repairs himself.  Unfortunately, he developed cancer, and even though he couldn’t physically take care of the repairs any longer, he stubbornly refused to pay anyone else.

By the time I inherited the house along with my sisters, the original tile roof was leaking badly, and ceilings were caving in, dumping plaster and water all over the floors.  We knew we were in way over our head, and after investing a lot of money to fix the roof, hoped to sell it quickly.  With lack of contracting experience, I was petrified at the thought of  trying to repair this decrepit house.  Thankfully my mother and step-father graciously accompanied my sisters and I to Florida to work on the house.

Within one week we re-plastered the ceilings, refinished the kitchen cabinets, re-glazed the cast-iron bathtub and kitchen sinks, replaced toilets, cleaned out loads of trash, painted every room, polished and resealed the terrazzo tile floor, trimmed all the bushes, and found a contractor to hang new doors, paint the outside, replace the broken tiles in the shower, and finish up little odds and ends.

We also filled in the septic tank and connected to the sewer tap, since my stubborn dad had refused to pay the sewer tap fee for 25 years.  So even though dad wasn’t connected to the sewer, his water bill included a monthly sewage fee for over two decades.  The City Water Department kindly waived the enormous sewer tap fee!  Wonder where my stiff-necked stubbornness and pride came from.

We started on a Saturday, and by the following Thursday placed an ad listing the house for sale (after staying up all night painting!).  Later that day a sweet young lady stopped by and fell in love with our fifties “art deco” home.  She adored the original pink and black tiles in the bathroom, and the original kitchen cabinets and terrazzo floor and made an offer later in the day.  (Thank heavens we didn’t rip out the cabinets and replace them!).

What had started out as a terrifying dilemma, turned into a beautiful experience.  This house was the only one shared by my parents and the five of us children.  Going back to the house where I was born stirred up painful memories of fighting and violence.  But working together with my two sisters and step-dad to restore this old house was renewing and satisfying.  The hard work and unity we shared in renovating our old home, seemed to chase away the shadows.  The bitterness and anger that had lingered for decades were replaced with kindness, harmony and joy, and most of all an amazing peace.

So now, whenever I start feeling anxiety because I encounter a problem, I remind myself of God’s amazing power, and the truly miraculous ways in the past that he has tenderly cared for me, and that in a blink of an eye, He can solve any crisis!

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