Monthly Archives: January 2016

When It Rains, It Pours

When I was a kid, I was very superstitious. The one that really got me was “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” I was very careful to avoid cracks at all cost. I wasn’t too keen on black cats either. I was also a terrible worrywart. I would worry about things out of my control, like my house catching on fire. I subscribed to the “bad things always happen in threes” mantra and would say, “Yep, that’s the third. I’m good for a while.

Then I grew up and learned that Catholics (phew!) are not superstitious. “Instead, we believe in wonderful things we know to be true. We don’t worry about the future…because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and our futures are safe with him.” (source: Catholic.com) So when I “grew up,” I learned the phrase “God only gives you what you can handle.” You hear that tossed around a lot, especially when a friend or family you know is dealing with a lot on their plate. I’ve been told that once or twice, and I kind of grit my teeth and think to myself, “then God must trust me a lot.”

All of us are handling various amounts of happiness, sadness, tragedy and challenges in our lives at any given moment. Some moments seem heavier on the challenges side than others. This week I have thought to myself more than once, “when it rains, it pours.” A dear friend of mine who I have known for 20 years died this morning of cancer. She is the closest thing to a saint I have ever known. I have prayed for her (almost) daily since I heard of her diagnosis. The prayer changed based on her condition at the time, but I often felt like, “God, are you getting tired of hearing this one again?”

Do you remember the parable of the persistent widow who kept bothering a judge to grant her justice and he finally gave in? This parallel to Jesus telling us to pray always without becoming weary is the takeaway here.

“Persistence in prayer is not about God, but about us. Instead of repeatedly worrying, one keeps turning to God, transforming worry into prayer. Jesus meant that we are to pray always so that we do not become overcome with weariness. By repeatedly entrusting our concern into God’s hands, we will not lose heart.” (Patricia Livingston, Living Faith)

So I’m going to continue bringing my intentions before God, even if He’s heard them before. If I lay them at the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to take them, then I will be stronger, less worrisome, and less weary to tackle the next thing coming my way. And there will be something else coming my way.

God doesn’t give us what we can handle, He helps us handle what we are given.*

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

*I didn’t make that up. I found it on Pinterest.

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That Darn Trust Thing

You know how you join a book group, and some of the books you simply slog through and cannot wait to finish (or don’t finish at all) and some really speak to you and inspire you? I’m reading a book with a group right now that I really love called My Sisters The Saints by Colleen Campbell. It is a story of a young woman who reflects on her spiritual journey and the saints who inspired her during different phases of her life. She’s no holy roller – you could actually see yourself having lunch with her at Newk’s.

This past week we read about her season where she was working in the White House as a speech writer and separated from the man she wanted to marry by many miles. She was conflicted between career and family. Her mother gave her the diary of St. Faustina – a poor, sickly, barely literate nun who lived in a convent in Poland pre-World War II. Faustina experienced a lot of rejection from various convents (clearly not very successful at convent “rush”) as well as a “dark night of the soul” where her faith was severely tested. She is most known for her deep and humble faith and her vision of the image of Christ that can be seen now in many churches both in the US and abroad with the words, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Jesus, do I really trust that you will see my child through this issue they are facing? Jesus, do I trust you that you will take care of my aging parents? Jesus, do I trust that you will help me take that next step that makes me so afraid? Jesus, do I trust in you in the very big – let alone the very small – issues that I’m facing in my life and the life of my family?

The author states, “The crucial question when it comes to faith is not “Do I trust in God” but “Is God trustworthy?” (page 90). The Bible tells us time and time again that God, not the world we live in, is truly trustworthy. Apparently, the Bible has 31,174 verses, and the very middle is Psalm 118:8 – “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man”. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you, in God, whose word I praise, in God I put my trust and have no fear, what power has human strength over me?”  – Psalm 56:3-4

So I will leave you with a prayer written by St. Faustina, whose trust in God during times of humiliation, sickness and rejection might speak to one of us.

“O Lord, I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the most difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, O Lord, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor.

May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me”

(Source: St. Faustina’s Diary, 163).

 

So Simple, So Overlooked

I was walking with an older friend in the park the other morning – she is a cool, funky grandmother and is always filled with practical advice and spiritual wisdom.  We were catching up on the challenges we were currently dealing with in our very different lives, including how to discern God’s will in different seasons.  (Clearly I had already had coffee to tackle this topic first thing in the morning.)  She mentioned that God’s will is often right in front of us, if we would only see and recognize it.  I was describing what I thought I was being called to do, and she suggested that it actually might be more simple, and maybe less daunting.  She said that at one point she was feeling frustrated that she was cleaning countertops, doing laundry and spending time stuck on the phone with AT&T customer service reps.  But it then occurred to her that this was God’s will for her at this moment in time – she recognized she was being called to care for her husband and her grandchildren.

 She mentioned a Jesuit priest who spent 23 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps in Siberia (clearly a tougher gig than doing laundry).

 “The answer lies in understanding that it is these things – and these things alone, here and now, at this moment – that truly constitute the will of God. The challenge lies in learning to accept this truth and act upon it, every moment of every day. The trouble is that like all great truths it seems too simple. It is there before our noses all the time, while we look elsewhere for subtle answers. It bears the hallmark of all divine truths, simplicity, and yet it is precisely because it seems so simple that we are prone to overlook it or ignore it in our daily lives.”

He Leadeth Me, By Father Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. (www.silentinsight.com)

 So maybe you are being called to care for an elderly parent, a friend with cancer, a troubled child, a cranky teenager.  Maybe you are called to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer with a friend, or attend a retreat.  Maybe you are called to focus more on your marriage or reach out to a lonely family member or co-worker. Maybe you are called to make that phone call to a sibling who you would rather not speak with.  It may not be solving world peace, hunger or global warming, but it is something that is in front of us, if we would just recognize it as God’s call in our simple, daily lives.

 Heavenly Father, help me to discern your will for my life in the here and now.  Help me to recognize your will in the smallest moments of my day.  Help me to see the simple ways that I can live my life for you in whatever you put before me.  Help me to take advantage of the both the big and small moments to work for Your glory.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  –  Romans 8:28

Jesus Christ – Superstar!

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again. The magazines are encouraging this time of resolutions and change with headlines like “The Year of You!” and “The Makeover Issue.” Personally, I like the times in the year that I have the opportunity to re-boot. The new year represents a fresh start and a chance to change things about myself that prevent me from being the best version of myself that God calls me to be.

My family and I were blessed to have been given the gift of a cruise by my mom for Christmas. We had a great young priest on the ship who did the homily on the Feast of the Epiphany. He talked about the three kings and how they went to great effort to follow a star which led them to their Lord and Savior – Emmanuel – God with us.

He then used examples of “false stars” in our lives that we sometimes follow. He used examples from the cruise – gambling, partying, and overeating. We think they are going to make us happy, but they never truly do deliver. There are also examples in our everyday lives – figurative “stars” we pursue in hopes of happiness. The other stars we follow (popularity, excessive focus on work and success, unobtainable physical beauty, etc.) will only leave us lacking and seeking something more. If we are honest with ourselves, we know deep in our souls that the only true happiness can be found in our relationship with God, which then translates into love of others.

In his new year homily, Pope Francis also touched on this idea. He discussed the hope that we have in following the star of Jesus Christ rather than the stars of the world. He warned this is not “an illusory hope based on human, frail promises, nor a naïve hope, which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future.” Rather, it is a hope based on God’s blessing, containing the “greatest message of good wishes there can be, and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us.” (Source: www.ncregister.com)

So this year, I resolve to try and pursue the “stars” that lead me closer to the manger, rather than the stars that lead me to false illusions. Not an easy resolution, of course. But neither is getting off this weight from the holidays! I’d better start praying….and exercising.

“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)