Tag Archives: Marist

Promises, Promises

I have a climbing rose bush by my garage that I cut back every winter by about half in hopes that it will bloom better in the spring.  All winter long it has looked nothing short of pathetic.  Each year I look at the stubby branches and am convinced it will never grow back.  Miraculously, it is starting to bloom again as my entire lawn and garden are coming back to life.  That is the magic of spring for me – the whole world seems to come alive after a brown and dreary winter.  God never lets me down – each spring He puts on a show which gives me a little spring in my step after a cold, lifeless winter.

God does not go back on His promises.  He is faithful.  He brings the spring back each year.  He breathes new life into us when we are feeling down or hopeless.  He takes care of our families.  He brings us and our children peace and healing as they receive their college acceptances – or not.   He has the back of a child who is struggling with academics or social pressures.  He holds our aging parents in the palm of His hand.

One of my favorite Bible verses is “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28.  God does not just bring about good in the big things.  He brings about good in ALL things – even the small things – in the little details of my life.  I know that despite my short and long-term worries for my family, God will keep his promise to me and take care of my family in ways I cannot even understand.

Just this week Pope Francis talked to a Vatican audience about how God promises the “impossible.”  He asked the audience to hope against all hope.

“Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances,” Pope Francis said.  Real hope arises “where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for.”  True hope “is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope” because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

“There is only one price” to be paid for this, he said. “Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God’s power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is.”  Just “open your heart to faith and he will do the rest,” he added.  (Source:  CNS)

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23

 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it stands fast. – Psalm 119:90

 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

Positively Lent

After being gone for eight days over spring break, I came home to a giant heap of mail.  I started to sort it into piles – bills, junk, coupons, personal, etc.  As you can imagine, the bill pile was the largest, and the personal pile was the smallest.  With the immediacy of text, email, Facebook and Instagram, it is not every day that one receives a real live letter – one that actually takes a few days to appear in a physical box at the end of the driveway.  I saw that it was from a dear friend with whom I’ve done Bible study for a number of years.

Her letter was a personal one of affirmation and thanks.  She wrote words that lifted my spirits during a particularly down week and gave me hope that what I was doing was not for naught.  I cannot describe how much I appreciated her putting pen to paper and sharing her kind and uplifting thoughts with me.  It was a unique gift of her time and her heart, and it is one I will not soon forget.  And because it is an actual letter on an actual piece of paper, I can keep it, and pull it out when I need a positive thought from a special person.  In her explanation of how she is on a journey of writing 365 letters this year, she said, “It doesn’t have to go viral to be valuable.  Kindness and creativity matter – even one day/letter at a time.”

During a college visit over spring break, my daughter and I went to Mass where the priest was talking to the students about “fasting” from social media.  I am sure for young people (and many older people), this would truly be a sacrifice.  In another example of the power of the positive (in this case, virtual) pen, my friend’s college freshman considered giving up social media for Lent.  Instead, she decided to turn it on its head.  She made a list of 40 people she wanted to affirm.  She put them into random order, and has logged onto Instagram only to post an affirming message and photo to thank and encourage that person who has touched her life.

With the discourse today that we see on television, read on social media, and hear on talk radio, kindness does not always abound.  This is what our children are reading, hearing and seeing as examples of how to speak with and to one another.  Did Jesus speak this way?  Is this the example we have been given about how to speak with one another?  Let’s turn this on its head given what the Word says:

“The Lord has given me a learned tongue, so that I would know how to uphold with a word, one who has weakened.  He rises in the morning, he rises to my ear in the morning, so that I may heed him like a teacher.” – Isaiah 50:4

“Careful words are a honeycomb:  sweet to the soul and healthful to the bones.”  – Proverbs 16:24

“Grief in the heart of a man humbles him.  And with a good word he shall be made glad.  – Proverbs 12:25

“When anyone speaks, it should be like words of God.  When anyone ministers, it should be from the virtue that God provides, so that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:11

I know that personally, my Lenten promise is to try and speak more positive words to both myself, my family, and to others, and not swim in the cesspool of negativity that plagues our communications to one another.  Yes, I fully recognize that it is something that I should be doing anyway.  But thankfully, I have fantastic role models in my life that show me the way to how Jesus would have spoken to his friends, family and followers.  The power of the written and spoken word is so powerful, and can lead to a more positive Lent for us all.

 

Let Go, Let God – Yes, We’ve Heard it Before

Some parents were laughing at the lacrosse game last night about “control freak tendencies” that we all have to some degree.  There was a stadium sign a bit askew, and one of the moms wanted to run down and adjust it.  I think we can all agree that we try and control things in our lives at one time or another.

This past holiday weekend, I had everything under control.  And I mean everything.  Itinerary for college visits printed?  Check.  Appointment for MRI and surgeon visit confirmed?  Check.  Animals accounted for?  Check.  Son with appropriate supervision?  Let’s hope so.  102 fever when I woke up Sunday morning to leave on our trip?  Not on the list.

I have heard it said that, “We plan; God laughs.”  That’s not to say that it is bad to plan or that God does not want us to think ahead and plan for our lives, but our lives are just not entirely in our control.  They are in God’s control, and as much as we would like to play God and control everything ourselves, we need sometimes to simply be ourselves, and let God be God.  It’s OK to be needy, and it’s OK to ask for help.  Especially if we are needy and helpless in front of God.  As Americans, we like to be proud and self-sufficient – not needing to ask for help, even if we desperately need it.  However, there is a reason that we are all given different gifts and talents.  We cannot do it alone.  We need one another.  We need to be needy in front of our Father.

I am doing a Bible study on the Book of John, and we are currently talking about “Jesus, Our Peace.”  If we let God be in control instead of trying to handle it all ourselves, it will bring us increasing peace.  In the study, there is a great quote:

“Do not look ahead to what may happen tomorrow.  The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.  Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you His unwavering strength that you may bear it.  Be at peace, then, and set aside all anxious thoughts and worries.” – St. Francis de Sales

There is a Laura Story song called “I Can Just Be Me.”  It talks about being yourself, and not trying to be God.  Not trying to be in control all the time.  Let God be in control, so you can just be you – the you He created you to be.

“I Can Just Be Me”

I’ve been doing all that I can

To hold it all together

Piece by piece.

I’ve been feeling like a failure,
Trying to be braver
Than I could ever be.
It’s just not me.

So be my healer, be my comfort, be my peace.
Cause I can be broken, I can be needy,
Lord I need You now to be,
Be my God, so I can just be me.

I’ve been living like an orphan,

Trying to belong here,

But it’s just not my home.

I’ve been holding on so tightly,

To all the things that I think
Could satisfy my soul.
But I’m letting go

So be my father, my mighty warrior, be my king.
Cause I can be scattered, frail and shattered,
Lord I need You now to be,
Be my God, so I can just be me.

Cause I was lost in this dark world
Until I was finally found in You
So now I’m needing, desperately pleading
Oh Lord, be all to me

And be my savior, be my lifeline, won’t You be my everything.
Cause I’m so tired of trying to be someone
I was never meant to be

Be my God
Please be my God
Be my God
So I can just be me
So I can just be me
I can just be me.

Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Laura Story – I Can Just Be Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

See the video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VRUU8UBXCk

“Be anxious about nothing.  But in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.  And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7.

 

The Ultimate Recommendation

This week I was filling out a parent form on my daughter for the college counseling department to prepare her college counselor to assist her on her applications to college.  “List three to four adjectives that describe her.  Describe her greatest challenge and how she handled it.  How has your child developed the most?”

It did make me think, however, what if someone was filling out this same survey about me?  What would it say?  What if God himself was answering the questions about me to see whether I could make it to “the next level.”  Would I like the responses?  Would they make me cringe and wish I could do something over again?  Or would I be proud of what my Father wrote about me?

The good news is, God knows me better than I know myself.  He knows how many hairs I have on my head.  He knows my comings and my goings.  He knows the good adjectives that describe me, and the constructive ones that I know in my heart I need to change.  He knows my greatest challenges, and has even walked through them with me.  He knows the challenges that I have ahead that I cannot even envision right now, and He already knows how they will turn out.  He knows how I have developed as a Christian, and He hopes I will make good choices in the future as I continue to become the best version of myself.

Just as I look forward with a mix of joy and trepidation to the next year of college applications with my daughter, I know that the years ahead will be a mixed bag for me as well. Thankfully, my Counselor will write me the ultimate recommendation, and I just need to keep striving to make sure I make the final grade that really matters.

“No single act for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted.” – Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel

Disciple’s Prayer

Jesus, my Lord and my brother, let me do your work for Your sake, and not for my own pride or self-satisfaction.  As long as I want what You want,  I will act prudently and safely.  If I fret at my failures, I am working for myself and not for You.  Your will is to be done, not mine.  I hope to attempt all the good within my reach, but I will not be over-anxious about the results.  If I lose my presence of mind and my peace of soul it is because I am thinking more of Your work than of Your will.  I need only do my best.  The rest depends on the people around me and Your grace.  Let me never think I am bigger or more able than You.  I now put all things into Your hands.  Amen

 

Ladybugs and Cardinals

My daughter and I experienced a “God moment” this week together.  I do not know if there is a formal definition of “God moment,” but I could define it as a way that God speaks to me in the ways of my every day, normal, mini-van-driving-mom existence – through an unexpected experience, a “chance” or not-so-chance encounter with someone or something, a song on the radio, or a scripture reading – however you might define it.  But it clearly leaves me with a sense that God and His Holy Spirit are truly with me.  And I do not mean that in a creepy way – just a true sense of what I already know in my heart and soul but often forget – that God is with me at every moment of every day if I would just open myself up to Him.

I think we all know that God speaks to us in many ways:  through His Word, through other people, in the Sacraments, and the list goes on.  It is not every day that we see a billboard from God screaming:  “Hey!  Yeah!  YOU!  I’m talking to YOU!”  However, God chooses to “wink” at us all the time in unique and personal ways that says, “I see you.  I’m here.  I want you to hear my voice today and always.”  The trick is opening your heart, mind and incredibly busy existence to how He wants to speak to us.

My daughter is going down a path that is different from many of her friends and classmates as she prepares for her future.  It is right for her, but may not be right for others.  Some of her friends are supportive, encouraging and curious.  Other friends are disdainful and making her question her choices and her dreams.  We were watching a program on TV the other night together, and the excitement it created in her was contagious.  We took what we learned and jumped on the internet to learn more.  We were both excited, and knew that this very random show on a random night was no accident – no coincidence.  A God-incidence, perhaps?

A friend of mine shared with me a story about a special sign in her life.  She was going through a challenging time with one of her adult sons.  In the midst of it, lady bugs began to visit her daily.  They literally starting appearing all the time and in many different places.    As a devout Catholic, she looked up the significance of this.  She learned that the lady bug is actually named for “Our Lady’s Bug.”  In the middle ages, a pestilence invaded the land, and the people asked Mary to intercede on their behalf.  Lady bugs swarmed the land, and ate the pests.  My friend knew in her heart that the lady bugs in her situation were there for her uniquely – it was her mom (who gifted her the special devotion to Mary) letting her know to give it all to Mary and to trust in her intercession with God.  She loved the lady bug visits, and through them, she learned to trust.  One day, she realized that the lady bugs had not been to visit in a while.  She realized that her son was in a wonderful place, and that peace, at least for a time, had come back to her family.  She prayed that the lady bugs had moved on to someone else who needed those sweet little visits as much as she did.

I have also heard that cardinals have long been a Christian symbol of visiting those who have been saddened by a loss – in particular, a “Cardinal Loss” or a heart-rendering loss of a loved one.   I am no theologian, so please do not quote me, but birds have long symbolized the soul’s ascent to God above material things.

The cardinal has traditionally held spiritual meaning in the Christian faith. The cardinal’s distinctive red color symbolizes the blood of Christ, representing the everlasting vitality of Christ’s blood and the fire of the living spirit.  (source:  reference.com)

I first heard of the visit from a cardinal from a very devout friend of mine after her long-time partner died of cancer.  When I saw a bright red cardinal by the marsh where my dad and I always loved to fish, I was shocked and amazed – I had never in more than 20 years seen a cardinal there.  Now, after losing both my mother and father in a few short years, I regularly see male and female cardinals outside my kitchen window – and cardinals mate for life.  Coincidence?  Easily.  A God-wink from my Father in Heaven letting me know my parents are OK?  Possibly.

Either way, my faith is renewed, and my hope is restored.  Bring on the cardinals.  Bring on the lady bugs.

To the God-moments and God-winks in our lives!

 

Resolutions – Round II

We are almost ¾ of the way through January, and you may or may not still be going to the gym.  I read recently that gym attendance goes back to pre-January levels by February 15th.  So how do we keep these new year’s resolutions that we felt so good about as 2016 turned to 2017?

I led my CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) group through a discussion of resolutions tonight, so I’m going to double dip a bit here.  I am sure we have all heard that the most successful people not only make goals and resolutions, but that they put pen to paper and write them down.  If they are written down, we can return to them, review them, and identify how we are doing in relation to moving toward that goal.  You have also likely heard that goals should be actionable and attainable.  You can have a spiritual goal of getting up at 5:00 a.m. daily and making time for prayer, but if you know that you do not function well until 8:30 after half a pot of coffee, that probably is not a realistic goal for you.

My group also talked about accountability.  We know that ultimately, we are accountable to God our father day in and day out for our thoughts, words and deeds.  However, if we have a close friend, spouse or spiritual director that can help us to be accountable for the change we seek in our lives, we may be more likely to power through the difficult transition of change, or at least seek help when we are not succeeding as we would like.

Our group discussed four areas in which we could make resolutions:  mind, body and soul.  The fourth area was “fun just for me” – something we could do to bring joy to our lives so that we can pass that joy onto others.  We shared our spiritual resolutions, as well as ways to make those come to fruition.  One friend suggested that making one spiritual resolution per week made the task less daunting and more doable.  Another suggested finding a word that describes an overall theme to your resolutions – trust, hope, joy – and integrate that into multiple areas and how you wish to change your life and approach others.  I came away from this group filled with hope that I can begin to make some of the changes that I need to make in my life.  I know I have women (and men) in my life who support me in making changes that will help me to be the person that God continually calls me to be.

An author and speaker that I really admire is Matthew Kelly.  He is also an executive coach, and before he works with clients, he asks them to consider and answer some questions.  These questions are not light – they are heavy, and provoke thought and introspection.  Get out your journal, head to a quiet spot or the adoration chapel, and give these a whirl.

13 QUESTIONS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 2017

“It’s another year. In lots of ways you get to decide what this new year will be like. Sure, things will happen that you have less or no control over. But even in those situations, you get to decide how you will react or respond.

Consider some of these questions:

  • What are the biggest changes you would like to make to your life in the next 12 months?
  • What are the biggest changes you would like to make to your life in the next 1–3 years?
  • What do you want to achieve most in your life?
  • What is your greatest obstacle to this achievement?
  • What are 3 of your biggest achievements to date?
  • What dream have you given up on?
  • What major transitions have you had in the past 2 years?
  • What is the hardest thing in your life you’ve ever had to overcome?
  • Looking at the past 6 months of your life, do you like the direction your life is moving in?
  • What part of yourself have you given up on?
  • What are your primary stressors?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What would you like your personal legacy to be?

This is an easy list of questions to read. They are not easy questions to answer. Take some time over the next couple of weeks to write out your answers. It will be a life-altering exercise.”  (Source:  Matthew Kelly, DynamicCatholic.com)

We all need a little inspiration and encouragement to make a change in our lives or to break a bad habit.  Fortunately, we have the communion of saints who have “been there, done that” and have come out on the back end on the right side.  We have Mary, our mother, who knows our suffering and intercedes for us.  We have Jesus our brother – fully God and fully human, who experienced our human existence and understands our day to day struggles.  Sounds like we have an awesome accountability group looking out for us and supporting us in our quest to be the best version of ourselves.

Lord of new life, thank you for the gift of a new year.

You have entrusted us with the coming days, weeks and months as stewards of your divine plan;

To live in gratitude, joy and an ever-growing confidence in your Kingdom to come.

We ask for the humility to reform our lives;

The courage to commit ourselves to you no matter the cost;

And the wisdom to shine the light of faith on others.

Open our hearts, give us your Spirit and show us how to share your love so that we may bring hope to a world in need of your justice and peace.

We pray to be a sign of your grace in this new year through your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

(Source:  ICSC)

 

 

Hello 2017 – Nice to Know You!

Everyone rings in the new year in different ways – some quietly with family, some spending fun times with friends, some with hardly a nod to the fact that the date has even changed.  My family had a fun cookout with another Marist family (in Florida of all places) before watching TV as the fireworks were going off outside to mark midnight.

On the one hand, part of me is so relieved to say “arrivederce” to 2016.  I have been more than ready to close the door on this year.  It was even a little frustrating to hear at Mass on January 1st that just because the year changes, it does not mean that this year will not have its share of heartaches, disappointments and challenges.  Intellectually, I know this.  I just always want to believe that there are better days around the corner.  I want to have hope in 2017.

Somewhere in the last week I read, “Your year may change, but God remains the same.”  It was comforting to know that no matter what this year brings – happiness, peace, sadness, family challenges – that God does not change, only my circumstances do.  God is with me in the hardest of times, bringing me peace or helping me to cope.  God is with me in my happiest moments, celebrating along with me and reminding me that He is good and all good things come from Him.  God is with me as I make continued attempts to change for the better – you know, those darn New Year’s Resolutions.  Or Lenten resolutions.  Or July resolutions.  God is always with me, and wants to see me become a better version of myself.

I have been blessed to know Fr. Josh Allen, who heads up Georgia Tech’s Catholic Center.  He had some interesting thoughts about resolutions that he posted to Facebook (and I paraphrased a bit):  “Friends, if you are thinking about resolutions for the new year, don’t bother.  If you’re serious, you’ll start whatever it is today without delay — this very moment even.  If you’re waiting for an arbitrary point of the earth rounding the sun to make a change in your life, you’re not gonna make it.  Want to be a better person?  Do it now.  When our Lord calls, he does not tarry with delay.  Each of us can change with God’s grace.  Even the most profound changes.  But we can’t schedule an appointment with God’s grace sometime in the future.  The only moment that matters is now.”

I usually have far more resolutions than any mere mortal can be expected to follow through on.  This year, I’m going to consider this one:  I will recognize that God is truly with me at every moment, and to try my hardest to act in accordance with that truth – to trust more and to have more hope.