What Does Your Mountain Look Like?

Man looking out from mountaintop

Will you envy your neighbor’s mountain when you reach your peak?

Did you ever think about the path that led Jesus, Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop to meet Moses and Elijah that day so long ago? Perhaps it was a slow, gentle, meandering path, but mountaintops seldom have gentle pathway leading all the way to their peaks.

Sure, mountains may have gentle pathways at their base, and many people linger there contemplating the assent. Casual strollers may walk the base enjoying a beautiful day, families may picnic by the mountain’s flowing streams, and those in love may stroll hand in hand resting at lower vistas to gaze upon the beauty of creation as though it were made just for them.

Those wanting more of a challenge may push through the lower pathways and find hiking trails marking trees by some adventurer long ago. Perhaps a few will even discover their own trails where few have gone before, scouting a new path to the next resting spot.

But few will make it to the top.

And when we are climbing our own mountains and stumble and fall or want to give up, we often think our particular mountain is too high, too steep, too great of a challenge. We think our mountain has unfair obstacles others aren’t faced with. We look at the mountains others have conquered, but we often mistake the challenges they met along the way. The padding of time and distance make the mountains of others seem less rugged, less demanding, less frightening than our own.

We don’t spend every second on their mountain. After all, it is their mountain, not ours. We look over at their mountain from our own place on our own hill and see rounded tops and tree covered mounds. Distant mountains look almost soft and cushiony from a distance.

But to the one on the mountain, the one struggling to make that climb, every cliff and boulder and rock faced can seem so monstrous that it  blocks the view of what lies ahead, and sometimes we would choose to stay where we are rather than face the unknown.

Those same trees that seem so soft and cushiony from a distance only serve to block out the sun and camouflage scary things to the one beneath their branches. Those same trees which provide us so much comfort and shade from the heat of the day almost always make the night dark and cold for someone on the mountain.

When we are on our mountain, under the tree line, facing an uphill battle with a peak that is unseen from our vantage point, it becomes easy to judge our mountain as more difficult than that of another. It becomes easy to think our life has obstacles others wouldn’t have to overcome. It becomes easy to feel victimized. It becomes easy to forget that other people have their own mountains and other mountains have their own challenges.

You were given your mountain for a particular reason. Do not shirk the climb. Do not envy another her mountain, and do not think that just because you have read about or heard about or spent time on another mountain, that you understand it’s assent

Or that you can imagine the view from its peak.

You were given your mountain, and no one but God knows it like you do. The climb was designed for you. The lessons learned along the way, the companions you meet as you walk the trail, and especially the view from the top were all designed for you and no one else.

Peter, James, and John witnessed an amazing event on the mountaintop, but they didn’t know that when they began the climb. They didn’t know that when the path got difficult. They didn’t know that when the hot sun beat down on them or when they stumbled and fell.

But they found the difficulty of the climb wasn’t even worth mentioning when they got to the top.

How is your unique mountain shaping you? How is it preparing you to experience the summit? Do you really think you will regret the climb if you keep going, if you make it to the top which you will do as Peter, James, and John did, with Jesus by your side? If you join the Lord in Heaven, will you really wish you had been given your neighbor’s mountain?

Please join me for part two of my discussion of Sunday’s Gospel reading Mark Chapter 9, The Transfiguration, tomorrow.

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God Bless…

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Dear God, You Know It’s March Right?

house hidden by snow

Does God know it’s March and Spring should be here soon?

It’s March 1st and another snowstorm is sweeping across the eastern United States. It’s cold and snowy and bitter outside, and if I could have reached through my dashboard to the Christian DJ who predicted “gusty breezes in the week ahead,” I might have shaken him pretty good.

“Gusty breezes???” Who is he kidding. The euphemism isn’t fooling any of us this far into the season.

And euphemisms weren’t the only thing from some long past English class that floated through my head this morning.

It’s March 1st, and I’m also reciting the cliche, March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb, as if saying it will make it come true, but while I’m saying it, I’m really thinking, “blah blah blah,” as I wonder yet again how many more days I’ll have to turn up the heat in the morning and how many more times we’d wait to hear whether school will be delayed – AGAIN!

And I can’t help but look up and say,

“Dear God, you know it’s March, right?”

“Dear Jesus, there will be warmer days ahead, right?”

And as the dreary gray skies and bitter cold winds rattle our bones, I can’t help but wonder what God is thinking up there!

And I’m not alone!

Almost every time I turn around, someone mentions being ready for Spring. They ask when God will bring the warmth or they say they’ll need to have a word with mother nature, which I am going to assume they mean as a joke, not as a replacement for our Lord! :)

In my classes I take prayer requests from my students and almost no class goes by without someone praying for Spring and warmth and sun, and I wholeheartedly second that request.

But it also makes me think and wonder about all the things we remind God of.

Dear God, my car is on the fritz again…

Dear Father, I have a big job interview coming up…

Dear Lord, I lost my car keys…

(I should make a recording of that one!)

Dear Jesus, if you could just bring my husband home…

Dear God, if I could just have straight hair…

Dear Mother Mary, my child needs… please pray for us…

Hey God, it’s March, can you please bring the warmth?

When life gets overwhelming, from little things like perpetually lost car keys and crazy hair to unspeakably devastating things like a broken family or hurting child, we often wonder where God is.

We pray as though we are reminding Him of our situation. We pray reminding Him of how we think things should be resolved.

But maybe we should be praying differently.

We must pray without ceasing as we are instructed to do for help and guidance, for comfort and strength, for wisdom and peace. Praying is a good thing, a necessary thing, a wonderful and loving and strong thing, but we must remember that God already knows our wishes, our most secret deepest desires, those truths we hide even from ourselves.

The Lord, who knows every hair on our heads, knows all and will resolve all issues for Good when we are faithful to Him. He often sees outcomes we cannot begin to imagine and brings warmth and sunlight from places we don’t expect them to appear.

What’s more, when we are faithful, that warmth and sun feel infinitely better than they would have had we never experienced the cold darkness of winter.

God doesn’t need our reminders of how we would like life to turn out any more than He needs our reminders that it’s March or that Spring should be coming soon.

Consider it all Joy my brothers – even this cold winter, for it too shall pass. God is in control and He has already sent The Son to warm your heart.

In the meantime, take comfort, He knows it’s been a long cold season. He knows it’s March, and he will send the warmth when He’s ready.

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God Bless…

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Lent, Instagram, and Symbolism

I’m not a big Instagagram-er, but when I heard about the photo a day for Lent, I figured I had to try it again. I knew what Instagram was (vaguely) from Cristina over at Filling My Prayer Closet, and it’s been on my list of things to do, but it’s a very long list, and Instagram is not one of my top priorities by any means.

Anyway, Cristina is a Catholic convert who I often think knows more about our Catholic faith than I ever did growing up. I love how Cristina unabashedly shares her experiences and her love of our Lord and those who have modeled the Catholic faith so beautifully for us. She has helped me become more vocal in my faith and in appreciation for the gifts and freedoms we are allowed here.

Pairing Cristina’s enthusiasm with the horror of religious persecution we see in other lands and that is now sprinting toward our open boarders, helps us realize how Blessed we are to be able to worship the way we wish, pray what we Believe, and have Faith in a better, more Loving tomorrow. That paired with the Pope’s call for a new Evangelization got me thinking of how much we take our faith for granted, how spoiled we’ve become, how we forget to tell the world of the Good God has given us even while we are complaining about the bad.

So often in Lent we give up something of no real value or sacrifice to us, and even when we do make a real sacrifice, our small dutiful “giving up” is met with little resistence in the face of temptation. We break down. We hide thinking no one will find out. Me make excuses because, “We’re good people anyway,” or “Giving something up is just a dumb idea,” or something equally convincing.

What if we tried something different instead? What if we tried something positive?  What if, instead of giving up, we specifically went to our social networking sites and spent just a few minutes sharing and leading people back to our Lord? How could doing this change our lives? How could they change those around you? How could they change the world?

Today, I (finally) figured out Instagram and am thrilled to be followng the CatholicSistas in their post a photo for Lent challenge. The @CatholicSistas have picked a word for each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, and Instagramers are finding photos that correspond with the word of the day and posting them. It’s an easy task, but what a great way to promote the Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Today’s #Instagram #Lent topic is SYMBOL.

This is what I thought about the topic of SYMBOL.

     The Symbol

Symbol – an empty box, a broken promise, a rock lost and missing from its setting. These three bound together, wound forever, free only by another…

THE symbol which held the man who is our God risen from the empty tomb, despite our broken promises. The Rock come to gather the missing and the lost. The Rock come to set us free.

The Rock come to lead us, come to teach us, come to give us Hope. The Rock come to correct us and protect us, come to change us and remain with us, come to give us a seed of faith. The Rock come to lead us Home.

The Rock is not a symbol, but The One who cannot be symbolized, only He can symbolize what is real and true and right. The Rock. The Light. The Lion. The Lamb. The Bread. The Wine. All are symbols but weak symbols for the ONE who cannot be symbolized.

Please join me in praying for Catholic Christian, faithful marriages today.

GOD BLESS…

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Burned By Love? Divorced Catholics, Valentine’s Day, & Agape Love

Fire

Love never hurts. Love never burns.

Who doesn’t want love? After basic physical needs of water, food, and shelter, the most basic human needs is love. Each of us wants to know love. Each of us wants to be loved. Each of us wants to love another. The human longing for love is normal and good, but for those who say they have been burned by love through infidelity, abandonment, or divorce the fear of love can run deep. No one wants to feel that pain twice in one lifetime. To make matters worse, the victim of divorce can be surrounded by confusion and often questions her own self-worth comparing herself to others and finding herself outclassed. The betrayed spouse asks what she did that was so completely unlovable, how she warranted this action. She inflicts upon herself a blame the victim mentality, a mentality frowned upon by society except in divorce when many engage in an “it takes two” belief despite evidence to the contrary. The abandoned spouse puts his guard up and asks whether love is worth the price he may have to pay. He wonders if he will be burned again by allowing himself to love, but there is hope for divorced Catholics in the clearing up of a few misconceptions associated with love and what love truly means.

The word love is often associated with fire. We hear people talk of burning with love for another person, and sometimes love does exist in the red hot emotion. Love can be passionate and blazing and visibly hot, as it should be, but it is often the smoldering coals buried deep that keep the flames leaping. It is often the fuel that is added to the fire that determines how long that fire will last. Fire fed with cheap talk and misrepresentations, fanned with the influence of worldly friends, and the pursuit of worldly goals will not last the way fire fed with the Good Word, fanned by the input of positive friendships, and the mutual pursuit of a heavenly union will. Love must be watched and tended to. Sparks must be blown on slowly. Fires must be fanned carefully. Flames must be watched to ensure they do not burn out of control or in an unsafe place.

To have a passionate burning love is a good thing, a gift from God, but sometimes something goes wrong and one claims to have been burned by love, but that is just not possible. What burns is rejection, infidelity, betrayal, but not love. Love is never harmful. Love is never painful. Love is always good and right and pure. 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 tells us what love is. Love is patient. Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13 also tells us what love is not. Love is not rude. It is not jealous. It is not self serving. It is not boastful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoings. 1 Corinthians 13 says more about what love is not than about what love is. Perhaps, even back then, Saint Paul knew how grossly misunderstood love is.

Perhaps the greatest misconception by the divorced when it comes to love does not lie in the actions of the unfaithful spouse, but in the way the victim perceives himself. When going through abandonment and betrayal, divorceWe never will be alone.  and infidelity, one must be patient with oneself. One must be kind with oneself. One must love oneself. It is natural to question self worth and to wonder if we are worthy of being loved again. It is understandable to become cynical and predict that we will end up in the same pitiable place, but that is not the love we are called to.

The truth is, your ex is right. You don’t deserve love as God intended Love to be. No one does. Left alone, we are deserving of the cheap burning misrepresentations of love we see and experience today. Left alone, we are nothing. Fortunately, you are not left alone. You have never been alone. You were called into existence by the Father. You have been made given His image, by His touch, in His Agape love for you. Yes, despite the flaws in your hearts, the imperfections of your actions, and the stumbling of your words, contrary to the entirety of inadequacies you carry, the Father in Heaven remains with you day in and day out, and He loves you unconditionally, unselfishly, eternally.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each burn with a true love for you. Their burning love never hurts, but always warms, remolds, and refines. Having been chosen and loved by the Trinity, divorced Catholics can find hope this Saint Valentine’s Day. Divorced Catholics can find joy in knowing they may never be worthy as the world measures worth, but they are more than worthy as the Lord measures worth. They can know their worth is not tied up in the actions of today, but in the eternal Agape love of the Lord. Agape love, the love that refines even those who have been burned and makes them more beautiful in the eyes of those who truly see. Agape love becomes a concept those who feel it strive to pass on. Agape love is something that can only be given by God and can only be mirrored by someone who has understood what it means to receive it.

On this Saint Valentine’s Day, do not get caught up measuring yourself as your ex does. Do not get caught up in tying your worth to the existence of a significant other. Pray for a spouse now if you feel that is your calling, but do not get caught up in the belief that your life only has worth if you “find someone else,” as many will tell you to do, but instead get caught up in knowing you have been truly and wonderfully made, that you as a single person are more powerful to love and can do more to advance God’s kingdom than if you were distracted by marriage. Know that Agape love calls you to love all and that God the Father loves you enough to show you this when so many others fail to see it. Know that right now, you can be praying to strengthen marriages worldwide, that you can be praying for a healing of broken families, that you can give your cries to the Holy Spirit in ways that those who have not been burned cannot. Know that you are powerful because you are known fully and loved fully. Know that you are not alone, that you are the recipient of Agape love and as a recipient of Agape love, you are also called to and protected by Agape love, and that is really what Saint Valentine’s Day is all about.

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You Are Loved!

God Bless…

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Strengthening the World’s Families Through Eucharistic Adoration

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you want to know what it’s like to run a marathon, ask a runner.

If you want to know what it’s like to be considered brilliant, ask a Rhodes Scholar.

If you want to know what it’s like to be a Hollywood superstar, ask a well-known actress.

If you want to know what it’s like to win a million bucks, ask someone who’s won the lottery.

If you want to know what it’s like to go to war, ask a Veteran.

If you want to know what it’s like, ask…

It doesn’t matter who you ask or how often or even how well you listen. Hearing the stories and having actually been there, done that are totally different things.

Those who have been abandoned or betrayed within the marital relationship, those who have been divorced or who have been given little choice but to divorce know there is no description that can put the experience into words. The agony, the rejection, the despair, the loneliness, and the defeat are too intense for mere words.

And for this reason, some of those who have survived divorce have a greater understanding of the phrase,

I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

Divorce is something I would not wish on anyone – anyone!

There are some who have found healing in the annulment process and in the annulment decision, but those seem to be few and far between. Far more seem to be jaded and looking for reasons to leave the Catholic church in search of a more accommodating Christian denomination.

The breakdown of the family leaves wounds that cut across generations, and it takes a big person to stop the bleeding.

Or maybe it takes a big prayer –  A LOT OF BIG PRAYER!

Today begins the Novena of Eucharistic Adoration for the Family. The Synod on the Family was called for by Pope Francis last fall to look at some of the issues facing today’s families and the forces weakening family bonds and spousal commitments. It will also investigate some harsh criticism dolled out by Germany’s Cardinal Kasper who favors allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist.

In response to Pope Francis’ request for prayer for the Family, the Eucharistic Adoration Society has devoted the first Thursday of each month to prayer for the Family. This Eucharistic Adoration Novena began today with the feast day of Saint Agatha and will continue for the first Thursday of nine consecutive months until the feast day of Saint Therese of Lisieux on the first Thursday of October, only a few days before the Synod is set to begin. If you missed the first day, please do not let that keep you from joining us in this worthy cause!

No one knows how much our families need prayer and strengthening, Faith and Hope, Healing and Love better than the divorced. No one knows how deep the pain runs or how scarring the blows can better than the abandoned. No one knows how hard seemingly insignificant little acts can be day in and day out better than one from a broken home.

But neither does one knows how all encompassing the Lord’s Goodness truly is. No one feels His Strength, Forgiveness, Mercy, Love, Hope, Faith, and Joy are better than the divorced who has found her faith.

It is for this reason, I took my boys to our first Eucharistic Adoration tonight. It is for this reason, that we prayed our own silent prayers, that we prayed together, and that we splurged by going out to eat as a family after. It is for this reason, I am asking my children to think now about what kind of man they will become, about what kind of woman they want to attract, about who their influences are, about what Family means to them and about what it is meant to mean.

We must put an end to the betrayal and loss associated with weak marriages and broken families. No one knows this better than those who have been through it – and come out the other side!

If you want to know what it’s like to be divorced, ask someone who has been through it.

And thank God if you will never know the full story.

Wouldn’t it be great if the generation of divorce ended with us!

Wouldn’t it be great if our children had a hard time finding peers who had been through divorce because marriages for their generation relied on God the way ours did not?

Miracles do occur when we pray.

Please join me and people all over the globe as we pray for a strengthening of the family and a focus on the Lord, and let me know if you will be joining this movement and how you will be celebrating and praying. I Hope you do!

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God Bless…

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And With a Loud Cry the Unclean Spirit Came Out

Wavy Light

What did the cry look like?

I always wondered what that cry sounded like? How amazing and how frightening it must have been for those around the man to witness. The scream of the demon always had an actual physical presence for me as well. I could see the scream.

And it was horrifying.

The Bible is amazing in the details it gives and in the details it omits. In this passage, as in many others, we see Jesus commanding an unclean spirit to leave, but we don’t know details about the man or about what made the spirit unclean. Volumes could probably have been written about this man and his life, his trials and the trials he put others through, but we are just not privy to that information.

When I was younger, I always assumed the man was your typical “crazy” man. I pictured him calling out to Jesus that day, but also talking to himself, dancing foolishly, acting strangely. I pictured him unable to hold down a job or keep a girlfriend or support a family. He was the man you’d steer your children away from on the street, the man you would not make eye contact with, the man you feared while pretending he did not exist.

I pictured him as a lonely man, but one others had to stay away from for their own safety and sanity.

The unclean spirit, I just pictured as evil, and I tried not to dwell on it.

But as I grew and faced my own sets of hardship and as I allowed Jesus more fully into my life, I realized that I knew very little about anything about the healing Jesus brings or about unclean spirits or how those spirits manifest themselves in each of us.

In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

Mark 1: 23-26

How many times have we let out cries of pure human agony? How many times have we just held that base cry inside, thinking we needed to protect ourselves so others would not see our pain? How many times did we hold back that cry in order to remain strong for someone else?

Each of us is the man with the unclean spirit. Each of us is fighting his own demons. No one is immune. Each of us has a cry deep inside waiting to get out. Some laugh off our filth knowing it is acceptable and even encouraged by society today. We purposely plan weekends at casinos and strip clubs for the soon-to-be-married as one last hurrah and later accept their adultery and divorce because they were “unhappy.” We too often point fingers to cast blame on another rather than ask them to take difficult steps to save their marriages, their families, themselves. As a society, we embrace gambling, porn, big houses, fancy cars, and lazy behavior failing to recognize these as today’s version of the antiquated seven deadly sins. We think it is just the way things are today and it’s no big deal.

And then we let out a cry of an escaping demon when life falls apart, when things get rough, when we are faced with challenges we didn’t see coming because it is a big deal.

But, while we cry the cry, sometimes for the world to see, sometimes in the invisibility of our own homes, we often fail to release the demon. Instead we choose to hold onto the familiar, repeating the same moves over and over that got us here in the first place. We too blame another or circumstances or dumb luck, but we fail to call out to Jesus and make fundamental, freeing changes. We, like the man so long ago, fail to recognize that Jesus did not come to destroy us but to set us free. We fail to recognize that we need Him continually in our lives.

In this Bible passage, Jesus instantly cures the man and the unclean spirit leaves him with that great cry, but we do not know what happens next. Many may assume the man was cured, never to be bothered again by an unclean spirit and so he didn’t need Jesus anymore, but Jesus did not come to free us and leave us. He came to free us and stay within us, protecting us, guiding us, loving us for eternity.

The Bible doesn’t give details about the man’s life. We do not know if the spirit returned, attempting again to enter into the man’s thoughts, his heart, his words. We do not know, but can always Hope, the man continued to cry out to Jesus and the spirit stayed away for an eternity because that is what we want to believe, because that gives us our happy ending, because that is the way life should be!

But perhaps that man continued to struggle. Perhaps that man continued to be haunted by unclean spirits or even by the very same unclean spirit. Would it not still be wonderful if the man rejected those spirits day in and day out? Would it not still be wonderful if the man continued to cry out to Jesus day in and day out for His Blessing? Would that man not continue to grow ever closer to the Lord if this were so? Why do we assume Jesus gave one sentence and the person was cured forever? Why do we assume the man would never needed Jesus’ help again?

Why do we assume Jesus should heal us instantly and for eternity? We are we disappointed when we struggle with our same demons day in and day out?

If today you are struggling with hopelessness, despair, worthlessness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, any number of agonies, be the man at the synagogue. Cry out to Jesus and then release your demons. Free them so you may be free! And later, whether your unclean spirit raises its ugly cry again a year, a month, a week, a day, or only seconds later, call out to Jesus again. We are not immune even from the unclean spirits Jesus has already expelled from us. We are all under constant spiritual attack and, when all seems good and your unclean spirits seem to have departed, be sure to praise the Lord and keep Him with you, by your side, inside of you, align yourself with Him so you are one and you are ready, for Satan never tires – but neither does your Lord.

What does the cry of the unclean spirit sound like? What is the physical appearance of the unclean spirit? Perhaps it is different for each of us and only a look in the mirror will show our individual unclean spirits. Perhaps the cries you emit in your pain, in your most agonizing moments are not your cries at all, but the cries of the unclean spirit as the Lord works to draw you closer to Him.

I Hope and Pray that you let Him do so – again!

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God Bless…

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America’s Deflated Balls

SONY DSCA week ago today one of the largest ever pro-life marches was held in Washington DC, our nation’s capitol. Throngs of people filled the streets and prayed to end the painful death of millions of unseen children. What began as a small demonstration in the years following Roe v Wade has grown into a major event drawing a variety of individuals and groups from across the great United States.  People of differing race, size, gender, religion, and economic backgrounds united for one purpose:

To end the killing of children

whose cries we cannot yet hear.

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Don’t Want an Abortion? Don’t Have One?

Sonogram of a BabyI’ve often heard the phrase, “If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one,” as though permitting abortion only benefits those seeking to terminate the life of their unseen child and has no effect on the rest of us. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Please do not tell me, abortion only affects those who have one. I could go on about the tax money I am forced to pay to murder your child, a child I would gladly raise if you were to choose life and then ask me to take her.

Please do not pretend that only those faced with an unwanted pregnancy understand the stress of motherhood. Motherhood can be tough – tougher than I’d ever imagined!Continue Reading

Resolutions Can Begin Now

Setting blogging time limits

Time isn’t endless. Choose resolutions that have meaning.

Less than three weeks ago we welcomed in the New Year and folks around the world resolved to do any number of things – quit smoking, lose weight, workout more, reconcile with family, cut off bad influences…

What was on your list?

Here’s just a bit of mine, in no particular order.Continue Reading

A Single Mom’s 2014

This year I again had no time to write out and send Christmas cards. I thought of friends near and far those I see all the time and those who I haven’t seen in years and are fortunate to still be 20 years old in my eyes. This year, I did buy the cards and really did plan to write them out, but it seems like there is just never enough time and so I again sent not a one.

And so, as 2014 comes to an end, I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories from the past year and hope that you know that I will be thinking of you and praying for you again in the year ahead. I hope you enjoy my glance through 2014 and join me for 2015 and all that the Father allows to touch our lives.Continue Reading