Tag Archives: God

Betrayal

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John 13:30 So he (Judas) took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

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Judas, one of the original twelve, Jesus right hand man and treasurer.  So many of us know him as the one who betrayed Christ.  Yes, Judas was the betrayer.  Yet through his story, we are challenged to look at our own “judases” in perhaps a new, softer light.

Who among us has not felt betrayed?  Have we not all seen betrayal doled out to others in our lifetime. In my own family, we had a betrayer.  A supposed man of God, baptized and baptizer, treasurer of his church, well respected in every circle he ingratiated himself into.  Yet this man was a man of horrible choices and severe personality disorder who raped and pillaged the women in his midst. Who even in his dying breath was violent in that he killed his wife in cold blood because she suffered Alzheimer’s and then shot himself, rather than asking for the respite he most definitely needed.  Like Judas, a man, who through the many choices in his life up to his last breath chose the darkness over the Light.

In my Bible study today, I was reminded of this man from my past as we talked about Jesus, washing feet, eating one last meal with loved ones, and of course Judas and betrayal.  It is Passover, and Jesus knew that His hour had finally arrived. (John 13:1)  He had humbled Himself to become man to teach us a new way to be.  He had performed signs and taught of love and forgiveness. We find him in the upper room, ready to share what He must surely know is His Last Supper with these twelve imperfect humans whom He has tried over the previous three years to teach and strengthen and love. Judas is there among The Twelve, with his life of poor choices, self interests, and frustration at not being able to make The Son of God adhere to his whims.  Had Judas not recently complained when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, had anointed Jesus feet out of her love for Him and her foreboding of the changing attitudes that would only mean death for her Teacher?  Judas, who is about to make a very horrific choice, is to become the betrayer of Emmanuel, God Among Us (His creation).

So it is time for a Passover meal and The Twelve are at the table, reclining, dirty feet and all on the cushions set at table, waiting to be served.  Jesus, who in coming to us as a simple man and having disrobed His Glory when arriving here as a mere Babe to a poor carpenter’s family, arises to humbly serve His Twelve, in love and respect He takes on the humble service normally provided by the lowest of servants.  He disrobes and pours the water in a basin, much like He will soon pour out His Blood for the forgiveness of our transgressions.  Ever so tenderly, He takes each precious foot and begins to wash it and then dry it with the towel around His waist.  No one is left out of this washing.  Not Peter with his protesting nor Judas with his betraying nor those who most likely sat there in awe wondering if they were His favorite.

Has anyone ever washed your feet?  I’m not talking the pedicure you just received from the local salon so your sandals look pretty in summer.  I am speaking of whether someone you respect as a good man has taken your feet into their hands and washed and dried them with a cloth around their waist.  I have had this happen twice while participating in our church’s Christ Renews His Parish retreat.  The last service at this retreat is when our priest washes each participants feet.  When Father Paul washed my feet, I cried.  I cried because, who was I to have my priest lower himself and touch my stinking, dirty feet. I cried because I knew that it was my job to go out and wash the feet of others.  An overwhelming task of which I alone am not worthy of undertaking.  Yet, I hold fast when trying to humbly serve The One Who Sent Me to His Promise “I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Yet in our lesson today, Christ, The Son of God, The Messiah, The Savior of the World, Emmanuel, is washing feet of everyone, those who love Him and the one who will betray Him.

When Jesus is done with the foot washing, he arises and puts his outer garments on, much as He will put on His glory at the Resurrection.  He, The Teacher, who has given so much of Himself to the ones He loves, continues in these final hours to reach out to The Twelve to teach them a better way to live; a life of humble, simple acts of love to all, to the least, even to the betrayers.

Jesus then gives them a warning, a prediction, of sorts while feeling troubled that one of them will betray Him. Of course, none of The Twelve know of Judas stealing from their coffers nor of his hardened heart nor of his being tempted by satan and allowing satan to enter him.  They are confused and questioning.  Jesus does not condemn.  He does not bring to light in front of the others Judas’ sins in the past nor the sin he is about to partake in.  Jesus simply places a morsel of dipped bread into Judas’ hand.  Judas has been caught so to speak.  He must surely know that Jesus is on to him.  It is his last chance.  Confess!  Confess! is what I want to yell at him.  It is about choice.  Judas, you have the chance right now to make a different choice, change your heart and your ways.  Jesus is offering you with love and respect a different way to be, just as Jesus offers this to each of us no matter our sin.  Alas, Judas is a stubborn one with a plan of his own, and no willpower against the temptation of satan.  He leaves quickly and heads into the night, into the darkness, leaving the Light of the One who came to Save him behind in the upper room.  Jesus, the Light of the World, must surely know that all of The Twelve in the end will betray Him in their own way.  Yet, He continues on through these Last Hours showing love and forgiveness even unto His Final Hour.

So we are left with the knowledge that our choices will draw us closer to the Light of Christ or leave us wondering in the darkness.  Just like Judas, our life is made up of a multitude of choices every moment of every day.  These choices will culminate into the whole of our life.  A life, if we choose, of living in the Light of God or wandering in the night of separation from His Light.  “As long as it is day, (we) must do the works of Him who sent (us).” ( John 9:4 )  Those works include how we deal with our judases.  Are we filled with anger, condemnation, darkness?  Do we plot our revenge so that everyone might know of the hurt we have been dealt?  Do we hold that grudge for eternity?  I’d like to think that though we are human and prone to grudge holding anger, we might look to Jesus and walk in His Light of humble love and respect. It is not our place to condemn nor judge.  It is God’s place to judge with a Holy Judgment at the time He sees fit.  For God does not leave us to deal with our judases alone.  He strengthens us and endures our pain with us, no matter the situation.  He also provides us with an unending peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) when we give Him the darkness and stay to the Light.

Though many were angry when the man in my family passed, I was not angry, nor filled with condemnation for him.  Rather, I was then and most days still am filled with an incredible sadness that he chose as an example for his life the same darkness that Judas chose.  So many choices he made could have been different and would have brought him despite his sin to Christ.  Jesus, who watched over this man’s life as He watched over Judas’ life would have welcomed both of them Home to Him had they only realized their sin and asked forgiveness from the Great Forgiver.  If Jesus had been willing to forgive them, then who am I to hold on to my unforgiveness?

Praying that each of you find your path to forgiveness with the judases in your life.

May you find Gratitude and Peace in every moment,

Joan

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To Be a Witness, If My People, Day 6

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

 

Today, in our If My People prayer pilgrimage Day 6, we are looking at those final words Jesus spoke to the disciples before he ascended into heaven to be with the Father.  Evangelization, plain and simple… We are to go everywhere, teach everything and baptize everyone.  It doesn’t get more forthright than that when looking at what Jesus asks of us.  If He knows that I am fully capable of going, teaching and baptizing, then why do I find this direction from my Savior so daunting and overwhelming.  Who am I to evangelize?  I’m comfortable in my faith and uncomfortable when forced to be anything other than a Catholic mom who walks the spiritual side in her life by attending Mass, practicing the Sacraments, raising her family in the faith, teaching Sunday School, going to Bible studies and writing in her blog.  I like the easy way.

“To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living Mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”  Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard

 

Several years ago, this quote by Cardinal Suhard was printed on the back of our Parish bulletin.  I was so filled with joy when I read and thought about the meaning of this quote.  It seemed so natural, easy.  No street evangelization.  No asking strangers, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” No Bible Thumping. No propaganda.  Not even stirring

people up with insults and insinuations that they needed to get right with Mother Church.  Just simply living my life as a mystery… a prayer… in such a way that only God’s existence would complete my life and make my life story valid.  The most compelling way to share the message of the Gospel, the Good News of His coming, to bring wild hope to others, would be to live a conscious life for Him, to bring Him glory. Jesus came to redeem the assault of evil on our lives and to offer another way to live, filled with mercy, love, kindness for the least of our brethren rather than revenge, eye for an eye justice, and a harsh life of fulfilling man’s law in God’s name.  Somehow, this idea of evangelization seems more fulfilling, an easier way of following His path that makes sense to me when I see how He treated the least of His followers in the Gospel.  He did not judge nor condemn the sinner begging for healing.  How many times did He chose the more difficult aspect of healing His people’s faith through forgiveness?  “Your sins are forgiven.  Go in peace and sin no more.” A much more important healing for each of us than the easier physical healing that many of us have begged for over the course of humanity.  And yet, He lovingly and faithfully healed physical ailments as well. So it must be for each of us to find a way to live as a Mystery for Him through our willingness to show steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, unasked for forgiveness.

Soren Kierkegaard: “All genuine instruction ends in a kind of silence, for when I live it, it is no longer necessary for my speaking to be audible.”

So we look at the propaganda that goes on in the name of evangelization and realize that many times it is not love, mercies, hope, nor forgiveness.  It comes down to the words.  Are you saying the right words with the correct tone of voice?  Are you saying the words loud enough and often enough and to everyone?  In the end, it truly is not about the words.  People will agree or disagree or be noncommittal with our words.  We must begin the hard work if our life is to relay the sense of God’s existence, to show our beliefs, values, convictions into our daily life; our worship, our work, the sustainability of our life, our interactions with others.  This is our witness.  As James said in 1:22, ‘Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  Thereby deceiving only yourself.” To be doers and not hearers only we must do two things.  First, we must commit to a God Centered, not culture centered life.  We must seek out His Will and conform our thoughts, emotions, words, and actions to what we know He is leading us to.  Then we MUST respect the silence, the quietness with gentleness and kindness towards others.  We quietly go about showing steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, and unasked for forgiveness to whomever crosses our path, #BlackLives, #BlueLives, #AllLives, #MuslimJewishProtestantHindiCatholicAgnostic………  We leave the judging and condemning to God, who loves us with a Holy Love and who judges with Holy Condemnation.  We become His living Mystery.

Praying that each of you may step out into Evangelization with steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, and unasked for forgiveness to all whom cross your path.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment,

Joan Marie

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True Sight, Leo Buscaglia

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Leo Buscaglia, 1924-1998

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

Have you found yourself recently needing to use strategies to help soothe yourself in the chaos that surrounds us?  You may be getting in touch with your creative side by crafting, cooking, painting.  Taking a daily walk in your neighborhood to relieve the stress may be your go to rather than filling your head with the newest media crisis to befall our nation.  Perhaps, you may be taking a keen interest in keeping your home spotlessly clean and your husband has all of his laundry ironed and hung neatly color coded on his side of the closet. Trust me, I have been trying all of these strategies recently as the media continues to bombard us with the latest political scandal, terrorist attack, police officer killing and hashtag group taking it to the streets. Of recent, I have found myself filling my thoughts with the writings of Leo Buscaglia, a great educator, author and soul of the twentieth century.  I remember first seeing Dr Buscaglia on Public Broadcast System television back in the 1970’s when I was a high school student living in a small town in Ohio.  He struck me with his wisdom and desire to help those listening to him find their way to love, life, and kindness.  His stories of growing up with an Italian mama and larger than life family were interspersed with his thoughts on how we can reach our fullest potential by becoming who we truly are rather than whom others think we should be.  And always, he came back to love and touching, reaching out to others with hugs of true affection.  Watching his televised talks back then were truly magical, making me want to grow up to be just like Leo.  A person, not afraid but strong, not artificial but genuine, not cruel but kind and loving.

Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong. Leo Buscaglia

Now, all these years later, we find ourselves in a new global community.  One where nothing is hidden; no distance from the poor choices and violence of those filled with evil and weakness. It no longer feels as if the cruel are weak, but rather that evil is stronger than goodness.  Suddenly, we are forced to really search out what is right, what is fair, what is beautiful.  We must remind ourselves, daily-sometimes moment to moment, that this evil is an illusion.  Truth and love and kindness are actually all around us.

We are no longer puppets being manipulated by outside powerful forces: we become the powerful force ourselves. Leo Buscaglia

We must come to look at this ever changing world we find ourselves living in with a quiet mind and a new sight.  As those of the generation before me would say, “It’s time to put on our rose colored glasses.” This idiom means we must consciously look at the world around us not through the lens of what evil is befalling, but, rather, we look with a view of what beauty is surrounding us as everything around us suddenly comes alive with the possibility of life.  It is as if we suddenly are seeing life for the first time.  Nothing becomes insignificant.  Everything holds beauty and possibility.  The drinking in of this beauty, the magenta flower tipping towards the sun, the birdsong as morning is breaking outside our bedroom window, the tall pines with sunlight dappling through their branches, the momma holding her young babe, the love filled greeting our pooch gives us as we walk through the door, will become a healing balm to our stressed and broken souls.

I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind. Leo Buscaglia

How do we develop this sight for beauty over angst? It is a learned phenomenon which is available to anyone.  It is never to late to learn to focus on the good, the kind, the loving.It takes patience with oneself to learn a new focus of our attention to calm ourselves.  One simply must determine to make a choice for good over evil.  We must decide to create the life we want which is emboldened and filled with all the goodness God wants to bestow on us.  Being open to experiences and peoples that are different than what we may have known in the past is crucial.  Breaking down separation and division and reaching out in love to share this beautiful world with all.  For perfect love drives out fear (1John 4:18). The choice is for each of us to make.  A life full of stress in which we live at the media’s whim of all that there is to fear in this world?  A life filled with the beauty that surrounds each of us every day if only we see it with a calm mind and clear vision?

Love always creates, it never destroys. In this lies man’s only promise. Leo Buscaglia

Wishing you at this time to live with true sight to see the beauty and love that surrounds each of you.

 

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.

Joan

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Peace Pilgrim, If My People, Day 5

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Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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His desire, as I contemplate His Word for Day 5 of my If My People prayer pilgrimage for our nation, seems as if it should be that we are at peace with and in Him.  It is His desire for us to know that His plans for us are joy, and hope, and peace and a future, as individuals and as a nation.  We only need turn to Him in humility and prayer with open eyes and open hearts.  So as I think of peace and prayer and a simpler life for each of us, I am reminded of Peace Pilgrim.

“As I looked about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving.  Finally, I had to find another way.  The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one  night through the woods.  I came to a moonlit glade and prayed.  I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service.  ‘Please use me!’ I prayed to God.  A great peace came over me.”  Peace Pilgrim

Honesty with ourselves focuses our awareness on the true relationship between the actions of our body, speech, mind and the effects of these actions on our nation.  For there to be true change in our nation toward one of respect for all people we must still the distractions of our minds, such as fear and anxiety, to “grasp the truth” (Mahatma Gandhi) of how we effect our nation.  As the Dalai Lama  states, “I believe in justice and truth, without which there would be no basis for human hope.”  Most importantly, as Jesus, our Savior, has taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our God with our whole heart-mind-soul and secondly, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mathew 12:30-31)  If we are able to place our faith, our trust in God’s plan for us, then he will bring peace to our nation by our realizing that in serving and supporting others regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disabililty, we are serving Him who knows the plans He has for each of us. Where there is suffering His plan most surely calls for us to soothe it with compassion, mercy and justice.

How does one calm the anxiety, fear, anger that is so rampant among many in our nation?  The brain is a magnificent organ which is able to process thousands of subconscious stimuli while allowing us to focus on one thought at a time.  Over the course of time, these thoughts begin to flow one into the other, much like waves in the ocean.  Thoughts may be about our trying to relive a past event, worrying about future events, awareness of all that is happening in our nation from civil unrest, separation of peoples based on skin color and religious beliefs, to terrorism here and abroad.  St Paul to the Philippians (4:4-7) tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again,: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  The the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  So we are to rejoice, not show anger, worry, anxiety in the state of things which we have no control over.  We are to show kindness at all times.  For the Lord is near, we must only seek Him in others we encounter.  We are to have no anxiety, but rather we are to pray at those times we find ourselves separated from His plan for our life.  A plan of prosper, hope, a future….

“To be at one with God is to be at peace…peace is to be found only within (one’s self), and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all.  Peace lies not in the external world.  It lies within one’s own soul.”  (Ralph Waldo Trine)  Our faith in Him leads us to a path of peacemaking in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  The emergence of peace will only come about when we have learned to respect the rights of others: people, of all color, beliefs, abilities differences.  Respect is evident by our honest appraisal of our lives in relation to others, sensitivity to the injustices endured by our brothers and sisters, and experiential changes that are consciously determined by what we know to be true.  We do not turn from our own or others suffering.  Rather, we look through the lens of compassion at the reality of our nation.  In honesty, we see the injustice around us and we begin to look after ourselves and one another in a kind, sensitive, and healing manner.  We find our voice and begin to speak out in love and truth for those who cannot, ourselves included.  As Jimi Hendrix sang, “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”  Where once we routinely closed our eyes and returned to the safety of our habits and unconscious actions, we now have the ability to open our eyes to what is happening around us and respond with honest actions out of compassion.  This is our spiritual journey, moving from unconscious to conscious choices in our thoughts, words, and deeds leading to a life of simplicity and harmony.  This is our path to peace.  As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

Mildred Lisette Norman, better known as Peace Pilgrim, was just a normal person, like you and I, who took on a personal mission for the last 28 years of her life to bring awareness to peace among mankind.  On January 1, 1953, she began her personal pilgrimage for peace and walked 25,000 miles until her death on July 7, 1981.  On her pilgrimage, she vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”  She lived a simple life as a pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist.  There was no organizational backing for her pilgrimage, no hashtag label to separate her from others, and no money to provide food and shelter.  Her only belongings were literally the clothes that she wore, a  blue tunic which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 miles on foot for peace” on the back of the tunic.  Her message was simple,  “This is the way of peace:  overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”  By the end of her life, Peace Pilgrim became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and for local and national radio and television programs.  Peace Pilgrim was able to respond to the suffering she saw in the world around her by opening not only her own eyes, but those of the people around her.  She was able to bring awareness to others of the need for peace through the simple act of walking.  “No one walks so safely as those who walk humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith.”  (Peace Pilgrim)

May I simply step out with my eyes open to the suffering around and within me.  With simplicity and harmony, I seek the path of peace through my thoughts, words, and deeds, knowing that He is ever with me in my seeking.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment!

Joan

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A Slave of God, If My People, Day 4

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Deuteronomy 28:1-3 New Living Translation

28“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields will be blessed.

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If My People prayer pilgrimage, Day 4, has us really thinking about some hard stuff, mainly,  on obedience to God.  In our ego driven culture of self fulfillment, immediate gratification, monetary wealth, it is hard to think of answering to a higher being… to God.  While few of us have any trouble maxing out our credit cards and selling our soul to the banks for immediate gratification of whatever trivial thing crosses our path, we bulk at the thought that we owe our humility, our love and respect, our very existence to One Mightier than All Others… God.  

Today’s Word tells us that if we fully obey God and carefully keep all his commands, that he will bless our nation and each of us individually. In James 1:1, he begins his book with “James, the slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”  A slave of God. I have to tell you, the first time I read this verse several years ago, I was irritated.  Who wants to be a slave to anyone, including God.  If I was a slave to God, that would mean that I needed to give up who I was and become totally who God wanted me to be and continually do His bidding.  I just didn’t want to think about it as I had been existing quite happily with my compartmentalization of God to Sunday morning Mass and Thursday evening small church group with a prayer tossed in here and there.  It was a balanced life with no one even thinking of tossing me into the Bible Thumping Group.  I knew where God fit in and more importantly, God knew where He fit into my life.  It was convenient.  It was safe.  It was acceptable to the culture that I lived in.  But it wasn’t the plan He had for me, which I soon discovered entailed so much more.

A slave of God is actually found many times in the Bible.  In the Old Testament the word doulos (meaning slave, one who is subservient to and entirely at the disposal of his master) is used from ancient Greek to describe the Patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament including the following:  Moses (1 Kings 8:53), Joshua and Caleb (Joshua 2:8 and Numbers 14:24), Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Isaiah (Isaiah 20:3), Amos 3:7, Zechariah 1:6, Jeremiah 7:25.  For these men of the Bible, the title of doulos was one of honor.  Was it difficult?  Yes.  Challenges and strife along the way doing God’s work?  Definitely.  Worthwhile and meaningful?  Without a doubt.

“Obeying God to the point that we are His slave,” what does that really entail? Am I filled with images from Civil War era movies of cuffs, starvation, ill kempt, bone weary work.  Is this what God has in store when I grudgingly agree to do His bidding.  No!  Of course this is not His desire for any of us.  I have to get my heart in the right place when I think of being His slave.  I give Him my absolute obedience.  I am absolutely His possession and I agree that I will follow Him in whatever He has in store for me without thought or question.  I give Him my absolute humility.  I focus myself on my duties and obligations to God over my privilege and rights.  I give Him my absolute loyalty.  I am utterly pledged to God and to everything for His glory, not my own.  If I can fill my heart with obedience, humility and loyalty to Him who knew me before He formed me in my mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5),  He will bring blessing not curses to me.  Blessings too numerous to list here.  For being His slave is so different than being man’s slave or even slave to this battered world we live in.  He brings light into the darkness of the world (John 8:12), beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3), plans of hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

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So in this time of darkness with racial tension and ISIS and inflation and lack of jobs to the point of homelessness of many, where many children are being raised by social media and our elderly mostly forgotten, it is time to grab on to His promise that if we commit our ways to Him, trust in Him, He will act (Psalms 37:5).  He will act with justice and steadfast love and tender mercies.  He calls us to obey Him and follow His commands.  The greatest of these is to love our God with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:38).  He says love all our neighbors as our self, whether they are black, blue, Muslim, homeless, disabled, gay and on and on and on.  He does not say to pick and chose the neighbor that makes you feel most comfortable and looks like you and thinks like you and has all the same stuff you have.  No, He gives us more of a challenge today just as it was when Jesus walked among us 2,000 years ago.  Love the Pharisee. Love the Gentile. Love the Good Samaritan. Love the Police Officer. Love the Thug. Love the Woman in Burqa. Love the Transgendered Woman in the Target Bathroom.  Love the Gay Couple stating their vows.  Love. Love. Love.  Let the judging and the justice come from Him above, not from us.  Reach out your hand, though you may be filled with fear and just Love….  Then, He will place you where your doings and loving and kindness will bring the greatest glory to Him and He will then bestow you with great, magnificent blessing.

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Praying that you find that place in your heart to say, “Lord, I am your slave.  Do with me as you wish.”

May you find peace and gratitude in every moment.

Joan

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Peace of God, If My People, Day 3

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Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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It is with a heavy heart that I begin my blog tonight for Day 3 of If My People forty days of prayer for our nation.  Sadly, as most have heard already, another heinous act of violence has occurred in Nice, France, during their Bastille Day celebrations earlier today.  A terrorist drove a lorry into people leaving the fireworks display, killing 80, injuring 100 with 18 of those in intensive care at last count.  Ismail Khalidi, an American-Palestinian writer, described the scene immediately following the attack in these words, “I’ve never seen a stampede like that. I have never seen that level of chaos and hysteria and terror and a total lack of information about what’s going on.”  Now, both presidential candidates are speaking of the US engaging in war against the terrorists though using different strategies.  My heart aches with sadness at the incomprehensible, unwarranted violence that we as a global community are once again faced with tonight.  Trying to make sense of the senseless and feeling the anxiety of “if them, then me.”  When will we start seeing this type of violence on our streets?

In my Bible reading today, I came across this verse Job 37:1-2At this my heart trembles and leaps out of its place.  Listen to his angry voice and the rumble that comes forth from his mouth.”  Though Job is describing God and His Majestic thunderous voice which brings marvels to all under the heavens, it feels like Job is describing the terrorists who we see across all medias with their angry voice rumbling, roaring their hate-filled, venomous ideology at those who are different than they. There is great evil in the world as we have seen in our country since terrorism began to effect us directly on 9/11.  And we tremble with anxiety and fear at it.

So we come to Him with our anxiety, our fear, our grief and tears.  St Paul says to us in today’s Word, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your request be known to God.”  St Paul gives us a way to overcome our anxiety, our fear, our frustration with the way our world is going; we are to hand it over to God.  For He is capable of bringing great change to our world and unsurpassable peace to our hearts. He is aware that the world will have trouble, but we might have peace in Him as He has conquered the world (John 16:33).  So we humble ourselves and bow to Him, pleading for mercy, grace, protection.  Then we wait until we hear once “again His voice roar, His majestic voice thunder; He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.  God thunders forth marvels with His voice; He does great things beyond our knowing.” (Job 37:4-5).  As in Egypt in the time of Moses, God now hears the cries of His People in bondage to the fear of terrorism which is plaguing our world.  He will answer our prayers for an end to this evil and  He will bring us peace just as He freed the Hebrews from the Egyptians.

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We live in a world of great evil.  However, when I calm myself by being in God’s presence in prayer and spending time in His Word, I know in my very being that there is greater love, greater goodness, greater mercy to be seen.  I recall these words from the movie Love Actually, General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Though we saw once again a very disturbed man bring great evil to innocent lives, I encourage all of us to be anxious for nothing.  To come to God with our prayers and supplications and with thanksgiving give Him our fear, our frustration and our anxiety over terrorism and world events.  Knowing that when I give my God who is almighty all that I am, He will give me His peace, which surpasses all understanding and guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

Praying for His Peace to wrap around each of us and the people of France tonight so that the God of hope (will) fill (each of) us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.

Joan

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Eternal rest grant unto them who passed in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen.

Call to Me, If My People, Day 2

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Jeremiah 33:3  Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

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God’s phone number, Jeremiah 33:3.  Thirty-three three. 333.  His Word that tells us to call out to Him and He will answer by showing us great and mighty things.  It is what a group of my friends, family, and myself are doing for these next forty days.   Day 2 of my If My People prayer pilgrimage finds me thinking about calling on God and quieting my fears and anger enough to actually hear what He is saying to me in regards to the crisis our nation now finds itself in.

Calling out to God.  Asking, begging, His Holy Spirit to bring guidance to the citizens of our nation.  We are wounded, non-communicative, angry people who have become so used to the separation, segregation, discrimination that we have become blinded to it.  Terms being tossed around right now include things like “white privilege,” “post traumatic slave syndrome,” and the like.  Then we deal with #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, #LoveAboveAll, and so forth.  All these labels tossed around bringing confusion, and denial, and irritation, and frustration across all peoples in our nation, whose main difference among them is that some have more pigment in their skin than others.  And where has it gotten us on our own… just more separation and confusion and anger.  More death and violence.  Fear; that perfect love is finding challenging to overcome these days (1 John 4:18).  God is quite specific in His Word about calling out to Him.  Just look at Psalm 86:3, “Have mercy on me, O’Lord, for I call you all day long.  and Psalm: 145:18, . , “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” Even Jonah was told by the ship captain, “How can you sleep?  Get up and call on your God.” (Jonah 1:6).   As a nation, are we sleeping  like Jonah rather than looking to God to show us great and mighty things for our country?  Who among us is calling out to God? Who is crying out for healing and guidance for our people?  Calling aloud?  Roaring to God about the fright and the injustice that is filling our news stories and social media?  Is it you?  Is it me? James tells us that “We do not hear because we do not ask God.” (James 4:2).  It is time to start asking Him what He desires for our nation to bring glory to Him.  People, I seriously doubt it is more labels, more hashtags, more violence, more death.  Just sayin’…

We must shout out to God now.  Then we must quiet ourselves and let go of what we think we are going to hear from Him.  We must listen, quietly, for His still small voice to answer us.  The Lord will hear us when we call to Him (Psalm 4:3) and will answer us.  Getting on our knees, grabbing our Bible and rosary, and crying out to Him is not the hard part.  The challenge in all of this is to let go of a lifetime of beliefs, thoughts, feelings of what it means to have a relationship with people who are different than us…  Them….  The challenge will be to listen to what He tells us that He wants for our nation and follow His leading in this regard.  I read in a post today from a social media “friend” that she is approaching people of color and apologizing for what us “privileged whites” have done to them.  I was outraged when I read what she is doing.  All I could think of is “How dare she speak for us… for me.”  And what is this response…. Ego, fear, anger…plain and simple.  Why not in this time of great racial tension approach those who are different and offer an olive branch of love, kindness, humility?  As Mother Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as listing many things in life that are hard to do and then she admonishes us to do them anyway.   I’m sure it was hard for my friend to say to perfect strangers that she was sorry for the discrimination that they have had to live with, but she did it anyway.  Who am I to not offer this kindness to those around me.  For me, this is the hard stuff.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God waved a magic wand and made it so that we did not have to humble ourselves with one another. Alas, He is quite clear in yesterday’s Word of 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people… humble themselves and pray…”  Humbling oneself is difficult in our culture of “I am the center of the universe and can do and say what I want regardless of the effect it may have on another.”  Yet we must keep in our very heart the following thought:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control will beget only more self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, forbearance, peace, joy, and love (Galations 5:22-23).

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Encouraging you to keep God’s phone number close at hand.  Feel free to use it any and all times these next forty days.  Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:15) and listen for God’s response.  He will do mighty and wondrous things for our country and bring true healing to all our citizens.  All we need do is ask.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment on our prayer pilgrimage for our beautiful country.

Joan

 

 

 

Seek My Face, If My People, Day 1

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2 Chronicles 7:14 If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

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My forty days of prayer for our nation began today.  Out of the gate, I am already called to ponder that which fears me the most, differences among people.  Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the verse that my friends and I have been praying over today has a number of “if you” behaviors performed by us, “then I” consequences from God.  If we as Christians humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from sin, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land.  Sounds simple enough.  Except for the fear part.

My family of origin is white bread all the way.  I grew up in a small town where we had one  black family attend our school for maybe six months total.  I once met a Jewish kid at an summer theater program.  Other than that, we were all white, Christian, and nondisabled in the area of town I lived in.  Back in those days- before social media created a global community within our world, there was absolutely no discussion of homosexuality and no one even knew about transgender issues.  Just all of us the same, day in and day out.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there was a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and abilities and lifestyles in the world.  Life was not all white bread.  It was wheat, rye, pumpernickel, and even a touch of sour dough.  And it was beautiful.  I thought that I was living the dream, free of distant family prejudices and fears, unfounded beliefs of differences.  To me separation and segregation and discrimination were just words that had no bearing on my life and thus I assumed were not real to other people.

Then 9/11 happened.  The illusion of safety our country lived with was broken.  America was vulnerable and life became us and them.  Them being terrorist, people of the Muslim religion.  My first moments of discrimination leaking through when my husband hired a Muslim man to work in his lab and I asked why he would hire this man after the planes had just taken down The Towers.  His reply was “Mohamed wasn’t a terrorist on the planes.”  Come to find out Mohamed’s family had suffered tremendously under Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.  Mohamed showing way more courage than I could ever have when forced to enter the country secretively to check on his mother with the real threat of being caught and killed for doing so. However, fear is strong and it comes to all who lend a blind eye to it.  I felt comfortable with my fear of Muslims, terrorists, ISIS.  Who in our country was not afraid of these people?

Then Trayvon was killed and suddenly we had #BlackLivesMatter.  I could not figure this one out in my thinking.  Of course black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.  To me, there was no white privilege.  There was no discrimination as I knew and had heard over and over that there were laws to protect black people from being discriminated against.  Then Dallas happened and sixteen innocent police officers were shot, five of whom died (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarirpa, Brent Thompson), at the hands of an obviously mentally ill, hate filled man who chose evil over good, violence over peace at a #BlackLivesMatter protest rally over the recent deaths of two black men in two different states, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.  This was the moment, when many of us opened our eyes and realized that we as a nation are severely wounded.  Prejudice and discrimination are still alive and well in our country. Suddenly it was time to pray, pray, pray.

So today I’m looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 and I keep focusing on “seek my face.”  The quiet whispering of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to place my faith in God’s perfect love to cast out my fear (1John 4:18) when seeking God’s face.  Seeking God’s face seems insurmountable as 1John 4:12 tells us that “no one has ever seen God”. but we are to find hope in His promise that “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1John 4:12).  If God’s love is in us, then we may seek the face of God in those around us; others met in our day to day lives, strangers and loved ones alike, those who look like us and those who are very different from us.  It is easy to seek God in those I love and am familiar with. However, God challenges me to seek Him in those who are different than me, whose race, religion, culture, sexuality are not the same as mine.  This challenge has been overshadowed with feelings of fear and indifference sadly by many in our nation.  But our God remains in us and others, nonetheless.  He never leaves nor forsakes us, calling us to be brave and courageous in our seeking of Him (Deuteronomy 31:6).  It is through God’s grace, my intention to find Him in those very different from me, and with prayer that I seek and find Him in others.  If I can overcome my fear of those different from me, I can transform my heart.  In transforming my heart, I can transform my life.  In transforming my life, I can transform the world.  Prayer, grace, intention these three things, but the greatest of these is love.  Perfect love that casts out my fear of those who are different than me and allows me to seek the Face of God in all….

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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May you always seek the face of God and may you always be blessed with recognizing His face in the faces of others.

Wishing you gratitude and peace in every moment, Joan

 

 

 

 

You, Jesus, Complete Me.

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Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6. God Completes What he Starts. Art Within the Ar

Artwork by Mark Lawrence, Copyright.  The Battlefield of the Mind Collection inspired by Joyce Meyers.

Giving my heart to him again and receiving his special words to my soul.  Music that made me dance and music that made me cry.  Witnessing that got to the heart of the matter of the struggle to follow His footsteps.  Quiet time to sort out my life and pray and find buttercups in full bloom in the grotto of the retreat center.  Reconciliation to give Him my sorrow over poor choices in the past and present and to find forgiveness.   This was my past weekend at our Parish Woman’s Retreat.

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Buttercups in the Grotto.

Sunday morning, as I entered the chapel, I realized that I had not yet signed the altar cloth and it was “last call” so to speak.  So up I headed, purple fine line marker in hand with final instructions that I could leave a message if I so desired with my name.  I stood pondering what message to leave on an altar cloth that will be brought back to the retreat year after year.  What words to write in this tiny little space that I found had not been written on yet….  It came to me fairly quickly.  The Bible promise that I have held on to since those early days of parenting and MOPS and not knowing what I was doing with my life and being filled with anxiety and struggles just to make ends meet while my husband finished medical school.  The promise that He would complete me, Philippians 1:6.  So I wrote on the altar cloth the simple sentence with a prayer that it would bless the other women present now and to come:

You, Jesus, complete me.  Joan Marie 2016

I headed back to my seat and waited for the big group celebration and then Mass to close out our retreat.  As they had all week-end, our group celebration began with a Bible verse.  Surprisingly it went like this:  “A Letter from St Paul to the Philippians.  ‘I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ..And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.'” Simply put, it was my God promise that I had just prayed over my sisters in Christ not ten minutes earlier.

While I sat there contemplating the meaning of this “coincidence,” the group went on to sharing time.  Woman after woman bravely standing and speaking into a microphone sharing what the retreat had meant to them.  Woman after woman sharing their struggle, their lepers, their pain.  Sexual molestation, substance abuse, death…  I sat listening with my own struggles and heard that small, still voice saying to me “speak My promise to these woman.”  Alas, I am not so brave as to stand in front of just shy of 200 woman and be vulnerable.  I just could not bring myself to raise my hand, though I tried and tried to gather up the courage to say what I knew He wanted me to say.  For that I am sorrowful.

So I am here saying to each of you, now, in this place to take courage.  Do not see yourself as the leper whom others fear.  Do not look at yourself only through your pain and struggles feeling that you are the only one.  We all have pain and struggles.  We all have death and illness and abuses somewhere in our lives or the lives of loved ones whom we care for.  Suffering comes to all of us.  But He, the one who created us, bore our sins, and overcame the sting of death, looks down on us with steadfast love and tender mercies and He completes each of us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  He is in each of us helping us through whatever suffering this life brings by giving us whatever it is we lack to get through it.  I am small, weak, and cowardly.  Yet, with his merciful heart and outstretched arms, Jesus wraps Himself around me in those moments of suffering and weakness and completes me so that I am able to stand strong and brave and proclaim His love to all my suffering Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  He promises to do this for you as well.

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Praying that each of you can find the confidence to know in your very being that He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus, as well.

Amen, Joan Marie

“Little Ways” of Love: Holy Monday, 2015

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Isaiah 61:1-2 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly….”

Do you have a Facebook account or other social media?  Did you ever friend a family member or acquaintance whom you might not have known well, but felt obligated to include them in your circle of social media?  Did they have a different fundamental belief in some area than you and played their God card only for you to be outraged at the error of their beliefs?  Did it get ugly with name calling, blocking, and other outrageousness?  Yeah, I dealt with this last week-end.  Sadly,  Indiana has recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  I wish the people of Indiana had listened to Pope Francis when he stated,  “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” — Interview aboard the Papal Plane after World Youth Day in Brazil.  Discrimination is wrong and not of God, simply put.  I cannot wrap my head around interpreting this bill any other way.  Trust me, I have heard it all from devout Christians in my social media circle as well as those in my immediate family who felt the need to defend this act on my Facebook wall.  I fear that until the Supreme Court takes an interest and rules on whether sexual orientation is a civil right, we will continue to struggle with this new discrimination based on the right of the individual to refuse to service another based on their own religious interpretation.  It is saddening.

Which brings me to our Bible passage which is being pondered by Catholics around our world this Holy Monday, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the most important of all holidays in our faith, Easter.  Originally, Isaiah, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, shared these verses as he proclaimed what God had anointed him as a prophet with a job to do.  Jesus in Nazareth cited Isaiah 61:1-2 when he stood before His people and after reading the verses, He announced “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18).  Naturally, that did not go over very well with those who had come to the service as they were expecting a Messiah that would come in glory and strength, not a local carpenter who came from an unwed mother.  I am sure that news like that tended to stay around for awhile, small town mentality and all.  (How dare that Jesus think he is the Messiah.  I heard that Mary and Joseph weren’t married when he was begot. No way is he even capable of the job we need done in a Messiah.   Yada, yada.)They did not realize that in the most humblest of circumstances the greatest of God’s purposes are accomplished for His glory.  Thus His Son, the Messiah, was indeed begot by a young, unwed virgin and born in the lowliest of circumstances to the poorest of poor among the people.

So Jesus announces and confirms His mission statement in Nazareth, repeating the words of Isaiah that He has come and with the Spirit of the Lord’s anointing He has been sent to cheer, heal, proclaim, release and announce.  If this is His mission, we as His believers, must find this to be our mission as well.  We are sent to do all these things as we are now His hands, His feet, His heart here on Earth.

So I ask, how is it that we are to cheer the lowly?  Who are the lowly?  The poor in spirit?  Do I trust Him enough to let go of whatever my agenda is to be anointed by Him to perform this cheering which He has called me to?  I am reminded of Mother Theresa of Calcutta stating “God did not put me down here to be successful.  He put me down here to be faithful.”  So it is with each of us.  We must walk in faith and give up our successes and agendas and perceptions on who is deserving of our respect and we must serve others.  Even if this means in Indiana looking past whatever behavior you do not respect, and simply loving and serving the person in front of you, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.

How do we serve the lowly, whether in actuality or perceived lowliness?  St Therese of Lisieux, a Catholic saint who lived in the mid 1800’s, is known for her Little Ways.  She taught through example that the way for each of us who wants to serve God, need look no further than littleness, simplicity and love.  It is not necessary that we all perform great sacrifices or mighty works to accomplish bringing good tidings to the lowly.  If we live our life doing for others in love and obedience to His calling, we are showing love in the “Little Ways.”  Matthew 18:3 tells us that Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  We must become child-like in our love, devotion, and care of our fellow man.  We must eat with the sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors and homosexuals, without hesitation.  Daily we must attend to them in the little things.  For it is in the little, day to day interactions that we show God’s great love for His glory to our brothers and sisters.  Those whom the world has time and time again tried to infer that they are less than.  The friends of Jesus.  As He did even though it led to His Walk of Sorrow on Good Friday.  For that we give Him our thanks, our love, our life.  Because had He refused to serve those whom He felt were lower than He, none of us would ever have risen with Him on Easter morning, anointed and forgiven and much loved by a Father who had spent an eternity to love us.