Keep it secret, keep it safe

Drama is an item that most of us would like to avoid in our lives. Unfortunately, it seems extremely difficult to avoid. In my own life, recently, I have been meditating on this dilemma and have recorded some of my personal revelation that will hopefully keep my future woes at a minimum. My intent in sharing is that you might gain insight from mistakes and personal experience.

Keep it secret, keep it safe

My first personal insight is never place yourself in the situation in the first place. If you have something no one needs to know, then don’t tell. It is unfair to burden any neighbor with one of your secrets. I mean simply, if you don’t want the neighborhood to know, then don’t tell your neighbor. Eventually the truth will come out. It may be through ill intention, the “exception” rule (“she” wouldn’t mind me telling you), or like when Lucy’s sister Anne outs her secret with an absent minded blurt. Misfortune and shame now rest on their heads. However, how can you hold them in dishonor when you yourself clearly could not do? If you can not keep your very own secret is it really honest to expect someone else too?

Anne Steele absentmindedly outs her sister…

Resist the inner urge…

It doesn’t take long when involved in any social settings to hear the whispers of gossip. Resist urges to ask for more details and walk away from the group. Think of the Proverbs that says a fire goes out for lack of fuel. If someone says to you, “pray for Janice,” a simple positive response will suffice. If you know Janice is ill then maybe a quick “how is she doing?” may be appropriate but in most cases if we are honest any question more is merely digging for ‘dirt.”

A fire goes out for lack of wood…

Believe me, when I maintain that I have no perfection in this area. Indeed, this article is in fact, a determined effort on my part to commit to my own memory the points I am making. Oversharing, I am convinced, is my charism. In the right group of people I can sink my own battleship in order to make a meaningful connection with others.

Unfortunately,  we find our presence in the midst of toxic people that can’t wait to collect more gossip. They are only using a disordered means to achieve community. These “communities” explode and come back together over and over. Break the cycle and resist the urge to offer or ask for more information then you need.

Remember, be wise with yourself and others. Don’t place the burden of secrecy on people who are dealing with troubles of their own. Life is too short to lose every friendship by placing a burden of the knowledge of good and evil on others. We’ve all made mistakes in our relationships. We are called to give and receive mercy. The Lord’s Prayer remind us that we are forgiven as we forgive others.

Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well.

Proverbs 10: 19 NABRE

Lead a quiet life…

And that you use your endeavour to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you; and that you walk honestly towards them that are without, and that you want nothing of any man’s. 1 Thessalonians 4:11

What if you didn’t have to tell anyone your testimony? That sharing your personal back story of how Christ ministered to you doesn’t have to be made public. Your test doesn’t have to become your testimony. What if telling your story would cause more harm than good to people you love and have forgiven? No where in scripture does it tell you that you have an obligation to share your personal encounter with Christ. As a matter of fact, several times we find Christ telling a few people not to tell anyone about their healing.

If you, like me, have struggled for years how to share, write, explain your story to others because you have felt obligated and pressured that this is what every person who loves Jesus does; then my Advent gift to you is a “get out of jail free”card. You are free NOT to share your personal details with everyone. There is not a requirement to air your dirty laundry for the gospel

Mary & Joseph lived a quiet life of faithful activity. There isn’t one word recorded from the lips of Joseph. He didn’t write his autobiography. While there are many apocryphal works about the life of Mary – Mary, herself, never wrote her story down. Their lives were humble and their righteousness speaks into our current generation by example and deed.

Relax… feel free to live a faithful life and know that God himself is pleased by your daily sacrifices.

The value of repetitious prayer to the broken-hearted…

Desperation had settled in, life was nothing more than an angry struggle. The ability to handle the myriad of situations I found myself in seemed insurmountable and my tears were constantly flowing (some good, lots bad). The worst was the dross coming to the surface in my own heart during these crises. In the middle of the night, my hurt and angry thoughts would keep me awake, unable to find rest for the never ending thought process going on in my mind. The cycle perpetuated. Inward reflections revealed, once again, how far I actually was from being like the one whom my soul adored, Jesus. As a lifelong Christian I was drowning in sorrow at the recognition of my own lack of spiritual fruit. It felt like I hit an insurmountable wall.

The wall, the stone – I recognized it –  and I certainly had fallen on Him and was broken to pieces…

But Jesus looked directly at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Luke 20:17-18

I found myself leaving the pharisee’s side and retreating to a distance as a tax collector. Standing before the wall I could barely lift my eyes heavenward…”Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It was all I could pray for far longer than a year (and still pray). It was all I could say when I woke up in the middle of the night tortured by the turmoil. I repeated it over and over and over until the words, like a dove cooing in the nest, began to settle in my soul. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.”

My prayer life was taking flight, I began reciting the Lord’s prayer from my heart too. My own words seemed so futile and empty. In the middle of the Lord’s prayer I could barely choke through forgiving the trespasses of others. My prayer life had now grown to a cycle of  three prayers: The Jesus Prayer, the Lord’s prayer and the prayer of overcoming unbelief. (Jesus, I believe! Help my unbelief.)  These formed a perfect circle in my soul. I could go to Him now at any time and pour out my own heart through these prayers and come away refreshed by His grace.

These prayers, in these years, have been my life support, they have been echoed through the ages by other Christians. The Lord has heard my cry to teach me how to pray by giving me the prayers of the church.  I’m living them and breathing them over and over again like the persistent widow. They are healing, strengthening, teaching, and directing me through Christ our Lord who has given us every good gift…even the gift of repetitious prayer.

Where I can see your face…

A little four year old boy follows me around throughout the day. Often times, it is a little inconvenient that he is always under my foot. He wants to be on my lap and in the middle of what I’m doing. Even more recently, he has taken to sitting on the table or counter in front of where I am working.

He just sits there smiling at me…

Even though I may be busy, I notice this happy face beaming at me. It amazes me that I’m such a big part of his world that all he wants to do is be right with me. There are no tablets, phones, or even television that are attracting him. He just sits in my presence. Spontaneous hugs and kisses often break out with a little voice saying, “You’re so cute, Momma.” I must confess that I eat this up! He pours grace into my soul with his adoration.

My child, I delight in you…

I look on this sweet face and I delight in him. The joy he brings me, this sparkling gift from God! As much as I delight in my boy, the Lord has shown me that mine can never compare to His. How our world would change if our hearts could fully grasp of the love of God for us. How difficult it is to move from knowing to understanding.

Maybe if we followed Him around and made it a point to sit where we could see His face then we would understand.

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NRSV

On Feeling Overwhelmed

Sitting at a table full of ladies one woman dared to pour her heart out.

It took courage and humility for her to share that she was past the point of feeling overwhelmed. Daily duties, demands of children, lack of wisdom, and lack of real rest had driven her to this point. Many of us sat there sympathizing and some of us reached over and offered reassurance as one lady said, “Any feelings of being overwhelmed is simply sin. You are lacking trust in God. Needing help with our children or duties is simply selfishness.” It felt like a hard slap to the face but she was so respected among these woman that I took what she said to heart. I felt that her advice must be correct because of her piety and without further ado we all straightened our shoulders and sucked it in to keep up appearances. After all, we didn’t want to appear faithless to our faith community.

That day had a profound effect on me.

It became a source of my own silent mental abuse. Anytime I found myself tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed instead of having the freedom to ask for help I reminded myself that if I said anything that everyone would doubt my trust in God. I suffered in silence after that and observed that reaching for help only resulted in condemnation. I’m sure many of the other ladies also came away with the same conclusion.

Three things you need to know about being overwhelmed…

The first thing I want to stress about this entire situation was how wrong it is to imply that feelings are sin. Feelings are not sin. As the Catechism teaches, “in themselves passions (feelings) are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will.” In this case, the feeling of being overwhelmed  lead to the engagement of reason and will when this lady admitted she needed help. The outside response of our reason and will should have been a call to prayer and to acts of charity on this woman’s behalf in order to alleviate her present distress. Prayer and great nap without children in the house would have went  a long way.

ask for it

The second thing I want to stress is that even people who are striving to follow God can miss the mark and give very bad spiritual advice.  Advice they don’t even practice! It was years before I realized this. She hired house cleaners, went on vacations several times a year, and hired babysitters when she wanted to go on a retreat or religious studies. It was a case of do what I do instead of listen to what I say.  If you need help, find it! If you need a break, take it! Don’t make my same mistake. Make sure that you aren’t following ungodly wisdom! Ask God to show you the right way and be sure you are willing to pay attention to what He shows you.

The last thing I want to stress is when you feel overwhelmed that we have recourse to one who hears us. We can cry to Him for help because He is our towering rock of safety.  If you reach out to someone and you meet puritanical condemnation don’t be discouraged. There are others who will respond to your reach with love and understanding. After all, we are called to bear one another’s burdens.

judge

Grace not perfection…

Picking a word for the upcoming year is fast increasing in popularity in the ladies groups I frequent. It is a concept I love as it can describe, give a goal, or be a source of inspiration for the year at hand. Last year my word was silence; not the kind of silence that lacks sound but the kind where you stand before God like Job with nothing to say and only ears to hear. I stumbled into my word rather eventfully in 2017. There was all this realization of the lack of what I expected to be by the time I reach my 40’s. Every thing I thought my life would look as a woman of God was undone and all I could see was failure. And I was sorry… sorry for it all; lack of wisdom and lack of love. This was the year I realized exactly how broken and wounded we all are, even as Christians, in our struggle towards the finish line. That when one falls in front of you it can have a domino effect and instead of stopping like a good Samaritan to help we run away like a pharisee or worse stop to kick them while they are down. I slowed my pace and I had to stop looking at the runners – suddenly I was slowly jogging by myself. The sound of the pavement under my feet, my breath in the air as my lungs heaved up and down and I strained my tear filled eyes really hard to see the reward at the end of the finish line. There was a silence in my soul… because when you fail what else can you do but be silent?

Yet by the end of Decmeber I began to hear something new… it wasn’t just one word but a phrase.

And these quotes started coming from everywhere… 

I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.” – George MacDonald

Beware of despairing about yourself you are commanded to place your trust in God not in yourself.”              -St. Augustine

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“The best teacher, failure is…” -Yoda (The Last Jedi)

So this year, to borrow from my Pentecostal past,  I found my Rhema word. The word the Holy Spirit is speaking to me for the year of 2018…

 

Grace, not perfection…

 

Give it to yourself, give it to others

Look at the weakness in yourself and others

and contemplate the mystery of

God’s power made perfect.

 

May Christ’s power rest on you this coming year and the ones to come…

 

Hold on, I’m Coming

The time of Advent symbolizes the long journey of man marked by sin,  sorrow, contrition, and repentance. It is the reason for the coming arrival of our Messiah, our rescuer. For many, this year, it seems there will be no joy to the world. Sorrow threatens to overcome and the silent night broken by the sound of weeping. When the words, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!” pour from broken hearts we begin to truly realize why Jesus came. Sorrow, faults, and shame cause us to despair. However, it is through these “happy” faults our hope for forgiveness and restoration become tangible and the need for a Savior woefully understood. Instead of despairing we can shift perspectives and celebrate that our happy faults have gained for us so great a Redeemer!

How kind was God when he looked on us in our misery and sent salvation into the world through His Son. Our present condition is the reason for the coming arrival of our Messiah, our rescuer. May the anticipation and celebration of His coming now and in the future bring you peace and bring you rest. Take heart all you who mourn and wait in exile, Christmas can, after all, belong to those who grieve.

May the circumstances and events of life continue to drive us to deeply appreciate and cherish the birth of Jesus Christ,  our source of hope. Cast all your burdens upon Him and He will give you rest.

 

May He wrap you in His arms & bring you

courage, peace, & joy as God reminds us…

“Hold on, I’m coming”

 

Living icons

Life is too short right now to write well but let me spell it out bullet point style something I’ve come to understand in the past month. (Putting it here because I need to document it.) You may be spiritually WAY ahead of me so be patient with me as I’m still connecting the dots.
  1. An icon by definition is a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something. We often find icons in churches, whether it be a representation of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a wooden cross, American & Christian flags, or even a Bible on a pedestal. This lead to me thinking and contemplating about the word image because many things (like paintings of Jesus, or George Washington crossing the Delaware are also considered an images)
  2. So then I realized, and the thesaurus agreed, that the words icon and image are synonymous.
  3. The word image made me think of Genesis 1 – when God made an image of himself in mankind. “In His image he made them, male and female.” Simply put… WE are the image of God – His living icon.
  4. Which brought to mind the commandments, specifically seen in Exodus 20 (which you can click here for the link to) Basically, God said, don’t try to make an image of me and worship it. Why not make an image of Him for worship? Well, because He already had… Remember Genesis 1 >> And while I am certainly not advocating for self worship or worship of others as God there is something to be revealed here.
  5. Interestingly enough… God told us also not to take His name in vain which made me also think of another time when Jesus said not to call another man, “Raca” (fool) or you would be in danger of the fires of hell. Could this be because we are the image of God? Which leads to my next point…
  6. Therefore, the two greatest commands – which is a summary of ALL the law – boil down to “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. If we show God our loves for Him it means we keep his commandments and keeping his commandments require that we love our neighbor as well as we love ourselves. After all…
  7. Christ told us that whatever we do to the least of these my brethren – you have done it unto me, the God-Man. 

A mother’s insight into the heart of God: toddlers and cooking…

My toddler begged me to eat breakfast from the moment he awoke this morning. I had already planned to make sausage links and grits. As I stood at the stove he cried unhappy tears because he wanted to eat RIGHT now. Trying to talk sense into him to be patient because I was cooking and he was soon to be fed didn’t help. Smiling down at his distressed state I picked him up and put him on the counter which improved his attitude tremendously.

And there was this silent whisper… “How many times have you cried impatiently while “I cooked?”

 

We dare not ask to see…

There is nothing like watching a loved one die to suddenly make every thing you ever disagreed on petty and pointless. What seemed so important now just mocks you as you stare at the ceiling in the dark. Months afterward you sit in the silence of the aftermath; your eyes adjusting to an entirely new perspective.

Every thing you ever held against any one, their faults, commissions, or omissions of behavior become more and more a man of straw –  like labor pain after a babies birth – it no longer matters. In their weakness you see clearly because suddenly it is so clear at how helpless we truly are. How we would have changed things if we would have only had the power.  How we misunderstood one another. Realizing that our anger is only an effort to manipulate disliked behavior of another person instead of seeking to give it to God. I sit conflicted, confused and disappointed at my vast waste of  misdirected passions. Wondering why I was unable to see it all before. Wishing that I, too, could change past behavior in the clarity of suffering.

Words… they matter so little and so much.  They fall short, they make me weary and sad. Often, they are only full of a lack of love and understanding. We debate, argue, and turn our back but to what end? At the end of the day we will look in the mirror and see ourselves for what we truly are;  many things we held so tightly in our hand will only be straw. We’re sinners who can’t love. Faultfinders with a multitude of faults. Pointing fingers, rejection, perceived hurts… a desire for justice… for vengeance. Anger and love wrestle… the flesh… the blood…  forgiveness versus justice.

We think we know so much looking through these dark glasses; we think we see… Does God really care about loveless and empty arguments? Will my entrance to heaven be obtained by passing a 20 page exam on theology? Or will I have met the criteria to love God and my neighbor as myself? Will my love cover a multitude of faults or will I follow the path of the pharisees?  Do we dare to love and do we dare to actually see before it is too late…