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.

Ahren’s Baptism

Many times our faith isn’t defined until a critical moment…

the birth of our stillborn son was such a moment.

Faced with such a grievous time… at the edge of his grave on that hot June day in 2000… my hand shot out as I held them back from pouring in the dirt… and I laid down at the edge and grabbing the nearest bottle of water I poured it into my hand and baptized our son, Ahren Elijah, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Because just a year earlier I learned something about baptism that I had never before heard. It had to do with the word sacrament and God’s grace. It had to do with the remission of sin. Initially, I had rejected it and an entire year went by without much thought about it anymore.

On that day push came to shove

But on the day of Ahren’s burial, as I looked down at that tiny casket, my heart being welled up with sorrow, I could not bury this little boy without the blessing of divine grace. Beside the grave- in one of the most heart breaking moment of my life- I could not release my son into eternity. When push came to shove I found that I believed wholeheartedly in the Sacrament of Baptism – namely, that baptism removed the stain of original sin from his tiny body.

No doubts

And since that day I’ve had no doubts or delusions about the power of the grace bestowed through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. When the day comes that your faith is tested, by God’s grace, you’ll know what you believe.

Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5

But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.3 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.

Acts 2:38-39

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

Woman is the glory of the man…

In past years our family attended churches that promoted “Biblical Patriarchy.” I fully realize now that this is an extremely unbalanced view of scripture. It sees the father as the head of the home (not necessarily bad in itself) but by default it devalues the authority and truly Biblical role and value of a woman. The woman’s role is considered completely subservient and that she can’t make any wise decisions apart from the head of the family whether it be spouse or father.

Beautiful artwork for coloring over at Look to Him and be Radiant!

This is a concept completely contradicted by the presence of Mary who spoke for herself her “fiat.” She didn’t consult her father or her fiance to ask permission. God did not force Himself upon her. She consented to what God asked of her with a willing heart despite the negative impact this would obviously mean for her within her community and her family.

It is no wonder that certain Reformed and Mennonite communities ignore and downplay Mary’s beautiful role in our salvation.  Some go so far as to avoid mentioning Mary at all. They balk with fear and cry, “Mariolatry!” Esteeming Mary would be to promote ideals contrary to how they treat woman who are UNDER them. This call to be like Christ and serve their wife.  Recall Christ’s words that the greatest should become the servant of all. That Christ, himself, knelt and washed feet. As husband and wife we are supposed to outdo one another in showing honor. Husbands are supposed to esteem their wives!

Thus a man and a woman, who by the marriage covenant of conjugal love ‘are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Mt 19:6) render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions.” Gaudium et Spes (48)

“Biblical Patriarchy” is a disease concocted by controlling men who would warp the image of marriage for their own personal advantage (female slavery).  To certain patriarchal types woman are all still “evil Eve” and always will be. They swagger in their glorified position over woman as if they are somehow wiser and holier because they are men. They make that position known by ignoring the woman under their “pastoral” care resulting in a severely crippled and joyless church.

Marriage and family relationship are SO much more full and beautiful then how “biblical patriarchy” presents it. It has been a huge weight lifted to be out of that bondage. After many years of this type of treatment in the churches I began to feel depressed and of no value to God.  I wondered as a wife or mother if I was unable to  accurately teach my children how to live a Godly life because I had heard the vain and silly woman argument so many times. (Never mind Godly woman such as Timothy’s mother and grandmother also were in the New Testament.)

Then one day I started to study Mary, the mother of God. What a sign of contradiction! Here was a woman who loved God more than she feared man. Here was a woman who taught Jesus to pray, who admonished Him in front of the elders of the temple, who beseeched her Son for compassion at Cana. A woman who boldly stayed at the foot of the cross when all the men but one fled! Here was a woman to be called blessed! A woman who was bold, strong, commanding, and submissive! Words that I was taught do not belong together in a woman’s vocabulary. Mary has deepened my understanding of what it means to be a woman after God’s own heart.

Thank you Mary, for your humble example to us. Pray for us that we may be truly woman who fear God and not man. Pray for us that the work of our hands would be pleasing to God. Pray for us that we would be servants of the Lord regardless of what that means for our reputation and our comfort. Pray for us that our marriages would reflect Christ and His Church.

A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head,because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.

1 Corinthians 11:7

 

 

Of fig leaves & my first confession

Moving through the liturgy towards Lent and Easter as a candidate for this Easter Vigil is very poignant. Preparing for my first confession this coming weekend, sobering. 

Related imageAs a protestant I acknowledged that I had sin but I never sat down and made an inventory about the seriousness of them. Generalizing all sin into one simple thoughtless prayer without real reflection, rationalizing that all  were “under the blood.” It seems foolish now that I could ignore the seriousness of the issues and continue in Christ without honest transparency, even if just with myself. Examining the conscious is painfully uncomfortable, terribly embarrassing, and extremely sobering. I haven’t even arrived into the confessional but at this point, actually saying them seems like it could be the easy part.

During the process of examination I have found that the temptation to follow the practice of Eve alive and well.  It’s easier to pass the blame of sin onto the next person. The positive side to this reflection, as an adult,  was that I was able for the first time to realize the progress I have made in my walk with the Lord.  There are sins I’ve conquered and ways I’ve grown and become “less a sinner” than before. In the midst of humility God brings you joy. It feels good to come out from hiding among the trees in the garden, to remove the fig leaves from my soul, and meet the Lord with openness and honesty.

 

 

 

 

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…

 

St. Joseph: Blessed are the merciful

When I woke up this morning my heart was wearily again on a certain situation in my life. I prayed, “Lord, why have you brought this situation into my life and what do you want me to learn from it?” Joseph was suddenly on my mind. Humble and meek Joseph, the husband of Mary. Here is a man faced by outward appearances with definite betrayal, an unfaithful wife. A woman whom has broken multiple laws of God. Joseph had every right under the law of Moses to publicly expose her shame and condemn her to death. If he had chosen to do so was truly justified by the law. Or was he?

Meek and humble Joseph brings no accusation as he quietly decides to put her aside. There will be no public exposure of Mary’s shame. He chooses to accept the quiet stares and the dishonor because in doing so he chooses life for Mary; he does not wish to see her or the baby killed to vindicate his pride. Quietly he returns home where he lays down for the night… Meek and humble Joseph, protector and preserver of life. The angel comes… and the rest is history. Or is it?

Do we see Christ uphold the law of mercy and love as originally intended by His true Father and also through the example of His earthly father? How often do we condemn others for so much less?How often is there more to the story that we don’t know; as Joseph found out later with Mary? Mercy is a costly gift that bears much fruit.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall see God.

 

Heavenly Father, have mercy on me, a sinner. Teach me the way of mercy!
Through Christ our Lord, Amen
St. Joseph, ora pro nobis