Saturday, December 26, 2009

Satan's most successful lie

"I DESERVE to be happy!"

That is one of Satan's most successful lies. We are a society of people who like to think that we are 'entitled' to everything we want. This attitude goes against the very core of Christianity.

It's not that God is opposed to happiness. He WANTS us to be happy. But He wants us to seek after TRUE happiness. Satan has us chasing illusions of happiness.

How do we know the difference?

If achieving this 'happiness' involves sinning against the very God who created us and who so lovingly sent his only Son to die for us, then we are not 'entitled' to seek after it. We will not find it there anyway because true happiness can not be found apart from God. It just can't.

If achieving this 'happiness' means hurting other people - then we do not 'deserve' this happiness. What gives us the right to seek happiness at another person's expense?

If achieving this 'happiness' means we have to break a personal vow or commitment to God or another, we do not 'deserve' it.

No matter the package Satan wraps it in - if the illusion goes against God's plan for us, it's just that - an illusion. It will bring us and the people around us misery and pain.

True Joy

There are SO many people around me who struggle. They are unhappy with their life circumstances. It's interesting - but painful - to watch their coping techniques.

Many THINK they know the secret to happiness. "If only I could find a different job." "If only I could be married." "If only my spouse was different." "If only I could lose this weight."

Many actively pursue these changes. Some go so far as to leave their spouse of many years. Some look for other jobs. Many do the on again /off again diet thing! Some don't pursue any changes in their lifestyle - they just fall into depression because they've convinced themselves that they are never going to be happy.

I want to shout at them all that none of the changes they seek will ever make them happy. The changes may FOOL them into thinking they're happy for awhile. But the new boss will disappoint just like the last boss. And the new spouse will be less perfect as time goes on. The weight may come off but other health issues will arise.

Outside circumstances do NOT determine happiness. Happiness comes from within. It comes from being grateful for what we have rather than envious of what we don't have. And the truth of the matter is - if we foster a relationship with God our Father, true joy will come. It will be a part of our very being and it will be present in our lives no matter what the outer circumstances are.

It REALLY is that simple. But most people don't believe it. They work backwards. They think they have to get the outside circumstances right themselves and THEN they'll seek a relationship with their Father in heaven. Oh, how I wish I could make them understand. It's so hard to see them struggling.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Two Worlds

I live in two worlds. That's what I have to remember. There is the physical world - which is everything I experience with my senses. And there is the spiritual world which I can only experience through my faith.

The spiritual world is a little bit tougher to live in - I guess because my senses are better developed than my faith and at times they want to take over! The physical world has a big influence on me because it's LOUD and visible. The spiritual world is laid back and it doesn't force itself on me. I have to seek it out and sometimes it's hard to remember to do that!

I envision two overlapping circles - one being the physical world and the other being the Kingdom of God (the Spiritual world.) I am standing firmly in the part that overlaps. At any given time, I can go either way - step into either world. I've noticed that I LIKE stepping into the spiritual world - the Kingdom of God. It's warm and cozy there. I feel love and joy. But I've noticed that often I only put one foot in at a time. Kind of like testing the waters. Not sure I want to jump in with both feet. So, one foot stays firmly planted in the physical world. Occasionally, I make the leap! I must not jump in too far though because I always manage to find my way back!

What's it like to take the LEAP into the Kingdom of God? It's truly forgiving somebody who has hurt me - and then praying for them! It's doing something nice for somebody and not wanting to be recognized for it. It's visiting the lady at the nursing home - when I'd rather be home taking a nap! It's refusing to be negative about others when I don't feel appreciated. It's recognizing MY faults and shortcomings instead of focusing on the meanness of other people. It's about recognizing the GOODNESS in me (because that is GOD in me)AND the goodness in others. Because everybody has both.

When I LEAP into the physical world, I hold onto hurts. I become angry and bitter and negative. I do nice things - but make sure people know about it. I let down the lady at the nursing home. I complain constantly so everybody knows I'm unhappy and have been treated unfairly. I refuse to work on my own faults but sure wish everybody else would work on theirs so I wouldn't have to complain so much. I see only what's wrong with the world - and don't do a thing to help it!

The thing about it is, in reality both worlds totally overlap at all times. So every time I LEAP into the Kingdom - I bring the Kingdom to the physical world. I make it a better place (or rather, I allow God to make it a better place through me.)And every time I LEAP into the physical world, I make it a darker place (or rather, I allow Satan to make it darker through me.)

God tries to lead me more toward the spiritual. He gives me the grace to respond to that leading but sometimes I guess I squander the grace He gives me. Forgive me, Lord. I want to live for YOU alone!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent - Come Lord, Jesus

In my faith tradition, Roman Catholicism, the weeks leading up to Christmas is called the season of Advent. It is a time we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child. The Church tries really hard to get us to focus on the true meaning of Christmas but I have a feeling that most of us aren't really getting it.

We are like most other people. We are focused on getting all of our shopping done, decorating our houses and baking cookies for our holiday get-togethers. And we're trying to fit all of this in our already too busy schedules of work, ball games, TV programs, etc. We begin to feel stressed over the fact that we have way too much to do and way too little time. We become cranky and short-tempered - and never quite settle ourselves down long enough to meditate on celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and what it means for us today. Christmas Day comes, we go to Church, open gifts, eat a big meal and secretly, we're glad it's over so we can get some rest.

I think most of us are operating under the assumption that we are celebrating a birth that happened 2000 years ago. What most of us don't realize is that we should use the weeks leading up to Christmas anticipating a birth that is still to come. For though Jesus was physically born into our world 2000 years ago, He is still waiting to be born in the 'hearts' of many of us. That's what Advent and the Christmas Season is really all about - preparing our 'hearts' to receive the Christ Child - to allow Him to be born in our own lives.

How ironic it is. As Christians we are offended when other faith traditions want to take Christ out of Christmas. We are offended when someone says 'Happy Holidays' rather than 'Merry Christmas'. But Christmas is more than a greeting.

I wonder how the world might become different, if, as Christians, we celebrated the birth of Christ, not by exchanging expensive gifts with our family and friends, but instead focusing our attention on the needs of the world around us. What if we showed God's love by giving of ourselves - all year long - to the hungry and the poor. What if we denied ourselves some luxuries - ate out less, drove less expensive cars, lived in smaller homes, had fewer electronic toys, a simpler cell phone plan, etc. and instead shared some of our blessings with those in need. You see, most of us are not opposed to sharing with those less fortunate -as long as we don't have to give up any of our own comforts. We will gladly share a little of our 'extras' but don't ask us to give till it hurts.

All these years I've been celebrating Christmas and I still haven't gotten it right. Not even close. It's hard to change traditions but I think I need to distance myself a little bit each year from the particular ways I've been taught to celebrate this seadon, for I truly want Christ to be born anew in my heart.

This is a time of WAITING and PREPARING for what's REALLY IMPORTANT. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, fill my heart with your love. Fill it until it overflows into the world around me - and then fill it some more. Amen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Great Debate

It's that time of year again. The FWD's are flooding my e-mail box. The Great Debate.

Is it a Christmas Tree - or a Holiday Tree? Should I say 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays'? And then there's the video I keep getting with the song "Christmas with a Capital C"

I don't see what the big deal is!! If I'm celebrating Christmas, I'm putting up a Christmas Tree. If somebody else is celebrating something other than Christmas, then I guess they're putting up a Holiday Tree. If I'm speaking to somebody who shares my belief system, I will wish them a Merry Christmas. If I'm speaking to someone who has a different belief system, then I will wish them 'Happy Holidays'. It's not about being 'politically correct.' It's about respect for others, peace and goodwill.

Does God care which words I use when I greet people during this special season? I doubt it. He probably cares about my attitude toward that person. He probably cares whether or not my greeting is motivated in love. But I can't see God being offended if I wish a Jewish person, a Muslim, a Hindu, or an atheist a Happy Holiday instead of a Merry Christmas.

"Glory to God in the Highest - and PEACE to men of good will"

Merry Christmas - and Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What is Faith?

What is Faith?

There was a time in my life when I thought 'faith' was believing that God exists. End of story. And so if someone had asked me if I was a person of faith, I would have answered 'yes.'

I've come to understand that believing that God exists is merely the starting point of a long and wondrous journey. All journeys have a starting point and the journey of faith begins with believing that God exists. At least for me that's where it began.

Is that enough to get you into heaven? Maybe. I'm not sure. Some people think so and so their journey ends there.

Some people believe the journey begins with baptism and I guess that could also be true. But I was baptized on somebody else's faith. I don't think I truly began to 'grow' until it became my faith. My parents planted the seed but eventually it took root in my own heart.

I believe that this particular journey can last a life time. It can take you as far as you want to go. For me, I look back and see how far I've come and I'm filled with wonder. I look ahead to see how far I can still go and I get excited.

My journey began with simple faith. I believed. Later I developed a love of scripture. Reading scripture helped me to learn 'about' Jesus. And then one day, knowing 'about' Him wasn't enough for me anymore. I wanted to know Him personally. I wanted a relationship. My faith began to come alive when I began to 'live' what I believe. Or maybe I should say 'try' to live what I believe. It's a struggle sometimes. It means rising above pettiness to embrace the bigger picture of love and forgiveness. It means trying to separate myself from this world and live for the kingdom of God which is hard to find amidst all the chaos of our physical world.

It means trusting God with my whole heart and soul. Trusting His wisdom and His love.
It means letting go of anger and forgiving someone - even when I still kind of hurt. It means 'doing' what Scripture says is right - even when I WANT to do it my way. It means not judging other people for their shortcomings - because God knows I have enough shortcomings of my own to overcome!

Faith is understanding that I do not live for this world but for the Kingdom of God. I do not have to be upset when somebody mistreats me - because GOD will hold them accountable. That doesn't mean they're going to hell necessarily. It just means that when God gets done with them they will have a clear understanding of how they hurt me by their selfishness or greed or whatever and they WILL receive justice at the hands of my Father. (Vengeance is MINE says the Lord) Yes, faith is giving my anger to GOD and KNOWING that HE will see that justice is done. Faith is understanding that if I insist on holding on to that anger, I am simply holding myself back on my walk with God. I hurt myself when I do not forgive - not the other person.

Faith is knowing that God loves me and wants me to grow to full maturity. He will never abandon me but He will not remove all trials from my life. He loves me so much that He allows me to grow THROUGH these trials. He will not permit any trial in my life that He cannot use to make me stronger in my walk with Him.

Faith is KNOWING that God is my Father. Faith is KNOWING that He loves ME even more than I love my OWN kids - and that's a lot! But I'm just a human and I can't possibly love as purely as He loves. Faith is KNOWING that He is REAL and ALIVE and ACTIVELY involved in my life. He knows ALL and He loves me anyway. He knows that I love Him and that I'm doing my best. And that's what counts. I'm trying. I don't have to be perfect - I just have to do my best. He will do the rest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Communion of Saints

It occurs to me that even when our bodies die our spirits somehow remain connected to the people we've left behind. I think maybe we can still work together to resolve issues that are unresolved. I'm guessing that's what the Church calls the 'communion of saints'.

Of course, I don't understand it the way a great theologian does - but I think I get the gist of it. I think we can still pray for each other to work healing in each other's lives.

I think!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Generous Heart

Does a person LEARN to be a generous giver? Or, does she LEARN to be grateful and the gratitude naturally gives birth to generosity? Gratitude should come natural. I think it does with some people. Some people are SO generous and giving that I think it MUST be a gift from God. It doesn't come natural to me. It's something I have to work at.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Purpose of Prayer

The purpose of prayer is not to bend God to MY will - but to open myself up to God's Will - allowing Him the opportunity to transform me and shape me in His image and likeness.

Sometimes I forget that when I pray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Purpose in Life

God does not exist to serve me. He is NOT a genie in a bottle just waiting around for me to say a prayer so He can grant my every wish.

No, He is my Creator - and truth be known, it is I who exist to serve Him. He created me for a purpose. The Baltimore Catechism said it best. 'God created man to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him in the next.'

I do not fully understand my purpose as My Creator does. I DO understand that if I trust my life to God that He will be able to complete the work for which He created me.

How do I trust God? I trust the wisdom that I find in Scripture.

I forgive - even when the wound is unforgivable which most of the time, it's not. But even when it is, I forgive. Even if I can't forgive immediately, I work towards that goal and ask God to help me reach it. For Jesus said, 'Forgive others as the Heavenly Father forgives you.' It goes against human nature, I think - but that is the wisdom of God. I trust God.

I pray 'Thy will be done.' and mean it. I understand that MY will is based on my limited vision. MY will is based on what I believe will relieve my stress level and my fears. MY will is that other people change to fit the standard I deem acceptable. But God's vision is bigger than mine and He didn't create the world for my personal happiness. He gave me life and placed me in this place at this time to give me the opportunity to grow in His likeness. He did not create my trials but He uses them to help me grow in patience, in humility, in compassion and love. It is tempting to ask God to take my trials from me - and sometimes I DO ask - but I always follow that prayer by acknowledging that His wisdom surpasses all human understanding and I trust that wisdom. I trust God. 'Thy will be done'.

God is MY Creator! May I never forget that or misunderstand. I do NOT know better than God. I might not understand His ways - but that does not mean His ways are wrong. It simply means I do not understand the ways of a being who is perfect in every way. Praise be to God forever and always. Amen!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Changing my Heart

I've been thinking about some of the times God has spoken to me through Scripture. We really do have a God who takes the time to involve Himself personally in our lives and teach us - if we just allow Him the opportunity. I think often times we're so concerned about what's wrong with other people that we miss the opportunity to allow God to help us to grow personally.

I've read or heard read many times the story of the woman caught in adultery -the one who the Pharisees were about to stone until Jesus stepped in. I used to hear that story and feel so angry with those Pharisees. How could they be so judgmental and unforgiving as to stone a lady to death? Then one time I was reading that story and suddenly the woman had a name. She became someone I knew personally. She had broken up the marriage of a good friend of mine. I had witnessed the destruction of a family and the felt the hurt of many innocent people. I blamed this woman.

Suddenly, I experienced this story from Scripture with a new perspective. I was standing with the Pharisees holding a rock in my hand ready to hurl it at this lady. And right next to me was a whole bucket of rocks. I had no mercy. I could see myself angrily throwing stones until this person was dead. At that moment, I did not have the heart of Jesus but the heart of a Pharisee.

Through Scripture, God helped me to recognize an opportunity for personal growth. I knew I had to change my heart - but it was - and is - SO HARD to change. Where was I to start? It became clear I could not do it on my own. I began to pray about it. At first, I prayed for HER - but that did not change MY heart! Then I began to pray for ME and I think it might be working. I don't want to throw stones at her anymore!! But, I don't want to go up to her and embrace her or become her best friend either. I find that I still want to keep my distance. So, I guess I'm still judging her. I guess I still have some work to do! Somehow, I just have to figure out how to get out of the way and let God do His work in me!

Reading Scripture

It seems like we should read Scripture with the intent of letting it transform our own lives and attitudes. I don't think God intended for us to hurl the words at others with the intent of changing them into someone we approve of. How can we expect others to be transformed if we don't first allow ourselves to be transformed?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Forwarding E-mail

I'm not a theologian - but I really don't think God cares if I forward particular e-mails. It doesn't mean I'm not acknowledging God. It just means I'm not acknowledging a particular e-mail.

And while I'm at it. I don't think God is going to hand me a miracle tomorrow because I do forward a particular e-mail (to 10 different people!) Somehow - I just don't think God is keeping track!

Of course, this is just my opinion. But just for the record - I forward very few e-mails!

Just being Me

I think that God did not create me to be a great saint such as the likes of Mother Teresa or St. Therese. I think I will never have a huge impact on the world as a whole and likely when my life is over, I will be forgotten by all except those closest to me. But when THEY pass on, I suspect that I will not be remembered at all.

I am just me - a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a co-worker, a parishioner. My world is not very large and the people who live in it are not very many. I think that even though I might not be able to make a difference to the world as a whole, I CAN make a difference to the world I know.

I can be a positive, grateful and encouraging voice to the people I encounter on my life journey. God has graced me with their presence and I will be grateful for what each has to offer to my spiritual development and I in turn will offer them encouragement on their own journey.

I can SMILE and say 'hi' to the store clerk, the stranger I pass on the street and anyone else who may never pass my way again. God has placed us together in this moment at this time - and I will make it count - if only for the moment.

I can forgive the person who has hurt me and I can pray for the person who makes my life miserable. It is not easy - but it is worth it - because this is what God has called me to do and what I can't do for myself or my neighbor, I can do for Him.

I can be honest.

I can treat other people the way I want to be treated - even if it means I have to be nice to someone who isn't nice to me. After all, Jesus did say "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". He did NOT say "Do unto others as they have DONE unto you." (Only Jesus would think of that!)

I do not have to do one, big spectacular thing to make a difference in this world. But if I can do all the small things with the love of God, if I can just say 'yes' to the little things that God has called me to do, then I will have allowed Him to accomplish the work He intended to complete through me - this very small, very insignificant part of the Body of Christ. The world may not notice what God has done through me - but it occurs to me that it MIGHT notice what has gone undone. Therefore, every day, I will give my best to God - and I will leave the results to Him.