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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Routines

I have many routines that turn me toward God. Some are daily such as arising early to read and pray; reflecting on the daily mass readings over my lunch half-hour; prayer at bedtime. Others are weekly – Adoration and morning mass during the week.

When I travel I am thrown out of my routines, and it used to trouble me that I could so easily be distracted from prayer and time with God.  But I’ve learned that those times, too, can be used by God to refresh and bring new life into our relationship.

How beautiful is His creation and what a blessing to be able to see some of it anew when traveling, from mountains to oceans to countryside; plants and animals and starry skies.

And when surrounded by the people I most treasure in the world, isn’t their presence and their love an expression of God’s own presence and love?

I miss my routines and set times spent spiritually with Him and am glad to return to them. And I also treasure the times when His presence is tangibly expressed through others.

I am so very blessed.

Love 1 John 4 12

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The love of God

God IS love … love is His very nature. His love is constant and steady – He doesn’t love us “more” because of anything we do … neither does He love us “less” because of anything we do.

(It’s all about Him, and what He did for us!)

I recently read a very cool illustration about the love of God.

Consider a home in a meadow with the sun (love of God) shining warmly upon it. The activity of the people have no effect on the sunshine – it simply “is,” constant and never waning.

Inside the home, however, are shutters. One can throw open the shutters, or step out into the sunshine … or one can close up the shutters, choosing to huddle in the dark.

Outside the sun continues to shine unabated; it is not less.

Inside … have you shuttered your heart? It’s never too late – throw open the shutters and step out into His limitless love!

 

 

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11 years ago today my dad was born into eternal life.

Today my brother-in-law’s dad is in hospice. He has been suffering for four years as his mind and his health have declined. He is ready to go … the family is ready to release him and yet it is still so painful.

I know a gentleman who is 80 years old now. His father was a hard man and never kind to him. When the father was near death, his son asked, “Did you ever love me?” “No.” was the curt reply.

I can’t even imagine that.

As I reflected I had to wonder … is it harder to lose someone who has loved you so well in this life, or is it harder to lose someone whose love you tried to earn but never really fully experienced? I’m sure there’s no real answer to that.

Today I pray for my 80-year-old friend who never experienced his father’s love.

Today I pray for my brother-in-law’s family as they walk these last miles with their father.

Today I pray for my family, so blessed by our father who was exceedingly kind and gentle and missing him terribly.

11 years ago today my dad was born into eternal life.

Happy birthday, dad.

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My friend has spent hours discussing his belief in universal salvation with me. He has patiently answered every question with complete honesty. Sometimes his reply is, “I don’t know” and I respect that greatly.

In my years of questioning and study, I have come to believe that not all are saved. I truly believe “most” are … but it’s my belief that a few hate God so much – hate the Light (John 3:19-20) – that they will stand before Him and deliberately choose eternal separation from Him.

My friend believes that nobody can experience God’s love and resist it. Yet we know that angels in His very presence did just that (Jude 1:6). I also think of the similar experiences of Paul in the New Testament, and Balaam in the Old Testament. Each was journeying and encountered God; Paul was transformed but Balaam would not be swayed. God accomplished what He willed in each case, but allowed each man the free will to choose. Paul said “yes,” while Balaam became an example of error and wickedness.*

For me, it comes down to a simple truth of the very nature of love:Love cannot be forced.

One cannot force another to give love,
nor can one force another to receive love. For love to be genuine,
it must be freely given, freely received.

I pray that all people will open their hearts and minds to Love.

*Balaam’s story is found in Numbers 22-24. He is also mentioned in the New Testament in 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14.

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Just a small thing stood out to me this morning.

And David sent messengers to Isboseth the son of Saul, saying: Restore my wife Michol, whom I espoused to me for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.    
And Isboseth sent, and took her from her husband Phaltiel, the son of Lais.    
And her husband followed her, weeping as far as Bahurim: and Abner said to him: Go and return. And he returned. (2 Sam 3:14-16)

I don’t know why that weighs on my heart so … but it makes me sad to think of her husband following her and weeping.

I know David was probably “in the right” according to law and custom; she had been promised to him by Saul but later given in marriage to another. We know from 1 Samuel 18:20 that “Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David .”

I wonder if she also had grown to love her husband. I wonder if he had other wives, as David already had several. I wonder if David’s actions were out of pride, or out of love.

I think about how messy and painful divorce is for everyone involved; I think about the divorce messageboard April posted on and all of the people who were blindsided by a spouse leaving. Even though it had been a long time coming for the one who left, it often is a surprise to the one left behind and by then it’s too late. The grief and wounds run deep. I’ve seen both sides of this in my mom and dad’s marriage; I’ve pondered it for myself for a time and am so grateful now that the LORD stayed my heart and feet and is rebuilding my marriage, even stronger than it was before.

I guess that passage just made me sad for all involved. My dear friend still mourns his marriage and has followed his wife many miles and many years weeping and it breaks my heart for him. This world can be a painful and sorrowful place.

I just pray for us all; we are messy people. I guess the Psalm that was part of my reading today, 133, is kind of fitting:

1 Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.
2 Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, Which ran down to the skirt of his garment:
3 As the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon mount Sion. For there the Lord hath commandeth blessing, and life for evermore.

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And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. (Mark 7:34)

And thus Jesus opened the ears and freed the tongue of the man who was deaf and mute.

I keep thinking of this; what a wonderful prayer to speak for my children and for those who are lukewarm or who have walked away from God. I pray every day that He opens their eyes and ears and minds and hearts to Himself. And here is a simple prayer in the words of Jesus … Ephpheta … be thou opened.

My greatest desire for any person is that they love God. Once we have utterly fallen in love with Him, everything else will follow. Love grows with time … time spent together in intimate ways through good times and bad.

Heavenly Father, for each of my children; for my brothers and sisters and all of the people you have given to me for whom to pray and to love … Ephpheta. For those who have been deceived … Ephpheta.

Be thou opened, ears and eyes and minds and hearts, to you.      amen.

**Quick update … I wasn’t certain how to prounce “ephpheta” so I wrote Father Secora. His reply was not one of the many ways I had considered: eph-fa-tha     I like that 🙂

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Today’s Readings
EZEKIEL 3:16-6:14 | HEBREWS 4:1-16 | PSALM 104:24-35 | PROVERBS 26:27

16 At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

20 “Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

This passage was very interesting to me.  First, I think it speaks to the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” I had never heard OSAS before coming to the internet messageboards. It is not something the Catholic church teaches, and I honestly go back & forth on it a bit.

The Catholic church teaches that salvation is an ongoing lifelong process, not a one-time proclamation and I very much agree with that. I don’t think we are “saved” until we stand in judgment before God and either enter into His presence forevermore, or are utterly destroyed.   I do think we can have an assurance of salvation in this life … we can know we are His. But I also believe we can at any point by our own choices and free will turn away from God, turn to evil, and will not be saved.  This passage in Ezekiel does not support OSAS; a righteous man who turns to evil will die.

The second thing about this passage is the question of our responsibility to our brothers and sisters.

I despise it when Christians use their Bibles as a weapon to attack and to condemn others. I never think that is productive and only feeds their own pridefulness, while at the same time hardening the hearts of those being condemned, pushing them even further away from God.

At the same time, when we see a brother or sister sinning, what responsibility do we have to them?

I love this saying from Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times — If necessary, use words.”  I firmly believe that treating all with love and respect is the most powerful witness we can offer to others.

It goes hand-in-hand with this passage from 1 Peter 3. I think verses 15 and 16 especially speak to this, but the entire passage is utterly beautiful:

8 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.
9 Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.
10 For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit,
11 must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.”
13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good?
14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them,
15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

In the end, to me, we are watchmen for our brothers and sisters but we must first examine ourselves. If I am going to approach someone else, it must be out of genuine concern and love for their well-being and not to beat them down, or to accuse them. And when someone asks my opinion, I need to be ready to answer honestly but again gently, lovingly … and then be prepared to leave it with the Holy Spirit.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

That is profound and very beautiful.

 

 

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