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Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

A storm has engulfed my church. I don’t know what will become of these allegations or where the truth lies, only that there is rot and evil extending deep within.

It would be easy to despair, it is tempting to call it quits and walk away.

And yet … though I am angry and disgusted by individuals and leaders and networks within the Church, I am also filled with a sense of peace, a knowing that God’s got even this and it is not out of His control.

The Church isn’t the hierarchy, nor its leaders. The Church is the body of Christ and within His body I know many saints. I see so many good priests dedicating their lives to service; I see nuns and sisters devoted to works of charity and prayerful service; I see laity well-serving in their roles within the body of Christ.

For every Judas, there are 11 disciples willing to lay down their lives. Sinners, yes; imperfect people, of course. But they – and the Church – are not the evil that has infiltrated it.

Good & evil have always existed side-by-side, from Cain & Abel to the wheat & tares to Jesus on the cross between two revolutionaries: one repented and the other did not.

Jesus, I trust in You. Fill your good priests and ministers and flock with Your peace, Your wisdom, Your fortitude and strength.

Now is the time for your people to repent; to put on the full armor of God; to fall on our faces in prayer and Adoration and to place our trust in you, our King.

 

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In this place

Who is left among you
who saw this house in its former glory?

And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?

Now be strong, … and work! For I am with you.

Greater will be the glory of this house
the latter more than the former—says the LORD of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace
(Haggai 2:3-4, 9)

This immediately struck me as being about me. My life is “this house” and I formerly saw myself as pretty glorious. I had a lot of self-confidence, thinking I was very smart, talented and strong. I didn’t really need anyone, I could do what I wanted and make things happen on my own.

Ah, how time has changed my perspective!  Looking back, the things I saw as “my glory” don’t seem so impressive any more. I realize, now, that I’m not so smart, not so talented, not so strong. Those aren’t traits that I value greatly, now, and I know in retrospect that I used to be quite afraid most of the time, and often angry.

God promises He is with us, even as he tells us to be strong and to work! And I do see a more glorious house being built within me, better than the former and more valuable in my eyes, and His.

I have more work to do, for sure. But in THIS place, He has given me peace.

 

 

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One Word, 2014

Several years ago I was listening to KLove radio and heard them talking about praying about “one word” that God would give to you for the upcoming year. I liked that idea and have remembered it. One year my word was “dance;” another year it was “abide.”

As I was reflecting this morning, God gave me a word for 2014: Peace.

What wonderful timing for me … peace is exactly what I need this morning as I struggle against tears, missing my children who live so far away. Peace is something the LORD has been teaching me, that deep-rooted sense of Him in all of the areas of my life. And more than that, Peace is a place to which He has brought me.

I know there will be challenges to this peace interiorly and exteriorly … but the LORD is my gentle Shepherd. And for 2014, I am grateful that the word given to me is Peace.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

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15 And the servant of the man of God rising early, went out, and saw an army round about the city, and horses and chariots: and he told him, saying: Alas, alas, alas, my lord, what shall we do?

16 But he answered: Fear not: for there are more with us than with them.

17 And Eliseus prayed, and said: Lord, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses, and chariots of fire round about Eliseus.

18 And the enemies came down to him, but Eliseus prayed to the Lord, saying: Strike, I beseech thee, this people with blindness. And the Lord struck them with blindness, according to the word of Eliseus.

19 And Eliseus said to them: This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will shew you the man whom you seek. So he led them into Samaria.

20 And when they were come into Samaria, Eliseus said: Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw themselves to be in the midst of Samaria.

21 And the king of Israel said to Eliseus, when he saw them: My father, shall I kill them?

22 And he said: Thou shalt not kill them: for thou didst not take them with thy sword, or thy bow, that thou mayst kill them: but set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.

23 And a great provision of meats was set before them, and they ate and drank, and he let them go, and they went away to their master, and the robbers of Syria came no more into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6)

What a fantastic passage to read this morning! When Elisha prays and God opens the eyes of his servant to see the spiritual protection around Elisha, I am simply in awe and filled with questions. Is this around us all the time? Is it reserved for Elisha alone, or for all believers? Or all mankind? Or is there an evil army that follows and surrounds those who choose evil?

I used to hear stories of people who “saw” angels (or demons) and the idea of that is so foreign to me; I’ve never had such an experience. I guess I often wrote it off as probably a mental illness. But several years ago I met a girl online who saw both – angels and demons – and she spoke so matter-of-factly about it and was very believeable. Did she see what Elisha saw? Why is the veil so thin for some people but not for everyone? Honestly, I’m not sure I would like that gift – I can see how it could be frightening. I’ve read many accounts since meeting Ginia and this passage certainly give credence to her experience.

I think it’s comforting to know just how close spiritual protection is to us at each moment – it’s not far off or distant at all. I often pray for the LORD to protect me and those for whom I pray … I ask Him to give wider protection around us from evil. This vision has given me a new and exciting perspective. I visualize the prayers I am speaking and this visual is pretty awesome and completely Biblical!

I also loved the way Elisha treated the enemies who had sought to apprehend and kill him. He led them safely away and though he certainly could have had them all killed, he chose to bless his enemies instead. He fed them … and he fed them well: “a great provision of meats.” And he let them go.

If only we sought to treat our enemies that way first, instead of seeking to destroy them. Every time we strike and kill a leader of al-Qeada, don’t we create more enemies and people who hate us? Oh, what a different world this might be if we truly blessed them by providing food to them instead.

I believe that is what Jesus taught us. Sadly, I don’t believe mankind really grasps that or is willing to “let go” and follow. And not just “mankind” in general, but Christians as well. I’m a firm believer in non-violence but all of my discussions have revealed just how tightly we hold onto fear and maintaining control our “selves” instead of trusting and following Jesus’ example.

I don’t blame people – it is natural; it is “human nature.” Oh, but to be able to set aside our very human nature and step out in faith … how powerful we would truly be, then!

 

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A song of ascents. Of David. LORD, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.
Israel, hope in the LORD, now and forever. (Psalm 131)

The LORD brought this Psalm before me two times yesterday in two different Bibles, so it was already on my mind when it was my scheduled reading this morning!

It made me think of a passage in Sirach that the LORD used to humble and quiet my heart. I thought I may have blogged about it last fall so I searched this morning and had to laugh …

You see, one of my frequent prayers is that the LORD make things very plain for me. I know I second-guess myself to a ridiculous degree. And here, He answers that prayer.

The very thing that this Psalm spoke to me these last two days, it spoke to me last fall. Here is a post I had made in Dec 2010 titled Mysteries, and I couldn’t have said it better myself!

——-

One of today’s readings was Psalm 131:

1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

I hadn’t really noticed this Psalm before, and I really loved reading it today.  Earlier this month, in this post, I wrote about how God had brought me to a passage in Sirach, Chapter 3.  I see an echo of one from another:

20 What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.
21 What is committed to you, attend to; for what is hidden is not your concern.
22 With what is too much for you meddle not, when shown things beyond human understanding.
23 Their own opinion has misled many, and false reasoning unbalanced their judgment.

I love that. I have been guilty of being obsessive about knowing Truth about various topics – searching and studying.

But sometimes, as in these passages, God lets me know it’s ok for some things to remain a mystery. He quiets my spirit, and redirects me to attend to the works He has entrusted to me.

I think it’s good to simply appreciate the mysteries. There is a peace in simply trusting God.

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This passage holds a very special place in my heart.  In July 2002 I was sitting on my front porch in Zebulon, NC with a cup of coffee, reading the Bible and journaling when I read this passage:

1Th 5:16  Rejoice always.
1Th 5:17  Pray without ceasing.
1Th 5:18  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

I’m sure my journaling comments that day were fairly benign – we learn from our trials as much as from our blessings … that sort of thing. 

As soon as I closed my Bible the phone rang. It was my mom, calling to tell me that dad was in Omaha in ICU with a tear in his artery; she said it didn’t look good and whether or not I came home was up to me … but I probably wouldn’t make it in time to see him alive.

I did arrive in time to see him again. We were blessed with an entire day together, my mom and dad, brothers and sister.  Dad was awake and we talked, laughed, planned how the doctors would treat his aortic anuryism. 

But that evening when everyone else left for dinner, I was alone with him when he seizured or stroked, and died. I was able to pray to God and release my dad to Him, trusting in His ocean of mercy and love.

And I’ve remembered that passage ever since, PONdered over it, and I’ve really, deeply learned it.

I know, now, how Paul could give thanks for his trials. It isn’t so much what we learn, but for me it’s simply that when we turn to God, He draws us ever-closer to Himself.  It is how He accomplishes His work in us, making us holy.

1Th 5:21  Test everything; retain what is good.
1Th 5:22  Refrain from every kind of evil.
1Th 5:23  May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th 5:24  The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

Thank you, LORD, for protecting me; for helping me to turn my face to you and not my back; for your timing and for making things clear enough that even I can “get it.”

And thank you for my dad, and his life. He was an extraordinary man, very kind and gentle and I loved him dearly.

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Dark Night of the Soul … I have experienced this valley along with its fear, frustration, and wrestling with God like Jacob wrestled with the angel.  It was not as long nor as dark as some people experience it, but I am so grateful, now, for that time of trial and to God for carrying me through.

I’ve read two really great articles about the Dark Night of the Soul, and want to post them here.

The first is from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was —John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.

This blog post really spoke to my heart about the Dark Night of the Soul as well.

“It is so dark in life. There seems to be no God at all.” I hear similar words echoed over and over in the letters people write me from all over the world. It might be experienced missionaries who have served for 20 years in a place, only to be disillusioned by their seeming lack of fruit. It might be a young guy struggling through family or spiritual wounds in life -or a young lady desperately trying to discern a vocation in darkness. But spiritual struggle comes to all of us sooner or later. Eventually when God sees that we are mature enough for unselfish love -pure love -real, sacrificial love -He hides His Face so that we can learn to search, to desire, to let go of all and everyone else in our quest to find Him and make Him our heart’s first love. But in the midst of such darkness within the soul, when God hides His Fatherly Face, how are we supposed to react in our lives?

God does not want us to give in to the darkness, saying ‘Woe is me!’ Instead He wants us to look at His Faithful Love through the eyes of faith and hope -believing when we cannot see and hoping when we cannot hear -He wants us to rejoice in trust. I think that the greatest weapon God gives us in the midst of deep darkness within the soul is the gift and virtue of Joy. No, maybe we don’t feel ‘happy’ in our emotions in such a state. But He wants us to allow the Holy Spirit (Who we cannot know by our senses, but Who we invite to live quietly within us) to birth forth His spiritual gift of Joy. And as He offers this gift to us, we have to use our little wills to go along with Him.

Joy is an ‘act of Charity’ as St. Thomas Aquinas would explain. And because Love is an act of the will and Joy comes from Love, then being joyful is something we can simply decide to live on earth, even in the Cross -especially on the Cross, the Epicenter of Love.

Did the people dying with St. Maximillian Kolbe feel happy and that is why they sang as they waited for death in Auschwitz? Or did they look in faith toward heaven and trust in the hope of the conquering Love of God and simply through this faith and hope decide to rejoice as they accepted the pains life dealt them? I think the latter is true. Although sometimes God gives miraculous graces to feel joy in the midst of suffering, most people are called to rejoice with Jesus on the Cross despite their contradicting feelings. And this decision to rejoice in trustful love is what makes Joy a powerful weapon. It says to God, ‘I will forget myself and how I feel inside, and I will trust You and love others anyway.’ It says to satan, ‘No matter how you tempt me to despair, I’m happy because I’m God’s.’ St. John Bosco used to say, “The devil is afraid of cheerful people.”

My brother Mike taught me early on during my time at Notre Dame (when I struggled never finding my place, not really having many real friends) that Joy is a decision. I needed to wake up every morning and decide to be happy and joyful. And as a Christian it is easy to do when we remember the Love of God that is always with us. “For what can separate us from the Love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?… For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35,38-39)

In the midst of great darkness the act of Joy can become a great light to others. In the midst of the greatest interior struggles in my life, I have learned to smile at Jesus and yell ‘alleluia’ even out loud -just to make the devil mad and to confirm in my own will that I want what Jesus wants -period -and I trust Him. The ‘saints of joy’ are my examples in this -for no matter how they suffered, they found a way to bring people joy because they loved. And when you walk into a room where there is a person who is sad or needing love -and you feel squashed within your own heart -but you decide to be joyful and force yourself to smile and speak kind words to them, somehow the Joy gives you a glimpse of the Light in your own heart as well. For Joy comes from the Holy Spirit -and when we are joyful, we are tapping into His presence singing within our hearts.

So, fight with Joy. The next time you feel steeped in depression in life or darkness in the spiritual life -look at God, wink at Him (even though you may not be able to ‘see Him’ clearly but through faith) and smile. Try to force yourself to be a happy person -it is a beautiful way of saying ‘Fiat, Father -Fiat, Jesus -I decide to love and trust in You.’

And who knows, you just might make someone else happy along the way.

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