on bumpy roads and detours…

February 11, 2010

Adversity is the shortest road to sanctity.

(Fr. Don Vitalis Lehodey)

It seems the times in my faith journey I’ve grown the most have always been during the trials I’ve met on the road of adversity. Yes, the hardest parts of my faith journey have also been the most fruitful parts of my life.

I must confess that even though I know this correlation between adversity and spiritual growth exists I still prefer the long scenic route to sanctity (if such a road exists).  I think it’s human nature. Who doesn’t prefer the smoothly paved roads of life over the bumpy ones; we embrace the good times (which is ok) and we’re quick to look for a detour so to escape unpleasant circumstances or our suffering and pain (usually not so ok). 

Avoidance and detours work for a while. However, in the end, if your heart desires to be like Jesus, you soon realize there are no other roads worth taking and you fall to your knees in full surrender like Jesus did in the Garden and pray: Not my will but yours be done. 

 If you’re on the shorty bumpy road of adversity today then here’s a good verse to hang onto:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1: 2-4)


For a Friend

January 29, 2009

 

Stop trying to map out the future in your mind. Rest in the moment. Rest in the now. Push away the burdens and create the space to be at peace. Push them away not with might and strength but with a patient waiting that will eventually bear the fruit of contentment in the here and now.  Be content no matter the circumstances and somehow the circumstances will seem less suffocating, less overwhelming.

Do not grasp for easy answers, for solutions to your problems. Stop grasping. Instead fold your hands in prayer and find within your core the presence of Christ.  Seat yourself in him, with him.  Stay and rest with him.  And when you find yourself tempted to grasp for answers bring you hands back, fold them and pray. Bring your heart and head back to that place where Christ resides within.  But be careful in that place. Do not expect to find all the answers there. Jesus is not as much about giving easy answers as he is about giving his presence, giving his life, giving his grace. 

His presence, his life, his grace…these are all the answers you need.  


Empty Places Filled

September 14, 2008

From the Imitation of Christ...

Christ: My child always entrust your affairs to Me. In due season, I will dispose such things properly. Wait until I order things and you will recognize it was to your advantage.

Disciple: Lord, I willingly commit all things to Your care, for my endeavors bring poor profits. I wish that I were less concerned about what the future might bring, but could abandon myself more completely to Your divine pleasure.

Christ: My child, people frequently pursue a thing they eagerly desire, but when they have achieved it, they begin to see it was a mistake. For our inclinations are unsteady and do not last long, but instead tend to urge us on from one thing to another. For all these reasons it is most important to forsake self, even in the small things… 

When you have wholeheartedly delivered yourself up to God, seeking neither this thing nor that, according to your own wish or will, but placing yourself entirely in His care, you will find yourself united to Him in peace; for nothing will so satisfy you or give you greater pleasure than the will of God being accomplished in you.

Therefore, raise up your intention to God in all simplicity, detaching yourself from all disordered love or dislike of any creature or created thing; then you will be more apt to receive grace…

Where the Lord finds vessels empty, He fills them with His blessings.


Longing…

September 13, 2008

 

 

The past couple of days have been a little tough. I have this longing in my heart. It’s a desire that will probably never be fulfilled. Circumstances and events of the past week have reminded me of this longing. Slowly, the dull ache in my heart has become a sharp pain.

There’s so much in life for which I have to be grateful and I am. But this one thing, this one longing, it cuts to the core of my heart. It cuts to the core of my being and my vocation in life. It pushes me to my knees where I can do nothing but cry out, ask for, and then, finally surrender.

Deep in my heart my greatest desire is for  God’s will; for only that which will be good for my sanctification and salvation. Deep in my spirit I want what God knows I need in order to be holy; what I need in order to love Him and my neighbor as myself, for that is true holiness. “Thy will be done.” This is what I pray for each day.

And yet, I still have this longing…


What does it look like?

May 29, 2008

My friend Tina recently wrote about expectations and unconditional love in relationships. It’s a thought provoking post. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject. Another friend of mine and I were talking about the subject of unmet needs and expectations in relationships. That got me to thinking about what it “looks” like to surrender your rights to God and die to self in your relationships. Because every relationship has needs and expectations, what does it look like to unconditionally love someone, to surrender and die to self while communicating about those expectations and needs? If you’ve read my blog before then you know that dying to myself and surrendering my rights are two ideals of mine. I often write about my struggle to do both because I often struggle with doing both.

 

So, what does it look like to surrender your rights and die to yourself? The Dying to Self meditation that I posted on a page on this blog has some specific suggestions that I think have real merit. But it’s by no means a complete picture. I’ve also posted a list of “rights,” if you will, that we can and ought to surrender to God. Here are a few examples:

My right to pleasant circumstances.

My right to be respected.

My right to be loved by people who are “supposed” to love me.

My right to be understood.

 

I received this list through a Godly woman I met while in grad school. She taught me, and I believe, that a true sign of how surrendered I am to the Lord is how I react when my “rights” are threatened or not respected. When I’ve talked about this list in the past I think I’ve failed to point something out.

 

The point of the list is to get you to think about how you react when things don’t go your way, or when your needs or expectations are not met, either by others or by life in general. Do you react in the flesh? If so, then this list is meant to point you to the fact that you first need to surrender your rights to God and let Him lead and guide you as you respond to those unmet needs and expectations in your life.

 

The point of surrendering these rights is not to say that we should not expect that our loved ones would treat us with respect and love. That is a legitimate need and desire. We read in the Bible that husbands should love their wives and wives ought to submit to their husbands. I think these instructions say something about legitimate needs in the marriage relationship. Even Jesus had expectations of his friends. When they fell asleep while he prayed in the Garden of Gesthemene he said something like “Can’t you even stay awake and pray with me?” So, I don’t think that it’s wrong to have expectations of one another in our relationships.

 

What I think is wrong is when we demand that our expectations be met and we  withhold love and approval when they aren’t met. The key to avoiding this fleshly behavior is surrender.  When I surrender that need, expectation or that “right” to the Lord I’m not saying that I have no right to ask for love and respect in my relationships. What I’m saying is that if that “right” or desire is not met I give up my right to react in the flesh, to retaliate or to withhold love and acceptance.  That doesn’t mean I give up the right to ever express my disappointment, need or expectation.  Quite the contrary, I think the act of surrendering frees me to communicate in love a legitimate need or expectation I might have in the relationship.

 

For example, a dear friend recently came to me and lovingly shared how I hadn’t met one of her expectations in our relationship. It was a legitimate expectation and I had failed her.  She had every right to come to me and express her disappointment. The key was this, she didn’t come to me in the flesh, full of resentment and bitterness. No, she came in a spirit of love. It was clear to me that while she was sharing an “expectation” and right she felt she had in this relationship she was fully surrendered to the Lord.  

 

There’s a big difference when we communicate our needs and expectations in a humbled, surrendered spirit of love versus the flesh. I’ve really been examining my heart in this regard lately. There have been a few instances recently where I have failed miserably to express my need in a loving way.  Recently I felt like someone I loved had been inconsiderate of my time. It was a re-occuring pattern in our relationship and had caused some inconveniences not only to me but also to other members of my family. Instead of going to God first and asking Him how to express this need or expectation I jumped in with both feet firmly planted in the flesh. The literalist would read my list of surrendering your rights and suggest the problem is that I was expecting someone to respect my time. But I don’t think that’s the point of this list.  This list is about my heart attitude. Do I demand that things go my way?  Do I become bitter and resentful when they don’t? Do I react by withholding love or expressing your disappointment or anger in a passive-aggressive or flat out aggressive manner?  What I realized after the fact was not that it was wrong to expect and to ask this person to respect my time and my family’s time but that I’d failed to surrender myself to the Lord before sharing my need and expectation.

 

A surrendered person is not a person without expectations and needs within a relationship.  A surrendered person is someone who has expectations but doesn’t demand in an unloving, fleshly way that their needs and rights be respected. Instead, because they’ve first surrendered these needs and expectations to God they can express their hurt and disappointment in a loving way. Surrendering allows us to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, the voice of love, more clearly. If we listen He will guide us and tell us how to express our needs and expectations in our love relationships.

 

Lately I find myself asking the Lord to show me what expectations, needs, and desires I should express in any given situation and which ones I need to hold off on sharing. I find myself saying things like: Lord, I give you my desire and right to _______________________. Please show me how you want me to handle this. I’m counting on the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Jesus had every right to demand to be loved, respected, understood (you name it) by others.  We are created in the image of God. We owe one another respect and love. But it’s not something we can demand from one another. Jesus never demanded. He set the example by surrendering his heart to the will of the Father and always responding in love. I want to be fully surrendered so that I can fully love.


You can have this Jesus, but not that…

May 3, 2008

***

If you walk with Jesus long enough there will come a day when He asks you to hand over some area of your life to Him that you really don’t want to hand over. The “thing” may be different for each of us but the feelings associated with giving up control, with surrendering our right to do as we please, well, those feelings are probably very similar.

 

Jesus wants to come into every area of our lives. Sooner or later He knocks on every door in our heart and waits for our response. I think a large part of this faith journey is the process of opening up all the doors of our heart to Him and letting Him come in and take over. 

 

That process though can be tough. Too often we act as if it’s ok to withhold a part of our hearts or lives from Him.  I’ve done it many times (still do it). I’ve deceived myself by thinking that surely Jesus isn’t concerned with this part of my life, it’s inconsequential to my spiritual growth. But you see that’s just not true.

 

I once heard someone say, “if anything matters, then everything matters.” I’ve found this is true for Jesus and me.  If anything in my life matters to Jesus then everything must matter. Which means that Jesus wants my whole life. He doesn’t just want to lead me in my Bible study habits, in my “worship” or in “major” life decisions (like work or buying a home).  He wants to enter and transform every area of my life, every nook and cranny. He’s an interpersonal God. He’s an intimate God. And, He wants to be let into the most intimate areas of my life so that He can show me how to live like and love like Him.

*** 

I knew that blogging about artificial birth control would raise some issues. Sure enough one has come up. Not everyone agrees that Jesus needs or wants to be included in this area of our lives. I really do understand that perpsective. There was a time when I believed that this subject was a non-issue to God. But…(the following is about life in general and not just ABC)…

 

I no longer believe that our Father, our brother Jesus and our counselor, the Holy Spirit, is satisified with having just a part of us. After all, God created us. We belong to Him. Of course it’s our choice: Do we give back to Him what is rightfully His –our entire self, our entire life which He created and gave to us? Or, do we offer only the parts of our lives to Him that we see fit or that fit with our plans.

 

It’s easy to pray “Jesus be my everything.” It’s quite another to let Him be your everything. In order to do this we must surrender everything we hold onto so that we have room to embrace Him. We must surrender every area of our life to Him so that He can teach us His will and His ways. He wants all of you and he wants all of me. He wants us to let Him be the intimate lover and savior of our souls that He really is.

 

That’s what this journey is all about.

 

 


The Evidence of Brokenness

March 17, 2008

It’s Holy Week. For those who celebrate Holy Week it’s a time to meditate on Christ’s suffering and death as we prepare to celebrate His glorious resurrection and victory over death.

I’ve been asking the Lord to shine His light into the dark places in my life–those places where I hide my pride and sweep my sin under the rug. He keeps bringing me back to the word “brokenness.” At first I wasn’t sure where He was headed with this. What does brokenness have to do with this examination of my conscience? But then He started to remind me of something…

When something is broken we tend to think it’s useless. We either fix it or trash it. But that’s not the case in God’s economy. With God, that which is broken is actually that which is most useful. In God’s economy that which is broken can now be holy, or whole, if you will.

*** 

Christ’s body had to be broken so that we might know holiness or wholeness. But Christ’s body hanging on the cross is not the only image of his brokenness. Christ’s suffering on way to the cross gives us the perfect example of a man whose will was broken and completely surrendered to the Father.

“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave…humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-7)

Notice that he was like a slave. It took humility and obedience to be like a slave. It took brokenness in order to allow his body to be broken on the cross. In other words, Christ was already broken before He got up on that cross. But His brokenness wasn’t a useless, or pathetic kind of brokenness. His brokenness was the perfect picture of holiness and wholeness. His brokenness was holy (whole) and beautiful because His will was to do the will of the Father, no matter the cost.

It’s another one of God’s paradoxes. If you want to be holy (to be whole), you must be broken.

But, being broken so as to submit to the Father’s will often hurts. Think of Jesus in the garden sweating blood and agonizing over the cup that Father was handing Him.

We say we want to be holy like Jesus but do we really? 

Holiness requires brokenness. Brokenness requires complete surrender of our will. Surrendering our will requires we surrender our rights like Jesus did.  

*** 

I ran across this list someone gave me years ago. I think I referenced it once before in another post. It’s called The Evidence of Brokenness…It could just as easily be called Evidence of Holiness or Wholeness. I can’t tell you how many times God has brought me back to this list.

Brokenness is evident when you no longer react out of your flesh when the following rights are challenged:

Your right to possessions

Your right to  to a good reputation and to be respected

Your right to be treated fairly by others

Your right to good health, beauty or strength

Your right to take offense

Your right to have friends

Your right to see the results you want

Your right to be right

Your right to avoid suffering

Your right to be heard and have your position understood by others

Your right to be loved by others who are “supposed” to love you

Your right to justice

Your right to be successful in whatever you do

Your right to be accepted and well liked

Your right to be forgiven by others

Your right to life itself 

*** 

How about it, have you surrendered your rights like Jesus? Do you no longer react out of the flesh when these rights are challenged by others or your cirumstances? Is there evidenece of brokenness in your life? Is there evidence of holiness?

Each time I meditate on this list I see some progress in some areas of my life. But I can see other areas of my life where I need to experience the brokenness of Jesus. Areas I need to surrender so that I can be like Jesus was on the way to the cross — broken, humble, emptied and holy.  

I want to whole in Christ. The question is am I willing to broken in order to be whole? Am I willing to be broken in order to be holy?

As Father shines His light into my heart that’s what He is asking me today.


Inspiration and Intimidation

February 13, 2008

I’m reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.).

I’m so convicted and humbled by the heart and life of this incredible woman of God.  My post about what my flesh wants to give up for Lent is ridiculous in light of the life of sacrifice this woman lived. All my fleshly complaints are pitiful.

This book is full of her private writings which this humble servant requested be destroyed time and time again. I’m grateful her spiritual directors chose not to destroy them and had the wisdom to know that her writings would one day be a gift of great inspiration to the Church. 

In light of her incredible humility and passion for Christ’s glory and his glory alone I have to laugh at my feeble attempts to make a record of some of my faith journey for my girls. As I read about Mother Teresa I am at once inspired to live a more holy and fully surrendered life while at the same time intimidated by her complete self-abandonment and willingness to suffer in order to live and share the gospel. If I had but an ounce of the love she has for Jesus…

My Jesus, I can only begin where I am. Take me and transform me. Give me the grace to obey your call to be holy and to love like you love.


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst…”

February 9, 2008

crucifix

Lent started on Wednesday, February 6.

For Christians who don’t observe or understand the liturgical seasons of the year Lent may seem strange or unnecessary. If you are a “Catholic-phobe” as one person I know recently described himself you may dismiss all things Catholic and even think this season is all about human effort or meaningless ritual. 

How sad that some Christians write off the centuries old tradition of spending the 40 days before Easter focused more intensely on prayer, fasting and sacrificial giving. How sad that anyone would do this out of ignorance or a fear of traditions primarily practiced by Catholics.

Why is this sad to me?

It’s sad because the more I’ve embraced this season the greater is my desire to die to self year round. The more I embrace this season of sacrifice before celebrationg His resurrection, the more I appreciate the passion and intense suffering of our Lord (and I have far to go in this area of my life). And most importantly, the more I embrace this season of fasting and sacrifice the more I hunger for Jesus.

Jesus, the Word made flesh, tells us,

 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” (Matt. 5:6)

To which I cry,

“Jesus, let me abandon all selfish desire, ambition and worldly attachments during this Lenten season so that I may be filled by you– for I hunger and thirst for you and you alone.”


Hold loosely that thing in hand…

January 7, 2008

 

 hands

***

In his book Release of the Spirit, Watchman Nee writes about that thing in hand. It’s the thing (or things) we hold onto so tightly that it hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it keeps us from living and loving like Jesus.

This thing in hand can be anything: A relationship, a possession, a job or position, a habit, a dream or desire, an unmet need or even an emotion. Often the thing takes up an imbalanced amount of our time, talent, treasures and thoughts. It can even become an idol we put before God himself. Sometimes, in order for the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, God allows us to be broken so that we will release this thing in hand or learn to hold on loosely.   

Henri Nouwen writes of holding loosely onto life (especially people).The following is taken from his book Turn My Mourning into Dancing:

Perhaps our need to hold life loosely is no more evident than in our daily relationships. Loving someone means allowing the other person to respond in ways you have no control. Every time you engage yourself in an intimate, loving way with someone else you become at least partly subject to the exhilaration of hearing another person’s yes or the disappointment in his or her no. The more people you love, the more pain you may experience. For the great mystery of love is that while it can be received, it can also be rejected. Every time you love you enter into the risk of love…

Look at the story of Jesus in the last chapters of his life… Our pain and the suffering of the Lord are intimately connected. When we mourn, we die to something that gives us a sense of who we are. In this sense suffering always has much to do with the spiritual life. We surrender our striving denial of our limitations. We release our hold on a piece of our identity as a spouse, a parent, as a member of church, as a resident of a community…And so we admit, not without many tears, that we sometimes must let go of what we hold very dear.

I’m not good at holding on loosely to this life. I’m quick to stake my claim on what I want and what I think God ought to do in my life and in the lives of those I love. More often than not it seems like God has to pry things out of my hands.  I have so far to go in my faith journey. There are many things in hand that I need to hold loosely or just plain let go. 

How about you…what’s the thing in your hand?

 


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