What He Wants

March 26, 2010


Dear Claire and Ella: 

If there’s one thing I pray you understand at a young age, it is this:

God is more interested in your holiness than He is

in your temporal happiness.

This is a lesson I’m still learning but I do know it starts with understanding that holiness comes by way of love — His love for you flowing through you to others. That is is why He wants all of you. He wants all of your heart so He can fill it with His love.

Because He wants your heart He’ll allow all kinds of circumstances in your life in order to draw you to Him. Sometimes He’ll court your heart with wonderful consolations and blessings in this life. Of course we all love these sweet circumstances and moments in life.  But, He also knows our human weakness and tendency to become attached to the consolations instead of The Consoler, attached to the gifts instead of The Giver.

Amazingly, instead of abandoning you in your weakness, He loves you enough to do whatever it takes to get your attention so you will let go of those things which get in the way of love. Sometimes He withdraws his consolations and waits for you to seek Him, to seek His heart and not just His gifts. At other times He redeems the painful consequences of living in a fallen world by using them to draw us to Him.

His desire for your holiness is not based on some puritanical rule but instead a desire for you to have a  heart of pure love for Him and for others. This is what we were created for. 

That’s why he won’t leave you where you are, even if you are happy. No, if you truly desire Him, if you truly want to love Him and love like Him, then He will use the circumstances of your life to challenge you to let go of your selfish attachments to this temporal life and grab hold of Him, of His love, mercy and grace.

It may surprise you to hear this but, this is His gift of grace to you.

Anything that draws you to Him is a grace because left to our own devices we would not seek Him. The key is recognizing his hand at work in these difficult circumstances. Seeing that something greater is going on. This seeing requires eyes of faith. It requires you trust that He really does have your best interests at heart. Acknowledging this truth is the first step in surrender. I say step, because surrender is a process.

Surrendering means you stop fighting His will and you finally let Him do the work in you and through you. But remember, surrender does not make everything all better. The work He is doing may still be painful and difficult. But, when you begin to trust that He is working all things together for your eternal good then you can begin to find moments of peace in the midst of the pain, moments of trust where there used to be fear and worry.

Those moments most often come when you seek Him, when you place yourself before Him in worship, adoration and in stillness and quiet. They come as you receive Him and His strength in Communion. They come as you renew your mind and heart with the truth that this is not your final home; this temporal life is just one part of the journey. And they come when you serve and sacrifice for others.

This is why I take you often to Mass and Adoration. I want you to learn to give Him all of your heart in worship, to turn you eyes from your own circumstances and pray for others, and to spend time contemplating what Jesus did for us on the cross.

I want you to learn now because as you get older there will be times when it seems hard to surrender. In those moments remain faithful, continue to seek Jesus. Things may not change overnight. You  may not change overnight. So be patient with the process. Be patient with yourself.  It’s natural to want to avoid difficulties and pain. Your emotions will tell you to protect yourself in selfish ways, to run or to fight the process. And there will be times when you might give in to your emotions. Do not worry about this. Repent and turn your heart and mind back toward God.

As you give more of your heart to him and learn to constantly turn to Him for your strength you will find that you are more than your emotions; you are His and His Spirit can transform you. And as He transforms you, you will know more of His love and see it flowing  through you to others.

And finally you will see what He has known all along…

In holiness there is more happiness than you could have ever imagined!




Keeping Silent

March 24, 2010


 Here’s something to think about the next time you feel like being critical of someone else…

Sometimes our passions rule us and we mistake it for zeal. We are critical of the small defects in our neighbors, but overlook the serious faults in ourselves…We are quick to complain of what we put up with from others, with never a thought of what others suffer from us.

If we would see ourselves as we really are, we would not find cause to judge others severely…Those who are turned to God…find it easy to be silent about the deeds of others. (The Imitation of Christ, p. 75)

 Lord, keep my eyes turned toward you so that no unwarranted judgment about another will even form in my heart much less escape from my lips. Amen.

I know, I know, I know

March 3, 2010


When I said God’s word for me this Lent is humility I wasn’t kidding or thinking in the abstract.

Saturday morning Scott and I were in the car talking while waiting at a four-way stop. I don’t remember the details of the conversation but Scott was about to tell me something I really didn’t want to hear. It was nothing big, no life or marriage altering announcement, just something I’d done that was bothering him. Instantly, instinctively protecting my pride, I cut him off…

Me: I know

Scott: You didn’t even let me finish what I was saying.

 [True, but I knew where he was going with this conversation and I wanted to let him know that I already knew.]

Me: I know, Scott. I know.

Scott: When you cut me off like that and won’t let me explain what it is you’ve done and what I’m thinking, that drives me crazy…

Me: [Cutting him off again] I know, I know, I know.

Scott: Do you realize this is what Claire does when we’re trying to explain something or correct her? She interrupts and won’t listen.

 [Cringing, I flashback to Wednesday when I was trying to explain to Claire why something she’d done to her sister was wrong and she kept interrupting saying I know Mom, I know. In her pride she didn’t want to be corrected and told what she was doing that was wrong. That lead to a conversation about how she needs to listen even when she thinks she already knows what she’s done wrong and what we’re going to say. ]

Me:[Long pause]…I do that a lot. I’m certain that’s where Claire gets it. I’m sorry. 

Scott: [Nodding and accepting my apology he graciously lightens the tone of our conversation with his humor…] Finally, one bad habit they have that can’t be blamed on me!

Nope, this one is all on me. And more than I wanted to admit at the time.

As we drove through the four-way stop God brought to my mind a time when I was 14 and my sister Meg and I were stopped at a light (coincidently only two blocks away). She was trying to tell me something my prideful heart didn’t want to hear. I did the same thing to her that I did to Scott. Like the good big sister she was, she put me in my place for it. Clearly I didn’t learn my lesson.

Later I asked God…

Have I really been doing this for all these years? Am I that prideful, that slow to learn? Did I really pass this habitual response on to Claire?

I don’t think I need to tell you God’s answers. Ouch!

It’s week two and God isn’t letting me get away with much.  I think this is going to be a long Lent.

To be or not to be…

March 2, 2010


It seems God’s word for me this Lent is humility. The Mass and Magnificat readings, the books I pick up, the homilies I hear, they all seem to be saying one thing:

If you want to be more loving, more like Jesus, then

allow yourself to be humbled.

St. Therese of Lisieux put it this way: You want to climb a mountain whereas God wants you to descend: actually He is waiting for you below in the valley of humility…The one way to make rapid progress in the life of love is to remain always little.

To remain little…It’s so contrary to the message of the world and even the message of some people who believe they’re following Christ.  

Remaining little is not easy. Ego, pride, self-love, they dictate that we deserve so much more in this life and keep us from truly loving others. Perhaps that’s why we need “to be humbled” as much as we need “to humble ourselves.” 

Convicted of our pride, on some level, many of us impose upon ourselves a certain standard or rule of humility in order to humble ourselves before God and even man. Not surprisingly the insidious nature of our ego encourages us to take pride in doing so. That’s why there is something different about choosing humility in the face of humiliating circumstances and interactions with others. 

In his book Holy Abandonment, Fr. Lehodey offers this quote by St. Francis De Sales:

 There are two ways of humiliation…most people consent to humble themselves but not to be humbled by others. This is a serious mistake..

Lehodey goes on to suggest that if you want to know if your humility is genuine or whether you’re growing in humility all you must do is look at the way you accept being humiliated. Ouch!

So here is a little questionnaire for us today:  How do you react…

…when someone is inconsiderate of your plans, desires, needs, feelings?

…when someone contradicts your opinion publicly or even privately?

…when someone points out a mistake you made or proves you wrong?

…when someone points out your sin or a character flaw in you?

…when life doesn’t go as you planned and God doesn’t answer your prayers in the way you wanted?

… when your spouse, children, friends, co-workers disregard your advice?

… when you’re criticized unjustly?

…when God asks you to do something but you feel self-conscious, embarrassed or don’t want to be seen by others?

…when someone is simply rude to you?

The list of questions could go on and if you so desire you might make your own list as you reflect on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about humility. Of course He can speak volumes to our hearts on this subject but in the end it’s up to us as to whether we are willing to be or not to be humbled.