Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humble Child of God

Women of Faith:

Does it feel like you are “always” last? Like there is never enough time for you, or that the only time you have for you is when you climb into bed at night, or lock yourself into the bathroom for a few minutes?

Do you wish for quiet time, me time, more energy, or that someone would just DO something/anything to help you? Do you feel like you are the doormat, and everyone else is walking on/across you—especially those you love, your spouse and children.

How do those feelings make you treat or react to their needs, your coworkers or others you come into contact with? Do you resent their free time, or even get angry at yourself because of your own “willingness” to be “last,” which as women, wives and mothers we are so good at being—always taking care of others and putting our own needs last. And do I even feel guilty when I happen to have a moment of quiet time to pray or meditate?

Have we forgotten who we are? Who they are? Who our spouse is?

We are all “Children of God?” And God asks us to “be humble and to be last” as he did in today’s readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ”My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”

(Non Catholic Christians—if you do not know this verse, it is because the Book of Sirach is one of the books of the bible that was “deleted” during the Protestant reformation. The book was deleted because he/Sirach refers to believing in the traditions of the Church—meaning that all things that are true may not be written. If you click on the link you will be able to read the entire book.)

And the gospel, Lk 14:1, 7-14 “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This gospel goes on to tell us to put our feelings and needs last so that we won’t be embarrassed when we are asked to “step down.” That doesn’t mean that we are to be doormats. It does mean however, that if we are “putting others before ourselves,” and doing it with grace and love, then we are being “last” exactly as God asked us to be. We are submitting our lives to God (and to our husbands/spouse and children) which is exactly what God calls us to do.

Dear God: Thank you for the gifts you have given me—for letting my husband/spouse be someone who is your Child, for putting your “children” in my care. Make me Humble. Help me to Love humbly without resentment, and with gratitude for the times my love is reflected by my family. Help me to appreciate that my family is part of your family. Help them also to see me as a child of God, so that they appreciate the love I show them. Help me to remember though, that love is not “even,” and that I am to love humbly, regardless of what is returned to me. Amen.

We are all God’s children. We have all been “designed by God.” Let us be humble in our actions and reactions to the children of God by whom we are surrounded. Let us treat God’s children as the gifts you meant them to be.

Blessed be God’s children,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Truth is In Your Handbag from Proverbs 31 Ministry

The Truth is in the Handbag
25 Aug 2010
Shari Braendel

"Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me." Psalm 31:3 (NIV)

I recently watched as a frazzled shopper fumbled around in her bag trying to find her allusive keys. As she dug through her overstuffed purse, multiple items spilled out, landing on the counter and falling to the floor. Quickly, she began collecting her items.

I thought about her pretty purse, beautiful on the outside but hiding an unruly mess on the inside. And then I started thinking about how alike women and purses can be.

Maybe you're like a small purse that only has the capacity to hold a few things. Yet you try stuffing more into your life than you can hold, only to get frustrated. Perhaps one of those things is God: He's been cramm ed into a tiny space in your world and you don't give Him much room to rule because you feel more comfortable when you are in control.

Perhaps you're like a big purse, carrying all kinds of things. You're involving yourself in so many activities just because you can; with no real purpose to why you're doing it. You end up flustered like the shopper digging for her keys because you haven't spent the time needed to organize your spiritual life.

I know you're not a handbag, but when applying biblical truth and application, what kind of purse are you most like?

It's not God's desire for our inside to be out of sync with our outside. He desires for us to have our hearts turned toward Him and have our very pulse in beat with what He is doing in us.

Where should we start to curb the chaos, release our controlling tendencies and lighten the busyness to fall in step with God?

Start by being still. For some, that will go against every fiber of your being, but try it. Perhaps you abide in chaos because it's masking what is really going on with you, just like your pretty purse hides the unorganized mess within. Sit quietly and pray for God to help you be keenly aware of Him. Nothing that you are going through is a surprise to God.

Next, relax and trust the Lord. Sometimes feeling out of control causes you to hyper-control everything around you. Let go of your fears, doubts and worries and make room for God in your life.

Finally, clear your calendar. We overbook and over-schedule out of habit and now busy feels normal. Is your fast pace driven by fear, or does it define your value or identity? If so, re-evaluate where your time and energy are being spent and why.

Making a change doesn't come easily, but it can be done. Although seeking out time with God, learning to trust Him, and reorganizing your priorities can feel uncomfortable and difficult at first, I know for sure that it's not nearly as hard as living overcommitt ed and out of control.

Together, let's commit to cleaning out our "purses!"

Dear Father, will You please meet me right here, right now and quiet my heart so that I can rest and regroup? Thank You for the comfort of knowing that while I sometimes get waylaid, You never take Your eyes from me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let Go and Let God

Women of Faith:

How do we let go of our children, our grudges, or our worries? Our minds may tell us to trust in God, but getting our hearts to completely believe and trust Him on a daily basis can be a real challenge.

I wrote most of this Monday Morning in response to a friend struggling to let her child become an adult. As many send students off to school this week I thought it would be appropriate to share these thoughts on a broader perspective.

I found the following prayer card, God’s perspective on “letting go, and letting God.”
“Let Go & Let God”
As children bring their broken toys and tears for us to mend, I brought my broken dreams to God because he was my friend.

But then instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone, I hung around and tried to help, with ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried, “How can you be so slow?”

“My child,” He said, “What could I do? You never did let go.”

We can fix our children’s broken toys, but we cannot fix their broken hearts; nor can we keep them safe from physical harm, decisions they make or the world’s evil influences. Likewise, we cannot make someone change their heart, accept God, or make dreams come true.

God is the only one who can fully protect us, that’s why “Be Not Afraid” & “Do Not Fear,” are the most often used phrases in the Bible.

The same principle that applies to letting our children grow up, also applies to our fears, and the angers we feel for the injustices that are so a part of our everyday lives. Learning to let go of our fears for our children, with TRUST and learning to let go of our hurts through forgiveness are all a part of the same “letting go,” process. TRUST God! in all things and with all things.

Prayer is the essential action—Praying “the right” prayer, not to change someone, but to change myself; not to change a child’s destiny, but that God will protect my child’s destiny. And prayer that asks for forgiveness which in turn allows us freedom from guilt and opens our hearts to trust.

As women we want to protect those we love and we feel guilt for just about every wrong, many times wrongs which we did not create. Keeping our children in our arms (or in a glass cage) may not completely protect them from illness, and as they grow older to protect them from making the wrong decisions. We are not the protector, God is.

Likewise, feeling guilty for things we did not do, or for what others did that affected us serves no purpose. We must trust that God will protect us and our loved ones. My prayer should be not to change my spouse, my friend, or my child, but to change myself. This gives God the power to reduce my fears, and take control of my life. In turn, the knowledge that God, who really does have control, also knows my needs and dreams and He can give me peace and comfort.

Someone wisely once told me: “Love is about, letting go, give them their wings, let them fly and dream their dreams.” One of my favorite songs is “On Eagles Wings” and especially this verse: ‘You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life, say to the Lord: “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust.”’ Psalm 91
In prayer, we must learn to recognize God’s messages to us which are so often whispers amongst the screams of our problems and the societal messages in our lives.

One of the hardest parts of letting go our fears is when it requires us to seek forgiveness; not only His forgiveness, but of the person/s we have wronged, or who has wronged us. We must trust that when we ask God for forgiveness our relationship with Him will open both our heart and the other persons involved, so that we can receive His grace, and therefore let God be the judge, not us.

It is truly about learning to trust that God will take care, about letting Him have control. Give up the idea that you are the protector, that you will keep your children and family safe. Unfortunately we can’t always protect. We can only love them and let them know we love them. Let Go (of the control) and Let God (have control)—TRUST!

Matthew Kelly would tell us that our purpose is to “help others become the best version of themselves.” If we are always trying to help someone become “their best version” our prayer will always be the “right” prayer. This will give control and trust to God.

Praying not that my spouse, family member, or friend will change, but that I will change to be more accepting, more forgiving, more trusting of the circumstances in my life. And praying that those I love will also come to know God’s protection, forgiveness, and peace.

Just as I was when I first wrote this, I will again be leaving Sara, Luke, Colby and Karolina in Colorado after spending the weekend with them. I always have to remind myself that she has her own family, her own dreams, her own home. This is what “leaving your mother and father” and “cleaving” to your spouse means. I know that the only way to help her from a distance is to pray for her and for her family, so that their marriage and family will be God centered and God protected.

Our experiences of sending our children to school as kindergartners are a preparation for sending them out into the world as adults. Just as we give teachers our trust, so must we give God our trust. He is the ultimate teacher.

To Let Go is to Let others dream; To Let Go is to allow others to learn on their own experiences; To let Go is to let others affect their own destinies; To Let go is to allow others to Grow; and to Let go is to Fear Less and Love More.

Dear God: I praise your presence in my life and in my loved one’s lives. Help me to Let Go so that others can dream. Help me to let go so that others can learn by their own experiences. Help to me to let go so that God can affect each of our destinies. Help me to let go and allow others to grow through you. Help me to let go by fearing less and loving more. Thank you for giving me comfort and peace because I have trusted in you. Amen.

Let Go (of the control) and Let God (have control)—TRUST!


Monday, August 16, 2010

It's All About Me????

Women of Faith:

Is it all about me? Or are you coming to realize that just because our society says ME, ME, ME, doesn’t mean that God says so?

It seems as if none of us wants to accept the blame, few truly forgive, and even less forget, and seeing someone serve another person without “pay” or reward is a rarity. As spouses, serving and forgiving, which are the core principals of love and marriage, are at the “root” of many of our breakdowns in relationships. We live with the consequences of pride, anger, and jealousy; greedy and unwilling to “see” God’s love and understanding in our lives.

We want to be taken care of, pampered, and made to feel as if we are right all the time. We spend money for instant gratification, we expect to always be right and put ourselves in charge so that we can have “power” for our own purposes. And if a spouse doesn’t justify the other, they go in search of “love” from other “feel good” /addictive/ areas, or another person thru adulterous affairs; and no one seems to think any of this is “abnormal” or wrong, because society has made it “right” by its frequency.

We have religions that support gay marriage, abortion, and birth control. Religions who believe in “a god”, who don’t believe that Jesus has lived, and/or who’s teachings circumvent the full truth so that they will feel better about the way they are living.

The California courts have thrown out the ban on gay marriage, voted on by the people, saying that it is “unconstitutional” and yet it was the people who put it in the constitution by their vote. Literally the judge is saying—IT’S ABOUT ME, “I don’t like what was voted in, so I’ll just make a new law I like by banning the people’s vote/law.”

God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t need us to be right. He is RIGHT! He put us here with His love; He put us here to serve each other. He put us here so that we could be with Him in heaven.

We have a shining example of “pure love,” “pure acceptance,” and “pure service,” in the person He gave us to bear His son, Mary.

“Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1: 38 She accepted God’s request for her body and spirit wholeheartedly. “Done according to HIS word!” She said nothing about her own desires, nothing about I or me, only about God’s desires.

So do we worship Mary? No, but we do pray "thru" her, honor her with the greatest reverence, and ask her to lift our prayers to her Son, Jesus and to God. As Martin Luther said in 1531, “She is the highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. She is nobility, wisdom and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures.”

At the foot of the cross, with some of his last spoken words, Jesus said to his disciple, “Mother, behold your Son. Son, behold your mother.” John 19: 26-27 Jesus gave his mother, Queen of the universe, to us ALL, so that she would be OUR HEAVENLY mother, as she was/is God’s GIFT of a PERFECT mother for Jesus. And just as we requested our own earthly mothers intercede with our fathers when we were youngsters, so does Jesus tell us to take our prayers to His mother Mary, so that they will reach a greater glory with God, our Father.

Mary is our example that none of our actions should “be about me.” But instead, they must be “about God.” We are called to love and serve as Jesus (and Mary) did. We are also called to forgive and give as they did.

Dear God: Praise be the gifts of Your Son, Jesus and His heavenly Mother, Mary. Thank you for the Beauty and Blessings bestowed on us thru her intercessions for us. Help Me to be more like Mary, ready to serve, giving of my life, willing to forgive, and pure of heart. Help me NOT to be “about me” but “about living my life for you.” Amen.

Help me to be “about you” this week—


Monday, August 9, 2010

Live from San Antonio

We are in San Antonio, a city rich in Catholic heritage, which was named after St. Anthony, who celebrated the first mass here almost 400 years ago. Our mission is that of “spiritual recharge” with “carefree timelessness”—Matthew Kelly-- for each other and with God.

Saturday, as part of an audience of over 10,000, we listened to the internationally known priest, Father Corapi, He was sponsored by our special friends, Greg and Julie Alexander, founders of the Alexander House, and the “Covenant of Love” marriage enrichment and ministry programs. (Watch for more—the ministry is coming to TT soon!)

Father Corapi is a “conservative, Harley riding,” priest, who is a Vietnam vet, was once a millionaire businessman in Hollywood and Las Vegas, and lost everything, becoming homeless as he succumbed to drug addiction. Thru his conversion, Father Corapi was ordained a priest by Pope John Paul II with Mother Theresa in attendance in 1991. He appears regularly on EWTN TV and radio stations and is known for speaking the hard truth about where our country and our families are headed spiritually.

His message this weekend was entitled “Life, Love and the Purpose of Our Existence.”
In summary, of the 16 pages of notes I took, Father Corapi said, ‘“The time is at hand to change your life,” because “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” And in the end there are only 2 choices, There is Heaven, or There is Hell. “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”’ Luke 12:32-48.

He said, “The United States is in a state of spiritual warfare” (see Ephesians 6: 10-17.) Our nation is unraveling before our eyes and yet we continue to ignore the signs of the consequences of our sin. And that our life, our love, our souls depend on how we respond to the conflict around us.

This “spiritual warfare” is seen in 4000 abortions and 3600 divorces in the USA each DAY. One half of all marriages end in divorce and almost as many couples are cohabitating without the benefit of marriage. Because marriages are failing, and our children are in misery, so too are our communities and our nation in chaos. Our youth are being denied the teachings of morality, church, and marriage. There is an open, organized attempt to deny the existence of God, just as we have been denied the rights to mention God in our public school classrooms. And the recent rulings by the courts concerning homosexuality and same sex unions which is spoken so strongly against within the teachings of the Bible are another “failure” to heed God’s commands.

Pope Pius XII once said: “The greatest sin of our generation is that it has lost all sense of sin.” And yet we have been told over and over that God will punish and destroy those who sin.

Some of the reason for these sins, these failures, this evil in our society, can be pointed back to the choice to question, and then to go against, the Churches’ moral teachings, especially the introduction of birth control and the ever increasing materialism and secularism in our society.

In Fatima, Portugal, where Our Lady, The Blessed Mother of God, Mary, appeared in 1917 to 3 children and now, again as she appears daily since 1981, in Medjugorje, Bosnia, , Mary brings the message: “I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.”

She continues, by adding repeatedly: “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” This, along with the message, “The Blessed Mother can no longer restrain the hand of her Divine Son from striking the world with just punishment for its many crimes,” should be more than enough warning. However, many Christians have either never heard the warning or have chosen to ignore the warnings. And with each passing day more and more of the predictions made by the Blessed Mother to the children of Fatima and Medjugorje are coming true.
Father Corapi brings much the same message, saying that we must change our ways, heed the commandments, listen and speak the truth, and live by the cross—first with God and then by loving our neighbor as ourself.

Dear God: Praise Be Your Love given freely for life. Help me to Love you more fully by always being ready to sacrifice my life for your sake. Help me to never “water down” or only speak “partial” truths because they are “easier” to bear. Help me be “spiritually ready” to fight the battles and the spiritual war I see all around me. Bless our politicians so that they will listen and act as you command. Thank you for giving Stan & I the opportunity of “carefree timelessness” to spend with you and with each other. Amen.

Will we heed the warnings of Mary and of Father Corapi? Will we do as we are asked: to pray daily, to say the rosary daily, to receive the Eucharist weekly, and to read the bible regularly? Or will we risk being unready sinners, denying the Church teachings and living immorally, choosing only what feels good and not following the commandments?
Blessings from San Antonio,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Do you have “too much stuff?” Would you like to be free of having to find a place or a use for all of that “stuff?”

We live in a society of “consumerism.” We are continually in need of more things.
So, how much is “too much?” When have our possessions overtaken our life so that God is no longer in possession of our hearts? Are we “storing up” instead of “giving up”? Have we become greedy for more than we can ever possibly use, in ego, time and things?

As Americans we have more possessions than the rest of the world’s population. Even our poorest American neighbors have more than most of the worlds under privileged population. It is one of the reasons Americans are hated in other countries. We are seen as not living under the motto “one nation, under God;” but rather in building so that we are “one nation, for myself.”

Sunday’s reading is of the parable of the rich fool: Lk 12:13-21 ‘Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” …. Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
‘Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”’

Are we like the “fool” in the parable, building bigger houses, bigger closets, bigger garages, and bigger egos? Are we more concerned about building our 401k than giving to the poor; about having enough possessions to “eat, drink and be merry?”

Do we readily help those who have lost their jobs; are struggling for their next meal; who’s home has been foreclosed or those who live in underdeveloped countries? Are we sharing our possessions, including our finances, with neighbors who are living in substandard housing, who don’t own more than one pair of shoes, eat less than 3 meals a day or have less than an outfit for every occasion?

Most of you know that I love to shop, but lately that shopping has been more of an exercise to see how many times I can say, “no, I don’t really need that.” I realize that my “over full” closet needs cleaned out and my kids will attest that lately they seem to be ending up with a carload of items from the closet—food, memories, appliances and even furniture seem to be finding a “needier” home. Goodwill and the Clothes closet have become regular stops. Most of you can probably relate this to your own parents or grandparents, as they have shifted their possessions to others.

And what good does “saving it for my hayrack” -- meaning the auction when I die – do for someone who could use those “extra” possessions now?

The parable also talks about our life being “demanded.” As our priest said today, this does not necessarily mean death, but rather it is about God’s calling us to give up our ego, so that we will trust in Him rather than relying on our own self sufficient security; to live God’s way, rather than “my way.” To “… seek what is above, …. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry….” Col 3:1-5, 9-11

What is our reason for building more storage? If my reason for building is to become self sufficient then I have taken God out of my life. I am supposed to rely on Him, and I am to use my possessions so that I can serve other people and so that others can see Christ in me.

Possessions not only include worldly possessions, but those impurities of thought that won’t allow us to spend time in prayer or in spiritual growth.

Our readings Sunday also talked about our vanity. Are there times when what I do for others, including my family, is to build my ego and seek self satisfaction or acknowledgement of my worth rather than because I am serving them as God would ask? Do I need their praise to be satisfied?

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23 “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” … He must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart …. All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.”

Greed and vanity are interconnected. If in our anxiety to acquire and to become self sufficient we cannot rest, if we are continuously striving for more of something, if it is impossible to be content, then it is because we are not TRUSTING that God will take care of us. If we followed instead, our prayer to “Our Father” to “Give us this day our DAILY bread,” not our “weekly,” “monthly,” "yearly,” or "life’s” bread—but, our DAILY bread, we would not be “storing up” belongings, but rather we could be relying on God as our provider.

If we gave up our desires and rested our vain anxieties to possess, think of the freedom and comfort we would have in knowing and trusting that God is taking care of us. He has promised He will take care of us just as he did the Israelites on their 40year journey into the desert by giving them DAILY manna as food. Not extra to store for the future, but to meet their DAILY needs.

We have an attachment to our belongings. But the 10th commandment says “do not covet your neighbor’s goods.” We are to be rich in what matters to God, not in material possessions. We are to denounce all of our material possessions and become rich in our desire to possess God’s promises. Where our treasure is, so is our heart.

Dear God: Praise be your promise to care for my daily needs, to feed me, to make my soul rich. Thank you for fulfilling my DAILY needs. Please help me to desire only that which will help others and show others your goodness. Help me to be content with what I have and to always be willing to share my earthly possessions with those who are in need. Amen.

What in my life do I “possess” that makes me rely on myself rather than on God? What in my “possessions” do I have that I should be giving up—to my neighbors, near and far? What do I seek that I am “storing” and not using daily?

Blessings for a richer life with God,