Sunday, April 24, 2011

Love is Greater than Fear

Friends in Faith:

And they waited. And we waited. And we are rewarded. We are rewarded by a love that conquers our fears, a love that achieves our hopes, a love given to us by His grace because we believe.

And all because one man, Jesus, had a love for us greater than the fear of suffering; a love greater than the fear of torture and humiliation; a love greater than the fear of death.

Our patience was/is much less than the patience of Christ’s followers. We know what we are waiting for, Christ’s followers did not, and yet we struggle to wait thru the 40 days of Lent.

Christ’s followers had waited since the days of Adam, Abraham, Noah and Moses. We do not have to wait at all, since Christ’s redemption has already been given to us. Our only waiting actually comes in our searching, in our unbelief, or lack of belief, in what Christ’s death and resurrection means to us as Christians.

We have been given a love to conquer our fear the moment we were baptized. And if we accept and live in His grace we may share in His resurrection.

Just as fire and water our newly blessed thru scripture at the Easter vigil so we are renewed thru living and walking with Christ when we reflect His light in our lives and pour out our self in service to each other, just as He did in His own life for us.

“Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” Col 3:1-4
So what is a Love greater than fear?

It is a love that brings someone back to me when I need forgiveness for harsh words, judgmental actions, or unkind deeds.

It is a love that allows me to give my time to care for a sick friend, to stop to say an encouraging word to someone struggling with the loss of a loved one or to stay committed to a spouse who misunderstands or treats me without respect.

It is a love that replaces my fear of loneliness, my fear of suffering, my fear of sickness, my fear of loss, with hope, peace and comfort.

In each of these instances it is the images of the suffering Christ and the risen Christ which gives me the encouragement, the comfort, the hope, and the strength to keep moving forward.

It is the image of Jesus unselfishly hanging on the cross that is my reminder that I am supposed to sacrifice my own needs, my own time, my own wants to serve others. His walk to the cross is my reminder that “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”’ Mat 16:24

And it is the next image of Him, resurrected from the tomb, that turns my fears of not having enough time or money--of earthly things; or my impatient fears of being hurt and bearing more than my “fair” share—into the energy, peace and comfort to unselfishly accept my burdens and continue to move towards His glorious, resurrected, all encompassing, LOVE.

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. He is Risen!

Blessings this Easter Season,

Monday, April 18, 2011

To Find Hope

Women of Faith:

In every “I wish” statement there is hope. And we hope for so much. We hope that we, our children and our family members will be healthy and happy. We hope to find true love. We hope for comfort and peace. We hope for everything that we believe and know in our hearts, in our purest inner being, to be good and right.

Think about the people you know who seem to be the most positive about their outlook on life, who’s cup is always ½ full, rather than ½ empty and ask them where they find their hope.

People who follow false hope always seem to be looking for more. They are searching for something to hold on to; they are searching for something to give them happiness; they never seem to be content with what they have, where they are, or how they look, etc.

Are we searching for the “right” hope?

People who have true hope are quiet, unassuming, and accepting; like Mother Theresa who I am reading about in a book entitled “To Find Hope.” A modern day saint who gave her life, everything she had, both in spirit and in material things, to be like Jesus by serving—serving Him, serving His poor, serving those who had nothing. Nothing, except hope.

Yesterday, Father Mike spoke of the characters who were part of the Passion of Jesus. He invited us to identify and to contemplate how their actions are reflected in our lives, through our choices.

Do we see ourselves as the “Peter” who denied Christ? Are we the “soldiers” who crucify and judge others? Are we the “Veronica” who wipes the face of others and shows compassion towards others? Are we the “Simon” who helps others carry their cross? Are we the “Joseph” that take others down from their cross? Are we the “Judas” who sells someone out for a few dollars? Are we the “Pilate” who washes our hands of the truth and allows someone to make the wrong choice?

He commented that Barabbas, who’s name means “son of the father,” was chosen to be released from prison by the people instead of the real, right and true Son of the Father, Jesus. How many times do we choose Barabbas the wrong “son of the father?”

How many times do we choose the wrong hope?

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations…...

Thus says God, the LORD…. who gives breath to its people and spirit …. I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you … to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
Is 42:1-7 This is the Hope we are seeking.

Mother Teresa said about learning from the poor: “The poor give us much more than we give them. They’re such strong people, living day to day with no food. And they never curse, never complain. We don’t have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.”

So, are we learning from them? Where are they placing their hope? In whom do they place their trust?

And Mother Teresa also said about family: “The family that prays together stays together… Just getting together, loving one another, will bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.”

Hope. Hope for our families. Hope for each other. Hope for our society.

Heavenly Father: Blessed be Your name. It is in Your Spirit that I seek hope. Let me not take societies offers of false hope. Help me to seek and to find You who are the one, the only and the true hope. Take me by the hand, open my eyes, and lead me out of the darkness during this Holy week. Amen.

Where or with whom is your “hope” placed? Is it with Barabbas, or with Jesus? Is it false or true?

May each of you be blessed with true hope this Holy Week,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why am I in this place?

Women of Faith:
“Grace” comes from where God places us.

We all ask “Why?”—Why me? Why now? Why here?

It seems to be the question to ask when we don’t like something that has happened to us, when we are in a place we are uncomfortable with or in a circumstance that isn’t “happy.”

But twice this weekend I have heard the “why” question answered, each time from the same contrary perspective. From the perspective that I am not supposed to figure out “why?” but rather I am to figure out “what?”

What am I supposed to learn, to change, or to take away from this experience? What gift has this person given me that I am supposed to use more thoughtfully? What character trait am I judging someone else on that I am just as guilty of?

We saw the movie “Grace Card” this weekend. (Recommended!) One of the main characters is a minister who is put into a position where he is “uncomfortable.” He keeps trying to figure out why he is in the other person’s life, why he has been placed in this situation, what he is supposed to be teaching the other character.

A wise man points out to him, that just possibly, he, the minister, is not where he is “at’ to help but rather to learn from that the other person—to make him “see better” his own ministry, his own purpose, even his own shortcomings.

Not “why” has this happened, but “what” grace is God granting me so that I may become more humble, so that I may have my eyes opened more fully to the grace He has given me.

“Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” 2Cor 9:8

Who has God put in my life not so that I can help them, but rather so that they may be an example to me, so that I may be touched by the patience, courage, commitment, service or other graces they exhibit? Who is in my life to teach me how to handle suffering, or who is a role model for giving of their time, talent and treasure?

Lord: Humble me, so that I may see my life from a different perspective. Not from a why am I here, but from a what can I do better attitude? Let me not ask, why do I have this burden, but instead to reflect as to how can I use this circumstance to better serve you? Bless my eyes so they may see, bless my ears so they may hear. Thank You for the blessings and burdens which bring me Your grace. Help me to keep my heart open to Your abundant grace. Amen.

While we can all learn from someone who is recognized as a teacher, we can probably learn just as much from the student who grows because of circumstances beyond their control. If we are open to God’s grace than we will be blessed with hope, comfort, and joy.

May you be blessed with God’s grace,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Am I blind?

Friends in Faith:

I am always amazed when I realize that someone whom I know has no sight can tell exactly where I am or even who I am in a room where they are not familiar. They make me wonder what there is that I am missing, that I cannot see.

Two old sayings come into mind as I think of my blindness: “stepping over a dime to pick up a nickel” and “stop and smell the roses.”

Now, you may be thinking these two sayings have nothing to do with each other—but they really do—they can both refer to our “blindness” in the way we approach our daily lives and the people we meet.

In the one we are “seeing” the easy way to get something we want and yet we are missing God’s way which society makes seem too difficult—we are blind to God’s presence in our lives.

And in the second we are missing the sheer beauty, the profound truths, that God is putting in front of us each day. I am referring to the simplest, tiniest (or maybe most important) people or person in our lives that society instead wants us to “see” as too needy, too changeable, or too time consuming.

Things like caring for the unborn and orphans; stopping to give a hand to someone elderly, or offering them our seat in a crowded room; or lending a kind, caring, loving ear to our spouse, child or friend, when they seem to be angry, but are really just testing the unconditional love we have professed.

How often have I “been blind,” only to later “see” my error in judgment? How often have I not defended the “right to life,” spoken unkindly about my spouse or avoided someone who needed my help?

“One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” ….“Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Jn 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

How often have I waited for someone else to do what my heart told me to do and then was a little envious because someone else received the smiling “thank you?”

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Jn 4:43-54

How often have I judged by appearance, only to find out that someone who had immense knowledge and experience was within arms reach and yet I had avoided them because they “looked” a little different?

“Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

Heavenly Father: I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. Ps 30:2 Open my eyes, my ears and my heart so that I may not be blind to Your presence in my life. Help me to smell the roses. Help me to “see” those who need a caring hand, a loving look and a kind word. Thank you for the amazing gifts you put in my life each day, a husband who leads, children and parents to love, and friends who care. Help me to not take them for granted and to give them back to you in the same spirit that you have given them to me. Amen.

May you all be blessed with the gift of Christ’s light and an open “seeing” heart,