“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
Luke 15:4 NABRE

Sometimes we feel as if we can’t make a difference. That the small things we do or say have no impact. Well let me tell you a story.

One of my officers responded to a suicide call whereby the grace of God, he arrived before the young man went through with it. He was able to get him out of the house safely and into a mental health facility. The young man had suffered for years with depression and other mental health problems. But the officer did not stop there. He befriended the man, called him, cared for him, encouraged him to give his life to God and to go back to church. That week, the man made amends with his family, began attending church and the universe fell into place for him. But the very next week while all was the best it had ever been, the young man died in a horrific car accident with his best friend,  both leaving behind wives and young children.

The officer was devastated. Through tears he said to me, “but we had plans to go to church together.” Then silence. Several weeks later, I received a call from the young man’s father to go over the return of his son’s property. It was then that he said this to me. “Melissa, I have to share with you what this officer did for my son. All his life he struggled. He was going downhill. This officer befriended my son, brought him back to God and saved my son’s life. That week in therapy,  my son asked me for my forgiveness, we hugged and I had the peace in my heart that I had prayed for for so long. He became a better person, asked forgiveness from everyone in the family and came back to church. So at the funeral in my despair, I thanked God. I did not lose my son to suicide because of this officer. My son was lost and was found and returned to God in peace as I had always prayed.  Yes it hurts to lose my son, but I have peace in my heart because of what your officer did.  I will never have to live with the image of my son taking his own life.”

The story moved me more than any other I had ever heard. It took me days, maybe even weeks to reflect on it. How the power of one effected so many and how we have that same power daily to effect that same change. Today, reflect and ask God to send you one. Or if you know the one, go after them. We are made to bring souls to God, and this is our purpose. Reflect on this officer’s story to remember the Holy Spirit, the power that the Lord has given you. Reach out to that one today and set the earth on fire for the love of God.

Pass it on…

Another unprompted post by my youngest. Wouldn’t it be so easy to follow her advice on friendship? Why don’t we?

Meditations for Kids

By: Meadow

To begin with, lots of people have friends, but guess what? Some friends are not REAL friends! You’re probably thinking there is no such thing as “not real friends,” everyone is alive! What I mean by that is your friend is just a fake (if you understand what I just said.)

First of all, my mom is my friend (everybody’s mom should be their friend!!!) #My BFF. But on top of that my mom is my superhero!!!! My mom is basically my lawyer when I fall down!!! My mom is a lawyer. Let’s get back to topic here…

I have tons of friends in my class!!! (They are all nice though.) Let’s say one of my friend’s said “I will sit next to you at lunch,” but they don’t . That is so called “I’m just kidding LOSER” –that is not nice. That is what I call…

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Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing itthey will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:22-25

As I sit here miserably sick in bed, I questioned God’s timing for round two of feeling like I was just hit by a mack truck. I just finished up a cold last weekend and spent last weekend in bed. Turns out that this weekend will hold the same fate for me…

During the times when I am sick, rather than embrace it, I tend to resist it. I exercise when I should be resting, go out when I should be staying in and exert energy when I should be mired in silence (sounds like the modern version of a St. Paul sermon). Yes friends, even in sickness we can choose to tune out what God is trying to do in our lives.

For me, sickness is a time when God is trying to get my attention about something. Sometimes that something is not readily apparent. Actually most of the time it is not…to me anyway. I live a hectic, busy life as an attorney working at a police department, a wife and as the mother of three children all practically the same age. I wake up an hour early each morning to spend time with God, and that is my hour of peace. But that peace slowly turns into controlled chaos, noise and the like.

So the hour is nice but is proving  not to be so sufficient for the things that I want to accomplish and the dreams that I have in my heart. Has anyone sat and thought, when God will be the time that I can do this thing? But…

Has waiting for God really been God waiting for you?

Before I became an attorney, my dream was to become a writer. I traveled to New York in high school to my dream school, Columbia and attended workshops there. I wanted to be a journalism major. And although this dream never came to fruition for a variety of reasons, I still look at those light blue letters that spell Columbia and writhe in grief, because deep down inside I wonder when God’s Plan “B” will deploy.

So back to sitting in bed sick…

This morning after a long and restless night, I woke up realizing that this wasn’t the sort of sickness that would simply go away. It was going to require a trip to the clinic, medication and yes REST. Since listening the first time is not my thing, I guess the second will be. My second act in life has always been the better anyway…

So I woke up and did my meditation and study as I do every morning. And since this time getting out of bed was not an option, I decided to listen. The Book of James seemed to be making its way into my head space, and God eased me into his message.

Just Do it

What? All that reading for a Nike slogan?

But you see, this is how God works. He takes a complicated, convoluted soul like myself and makes the message simple. It takes me an hour to get it, sometimes two, or maybe even months or years. But eventually, I get it.

So the Book of James was no different and made perfect sense. For the last several years I have been “thinking” about writing devotionals again but couldn’t seem to find a platform. I “thought” about starting a podcast about life as a Catholic (and Jewish) mom. I “thought” about finishing the book that I started about my conversion. I even thought about doing a comical talk show on Youtube about being a Catholic convert. All these things I have “thought” about and that’s where they have ended. Why? Because I wasn’t sure they would go anywhere and I didn’t want to take the time to see something fail.

Isn’t this our greatest downfall on dreaming, fear. 

And this morning in God’s perfect timing, I watched a video on A Greater Story with John Crist talking to Sam Collier about just this subject. About ideas that are contained and just doing them. About how it doesn’t matter whether the crowd will laugh or the reception you get, but rather to get that “thing” out of you. To stop talking about it and to just do it. 

To say, I am making this thing for me, not you! 

For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26

And for us creatives, those of who live and move and have our being in words we write, things we say or pictures we paint, we become bodies without spirits when we suppress the things that have been divinely ordered. They are almost other worldly compulsions, feeling that we may die if we do not write or feel pain when we cannot sing.

I believe now that when we stifle God’s gifts our lives become stifled.

The thing must come out…

So don’t flush your old work like I did, feeling as if it wasn’t good enough. It, in fact, is the platform, the springboard if you will for God’s creative juices to flow through you and be let out for all the world to see. Who cares that you have one view or the thing doesn’t go viral. Like John Crist says, that thing is for you! It is inside of you to get out!

So if you find yourself in the mundane, stuck, uninspired…let that thing out. Don’t worry about the reception, worry about your soul. That pain you feel may be physical, but it may be coming from somewhere else. So lean into the season, the time, the rest or wherever you are and do those things you’ve been holding back on. Are you a failure if nobody cares for it or are you really failing God?

“So also faith of itself, if it does not have works is dead.”

James 2:17

 

The Conditions for Restoration and Blessing

Deuteronomy 30:1-13 The Message

Here’s what will happen. While you’re out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today, God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I’m commanding you today. God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you’ll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors. But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back.

This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain – you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean – you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!

The Holy Spirit burst threw me today like a freight train, crushing everything in its path and not caring who or what was in its way. I have been tired for some time in this season of wandering… where God where are you? Is this it? Is my life meant to be lived in these bits and pieces? Some ups, some downs…moments of joy and some of sadness. Am I supposed to live in the in between or for the next moment? Meditation after meditation, article, blog post, bible study, mass, homily, Instagram priests- I took it all in, and it was GOOD! But I couldn’t hear a lot of it. In fact, I couldn’t hear most of it. Because I was to busy keeping my mind fixed on negativity, demeaning words and actions, cruelty and meanness and re-living those words in my head over and over again waiting for God to give me a different platform, a different purpose, a different meaning.

We say that we do not care about words that hurt and those that hurt us, and that is a LIE. And although we may say it, the heart feels it and often deters us from the very thing that God has already told us to do. For a long time now I have been living in that lie, veering on and off the course, in and out of that narrow lane. Those words, those words in my ears. That email that I received telling me to shut the f*** up, the internet is mine not yours, this space is mine not yours, the message is mine not yours. And so the devil crept in, kept my hands from writing and my heart from feeling. Holding back the gift that God gave me- my words. Not for me, but for someone. A you, a friend, your sister. The words that seemed to flow like a dripping faucet, a steady flow until someone said, “I’ll fix that faucet!” So I let them “fix” that faucet. But I was the one who decided not to turn it back on.

The one thing that God asked me to do is the one thing that I’ve been holding back. I am the cause of my own downfall. And while I’d like to blame the ones that stifled me, it is not their fault. Undeterred, I should have walked right into Jerusalem.

Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem. Luke 13:33

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Luke 13:35

Did you see that? Jesus willingly did that. Knowing everything, He walked into His own death. But along the way, he experienced everything that we did, rejection, pain, sorrow- you name it. He was undeterred. He kept walking. He did not hit the pause button or decide He would take another road. He kept going, His face set toward the ultimate goal- Jerusalem.

As we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, why do we fear, then tremble and stop? Why do we walk the other way or think that God has a different call on our lives just because people are mean and don’t like what we say?

Nelson Madela said this about obstacles and perseverance,

“When the water is boiling, it is foolish to turn off the heat.”

Could our mission and signs be any clearer? Is anything that God sends to us easy? And why do we run away rather than towards our heavenly missions? Why are we so deterred?

What a fool I am this day! If God demanded my life this day, could I say that I lived up to what He asked of me? Did I not hear the words of Mary- Do whatever He tells you to do!

I pray to God that my life is not demanded of me this day.

Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into His glory?

Luke 24:25-26 (italicized the word “and” for emphasis, it was in fact BOTH!)

Can we not suffer yet still choose to move forward, all at the same time? Why do we run away when we know we are called? Why can we not endure and enter at the same time? Oh the great mystery of the crucifix…

So I will keep walking, mud and all. Those people that believe that they own the market on opinion and the internet, I’m over it…

I’m taking back the land.

I’ll admit it, I stole the title of today’s post from my Magnificat Reflection from Monsignor Giussani, a priest from Milan, Italy. Today’s stolen title and gospel reflection can be found here. It’s more than worth the read.

None of us are worth it really, though are attentions seem to sway us to think otherwise. We turn to our husbands and friends and co-workers to provide what they cannot, the unconditional, unselfish, unyielding love of Christ. I am sure that is why so many relationships fail, because we fail, yet expect others not to do the same. In fact, we expect them to exceed our expectations. We are so unfair and selfish in that way. If we are imperfect producers of love how can we expect any different from the flesh and blood around us?

Renouncing all for the One who is worth it is just that, He is the only one that is worth it. Yet our hearts pour out in so many other directions, bleeding on the ground and we still ask why. Why did he/she hurt us? Why is there pain in the world? Why did they break our hearts? Why do we ask why? Why instead do we not yield our hearts to the one who created the heart? To the lover of our souls? To the Only one who knows, and is worth it?

The light of love flooded my heart this morning thinking of the lover of my soul. And I couldn’t help but think how my heart danced away from him, watching him standing in the background. It isn’t that I want to stray, in fact quite the opposite, but love and acceptance seem so enticing when the road gets hard. Sometimes you just want to be held by something real. And Jesus is hard to hold, because in order to hold Him, you have to renounce everything else, even oneself.

And it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to follow a path that leads to the unknown. And my cross is heavy, over- bearing at times. And I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. Why can’t I carry an ice cream cone or a puppy or something? The burden of the wood burns my back, It is sweaty, hard, laborious. And sometimes the gentleness of Jesus gives way to the pain of Jesus. But the way of the cross is the same every time- a painful death, silence and a resurrection. Yet we so often will not choose that path, even it be an unconscious choice of avoidance. And that’s where I was. The road is narrow and I don’t like it. But after much pain and trial, I am back on the road, carrying my cross, coming after Him to a known death, again and again and again. I have calculated the cost yet still run. I reason I am not strong enough or brave enough. I reason I am broken. I say that I am not the one. And that’s the moment I leave Jesus in the corner while I dance with someone else. But when I come back, the pain is sweet, the burden is light and the heart is heavy. This is the great mystery of the crucifixion.

The meditation from today goes, “As time passes, Jesus makes his request more demanding.” Oh how true this is! And our love for Him is tested, day in and day out. Oh Lord why do you bring me such difficult people. “Because, ” He says, “They need to know that they are loved by me.” Oh my Lord, such a tall order.

But this is what I was made for, to love Him and know Him and serve Him. To pour that love out so others may experience Him in a real and tangible way. No matter their belief or who they are. Everyone wants and needs to be loved, and it’s really that simple. And the closer I am married to the sacred heart of Jesus is the closer I am to heaven. And I want to be close to heaven because my heart is buried there, and so is His. There is no other reason to live. Just Him. And that love, that great love that pours out when we are hopelessly wrapped up in Him is the same love I give to you, and you, and you. I give His love regardless of the love that’s given to me from you. Because it is not my job to make them love me, it is my job to make me love them, like He loves them. Don’t they know He’s right here? And there are so many tears. Oh Lord, how foolish I have been. Of course I am not qualified, but I am when you hold me. Because when you hold me, I can hold them. Because it is ok. Because through His wounds I am healed. And the wounds in my heart, those invisible wounds that Christ has too, can heal the one who is wounded. How can we not see those wounds? They are the walking dead in high positions, they are noble kings, they are paupers and they are prisoners. Is there any man that can escape the pain of life?

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Marry your heart to Jesus and reflect the love that He has, no matter the cost.

Listen to: I shall Not Want

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee

The pain of legalism is the pain of perfection. No matter the religion, the task , the opportunity, it is a deep rooted need to be parallel with rules, with something tangible and real, with something that aligns your desire to tear off your old skin and make it new again. Legalism is grasping and real and desirable because it is something to align yourself with when the pain becomes to unbearable. It is a real place to go, a set of absolutes to follow when you are drowning in a world of uncertainty. And while many find legalism abhorrent and counter-cultural or even more so so very “Catholic,” legalism really has less to do with religiosity and more to do with the pain of perfection. It is the trauma of a neglected child begging to be loved by their parents, an abused child struggling to make sense of their broken body, and the abandoned child, hungry for the love of something. So when you tell me my legalism is so very Catholic, I will tell you that what is so very Catholic is what ultimately freed me.

For those of us scrambling from the pain of wanting to be loved, we lean into legalism in all of our endeavors. I learned early on that sexual abuse manifests itself in perfectionism for some, and when perfectionism cannot be attained the suffering ensues. So we search for something real, something we can hold on to to attain this great level of perfection. It is ultimately in rules that we find our comfort, sticking to rigidity within ourselves, cleaving to unattainable goals and words that always fall short and are imperfect. It is the reason I haven’t written in so long. The words were not perfect, the topic was not perfect, and so it just couldn’t come out, lest it offend someone or something or attain some level of criticism that I just didn’t want to bear. So instead I prayed, But not just prayed I ceased to exist in rote prayer.

At first this routine started innocent enough for me. A beautiful devotion to a specific set of prayers, leaving it all to God and surrendering myself as if I did not exist. I found the prayers comforting as I often do when I find prayers that I can cling to. But after awhile, I found myself flat and falling, longing to have a conversation with God but not dare move from my Rule that I created for my self. I find myself entering this pattern often but never recognized it until last Sunday. I was preparing a talk for a group of women for an upcoming retreat when the “light switch” went off for me. That hadn’t happened in a long time. And while usually the darkness is a scary place for me, this time it was not. I knew where I was . It was not unfamiliar.

So I groped around for awhile before reading my talk and like the song in Chorus Line, “I felt nothing.” That same numbness had returned. But it was not vicious this time, it was there when I read my talk and recounted my childhood, my abuse and the betrayal of my dearest friend. I walked out of the room after reading the talk as if nothing happened, because nothing did. The lights were still out.

After an enlightening talk with my sister, I called my godmother to help me through the weeds. I could see a hint of light out in a far distance but I could not get there. We talked for quite some time about healing, letting go and resentment. I love her and wanted to feel, but I couldn’t. No matter, because she has been there and understands. I have learned to listen to her and follow her direction even when I don’t understand. I do that because I recognize the far reaching power of God to send a human being to be there in our suffering. Karen is the embodiment of Jesus to me.

So I started to do what she told me. That will remain between me and her. But the lights just wouldn’t go on, and I stewed, I kept on with my morning routine until I could not bare it. After many months I stopped reading the prayers and asked God what He wanted me to do. I felt the burden start lifting.

As soon as I put down the prayers, the unthinkable happened. My daughter was injured in a horseback riding accident. But because I was feeling nothing, I was able to keep it together for her. It was you are ok, solemn reassurance,. quiet ride to the hospital, prayer over her with great authority and a diagnosis of a compressed vertebrae with no tears from me. She saw my steadfastness and took it on as her own cloak of blessed assuredness. No more tears, no anxiety. “Because, ” I told her with firm resoluteness, “You will be ok. You will ride again.” And that’s all she needed to hear.

With my firmness came a bit of light. I was unmoved and not frightened. I was a rock.

And she went to school the next day and I went to work. And I didn’t pray those prayers again, instead I just went with my spirit. My morning holy hour was the daily church readings, some time in adoration and reading a newfound book recommended to me by a newfound friend, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. And I felt free.

In Thanksgiving for God sparing my daughter from serious injury, my heart flooded with the want to thank Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. So I fled to Adoration and sat with Him, while I texted with my husband about my own pain.

Giving thanks to God started to allow me to feel something. It wasn’t on the calendar for that day, but my break in my legalistic routine gave rise to the Lord of my life. I began once again to feel the great joy of freedom that only Christ can bring.

And a funny thing happened. I got several emails out of nowhere from people who had either watched my story or read my recent piece on the Coming Home Network- A Jewish Girl’s Journey to Christ. And the flood of emotion I felt from receiving emails from complete strangers whose life I had somehow touched felt overwhelming. My words somehow got through to them. And somehow despite my brokenness and imperfect words, they heard God.

And I went back to the scripture that I studied just yesterday,

“Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The Old is good,” Luke 5:38

The biblical note found an opening in me this morning.

Satisfaction with old forms will prevent one from sampling the new

Astounding…

It is so true that old habits die hard, and deep wounds are the hardest to heal. And when I let go, the light began to flow back in and it wasn’t so dark anymore. And when I asked a good friend why God had chosen me, a broken vessel to be an advisor to men who were both kings and prisoners, he said something very profound. “You are accepting and loving.” That was so simplistic for me. Isn’t everyone?

“No,” he said.

Hmmmm…

So I wrestled with that, lights not fully on yet. What was keeping me in the dark? Why did God choose me to speak to men when I myself was so broken? If they only knew, they would surely turn away. Or maybe that was the exact reason they were not.

I went to bed and woke up determined to find the cause of why the lights went out. As I answered the various emails I had received about my story, my heart flooded with the greatest rush of joy as I recounted my conversion, how I overcame trauma and what and who had helped me along the way.

And I realized in that moment that I had gone back to my old ways. That perfectionism is comfortable and known and that legalism is comfortable and known and that’s why I was stifled, that’s why the lights went out. Because in telling my story sometimes I am triggered to go back and be that person again, and because again and again God makes me tell it. Is that not the conundrum of the cross? Is that not the fiery furnace?

So I released a breath and the lights flipped back on again. God designed me to be free- this is His Holy Spirit. To follow Him wherever He goes, again and again leading me back into the pain so he can go deeper, so he can root out the wounds that plague me, so he can make me better, so that I can be His vessel of light to another fellow journeyman.

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. Acts 9:18

Listen to Open Up Let the Light In