Renouncing All for the One Who Is Worth It- No not you

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

The Pain of Perfectionism

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

The Hate You Give

I don’t know anything about the movie, just its title. I’ve passed over it several times when debating over which movie would serve as a Friday night escape. But the title of the movie did something to me. It was bold and unapologetic. It was angry and accusatory. I felt convicted in some strange and unatoned for way. Could I be guilty of a sin I didn’t commit?

Today, I meditated on the story of Herod and John the Baptist and read an excellent meditation on it. And that meditation scared me as it spoke of “the power of anger in its most extreme form.” And I reflected on my passions, my hate and any resentment or anger that was “inspiring” my heart or motivation.

Sin creeps so steadily into your soul. Like a silencer. Like a slow dose of poison, unnoticed. The hate you give. In your words, your actions, your rants and apologetics. In the way you deal with people. In the selfish advice you give them. In the missing of moments, in the accusations against our Lord. In the chains we put Him in. In the blasphemies we speak against Him.

It is us. We are the crowd that shouts, “Crucify Him.”

The hate you give

I cried for my soul. For the hurt that I’ve held onto. I have forgiven so many. The perpetrators of my abuse, friends, acquaintances and so many more. There is nobody in my mind’s eye that I hadn’t forgiven. I scanned my mind at a rapid pace, but my heart was beating and swelling and filled with conviction.

The hate you give. (Holy Spirit whispers)

And the sin was there clear as day. I had forgiven but I had harbored. I had done what Jesus had asked me to do but I had resented. I had followed the Word but I had not absorbed the word into my soul. And my actions, my words, my motivations had fallen so short of what the Lord expects from me.

And He was crying from the crucifix, Forgive them all.

Look at me. My eyes, my body, covered in blood and sweat and the wounds of a million lashes. My soul dying from rejection. My heart crushed by those I called my own.

But His heart, His heart swelling with an unfathomable love. And not hate, not hate but an immense love. An impossible love for you and for me. Blood, tears, sweat, dirt, rejection, hate, the hate, and the love coming back from Him. Lord my rejection is killing me. My soul is slowly dying. I don’t want to hold onto it any longer.

Betrayal is cruel and deep. It burns the soul. The person I loved the most. The person that left me. The forgiveness that I gave. The rejection that I received. The bitterness and resentment and anger that followed. The grief that consumed my soul. The why God why. The meditation on Judas. The crying. The repairing of the heart. And all the while God is watching…Take it all my beloved daughter. Grieve it. I love her too. I love her, too.

And there it was, deep and wide. My sin on display. I didn’t want God to love her.

The hate you give

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed, 
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

Silence has a Sound

Silence is a work of art. It is a choice. It is a canvass. It is a miracle of life.

Even the brush strokes have noise. Bristles to paper. The splashing of water. The insistence of color. Red is loud and blue has the hues of ice. Yellow demands its way. Green is the rustling of leaves. There is still SOUND.

The art of writing is even noisy. The tap of keys on a keyboard, strikes, movement. The sound of air or breath. Long sighs and even pauses. There is still SOUND.

We run away to find silence. It is an attraction. The insides of monasteries. The center of the Eucharist. It is deception. But not deception of the thing in and of itself. No, on the contrary that is the truth. The monastery, the Eucharist all reflect the silence we seek. It is not the world that is noisy but the inside of our souls. It is why we fall to our knees before the Blessed Sacrament praying for air and can hear the slamming of a car door, the buzzing bee, the murmurs of conversation. Silence makes us more attuned to noise and God does not want us to absolve ourselves from it but rather to sit in it and with it. How could heaven in all its splendor not include sound? The sounds of angels and trumpets, of the voice of God and of the saints. No, rather God is saying to us, let your souls cry for silence! Let your souls demand it! Let the face of the Blessed Sacrament reflect back on your face the gift of INTERIOR silence, so that I may teach you to have peace amidst the commotion of your busy world, the hustle and bustle and in ALL circumstances. I want you to carry with you that silence. In the pain of your wounded marriage, in the unexpected death of your loved one, in your screaming children. I want it to envelop you in my Holy light, so that when your soul is suffering it finds its place, right in the center of my heart. In the center of my Holy and uninterrupted silence.

No my child, do not run away from noise but run towards it and bring my silence with you in the inside cavern of your soul. You who everyday walk my streets, feed my children and bare my scars to the world. Rejoice in the noise! It is then that I test you. It is only then that your spiritual practices can be put to the test.

And all this in the Blessed Sacrament. In the thirty minutes, In the noise from the outside. In running away. This from seeking solace from Him, answers from Him as to why I cannot get quiet. A loving rebuke, a joyful discipline.

The world does not conform to your needs. The universe and all that is in it is mine, He says. You conform to its needs.

For the ones that he has left behind in the world, not in cloistered convents, or monasteries or hopelessly tucked away. For those whose vocation is marriage or motherhood or some other form of non-religious life. It is then that He tests us. Can you find the comfort of the cloister in the silence of your heart? Can you put on the habit despite the noise? Can you place yourself in the center of my will when it is loud?

The circumstances of life are what they are- and they will keep coming, as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. But will YOUR will finally give itself up to be fused into the Holy and Divine Will of God? And what if not for silence? Are we simply running INTO the burning sun rather than standing back to feel its rays? We cannot consume ourselves in Holiness without the acceptance of our own individual realities, our stages in this present life and each and every circumstance that presents itself.

When Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, the storm in our souls should have calmed. That is his Holy and Divine Will. To accept that this act he performed presented us all the silence we need.

You may still hear the pull of the waves and the rocking of the boat. But your soul. Your soul will be still…

She said Yes

In the 4th installment of “The Wild Goose” Series by Father Dave Pivonka, I was awestruck at the simplicity and complexity of the message all at the same time- Mary’s Fiat. 

Let it be done to me according to thy word

God’s Will is the center of the universe in our lives. But as I have ebbed and flowed and felt the current of the world and its many waves, I have longed for eternal peace. 

At the tender age of three, I began experiencing communion with God. His light, His love and His gentleness. And I’d like to tell you a beautiful story about how that billowed into a cloud of divine exquisiteness, but it did not. Or maybe it did.

My sexual abuse began at the tender age of 4 or 5. So God’s Presence at three became a great force in my life that protected me. I never doubted that God loved me. In fact, I truly believed that I was created to suffer and die for God. It wasn’t until Jesus entered my life that I learned that there was someone else that already did that for me.

In group, we talked about those ways that God became present to us even amidst the abuse. Many women recounted stories of horror that included such beautiful light. God was present in so many ways during these times, and I see now looking back that it was a gift from God that I never doubted Him, His Presence or His love for me, even amidst the suffering. I was not one who left Him. He was always such a beautiful part of me. And even my grandmother, God rest her soul, was sent as the embodiment of the unconditional love that I needed. And the thought that I had in the back of my head that weaved in like a thread was this- Why would God create me to be so intelligent, so loving, so creative only to kill me?  There was this sense I had within me, this war I had with my conscience that He wanted me alive. Yet I thought there was more glory in my death, and of course this was a thought from the evil one.

I am 41 years old and still alive.

Father Pivonka said that on his tombstone, he wanted one thing said about him. 

FATHER DAVE PIVONKA,

HE SAID YES

HE SAID YES

I had to take a breath. 

This is acceptance of the Divine Will. Of the things God allows and those He does not. Of the people and places and things He surrounds us with, and those He takes away. Of the acceptance of it all. Of the fiat.

God’s Holy Will is a reaction. It is not forward movement by us, but by Him. It is  responding to His call, a step closer to His sacred heart. It is an emptying of ourselves over and over and over again.

I think about my tombstone often, and have for many years. But these days, I do not think about it in the context of morbidity, but of light. That I know for certain that I was not destined to die, but to live- in His Will and in His divine light. 

Father, 

Help me to embrace those three Holy words

SHE SAID YES

Watch the Series, The Wild Goose here

 

The Spiritual Bouquet of Christ

Easter has begun. And not just in the source life of the Church, but in the hearts of many believers. Easter is the promise of hope, the resurrection of our forgotten dreams, the time when our bodies are so badly beleagured by Lent, that the only place to go is up. Our hands are outstretched, we are on our knees, we have barely crossed the finish line. We are tired, hungry and ready to surrender.

This is exactly where God wants us to be

My ego is surrendered to my Maker. I have been humbled and afraid. I have cried and crawled and begged for water. I have sustained myself by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. I have hung on to Him when there was nothing else to sustain me, the imprint of His mother’s rosary beads in the palm of my hands. I came out of Lent covered in dirt, barely breathing. I came out exhausted and longing for change. I was beaten, battered and often times alone. And only my God could save my wretched soul.

I was exasperated when Easter did not produce the type of fruit I imagined. I felt desperate and disappointed and heard the words this-was-all-for- not repeat in my head. I was walking around in a daze.

Where are you God?

Until I met up with a friend. I prayed earlier that day for Jesus to show up, and He did. Her words changed me forever. It was an explosion of flowers. It was spring. She reminded me that Easter was not a day, it was in fact a season.

What a game changer! I had been living liturgically for so long, but realized that I still fashioned a bit of secular living. Have you ever felt like that? Been reminded that God’s calendar is not the world’s calendar? That the Church, like the world teaches us to live in “seasons.” As the globe spins in winter, spring, summer and fall, the Church lives in the glory of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, then back to Ordinary Time.

If we learned to live liturgically, our joy would blossom into the most beautiful bouquets.

We would align with the will of our Creator. Live in joy with Him, cry with Him, be reborn with Him and be still with Him.

Our spirits would soar!

Why do we fight against the current of our spiritual ocean? We are swimming upstream while Jesus is calling us to flow with the current. We are climbing when we should be descending. We are trying to knock down doors when we should be sitting in the waiting room. And isn’t it a great relief to know that we are not crazy, but rather we have an answer in Mother Church! That as our souls ebb and flow and yearn to be closer to Christ that Mother Church with her open arms takes us in, makes us clean and says

Yes my child! Live with Jesus! Die with Jesus! Rise again with Jesus!

Isn’t this such a glorious notion. I can run like the prodigal son into the arms of my loving Father!

So if you are feeling out of sorts, your Easter wasn’t what you thought it would be, you are feeling confused, perplexed and unsure, open the Church’s liturgical calendar and find hope in the SEASON. It is Easter and Jesus Christ has Risen! Rejoice with Him and anticipate his heavenly departure. Remember all those Lenten seeds you planted and find hope in it’s Easter fruit.

He has Risen Indeed!

The Tomb of Silence

Thirty seconds in and I am terrified. I cannot control the racing of my thoughts. I am afraid to ask the question, God, what do you want me to do?

The question stands alone and cold. I don’t want to move from it. In fact I want to hide behind it. It is a shield, a fence that I am on the other side of. .

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

I finally settle in. He’s only asked me for five minutes. But I am scared to go here, scared of what He will ask of me. It may be spring, but it is winter in my soul.

I cannot resist any longer. I sit beside my Lord and find myself beside the tomb. I cannot see Him. I cannot hear Him. But I know that He is there. How so? I have finally visited the grave.

Even in the silence I am working, He tells me. I am bringing souls to heaven. You can’t see it behind the tomb. It is only in the silence that you can understand it. Stay beside my tomb and you will see. Beside my tomb of silence there are great treasures to behold. See all that is going on! When in doubt, go sit beside my tomb. It is busy with activity. It is silence that comes before my resurrection. Learn to sit with me in silence, I have much to say here. There is great joy here. Silence before meditating on my Word. 

I settled in. I wasn’t so afraid anymore. The time had passed quickly and now I didn’t want to leave. But I knew I couldn’t spend too much time before the tomb, there was a resurrection to prepare for. So I opened God’s word and heard His voice. The words were alive because of my time beside the tomb.

He spoke to me about the seriousness of sin. That monster that waits to devour us. But this time I heard it differently. This time He opened the door to even deeper treasures.

Sin begins in the first thought. How will we respond? It lies in wait at the door in order to devour us. The devil tricks us into believing in an outward looking world, focusing on the sin of others and what others may or may not be doing. This then produces the ugliness and allows us to lose focus on our own personal holiness. But if we pause before we act, correct our thinking in our minds, turn inward instead of outward, we will remember our Lord’s beating. We will remember our Lord’s scourging. We will remember our Lord’s silence.

Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7 (b))

It is in that moment that we can pause too. Sins urge is for us, but we can rule over it (Genesis 4:7). We can sin no more if we are repentant (Psalm 4:5). We can prepare the way of the Lord.

If I choose to sit beside the tomb in every moment that I am about to offend my Lord, I can remember all of these things. I can remember the silence in the face of accusation, I can remember the stillness in the face of a beating, I can remember His prolonged agony as he suffered for my sins.

Today, sit beside the tomb of silence