Easter, a time to celebrate new life and second changes. A time to recognize the growth (despite how small) that has sprung up during our 40 day fast. At the start of our journey the 'seed of desire' was planted in the dry deserts of our hearts. This seed represented our 'yes' to God and our longing to let go of what is not life-giving and embrace instead the one who willingly laid down his life for us all; Jesus Christ.
Scattered throughout the flower beds I could see the fragile perennials finding the courage to reach up above the earth. Amazing beauty unfolding in awesome splendor, yet humble and quiet God's creation was reverberating with new life and great dignity.
Lent.... 'What will you give up' ?
Today, the church celebrated Ashe Wednesday and the start of our Lenten journey. It seems like only yesterday (and for me it was) that we stored away the last of the Christmas decorations. Now today, we begin to consider and contemplate what we will be ‘giving up’! For many, it is the same each year sweets, alcohol, TV, attending Mass more regularly or helping out more around the house. Whatever the choice, self-denial is difficult and many good intentions will die the same death as our New Year’s resolutions!
One way we can be successful in keeping our fast is to understand the purpose and goal of our behavior. When we make sacrifices we are seeking to achieve and/or gain something. One example that comes to mind is a parent working two jobs so that they can send their children to private schools. Another, is someone who spends time each day at the gym in order to maintain good health and the perfect weight. Whatever the sacrifice it will hurt and demand something from us if we are to reap any rewards.
Now, let’s us consider the purpose and goal of Lent and what we are seeking to accomplish in the next 40 days. First, we need to ‘remember’that Jesus took our place on Calvary and gave His life so that we might live. Second, we are asked ‘to return’ to God recognizing our need for mercy and forgiveness for the times we have not loved Him, others and ourselves well. Thirdly, we are called ‘to change’ the indifference that dwells in our hearts so that we can see and respond to the needs of others with the gifts and resources we have been given. Lastly, we need ‘to prepare’ ourselves in order to celebrate the greatest Feast of all; Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
When we remember, return, change and prepare we will reap a joy the world has never known and will experience a peace that surpasses all understanding. The joy of the Lord will become our strength in times of weakness and His peace will give us the courage to remain faithful despite our circumstances. We will receive the gift of everlasting life and one day see God face to face and be re-untied with those who have gone before us.Therefore, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
So my friends .....What are you giving up for Lent?
As we light the fourth and final Advent candle let us pause from the busyness of the season to reflect on our journey thus far. The first week we set out in hope to grow in our understanding and love of God, ourselves and others. Next, we placed our faith in Him as we navigated through daily life dealing with the good or bad of situations and circumstances trusting in His plan. Following, we were filled with joy as we began (many for the first time) to comprehend just how 'wide, how long, how high, and how deep God's love is for us"!
Finally, this week the peace that passes all human understanding is waiting to fill us abundantly so that we are able to complete our journey and ‘see’with spiritual eyes the Savior of the World. In order to experience this peace we cannot just intellectualize Christ's coming, but we must open our hearts to Jesus with child-like faith.
So I ask you to consider; How will you complete your Advent journey this week? Will you be among the frantically stressed out shoppers seeking to find that perfect gift? Will your expectations be running high as you plan that perfect meal and family gathering? Or maybe you are dreading Christmas and would rather go to bed and wake up on January 1st?
I invite you to join me in seeking the peace and simplicity found in the stable among the shepherds gazing at the babe laying in the manger? Jesus, the prince of Peace is waiting for YOU (and me) to spend some time with Him; in prayer, at Mass, in silence?
The simplicity and peace of Jesus calms the soul, refreshes the mind and energizes the body. During this last week in Advent make it a point to simplify something in your day/life in order to make room for HIM. Seek God's peace and when you find it go share it with others who are 'dying' to know how to live.
Welcome to the Season of Advent! This week we will light the first candle; the candle of hope. Advent is a time of waiting, preparing and pondering the coming of Christmas and the birth of Jesus. During this period we are invited to wait patiently, prepare carefully and ponder deeply the great truths of our faith and to trust in God's unconditional Love for each one of us.
What are you hoping for today? Are you preparing to make a change in your life or work and you are hoping that you have made the right decision? Are you contemplating marriage,having a child, selling a home or going back to school? Maybe you are hoping that you will have enough money to paid the bills, feed your children and care for a loved one who is sick and dying? Whatever you are hoping for today
waiting for the outcome is no easy task.
The key to waiting in hope is learning to trust in God who knows what you need and will provide for you according to His perfect plan. We may not always like His timing, but if you trust Him you will never be disappointed. I have discovered through my own personal experience that God can be trusted no matter how small my faith and weak my knees. Trusting in God provided the peace I needed to stop second guessing myself and allow God to work out the details.
I encourage you during this season of Advent to trust God with your future and the future of your family. Today, tell Him what you are hoping for, waiting for and ask Him how to prepare for the best possible outcome. For if your hope is in HIM you will not be afraid of what tomorrow may bring for Our God is in control of our tomorrows and will provide the strength we need to greet each new day!
Lord, we place our hope in YOU.
If God is all knowing and sees what lies ahead and the choices we will make than why pray; can we change God's mind? When we have been praying for a long time about a particular situation and/or relationship without seeing results we might begin to ask the same question. Sometimes the things we are praying for might not be healthy for us and we need to trust that God's no or silence is in itself our answer. Or, maybe God has answered and we failed to recognize it?
I believe that prayer is the pathway to all change as we learn to see ourselves, others and our world through God's eyes. Prayer is not a means to an end, but it is making time for God to love us and His love changes our hearts. When we grow in relationship with God through prayer we come to recognize His voice and trust in his will.
Our time with God in prayer provides an opportunity for us to get in touch with our own feelings and emotions that may be preventing us from seeing correctly the relationships and situations we are praying about. Prayer provides the power to face fear and to overcome our weaknesses and insecurities. When we pray God's grace fills us with light so that we can see with His eyes how to pray for others, as well as for our own intentions.
Prayer changes hearts! We love what He loves, we desire what He desires and we long to please Him in all that we say and do.
Therefore, I pray 'Change me Lord'!
I facilitate a monthly moms' group where mothers come together to pray, share and encourage each other. The women share their concerns, joys, sorrows and ideas on how to pray with and for their children. At one particular gathering I came to coin a new word; pray...oritize! The theme of the evening was how to prioritize the day in order to deal with the many activities and demands of family life. The consensus among the women was 'to do lists' and 'calendars' did not help to reduce daily anxiety and stress.
Planning your day reduces stress and helps you respond, rather than react to daily situations and surprises. Learning how to prioritize matters of importance will help you focus and reduce the 'what do I do next' thoughts! But, before we begin to prioritize the day we need to 'pray...oritize' it! When we put God first and take the time to pray we are able to set realistic goals for ourselves and our families.
If we pray...oritize our day we allow God to lead us and direct our steps according to His will and plan. For He sees ahead and understand what is best for us and our families. When we pray we grow to trust and love the God who created our day. Prayer nourishes our spirits as food nourishes our bodies. When we rank prayer as the first priority of the day (even if for only 5 minutes) we will not be disappointed. God will provide all that we need to meet the challenges and the peace to accept what we can do and to let go of what we can't.
Daily prayer is as vital to living life well as food is to maintaining a healthy body. Many of us might say, "I have no time to pray" and I would agree that for many this is true. But, we can make choices and we can choose to take time daily for prayer and when you do the whole family benefits. In my own personal experience I have discovered the problem was not enough time in a day, rather it was about my priorities.
You might be surprised how much you can accomplish in a day when you take the time to pray...oritize !
When I first began to assimilate prayer into my daily life I went to the nearest bookstore to purchase a book on ‘how to pray’. I wanted to know exactly how to pray and how to pray correctly! The bookshelves were filled with books written by people sharing their experiences and knowledge on ‘best pray practices! There were so many different ideas, styles and methods I wondered…. could praying be so complicated how will I ever know which one is best?
Years have passed since my experience in the bookstore and I have learned to exercise some of the styles and methods of prayer that has helped to enhance my success at praying. In addition, I have come to realize that prayer is not a complex set of rules that must be followed precisely. Rather, it is a simple conversation with my God whom I have come to know and love through our time together.
Prayer is not a means to an end, but it is an encounter between two people who love one another. Think for a moment how this definition of prayer might change the way you pray? We approach prayer as we are not as we hope to be. We need to spend time with someone in order for the relationship to grow. So too, as we take time out of our busy days for pray we will get to know the God who desires nothing more than to be with us!
Lord, teach us to pray! We begin prayer by acknowledging that God is God and we are not. It is His kingdom that we serve and not the world’s and it is His will that must be done and not ours. He will supply all our needs and will forgive us our sins as we forgive others who have offended us. When we are weak He will make us strong and He will strengthen us through the power of His Holy Spirit.
In the end, I have discovered there are no right or wrong ways to pray. Thomas Keating reminds us, “The only way you can fail at prayer is not to show up”! Therefore, ask the Holy Spirit to increase in you a desire to pray and make an effort each day to show up and spend some time with God to listen, respond and grow in your love for HIM!
Lord, teach us to pray!