Love the Lord

Yeah, that’s nice, but how? I don’t know about you, but this whole love thing is really difficult. We are living in a time when many of us really don’t know what love is. How can we possibly know how to love God with our whole heart, our whole being, and our whole strength when our divorce rate is so high, our children are being raised in single parent households, and there is perpetual strife in family life. The closest thing many of us knows to love is our pets. Is that what God means, should I love him like I love Puddles? 

I think it’s important to note that the deepest forms of love are simply the intimate exchange of persons. When it comes to us learning how to love God with our whole heart, whole being, and whole strength, it starts by coming to an understanding and acceptance of the fact that God loves us with his whole heart, his whole being, and his whole strength. Take a second on that and remember that God is infinite, unlike us. His whole heart, whole being, and whole strength is so much more expansive than we could ever understand. 

The more we recognize God’s unending love through the sacraments, through the scriptures, and just through his magnificent creation, we can learn to love him more fully. Be like a child that learns from mimicking. But don’t copy the fallen man, copy God’s example of true, deep, life altering love. 

This post is an excerpt from my devotional, Reflections Through the Bible: Deuteronomy. It is available for purchase here.

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Do you Believe God wants to Make you Happy?

I truly believe this blog is God’s will for my life. I believe he wants me to focus all of my attention and energy to building the blog, creating e-courses, and doing other things surrounding this blog. Awhile back I heard the voice of the Lord on my heart ask me to leave my job and focus on this full time. I was apprehensive, but eventually did what the Lord was asking me to do. But it took me a long time to tell my parents what I’d done.

I knew and still know that they wouldn’t understand. It is highly illogical to quit one’s job and start blogging without not already making an income from it. I know that! And I said that to the Lord. In prayer, I had been asking that he monetize the blog because I wanted to focus on it but I knew I couldn’t leave until I was making money from it, that’s what rational people do. Well, that’s not what God was asking me to do. He wanted me to quit first, then tell my parents. As expected, they didn’t take the news well.

Here’s the thing…I’m pretty immature. I may be 25 years old, but if I’m honest, I have the behavior of a 16 year old. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for why. I’m a millennial and statistically we have had a hard time growing up and flying away from the nest. I have helicopter parents who thought it was perfectly logical to keep us under their noses our entire lives until the age of 17 when they expected us to suddenly start acting like the other kids. It could also just be that I’m lazy, unfocused, and irresponsible.

That is my background, but if I’m being honest with you, I truly in my heart believe this is what God wants me to be doing. I’m not making any money from it, and I don’t really see where he is going to bring me financial security from it. I hate ads and have no intention on running ads on my blog or YouTube channel. I also don’t have a ton of followers of this blog, YouTube channel, or any other social media outlets. I don’t know what he is going to do. But I do know two other things.

I know that the Lord loves me abundantly. He loves me so much he would go to the cross for me. And I know he seeks to bless me. That is out theme this week, God seeks to bless us through all of life’s complicated circumstances. I had to find courage to tell my parents I quit my job today. I’m probably going to have to find humility to find a new place to live because my mom is ready to kick me out of the house. No matter what happens, no matter where I go, I must take to heart the words I have on my purity ring from Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not for woe.

Each of us is made to live a life of abidance and beauty. One of the things Father Sports asked me in our first meeting was, “Do you believe God wants to make you happy?” If I’m honest, the answer is no, I don’t believe that. I didn’t believe it then and I struggle to believe it now. But my faith is bigger than my doubt; God is bigger than my fears. No matter what happens, I will lean on him, his will, his wisdom, and always do my best to walk where he asks me to walk. That is my goal and purpose and it is what I will do.

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Ask and You Shall Receive

So, patience isn’t really my virtue. I mean, I can be patient around children, old people, and four legged furry friends, but I’m not always patient with God. I don’t know about you but I’m one of those people that hears, “Ask and you shall receive” as “I’ll drop it from the sky right now.” Unfortunately, that’s not how this whole faith thing works. Apparently you have to ask with a sincere heart, pure intentions, and there’s a caveat, it has to be the will of God. Which is a bit of a bummer because I can’t leave my work right now and I would love a donut.

In prayer, our Lord has never promised me donuts, though I have also never asked. What has he promised? He has promised me that I will never go hungry. He has been faithful to that promise. Awhile back I quit my job and focus on blogging full time. Well, this whole blogging thing hasn’t taken off yet and it has me very concerned. I’ve had to make some adjustments to my lifestyle, but I haven’t gone hungry. I truly believe this is what God wants me to be working on, but I haven’t seen the success I thought I would have. Which is probably the point.

Jacob had no idea he was going to have 12 sons, two wives, and two baby mamas when he left his father’s house. But Jacob was faithful to God and consistent in his work. That is how we can make space for God’s blessings. Jacob remembered the promises of God and when he reached the opportunity to go home, he had to take a moment and reflect on our Lord’s tremendous faithfulness to his promises.

I’m working to be like Jacob. I want to remain faithful to God, remember his promises, and to be consistent in the mission our Lord has assigned to me. I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes right now, it’s from St. Augustine. “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” So here I am, praying and working.

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Do I Smoke Weed?

Reuben is such a boss right now! We all know how tough it is to stand up to a bully, or to do what’s right in a room full of people doing what’s wrong. Reuben is such an inspiration to us in this moment. Not only was he standing up for what is right, he was standing against his siblings. It makes me think of a quote from Dumbledore, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” Dumbledore is right and Reuben is an example of it being done right!

The second night I went away to college I went with my (random sophomore) roommate’s  friend’s dorm. Basically as soon as we sat down they pulled a baggy of weed out. I don’t smoke, never have, probably never will. I don’t judge people that do, it’s just a life choice for myself. However, marijuana is illegal in our state and against the rule of our school, so I’m a little uncomfortable being in a dorm room with a baggy of weed on the table.

I don’t think I handled this situation quite right, but I excused myself from the situation. I checked my phone, and announced to the room that I was going to go hang out with one of my friends. I had no desire to be in that environment, even if they were cool college sophomores and I was a nerdy freshman on my second day. No amount of popularity is worth getting kicked out of school or arrested. Or in Reuben’s case, eternal damnation for murdering your brother.

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Loving Thy Neighbor Through Hospitality

I come from a very inhospitable family. It’s actually pretty funny, when people ring the doorbell, we don’t answer the door unless they call first. There have been a few instances when my aunt or grandma stop by because they’re in our neck of the woods but don’t call first. They will ring the doorbell two or three times, to no avail. Then return to their cars to call us and say it’s them at the door. More than one I’ve had people I work with tell me they are going to come to my house for various reasons. One time in particular, my former boss said, “Your mom loves me, she’ll answer the door.” To which I said, “I dare you to come to my house without calling first.” No one would have answered the door, no matter what the weather, or the situation. We usually don’t even look through the peephole to see who it is. It could be my best friend after just being stabbed with blood dripping down their face, we would never know.

On the one hand this is a little amusing, but hospitality is a virtue! I think we aren’t hospitable because my father is antisocial only child and my mother is a Law and Order Lifetime Movie Network paranoid middle child. My brother and I were just raised in the madness.

When I grow up (I’m 25) I’d like to be more friendly and welcoming. I love to cook and bake and be domestic. I’m hoping to one day have a nice home my family and friends (only) will feel comfortable just stopping by for a cup of tea. There was one day when we were feeling particularly friendly when my aunt came by and I felt so good after.

She was on our side of town (I call it a town, but it’s a large city) running errands and thought she’d pop by to say hi. I had just finished making a lovely dinner and told her she should come in and have a bite with us. We don’t typically eat in the dining room on weekdays, but since we had company we set the table and had a lovely time sitting and talking. I packed her a little doggy bag to take to my uncle and it was a special evening that I keep with me.

Living a virtuous life can do wonders for the soul and the mind. One of the most fascinating things I found when I decided to focus my life on Christ was I felt more joyful. It feels good to serve your neighbor, to be welcoming and hospitable. And that feeling comes with all of the virtues.

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In Light of Eternity, does it Really Matter?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this study, our God is big, REALLY big. The confines of space and time have no power over him. He sees everything like a painting, while we only see our little speckle. This is important to note because sometimes we get in our heads and think things are revolving around our current moment.

A couple weeks ago my brother said he remembers thinking when he was in high school, like that was all there was. And when he was in college thinking the same thing. And now that he is home he thinks the same thing. It’s funny how once you’ve spent a little time removed form a situation, how small those major issues seem. I think something similar can be said for Joseph this week. Remember his brothers were mean to him, he was sold into slavery, and he went to jail. The scriptures don’t describe Joseph’s feelings on all of this, but he couldn’t have felt like life was a basked of puppies and roses. But when he took time to step back and look at all the steps that he took to get him to the point that he was able to save his family and the people of Egypt from starvation, one can see how God sees.

One of the Sisters that works in my home parish used to say to me, “In light of eternity, does this really matter.” I still hear her little voice in my head whenever I’m getting worked up about something. It happens, we all do it, we start to take our lives or our situations a little to seriously. Sometimes things are serious, but we still have to take a moment to step back and reflect on how God is using it.

Last year my grandmother had ovarian cancer, I would consider that a truly serious situation. We all rallied around her to support and take care of her. One of the greatest things that came out of it was that one of my younger cousins began spending more time with her. Growing up, it was always my brother and I that went to see my grandparents each week. But I guess my cousin had a wake up call realizing his last grandparent was seriously sick. So he would help drive her to appointments, take food to her, and hang out at her apartment. It both warms my heart, and makes me a little concerned that he’s trying to be her favorite (which will never happen, I shall never be dethroned as favorite, haha).

The point I’m trying to make is that the Lord can turn bad and scary situations like slavery, imprisonment, and cancer, to bring about wonderful change in a family and in the world. We can’t get stuck in focusing on all the things that are going wrong. Instead, try to reflect on how God is using it to glorify his kingdom.

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The Canticle of Creation by St. Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, God, to you belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently. O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright, and lively, and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.
Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience–you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death, whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and will serve you in all humility.

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Get Your Ash in Church

We are just days away from one of the greatest non-holy days of obligation in the Church. I always have mixed emotions around this time of year. On the one hand, I love Lent. It is the wonderful time of year when we contemplate our own mortality and focus on our necessary ongoing repentance. At the same time we work on fasting and penance. Lent is a time of year that always makes me cry, either during Stations of the Cross or Good Friday. Tears are a gift from the Holy Spirit that we can experience during this time, all starting with Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is one of two days (Good Friday) during the year we are called to fast. That means those who are 14 or older are to refrain from eating meat. Those between the ages of 18-59 are allowed one full meal and two small meals that do not equal one large meal. Fruit juices are acceptable but snacks are not. If you have a medical condition that would be affected by this, you are excused from this prescription.

As mentioned, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, contrary to observation. It is good to go to Church as often as possible, including Ash Wednesday. I will definitely recommend you go, but you don’t have to. The whole point of this holy day is to remind us that we will die and we want to go to heaven. That means we must make a daily practice to go following Christ.

During Ash Wednesday, I typically fast from all solid food, because it’s my preference. I like to go to Mass in the morning and get my ashes, then spend the day reading and journaling. I always choose a spiritual book that will help me get into the Lenten spirit. This year I’m reading Consuming the Word by Dr. Scott Hahn. I will do a book review for it in a couple weeks, subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can see it.

When it comes to your choice of penance, I recommend praying and asking our Lord what he wants you to give up or add to your daily practice. Some people choose give up Starbucks, chocolate, or reality TV. Some people choose to add a holy hour, daily Mass, or Divine Mercy Chaplet. What ever you do, it should be something that draws you closer to God. If you feel the Lord moving you to do a bible study, you can check out this one I made.

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Meditation

Last night as I was meditating, the Lord came to my heart. As I typically do, I ran my hands around his hands. I noticed his soft fingers with clean, short fingernails. No rough edges or marks on them other than a large clean hole right in the middle. There was no blood or hanging flesh, there was no bone exposed but it was red inside. He also had traces of hair on his wrists and back of the hand. For a great deal of time, I just sat playing with his hand. He brought us to a spot in a plush wood and he sat with his back against a tree. I could hear the sound of a waterfall in the distance. As he sat with one knee in the air, I pulled myself into him and placed my ear to his Sacred Heart. I began to slow my breathing to meet his steady heartbeat with my own. Mother came and sat smiling with us. Then a baby appeared in my arms. A beautiful tiny infant, only a few days old. He had a little fuzzy hair, brown eyes, and a delicate little smile. When he yawned, I smiled. I felt such great peace, contentment, and love for this little child. I spent much time rubbing his cheek and head, giving him kisses and holding him as close to my heart as my body was to the heart of Jesus. Then the Lord said, “Give me your baby.” I was taken aback by the idea of this tiny infant being my child. I did love him dearly, but I had no husband and I’ve never given birth. I looked Jesus in his brown eyes and he repeated, “Give me your baby.” I looked back to my son and found myself unable to give him up. Then Mary stepped in and said, “Give Him your baby.” I began weeping strongly at the thought of giving up my beautiful boy. He was such a tiny thing, so warm and fragile. I didn’t want him to be anywhere except my arms. The Mother repeated, “Give Him your baby.” I wasn’t ready to give him up. I cried and kissed him on his forehead. His beautiful brown eyes remained closed as he slept comfortably in my arms only twitching a few times. I wept louder and began repeating to myself, “Give Him the baby.” I know God’s plan is always good, I know he would never do anything to hurt my baby, yet I could not bring myself to hand over my only son. I weep now as I recount the anguish my heart felt as I stared down on that tiny little human, my tiny little human. After repeating to  myself, “Give Him the baby,” many times, I handed my infant son to my Lord Jesus. Immediately I was in the streets of Jerusalem on the day of my Lord’s sufferings. I watched as the same Jesus that held me at the tree in the woods, carried a cross larger than he was, beaten by soldiers, and spat on and had feces thrown at him as he walked the streets. I saw Veronica wipe the sweat and blood from his face. I followed by removing my white church veil to wipe his beautiful face and kiss him. A faint smile through such extreme pain broke his lips but only for a moment. The whips at his back returned and he continued to move. I stood at the cross when they rose him upon it. I found a stool near by to climb on in order to hold his body up so he could breathe. He was too heavy and he was too weak to even speak. He was bloodied and broken, nothing like the man in the woods. His heart was erratic and his breath inconsistent, not like it was in the woods. I again wiped his face with my veil and held his face in my hands. I could not take this pain away. I called for help but no one answered me. There were people around but they just stood and watched as I continued to try to help him breathe and keep blood from his swollen eyes. There was nothing I could do, then he died. When he was taken from the cross, I dropped to my knees and screamed. I screamed and I screamed, wailing until I had no voice. All the pain I felt came out of my belly and through my mouth. I was broken. It was then dusk and I lay curled in a ball in front of the large rock where Jesus was buried. I laid crying alone in the cold night, puling my clothing tightly around me to keep warm. My tears warmed my face. I stopped wailing, but the crying didn’t end.

That is where my meditation ended. At first, I thought Jesus was asking me to give up my dreams of being a wife and mother when we were in the woods. I have fears about the possibility of being called to religious life. All I have wanted for year is to be a wife and mother, yet I am not. I must trust God’s timing, I thought. Now I fear I must trust God’s call. For the past couple weeks I’ve been dealing with the fact that this may be the vocation I am being called to. Putting my child in God’s hands felt like a gesture of release of my dreams for myself. But when I left my meditation, I realized I was the Blessed Mother. I was Our Lady with an infant without giving birth or having relations with a man. I was Mary as I let go of my beautiful boy and placed him in the arms of God with the hope that he would be protected. I was the Mother that wanted to clean my son’s face on his way to Calvary, and hold him up so he could breathe. I was her as the body of my son was taken from the cross as I screamed without unconsolably. I was Mary as I fell asleep in the cold wrapped in a ball outside the tomb where my son had been buried. I was Mary. The first time I prayed Stations of the Cross, I was moved to tears as I united myself to the Mother of God as she sacrificed her son for the sake of sinners like me. In my mediation, I was again united to her sorrows. Yet I continue to sin, I continue to fall short of my obedience to God, I still lack trust in God, I still fear what it will mean for me to give up my dreams to accept an alternative vocation. I pray for Mary’s obedience, courage, and trust. I am thankful to have the opportunity to experience her sorrows, but I hope to also experience her virtues.