“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
I love this time of year. For a brief few weeks we allow ourselves to be children again – to have a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. For most of the year big hopes are so easily shot down as “false hope,” as if there could ever be such a thing. We get so busy that we don’t give ourselves the time to hope. We get bogged down by the difficult situations we experience and begin to buy in to lie that too much hope can be bad. We listen to voices of others who tell us our hopes are too big or too unrealistic. Those voices that tell us that we shouldn’t hope for the things that we do because they will never come true. However, this is the time of year we indulge ourselves. We let our dreams and hopes run wild. We allow ourselves to see beauty and good in the world, dream big, and hope for the future.
Why when we become adults do we censor our own hopes and dreams? Children have such a beautiful outlook on life because it is not censored. They speak their minds and dream as if there is no limit. They dream as we all should. They hope. Sometime along life’s journey we begin to feel like our hopes and dreams don’t come true – as if they are false. We have hope but when it doesn’t come true in our perceived acceptable timing, we lose our faith, belief, and wonder. We forget that the circumstances in life don’t happen because of our desired timing. We allow other people in our lives determine what kind of hopes we should have. When others question our hopes, we begin to question them ourselves.
How could a hope ever be false? Hope is just a personal desire for something that has not yet come to be. It is a dream for the future. It can never be false and it can never fail. It is a want that comes from deep within the soul. Even when the desired outcome from a hope does not come true, the hope itself is not false. The end result may not come to be as it was hoped for or expected, but that hope that was clung to was real and true; it kept the soul alive.
It drives me crazy when I hear people talk of “false hope” or worse yet when I hear that someone was told that we don’t want to give a such “false hope.” How dare we tell others not to have or give “false hope.” How dare we try to squash the beauty of hope that is so innate in every human soul?
We need hope. Without it no change would ever come in our lives or in our world. It is hope that allows us to see a different future, a better future. It is hope that gives us the motivation we need to work and try to make that dream come true. It is hope that drives passion and goodwill. It is hope that keeps the soul alive and well. It is hope that gives peace.
Part of the Christmas miracle and the beauty of the new year is that during this time we hope. We start with with Christmas which reminds us to have wonder in our lives and move quickly into the new year and set resolutions, goals, hopes for the future. The childlike hope that we experience this time of year replenishes our souls.
My hope for all of us this new year is that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our hope or diminish it in any way. My hope is that we would all find the courage and childlike spirit to hope again so that regardless of what the world may say, our hope will shine bright and inspire others.
I read and hear a lot of people talk about what “you deserve” in a relationship. When these things are said, it is implied that if your spouse is not doing these things for you currently, it must not be real or the relationship should be questioned and possibly ended. I disagree.
You deserve to be treated with all the respect, dignity, love, and care in the world. Absolutely. Each person on this earth has immense dignity and worth because that comes from God. We were all created in His image.
You deserve flowers for no reason, thoughtful gestures, kisses just because, and things to make you smile. Some days. Some days you could probably do more to love your spouse.
You deserve for your spouse to always make you happy? Well that’s just an impossible request.
You deserve a lot and are worth more than you can imagine.
But when did marriage become about what you deserve? When did marriage become so selfish? When did we start believing that if you aren’t treated the way you feel you deserve to be treated that the marriage has failed?
On the days you feel like you aren’t treated how you should be, how often do you look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself if you are treating your spouse in the way they deserve to be treated?
What a humbling question. If answered honestly I have always found there was more I could do. My husband is also a child of God who was worth God giving his only son to die for him. My husband is so loved by God that God forgives him every time he fails. My husband is worth Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go out and find him. My husband is worth so much and means everything to God.
Do I really treat him in that way? Do I really let my husbands great worth sink into my soul? And do my thoughts, actions, and words reflect and remind him of his worth?
I find that in the moments when I am upset because I felt like I wasn’t treated the way I deserved, I could equally find ways I failed to treat my spouse as he deserves. So many of those times if I am honest with myself, I can see how selfish of a response that is. Although I deserve the world, although my God died for my salvation, although I am worth everything to Christ, I must look to God for my worth and be patient with my spouse. I must be willing to humbly accept that we will never be able to love each other with the same perfection that God loves us but we can and always should strive to love each other as selflessly as possible, to breathe life into each other, and to keep each other’s worth and dignity in God’s eyes at the forefront of our minds. And that is what the marriage is – a journey together to explore God’s love by learning how to see and love your spouse as God does.
Marriage is not the journey toward being treated how you feel you deserve – it is the journey toward learning how to love your spouse in the way God says they deserve to be loved, which is unconditionally.
Nobody was created just to have a happy marriage. Men and women were created to win the happiness of heaven
Fr. Donald Miller
How often do we look to our marriage, to our spouse, to make us happy? How often do we feel like our marriage has failed if we are not happy in that moment? When those moments come it brings up the question – what is the purpose of marriage?
I have heard so many people tell me that if their marriage isn’t making them happy then maybe it wasn’t meant to be and they should search for happiness elsewhere and find someone else who makes them feel happy.
If marriage is to be the thing to make me happy it is destined for frustrations. No person, no thing, can make us happy all the time. That is a crazy expectation to put on your spouse and one that no person could ever live up to or achieve. At the altar the promise is “for better or for worse” recognizing that there will be hard times and trials in every marriage. So if we know that all marriages won’t bring happiness all the time, what is their purpose?
The purpose is your path to holiness and heaven where you will be eternally happy. It is to help your spouse grow in holiness and be in heaven with God some day. It is standing by your spouse through the triumphs but also through the trials. It is praying for your spouse and gently encouraging and supporting them in their faith.
If we look at marriage in this way and with this purpose, it can never fail. We are never done in our faith journey. There are always opportunities to pray for your spouse and to support them in growing closer to God. When marriage is viewed as your path to holiness for you and your spouse, it may be tried and it can never fail, never be broken, and there is no reason to try to find your path to salvation in someone else because your journey with your spouse to holiness never ends.
What an honor to be called as married persons to not only grow closer in individual holiness but also to play a huge role in the holiness and salvation of your spouse.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you” (C.S. Lewis)
Forgiveness defies logic. It ignores our natural instincts. It is a priceless gift. It requires us to look outside ourselves and look to the cross. We must look at Christ who loves us no matter what.
In the moments when it feels impossible to forgive I have to look at the cross and allow myself to be humbled. I sit at his feet and look up in his eyes and see that his eyes see every sin I will ever commit. He knows every time I will ever deny him, abandon him, and hurt him, and yet all I see in his eyes is love. Love for me.
How incredible is it that he knew every time I would wrong him and yet loved me anyway?
How is it that I can receive that kind of love from him yet hold on to bitter feelings and hurt others have caused me?
When I see him on the cross I am reminded that I am called to forgive every wrong against me. I am to love without abandon – love unconditionally. Leave the justice up to God and forgive with a joyful heart.
After all – am I really opening myself to receive his great love if I don’t share that same love and forgiveness with those he has placed in my life?
I have been transformed by love and as a result my love has been transformed.
I heard a new word the other day: metanioa. It means a transformation, a change, in your way of life as a result of penitence or spiritual conversion. It originated from the Greek word metanoein which means to change one’s mind. As I look back at the last year of my life where I have studied, prayed, and contemplated what it means to love – to truly love – the way God calls us to love as Christians I have seen my thoughts, my actions, my whole life be transformed. I am changed and I can never go back to who I once was. This year I realized one thing that changed me forever – love is not about me.
I always knew love was selfless. I had heard and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so many times. I knew the words – “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Although I knew the words, I didn’t live them fully.
Love is not about me. How easy is it to look at your spouse and silently as yourself the question – what do they do for me? How do they make me feel? Do they treat me the way I deserve? But love, selfless love, is not about what your spouse does for you – it is about what you do for them. It is about how you lay yourself down for the other. It is about how you give yourself, all that you are, as a gift to your spouse. This love is about the gift of yourself and your love.
As I sat contemplating the cross in a moment of darkness a year ago I saw love in Christ in a way I had never seen it before. Love so perfect because it is freely given without asking for anything in return. Jesus suffered and died for me and in doing so gave himself as the perfect gift for me out of love. He knew I would reject him. He knew I would fail him. He knew every sin and every mistake I would make but yet chose to give himself, all of himself, up for me as a gift. How humbling.
So often we see the picture of love as roses, laughter, joy, and happiness. The world tells us to look for a fairy tale version of love – a happily ever after – as if love is easy or comes without challenges. Where in our culture do we see the picture of a love like that on the cross? A suffering love. Is a suffering love really any less love than one filled with joy? I would argue not.
It is in a suffering love like that of the cross, that love is perfected. It is in this kind of love that the illusions are torn away. When love is suffering, it is like a stone in the ocean. The currents of pain and suffering roll over the stone taking away the rough edges and creating a smooth stone. It is moved, it is changed. Love through suffering does the same. It takes all our sinfulness, our pride, and our misconceptions and removes them from the core, leaving only love. When you learn to love through the suffering and your misconceptions of love are taken away, you are able to see love for what it truly is – a sacrifice, a gift, an outpouring of grace and mercy.
A suffering love is joyful because it rejoices in the gift it gives without looking for anything in return. A suffering love finds its peace in the quiet, constant stream of love it extends. Love requires sacrifice. It requires laying down your life. Too often we hear that laying down your life is sad – it is not. When you willingly choose to lay yourself down for another, there is no greater joy in the world because this laying down of yourself for another is the same kind of love that Jesus modeled for us on the cross – His perfect example of love.
As the circumstances of my life and my love have changed with time and I have experienced times of suffering love, I have been transformed. I have come to a new understanding of what it means to love and seen a new side of love I never knew existed before. The trials and challenges of life change us – metanioa.
The unspoken question we all ask in most of our daily interactions – do you love me?
We long for love, search for it, and pursue it. We wish to be reassured of how we are loved. We subconsciously know we need it. After all we were created with a void in our hearts that only God’s love can fill.
Christ patiently waits for us to love him. He continuously and endlessly pours out all his love for us. We can accept it or reject it, but it is always there. We can only experience it when we choose to accept it because God does not force his love on us.
Christ not only gives us his love, but he asks a challenging question of each of us – do you love me?
Christ is in each of us and is continually asking in every moment and every interaction that we have with others – do you love me? He asks us if we see him in everyone we meet. He asks us to treat others the way we would treat him because he is in them.
Jesus is radical – he tells us to love our enemies. How is this possible? Only by the grace of god and in seeing christ in our enemies.
Jesus asks his disciples – did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked ….. He asks those same questions of us and they all boil down to one simple question – for you love me?
If you look in others eyes you can constantly see Christ asking:
Do you love me to forgive those who wronged you?
Do you love me to go out of your way to make my day and be kind to me when you feel I don’t deserve it?
Do you love me to put aside your to do list and just be there for me?
Do you love me to help me with a project when you are tired?
Do you love me to give me a hug after a long day?
Do you love me to take care of me when I am sick?
Do you love me to stay by my side no matter what and care for me?
Do you love me to take some of my burdens?
Do you love me?
When I have been deeply hurt by someone it can be hard, but I always remind myself that God is in that person. I look I to their eyes and imagine that they are the eyes of Christ. How could I say, “no I do not love you” to Christ? How could I not do everything I can to show my love?
When I see a stranger who is clearly having a rough time do I see Christ in them and take a moment out of my busy day to ask what I can do and let them know I am there – they are not alone.
When there is a rift between me and my loved ones do I work to repair it and show my love?
Do I treat each moment and each interaction as an opportunity to answer Christ’s question – do you love me?
By answering that question and showing my love, I not only further the kingdom of heaven but I also become Christ’s agent to help fill that void that only Christ’s love can fill in each of us. I become his hands and his feet and have the grace to be Christ to that person, remind them how much Christ lives them, and be Christ’s love. What an incredible honor to be called to be God’s love, our deepest longing, to all those I see each day.
Sitting under the stars in the middle of the night after a rough day wishing for a connection, understanding, and love when a gentle but strong voice says through the wind, “Don’t you know how much I love you? You are so precious to me. I am here with you – am I not enough?”
A love so powerful that nothing can contain it. A peace so calm that it cannot be disturbed. A gentleness so sweet its like a soft kiss on the lips.
Is He really first in my life? Do I really believe God is all I need? Have I really surrendered to the point that He is all I need – that His love is enough? Have I forgotten how He laid His life down for me – gave everything for me – out of love, His great love for me – is that not enough?
There are times when we feel like the world has forgotten us. There are times when we wonder if there is anyone who is really there for us – who truly cares about us. Sometimes we feel like everyone has a hidden agenda, like everyone is expecting things from us. Some days it feels like no one cares about us. Sometimes it feels like no one understands us.
Do we turn to Christ in those moments? Do we say “Lord, I know you are with me and I know you are all I need. Help my unbelief”? Do we open ourselves up to allow him to fill us with everything we need?
But most of all, do we trust that what He has given us is what we truly need? Do we trust Him to know our needs better than we do? Do we trust in His will and His providence? Or do we mistake our wants and desires for His will? God didn’t promise us that he would give us everything we want or everything we think we need but he promised he would give us all we need. Do we trust Him? Do we trust that who he is and what he has given us is enough?
He gives us small gifts while here on earth. These are the gifts we so often pray for – material things, relationships and loved ones, work, all things of this world. But the gift he really gave us is our salvation – eternal peace and happiness and unity with the Father. Is that not enough to weather us through any storm or obstacle in our way today? Is the price paid for our salvation not enough to not only satisfy us but bring us to our knees?
If that is not enough, then what is? If that is not enough, what are we saying is more important over our salvation?
In our deepest moments of pain, sadness, regret, and loneliness, can we truly look our God, our maker, our redeemer in the eye and say “you are not enough”?
He is enough. The alpha and the omega – beginning and the end. He is everything and he is always enough because whether we realize it or not, He is what our souls long for. We may mistake cars, houses, friends, family, money, power, children, our spouse, etc for what we want, but ultimately all of those things will let us down and won’t satisfy our deepest needs, because the only thing that can satisfy our souls, the only thing that is forever in this life and the next, and the only thing that never fails is God.
It takes great courage to let go of what we think we need and believe that God is all we need.
Where in your life are you looking for satisfaction and fulfillment from anything other than God?
Where in your life is he saying to you “am I not enough?”
Why is it that we are so quick to dismiss and walk away from people in our lives who hurt us?
What would happen if we truly looked at our brothers and sisters as being one with us in the body of Christ? How would our responses to others change if we looked at each person in this world as a part of the body of Christ, where Christ is the head of the body and each one of us is a part of the body?
When I look at others through this lens, each person’s worth and value becomes so much greater. Not only are they my brother and sister, but they are integral in my salvation and my life. I begin to see how we were created to help each other and to work together.
If you think about the body, it is miraculous how all the parts of the body work together to keep you alive. Each part has a specific role and function unique to it. The body of Christ is the same way. Each one of us has a specific role to play based on the gifts and talents that God gave each of us. When each one of us uses our gifts to their potential and works together, the body of Christ is strong and healthy. However, sin and turning away from these gifts can cause a cancer in the body of Christ and our community.
It starts small, one small sin against a brother or sister, but since we are all connected it impacts the entire body in ways we cannot see.
Many times, our natural response to being wronged or hurt is to either seek revenge or cut that person out of our lives. However, God calls us to love everyone – even our enemies. He calls us to forgive and heal. I think the reason he says this is because we are so interdependent in ways that only God can see and understand.
But what if we think about it this way: If your wrist was broken, would you elect to have it amputated, would you seek revenge and make it worse, or would you work to heal the broken bone? Most would choose to heal the broken bone. If we believe we are one body and your brother or sister in Christ has done something to wrong you or is hurting in some way, shouldn’t we try to help heal the wrongdoing and therefore heal the entire body rather than cutting that person off or leaving them without aid?
What happens when we look at the world in this way? Does it change the way we interact with others?
This is why the family – marriage and parenting -are so important. They are a model for the world of this kind of oneness and love that we should have for everyone.
It starts small with loving, forgiving, and caring for your spouse. The two of you were joined and became one in marriage. So this type of oneness and unity in love is shown through your marriage. You work to heal wrong doings and preserve and strengthen your marriage. The marriage is the joining of two to become one team who respects, protects, supports, and heals each other. When mistakes are made and the relationship is injured, it requires healing and sometimes rehabilitation.
Then that same love you have with and for your spouse is extended to your family, your children. You love your children and they love you and together you all are a unit, a family, and you care for, protect, and love each other through healing forgiveness and mercy when one of you is hurting. Because if one of your family members is hurting, you all are affected.
This love is further extended to all you meet in the body of Christ for we are all connected through him.
Are we ready and willing to heal the wounds and hurts in the body of Christ? I think it starts with focusing healing yourself, then your marriage and family, and then extending that to the world.
The sun is rising as spring begins
Grey, black, and white leave as fragrant colors come in
The rose starts its long journey
with someone on a bended knee
Starting out tiny and small
Seeming to have no chance at all
Pushing its way up through the earth
Giving all that is of worth
Never knowing what each morn will bring
Such a precious little thing
The roots and stem have long been in place
Its leaving wonder and awe in the human race
The rose blooms with petals in sight
And fresh drops of dew shimmering in the light
Slowly the flower opens up dear
Showing all who are near
How perfect true love can be
When you open up your heart to see
Time goes by and its still holding strong
Only God knows for how long
As the winter winds start blowing in
The thorns grow larger with all the sin
The petals of hope slowly die
As each dreary day passes by
There’s one petal that fights letting go
Strongly holding on to protect against the foe
Holding on to remind all of the beauty
That comes from this love between you and me
The winter storms pass through and now seem far
They came, tormented, and left some scars
But just as the bitter storms seemed too much
The warmth of the sun returned to touch
Springtime hope comes with a chance for a fresh start
As each new bud opens like a softening heart
The trials of winter will surely come again
But God’s grace can always heal, strengthen, and mend