Goodness and evil

As I try to go to sleep my mind wanders to the police reports on my Citizens app that I looked at just a short time ago.  Another robbery at gunpoint.  A carjacking.  Gunshots.  All within my neighborhood; less than five miles away.  Evil lurks in the dark. 

I moved to Memphis in August this year to begin once again to serve the Lord.  Having been in Montgomery Alabama for just about a year, Memphis was bringing me closer to family – seven hours versus twelve from some, three hours from others.  It was a good location to go many ways in visiting family and friends. 

It was also a door God opened that I had been waiting for… I had been waiting, watching and praying for a change as what I had come to Montgomery to do was completed.  I knew in my heart God had plans for me to help women in healing their heart, mind and soul – He told me this specifically back in 2014 through a message from a dear family member.  He would show me the way in His time, and I waited patiently and prayerfully.

I didn’t know where I would go but the need rose, and the Bishop approved it. I was invited to Memphis to provide for the need of Spiritual direction to women and to begin helping widows in discerning their role in the world and life of the church.    

Settling in these past weeks plus some travel, painting the house and shopping has kept me busy.  But now a fear arises.  I have found – heard and seen that evil does exist – here and many, many places in the States.  If you google search “best and inexpensive places to live,” three quarters of them will indicate the good along with “higher crime rate” exemptions.  I ask, why aren’t our cities safe anymore?  Why do we fear the dark of night and the misery of man?  The other day on the highway another police chase and gunman.  Desperate times make desperate people.  No money equals no gas, groceries, rent.  People are not born evil; evil comes upon them by their choices or the choices of others thrust upon or ingrained into them.  The little baby who grows up to shoot people at random wasn’t thinking to hurt anyone; evil changed him. 

God doesn’t desire any of His children to be evil or to turn to it for answers.  He calls us to Him no matter how far evil has struck them down and turned them against others.  He calls the sick, the sinner; he calls each one of us to His sacred heart.  So, what can I do now that I live here and am surrounded by disorder created and sustained by evil?  How do I go to Him in my fear?

I pray for all of us.  The victims, the perpetrator, the bystander who could have done something to stop evil before it took over, those trapped in their homes in fear.  I will pray and be vigilant in not giving evil any more foothold than possible.  Locking my doors, cars and being aware of my surroundings will help.  And to always remember, a person may commit evil, but they are not evil itself – they cannot be because the most-high God cannot create evil.  God may allow evil to occur, but He also can make good from any bad. 

Put your faith in Him alone and help me to pray to end the evil that surrounds my new home, as well as many others in larger cities across the country and the world. We know who wins and it isn’t the evil. Praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, KING of the Universe!

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Rebuking the wind

In the gospel message today, Christ is found in the boat with his disciples at sea. A great wind comes up and they are terrified. They ask our Lord to save them from perishing. His answer? “Why are you so terrified o you of little faith.” He then got up, rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.

Nine months ago I ventured from Illinois to Alabama to begin work at the Avila Institute in helping to open a retreat and formation center. In a previous post “Seeking answers from above” I spoke about how the move came about and the work to be done. I also mentioned “Yet I stay open to His will, here or wherever He sends me, making my priority only to know, love and serve Him as best I can.”

It has been a year of much work and self discovery, yet clearly identified a greater yearning to do the work I was called to many years ago – spiritual direction and the ministry of healing for women. I thought it would work into life in Alabama but it has not come to be. During my discernment, the winds and storms of doubt and despair would come upon me. But I kept my eyes on Jesus, on the Father’s will and waited with docility and humility. My director asked me to wait for God’s timing and project to open the next door.

Clarity came in late May one year from my first move. I am now Tennessee bound. More will come with what that looks like in the days ahead. For now, I am happy and grateful to be at peace with another big decision. How good it is to be with the one who provides the great calm. Who would have thought a move would be this soon?

Where are you on the sea? Is it calm or stormy? Let Him in and stop resisting. He already knows your whole life. May we always be His and hear His voice directing our every step.

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Blessings from above

I recently walked the lake where I am living for some early evening reflection. I was blown away by what I thought to be a vivid image of a large dove in the sky directly over the property.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, heaven and earth sing of your glory.

The cloud formation gave my eyes a sight that looked as if truly the hand of God was on this land and He was blessing it. How joyful that we sing of God’s goodness in the community of Apostoli Viae in which I belong.

We have chosen in the membership to live “the way.” God will use us in spreading love, kindness and hope in the world.

Sharing what I receive with others brings His light where there may have been darkness. The gifts given are received and He draws me closer.

Yet I know the road on earth we travel is different for all – it may be long or short, but each and every day we have the opportunity to lead others to walk with us to union with Christ.

How does the vocation you live reflect the purpose of your life to know, love and serve God?

Have you taken it to prayer lately and asked the Lord what He desires for you to do?

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Seeking Answers

It has been a long time since I blogged; more than half a year. I have missed it, but have filled my time with many things, like completing many joyful commitments within parish life and it’s related ministries. But it all ended in May and the month of June 2021 has been very different – I began preparing for a major, life changing move.

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Freedom and Vulnerability in the NEW year

Where oh where has the time gone? Each day I wake to the wonders of the world – the brilliance of every living thing created by a God who loved it into being. As I write today I look out at a cloudy white sky with a mirrored ground of snow. It is winter in the mid-western United States and the temperatures are below freezing. It is a time of stillness, of emptying out of self.

You will seldom hear the neighbors voices on days like these; instead maybe a snowplow or shovel against the ice will echo in the distance. It is a good time to gather with a cup of hot coffee and a Bible and sit to contemplate holy scripture. What will I find the Lord is speaking to me about today? I am sure it will not be long before I find amongst the words both questions and answers; always moments to ponder and wonder.

I’m in the last of 16 weeks in assigned scripture verses given by my instructors. Today’s verses came from 2 Corinthians 3:12 to 4:6. Paul is talking about our being ministers in the New Covenant. Paul identifies “our being ministers,” as you and me. We are meant to be these ministers of the Holy Covenant – those not afraid to profess Jesus Christ as Lord! Can you see it on me as clearly as the sweater I am wearing? Is Christ seen in my words and actions – oh, even my thoughts? When I think back on the last few days….. could others see Christ through me? Lo, my heart sinks; I reflect where my examination prayer at night has fallen short of not reflecting Him. Truly these last days of December are a good time to take inventory of my spiritual life.

Reading the whole section of the holy scripture from 2 Corinthians; from chapter 3 on to the end of 4, I underlined several phrases. Things stuck out to me like, “You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God…. not on tablets but on human hearts.” I am a letter written not with ink….. I digress; who doesn’t like to get a letter? You can keep the bills but letters are so seldom sent or received anymore. I love letters. I never thought of myself as a letter. And if a letter, then, having been written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. His Holy Spirit is written in me and delivered to you as a letter! What shall this letter say? When I started out wanting to blog today, I was in a not so great place. I fear it would not have been a very good letter.

The word vulnerable keeps popping into my head. I’ve always been a “ready to tackle” whatever is needed type of person. Bring on more, I can handle it, no job too small, too large or difficult. My plate is never full enough that sure, I can add one more thing to it. But being vulnerable to Christ, surrendering to Him all my control and personal power; trusting Him totally to heal and bring me forward with His new spirit – His plans – to write upon my heart so others can read Him first; well, that’s really letting go. Could I do that? I pause and muse on all I “think” I am in control of or responsible for.

A close friend just wrote about detaching as a challenge for January. Is that my issue? Maybe not vulnerable but to detach so that Christ can be closer? If so, now I have to consider, what am I holding onto? A feeling of being lost since my husband died. Confusion as to what I am supposed to do – this unsure, trapped, anxious, expectant like spinning tires ties my heart up in knots. I have a new vocation as widow, but what does that entail? My type A personality struggles with this. I think and think; desiring answers, fortitude, prudence. And yes, hope is there. Fear has always played a part in my life – so is it fear of the unknown that I grasp so closely to instead of letting Christ show me the way?

And Paul goes on to say “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” In my first thoughts, it’s hard to consider freedom could include being vulnerable where more damage could occur. So let me state this correctly, my desire to become vulnerable is so that Christ can come closer and heal all those hidden wounds that are still there. Freedom provides that choice to be vulnerable and trust. If I am vulnerable to Christ, I would cease to be this shell waiting to be filled. I will recognize His presence in my heart, see the writing of His love upon it and surrender to the healing of wounds uncovered.

This ministry, as Paul says we are a part of as followers of Christ; this is a ministry we choose when we recognize the letters on our hearts being written by Him and not ourselves; with vulnerability at it’s height because we have chosen to trust Christ with our brokenness. Yes, this ministry – the Apostolate of walking with Christ – points me to the one and only truth, hard as it might be to accept.

I am nothing, He is all. Without Him, my breath would fall flat, my eyes cease to see. There is the one and only truth that brings true freedom – it is because of His love for us that we can even be. His light which opens the truth in our hearts, minds, thoughts, words, actions and yes, even feelings; all these can and will always bring peace to us. It brings true freedom from sin. I see now that the restlessness inside of me is from me, not Him. Let go, let God. This I need to remember.

I am confident His light will shine past me and go on to you. We are the treasures of His heart. We can choose this in every waking moment. That is the freedom I seek and hear in His message for today.

Be free to always choose Him and see His hand on your heart; there will thy treasure always be. Happy NEW year in Christ our Savior!

Photos by Cathy Trowbridge

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As long as I live

I started my blog earlier this summer. I said and truly thought I would be posting daily. It was a challenge but also a delight as I love to write. Then things changed. School began and for me that meant both student and teacher. Two moves for close family members were in progress. Needless to say, something had to give. My posts began to be days apart, then unfortunately weeks. I truly miss posting daily but realized I needed to be in the present moment, attending to the people and situations most pressing. I had to give myself permission to drop into bed without it being done. It was disappointing but real. I was the only one who had set the bar and I could be attentive to those who needed me if I was more available. So posting dropped from the “must do” to the “like to do” column.

Today I felt a push to write – a push to talk about the joy of being in relationship with God. Two areas of my life are very prevalent these days. I am both student and teacher. As student, part of my daily homework is meditating on a scripture verse assigned by my instructors. I’m now in my fourth week in doing this and I have to say it has been an interesting journey of discovery. We are given a theme for each month – the first was God provides for me; the second God chooses to make me. As a teacher, I am helping nine 6-9 year olds prepare to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and holy communion. We began in Genesis and the garden of Eden. How uncanny that what I am preparing these little ones for is what I am going back to in my studies as well!

I’m blown away by the simplicity and greatness of the works of God. Creation – well just wow. Right now in Illinois where I live, the trees are turning color; the days are crisp; clear, colder yet inviting. All are in a state of movement – birds, squirrels, winds, leaves, clouds, sun and moon, light and darkness, children and adults. The wheels are moving in life and although it is different, we are advancing in time – and inevitably towards the end of each of our lives. I am so thankful for today’s meditation – Psalm 104 – as it truly puts so much in order. This verse (14/15) tugged at my heart in it’s simplicity.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plant for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Yesterday I watched a farmer harvest soybeans in a large field behind my house. Today I went to Mass and received the body and blood of Christ in what looked like bread. It surely strengthens and satisfies the hunger in my heart for God.

And yet I know there are many other places far more beautiful than what I look out to from my porch. There is more to learn, read and seek than what I have completed in my life. I struggle to know whether this is my place since my dear husband passed, yet our Lord knows the plans he has for me. This is my third year as a widow and I feel it’s been a good time of “waiting.” I’ve come to recognize God loved me when I was far away and lost; He loves me still as I am draw near. I know my time here on earth is but a fleeting glance in the scope of all time. I am not afraid to die but only to be close to my Lord and God all the days he gives me to live. I am saddened by those I love who seem to not recognize the call God places in all hearts. Confused with pleasure, power or possessions in our material world, they are deaf to Jesus saying “take nothing, not even a second pair of sandals, and go out to all the world, telling of the Kingdom of God.” They do not hear the words “follow me.” I pray their hearts are softened so they too can have the joy God desires to give to them.

And so in saying this, I pause and wonder, do my ears need a cleaning? Will I hear his call to change if it comes in a way I am not ready to hear? Could I make a move if this is what he calls me to? Will I settle and work being faithful in my journey as I am now? Am I ready to die if this is his desire (no, I’m not sick or expecting to die anytime soon). My Lord and My God. Anything for you Lord. And everything. As a friend recently said to me, I gave Him a blank check. You know me better than I know myself. Especially in such a time as this. Do with me as you will. Here’s my blank check too.

I urge you to read the whole Psalm, not just verses 14/15. Below is a bit more. What does my future hold? Him. That’s all I need to know. He’ll figure out how to fill in the rest.

What is your view, your desire in seeking him with a heart that doesn’t just meet up with him at some point in your day but all day, every day, in multiple ways. As Dan Burke of Spiritual Direction.com said this past summer –
“if you’re not all in, you’re not in at all.”

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan which you formed to sport in it. These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.

When you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their spirit they die and return to the dust.

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him for I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more!

Bless the Lord O my soul, Praise the Lord. Amen. Alleluia.

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Anxiety and the Cross

How do I let you cover me Lord? Do I fight you and am anxious or embrace my cross? As I read today’s scripture on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross I thought of it as the tall beacon of light in my life. Yet in my studies I had another scripture to contemplate – that of Luke 12:22-32 – do not be anxious.

Sitting in mental prayer and reading these two passages I couldn’t help but reflect on the correlation of the two. Whenever I see the numbers 316 immediately Jesus’ words come into my thoughts; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

I think about eternal Life – a new life I cannot go to on my own – not to be earned or learned – but to be given. God GAVE us his only Son. It was HIS son who came and taught us the way to his Father. The path to eternal life. That alone was a lot to take in. But then the Luke passage; as I read it once, twice and three times – God pointed out the word YOU. Who was Jesus speaking to? It says YOU. He was directly speaking to me as I pictured him sitting across from my chair. He was speaking to anyone who believes in him – because if you didn’t it’s likely you wouldn’t be reading his words. He GAVE us the instructions to get to eternal life; “He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.” In fact, he said it twice in verses 22 and 29.

He said, “As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.” Which also brings me back to the Exaltation of the Cross. Because to not worry means I don’t get to complain, contradict or crucify anyone with my words, action or even thoughts. That’s lifting a cross for sure.

But what was even more clear in this passage was that word YOU. YOU he says, not I. So often my words are I. I did this. I did that. I thought. I acted. I remember. I feel this or that. I, I, I. How many times in a day do I – there I go again… claim myself instead of recognizing either God and/or my neighbor? Every time this self pronouncement occurs, the carried cross is lowered and anxiety moves in, as if stepping away from him.

Perhaps today in being more aware through his words, God will lead me to embrace the discipline of removing the “I” from my day. This could look like not acknowledging myself above others or of putting an undue burden on anyone to get my point across. It could be the absence of hearing pride or vanity in my voice, giving myself praise or choosing the words so another could. It would be to bear my cross in the sacrifice of self offering — for the sick, dying, those in purgatory, difficult situations, etc., etc., So much and many to pray for and offer up. All day, every day.

Jesus called to me in the word YOU eighteen times in this short 10 verse passage. His point of putting me first above all other creation tells me he was serious about getting my attention. HE has the answers. How well are my ears listening?

May my cross be lifted to yours my Lord, casting out all anxieties and fear. Guide my mouth and thoughts to die to self, surrendering my will to yours. Place thy lamp unto my feet so that your cross can be seen in the shadows of my life, always. And may all gory be given to you, all the days of my life..

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Mary, My Mother

So often I take for granted the gift of the Blessed Virgin, mother of the most high God. I love my birth mother and hold her up in high esteem. I accepted who she was without knowing everything about her; she wasn’t perfect, as none of us can be. But I ask God to bless her with eternal peace. Yet I wonder why it is many of us fail to call upon this holy woman of God who said yes as our heavenly Mother; Mary, the first temple of Christ Jesus, Mary, Untier of Knots, Mary Most Holy Virgin, Mary, Sorrowful Mother, Mary, Immaculate Mother. All these names plus more, given because of the elevation to being our Mediatrix; the one who pours down graces upon those who come to her for guidance in their journey to her Son.

I look at the many pictures I have of Mary in and around my house. She is a reminder for me to pray – to offer up and sacrifice for others when I can. She shows me it is simply about loving. She loved a pregnancy she did not understand. She loved a man named Joseph whom she would marry but never know in a physical embrace. She placed herself and this child in his care, trusting implicitly. Her love did not question but followed the directions given by the Holy Spirit. She must have been afraid; yet she did not lose hope and faith that she was being led and that God the Father would not stop leading her and Joseph. When she lost Joseph and faced her Son on the cross, once again she had to find the trust and faith that brought him into this world and let Him go from it.

In this crazy covid-19 country/world of ours; with our nation about to have a life-changing election, we can lose hope and faith; we can become frustrated with the hate heard and seen so rampant and out of control. What can I do with this frustration of people being judgemental, critical, prideful and condescending? The whole uncharitable mentality seeps down into the cracks of society, in families between brothers and sisters, husband and wives, children and parents. The evil one surely is enjoying this moment of division – even in our churches their is division with our Cardinals and Bishops and Priests. Opening one’s mouth must constantly be checked for it can be taken quite out of context. Oh Mary, Queen of Peace, come and reign in our hearts again so that we may see with humility our own insecurities, weaknesses, failures and sinful actions first; then look with charity towards our neighbor.

Today I should have rose early to go to Mass since this was a first Saturday in which greater reverence is given to our Mother Mary who leads us to her Son. I rose in time but procrastinated, thought about it, procrastinated more and then the time was gone. I feel ashamed of my weakness, my inability to show her my gratitude for all her motherly interventions that I am aware of and those I am not. I can now only ask for mercy, to repent of my sloth and seek her forgiveness. You may think I am crazy; it isn’t a holy day or Sunday, and the obligation to even attend weekly on Sunday is lifted. Why am I so hard on myself? It’s because Mary has the graces I need, and want, and I chose to turn away and say, not needed today Mary. Because when I don’t choose to take any and all opportunities to be with her and her Son in the highest form of prayer – the Mass – then I am saying no thank you to her graces. Who would say they only need their father, not their mother? Their are times I need one more than the other, but in all likelihood, I need them both. And I need them often, not just when their is an issue or problem. I need them most when I think I don’t!

Life isn’t easy. Choices are just that – a hard left or right. Consequences follow every choice – whether it is in this life or as we stand before God in our final judgement after death. He sees everything – he already knows it all. He gives us so many opportunities – every single day – to receive more and more grace which is like getting better directions for our way in this crazy world. Without our Lord’s help, we will be lost. Mary brings those graces from her Son and unfortunately it seems there are probably more graces than people asking for them. The love of the holy family for us, the adopted sons and daughters, is infinite. Will you join me in letting more of it pour into our hearts and seek forgiveness for what we have thrown away?

Oh Mary most pure, Mary who has the greatest compassion, empathy, understanding and courage; Mary who loves her Son so much she extends herself to all of us; Mary help me to come to you. I am sorry I have been weak, failing to come before you and giving in to sloth. I want to be near you. Like St. Paul, I often do not understand why I don’t do the things I want to do and instead do what I don’t want to do. Help me to learn and grow in my journey to your Son, help me to hear the directions that lead me by following you ever more closely. Next time this occurs, help me to remember how I felt after that poor choice so that I may honor you and give your Son all the glory through my participation at Holy Mass. Mary, help others to look at you as the conduit of graces which your Son desires for us all; help us to call upon your motherly care in our times of need; whether it is to just sit and be held by you or in seeking your counsel or the counsel of your Son. I know you have my greatest interests in mind — to live my life so that your Son will welcome me to eternal life, and to bring with me my family, friends and all God’s people as well. Mary, Mother of God and my mother, pray for us now and at the time of our death. Amen.

First photo By Cadetgray – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14324487
Third photo By Peter Paul Rubens – http://freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=354952&p=4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5723565
Fourth photo By Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1432637

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