Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Death To Life

This life is so short. Our bodies grow older everyday, and the moments that make up our lives slip by us no matter how much we try to savor them and hold on to them. I watch my little baby sleeping and know that she's going to grow up so quickly and there's nothing I can do about it. I try and remember what it feels like holding her and her fitting like a glove snuggled up next to my body. She won't be this little but for a short time. I wish it could last, but the reality is that it can't. We can't make the moments longer or shorter, they just are. Time continues to tick by whether we want it to or not. 

And each tick leads us inevitably closer to our death. And that's OK. I am not scared of death. My body will feel it, I know I will have to eventually go through that process, and it probably won't be a pleasant experience. But, in the midst of that, I find so much courage, hope, and peace knowing that Jesus will be right there with me, and through His mercy and unfailing love, by His grace and His blood, He will welcome me into His arms and my soul will be with its creator. What joy! I can't fathom it, but my soul yearns to be with Jesus, and until that day comes I will continue to do what He has asked of me while on this earth. To love Him and others, and to obey His commandments.

After Jesus' death, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body. Upon arriving and seeing the stone removed from the entrance to the tomb, two angels appeared to them and said "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised." (Luke 24:5) I think this same response can be given to those here on earth mourning the death of a loved one who had faith in Christ while on this earth. As Christians, when we die, it is not our ultimate death. Actually, we really pass on to true, everlasting life. We have been raised with Christ into new life. So though our bodies will die, we will be among the living, not the dead. What a gift! It calls for rejoicing, not mourning.

I've been listening to a song that describes it well. It is called Holy (Wedding Day) by City Harmonic. I've included the lyrics below as well as the link to the song on YouTube.

Holy (Wedding Day): City Harmonic
This is the story of the Son of God
Hanging on the cross for me
But it ends with a bride and groom
And a wedding by a glassy sea
O death where is your sting
Cause I'll be there singing
Holy Holy Holy
Is the Lord

This is the story of a bride in white
Waiting on her wedding day
Anticipation welling up inside
While the groom is crowned as king
O death where is your sting
Cause we'll be there singing
Holy Holy Holy is the Lord

Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy
Is the Lord Almighty
Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy
Is the Lord Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Who was and is and is to come

This is the story of the Son of God
Hanging on the cross for me
And it ends with a bride and groom
And a wedding by a glassy sea

This is the story of the a bride in white
Singing on her wedding day

Of the God who was and is to stand before a bride who sings
Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Transforming, All-Powerful Love of Christ

Jesus loves you.

You've most likely heard it a million times. I know I have. Maybe you've believed it and felt His love in your life, through seasons of joy and seasons of trials. Or maybe you've wanted to believe it but struggled to find His love manifesting in your life, especially when the harsh realities of life left you feeling alone and anything but loved.

But He does love you, and this love is not like any other love we can find on this earth apart from Him. His love is selfless, perfect, and powerful. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to not fully grasp and allow this love to do its work in us. It should transform us, perfect us, and equip us to live the abundant and Christ-like life that we are called to live.

Let's take a few moments and consider His love. It was selfless: it lead Him to the cross where He gave up His own life in order to save us from the death penalty of our sins and give us life with Him forever. It was perfect: Without considering Himself, He laid down His life for us while we were still sinners. His love is trustworthy, hope filled, never is perfect. His love is powerful: He didn't just die for us, He overcame death for us. Even the grave couldn't hold Him. His love is powerful enough to save Himself, and us, from the power of death.

His love saves us from death. Therefore, it can certainly save us from that which leads to death. His love is stronger than our addictions, our sins, our mistakes, our sicknesses, our imperfections, our failings, our brokenness. It's stronger than the attacks of Satan. His love is stronger than death and life; it is the giver of life.

If we aren't experiencing this love, we aren't experiencing the fullness of Christ in our lives. He is one with the Father, and the Father IS love (1 John 4:8). If you find that you are struggling with sin, pray. Pray that the love of Christ will transcend your sin and be washed away by the power brought forth through His blood. We alone are not stronger than sin, but He is, and by His death and resurrection He has given us power through Him to repent of our sins and live a life worthy of the calling we have received in Him (Ephesians 4:1). If you are struggling with addiction, bondage, disappointment, pain, regret, or hatred, know that His love is greater and allow God to work in you to rid you of these things. We aren't called to a life of bondage and slavery to sin-no, Jesus died so that we can be freed from that bondage and live with Him in righteousness. We are partakers of His death and resurrection and our lives should be reflections of that powerful truth (see Romans 6). 

And in that powerful truth, we can find comfort, peace, and joy because nothing can separate us from His love when we know how deep, how long, how wide the love of Christ is for us. For you. For me. 

"What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 8:31-39~

"...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." 
~Ephesians 3:17-21~ 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

People of Prayer

It's easy to be people of talk. How often I find that I am more prone to talk about people or situations when I should be praying for them or for the situations. I wonder what might change in the heavenly realms if I prayed as much as I talked.

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." 
~Ephesians 4:29~

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." 
~Matthew 12:36~

Let's be people of prayer, not people of talk.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Lamb of God

On the way to church this morning, my two and a half year old daughter began singing the song we sing in Mass before breaking the bread in the Eucharist: 

"Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Grant us peace."

My husband and I glanced at each other with a grin on our lips and a twinkle in our eyes. Maybe in her youthful innocence she understands those words better than we do, but whether that be the case or not, how beautiful that this is the part of Mass she remembers and delights in. 

I remember often pondering the mysteries of the Eucharist during my early Catholic church going days. As a Protestant dating a Catholic, I was aware of the differences in our beliefs toward the subject. I knew Communion was a bigger deal for him than for me, and I understood why (After all, he believes it is Jesus, I believed it was bread and wine and done in remembrance of Jesus). Not surprisingly  I wasn't yet convinced that the real presence of Jesus was in the bread and wine. Upon first hearing of this teaching my initial reaction, besides "That's strange.", was "Well, I guess God can do anything. He certainly can transform elements, after all, He formed them from nothing. But, would He?" I didn't know the answer at the time. I knew anything is possible with God, but if it goes against the way He instituted communion while here on earth, I would have to assume He wouldn't transform the elements now.

Even still, I can vividly remember multiple times being brought to tears while watching Catholic church-goers walk up for communion during the Mass. I couldn't explain it, but I found it beautiful. Whether I was watching an elderly man with his walker making his way to the alter to receive what he believed to be Jesus, or a young teenager with a crucifix around his neck, there was something significant that struck me. We all need Jesus. All the sudden, during communion, there was no distinction between gender, age, wealth, health, or the like. Everyone seemed to be on the same lowly level of humbly receiving something they didn't deserve, maybe couldn't even explain, yet knew they needed. 

It took many years of struggle trying to understand this mystery and whether or not there was any truth to it. I read the history of early church fathers, read books and commentaries, talked to both pastors and priests, prayed a lot, read the scriptures, and last but not least, waited. I waited for God to reveal the truth to me. It was to big a decision to make on my own, and I knew the decision would likely either bring me into the Catholic Church or further from it. The weight of it was heavy to say the least for many years. After all, I was married to a Catholic and raising my daughter Catholic. I dreaded being dis-unified in the family and bringing confusion to my children as they grew up, but not as much as I dreaded making the wrong decision and standing before God one day accountable for that decision. 

I'm so thankful God revealed to me so much of Himself through all of this and through the Catholic Church. I can say I whole heartily believe in the transubstantiation (the technical term for it) of the bread and wine into His body and blood. He is still increasing my faith in this area, and it does take faith. That's part of the blessing, mystery, and miracle of it. However, there is a lot of evidence for it as well which I am going to briefly outline some of the Biblical support below. 

Of course, there is John 6 which begins with the multiplication of the loaves. I find it interesting that right after performing this miracle with bread, he states that He is the bread of life. Surely it is a miracle as we receive Him in the Eucharist just as it was a miracle how He fed so many with so little at the multiplication of the loaves. The similarities are pretty profound. 

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world...Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father send me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven...whoever eats this bread will live forever."
~John 6:51, 53-58~

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns of the idolatry of eating those sacrifices which are sacrificed on the alter to demons and compares it to the sacrifice we participate in which is that of the body and blood of Christ.

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the alter?...You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than He?"
~1 Corinthians 10:16-22~

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul goes on to discuss the Lords supper. 

"For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself."
~1 Corinthians 11:23-29~

Let's go back to the Old Testament and the reason for which Jesus gathered with His disciples on the night he was betrayed: the Lord's Passover (Luke 22:7-20).

God was going to save the Israelites from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians. He instituted the Lord's Passover where the Israelites were to obtain a lamb, sacrifice it, apply some of its blood over their doorposts, and eat it. The Lord would pass over the house of those faithful in accomplishing these specific tasks and He would spare them of His anger against the Egyptians. The requirements for the Passover were very detailed, and what is so amazing is that it all points towards Jesus, the one who would be the final sacrifice, sufficient enough to save us from the bondage of slavery to sin. The Lamb of God. 

The lamb brought forth by the Israelites must be without blemish (Exodus 12:5) and the Lamb brought forth by God, Jesus, was without the blemish of sin.

The lamb worthy of the Lords Passover could have no broken bones (Exodus 12:46) and the Lamb God brought forth in Jesus, when he was sacrificed for our sins, suffered no broken bones (John 19:36). 

The blood of the lamb on the Lord's Passover would save the people from Gods wrath and that blood was to be applied to the doorposts with the branches of hyssop (Exodus 12:22). The Lamb of God, while on the cross of His crucifixion, received wine from a sponge that was attached to the branches of hyssop right before He proclaimed "It is finished." (John 19:29-30).

The body of the lamb on the Lord's Passover was to be eaten on that same night (Exodus 12:8). At the celebration of the Passover that Jesus participated in with His disciples on the night of his betrayal, He told the disciples to take and eat His body, and to drink His blood, that they would serve as the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of their soul (Mark 14:22-24). 

You see, Jesus isn't just the figurative, metaphorically speaking, sacrificed lamb; He is the literal Lamb of God (John 1:29,36). In Jesus, even the details of the requirements of the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb were fulfilled. It makes sense to me that when Jesus said to eat His body, just as God commanded the Israelites to do with the Paschal lamb, He meant it. If the Israelites hadn't done all God commanded of them, including the eating of the lamb, the result was death. Jesus, in John 6:53, states that unless we eat of His body and drink of His blood, we have no life in us. The result is death. Paul similarly declares in 1 Corinthians 11:29 that those who do not discern the body and blood of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself. 

The scriptures really are so full and so rich. I am left in awe of the work of our Lord, all He did for us. We need Jesus. Without Him, the result is death. With Him, the result is forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He literally laid down His life for us as the sufficient sacrifice for our sins. He is the Lamb of God. We are not worthy that He should enter under our roof, but He only need to say the word and our souls shall be healed (following the example of faith in Matthew 8:8, the recitation in Mass during the preparation of Communion).

"Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us. 
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: Grant us peace."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Childbirth and Suffering

The reality of labor is quickly approaching. Being seven and a half month pregnant, I know baby Amaryn will be here before we know it. Of course, I can hardly wait! Yet, amidst the anticipation, there is an element of hesitation as I ponder the pain I must go through before I get to hold her in my arms. 

In reality, that impending pain is already manifesting itself in the pregnancy, as it does for most women. My confession: Lately, I have been complaining about the ailments of pregnancy some of the time. OK, maybe even complaining about the ailments of life and maybe not just some of the time, but most of the time. Different trials and whatnot this month have at times left me down and sulking. The other night I told Jason that I hate how much I've been complaining, yet I just don't know what else to do. The back pain and exhaustion are almost constant and it's difficult not to focus on it. Well, such is life, right? I know it's good for something, but sometimes it just feels plain rotten.

I've been thinking much about suffering lately. As a new Catholic, certain terminologies and phrases have caught my attention. In regard to suffering, I am supposed to "offer it up" so that it may be unified with Christ's sufferings and have a redemptive purpose. God, what does this mean? What is it you are trying to teach me through this suffering? Is my constant complaining and irritability towards it taking away from something great you are wanting to do through it?

It lead me to thinking about childbirth, but immediately I stopped myself and thought, well at least my suffering in pregnancy pains and childbirth results in something has purpose. There is plenty of sufferings out there we are called to endure which seem to have no purpose, no happy ending. 

Yet that's when I realized the truth of it all. The example of purposeful suffering is undisguised in childbirth, yet all suffering is meant to result in a miracle. It is designed to lead us to holiness and to Heaven. The pain and suffering of pregnancy, labor, and delivery is akin to all the refinement, self-denial, and hardship we must endure in this life. The end result is the same: new life. 

"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." 
~James 1:2-4~ 

"I will bring [them] through the fire; I will refine them as one refines silver, and I will test them as one tests gold. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people," and they will say, “The LORD is my God.”" 
~Zechariah 13:9~

"Endure your trials as “discipline”;[...]At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it."
~Hebrews 12:7,11~

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
~Romans 8:18-25~

As Christians, we can take joy in our suffering, knowing that it unites us with Christ and the end result is worth the present hardship.  Lord, help us to not extinguish the refining fire of suffering through our complaints and sulking, but instead help us to be open to suffering so that it can birth your new life into us. Amen.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Seeking Approval

I have a dear friend and family member who is currently pregnant with her ninth child. It is something many people don't understand, and even those that do understand are often surprised by the fact simply because it is so uncommon in our culture today to have more than a set number of children. I know that her and her family get a lot of remarks, comments, stares, and judgement because of the way they are choosing to live their lives. Many people find it is irresponsible and foolish. Others simply find it something to make jokes about and laugh at. And then there are those that think, "Well, whatever works for them. It certainly isn't for me." Well, it is overwhelming, this idea of being fully committed to the openness of life, continually sacrificing your body and time for the sake of another soul to know Christ and His love, and welcoming any child that God may choose to give them. Who on earth would sign up for all this? Why would Jesus ask all that of her? Is she crazy?

I have another close friend who is soon entering religious life. She will be giving away all her possessions, quitting her job, leaving her friends and all that is familiar to her, and moving to a place where she will be living solely for the Lord in lowliness and humbleness. She is giving up many--if not all--modern day comforts: no computer, phone, or iPod, very few desserts and no snacking, a limited and stern dress code, very little traveling to visit family and friends, no car, a set meal plan (no more satisfying that sweet tooth or pizza craving), no sleeping in or taking a day off and watching movies all day. And that's just the beginning of a slew of other things she will be giving up or going without. She will be fully committing her life to prayer, fasting, and service. A lot of people don't understand. Some find the idea of giving up all their things pointless and too difficult to comprehend as these things have worked their way into becoming necessities in their lives. I can hardly stay off my phone for a few hours, never mind giving it up completely. And then the thought of moving away from all that is familiar and comfortable, all by yourself, is pretty daunting. Who on earth would sign up for all this? Why would Jesus ask all that of her? Is she crazy? 

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
~Galatians 1:10~ 

You know, these women sure as heck aren't looking for the approval of man. If they were, I suspect they would have made some different decisions along the way. No, they must be on to something different. If they were looking to others to gain confidence in their vocations and reassurance in their identity, they would be left totally insecure and in a serious identity crisis. But they aren't. They aren't looking for reassurance from others that they are making the right decisions and on the right path. They aren't building their confidence and self esteem by the standards of the world and of our culture. They aren't trying to please human beings; they are trying to please God. 

I look at my husband. I am so thankful for him. In my eyes he is so heroic. He has an amazing brain and he could go on to do so many things that people would just be in awe over. He could go on to make a lot of money in his field and make his name known in the world. But he isn't fooled. He knows those things aren't what God is asking of him. He knows that all those things come at a cost that he isn't willing to pay. To name a few: the cost of time with family and friends; the cost of peace; the cost of leading a moral and virtuous life; the cost of growing closer to Christ. The cost of pleasing God by instead seeking to please man.

Too often I find myself lacking in confidence and feeling worthless because I have been seeking to be comforted by others and not by God. I want reassurance that what I am doing matters. I want a big pat on the back from people telling me, "You've made all the right decisions! You're so smart and it's good that you're choosing to ______. All of your hard work and sacrifice is going to pay off soon!" Well, people don't often say these things to me. The sacrifices I make are not often noticed, at least not by the majority of the population. It can be a real struggle to be so committed in my pursuit to follow and please God that I don't care what others think. Yet, in that struggle I often lose focus of why I do what I do and who I do it for. I suppose that is exactly what Satan wants, too, because the moment I start to care more about what others think than about what God thinks, who am I really serving? 

To help us all stay focused on our mission of being a servant of Jesus Christ, we should frequently ask ourselves: Who are we trying to seek approval from? Where do we find our worth? What if the cost of having worth in the sight of man was to give up our identity in Christ? Would it be worth it? What am I willing to give up for Christ? Am I willing to be a fool in the sight of family, friends, and acquaintances? Am I willing to be misunderstood and made fun of, all for the sake of living the life that God has called me to? Who, what, and where do I find my confidence? Am I placing my hope and trust in Christ, or in this world? 

"Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever."
~1 John 2:15-17~

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you."
~John 15:18-19~

What are we really here for? Who are we here to serve? Man or God? You can't serve both (Matthew 6:24). The ways of the world, the ways of man, are not the ways of God (James 4:4; Isaiah 55:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Psalm 40:4). Choose God. Seek His approval. Live for Him alone. In doing so you will store up treasures in Heaven and your reward will be that which is eternal and doesn't wither away (Matthew 6:19-21). 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Discovering God

Every day I am reminded how influential my role as a mom is. My daughter reminds me daily without even knowing it. I see her copying me in the tiniest and biggest of ways. I see it in the way she eats her breakfast just like me; in the way she cares for her animals and dolls by changing their diapers (imaginary diapers of course), putting them to bed, feeding them, and giving them a bath; in the way she treats her daddy and gives him hugs and kisses as he leaves for work each morning and looks to him to fix things; in the way she "helps" out around the house, trying to do as I do by sweeping and vacuuming the floor, wiping down the counters, and putting her dishes in the sink. This is all part of mothering a toddler. Her little mind is discovering what being a human is supposed to look like. She is discovering the world around her and how to interact with it. She is making connections about things that we adults hardly even notice anymore and drawing from them the beginning structures of her very own, unique belief system. She is interpreting every little thing we do, trying to make sense of it and find purpose in it.

When I take time and think about these things it can be very sobering. As a mom, what is my role in this process we call growing up? Am I supposed to step back and let her figure things out all on her own? Am I supposed to be there every second to explain every little thing that I do in a day? There are many theories and opinions out there on the topic, but what does God have to say about it? 

"Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his children and his household in the future to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may put into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him."
~Genesis 18:19~

"Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up."
~Deuteronomy 6:6-8~

"Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it."
~Proverbs 22:6~

"The rod of correction gives wisdom, but uncontrolled youths disgrace their mothers."
~Proverbs 29:15~

"Children, obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right. 'Honor your father and your mother.' This is the first commandment with a promise, 'that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.' Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord."
~Ephesians 6:1-4~

"Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you."
~Hebrews 13:17~

In other words, yes we should most definitely be involved in instructing our children in the way of the Lord. We will even give an account for our task in providing instruction and example to our children because this role and gift that God has given us is so important (Heb 13:17)! Our role and influence is a big deal! 

As I've been contemplating all of this, it's made me question: What is my daughter discovering when she watches me and imitates me? My prayer and hope is that she is discovering God in me. I hope that my obedience to Him leads her to obedience to Him. My whole life, everything I do, should be for Jesus (Colossians 3:23). I pray that as she observes me and mimics my life, what starts as merely copying me will develop into a mature relationship with the Lord. 

We worry and think about so many things for our children. What will they be like? Will they be well-behaved and good-natured? Will they be smart, handsome, beautiful, talented, social, friendly, etc? What schools will they go to? What will they study? What will their jobs be? Will they be healthy? Will they have a lot of friends? What will people think of them? This isn't all bad, we are their parents and of course we should be concerned about some of these things, but as Christians, our biggest concern should be for their soul. Will they be in Heaven someday? We go to great lengths to do our part to make sure our children have the best start in life and will be successful in whatever it is they do...but what lengths will we go to so that they will know God and follow His commands? 

As mothers, we have a great opportunity to help our children discover God. He is so worth discovering after all. He is the reason for every good and perfect thing in and under Heaven. He is our salvation and our hope. I pray my daughter discovers Him personally from an early age and follows in His ways all the days of her life. That is why I make sacrifices to put her as a priority in my life and to spend time with her and explain things to her. That is why I pray with her and bring her to church with me. That is why we read the Bible at home and try our best to live by example. I don't know how much time I will have with her. It's too essential a task to put it off for later. She's discovering things about life now, not later. Do I want her to discover what our world and society deem important, or do I want her to discover Jesus and what He deems important? 

Lord, I pray she discovers you. Let her learn of your Truth and your ways, not those of the world. As she grows and matures, let it be according to your word and your will. Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Do You Ever Feel Alone?

Alone. That's how I have been feeling this week. Alone in my Christian walk. Alone in my convictions. Alone in my struggles. Alone in my calling as a stay at home mother. Alone in my thoughts. Just so terribly lonely that it has left me feeling discouraged, hopeless, and burdened. It has also left me yearning for Heaven. I feel almost homesick for this place I have never been and can't even fully imagine in all its glory-the very Glory of God Himself. Yet I am here, stuck on this earth and in all of its imperfections. Every day I am reminded of the fallen nature of humankind. I see it in the news, in those around me, in myself. Sin and ungodliness reign. God seems difficult to find in the mess we've made for ourselves here. So many Christian brothers and sisters seem to be just as much a part of the world as the unbelievers. Godly values seem to be thrown to the side of the road and trampled on by the very people who profess Jesus as Lord and therefore should be living by those values and honoring them. Instead they live and preach a version of Christianity that fits their own belief system. I see all of this and it overwhelms me. It's unsettling and discouraging. It's hard to keep walking this road of Faith when it feels so lonely sometimes. It's hard to not want to be in Heaven where endless worship will be given the Holy One who is worthy of all honor and praise. 

Caught up in the emotions from the week, I was so happy to see Sunday come. A new day. The Lords day. I was craving the refreshing taste of community and worship. I prayed for Gods Spirit to rejuvenate and encourage me. Todays readings were perfect (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29). The Gospel reading was especially refreshing. The Trinity is clearly expressed in the passage, the words are hope-filled and life-giving. We are to abide in His word and when we do that, the Lord comes and lives in us. He gives us Peace. Not like the peace of the world, but His Peace. We aren't to be troubled or afraid, Jesus is coming back for us; He will not leave us.

Wow, those words were exactly what I needed to hear. After Mass I met up for one of my final RCIA sessions. For an hour and a half I was able to be surrounded by fellow believers who share in this walk of Faith and let me just say that it was edifying and encouraging to say the least. It is so clear to me after days like today why believers need community and fellowship. We weren't created to survive alone. Christianity from its earliest beginnings was communal in almost every aspect of its roots. Jesus, in perfect unity with His Father and the Holy Spirit, died on a cross to bring us to Himself, which brings us into unity with the Trinity. This also brings us into unity with other believers. We are all partaking of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are all gathered together and share, as one, in HIS body and HIS life. We are a family. 

It's so important to remember that, as Christians and believers in Christ, we aren't alone. Sin might reign in the world but it doesn't in us because He has overcome sin. He has forgiven us and washed us clean, and we are therefore risen with Him in His resurrection and Triumph. Though in the world, we aren't of the world. 

Jesus has given us an opportunity to get to know what Heaven is like before we even get there. Heaven is the Glory of God, the dwelling place of His Splendor. If we love Him and keep His word, He will dwell in us (John 14:23-29). He has made our bodies His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19)! Wow! It's amazing and it leaves me in awe of His goodness. If we choose to live and abide in His word, we can be partakers of His Heavenly Kingdom. I don't have to yearn for Heaven while feeling alone and hopeless in this world. I can yearn for Heaven and glimpse into its Glory while living here on the earth. I don't have to wait and worship God in Heaven, I can worship Him here. In fact, if I choose to wait to give Him the honor, glory, and praise due His name, why would I expect to be doing so in Heaven one day? Our life here should be a reflection of what is yet to come. Loneliness and despair is not what is to come for those who believe and trust in Jesus. I am not alone. If nothing else I always have the unity of the Trinity living and dwelling in me, but He has also given me a community of believers. It's such a gift. I am so thankful that He has shown these things to me and reminded me of His Truth when I needed it this week. I am so thankful that He loves us so much and has given us such hope and promise.