THE RISEN LIFE…Dying and Rising

Holy Week and Easter have come and gone reminding us of death and new life. I recently read something that seems appropriate for us as we go forth in the year:

“We experience various “dyings”, not just with the death of loved ones but also with the loss of friendships, changes in lifestyle or career, physical infirmity, children leaving home, and our own relocations from one city to another.

Our God, however, is a God of life. The Resurrection reveals how God is always bringing life from death, hope from despair, love from hate, and light from darkness. So, we celebrate the “risings” as well, such as reconciled or new friendships, unexpected opportunities, renewed vigor, and meaningful learning experiences that come from losses.

Notice how the risen Christ still bears the marks of the Crucifixion. This itself is a consoling image. Our hurts and limitations are part of who we are. In death, they are not wiped away but are redeemed. God takes us as we are and makes us whole again. A new creation at work. God wastes nothing and redeems all.” — The Ignatian Adventure, Kevin O’Brien, SJ

I invite you to take some time as we move forward in springtime to prayerfully ponder your own dyings and potential risings. Let God show you how he has fashioned your life through these graced moments of dying and rising. Ask Him to show you what new risings He may have in store for you.

And for those of you experiencing the grief of a dying, I offer you this prayer:

Leaning On The Heart Of God
~Authored by Joyce Rupp~


I am leaning on the heart of God. I am resting there in silence. All the turmoil that exhausts me is brought to bear on this great love.
No resistance or complaint is heard as I lean upon God’s welcome. There is gladness for my coming. There is comfort for my pain.
I lean, and lean, and lean upon this heart that hurts with me. Strength lifts the weight of my distress. Courage wraps around my troubles.
No miracle of instant recovery. No taking away life’s burdens. Yet, there is solace for my soul, and refuge for my exiled tears.
It is enough for me to know the heart of God is with me, full of mercy and compassion, tending to the wounds I bear.

COME AWAY…

Come away with me. I love the sound of those words. They stir something in me. It is so romantic when my husband asks me to come away with him.  Perhaps to take a road trip, and go on an adventure together to the unknown. When girlfriends want to have some time away together, there is excitement in the air. But when God’s voice invites me to come away with him, that touches something very deep within me. I’m left speechless, excited, and a bit nervous. I know that it will be more than an adventure if I’m fortunate enough to be given the grace of an encounter with the Divine.

Recently I had the opportunity to go on retreat—a 3-day Ignatian silent directed retreat at St. John’s Catholic Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was more than just another opportunity. We were told that this would be a great gift God was giving us. When we come away from all the noise and activity of daily life to focus intently on God, things happen. God manifests in powerful ways. That proved to be true.  The time away was a precious gift to us all.

The wilderness will lead you to your heart where God will speak.

Our instructions were to bring a Bible and a journal. Nothing else. No other reading material and no electronics. That meant no cell phone. We were to make space.  To enter into three days and nights of simply enjoying basic life— simple things like eating good food, sleeping well, going on walks, going to daily mass, visiting any one of the three gorgeous chapels on the grounds, and praying with Scripture—talking with God, and more importantly, listening to God. We would have the time to do as monastics do: to dot the day with prayer. And to journal what we were hearing from God.

Let us listen to the voice of God as we enter into His rest.

Through it all, we were to pay attention. To sink into the present moment.  To allow God to still us. We individually met with a spiritual director for one hour each day. We were able to share with the director what each day’s experience was like. Spiritual direction is really not direction which would be something active.  Rather, it is simply allowing God to speak with you, move in you, and then sharing that experience with another who also desires deepening their relationship with God. I have found this type of spiritual companioning to be deeply healing.

As we began the retreat, we were given some simple instructions. We were invited to reflect on why we came. What we desired of God. A heart desire placed there by God. For me, I was hoping for a deeper sense of God’s love for me. I know that the more I feel divinely, unconditionally loved, the more that kind of love flows out from me to others. I was also hoping for more heart healingfreedom from the things that can distract me and bind me up in fear. Fear stifles authentic love. At our first mass, I sensed that God heard my desires as I listened to the homily and heard, “This time away can be like a deep massage on a wounded place”. To which I thought, “Yes Lord, sign me up for that!” Many of us can relate to carrying old wounds that linger on. Doubting and questioning oneself. Being in a holy place like a monastery can bring about profound awareness and divine healing.

Deep woundedness needs deep healing, and it starts with the grace of a profound surrender.

Thus began three days of simple, thoughtful living at a relaxed pace—eating, sleeping, praying, and worshipping; all with a reflective attitude. I paid attention to the beauty of my surroundings, and to what was going on in my heart. I looked at life with a soft gaze, opening up to God a little bit more.

One of the directors mentioned at the introductory session that silence can be thunderous! Although we were not speaking, God certainly was. We had removed many of the barriers to hearing God’s voice and sensing God’s movements in us and others.

Rest and receive. No striving. God is at work. Let it happen.

At the conclusion of the retreat, we each were asked to share a short phrase to describe our experience. It was striking to see how God uniquely met each person in the way they most needed in the moment. I commented that God had stilled me. I thought of the Scripture passage: Be still and know that I am God. To know God better, one must engage in stillness.

I am grateful that God did give me my desires for the retreat.  The gifts I received are special to me. I will hold them close and ponder them in my heart. I was again reminded of the extreme value of peeling away all the distractions and coming away with God. Not easy to do but worth fighting for.

Trust in the slow and gentle work of God.

I know those reading this live in different places throughout the world. I encourage each of you to look into what is available in your area to allow you to come away with God. Some of you know the value of these get aways, but perhaps have not participated in a silent retreat for some time. That was my case. I won’t wait as long for the next one.

I’ll end with Jeremiah 33:3. It has been favorite passage of mine, and a motivation to come away with God so he can share special secret things with us.

“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.”
New American Bible

“Call to me and I will answer you; I will tell you great secrets of which you know nothing.”
New Jerusalem Bible

“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out
on your own.”The Message

THE TIME IS NOW. CHOOSE WISELY.

It is March. Ash Wednesday is behind us and Lent is upon us. There are many resources available to enhance our Lenten experience. I will not add to that, but I would encourage us to take advantage of this time—these forty days—and choose wisely as to how we spend them.

It seems to me that all Lenten practices point to our hearts and God’s desire to draw our hearts closer to Himself. Scripture speaks of rending our hearts to God. Our Creator wants each of us to offer Him our heart as it is now, to allow God to break it open—our own crucifixion, and to transform us—our resurrection.  God hopes to soften our hearts so we will love God and others better at the end of these forty days. That is the new life that Easter promises. A surrendered and self-giving heart like Christ’s. The time is now. Let us choose wisely.

I offer two prayers for this present time—our now:

Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Dust off the unmindful activity that constantly collects there.
De-clutter my heart from harsh judgements and negativity.
Wash away my resistance to working through difficult relationships.
Rinse off my un-loving
so the beauty of my generous and kind heart
can shine forth.
Remove whatever keeps me
from following in your compassionate footsteps. Amen.
–Joyce Rupp

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our dignity to choose. Help me, as I begin this Lenten journey, to be aware of all the choices I make. Inspire me to choose the way of life—for my own sake and for the sake of all whom I encounter.
–Thomas Stegman, SJ

HOW EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY ARE YOU?

God is shaping me and shaping you! What a hope-filled thought for 2022. I think we all would like to see the world become a more just and gentler place. That’s a cause we can get behind. It may seem overwhelming, but I can start with me—letting God form me into a more just and gentler me. When I offer that me to the world, God can move through me to shape the world into God’s image.

Here is another hopeful thought as we live into this new year:

“All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.
In the end, all shall be well and if all is not well, it’s not yet the end.”
Julian of Norwich

A person who I find very hope- inspiring is Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic. Here are his thoughts on emotionally healthy people. Before you read them, I encourage you to pray and ask God what God desires that you take in from this message. I then invite you to slowly and prayerfully read and ponder each point. There is a LOT to each statement!  Go deep with it! Let God speak to you and shape you with each one. (You can also find these on YouTube.)

 EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE…

  1. Possess self-awareness. They are able to observe themselves and continue to get to know themselves. This is the starting point for emotional health as well as an ongoing process.
  2. Are aware of others and how what they do and say affects others. They can put themselves in another’s shoes, and thus, are quick to recognize other people’s needs.
  3. Are willing and humble enough to question their own assumptions about themselves, other people, relationships, and life in general.
  4. Allow themselves to be angry as part of the human condition and learn healthy ways to process it.
  5. Are able to set boundaries and say “No” to make space for the greater/deeper “Yes”. They learn to do this and gradually do it without feeling guilty. They recognize that other people use guilt to get what they want because it works and they learn to take themselves out of those situations.
  6. Realize that everyone is carrying a heavy burden. They have large stores of empathy and give people the benefit of the doubt.
  7. Know how to be alone with themselves enjoying their own company. They sometimes choose to be alone rather than be with those who have a negative impact on their lives.
  8. Make decisions based on values rather than their feelings in the moment.
  9. Walk away from toxic people.
  10. Are comfortable with uncertainty. They are able to wait for the right answer rather than rush to a wrong conclusion for the sake of having false closure.
  11. Accept that everyone experiences times of stress, anxiety, fear, and depression at some points in their lives. They view these as a part of natural living and see their value and purpose.
  12. When they meet someone that they don’t like, they are willing to explore why they are uncomfortable, and how they may be being challenged to change and grow.
  13. Have a healthy sense of self. They know who they are, and they know who they are not. They don’t let other people determine their self-worth.
  14. Understand that people come into their lives for reasons and seasons. Not always forever. People and circumstances naturally change over time.
  15. Believe in the best of their humanity. In each moment they can choose to love, show compassion, and make a difference. They let the best of their humanity shine bright and often!

I pray that you will come back to this list from time to time. I know that I will. I leave you with this prayer— Read it as if God is talking to you, wanting to shape you anew.

Let My Love enfold you in the radiance of My Glory. Sit still in the Light of My Presence, and receive My Peace. These quiet moments with Me transcend time, accomplishing far more than you can imagine. Bring Me the sacrifice of your time, and watch to see how abundantly I bless you and your loved ones. Through the intimacy of our relationship, you are being transformed from the inside out. As you keep your focus on Me, I form you into the one I desire you to be. Your part is to yield to My creative work in you, neither resisting it nor trying to speed it up. Enjoy the tempo of a God-breathed life by letting Me set the pace. Hold My hand in childlike trust, and the way before you will open up step by step. (Jesus Calling: January 25)

BEHOLD…A NEW YEAR DAWNS FOR US ALL

Behold = To perceive through deliberate observation.

BEHOLDI’ve heard that word many times during this Christmas season, and I appreciate the thought that it means to observe or perceive in a deliberate manner. My normal custom for ending a year is to review my journals and write a reflection of the year. I’m always amazed at the ways I see God at work in our lives when I take this time to behold the year. I give myself the gift of lingering over the time a bit. Afterwards, I ask God to give me a word for the new year. I wait and pray. Last year’s word/phrase was Listen Deeply which ties in with this idea of beholding. I am grateful for the many awarenesses I received in 2021 as I’ve listened deeply to life in and around me. I pray that this exercise helps me enter the new year with gratitude and openness.

I’m including a prayer that I read on Christmas morning. I believe it could also be a prayer for this new year. It speaks of the baby Jesus and God’s tenderness. When I truly behold life through God’s eyes, my trust in God’s goodness is renewed. I receive the Divine’s tenderness. That will be my word for this new year. May I treat all humanity, including myself, with the tenderness that God gives to me.

BLESSING BEFORE A CHRISTMAS STABLE
Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P.

“No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.” (CCC 563)

Lord, Jesus, as I kneel before your manger in adoration, let my first Christmas word be: Thank you. Thank you, Gift of the Father, for coming to save me from my sins.

Without you I do not know even how to be human. The characteristics of your human body express the divine person of God’s Son. And in that wondrous expression, Lord, you reveal me to myself. Thank you for that saving revelation in your sacred humanity. As the Christmas liturgy proclaims, in Christ we experience “the holy exchange that restores our life.” Thank you for coming as one like myself to save me from myself.

You come as a baby because babies are irresistible and adorable. You come as a baby because you want our first impression of God incarnate to be that of one who does not judge. How I long to be united with you in every way. May I never be attracted to the allurements and charms of the world. May I love you always, at every moment, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. May the tenderness, the dependency, and the mercy that you reveal in your infancy become the hallmarks of my life.

Newborn Savior, the very silence of your incarnation proclaims that the answer to the misery the strife, and the meaninglessness we often experience in life cannot be found within us. You alone are the Answer. As I kneel before you, eternal King, I surrender to you all my selfishness, self-absorption, self-indulgence, self-righteousness, self-assertion, and self-exaltation. Even as I adore you on this night of your birth, rid me of the nagging desire to be adored.

Word become flesh, you make your dwelling among us. Yet you do not live your life for yourself, but for us. And you enable us to live in you all that you yourself lived. Help me to embrace this truth with all my mind and heart. Come and live your life in me. Empty me of my willfulness, my petulance, may hardness, my cynicism, my contemptuousness. Fill me with your truth, your strength, your fortitude, your purity, your gentleness, your generosity, your wisdom, your heart, and your grace.

O Emmanuel, may the assurance of your unfailing Presence be for me the source of unending peace. May I never fear my weakness, my inadequacy, or my imperfection. Rather, as I gaze with faith, hope, and love upon your incarnate littleness, may I love my own littleness, for God is with us. Endow my life with the holy wonder that leads me ever more deeply into the Mystery of Redemption and the meaning of my vocation and destiny.

Longed-for Messiah, your servant Saint Leo the Great well wrote that in the very act of reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth. From this night on may my life be a dedicated life of faith marked by holy reliance, receptivity, and resoluteness. May I make my life a total gift of self. May my humble worship of your Nativity manifest how much I seek the Father’s kingship and his way of holiness. The beauty of your holy face bears the promise that your Father will provide for us in all things. This Christmas I renew my trust in God’s goodness, compassion, and providence. I long for the day when you will teach us to pray “Our Father.”

May your Presence, Prince of Peace, bless the world with peace, the poor with care and prosperity, the despairing with hope and confidence, the grieving with comfort and gladness, the oppressed with freedom and deliverance, the suffering with solace and relief. Loving Jesus, you are the only real joy of every human heart. I place my trust in you.

Oh, divine Fruit of Mary’s womb, may I love you in union with the holy Mother of God. May my life be filled with the obedience of Saint Joseph and the missionary fervor of the shepherds so that the witness of my life may shine like the star that leads the Magi to your manger. I ask all this with great confidence in your holy name. Amen.

THE ADVENT MYSTERY

Our Advent tradition

I love the change of seasons.  I also appreciate the Church’s liturgical year with each season carrying deep meaning. Full of sameness, yet each year offering us something new. The Scripture readings do not change but our lives do! For me, Advent is a season of waiting, of hope, and a time to reflect and look deeper at life—my own and that of the world in which I am living. I can slow down and allow God to speak to me—to teach me and to transform me. Here is a favorite poem of mine that speaks of my desire for us all:

OPEN THE DOOR
Greg Asimakoupoulos

When you step over
The threshold of Christmas
There’s a mystery
For you to explore.
A story.
A message.
Rich beauty.
The music of color and love.
There’s a sense
Of the Creator’s presence
The wonder of childlike joy.
The texture of worship.
The power of peace.
Turn the handle
And open the door.

Our church is now dressed in purple which signifies penance and preparation. I find it interesting that the lavender plant with its delicate scent is known for its calming properties. When we take time to be in silence whether early in the morning with candles lit, enjoying a stunning sunrise or sunset, or sitting alone in a chapel, we sense the wonder, mystery, and power of God’s peace.

It takes time and attention to encounter mystery. In our busy world, that can be a struggle.  I pray my favorite Advent prayer for all of us as we seek to experience the mystery Advent offers us this year. Maybe we can light a lavender candle as we pray.

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness,
Send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen.
By Henri Nouwen

Lavender– historically known for its calming properties

FORGIVENESS—IT’S DIVINE…

As I’ve pondered and prayed about what to share this month, I have felt stuck. Since beginning this blog experience in 2018, I’ve committed to only write when I’ve felt lednot to force anything. So…I have been praying and waiting. Last night a friend shared with me her reflections on a book both of us are readingSpiritual Direction…Wisdom for the long walk of faith by Henri Nouwen. As I listened to her share, I felt deeply moved, and I knew I had the material for this blog. So, I am simply going to share a section of this book that moved my friend and me. I pray that as you read, God may speak in a way that is personal and meaningful to you and your life today. I will preface this by saying that forgiveness from the heart is a true grace and gift from God. It is not something we can do on our own. Thus, the blog title—IT’S DIVINE.  We can pray for it and keep ourselves open to God’s ongoing healing in our hearts.

Within the discipline of life in community are the twin gifts of forgiveness and celebration that need to be opened and used regularly. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness means that I continually am willing to forgive the other person for not fulfilling all my needs and desires. Forgiveness says, ‘I know you love me, but you don’t have to love me unconditionally, because only God can do that.’ I too must ask forgiveness for not being able to fulfill other people’s total needs, for no human being can do that.

We all have wounds. We all live in pain and disappointment. We all have feelings of loneliness that lurk beneath all our successes, feelings of uselessness that hide under all the praise, feelings of meaninglessness even when people say we are fantasticand that is what makes us sometimes grab onto people and expect from them affection, affirmation, and love that they cannot give. If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we are guilty of idolatry. We say, ‘Love me!’ and before long we become demanding and manipulative. It’s so important that we keep forgiving one anothernot once in a while but every moment of life. This is what makes community possible, when we come together in a forgiving and undemanding way.

Our heart longs for satisfaction, for total communion. But human beings, whether it’s your husband, your wife, your father, mother, brother, sister, or child, are all limited in giving the level of love and acceptance we all crave. But since we want so much and we get only part of what we want, we have to keep on forgiving people for not giving us all we want. So, I forgive you since you can only love me in a limited way. I forgive my mother that she is not everything I would like her to be. I forgive my father because he did the best he could. This is of enormous importance right now because constantly people look to blame their parents, their friends, and the church for not giving them what they need. Many people are so angry. They cannot forgive people for offering only limited expressions of an unlimited love. God’s love is unlimited; our love is not. Any relationship you enter intoin communion, friendship, marriage, community, or churchwill always be riddled with frustration and disappointment. So, forgiveness becomes the word for divine love in the human context.

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another ‘seventy-seven times’ (Matthew 18:22) Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us all together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken and unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God.”

During these cooler days, may we draw closer to the Divine and let God warm our hearts with love and forgiveness.

A PRAYER FOR AUTUMN DAYS

The past few falls my blog has included a prayer or poem about Autumn. I’ve decided to continue that tradition this year with a new prayer. Autumn can seem to bring a sense of nature slowing down and letting go, preparing for the coming winter. Perhaps we can read this prayer in a slow, meditative way, letting its words sink into our souls, and allowing God to have God’s way with us once again as we enter a new season fresh with possibilities. May we pay attention and listen deeply.

A PRAYER FOR AUTUMN DAYS

     God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

     God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

     God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

     God of misty days and harvest moon night, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

     God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

     God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

     God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

     God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this, we are grateful.

                                                                                                                   Sr. Joyce Rupp

THE WAY OF LOVE

Often as a new month approaches and I am considering what I will share in my blogpost, I reflect back on the past month and the lessons it has brought me. Early last month, I listened to a podcast with Bishop Robert Barron titled How to Discern God’s Will for Your Life. I was drawn to its message and shared it with many of my friends. You can find it on You Tube.

Bishop Barron suggests that when making decisions, we keep in mind first and foremost:

What is the path of greatest love?

Or, what is the demand of love in this present situation? How would Jesus walk through this? What path opens up my capacity to love? While these are excellent questions, they are not answered easily or quickly. But I believe they are a very wise place to start. Surrendering to God with a willingness to pray, to wait, and to watch for God’s movement.

In situations involving others, my mind naturally wants to go to what I think the other person or persons may be thinking or wanting. Next, I add what I think or want, and soon my mind gets very messy or cluttered. Fortunately, God’s grace breaks in and tenderly reminds me to go to Him and ask Him to sort this all out—What does God want? How does God see this all? Ultimately, I want what God wants. If I let God calm my spirit and give Him time with the situation, clarity will come. God will grant me His wisdom.  I want to keep in mind that we all are continually changing. There is always more to know about another person, about myself, and about any given situation.

I’m reminded of the well-known Scripture passage, 1 Corinthians 13, that starts with:

Love is patient, love is kind…

And ends with the promise:

Love prevails. God prevails.

That is what I truly desire. God and Love.

God is so patient and tender with all of my shortcomings. I want to be that way with others. In a recent conversation with my youngest daughter, I shared that as I age, I’m drawn to friends who want the best for me and allow me to walk through the process of discerning what that “best” is. And I want to do the same for others. I believe the way of love gives us all that freedom.

“Trying to change other people is futile, foolish, and
certainly not loving.”    Courage to Change

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image.”
Thomas Merton

So this month, let there be love and let it begin with me.

JUDGE NOT…

“Wisdom comes to rest in a good heart.” Proverbs 14:33

This summer I have been reflecting back on how my life has been shaped and continues to be formed or transformed by the communities to which I belong. For over three decades, I have been blessed to be a part of twelve step recovery groups. Here is a recent reflection in a recovery devotional called Courage to Change.

“Our Suggested Closing says that though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a very special way—the same way we already love you. In other words, every meeting can be an opportunity to practice placing principles above personalities. Most of us are highly aware of the personalities of people around us. Instead of getting lost in petty likes and dislikes, it is important to remember why we come to meetings. We all need each other in order to recover.

I don’t have to like everybody, but I want to look deeper to find the spirit that we share in common. Perhaps I can find peace with each person by reminding myself of those things that draw us together—a common interest, a common belief, a common goal. I will then have a resource for strength rather than a target for negative thinking. I will have placed principles above personalities.

Today’s Reminder: I will keep an open mind toward each person I encounter today. If I am ready to learn, anyone can be my teacher.

The open door to helpful answers is communication based on love. Such communication depends on awareness of and respect for each other’s well-being and a willingness to accept in another what may not measure up to our own standards and expectations.”

This type of non-judgmental, open, and accepting attitude is one of the reasons I continue to attend meetings. I need to be reminded of how I truly want to live day by day.  I am offered a design for living that works. I’ve heard it said that God’s Kingdom is most powerful where and when we least expect it. This was true when I walked through the doors of my first meeting. It still proves true in life today. God surprises me by showing up in unexpected places, IF I’m paying attention.

I came into the rooms of recovery with a very wounded heart. I had spent time in adulthood attempting to hide those wounds or to mend them myself. I had failed. Deep down I didn’t think I was capable of really loving well. I had lost my way and let go of the spiritual beliefs and values that had been my foundation from youth. I judged myself and everyone else very harshly.

“Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter. Hush until you heal.”

I needed healingphysical, emotional, mental, and, most of all, spiritual healing. My heart was broken enough to be open and slightly hopeful that I could be healed. Many years later, I learned that our souls can be endangered by discord, and that we cannot let the hurting, hard heart drive our bus. I had lived many years in discord, and my heart was hard. I needed to step back, pay attention as best I could, and trust in the wisdom of others who had gone before me.  I slowly began to put my trust in God.

“We can let down the barriers of our hearts and souls so that the God of the unexpected can come in. God can roll away the stone to your heart.”Pope Francis

The twelve steps were the beginning of a return to the spiritual path—the faith of my youth but now through the mind and heart of an adult. God began to slowly and gently chip away at what I had allowed to stick to me. Together, God and I began to clear away the clutter so that I could learn to listen deeply. Today, I can pay attention to and appreciate the gentle wisdom of this world of wonders. I can look for sacred implications in the everyday. I can feel the warmth of God’s healing love as I am made new, again and again.

“Bless the work of our hands and hearts. God is glorified by the holiness of His people’s hearts.”

As my focus has slowly shifted off of myself and on to God and others, I am learning to view life and others thoughtfully. My heart is ready to receive God’s graces and share that love with others. I’ve heard our relationship with God described as two trapeze artiststhe flyer and the catcher. I just need to fly, trusting that I will be caught.

This gentler approach extends to the other relationships in my life. As I watch someone make decisions or navigate their life in a way different from me, I want to keep in mind that they are a mature adult who has most likely thoughtfully considered their options. They are doing their best to make decisions wisely. I want to respect and honor them in that process just as I want to respect and honor my decisions, aware that if new information comes along, we each can change our minds.  There are many times that it is best to simply allow others to work their way through the hard points in life. To pray and trust God in the process. Above all, to judge not. I trust that God can bridge our differences with the fire of Divine Love. God never withholds His love from me. I don’t want to withhold my love from others who may see things differently from me. I want to keep a good, soft heart so that God’s wisdom can enter in.

“Jesus, you know the strengths and weaknesses of the human heart. Share with us your patience and compassion; remind us that another may carry a cross beyond our imagining.”

Quotes taken from People’s Companion to the Breviary, The Liturgy of the Hours with Inclusive Language