When I was a teenager and got my first job, I went SHOPPING! At any point you could go through my closet and see labels that were common to most teenagers of that time; Jordache, Levi’s, Lacoste and Nike. But if you took time to peruse my abundance of clothing you would also find a few treasured pieces that had no labels. They were made by my mom. I remember looking through magazines and pointing to a top and saying can you please make me that. We would go pick out the fabric and I would have a custom piece in no time. Those were always my favorite pieces. A few years ago, I went to NYC to see a play and remember stopping somewhere in Time Square and just gazing at all the lights. There were so many names in lights! The bigger the company the bigger the lights. I felt as if everywhere I went, someone wanted to catch my attention and visually shout – Sony, Samsung, Disney… I thought to myself of how we walked around surrounding ourselves with names and logos. This building shouts I belong to… another shouts I belong to… I remembered my mother’s beautiful creations and how they did not have a tag with a fancy name. The best things usually do not have fancy labels or need to shout. I kept thinking to myself that I also have an invisible tag with a beautiful name.
Made with love by God.
How would our lives be different if we acknowledged that each of us carries this invisible tag? The other day I was speaking to my Confirmation students about how we can sometimes physically see and feel the presence of God. A big one for me was when each of my kids were born. I was so blown away and humbled to know that I helped create this tiny person. I thought of how much I loved them and how much joy I felt at just holding them and knowing them. Then I heard that small voice inside my heart say- “that’s how I felt when I created you.” I got choked up just thinking that God also felt love, pride, and immense joy when He created me.
How could my life be different if I remembered daily that I was MADE WITH LOVE BY GOD? Would I doubt myself at every turn? Would I be impatient with my weakness? Would it be easier for me to always trust Him? How would I treat others if I could see their label; MADE WITH LOVE BY GOD? Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta was known to bow before a person upon greeting them. When asked why she did this – her simple answer was; I do not bow to the person but to God I know is in each one of us. I acknowledge the dignity of each person. She always saw the invisible label.
During this busy Advent Season I pray that we can refocus our hearts and remember that we are MADE WITH LOVE BY GOD.
Hi guys! This month I was invited to be a guest writer on another devotional blog. I wanted to make sure that I shared it with you as well!
Thank you Stephanie from 500 Seconds to Joy for the invite. Please visit her site here: Podcast : https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/500-seconds-to-joy-mom-life-encouragement/id1481909779
Instagram : www.Instagram.com/500secondstojoypodcast
When I was a young girl my older brother told me a joke- I will preface it by saying upfront that it is a little sacrilegious- but once you get past it, there is a point I promise.
When Jesus was on the cross, He called out to Peter who was hiding somewhere in Jerusalem licking his wounds. Upon hearing his Lord he got up and ran towards the cross. Jesus called out “Peter, Peter.” Peter gets over many obstacles and people as he ran and dodged, finally making it to the foot of the cross. An out of breath Peter says “yes Jesus, I’m here” to which Jesus replies “I can see your house from here.”
As the years went by I would think of this joke but in a different way- I would always wonder- What DID Jesus see from the cross? Then, the question would always be what can I learn from how Jesus endured the cross?
When like Peter I am hiding out licking my wounds I try to learn from the cross. The first lesson I learned was that Jesus looked out. He did not focus on Himself and the pain He was in. My doctor taught me once, to busy my mind on other things and it would lessen the intensity of my pain. When I focus on my pain, that is all I can see and somehow it feels worse. Jesus looked outside of Himself and focused on the pain of others. While I am not questioning the excruciating pain He was in; I am only noting what a great lesson He has shared with me for when I am in pain. This applies to all pain, be it physical, mental, or emotional.
By looking out and being other focused, think of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross. Yes, our salvation; but only a God can multitask at the most crucial of times. The bible documents 7 different things Jesus says on the cross. Keep in mind that every word is a struggle.
1 “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”- He teaches us that even when we are wrongfully accused, even when we are in pain, we can still call out to God and instead of righteously accusing our oppressors we can look at them with mercy, see their deficiencies, have compassion and ask God to forgive them.
2 ”Today you will be with Me in paradise” – He takes time to save someone else. Someone who is lesser than He. How many times while I am in a pickle and am stressed out, do I overlook another person; simply because I am self-focused. I say righteously to myself- I have my own problems. My mom used to tell me “there is always time to say a kind word” What Jesus says to the thief gave him peace at the end of his life.
3 “Woman behold thy son! Behold thy mother!” In ancient Jewish culture a woman relied on her husband and children to care for her in her old age. Mary being a widow is losing her only son. During His suffering Jesus sees to the welfare of His mother placing her in the care of the beloved disciple. Many scholars say that we are that beloved disciple. Some of us have so many balls that we are juggling at the same time, that we find it difficult to reach out to another and see to their welfare. Here Jesus teaches us that we are to not just take care of ourselves but concern ourselves with those entrusted to us.
4. “My God, My God why has thou forsaken me?” This is the first line of Psalm 22 Jesus is responding to the naysayers and priests who know the Psalms by heart. If you read the Psalm in its entirety you will see that it speaks to the death of Jesus, and His vindication. He looked at all those who were putting Him down and reminded them that God was with Him. We should remember to do this as well. My favorite is the last verse of the Psalm which reads: “Posterity will serve Him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn- for He has done it.” When we are looking out from the cross remember to hold onto hope. Remind all those naysayers around you that God has not forgotten you and that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.
5. “I thirst” Jesus admits to a human need. We know He was not thirsting for water; He was thirsting for more souls to be saved. The fact is, He who is all and can do all admits to a need. Here Jesus shows us its ok to ask. We bless others and help their journey to heaven when we let them come and be of service to us.
6. “It is finished.” You are not meant to carry your cross forever. Even Jesus knew when it was time to let the cross go and move on. Sometimes our pain is all we have and who we have become. We can be afraid to move off the cross and face a new tomorrow. Jesus calls us to not linger in your pain but turn and face the glory of resurrection.
7. “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” What a great lesson and Jesus leaves it for last. Place yourself and your pain in the loving hands of God the father. He will care for you.
When every breath counts, and every word is a labor of love you make sure that each word counts.
Last, I would like to highlight what Jesus chooses to focus on. The site of the crucifixion was full of people mocking Him, people taunting Him, people crying for Him and others pressuring Him for a miracle. Jesus looks out and focuses not the ugliness of Golgotha, not the ugliness of the sins of all mankind, Jesus looks out and with love focuses on you and me.
Jesus teaches us that love wins overall. Let us take these lessons learned looking out from the cross and like Jesus, when we are in pain and inclined to look within, let’s look out.
How’s the view?
My favorite flowers have always been peonies. These bushy, big headed, rose scented flowers are just so beautiful to behold. I have a few bushes planted in my front yard and every May when they bloom they bring with them an abundance of joy. The only problem I have with them is that I always have to remember to stake them. As they are growing they stand up nice and tall, but when they bloom, their heads are so large that the whole plant instantly falls over and I end up having these gorgeous flowers drooping over my driveway. The years I am organized and remember to stake them, the blooms stand tall when they open. Inevitably a few may droop as a reminder to me how important each stake is.
Recently in prayer I was complaining to Jesus about a certain cross I have been carrying for quite a while now. His answer to me was “All the prettiest flowers in my garden are held up by crosses” I instantly remembered my beautiful peonies and how they relied on the stake they were tied to in order to stand tall. I imagined a field of them held up with crosses, no drooping heads to be seen.
I remembered what Jesus told His disciples in the gospel of Matthew about carrying their cross. 16 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
I started to inspect my cross more closely. I realized that I had gained so many graces through this one cross. Because of this cross, my prayer life had become deeper. “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (jn 6:68). I also realized that I had grown in patience, endurance and humility. Looking deeper I realized that this cross was what had led me back to Christ. While I had never really left, my relationship was nowhere near what I experience now. I spent hours contemplating the wonders of this cross. My husband and children had also benefited from the cross since they grew in compassion and many other virtues.
Someone once told me that I would one day thank Jesus for my cross and I had ducked my head, looked the other way and said “not today.” The thought of thanking Him for all this physical pain, frustration and emotional hurt was foreign to me. After reflecting on the cross and all I had received from it, I realized that I had begun to embrace it without noticing and because of it I was able to stand firm in my faith, enveloped by love and was being transformed into a new creation. I realized that in my darkest moments the cross had not been crushing me but instead was the reason I stood. Unbelievable to me at the beginning of my journey; I now embrace my cross and thank God daily for it, for with this cross comes an abundance of grace. Another gift that came with this cross was being able to join Jesus in His saving work, by offering up all my sufferings for the conversion of sinners. My suffering has value (so does yours)- Bishop Fulton Sheen used to be heard saying as he walked down hospital hallways – “so much wasted suffering.”
I always compare God to a parent, and often can understand His perfect love through my imperfect love. I thought of my children and when they are having a bad day or are going through a certain trial- how I try to be more present to them, more comforting, and do all that I can, without enabling them, to help them to get through this tough time. I can imagine my loving Father in heaven doing just the same. Standing back knowing how much stronger I would be when I overcame this trial, offering me love and support. I believe God has poured out more grace during this time than at any other time in my life. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Cor 12:9
I implore you today as you read this to reassess your cross(es). How have they brought you closer to God? How have they changed you? Have they increased your mercy towards others because you now understand what suffering they are enduring? Has this cross brought people into your life you never imagined would? Has this cross allowed you to be a blessing in another person’s life? How has this cross helped you to stand firmer in your faith journey? I will end by repeating what Jesus told me “All the prettiest flowers in my garden are held up by crosses.” Let those words sink into your soul today and bring you closer to our loving God.
I was at my favorite pier overlooking the Long Island Sound the other day just enjoying my coffee and some solitude. I felt God calling me there and knew He had something to say. After forty-five minutes of peace and quiet interrupted every now and then by a squawking sea gull, I decided to return home. What I saw in my rear view mirror as I was driving away will stay with me the rest of my life. You see God hadn’t spoken to me that whole time. I had prayed and meditated on the beauty of God’s creation, but didn’t hear His voice. But the lesson was not in the open pier, it was on something we see and take for granted. What I had seen in my rear view mirror, was a “Dead End” sign. It was attached to a chain link fence at the very end of the pier, which separated the pier from the ocean beyond. I literally stopped my car in awe. There in my rear view mirror was what God had sent me to see, and I heard his voice in my heart. The irony of that sign just floored me. Dead End? Really? Beyond that chain link fence there was a bay filled with life. There were fish, crabs, sea gulls and the occasional swan that floated by, just to name a few of the animals that lived in that life giving water. I pondered on it a bit more and realized that when many of us see the church, we see a “dead end” sign as well. We see an end to our lives, to our joys, and see a definite finality to the pleasures we hold so dear. But if we look behind the sign, peek beyond the fence; we would see what lies in true Life Giving Water. Our Church is alive! What many people mistakenly see as a dead end is rather a beginning to real life. The bible says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Participating in church and receiving the Eucharist brings us closer to God, and fills us with life. I feel such joy in my life when I am able to connect with God. It’s true that the pleasures of the flesh do not coincide with the pleasures of the Spirit. Having tried both, I can honestly say there is no comparison. True joy only comes from going beyond the fence and diving into the Living Waters that God so lovingly offers us. My mother used to tell me that we are all born with a birth defect- in our spiritual heart we have a hole the size of God. While many people try to fill that hole with things, friends, partying, ambition or even knowledge, in the end they always feel emptiness and seek to find other things to fill it. It is not until we seek out God and fill ourselves with His grace that the hole is filled, and we feel complete. Or as St. Augustine so eloquently put it “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You”. Our Challenge is to go beyond the dead end sign and find out for ourselves that there is life in abundance in Christ Jesus.
Recently I was studying ostriches with my son for homework. We learned about these massive 7-9 foot animals and I couldn’t believe how fast they run (43 miles an hour) or how one of their kicks is powerful enough to kill a man or even a lion. My question after reading all these facts was simple- given that it could out run or kill its predators why would the ostrich hide its head in the sand? They actually don’t hide their heads in the sand (so many years of cartoon knowledge down the drain!). An ostrich that fears a predator attack will actually lay its long body down flat on the ground and try to blend into its surroundings.
I began to think of myself as a Christian, of God’s call in my life and the following bible passage.
Ephesians 6: 10-17
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Am I an ostrich? Do I as a Christian try to blend into the world around me so that I can avoid being singled out? Do I have opportunities to shine God’s light but put the dimmer switch just so that I’m not criticized for being thought too fanatical? (To be honest I am a fan of God.)
If we truly “dress” ourselves daily with the armor of the Holy Spirit what is there to fear?
I can think of a long list, family members, co-workers, even strangers on the street will make my list, as well as my own fear of being too holy. I recently asked the teenagers in my religion class who wanted to be a saint and only one hand went up. We want to get through life playing the middle and make it into heaven at the end. Nothing heroic, nothing that stands out or will be spoken about, nothing that can be challenged; as if we are on a reality TV show, you know the mentality play the middle and slide into the end.
I wish that placing God’s armor on daily was a visual thing. Maybe I would be more easily reminded of the weight of grace I carry daily. Our challenge as Christians is to be Christians at all times. During gossip, off color jokes, in the movie theater, in our music and buying choices. Our society has slowly removed God from our vocabulary. Do we say bless you or God bless you and are we brave enough not to say “Oh my God” and keep the sanctity of His name alive. I pray that I can keep the truth of God’s word in my heart at all times, so that when called upon I may not lay down like the ostrich and try to blend in. With God’s grace and armor I pray that I can stand and testify to the truth in my daily life.
John 1:3-5 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
How can darkness understand light?
For years I had been hearing about Low Laser Light Therapy, I spoke to one of my doctors who truly believed it was more hocus pocus than good. How can a part of your body that was never made to be exposed to light, respond to it? A few years later he was using the laser light therapy with lots of success. When I asked him why, I was blown away by his answer. You see our innermost cells were created to be receptive to light. These cells in normal circumstances would never be exposed to light, so why do they have receptors for light, and why are they being healed by laser light? Scientists tell us that it’s because light is energy and when these cells receive the “energy” they need they can start to heal, but they don’t know why the receptors are there in the first place.
By the time he finished his explanation I couldn’t stop smiling. You see as a person of faith, I know that we were created in the image and likeness of God. His very word tells us that He is the light of this world (John 8:12.) My every fiber is made to respond to Him. Not just spiritually but physically as well. I thought of how many things I carry in the inner recesses of my heart, that need healing. I thought of the darkness of my sins, and of the pain I hide so that others won’t guess what a mess I am. Then I began to understand how truly merciful and wondrous my God is. When I bring my sins, pains, and brokenness to Jesus and expose them to the light of His word, when I expose my hidden sins to Jesus, His light can heal me.
How many times had I thought to myself that I was lost and not worth finding? But Jesus comes and tells us, that not only are we worth finding, we were created to be found. There are no accidents in God’s plan. What scientist chalk up to new, unknown or accidental God had planned. Your salvation was part of His plan.
When getting a sonogram in my first pregnancy the baby was not cooperating, so the technician shined a light on the opposite side of my belly to get the baby to move towards the light. I started to cry because I knew that even before birth, even before cognitive thinking was developed we know that light is good and that we should approach it.
Psalm 18:28 says “You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”
Let us bring our secrets into the Light of Jesus, our pain, our brokenness our past hurts, our anger our hatred, our frustrations, and well everything. He longs to heal us. But first we must bring these things into the light. Just like the patients who flock to low laser therapy need to show up and expose their injuries to the light. We are called to expose our injuries to Jesus. I believe that Jesus can heal us spiritually if we take this step towards Him.
Exposing our darkness is never easy. Bringing things long-buried into the light can be very difficult. We all carry things in our closet that we would love to just imagine never happened. Those things affect our thoughts and actions whether we consciously acknowledge them or not. Taking these things to Jesus in prayer can finally bring healing and freedom.
Isaiah 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Today I pray that we open our hearts to the healing light of Christ. That we allow Him to lead us in ways we had not planned or may not even understand. He longs to make our rough places smooth, and draw us closer to Him
God Bless you!
This Christmas I want to share with you something that happened to me. You may begin to read this and think it’s better suited for Lent, but stay with me. About 10 years ago I was in a bad car accident. I had so many internal injuries i felt my middle name was pain. I remember clinging so much to Jesus to get through it all. A few weeks after a spinal surgery I was at a weekday Mass. I remember sitting there and as always offering this Mass for the salvation of my children. I can imagine many parents pray for the same thing. I could hear this small voice inside of me saying “what will you give in exchange for their salvation?” I was in shock! We make deals with Jesus – usually over a toilet bowl after drinking too much- or another crisis moment. We promise anything to get whatever we are praying for. I had never heard of God making a deal with me- I will trade you something for what you want. I questioned Him “Lord is this really you?” and again the voice- “what will you give for their salvation?” Jesus I would give anything I thought- truly anything to ensure my little ones were kept close to the heart of Jesus. The voice again questioned “would you give your leg?” I was double shocked… this could not be Jesus speaking to me. He DOES NOT make deals!
I pondered that question. I was already in so much pain. Really how could God want more than the suffering I was already offering up? In the end I grudgingly responded, “ok take my leg, but don’t ask me which one- that would be just too much for me.” Then silence. I continued through Mass and was reflecting on all that had happened in just a space of a moment. I could not believe that God was asking this of me. I thought back to all the bible stories I knew and could not think of one where God made a deal with man. In the contrary man was quite often making deals with God. I remembered how Abraham had haggled with God for the lives of those in Sodom, going back a few times to renegotiate the terms until he got the number from 50 to 10.
At the end of Mass, I heard the voice again. “Come and contemplate me on the altar.” The weekday Masses were given at the little chapel behind the main altar. Of course, at His summons, I rise and walk to the main altar not knowing where this is going. This is what I see:
I focused on the crucifix and hear the voice again “ I don’t need your leg; I want their salvation more than you do.” All I could see was Jesus on that cross given up for each one of us. This is how much God is invested in our salvation. He had given not a leg or sent His word that had created everything out of nothing, He was willing to give His only begotten son.
Why is this better suited for Christmas? Well, it’s a gift that God gave me and I want to share with you. To all you parents out there worried about your children. God wants their salvation more than you do! These words gave me so much hope and peace. I just knew that all the stupid mistakes I made could not undo God’s plan for me. The same with my children. As I watch them grow and explore life, not always making the choices I would, I pray and know that God has a plan for them as well. To all of you that do not have children, drink in the love of the Father sent in this message. “I want it more than you do!” We may struggle and go off course but if we place our trust in God, we can be confident in knowing that He wants our salvation more than we can imagine. Continue to come back to Him with the confidence of a beloved child. You will always be loved.
One last thing; I am the youngest of nine(my mom was a living saint!) There was always chaos and an abundance of love in our home. One day in frustration I asked her as I saw my older siblings falling for the lures of the world; “mom, you are such a godly woman, and have raised us in the church, don’t you get frustrated that your children are falling away from the church?” Her response stays with me till this day. “My job is to plant the seeds; it is up to God when He will harvest them. I have planted good seeds.” That had to be at least 35 years ago and as I look at our family now, I see that God is harvesting these good seeds planted with love. So, continue to plant good seeds, and know that in His time God will harvest them in your children.
Merry Christmas. I pray that this testimony touches you and that the hope of Christ is reborn in you this Christmas!
Years ago, my husband and I went to lead a retreat in Canada. We had driven what felt like all day and night and after more delays than we could count, finally made it to the house of the family that was hosting us about 11 that night. We were exhausted and were looking forward to a good night’s sleep because the retreat started bright and early the next morning. When I shut the lights out in the room, I saw something and just re-energized me. I immediately turned the light back on and shut it off again. I went on to do it again, and again, but after the third or fourth time, my husband asked me what was wrong. I was in shock that he had to ask- I mean couldn’t he see it? It was so clear to me. The ceiling was covered with tons of glow in the dark planet and star stickers. Every time I shut the lights; the whole ceiling would light up. When I turned on the lights the stickers while still visible did not stand out.
My husband thought I had lost my mind and asked me to just turn off the lights and stop playing around. However as most of you know when the Holy Spirit makes a revelation you just feel so alive. Once Jose realized that I was not just going to go to sleep- he asked me what the big deal was. “We are like those stickers”, I said (at this point Jose thought I had really lost it :D). We are like those glow in the dark stickers I insisted. We go before the presence of God and absorb His light. We are not called to shine in His presence, His light is enough- we are called to absorb. But when you place a Christian in the dark, when the world surrounds us with sin and stress we are called to glow. That is when we shine the light of God.
Matthew 5 14-16 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I have thought of this story many times over the last 20 years and always remind myself that I am called to glow in the dark. I also think often of the magi. They traveled over 9000 miles following a star. One light was able to get a few people and their entourage to travel over 9000 miles, through deserts, mountains, rain, heat and many obstacles. This one light was able to get these men to give up all they knew and travel for over 2 ½ years (thank you google). I believe that it was the fact that the star was steady, consistent, always there that warranted the commitment of these men. What would have happened if one night the star just failed to shine? What would happen if it shined only when it felt like it? I believe the Magi would have returned home.
We are like the star that the magi followed leading them to Christ. We too must shine in the darkness and lead others to Christ. It is in times of darkness and despair that a true Christian shines. Everytime you shine God’s light- you lead someone to God. I imagine that when we get to heaven, we will have a great many people who will come to us and thank us for allowing our light to shine and lead them to Christ. I know that we will be surprised at some of the people – not even realizing that you had an impact in their lives. Let us be consistent in filling ourselves with the light of Christ and be bold in sharing it. After all, the light is not meant to be hidden but proudly displayed so that all who see it can be drawn to the Father.
When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world” He meant it. This light is meant to shine consistently regardless of what is happening around us. I truly believe that now more than any other time in history we need to shine bright. May the grace of God bless and keep you.