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Under the Shadow of the Most High
One day I was speaking with someone about their first visit to a therapist. I jokingly said I bet they blamed it all on your mom. He smiled and said what I least expected to hear. “Some of it is.” You see this surprised me because I know his mom and she is a good person- so anything negative about her was a shock. Then he clarified it. You see she was so good that he never felt that he could live up to that level of goodness. He almost didn’t feel like trying. He told me she always encouraged him and helped him to see the good in himself, reminding him that he was at the beginning of his faith journey, and that it had taken her many years and falls to get to where she was- but he always felt little in comparison to her.
This hurt my heart, and I thought of my early relationship with God. All I could hear was the beginning of Psalm 91 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Have you ever contemplated the goodness of God? I mean really looked at the whole picture, His faithfulness, His patience, His radical love for us that while we were still sinners and lost in this world, He chose to die for us? Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. Years ago, I didn’t realize I was supposed to rest in His shadow, that I was supposed to find comfort and security in it. I just felt smothered by it. God was so good, how was I ever supposed to get to that level, let alone be in a state of grace where I could approach Him. Almost not worth trying. The age-old question is how can a God who is so good want to associate with someone who is not?
Leviticus 19:2 Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
We all know we were made in His likeness and image; this includes holiness. But this word holiness has been a stumbling block for many of us. Who can really be holy? What does that entail? How many things do I need to give up? To hear my confirmation students speak of it- holiness sounds like kryptonite. Something to keep at arm’s length and that only a select few can handle.
If we can look back to our own conversion story, we can see clearly what we didn’t back then- how God continued to approach and call us, and how He finally was able to draw us to Himself. God was looking for us when we were still lost in sin. He is continuously approaching us, and we keep running away saying like the lepers in the old testament – “stay away, unclean” The fact is that a perfect God who can dwell anywhere, chooses to live in us.
Thoughts like, I will never be good enough, how can He love me? and I will never be worthy- come from the evil one. Satan’s goal is to make us think that we are hypocrites and dirty and should never approach God, let alone think that God wants to approach us.
The truth is that God is not human, He is Love. His holiness should be something to aspire to and should draw us nearer not set us apart. The God I know isn’t sitting back with a list and checking it off. He is merciful and patient. What I have found is that the closer I draw near, the more I love Him. The more I love Him the more He helps me to get over my imperfections. It is not an overnight change but like any good relationship it takes time and fidelity.
After some reflection I went back to my friend and told him my thoughts. How he needed a new perspective. His mother’s goodness should not be something that makes him feel small- it should make him proud, empower him and give him hope. He was her son and had so many of her qualities. Looking at my relationship with God- His holiness makes me proud to be His daughter and empowers me because His Holy Spirit dwells within me and makes all things possible; this is life giving hope. I pray that you also can be drawn closer to Him and that His graces can be abundant in your life, and that you too can dwell in the shadow of the Most High.
A Shoulder to Stand On
When I was a kid my dad would carry me around on his shoulders, literally and figuratively. In a literal sense I can remember sitting on his shoulders and seeing the world from a perspective that my short legs denied me. I was always amazed at what I could see. Perspective was everything. In a figurative sense he carried me in my spiritual life. My dad had a third-grade education and could never aspire to a degree in theology- but it was his dream so he read everything he could get his hands on. I of course had no idea of this as a child, but boy did, I benefit from it. I remember sitting in the car on long drives and asking all sorts of questions about God and our faith. His answers helped to shape my faith and my thirst for God. He once told me that my questions made him read more since he always wanted to be prepared.
Funny how God works. I would never have guessed that all the effort my dad put into his own spiritual growth would propel me forward in mine. But God is like that. What I start for myself, He finds a use for in others. My siblings and I still call my dad who is 92 to ask him questions when we need direction. It’s like standing on his shoulders allows us to see over the obstacles and hurdles of life and see the world through this new perspective. A perspective always tinged with the love and grace of God.
Did I ever tell you that I am the youngest of 9? Yes, your eyes do not deceive you 9. Raising 9 kids is not the easiest thing in the world- I have 4 kids and think I am in line for canonization, and I am not even dead yet. Raising 9 kids, in a country where you don’t understand the language and can’t afford the dreams you have for your kids, well that is an uphill battle. How did he do it?
Prayer. prayer and you guessed it more prayer. My dad woke up every morning before work and prayed, and at night he made sure we all prayed the rosary together, before bed I could hear him praying again and I’m sure that there were a few more prayers snuck in between as well. I remember that when he started his own company and set his own hours, his workday started after daily Mass. After seeing this go on for years, I asked him why? If it was a routine he couldn’t let go of, or if there was a purpose to all of it. His answer was that when you find the love of your life, you strive to spend every moment you can with them. Jesus was that faithful friend who He visited every day. He told me that at his most stressful moments he was sure Jesus would return the visit and bring him the peace he needed.
In a way we all stand on the shoulders of giants, people who in small or big ways have helped us to see the truth and helped to set us on the right path. We hopefully have been the shoulders others have stood on to get a glimpse of the love and peace that await them when they walk with God. My favorite giant is the bible. The living word of God is the solid foundation we can stand on when our world is shifting like sand beneath out feet.
Here’s to all the shoulders we have stood on, may they be blessed in seeing the heights they have helped us achieve.
May is easily my favorite month of the year. Spring is well on its way and flowers and trees are blooming. The world after a dreary and silent winter seems to be rejoicing. As I was driving through my neighborhood thanking God for all the flowers in bloom, God reminded me that all of this started in the quiet place.
It was the quiet of winter that produced the beauty of spring. I want to write to all you beautiful quiet souls. The ones who receive God’s word and bury it deep within their hearts, nourishing it and transforming it into abundant fruit that in their own way they feed the world with. I was speaking with a new friend who said she didn’t do anything big, she preferred to remain in the background. I was so touched by her simplicity and had to remind her that in her quiet nourishing way she did more than those who God called to be in the forefront.
The quiet place is not a place that many of us can linger, but it is the place where the most growth happens. I have a sister that became a prayer warrior in the quiet place. I always tell her that rockets are made underground. They are not made in plain sight, being hidden away allows for the creation of something that is simultaneously surprising and enormous. She was rebuilt in the quiet place. Now she impacts us all by daily shining God’s light on us and reminding us of His love.
Jesus’ resurrection took place in the quiet place. In the darkness of a tomb, God chose to show us the power to be had in the quiet place. Not all of us can sit by the quiet tomb, waiting patiently to see God’s handiwork. To those of you who do, know how vital you are for the growth that happens all around you.
I heard a story this weekend that illustrates you best. Back in early England before electricity lit the nighttime sky, there were Lamplighters. It was someone’s job to go around at dusk and light the lamp posts. The interesting thing is that the lamplighter always walks forward into the darkness and never into the light they are leaving behind. Always lighting and moving forward, they don’t perceive all the light, safety and peace they create as they cross countless towns ensuring that the darkness cannot overtake the light.
This is what we are all called to. To be lamplighters. In heaven we will get to see the light we left behind but here let us persist in our walk and know that the light we share is not our own.
When was the last time we allowed ourselves to be quiet? To not jump in with the answer? To let someone else’s light shine greater than ours? To all you quiet souls. Thank you for teaching us the power of the tomb.
Meditations From the Foot of the Cross Day 3
Dear … I wish I could call you friend; I don’t know what to call you, so I’ll start another way.
I did something I regret through eternity. But what I regret the most may surprise you.
I was the one who betrayed Him. I thought He was going too far and instead of walking away I betrayed Him and made some money for my troubles. Who is this man they call the King of the Jews? This was too much for me to bear- for I did not know Him as a king but as a friend.
Have you ever wished you could take a moment back? This moment becomes what defines who you are in the eyes of the world. We know we are so much more than that one moment. One mistake doesn’t make up all of who I am.
I was there when He fed the 5,000. I was there when He healed the blind, and the leppers and the lame, and performed more miracles that I can count. I heard all His talks. Every word He uttered. Oh, if you could only have seen the things my eyes and ears beheld. People held me in high esteem because of Him. When He sent us out and believed that we could do what He did I was humbled, but then something changed. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus that’s all I ever heard. No one called my name unless they were asking for access to Him. I could also heal; He shared that gift with me. But no one came looking for me just Him. I felt small and knew that with Him around I always would. Satan can confuse us like that, slip lies into our heads that shift the focus from what’s important to what’s insignificant. I fell for the lie. Jesus knew I did, the last time we ate together when He consecrated bread and wine and fed me His own body, He knew. That night He still washed my feet, knowing I had betrayed Him and was just biding my time to seal the deal. He fed me and prayed with me.
Have you ever wished you could take a moment back? I tried to, after I saw the cost of my betrayal. What did 30 pieces of silver buy? The violent beating of my beloved friend. Accusations against Him that were made up. His crucifixion. An innocent man, I was the cause of this. I caused all this pain. I saw His mother’s tears and I hid.
You would think that this is my greatest regret. It actually isn’t. My greatest regret is forgetting His words. Forgetting that He spoke of love and forgiveness. That He would forgive me, if I had only asked it of Him. If He told us to forgive 70×7 times how many more times would He forgive me. Do not squander your chances as I did. Seek Him out. You are redeemable. That is the purpose of the cross, to pay the price we cannot pay. Come back to Him.
Wherever you are in life, what ever lie you have believed, you are loved by Him. Your sin doesn’t change how He sees you but how you see yourself. Come back to Him, repent and know that He listens and loves.
Be blessed and encouraged,
Meditations From the Foot of the Cross Day 2
For Holy Week I wrote some meditations from the perspective of those who were there. Every day I will release a new one and I hope you are all blessed by them and led to the foot of the cross. Earlier this month I wrote from the perspective of Mary, if you missed it you can find it here https://findinggodintheeveryday.com/2022/03/07/my-son-is-yours/. Yesterday I wrote from Peter’s perspective, if you missed it you can find it here https://findinggodintheeveryday.com/2022/04/11/meditations-from-the-foot-of-the-cross/
Dear heartbroken friend,
There was a day that I would love to forget. I am sure you have had your share as well. I thought I had one job, to be a support to a friend whose son was dying. I walked with her and held her hand, wiped her tears and heard all she was trying to keep hidden in her heart. Turns out she did all that for me too. Have you ever walked with a friend who was suffering? You watch as they try to be strong in the middle of their storm. You realize at one point that you are suffering too. That watching them is tearing your heart in two. You realize that you love them and what hurts them hurts you too.
But love has a capacity that cannot be measured. It is in those darkest moments that you find that love is greater than you can imagine. I was there when the sun refused to shine. I longed to return home and erase what I had seen and see no more of the worst this world had to offer. How was it possible for anyone to laugh when someone was being treated so cruelly? This was someone’s son. A beloved friend, my savior. I realized that day, that there could only be one savior- I was called to be a witness.
A witness does two things, first a witness sees all that is transpiring. And second a witness repeats what they have seen. At the foot of the cross I saw a Saviors love poured out patiently for all of us. I also saw the courage of a mother whose heart was pierced in two, knowing that her yes had led to this and also knowing that her yes would lead to more. Sometimes we want to be saviors and feel frustrated when we can’t right the wrongs or heal the broken. It is in those moments that I remember the day at the cross and while I wanted to stop all that was happening, I knew that I wasn’t called to be a savior- we only have one of those. I was called to be a witness.
You are called to be a witness. To stand and shine light in the midst of darkness. To share love and encouragement with those entrusted to you and to lean on the cross and gather strength to share with others. As Christians when we witness, we bring Jesus into the situation; whatever it may be. Today, be a witness. Let God’s redeeming light shine through you and light the world on fire with His love.
Be blessed and encouraged,
Meditations from the Foot of the Cross
For Holy Week I wrote some meditations from the perspective of those who were there. Every day I will release a new one and I hope you are all blessed by them and led to the foot of the cross. Earlier this month I wrote from the perspective of Mary, if you missed it you can find it here https://findinggodintheeveryday.com/2022/03/07/my-son-is-yours/
Have you ever dropped the ball? Have you ever felt you disappointed someone you loved dearly? I felt the whole world collapse around me one day. I had promised to be faithful to stand by His side and then in a moment of panic I caved. The world was stronger than I was. I was surrounded by the ugliness of a mob, calling for the blood of my friend, and while I tried to be strong, to be His support I found that He was the strong one and that I wasn’t.
Please do not let those moments of weakness hold you back. It was at that moment that I realized that I was walking with God, but I wasn’t God. God already knew I would fall, He himself predicted it but my pride denied it. Sometimes when we betray a friend, we feel like we can never go back to where we were. But I’m here to tell you that there is always hope. Dear friend, my friend forgave me. We are all forgivable. Even before I failed, He knew it, warned me and loved me anyway. That very night He washed my feet. He fed me and entrusted to me the feeding of others. Yet I failed.
Don’t focus on the failed moments of our lives. That’s where most of us want to live. When we sit in our failure, we can miss the whole meaning of redemption. When I look at the cross, I see that He knew and loving me still He made a way back for me. It is up to me to take up this very generous offer of love poured out. The crime isn’t in failing. The true crime is letting His sacrifice for me sit there waiting on a cross. My dear friend, when I look at the cross, I see an infinite number of reasons for me to return to Him. I see an infinite number of expressions of love. This is what His love did for me. What do I return to that love? I return to it even though I have fallen, even if it is an infinite number of times. It is that love that calls me and paying the price sets me free to come to Him.
Be blessed and encouraged,
My Son Is Yours
Dear mom or dad,
I too was a young mom who saw how my beloved child was abused by this world. He was so perfect. He grew in grace and when I tell you He was perfect, He truly was. I remember his little laugh as a baby. Do you remember your child’s laugh? How the silliest things would just have them start laughing and it was infectious because you couldn’t help but laugh too. When your little one is growing, they don’t realize that you are growing as a parent too. So many times, I questioned myself and wondered am I doing this right. How many times did you pray that this little one entrusted to you would be ok? Every night I prayed that He would be ok, that I would be ok, that the world around us would be gentle to this beautiful gift I was presenting it with. When your little one isn’t little anymore and they leave home, you try to be strong for them while you are breaking on the inside. I know what you are feeling, or if you aren’t there yet, I know you dread the day.
One day He left home, and the boy I prepared for the world, would change the world. You feel that sometimes too. You see your child and wonder how is this one going to change the world? You pray each day that the promise that God spoke over them will come to fruition. You also pray that the cruelty of the world doesn’t change your child. I know. I was there when they beat Him, when the beautiful face I kissed each night became a distorted mask I didn’t recognize. The world can do that to our kids. His was a physical distortion, sometimes the distortion the world applies to our children is interior and we ask- who is this?
You are not alone. I too stood by and watched helplessly. The world returned His lifeless body to me bloodied and abused. They hurled lies at Him and treated so cruelly that beautiful child I shared with them. You are not alone when you watch your little one suffer and you wish you could take their place. You are not alone when you can’t see through the tears in your eyes, and you sit back and question every decision you ever made. I too wondered if this price was too high for Him to pay, and if anyone would ever appreciate all of it.
You are not alone when you pray and entrust it all to God. When you want to hold on tight but let go and know that “in all things God works for the good.” You are not alone when you speak blessings over your child as the world speaks condemnation. Do not give up hope. I watched at the cross, and knew God had a plan. While I may not have understood it fully, I knew that in the end, God would through this sacrifice bring salvation. I repeat, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE. Entrust your child to God, know that your child is God’s child and that He loves him more than you do. Some of us get to see the results in this lifetime, some of us like me in the next. But know with every fiber of your being that your prayers are not going unanswered. That you do not fight alone and that I too am a mother that understands and is with you.
A Beautiful Lens
The other day after Mass I was speaking with an adorable older couple, as we began to part the wife asked me when I was due. Sigh, yes, I have put on some weight since Covid, but I don’t think I look pregnant… My immediate response though was to laugh and say, “this is just Oreo’s”. The husband was very upset about the perceived insult and apologized. I again laughed and said, “insult? Your wife just told me she thought I was young enough to be pregnant, that my friend is a compliment.” I repeated the story throughout the day and laughed each time. My sister told me it was interesting how I saw it in a different way and great that I was able to see it in a positive light.
That experience made me think, of how we see the world. A few years ago, when I had 4 children under the age of 7, my husband brought me a beautiful camera for Christmas. It was a gorgeous machine, complete with multiple lenses. I was overwhelmed to say the least. I was used to the point and shoot – don’t think about anything- camera. This was a creature from another planet. I took pictures for a week, and they were all awful. I read the manual, and tried again, still awful. It was like learning a new language and at that point in my life (4 little ones) I was not up to the task of learning a new language. So, the camera went back, and an easier point and shoot camera took its place. There were a few lessons that I did take away from that experience; one was I realized that the lenses made a huge difference in how you saw what was in front of you. How you adjusted the lens and the amount of light you let in made all the difference in the outcome of the photo.
St. Paul was righteous in what he thought he saw. He saw Jews that he felt were not being faithful to God and needed to be eradicated. Until one day when he saw a bright light and encountered Jesus. He went from being a persecutor of early Christians to one of the greatest champions our faith has ever had. Why the change? It was the lens. It was when he lost his physical sight that he came to see clearly. When his sight returned, St Paul was a different man. I notice that we all see the same picture, but we all walk away with a different perspective based on the lens we view it through. I called my friends to ask how a work event had gone. Two of them gushed about how the day was beautiful, how much fun they had and all the highlights, the other one could only convey how hot, sticky and miserable the day was.
A few years ago, I read a book that helped me to change my lens to one of gratitude. (The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom) The story is about a Christian family that was put in the concentration camps in Germany. How their faith was able to affect their experience and change the dynamic of the bunk they were assigned to. I had never heard of anyone speaking about the beauty to be found in the midst of the ugliest time in world history. It was all in her lens. At first, she didn’t see it but after a while she began to see that even amid adversity one person could shine God’s light and it could become contagious to the point that everyone can see it too.
Sometimes how we see the world is through a lens that is dirty, cracked, and distorted by our past experiences. Let’s challenge ourselves to look at our surroundings not as we see them but as God does. God sees through a lens of love and compassion. His gaze does not linger on the sin but on the great beauty He has placed into your soul. An exercise I recently learned was to ask Holy Spirit, “what is the lie that I believe about this situation”, and then wait for the answer. The next question is just as important. “Holy Spirit what is the truth you want to replace that lie with.” I have always been blown away by the simplicity and truth of each of the answers.
I challenge you to take a good look at your lens remove any obstacles that prevent you from seeing clearly. Remember the plank of wood Jesus spoke about? Matthew 7 v 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Then after checking for these obstacles look again but this time ask Jesus to help you see with His compassionate gaze.
May your gaze always linger on the beauty of what God has placed in each one of us.
Are you on a mission?
Every year on January 1st the Catholic Church does something beautiful. Those familiar with the Catholic readings know that we have a year A, B and C cycle and you usually won’t hear the same reading for another 3 years. There are a few exceptions to this rule and January 1st is one of them. The first reading is always from Numbers 6 22-27:
The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”
When a priest pointed this out to me, I was in love!! What a way to start the year – with this beautiful blessing spoken upon us. A few years ago, I was working with a team on writing a mission statement for our company, and then it hit me. I should really have one for myself. If you have clicked around my blog, you may have stumbled upon it in the prayer section. In honor of this new year, we are starting I wanted to share it here as well.
I waited until now because at this point, we are either well into (or not) our new year’s resolutions. Let’s have a restart now in the middle of the month. This mission statement I wrote is a prayer I have started my day with for a long time. Sometimes like all resolutions I have fallen away from saying it, other times I start again. But the words are with me daily in that I strive to live them and make them part of my daily life. Below is the prayer, I hope it blesses you as much as it has blessed me and helps you put a new perspective on this “new year new you” philosophy.
My Mission Statement
I am created for you!
I find my purpose in you.
I was created for praise of your Holy Name.
I was created to walk in Your light and grace,
To shine your light in the midst of darkness.
To be a beacon to guide others to you.
I was created to receive you and be one with you.
To be aware of this oneness,
To open the doors of the tabernacle of my heart where I know you are enthroned.
To bring your blessing and anointed presence everywhere I go.
I was created to love you in all your children,
Especially the most forgotten.
I was created to serve you with every fiber of my being.
When I feel well and especially when I am drained and tired-
For that is when you call me most.
You drain the last dregs of me then refill me to overflowing
With your love, peace, joy, grace and forgiveness.
Jesus let me live the graces I was created for-
The anointing of my baptism; of Priest, Prophet and King.
Let me be fully one with you
And be filled with all the gifts of The Holy Spirit,
So that through your signs and wonders I can bring souls to you.
Let my joy bring you souls
Let my suffering and tears bring you souls
Let my life be yours.
Use every last bit of me to sow seeds that you will harvest.
Let me be Love.
The definition of a mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.
Have you ever sat down in prayer and asked yourself “what is my mission statement?” What is it you stand for? Companies draft mission statements to ensure that all the decisions they make are true to their original goal. In having a spiritual mission statement, you can ask yourself is this what God is asking of me? Does this decision draw me closer or farther away from God’s call in my life? As we grow in the Spirit, we will find that our mission statement will deepen, I have tweaked mine over the years as new truths of God’s love have been revealed to my heart. I challenge you to write your own or use or tweak mine to make it your own. Then pray it daily. Remind yourself of who you are and most importantly whose you are.
Recently there was some construction being done at my parish. I was at a weekday mass in the small chapel in the back of the church when I looked up and saw a scaffold erected at the front of the church. I laughed within me. How ironic I thought. A scaffold within a scaffold. You see a scaffold helps us to climb to heights that we cannot reach on our own strength. The church is also a scaffold in that it helps us on our journey towards heaven. I spent the rest of Mass contemplating how all the different facets of our Church help us to climb up to heaven. Genesis 28:12, in a dream Jacob sees a ladder that went from earth to heaven. Angels went up and down on this ladder. What is a scaffold but a sturdy ladder?
At every Mass heaven comes down to earth in that we have the communion of saints join with us in prayer and receive God Himself in the Eucharist. Jesus spoke about a pearl of great worth that is buried in a field. When you find it, you give up all you must acquire it. Matthew 13:46 “When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Hidden within the walls of our church is the one great pearl, and because our God loves variety there are many ways to find it. From Mass, bible studies, devotionals, to each of our sacraments and more all these are part of the scaffold that helps us to reach the heavenly heights.
This is the picture I took of the scaffold. When I got home, I looked at it again and thought of how clever God is. If you look closely, you will see that at the base of the scaffold are the saints. (coincidence? I think not!) The Saints are people just like you and me who have gone before us and lived holy lives. Their lives reflected a resurrected Christ and gave us examples and hope for us to be able to attain this for ourselves as well. Let us look to the saints as teachers who can show us the way, and from heaven guide us to Jesus. When I read about the lives of the saints, I am always led closer to Jesus, for that is their goal, to be part of the heavenly scaffold of the church.
The curious thing about the scaffold is that unless you climb it you cannot go up. When you stand at the base of it and look up it can feel a bit daunting. If you are wanting to grow closer to Christ, place your foot on the first rung, and then start the climb. I promise it will be worth it. The view alone is a wonder. Look out and see the people of God, all climbing at different levels, see the saints as they guide and cheer them on the way, see the angels that also guide and protect us. If you haven’t been to church in a while, let me invite you back. If you have, then I invite you to climb higher, pray and ask Jesus where He wants to you go next, there is more! Seek and u will find is the promise of Jesus.
I pray that as we look forward to the new year you will take this opportunity to reevaluate where you are and where God is calling you to climb.