The Beauty of Dying

I was looking at all the colors of the fall in St. Louis this year. Brilliant reds, yellows and oranges brighten the hillsides as I was driving home today.  

The thought that came to mind was how beautiful dying looks.  I am called to die with Christ in order to bare fruit.

John 12:24. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

In life I have had those moments of dying and detaching myself from my will so that I could grow in God’s will.   By going through the seasons in my life I could grow and be rejuvenated.    

And as I age I can see the beauty in the crosses much better than I could as a younger person.   As I detach from this world to focus on the kingdom of God.   The kingdom is lived starting now when I see God’s purpose.   

I started thinking about the wisdom of my friend who says it is easier to evangelize as she gets older. There are more years behind her than years ahead is her logic.   No time to be politically correct, no time to worry what others will think only time to live the truth.  Only time to live in the kingdom now.  Made me think how beautiful aging is, very colorful and brilliant.  

The photos are from my front yard.  It don’t really capture the real beauty.  

My reflections always takes me to new places.  Grateful for all the opportunities God has given me to die to self.  Grateful for the unique colors in my life.  Grateful to know there is a resurrection. 

Traditions and living Faith

I was thinking about “Traditions” this week.  Sometimes my family and friends down south wonder why I haven’t moved back to the bayou.  They endured rebuilding after hurricanes and floods. To them the bayou is home, a way of life, a culture like no other so they rebuild and want to stay in a place they love no matter the cost. 

I started reflecting on how I didn’t learn to swim and never learned to go fishing or hunting.   Without knowing these traditions it is just another place to live.  I love the people and miss them don’t get me wrong. But never loved peeling shrimp.  

But the traditions that were meaningful to me were those of faith. And it is the faith traditions that has continued in my life.  Knowing God, our Blessed Mother and all the saints.  Knowing Jesus in the Eucharist and believing in heaven.  Reading scripture and having prayer groups. 

Following in my faith Traditions became more than traditions it becomes a relationship with God and a purpose to live a God centered life.   Growing up the church was the center.  God was in everything. God provided the shrimp and fish for our parents to make a living.  Prayer was in the everyday living.   Going to mass was not only a spiritual experience but social. 

Today I was missing the all Saints Day tradition. The tradition of visiting the graves of those who gave us our faith and other saints that went before us.  Graves are shrines, a holy place.    

Our ancestors worked hard to build churches even with their limited incomes.   They taught us to pray.   They made sure we were baptized and studied the faith. All the traditions were meant to point us to God.   No matter where we go in life heaven is the final destination.  

I hope that wherever I am and wherever I go that I will always keep the faith, no matter the cost.    May I continue the tradition of my grandparents to pray for everyone to find their way so we all spend eternity with God and one another.   

(Photos below are from All Saints Day in Lafitte, LA- copyrighted by some cousins)

Station one – Jesus Is Condemned to Die

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   -Phil 2:6-11

Hiccups as I walk in God’s Plan

I remember early on in my faith life sincerely praying for God’s plan for my life to be revealed.  I wanted God to give me the instructions and to tell me His will for my life. I wanted directions like what is my vocation, what job should I do, where should I live, etc. etc.  Not just the “love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself “instructions.  Very young and immature.

I am thankful for the drive I had in wanting to do God’s will in my life, but I may have gone places not meant for me to go.   And maybe I should have landed in places I didn’t have the courage to go.   Thankfully God is everywhere and even when I got off the path, He was with me.

I woke up this morning thinking about the hiccups in life, the things that don’t go smoothly when life has disruption and changes.   Hiccups come unexpectedly.  Life is going great then someone dies, I lose a job.. things in life we all experience sickness, death of a love one or bumps in relationships.   — or the hiccup of sin!

I am thankful for a God who knew long before I was born that hiccups would happen.   Maybe the hardships was to make me lean on Him.  And thankful that He died for my sins as a way to bring me closer to Him.

I believe my wanting God to TELL me His will was so I can do it right and not make mistakes.  I wanted to be good and right and wanted to make God happy.  He probably got a good laugh and He also saw my brokenness.  He had to teach me that I didn’t need to earn approval.  He loves me unconditionally.

Not sure where I am going with these reflections but I do know God loves me.   I don’t have to be perfect but need to strive to be better.   I may fall off the path but He provides the way to get back on track.

Prayer for me has been keeping the conversation going with God.   Or sitting in His presence even when I didn’t feel like it but knowing I loved Him.   Prayer is also action for me, giving of myself even when I want to be selfish.  Forgiving when I want to be angry.   Prayer is walking with God, reading His words, listening to stories of the faithful…    St. Paul says to pray with ceasing, prayer is offering self to God in everything.   Prayer is giving up my sins to God so He can forgive, Prayer is telling God my brokenness so He can heal me.    My prayer makes me want to bring everyone to God and God to everyone.

I remember one prayer experience on a retreat a very long time ago.  The retreatants were able to lay prostrated before the Blessed Sacrament.  I remember telling God all those I was praying for and remember the feeling of people walking across me, as though I was a bridge.  Suddenly there was an urgency to pray for more people, not just family and friends but people I didn’t even know.  And that is what prayer is to me even to this day, bringing myself and others to God.

Always  reflecting more….  my being where I am may have come from zigging when I should have been zagging but every experience has brought me to God.  Not perfect, still a sinner, still searching for where I need to be and thankful for being in His presence.  I am in God’s presence even when I am unaware of how close He is to me.

 

Coming to the Lord dressed!

I remember as a child going to church 1/2 before mass. Time to pray and to prepare for receiving Jesus, bread of life!  As I got older I appreciated the sacrament of reconciliation as another way to get ready for the celebration of the mass.  

Lots more reflection needed on being ready to meet God.  Because I meet him in the Eucharist but I also meet him in people. 

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,but they refused to come.

A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:1-14

On Forgiveness – Step 1: Knowing who I am!

img_1596I needed to know who I am before I could forgive others and sometimes I found I had to forgive myself first.

It took me years to accept God’s unconditional love.  I gave God many of reasons to leave me but God never left.

I read about, heard about God’s unconditional love but to accept that I am lovable took years.  It also took people (“Jesus with skin on” as my friend Tory would say) to show me the way.  To actually love me and not just tell me about His great love.   It took reading scripture and going to mass to hear the word of love.

 

It is very easy to feel unlovable.   Myself I heard words that I didn’t belong in certain groups, or that I wouldn’t amount to anything because as a I didn’t run as fast as other team members.

There were times when I wanted to prove myself and even if I hit a triple in softball it wasn’t good enough because it wasn’t a home run.  The stinking thinking had an effect on my personal life and my spiritual life.

Sometimes I wanted to prove myself to God, but truth is God didn’t need proof.  He created me, He called me, He loved me.  I simply had to turn my will over to His and follow Him.

Once I could accept that love, then as a child of God and a follower  —  I had to be the person God created me to be.  Forgiveness isn’t always about doing something but it is about being the person that I am created to be.   That life in Christ makes me die to self, to pride and self-righteousness.  God already died for all the sins, I just had to say “I am sorry” and “I forgive you”.

Knowing Christ died for all –  I remember that moment when the knowledge that Christ died for all moved from my head to my heart.  — Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, saving all..”   I was on retreat and the preacher said, Christ died for everyone– I had to think of everyone… those who I felt justified to hold a grudge, and I had to let go the grudge so God’s mercy could flow.

Maybe it is not just knowing who I am but who I am not – I am not the judge and I am not the creator.   God chose to give everyone free will, that ability to decide between good and evil.    There are times when I made the evil choice and times when someone chose to do evil that caused me pain and suffering.

When I made the bad choice then I have to repent, to make amends with those I hurt.

When others made the choice against me, I can take on the attitude of Christ.  I can choose to forgive.  Christ took it upon Himself to die for our sins.

Going to the next step and putting forgiveness into an action take time, God’s timing!  It takes God’s grace and courage to be a willing servant of God.   As always, my thoughts are scattered and I need more time for reflection.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. – Phil 2:5-11

 

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”. — Benedict XVI, December 25, 2005, Deus Caritas est

Mosaic Community

Ephesians 2:10
“We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning He meant us to live it”

I love my little wall hangings that remind me of how God’s heals the brokenness not by hiding the scars but by putting me back together making a beautiful work of art.   God’s love is the cement that puts back together the parts of me that seemed unsalvageable from the things I crumbled under.

img_2385

What I like about this wall hanging is it reminds me of community.  God’s healing touch was made known to me by others.   Without the stories of others who told me how God heals, without the support of others working to bring the message of healing and without the courage to join in to bring healing to others — I may not have turned things over to God – I may have stayed crumbled.

Grateful for God’s love, for God’s helpers and that I can choose today to bring healing and hope to others.

Ephesian 4:11-12
And He gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, …

[The challenge is always to do something good each day to build up a person or the body of Christ! — Still reflecting on this…. ]