But we were not created for comfort……….

I found it interesting, as I came to write this post, that I tend to write when something is really bothering me.  It’s like I have too many thoughts swirling around in my head, and I can’t just choose one and focus on it for a minute.  Kind of like an out-of-control merry-go-round that’s going so fast you can’t really see what any of the animals look like, much less take it in and look at another.

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Anyway………..

Lots of good and some not-so-good things have happened in our house over the last year.  Talk about learning to praise Him through the storm!  When I look over all of the events, I KNOW without a doubt that it was HIS strength, not mine, that put one foot in front of the other.  My ‘theme verse” last year was 2 Corinthians 12:9:

but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It rang true in ever turn, every event that took place in 2013.  You can imagine how excited I was then when, in November, God gave me Isaiah 61 for 2014 – those are HIS promises to be fulfilled in my life this year.  And there are times that all I can do is cling to them (and thus to Him).  Promises to restore, to reconcile, to repay, to comfort, to build up.  (Go read it if you haven’t for awhile – how encouraging would it be to know that God had that in store for your life this year?)

 

Part of Isaiah 61, though, is about the anointing from God to do great works for His kingdom.  See, not only was I to receive all of those promises, but I’m also to help minister them as well.  Anyone that’s been “all in” for the kingdom knows that God doesn’t, not once, call us to be comfortable – we’re to take up our cross daily and follow Him, or we are not worthy of Him.

 

and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Matthew 10:38

 

God’s calling me to do some difficult things right now for His kingdom.  I wouldn’t be honest (or human) if I said there wasn’t a tiny corner in me that wants to just run the other direction.  But I’m not in this for me.  I’m in this for Him.  I’m in this because He loves me.  I’m in this because I can’t bear to see the sight of Jesus being scourged and think for a second that God wouldn’t call me to hard things if He sent His Son to endure His Passion for me.

 

But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness.”- Pope Saint Benedict XVI

 
photo credit: Leshaines123 via photopin cc

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I come not to bring peace, but a sword…….

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I have been blessed with some of the most Godly, holy, on-the-road-to-sainthood, all-in-for-Our-Father’s-Kingdom mentors.  Not only were they instrumental in my conversion, but they’ve become family – they’ve bore some of my hurt, pulled me back up when I’ve fallen, given me ever-so-gentle shoves to get outside of my box, and always given me Godly advice – I am so thankful that God has placed these people in my life

Early in my “official” conversion (aka I was already Catholic in my heart, but it was time to make it visible, official, which meant discussing it with those I love), I received some of the most harsh persecution from someone I loved and respected very much.  It hurt horribly and damaged the relationship, maybe permanently.  As I spoke with one of my mentors about this, he gave me scripture that I didn’t recall ever seeing before:

 
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” Matthew 10:34-37 RSV

 

We are not to put any relationship before God.  If we lean on others more than we lean on Him, He will cut that relationship.  Sometimes it’s done easily – someone moves and our lives move different directions.  Sometimes it’s hard like the situation I mentioned earlier.

I tend to get lonely as a stay-at-home mom.  In that loneliness I find myself reaching out to others – sometimes just to say hi, sometimes for fellowship, sometimes for support in life issues, sometimes simply to have adult conversation sans teenage logic!  But God continues to remind me to seek Him instead.  Seek Him when I feel alone and abandoned.  Seek Him when I want to scream and pull my hair out.  Seek Him when I hurt.  Seek Him when I see Him transforming the heart of my husband.  Seek Him when I see my children growing in their love for Him.  Seek Him when I see His little smiles throughout the day.  Quit running to tell others about what’s going on – share it with Him.

What about………? {a series}

 

Many who aren’t in the Catholic church (and many who are, even) see the Church as nothing but a rule-imposing, overbearing, government of sorts.  But I’d like to take a moment to put a different perspective on this.

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As Catholics, we don’t worship the Church.  When Christ created the Church, He set it up to be a “household” of faith (2 Timothy 3:15 …..God’s household, which is the church of the living God…..).  You have parents that you love and honor, but do you worship them?  I hope not! 😉  The Church, in a sense (more on this analogy later) acts as a parent.  Just as parents we are to guide, educate, and direct our children to God, so does the Church for it’s parishioners. 

 

 As parents we have to set rules, boundaries, and routines in the home, and so does the Church in the Catechism.  If we let our children roam free, no guidance, no boundaries, no rules then they end up a mess – they don’t know right from wrong, they are sometimes fatally insecure, and they often feel no true love.  Not to mention the chaos that would ensue as a household!  The Catechism takes scripture and applies it to our modern-day lives, answering the question of “How do I apply the instruction that God has given us in the Bible to my life 2000+ years later?”.  The Catechism is here to give us boundaries, security, and to guide us.

 

The Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Anointing of the sick, Reconciliation, Holy orders) are put in place to further our relationship with God, to aid our weak, human, simple, and sinful minds to relate to and experience Him fully, to help fill us with the richness of His love for us!

 

I know that these were some of the misconceptions I had prior to hearing the call to convert  that I have grown to greatly appreciate!  What are some subjects of the Catholic Church that you don’t understand?  I’d love to share my knowledge and address some misunderstandings!

 

There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”  – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 

 

I choose you – you are Mine!

The class of 2014 in our parish celebrated the Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election  just over a week ago.  I should have carried tissues.  The hymn at both events was “You Are Mine”.  Here are a few lines from it:
I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

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“Do you think you are here because of any choice you made?  Because you chose the Church?  NO!  You are here because Christ chose YOU!”

That’s what our Bishop said in his homily at the Rite of Election.  He could’ve not said another word and I would have been left in awe.

Christ chose me.

It still leaves me speechless, and humbled, and with more thanksgiving than I could ever express!

I recently went through some inner healing, to allow Christ to heal and rebuke lies that I’ve believed about myself since I was a wee one.  It has blocked me from receiving His love all this time and I had no idea.

God doesn’t want us to go through life not knowing how much He loves us!

Our Father sent His ONLY Son, who was without ANY sin, never did wrong, to suffer for us – to receive ridicule, condemnation, persecution, lash after lash from whips, chains, blades, thorns pressed into His head, nails penetrating each of His hands, and His feet, and a spear piercing His side – unimaginable pain.  For us.  FOR ME.  Even then, He chose to suffer for me.  While He bore the weight of my sin on His back, His blood poured out FOR ME.  For the first time in my life I can accept that love – yes, with humility, but it was for me.

During these 3 Sundays in which we, as elect, celebrate the scrutinies, I invite each of you to embrace what they mean.  This isn’t a time for you to scrutinize and judge yourself or others, but a time to open up and let God scrutinize you.  Let Him seek those dark corners of your heart.  Let Him shine His glorious light on them and heal them so that you can receive His love, so that you can melt as it pours into and over your heart.

He chose YOU!  He loves YOU!  You are HIS!

    I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 

Life isn’t a grade school lunch tray……

You know, the peach/yellow/tan ones that have 5 sections for food and one for your silverware/straw.

The ones that keep everything nice and neatly separated, so that *gasp* no food touches one from another food group.

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Did I ever mention that I’m a perfectionist? 😉  Didn’t think so……….

I think sometimes we tend to categorize our lives like these trays………..

But what happens if one of them runs into the other……….oh wait – you mean they do?  You still think about your family while you’re at work?  Your circle of friends includes people from church?  But isn’t it interesting how we’re hesitant to bring Jesus into them ALL.  We see evidence of the damage this does every day!

When I eat chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, I always order “gravy over all”.  Jesus is our gravy – He makes everything  better!  Pour Him out over all areas of your life!

About conversion, division, and your posse

This is a fairly sensitive post on some of the challenges in relationships that have come with my conversion to Catholicism (and probably a good share of those that have already converted).  I’m sharing this in hopes that others who are in the conversion process may find some comradery, knowing that they are not alone in their circumstances.  We will always continue to pray for those that persecute us, that someday the Holy Spirit may guide them into the same truths he guided us to!  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth  John 16:13 

It seems, at times, that bearing the label “Converting to Catholicism” invites critique from everyone who isn’t already in the Church.  Much like when you’re 8 1/2 months pregnant everyone feels the need to share their birthing horror stories, to remind you that you are bigger than a 2-story house, and express their opinion on epidurals, vaccines, whether or not you’ve found out the baby’s gender, the names that you’ve picked out, etc.  You don’t even need to ask for that information – it’s volunteered!  Of course they all do so in love, in caring for you and your family, but if they stepped back and thought about what they said (or *gasp* put themselves in your shoes) they may, at least, rephrase what they said or choose their words more carefully.

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In the same way, if you haven’t been through bearing and birthing a child, or at the very least having been heavily involved in the process (like midwife, OB nurse, etc) then what you share with that pregnant mom is only here-say or opinion.  You haven’t read all of the books to educate yourself.  You haven’t taken all of the classes to find out what it’s really about.  You haven’t attended a bazillion doctor appointments, read online the many discussion forums, or researched to the last drop what meds you can and can’t take.  You don’t actually know what it feels like to carry that baby, to experience the morning sickness, the cravings, the sleepless nights, the sheer pain, or had the doubts of whether you’ll be a good mother, if you really have the strength to do this.  How about you ask a young single guy what it’s like to have a baby – see how applicable those answers are hehe!

Interestingly enough, though, everyone seems to know all about Catholicism – without learning what the Church really believes (no, we don’t worship Mary, and how about checking the Greek to learn about the many words that translate into the word “pray” in English), without reading the history of the Church, without taking time to really research.  I’ve been heavily criticized for the amount of research I’ve done.  Yes, Google was involved at times.  Yes, I’ve read much Church doctrine (from some of the writings of the early Church fathers, to documents of the Council of Trent, to the Vatican II documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church).  Yes, I’ve read books upon books, listened to talk upon talk.  I’ve asked more questions than a classroom full of 3-year-olds of those that are in position of the Church to answer them – priest, Catholic lay missionaries, graduate of Franciscan University, RCIA director, nun, and very well catechized members of our parish.  If the same research was done by the critics, well, it would be great to have a logical conversation.

At times this journey can feel incredibly lonely, especially if you were already churched and 90% of your friends were connected to that church (or a similar denomination). Many times fear gets a hold of them – if they ask you questions and learn will they, too, be called to convert?  Or maybe they’ve been hurt by members of the Church before (very unfortunate, but welcome to humanity.  The devil gets a hold of people from every denomination, every religion.  If one person in your family commits a crime should your whole family be sent to jail?  Of course not!  In the same way, 1 or 10 or 20 people in the Church shouldn’t mean the entire 2000-year-world-wide Church is the same).  I recently had a particularly vulnerable time after more persecution was piled on.  The tears settled in time to attend Mass, and I was incredibly blessed there (as always!) in many ways.  In the homily, Father spoke that we should be afraid of NOT carrying our cross!  After all, Jesus says “he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” in Matthew (quoted again below).  The communion hymn also touched my heart:  Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life. The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.  The wilderness!  That’s exactly where I feel some days!  But I will be joyful, knowing that in the wilderness I will hear him speak!

There’s a very fine line that we walk as converts in not creating division.  Didn’t Luther do enough of that 1500 years ago?  But keep in mind, Jesus himself talked about never putting relationships with others before our relationship with him:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39

If you are a convert, you KNOW that Jesus called you to his Church.  And he plainly tells us that if you put your love for another person before your love for him (and thus obedience to him), you are not worthy of him.  That’s not something I care to test.  So as much as we will try to smooth the bridge between the Church and our brothers and sisters in other denominations, to keep peace and not cause division, haters gonna keep on hatin’ sometimes.  Pray for them.  Pray that the Holy Spirit bless them so richly with the capital-T Truths that you end up being their sponsor when they convert!

So for the time being anyway, I consider this my cross to bear.  I will continue to witness and share the Catholic faith when Holy Spirit guides me to do so.  Remember that Jesus said:  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” John 15:18-20 (Thank you Cristina for that passage today! My emphasis added)

Do you need some resources to help you defend the Catholic faith?  Two that I’ve found incredibly helpful:

Answers4Catholics phone app:
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Of all of the purchases I’ve made to educate myself and others during my journey, this has to be the best $1.99!

And

This “Catholicism for Protestants” blog post has been handy to link others to for overview-answers on most of the common questions/concerns received.

Are you a convert to the Catholic faith?  Did you experience similar trials?  What resources did you find helpful to defend the faith?