Deciphering God’s Encrypted Messages.

the-feast-of-the-ascensionToday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension….God talks to me in many different ways. Sometimes its rapid fire. This long weekend is one of those times.  I suspect that he does that because of my age. I’m in my early 60’s and was away from the church from 1965 to 2015.  That’s a really long time to be AWOL.  Now that I am back I’m on the fast track to whatever God’s  plan is for me.  I don’t have another 50 years to tra-la-la through life trying to find God; trying to find my purpose.  I have to make every minute, every day count.  I know that with my head. But my faith life is wobbly. Hit and miss. Inconsistent. Full of whining and complaining because things are hard, I don’t have enough money, time, energy –whatever—just fill in the blank. Meanwhile the clock of my life just keeps on ticking.  Without an action plan. All you have are desires and dreams that never come to fruition.  You are actually lying to yourself. “Someday, I’m going to do great things for the Lord”  Someday is always tomorrow instead of today. God did not ask me for great things–he simply said to follow him faithfully.

I know that I am weak. Each night I resolve to do better tomorrow. PATHETIC.

Who am I fooling?  So my beautiful Lord and Savior talks to me rapid fire, allowing me to connect the dots between events to decipher the message he is writing just for me.   It’s best to decode the message quickly on my own because I have learned that:

  • God does not give up.  He just gets louder and louder. Sometimes he’s like Cher in Moonstruck and he simply says’ “Snap out of it” Other times when I’m particularly stubborn or rebel by moving slowly and continuously whining, he gets out his 2×4 to get my attention. Trust me, you want to get the message on your own and become the object of the lesson. It’s never pleasant, but for sure you’ll be paying attention.
  • If you think that might be a tad mean. It’s not. His love for us will not allow us to just do whatever we want like a spoiled toddler throwing a tantrum. After all, I’m the one that came back to him on his terms. I surrendered to him. He didn’t surrender to me. He doesn’t need anything from me.

So here are the facts or clues if you will:  It’s memorial day weekend. It’s the feast of the Ascension. My favorite priest is leaving and we are having a good-bye luncheon with many bittersweet moments.   Saturday  I attended the ordination of the deacon who will now take my beloved Fr. C’s place. I watched the biography of St. John Paul II.  It’s God code and I have to decipher it. The quote from St. Joan of Arc “I was sent by God, the King of Heaven”  was printed on beautiful bookmarks given to everyone in honor of Fr. C.

Let’s start with the Ascension.   Where is Jesus? Seriously where is he?  He’s not in the tomb and we  read he’s not on earth because he is taken up by a cloud. Here’s where he can be found:

  • He’s in heaven, (too high and far away)
  • He’s in the Eucharist (this  limits me to seeking him only through communion. (It would take a lot of communion to fix my issues).
  • He’s in the sanctuary (still,  I have to go to the sanctuary to talk to him–kinda hard when you work all week).

BUT because he sent the Holy Spirit, he is able to reside in my heart always. He is never not there. He’s knows everything that is going on with me -he is available 24/7.  “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age”  More importantly, whether you believe in Jesus or not, he’s never not with you either. His sacrifice is for everyone. It’s a gift. It’s there whether you accept it or not.

Well if he’s in my heart then that  shoots all my excuses down  as to why I don’t have a consistent prayer life, or offer myself in service because of… (insert excuse) . He knows I’m slacking. Slacking is a slippery slope. It can lead to sloth or acedia (google it–you google everything else)  and  they are considered one of the seven deadly sins.  NOT GOOD for me or for you.

Now, that we got that important clue. Let’s move on to St. John Paul II, Fr. C, newly ordained Fr. J and Joan of Arc.  What message do they bring for me to decode?

  • All accepted the call of the Lord and lived a life of obedience and discipline
  • All cultivate a serious prayer life and spend time with God daily
  • All are human and faced the same challenges and limitations that most humans experience.
  • All gave of themselves completely, unconditionally out of love for God and for us.

Each one received  and accepted a calling to be a part of God’s Army.  ( I was sent by God, the King of Heaven).  Each one executes their mission with love, humility, dedication, whether they good or not’ whether they are tired or not; whether its convenient or not; whether they agree or not–regardless of their lack of courage or the daunting task– simply because they love God enough to say yes,  I will do what you ask Lord.

Are you connecting the dots with me? Deciphering the code? It’s like a puzzle coming together.

Now, obviously I’m not called into the priesthood or to lead an army or become Pope. We can and should aspire to become saints.

I am called to pray, to use the weapons of the sacraments and the rosary to further his kingdom. To let the light of Christ shine through me. To love others because Jesus is dwelling in their hearts too. To report to duty in service to him. To sacrifice.

I am called to do these things (all within my reach). C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-T-L-Y.  Not when I’m in trouble or when my busy schedule allows.  The tasks may vary for each of us but  what’s required of us is the same. Doesn’t matter if you are a Pope, Saint or Priest. The degree of sacrifice may vary but they all require the same level of commitment.

Final Message and Action Plan

I got the message Lord. First I ask your forgiveness. Second, I will pray to the Holy Spirit, my helper to show me how to order my day every day.  I will begin by spending more time with you. Less internet, TV, all the distractions that enemy cleverly sends my way that fritters away my time which is finite. Thank you for loving me enough to send me the message.

I saved the best for last

At Father C’s luncheon today I formally met the formation director.  I’ve tried meeting her on three separate occasions and was unsuccessful.  I want to teach RCIA classes although I am hardly qualified.   She asked if I was interested in helping her with kindergartener and first graders.  I told her that I never had children of my own and don’t relate to them well.  But even if I did, I just recently returned to the church and there are huge gaps of knowledge in catechism.  She suggested that I attend RCIA classes as a refresher starting August 13 (God does not waste time) and when I’m done or feel ready, then perhaps I can work with children or the adults.  It’s through formation that we secure future workers, seminarians, and sisters.

Today when we asked Fr. C if there was anything he could do to stay. He lovingly told us that this was not an option. He took a vow of obedience and he submits to the authority of the church and goes and does what’s asked of him.

I hear you Lord–loud and clear. Thank you for all the beautiful messengers you sent. How much you must love me to send two saints, 2 priest’s and one formation director on this long holiday weekend where we honor those that gave up their very lives so that I may have freedom to worship and serve without fear.

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But do you know God?

I have studied several faith paths.  I can talk about Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, New Age, Charismatic, Pentecostal and yes Catholic. I have a lot of head knowledge. I love this stuff  God has also given me the ability to connect dots. It’s awesome.  I know a lot about faith practices, belief systems. I know a lot about God.   BUT at one point in my journey, I had to ask the inevitable –Did I really know God?  I have to say NO. I don’t. I know about Him. I know a little bit about how he operates in our lives.  I know his attributes. I know what he said through scripture.  But I definitely don’t know him. Not with my heart.  Not with full and pure faith.

Genesis Lech Lecha12:1–17:27 is  a reading that we do in they synagogue (did I mention I am Jewish?  More on that later)  The reading is called Lech Lecha. its my most favorite reading in the Bible.  God tells Abraham to “go out –for you” is the literal translation. He tells Abraham to leave everything. Family, home, business and go…where? To a place that I will show you>  That’s it–that’s all the information that Abraham receives.  Can you imagine explaining that to Sarah?  But–He said YES.  You can’t say yes to a crazy directive like that unless your truly know and trust the God who is giving you that directive.  I for sure know that I would not have “Lech Lecha” unless there was a stream of miracles and signs wonders and prophets who fully confirmed what I heard God say.  Abraham KNEW God with his heart.  He didn’t have book knowledge about Him. No scriptures or webinars to tell him who God is. He came from along line of very prosperous idol worshipers. Actually the family business was crafting idols.

Somewhere along the line Abraham believed that there had to be but one God. One creator. Not all these little gods each with his own specialty.  God showed up and Abraham not only became the father of our faith, but he was called the friend of God.

THAT IS WHAT I WANT.  And I know that God prefers that over head knowledge any day.

So in my journey, that became my prayer. Jesus I truly want to know you. If I know you, then I know the father too.  Open the eyes of my heart and let me see you.  And so I had to Lech Lecha.   We all do –I can’t think of an exception.  All of life is a series of Lech Lecha. We go out from childhood to adulthood. Our fist job, marriage, parenthood.  Each time you must go out for yourself.  You can’t go where people think you should  go. You must listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit who is always guiding you –if your heart is open to His messages. You will not have peace if you don’t go out for yourself–if you just follow the crowd.

I started to think about the lives of saints. They knew God.  Really knew God.  They couldn’t become saints and martyrs if Jesus was not real.  This was very important to me because when you are Jewish–Jesus is not someone that we move towards. We are not even able to mention his name.  It took a long time for me to believe.   And truth be told sometimes I still struggle.   But he never lets me down. He shows up in ways that I know can only be Him and he makes my heart melt.   I can only liken it to courtship.

Do I know God? Well, I don’t think anyone can really know God–he’s just so infinite. I know him more and more each day. God is real. Jesus is real.  I hope to  know him as Abraham did.  Maybe he’ll call me his friend. Its all a matter of the heart.

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So what comes after yes God?

It’s been a month since I said yest to God.  A very important month that’s only intensified by the 40 days of Lent and of course Easter. I mostly travel alone in this journey.  There is no support at home or a gaggle of Catholic girlfriends where we can shop, drink coffee and transform together.  But God provided me with 4 friends from Weight Watchers–we have never met–yet they are supportive in growing in our faith as well as in our challenges.  I have a tendency to be more honest with people I don’t know.  I’m praying that maybe someday we can all meet.  He also provided two very good friends at work.  Two beautiful souls from a beautiful family that listen to my endless questions and talking about God.  It’s so easy to talk with them because they love their faith and mote importantly they love God.  Very rare to see in younger folks nowadays . I count them as part of my many blessings along with my WW friends.   If you don’t have a family God will create one for you.   Psalm 68:6 God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.

During this month, I read a lent focused devotional by Fr. Richard Rohr (highly recommended), dug deeper into my faith by connecting with online studies with De. Marshall Taylor of the New St. Thomas Aquinas institute, Brandon Vogt of Caritas and of course through my local parish.

So what comes after yes? HARD WORK! This is a lifetime commitment and to be exact its a living breathing relationship. I am now part of Jesus’ family, his mom, his dad, saints, the Holy Spirit and of course God, our father.  You can’t say yes at the altar and then just go home to business as usual. What if that happened during a marriage ceremony?  What kind of relationship would that be?  Now God’s part is easy because he’s already perfect. I’m the one that needs to work on my formation, my road of perfecting myself.  To a non catholic that might sound strange, but really its not. We reconcile ourselves to God so that we can become more and more like him.  Less of me, more of Him.  That’s the original game plan. That’s why Jesus came.  He modeled it for us.  He showed that it could be done.  We could become more like God in his attributes while we are human. Not easy mind you and it is much deeper than what I am writing about today.

If you observe couples who have been married for a while, you’ll notice that they know whether the other person is going to like something or not. They sense the other persons mood. Sometimes they can read each others non verbal cues and communicate without speaking.  They tend to not sweat the small stuff like recapping the tooth paste. But they know beyond imagination that they truly have become one and yet they still remain individuals each with their own personality, triumphs and challenges.

I believe that our relationship with God is along the same lines as marriage.  We marry into the family those in heaven as I mentioned in the beginning  and those on earth–family friends, Catholic community.

Part of this process is that the not so pretty parts of you will surface.  If you don’t face them on your own. God being awesome, will show them to you. Sometimes its a gentle nudge, sometimes its similar to when your mom squeezed your cheeks together and said “I want you to look at me–because I’m talking to you”.

So, during lent I discovered many things that needed work–and being human I’m thinking “great, I’m working on stuff”.    Ahhh, but God doesn’t allow mediocre.  He pointed to two major areas and said “What are you going to do about this and that?

My current areas of struggle are discipline, overeating (lifetime challenge) and finances. Of course all three are linked.  So, how did I respond? by eating 2 pints of ice cream and more jelly beans than anyone should ever consume in one sitting and then I went out and spent $200 bucks. How’s that for a “yes God?”.

After the ice cream, jelly bean, shopping spree binge which left me feeling like crap,  I realized that I truly had a problem and that it had a spiritual solution. Not another diet book or the psychology of why we overeat. This needs a God solution.

I went to reconciliation today.  Fr. C told me (based on the details I provided) that yes, I was in sin. Anything that takes the place of God and separates us from Him is sin. He said we sin cause sin always feels good. Doesn’t matter what the sin is-food, gambling, sex, alcohol.  It releases dopamine in our brain which floods us with relief and good feelings.  The problem is that we constantly have to go back to that well.  We make frequent trips and the quantity we need to make us feel good gets bigger and bigger. Typical addiction.  Now, not all overeating is sin. Sometimes we just over indulge.  But when it becomes a lifestyle, and there is no medical reason for it its sin.

After we overeat, then we are flooded with guilt, shame and a sense of failure. Which causes us to…you guessed it…medicate with food once again.  Then we are like Adam and Eve after the fall. Trying to deny, blame and avoid God.

His recommendation was the following. Invite God into your sin. Stop trying to conquer this on your own.  As soon as you are tempted call on God ask for his grace and mercy.  You may still sin–because this is deeply embedded behavior. But you’ll find that you will consume less even when you are over eating and the times will become less and less. Ask God to show you what moderation feels like, What does it look like. When have you hit moderation and are about to go over the line.  If you ask Him He will tell show you.

My Penance:  Soooo powerful.  He said that this Sunday’s reading is about St. Thomas and how he didn’t believe until he could touch Jesus’ wounds.  Read the scripture reading for Sunday (about St. Thomas) and just like St. Thomas touch Jesus’ wounds and believe that you victorious because Jesus went before and purchased your victory through his wounds.  Believe that you can because He is victorious and has overcome the world.  Do this as penance and every-time you feel tempted.

I cried because I did not honor God with my body and food has become an idol. I cried because I was so relieved. I feel free. I feel light. Mass tomorrow will be awesome.  There is no faith that I have encountered in my travels that is this compassionate and this transformational.

There is no place like home…

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She said yes, I too say yes.

How appropriate that my first blog would be today–the Annunciation.  Arch Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and gives her her earthly and spiritual mission.  This young girl who never knew a man is not freaked out. What will her family say? What will Joseph say? Will she be stoned to death?  She is so sure of God that she simply pushes past all the questions she may have had and simple says yes.

After 50 plus years of chasing after God. Looking in every nook and cranny. Sometimes just not looking at all. I found God. He was right whe
re I left him. Every so patiently waiting for me in the Roman Catholic Church.  The very place I avoided because “they were wrong on just about every level”.  Yet while he was patiently waiting, he was with me on every step of my journey. He’s God after all, he can multi task like nobody’s business.  We embrace and rejoice. He asks are you ready? Ready to fully commit, fully love, fully serve, fully experience?

Well, maybe…I have so many doubts and questions. Definitely not like Maflowr staircase to heavenry who says yes right away.  Your church is a little tarnished. Your church  throughout history has done some not so nice things especially to Jews like me..

Yes, I don’t disagree but  you need to look beyond that. Beyond the government piece of the church. Look to the people and to their faithfulness, to their hearts. You are too are tarnished and in your history you’ve done some not so nice things. Forgive the church as I have forgiven you–neither of you are perfect.  Both of you have also done much good and you both have a heart that beats with mine.  So, it is I your God who is standing at the door of your heart and I’m asking. Will you commit, will you give me your whole heart?  We’ll work out the bumps together.

“Yes”.   I can’t believe I just said yes. What if I fail, what if I can’t do it?  Oh my goodness. I just said yes.

Familiar words from scripture come to me.“Jesus said to him: No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”.
“And his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt”.

Yikes! looking back is not a good thing.

God just smiles at me. Apparently I’m amusing.

NOW your journey begins! We journey forward together!

You know my son had doubts and questions too once.  But,
He said yes, just like his mother and just like you. We travel in good company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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