Courage is a Main Ingredient to Life
Personally, I am not good with courage. My anxieties have me afraid of pretty much everything:
Life requires courage. That is clear in the horrific events we witness daily in the news - just making the decision to leave our homes can be cause for pause. The anxiety is increased when the incidents are closer to home; such as the case when one of my dear friends from our parish, was stabbed in her own home by a random act by a distraught young man. After that, even home didn't feel safe any longer.
There is illness and accidents; and so much beyond our control that can lead our hearts to ache; and fall into despair and fear. As a person who has battled anxiety her entire life (diagnosed with a 'nervous stomach' at age 9); just watching the news or reading social media can send me spiraling into a panic attack. Just recently on retreat I woke in the middle of the night wondering is this a heart attack or a panic attack - after a few moments of recognizing the symptoms as panic prayed, "If I'm wrong Lord, I'll see you in a few moments. If I'm right, can we just table this conversation until the morning." Gratefully I was right- it was only a panic attack; and although it is part of a medical condition, it is important for me to remember the Lord desires to help me with it! Jesus came to bring us peace.
So what do we do? Where do we find the courage and strength to get out of bed each morning, to love life and those you are blessed to share it with, and to embrace the promise and hope of an unseen heavenly abode? We do so with great faith. Faith is the assurance and surety of what we can not see BUT know to be true (Hebrews 11:1). Courage is embarking on the journey or task IN THE FACE of fear, not in the absence of it! There can be no COURAGE without FEAR! They are beautifully and mystically co-dependent; as are we (and infinitely more so) with God! Christ came to give us life - not just get by until we die - but one of ABUNDANCE! This overflow of grace is not a material possession but a spiritual one. A gift that brings peace, joy and trust in a world that seems on a collision course of destruction or at the very least, determined to force us all to live forever on edge. It requires a surrender of self - and a turning to one greater than ourselves; which in turn requires humility.
For me, the anxiety always exists - but I combat it with great courage using the weapons of scripture, participation in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church; and with prayer (lots and lots). "Pray without ceasing" St Paul exhorts - and I do so by holding a continual conversation with the unseen world in my thoughts. Instead of talking to myself; which usually only causes a deeper spiral because I do not always remember the truth nor maintain the light in my heart. No, I need to reach to those who are basking in the light of Christ and gazing upon the face of God. My saint posse - St Therese; Padre Pio and Servant of God Patrick Peyton - are on speed dial; along with my guardian angel and the Blessed Mother. They keep me connected to the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and help me to remain focused on the prize of heaven, and to live simply and bravely.
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
First appeared as part of the Recipe for Holiness series with Saints 365, 2016
Make Your Home in Me Reflection by Michelle Gelineau
Ben Walther's powerful song, Make Your Home in Me speaks to the heart of every person who has ever suffered or felt alone. His song is such an incredible invitation to the Lord to take up residence in our lives; let's take a moment to listen and reflect:
The line, “My heart was locked but you had the key, make your home in me,” spoke volumes to me as I listened and reflected on my life.
Have you ever experience a time in your life when you have felt like something was missing? Have you ever felt unworthy or unloved?
You are not alone.
I have experienced times in my life when I have felt unsatisfied, unloved and broken. My identity was a mystery. I had an unknown purpose that I was trying to find as I wandered through the world in my attempt to fill a void.
As Jesus, my Savior, wandered without a home and without a place to rest, so did I find myself roaming in my life. I searched and continued to feel empty. My heart had become hardened and nothing or no-one could fill the void that had been left there from life’s experiences. I felt destined to live my life in a broken state of confusion and guilt.
That’s when the unexpected happened, Jesus made His home in me! I gave Him an invitation to come into my life and in that moment, He unlocked the door of my heart to receive His love.
Jesus comes to each one of us and says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
I had thought that I had been left alone to figure out life on my own. But the truth is, I was never really alone and neither are you. Jesus promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.
He means that promise. He wants you to welcome Him into your life in a new way.
Jesus gives himself to you free for the asking. Open yourself up to His love through prayer and repentance and allow Him in, so that, “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Ephesians 3:17.
Take some time and spend it with the Lord. Open your heart to receive His love and mercy. At his very moment He is waiting for you.
“Lord, come into my life in a new way today. Allow me to see the areas of my life that I have not given over completely to you. Help me to trust in your love for me and give me the courage I need to offer you my life. Make your home in me Lord. I love you. Amen.”
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras and Michelle Gelineau 2016
Music Embedded from YouTube - rights reserved, Ben Walther
To Follow the #MusicThatMoves series and Learn more about our Featured Artist - Ben Walther: CLICK HERE!
Fear of Becoming Like Them
My greatest barrier to moving from the 'safety net' belief in God to a true relationship with Him has always been fear. A mix of fears too not a one size fits all fear. My journey to embracing a more loving and trustworthy God - began in 2007, when I began to search my heart for what was missing in my life and realized my fears were ruling every aspect of my life.
The first fear had to do with apprehension of my future as a follower of Christ and any malice it may hold. I'd read enough bio-ops on the Saints to echo St. Teresa of Avila's admonishment to Christ when she allegedly landed in the mud after her donkey bucked her. "IF this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them." Exactly Teresa - fear that if I made this commitment to believe in God especially beyond the Sunday obligation (aka keeping perfect attendance just in case this is all real) - bad stuff would befall me. I gave this some real thought too - even banishing some Saints from my thoughts and prayers because in some twisted way felt if I acknowledged them the same fate my beset me.
On the 'do not call' list:
My prayer life has always been so egocentric, and in 2006-2008 as a 'baby renewed Christian' it was even more so. It never crossed my mind back then to call upon these Saints, who were forever looking upon the face of God, for intercession for those who actually were or in the danger of being raped, dying after birth of a child, battling breast cancer or any cancer, or those brave missionaries and faithful around the world standing up for their belief in God.
I lived in a small town, with very small problems, and yet spent most of my time worrying about what MIGHT come. I feared that surrendering myself to God might open the flood gates of tragedy and trial - is that really how I saw a faith in God? Sadly, it was.
Fear of Rejection
The second fear that overcame me, was rejection from the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though honestly during this early resurgence of faith, I didn't quite understand the Holy Spirit but focused primarily on God as Father. I was sure that my horrendous past and current sinful behavior was an insurmountable obstacle and He was merely waiting for one more MAJOR flub to smote me. KABOOM! Lightening bolt to the earth, where I'd be reduced to a pile of ash and smoke - though in my heard, I just imaged being afflicted with one of the aforementioned illnesses or a horrible accident that would take me out of the game permanently.
In case, it is not clear yet, anxiety is my go-to sport of choice. IF you could medal in anxiety, worry or fear, I'd be a gold MEDAL Olympian! My unstable childhood and worry-wart nature just lent itself nicely to this mindset. It was also my childhood that played a significant role in my fear of rejection or punishment from God, as Father.
Before I share the past, I need to clarify the present. My perception of my dad was definitely colored by the stories I was fed, the pain of his own life masked with alcohol, and a horrible 3rd shift that left most of our interactions to times he was much too tired to deal with my melodrama or anxieties. In 2000, after several heart attacks and years of declining health, he received a heart transplant. I believe it transformed not only his physical body but his emotional as well; it also helped that he remarried, finally found happiness and much of the truth once hidden from me was revealed. Now my father is loving, attentive and definitely more clearly mirrors the image of my Father in Heaven.
If There Was a God - I was clearly NOT a Favorite
However... until that point, I was incredibly fearful of him, felt unloved and emotionally disconnected (and not just to him - my entire family was not much of a connected loving unit - we had moments but they are scarce enough that I am pretty sure I can recount each one). If there was a God, he obviously didn't think very highly of me because up until this point these parents He choose didn't seem too proud of their child nor very interested in sharing my life. I remember often thinking growing up - I didn't ask to be born nor did I ask for these circumstances - whatever I did it seemed to really either aggravate God or worse yet He didn't really care what happened to me. There was much doubt in my mind that whatever my fault, I could not UNDO it so why bother trying. I also thought if I kept a low profile, maybe He'd forget about me and if I was lucky enough I'd live to be a ripe old age; and by then my sin ratio would be low enough to squeak me into Purgatory!
Then I was introduced to Scripture ... and I learned things such as:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father,
And even when I was culpable St. Paul had that covered as well, with:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
God's word was speaking truth into my fears. These verses along with my budding friendship with the Saints, were prying open the fear shuddered door to my heart. My anxiety attacks still rear their ugly head but instead of closing that door and assuming I'm doomed - a peace and hope are emerging. Perfect love casts out fear, St. John tells us ... although it is a great work in progress for me, at least the work is underway and not still locked behind a wall.
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
Images - Pixabay, PD
The Wonders of Your Love Reflection - Stephanie Engelman
Boldly and joyfully singing along to Ben Walther’s “Wonders of Your Love” fills me joy and gratitude. Truly, God’s love is wondrous, and I believe it is most wondrous—and most fruitful—when we allow ourselves to “breathe within” ourselves, accepting God’s love as our own – a very real and personal love, for each and every one of God’s precious children.
As St. Augustine tells us, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” This means that every word of scripture which speaks to us about God’s love is addressed to us as a personal love letter, written directly to the recipient - me, or you.
The father loves you. Yes, YOU! He loves you so much that he knows and pays attention to every little detail about you. He knows the number of hairs on your head (cf Luke 12:7)! He knows when you sit, and when you rise, and he knows what you’re going to say before you even think to say it (cf Psa 139:1-6) because he adores you so much that every minutiae of your existence is of the greatest importance to him.
In Isaiah 49:15-16, our loving Father tells us,
“Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you.”
You are so valuable, so precious to him that he has carved you into his very palms so as never to forget you even for a moment.
Look around you and you will see the proof. The beautiful greens of the grass, and the leaves of the trees? God didn’t make those for his own pleasure, or for that of the birds. He made them for you! The lovely sound of the bubbling brook, or the rain on the roof? Our Father didn’t create those melodies for the angels, or for the fish. He made them for you!
“Creation is revealed… as the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love.” (CCC, n. 288) Moreover, the particular part of creation that you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel, was made for you, as a witness to His love. God created it with all of mankind in mind, meaning billions upon billions of people across the ages. But were there to be only a million to enjoy it, wouldn’t he have still created it? Or a thousand? One hundred? Indeed, just as the Almighty was willing to spare Sodom if he could find but ten righteous people within it (Gen 18:16-33), I believe he would have created the earth in all its beauty, even if there were only going to be ten people to enjoy it. And he would have been especially pleased, if one of those ten was you.
Notably, God made this creation for you, personally, to behold and enjoy, but he did not create that pleasure as a means in and of itself. Rather, he made it to help you to know him. To behold the beauty of creation is to behold to some infinitely tiny degree the very beauty—and love—of God.
This beauty culminates in the heart breaking beauty of the cross. As Christ told his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Christ died once, for all. But if the only person who’s salvation was to be gained through his death was yours, would he still have allowed himself to be hung upon that cross?
Yes, he would.
And that is the greatest wonder of God’s love.
May I suggest delving deeper into the wonders of God’s awesome love for you by meditating on the love described in any of the scripture verses mentioned above, or these beautiful verses:
Allow God’s word to soak into your heart, permeating your being, knowing that these verses are God’s love letter, written for you.
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras & Stephanie Engelman 2016
To Follow the #MusicThatMoves series and Learn more about our Featured Artist - Ben Walther: CLICK HERE!
After featuring Walk In Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ's Passion through the Eyes of Women on A Seeking Heart - I KNEW I wanted to create a blog series from it!
Week One: Palm Sunday and Lectio Divina
In Chapter 1 - Kelly Wahlquist and her magnificent assembled co-authors lead us into Holy Week and our experience of Christ's Passion with Palm Sunday. The gift of womanhood featured in this first chapter is The Gift of Receptivity. This gift, author Pat Gohn explains, 'is the willingness to open ourselves to what God has in store for us..."
Pat further explains this is not merely the biological receptivity of a women's body to receive her husband's love (physically) or bear a child in her womb; but includes also the great gift of women to be spiritually and emotionally receptive. **If you've not already done so - can I highly recommend reading Pat Gohn's Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious - you will NEVER look at being a woman the same way again!
Personally, my receptivity feelers are not firing on all cylinders. Sure, I'm open to whatever God has for me as long as it is good, healthy and includes very little discomfort. Unlike Jesus entering into Jerusalem ready to fulfill God's Will; I spend far too much time avoiding God and his Will. Perhaps I am hoping that if I am real quiet and well-behaved I'll avoid whatever cross is lurking in my day. Ironically, my cross has become my fear of the cross. My focus is far too much on this idea of with all good things there is a lurking tragedy right around the corner. As Jesus comes in hailed as a King ... he will soon be lifted on a cross. The good that God will bring will allude many of his disciples as they watch the week unfold - much as I do when I face my own crosses. I want to flee like Peter... yet for today I will stay here on Palm Sunday embracing my gift of receptivity awaiting what God has for me in this journey.
Learning Lectio Divina
One of my favorite sections of the Walk in Her Sandals books is the inclusion at the end of each chapter of a beautiful opportunity to reflect on scripture via Lectio Divina.
Simply put - as Kelly does in Walk in Her Sandals - the scripture passage is read once through. Then, read again - this time a wee bit slower. We then read a third time - underlying or noting words that JUMP out at us or touch our hearts. It seems repetition but trust me -- SCRIPTURE WAS BORN to be read this way!! Even after reading the same verses 100 times I still discover something new! IT is not referred to as the 'living Word of God' for nothing!
When you've completed this third reading there are a few questions to ponder (this is the same for each passage - and can be used with ANY verse of Scripture):
Let's Do This ..
The Lectio Divina verse for chapter one is ... John 12:12-19
Here's the words and phrases that POPPED off the page at me:
Here's a quick thought (*would LOVE to know yours in comments below):
Fear not. Just one of the over 365 times the Scriptures instruct me not to worry, fear or be afraid! HE comes to me; and He comes for me. In that knowledge, I have nothing to fear. Though my trust may waiver; my faith does not. Hosanna! Alleluia! Jesus is LORD! He is my Savior, these events John recounts are not story but history. HIS Story! My heart longs to bear witness but my flesh still fears. Lord Jesus, help me to be open to what the Father has for me - help me to best use my glorious gifts of receptivity to fear not and bear witness to your redemptive work!
All Rights Reserved Allison Gingras, 2016
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