Category: Suffering


Pouring Ourselves Out

Trying to come up with an intentional and authentic name for a blog is challenging. It needs to encompass a bit of who we are, and inviting enough for further readership outside of ones own loving mother. I ended up choosing; Poured Myself Out In Gift. It is not something mind-blowing to be sure, or exclusively up  to me, but something we are ALL called to do.

Each day, each moment, each breath we are called to give ourselves for the good of others and the glory of God.

Ephesians 1:11-12 reminds us, “In him we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things, according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”

“For the praise of his glory…” That line really sticks with me. How can we add anything to God?

Well, the short answer is we cannot. But through our lives, our love, our gift of our self- we can draw others to God, to show them his glory and goodness. All things are from God. The good, the beautiful, the true, the trials, and the sufferings.

We have to remember that this life is only the journey, but the journey that spans our lifetime and directs where we will end up for eternity. This is the proving grounds, the testing and the purifying of our souls to ready us for eternal joy and infinite love poured out from God.

Everything in this life is an opportunity to stretch our hearts to prepare them for more. More what? More of God’s love in heaven.

One of the ways we are stretched the most is through trials and suffering. Seems like crazy talk, I know. However it is the true and time tested way that works on human hearts. We are a tough lot. We have hard heads, proud hearts, stubborn wills. We want what we want, when we want it, and exactly how we prayed for it. We don’t like to settle for anything less than that. When God doesn’t deliver like a vending machine we doubt his love, we question his abilities and his care for us and we often reject him and go our own direction. Yet, God loves us so, and is unwilling to leave us there poking around in the darkness of our sin and stubbornness. He knows the best way for us to get to heaven and that involves the “S” word that we loathe the most…suffering.

Why does it have to be that way? “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32) Not even Jesus was free from suffering. Not the Blessed Virgin and not us. There is purifying power in suffering and trials. These are opportunities that stretch our hearts better than anything else. Opportunities that allow for a greater capacity to accept more of God’s remarkable abundant love and goodness.

In my own life, I can look back and see that the things that hurt the absolute most were the times that I grew closer to God, prayed harder, and trusted more. They were times that stretched my heart beyond the tiny confines that I kept it safe within my chest. At the time, all I knew was pain. Physical and mental. I questioned God, I begged for answers, I was wrought in confusion. Why me? Why this? Why? At the time, I felt that I shed more tears than the ocean could hold and I know I am not finished because my life is not complete.

Stretching hurts. Pruning is uncomfortable and we feel so out of control of the situation. But that is okay. I have found that it gives us the chance to let go of the reins and hand them over to God where they belonged all along. Surrendering takes practice and the good news is that God will give us more opportunities than we want, and all the opportunities that we need.

We limit ourselves so much. Our love is stingy, we trust haltingly, and our faith is conditional. Conditional on what? On getting our way.

So what I am attempting to practice this second half of my life is to let go every chance I get. It isn’t easy, it isn’t pretty and I play tug of war with God all the time…but I am trying each day to be better at trusting and letting go.

God knows exactly what it will take to make the key that opens the door to heaven for me, and for each one of us. We need to be pliable material to let him craft us into his image, day by day and moment by moment. Let him do the work he needs to do with us. Accept the cross, as Christ his only Son did, as Mary the Blessed Mother did, pondering all the while but obedient, docile and humble.  Whining is ugly and unbecoming. The determination they displayed is an example for each one of us to follow. That narrow road is treacherous, but we are not alone and following the most famous saints in history. We can do this, we want to do this, our eternal souls need us to do this.

Violated

I awoke before dawn and was assaulted by the knowledge that today the President of the United States was coming to our little neck of the world. From the moment I heard about his little visit I have been torn, frustrated and angered.

Why here, why come to a high school in a remote southern section of Phoenix on the second day of class, when there is already sufficient confusion and anxiety.

Why indeed?

This twenty minute visit serves what purpose? To what positive end, what benefit will this brief visit provide for a hurting nation? I know what this stopover will do for us locally; disrupt traffic, add apprehension to an already charged atmosphere on campus, cause additional delays by the heightened security, as well as an influx of strangers on site. What cost will this spectacle be to tax payers and a nation already in extreme debt?

Rather than feel honored at this visit, I feel violated. Like Ananias, I wanted to say to God, “Lord I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil he has done…” How I wished and prayed that this day might be more about his conversion, like Saul’s. Imagine the real good that a man in his position, influenced by the Holy Spirit might make.

This is the school that all five of our children attended. This is where our kids were educated. This is where we spent countless hours watching volleyball games, marching band performances, tennis and badminton games. We met friends here, formed relationships, laughed and cried. We sat on the bleachers in sweltering heat for five graduations.

This man who is my single biggest challenge in charity due to his assault on the unborn, his attack on religious freedom and his policies that continue to degrade and divide this great nation.

I began to weep as I prayed for answers. I picked up the greatest weapon I knew of, the Rosary. Tears cascaded down my cheeks and I let them soak into the olive wood beads.

“…deliver us from all evil.”

Lord, it is only so, because you allow it. Somehow all of these setbacks, tribulations, actions that seem to increase evil in the world and attachment to sin-you allow in your Divine Providence. You have a plan. Never let me forget that. Your ways are greater and higher than my mind can understand. Help me trust in you. Let me feel your presence, and be an instrument for your work in the world.

“…lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of your mercy.”

No one while living, is ever completely lost or without the need for prayers and mercy. Help me pray for the conversion of all sinners most of all myself. Let your mercy be upon us as we place our trust in you.

“…to thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this vale of tears…”

Mother Mary, you weep and intercede for all of your children. He is yours too; he is lost and is in need of conversion. We are all in this “exile” as we journey towards heaven. Help us turn to you in our mourning, in our pain, confusion and hopelessness. Lead us to your Son.

“…be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil”

We are not alone; we are not left to our own devices. All of heaven is fighting for us, interceding for us. There is a spiritual battle raging and there will be causalities. Pray that we will not be put to the test but knowing if we are, you will give us the words, and the tools we need to fight.

As I concluded my prayers, I looked out the window and saw that a light rain was falling, a miracle in this dry desert. I wondered if heaven was weeping too at the state of humanity.

Perhaps there was a chance for a real storm after all, and maybe even some lightening too; the kind of light that comes from heaven and knocks people to the ground and they hear voices.

Filling the Unfillable Void

 By Barbara Lishko

“Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in thee.”  St Augustine knew well what he was writing about, having spent part of his life filling the void with everything but God.

It is difficult to watch people you care about “fill their voids” with self- destructive habits, people and distractions. So many times I see them settle for pleasure, when what they really yearn for is happiness. I remember Matthew Kelly speaking once on this subject of pleasure and happiness. The main difference being pleasure must be constantly fed or the feeling dies. Happiness on the other hand, can sustain itself long after the experience which brought it about.

Being a parent and a youth minister who works with teens and young adults, I am constantly baffled at the lengths our young people travel as they seek pleasure. It can be like a drug addiction that must constantly be sought in ever higher degrees to attain that original euphoria. Many are so lonely for one reason or another. They feel incomplete without all the material trappings society says they must have to be happy and fulfilled. Often their desperation for a soul-mate drives them into settling for a hook-up instead of true and authentic, self-giving love. They desire answers for their purpose and meaning yet lack discipline and patience, descending instead into a constant state of meaningless diversions.

It is sad to hear about. It is heartbreaking to observe. I have found myself in the role of confidant many times so I have a unique perspective as I watch the drama unfold. I know their desire is for something more, yet time and time again, they settle for the counterfeit. I go to “the Garden” often, and kneel there beside our Lord as He interceded to the Father on our behalf. I too intercede and do what I can in small ways to beg the Father, Son, and Spirit to guide and assist these young people as they struggle with their choices and ensuing consequences. We have all been there in one degree or another, yet these times are somewhat different and less forgiving.

I know when I goofed-up as a young person I might be taunted about it for awhile but I would have never had to see it played over and over again on the internet, spreading poison and stinging each time with ever increasing destruction.  With all the means of greater communication, we have faster ways of spreading gossip, lies, and drama to the detriment of those involved.

What is the solution to this, if there is any?

Dare I suggest, we make a stronger more determined effort to model Christ-like behavior in our own lives; to walk the walk ourselves, so that they see a way that points to truth, a love that doesn’t count the cost or use, and obedience that disciplines the will conforming itself to God.

Persistence in prayer for one another will invoke the Spirit’s movement in their lives and ours. Attentive listening and availability to those who struggle is critical so that they can be wrapped in encouragement and love as they stretch, and grow into the fullness of God’s creation.

God allows U-turns, and do-overs and restarts. There is an essential need for us older brothers and sisters to show them the way. We must grow up and put away the things of our childhood without losing our childlike wonder and awe of God. Men must become men whose lives are in line with Christ.  We need your witness in faithfulness to family, wife, Church and what it means to lay down one’s life.

Ladies, our model is Mary our Mother; self-giving love and the great fiat. We must stop saying yes to sex outside of marriage and respect ourselves enough to say that we are worth waiting for. Crystalina Evert says that “a guy will be as much of a gentleman as we require.” We have the God-given power to help our brothers step up and be the protectors and defenders of our virtue, not the slayers and betrayers.

I know that I have been called to be in this place and time for a reason. Each and every one of us is here because God has a purpose and plan for our lives and a part to play in each other’s salvation.  May we see the unique role we play in this period in history, and become the saints so desperately needed.


 

 

The Grape is Out

Successful brain surgery, praise God and the abundance of prayers that flooded heaven. I am adjusting to life without hearing on my left side…it will take some getting used to. As I lay on my right side to sleep…. I won’t even hear the angel’s approaching to kiss me goodnight.

Good news is I can smile…I did not end up with facial paralysis…at all!!! A smile is worth way more than a missed word or two.

Many abundant thanks to the generous and gracious God.