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Ink Slingers Linda Prayer Sisterhood Spiritual Growth

Foes, Fans, and Friends – Discerning Opinions and Dominions

Foes Fans and Friends: Discerning Opinions and Dominions

 

Our calendars should reflect what we love and where our priorities lie. If our emotional energy is increasingly sapped, it’s time to re-evaluate where and with whom are we spending our time and talents? We need to remember that when we listen to the opinions of others, we can forget who has dominion over us.

It’s an exhilarating experience when we get the opportunity to use our gifts. To be part of a team or to lead that team is quite an honor; watching our ideas build into something bigger. The excitement we experience can be a motivator or deterrent towards the next project, and many times we base that excitement on the responses we receive. To give glory to God for our gifts will keep our motives in check when we step out to use those gifts.

The people we surround ourselves with play a huge part in helping us discern who we are in God. So when those comments come rolling in (positive or negative), we can feel confident in keeping them in perspective. But how do we know who our foes, fans, and friends are?

FOES

I think it’s easy to pick out the foes in our life. They’re the people offering suggestions on making everything you do better or taking credit for your ideas as a way to get ahead themselves; the in-law critiquing your parenting skills, or the person in ministry who complains about your leadership ideas. The individual who is kind, then cold (usually acknowledging you only when they want to be in the center of your drama). They’re the people we will find easy to walk away from but that’s not necessarily the path God wants us to take.

God places “thorny” people in our lives to refine us. They’re there for a time and purpose to help us grow. God may be directing us towards them for a purpose or showing us why we must walk away.

So how do we deal with those “thorny” people in our lives? First, I think we have to bring it to God. He can take it. Tell Him just how angry that person makes you and how awful their words or actions make you feel. Point out where you’re struggling with the situation and ask God to reveal to you any part that you may play in their response.

The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is a perfect example of leadership that hurts. Here Moses was, pulled into a situation that he didn’t ask for, but for love of God, was obedient and embraced the leadership position. The Israelites complained, were jealous, and in frustration did things their own way, ignoring Moses’ calling. Yet Moses interceded for them just the same.

Responding to nastiness with love and respect isn’t easy. However, it is what we are called to do as Christians. What we learn from the experience of obedience will always be a place of growth and may sometimes be a message to walk away. We can walk away and still be kind and respectful to those thorny people in our lives.

FANS

Fans are not always as easy to pick out. These people may be the result of a lifetime of patterns in how and who we choose to be involved. Perhaps it’s where the “cool kids” hang out, or who is most popular. Maybe it’s a place we find our ego stroked.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Prov 27:6)

Proverbs 27:6 point this out stating that those who speak God’s truth in love, pointing out our weakness and sin, care far more for us. They’re willing to risk wounding us to keep us close to God. Those who flatter us or show us outward attention, “kisses,” usually do so with selfish hearts, gleaning what is only good for them.

Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33)

It’s important for us to be mindful of those we form relationships with and their worldly morals. The amount of time spent in these relationships can lead us to engage in their behaviors (anger, gossip, jealousy, prejudice, bad language) and before you know it we are no longer of Christ but of the world. Discerning our relationships with our fans will help us to know whom to let go of.

FRIENDS

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Eph 5:18-19

We are a communal people, meant to share our lives with others. But how can we be sure we are forming relationships that will point us to Christ? Here are a few qualities to look for straight from scripture.

Godly friends encourage us

Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up. (1Thes: 5:11)

Let’s be honest, we can all become a little lazy in this area. Encouragement is giving someone a bigger vision of why their obedience matters in God’s kingdom.

Let us consider how to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)

Godly friends support us

If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. Ecc 4:10

Those who bear our burdens and support us in our moments of weakness are good listeners, offer practical assistance to lighten the load, and never leave our side.

Godly friends expose our sin that keeps us from God

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit (Gal 6:1)

We all need friends who are willing to point out our weaknesses and sin; see the things we may not be able to see. These are the friends who keep us accountable to God; speaking to us out of pure love and kindness.

Godly friends pray for us and intercede for us before God

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

Through prayer, we can bring our friends to the Father, asking Him to do big things in their lives, and boldness to pray for themselves.

Friend, if you’re in a place where you are discerning between opinions and dominions, ask yourself if those whom we allow to influence our lives have the qualities above. I’m learning to siphon out the opinion police from my real friends; seeking the counsel of people who care about me and the work I’m doing and not those who just want to ride the drama train. I surround myself with people who love me deeply, despite my shortcomings. They are those who will point out those shortcomings but aren’t afraid to gently share the hard things I need to hear. Those who bring me joy and draw out the good in me, make me a better person. And those who celebrate my successes and hold my hand in my defeats.

I should also mention that not all of my friends are Catholic, nor are they Christian. I marvel at the diversity of the friends I have; high school friends, forever friends, long-distance friends, even online friends. Each one reveals a different part of me. Many of them I only see once or twice a year. This is the case with one very special group of women. A few of us raised our children together. We saw each other on a regular basis. As the kids grew, we became online friends with no face to face contact at all. Then we met at a Women’s Retreat a few years back. We’ve shared so much more than the lives of our children. We shared our Catholic faith, our motherhood, our womanhood, and most precious, our sisterhood. These are women who help me refocus, keep me accountable, and are there when I can’t get out of my own way! They remind me to place faith over feelings, pointing me to the only opinion that truly matters – God’s!

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Ink Slingers

Collateral damage- Ugly

“Collateral damage—is that all I am,
adrift in the wreckage of your sleight of hand?
Is there a reason why I can’t heal, I can’t heal?”
(Collateral Damage – Levv)

Ugly. A word that looks and sounds like its own definition. Ugly, repulsive, vile, offensive, despicable, appalling, ghastly, revolting– words that trigger in us the immediate desire to pull back, afraid we will be contaminated by the source of that produced the reaction. Drawn to what is diametrically opposed, our human nature almost idolizes its opposite– beautiful, alluring, ravishing, stunning, glamorous, appealing, lovely, gorgeous, etc. We spend hours and hours trying to ensure that the things, events, and people in our life will fit our pre-conceived ideas of what beautiful looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells like. On the contrary, we rush to hide anything or anyone that even faintly resembles that which we deem ugly. And when we can’t manage to stuff it neatly away, it becomes the object of freakish attention to the point of a bizarre attraction.

Relationships, to varying degrees, bring out the best and the worst in us, the beautiful and the ugly. All relationships, especially those that are worthwhile, challenge us at some point to go deeper, to be more vulnerable; to allow the other person to see more of who we are. While I was discussing something with a friend the other day, I began to realize we had reached one of those points. To not share what was on my heart, a difficult experience I had many years ago that was pertinent to our current discussion, meant I was choosing to shut out a part of who I was from our friendship. I prayed about it, decided the next day to share my experience, and once I had finished, I said, “So, there it is… the good, the bad, and the ugly.” My friend’s response was startling, “Okay… first… nothing about you is ugly.” Of all I had said, my friend homed in on the one thing my story had been full of– self-condemnation, shame, guilt, remorse. Despite the years that had passed, I was still wrestling with the demons hiding in the darkness who were screaming out, trying to convince me that that part of me was ugly. My friend only saw the beauty behind it, that I had been able to still choose to be a good person despite the difficulties, when it could have very easily gone the other way.

What if we truly saw the beauty behind our ugliness? If we could do so, we would be seeing with the eyes of Christ. Lepers, demoniacs, paralytics, the deaf, the lame, the blind, the mute, a man with a withered hand, a woman with a bleeding disorder. Jesus saw their beauty and saw them for who they were; beyond what the world would have called ugly. He saw their desire to be healed of their physical “ugliness,” but He knew their greatest desire was to be healed of their separation from Him.

“Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

As long as we hold on to those parts of us we deem ugly, we are our own collateral damage. So, what is holding you back from letting Him heal what you cling to as ugly? What is blocking you from seeing the beauty behind it waiting to be revealed? Because nothing… nothing about you is ugly.

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Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

The Importance of Friendship

The Importance of Friendship
The Importance of FriendshipThere have been many times in my life that I have felt like I was a ship at sea struggling against the storm, wondering where land and safety might be. The storm raging around me, I was lost. The waves crashing again and again, I was in danger of sinking. Had it not been for the lighthouse upon the shore I may have never found my way to safety.

I believe that God puts people in our paths at just the right time. They are lighthouses to help guide us and lead us to safe shores. Friends can help ground us, help save our sanity, help us see the good in life, and help carry us through the most difficult times of our lives. While there are many in our world who believe they must stay guarded at all times, there are others who know and understand the beauty of developing and cherishing deep friendships.

I would dare to say that most of us have at least one person we call a friend, some of us have even more people we call friends. But do we truly believe that friendship is important? Do we only acknowledge our friends when we need something or do we make time for them even when it seems we don’t have much time to spare?

The Importance of FriendshipFriendship is important. Christ knew this well. We remember in the story of Mary and Martha that Jesus corrected Martha who was angry with Mary for simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and was not helping her with the preparations. Jesus simply says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

How often do we neglect our friendships because we have too many other things to do?

We read later that Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, also a friend of Jesus, had died. Jesus didn’t go immediately to him when He found out that Lazarus was ill. He didn’t go immediately so that His followers could believe in Him when they witnessed Him raise Lazarus from the dead. While Christ knew what was going to happen, as He asked Mary where they had taken Lazarus, something astounding happens… the Scriptures tell us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

The Importance of FriendshipChrist, who knew that His friend would be raised from the dead, was overcome with emotion and wept. Did He weep because His friend had died? Did He weep for those who mourned Lazarus? Did He weep for all of us? Perhaps it’s not important why Christ wept but rather it is important that He was there for those He loved and He showed true, deep emotion. His mere presence brought hope, but I imagine His gift of emotion {of love} helped others understand the true value of friendship.

How often do we hide our love and guard our emotions, unwilling to show our true hearts and souls to our friends, and unwilling to be completely there for them in their darkest hour?

It is only later in John15 that we come to understand Christ’s true teaching about the importance of friendship. He tells us, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” While His friends could not understand the gravity of the teaching, Jesus knew that He would model this type of love and friendship by laying down His life for all of us. Soon the entire world would come to understand what true friendship was.

This is a difficult teaching to accept. What does it mean? Are we each called to die for our friends? Maybe the situation will arise that we will be called to make this ultimate sacrifice, but more than likely we will never be asked to do so. Instead, perhaps we are being called to “die to self” and to put others’ needs ahead of our own. We are being called to voluntarily serve one another. We are asked to set aside our selfish desires to be there heart and soul for our friends, especially in their darkest hours.

How often do we fail to die to ourselves so that our friends may live?

Friendship is important. Christ showed us not only how to be a friend but what is expected of us as friends. When we treat our friends well, when we place their lives above our own, we show that we value Jesus’ friendship. It is important that we choose our friends wisely and that we treat our friends well. Our friendships have the ability to help us heal; help us find the safety of the shore, and help lead us to Christ.

Are you neglecting your friendships? If so, today is a wonderful day to begin anew and to reconnect. What is holding you back?

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

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Current Events End of life Ink Slingers Michelle Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Spiritual Growth

Faith in Suffering; Kristi’s Gift to All of Us

I crawled into the bed with Kristi and we lay together all afternoon talking and laughing. We talked about everything under the sun- our childhoods, our hopes and dreams, our disappointments, homeschooling, our faith, our husbands, our children, and her cancer. It’s been a year ago already and I can remember everything about that day.

I felt awkward at first climbing into the bed with my dear friend. It’s not what most adult friends do. We weren’t childhood friends so we didn’t grow up having slumber parties where sat huddled in a bed together talking about which boys we thought were cute at school. But, she insisted I sit in the bed and talk as I stayed with her for the day before she left for a few days for her chemo treatments.

kristi and me 2While we were not childhood friends, we had a very special relationship. We became friends years ago as Kristi was entering the Catholic Church and I was helping in the RCIA classes. That year we became fast friends; and as she and her husband stood before the Church and became new Catholics, she asked that I hold their newborn son John Paul in my arms. I was so honored! I would be honored again to hold him as his Godmother when he was baptized shortly thereafter. She would later become my son Jake’s Godmother as well.

Our friendship grew as we found we had many things common. We both homeschooled our kids and we were both open to life. We shared a love of our Catholic faith and could talk for hours about the beauty and responsibility that being a Catholic Christian brought to our lives. We shared secret hopes and dreams with one another. We shared the ups and downs of raising children and she was one of the few I knew I could trust with the heartaches or disappointments I might have been going through. She was also there for me as I faced many losses. It was my privilege to be there when she sadly faced her own. Our hearts cried together and together we healed.

We sat for hours in her bed just talking. The awkwardness that I felt when I first climbed into the bed quickly faded away as I focused on sharing time with my friend. Cancer was ravaging her body and yet she remained hopeful and joyful. We laughed and smiled and I came away that day feeling blessed that God had brought this woman into my life so many years ago.

Many months later I would climb into the bed again with Kristi. This time it was not her own bed but one at her parents’ home as they were helping to take care of her while her husband worked two hours away. The room was small and Kristi looked tiny in the big bed that filled the room. She was wearing a pretty pink nightgown. She had previously lost all her hair with her chemo treatments but it was beginning to grow back. However, instead of her thick dark hair, beautiful silver curls had grown in its place.

I sat on the side of the bed, worried that I might hurt her if I lay beside her. She smiled at me and asked me if I would get in the bed with her instead. I did. We lay beside one another talking in hushed voices. We talked about everything under the sun, but mostly we talked about what she hoped for her family. She said she wasn’t scared of dying but that she was scared of leaving her family. What would happen to her five children? What would happen to Russ? What would happen to her parents? I asked her what she wanted me to do for her- for her family. “Pray,” she said.

KristiShe was so tired. She began to fall asleep. I watched her as her eyes finally closed and she fell into a peaceful sleep. For the moment, she didn’t feel any pain. She was simply beautiful. I wanted to take a picture of her as she slept so I could remember her this way, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Instead, I memorized the lines of her face, the curling of her hair, the way her eyelashes intertwined with one another, and the way her skin glowed as the sun shone on her through the lone window. I held her hand and I prayed.

It wouldn’t be long until she was in hospice care. She would eventually be transferred to a hospice facility where they could take care of her in her final days. As I sat beside her there, Russ and I would talk about just how amazing she was. Her heart, her strength, her gentle nature, and her faith were something to aspire to.

I didn’t want to leave her side. I would feel guilty for sitting beside her so long. I worried that I was taking from Russ’s time with her and yet he encouraged me to be with her as much as I needed to. It was comforting to hold her hand even when she could no longer speak to me. Still, she knew we were there and she did her best to move her fingers and her lips when I prayed the rosary with her.

I was blessed to be visiting her the day she died. I was able to be with her in those very last hours and I am so grateful for that gift. I lost one of the best friends I have ever known the day Kristi died. My heart felt shattered. It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that she was no longer here but instead headed to our Father. While I was overjoyed that her suffering and pain were gone and that she was healed, I was devastated for her family and for myself. The finality of it all was just too much.

However, even in my pain I could see the gift that Kristi gave to all of us.

We hear so much about the right to die and how advocates for this movement want to allow people the right to kill themselves or be euthanized when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness or have other reasons for not wanting to live. Kristi’s journey reinforced to me why this is wrong and it showed me the beauty that comes with living out our lives until the very end.

Kristi taught us that even in the face of adversity we must continue to fight. We can’t give up! She had stage 4 cancer and yet she fought until the very last day. She showed her children, and all of us, what strength and fortitude really meant. They can always look to her example when they feel like giving up.

kristi and russShe reminded us that we shouldn’t take the small things for granted. I remember when she was at the hospital and wanting to go home; she told me that she longed to stand at her kitchen sink and do the dishes. She smiled a sad smile and said, “I miss the little things. I miss the ordinary things.” She reminded us all that there is comfort in doing the ordinary and that each task we are set to do is an important one, so we should put our heart into everything we do.

Kristi showed us how to suffer gracefully. She was in so much pain for such a long time, but especially in those last months. Still, she smiled through it all. She never complained and was always so thankful for anything anyone did for her. She viewed suffering as a way to draw closer to our Lord. She placed herself in His hands and asked that He would purify her through her suffering. She showed us each that we can take our own sufferings and bear them with quiet strength and love.

Kristi also gave us the gift of taking care of her when her body began to fail her. It takes great humility to allow others the opportunity to see you and care for you at your most vulnerable and weakest points. Kristi gave many of us this gift. We knew we were being blessed to get to participate in her care and comfort, but we could never imagine to what extent that would be. Oh the blessings of bringing her Communion or of helping her eat or drink! My heart rejoices that I could do this for her in her last days.

My dear friend showed each of us what it means to truly walk with the Lord. She modeled her faith while she was alive and as she was dying. She prayed and trusted in God’s plan for her at all times. She spoke of His goodness up to the very last time she could speak. His name was on her lips and she praised Him even in her weakness. Her witness to faith touched all our hearts.

There are some who may say that there is no dignity in a death that strips you of the life you had or that causes you so much suffering. Kristi showed us differently. She longed to live the life God blessed her with up until her very last breath. She taught us all that even in suffering there can be hope and peace.

October is Respect Life month. We often think of only babies during this time as the month also coincides with Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. However, we have to remember that all life needs to be respected from the moment of conception all the way to the moment of natural death. Kristi’s life and death was dignified, graceful, and beautiful even amid the suffering she encountered. It was not only through her life, but also her death, that we learned so much.

I am forever thankful that Kristi chose to allow us each to walk with her on her journey home. Her selflessness allowed us each to experience God’s love in a new way. I can never thank her enough for that gift.

kristi's family

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Domestic Church Feast Days Ink Slingers Michelle Saints Spiritual Growth

Oh Martha!

marthaToday is the feast day of St. Martha. Most of us know her from the Bible story of Mary and Martha. Jesus came to visit and while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha hurried around trying to make things perfect for her guest. When she asked Jesus to say something to her sister about the lack of help Mary was providing, Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

This Bible story has always bothered me. You see, I am a Martha. I worry and stew over what needs to be done, what needs to be fixed, and what is lacking within our house. I grew up in a house that was always clean. Company could drop by without notice and my mother would not be embarrassed over the way our house looked. When things broke they were fixed immediately or replaced. There wasn’t dirty handprints on the windows, dust on the fans, milk spilled on the floor, toys everywhere, or something growing in the corner of the bathroom. No, our house was immaculate. I was raised that what people saw when they first walked in your door was how they would think of you forever. Given the fact that we have 13 people living in the space that is probably more suited for about 5 people, well, my house doesn’t resemble the house I grew up in at all.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand this story. Maybe it is my age. Maybe it’s the internet that allows me to get a glimpse into so many others’ houses to see that they live a lot like us. Or maybe it’s God working on my heart, but recently I have begun to not only feel but believe that all that stuff isn’t so important. Yes, it’s important that our houses are clean and that if company stops by they aren’t completely disgusted, but if the walls need to be painted or the kids have tracked mud up the steps once again, well, that’s ok. Those who are coming over are not coming to judge my house but to see us and spend time with us. I can’t tell you that I don’t worry at all, I do! But I can see how my reluctance to have people see our messes has cost us time with those who truly love us and want to spend time with us. That makes me sad.

handprint 1I think the most important part of my recent change of heart is this- my house is not just a house. It is a home. It is filled with lots of little people who make big messes. It is filled with lots of big people who make messes. It is filled with toys, clothes, school books, pets, flowers picked fresh from the yard, muddy footprints leading up the steps, handprints on the walls, mirrors, windows, and everything else. But it is also filled with love and laughter. Joy overflows from every opening in our home. There is light. There is happiness. There is God living among us in my home. People come to see these things when they come over. They don’t notice the mud as much as they notice the laughter. They don’t see the toys like they see the happiness shining in our children’s eyes. They don’t care about the handprints on the windows when beautiful dandelions are sitting in the prettiest vase we have on top of the mantle. No, none of those things that upset me so much matter as much as the love that emanates in our home.

It is hard to shake the need to be a Martha. I think many of us are hardwired to take care of the needs of others and to want things to be perfect. But those of us who are Marthas need to take a lesson from the Marys of the world. They are the ones who don’t miss a second of what is truly important. They are living in the moment, absorbing all the sights and sounds of what is happening around them. They are making memories and cherishing them. They are living and loving to the fullest. Yes, we Marthas can learn a thing or two from Mary.

This week when one of my best friends comes to see us I plan to not worry so much about making sure everything is perfect. I will make things comfortable for her but I plan to enjoy her company and not worry about the walls that need to be painted or the couch that practically swallows visitors whole. I’m not going to obsess over the things that I know she doesn’t even care about and that she won’t even notice. No, those things will not be on my radar this visit. This time I plan to be in the moment and love my friend with all my being.

Happy Saint Martha’s day! I pray that all of my fellow Marthas will have a very beautiful day today. Take a day off and enjoy those around you. Take in every moment and make memories without worrying about what needs to be done. It’s what Christ would want you to do.

a true friend