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Amy M. Domestic Church Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Prayer Vocations

The Mustard Seed

mustard_seeds

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the story of the mustard seed. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’” Luke 17:5-6. This week I had the opportunity to reflect on the Gospel for Sunday prior to going to Mass with our bible study group. I was excited as I read the above verse. “Yay! An easy one to interpret,” I thought. But the next part of the Gospel was more perplexing.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'” Luke 17:7-10

The servants did what they were supposed to do and shouldn’t expect thank you or a reward? Tell that to my children… Truthfully, tell that to me some days. I can become so caught up in what I do for my family that I lose sight of the fact that it is an honor and blessing to have my family to serve!

Jesus is pointing out the importance of attitude to his apostles. We can pray for something all we want, but unless we act on our belief that God will answer our prayer, it will go unanswered. We don’t need Him to give us more faith. We need to act on the faith we already have. God can use us with faith only the size of a mustard seed to fulfill His plan for our lives – if we but believe and let Him.

Our attitude will make all the difference.

Let us pray: Please, Lord, when I am caught up in garnering recognition for tasks I am obliged to do, please help me to adjust my attitude in realizing all I need is You, and You see all I do and will give me all I need.

I’d love to hear how you are doing today! How is your attitude as you start your day? What tasks do you have before you and how can you tackle them with a grateful heart today?

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BirgitJ Conversion Doctrine Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Forgiveness: Is Someone You Love Poison for Your Soul?

It’s evident that I’m not alone in a struggle with someone intimately linked to my life. I have heard many stories portraying similar, unfortunate circumstances. You know, someone in your family or close circle of friends, who persistently goes out of his way to hurt you. I’m not talking about the occasional butting of heads that many of us encounter in our flawed human interaction with other flawed humans. What I’m contemplating is something far more disturbing and difficult to charitably fathom. This type of animosity makes others take notice, their facial expressions revealing their shock – ‘what the heck’!? What do you do in such a situation? How long do you persist in trying to make amends? To whom do you go for advice?

What’s Going On Here?

I have had a couple such encounters in my life and, in fact, have been struggling with one for over 20 years. In an effort at full disclosure, I must confess to active participation on my part – initially. It’s a case of those reflexive pushing back types of reactions which sometimes make both participants uncomfortable company for anyone who is not playing their flawed game. Either that or observers feel the need to choose sides or make ineffective (and temporary) attempts to settle the matter. If you’re lucky though, after a while, the snide comments and fleeting, glaring stares give way to a desire to wipe the slate clean – so you do. You and this person come to a detente – after all, why waste precious time on disharmony when there’s so much joy to be had? You go to confession, you commune with one another and all seems right with the world. And then…
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This Isn’t Going Away, Is It?

Somehow the fleeting peace fails to last and this time, you’re trapped as an unwilling participant in a battle from which you’ve walked away. You have prayerfully discerned that this is a sinful situation – as in occasion of sin – but the other persists in their vitriolic contact. So what to do? Perhaps going to the person in question and having an in-depth conversation will work wonders. But that doesn’t work in the most difficult of such situations. Conceivably the next step is going to someone who knows you both, who can impartially seek a common peace.
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And still, it persists. In an effort to forgive the seventy times seven Jesus asks of us, you might finally find yourself making another appointment with your parish priest or spiritual director. After thoroughly listening to your distress, the resulting advice might be surprising. If all efforts at peace have resulted in an inadequate outcome; if there simply is no hope for a fruitful relationship, you may simply need to walk away. This isn’t easy – especially if you have close ties to the person in question. How do you walk away from someone who is intimately connected? And how realistic is it to expect for the unrest never to cross your mind or interactions with others who know you both?
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So What to do?forgiveness

I once read some sage advice. Every time that the hurts resurfaces – whether they are remembered conflicts
or new transgressions – say an Our Father for the person causing you pain. When you get to the line, ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’, it’s impossible to hold onto the resentment if you truly mean what you’re praying. After all, don’t we recognize that we aren’t worthy of forgiveness in our own transgressions? Forgiveness comes from the gift of Jesus and His dying for us. It’s not something we earn or are entitled to expect. Rather, it’s a gift of love. Remember Jesus telling us to love even our enemies?
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Is this any different than Jesus forgiving those who persecuted him? Didn’t He set a really high bar for us when he lived the example of the ultimate forgiveness? Is it any more difficult than Him saying, ‘they know not what they do’? If we expect to follow Jesus – at all costs – how can we justify holding onto a grudge against those who persecute us? In the same way that we, flawed as we are, find that we need to confess the same sins again and again – that is the way that we must resolve to step aside from the hurt feelings and grudges we might feel toward those who persist in hurting us. Didn’t the Sanhedrin give false testimony against Jesus? Didn’t He have to endure the most excruciating pain, betrayal, and slander – even unto death on a cross? Who then, are we, to expect better than the treatment He received? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
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          “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44
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Father, please give me a contrite heart. Help me to resolve to never sin against you again. Give me true repentance and forgiveness so that I may give forgiveness too!  Amen!
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Domestic Church Erika Faith Formation Prayer Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Transitions

I have been an avid horseman* for as long as I can remember. After turning her back on me for a moment as a toddler, my mother found me surrounded by half a dozen large horses in the pasture. Later, I got my own pony and eventually  transitioned to full sized horses. If I wasn’t riding, I was just with my horse(s). In inclement weather, I read about horses. Even my punishments growing up were related to horses: grounding from riding my pony or from reading my horse-related books. Even today, as a horseless-horse-enthusiast, I constantly use equine terms and practices in my daily life. My philosophe is that life follows the same rules as horsemanship: transitions are key.

My first pony

Transitions, in horsemanship, are changes in speed. The best of transitions look effortless, elegant, and graceful; horse and rider move seamlessly. To achieve smooth transitions, there are several steps communicated to the horse at exactly the right time. Failing to properly prepare the horse results in choppy, ugly, and bumpy transitions. In life, transitions are the changes we go through as we age and mature. Each transition must occur in order to live, but there are small steps that can ease them and ensure chaos doesn’t reign. Skipping these small steps can lead to disastrous consequences.

What’s around me?

My 4-H show pony

One of the first requirements for smooth transitions is awareness. Horses are very reactionary as flight animals. Every change in the environment, vocalization, weight shift, and mood can induce the horse to react. As a rider, awareness is essential to communicate effectively with the horse. Quietness is a prized trait in a horseman because it allows the horseman to prevent negative reactions from the horse. Great horsemen are said to have quiet hands guiding the horse, quiet legs moving the horse, and quiet minds focusing on the horse and the goal. In life, awareness of God is essential. God is not only in control, but also present and more than willing to bestow blessings if asked. However, distractions are everywhere concealing God’s presence and blessings. That’s why it is essential to actively seek God in everything–even distractions. Sometimes God hides His blessings in sadness and disasters, but He’s always present and waiting for signs of awareness. In quiet contemplation, God reveals Himself to those who seek Him.

What am I doing?

My home-bred riding and driving horse

Another key requirement for smooth transitions is a goal. As sensitive animals, horses are capable of easily detecting or abusing the rider’s intentions or confusion. A clear goal, even a simple “go from point A to point B”, gives the horse confidence and almost instantly yields greater harmony between horse and rider. At times, the horse seems to read the rider’s mind simply because the rider is focused on the horse and their combined goal. One of the most used clichés is “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Often, this cliché seems true as the best-laid human plans result in chaos and confusion. However, the error isn’t the plans; it is the exclusion of God from those plans. God has plans for each and every one of His creations. These plans are written in our hearts and revealed through quiet time with God, prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Mass, and reading Scripture and Faith-filled writings.

Pause and think…

My pregnant with cancer driving horse

Smooth transitions are also preceded by a ‘half-halt’. Basically, a half-halt is a subtle cue from the rider for a minuscule pause from the horse. While it isn’t a specific cue for change, it distinctly alerts the horse to an upcoming change. Large transitions, like from a halt to a gallop or vice versa, may require several half-halts as preparation. They must be appropriately timed for the desired effect. Poor timing diminishes the effectiveness and the transition suffers. In life, the equivalent of half-halts are moments of prayer. Like a half-halt, prayer doesn’t have to be obvious or time consuming to be effective. Prayer prior to large changes in life, like marriage, buying a home, changing careers, etc, is infinitely more effective than prayerful supplication after these changes have taken place. A simple, “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” can suffice as long as there is an opening or slight pause to allow God to answer.

 

Let’s do this…

My borrowed driving horse and his friend

Following the half-halt is the actual cue for transition. Obviously, the cue is very important to the transition; without it, the transition wouldn’t exist. Since horseback riding is a dynamic relationship between horse and rider, change is constant and predictable. Like the half-halt, the cue must be timed very precisely, more precisely than the half-halt. In addition to precise timing, the cue must be proportionate to effectively communicate the command. A large transition or disobedience requires a strong cue; while a weak cue may not produce a transition at all. Similarly, life is a dynamic relationship with God, with God supplying the cues. Many times God’s cues are very subtle, while other times they’re like a 2-by-4. Subtle cues from God are best heard in the stillness after a half-halt of prayer. During trying times, God sometimes has to use a 2-by-4 to combat the inattention, disobedience, and lack of time given to Him. However, He always gives cues to those who ask Him for guidance.

Whew, that’s finished…

Sharing the love with my daughter

Once the transition occurs, the final step is praise. Depending on the rider’s effectiveness, praise can be subtle, almost undetectable to all but the horse or effusive. Since horseback riding is dynamic and training occurs every time the rider is with the horse, sometimes excellent preparation results in mediocre or even dismal transitions. An honest attempt, even without spectacular results should always be rewarded. God also deserves praise even through transitions that seem bad. After all, without God no transitions would even be possible. As the Author of our lives, God knows the plan, and provides ample guidance. For this, He deserves praise and gratitude. He will ultimately reward His Faithful with Heaven.

 

 

Life with horses has helped me live a better life with God. My transitions haven’t always been as smooth as I’d like, usually because what I want and what God wants differ. When I’ve followed the steps to graceful transitions, God has blessed me abundantly. I’ve given God free reign. You should too!
*I use the term horseman because I don’t need to feminize the term to preserve my femininity. I also use the term horseman synonymously with rider because that is the most common form of horsemanship. I based my description of transitions on the discipline of dressage (French for training) and is often the foundation of other disciplines.

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Easter Liturgical Year Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays – He Is Risen!

He is risen!

Alleluia Alleluia!!!

From all of the Catholic Sistas contributors, we hope you have a blessed Easter. 🙂

We’d like to leave you with an interesting story of a Eucharistic miracle witnessed by Pope Francis.

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Christmas Communion Feast Days Holy Days of Obligation Liturgical Year Sacraments

Merry Christmas!!

Today is the day our Lord is born – Alleluia!! Scripture for Christmas can be found at the USCCB’s website.

In the same spirit as Sundays, we are spending time with family and celebrating the day the Lord has made, and in particular, that He has sent us our Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ!

We want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and hope that you will continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue to pray for all of you and your intentions.