Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Prayer

Complete Surrender

Complete Surrender

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46

The last seven words of Christ.  Here, upon the Cross, is the Word made Flesh.  The second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Redeemer, the Savior, Love and Mercy Itself.  And from His Sacred lips come words of complete surrender, body and soul, to the Father.

I’ve heard these words of Christ every year as I’ve moved through Lent, Passion Sunday, and into the Triduum, but I hadn’t ever truly considered the full implication of them until recently.  “Jesus, I trust in You!” has been a mantra of mine for several years and while those words have helped me turn to God in trust, I noticed an increasing void. A call to go deeper, to surrender, complete surrender.  It is one thing to trust, another thing to let go. Not just a little, but as completely as Christ did on the Cross. I can profess that I trust Jesus, but then still act as if I have to orchestrate a solution to the problem or influence someone to change their behavior.  Trusting doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve stopped playing God.

In searching for a prayer to help me with letting go, I came across the story of the Servant of God, Father Dolindo Ruotolo, a Franciscan priest from Naples.  An unassuming man, he referred to himself as “the little old man of Mary, Most Holy.” Contrary to his own self-perception, however, he was hailed as a saint by Padre Pio and revered among many as a prophet, predicting “a new John will rise out of Poland.”  There are thousands of accounts of miracles attributed to his intercession as he sought to bring compassion, healing, and mercy to the poor and the sick (and he had no fear of being near those who were contagious!) He must have had quite a way about him, writing prescriptions for those in dire need with the signature: “Doctor Cretinico Sciosciammocca” (Doctor Stupid Fly-swatter)” – not so stupid considering the treatments he prescribed brought about miracles! Captivated by this “little old man”, I was drawn to his ardent love of the Church, his unwavering devotion to our Blessed Mother, and his ability to give time to countless charitable works while yet penning 33 volumes (10,000 pages) of in-depth commentaries on the Old Testament.

Yes, this “little man” had struck a chord within my soul just as I imagine his presence would have done to so many others during his life.  Perhaps the secret to his tireless work amid his own personal sicknesses and sufferings (even his name, Dolindo, means pain) was his ability to give it all to Jesus in complete surrender, in loving imitation of our Lord on the Cross.  His “spirituality of surrender” is powerful, as I can attest to after having begun my apprenticeship in the process of “surrendering”. Why an apprenticeship? Because I quickly discovered by Day 3 of the Novena that this wasn’t a Novena I would pray once or twice and then move on along my spiritual journey.  This was more like the Via Dolorosa of Surrender that I needed to walk every day of my life until the end, just as Christ embraced His Cross and carried it to His final end, an act of complete surrender to the Father. 

I discovered Fr. Dolindo’s Novena of Surrender a few months before Lent began and the timing could not have been more apropos.  When it comes right down to it, there is so very little on the grand scheme of things that I can control in my life. My human nature and my tendencies to anxious thinking rebel at the idea of letting go and giving up my imagined sense of control.  I consider it somewhat of my own personal little miracle, procured I am sure through the intercession of the Servant of God, Father Dolindo, that there have been moments during these ever-changing days where I have felt a peace I have never felt before.  Whatever may come in these days, weeks, and months ahead, I will continue to walk bravely on down the Via Dolorosa of Surrender, with these words on my lips ~

O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”

Do you struggle with surrendering certain aspects of your life to God? 

Which ones?

How can you incorporate a “spirituality of surrender” into your life?

*Click for a pdf containing a brief biography of Father Dolindo and the text of The Surrender Novena

*Click for a beautiful tri-fold Novena card (available in two sizes)

Bible Faith Formation Food For The Soul Ink Slingers Linda Series

FOOD FOR THE SOUL: Cultivating a Healthy Dependence on Food and God

Food for the Soul

God is great; God is good

Let us thank Him for our food. Yay God!

Yep, this was one of the first forms of prayer my husband taught our kids when they were young.  I was just grateful to have everyone seated around the table and a husband who was attempting to teach them to be thankful for the food before them.  These moments were food for my soul.

Food for the soul is a journey that begins from the inside out. A journey where God speaks the language of our heart.  The place where our spirit, will, emotions and self-understanding converge; the very places that may be starving to be fed.  This is where transformation begins.  Every individual has a unique journey – some may involve eating disorders, auto-immune diseases, food sensitivities or allergies – so just as each of us is a unique individual created by God, our journey towards health has its own unique path.

After years of struggling with this love-hate relationship with food and the life changes happening in my body, I did as millions of others do – I entered the diet craze.  Go ahead, quiz me on any diet program out there – I’m sure I’ve tried them all.  Despite all the changes I tried to make, I just couldn’t seem to find a healthy relationship with food.  That is, until one day I fell to my knees and realized it was one area of my life that I was trying to control on my own.  It was that day that I packed up all the hurt and frustration and surrendered it to God.  Each step, each failed attempt was a learning experience of who I was and who I wanted to become. I needed to apply the same spiritual tools to my eating and health issues that I used for other areas of my life.

What this series isn’t

This series isn’t about vanity and how we look on the outside.  It is about making better choices for our health as keepers of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us; it is about practicing daily how to cultivate a healthy relationship with food while we discover a deeper dependency on God. As with all things transformational, God teaches us that we need to start where we are and let that move us towards a behavioral and mindful shift and that begins deep within.

“The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–

trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. …

The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

~Genesis 2:9

Food isn’t bad for us, how could it be, God created it.  Food is a reminder that God is the source of that food; His grace and provision for His children.  He is also our creator and he created us with hunger, cravings, and temptations. So, this very creative God of ours not only gave us food to nurture our bodies, but He also wants to use it to teach us something about Him. 

When we encounter unmet needs and emotions and self-medicate with what is readily available to meet or desensitize that need, we often reach for things to fill that empty space inside.  For some that may be drugs or alcohol, for many, it’s food or other unhealthy behaviors. We are starving to satisfy that hunger.

Throughout Scripture, there are thousands of references to food as a source of sustenance but also as sacred symbolism and spiritual events.  Approaching Scripture from this perspective opens up a dialog for prayer and an ear for God’s guidance. Together, we will break the bread, so to speak, and unpack the process of moving from an unhealthy mindset towards food and a greater dependency on God by listening to His truth, making wise, healthy choices and better self-care.

As a health coach, I guide clients towards becoming the best they can be, equipping them with resources to empower them to envision their dreams and skills that move them into action.  The power of God is ignited within us when He is our source of strength, His Word affirms our worth, and His love and acceptance draw us closer to His heart each and every day. 

Alyssa Azul Domestic Church Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Don’t Come In Yet, It’s A Mess!

Photo by Gades Photography on Unsplash

Have you ever had that moment of panic when someone shows up at your door unexpectedly? You invite the guest in- while your eyes and hands move quickly to remove any personal or slightly embarrassing items that may be commented on. You catch the dirty laundry basket in the corner, waiting for the perfect moment to slide it away secretly. You remember the dishes you were meant to clean…two hours ago. What if your guest is someone you you’re rather close to? You can be sure that a parent will always have something to say inside your unfiltered home.

As a young adult who still lives at home, I admit I recoil at the thought of my mom going through my personal stuff. My mother is not afraid to waltz into my room and start picking things up and digging through my closet. You want to put on the appearance that you’ve got everything handled, when in reality you’ve fallen, and are struggling to stay on top of responsibilities.

I’m willing to bet that this is how it feels when God rushes into our messy lives. We’re so used to maintaining our version of an “organized chaos” that we are on guard when someone tries to dip their hands into our business. We hold on tightly to our personal belongings (materials, comforts, sins), negotiating with God to keep some things, and nudging him away from touching others. But like a parent, God rushes in with great love, on His timing, and with the intention to rid the space of things that we don’t need. Things that will cause bigger problems if left untouched. Times passes and that “spring cleaning” reminder has crawled into the winter season, still unchecked. We tell God to help us with our messes, but we still want it cleaned our way. “Lord, throw these things out for me, but let me keep this.” Or “Lord, I’m not ready to give this away yet.” The Lord wants more than our full attention–He wants our surrender and our willingness to give up the mess so that he can do the rest.

I’ll admit, it doesn’t feel all that great when you have someone rummaging through your things without warning. Especially if they are things that you avoided. Sometimes God brings things from the past that you buried long ago. And sisters, it hurts to see those things, it really does. But these things are a part of His process. So your life will feel disturbed, shaken and complicated. But you can trust that it’s a sign God is rummaging through your room. He’s finding the hurts and the joys that you hoarded for years, and he’s taking you back through those journeys.  He’s throwing out the things you thought you couldn’t live without, and dusting off the things you took for granted. He’s looking under your bed for your biggest fears and He’s shining a light on them so that you can finally sleep at night. He’s polishing your windows so that you can see the world clearly again.

I realized how humiliating and purifying it is at the same time. A verse from Corinthians comes to mind:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Sanctification takes a bit of shaking and shattering. We can’t expect the Lord to come into our lives and rebuild a home if we’re still holding on to the broken parts. To our comforts and our worldly desires. True sacrifice is when we surrender the things we value the most.

So next time you hear a knock on your door, perhaps it’s not house, but Heaven-keeping.

Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer

Prayer Spotlight: Litany of Patience

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The Litany of Patience has been one of my  favourite and most frequented prayers. It was written by a fellow Catholic blogger Christina Dehan Jaloway (check out The Evangelista).  I used to pray this litany daily during a time of waiting. I find myself visiting it again now, in an effort to let go of my comfort zone. I am currently studying and travelling in South Korea this summer, which is keeping me on my toes for what the Lord has planned for me next. As exciting as it is to immerse myself in a new environment, I find myself overwhelmed in many ways. The noise of this new place has challenged me to find God in spaces I am unfamiliar with, but even more importantly, in stillness.

To recite the entire Litany is in itself a challenge of patience, not because it’s too long, but because each line begs for a pause of reflection or intention. Breath and conviction. I’ll share a few of my favorite lines:

Response: …Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire to control my life.

This desire emcompasses my “default mode”. I am always thinking about how the next month and year is going to pan out, to the extent that my grip on the “Ideal Vision Board for a 20-something year-old” tightens. What am I going to do with my life? Immediately I am zeroing in on opportunities and doors that are within my reach. Overcome with so much worry, my mind is closed to anything that God may have in store for me.

It helps to look into the heart of Mary when God gave her the news that would forever change her life and the lives of everyone forever. She embodies the phrase, Thy will be done. No ifs, ands or buts. A true act of humility to say, “although my will is desirable, I choose Yours”.

From the desire to speak when I need to stay silent…

I enjoy speaking and using words to connect with people and show them who God is. Admittedly, using my mouth improperly is a giant I have yet to conquer. I often speak without thinking first. There are times when it’s too early to speak, but I choose to open my mouth anyways. Gossip is a sin that I have been struggling with. I think it’s a wound that many women carry. Sometimes it’s hard to identify when saying nothing at all is better than saying something. It is very easy to use our voice for selfish reasons. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but realize that our mouths are powerful tools in letting the Word come to life. Let nothing but love come from your lips.

This desire to speak may even apply to our prayer habits. How many of us fill our prayer times with only voice? How often do we sit in silence and listen to what He has to say? Going to adoration regularly has been powerful in many ways. It trains me to sit still for an extended period of time, open to the Spirit and to His word, not mine. I bring in my troubles and intentions for the day, but like an effective relationship, you have to listen and wait for what the other person has to say. How can we ask God for so much and be unable to wait for His next move?

From impatience with my own sins and slow growth in virtue…

Have you ever thought that maybe you exercise impatience the most consistently with yourself? We are not always going to be the best examples of perfect daughters, sisters, mothers, or women of God. Think of how many times you’ve sinned and punished yourself for being too weak or stupid.

Our Father wants us to be patient and more loving to ourselves. How can we give the people around us patience if we are so unforgiving to ourselves when we fail? As much as you may lose patience with your husband, kids, or parents, remember that you are also imperfect and still worthy of their love. He calls us to love who He loves, and we forget that that includes us.

From the temptation to act out of sorrow, discouragement, anxiety, or fear…

This line so beautifully (and painfully) explains where many of our rash reactions to situations are sourced. Who knew that it was a show of impatience to act out of emotions such as these? Acting out of discouragement and fear is a sign that God’s promise has slipped away from our minds and hearts. It’s a sign that we decided to allow other things to replace that promise. Things that are not of Him. As a result, we react in hopes that we can reduce the feelings of uncertainty or minimize the pain we may feel. Without the patience or grace to endure, we end up more disappointed and discouraged.

That I may maintain an eternal perspective in all that I do.

This line echoes a podcast I heard by Matt Smith. From what I remember, he said to act not so much with the end in mind, but with eternity in mind. Having an “eternal perspective” seems so daunting and quite honestly, hard to keep up. When I read these words, I am at the same time asking for maturity in my faith. Like with many things, only through practice and experience can one learn. I feel that my challenge is to really exercise this eternal perspective. To always be reminded that when we seek Him, even if we can’t see clearly through our tears and frustrations, we will ultimately see a greater glory–beyond the troubles of this world. He will open our eyes.

I hope that this powerful prayer is one that can inspire all of you, dear sisters, to exercise enduring patience, move with the Spirit, and surrender your plans to the greatest of them all.

Ink Slingers Lynette

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's ResolutionsThe days of December marched on, steadfastly moving forward, boldly proclaiming the finality of another year. Even before the day after Christmas had completely dawned, I could feel the annual ritual beginning to stir. I secretly braced myself for the onslaught of questioning that would soon be the unavoidable focus of conversation for several weeks to come. Only hours into my day, my unsuspecting friend with great enthusiasm quipped, “So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I smiled and politely responded, “I’m not sure yet,” all the while fighting the urge to launch into a long verbal dissertation on my utter disdain for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I chose to excuse her well-intentioned question and listened with sincere interest as she eagerly told me of her plans for the coming year.

The Rub with New Year’s Resolutions

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t make resolutions. I think resolutions to act or not act in a certain way are essential to our growth as individuals. But I also believe our approach is grossly misguided when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. I can’t provide any empirical evidence to confirm that belief, but my own experience and observations have led me to question our obsessiveness with this somewhat futile endeavor. For many years, I blindly followed society’s New Year’s insanity without a thought to what I was really doing. I’d conjure up the perfect resolutions and start out on January 1st with vim and vigor, only to fizzle out within weeks. Observations of those around me confirmed the same behavior. And it wasn’t just a behavior change; a significant amount of money was being spent by myself and other individuals trying to achieve these self-imposed feats of willpower and endurance. The question that began to weigh on my mind was twofold: why do we subject ourselves to such torture every year and why do we fail so miserably at staying the course?  

The answers, I feel, are not as complicated as one might assume. Human behavior can be quite complex, but when we view our behavior in light of how and why we were created, the reasoning behind our actions becomes much more clear. I don’t think anyone will argue the fact that it is built into our human nature to strive to improve who we are as individuals. Just look around and the evidence is clear; self-help books and motivational talks, exercise programs and equipment, classes on virtually any topic you want to become more proficient at, etc. At the core of that desire to improve is our God-given call to holiness. Scripture is replete with verses confirming we are to seek holiness above all things: “Be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16); “For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7); “…offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,..” (Romans 12:1), to name a few. Denying this innate call only serves to undermine our ability to grow to our fullest potential as individuals, for we were created to be images of our Creator Himself.

Our failures to achieve that which we set out to do with such resolve at the onset of a New Year are found, I believe, within that very same calling. Perfection is found only in God, and therefore only God is capable of bringing anything to perfection. As New Year’s Day crept closer and closer, I found myself resisting, even more, the nagging insistence to jump on that bandwagon of resolutions. The stark reality was that change was needed, and not just small, insignificant change. For months, I had known what those changes were, but I also knew, from previous attempts, that those changes were next to impossible for me to implement. It was exactly that mindset, however, that these were changes “I” needed to bring about, that had driven me to failure every time.

New Year's Resolutions“Take Over, Lover of my Soul
Take Control
I surrender, There’s nothing I want more
Than to know you, LordWhat am I supposed to do with all my kingdoms next to you
You’re the Lord, You’re the Lord
I could gain the world and more
It’s all nothing next to you
My reward..”
(Take Over, Shane & Shane)

I was scrambling to get ready to leave for an appointment, but as the music and the words of this unfamiliar song filled my room, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed, stunned. Those things I needed to change – those “kingdoms” I had so carefully built with stones of selfishness, pride, and vanity, were nothing. Like a queen desperately trying to defend her king in a losing game of chess, there comes a time when she realizes she is left powerless to protect him. She surrenders, and a new king reigns victorious. At that moment, who did I desire as my king? How many more battles I willing to engage in to try to protect those kingdoms? I let my heart answer; there was only one King I truly desired, the one whose kingdom I knew was everything, and I was done fighting.

Inevitable Surrender

I surrendered that morning. I laid down my weapons and simply asked Him to take over. New Year’s Day came and went and I didn’t make a single resolution. God was already quietly working on my heart in the shadows, stripping me of my kingdoms, one by one. Some I freely let go of, others were taken from me. But through it all, I would play that song and let the words become my prayer. And then, I would surrender again, and again, and again.

The process has not been easy, nor has it been painless. What worthwhile change ever is? I am still a work in progress, but He has accomplished more in me in the last month than I could ever have hoped to achieve on my own. As long as I “show up” everyday willing to answer the call to pursue holiness, He will continue to bring about that perfection in me with His grace and mercy. “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.” (Phil 4:13)

The world doesn’t need our New Year’s resolutions, it needs our surrender. A surrender to all those kingdoms that make us less than who we are called to be; beloved kings and queens in the eternal kingdom of our Lord.

How are you surrendering to our Lord this year?