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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Michelle Spiritual Growth

The Potter’s Hands

potteryIf you have ever tried to make a clay vessel of any sort you know that it can be tedious work. The clay must be the right consistency; it needs to be kneaded just the right amount before you are able to work with it; it should be centered on a spinning wheel correctly; your hands can’t be too wet nor too dry; you must apply just the right amount of pressure while forming your vessel or it won’t turn out right; and finally, a clay vessel needs to be made strong, and permanently changed, through exposure to the high heat.  Creating a clay vessel takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication. In skilled hands a shapeless lump of clay can become a beautiful work of art.

Our lives are similar to a lump of clay. We are shaped by many things… the environment, our parents, our friends, our jobs, our everyday experiences, and of course our faith. Like the lump of clay these things mold us, unfortunately not everything that molds us will do so with the hope that one day we will become a work of art. Some aspects of our lives that mold us wish to shape us into something that perhaps we should not be. Often we look at what we’ve become and can’t even identify or recognize ourselves anymore. We wonder what has happened to us. We have let the wrong people or things have a greater influence in our lives than what they should. They have helped mold us into something we are not called to be.

When we allow our Father to be the potter who molds us we become truly amazing works of art. We may not understand all that He is doing with us, why He is sculpting us in a certain way, or why we must endure all that we do but He has a vision for what we will become. He is greater than any artist that has ever lived (or will ever live!).What He sees that we cannot is so beautiful and magnificent. His vision for us far exceeds any hope or dream we could ever have ourselves. He wants so much for us! When we trust in Him to lead us we know He will change us into something greater than ourselves.

pottery in fireIf we know that God wants so much for us and is willing to shape us into such masterpieces why do we fight Him and allow so many other influences in our lives to take over? Is it because it is easy to trust what we can see instead of what we cannot?  Is it because it is easy to grab tightly to things we can actually hold in our hands? Or perhaps it is because we know with the Father as our potter we may have to face the fire which will strengthen us and permanently change us? That is a scary thought sometimes. Knowing that when we choose to follow Christ, when we choose to love God above all, when we choose to allow Him to guide our lives in everything we do we are also choosing to walk through fire, many will choose let others mold and shape them instead of the Father. They choose to settle for less.  They choose to not see their full potential. They may be beautiful but they will never become the masterpiece they could be at the hands of the perfect potter.

We have a choice to make. We have to choose who we will allow to mold us, to sculpt us, and perfect us. Will we allow the outside world, whose view of beauty pales in comparison to the Father’s and who doesn’t take the time to gently and carefully shape us, transform us into something other than what is ultimately planned for us? Or will we allow God to skillfully and delicately hold us in His hands while He works to smooth and shape us into the most beautiful vessel we can imagine?

During the upcoming Lenten season I urge you to give yourself to God. Allow Him to use this special time to show you how beautiful you can become. We know that during Lent we hope to be transformed. We use this time to see where we can make changes in our lives to move into a closer and deeper relationship with God. Become a piece of clay in the Potter’s Hands. Let God mold you and shape you into a beautiful vessel. Don’t be afraid of the fire that you may endure to strengthen and perfect you. That fire is important! Without it you cannot be permanently changed. We want to be permanently changed so that we become the masterpiece God has envisioned for us. We will be changed from a formless lump of clay into a beautiful vessel in which the Lord will dwell.

masterpiece 1

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

 

lenten photo journey

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Prayer Spiritual Growth

Do You Hear What I Hear?

quiet lake

A few years ago I went on my oldest son’s Confirmation retreat with him.  At the beginning of the retreat the leader asked the kids to write on a rock something that was holding them back in their relationship with God.  They were asked to carry around that rock throughout the retreat.  At the end of the weekend they threw their rocks into a lake as a symbol that they were ridding themselves of the stumbling block that kept them from connecting with God.  In its place they received a new rock.  This one had a different word etched into it.  Some of the rocks said family; some said love; some faith; some trust.  There were many different words.  As I threw my rock into the lake (yes, I wanted to participate too!) and reached into the bag for my word I secretly wished for family or love.  Those were the two most important things in my life and I wanted that to be reflected in the word etched into my rock.  Instead I drew a rock inscribed with the word “HARMONY”.   To be honest, not only was I confused, but I was disappointed too.  I had no idea why God felt I would need to focus on “harmony”.

HarmonyFast forward three years and I am in almost the exact same situation… I am at my daughter’s Confirmation retreat and we are getting ready to throw away that rock which holds a word signifying the obstacles we are encountering in our relationship with God.  However, this time I asked if I could talk to the kids before they chose a new rock.  I told them of my confusion the first time I was on this retreat and reached in for my rock; how I had no idea why I would need to focus on harmony in my life.  I told them that it would become clear though later as turmoil reared its ugly head within a few of my relationships.  God knew I was going to be facing a battle and that by focusing on harmony I would be able to make it through to the other side.  There were times I swallowed my words in favor of keeping the peace and times that I smiled when I wanted to cry. I tried to be friends with those who had hurt me when really I just wanted to scream and point out all of their flaws.  But through it all I prayed and focused on that one word- harmony.  I would hold that rock in my hand many times, turning it over and over again, running my fingers along the letters of the word etched into its hard surface.  I would pray while I held it and ask God to help me achieve harmony.  He did.  While I didn’t tell the kids the whole story I did tell them that the word “harmony” was exactly what I needed and that the word they were going to soon hold in their hands would be what God needed them to hear as well.

All too often we talk without listening. We reach into that bag of rocks, hoping to pull out one with a word etched into it especially for us, and then we fail to read it! We pray and tell God our needs and yet we never allow Him time to answer us. But God speaks to us all the time.  Why don’t we quiet our hearts and listen?  Are we just too hurried and so much of a “me” society that we feel the answers need to come within our specified time frame?  Do we hear the answer but don’t like what He has said so we ignore Him and demand a different response?  Do we think that God needs to answer us the way He answered our friends’ requests and prayers?  We need to figure out what God is telling us.  What I may hear is not necessarily what He needs to say to you.

There can also be times that we desire a particular answer so badly we will look for signs that what we want is what God is going to give us. We say we want to hear God but we hear what we want to hear.  We see what we want to see.  Unfortunately, hearing what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear is not going to do us any good.  God’s plans are infinitely better than anything we can imagine.  He knows what we need before we do.  He provides for those needs and gives us answers to help us through but we have to be willing to accept what He presents to us.  We have to hold that rock in our hand and read the word inscribed on it.  We have to run our fingers over those letters and get to know everything about our rock and the word it holds. We have to understand that this rock, this word, is meant for us and us alone.

FriendsThis year as I withdrew my stone I was anxious to read what it said.  I flipped it over and smiled, “FRIENDS”.  There are several ways I think God is calling me to a closer relationship with Him through my friends… by forgiving past hurts; by being a better friend to those I love; by being there for those who need a friend but perhaps don’t have any.  I’m not sure exactly what God is asking of me in my friendships but I do know that through prayer and active listening He will make sure I know exactly why I drew this stone and where I need to focus my love and energy.

Do you hear what I hear?  Probably not.  God’s message for you is more than likely much different than what He needs me to hear right now.  He knows exactly what we need to work on and what is hindering our relationship with Him.  Ask Him where you need to focus your love and energy.  He will show you.  Just be ready to sit quietly to hear Him in case He decides to whisper it in your ear instead of etching it on a stone.

Categories
Catechism Doctrine Domestic Church Faith Formation Marie Respect Life

Ruffling Some Feathers

If you know me in real life, you know that there are many things that I’m passionate about. There are also many things that I take a “you’re entitled to your own opinion, and we’ll have to agree to disagree” stance about. Then there are other things that I just get flat out fired up and “preachy” about. I guess in that regard I’m not that different from anyone else.

I felt called to write this post because lately I’ve been having one conversation with people more & more, and I finally decided that the Holy Spirit was calling me to write about this very topic. Before I begin, let me set the stage. I’ve shared with you my Infertility history, and the fact that my husband and I are currently living childless. We’ve been in the starting gate for adoption several times over the past year and something always seems to happen to derail our efforts and we’re currently discerning whether or not we’ll adopt at all, but that’s not what this post is about.

Lately I find myself engaged in the conversation about Assistive Reproductive Technology more & more. I wrote about In-Vitro Fertilization during Respect Life month last October, so I won’t recreate that post. I have several friends who have used IVF and have beautiful miracles as a result. Some of them I have encouraged them to think the process through a little more, but often I have taken the stance that they are allowed to make their own determinations about whether their decision is moral and just. I don’t like to interfere in my friends’ lives. I just don’t. If they come to me and ask for advice I will give it to them, but I don’t give it in an unsolicited manner.

But I digress….

What people will often say to me (or other people who say that they don’t agree with the morality behind IVF) is “but what about ____” and then they proceed to tell a story designed to tug at the heart strings and to try to get me to tell them “well, in that case, IVF is perfectly reasonable.”

But the thing is that the Catholic Church teaches us that it’s not.

There is no situation where IVF is considered to be a moral treatment for infertility.

Period.

“But what about someone who’s born with a condition in which she has ovaries and no uterus? Isn’t it moral for she & her husband to do IVF and use a gestational surrogate so that they can have their own child?”

Nope.

Let me tell you that this next part was exceptionally hard for me to wrap my head around, and this is the part that’s going to ruffle some feathers. I first read this part of the Catechism four years ago and I was angry when I read it. Ironically I was sitting at church, waiting for a meeting to start, and I was so angered by the “arrogant, pompous and condemning words” behind the statement (my opinion at the time) that I almost got up and walked out using an excuse that I was about to be sick. (Hey, if I can’t be honest here about my faith journey where can I be honest?)

Every child is a gift, not a piece of property. He/she is not owed to anyone. No one has “a right to a child.” Only the child has genuine rights. The child must be “the fruit of a specific act of the conjugal love of his parents” and to “be respected as a person from the first moment of conception” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2378)

The last four years I’ve reflected on the statement many times, and last year I finally came to understand what it meant. (What can I say? I’m a slow learner.)

Children are not a right. Children are a gift from God above, entrusted to families to raise and help grow in faith until He calls them home.

People will tell you “but it’s not fair that a couple can’t have biological children.”

You’re right. It’s not fair. It’s painful, and it hurts worse than just about any pain I would ever wish on anyone. But (as I said a year ago) God never promised us that our life would be easy. God never promised that life would be fair. He never promised that our road wouldn’t be filled with rocks and detours when other people seemingly get a smooth highway where they can coast and not worry.

My mom said it back when I was four, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”

The fact of the matter is that some couples cannot have biological children, and that’s an awful realization to wrap your head around, but there are two moral choices for those couples: adoption or to live life as a childless couple and assist the children who are around them (nieces, nephews, god children, neighbors, friends) at growing in faith.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the decision to live childless (for now) has been an easy one for my husband and me. I cry at every baptism at church, and I still endure the sideways glances from people who wonder why we don’t have children. I pray every day for God to reveal our path to us. I’ll be turning 40 this fall, and if God is going to give us biological children I’d like it to be soon. If He’s calling us to adoption I’d like it to be soon. If he’s calling us to live the rest of our lives childless I’d like Him to remove the ache from my heart.

But you see? That’s just it. It’s not about my wants and likes and needs. It’s about God’s plan for my life. God is bigger than infertility. He is bigger than any problem, any challenge placed before Him. God has worked miracles and there’s nothing that says that He can’t again. If God is calling me to motherhood He will guide me towards that opportunity (biological or adoption).

A friend at my former parish once told me “God never tells us no. He tells us yes, not right now, or I’ve got a better idea.”

There have been days that I’ve clung to that notion with everything that I’ve had.

For you see, accepting the path that God has chosen for me has not been easy. I don’t know why God has chosen me to have seven angels in heaven and none on earth. But I do know that my life has taken twists & turns that I never could have imagined it would when we started this journey. My life is not lacking in gifts because I don’t have children. I have a very rich and fulfilling life. I just happen to have an empty bedroom in my house.

But through the Divine Mercy of Christ I have learned to say “Jesus, I trust in you.”