Monthly Archives: March 2017

Blind Faith…Lose the “but, what if’s”

Have you ever wished you were blind? Probably not. Sight is such an important sense to most of us. We look forward to seeing our kids and grand-kids grow up, the spring flowers bloom, the sunrise or sunset…but Jesus tells us (in yesterday’s Gospel) that it would be better for some of us if we did not see. In the reading he heals a young man born blind, and yet the Pharisees still deny that He is the Christ. Jesus said, ‘for judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’  (John 9:39-41) I think what Jesus is telling those of us today who can see is to have unconditional faith. You’ve heard of unconditional love…some of us even make an effort to practice it (not perfectly by any means) trying to love even those who hurt us. But unconditional faith…that’s another matter. Sure, we say we believe in a God we cannot see. But do we really believe He will work all things out for our good? Do we really have unwavering faith in His plan for our lives, especially when prayers go unanswered, our dreams aren’t fulfilled, things don’t go according to our plans? That’s the kind of faith we are supposed to have. And yet like the Pharisees or Jews following Moses in the desert, we refuse to believe or we complain and get frustrated.

I was reminded of this late this past Saturday night when my car got a flat tire as I came out from a long day at the Maryland Writers Association Conference in Annapolis. I was blessed to be invited to be a presenter and the day had gone well but had started at 6 am and it was after 7:30 pm and time to drive an hour and a half for home. I came out to find my right front tire completely flat. I was annoyed with my husband  because he hadn’t renewed our Triple A membership yet, and of course he wasn’t there to help me change the tire. (I know, not his fault, I should have renewed myself and should learn how to change a tire!) I ended up driving over a mile, at about 10 mph, to a gas station, other drivers angrily honking their horns at me as I prayed my car would make it without being completely damaged. I started thinking, ‘why God, would you allow my car to break down when I’m so very tired, in a place I’m not familiar with late at night, when I’m broke and don’t have money to shell out to get it fixed?’  I’m thankful I had driven to the conference along my friend, Faith. (ironic, huh?) She stayed with me during the hour-and-a-half it took to finally get a tow truck driver to take off the tire, patch it and put it back on again, and get on the road for home. As we sat on the rear bumper of the car waiting for what seemed to me like an eternity, she reminded me that God was probably just helping us avoid a far greater mishap down the road. That turned my attitude around from frustration to gratitude. And then on the long drive home I complained that my writing career isn’t taking off as fast as I’d like and I’m going broke. She reminded me of God’s timing. And I countered with “but what if it never does take off?” And she reminded me that He would have never put the dream to write Modern Day Bible Stories on my heart if he didn’t want me to be successful at it.

One of the most courageous people of all time is Helen Keller. At 19 months of age an illness rendered her deaf and blind. Helen’s parents hired 20-year-old Anne Sullivan to work with Helen, teaching her words and helping her to “see” and “hear” by spelling words into her hands. Helen in turn became an author and  motivational public speaker helping many, many others who were deaf and blind. I believe God sent Anne to Helen just as he encourages each of us by putting others in our paths to help and guide us, like he put Faith with me Saturday night.  My favorite quote of all time comes from Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” When things seem dark and dismal to us, we need to see through Faith’s eyes, Helen’s eyes, the eyes of our own faith.   Lord, help me to have blind faith and to see You and Your wonderful plan for my life by opening the eyes of my heart.

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Fake it ’til you make it!

Just do it! I heard the Nike slogan in my head this morning as I debated (for the umpteenth time on a Monday morning) whether I should get up at 6 a.m., brave the cold and venture to the local gym to work out and swim laps…or sleep a little longer. Luckily, my better self won and now I feel physically and emotionally better as I sit and type this afterward! I think we need to tell ourselves to “just do it” when it comes to spiritual growth as well. We need to schedule or make time for prayer and meditation. Five or ten minutes the first thing every morning spent praying and meditating usually makes for a better day, no matter what happens. Making a gratitude list even when times are rough often can lift us out of a downward spiral of depression and anxiety. And often, just being nice to people – even those who rub us the wrong way – takes daily practice, but makes us feel better about ourselves in the long run. That last one isn’t easy…praying for those who “persecute” us, smiling at the nasty person who cuts us off in line or in traffic, complimenting someone who never ever compliments us in return. But often, if we practice something long enough, it becomes a habit. Those in recovery have heard the saying, “fake it ’til you make it,” meaning just don’t drink one day at a time and eventually you will become not only a sober, but better person.

I’m not suggesting by all of this that you be fake as in phony to other people. But faking good behavior even when we’re not feeling it…thinking of others when we act, instead of acting out of how we think or feel, can be a good habit. It may start off with little things, like smiling and saying hello to a stranger on the street even though you just experienced something that made you sad, hurt or angry. Asking how someone else is doing even though you may not be doing so great. Praying for the happiness of another, even when that same person has caused you unhappiness. We sometimes can’t tell when others are feeling much worse than we can even imagine, and that kind word or gesture we show might just be what it takes to make their day better, and lift us out of our own funk as well.

St. Paul encourages us to do this very thing, and we will be rewarded as well as the one to whom we show mercy, kindness and charity: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV, Phil. 4:8) And of course, Jesus tells us the same: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” Sounds like a pretty good deal to me! I think I’ll start acting on it today.

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Forgiving and Freeing Yourself…

Have you ever felt so completely overwhelmed that you felt paralyzed? That feeling overtook me of late like a rock in my chest and I felt like it was hard to breathe. I berated myself not only for already messing up on giving up sweets for Lent and watching TV during lunch…but on everything…for being late today writing my “Monday morning” blog, for being so very far behind in writing my next novel, so far behind in achieving my goals for my books already written and published, and guilty that I am not a “better” author (as in not on the NY Times bestseller list yet!), wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, etc. etc. And then I was stopped in my track (on that negative self-pity path that leads no where and ends in frustration) when I viewed a video posted by Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic’s new Lenten series called “Best Lent Ever” http://dynamiccatholic.com/bestlentever/  and author of the book, Rediscover Jesus, which was distributed in our Diocese of Wilmington, DE on Ash Wednesday. He said (and I paraphrase) God wants us to be happy more than we want to be happy ourselves. I know I’ve been standing in my own way of happiness with these feelings of guilt…and I realize I have to “let go” of them. But how?

First talking it out always helps (and so my husband in turn helped by encouraging me to write my blog post on the subject – better late than never!) I think praying and meditating are good ways…the Serenity Prayer always helps me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to accept the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (just in typing it I feel better!) and of course turning to a Bible scripture always helps, especially Psalms. This one jumped out at me today:  He (God) does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” (Ps 103: 10-11) I realized that if God forgives me, I should forgive myself right here and now. That in not doing that, I am blocking myself from being useful (and kind and loving) to others by not letting go and moving on. And in not doing that, I am not being obedient to God, but actually egotistical (who am I to think I am better than God?) I think He really wants us to not only forgive others, but to forgive ourselves. If we can’t forgive ourselves, how can we forgive others? (Just like if we can’t love ourselves, how can we love others?) And if we can’t love and forgive ourselves, we can’t truly open ourselves to the love and forgiveness of God…and that’s what we need to do to truly be happy, which is what He wants for us! 

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