Growing in My Faith

Tilling the Garden of My Soul

 

There is just something about gardening that refreshes my spirit. I love digging and playing in the soil. The patch of ground that I have designated as “my little garden ” is full of weeds and hardened soil. As I begin to pull the weeds, it always reminds me how God the Father roots out the weeds in my life, one by one. He just keeps digging at the root of the weed until it is pulled up and tossed out.

As I pull each weed in my little garden, I realize that the weeds will probably come back again because I failed to dig up the roots because the roots run deep. Allowing God to pull up the weeds in my own heart helps me to get rid of the clutter in my life in order to make more room for God's grace to be poured into my soul.

At times it seems God's grace is trickling in like a slow dripping faucet because the weeds in my heart are clogging the flow of grace. The weeds are stubborn things in my life such as persistent unfounded fear and discouragement that keeps me in a state of anxiety and worry. Fear is not of God nor is a lack of trusting in Jesus to take care for my family. It is easy to trust in Jesus when things in my life are going good. Thank goodness for those times of refreshment in the Holy Spirit. But life is not like that all the time and its not suppose to be. Jesus said, if they persecute me they will persecute you. When things are falling apart in my family that is when it can be difficult to trust. When the garden of my soul, is being overtaken with noxious weeds of all kinds of troubles, I cry out 'My God, why have you abandoned me?' I hear a still small voice deep within, whisper, “Come bring your certificate of fear and doubt and nail it to my cross. My child, I have suffered it all for what you are going through at this moment of time.”

As I allow Jesus to come into the garden of my heart and root out the weeds of fear and doubt, he plants His beautiful seeds of His Truth, His Mercy, and His Love in my heart. In order for the garden of my heart to produce good fruit, I need to go to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

It is before my Eucharistic Lord that I am able to let go of my hold on those stubborn weeds. Jesus' love casts out all fear. As I sit in silence adoring my Jesus, I begin to open my heart to receive His living water which replenishes my thirsty soul and warms my spirit with his sweet sunshine of His amazing grace. As I spend time in His Word, in prayer, and in the quiet, I begin to see the new seedlings emerge in my life. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection stated:“We must keep our eyes fixed on God in everything we say, do or undertake. Our goal is to be the most perfect adorers of God in this life as we hope to be throughout all eternity. We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God's grace, all the difficulties inherent in the spiritual life.” 1691.

My participation at daily Mass continues to nourish the garden of my soul with the Living Bread and quenches my thirst with his Previous Blood. I am aware that I am living in His peace.

Yet, the world, the flesh and the devil wages war against me wanting to rob me of His peace, but I cling to the Rock of my salvation. Venerable Louis of Granada said: “Let the Christian realize, therefore, that in this world he should be like a rock that is constantly buffeted by the waves, but remains constant and unmoved.” I can only do this if I cling to Jesus Christ. Each day at the Altar, I abandoned myself to his care. I place myself in the garden of the Immaculate Heart of Mary where Jesus' love grows and then she places me in the Sacred Heart of Jesus where I am divinely protected from the evil one.
Like any garden, if left unattended the weeds will eventually trample the seedlings. When the garden of my heart needs some extra care I go the Sacrament of Reconciliation where my soul is washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb.

As I continue to care for my 'little garden' and watch with delight the vegetables maturing, I quietly surrender the garden of my soul to the gentle care of My Gardener, Jesus Christ. The garden of my soul is in very good hands because Jesus gives me all the tools needed to grow closer and closer to Him. (Reprint February/March 2015 issue of Shalom Tidings)

 

 

 

God's Wisdom Is What I Seek

 

He, who gets wisdom, loves his soul...Prov 19:8

   Is wisdom something you receive when you get a certain age? Does wisdom gradually begin to appear like gray hair or yet another wrinkle?

   It seems that human wisdom comes with age but God's wisdom seems to be given to those who are submissive and obedient to God's law of living. Children seem to be gifted with a wisdom and insight far beyond their years. Perhaps for these little ones they can sense God's wisdom easily because their hearts are open to His presence with childlike wonder and awe.

   Life experiences both good and bad are good teachers for acquiring wisdom. I chose to go down paths that led me away from God and His Church. God watched and did not intervene as I journeyed on this path filled with self-seeking and self-reliance. God did not abandoned me, but it was I who moved away from Him. I know now that God never stopped loving me even while I was in the depths of my sin.

   At the end of my journey, I surrendered my life over to Him. It was through my painful experience of living without God, that I have come to know deeply God's mercy and God's forgiveness. I know what it is like to live without God in my life. Through this experience, I know now that I never want to be apart from God and His love. Experiencing the anguish of this personal hell has taught me that it is essential to learn God's wise ways of loving myself and others.

   How do I incorporate God's wisdom into my life? I seek to know God more intimately through the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I seek to know God in celebrating and participating in the highest form of pray which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Mass, I enter into eternity and I am in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit surrounded by all the angels and saints. I can open my heart and mind to embrace the Word of God proclaimed.

   I seek to know God in prayer and meditating on His Holy Word. I seek to know God in spending time with my brothers and sisters through sharing our faith journey together.

   I pray that I may remain faithful to Jesus Christ my Lord and my Savior no matter how my faith is tested. He alone is my salvation. He alone is my stronghold. I shall not be moved when the storms of doubt and fear flood my soul. I will stand on the Rock of My salvation and be at peace.

   My pray is that I choose each day to seek God's wisdom in living my life. I've tried my way and it led to a dead-end street called despair. I am now attempting with all my heart, to choose God's wisdom.

   Sometimes I fail and fall short of living my life according to God's way. But Jesus picks me up, cleans me up and encourages me to continue on the path of wisdom and righteousness.

   I am experiencing more and more joy and peace even in the midst of storms but always arrayed with a beautiful rainbow to give me that childlike hope as I journey onward to my Heavenly home.

 

Everything Within Me Cries Holy

  Everything within me cries Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lamb that was slain.” These words are from an inspiring worship song that I have song occasionally at Mass and at pray group.

   However, after watching Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion Of The Christ, the words of this song have taken on a deeper meaning for me. I have always understood and believed intellectually that Jesus had to suffer and die for my sins. But watching this movie has made me intensely aware of the extent of his inconceivable suffering.

   In Isaiah 52:14, it says, “Many were amazed when they saw him, beaten and bloodied, so disfigured that one could scarcely know he was a person.”

   By time the Roman soldiers had mercilessly beaten Jesus over and over again, his bloodied, bruised, wounded body was very difficult for me to look at. I found myself wanting to cover my eyes, as I didn’t want to look upon Jesus in this way and to realize he willingly suffered all of this for me. I wanted rather to see Jesus in his glorified body, sitting at the right hand of the Father.

   But indeed Scripture tells us it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by his stripes we were healed.

   I can only imagine the kind of love Jesus has for you and me that he willingly took on this indescribable physical and emotional agony. I can only imagine what it was like for Jesus knowing that his Father had to turn his back completely on his son during his terrible suffering.

   God the Father’s tears fell from Heaven as He heard his precious son cry out in a painful voice, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me”--Mark 15:34. I can only imagine that God the Father breathed a gigantic sigh of relief when Jesus uttered those penetrating words, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit.”-Luke 23:46.

   Jesus willingly was led like an innocent Lamb to the slaughter, for you and for me. I can only imagine what it was like for Mary to stand and watch helplessly as her precious son was beaten so severely.

   With each excruciating painful time Jesus fell under the tremendous weight of the cross, Mary’s heart was being ripped into a million pieces. It must of taken great courage and faith, not to try and rescue her son from this horrible, deplorable torture. But Mary knew this had to be. Mary knew that her son had to suffer and die on the cross for all of us.

   Jesus surrendered himself to death to take away the sins of many, and win pardon for all our offenses. Jesus destroyed death and sin once and for all and opened up the door for eternal life for each of us.

   Jesus declares: “Love each other as I have loved you,”-John 15:12. How does Jesus love us? “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13.

   At Easter, as I join with others in rejoicing and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus and joyfully sing, “He is Risen from The Dead and He is Lord,” I will indeed remember his indescribable suffering and death on the cross.

   I will also know on a more passionate level that Jesus loves me so infinitely that if I were the only person in the world, he would have suffered and died just for me. (Reprint-Published in The Family Digest Magazine May/June2004.

Be Still And Listen

   Cursillo simply means a three-day short course in Christianity. The Cursillo movement started a long time ago in 1940 in Majorca, Spain and has developed steadily throughout the United States ever since. This Christ-centered movement has been touching and changing people’s lives for many years.

   My first encounter with the Cursillo experience was a number of years ago when I participated in an intense three-day Cursillo in Cut Bank, Montana. During the course of the weekend, I had a conversion experience bringing me to embrace my faith in Jesus Christ on a deeper level than before, creating in me a desire to serve more fully in my parish and community.

   After the weekend, I had a yearning to share and invite others to also experience God through this outstanding spirit-filled encounter with Christ. I began volunteering to work the weekends each year as a team member.

   Many weeks prior to the weekend, the team spends much time working and praying together in preparing for the yearly event. The team is enthusiastic and committed to serving the candidates and to follow the example of Jesus when he said, “I have come to serve.”

   A number of years ago in the Diocese of Helena, Montana, the leaders of the movement found it necessary to rename the movement Cursillo/Journey in order to invite non-Catholics to participate in the weekend experience. This has been a positive change for everyone involved.

   After several years of working the weekends as a team member, I was asked to be the Rectora for the January 2002 weekend. The Cursillo/Journey has one weekend reserved for the men and one weekend reserved for the women. The Rector is the team leader for the men’s weekend and the Rectora is the team leader for the women. They are the key facilitators of the Cursillo/Journey event and set the tone for the entire weekend experience. It is an enormous responsibility and commitment.

   Before I could conjure up in my mind a million and one excuses why I couldn’t possibly serve as Rectora, I found myself saying a teensy weensy “yes” to this colossal challenge. But God knew I was ready to step up to the plate, even though I felt like running away like a scared rabbit and not looking back.

   In spite my fears, I was very humbled and honored to be chosen to serve Jesus Christ and the Church in this capacity. During this time of preparation, I embraced the deeper meaning of the phrase “Letting go and Letting God.” Some where in the planning stages, I asked Jesus to step into the drivers seat and take over. I began to listen for the quiet still voice within, which kept reassuring me to be at peace and to put one foot in front of the other.

   The Rectora and Rector decide the theme for the Cursillo/Journey weekends many months prior to the event. The theme’s name is significant because it sets the tone for the entire three-day experience from the focus of the talks to the many splendid symbolic decorations displayed during the weekends. I had been praying and thinking for quite sometime about the theme.

   I kept going over in my mind some possible themes such as “He Chose the Nails,” “On Eagles Wings,” “In His Time,” and “He is Risen.” Finally, I decided to just relax and to pray that I would be open to hear the answer.

   In the Spring of 2001 on Good Friday quite unexpectedly I received a unique two-inch wooden cross lapel pin in the mail from a dear friend. Engraved on the attractive cross were the words, “He is Risen.” When I looked at the words, my very first thought was: “Is this what the theme of the weekend is supposed to be?”

   On Easter Sunday morning, I went to Mass at St. Margaret Catholic Church in Cut Bank, Montana. Our pastor’s homilies are usually not too long and not too short but medium in length. However, this particular Easter Sunday morning, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Father began his homily by coming down from the altar and facing the people in front and announcing in a very joyous and rather loud voice, “He is Risen, Alleluia.” Then facing the people on his left, he repeated in an even more thunderous and exuberant voice, “He is Risen, Alleluia.” And then facing the people on his right, he proclaimed in an even more rapturous and glorious voice, “He is Risen, Alleluia.” He paused for a few moments and exclaimed jubilantly and “Nothing will ever be the same again.” He then went and sat down!

   His simple but penetrating words touched my spirit. I sat there with my mouth opened and in wide-eyed astonishment, I kept repeating to myself, “He is Risen,” “He is Risen.” That’s it! That’s the theme for the Cursillo/Journey Weekend. I shared this experience with the Rector and he was in absolute agreement that the theme should be “He Is Risen.” I was in joyful awe how the Lord Jesus had in a very clear, direct way showed me beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the theme for the Cursillo/Journey weekend would be.

   The 2002 “He is Risen” Cursillo/Journey weekend turned out to be an awesome, spirit-filled event, which touched my life and many others in a profound and lasting way.

   I have come to realize more and more in all the big, small, joyful, difficult situations in my life, if I but place my trust in God, be still and listen, He will direct my path each and every day. (Reprint-Published in The Family Digest March/April 2005)

 

 

Season Of Patient Waiting

   The leaves crunched underfoot as I walked down the narrow, bumpy path. I stopped briefly to inhale the crisp, fresh fall air. I viewed the splendid trees that were anxiously waiting to greet me on this path I chose to travel this day.

   The leaves on the ground were like a fall coat of many colors-several different shades of red, pale yellow and brown, some bright yellow and a few were a blend of copper with a splash of deep purple.

   I also noticed some persistent, perhaps even stubborn, green leaves that were still clinging desperately to the tree that they had grown accustomed to throughout the spring and summer. These leaves intrigued me with their stubborn pride, refusing to let go and to allow the change to happen within them. These determined green leaves reminded me of my struggle to let go of my need to control situations and people.

   If I had my way, I thought to myself, I would scotch tape these green leaves to the tree, so they would never have to go through this painful process of letting go and letting God change them.

   As I continued my walk, I began to realize that it was indeed time for me to let go. It was time for me to surrender to the fact that I cannot change another person no matter how much I love that person. I tired just like the stubborn leaves to feverishly cling to my way of manipulating a change. It left me blaming, judging, and condemning.

   I thought to myself: Perhaps by allowing God’s grace into the situation, I can learn to trust that God will take care of my loved ones just as He so gently takes care of the leaves that fall effortlessly to the ground.

   The tree knows it will be left barren and stripped for a season of waiting. But the tree also trusts in the Creator that after a season of patient waiting, life will once again bud forth, filling the branches with the glorious new birth of magnificent and vibrant green leaves.

   As the gentle breeze beckoned the leaves to let go and float gently into the Creator’s hands, I too, mentally released my hold on my loved ones. I gently placed my loved ones and myself in the palm of His hands, trusting in God’s glory to shine forth through the darkness.

   I ended my walk with renewed hope, knowing I have entered into a season of patient waiting, placing my trust in my Creator to make all things beautiful in His time. 

   "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3)

(Published in the September/October 2006 issue of The Family Digest)

Heeding The Voice

   Is Jesus tapping on my shoulder—gently but persistently whispering to my tired mind and body? “Are you tired of doing things your way? Come my child, and I will give you rest and show you a better way that will keep you in my peace.”

    My mind and body is silently screaming, “I can’t keep up this pace, racing against the work clock of time. It seems I never finish my ‘to-do lists’ as more is added each day. I’m tired of the nagging voice inside me that insists: ‘if you leave things unfinished, you are a failure.’

   I’m a good worker who gives 110-percent and takes pride in her work. So why do I feel if I don’t work longer and harder, I have somehow failed? I know this fear is ridiculous, yet it seems to be driving me on a road to self destruction. How do I get off the merry-go-round of denial that keeps me repeating the same destructive behavior with the same negative results?

   I know that Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life,” (John 14:6). Each morning at daily mass, I surrender it all to Jesus—as I release it, I feel a sense of peace. But by 10 a.m., I have taken it all back upon my shoulders as I make the unconscious decision to turn my life back over to my own human efforts.

   By 5 p.m., when many are leaving for the day, I am driven by some unknown force to stay. Finally, I clock out and go home completely exhausted, and filled with self pity and resentment.

   My husband, who is retired, has prepared dinner for us, but has long since eaten alone. I reheat the meal; I’m sure it would have tasted better eaten hot when it was first prepared. I am too exhausted to carry on a meaningful conversation with my husband. Instead, I talk about my endless workload.

   My husband encourages me to leave work at work and expresses his concern that it is making me sick. His frustration over preparing meals that are constantly ruined because my work consumes me goes unspoken.

 I go to bed exhausted, and wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all I have to do—I toss and turn until morning. This is my life as a workaholic.

   When my friends comment: “you are such a workaholic.” I don’t take offense. I internalize this to mean that I am a dedicated, hard worker who takes pride in her work. I rationalize that if I don’t work hard, stay late, and skip lunch the work will not get done and this is a direct reflection of who I am as a person. That is a lie, wrapped in a package of unfounded fear.

   The truth is: I do have intrinsic value as God’s precious child. It’s not what or how much I do, but the truth of whom I am in Christ Jesus. I repeat: I do have intrinsic value because of who I am in Christ Jesus. Jesus writes these words on my heart that I may internalize this truth.

   Finally, I am in enough emotional pain to admit I am a workaholic and my life is unmanageable. Praise God! Now I can accept the help Jesus is offering. I knew what I had to do next—immediately go to confession.

   The priest is kind and gentle; he listens and encourages me to keep attending a 12-step program as part of my recovery from my workaholic mentality. He suggests I make sticky note reminders and place them around the edge of my computer screen: “break at 10 a.m.”, “lunch at noon,” “leave at 5 p.m.” He also encourages me to mentally prepare myself five minutes prior and explains that doing this consistently will form a good habit. “Form good boundaries,” he concludes.

   Thank you Jesus for your Godly wisdom in and through your priest son—I’m also asked to meditate on Psalm 19. The verse that stood out for me: “Who can detect trespasses? Cleanse me from my inadvertent sins. Also from arrogant ones restrain your servant; let them never control me. Then shall I be blameless, innocent of grave sin.” (Psalm 19: 13-14)

   My unfounded fear has controlled my life for a long time. Jesus is removing my fear of failure each time I choose to live my boundaries. The more I surrender to him, the more his light shines into the dark areas of my soul.

   Will I fail at times? Perhaps; however, I am willing to surrender daily and hourly if necessary to God’s loving care.

We are only given 24-hours a day. In this time, there needs to be a balance of health of body, mind and spirit—many time throughout Jesus’ ministry he departed to a quiet place to pray and refresh his spirit. He calls us to do the same.

   It is essential that I spend quiet time before the Lord in meditation, celebrate daily mass where I consume the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus.

   “The LORD is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusts. I am helped, so my heart rejoices; with my song I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7)

   My work environment seems to be a breeding ground for workaholics so it will be challenging to keep my boundaries. As the prophet Jeremiah states: “Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who makes flesh his strength, He is like a barren bush in the wasteland that enjoys no change of season, But stands in lava beds in the wilderness, a land, salty and uninhabited.” (Jeremiah 15:5-6)

   Each day, I can choose to work in the lava waste and trust my own human efforts or I can choose God’s way: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretch out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” (Jeremiah 15:7-8)

   With God’s help, one day at a time, I choose to be more and more like the tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade. (Reprint-Published in Liguorian Magazine September 2013)

 

 

 

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Leila | Reply 03.06.2016 16.59

Connie, You have a beautiful garden!

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15.05 | 07:49

Beautiful!

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14.05 | 10:08

Thank you, Connie, for coming to our May Crowning. It is always one of my favorite days at St. Andrew.

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20.04 | 19:58

Amen, Connie. Beautiful!

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11.01 | 09:30

Oh Connie! How I needed to read this today. Thank you and God Bless.

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