Friday, April 26, 2019

Airbag Angel

     Isn’t it funny how God can remind you that He is always with us during our day?  Sometimes when you least expect it or you are feeling down and alone, you get a little reminder during your day that He is right by your side.
     I feel that way in my car believe it or not and perhaps because my car is where I struggle the most with patience or rather my lack of patience, that is where I saw the reminder that God is driving with me and I need to be a better Christian.  Let me explain:  When I first bought my car in 2002 it had lots of different symbols on the dashboard I had to interpret.  My last car had been a very old Suburban with no bells or whistles on it. If it was low on gas you had better be watching the gauge because there was no bell or tone or light that came on to tell me I needed to stop and fill up.  But my ‘new’ car gave me all kinds of lights and symbols.  But there was one I could not figure out.  It looked like a person sitting with an angel perched on its shoulder.   I finally had to ask my husband and my kids what that symbol was for.  Turns out it was the airbag reminder but instead of looking like an airbag with a seatbelt crossing the shoulder of the person, I thought it looked like an angel sitting on its shoulder! 
   Seventeen years later, I still have this very old car and this morning turning over the engine the symbol flashed again on the dash and I laughed. Yep, there was that angel sitting on my shoulder again reminding me not only to buckle my seatbelt but maybe to also watch my mouth, keep calm and drive on and be patient with the rest of the world.
  Funny how we can see things differently in life depending on our personalities or how we are raised.  While I’ve always felt the presence of Guardian Angels around me and my family, I thought it was odd that I would get that image right here in my car.
  I am pretty sure the car manufacturers never thought of that symbol in the same way I did, but to those of us who see things in slightly different ways, it serves as a good reminder. And who knows,  maybe that symbol was a sign from the Lord specifically to me to remind me to keep my Christian on while driving!
Sometimes we need those little reminders throughout our day to ask God for help on something. Help me watch my mouth! Help me pray for a family member who is hurting.  Most of all, help me show you to all the other people I meet this day, Lord!  That little symbol in my car is my reminder that God is always sitting on my shoulder. He is right there wanting to help me show His love to everyone I meet.  Now I just need to do my job which is buckling up and putting on my joy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Lenten Head Bash

Sometimes it takes a more than one wish to grant a Lenten promise! Lisa learned that sometimes it takes six weeks to break old habits and create new ones; just perfect for Lent!

Beat your head one more time against the wall… It’s Lent, it’s Lent, it’s Lent.  I have to stop (fill-in-the-blank), whatever bad habit I’m doing.” I need to (fill-in-the-blank) more!”
 Lent is always such a good time to break old habits and begin new ones.  There was a Lent about twenty years ago when I gave up budgets.  I was struggling as a stay-at-home mom with writing out a monthly budget. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get all the things I had to pay for to line up with what I actually had coming in.  Somehow it was working in my head, but on paper it was always a deficit. That didn’t make sense and the more I tried to work it out, the most lost I became and more desperate I was to find a job I could do from home which in turn making me in one  stressed out mom and wife.
 One evening close to Lent, my husband and I were working on bills and discussing ways to make it work. Nothing was coming to mind. Somehow we were buying groceries, paying bills by installment but I could not write a plan that we could look at and know, okay this will be paid off here and that will be paid on there.  I wanted answers from God when things would start to look better for our financial future. But the more I ‘demanded’ the worse everything looked!
Finally, I looked at my husband and just said, “We’re getting nowhere on this, I am just going to give up worrying about it for Lent. It’s only six weeks, we won’t go totally broke by then.  I just need to get money worries out of my head for a while.”  He was actually relived I had suggested it.  Because honestly the more I worried and stewed about it the worse he felt as the main breadwinner. He felt like he wasn’t bringing home enough to cover everything.
So we began our Lent with me just paying the bills like usual, but then putting the checkbook away and moving on to enjoying our time with each other and the kids.  We played outside, we went for walks and really laughed and had fun with family.
By the end of Lent, I was so used to not worrying about money, I had just gotten into the habit of paying what needed to be paid, and walking away, that I was actually even tithing better at Church with no hand ringing.  I could make small purchases with cash (not credit card) to donate to our school parties and somehow we were still doing okay in the finance department.  We even had a major appliance go out but shortly afterward my husband got a small bonus at work that helped cover it.
 I was slowly learning to let go and let God.  Of course we weren’t going out buying boats or new cars, but I was loosening my very tightfisted grip on our finances and letting the Holy Spirit guide me in generosity and a feeling that we would be okay.  And it worked.  It worked so well that ever since that Lent I’ve never made a budget, we have taken family trips, been totally out of jobs, helped our kids pay for school, cars, phones and whatever and now are able to save for retirement, all without agonizing over it.
So don’t ever think something you work on during Lent won’t last.  It can!  Trust in the Lord your God and in yourself too, in letting go and asking for God’s help to take care of things. He’s got us in His Hands.

Photo by Lisa Simmons

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Be Still: Shut Up, Sit Down and Listen

   As Lent brings us the time to slow down (hopefully) and look at our lives (crazy as they are) the goal is to see where we are headed (to heaven, I hope), what we are doing and how our faith is weaving itself in and out of our daily lives.
   But sometimes instead of seeing, we get blinded, instead of hearing, our senses get overwhelmed with too many good things. Have you ever felt like there may be just too many Catholic devotions out there?  Do you feel paralyzed by feeling you should be going to daily Mass, saying a rosary three times a day, the Angelus whenever the bells ring, going to adoration, praying the  Liturgy of the Hours five times a day, Divine Mercy at 3 and venerating the relics in church?
  While we hear a lot about how many Catholics aren't participating even in weekly Mass, we may be some of the people feeling like we are Catholic slouches when we don't do ALL the devotions that are out there.  And everyone has their favorite and if they are on social media, or leaders in your parish, they greatly encourage those devotions for everyone.  Of course we all have good intentions for doing this. We all just want to save souls. And individual devotions can help us see God at work in our lives.  But sometimes it is so overwhelming you can't help but feel you have no time for just listening to God because you are worried about getting in another rosary today.
   Psalm 46 reminds us that even too much of a good thing is too much.  Stopping to be quiet, turning off the noise both outside of ourselves and inside our heads (and hearts) and taking a deep breath helps us realize God doesn't need all our prayers, cajoling, petitions, pleadings and begging. He just needs us. He needs us to just stop, look around at what He has given us and be grateful.   He wants us to stop worrying about a family member or friend who is ill or another who is struggling with hurts. He wants us to let go of those worries, petitions and concerns because He is already very aware of who we are and who we are worried about.  All He wants is us. Our attention. Because when we give Him our full attention, He can fill us with peace. He fills us with so much love we almost stagger under its weight.
   Devotions are beautiful and praying the Rosary helps me slow down and really meditate, but what we need to remember is what they are supposed to do for us. They are not there to fill our every thought and minute of the day, they are supposed to lead us to listening, to being still and remembering God is in charge. They should help us relax, let go of our worries, let God take them over.  They should allow God to just fill our heads, to just be quiet, to thank Him for what we see around us. And we cannot do that if we are filling up our heads with noise, with too many words.  So pick one or two things to do for Lent and keep things simple. Really think about and participate in the one or two things you have chosen and let them help you feel God's presence.
  First, you must be still.  Sit down. Shut up. Listen.  For HE IS GOD.

Friday, March 8, 2019

And So It Begins!

  It's only the third day of Lent and the pounding has begun. The incessant little spitting rain in your face as you try to begin a good work during Lent. The nagging worry that creeps up on you just as you come out of Mass feeling like this Lent is going to be better than last year.  The bad news that robs the joy right out from under your feet like a rug being tugged away.  We've all experienced it. We try so very hard to get Lent right, to begin a new good habit, get rid of the worry that drags us into sin.  Yet every time that gnawing, spitting bit of eroding rain eats away our good intentions and we lapse back into settling for giving up meat on Friday or chocolate.
  Why does it happen?  Just like nature abhors a vacuum, evil abhors anyone doing anything good. It rushes right in where its missing in something and tries to fill it up with bad again. We take one step forward in a good work, leaving hate and sorrow behind only to get hit with something that disturbs our peace.
  I think this is why the Church encourages us to fill ourselves with good readings, with prayers and devotions. We need to fill that space of negative that we are trying to rid ourselves of with lots of good. We can't let it sit empty at the risk of the old negative back-filling it again.
  So find something good to read during this Lent. I love the book I found called "The Little Way of Lent" meditations in the spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux. But it can be anything. Our parish this year is giving away a free book called, "Into His Likeness by Edward Siri.  It can be anything spiritual or meditative but it needs to help you look upwards to God, give you peace of mind and not cause you to worry.  It needs to soothe your soul.  Lent isn't meant to beat you up, it is meant to prepare your heart, clean it up for Easter.  We want to rejoice in the Resurrection, not beat ourselves into the dirt beneath the cross.  Because if we are only looking down, groveling in the dirt, we don't experience the forgiveness Jesus died for, we don't soar with Him towards Heaven and the Love God has for us.
  Give it a try this Lent. See how it can change your journey of faith and always remember, God loves you so very much!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Hey You! Child of God!

    Yay it’s Lent. Another chance to reset my way of thinking and reflect on how I am doing spiritually in my life.  Have you ever noticed how we humans tend to see only the negatives in life? We see the ‘no’s or do nots, the ‘give up this or that, don’t eat this,’ that are associated with Lent.   The same thing could be said about the way we see our spiritual sides.  We see where we have fallen, not where we’ve gotten up; we see our failures and ignore the compliments we receive.

   Just this week, I received no less than five compliments about various things I had been doing or working on. Yet all it took was one bad day, of all days it was Ash Wednesday, to make me forget any of those compliments and only remember the one or two times I had failed or fallen down. It threatened to destroy the whole beginning of Lent for me.  Whose fault was it?  My own.

   We are always looking for ways to discredit ourselves.  We truly are our own worst enemies at times when we need to be our own cheerleaders. I mean God loves us no matter what. Why can’t we love ourselves too?

    What will it take for you to look at yourself this Lent and see the good you are doing? What will it take to pick yourself up through the sad, sorrow and bad times and look up at the beautiful sky and say, yeah, that happened or yup, I guess I’m still human, and move on?

    This Lent, I challenge you to stop and say something nice about yourself.  Really stop, maybe even WRITE IT DOWN!  A Lenten journal is an excellent way to write down these things you are working on.  Then thank God. Thank Him for making you and giving you the chance to see yourself in His eyes. You are his beautiful child.

   This Lent, change. Make the change in you. Not the ‘giving up’ foods or habits…change yourself to see that you really make a difference in other people’s lives, that you mean a whole lot to God and to all those around you.  It’s only 40 days. Who knows, maybe you’ll begin a habit of looking at the positive things about yourself.