Suffering and Joy

April 18, 2014

Suffering and Joy

How are suffering and joy connected? What is the purpose of suffering? How can God who is good allow us to suffer? How can we transcend suffering?

Our world view tends to dictate our response to suffering. No matter how we try to answer these questions one thing is for certain. We realize that suffering is a mystery. And this mystery has the power to transform us.

For persons of faith, we know that suffering can be turned into joy. Our greatest example is Jesus Christ who endured a horrific torture leading to death on a cross but was resurrected on the third day to bring salvation to the world. How can one not rejoice in that?

St. Francis of Assisi gave an example of perfect joy. Once he said to his companion: “I would not seem to myself to be a Friar Minor unless I were in the state I will describe to you.” And he said: “Suppose I, being a prelate among the brothers, should go to the chapter and preach and admonish the brothers, and at the end of this should be said against me: ‘An unlettered and contemptible person is not suitable for us; therefore we do not want you to rule over us, because you have no eloquence, you are simple and unlettered’ At length I am thrown out with reproaches and despised by all. I say to you, unless I listen to these words with the same face, with the same joy, with the same purpose of sanctity, I am in no way a Friar Minor.” And he added: “In an office is found an occasion for a fall; in praise, an occasion for complete destruction; in the humility of being a subject, an occasion for profit for the soul. Why then do we pay more attention to the dangers than to the profit, when we have time to gain profit?” (1)

St. Francis to Friar Leo: “And now, Friar Leo, hear the conclusion. Above and beyond all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ gives to His beloved, is the gift of overcoming self and of bearing willingly for the love of Christ, insults, revilings, and discomfort; for in all the other gifts of God we may not glory, seeing that they are not ours, but of God; therefore the Apostle saith: ‘What hast thou that is not of God and if thou hast received it of Him, wherefore dost thou glory as if thou hadst if of thyself?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory for this is ours, and therefore the Apostle saith: ‘I will not glory save in the Cross of Christ.’ To whom be ever honour and glory, world without end. Amen.” (2)

So one can say that the purpose of suffering is to bring us joy. One can also gain understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and hope through suffering. Suffering can increase virtues such as fortitude, humility, faith, hope, trust, etc. that would not be as easily attainable when one is not under a challenge and is in a state of complacency. In a perfect world there would be no need for suffering but since we don’t live in a perfect world, we enter into suffering to exit in a more perfect state.

St. Peter invites us to rejoice because our suffering will increase our faith. “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Pt 1:6-7 NAB)

Some ways to transcend suffering include “desert time” such as during the season of Lent. Depriving oneself of worldly pleasures, sacrificing and being of service to others, journeying with others in their sufferings, etc. — all of these help bring us to spiritual maturity and are of great benefit. Joining our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross help us to see those sufferings in a new light with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

St. Paul reflects on suffering and its purpose as follows: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” (Col 1:24-27 NAB)

So even though suffering is a mystery, we know that there is much to be gained through it. So rejoice and be glad for your sufferings.

I pray that your Lenten desert time has brought you to a new level of understanding, knowledge, wisdom, hope, and joy!

————————————–

1. St. Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago 9, Illinois, 1963, p. 254.

2. The Little Flowers of St Francis, The “Fioretti”, edited by the Franciscan Father Zeffirino Lazzeri, Giulio Giannini & Son, Publishers, Florence, Italy, pp 44, 46.


Seven Reasons to Give Thanks

November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Blessings

 

Thanksgiving Day is a day of rest and time to reflect on our many blessings. I offer some food for thought on seven reasons to give thanks. May your day be full of joy as you contemplate the many reasons for an attitude of gratitude in your life!

The seven reasons (health, home, family, friendships, work, worship, and country), and these are not in any particular order of importance, are listed below with some reasons why they should be worthy of your gratitude.

Health – I always say “Your health is your wealth” when I try to explain to someone why they may need to consider a certain regimen in their health care. It is a much better quality of life when you can maintain health rather than work at trying to regain it! When you are sick, you may not feel well, lack energy and focus, feel anxious or depressed, have pain or limited mobility, and much more. When you recover, it is easy to feel a sense of gratitude for the renewed energy, etc. It is more difficult to remember to be thankful when you are feeling well but cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one way to help you stay healthy. Being grateful and giving thanks actually help boost your immune system and give you a sense of well-being, happiness, and joy. Your life is fuller! So give thanks for your good health! (And if your health is not so good give thanks anyway that you recognize this fact and then do all that is in your power to improve it.)

Home – Home is where the heart is! Your home is your haven. It is where you can rest, relax, enjoy family and friends, and so much more. Your home is your compass. It is the center of your existence. Without a home, you have no focal point from which to proceed. Your home environment helps to shape who you are. If you feel safe at home, you can proceed into the world with confidence. If your home provides shelter and a warm and loving atmosphere, you can thrive in whatever you do. I hope you can feel gratitude for your home and all that it provides for you.

Family – Your family provides the relationships that you need for your existence. No man is an island! Those relationships nurture you through love, affirmation, nurturing, mentoring, and other facets of relationship that are the glue of your being. These core aspects of relationship form who you are and prepare you for life outside of the home, in the work place and in society in general. May you find love, peace, and joy in your home and in your family and may you recognize them through gratitude in the way that you respond in your family relationships.

Friendships – Your friendships are the “icing on the cake” of interacting in the world. They are an added bond that brings you to a fuller realization of your worth. Positive interactions in these relationships help to propel you to generosity of heart that is so needed in the world. May your friendships bring you to the awareness of gratitude for those relationships in your life.

Work – While work can be hard, and at times can be a source of stress, work is actually a good thing. It provides for financial security. Work also brings structure to your life and satisfaction in a job well done and adds dignity and a sense of self worth. Just ask anyone who has lost their job and they will talk about depression, anxiety, and loss of self esteem. Through your work you not only help yourself and your dependents, you also provide goods and services that are needed in your community. Your work benefits others and this also brings wholeness to your life. So why wouldn’t you be grateful for employment?

Worship – We live in a country where we have freedom of religion! That is our sacred right! We were created with the instinct and attraction to the Divine so we can offer gratitude that we recognize this innate need and that we have the freedom to express that part of our being. Thank You, Lord God Almighty!

Country – We live in the greatest country in the world. We have freedom, security, wealth, and justice. While our county is not perfect, it was founded on sound principles and we are blessed to have a Constitution that affirms that we are endowed with inalienable rights. Gratitude is in order here!

May God bless you and may God bless America!

Feel free to post your reasons below for gratitude this Thanksgiving Day!

 


Forgiveness – A Stumbling Block Or An Anchor?

September 30, 2013

Stumbling Block or Anchor?

Stumbling Block or Anchor?

 

Is the ability to forgive a stumbling block or an anchor – a curse or a blessing? How you view and understand forgiveness will form your answer to this question.

First, let’s answer the question of what it means to forgive. According paragraph 1933 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church the Christian response of forgiveness is:

“This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies. Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one’s enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.”

The secular response of forgiveness according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:

1 a. to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult>
b. to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
2.    to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) <forgive one’s enemies>

Is forgiveness an anchor and a blessing? The Christian model states that it is a requirement. Some reasons that forgiveness is necessary are as follows:

  • Forgiveness brings healing to the relationship.
  • Forgiveness brings healing the one offering forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness brings healing to the offender.
  • Forgiveness brings peace of mind.
  • Forgiveness brings one into closer union with God because the heart is open to receiving God’s love and offering it to another, especially to the offender.

Is the ability to forgive a stumbling block and a curse? Why is forgiveness so difficult to do? Why is it a stumbling block? Why can’t I get past the hurt and the pain? If you suffer from un-forgiveness, you might want to examines some possible reasons.

  • Misconceptions about what it means to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that the right to restitution and justice are revoked in the act of forgiveness.
  • Fear that the offender will repeat the offense if not punished in some way.
  • Damaged relationship prior to the offense.
  • Lack of unconditional love.
  • Poor self-esteem. Not worthy of being loved or giving love.
  • Loss of dignity of self. The offender commonly elicits this response in the offended.
  • Lack of faith in God to bring mercy, love, justice, and healing to the situation.
  • Anger at God.

Certainly some offenses are beyond our human ability to forgive. That is when the Christian response of praying for one’s enemy is of great value. We are only human. To forgive is truly a divine response, rooted in our relationship of love with God. Only God can help us to forgive. Sometimes this takes a long time. Forgiveness is not always an immediate response and this is okay! Trust in the Divine to get you through the offense and your response to it. Get help from family, friends, pastor, counselor, coach, or an impartial person – whoever you feel that you have a trusting and loving relationship to open up and explore the pain. Putting a cap on it and trying to forget it will not bring the healing that only forgiveness can bring.

I hope this has helped you to find forgiveness to be an anchor and blessing in your relationship with God and others!

With much love and peace!

Feel free to share your comments on forgiveness below.

 


Mission – You’ve Been Called!

July 8, 2013

Doing Good

If you’re feeling unsettled in any way, that is a definite sign that you’re in need of direction in discerning the mission that was yours to carry out!

We are all connected on a very basic level by our very nature as human beings. Our ultimate desire is for peace and happiness and harmony with ourselves, others, and our material world. We desire order, admire beauty, and revel in awe and wonder. These desires, instincts, and consciousness are indwelling regardless of our belief in a higher power. They are the core of our existence.

The best way to enter into this peace, happiness, and harmony is to abandon ourselves to mission! Have you ever noticed how good it feels to help another with some problem or to do something that creates beauty? Your sense of accomplishment, pride, success, etc? You feel the best about yourself when you get outside of yourself to do something for the greater good! That’s what mission is all about!

In this blog, I will give some ideas about how to discern your mission from a Christian perspective because I am a Christian but as I see it, we are all called to mission. The world can only be as good as we make it, individually and collectively.

Be aware that mission starts in your own back yard. For a Christian, our primary mission is to love God. All else flows from this love.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.(Mk 12:30)

If you are married, your mission is to love your spouse as you love yourself. If you are a parent, your  mission is to raise your children with love so that they can become loving, respectful adults.  If your parent is ill, you must care for him/her. As you can see, the list goes on and most of us have more than one mission in life.

As I mentioned, feeling unsettled or restless is a sure sign that you are not fulfilled at your core of existence which can only happen when you are carrying out your mission. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St. Augustine of Hippo from the book “St Augustine’s Confessions”.

So what is your mission in life? How do you know when you are doing what is your part to do in this world? How do you know when you are finished? Were you successful? These are just a few thoughts to consider. There is much that can be written about mission and I would love to work with you on the direction of your mission. Just contact me!

What is your mission in life?

This is a very common question and can take a lifetime to discern. For more on discernment you can read my blog on this topic here. Be of cheer, though, because everything that you do and that happens to you prepares you in some way for this mission. No experience in life is a waste of time, even if it might seem so at the time. All is meant to enrich us in some way, wether by our acquiring some skill, knowledge, relationship, etc. Sometimes the experience is a mission itself and may be short-lived or may last a life time. You will commonly have more than one mission in life depending on the circumstances of your life.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when things fall into place easily or when the mission is aligned with your particular skill set, talents, and resources. The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Lk 10:2 NAB)

However, you might also experience tremendous difficulties and challenges in following your mission. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. (Lk 10:3 NAB)

Some questions to consider when determining if the action is part of your mission: Does it bring peace and happiness, either to self or others? Does it effect harmony for self, others, or the material world? Does good come of it? Does it bear good fruit? Is the action legal, ethical, and moral? Remember that the ends do not justify the means so the action itself must be good. If the action is not good, you need to abandon it and get your creative juices going to come up with an action that is legal, ethical, and moral that can bear good fruit.

How do you know when you are doing what is your part to do in this world?

Clarity of mission may not be easy to discern, especially when you are experiencing difficulties. This is where mentoring, coaching, and other sources can be of help. As a Christian, prayer is a very important part of this discernment.

How do you know when you are finished?

Our entire life is a journey and mission is part of that journey so mission is never finished. You may finish one particular project or aspect of mission but there is more to do, perhaps in another area or totally different field than what you have just accomplished. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9 NAB)

Were you successful?

Success is a good thing. It brings satisfaction and happiness in addition to the actual good that occurred. But God does not ask us to be successful. He asks us to be obedient! If you hear God call you to do a good deed, just do it! Success is in God’s hands. He will take care of the results.

Not all that we see as failure or lack of success is as we see it. There are “hidden things” that we haven’t discerned that are at work. An example: You helped an alcoholic to get a job and then you saw him at the bar that evening getting drunk. But you didn’t know that he had experienced a conversion of heart because of your kindness and was going to get treatment for his alcoholism in the morning and was just having a weak moment that night. We can’t always judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, we just have to keep on keeping on despite the evidence that seems to be contradictory! We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28 NAB)

I hope this blog has given you reason to reflect on your mission in life. May you recognize and react to your call!

Feel free to contact me to discuss your mission!


Faith – A Christian Reality

May 22, 2013

Just have faith!

Just have faith!

 

“Just have faith!” How often have you heard that phrase? Does it leave you feeling peaceful, trusting, hopeful, bewildered, frustrated, doubtful, enraged?

Faith is a commonly invoked idea. But what is it and what purpose does it serve? How do you acquire it?

The Biblical definition of faith according to the New American Bible is “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1 NAB)

Faith is a grace and free gift from God. We have the free will to accept or reject this grace. The more we exercise our faith, the more it grows. “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17: 20b NAB) The ability to exercise our faith is based in our relationship with God. This relationship grows primarily through prayer and obedience to His Word. “Pray without ceasing.” (1Thes 5:17 NAB) “He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” (Lk 11:28 NAB)

God is present in every circumstance of our lives. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer 1:5 NAB) As we grow in knowledge of His Word and experience of His presence, we begin to see with our spiritual eyes the Truth and we grow stronger in the reality of who God is and who we are and how much He loves and cares for us. This growing understanding within causes us to grow in faith. It also opens up our understanding to God’s ways which helps us to understand pain and suffering and many other mysteries of life.

A good way to grow in our understanding and faith is through daily journaling, reflecting on the day’s events and how God was present in them. When reading these journal entries at a later date and re-reflecting on them, we begin to marvel at the intricate existence of God in our lives. This shear realization encourages our faith!

Faith is also nurtured in community and this growing faith helps us to serve our community. Our faith community is vital. Attendance at church, Bible study, prayer services, small Christian communities, apostolic ministries, etc. – all of these are opportunities for us to exercise and grow in faith. Remember that exercising our faith is an important part of growing in faith! When we are of service to others, God blesses us by increasing our gifts and healing us. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38 NAB) He makes us stronger and more effective disciples. Remember, however, that to glorify God, we must serve with humility and accept our weaknesses. “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor 12:10 NAB)

There is much to learn about our infinite God. Growing in faith is a life-long journey. There will be times when our faith diminishes and times when it will be stronger. This is normal and not a cause for alarm. Continue your quest for faith. Pray for it daily. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. You will not be disappointed!” (Mt 7:7-8 NAB) When your faith wanes pray, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24b NAB)

How will you exercise your faith today??

Just have faith!! May you accept it, grow in it, live it, sow it, and reap it! This is my prayer for you.

 

 


Procrastination – Good or bad?

April 29, 2013

Is procrastination good or bad?

Is procrastination good or bad?

Is procrastination good or bad? The outcome will tell you the answer!

In this post, I will give some reasons why procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing! I’m not, however, advocating that the ends justifies the means. Even if the outcome is positive, if the reason for procrastinating is lacking, then procrastination can become a bad habit to acquire!

First, let’s explore possible reasons for procrastination.

  • The activity or task is not pleasant or rewarding.
  • The activity or task causes stress or other negative reactions or emotions.
  • The activity or task is potentially harmful to self or others.
  • There is not enough information to make a decision or to move forward.
  • There is no time in the schedule for implementation.
  • Others are dissuading the decision or otherwise being nay-sayers.
  • The activity or task is illegal.
  • You don’t believe you have the appropriate tools, talents, or financial means to accomplish the task.
  • Fear of success.
  • Fear of failure.
  • Lacking the knowledge of where to begin or how to implement the task.
  • Feeling coerced or manipulated to perform the activity.
  • Being rushed into making a decision or beginning a project or task.
  • Just plain don’t want to do it!

I’m sure there are other reasons you can think of for procrastination.

All of the above reasons can be legitimate reasons for procrastination but they can also be excuses or can be masking a hidden issue. Knowing yourself will help you discern which is the case.

So, what are legitimate reasons to procrastinate?

  • The activity or task is not pleasant or rewarding. In and of itself, this does not seem to be a good reason. There are many things we must do each day that are not pleasant or do not offer rewards but are a necessary part of life. If this is a task that you can delegate to someone who can do it without an adverse feeling toward the activity, then this would seem like a reasonable option.
  • The activity or task causes stress or other negative reactions or emotions. This alone is not a good reason to procrastinate. Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to growth. If the reasons for negative reactions or emotions have a different underlying reason(s), this needs to be explored and dealt with.
  • The activity or task is potentially harmful to self or others. This is a no brainer. In this case, procrastinating is not going to remove any potential for harm. The activity or task must not be engaged in until it can be modified to remove the potential for injury or harm.
  • There is not enough information to make a decision or to move forward. It is prudent to have sufficient information to make a sound decision. In this case, procrastination is indicated.
  • There is no time in the schedule for implementation. This is a legitimate concern, provided that it is not a hidden excuse. Explore options that will open up the schedule for the task being considered.
  • Others are dissuading the decision or otherwise being nay-sayers. You need discernment on this one. Sometimes those other voices are correct. For more information on discernment, see my post on this topic.
  • The activity or task is illegal. Procrastination has no place here. Obviously, just don’t do it!
  • You don’t believe you have the appropriate tools, talents, or financial means to accomplish the task. Is this an excuse or a fact? Get the resources you need to get the job done.
  • Fear of success. This is a real possibility. Discernment is needed here.
  • Fear of failure. Know yourself. Get the necessary help.
  • Lacking the knowledge of where to begin or how to implement the task. You don’t want to blindly jump into a project or situation. Get the necessary help.
  • Feeling coerced or manipulated to perform the activity. Discernment is needed here although it is usually a gut feeling when you are being coerced or manipulated. Be strong, call the behavior out and hold the other accountable for their actions.
  • Being rushed into making a decision or beginning a project or task. Find out the reason for the time crunch. You might be able to negotiate a deadline or get assistance to meet the goals.
  • Just plain don’t want to do it! This is a personal choice. We have free will. Just be aware that all decisions have consequences. Can you live with the consequences?

As you can see, procrastination has its place. Be a discerning individual and make wise decisions. You will increase your chances of success!

As always, I’m available for questions, coaching, etc.


Making Decisions

March 26, 2013

Questions

When making decisions are you paralyzed or empowered? In this blog you’ll get some tips on making the decision-making process easier.

When faced with making a decision, you need to bring in your judgment and understanding of the situation. This is called discernment and is most commonly done by assessing through questions such as -who? -what? -when? -where? -how? and -why? You need to gather as much information as possible to make the best decision.

Your understanding of the situation commonly also involves your senses. Does it feel right? -smell right? -taste right? etc. What does your gut tell you? What is your heart sensing? What thoughts are going through your head? How do you see yourself in the new situation?

Once you have your questions answered and have gathered the facts, you want to analyze them. Sometimes you have to extrapolate or interpret, even read between the lines, to make sense of the data you’ve gathered.

It is good to consider the pros and cons of the decision that you are about to make. Can you live with the consequences? How much are you willing to compromise? Will you have to bend your integrity or moral principles?

Making decisions that can have large consequences or impact on your life can be daunting and paralyzing, but they don’t have to be so. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, get the help of an impartial person or someone you trust who has knowledge in the area that you’re considering. “Two heads are better than one” when making decisions. The other person may see things that you’re not seeing or have an insight that you’ve never even considered.

Be sure to take your time and consider all angles. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed or pushed into a decision that you will later regret.

Consider alternatives such as decisions that will have a lesser impact. Example: Instead of moving across the country for that big job with a big promotion, see if your boss will let you try out that position on a smaller scale in your current location. If you are both satisfied with the results, then it might be wise to proceed further. It never hurts to ask for all the options!

Make sure that you are well rested and not stressed, anxious, or depressed when making a decision. While you should keep your emotions in check, you should still listen to your heart and gut because that is part of the discernment process.

For those who are religious or spiritual, faith is also an important (usually the most important) facet of decision-making. Pray, sit in silence, and listen to that “still small voice” that is guiding you!

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions on how you take the stress out of make decisions. Feel free to contact me with any questions!

Happy decision-making!


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