Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Something to Share ~ A Few Favorite Bible Verses

Daily Grace, a fellow Christain blogger has asked that I share three of my favorite bible verses.  A few bloggers are doing this and I think it is a nice way to build community.  This being said, here are a few of my favorite bible verses:

Jeremiah 17: 7-8
"Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream.  He has no fear when the heat comes his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit."

Reflection:  I love this verse from Jeremiah, because it shows the confidence we can obtain if we trust in the Lord.  We can withstand every trial, every difficulty if are peace and trust are in Him.  We can handle life's trouble with grace and be a true example.

Philippians 4: 4-7
"Rejoice in the Lord aways. I say it again:  rejoice and may everyone expereince your gentle and understanding heart, The Lord is near: do not be anxious about anything.  In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God.  Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Reflection:  I've had this passage marked in my bible for years and read it often.  It always soothes my soul.

Matthew 5: 46-48:
"If you love those who love you, what is special about that?  Do not even tax collectors do as much?  And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that?  Do not even the pagans do as much?  For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect."

Reflection:  This sums up the Gospel, to love one another and bare with one another.  I can have a hard time forgiving and interacting with people who are not like me, so I try to reflect on this as a reminder that God calls me to love, even when it is uncomfortable and a challenge.

I would like to read the following bloggers' three favorite bible verses:

Wake Up Dave
Ask Sister Martha
Meandering Thru Life

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 12 and Fasting

I preference my efforts to fast 21 days with the note that I was not a very good faster and that fact still remains.  I am struggling with fasting still and will probably attempt to at least do it two days a week as our Lady has asked us to through her messages she's given in Medjugorje.  Some may think I am weak and a failure and that, I am, no doubt.  I believe in the merits of fasting, and I know that I am weak and still need to try; however, through the past ten to twelve days I have had some realizations.  One is that I am notorious for putting myself on a rubric, a schedule, a list of dos and don'ts, so in this fast, I feel like I have added to that and in a sense missed the important things I should be fasting from, such as an unforgiving heart, judgement of others and myself, etc.  I hope I will one day be able to do a fast for a long haul and I will continue to try.  For now I am deliberating and being honest about my weaknesses.   Upon reflecting on this weakness I found this quote, perhaps a reminder from God not to completely give up or loose heart or think my efforts have been lost or in vain:

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God's ear to yourself.
-- Saint Peter Chrysologus

So, I know God is calling me to master this difficulty. I know he wants to give me certain graces and blessings.  So I will continue to show a fast/sacrifices in some way shape or form and mediate on our Lady's requests and advice.

Lord, I am weak, so I need you to be strong as I will work on taking time to fast this week.  Be with me, have mercy on me and create in me a pure heart O, God.  Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The 2nd Station and Day 9 of Fasting

Day 9:

In my daily effort to spend some private time with God, I sometimes read the Stations of the Cross.  I've always felt compelled by the "Way of the Cross," because it helps me to put my own struggles in perspective. It makes me recall when Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Essentially, I know that because Christ died for us, death, along with sin, struggles and suffering cannot conquer.  I personally need to remind myself of this fact, hence I mediate on the stations. 

This morning in my mediation on the Stations of the Cross, I focused intently on the Second StationJesus is Given His Cross.  The reflection stated:

          Jesus calls:  The life giving tree becomes the Cross for me.
                                For "Cursed is the one hung on a tree."
                                Life's tree for you is as different as it was for me; it
                                often appears as rejection in all areas of work and play.
                                However, it is the way to know how to love my Father more!

        I answer:       Jesus, I complain a great deal of all that is my tree of life
                              each day:

                               The traffic
                               My work
                               The boss
                               My spouse
                               My family
                               My friends

                              All these I know are the plan your Father has
                              for me!  I need you to help me remember
                              that all this, if I use love, patience and kindness,
                              can be the way to carry the tree of love,
                              instead of despair. Jesus in your cross you
                              patiently carried all of my everyday sufferings;
                              let me continue the same for love of you
                              so that others may hope in you.

Today's Fasting Prayer:
Dear Lord, help us to remember how you willingly accepted your cross with patient endurance.  Rather than resort to complaining, help us to carry our crosses and discern your will properly and with utter clarity, so we know what decisions we are to make.  Help us to love selflessly today Lord, even when the cross seems more than we can bare. 

Lord, also pour our your graces and healing of this generation and the future generations that are being born into this world.  Rid us of our sins of the flesh and purify our hearts and minds, so that they may be focused on living your message of love and passing this and a culture of life and light on, instead of one rooted in sinfulness and death.  Amen.

Vivona, Francis., J.C.L. (1994).  The Way of the Cross for Everyone. Autom:  Phoenix, AZ.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Lesson from "There Be Dragons" & Fasting Day 8

Day 8:

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the new movie, "There Be Dragons."  It is a film about St. Jose Maria Escriva, who founded Opus Dei.  In this film, looks at the life paths of two men from childhood, one being Jose Maria and the other his childhood friend.  The film shows how each individuals' paths unfolded and how they did or did not respond  to God's plan for them.  Jose Maria, essentially embraces the suffering of his life and the Spanish Civil War and turns  to God.  His childhood friend however, embraces vices, such as anger, hatred and jealous, hence putting his soul and relationships is dire jeopardy.  Overall, the film shows that we all have a choice.  We can either embrace God and seek to find in him each day, and follow his path, even in the midts of suffering, trusting that he is good and has a plan for us.  Or, we cannot simply reject God's plan, the love he offers and the gift of life he offers to us.  If we do the later, we will most definitely fall in peril.  Also, this film is about forgiveness at its very core.  It is about overcoming forgiveness with love, even in the midst of something like war, death and betrayal.  Forgiveness is not easy, but what this movie shows, is that if we do not forgive when we are wronged or hurt by another, we are really one that suffers, because that unforgiveness will rot away at our heart and soul, creating anger and where love once was, a vacuum is left and if we do not forgive, that space will surely become occupied by the enemy, who wants us to hold on to past hurts, unforgiveness and sorrow.  Those things planted by the enemy due to our lack of forgiveness will act out and they will act out in an evil vengeance if we are not too careful.  It will negatively effect our closest relationships and even how we respond to others in our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, today during my fast, I have been concentrating on forgiveness.  I have my own struggles with forgiveness and need to forgive others and let things go into the past and start anew, this hard for me. 

I've also focused my fast today on marriage.  It just so happened that today's reflection in my fasting book and in daily prayer book I bought years ago in Medjugore, both talked about marriage.  Both works echoed how a purity of love that comes from God must be rooted in marriage and how important it is for couples to pray together and be a reflection of God's love.  Both works also discussed about how spouses need to be an example to one another and to others (friends, family, coworkers) by living a love-filled life that is rooted in their faith.  Essentially, both the movie and these reflections talked about the concept of love.  For the last several months I have been thinking of this word "love" and am realizing it is more than a feeling, it is a daily decision, it is an action, a verb, a sure challenge, a risk, a vulnerability, but worth it.  We must love like Christ loved.  As Jesus said, "and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Fasting Prayer:
Dear Father, may we be filled with your love so that we may bring it to others.  May the love you fill us with help us to choose the path you are laying out before us.  May the love you fill us with help us to forgive, even when it is most difficult.  May the love you fill us with help us to heal.  May the love you fill us with pour out of us on to others, so they may know your goodness and seek you.  Help us to remember how very lovable we are, we do not need to seek love, because we are loved by you, which is the greatest love of all.  I asked especially Lord today, that you pour out your blessings on all married people, may they be a living example of your love.  Heal marriages that are struggling.  Let your will done in marriages that are discerning.  Help us to remember that marriage is also a vocation and a call to holiness.  Help married couples to make the proper life giving decisions.  Amen.

P.S. Here is a link to the trailer of "There Be Dragons," I highly recommend this movie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk05XVC1EtY

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fasting Day 7

Day 7:

To persevere:  "Continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success."  Wow!  In order to persevere , one must have a degree of faith, hope and trust, especially if what we are perserving in is not yet showing any indiciation of success.  Today is my 7th day of this partial fast and it really is a journey, because some days are better than others, with their ups and downs.  However, despite my weaknesses and really wanting to grab a glass of wine or piece of meat, I know I need to perserve.  I have not had a huge "awakening" in the last seven days, if anything, I have just confirmed how weak of an individual I am; however, deep down inside, I know that "When I am weak, I am strong," (2 Corinthians 12:10 ) so I will perserve.  I trust that God will pour out his graces on me as I perform this humble and little sacrafice.  I trust he will answer my prayers and grant me clarity and a resolution to my discernment. 

Today in my morning reflection I came across these words that happen to be inscribed on a cathedral door in Milan:

"All that pleases is but for a moment.  All that troubles is but for a moment.  That only is important which is eternal."

Preserve and focus on the eternal! 

Today's Fasting Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of a new day.  Each day you give us an opportunity to start over, to preserve.  Grant me your strength and courage.  Release me from every fear and concern.  Take care of it all Father, I know that you will. 

As a special intention I would like to also pray today for all the elderly and lonely in our families, neighborhoods and those who are forgotten about.  Grant them comfort, peace and the gift of companionship.  It is possible to be lonely even when one is in a crowd, so be with those people in a special way today Lord.  Amen.

Beyer, Richard. (1993).  Medjugorje Day by Day.  Avia Maria Press.  Norte Dame, IN.

Google. Dictionary.  "Persevere."  Retrieved May 18, 2011 from:  http://www.google.com/#hl=en&biw=1579&bih=694&q=persevere&tbs=dfn:1&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=HPTTTd26Js7ngQfUnO0t&ved=0CCIQkQ4&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=ecbf8a9c27052cf6

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day 6

Day 6, May 17, 2011:

I read a brief reflection today that stated something very simple and true, that we "cannot enjoy the fullness of life in Christ when you are still a slave, bound by addictions."  Now addictions can come in many forms, some are more apparent than others, some are private.  But, I would said that most people in their lives have struggled with one form of addiction of another.  I know in my life I have become addicted to worrying, it has become an unwelcome friend of mine, day-in and day-out.  What is unfortunate is that I am starting to see that this has lead me not to have the peace or clarity I seek.  I see that the enemy preys off of our weaknesses and addictions and for me, the enemy is good at causing me to doubt and second guess myself.  I have other areas of my life that I guess if I was really honest with myself, I would have to admit that they are a form of an addiction, and when thinking about these things, yes, I can see how they keep me away from living in the fullness of Christ.  As I said before, I get in the way a lot with my relationship with God.

Today's Fasting Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of a new day.  I ask that you give me the necessary graces to be free of my addictions and fears, so I may have clarity and be sensitive to your Holy Spirit and the gifts you are wanting to out pour on me.  Forgive me Lord for my doubt.  Please let your most holy and perfect will be done in my life.  Lead me Lord, I want to say Yes, but I am afraid and confused.  Heal me Lord and help me not to get in the way of that.

Also, Lord, I pray for every family member of mine.  You know the private struggles they carry in their hearts and relationships.  Pour your Holy Spirit out on them Lord and renew them.  Let your will be done in their lives and let them seek your will, Amen.

Franklin, J. Fasting:  Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God. Charisma House:  Lake Mary, Florida.

Day 5

Day 5, May 16, 2011:
Yesterday was my fifth day of fasting and it was a little tough sense I was at a family gathering, but I stayed meatless, which was good.  Yesterday the book on fasting that I am reading asked the question, "How has this fast, so far helped you to relate to your heavenly Father?"  One is that I am constantly reminded how weak I am, meaning how weak the flesh is.  Second, that I am starting to realize that sometimes I get in God's way.  Sometimes instead of trying to let things take their course, I feel the need to control, interject or influence the situation somehow.  This fast so far is showing me that I have to say "Yes" to God everyday and every moment.  It has to be that constant, or I stumble.  This fast is showing me how very dependent I am on God and need to be.

Fasting Prayer:
Dear Lord, today I lift up to you the souls of the departed and all the souls in purgatory.  I pray for all those departed souls that have no one here on earth to pray for them.  Amen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 4

Day 4:
Today was a bit up and down, but I still managed to get through some of my goals on my fast.  Sometimes as we try to get closer to God or seek an answer, we are bombarded by negativity and sometimes respond that way as well.  I am learning that I can definitely get in the way of my own fast, my own prayer life, my own relationship with God.

Two thoughts that I mediated on this weekend were love and service.  Yesterday at a formation meeting, myself and my formation director discussed the concept of God's love.  I shared that sometimes, especially after I have sinned, I have a hard time accepting this love, I feel distance, unworthy, undeserving.  For some reason it is hard for me to always see God as merciful and ready to forgive.  I shared I think this is partially why I have a hard time forgiving and getting past things.  However, I know that part of loving is forgiving, whether that be myself or another.  We also discussed how love is an action and a decision.  For example, waking up each day and deciding that I am going to love my neighbor, family, and those that are hard to love.

Also, today at mass, our Deacon gave the homily and it being "Good Shepard Sunday," he discussed not only vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but the vocations of lay people.  I was deeply touched about his testimony on why and how he and his wife went through the Deacon Formation process.  He too discussed love and how the root of his vocation is to live the Gospel, especially reflecting on how Christ came to serve, not to be served.  I had to really think about this, because I had an incident come up this morning somewhat unexpectedly and at first I jumped to anger and then recalled what Deacon Moore had discussed, love and service, essentially putting the other first, not serving my own needs or comforts.

Sometimes fasting days are much harder than others, that was my experience today.  But, some of my goals were still met, thank you God.  Thank you God for continuing to show me my weaknesses and what I need to perfect through you and your mercy and love, which is always there whenever I am open to receiving it.

Today's Fasting Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of today.  Thank you for all the priest, religious and lay people you've put in my life as good Christian-Catholic role models.  I have been blessed to have more than a few.  I pray again for an increase of vocation to the religious life and for all lay people, that they two may discover your vocation for them.  I also pray for my own vocation, lead me Lord, who am I and who are you?  I want to give you my YES!  Teach me how to love like you love Lord.  Teach me how to serve like you serve Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fasting Day 3

Day 3:
Today (and really this weekend) are focused on getting past my quitting point.The weekends are usually a time when we are a little more carefree and we can allow ourselves to indulge (maybe even over indulge) because we feel like we deserve it after a tough work week.  However, today I will focus on what God deserves, which is my sacrifice, my YES to him through continuing my fast and working on perfecting it.  I see this partial fast as also a process and it highlights my weakness and impulses to the flesh so profoundly.  I think this too is a revelation from God, that through fasting more of our weaknesses and temptations are exposed.  I will stay hungry for the Lord, for I know it is HE I seek to be fed by and lead by, not the ways of this world.

Today in my book on fasting, it states that Jesus went through cities where He could do no miracles because there was no hunger.  Therefore, in this God is saying, "I'm looking for somebody who wants something.  I'm looking for somebody who will do more than show up for another church service, but they will hunger for that which I want to place in them!"

Prayer for Today's Fast"
Dear Lord, please allow me to continued to stay focus on this humble and small offering, as I know it does not compare to the ultimate sacrifice you gave us through Christ.  My weakness is pitiful and I need you to carry me through and embrace me in my weakness, which is always before me.  Guide me Lord, who am I Lord and who are you?  What are you wanting from me.  This discernment is painful and I know you have called me to something my whole life and now it is a burning desire and I feel confused and cluttered.  Grant me strength, courage and clarity so that I may know your will and follow it completely.  I also pray for all the fallen away Catholics that I know.  I ask that you anoint them Lord and create in them a desire to return home. Amen.

Franklin, J. Fasting:  Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God. Charisma House:  Lake Mary, Florida.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fasting Day 2

Day 2:

The first few days of fasting are always a challenge, and yesterday being the first was definitely that.  However, I got through, with complete dependency on God.  I think that is one of the fruits of fasting, you are totally focused on offering up your day to God, you cannot escape it.  You find yourself praying constantly, "Dear Lord, give me strength, I can't do this without you." 

I had the opportunity to speak with a priest about my fast and the reasons why I am doing it.  I felt so blessed to have him pray over me and give me some advice about my fast and its purpose, it felt like the proper way to start this journey (almost like participating in Ash Wednesday before Lent).  It felt like I had my ticket and passport and I was ready and excited to embark on this 21 days of closeness with God.

One of the many things that came up in our conversation was the importance of fasting.  Father shared that if I recalled the story of the man who wanted a demon driven out of his son in (Matthew 17:17-21), that the disciples of Jesus could not cure him. The man specifically states this to Jesus, and therefore, he (Christ) is the only one that can drive this awful demon out.  Later, alone with his disciples, Jesus tells them when referring to the demon and their inability to drive it out of the young man that, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:20-21).  I thought this was reaffirming, because the book I had picked up on fasting, started with this story in the introduction.  I had the feeling again, that in order to start conquering some of my demons and fears within, fasting (and prayer) would be the only way to get them out.

Prayer for Today's Fast:
Dear Lord, I offer up my private intention to you and for you to release the demons and fears in my life that are keeping me away from your most holy and perfect will for me.  I also offer up this sacrifice for all religious (priest, nuns, brothers, friars).  I pray that you may bless them Lord and increase the call to these important and necessary vocations and strengthen these members of the Body of Christ to continue to do their ministry that gives glory to God and brings people closer to him.  I ask this through the intercession of St. Rita, patron saint of impossible things, Our Lady and St. Franics.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

21 Days

Day 1, May 12, 2011:

Back in February I wrote a blog post about the importance of fasting and how it helps to release us from our dependence on earthly thing and rely more profoundly on God.  I also mentioned in that post that I was not a very good "faster," but that I did believe that if and when sincerely practice, it can bring forth tremendous rewards and closer encounter with God. 

I mention this, because I find myself once again, being called to renew my commitment to fasting.  I have tried to fast at least once week, but I must admit, I have not done this whole heartily or in a way that has fostered true discipline or reliance on God.  My tummy begins to get hungry and simply, I end up caving!  However, I keep hearing this inner call to press on, to take fasting more seriously.  Through prayer, conversations with others and various incidences, I feel that God's is revealing to me that I will obtain the clarity I seek and His will for my life, if I seriously dedicate myself to a serious fast.

Today I had the rare occasion of letting myself roam around my local bookstore.  I decided that I needed a little break from my normal studying and lesson planning routine.  I had a gift card and thought perhaps I would buy myself a cookbook or a light read to flip through.  However, once I got to the bookstore, I immediately came across a table with four books on fasting!  I thought to myself, what are the odds of this!  Especially, on a Wednesday, which is my normal fast day, but on this day, I had decided not to fast...was God trying to give me some kind of reminder?  Nonetheless, I proceeded to look through each book and one spoke to me, it is was, "Fasting:  Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God" by Jentezen Franklin. 

As soon as I got home, I could not put the book down.  Franklin had a candid and easy way of explaining the spiritual purpose of fasting that just spoke to me.  Franklin also uses many scriptural passages to demonstrate how all major characters in the Bible fasted and the spiritual rewards that were given to them.  He also discusses how those who were tempted by passion and food, did not gain reward with God or ever learn God's true plan for their life.  For example, he discusses Adam and Eve in the garden and how by eating the forbidden fruit, they basically ate themselves literally out of house and home!  As a practicing Catholic, I immediately saw that I could learn a lot from this Protestant Pastor.  Franklin discusses that at the beginning of each year, he and his congregation embark on a 21 day fast.  The number 21 stems from Daniel's fast while he was under captivity in Babylon.  Essentially, by doing this at the beginning of the year, Franklin states that him and his congregation are putting God first in their lives for that year.  Now, Franklin discusses that fasts can be shorter and longer than this and they can be taken on in different forms, from a complete fast to a partial.  However, his main point is this to readers who open up the first few pages:

"Since you are reading this book, you are probably not content to go through this year the way you went through last year.  You know there's more.  You know there is an assignment for your life.  You know there are things that God desires to release in your life, and there is a genuine desperation for those things gripping your heart."

Wow!  When I read these words, I thought, "Oh my, this is how I have been feeling, this is why I named my blog, "In Search Of," this captures my yearnings, my quest for clarity and to know God's purpose and how I had thought for months now that I needed to fast more seriously to obtain it!"  Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways!

So where is this all leading?  Well, Franklin points out that in the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us three specific duties:  giving, prayer and fasting and if we practice this threefold cord, it is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  Therefore, I have decided to recommit myself seriously to a 21 day fast.  It will be partial, I do not think I am quite at the level to just go on water alone, but it will be a contrite effort, for spiritual discernment, mental clarity, courage and an answer to a private prayer request.  I plan to write a very brief blog post each of the 21 days, discussing my goals for the fast, biblical teachings and some of Franklin's insight.  Franklin recommends a journaling effort to take place during your fast, so  I will use my blog to help encourage me to stay with this spiritual exercise and perhaps encourage others.

As Franklin says, "When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by things of this world and amazingly sensitive to things of God."  I have been waiting for this anointing, but I realize I must make the sacrifice, so I am open to receive it.  I hope you keep me in your prayers as I make this journey.

My plan is to not drink any carbonated beverages, only water.  To fast from wine (this is going to be tough) and eat only one to two smalls meals a day (I am going to try to keep this vegetarian). I know this may not seem like a lot, but for this wine loving carnivore, it is a fast!  I am hoping this emptying of self, will help me to uncover God's plan for me and give me the courage to take certain steps and provide an answer to a private prayer request.

Fasting Prayer:
"Lord, as I fast unto You, replace the source of my joy, peace and gentleness with You. Purify my character so that I rely on continual surrender to Jesus instead of the contentment of the flesh." Amen.

Franklin, J. Fasting:  Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God. Charisma House:  Lake Mary, Florida.