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REFLECTION: Are you really listening?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Several months ago, I came across a skit of the Lord’s Prayer on Youtube.  The skit opens with a smiling woman with a magazine in one hand and a coffee mug in the other.  She sits herself comfortably down on a lounge chair and you can see that she is looking forward to a relaxing time, sipping her coffee while she flips through the magazine’s pages.  As she glances at the side table before she puts her coffee mug down, her eyes come across a Bible.  Her demeanor immediately changes.  The smile is now gone and with a sigh, she takes the Bible and begins to pray through the Lord’s Prayer…

She begins…”Our Father, who art in heaven…”  A gentle voice replies, “Yes?”  The woman is startled and she eventually asks, “You mean you’re really listening to this prayer, God?”

Isn’t that an interesting question?  Don’t we expect God to listen when we pray?  The woman mentions that she recites the prayer as part of her religious duty and she actually prompts God to hurry it up as she looks at her watch because this conversation is taking longer than she expected.  In fact, she never expected this conversation to begin with!

God calls each of us into an intimate and personal relationship with Him and there’s no better way to develop that relationship than when we spend time with Him in prayer.  Unfortunately, the woman realizes that her prayer time would go much quicker if He would step out of the picture and if He would allow her to quickly ramble on, finishing her memorized prayer.  But what about the relationship?  At first she doesn’t seem to care for it, but as they converse a little longer, she begins to understand the importance of it.

Father God, we ask that You put a hunger in our hearts for moments spent with you.  Father, we don’t know how to be quiet and to be still anymore.  In fact Lord, we don’t want to be still because we are afraid to see what is within ourselves. Forgive us Lord and renew us in You.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

May our Father speak to you as you watch this 8 minute, 51 seconds clip… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLVzV9n69UY

God bless,

Melissa – October 1, 2014

p.s. – A copy of this script is available on…http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net/uploaded_files/tinymce/files/christian_education/A%20Skit%20on%20the%20Lord%E2%80%99s%20Prayer%20(Upper%20Elementary-High%20School)%20.pdf

REFLECTION: Less we forget…

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

 

It’s been 8 days and so many things have taken place since, that it seems so long ago.  And yet, it was only 8 days ago and I had almost forgotten.

An e-mail had arrived on February 4th this year, asking for prayers.  He had been diagnosed with inoperable terminal cancer 5 days earlier and he was told he didn’t have much time left.  Many had stormed Heaven’s gate for him and our loving God gave him extra time.  I believe he referred to each additional day as EBD (extra bonus day) or something to that extent.  One EBD after another…which  added up to about 7 more extra months with him here on planet earth!

It was mentioned that not once did he complain nor did he question “why”.  At that thought, I shake my head, knowing that my faith is nothing compared to what he had.

I met his friend, Randy, after Mass on a Saturday, where I was informed of Eric’s passing.  He had mentioned that Eric still had the strength and the coherence to text him the day before.  What struck me the most about Erik’s passing was that he had taken a shower and he dressed himself before he passed.  Can you believe that?  He prepared himself physically to meet his maker!  I had confirmed this with his sister and she said the family had chatted with him when he returned to bed and later, while they gave him time alone to rest, Jesus had come to take Erik Home.

Although I didn’t know him, I choose not to forget and I pray I will not forget how Erik bravely lived his life after his cancer diagnosis.

Not long after, another who I knew as an acquaintance had also succumbed to cancer, exactly 3 weeks from the day she was diagnosed.  As with Eric, I attended her funeral, and God helped me remember how important it was to be ready.  Louise didn’t have much time, but somehow I know she had made peace with her Maker.

Standing with lighted candles on each side of the centre aisle of our parish Sanctuary, the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) ladies honoured Louise as her casket was rolled between us.  As her casket passed, I was reminded that we, her friends, were there bidding her farewell from planet earth, but we were also cheering her on as she began her new journey into her eternal Home…  resting in the loving arms of our wonderful, loving God.

Father God, we thank You for the life You’ve given us.  We often forget that without Your moment by moment grace, we would not be able to survive.  Forgive us Lord.  Father, from the moment we were born, our days here on earth are numbered.  We don’t know when, so we ask that You help us to always be ready for the day when You will bring us Home.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – September 16, 2014

p.s. -

1)  A Letter to Our Brother  (copied from the back of the program)

To our dearest Eric

Words simply cannot soothe the sorrow in our hearts, now that you are no longer with us.  Instead, we trust in the wonderful promise of God and the hope of eternal life in Jesus.  This hope carries us as we humbly remember the life you lived so well.

January 30, 1960 was a special day, because you were born – the first and only son to your proud mother and father, and eventually a brother to four rambunctious sisters.  We are not too proud to admit that you were the cutest sibling, and your golden heart endeared you to all.  You were more than happy to pick up the slack in household chores, when each of your sisters asked you for favours.  You developed a willingness to help early in life that permeated your adult life as well.  Your believed in Jesus and the redeeming power of the cross was the firm foundation on which you based your principles.  Your child-like faith in God guided your life, and gave you strength and fortitude through life’s trying times, especially throughout your courageous battle with cancer during the last seven months of your life.

The principles you chose to guide your life give testimony to your integrity and character.  In the span of 54 years, you have touched the lives of so many people through your unconditional love for others, your devotion to your wife Melanie, your deep sense of filial loyalty, and the way you see the goodness of God in everyone you meet.  You were an extraordinary friend to so many, and you always treated the most unfortunate among us with the most utmost respect and generosity

While your sisters pursued musical studies, your interest in the arts was focused on drawing, design and architecture.  Even at a very young age, you would often be found in your room using toothpicks and glue to create intricate models and make miniature figures out of Plasticine.  As you grew older, you would spend countless hours in your garage building your own furniture and tenting to your 1996 Mercedes Benz (or as Melanie describes it, “your first wife”).

We are so proud of the man you became, and we are thankful to God for the 54 years we have had with you.  Your creativity, infinite compassion for others, and unwavering faith are the legacies you leave behind for your sisters, nieces and nephews, and all who loved you.

Til we meet again,

Your loving sisters.

2)  Eric Lee:  A Man of faith (homily of Msgr Greg Smith) - http://gregorynsmith.blogspot.ca/2014/09/eric-lee-man-of-faith.html

 

I preached this morning at the funeral of Eric Lee, the son of an old friend and the brother of Pamela Ho, who joined the board of Catholic Christian Outreach just before I left.

 
As you can tell from the homily, it was a great privilege. His mother told me “Eric was born with a good heart.” This seems to be no less than the truth.

A visitor to London knew that the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral was the work of Sir Christopher Wren, and that its renowned architect was buried there. So he decided to visit the great man’s tomb.He went from one grand marble monument to another without success. Nor could he find a side chapel with any mention of Wren.Just as he was about to give up, the man spotted a Latin inscription on the floor.He saw Christopher Wren’s name followed by these words: Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice.

“Reader, if you seek his monument, look around.”

Friends, if you seek a monument to the life of Eric Lee, look around you. Look around this church and see a beloved wife, a loving mother, four dear sisters, and numerous family members—all of them grieving, but none of them bereft of hope.

Look around the church and see business associates who remember a man of integrity and charm; and fellow parishioners with stories of his generosity and commitment to the Church.

Look around you and see people who aren’t that interested in what I might have to say this morning—because Eric’s remarkable attitude to illness has already given them the hope they need to deal with the sadness of his premature death.

Eric almost needs no eulogy beyond his own words “Another bonus day!”

But perhaps it can be fruitful to meditate on Eric’s rallying cry. What were the sources of such a positive attitude?

Clearly, it began with his loving family—the family is the first foundation of character and courage, and Eric grew up in the sort of family that promoted both.

Yet it took more than even a brave character to confront his dire prognosis with such confidence—it took faith. And again, his family was the starting point. I have known his wonderful mother for nearly thirty years, so I can attest to her persevering faith.

But the childhood seeds of faith must be watered by adult commitment. Eric believed that the Word of God is the truest guide for the good life, and he lived accordingly. He was led in right paths by the Good Shepherd, whom he followed with confidence.

When he found himself in the darkest valley, he did not fear evil, because he knew that the Lord walked at his side and would not abandon him; certainly he bore a heavy burden in his final months, but it was lightened by the promise of rest that Jesus makes to all who willingly accept the yoke of suffering.

In other words, when Eric Lee’s faith was put to the test, it provided real answers to the most profound and painful questions of any human heart. Can there be good in suffering? Can there be life after death?

At this funeral Mass, we are now challenged by his example. A friend who knew Eric said “With a hundred Erics, you could change the world!”  Which of us, in this congregation of hundreds, will rise to that challenge?

We are challenged, too, by his faith. If we are people of faith, we must ask ourselves whether we have lived our faith with enough conviction to see us through the dark valley.If we have no faith, this may be an occasion to ask whether Eric’s life and death inspires us to become seekers again, so that we too might find comfort in the face of life’s greatest mystery, namely “is there a life to come?”But whether we are people of great faith or none, this morning is a time to give thanks for a life well-lived and, dare we say, well-ended.This is a moment to rejoice that Eric found rest for his soul, that he was able to persevere to the end. However strong or weak our own belief, we can join Eric in crying out in the words of today’s first reading “We looked to [God], and he saved us!”

And finally, this time of prayer together is an occasion to pray for those who must now accept the pain of Eric’s death. The readings today are certainly intended to bring us the hope of eternal life for Eric, but they also contain God’s promises to those who mourn him.In his own time, God will wipe away the tears of Melanie and all Eric’s loved ones, and they too will find rest for their souls.For each of us, every day is a “bonus day.” We are all invited to live the present moment, whether of joy or pain, in the hope of the eternal day when the trumpet will sound and the dead will rise.And so, “with such thoughts as these” as St. Paul said, let us comfort one another.

 

REFLECTION: True greatness

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

 

The argument began as two teased each other, one boasting that he was greater than the other.  Overhearing their taunts, the others joined in as they settled down around the table.  Their voices grew louder and the argument more animated.  The Master shook his head as He sat with them.  “You foolish men”, he thought to himself.  “How long will it take for you to get it right?”  Jesus shook His head again as he recalled Zebedee’s wife kneeling before Him with her two sons, asking that He command them to sit at each of His side in the kingdom. (Matt 20:20)

With a sigh He said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  For which is the greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves?  Is it not the one who sits at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.  Luke 22:24-27

His apostles looked at Him with disappointment and puzzlement in their eyes.  “Master, what are You talking about?  My brother, John, is the youngest among us.  Did you say we have to be like him?

What was Jesus up to?  He knew what was ahead.  He realized His 3 years with His disciples were almost over and His death on the cross was fast approaching.  How would His disciples stand strong when He was gone?  The cockiness, pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, self-confidence and self-efficiency displayed by the religious leaders and the Pharisees couldn’t get in their way.

“…knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father…  (Jesus) got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

.…So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  John 13:1-17

Jesus, the One whose sandals John the Baptist felt unfit to untie, knelt before each of his twelve disciples, washed their feet and then wiped them dry.  Rather than resorting to washing the feet of one to set the example, He demonstrated the need for treating all (young and old; superior and inferior in status) in the same manner by washing the feet of ALL twelve.  He said, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

Have you pondered why Jesus didn’t resort to serving the meal or cleaning up after the meal to demonstrate humility?  Why did He resort to an act that was deemed fit for a lowly servant or for an individual to do himself?  What Jesus demonstrated was not mere superficial humility, but deep, humbling humility which required one to die to his pride.

He knew His men would be the spiritual rulers and teachers of His Word.  Pride and superiority could easily slip in, unnoticed.  The enemy, the devil, was lurking around, waiting to assault and to sift them.  If the enemy couldn’t destroy them, he would try to disgrace or distress them.  “Self-confidence, disregard to warnings and contempt of danger was a guarantee to their fall.” (Footnote 1)

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.  And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”  Luke 22:31-34

Simon Peter fell.  Jesus had warned him and yet Peter was confident that his faith and his love for the Master was strong enough to keep him faithful.  Was it sufficient?  Sadly, no.   Peter denied knowing Jesus three times and it was only when the cock crowed that he realized what he had done.

“True humility is a servant-like quality which enables us to place our life at the service of God and the service of our neighbour.  He showed us the way by lowering himself as a servant for our sake. He humbled himself, even to death on a cross, that we might be raised up and exalted at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Philippians 2:1-11)”.

Lord, you walked among the sinners and the outcasts.  We ask for Your grace to put our pride and self-esteem aside and to look beyond our personal wants and needs to help others.  Lord, it is so easy to carry on with our own and ignore the needs of others.  But, Lord, You didn’t do that with us.  You sent others our way, who gave themselves selflessly and who pointed us back to You.  We thank You for them and we ask that You give us the same desire to make a difference in the lives of others.  Thank You for giving up Yourself for our sake.  Thank You for dying on the Cross so we may have life.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – August 30, 2014

p.s. – footnote 1:  http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/apostle-john-the-beloved-ray-ellis-sermon-on-christian-love-59051.asp – good teaching on Christian Life in Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Maturity.

REFLECTION: The call of duty…

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

 

By definition, the call of duty “is a legal term describing the necessity to carry out a job or duty, such as a police case, military assault/wartime actions, or other military or highly important jobs.”  Have you considered what such duties would entail?

Imagine arriving at a beautiful beach front on a warm, sunny day and you long to jump into the water for a refreshing dip. Everything looks fine.  No one is in the water, but there are a few others, lying around, tanning themselves.  You dip your toe into the refreshing water.  Its warmth draws you in a little further in and you begin to wade and splash around in the water.  Suddenly a swift rip current comes by and it sweeps you off your feet.  You struggle and before you know it, you find yourself dragged out to sea at top speed.

“What had happened?!?  The waves weren’t violent and crashing!  There were no warning signs on the beach!  There were people lying around on the beach, why didn’t they warn me?” Your mind screams and it continues to scream.

Whose duty was it to warn you?  It was a public beach.  The municipality’s governing body should have put up warning signs.  Perhaps there were signs there, but someone thought it infringed on the rights of others and so he/she took the signs down.  There were other people there, why didn’t they say anything?!?  Perhaps they thought it was none of their business…

This is such a sad case, isn’t it?  Thankfully the story is fiction and it was merely created by my imagination.  But what should you do if you are aware of potential dangers in certain circumstances.  Should you remain quiet, shirking the responsibility?

“The word of the Lord came to me.  Son of man, speak to our people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman; and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, his blood shall be upon his own head.  He heard the sound of the trumpet, and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life.  

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes anyone of them, that man is taken away in his iniquity but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.”  Ezekiel 33:1-7

Father God, we ask for your wisdom and discernment to know when to speak and when not to speak.  We ask that You give us the strength and the boldness to speak your truth to others in love.  And Lord, we pray for those You call us to share Your truth with.  Open their spiritual eyes, ears and hearts so that they may receive Your truth.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – August 24, 2014

p.s. – .  “Rip currents are terrifying because they catch you off guard: One minute you’re bobbing along peacefully in the surf, the next you’re being dragged out to sea at top speed. They occur in all sorts of weather and on a wide range of beaches. Unlike violent, crashing waves, you probably won’t notice a rip current until you’re right in the middle of it.”  http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/rip-current.htm

REFLECTION: The bleeding vase…

Friday, August 15th, 2014

 

In his book, The Leader of Faith, Fr. Elias Vella recounts the vision a lady had of a bleeding vase.  She asks Jesus what it signified and He explains that the beautiful sculptured glass was her.  Her beauty was the many charisms He gifted her with.  There was a time when her vase was full…of Him.  She often came to pray; she visited Him in the Eucharist; she opened her Bible regularly to discern His will…filling her very being with Him.  People began to recognize Jesus living in her and so they came to consult with her and to have her pray with them.  She gave freely and liberally.  Many more came and she began to get involved with more and more.  Her prayer time dwindled, her Bible began to accumulate dust… she no longer had time to discern nor to consult with God.  People continued to come and she gave, but her vase was no longer full and so she gave herself.  She began to give them pieces of the glass as she taught them her experiences… teaching them her theological instructions.  She gave them her all, but it was devoid of God.  As she gave the people pieces of glass, she began to hurt them and those were the drops of blood on the broken vase.

Grim!  Recognize yourself in this story?  I hope not.  I sense a sneering smile here, not on God’s part, but that of the devil.  This is one of the evil one’s schemes.  If he can’t stop us from doing God’s work, he’ll attempt to get us involved with too much of God’s work so that we ourselves fall, causing others to fall.

Do you remember when trials came your way?  Where did you go?  More often than not, many moved further away from God. Many sought the counsel of self-made gurus; others, the ways of the world, attempting to self-medicate by dipping into food, alcohol, street drugs and perhaps, even pornography.  Undoubtedly they worked for a while, but eventually the voice of emptiness began again, calling hoarsely, beckoning for a drop of life.

The pain begins… again… first as an irritation but then it grows exponentially and we start clawing at ourselves… and later at those closest to us.   How do I know?  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.

Many of us eventually run to Jesus as a last resort!  Why?  Because nothing else worked and He was and is the only One who can and who is able to do something for our best interest, not temporarily, but for eternity.

Ask anyone whose life has been touched by the Living God.  Let them tell you about their brokenness and how they’ve searched and how they realized it was only God who was able to rebuild and transform their lives.  Let them tell you how they’ve realized that they need Him every moment, not because they are weaklings, but because He has become their strength.

Have they become zombies?  Definitely not!  They continue to have free will, and periodically, they turn away from His ways, but not long after, they return because they realize that His ways are better than their ways…  allowing  God to draw straight from their crooked lives.

Is it enough to let God touch your life once?  Definitely not!  We need to continue to journey with Him, leaning and learning on and from Him, asking for His wisdom, discernment, mercy and love as we manoeuvre through the trials of life.  If not, His light, which once flickered brightly in us fades, unable to bring light to the world that needs Him, but also to bring light into our own being.

“Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as You shine: so as to shine as to be a light to others.  The light, O Jesus, will be all from You. None of it will be mine.  It will be You who shines through me upon others.  O let me thus praise You, in the way which You love best, by shining on all those around me.  Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me.  Teach me to show forth Your praise, Your truth, Your will.  Make me preach You without preaching – not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do – by my visible resemblance to Your saints, and the evident fullness of the love which my heart bears to You.”  (Prayer for Holiness from Newman’s Meditations and Devotions)

God bless,

Melissa – August 15, 2014

p.s. -
Revelation 2:2-5; 7 (NASB)

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first loveTherefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent; To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

REFLECTION: Sifting through the past… (a glimpse into depression)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Last Sunday, a friend called to ask me to speak to her relative whose life had been over taken by an unwelcomed guest.  DEPRESSION  had barged in and intruded into this one’s life.  It was obvious depression was not welcome, but depression didn’t care.  It has a mind of its own and it settles itself down as if it reigns.  If the individual is aware of what can be done, he/ she would realize that brisk walks and exercise would make the “household” uncomfortable, jostling depression enough times so that hopefully, it would be convinced to move on quickly.  Unfortunately, it is easier said than done, because when depression arrives, extreme darkness and heaviness comes quickly, hovering over the individual… lingering just as a cartoon character with a threatening, dark rain cloud over his/her head.

Lightning flashes as the roller coaster ride of anxiety begins and the rumbling thunder accompanies the rider, shaking and draining whatever composure, pride and dignity the individual had until only fear is left. running havoc in the empty shell of what remains.  The ride goes on, endlessy going through its circuit, repeating itself over and over again until the individual can no longer take another round.  Unfortunately at times, death seems to be the only way out.

I have since found an e-mail which I had penned on February 6, 2008.  I will let it speak for itself…

I assume many of you have realized I had not been well.  Another bout of depression had visited over the last 7 months and my struggle, especially with my faith, was extremely agonizing.  I knew God had something beautiful planned, but while I struggled with the horrid disease, I had extreme difficulty accepting that something good could come out of it.

During the 7 months of anxiety and complete hopelessness, I continued knocking on God’s door…hoping and praying that He would ease the pain.  It is so unfortunate that the symptoms of the horrid disease and the medication often masked the comfort of God’s love and presence.  I often reminded myself of the pain and agony Jesus went through…in hope that I, in turn, would be able to carry on.  I must confess I felt like a spoiled child, screaming and shouting, bargaining, pleading with God…  I often tried to pretend to “live” the life of another person…but I soon realized that no one else had an easier life…not even Jesus.  I am so grateful that while I couldn’t sense His presence, God sent others (His ministering human angels) to me.  He also ensured that many of you continued to pray so that I could endure the journey…and I have!  Thank you so much for your faithfulness!

A few days ago I realized that women often forget the pain of childbirth.  As Nancy (my best buddy) and I chatted, I realized that I cannot forget the pain/agony of depression.  Perhaps the memory is not erased because it is a spiritual/emotional agonizing pain.  Has God used this pain for good?  My answer is an unwavering YES!  During those months, I yearned and hungered for God’s comfort…for God’s presence.  Now that I can “feel” again, I cannot describe the joy and peace of being given the privilege of basking in God’s love and presence.  With all my heart, I encourage each of you to do the same.

My prayer is that each of you take the opportunity to experience Him.

Before I close, I would like to ask you all to pray especially for a young, grade 8 boy named Michael. Since December, he has succumbed to depression and he has not been able to return to school.  Would you also pray for the many others in this world who are struggling with the same disease?

I sense that I must share one more thing.  I know many of you would not like to know how often I wanted to give up… since there didn’t seem to be any hope.  Each time I wanted to give up, God reminded me of a lady named Inga who is battling with cancer.  Inga and I have never met, but God somehow allowed our paths to meet indirectly (via the phone and e-mail) around June last year.  I often told Inga that I didn’t understand why God had put her in a special place in my heart.  Not too long ago, I began to understamd what God had done.  About two months before the depression “visited”, God had placed Inga in my heart so I could lift her up in prayer.  As I struggled during those seemingly endless months, God often reminded me to pray for Inga. As I prayed for her, I asked Him how she was able to endure. I knew He had given her that beautiful grace because I had overheard others say her faith has kept her going.  I kept asking God to give me even a portion of her faith so I could continue on.  I recently realized that God had used me in Inga’s life so that she (without her even realizing it until I told her) could later on help me to continue to choose life! Doesn’t God work amazingly???!!!  Would you please pray along with me for Inga’s healing?”  (Sadly, Inga has since passed, but she crawled into the Father’s loving arms with the greatest faith in Him.)

As always…God is so….good!  God bless!

Together in God’s overflowing love,

Melissa

p.s. -

How God Uses Pain  (TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2, by Os Hillman)

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isa 45:7).

God will use pain in order to create a love relationship with His creation. This statement may challenge your theology. However, consider that God allowed Jesus to experience incredible pain in order to create an opportunity to have a relationship with His creation. Consider how Jesus created a relationship with Paul. He blinded him and used a crisis in his life in order to bring him into a relationship with him and use him for God’s purposes. Consider how God recruited Jonah for the mission He had for him.

This is not God’s first choice for His creation. Romans 2:4 reveals that God’s preference is to show mercy and kindness: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” The problem is there are few people who respond to the goodness of God. God loves people more than He loves their comfort. He invests a great deal into mankind. He desires relationship with us and will go to great lengths to create such a relationship in order for us to receive the rewards and inheritance He has for us.

I have observed this process in the scriptures in working with people through years of ministry. I have noticed three distinct stages. First, we live based on convenience. Our obedience is largely based on circumstances in our lives. We choose to obey based on the circumstances.

The second stage is the crisis stage. God allows a crisis to come into our lives. We are motivated to obey God in order to get out of the pain of our situation. Many times God allows us to stay in this condition in order to demonstrate His love and faithfulness during our pain. Gradually, we discover something knew about God and often have a personal encounter with Him that changes us. Our very nature is affected by this God-encounter.

This begins to move us into a third phase that is a relationship that is motivated now by love and devotion instead of pain. This is where God desires us to be. Another way of saying this is we are no longer seeking His hand. We are seeking Him. We want to know God personally.

Obedience will not last when the motivation is only the removal of our pain. Obedience only lasts when the motivation is loving devotion. Where are you in your obedience and what is the primary motivation? If it isn’t love, why not tell the Lord you love Him today and want to know Him for who He is and not for what He can do for you.”

REFLECTION: The voice

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

 

A panel of 4 sits with anticipation with their backs turned towards the stage.  They listen intently to one (or more), expelling musical vocals that would capture their hearts and entice a panel member to turn and invite the singer to his/her team.  The voice…

Which voice has beckoned you to turn around?  Today, there are so many voices…”the voice of politics, of media, the voice of public opinion, the voice of other religions” competing for your attention.  Through the cacophony of sounds, how do you distinguish one from the other?  How do you discern which one is safe to follow?

Queen Jezebel was furious and was after the man’s skin.  Elijah, the prophet, ran hard and hid in a cave.  God beckoned him, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 King 19: 11-13

Having spent endless hours in conversation with God, Elijah recognized the gentleness of God.  Unfortunately, many who do not know Him, run in fear away from God, having the pre-conceived notion that God’s fury would spew from His mouth.  This is the devil’s delight!

Just as radio waves are continuously flowing, but is not picked up until a receptor is available, God has, is and will always be there, gently speaking to you and encouraging you on.  Is your receptor on?

God bless,

Melissa – August 12, 2014

REFLECTION: The shepherd, the cowboy, and the gate keeper

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

 

The shepherd, the cowboy, and the gate keeper… do any of these have significance in our lives?  You bet they do, especially in the role God plays in our lives.

I’ve often wondered why Christians referred to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  I thought it was because the perfect analogy for people were sheep and so the shepherd went hand in hand with them.  Today, I stand corrected.

In his book The Leader of Faith, Fr. Elias Vella explains in great detail.  During the time of Jesus, over 2000 years ago, not all shepherds were good.  In fact, “many shepherds… were outlaws and criminals who were living on the mountains, escaping authorities, and making a living from shepherding.”  Imagine that!  So why in the world did the angels first appear to the shepherds when Jesus was born?  Fr. Vella explains, “the message was not intended to be given to simple people but to sinners.  Sinners were those to whom the good news was first given.  Jesus did not come for those who were righteous but for sinners.”

Jesus is THE Good Shepherd.

Fr Vella expands…  “The cowboy has cattle – cows, bulls, oxen – but for him those cows are only meat for the market.  They are numbered; for him they mean only money.  So the cowboy does not bother or care whether the cow or bull is suffering or not; he just leads them and pushes them to walk towards the market.”

In those days several shepherds would find a meadow on the mountain and they would build a little wall around it with a closed gate.   They (2-4) would herd their sheep together in this protected enclosure before night fall and a hired watchman would stay awake and stand on guard at the gate, protecting the sheep from wolves and thieves while the shepherds slept.  Unfortunately, because the sheep was not his, the gate keeper was more concerned about his well-being and he would run when a thief or a wolf came by.

Jesus says, “I am the door”, the security that protects every Christian.  He is the one who stands between every Christian and the evil of this world, willing to give up Himself so as to give life to the ones He loves.

Day breaks and it is time to move on.  The sheep have intermingled in the meadow.  How are the shepherds going to separate their sheep?  “When the herding comes, every shepherd, one after the other, goes to the gate and shouts.  Every shepherd has a particular voice and tonality.  Now when the shepherd shouts at the gate of this big enclosure, all his sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and they all come out…”, following the voice that they have learned to trust.

God bless,

Melissa – August 9, 2014

p.s. -

7So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8“All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10: 7-9

REFLECTION: The anger and the compassion of God…

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

 

Sodom and Gomorrah?  Have you heard of these two famous cities?  In the olden days, they were located in the lush valley of Jordan which was “well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord.”  Genesis 12:10  Lot, the nephew of Abraham, lived in Sodom.  Unfortunately, “.. the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.”  Genesis 13:13

One day, God said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.  I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21

 “Then the (2 angels disguised as) men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord.”   Knowing the angels were on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth ]deal justly?” So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” Genesis 18:22-26

Undoubtedly, Abraham personally knew God’s mercy.  Lot, his nephew, and his family lived in Sodom.  He knew that if he pled with Him, God would reconsider.  He continued… “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Genesis 18:27-28

Abraham’s  intercession continued by gradual, cautious decrements until finally, he said “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” Genesis 18:32

When the appropriate time arrived, “the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”  Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.  Genesis 19:12-14

Imagine that, two, whose lives could have been spared, chose to remain in Sodom because they thought Lot was jesting or, could there have possibly been a lack of faith?

“ When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city.  When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life!  Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.”  But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords!   Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your loving kindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die;  now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small.  Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.”  He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken.  Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar.  Genesis 19:15-22

Wonder why Lot hesitated?  I do.  The men had told him they were going to destroy the place and yet he lingered?  I would have grabbed my family’s hands and ran like crazy.  I wonder if his faith was a little shaky as well?

Notice how the men took Lot and his family by the hand and they took them outside the city.  God respects our free will, but I believe that out of His mercy, there are times when He allows His angels to give us a push forward.  Nevertheless, the final choice remains ours.

I wonder if Lot was on the heavy side or if he was unwell.  He appeared unwilling or unable to make the trek to the mountains.   And so, he pleads for another alternative and the angels agree.  I am reminded of doing the same, pleading for an alternate route and for more of God’s extra-ordinary graces and mercy when I feel His directions are too big for me.  There are times when God seems to give me a break; but more often than not, He stands firm, knowing that if I am willing to go through the path He has chosen for me, with His grace, I would come out stronger.

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace.  Genesis 19:23-28

The end speaks loud and clear…  eventually, in spite of His continued mercies and grace, some will choose to carry  on in their own wayward path and God’s patience finally wears off.

God bless,

Melissa – July 31, 2014

p.s. – for those who are interested in the full account of “The Doom of Sodom”

Genesis 19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and [a]bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.” Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people [b]from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may[c]have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not [d]had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them [e]whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the [f]shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in [g]as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against [h]Lot and came near to break the door. 10 But the men reached out their[i]hands and brought Lot into the house [j]with them, and shut the door. 11 They [k]struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

12 Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; 13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who [l]were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law [m]to be jesting.

15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the [n]punishment of the city.” 16 But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the[o]hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. 17 When they had brought them outside,[p]one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay [q]anywhere in the valley; escape to the [r]mountains, or you will be swept away.” 18 But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! 19 Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your loving kindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the [s]mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; 20 now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) [t]that my life may be saved.” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this [u]request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken.22 Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called [v]Zoar.

23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, 25 and He overthrew those cities, and all the [w]valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord; 28 and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the [x]valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a [y]furnace.

29 Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the [z]valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.

REFLECTION: God’s Feelings

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

More often than not, God speaks to me through the scripture reading which another quotes from the Bible.  Last Saturday, many of us gathered at St. Mary’s Parish for Adoration and to worship and to praise God.  Roy, the master of ceremonies, quoted from Hosea 10:11-12.  That particular reading didn’t speak  to me then, but I thought it would be good to reflect on it the following day.

Once again, that particular scripture didn’t speak to me, but I continued reading until something “spoke”.  I began in Chapter 10 on verses 11 and 12, but by the time I reached Chapter 11, my pen was out and I had begun to underline one sentence after another.   To my surprise, I kept on until Chapter 14!

Have you ever wondered how God feels?  Read on.

When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called My son out of Egypt.   The more [the prophets] called to them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to the graven images.  Yet I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms or taking them up in My arms, but they did not know that I healed them.   I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love, and I was to them as one who lifts up and eases the yoke over their cheeks, and I bent down to them and gently laid food before them.

They shall not [literally] return into [another bondage in] the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be their king because they refused to return to Me.  And the sword shall rage against and fall upon their cities and shall consume the bars of their gates and shall make an end [of their defenses], because of their own counsels and devices.

My people are bent on backsliding from Me; though [the prophets] call them to Him Who is on high, none at all will exalt Him or lift himself up [to come to Him].

How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I surrender you and cast you off, O Israel!  How can I make you as Admah or how can I treat you as Zeboiim [both destroyed with Sodom]!

My heart recoils within Me; My compassions are kindled together.  I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not bring back Ephraim to nothing or again destroy him.  For I am God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of you, and I will not come in wrath or enter into the city.   Hosea 11:1-9 Amp

But I have been the Lord your God ever since you came out of Egypt.  You shall acknowledge no God but me,  no Savior except me.  I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of burning heat.  When I fed them, they were satisfied;  when they were satisfied, they became proud;  then they forgot me.   Hosea 13:4-6 Amp

Notice anything?  Although they are chapters apart, the two Scripture readings flow into each other.  Notice anything else?  God’s love for His people is immense and oh so extensive.

The individuals mentioned in the passage are the descendants of Abraham.  Israel, originally named Jacob by his parents, was Abraham’s grandson.  He was the second son born to Isaac. Isaac, the son miraculously born to Abraham and Sarah in their senior years; the very same son Abraham was willing to sacrifice when God put him to the test.  Ephraim is Jacob’s grandson.  He was the son of Joseph, the youngest of 12 brothers who was thrown into a dry well and then sold into slavery in Egypt.

Did you notice God’s relationship with them?  He loved Israel in his youth and took him out of Egypt (slavery to sin); it was He who taught Israel’s grandson to walk (in faith)!   From one generation to the next (5 generations), He was with them.  He took them into His arms; He healed them; He led them and loved them; He lifted the yoke (bondages) from their mouths and He fed them.  How much more intimate could He get?  And yet, the more He called (through the prophets), the more they turned their backs on Him.  They continued to turn to and worship other gods.  Although they were taught to worship the “One on high”, no one exalted Him.

As you read, some may have become frustrated and exasperated by the lack of gratitude and callousness of God’s children.  Unfortunately and sadly, not only does the story recount the lives of Abrahams’ descendants, but it tells our story as well.  Did you turn your back on God during your adolescent and/or early adult years?  Have your children and grandchildren done likewise?  We quickly forget the blessings we have been given, often times assuming God’s obligation to send them our way, but instead, we focus on our trials and how God appears to have failed us.

Did He really fail us?  How could He, if we’ve barely known Him all these years?  We may know His name and know of Him through the teaching of others, and yet, can we say we know him… personally?

God clearly recognized something.  He said, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”  Sound familiar?  Notice how we turn and plead with God when we need something, but not long after, we forget what He has done and we go off our worldly way until the next time a desperate need arises?

God finally expresses His anger, but very quickly, He realizes… “My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.  I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again.”  His gentleness… His mercy… His love rises far above His anger.  He exclaims,For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.  They will walk after the Lord, He will roar like a lion; indeed He will roar and His sons will come trembling from the west.  They will come trembling like birds from Egypt and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the Lord.” Hosea 11:8-11 Amp

Time after time, God’s mercy triumphs over His judgement and yet, sadly, He notices… “Ephraim surrounds Me with lies and the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is also unruly against God, even against the Holy One who is faithful.” Hosea 11:12 Amp

Our God is a God of second chances.  Through generations, multitudes have turned their backs on Him, and yet He repeatedly gives us chance after chance.  Have you wondered why?

“But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:8-9

God bless,

Melissa – July 29, 2014