#WorthRevisit: The Fruit of an Upbraiding

Very recently, a Sister in Christ who was once a friend said some very hurtful things to me.  It’s been a long time since such a thing has happened, but goodness knows humility’s not my strong suit, so the occasional upbraiding is probably well deserved.

Since the purpose of this blog is to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am writing a post that I’d rather not write.  But perhaps it will help someone else who may have a similar experience – past, present, or future.

This person and I had developed a friendship over the past few years, but have drifted apart over the last several months.  I had my own reasons for allowing this to happen, as she – obviously – had hers.  I knew when we met recently that things were boiling under the surface, but didn’t see a point in bringing them to the light of day.  Perhaps that’s me being passive-aggressive.  Probably.

Well, my Sister in Christ is much more outspoken than I am, and I learned, through her eyes, how the distance that had grown between us has affected her and made her feel.  I learned her view of my inadequacies and shortcomings.

Its never easy to hear yourself criticized by another person. In fact, it really stinks.  It left me feeling pretty low for a while.  Knowing that my loving Father does not want me to feel this way, I searched my head for scriptures that might apply.

First, I remembered Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And, verse 46: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  And so I dropped to my knees in the middle of fixing dinner and prayed for this Sister in Christ – that she would have healing in this difficult time, that she would know Christ’s love, peace, and comfort, and that she, too, would recognize the opportunity for introspection to become more conformed to the woman God made her to be.  In the midst of a lot of hurt and anger, that prayer was the singularly most healing prayer I could have prayed.

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The second scripture verse that came to mind was Hebrews 12:11: “Now discipline [some versions say “chastisement”]  always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

Thus, this is an opportunity for reflection.  Am I, in all my relationships, letting Christ shine through me?  Am I building others up in all I do?  Am I maintaining my integrity?  Are all my actions directed by my mission in Christ?

Of course I can’t honestly answer “yes” to all of those questions!  I have work to do (a lot of work), and this has illuminated an area of opportunity for me.  For that, I am grateful.

So, I thank my Sister in Christ.  Good will come from her actions and her words.  I trust in Christ to help me identify those areas that need improvement, and her words to me have made me more conscious of an area in which I need to ask for the Spirit’s wisdom to look interiorly at my actions and my motivations.

Indeed, her upbraiding – I pray – will bear much fruit.

“…we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.” Romans 5:3-5

#WorthRevisit is a linkup of FAVORITE PREVIOUSLY posted blogs …. Visit Reconciled to You to read more authors’ posts worth revisiting!

So Much for Good, Strong Bones

My family has good, strong bones. It’s one of the stupid things that I’ve always been just a wee bit prideful about. We may have our weaknesses, we Engelman’s, but we’ve got good, strong bones.

Through all the football games, rough housing, dirt bike riding, and general stupid stunts, my kids had yet to break a bone.

Until Tuesday.

Mind you, our oldest had just gotten a new scooter, and went to the skate park to try it out. This seems like an inherently dangerous thing, so I gave him a big hug before he left and sent up a few prayers while he was gone.

Our ten year old daughter, “Bonita” on the other hand, had a kickball game. I screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-06-04-amwas wracked with guilt over missing it  but I needed to be at Confirmation and had no choice. So, I did give her a big hug before she left, but it was an “I’m terribly sorry I’m not going to be there” hug, not a “please Lord protect her” hug.

During Mass, I thought of my son, maybe breaking his neck “dropping in” to some half pipe, and offered another prayer for him.

After the Confirmation Mass, I checked my phone and saw that I had several texts. Bonita had hurt her pinky finger trying to catch a ball. It was probably just badly jammed, according to a doctor who happened to be on site, but it could be broken.

Mehhh. We’ve got good strong bones. She’ll be fine.

Wednesday, the school nurse looked at it and forewarned me that it may need to be checked out.

Thursday, the nurse called and left a voicemail. Take this child to the doctor.

The irony is that, only a few weeks ago I joked with a friend, “Hey, I just found out that we’ve met our out of pocket max on the insurance! If the kids are going to break some bones, this is the year to do it!”

Whoops. I shouldn’t have said that.

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Lesson learned: unless you want to wrap your kids in bubble wrap, count on them being in danger at every turn. Even kickball is a dangerous sport, apparently!

Ultimately, trust them to the Lord, and he will take care of them in his own perfect way!

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The Crucifix: Inspiration for Repentance and Love

Growing up, the crucifix always struck me as–well, gross, graphic, and unnecessary. It simply didn’t make any sense. Why did Catholics insist on displaying such gruesomeness? Wasn’t it better to look at the clean and less offensive empty cross, and remember that Christ rose from the dead?

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However, upon my conversion, I quickly gained a deep appreciation for the crucifix. There is “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends,”  and Christ loved me so much that he died for me in this terrible and incredibly painful way. To see it so clearly depicted before me served as a constant reminder of just how great his love was for me, a sinner, and for all sinners.

When I read and understood Numbers 21:4-9 for the first time, my love for the crucifix grew as the beauty of scripture filled me with awe. Once again, we see how the New Testament is contained in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. The Israelites complained against God, even as they should have thanked him for  freeing them from slavery in Egypt. God sent serpents among them, and many Israelites perished. Moses prayed for the people, and, upon God’s instruction, made a bronze serpent and mounted it upon a pole.  Whoever was bitten by a snake had only to gaze upon that serpent atop that pole, to receive healing.

Likewise, we who experience the bite of sin can look upon the likeness of Christ, mounted upon the cross, to begin the process of healing. That image, which calls to mind his death and love for us, will drive us to true contrition and sorrow for our sins, and a desire to be worthy of such sacrifice. It will lead us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are blessed to hear those most beautiful words of absolution.

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Thus cleansed of our sin, we find ourselves gazing more lovingly upon our Lord, emptied and broken, longing to love him as he loves us. The desire to be close to him, to be concealed within his wounds, leads us to ever closer union with him as we seek to love him through loving our fellow man.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, may the crucifix and its reminder of Christ’s sacrifice serve as our strength, inspiration, and reassurance of Christ’s love for us.and-just-as-moses-lifted-up-the-serpent-in-the-desertso-must-the-son-of-man-be-lifted-up-so-that-everyone-who-believes-in-him-may-have-eternal-life-john-3_14-15

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Answering God’s Call, Even When It Doesn’t “Make Sense”

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus tells Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon informs him that they’ve been out there all night, and haven’t caught a thing. But, he does it anyways, and they catch so many fish, their nets begin to tear.

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Sometimes, Jesus asks us to do something that seemingly makes no sense. When we do it anyways, we reap an abundant harvest, just as Simon and the other fishermen did.

The trick is knowing when a prompting is of the Spirit. It might just as well be of our own manufacture – as Peter experienced during the Transfiguration when he wanted to build tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Or, worse, it could be the manufacture of a very different spirit – for example, the spirit that prompted Judas to betray Jesus for a bag of coins.

First, we ask ourselves,  does this appear to be of God? God is all loving and all merciful, so a prompting that is not rooted in love and mercy must clearly not be from him.

After that, we might turn to the counsel of Godly friends, our priest or pastor, or our spiritual director. Having another person’s perspective on matters is always beneficial.

Ultimately, though, I find that patience and prayer are the most sure ways to know that I’m following Christ’s will, especially when he seems to be prodding me in inexplicable directions. The question, “Really, God? You seriously want me to do this?” is perfectly valid, as long as we ask it with a willingness to respond according to his answer.

Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.

When the prodding remains after much prayer and discernment, we are called to step out in faith and trust. Even if we have misunderstood God’s call in our lives, he will bless us in our efforts and willingness to be pleasing to him. We may make mistakes, but his correction will be both loving and gentle.

Ultimately, God doesn’t expect perfection, only a desire to seek perfection, and a willingness to please.