Forgiving the Unforgivable, Loving the Unlovable

Today's #Worthrevisit post takes a look at the call to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
Ananias laid his hand on Saul and called him “brother.”

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).  Christ gave the command, and greeting Saul in Acts 9, Ananias provided the example, calling his persecutor his brother.

Saul – soon to be Paul – had encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, and was blinded after seeing the bright light of Christ.  As Saul made his way toward the town, Our Lord appeared to Ananias, instructing him to go to Saul and lay hands on him, so that he could regain his sight.

Now, Saul had been “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.” His reputation preceded him, and Ananias knew that this man had come to Damascus with authority to imprison any Christians he found there. He said as much to Jesus, but the Lord insisted: “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and to their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)

Obediently, Ananias went. Approaching this man who had the authority to throw him in jail, the man who had supported the men who threw the stones that martyred St. Stephen, Ananias laid his hands on him and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me…” (Acts 9:17)

Ananias isn’t someone we hear about often, but his example is well worth meditation. He obeys Jesus’ every command.

Jesus said, “go” and he went.

Christ taught, “forgive” and he forgave.

Our Lord urged, “Pray for those who persecute you,” and Ananias laid his hands on Saul’s head.

Love Incarnate instructed, “Love your enemy” and the Damascene called Saul brother.

The result? A new Christian. The scales causing his blindness fell away, Saul was baptized, and “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

A few thoughts to ponder:

What might the implications be if I were to go, forgive, pray, and love my enemy as my brother? How might one life be changed? How might the world be changed?

Going Deeper… who in my life have I failed to forgive? A former friend, a family member, an in-law? A teacher, an employer, a politician?

What are my feelings toward those who actively persecute the Church and my fellow Christians? Do I pray for them? Do I actively ask that they would know Christ’s love?

Forgiving: The Way of Christ

Holding grudges is the way of the world; forgiving is the way of Christ.

Forgiving isn’t easy, but rather an act of the will.

Sometimes, a person has wronged us so deeply, or the wounds are so fresh, it’s hard to even want to forgive them. That “act of the will” is impossible to accomplish where the “will” doesn’t exist.

In those instances, we pray for the desire to forgive. God will honor the desire to have the desire, and He will plant it in our hearts. We can nurture that seed with prayer, and eventually receive the grace to forgive.

My Persecutor, My Brother

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Those who persecute Christ’s Church don’t merely persecute His people, they persecute Christ himself, as witnessed in His words, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) He didn’t say “my people,” He said “me.”

And yet, Christ longs for every soul on this earth to be united with him. That’s why he came not just for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles, as well. That’s why he chose Saul as an “instrument to proclaim [His] name to the Gentiles.” Jesus wants each and every one of us to know His love. When we pray for our persecutors, and for those who persecute Christians in general, as if they were our own brothers, we support Christ in His mission to recover each and every one of his lost sheep, by uniting our hearts with His in honor of His love for us all.

Loving Our Enemies

Hatred, in and of itself, does not kill. The person consumed by hatred does. But hatred will kill the hater much more surely than the hated.

Christ, of course, calls us to love, because he is love. To become more hatred will kill the haterlike him, we must love, even those who hate us. We must want the best for them, and the best is knowing God and His love.

We’ve heard it many times. It’s one of the most often repeated verses of the Bible – “Love your enemies.” But somehow we seem to draw a line. We love some enemies, but not all of them.

Did Christ mean to say, love some of your enemies, or most of your enemies?

No.

How do we love our enemies? In particular, the ones who would like to see us all dead? Love doesn’t mean letting them walk all over us. Not at all.

But it does mean wanting the best for them, and praying for the best for them.

And the best is to know Christ’s love.

Ananias knew this. His obedience, his forgiveness, and his love helped bring about another Christian.

May our obedience, forgiveness, and love bear similar, abundant fruit.

Reality Through the Lens of Christ (Why I Blog)

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Just over four years ago, a friend of mine complained over coffee that the Catholic blogosphere seemed to be filled with perfect women – women who somehow managed to have immaculate homes, awesome Pinterest pages, ideal marriages, and near-perfect lives of faith, all while dressing their ten children in beautiful homemade clothes and homeschooling those same children in a manner worthy of admission to Harvard.

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I realized she was right. While I loved the bloggers I followed, they did, indeed, seem pretty close to perfect. Were they really that awesome, or were they only putting their best out there? Where were the “real women”–women I could relate to and learn from through their mistakes and mishaps?

This is more like it
This is more like it

Since neither my friend nor I could find a single “real woman” in the Catholic blogosphere, I decided to step up to the plate. After all, I am one of the most imperfect people I know! So, being “a few beads short of a rosary,”  I created” A Few Beads Short” to give a little dose of reality to the Catholic mommy blogosphere. My goal was to deal with the realities of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – openly admitting my shortcomings while also looking at those struggles and imperfections through a lens of love, hope, joy, and trust – the lens of Christ.

The beauty is this: God still loves us, even in our imperfections. And we can learn so much in those times when we screw up royally, if only we’re willing to turn a critical eye towards ourselves.

When we look at ourselves and our actions through the lens of Christ’s love, we will inevitably begin to change, become more like Christ and his Mother, turn away from that broad path of destruction, and walk more securely on the narrow path towards life. (cf Matt 7:13-14)

Honestly, these days, there are other reasons why I maintain this small is the gateblog, namely the inevitable need for promotion that comes with authoring a book, and the desire to update those who have helped and prayed for Ray. But my primary motivation is the knowledge that there are other women out there who struggle as I do, and the hope that, through sharing my ups and downs, my lessons learned and the beauty of Christ’s Mercy and love, I will inspire them to look at their lives and actions through the lens of Christ, and that we can walk the narrow path… together.

 

**In God’s awesome Providence, I’ve discovered that there are many other “real women” blogging out there, and several of them are part of the Sienna Sisters CWBN Blog Hop. Click on over to learn why these women blog!

 

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#WorthRevisit – Savor the Silence

I get it honestly.  Walk into my parents’ home, and you are guaranteed to find the TV in the kitchen blaring with either Fox News or HGTV.  Though she rarely sits down to watch it, my mom just enjoys the background noise.

With four young children running around the house, I hardly need a television for background noise.  In fact, I tend to find it irritating to have that noise in addition to the clamoring of children.  However, I recently realized that I am not completely immune to this need for noise.  I always have the radio on in the car, even when I don’t like the program that is running.  If the kids are playing in the basement, you will assuredly find the TV on or my IPod going while I cook dinner.  Every time I nurse the baby, I either read a book or flip the television on, even if it’s three o’clock in the morning.

I honestly can’t understand why I have this desire to constantly inundate myself with external input.  I like myself.  I do!  I’m not such a bad person to spend time with.  But somehow spending time with just my thoughts for company is a great challenge for me.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to deliberately give myself a little bit of silence every day.  At the suggestion of a friend, instead of watching TV while I fold clothes, I pray.  While folding my husband’s shirts, I ask God to give him the strength to shoulder the burden of providing for our family.  As I collate socks, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide each family member in their walk through life.

Last night, the kids had gone to bed and my husband was working late.  I resisted the urge to turn the TV on while I mopped floors, and instead enjoyed the quiet of the house.  I stopped and listened, discerning the purr of the heater, and gave thanks for a warm house.  I heard the static of the baby monitor, and rejoiced in the health and safety of my children.  When I found myself wishing that the ugly linoleum was replaced by beautiful hard wood floors, I stopped and remembered that I should be grateful for having any home at all.

Taking time to savor the silence has done wonderful things for my Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 12.37.57 PMwell-being in these last few weeks, turning mundane chores into opportunities for spiritual enrichment.  The Holy Spirit clearly felt the need to hammer this point home, and last night I laughed as I glanced at our Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta wall calendar.  January is headed with “Called to meet God in moments of silence.”  Here are a few things that Mother Teresa had to say about silence:

  • “In the silence of our hearts God speaks of His love; with our
    silence we allow Jesus to love us.”
  • “We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.”
  • “We too… must learn that ‘silence’ which will enable us to ponder His words in our hearts and so grow in love.  We cannot love nor serve unless we learn to ponder in our hearts.”

Father, please help us to take time each day to turn off the noise of our busy world.  Help us to savor the silence, and to learn to ponder in our hearts your words and your love. Amen.

**This post was originally posted on my “old” blog, www.marthasheart.com, back when I only had four kids, was nursing the fourth, and Mother Theresa was “Blessed,” not “Saint.” It’s lovely to read it again today and recognize how these new practices have now become habits. I hope you’ll be blessed by these ideas for savoring the silence as well!

I’m linking up with other Catholic bloggers for #WorthRevisit Wednesday! Check out this link for other “Best of the Best” posts!

Walk in Her Sandals Book Review

A good Bible study makes me giddy, while a good novel sends me deep into the throws of whatever emotions the heroine happens to experience. Combine a great Bible study with a great novel, and you’ve got me hooked, balanced between the knowledge of the Bible story’s happy ending, the heroines’ uncertainty of such, and the wild array of emotions that such turmoil would bring.

Synopsis

Walk in Her Sandals –  Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Womenis that book. Conceived and edited by WINE (Women the New Evangelization) founder Kelly Wahlquist, and written by a long list of notable Catholic authors, it takes the reader through the roller coaster ride of Holy Week in a whole new way. The book combines scriptural meditation and reflection with a fictionalized account of five women living in Jerusalem at the time, utilizing the talents of Biblical fiction author Stephanie Landsem to bring to life Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his agonizing walk to Calvary, the three days filled with doubt and disappointment as his body lay in the tomb, and the joyous discovery of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Format

Walk in Her Sandals was written for women, by women, and explores six gifts of womanhood– the gifts of receptivity, generosity, sensitivity, prayer, maternity, and, finally, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Each chapter begins with an enlightening lesson on scripture – an opportunity to understand the Biblical account, within it’s historical context, with a glimpse of how events of the Old Testament foretell and illuminate those in the New.

Next, Landsem’s fictionalized account brings the events to life from a whole new perspective – that of the women who witnessed them, including a beautiful and moving account of how Veronica might have experienced wiping the brow of Christ.

On the heels of these emotion-laden stories, the authors look at the gift of womanhood exhibited in that narrative, before reflecting more deeply on the scriptural account and meditating on that scripture through Lectio Divina.

Finally, questions for group discussion invite us to go still further with our small group, before the “Walking in the New Evangelization” portion provides suggestions on how we can use our gifts to bring Christ to others.

Recommendation

If you’d like to take your Lenten journey to the next level, this is an excellent tool to aid you on that path. Read it on your own, or get five to ten of your most faith-filled What if you could have been a witness to the events of the last days of Jesus' life...? What would you have thought and done? How would you have been changed?friends together, and hold a Lenten Bible study. Be sure to invite five to ten of your friends who don’t fully know Christ’s love yet, too.

Never done a Bible study? This is a great place to start. Done two dozen Bible studies? This one won’t disappoint.

It’s an easy read, yet it plunders the depths of the heart. It  engages the imagination, while penetrating the soul.

** Linking this blog post to the Catholic Women Blogger’s Network blog hop. To read other reflections and reviews of Walk in Her Sandals, click here!

**Links in this post contain affiliate links – if you click on them, and add anything to your cart, you pay the same price but I get paid a tiny little bit for directing you to the site. Thanks for your support!

#WorthRevisit – Stepping Out of Safety

As Jesus walked to Golgotha, bearing the stripes of our sins and the weight of our follies, one woman stood watching. Her heart ached to see this man, who only days before had been welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!”, now beaten down and trudging toward his terrible death.

The story doesn’t tell us whether Veronica had, at this point, recognized Christ as the Messiah, whether she had listened to his teachings or touched his cloak. But this woman, this Veronica, could not stand idly by and watch him suffer. Stepping from the safety of the crowd, Veronica lovingly wiped his brow, his eyes, his cheeks. Knowing that the soldiers might hit her, or kick her out of the way, nonetheless, she felt compelled to move, to help in some small way.

So often, we become comfortable in our lives. At those “comfortable,” safe times, we may need to consider whether, like Veronica, it is time for us to step out of safety. Perhaps “comfortable” is a rest stop before the next thing God is calling us to. Perhaps, though the world may hit us, or try to kick us out of the way, perhaps it is time to step out of safety to serve Christ in some small way.

*Click here to see other author’s #WorthRevisit posts, with Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You!

**This post was originally published on my “old” blog, Marthas Heart, on Sept. 16, 2009.

Surviving and Thriving in 2016

Looking back at 2016, my initial thought was, “Phew. We survived.” However, that by no means does the year justice. Yes, we certainly had our struggles, as Ray continued to recover and we – as a family – attempted to adapt to a “new normal” that is actually ever-changing and anything but “normal.”

Here’s what I can say for 2016:

The kids are still alive

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Photo credit: Courtney Geyer, C-Style Photography

Actually, they’re more than alive. In the past year, I’ve seen them mature far more than children their age should have to. They’ve dealt with and adjusted to having a dad who is so very different than he used to be. They’ve courageously accepted the fact that they can’t have some of the luxuries that other children their age enjoy. They’ve taken responsibility for their baby brother, even as they’ve also taken on more chores. The older ones, especially, have recognized that mom is just one person, and developed a desire and willingness to help out of love and generosity.

They know that they are loved, and we have grown closer as a result of our difficulties. Most importantly, I believe that, as a whole, this whole experience has helped them to develop a deeper faith and trust in God.

My home is not a candidate for condemnation by the state board of health

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Photo credit: Courtney Geyer, C-Style Photography

I wouldn’t suggest eating off the floors, but, actually, thanks to requiring more from the kids, my house is in many ways cleaner than it would have been two years ago. If you stop by unexpectedly, will you find toys on the floor, laundry on the sofa, and dishes in the sink? Almost certainly. But I’m happy to report that you won’t find mice nestled in that laundry, or roaches under that dish-filled sink. The sheets are (relatively) clean, the kids are generally able to find clean clothes to wear, and any food you find on the counter is free from mold or bugs. 

 I didn’t lose 20 pounds

Moving that one forward to 2017. (Insert laughing till you cry emoji)

I’ve been incredibly challenged

They do say, “Be careful what you pray for.” I prayed for patience, and rather than miraculously granting me patience, God gave me a situation which would try my patience in every way. All I can say in this regard is, I sure am glad that December 31, 2016 marked a symbolic ending, and not a real one. If it had been the end of my opportunity to grow in patience, I would have to mark it down as a failure. Fortunately, there’s a brand new year ahead, and I will continue to meet this challenge head-on, continuing to pray for the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the help of Our Blessed Mother.

Professionally, God hit it out of the park for me

Even as I was confronted with so many struggles on the home front, God was quietly working behind the scenes to bless me with professional success. A Single Bead became a best seller, went to a second printing, and has received excellent reviews. I heard from speakinginaction2numerous people that reading it led them or their loved one to a greater devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary. I was blessed to speak to classrooms filled with young adults who immensely enjoyed my book and had lots of wonderful questions. I officially hit the professional speaker circuit, with several  successful engagements that met with rave reviews and achieved every speaker’s goal -listeners laughed, cried, and were inspired in faith.

I can take little credit for this, other than to say that I followed the call. Three years ago, I felt God ask me to write a novel. So I wrote it. Yes,  there’s been some serious hard work and determination involved, but without the grace of God, and the gifts with which He has blessed me, none of this would have happened. I did the work, not knowing that God would use it months and even years later to bless me (and my family) at a time when we would most need something to celebrate.

My takeaway from 2016

God always keeps his promises.

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