Pulled By The Grace Of God

Storm Clouds, Banff National Park, Canada,2010, taken by Martha Wiggins

Storm Clouds, Banff National Park, Canada,2010, taken by Martha Wiggins

“Thus says the Lord, ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.”  Jeremiah 31:2

Your life has been turned upside down, you have been thrown in the fire, tested beyond your endurance … or so you thought.  In actuality you have been living in grace, the grace of change, the grace of God.  It certainly didn’t feel like grace at the time.  In fact, it felt like anything but.  After the fact, I have often said that God dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a better place in my life.

Sometimes we are absolutely positive we are on the right track.  Things are going along just fine; we know we are doing the right thing.  Then, something happens.  Everything changes.  What we knew to be is no more.  Whether we are faced with changes in jobs, homes, or even friends, we are not happy campers.  More than likely we are unhappy because the change was unexpected, not something we planned, and not something we wanted.

Unwelcome, unplanned change is never easy.  And we tend to fight it, which makes it even harder.  If we knew ahead of time, we could at least choose to go with the flow, or make the best of it.  When it hits like a ton of bricks, the first thing we do is duck and cover, or run headlong into it, or maybe even run in the opposite direction.  We don’t have time to analyze because we are too busy being shoved down the path!

With the luxury of hindsight, we often find that everything worked out in the end to our good.  Maybe the job change resulted in a better job, or at least one we like better.  Maybe the home change brought us to a new place with a chance to start a new life.  Maybe we needed new friends who would accept and appreciate us for who we are.  Slowly but surely, we begin to realize, that all along, we were being pulled by the Grace of God to that better place.

I will use as an example one of the times in my life when God did pull me in Grace, literally kicking and screaming.  I thought I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.  At the time I had been teaching art for ten years in a Catholic school.  I loved it.  How could teaching, and sharing Him with His flock, in a school of my faith not be where He wanted me to be?  I was sure I would be there for a long time to come.  However, He had other plans for me.  And, He knew I would not just walk away; something would have to happen.  Knowing that I was not going to be fired, He would somehow have to make me want to leave.  It wasn’t easy for Him, and it wasn’t easy on me.  He decided to make me good and angry so I would want to leave.  It was a process that had to develop over time.  Did I mention He dragged me kicking and screaming to a better place in my life?  Everything changed for me.  I quit and I was very unhappy about it.  I dwelt in the pain and confusion of it for quite some time.  After awhile I began to see, in my new situation, that I now had the ability to be there for my family, for my children, in ways I would not have been able to, except by the Grace of God!

The next time change rears its head in an unexpected way in your life, try to step back from it and take a good look at it.  It just may be the Grace of God at work in your life.  And remember, happy are those who recognize the Grace of change. Although, sometimes it takes a little distance down the road before we can truly say we have been pulled by the Grace of God to a better place in our life.

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Trust, Want, Expect – aka Hope

Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, Italy, (Basilica of St. Mary over Minerva) taken by Martha Wiggins, 2011

Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, Italy, (Basilica of St. Mary over Minerva) taken by Martha Wiggins, 2011

“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” Psalm 146:5

Hope, as defined in Websters New World Dictionary, is either a noun or a verb.  The definition of the noun is TRUST; trust that what is wanted will happen.  The definition of the verb is WANT, EXPECT.

Hope is such a small word, and yet such a powerful word.  With hope we live and breathe and move.  With hope we pursue our dreams.  Without hope we cease to function properly; we just go through the motions.

Hope is at the core of our being.  It is an innate quality in each one of us.  To not have hope, it must be killed within us.  Even then, it will keep knocking at the door, trying to reenter.  It will do so over and over again.  It takes adversity upon adversity upon adversity to truly kill it, and even then there is still a glimmer, a what if, deep within us.

When my children were growing up I decided to give each of them a Bible verse of their own.  My middle son’s was Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  At times, throughout his young life, when things didn’t go as he planned, or hoped for, the verse reminded him that we must ‘hope in the Lord’ and not in ourselves.  Our hope must be for God’s will to be accomplished in our life.  When our hope is in the Lord, our future is secure.  My son is grown and married now, but still has his verse hanging in their bedroom at his own place, and I must say, it warms my heart.

Children usually bounce back pretty fast from adversity and move on to the next hope.  As grown ups, however, with grown up responsibilities, it is often easy to allow our hopes and dreams to fade into the background.  We often choose to let go of our hopes and dreams before we ever reach them, before we become too disappointed.  They are just too difficult to achieve when our adult responsibilities and problems get in the way.  And yet, even if we think we have let them go, or filed them away, they are always lurking in the back of our mind.  It may be that we are living through circumstances that seem impossible, or that aren’t turning out the way we envisioned them.  Something always seems to be missing, making us feel incomplete.  That something is hope.

I believe in hopeWithout it I could not function.  Hope is the fuel which propels me forward in life.  With hope in my heart, I am able to work through my problems and enjoy my life to the fullest.  I not only want and expect, but I have trust that what I want will happen. My hope is in the Lord!

If you are without hope, if you have given up, it is time to give in.  Not to give in to despair, but time to give in to God.  He has been trying to reach you.  He has been standing at the door knocking.  If in your pain, grief, discouragement, or despair, you haven’t heard Him, look deep within and know that hope can be rekindled through Him, with Him, and in Him.  Give Him a chance.  Maybe you have already given Him many chances, but do so once more, and have faith.  Have hope that He will show you the way.  Hope in the Lord, your God.

“There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”  Hosea 2:15

    

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Forgive And Forget?

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4

More than once I have used the following quote, written by me, as the status on my personal Facebook page:

“Forgiveness means you walk away from the hurt and into the Light.  You leave it in God’s hands and ask Him to send a resolution.  Forgiving someone doesn’t mean subjecting yourself to mistreatment or misery!  It just means you can let go and let God, and then be open to resolution when it presents itself!”

Because of the number of comments it always drew, and because so many of us find it difficult sometimes to forgive others or even ourselves, I wrote and posted the following in order to offer a little more in the way of explanation.  I think it is good to update and re-post it every so often to remind those of us who need it, and to help those who struggle with forgiveness.

First, I truly understand how difficult forgiveness can be.  I know there is no such thing as forgive and forget when there is serious hurt or serious consequences surrounding that which needs to be forgiven.  Also, don’t think that I speak from atop a pillar, never having experienced hurt or deep disappointment in someone.  I have, just as I am sure everyone has.

Second, I believe forgiveness must occur in order to make us whole again.  I do know, in order to do so, we have to get outside ourselves.  If we continue to focus on our inner hurt, if we continue to focus on what-ifs and buts, we will always take one step toward the Light, and then retreat right back into the dark.  We will continue to hide in the dark, waiting for the offender to make it right!  In order to get outside ourselves we must not let the hurt define who we are.  When we are defined by hurt all of our thoughts and actions are a result of it.  We are no longer in control!

Third, we must come to terms with the knowledge that we do not control the other person.  They may or may not be hurt by the situation; they may or may not ever come to apologize.  They may not even realize they have caused the hurt!  We cannot control them, but we can control ourselves.  This doesn’t mean we do not feel the pain, or the hurt doesn’t exist, but that we are going to be in control of it.

Fourth, we cannot do it alone.  If the hurt is too deep, it may not be in our power to forgive, or even to control.  It is here we must go down on our knees and seek His help, His comfort, His wisdom, His power to resolve the situation.  In doing so, we step into the Light.  We allow Him to find the right solution for all.  We wait patiently in the Light instead of hiding in the dark.

Last, we open ourselves to the resolution when it presents itself.  When we allow God to resolve the situation in His own time, in His own Way, we must accept the answer.  It may come in the form of an apology, or something else may happen that overrides the situation, something that is more important, more immediate.  It may even be that a peace comes over us about the whole thing; somehow we can now live with it; we can let it go.  Whatever the outcome, we have to be watchful, to not be so focused on our hurt that we miss it!  If we miss it, we will return to the darkness.

Begin with the simple desire to forgive.  Place your hurt at the foot of the Cross and let His Light pull you through the darkness.  Then, walk into the Light sure in the knowledge that all is resolved, all is forgiven.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

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A New Year

holy-spirit_2889073      As this new year opens before me, I remind myself of what was, what is, and hope for what is to be. 

I do not dwell on what was, except to reflect on what in myself is good and true and what in myself needs to be changed.  

In what is, I remind myself that there are many blessings to be savored and to be thankful for right here and now.  I will make a conscientious effort daily to look for and see more good in each present moment.  

In what is to be, I will hold fast to the knowledge that I am a creation of God Almighty. I am alive only by His grace, and I am made to live in eternity with Him by that very same grace. Therefore, I will place my hope and trust only in God, The Father; Jesus, The Son; and The Holy Spirit to whom all glory belongs now and forever!

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

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Begin Again, and Again

“From His fullness we have received, grace upon grace.”  John 1:16

No one sets out to fail.  We would never begin if we knew we were doomed from the start.  We begin our endeavors with a good attitude and a hopeful heart, believing in, or at least wishing for, a successful outcome.

Sometimes in the process we stumble.  When we do, it is usually ourselves we trip over.  We become our own obstacle to success.  We lose strength or courage to go on.  We lose willpower or faith.  We falter because we don’t know how to proceed after we trip.

In His wisdom, grace, and infinite mercy, God has devised a plan to rescue us from ourselves, from our failures.  He offers us hope and guidance, and more importantly for most of us, another chance; a do-over.  He forgives and forgets.

When we bring our failures and lay them at His feet, at the foot of the Cross, He takes them on Himself.  He wipes the slate clean with His Blood and tears.  He then sends us out with enough grace to begin again, and again, for as many times as needed.  We wonder, “How can this be?  Why doesn’t He give up on us?  Why doesn’t He just walk away from us forever?”  The answer is simple; He loves us with an everlasting Love.

We are His children.  He has vested a part of Himself in each one of us.  When we know this Truth, when we believe it within our heart, we are free to begin.  We are free to falter; we are free to fail.  Most importantly we are free to begin again, and again, and even again!  With His grace He picks us up, dusts us off, and sets us on the path again.  With Him there is success.  With Him we are not doomed to fail.  We may falter, but we will succeed.

It is New Years, a time when we look forward with hope in our hearts.  It is a time when we venture forth, sometimes on a wing and a prayer, sometimes with a goal and a well laid plan.  We seek success.  As the New Year blossoms, seek His grace, believe in success, and get started!

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The Body And Blood

Today I am posting two past but very special entries from Journey Through The Stillness, my personal spiritual journal.  Have a blessed Good Friday everyone. May You feel His Mercy and Forgivenesses in the depth of your soul.

November 17, 2010 – My Crucified Lord is here.  As one time before He places His wounded hands in a chain lock with mine.  He sees that I am shaken by this and begins to kneel before me.  Seeing that this bothers me intensely He stands and brings me to standing also, hands still locked together.  He says, “This is the bond you must protect.  NEVER let it be taken from you.  I have shed my BLOOD for you; I have given up my BODY.  This is the bond that is LIFE giving.  The world knows Me not as I truly AM.  My Body and Blood is the GATEWAY for ALL.  The world knows Me not.  You are my messenger, child.  Go, and tell ALL, that they must eat of the Fruit of The Vine.  They must BELIEVE I AM the Fruit.”     (Personal thoughts – I can honestly say that when I enter into The Stillness I never know what is coming.  When I type it to post publicly I relive each moment.  It is then that I too see a pattern evolving, or a theme, or a particular message to be delivered.  Today is obviously the crescendo of the previous few messages, and also the crux of the entire Stillness.  The message is strong and clear – Through His Body and Blood we are delivered.  Through the Eucharist we are made whole in the physical union with Christ, Our LORD and SAVIOR.)

This is an excerpt from November 13, 2010… Entering in The Stillness Jesus is here.  He begins to write on me.  Using His finger He writes His name in blood on my forehead, my arms, my legs, my back.  In a moment I am awash in His blood.  It is running down my limbs onto my hands and feet.  I am astounded.  I feel so hollow, so empty, and so ashamed for I KNOW He sees everything.  He KNOWS everything.  He sees and knows the things I want no other human being to know, and yet, He continues to write on me.  Then He begins to use a towel and wipe away the blood.  I say, “No.”  I do not want Him to do this.  He responds, “Daughter, I have paid the price for you.  In coming to Me you are washed in my BLOOD.  In staying with Me and living in my will, you are cleansed, made whole, made perfect in my sight.  It is MINE to do.”  I so want to be cleansed, to be made whole, that I just sit there and allow Him to wipe.  He is ever so gentle.  He knows my anguish, my disgrace and wants to wipe it all away.  He and I both know He will have to repeat the process many times in my life time, but He knows I will try to make it as few times as possible for His sake.  I am learning; I am trying.  I desire to live in His will.

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Affirmations: Help For The Journey

The following is a repeat from March 2011, but actually written about a journal entry from 2010. During Lent it is a perfect reminder that I very much need, and hope you find helpful also…

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Mark 14:38 

Some of us use positive statements, sometimes called affirmations, to help bolster our attitudes.  When our mind is filled with positive messages it is easier to disregard the negative messages that we are often bombarded with.  When put to good use, positive affirmations can alter lives for the better.

On May 8, 2010, in my time of Stillness before Our Lord, I was compelled to write the following definition of affirmations, and then share publicly on Facebook some of the affirmations from my personal journal.   The entry from Journey Through The Stillness reads: “Affirmations are to make one pause and think; to pull one from the clutches of temptation; to bring one into the grace of the moment; to help one to be conscious of failings and to grow in desire to do good.”

When taken separately, each part of the definition truly puts the use of affirmations into perfect perspective.

To pause and think – During the course of our day there are many times when we should pause and think before we speak or act.  One example of an affirmation to use is this one from Journey Through The Stillness: “When you judge others, I must judge you.” (3/1/11)  Write it on a sticky note and put it on the dash of your car, on your computer or in a drawer you open frequently at work, or mentally paste it in your mind.  Read it, think of it, before you speak or act; pause and think.

To pull one from the clutches of temptation – I know there are multiple occasions every single day when I need to be pulled from the clutches of temptation.  Having an affirmation ready in my mind to repeat over and over to myself can stop me in my tracks and save me from the evil of the sin I am about to commit.  This one can bring me quickly back to reality: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones.”  When I say this stirring line from A Prayer Before A Crucifix, and have the image of Jesus on The Cross in my mind, I find myself humbled and no longer desiring to succumb to the temptation.  I do not want to add even one more of my sins to the weight of His cross, to His pain and suffering.

To bring one into the grace of the moment – Sometimes we feel more like complaining than rejoicing.  In our complaining we may miss out on the truly good parts of the situation, we may miss out on the grace of the moment.  I love this affirmation, again from Journey Through The Stillness: “Hear Me.  I love you exactly as you are.” (1/22/11)  When a situation turns sour, or we find ourselves doubting, it is good to know He loves exactly as we are, and in reality, His is the only opinion that counts!

To help one to be conscious of failing and to grow in desire to do good – This final affirmation is a matter of self evaluation, of becoming aware of the times we fall short and strengthening our resolve to do better.  As we go forward from our failures or shortcomings, we ask Him to come with us, we ask His guidance:  “Heart of Jesus, lead me in what is mine to do.” (3/23/11)  Knowing He is there to guide us to what is our true calling can make all the difference in the world.

The personal affirmations I have shared here are just a few of many.  Often the most effective of all is simplest.  JESUS – The name of Jesus repeated over and over until a situation passes or resolves itself, or until a temptation releases its power over you.

You can find many phrases in the Bible to use as affirmations, or create your own.  Then arm yourself with a few so when the time comes you turn to them automatically and without hesitation.

 

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Who Do You Say I Am?

520px-Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English-001_svg“But what about you? he asked.  Who do you say I am?”  Mark 8:29

Lent is a time of self-discernment, a time of asking ourselves the tough questions about our faith and our relationship with God.  Jesus asked His disciples a very simple, yet very tough question, “Who do you say I am?”  When asked by Jesus, this question becomes the single most important question of our life.  Life in eternity hangs in the balance.

Today I am going to share an entry from Journey Through The Stillness, my personal spiritual journal.  This particular entry delves into who we are in relation to God.  What does it mean personally when I, or you, say He is God?

September 22, 2010He says, “You say you will be still, for I am God.  You know that I am God, and I AM.  What does this mean?  I am your God; I am the God of all.  What does this mean?”  I feel He is waiting to be answered, but I just sit in thought.  Then I say, “You ARE God.  You are LIFE.  I MUST live in and through You.  I MUST accept myself for WHO I am; a child of God.  I MUST give over to You all that I think, do  and say; ALL that I am.  I MUST accept myself AS I am; the way You created me, in your image and likeness.  I MUST be the person you WILL me to be, a person of love.  You are God.  You are LOVE.  We are united in love, not just You and I, but all of creation.  I MUST live in the unity of love now and forever.  I am created by You for that very purpose.”  He smiles, “Well said, my daughter, now go and live in love.”

    Who do you say Jesus is?  If you don’t have an answer to that question, then Lent, especially Holy Week, is the perfect time to reflect on and answer this important question.  Even if you already have an answer it is still good to take some time and own your answer.  Rediscover and be rejuvenated in your faith, and go forth to live in love!

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Is God Silent In Your Life?

Lake Peyto, Banff National Park, Canada, 2010, taken by Martha Wiggins

Lake Peyto, Banff National Park, Canada, 2010, taken by Martha Wiggins

“He says, Be still, and know that I am God.”

Is God silent in your life?  Did you ever think that just maybe He is waiting for you to be silent?

In the physical realm to be silent is to be without noise.  In the spiritual realm to be silent is also without noise, but with the added dimensions of a longing heart, a listening ear, and an open mind.  It is to be still before God.

A longing heart is a desire, a yearning to know that God is all that He says He is.  It is the driving force to become still before God. (oxymoron I know, but still true.)  It is to the longing heart that He gives Himself completely.

A listening ear is one leaned in to catch every syllable, every voice inflection.  The listening ear is where silence truly begins.  By making ourselves still before God, we are leaned in ready to hear His words for us.  To a listening ear He speaks volumes.

An open mind is a naivete.  It is a willingness to let in all that comes in the silence.  To be open is to welcome.  When we welcome His Spirit by being still before Him, He lovingly comes to us.  It is to the open mind He gives wisdom.

Spiritual silence, therefore, reaps great rewards for all who seek God in the stillness.  God gives us His complete attention, speaks His words for our life, and instills in us His wisdom.  Seek God out.  Find a special place in your home, your church, or out in nature.  Go and sit before Him, but don’t just sit there.  Have a longing heart, a listening ear, and an open mind.  Be still and know that He is God.

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He Holds The Year For You In Trust

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’.”  Isaiah 41:13

     A most Happy and Blessed New Year to all! 

“I stand between the years.  The Light of My Presence is flung across the year to come – the radiance of the Sun of Righteousness.  Backward, over the past year, is My Shadow thrown, hiding trouble and sorrow and disappointment. … I hold the year in My Hands – in trust for you.  But I shall guide you one day at a time. … And for each day I shall supply the wisdom and the strength.”  (An excerpt from January 1st in “God Calling”, A.J. Russell)

          For many years the above excerpt from “God Calling” has been my favorite reflection to begin the New Year.  It brings such comfort to know He is in control.  Even so, like many, I have the tendency to want to know the outcome before I begin.  Sometimes I spend so much time ‘getting started’ that I never really begin!  I research, organize, question, and plan.  I want every little detail in place to assure success before I actually begin.  In the August 24th entry from “Journey Through The Stillness”, my personal spiritual journal shared on facebook,  He tells me, “It is that first step that is the hardest.  Remember when you stepped out onto facebook?  Wasn’t I there leading the way?  The first step leads to the next, and so on.” 

The reality is success is never secure.  There are just too many variables outside our control.  Ultimately, we are not in control of anything except our actions, our free will.  We give our best effort, and then hope for the best outcome.  However, if we are honest, sometimes the failures we experience are actually successes, because they lead us to the next step, to the right step, the right plan… the real success.

I tend to tussle with Jesus over this very thing quite often.  I want perfection; He wants action.  Or, I want to be part of the flock when He wants me to lead the flock!  I often say He drags me kicking and screaming to what is good for me.  And while hindsight is 20/20, I know if I was allowed to see all before I began I might run backwards and never realize the good that was in store for me!

I have come to learn He will not ask anything of me He doesn’t already know I can do.  He assures me, if I step out in faith, all I need will be waiting for me.  He understands I want to know all the steps before I take the first one, but this is not His way.  His Way is Trust.  Only after many convincing signs of His will for me to do so, did I begin to share my faith outwardly, through my personal journal on facebook.  It is the same with the website and blog.  I have truly stepped out in faith and trust, and He has met me with everything I need.  Has it been easily done, NO; but able to be done?  YES!

Remember, He holds the year for you in Trust.  Think about this; let it sink in.  Then, unafraid, step out into your New Year in trust.  All you need will be there.  What is waiting there for you?

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