The Perfect Resolution – LOVE

Resurrection Tapestry, Vatican Museum, taken by Martha Wiggins 2012

Resurrection Tapestry, Vatican Museum, taken by Martha Wiggins 2012

The following excerpt from Romans 12:9-21 gives us the perfect New Year Resolution.  Why not view it as a personal mission statement handed down from Jesus to us.  Let us each adopt it and adapt our ways to it!  Blessings and Happiness to you in the New Year!

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c]Do not be conceited.

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20On the contrary:

   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.   (Excerpt from biblegateway.com)

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Not In Name Only

One of the Stations of The Cross inside the Pantheon, Rome, Italy, 2011, taken by Martha Wiggins

One of the Stations of The Cross inside the Pantheon, Rome, Italy, 2011, taken by Martha Wiggins

“The child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God.”  Luke 2:40

The Christmas celebration has come and gone.  Hopefully the Christmas Spirit has found a home in our hearts.  Hopefully the image of the infant Jesus is imprinted on our soul.  Let us not receive Him into our lives in name only.

As we venture forth into our New Year let us take on the fresh faced appearance of an infant, but not just any infant, the infant Jesus.  As He grows, let us too grow in His image and likeness.  Let us learn as we watch Him mature into the young carpenter, and then into teacher, miracle worker, and Savior.  Study Him. Study His ways of acceptance and love for all mankind.  Spend time with Him.  Listen to His Word and see His response to all questions.  Watch His actions and reactions to all He comes into contact with, to all who come to Him in need.  See how He serves them.  Try to imitate Him.  Take Him along as companion, friend, helpmate.  Immerse yourself in His life and live life as He does, in total mind-boggling love for all!  Grow up to be just like Jesus!

Sounds simple and yet difficult doesn’t it?  How does one watch Him grow?  How does one see Him in action?  How does one listen to His Word?  God has provided the perfect forum for seeing and growing in knowledge of Jesus.  It is the Holy Gospels, the Bible, His own Word.  Spend time in the Bible, sincerely, prayerfully and hopefully.  You will soon find you are spending time with Him.  You will soon find you are growing more like Him.

Do not receive Him in name only.  Seek Him out, He is there waiting.

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Begin Again, And Again

180px-Prodigal_Son_003“From His fullness we have received, grace upon grace.”  John 1:16

No one sets out to fail.  We would 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 Greatest Truth Ever Told

Midieval Art in Vatican Museum, taken 2012 by Martha Wiggins

Midieval Art in Vatican Museum, taken 2012 by Martha Wiggins

Merry Christmas to each of you.  May His Glory shine upon you and may you feel His Peace within the very depths of your soul. 

     Please take a few minutes to read and reflect on the greatest story ever told.  Only it isn’t a story it is Truth.  Immerse yourself in it; imagine yourself there.  Let it speak to your heart.  Let it touch your soul.  Let it be the focus of your Christmas.  My next post will be Thurday, December 27th.

“While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son.  Because there was not rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a box where animals are fed.  That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them.  The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened.  The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people.  Today your Savior was born in the town of David.  He is Christ, the Lord.  This is how you will know him:  You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.”  Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”  When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem.  Let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.” 

     So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding box.  When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child.  Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them.  Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard.  It had been just as the angel had told them.”  Luke 2:6-20

Again, Merry Christmas to each of you.  May His Glory shine upon you and may you feel His Peace within the very depths of your soul.

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Less Is More

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Peter Wenzel, taken by Martha Wiggins, Vatican Museum, 2012

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Peter Wenzel, taken by Martha Wiggins, Vatican Museum, 2012

“Let all that you do be done in love.”  1 Corinthians 16: 14

While Advent is the season of Peace, Love, and Joy, it is also the season where, just as a fever rises on a thermometer, stress levels can go up and up, and up.  We become overwhelmed with multiple ‘to do’ lists:  gifts to buy, cards to send, food to prepare, people to see.  Before we know it we are looking for a place to hide, for an escape route.  We don’t know whether we are coming or going.  When we lose our way the true meaning of Christmas, the reason for the season also gets lost in the fray.

Two popular sayings come to mind.  “Less is more”, and, “If a little is good, a lot is better!”  If we are speaking of dieting, where the less you eat the more you lose, then less IS more.  If you like whip cream, well then, a little is good, but a lot IS better, and less is NOT more!

Keep these two sayings in mind while preparing for the coming of Jesus this Advent.  More decorations will not fill a heart lacking love, and more gifts will not prove our love for someone.  However, a heartfelt gift of our self will.  Even a little time spent sharing ourselves by making a simple phone call, or assisting someone in need, will fill not only the heart of the recipient, but ours as well.  Less IS more.

Taking time to refuel our spirit is essential to being able to accomplish all we need to do.  Spending a little time in prayer with Jesus will prepare our hearts to give.  We become filled with His love and then desire to share it with all we come in contact with … If a little is good; a lot IS better.

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Our Gift To Him

1391970_568939809822247_1815335477_n“They prostrated themselves and did Him homage.  Then they opened their coffers and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11

After receiving the gift of His own Son; after receiving such a gift of enormous love from our Heavenly Father, what can we offer in return?  The three wise men brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but what have we that could compare?  What have we to give that could possibly be of real value to Him who has everything, Him who created everything?  What does He want?  Need?  Expect?

I believe the true message of Christmas is as simple as love freely given and received.  I also believe the gift we have to give Him is equally as simple.  We give Him our heart.

First, we open our heart to receive Him within.  We nurture Him through prayer.  We shelter Him with love.  We allow Him to abide in our heart.

Second, we open our heart to share Him.  We love deeper, stronger.  We see others and love others through Him in our heart.  We allow Him to radiate outwardly from our heart.

Third, we open our heart in praise and thanksgiving.  We honor Him.  We sing His praises.  We thank Him for the gift of Eternal Live.  We allow His Glory to shine forth from within our heart.

Our gift may not be as elaborate as those of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but our heart is truly the gift He wants, needs, and expects as Our Lord, Savior, and King.  If you haven’t done so already, give Him your Heart today, and make sure He knows you have.

God Bless.

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We Are Prepared to Give…But Are We Prepared To Receive?

616px-Fra_Angelico_AdorationGive, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

Selfishness is a learned trait usually beginning at a very young age when we have something we want taken from us.   While selfishness is learned, giving is actually an innate quality.  Most of us enjoy giving.  We enjoy the personal rewards reaped from making someone else happy.  We are prepared to give, but are we prepared to receive?

If we have a selfish, self-centered nature we claw and grab for what we can get.  Our goal is the gift itself.  If we have a giving, selfless nature we wait quietly, patiently for our rewards.  There is a certain art to receiving graciously.  When we receive a gift graciously, our focus is on the giver, not the gift.  Our goal is to make the giver feel good, to feel as if they have greatly pleased us.

A selfish giver seeks to make him or herself look good for the act of giving, or for the actual gift given.  A selfless giver seeks to bring genuine joy to the recipient.  When selfless givers and receivers get together there is true celebrating for they are actually celebrating each other.  Peace, Love, and Joy abound!  And that is the true spirit of Christmas!

In Jesus we have the most perfect gift of all.  God Our Father sends His only Son that we might live forever in Eternity with Him.  He sends His Son to be Light to the whole world.  He gives His Son to each of us selflessly.  Are we prepared to receive Him selflessly?  Are we prepared to give ourselves to Him selflessly in return?

This Christmas let us each seek to be both a selfless giver and a selfless receiver. May His Peace, Love, and Joy abound for each of you!

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Advent, A Time of Hope

“My soul doth magnify the Lord.  And my spirit rejoiceth in God my Savior. … Because He hath done great things for me and Holy is His name.”  Luke 1: 46-49

Advent is a time of Hope.  As Christians, we are a people of hope and our hope is in The Lord.  Without hope in our lives a reason for living ceases to exist.  It could be said we exist for love.  In reality we exist because of love, the Divine Love of God our Creator.

What is love without hope?  Love IS hope; the hope our love is received; the hope our love is returned; the hope our love is shared, thereby making the earth a better place for all mankind.  We love God our Creator and hope in the saving grace of His Son, Jesus our Savior, that we might one day live in Love Eternal.  We hope for the Life to come!

Hope begins in our soul, spreads to our heart, and softly sings to our mind.  It is from the mind our hope springs forth into action.  To nuture an attitude of hope we must feed the mind.  We need to fill it with reminders to look for and live in hope, lest we forget who we are … a people of hope.  We prepare oursevles for the Life to come by spending time in the greatest story of hope there is, God’s Word, The Holy Bible.  In doing so we enlighten our mind with a proper diet, which in turn enlivens our heart, which then nurtures our soul, thus enabling the entire cycle of hope to continue.  It radiates from our soul to our heart, to our mind, outward to the universe, ultimately to God, and then back to our soul.  What we put out in the universe comes back to us tenfold.

Advent is the perfect time to rediscover or reinforce hope in our lives.  It is a time of preparation; for getting to know our true selves better; for expanding our vision of hope to include all those around us.  Daily reading in and meditating on the Gospels, and supplementing it with prayer and stillness before God prepares us in the best way possible for the coming of Jesus, not only into our own hearts and lives but into the world.  If we have hope others will too.  We become a channel of Hope to all.  We prepare the Way of The Lord.

We can begin our own personal preparation by starting in God’s Word.  Start with a simple prayer:  “Through you most Holy Word, Lord, I invite you into my heart.  Transform me according to you will.”  If you are new to this, at first try reading only one paragraph, or only one verse.  A good place to begin is with John 1:1-9, “In the beginning there was the Word…”  Read slowly, stopping to envision it in your mind as if you are there.  Read it again; maybe even aloud.  Meditate a minute or two on what this means to your own life, or think of God’s great love for us.  Thank God for this time to grow in hope and love, then go about your day.  Over time He will transform you.  A few minutes a day, repeated again and again, becomes a habit, becomes something to look forward to … spending time with Our Lord.  Dare I say, you will be hoping for more?

On choosing a time, and a place:  Bibles come in all sizes, even on line, even on phone apps.  If a quiet moment and place at home are out of the question, then possibly in the car before going into work, or on line at your desk during break time.  Find a few minutes that work for you.  God will be there whenever and wherever it is!

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Stop, Look, and Listen

Annunciation mosaic on the facade of the Duomo, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy, 2012, taken by Martha M Wiggins

Annunciation mosaic on the facade of the Duomo, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy, 2012, taken by Martha M Wiggins

“The Word became human and lived among us.  We saw His glory – the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father – and he was full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

     When we look in a mirror we see an image of ourselves.  We see ‘what’ we look like, but not ‘who’ we are.  When others see us, they see what we look like, but they can also see who we are.  If they stop, look. and listen, they can read it in our eyes and in our body language.  They can hear it in our words and see it in our actions.

When Jesus walked the earth, many did not stop, look, and listen.  Maybe they did not like what they heard; maybe it was a call to action or change that was just too hard for them.  They tuned Him out.  They walked the earth at the same time as Him and never knew the Truth, the Joy to be had.

His call is still heard today, over two thousand years later, and many still ignore it.  However, all is not lost, for in His enormous love for us He gives us another chance to stop, look, and listen.  Actually, the opportunity is ever present every minute of every day, and even more so during Advent and Christmas.  At this time He puts His story, Himself, right in front of us.  He makes it very hard for us to ignore Him.

Make it a priority to stop, look, and listen this Advent.  Spend time in His Word; spend time in His presence.  Prepare your heart and then look in the mirror.  You will like what you see.  So will others; so will He.

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Earthly Reminders Of Heavenly Things …Christmas Central

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. Saint Catherine of Siena is buried beneath the altar, and to the left is a statue carved by Michelangelo -Christ Bearing The Cross.

“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit; Seen by the angels; preached among the Gentiles; Believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory.”  1 Timothy 3:16

Most of us fill our houses with the things we like, whether functional or just pleasant to look at.  In doing so we make our home a haven, a place where we feel good.  When we surround ourselves with things that make us feel good we create an atmosphere that nourishes our senses, an atmosphere that reminds us of who were, who we are now, or who we want to become in the future.

In this same way, many Catholics and Christians surround themselves with images of their faith.  Some even go so far as to say that Catholics actually ‘worship’ statues, which is completely false.  In reality, religious art, figurines, and symbols serve to remind us of our all important relationship with our heavenly creator and His love for us.  I call them ‘earthly reminders of heavenly things’.

Saints were real people who lived and died in faithfully great service to God.  They serve as role models for our lives and can even intercede for us if we call upon them in faithful prayer.  For instance, an image of Jesus The Shepherd with sheep reminds us that we are all part of His flock and should seek to follow Him and His example for our lives.  A statue of Mary can serve to remind us, that as His mother, she is also our spiritual mother to whom we can turn in our time of need, asking her to intercede on our behalf with her Son.  A prayer card with an image of Saint Frances can help us remember to be kind to all of God’s creatures, and we can ask for His help in doing so.  Each image, in its own way, causes us to reflect on what is the most important thing, our relationship with God.  When we surround ourselves with these reminders we create a spiritual atmosphere that is more conducive to living life as we should.

In a similar way, a Creche or Manger scene is often the focal point of our decorations for the Christmas season.  Let’s say it is ‘Christmas Central’ in our home.  Through its figurines of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, it tells the Christmas Story of the babe in a manger who came into the World, and was the Light for all mankind.  It serves as a reminder of who we were, who we are, and who we are to become!  All of this in one small setting of figurines; it is our earthly reminder of the One heavenly thing most important in our lives, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.  “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory; The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love.”  John 1:14

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