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Sharing God's love with the world, one heart at a time.


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Life and Death – Part 4: Embracing Death

Thought provoking and very relevant to the culture of today…

The Dynamic Force

Dark side of Earth

Part 3 Yesterday

How are we getting on so far – I am sure we are not lost but this is a sizable task that we have taken on here – best put on your hard-hats and steel toe-cap boots for the rest of this series.

We asked:

If you divided this planet in two, took all the bad things that exist and that happen, all the evil and darkness, and put them on one side so that the other side was only good – which side would you want to live on?

So, hands up for the good side – I am sure that’s pretty much everyone. Let’s just see how many still have their hands up by the end of this page.

As we have said since that initial question, we are talking about splitting are actual hearts and minds here; the evil as well as the good…

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Love Letter: Dear Kara

What a beautiful love letter from a mother who made an unselfish, loving choice. May God bless her, her daughter, and the adoptive family.

Story of a Rose

This seriously brought me to tears.  I’m so glad I connected with this wonderful mother.  She just sounds amazing.  Her letter is especially touching in a different way from the others….because she chose adoption.  I’m SO SO happy to have her Love Letter here, because these beautiful adoption stories are hugely missing from the pro-life movement.  More women need to hear about these beautiful adoption stories so they can be encouraged to choose life even if they can’t parent.  I discerned adoption for a long long time during my pregnancy, so my heart really goes out to this woman, because people don’t realize how selfless adoption is.  It really is the most Christ-like thing a mother can do when they are in a tough situation where parenting might not be possible for various reasons.

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The Circle of a Wedding Ring

This morning, I came across a little piece of paper I saved with these wise words written on it:  “How many memories lie in the circle of a wedding ring?”  I don’t remember where I found the quote, but the words hit home for me.  What a perfect way to acknowledge the awesome wonder and the “sacrament” of marriage.

Marriage and relationships are my passion.  I think we all learn from each other’s stories, so I thought I’d a share a little with you.  Maybe something I say will be of help to you or someone you know.

My husband, (Joe) and I have been married for 35 years.  I would be lying if I told you we were always happy and things always went smoothly.  Not only would I be lying, but I would be leaving out all the reasons why our marriage is now so blessed and rewarding.  The struggles, and the overcoming of the struggles together, weaved the strong fabric of our lives together…intertwining our hearts and minds as one.  Our life together…our marriage…is truly a miracle.

Joe and I married young – I was 20 and he was 21.  I have to be honest with you; we did everything wrong.  We “fell in love” when I was 17 and Joe was 18, meeting at a restaurant where we worked together.  Joe was a musician in a rock band. (a very naïve me thought he was in his High School Marching Band – didn’t realize he was the lead singer in a rock band!!!)  We had no planned goals, except for his rock star dream.  Neither one of us attended college. Well, I made it through one semester, before deciding that my career would be wife and mother.  Once we were married, the next ten or so years consisted of ups and downs, with some “very” down times.

On about three occasions, we were on that dangerous precipice teetering toward divorce.  We had two sons, and loved them very much, but did not know what to do.  We were miserable, each of us blaming the other for the unhappiness.

I could clearly remember our defining moment, that happened about 22 years ago. That moment came while we were holding each other on the couch, both crying, because we “knew” that we were headed for divorce.  You see, we loved each other, but didn’t know how to be happy within ourselves, and knew nothing of what glued together a relationship.  When we looked into each other’s eyes, we decided right then and there, that we would stay together and LEARN how to be happy.

God blessed that decision.  I attended a “Christ Renews His Parish” weekend retreat that opened my eyes and heart to God’s love.  Joe decided to do the men’s retreat the next year. His heart was touched that weekend in a profound way. He was a different man when he came home.  I started counseling that helped me see my own weaknesses and strengths, which led me to appreciate Joe’s strengths.  We started focusing on the goodness in each other, and somehow that helped us each to grow into better people.  We became better parents to our wonderful sons.

I am sharing a little of our story with you because I believe that many people do not understand what marriage is, and why they are not happy.  When I see married couples struggle, I wish I could do a mind meld with them to let them see what they could have if they just hang in there.  But hanging in there is just the start.  Marriage is much more than just “being there”.

“The sacrament of Marriage signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Beautiful thought, but how do we attain this love?  I’ve been mulling this question  since I found that piece of paper this morning.

Here is what I have discovered.  When two people “fall in love” and get married, hopefully they have taken the time to truly get to know their spouse in the dating and engagement process.  However, there are many layers in each of our hearts.  There are secret layers of fears, emotions, life memories (good and bad), and insecurities that reside in all of us.  What each spouse needs in the marriage is unconditional love, so they can feel safe enough to slowly peel away the layers that are masking their true heart and God given identity.

Therein lies the problem.  We are merely human and not capable of unconditional love.

The secret to a truly loving and joyful marriage is that the husband and wife both open their hearts to Jesus.  

When you make the decision to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and open your heart to Him, His Holy Spirit abides in you.  No longer are you floundering on your own…He fills your heart with love, compassion and empathy.  No longer are you just seeing actions or hearing words.  You learn how to love the whole person, and look for the root causes of the behaviors that hurt or irritate you.  Instead of pointing fingers and accusing your spouse (or anyone for that matter), you learn to overlook weaknesses and focus on strengths.  Forgiveness and acceptance start to become much easier for you.

I don’t mean to make this process sound easy…it isn’t easy at all, and will not happen all at once.  It is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but so very worthwhile!

Marriage is a covenant, a sacrament, and a miracle.  The real miracle is the changing of two hearts into the heart of Christ, and then the two hearts will become as one.  This oneness happens gradually, through love, support, loyalty, trust, commitment and forgiveness.  Once this heart and soul connection is forged, the marriage relationship is so much more wonderful than you could have imagined on your wedding day.

I recently heard a pure and simple truth from a newly married couple who went through the Pre-Cana Marriage Classes at Church.  They said that a married couple’s job was to guide each other to heaven.  How beautiful!  When that is your mission, imagine all the unique memories that will be contained in the circles of your wedding rings, on your way to Eternal Life!

May God bless your journey!

Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  Matthew 19:4-6

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8


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Hidden Things

My husband and I are enjoying a wonderful visit with our niece, her husband, and their two sons.  We’ve never visited with just our two families…usually our visits are confined to extended family events, which are always filled with fun, food, confusion, and lots of noise.  Did I mention LOTS OF NOISE???  Haha!!!  Although we love our time with the whole family, it can get overwhelming!

Something my great nephew did when they first arrived at our home kind of jolted me.  In a good way…it was refreshing.  The same scenario happened with one of the sons of our previous houseguests, who are very good friends of ours, who had never been to our home before.

As soon as the boys came in the house, I noticed them looking around, especially up the stairs.  After a few moments of that, one of my (great) nephews said, “Can you show us your house…can we have a tour?”  I could FEEL their curiosity, and it warmed my heart to hear the question asked with such innocence and simplicity.

So many times, I would have loved to “tour” a friend’s home, but would never  even think to ask.

So we started the room to room tour.  In each room, they both looked around, very interested, and even asked questions.  Then they asked the un-askable…”What’s in there?”  The closed doors of our closets were very interesting to them.  I swung them open and showed them all the hidden things inside.  Questions were asked, curiosities were addressed, and we moved on.

This little interaction started me thinking.  “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  What was Jesus trying to tell us in this passage?  A few thoughts come to my mind that might be attributed to children…teachable, humble, innocent, inquisitive.

Are we always open and willing to ask questions about those things that are a mystery and “hidden” to us?  Are we seeking answers with a humble spirit, and looking for the answers in the right places?  I had many questions about my Catholic faith for many years, and those questions just tumbled around in my head and heart, causing doubt and misdirection in my soul.  I even read books that were against the Catholic Church, and all it stands for.  I was nothing but confused.  When I finally starting looking for answers through scriptures, meeting with my priest, and reading about the Catholic faith, my questions were finally answered in my heart and soul.  Like my young nephews, I was able to assess what was revealed to me, ask questions, and then move on.

Another thought popped in my head.  What “hidden things” are closed up in our “closets”?  It is those things…the hidden things of the heart…that form the fruit of our lives, whether it be good or bad fruit.  Our fellow Christians and unbelievers alike, are interested in learning what is contained in our “closets”.  They are curious, and are not just interested in words or a Christian façade. They are searching for the Truth.  They will know it when they see it in you.

The question is…are you ready to let go, to swing the door of your heart open to reveal all the hidden things?

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:3

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed
that will not be known or brought out into the open.”   Luke 8:17


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Why Me?

All I can say is “wow”.

This post is a reblog from “Unshakable Hope”….I know it will affect you as it did me.

The last few weeks have been stressful due to many different struggles, and I was starting to feel closed in and filled with anxiety.  After reading this amazing faith testament, my perspective has been adjusted.  Thank you, Bill!!!

Why Me? I’ve become convinced that for a Christian to retain hope in the midst of a trial, he or she must believe that God allowed the trial for a purpose; a purpose greater than what Christ would have been able to accomplish in and through that person apart from the trial.

“…even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

They might phrase it differently, but I think every Christian that goes through a difficult trial will eventually ask “Why me?” But I’ve learned that our motive behind asking this seemingly simple question tells a lot about how we view God and how we view ourselves.

The first man asks the question like this: “Why me; out of over 6 billion people in the world, why did I get ALS (or whatever)?” He’s really asking, “Why didn’t God put this on one of the other 6 billion people?” This man has a warped view of God and an exalted view of himself. He views his trial as pointless and thought that he was somehow exempt from the suffering of humanity.

I know what I said about this first man sounds harsh and judgmental, but I know this man well; in a spiritual and emotional sense, I wrestled with him for several months after being diagnosed with ALS. Thankfully, with the help of God’s word, wise counsel from Christian friends and a well-timed conversation with our then non-Christian next-door neighbors, I began to see that there was a purpose behind my trial and I defeated that “woe is me” man that was trying to get into my head. (More about our next-door neighbors further down).

The second man asks the question like this: “Why me; what’s God’s purpose behind allowing this horrible trial?” This man has the correct view of God and of his place in the world. As a Christian who knows the Bible, this man knows that God wouldn’t have allowed this trial unless He had a purpose.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

That verse can only be true if we have an eternal (“Big Picture”) view of our trial. God still heals and performs miracles, and I believe that we should always pray for that result. But regardless of the outcome, God can bring about eternal good from every trial. In a hundred years, the eternal good that came from our trial will be the only thing that matters.

Trials cause the person going through the trial and those that are close to that person, to focus more on the spiritual and the eternal things because, by comparison, the temporal and the material things begin to look more and more insignificant.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Back to our next-door neighbors: Mike and Lorraine were not followers of Christ when we met them. We did our Christian duty and invited them to church and tried to share the “Good news” with them; even our girls (then 4 and 7) invited them to church, but all to no avail. (They later told us that they mocked us in private. I could relate; I once mocked Christians too. Let’s be honest: making fun of Christians is so easy).

But after I was diagnosed, they began to reexamine the faith that was sustaining our family through this trial. Lorraine told me; “…When you were diagnosed with ALS I began to see a man who held no anger with the God that ‘allowed’ this to happen. Then you began to demonstrate trust in God’s plan, I saw your faith and I saw 2 little girls accept what God was doing in your lives and I began to wonder how such young children could love God unconditionally. I opened my heart first to the possibility that this might be good thing for me as well. Then I finally got it and allowed my brain to accept the basic truth that God is only good, loving and faithful…”

Mike and Lorraine committed to following Christ and now faithfully attend church and share their faith with others. (Now people probably make fun of them). Would they have committed to following Christ if we had not gone through this trial? Only God knows the answer to questions like that. The only thing I know for sure is that this trial has strengthened my faith and given me more confidence for sharing that faith.

But I admit that trials can sometimes feel like you’re serving a prison sentence; especially when you have ALS and you’re imprisoned in your own body. But the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament while imprisoned and many of his fellow prisoners and the guards that observed Paul became followers of Christ. Only Jesus can spread a message of hope through a prisoner!

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

via Why Me?.


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The Christian “F” Word

Sometimes all it takes is the “unexpected” to reach a heart! Thanks “lessonsbyheart”!

Lessons by Heart

Barely making eye contact, Johanna* quickly looked past me as I entered the building and asked, “How are you?”

Slowing down a bit, I responded, “I’m dying of cancer.”

She never batted an eye. “Oh, that’s nice, dear.”

Really?

(I’m not dying of cancer – just so you know!)

This was part of an experiment I’ve been running, curious to see how people would respond. Most of the time, when folks ask “How are you?” they’re doing the “polite” thing. Very few actually give a rip.

On the street, polite disinterest is to be expected. When I find the sense of “don’t bother me with the details, just give me the standard answer” among my church family members, I am saddened. Because we have the “mind of Christ,” His tender-hearted care must be evident, one would think.

My goal is to become genuine. Therefore, if I don’t care, I don’t…

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Eyes are Always Watching

Every once in a while, God gives me a nudge or a confirmation…reinforcing my faith that He is always there, working through my life.  Let me share one of those experiences with you.

This last Sunday, my husband (Joe) and I were at Mass.  When the homily started, I pulled out my Mass Journal, and started jotting down some key points the priest was making.  I find it very helpful to do so, being that I usually have a problem with remembering things without writing them down!  Did I mention that  Catholics don’t normally take notes during Mass???  So, I was writing away, when the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I really admire you for doing that.  I have been thinking of doing the same, but just haven’t done it yet.”  And he again said, “I really admire you.”

First, for those of you that are not Catholic, fellow parishioners usually don’t talk to each other during the homily, or any of the Mass, except for the Sign of Peace.  Just the fact that he was talking to me in his “regular voice” as opposed to a whisper, kind of surprised me. My next feeling was one of confusion. I was just taking notes, not even thinking about the effect it may have on someone, certainly that’s not something that would evoke feelings of admiration?  Really?

As I turned back around in my seat, a little voice told me to let him know what gave me the idea of keeping a Mass Journal.  On a little slip of paper, I wrote, “I got the idea from “Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly.  Awesome book. Life Changing!”  When the homily was over, I turned around and handed him the note, and said “this is for you.”  He read it quick, and then looked at me in amazement.  He told me that he is currently reading the book!

Let me tell you…when he shared that he was reading the book, the Holy Spirit came over me so strong, I thought I was going to pass out.  I’ve never had an experience that powerful.  I believe the Lord was teaching me a valuable lesson.

When you turn your life over to Jesus, and pray for Him to work through your life, He does just that.  All I was doing was living my life, doing the normal things of my day. I didn’t have to do anything special, did not have to look or act in a certain way.  I was just being me, and God took my itty bitty act of faith, and magnified it to touch someone else’s heart.  And the extra special part came  when I was nudged into giving him the note.  When he saw the name of the book, and realized it was the one he was reading, he received confirmation that he is on the right track. Wow, just amazing!

Imagine how many times  your day to day life affects someone you will never even know about.  We were all created for a unique purpose, and have the opportunity to touch people that no one else could.  All we have to do is stay close to the Lord, pray, and listen for His guidance!

It’s important for us to remember that eyes are always watching.  When love for God is part of our being, and the Holy Spirit fills our hearts, blessings will follow.  May God continue to bless you!

 

Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly  is a life changing book, whether or not you are Catholic.  I can promise it is not what you think it is, and will hold your interest from the prologue to the end.  Make SURE to read the prologue, it is very thought provoking.

 

1 Corinthians 15:58   Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 9:8   And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Ephesians 2:10   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.