God Always Has A Plan

It is not insignificant that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist during the Passover (the Last Supper). In fact, this is rich with meaning. To dive into it, we’ll turn to the twelfth chapter of the book of Exodus. In this passage God reaches out to Moses and Aaron to warn and prepare them for the final plague on Egypt. To help the Israelites escape the fate of losing their firstborn children, God gives them (through Moses and Aaron) a set of instructions. These instructions were straightforward and repeated several times:

1) They were to sacrifice a lamb without blemish;

2) Put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and lintels;

3) Eat the flesh of the slaughtered lamb and with it, unleavened bread.

Furthermore, God says: “This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” If this is ringing some bells for you, it is with good reason.

When comparing the Old and New Testaments, it’s easy to find yourself noticing parallel or related elements. This is because God is always at work. God always has a plan. In this case, God’s institution of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread seemed at the time to simply be about his saving the Israelites from the final plague when in reality it was part of something much bigger. He knew that one day He Himself would be the Lamb for sacrifice. He knew that He would one day be sitting in an upper room with eleven trusted friends, the first bishops, and a traitor. He knew that He would invite them to eat of His own flesh and to drink of His own blood. He knew that He would command those men to share His Body and Blood with all believers… doing so as a remembrance, a memorial of that moment forever.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54-56)

Thank You Jesus, for wanting to win our hearts, to save and sanctify us such that You would enter the world You created by taking on flesh and offering Yourself to us so intimately in the Eucharist. Help us to never take You for granted and to never approach Your altar or tabernacle ignorant of Your presence.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick De La Torre

When Humans Fail - He Does Not

Micah 7:18-20

“ Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.”


It’s a good thing that God is merciful and forgiving. Because we humans are quite the mess!

While we are easily angered and cling to old wounds with a white-knuckled grip, God does the opposite. He never fails to have compassion on His children. So easily we can project our humanity on God and forget that He loves us perfectly. Perfectly! He holds no grudges. He forgives and loves without reservation. He adores us in all of our failings and holds our fickle hearts with a steadfast care we will never be able to replicate. He finds joy in being near us — even when we forget He’s there.

Our earthly relationships are just that. Earthly. They are broken and dirty and far from perfect. As a recovering idealist/perfectionist, I struggle with this. I desire perfect unity and harmony so badly with my friends and family and even strangers. However, this is generally not what reality offers. As I grow nearer to the Lord, I find more and more that this imperfection is actually okay. Why? Because right now we are in the battlegrounds of our earthly days. These are the years when we master faith and love and hope. And relationships with humans teach us some of the most difficult and most valuable lessons.

In addition to that, I’ve realized that Christ has to be the lens through which I see all of my relationships. While people may fail us… God never will. And He’s always there for us. Waiting for us to bury ourselves in his embrace and trust Him fully. When we stop depending on humans to fulfill what only God can, then we can love people where they’re at. Instead of counting on those nearest to you to respond perfectly to your emotional needs (because they just won’t be able to), bring your heart to your Heavenly Father. He will never break it.

Perhaps let us respond with more compassion to our fellow humans as we flail about (most of us without any clue as to what we’re doing) here on the battlefield.

Take and Victory and a Blessing, brave Knights and Knightesses of the King!

Alina

Hurt People Hurt People

Matthew 7:15-20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”


Unless someone is an unfortunate sociopath (poor souls), we humans are generally not that terrible when we first start out. Granted, any parent can attest to the inherited “fallen nature” living out in our children as they body slam their siblings for a toy they want. But it’s really not out of sheer malice. It doesn’t become malicious until we walk more through this life and we begin to acquire an arsenal of hurts and scars that give us weapons. Weapons that could harm others.

It’s difficult to rise above vengeful and angry thoughts when it comes to abuse situations. And rightfully so. But it can quickly turn from righteous anger to unholy wrath. This topic strikes close to my heart, and unfortunately to many of yours as well. When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the anger, I force myself to stop… And remember that an abuser most likely was once the abused. It’s the curse that keeps on cursing.

Even little hurts can have a ripple effect into generations - like families who have a hard time showing affection or bury themselves in work. It can leave a child starved for affection, and thus can lead to either over-indulgence or stoicism, like their predecessors. Just like good things that get passed on from generation to generation (holiday traditions, for example), so too can bad habits and even abuse.

With all the abuse in the Church (and quite frankly, all around us in schools, homes, colleges, anywhere) we see with great sadness that hurt people hurt people. The pain inflicted on the abuser spirals into a tornado that sucks him or her and all those surrounding them into a vortex of destruction.

By no means am I excusing abusive behavior. On the contrary. Ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing have no right to remain near the sheep! As the verses above state, we must be vigilant for our selves, for our own families, and for all of God’s children. However, I challenge all of us to think on these scandals (and any abuse case) with a heart like Christ’s. God has great fury for sin. But great compassion for the sinner. If we knew perhaps the hurt inflicted on the abusers…maybe our hearts would feel less wrath and more pity. Maybe our prayers would become less rigid and more softened.

Hurt people may hurt people. But let me say with great joy that healed people can heal people, brothers and sisters!

I know a woman who grew up in a terribly abusive home. When she had children, she chose to end the cycle of abuse that had continued for generations. Generations! Praise God, through His grace and their strong faith, she and her husband created an amazing life for their two kids and saved them from living the same trauma. And now she gets to see her grandchildren growing up in loving and safe homes, because she chose to cling to God’s fatherhood rather than carry on the abuse of her earthly father.

It takes time and grace and good fellowship to heal. Let’s pray for all the victims. ALL the victims. And pray for strength ourselves to overcome any hurts that cause us to hurt others.

Take a Victory and a Blessing, my friend.

Alina

Longing for Connection

Psalm 63:3 “I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.”


Loneliness. It's a thing. And it can be so painful. All people were made for community. Some of us convince ourselves that we don't need others. In most cases (if not all), this is a defense mechanism. We're afraid of being hurt. We're afraid of becoming vulnerable to the pain others might be able to cause us. We're afraid of not being good enough, or deserving of their love. Deep inside we all have a need for intimacy and relationship. We all have a hunger to embrace and be embraced by others. Sometimes this longing can be squelched by sins that have been committed against us in the past.

Like our longing for relationship with other people, we innately ‭‭carry in us a deep longing for relationship with God. In fact, we were literally designed to live in communion with him. This innate intimacy was torn asunder with the fall of man - with the original sin. The pain of this innate connection being severed, to our souls, can be likened to the loss of a body part and the phantom pains that follow. Only, this pain is much worse. You can lose a limb and continue to become who you were made to be. But without union - communion - with God, we can never truly become who we were made to be. The pain of not finding and living out our purpose is one of the greatest tragedies we can face. To live your life and not be adopted into Divine Life for eternity - is the definition of wasting one's life and the worst kind of loss.

The longing we have for intimacy with God is not only about the promise of Heaven with him after death, but is one we experience here on earth - and one that amazingly can be satisfied here on earth.

When the ancient Jews were led out of Egypt and rescued by the hand of the one true God, they felt a powerful desire to worship and praise this God who had saved them. They were in fact so desperate to worship him, that in the absence of Moses's leadership, they constructed a golden idol of a calf to commemorate the strength of this powerful God. However, even this powerful image did not do justice to the Glory of God, and was in fact blasphemous. Despite this infraction, God saw in this act that at the heart of their sin was a desire to worship their God with a physical representation. To be, in a sense, physically intimate with their God. So, he instructed Moses to construct the "Tent of Meeting." The Tent of Meeting would ultimately contain the Ark of the Covenant, and the Spirit of the Lord would fall upon this tent like a cloud, and become a physical and sacred space for them to worship and be near to him. Our God is a merciful and loving God. He wants intimacy with us even more than we want it.

Everything in the old testament points to and is made more complete in the New Testament. Today, he comes to us in the Eucharistic form, resides in tabernacles inside of every Catholic Church, and longingly waits for us to come and be with him.

What an amazing gift. What an amazing God.

Do we take this gift for granted? When is the last time you spent time with him in this way? Go to him and bring to him all of your burdens, and all of your praise.

Your Brother on the Journey,
Nick

Open God's Love Letters

Today my heart was aching for Spring. I could hear the birds outside, joyously summoning the warmer days ahead, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d get to enjoy the sun! So I asked our government spy, Google Home, what the weather was like.

“It’s currently 35 degrees.”

And I sneered. Cold. No relishing in the glory of spring for me. But those birds! They were jubilant! Absolutely gleeful to be alive and free to praise the One who made them!

Cathedrals are glorious, indeed. They reach up to praise our God with their ingenious man-made splendor. But there is another cathedral we see His majesty exulted in.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Psalm 96:11-12

All of creation is singing his praise!

I spoke in a previous reflection about God’s love language. But let’s not forget that, as any good lover, He knows how to send the best love letters to His beloved. He does not leave us starving for affection. If we have eyes to see it and a heart open to receiving it, you will find His embrace around us constantly. The difficulty is on our part. Are we taking the time to open ourselves up to Him?

One of the ways I connect with God is through nature. He douses me with love through it! I see His face in the golden-gray skies of Autumn. His smile shines down from the moon at me. I hear him in the billowing ocean and in the palm tree’s shiver. His fragrance will follow me - from childhood to my dying day - in every grass blade and lake breeze and wheat field. When I feel lost, He reminds me of His presence through His creation.

Take some time today to allow Him to send you a love letter in a way that you would long for. Do you need to hear how much He loves you in scripture? Or perhaps you feel Him best through heartfelt, bellowed-out singing? Maybe you are a learner and just adore Him through learning more about Him? Maybe it’s simply sitting in silence and allowing Him to hold your heart for a moment. Whatever it may be, let Him love you.

Because He truly loves you.

So, so much.

Take a Victory and a Blessing, my friends.

Alina

WWJD With Spam Calls

John 13:14 If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.


In my time actively engaged in ministry and leadership roles, and in my zeal about bringing people to Jesus through sermon, written word or song, I have found it far too easy to forget some of the simplest ways in which my faith should manifest in action.

Simple servitude is an opportunity to be Christ in the unglamorous and potentially unexciting ways. Simple servitude is an opportunity to discover true love for another. Every Christian (in emulating Christ) is called to leadership in some form or another. But in living that out, are we humble? What are our true motivations in the work we do day to day?

Simple servitude is passionately reading a book to your children. Simple servitude is joyfully taking the trash out. Simple servitude is picking up a piece of garbage on the sidewalk or parking lot even if no one is looking. Simple servitude bringing good to someone asking for money on the side of the street, and praying with them. Simple servitude is making a fresh pot of coffee at work, even if it’s not for you. Simple servitude is answering your phone with a joyful greeting even though it is likely a robotic spam call trying to destroy your life. Believe me, i’m preaching to myself here.

Do we activate simple servitude in our lives consistently enough, or are we too often looking for the action that will bring the greatest accolades?

Let’s follow our King’s lead, and strive for simple servitude to become more a part of our lives.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick

Anxiety Attack Prevention Plan ;-)

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When Nick and I got married, this was the verse God revealed to us over and over. We would open our Bibles and there it would be. Randomly. A little love note from our Father to us newly weds all throughout the journey. Today, it is our anchor verse. It’s been 6 and a half years, 3 kids and 3 houses later, and let me say, the anxiety hasn’t gotten any easier to surrender! It’s a constant battle to turn over the burdens to our King and praise Him through it all. Maybe by the time we’re wrinkled and gray we’ll be able to laugh through our dentures at an anxious thought. But, for now, it’s a lesson we are mastering at snail-speed.

I’m writing this for you, dear reader. But I’m also writing this to remind myself of my duty as a Christian to surrender every anxious situation in good faith and in joy to my Heavenly Dad. Jesus said, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-12).

Oh, Jesus’s words there soothe my soul and calm my burdened heart! He won’t fail us! As often as our fellow humans (and ourselves) might, He will not. That’s not to say we won’t experience hard times and sickness and brokenness of this life. Unfortunately/fortunately, he won’t take our free will (see our post about suffering).

This week, lift up those anxieties to him! Write them down, find a church you can kneel before the tabernacle in, and just surrender these each in prayer and petition to Him. I challenge you to keep that paper and over time log how He answers those anxious thoughts. See how He gifts you peace. He is a good father who longs to help His children find calm in a troubled world.

Take a Victory and a Blessing, friends.

Alina

God's Love Language

Matthew 15:8 “ These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”


We have a lot of rituals in our Church. I mean, a lot. If we aren’t careful (or aren’t taught properly their purpose), we can lose our focus on Jesus through focusing too much on the checklist. Ritual is important. God blessed and ordained certain ways in which we connect with Him. However, our obedience to God expands to more than just following ritual robotically. He made us relational creatures with freewill and hearts that love and yearn to be loved!

The rituals should, above all, usher us to the ultimate goal…Relationship with God.

Our relationship with God might begin with following the rituals out of duty, out of being told it’s necessary. But if we do not pursue the next step of making it about loving our God, then we fall as the pharisees did. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

What is your heart posture when you’re in mass, bored by the readings or when the priest is falling asleep as he gives the homily? Where is your heart when you don’t feel God in the ritual? How the heck do we take ritual and make it into relationship when (quite frankly) certain rituals are just not our love language?

I’m sure my husband is less than thrilled to take out the garbage when I remind him of his duty to our household. The Sunday night ritual for him is one that does not inspire his heart in an exciting or romantic way. However, because he loves his family, he joyfully fulfills his part and in turn makes his wife feel quite loved…and guess what? He feels joy upon finishing the task because his wife clearly is happy with his devotion! His sacrifice in doing this ritual transformed into a gift to our relationship.

OK. I’m gonna go there. Sunday mass. Mass for this convert is HARD. Especially when I’m dragging 3 seemingly demon-possessed children into the house of the Lord by myself because my hubby is leading worship. This ritual often becomes a bitter sacrifice more than a joyful gift I can give. I know in my head all of the beautiful and epic things that happen during mass (like Jesus coming to us in the Real Presence. You know. Kind of a big deal). But my heart feels unmoved. I complain to God that I miss the zeal and emotion my Protestant churches used to have. Relationship with God was so much more natural and intuitive for me there. In the Catholic world, my love language has felt squelched.

But as important as it is for me to love God in my love language, I think God has been trying to teach me how to love Him is His love language. In the same way that I feel loved when Nick takes out the trash for me, GOD feels loved when I meet Him in the mass. Mass is a holy and good thing. It’s not some man-made service. Mass was essentially created by Jesus himself at the last supper! The breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine is where Jesus lays himself out for us. Like a husband offering himself for his bride. And I, his bride, haven’t had eyes to see the beauty of this gift because my heart was unsatisfied with how He presented Himself in such a foreign way.

If I allow the ritual to flow from a place of love in my heart… it becomes something more. It becomes relational. Not just dry words from my mouth. But sonnets of love to my King. Not merely rote kneeling and rising. But a ballet for my Lover. Feelings and emotions are fleeting and not the foundation of a strong relationship. True love comes after the honeymoon. It comes through tears. Through learning the other’s longings. Through growing closer when your world is falling apart. Through nights of despair. Into glorious dawns of restoration. Love is not easy. But it’s always worth it.

Today, relish in the knowledge that you are deeply loved by our God. And love Him back with all your being!

Take a Victory, Mates!

Alina


Get Out Of The Boat

Matthew 14:22-31 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land,[b] beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”


We can't stay in the boat.

We can't control the boat.

We cannot stay where we are comfortable.

We MUST step out of the boat.

...even if it SEEMS obviously unsafe.

Being comfortable, the illusion of control, is a trap.

We miss the opportunity to reflect and be God's love & presence in the world.

We miss the opportunity for greatness.

...and we were made for greatness.

Get out of the boat.

There will be a moment, when you swing your leg over the side and need to shift your weight ... and it suddenly becomes very real. If staying in the boat provides the illusion of control, shifting your weight off of it is the submission of your entire self into his providence and Lordship.

What is going on in our lives for which we find ourselves scared to take that first step in faith onto the water? Is Jesus not the God of the Universe? Does he not care deeply for us? He does.

Get out of the boat.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick

Don’t Become Whale Food

John 16:13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”


I recently was blessed with the opportunity to meet an incredibly obedient servant of the Lord’s. He prayed over me and I could not hold back the tears as he spoke with eerie precision to my heart. He even prayed in tongues. And he was Catholic! That’s right. Holy Spirit is alive and well in our Church, brothers and sisters. But I digress. What a gift this young man’s faith is to those he encounters!

What I found most inspiring, though, wasn’t the speaking in tongues or having the courage to pray over a stranger. Rather, it was his keen obedience to the Holy Spirit. Being that he was a transparent extrovert, he admitted that he heard God telling Him to say just one more thing, but only one more thing, or else! Had he gone on or omitted something, he knew he would’ve been skewing the message God was using him to convey. His sensitivity was spine-chilling (in a good way).

The readings for our Universal Church yesterday referenced Jonah. This poor chap struggled with obedience at first. And as we all know the story, ended up learning the smelly way how to be obedient to our Heavenly Father. Today, the readings focus on Queen Esther and her obedience. Her prayer to God is absolutely lovely:

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you!

Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,

for I am taking my life in my hand.

As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers

that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you.

Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you,

O LORD, my God…”

She doesn’t just idiotically go running into the King’s throne room to beg for her people’s lives. No, no. That would have ended quite poorly. Being smarter than Jonah, she used patient, prudent obedience to summon good judgment. And ended up being one of the most epic women in the Old Testament.

So we have a challenge set before us this Lent. Will we graciously bless our God with stunning obedience? Or will we endure lent in the belly of giant fish?

Cheers to not smelling like the innards of a whale!

Most sincerely,

Alina


What Is Your Aspiration?

Psalms‬ ‭27‬:‭4‬ One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.


Heaven is going to be awesome. Like, truly awesome.  When is the last time you stopped to think about what Heaven might be like?

What do we do when we're excited about something? Maybe it's a vacation. Maybe it's a promotion at work. Maybe it's a concert or other type of event.

We think about it. We imagine it in our minds as the anticipation grows. When is the last time you thought about heaven this way? 

We make the right moves. If it's a vacation, we request time off from work and prepare travel arrangements. If it's a promotion at work we make sure we're performing at full throttle to impress or superiors. If it's a concert we make sure to block off our calendars, get babysitters and purchase tickets (we might even listen to that musician's music a little more than usual out of excitement).

When is the last time you took action towards the goal of heaven in a really intentional way? 

Heaven is not just another goal. Heaven is THE goal. Eternally looking upon God's face in the Beatific Vision, becoming fully integrated into his Divinity whilst maintaining our individuality, never again knowing pain or suffering, being in a perpetual state of bliss, ecstasy and rapturous love, Paradise - Heaven is THE goal.

Are we living every day accordingly? Do our actions and aspirations point to this?

What if today we all chose to make the pursuit of Heaven our top priority? What would be different about our choices throughout the day? How would we spend our time differently? What if we challenged ourselves with that question every morning?

It's never too late to change course.

Don't waste another day.

Your brother on the journey, 

Nick

How To Slay a Vampire

 John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


I got into a debate once with my Creative Writing professor at the university I attended. It was about darkness and light. She implied that writing should reflect the prominence of the darkness inside humanity and that as writers it’s fair to speak to it and accept it because it’s the truth. Darkness abounds. Why sugar coat it? Why not embrace it?

I offered a different perspective. That light is greater than the darkness. Even a small flame can shed enough light that the darkness literally must flee! If the tiniest speck of light can be seen amidst vast blackness, isn’t it an artist’s moral duty to be that light? To try to bring beauty and goodness to a world blinded by despair?

We have a beautiful gift, friends. While the world walks in darkness, we’ve been given a light in Jesus. We no longer see things as the world does. And you know what’s even crazier? That light is shining from us too!

We are God’s lighthouses. He has given each of us a unique way that we shine His love. Maybe you have an amazing gift of hospitality. Or of encouragement. Maybe you’re a person gifted with reason and logic. Or music. Or teaching. Or just giving really good hugs!

So, are you sharing your light? Or are you contributing more to the darkness? It takes courage. It really does. Especially when most of society is like a vampire that shrieks in fear of the light!

Don’t hide your light. Shine it with the force of a thousand suns! Take it into the recesses of the vampire lair and give them a much-needed sun tan ;-)

Beir bua agus beannacht,
(Gaelic, old chaps. Means “Take a Victory and Blessing!”)

Alina

We Are Horrible Gods

John 6:63 Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.


Do I trust God?

Completely?

When you hear someone posit that Jesus’s teachings are too ambiguous to understand or follow, they’re wrong. The Lord could not be more clear about his longing for our lives. We water down his teachings and words when we feel that he is asking too much of us. We run from his will out of a false sense of self-preservation and ultimately stifle our own growth and fulfillment.

God created us. God alone knows our intricacies and purpose. God alone knows what can bring us true peace and true joy.

What if we stopped being afraid?

What if we trusted his words?

Our society encourages us to be our own gods. This, however, is a horrible approach to life. Mostly because we are horrible at being gods - because we are not our own creators. It is as if a toaster oven attempted to discover its own purpose.

The words of Christ, though challenging, are goodness. We will find ourselves most fully through them.

Let us all strive to trust him completely.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick

Why Do We Suffer?

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

When I turned 30 (a long, long year ago), I began experiencing what I believe to be a semi-midlife crisis. I didn’t want to go out and buy a fancy car or find a new husband (sorry, Nick). But I did notice my mortality hung over my head, heavy and foreboding. And a new urgency to accomplish meaningful goals consumed and haunted me. It felt like I was running out of time. Pair with that seeing my mom and many of my friends’ parents in the same age bracket being diagnosed with (or sadly being taken by) various types of cancer, I soon found myself in a vulnerable disposition for the enemy to take advantage of. Full disclosure, I teetered between despair and mania much of this last year.

A lot of my inner dialogue was asking God why. Why did he even create us if he knew we’d fail Him in Eden? Why did he allow us free will if he knew we would abuse it so brutally? Why do we have to suffer and see our loved ones suffer in this broken world? Why?

His answer to me (and I’m still understanding it even now), is simply this:

Free Will = True Love.

His heart is close to the brokenhearted. He does not enjoy seeing His creation weeping and sick. But, like a truly good parent who lets His children fly from the nest to experience TRUE freedom, he allowed us this bittersweet gift called freewill.

In the process of breaking through its shell, a baby bird’s wing muscles are strengthened. If the mother bird helped it free, the little one would fail to have enough strength to be fully developed. And it would die. God allows us to endure our own “shells” in this life so that we can become our fullest selves, our freest selves in our truest life — which is after this one.

We can hear this logic a thousand times. But to truly allow it to penetrate our hearts is a process. Probably a lifelong one! Today, the verses I shared with you have granted me a renewed strength for whatever time I have left on earth. And I hope they do the same for you.

When I feel anxious about death, I remind myself of this truth. Every desire in the human person has a fulfillment. We have hunger, so we have food. We have loneliness, so we have friends and spouses and family. We have a need to be purposeful, so we have work and education and virtue. We have a desire to be eternal… so we have an eternal world.

C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So, break through that shell, little birdie! You’re not alone with your thoughts or your hurts. Bring it to Him. Bring it to your community of believers.

Beir bua agus beannacht,
(Gaelic, old chaps. Means “Take a Victory and Blessing!”)

Alina

Death by Strep Throat

Luke 5:27-32 Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."


Have you ever been offended by someone? It’s possible that you haven’t been. I mean, our society has become extraordinarily proficient at preventing any amount of language or conversation that could create any degree of discomfort or challenge - and instead encourages overt affirmation and acceptance leading to fantastic and unprecedented complacency.

For example, in ancient and unenlightened times, a peasant may have received abusive messages like, “Jesus is calling you to greatness, so repent and become the best version of yourselves.” Whereas today, the messages are more along the lines of, “If he even exists, Jesus loves you just the way you are. You don’t need to change a thing.”

Jesus is so clear about what he wants FOR us and FROM us in the Gospels. He wants our existence to have a profound and glorious meaning. He wants us to do incredible things in his name - EVERY day. He and only he can take the broken pieces of who we are meant to be and repair our souls. He is the ultimate and divine physician.

All he needs FROM us is our vulnerability.

If we are not willing to acknowledge that we have a sore throat, the doctor cannot help us heal.

I remember a time several years ago when my brother had strep throat that had gone too long undiagnosed. Those little bacteria had developed quite the ferocious colony in his throat. I was one of the few people he allowed to see his throat at the time. When I gazed upon the infection, I instantly understood why he didn’t want others to see it. It was indeed truly ferocious and frankly terrifying. He understandably was ashamed of disgusting the people around him if they were to see it. All I felt was pain and deep sadness for him. The extreme conditions that had developed in his throat had put him in the emergency room and almost killed him.

What are the ailments in our souls that we have avoided bringing to the light? What are the pains in our hearts that we have so closely guarded and held so tightly? What if we were willing to let go? What if we sought healing from THE doctor, Jesus?

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
John 20:19-23

Many people don’t realize this, but there was a small group of people that received the Holy Spirit in a powerful way BEFORE Pentecost. As a part of his loving and beautiful plan to bring our souls healing and peace, Jesus anointed and ordained his disciples to bring us the forgiveness of God in a powerful, unambiguous and explicit way. In the 2,000 year old Roman Catholic tradition (literally going all the way back to that moment in the upper room with Jesus), it goes by several names: Penance, Reconciliation and Confession.

From a scriptural standpoint, the Sacrament of Confession is the most pointed, beautiful and powerful way (after Baptism) that we have to seek healing of the soul. But, regardless of your Christian denomination and traditions, I want to encourage and challenge you to a radical degree of self-awareness and vulnerability with God. He wants so much to make you whole - and to help you live your best, and most radical life.

We only get one life. Don’t waste it protecting yourself from healing. Join me in repentance, and follow Jesus.

I love you.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick

All Creation is Groaning

Romans 8:19-22 “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Job 12:7-10 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”


I despise the winter. Like, it’s so bad that yesterday I could literally feel tangible hatred for it in my veins when I looked outside and saw snow (Not healthy, I know). I think of ways I can proactively conquer the seasonal blahs, but… I wonder if it actually goes deeper than what I’m experiencing. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because my soul is aching for something more. Something bigger than just glorious summertime.

I think my soul is longing for a perfect state of being.  

It’s aching for Eden.

Yes. That lucious, green, paradise where we and God and the land and wild animals had ultimate peace with each other. We didn’t have anxiety, imperfections, disease, taxes, and (I’d like to think) no cold or dreary snow!

With the fall came our brokenness. The world’s brokenness. Sickness. Depression. Death. Today we feel the reverberations of it in every part of our lives and our hearts know that something is wrong with the condition things are in. It can lead us to despair. To be impatient for Eden. But if we give in to these things it will only bring unrest to our hearts and make us ineffective disciples in our time on earth.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! Our Father is a good father who longs to love us where we’re at, if we’ll let Him. He loves to send us postcards from Eden! In our children (when they’re not causing us to pull our hair out). In the love of our spouse. In a stranger’s act of kindness. In music and art. In the presence of a holy person who you just know God is living in. When we are marveled by a sunset or reminded how vast the starry universe is beyond our stratosphere. And the ultimate...When we have an encounter with the God of all creation. Whether it’s in church, in adoration, or praying alone with him in your living room. He reminds us that He has not (and never will) abandon us.

So enjoy those postcards. Treasure them until you’re called home to Eden.

Beir bua agus beannacht,

(Gaelic, old chaps. Means “Take a Victory and Blessing!”)

Alina

It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World

Deuteronomy 30:15-16

Moses said to the people:
”Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.”

 

    

 “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.” Cover your own hide because you’re taking care of yourself. Your well-being and security are entirely in your hands.

Except... None of that is true. Perhaps it’s better said, any amount of that that is true is an unfortunate product of our fallen nature.

Many (probably most) of us who consider ourselves to be Christians would agree that we have a God who loves us. We might even refer to him as the “Lord of our lives.” Yet, when it comes down to the brass tax, do our lives really reflect this truth?

Why do so many of us fall prey to anxieties derived from finances, work, or relationships? Was St. Paul teasing us - maybe being hyperbolic - when he said “Have NO anxiety about ANYTHING” in his letter to the Philippians? He couldn’t literally mean NO anxiety about ANYTHING... could he?

Well, why not?

If we truly understood that the supreme being, the unmoved mover, the all-powerful God and very source of existence, chose to adopt us and become our Father, chose to descend into humanity and literally become one of us, chose to suffer brutally at our hands to save us, and finally to reboot all of creation in the resurrection... if we truly understood that THAT God is our Father and our Shephard, then what the hell are we so worried about? Why are we ever anxious about anything?

What are the fears or anxieties we are still clinging on to? 

What if we allowed God to even be the Lord of THOSE things? 

What if we trusted him completely? 

It’s not to say that God won’t let any suffering or misfortune come to you. Nor does any of this message encourage an abdication of your own active cooperation with God’s will. Rather, when you face challenges - and, you definitely will - pick up your cross and continue to walk with the Lord faithfully and earnestly.  

 

Your brother on the journey, 

Nick

For the Love of God

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

James 2:17 “So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”


Pull out your oldest sackcloth! Scrounge up some ashes! It’s time to pull up to the table of fasting and surrender our worldly vices to the Lord! But, why? Why do we do this every year? What is with the Church and her yearly conspiracy with McDonald’s Fillet-O-Fish? You have two answers to choose between:

A.) Christians do this and other good works to earn our way into Heaven (#GloryPoints)

B.) Christians do this and other good works because we love our Creator and strive to become like Him

The correct answer is…. B! You may be thinking, what the heck is the difference? It’s subtle at first. But the difference is everything. To earn our way into Heaven is an all-too-common misunderstanding of our beautiful Faith. Contrary to what many well-intentioned people in our Church think we believe, there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to earn our way into the Pearly Gates. We are totally and completely at the mercy of God’s kindness and love. Only Jesus, the perfect lamb that was slain for our iniquities, can stand in the way of God’s judgement of us. Christ’s sacrifice is the only reason we can get into Heaven.

We can’t save enough widows, clothe enough nudists, or feed enough starving. Hate to break it to you, but you just aren’t that perfect. But Jesus was. And that’s why the cross works. Thanks, Jesus!

So, why do we do anything good at all? What’s the point?

Quite simply, we live to love God so much that our lives are changed from the inside out. This life is meant to be where we learn to fall in love with our God -- who loved us SO MUCH that he gave us free will and when we sucked at using it (think of Adam and Eve) the God of the Universe became a weak little baby and chose to die for you and me out of absolute love (John 3:16, bro).  He didn’t give us free will so that we could earn up enough good deeds so that He’ll love us more. No! He gave us free will so that we could experience His love in this life and come to love and need Him in return. He wants our hearts more than he wants our empty actions (I’ll get into this concept more in later posts because it’s SO SO SO vitally important).

As you embark on your lenten journey, let go of feeling like you need to earn His love or your salvation. You are His! You’ve been marked by your baptism as a child of God.

I encourage you to see this lent as a way to discover the “Love Language” of your Heavenly Father. Do the things that make His heart happy :-)

  • Spend some time with him in adoration

  • Help out at a local food pantry

  • Spend time with some forgotten people

  • Share the love of Christ by controlling that road rage for 40 days (good luck)

  • Train your tongue to love as Christ loves by speaking only positive and loving things

  • Figure out how to truly pray unceasingly

  • Sit in nature and observe His glory daily

  • Pray that daily Rosary, dude/dudette!

  • Offer up prayers with each act of love you do for your family (like laundry / dishes)

May the Lord be with you on your quest! And remember, we have been set free to love, brothers and sisters. So love without holding back.

Beir bua agus beannacht,

(Gaelic, old chaps. Means “Take a Victory and Blessing!”)

Alina