Fill Yourself with Good Things

Luke 1:53

“He has filled the hungry with good things.”

Such a short sentence to reflect on today! You might think it doesn’t mean too much other than God provides us with good things. But I think you can read and reflect on this in a number of ways.

My first observation was on the word “hungry.” This is mainly because as of now, it’s time for me to eat being almost lunch time. Also, I’m currently dieting for a fitness competition so food is on my mind a lot these days.

But did you ever think about how we feed our souls and our minds?

I think about this a lot; we feed on what we see and hear everyday. Something as simple as a movie or a song that we hear or watch. We feed on the words of our friends and co-workers. We feed on what we hear and see and look at everyday.

This is why it’s very important to our faith that we “consume” as much of the Word as we can each day. It leaves little room for the rest of the “anti-Word” to enter our minds and bodies.

You can think of the Word as all the good things God provides to us; good healthy nourishing food of course, but scripture and God’s loving words are good for the soul. What else can we feed on that’s “good?”

  • Uplifting songs on the radio and on our ipod’s
  • Volunteering/stewardship for organizations and causes that need help
  • Positive images in magazines and in advertisements (or simply trashing the trashy ones)
  • Motivational videos on social media and TV
  • Following and reading blogs and organizations that have a “good” theme

How can we avoid or abstain from the “anti-Word” things? (This doesn’t mean REPRESSING our feelings or even AVOIDANCE but it does mean making an effort to surround yourself with “Good” things)

  • When shopping, only purchase what you budget for
  • Avoid the candy/junk food aisle if you know that you can easily be swayed and “cheat”
  • Change the channel on the radio/tv when you know something is coming on that you have no desire to watch/that might make you feel depressed or angry
  • Read books (besides the Bible) that explore theology or are faith based; books that might help you learn instead of escape

Fit In Your Faith Today: What do you “consume” that you know isn’t provided by God? Do you purposely seek out these “anti-Word” items? How can you seek out the “Good” in an effort to become less tempted to consume the “anti-Word” messages/items?

This is probably not an overnight process. This will be a journey for most that might take a long time.

Here are some authors/books that I have found particularly helpful:

Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing by Christopher West

What Are You Hungry For? By Deepak Chopra

The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly

 

And the Spirit is Truth

1 John 5:1-6

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

I had the privilege of reading this passage from the first letter of Saint John yesterday at Divine Mercy Sunday mass. It stuck with me most of the day as I thought about these beautiful words. Each line is so important and so inspiring. You can reflect easily on just one sentence to take with you throughout your day.

One line in particular is interesting to me because I heard it spoken by Catholic Speaker Patty Schneier in her talk, “Prove it, God!…He did!” 

She laments over the line “And his commandments are not burdensome…” In fact, she did think that some of his commandments were burdensome and thus, struggled to find herself thinking otherwise. But after a few weeks of prayerful reflection every morning and encountering the book “Good News about Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West, she concluded that his commandments are not burdensome. (She was speaking specifically about the sin of contraception). She was just looking at them through a stubborn lens. After reading more about the Catholic Church and the Catechesis, she discovered a whole other world and changed her mind completely about particular commandments that she had found once to be “old fashioned” and “silly.” So when I read that line I pictured and heard Patty’s voice coming through and I was so glad she had changed her mind about this.

But the conclusion is also very poignant. “The Spirit is truth.”

Yes, the Spirit is the one that testifies, that speaks the truth. Jesus Christ is this truth. I think it’s easy to forget this in our secular life. We go searching for the truth when it’s been right in front of us all along. We might be stubborn, we might feel set in our ways, we might not want to know the truth. But there it is:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

Fit in Your Faith Today: What “truth” are you struggling to believe? What commandments do you find burdensome? How can you look at the commandments or seek the truth through a different “lens?”

No Need to Keep Jesus a Secret

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

From the New Life Study Bible: Jesus came with the greatest gift ever offered, so why did he often act secretly? The religious leaders hated him, and many would refuse his gifts of salvation, no matter what he said or did. The more Jesus taught and worked publicly, the more these leaders would cause trouble for him and his followers. So it was necessary for Jesus to teach and work as quietly as possible, and worshiping publicly with little persecution. These believers should be grateful and make the most of their opportunities to proclaim the Good News.

The Jewish religious leaders had a great deal of power over the common people. Apparently these leaders couldn’t do much to Jesus at this time, but they threatened anyone who might publicly support him, most likely with excommunication. Excommunication from the synagogue was one of the reprisals for believing in Jesus. To a Jew this was a severe punishment.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you hide your belief in Jesus? Do you think you’ll get grief or persecuted for your belief in Christ? We don’t need to hide or keep our faith quiet these days. Learn from the early followers of Christ. Take opportunities to spread the Good News. Today, many of us living in the free world don’t need to worry about persecution for our beliefs. Do not be concerned about a negative reaction or someone not “hearing” your words. In time, they might come back to you with questions or inquiries and you can expand on your love of God and possibly help this person become a follower as well!

A Forgiving Spirit

Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

The amount that we give will determine the amount given back to us in return. How much do you give? For those who give of their time and their hearts and their abilities, this is great news. For all that we give, we’ll be given back in return! And isn’t that usually the case? Sometimes it’s not right away – most times we have to wait patiently for it to come back to us. Some call it karma. I like to think it’s God. 🙂

But what about those times when we don’t do much good? What about those times that maybe we didn’t treat that stranger with respect. Or maybe that time we passed the donation basket down the pew when we knew we had a few bucks to spare? Or, that time we judged someone we just met based on their background or their accent or their clothing. We probably wish we could go back and do differently.

The good news is, it’s never too late. We can put some money in the basket at the next mass, we can give that stranger a smile next time we see them, or we can re-introduce ourselves to that person we misjudged. And for those “bigger” sins? We can confess and ask God to forgive us and the peace to move on.

Fit In Your Faith Today: As Lent continues, take stock of what you’re doing right now that is good. Are you shining your light on to others? Or are you still in the darkness of contempt or disappointment or shame? It’s time to be compassionate just as our Father is compassionate and merciful. Be merciful to others but also to yourself!

Trust in the Lord…

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.

When faced with big decisions in life, it’s hard to know who to trust. Who can you turn to for advice and guidance? You might have doubts with whom you can go to in situations like this. You might think people you work with or even people in your own family are not trustworthy. They might not have your best interests at heart and could steer you down the wrong path.

But there is always someone you CAN trust in 100% and that’s God.

These verses from the book of Proverbs tell us just this. By discerning and coming to God with our questions and what path we need to take, He will lead us in the right direction. Who knows us better than the one who created us? He has the answers.

Yes, we have the ability to reason and think carefully because of the mind God gave us. But we shouldn’t forget that He wants us to come to Him when faced with difficult decisions and problems.

The second verse is also an important part of any decision-making process: Remember God in all that we do. This means each area in our life has to include God. What’s important to us? Is God a part of it or do you exclude Him?

Fit in Your Faith Today: What are your priorities in life? Is God present in those areas or do you exclude Him for some reason? If you feel like God cannot help you in an area of your life, ask God to intervene. When was the last time you had to make a difficult choice? Did you pray to God to help you decide what to do? Next time you are faced with a challenge, pray about it first. God has your back.

Pray for Those Who Won’t, Those Who Can’t and Those Who Don’t

Spend time praying for 10 things that don’t benefit you. – Dale Partridge

Dale Partridge of The Daily Positive posted this status update on his Facebook page the other day.

I shared it on my own Facebook page with the subtitle  – “A great 2015 resolution!”

Quite the challenge for all of us. Not only to pray for others but to pray for things that will aren’t necessarily going to benefit us. Of course, any type of prayer is always good for us but Dale’s point was for us to see that prayer doesn’t always have to be all about us. It’s quite selfish to always pray for circumstances to benefit ourselves, although that’s what prayer is sometimes – a request for help.

But I think Dale’s point was to get us to stop thinking of ourselves for more than a few minutes a day. Think of others. Think about ways to help someone else for a change.

I admit it was challenging for me to think of 10 different things to pray for that don’t involve me. At first, the first few were easy to write down and pray (a friend of a friend who is ill, a family member looking for a job, a parishioner who recently had surgery) but then I really had to stop and think about more people and events that did not directly affect me. Of course there are always people out there who need our prayers. But do we really stop and think about them? These complete strangers?  These unknowns?

I thought of 3 categories of the people who need prayers:

Those that don’t pray: Non-believers, or just anyone who makes it a point to tell you that they just don’t pray. They might even believe in God and maybe go to church regularly. But, these people just don’t pray. Maybe it’s just not their thing. Maybe they don’t think prayer works.

Those who won’t pray: The people who refuse to acknowledge a higher power. The ones who perhaps believed in something or someone at one point but have left the church or had a bad experience with faith. Maybe they think God hurt them in the past.

Those who can’t pray: Those who are physically or mentally unable to pray; someone with a debilitating disease or condition who can’t speak or communicate in any way; those who have passed on (yes they need our prayers too!).

So those are the people and their unfortunate circumstances that I’m praying for currently. And of course, this challenge isn’t just a one-and-done type of endeavor. I plan on trying to do this everyday. Let this be a challenge for all of us in this new year. To give and to think about others. To cease our selfish ways for a moment and pray for others.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Challenge yourself and pray for 10 things that don’t directly benefit you. Write them down and pray for all 10 things every day for a week. Then start a new list the following week and continue for the whole year. What a tremendous accomplishment and what an amazing number of answered prayers to be thankful for at the end of one year.

 

Back on Track

1 John 1:1-4

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

According to Life Application Study Bible: First John was written by John, one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples. He had a special relationship with Jesus. The main problem confronting the church at the time this letter was written was declining commitment. Many believers were conforming to the world’s standards, failing to stand up for Christ and compromising their faith.  (Sound familiar to today?)

False teachers were everywhere and they were accelerating the church’s downward slide away from the Christian faith.  John wrote this letter to put believers back on track and to show the difference between light and darkness and to encourage the church to grow in genuine love for God and for one another. He also wrote to assure true believers that they possessed eternal life and to help them know that their faith was genuine – so they could enjoy all the benefits of being God’s children.

Can you relate to the motivation that John used to write this letter? He was trying to spread love, not hate. He tried to get people out of the darkness of evil by shedding light upon them. This entire introduction to First John can definitely be applied to our world today. How many times do you turn on the tv and see the “darkness?” It can be hard to avoid all the bad news and evil that seems to flood the news channels and newspaper headlines.

We can stay on track and remember that light will overshadow the dark. Truth will reign supreme over false testimony. Good will prevail over evil. How? By being a witness to the light that John writes about in this letter. Remember that Christians back then even had doubt. They were giving in to the false teachers and forgetting about their Father in heaven. Don’t let yourself fall away from Christ, even in the toughest of times. Even when it seems like everyone around you is stuck in a bad place. Come back to the light and to the fellowship with God.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Look for the light in the darkest of places today. It may be in your own heart or someone you love who is struggling with an addiction, or a destructive habit, or someone who has just fallen into the darkness. Help them (or yourself if it’s you!) to get back to where the light shines bright.

Preach On and Often

Matthew 28: 19-20

Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

Ever have some good news that you can’t wait to share with someone? You remember that anxious and exciting feeling of anticipation as you told them, “I have something awesome to tell you!!” Well that’s how a lot of Christians feel too. As we learn more and more about our God and our savior Jesus Christ, we want to be able to share this information with others. Why? Because it’s helped us when we needed it. Because it’s great to know God!

Maybe you found hope in going to mass every Sunday. Maybe you attended a support group at your church. Maybe you found a great website or blog that shares inspirational scripture and it helped you through a difficult time. 🙂 Sometimes we need to share this news with others. You might hesitate because you aren’t sure if they want to hear it. Or maybe you’re fearful that they will reject your message as “hogwash” or hurt your feelings by telling you that they don’t believe in God.

Jesus wants us all to be his apostles. This doesn’t even mean we have to become great evangelists or professional speakers. You can share the message by just showing kindness to someone. Or by inviting them to come to mass with you. Let the other parishioners and the priest do the evangelizing for you. It really is easy to “preach” without sounding preachy. It’s in our actions and in our words but it’s also in the little things. Just showing someone kindness, giving a little gift to someone who is less fortunate, or simply sharing part of the written word on social media, or sending something nice to someone’s inbox (or the real mail too) is evangelizing. It’s a small but powerful way to share the Good News with others.

Fit in your Faith Today: Let the good news spread. Share part of your faith today in some form with someone today, either through the written word, or social media, or speaking to them, or showing them an act of kindness. Remember, don’t be selfish with your faith; share it with others!

Helping our Unbelief

Mark 9:20-24 Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit

When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”


This passage from the gospel of Mark can easily be applied to us today. Why, although we believe in God, do we struggle to have faith when faced with the daily difficulties of life?

It seems easy and natural to have faith when things are going great in our lives.

Got a promotion at work – “Thank you God!”

Kids came home with a stellar report card – “Our prayers were answered!”

Avoided an accident on the roads – “God must have been watching over me!”

But it’s when things don’t go so well that we start to lose faith in God, right?

Can’t find a job after months of searching and praying about it – “I can’t believe God is letting this happen!”

Another school shooting in the news –  “Why doesn’t God stop this?”

Sudden death of a friend or family member – “Where are you God?”

But it’s at these crucial times of our lives that we need our belief to be restored and delve even deeper into our faith. It’s so much more than just believing in God. It’s believing in what the Bible says, as His inspired Word. It’s also learning from the people in the Bible. Many of us focus on just the Gospels but we can learn alot from the other books, especially the Old Testament.

Think of people like Abraham and Moses and David and Job. They had their own trust issues with God, too. Just because they lived in a completely different age as us, they weren’t that much different than we are. They prayed to God. They argued with him. They went against his wishes sometimes. They weren’t sure of His plan for them.

What can you do to help your unbelief during tough times?

  • Strength in numbers: Ever notice that when society tells us to just “give up” and “There is no God,” and call us names for believing in an all-powerful God, there’s a huge surge in Christians right there proclaiming the Good News? It’s almost like they wait for a disaster to make their faces known. 🙂 Draw yourself near to them. Hang out with them. Talk to them. You will find there are more people who feel the same way you do (and struggle with their faith just like you too).
  • What’s the Lesson? As much as it may seem that problems keep piling up, search for the silver lining.  What can you learn from all this negativity? What can be done right now to help get things right again? You’ll find the answer is usually something in line with “Keep the Faith.” There’s always a reason that something didn’t work out the way you thought it would. You have to believe, as difficult as it may be, that there was a reason.
  • Listen to Him, not him: In other words, listen to God’s voice, not the voice of society that says to do something different. The other voice might be louder.  Listen to His voice. In order to hear it, you have to be quiet. And you have to be patient. Two characteristics that are very challenging, but necessary to keep the faith.
  • Look for the Good: Even in a sea of evil, there is always good. They say, whoever THEY are, that Good Triumphs Evil. And it’s true! Except Good doesn’t make the headlines. It’s usually the bad stuff. But do you ever notice, for instance, when a natural disaster occurs, people from all over get together to help? Items get donated, experts fly in to help with search and rescue, money is sent to help rebuild destroyed cities. And when something terrible happens in a town (small or large) complete strangers start asking “How can I help?” That’s faith. Some might say that’s just faith in humanity, and not necessarily God. But who created those people? Who created those helpers?

Fit in Your Faith Today: When challenged with difficult circumstances, do you find yourself struggling to believe? Take some of the steps listed above to restore it. Reignite the fire in your heart when it’s struggling to stay lit.  Open your Bible and picture the words being said directly to you. Because He is speaking directly to you. The question is, are you listening?

Doing His Will

Today’s Gospel Reading is from the Book of Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

I think it’s interesting that God might tell us to do something, yet we fight back and say “No, I don’t want to do this. No, I won’t do this.”  And we later find out that God was right. God knew best, just like a good Father.

The first son in Jesus’ parable says that he will not do as the father says. But he ends up changing his mind and doing it anyway. The second son does the complete opposite by lying and saying he will do his father’s bidding, yet doesn’t.

It’s this example that Jesus gives to show the people at the time that the sinners were following Christ, yet the chief priests and elders wouldn’t listen. They might have known in their hearts that Jesus came to show them love and share the good news, but they didn’t believe in him. They wanted to do things their own way.

The lesson is that we might think or be used to doing things a certain way. Is it the best way? Ask yourself if it’s Christ-like? Take the example of drinking alcohol on the weekends. Not a big deal, right? If it’s something you’ve done for a very long time then you probably don’t want to stop. But what if you notice you behave differently when you drink and you don’t like the person you become when you drink too much? Do your friends tell you that they don’t like the way you act? Or maybe they don’t care to notice? Are you proud of your behavior after a night at the bar?

Could your friends, or even God, be trying to tell you to stop? Listen to the voice that might be asking you to change your ways. You might be reluctant to change. But what God is offering is always the better option. It’s always the best choice.

It might not even be something as serious as drinking. Maybe it’s the way you treat others at your job. Are you judgmental and criticizing of others? Or maybe you just have a bad attitude because you’re not a morning person. Is there something you can do to change that label? It could be the way you always speed in traffic because you’re always running late. Do you think you should slow down so you don’t harm others with your careless driving? These are just small ways you can obey God and show Him that you are open to changing your usual ways.

Fit in your Faith Today: Think of one of your worst habits and take steps to stop it and do what is Godly.