In the words of Mother Angelica…

From the book “Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality:”

Called by God

You are called by God at this time in history to be so holy that this whole world will be sanctified. And you’re going to do that only by being yourself and changing that self into Jesus – cooperating with the Spirit to be transformed into the object of your love.

 

That last part is my favorite – transformed into the object of your love. YES!!!

How often I pray to be transformed. How often all of us should be praying this same thing. Imagine the possibilities if we all aimed for this. To change ourselves into Jesus. I don’t know how often we think in those terms but after reading Mother’s words, I think it might be time we start.

 

 

 

The Four Nonnegotiable Pillars of the Spiritual Life

Excerpt from The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality

Four essential pillars undergird any healthy Christian spirituality. These are universally prescribed spiritual challenges and are revealed by Christ as being nonnegotiable elements within Christian discipleship. What are they?

We see that Jesus was prescribing four things as an essential praxis for a healthy spiritual life: 

a) Private prayer and private morality

b) social justice

c) mellowness of heart and spirit

d) community as a constitutive element of true worship 

These are not elements we may choose or not choose to incorporate within our spiritual lives. They comprise the essence of the spiritual life. They also supply its balance. Only when all four of these are present in our lives are we healthy, as Christians and as human beings.

We can spend our whole life trying to live out all 4 of these pillars without 100% success. But the point of this section of the book is to understand that if we call ourselves Christians, THIS is what Jesus wants us to strive for. The Christian who has all 4 of these things present in their spirituality, they are the living the ideal Christian life. Chances are, though, that we are lacking in at least one of the 4 areas.  I know I certainly am, especially the part about social justice. But there’s hope! We can identify this absence and work on incorporating it into our lives.

For example, let’s say you’re like me and you do everything listed above except you do not have a passion for social justice. You aren’t the type to sign petitions or stand in front of a courthouse holding a sign or perhaps you don’t feel you are outgoing enough to take a stand. You can fix that by joining a group at your church that holds vigils outside abortion clinics or a group that helps the homeless by taking them meals at local shelters. You don’t have to be on the “front lines” to still take part in social justice. Personally, I was always pro-life in my mind but I never vocalized this opinion to too many people. Recently, and especially after reading Theology of the Body, I am very adamant and quite passionate about preventing abortions in society today. I also look at issues like human trafficking and capital punishment in a different light. Understanding that Jesus wants us to stand up for what He believed and what we as Christians believe has ignited a fire in me to take action.

You might recognize that you are passionate about social justice issues, you have mellowness of heart and spirit, and you pray everyday privately and you obey the commandments. However, you might be the kind of person that doesn’t actually go to church. (Letter D above). You might not “believe” in it. Some people think, “I don’t want to be among all those hypocrites,” or “I prefer to worship in private.”  Here are the authors thoughts on this:

The grounding, earthiness, and necessary pain that only real involvement within a concrete, parish-type family can give you [is what is missing from the life of a person who does not attend a church]. In parishes, we do not get to pick who we will be standing beside as we worship and celebrate various things together. A parish-type family is a hand of cards that is randomly dealt to us, and precisely to the extent that it is truly inclusive, will include persons of every temperament, ideology, virtue, and fault. Also, church involvement, when understood properly, does not leave us the option to walk away whenever something happens that we do not like. It is a covenant commitment, like a marriage, and binds us for better and worse. 

Fit in Your Faith Today: Examine these 4 Pillars  and ask yourself where you are lacking.  Pick up a copy of the book if this peaks your interest and you want to learn more! This exercise isn’t meant to make you feel inadequate or guilty. It’s meant to enhance your relationship with God and examine your spirituality as a Christian. It’s changing my life for the better; think about what it can do for you and for others!

What God Wants From Us

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

To be joyful always, to pray constantly, to be thankful throughout our lives – This almost sounds like an impossible task.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy, a reason to stop praying and a reason to be ungrateful. We can find many reasons to think, “Prayer doesn’t work,” or “What’s there to be happy about? I can barely pay my bills!” or “Who should I thank for hitting my car and not even bothering to leave a note?!”

It’s difficult to turn those unfortunate circumstances around and think, what’s so good about this situation I’m in?

This passage from St. Paul reminds us, no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for. We kind of have to search for it sometimes. It’s not always so obvious.

For instance, to be joyful always, even when it’s not exactly a joyous occasion can be really challenging. It’s not in our nature. But let’s some circumstances and try and reverse them:


 

Loss of a loved one after a long battle with a debilitating disease. How can we find joy in such a sad circumstance as this?

The joy can be found in the friends and people who come to support you during the wake or viewing. The joy can be found in the stories and memories that are always with you and never leave. The joy can be found in the photographs when your loved one was healthy and vibrant. The joy is found in the life that person lived while they were here. And there’s joy knowing your loved one is no longer sick. The pain and suffering is now over.

Praying at all times in our lives can also be challenging. People may think that prayer couldn’t possibly work because they don’t see the results instantaneously. But the way prayer works is not always instant, it works on God’s time. Also, there’s always something  and someone to pray for. You can pray for the blessings in your life, you can pray for someone else who needs help, you can pray to God for the ability to find the JOY in all circumstances.

Being grateful is also a challenge when times are tough. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right for us. But to be grateful when things seem like they’re going downhill can be especially difficult. Perhaps you have lost your job or having a hard time getting over a breakup or divorce. What’s there to be grateful for in these situations?

One saying I like to share is: “No matter what is going on with you, there’s always someone somewhere who has it much worse.”

So although you might not have a job, be grateful for your former boss who wrote that letter of reference for you so you can find a better job. Or be grateful for your previous job that gave you experience that you can put on a resume. If your relationship has just ended, you may feel lost or incomplete.

What’s there to be grateful for here? You can be thankful for a new beginning. You can be grateful that you are now in a position to be solitary and spend time alone, but not lonely! You can be grateful that someone you may have thought was the person for you, is not and that means perhaps the one you ARE meant to be with can now find you.

Fit In You Faith Today: What do you struggle with currently – Lack of joy? Showing ungratefulness? Never praying? Focus on one of these actions this week to grow in your relationship with Christ. As St. Paul has said, “This is what God want’s from you.”

 

 

Knock, Knock.

Revelations 3:20

Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me.

From the New Life Study Bible: The Laodicean church was complacent and rich. They felt self-satisfied, but they didn’t have Christ’s presence among them. Christ knocked at the door of their hearts, but they were so busy enjoying worldly pleasures that they didn’t notice that he was trying to enter. The pleasures of this world- money, security, material possessions- can be dangerous, because their temporary satisfaction makes us indifferent to God’s offer of lasting satisfaction. If you find yourself feeling indifferent to church, to God, or to the Bible, you have begun to shut Got out of your life. Leave the door of your heart constantly open to God, and you won’t need to worry about hearing his knock. Letting him in is your only hope for lasting fulfillment.

Jesus knocks at the door of our heart because he wants to save us and have fellowship with us. He is patient and persistent in trying to get through to us – not breaking and entering, but knocking. He allows us to decide whether or not to open our life to him. Do you intentionally keep his life-changing presence and power on the other side of the door?

Fit in Your Faith Today: If you find yourself feeling indifferent, not caring either way about Church or God in your life or anyone else’s, you are not leaving yourself open to God at all. Being casual or indifferent about your faith is almost worse than having no faith at all. God promises us in this passage that He’s knocking and He wants us to listen, as the first word boldly states. Are we listening? Do we hear Him knocking and will we open up that door? If you hesitate, ask yourself what is holding you back?

Give (Joy) to Those in Need

The scriptures for the next 31 days are courtesy of the 31 Day New Year, Fit Spirit Challenge started by Sarah Shaffer who works for The Dashing Dish. Give Katie Farrell and the crew over there a look, it’s a wonderful blog and recipe sharing website where our favorite dishes are made into healthy alternatives. 

Nehemiah 8:10

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

According to The New Life Study Bible: The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws and realized how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them they should be filled with JOY because the day was sacred. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need. Celebrating is not to be self centered. Ezra connected celebrating with giving. This gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate as well. Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy. Enter into celebrations that honor Go, and allow him to fill you with his joy.

My first thoughts on this are what I have discussed and blogged about on my fitness site – “Share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared.”

I have recently tried fasting as a way to teach my body and my mind patience when it comes to my next meal. I also wanted to emphasize that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where there is no shortage of food. I, God willing, will always have access and the funds to purchase good food when I need it. So in a way, I fast as a form of expression to thank God that I don’t need this food RIGHT NOW. I will eventually eat it….but I don’t need it right now.

Right now, there is someone else in need. Right now, perhaps not in my neighborhood, but probably in my city somewhere, someone is hungry and really can’t afford a meal. So I can sacrifice a meal or two so that others can purchase that food that I would normally buy. Or, of course, I can literally give someone else my next meal. That’s my gift to those who have nothing prepared.

It’s also interesting and I think important to note that you should give with Joy in your heart. Even if you might not particularly want to, it’s not helpful to show especially in your face, how unhappy you are to give to others. You might feel like you deserve to be a little greedy. Or maybe you feel you deserve a reward (of food) due to a great week of dieting or celebrating a little victory. I think this passage is saying celebrate, but celebrate by giving with Joy to others. That way, they can have some of the joy, too!

Fit in Your Faith Today: When was the last time you celebrated by giving to others instead of rewarding yourself? How can you flip that switch and celebrate by giving to those who are in need? It doesn’t have to be a donation in the form of money or food. It can be something that costs you both nothing. Get creative and have a joyful look on your face when you share that gift with others!

Nothing Ever Can Separate Us

Romans 8:31-39

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


In yesterday’s post, we discussed how it’s easy to have an Unbelief during tough times. Similarly, we might feel like God’s love has completely abandoned us in the times when we need Him most. We still believe in Him, but we don’t believe Him. We might have faith, but we might ask ourselves, “Where is my faith now?” Almost like we lost it like we lose a set of keys. “It was right here! Where has it gone?”

This passage from the book of Romans assures us that God has not abandoned us. He gave us his Son, He would not turn around and condemn us for wrongdoing. St. Paul reminds us to have confidence, and hope, and faith that His love for us does not waiver. Our love for Him might waiver. Our faith in Him might not be in tip top shape. But His love doesn’t fail us. Ever.

Fit In Your Faith: Take one or two lines from the above scripture and commit it to memory. Pray these words on the days when you feel like God has abandoned you. Understand and have confidence that nothing ever could separate us from His love.

 

 

 

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?