unpacking the Spirit

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Lately, I’ve been traveling frequently. I barely have enough time to unpack and re-pack before I am headed to the airport again. My head is spinning with the loads of laundry and rotating suitcases, trying to remember where I am going and what I need for the journey.

With an on-the-go lifestyle, a novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost kept me focused on what I needed for the day ahead. The following daily consecration prayer to the Holy Spirit fed me as I anticipated Pentecost:

On my knees I before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses I offer myself, soul and
body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring
keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, “Speak Lord for Your servant is listening.” Amen.

A daily act of the will to be set apart for the Holy Spirit to come and do what he does is what has kept me going strong lately amidst physical weariness. Every day he invades my soul, fills it with grace, and infuses me with his gifts.

In rereading the Acts of the Apostles through the Easter season, I am more convinced than ever that furthering God’s Kingdom on earth depends on the body of Christ setting themselves apart for the Holy Spirit. As the sons and daughters of God expose their mind, body, and soul to the fire of the Holy Spirit, the world will come to know our Advocate, our Helper, our Counselor.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

The world sees the Spirit in you, as you let the Holy Spirit release himself within you and through you. Now is not the time to practice a false sense of humility denying that you have gifts or doubting that the Spirit will do anything through you.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12-14

YOU WILL DO GREATER THINGS!

The Holy Spirit wants to do greater things through you.

He seeks to edify your soul and draw others to the heart of Jesus through the spiritual gifts he gives you. They can only be used for good. Therefore, it is a selfless act of the will to submit yourself to the Holy Spirit and let him be manifested in and through you.

How will you build up the body of Christ?

Spend some time with the following passages to familiarize yourself with the full spectrum of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring over the people of God.

  • Isaiah 11:1-3 – Isaiah prophesies the spiritual gifts that Jesus will bring into the world.
  • Acts 2:1-12 – The Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles at Pentecost.
  • Romans 12:1-7 – St. Paul explains a variety of gifts in the Spirit, and how we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.
  • 1 Corinthians 12 – St. Paul describes more of the spiritual gifts.
  • Ephesians 4:11-13 – St. Paul reminds us of how Christ builds up the Church in unity through the spiritual gifts to equip us to spread the Gospel.

My friend Janean uses her spiritual charism of hospitality frequently as she welcomes people into her AirBnb. She decorates the apartment according to whatever the guests are celebrating, and meticulously cares for every detail to make her guests feel welcome. She gives generously of her charism to allow others to feel a sense of love and belonging when they’re away from home. Her actions say, “You are not a stranger, you are cared for and worthy of my time and energy.”

Cullen, a creative and inspiring woman, exudes the charism of encouragement. She frequently builds me up in the pursuit of my dreams, reminds me that God is at work, and affirms particular characteristics needed to accomplish the goal at hand. Her charism of encouragement breathes courage and perseverance into my soul. As a wife, mother, daughter, and friend to many, I can’t even count how many souls she is lifting up on a daily basis.

My father utilizes the charisms of craftsmanship and service all the time. He does not hesitate to go the extra mile to build something, fix things, or find a solution to our entire family’s daily problems. If something is broken, he fixes it. Despite a cross country distance between us, he will call ahead and find someone to fix things for me, that’s how open he is to letting the Holy Spirit move through him to serve others. Nothing stands in the way for him, inconvenience is not in his vocabulary. He delights in sacrificing for others particularly through craftsmanship and service, and his spiritual gifts deeply impact the recipients.

What are the spiritual gifts/charisms that the Holy Spirit has given you? 

If you’re not sure, spend some time praying with the Scripture passages above, and ask the Holy Spirit to release a greater portion of the gifts that resonate with you.

Some of the spiritual gifts I have received are prophecy, speaking in tongues, and leadership. One I never expected to “claim” was music.

About five years ago, a woman at my parish told me she thought I had the charism of music. I chuckled and responded, “That’s impossible. I don’t play an instrument.” She responded, “Your voice. Your voice is your instrument in worship. Start praying about it and ask the Holy Spirit to either confirm or deny it for you.” I prayed. Over the next few months, random people affirmed me for my singing in Mass. Before I knew it, someone volunteered me for a worship team. And now, one of the greatest joys God gives me is leading my brothers and sisters in worship. There’s nothing like it. I feel the fire of the Holy Spirit burn within me, and I see the Holy Spirit raise the people of God to a fullness of life in praise.

Never doubt the power of the Holy Spirit to come alive in you. Pray frequently for an outpouring of his gifts, and practice the ones you have! As you use them, they will grow, and the body of Christ will be strengthened.

Holy Spirit, come with a fire!

merciful love

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Have you ever desired something magnificent, but reeled in your imagination so you don’t end up disappointed?

As I watched the French countryside rolling past me with ease and grandeur for hours, strokes of tiny golden yellow blossoms illuminated the fields.

Mustard plants. Millions of them. And I couldn’t help but recall,

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“Mountains, eh?” I whispered to the Pyrenees. I could almost here Jesus chuckling, saying, “Did I stutter?”

“Have your way with me, Lord,” I prayed. He gently sang to me…

Let all who thirst, let them come to the water.
Let all who seek, let them come to the water.
Let all who toil, let them come to the water. 
Let all who are weary, let them come to the water. 
– Matt Maher

I came to the water. The water that millions make pilgrimage to from all ends of the earth in an act of faith. Men and women of every race and age sacrifice time, money, and ease to make way to the grotto of healing anticipating a miracle.

We stood in line waiting to grasp a single drop seeping from the rock. This is what it must have been like as Jesus walked the earth performing signs and wonders, I thought to myself.

I envisioned the outstretched arm straining to touch the edge of his cloak. The man climbing into the heights of a tree to catch a glimpse of the action. Crying and wailing for loved ones to be saved from the pains of disease. Lowering mats through rooftops to grab the attention of the one who restores sight to the blind and commands the lame to get up and walk.

The depth of desire hung over me like a thickened fog. Peering into their eyes, and watching their boldness of faith, I stepped into the mystery to find my place.

I, too, felt desire. I let the layers slip away.

I stepped in.

“I believe in love,” I said, as I made the sign of the cross claiming my identity – a beloved daughter. Water crashed over my shoulders as I looked up at the tender gaze of our Blessed Mother. A surge of Jesus’ mercy rushing through my limbs, every fiber of my being.

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers crash over me.” Psalm 42:7

Nothing left untouched or unchanged. Waves of grace found the hidden, darkened places. Every cavern of my soul filled with his purifying, merciful love.

Risen with my Hope, unbound of weariness, physical pain, and spiritual sorrow. My racing mind was put at ease, in perfect stillness, and I felt lighter, freer, happier – a new creation.

An external manifestation of my invisible soul.

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” Revelation 21:5

I lifted my hands in praise and smiled at his face in the Eucharist, shining brighter than the sun. My sweet, melodious Hope, pried open my heart and conquered me. It’s still a mystery, unraveling with every prayer to reveal a new grace upon the prior.

“Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven…” Luke 1:78

Surrounded by her radiant mantle of protection, the joy of the resurrection is alive, falling afresh on me. His perfect love unveils a new dawn.

I am witness to miracles, within and around.

Caught up in the grandeur of your gaze, I renew my vow, “I believe in love.”

open space

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“Fear makes me shrink back, but love makes me come forward – or rather, I fly!” – St. Therese of Lisieux

I daydreamed of traveling to France to trace the steps of St. Therese. It felt out of reach. Between the expenses, time, distance, and the mere complexity of coordinating the trip amidst everything else going on in my life, I dismissed the idea as quickly as it came to me. Months passed. It was time to make an annual silent retreat.

The dream nonchalantly fluttered in and out of my consciousness. I couldn’t come up with an alternative that affected my heart in the same way. The Holy Spirit pressed in, telling me to pay attention, to not be unaffected.

Long story short, it is a miracle that it’s fallen into place. I decided to jump, and then I flew.

So much awaits me.

Mass with the Carmelites in the church where St. Therese worshiped, visiting her childhood home, train rides through the French countryside, sacred silence and adoration, not to mention walking with Jesus to the cross through Holy Week with the culmination of Easter at Lourdes.

I can still come up with a million excuses for why it’s the wrong time and impractical for me to make a silent retreat abroad.

But love drew me forward. Specifically, the heart of Jesus did.

He keeps showing me how expansive his heart is, and in turn, he expands mine. Just when I feel like I’ve come to a place of contentment, he touches the limitation of my human heart with his divinity.

Jesus shows me the open space.

He says there is more. More beauty, more adventure, more sacrifice, more mercy, more suffering, more joy, more intimacy.

But how can it be?

Listen to the words of our Lord…

“My Divine Heart is so passionately inflamed with love… that, not being able any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its ardent charity, It must let them spread abroad through your means, and manifest Itself to man, that they may be enriched with Its precious treasures which I unfold to you, and which contain the sanctifying and salutary graces that are necessary to hold them back from the abyss of ruin.”
Apparition of our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, December 27, 1673

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is passionately inflamed with love for you, with innumerable treasures that he desires to bestow upon you. There is open space in your heart.
When you recognize this space, what do you do with it?

Do you shrink back in fear, or do you let it propel you forward?

I’ve chosen the former before. It’s safer and easier. But it’s accompanied with a tinge of disappointment and what ifs.

This time, I’ve chosen the latter. I want to feel the warmth of his heart burn with desire inside the open space of mine.

Make an act of faith with me. Ask Jesus to pull you closer to his heart to have his way with you. Let yourself move forward, closer than ever before. Open yourself wide before the heart of your Savior.

Fly with me.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7

together

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March is Women’s History Month and yesterday was International Women’s Day. It’s time to celebrate the irreplaceable role of a sister in Christ.

“The soul of woman must be expansive and open to all human beings, it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds … empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.” – Edith Stein

A woman’s soul is a beautiful mystery that leads our world into a fuller expression of the human heart. She calls others out of themselves to be stretched beyond a presumed capacity to love deeply, sacrificially, and endlessly.

When I recall the progression of my faith journey, every milestone has a face, of at least one woman, if not many, who played an incremental role in mothering me forward to fall deeper in love with Jesus.

Their presence changes me. Eyes welling over with grace. A smile spread wide bubbling over with compassion. Arms reaching out to embrace. Blonde, brunette, red, black, streaks of purple. Each full of life. Each calls me to holiness. Each unique, unrepeatable.

We pray together.

Possibly the most important dynamic of each of these relationships is that we pray for each other and with each other, with persistence.

Blessings, novenas, intense intercession, laying on of hands, weeping, defending, thanking, praising, confessing, begging… Every kind of prayer.

If our prayers could be recited back to us, they would tell the story of our souls. A story of sisters who relentlessly go to battle for one another. We fight for goodness, beauty, and truth.

What a gift.

To all the women who have gone to battle with me and for me, thank you.

To the women who have given me the privilege of entering into their battles, I love you.

It’s sacred ground, entering into one’s prayers. Ground that for so many has not been shared. We must share this ground with each other. The brokenness of our world will be remedied through the persistence and fervor of our prayer to our God who longs to rescue his beloved.

Sisters, our covenant is prayer.

“For me, prayer means launching out from the heart toward God; a cry of grateful love from the crest of joy or through the trough of despair. It is a vast supernatural force that opens my heart and binds me close to Jesus.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

inexpressible joy

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“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8

Earlier this week I had two conversations that struck me. The first was with a woman who shared that her deepest encounter with Christ was in the grief of her and her husband’s miscarriage. The second was with a man who wept at the thought of his aging parents passing from this world into eternity.

I saw the pain and suffering in each of their eyes as one remembered the past and the other anticipated what’s to come. Although the depth of their suffering couldn’t be measured, it swept over me like a strong wind. I watched as their faces clenched tightly struggling to withhold their sobbing. The capacity of their hearts moved me.

The human soul in all of its beauty, clinging to hope and trusting in love.

I didn’t say anything. 

I chose to let them breathe and weep and feel the peace of the Holy Spirit wash over their tears. Each of them, in their own way, embodied the fragility of life, the promise of heaven, and the inexpressible joy of loving Christ.

How do we make sense of what surpasses our understanding?

It’s an act of faith and a movement of love. We choose to believe in what we cannot see because Love himself has come to sweep us off of our feet. Through the highs and the lows, we let him love us, deeply. We open ourselves to Jesus, and he searches for the hidden crevices of our soul to redeem every hindered part of us.

What happened next struck me the most. I saw the strength of their faith overcome the threats of the enemy. Loneliness, despair, fear, and anxiety bow in the presence of our all powerful God who has come to turn our mourning into dancing.

And we worship him.

We worship him by receiving him. In receiving him, we rejoice in the remedy of his touch. We are encountered by the living God.

The man and woman, each in their own way, encountered Christ. They had received his promise of peace which overcomes anxiety and silences fear. In the middle of their struggle to comprehend loss and mortality, they found the only answer that makes sense: Jesus.

They allowed themselves to be consumed by his all-powerful love. A small foretaste of heaven. It’s the simple truth that the very thought of meeting Jesus face-to-face lifts us up, out of the grave, and into the canopy of his everlasting peace. And this is what I saw in the man and woman who let their hearts be received.

The promise of heaven stirs the heart to rejoice in faith.

“Jesus is a name of peace which calms all storms. A name of light which illuminates the nights of the spirit. A name which embraces and consoles…A name which penetrates even to the inner recesses of hearts and purifies them. A name of glory and splendor. A name that tastes of heaven.” – Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

ask for it

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Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, fear of the Lord.

My eyes ran down the list of spiritual gifts eagerly scanning for a word to hone in on. There were brief descriptions of each.

“You have not because you ask not!” (James 4:2) was shouting at me from the top of the paper.

“Lord, what do I ask for?” I silently prayed. I had no idea. I needed Jesus to tell me what it is that I needed. So I silently asked, “Jesus, what do you want to give me?”

The two words that latched onto my heart were singlehearted and undivided, the definition of the spiritual gift of piety. I was perplexed at first, wondering what this meant. I felt my heart sink as my mind drifted to a weighty question.

How is my heart divided?

What happened next was beautiful. The Holy Spirit corrected my focus ever so gently. It was as if the Holy Spirit adjusted my chin to look in a different direction, communicating to me that now was not the time to focus on the places in my heart that are divided. Now is the time to receive the gift.

To set the scene, I was surrounded by co-workers, and we were leaning into this time of prayer together. I did not want to ask. My heart started pounding, and as the opportunity arose to ask the group to pray for me, I wanted to ignore the ever deepening thump of my heart telling me to speak up.

Staring at the floor to avoid eye contact, I mustered up the courage to ask for prayer for the gift of piety: to be undivided and singlehearted. They laid hands on me, and I listened to their prayers. Jesus spoke to me about this gift, and it became clear why the Holy Spirit wanted to give it to me.

The undivided heart swims through an ocean of love, breathing in the presence of Christ. Without fear, the undivided heart surrenders in joyful ease as it trusts completely in the faithfulness of God. Clinging to hope, the undivided heart invokes courage to cast its net another time into the deep.

In actuality, I want nothing more than to be released from hesitation, fickleness, or weariness that comes from trying to cast my sails in too many directions. Jesus wants to be my anchor. He wants to be your anchor.

He wants you to feel the security of trusting in his perfect will. Jesus desires for you to be grounded in his covenant of protection, generosity, unconditional love, loyalty, mercy, and eternity. He wants to answer your request to be filled with the gifts of the Spirit!

Here’s a word I want to share with you, before we get to the asking… The Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel about restoring Israel, and today, he whispers this promise of renewal to you:

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! … I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:4-6

The Holy Spirit longs to breathe his gifts into your dry bones. He desires an abundance for you, not a scarcity. He wants to awaken your soul and bring it to life. The Lord longs for greater union with you, and the spiritual gifts will draw you closer to his heart. Plus, he is a gift-giver!!

What gifts of the Holy Spirit will you ask for?

Wisdom: Insight into the purpose and plan of God
Understanding: A disposition to the Word of God; regarding the economy of salvation
Knowledge: As God sees it, of truth, of reality, of God himself, of sin
Counsel: Desiring new law perfection toward perfect charity (poverty, chastity, obedience)
Piety: Devotion to God; singlehearted, undivided, desire for him
Fortitude: Moral firmness in difficulty and constancy in pursuit of the good
Fear of the Lord: Awe and reverence before God

“Ask and it will be given to you…” Matthew 7:7

self-gift

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“To God who reveals himself one must give the obedience of faith by which man freely commits himself as a whole to God.” (Dei Verbum, 5)

As one of the prominent documents of the Second Vatican Council, this quote from Dei Verbum encapsulates a critical moment of a Christian’s life. The moment in which one freely commits him/herself as a whole to God through faith.

Karol Wojtyla, now known as St. Pope John Paul II, reflects on this quote from Dei Verbum in his book, “Sources of Renewal: The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council,” saying:

“Essential to faith is an attitude of self-commitment to God…the attitude of self-gift is the most vital and vivifying point relating to the whole process of the enrichment of faith. By giving himself as a whole to the self-revealing God in the obedience of faith, the believer grasps his own identity as a person who has come to share in the Person of the Son in relation to the Father by the gift of the Spirit.” (206)

The most vital and vivifying point of the enrichment of our faith is our self-gift to God. That’s pretty important. And it’s not just the highlight reel of our faith life, it’s a daily gift of self to God that enriches our faith.

As a ministry consultant traveling to visit parishes across the country, I have the privilege of meeting, speaking, and praying with a multitude of lay faithful. It’s the greatest part of my job!

In talking with men and women about their faith, I find that this concept of self-gift is either troubling or foreign. We spend much of our time trying to grasp God’s love and receive it fully in our lives through the sacraments, prayer, Scripture, and community. We are comfortable acknowledging the bounty of blessings he bestows on us honoring the beauty, glory, and unconditional love of God.

However, if we are to be in relationship with him, we must, as St. John Paul II writes, cultivate an attitude of self-gift to God. We must offer the entirety of ourselves to God as a gift, which presupposes that we believe who we are in our entirety is a gift.

Do you believe your past, present, and future, body, mind, and soul, are a gift to God?

Furthermore, your self-gift is the deepest expression of love to God you can offer.

You are a gift to God. Your identity, rooted in Christ himself, formed with intention and crafted with precision. It’s pretty language, and for many of us, we have heard it a number of times. So go ahead and roll your eyes and utter the words “I know, I know.” Now it’s time to wake up to the reality of this truth today. It may be different today than it was yesterday for you, because every day is new and our enemy is always looking for an edge.

I’ve heard it thousands of times, and I’ve probably said it twice as many times. But today, I feel like about 85% of me could be a gift to God. The other 15% percent feels like a burden. The part of me that feels frustrated with his timing, lacks trust, and is hurling sarcastic digs at him doesn’t feel like a gift. I’m perpetually exhausted doing what I love, but feeling a lack of self-care, and trying to figure out how to survive a dark and stormy winter.

Yet, as I write these words, my heart trembles by the relentless heart of Christ who says, “Yes, I want that too. The 85% is great, but the 15% is the gift I’ve been waiting for, asking for… Will you please give it to me?”

When we give him the 15% (insert your number here), we are saying,

“I love you, too.”

And it’s only then that my identity in Christ is strengthened as I grasp the fuller meaning of relationship with Jesus. There’s no holding back. The Holy Trinity only exists in complete submission to the other persons – fully, fruitfully, and faithfully.

The part that gets me every time is that when I unload my 15%, I end up falling deeper and deeper in love with God. I hear his voice with greater clarity in my prayer, and while the things of this world that fill up my 15% don’t change, my attitude and perspective do. As I grow in relationship with the Trinity, through an act of faith in my self-gift, I learn how to love with less fear and greater abandon.

When was the last time you completely submitted yourself to God?

Ideally, it would be daily. But the beautiful thing is, God isn’t in the game of shaming. He simply wants you, the whole package, today and every day.

And for now, he will take whatever your gift is. It could be joy, confusion, praise, questions, anger, sadness, love, repentance, time, grief, anticipation, or some concoction of all of the above.

Who you are is a gift. It’s your expression of love to your perfect lover.

What is your self-gift to God today?

 

Photo by Kelly Olson – dillonandkelly.com | Instagram: @dillonandkelly @kellyolson_

battle cry

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“This is how we fight.” 

I saw this battle cry written in the margin of my Bible, so I took a second look.

1 Samuel 17:45-47. Israel. Philistines. David. Goliath. You know the story.

I thought I knew the story, but it turns out God had much more to teach me about the way he equips us for battle.

The Philistines are camped out with their army gathered for war, along with the Israelites, each set on opposite hills separated by a valley. The major difference being the man described as a champion who stands taller than nine feet. Talk about a giant. Yikes.

“For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.” 1 Samuel 17:16

Later on it says that Goliath steps out from the battle lines to shout his usual defiance, and David heard it. When you read the text it’s so easy to hear how appalled he was that the Israelite army retreated in fear in the face of Goliath. They lacked faith in their God. They were paralyzed by fear from his daunting stature and torment.

Everyone except for David, that is.

David believed in the strength of the living God. He was confident that the giant was no match for the Lord. Listen to these fighting words:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

Mind you, David hasn’t thrown a stone yet. He’s staring into the face of Goliath as he declares victory over a battle that has not yet been won in the eyes of the armies on either side.

Uh-ma-zing. I am in awe of his faith.

Just the other night, I was tossing and turning for hours struggling to fall asleep. I felt utterly exhausted and depleted of any sense of will to battle the waves of emotion that swept over me. I wept and prayed and tried every home remedy to put me fast to sleep. I started praying every prayer I could think of, grabbed my holy water, clenched onto a cross and rosary, and got my essential oils diffusing, but still was left in distress in the wee hours of the night.

Finally, in a moment of desperation, I overcame the lie of being an inconvenience or being dramatic, and I texted a sister in Christ who was a few hours behind my time zone. All I said was hello, and her intuition kicked in.

She spoke fighting words to my soul. 

“It’s a beautiful struggle my dear. I wish I could help more. Wish I could lay on your bed and hold you and brush your hair. Going to pray for you right now, that you feel Mary’s motherly embrace and are able to entrust yourself to her care…she who cared for Christ. You are not alone. You are wonderfully made … God is preparing a feast for you.”

Not quite the same tone as David’s, but the Holy Spirit knew exactly how to fight this battle through her. Sometimes we have the courage to muster up the strength to speak our own fighting words, and other times, our “David” steps into battle on our behalf. I’m confident the soldiers who witnessed David’s act of faith that day never forgot the victory the Lord won for them.

I pray that the Holy Spirit would stir you up in faith to enter into battle with the giants that torment you day after day. Do not put up with the defiance any longer. Do not hesitate to call upon your brothers and sisters in Christ to battle on your behalf, those in heaven and on earth. And may we never forget the power of our living God, the one who saves.

This is how I fight my battles.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

a joyous mystery

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My flight time has become prime time for spiritual reading. Most recently, I read “Interior Freedom,” by Fr. Jacques Philippe. The thin spine of the text is no indication of its punch. It has one heck of a punch.

Philippe describes how the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of the rosary, which walk us through the life of Christ, describe the different kinds of “outpourings” of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Philippe writes, “Some outpourings of the Holy Spirit illuminate and reveal, some strip and impoverish, and some confirm and fortify. All three kinds are necessary: the first to give birth to faith, the second to teach us hope, and the third to give us the courage to love.”

The Holy Spirit gives birth to faith through the illumination and revelation of the joyful mysteries (The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation, and Finding Jesus in the Temple).

The Holy Spirit teaches us hope through being stripped and impoverished in the sorrowful mysteries (The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crown of Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion).

The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to love through the confirmation and fortification of the glorious mysteries (The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption, and The Coronation).

Faith, hope, and love are the Holy Spirit’s outpourings of the mysteries.

I have to be honest, my mind was absolutely blown at this connection. Simple, yet profound, and so needed. I started to ask myself, “What am I in need of?”

As we journeyed with our Blessed Mother to meet our beloved Jesus as a babe in a manger this Christmas, it’s nearly impossible to fathom the extent of her faith. Mary’s faith at the Annunciation welcomed the Holy Spirit into her womb, where heaven touched earth.

Elizabeth, a woman who waited for decades yearning for motherhood, is described in the Gospel of Luke as “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” Following Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah, the stark contrast of faith and lack thereof are clear. Elizabeth’s faith illuminates us. She proclaims, “The Lord has done this for me.”

Through Advent and the Christmas season, we journey through the joyful mysteries, and we are given the opportunity to be illuminated by the awe-inspiring faith of those who walked these mysteries first.

What do they reveal?

They reveal the power of a soul aware of her own spiritual poverty, who thrusts herself into the hands of her God. Her faith illuminates the world. She is the vessel through which Light enters the world. She reveals the difference that prayer and a sacrifice of praise make against all odds.

She leads us to fall prostrate at the throne of our King, a pile of hay upheld by the remnants of a tree, foreshadowing the throne upon which he lay for our victory.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” Luke 1:45

Faith births joy in our soul as it envelopes us in the Light that casts out darkness. By our very act of faith in God, we encounter a sweetness and warmth in his presence. We profess once again that he is indeed with us. We are not alone. We are in the very midst of our loving God who comes to earth to rescue us from the darkness.

Just like Mary and Joseph, and Elizabeth and Zechariah, we are given the chance to believe in the greatness of our God. Sometimes we will doubt, and other times we will let ourselves be humbled by the illumination of the Holy Spirit within us.

Even in the midst of my imperfect faith, I can choose to walk in surrender to my King proclaiming his greatness, while resting in my littleness – what a joyful mystery.

amnesia

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I once heard it said that Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden was rooted in forgetfulness. They disobeyed God, but beneath the sin of disobedience lay the river of forgetfulness that flows under all of our sins. We forget who we are and to whom we belong. I call it spiritual amnesia.

We are children of God, sons and daughters. We belong to the God of the universe. To the one who proclaims:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega…the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

But like Adam and Eve, I too, fall into the trap of spiritual amnesia. I forget who God has been, who he is, and who he will always be. It tends to happen in moments of temptation, fear, or despair.

How could I forget how he captured my attention as a little girl marveling at every twinkling star in the sky?
How is it possible for me to let the inexpressible feeling of encountering his tangible love for the first time escape me?
How can I forget how he rescued me from a broken heart, loneliness, or grief?

Jesus has always been faithful. He fulfills my dreams. He has aligned inexplicable circumstances and sent signs and wonders to direct my steps. His love has never wavered.

The highlight (and low light) reel of my life is proof enough. It shows his mercy and redemption covering a multitude of my sins. God fulfilled his promises to me. Every single time. When I let that sink in, it gives me a renewed wonder at the simple truth that he is my God and I am his daughter.

My spiritual director recently exhorted me to keep praying and to not give up in the relentless pursuit of the desires of my heart. He said, “Satan creeps in when we are on the verge of something good, and I believe you are on the verge of something good, so we are not giving up.”

My dear friend, we are on the verge of something good. Our King is rallying for our prevail over fear and forgetfulness.

Do not give in to spiritual amnesia. Remember who Jesus has been for you, how he speaks to you, and most of all, how he loves you. He is good, and he will never forsake you.

Every moment and decision since the beginning of time influenced your very existence in this moment. You are chosen, holy, and beloved. (Colossians 3:12)

I believe Jesus is calling you into a deeper trust of who he is so that you will open your heart to who he is calling you to become.

This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
1 Corinthians 11:24b-25