Sharing in the Psalms

So I don’t believe in coincidences, or fate, or luck, but I do believe in the Holy Spirit, and that’s who arranged the blessing of today. Allow me to explain!

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We are Beloved Children of the King! Let us never forget. Though this photo when taken in “healthier times”, its a reminder to always hope in the Lord! He is our sustainer and our stronghold!

Earlier this afternoon I had two separate conversations with women very dear to my heart. They are women whom I trust, who support me, who encourage me, and most of all, who love me! In our chats, I opened up about how I am feeling/doing these days. At the moment I feel a lot of things (mostly health problems) are piling up on my shoulders and weighing me down. I suppose you could say my faith is being tested a little, or I’m just not learning the lesson of surrendering to God… so I keep getting new opportunities to do so. Yay? Being stubborn is not always a good thing. Maybe its never a good thing? Still not sure about that….

Anyways, these are both women of God and they were able to encourage me at a faith level. This is exactly what I needed and both of them said the same thing:

“Why don’t you read and meditate on the Psalms?”


They challenged me to really live and pray with the Psalms during this heavy time. The Psalmists are often lamenting and crying out to God for his help, his protection, his mercy. So if the Psalmists are so free in their prayer, why aren’t I?

So, I did it. I opened my bible to the Pslams and started reading. The verses that struck me the most today were actually from the very beginning. Pslam 1: 1-3:

 

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seats of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers”

 

Isn’t this imagery wonderful! We can be that tree- soaking up the graces of the Lord, and not withering away in despair or sadness (as I am so often tempted to do). In these streams of life and hope, we can be renewed both in body and spirit, and yield fruit. I guess it isn’t a calling to plant fruit trees on my balcony this summer ( although that would be lovely), but he wants to help us (me) grow in the virtues; in love, in charity, in patience, in humility, in perseverance!

red and yellow coffee berries on branch

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I think I am going to start reading the Psalms each day. Maybe I’ll share a few more of the verses that speak to my heart as this journey in the Psalms continue.

What are the verse(s) that speak to you?! I would love to hear how you live with the Psalms right now. Let us encourage one another in faith & hope!

 

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More than a Book.

“The word of God is something alive and active: it can judge secret emotions and thoughts”

Alleluia! This was the Gospel antiphon for today’s mass : )  The word of God is alive and does speak to the innermost part of our hearts. God comes to us through the person of Jesus. Through scripture, we have the “roadmap” to Jesus. The stories, the events, the life of Christ, are intimately connected to our own lives. Jesus wants to come to us through the Word of God. These books are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the word of God can change our lives. The questions is: Do we let it? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to His word? Do we let sacred Scripture sustain us in times of sorrow and joy? Peronally, I am growing in this department. It’s easy to feel like the bible is “hard to relate to” or that I need to “study more” before I can really understand. But this isn’t true.  I want to fall more deeply in love with the word of God. I want to fall more deeply in love with Jesus!

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Here are a few examples of how Sacred Scripture can be healing, rejuvenating, inspiring and sustaining for our hearts, minds and soul.

 

  • Temptation to despair?  Battling dark thoughts or negativity? Feeling unfree in your thoughts? Read Philippians 4:6-8

” Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” 

 

  • What does a Christian attitude look like? How can I grow in becoming a better man or woman? Read Ephesians 4: 25-29

” Therefore, putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear”

 

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  • Struggling with your health? Feeling weary and tired? Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

” So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 

 

  • Feeling blessed and thankful for the wonders of God? Has your prayer, or the prayer of a loved one, been answered? Read Psalm 108:1-6

 

” My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the clouds”

 

I really could go on and on, but this post would be too long! God is a God of love ( 1 John 4:16). He wants to meet us exactly where we are. He wants to encourage us, love us, challenge us, strengthen us and heal us. Let’s take the invitation today, to encounter the Lord in sacred Scripture.

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Come to the Cross

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“By the light of faith then, rise above every sort of selfish love. And to attain the most perfect love, as I’ve told you before, set before your mind’s eye Christ crucified and the indescribable charity he has demonstrated for you by shedding his blood with such blazing love” – St. Catherine of Siena

Today the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and what an important feast this is! Its funny, today I was standing in line at the pharmacy and the pharmacist was wearing a crucifix necklace. I mean #1- I hardly ever see people wearing such a bold and beautiful statement of faith (which inspired me to wear mine again!)  and # 2- so great to have this little wink from Jesus on His great feast day!

In the reflection today in the Magnificat, its a short excerpt from St. Catherine of Siena (which I quoted above) and she goes on to say, ” This must be your study: to love God in truth and your neighbour as yourself; to be humble and obedient; patiently to suffer pain, hurt, disdain, and abuse...In times of struggle and weariness, run with this light of holy faith to embrace the most holy cross, and there put your hope confidently in the Blood of Christ crucified…”  

I find this text so life-giving. Its a call to receive and share love in the world. It’s a reminder that although we feel pain, grief and suffering, its shall not pull us down. The cross says one thing; I love you. This love is so real and raw. It is not a fairytale love that sugar coats life. It is not a love that eliminates suffering. But it is a love that can heal our souls. It is a love that can comfort our hearts. It is a love that would conquer death and sin. Jesus on the cross is love. He loves us.

The Lord invites us to give back this kind of love to our neighbour. To endure hardship, to forgive, to be merciful, to die to our selves. Surely not from our own strength, but from the hope and strength of the holy cross of Christ.

I think todays feast is simply an invitation: to receive the love which was poured forth from the cross, and to let it transform us! That is my sincere hope for you and me.

God bless !

Words that do Wonders

I seem to take abnormally long breaks in between my blog posts.  The last time I was locked out of my account for a few months, and this time I have been internet-less for about a month because we moved apartments #bigcityprobelms

Alas, here I am. Back to blogging. Back to the Internet. Yahooo! The topic of this blog is encouragement. I am becoming ever more convinced of the power and goodness of  an encouraging word or deed. Often its just a simple, seemingly insignificant compliment or affirmation that can really bless us. It is so refreshing to witness or take part in authentic acts of kindness.

A little while ago someone read my blog and wrote the most encouraging comment. It was an encouragement to continue writing, and it even included a few tips. I took that to heart and eventually decided to start writing for a volunteer organization here in Berlin. I have attached the link below if your interested in having a read at my new blog series (Will volunteering help me find the bright side of Berlin?)

Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is:  be a light in this world for someone. I really want to get better at that. I think there are many missed opportunities for kindness in a day. Who knows how someone will react to our words, and ultimately, to the light of Jesus that stems from any genuine act of goodness, beauty and kindness.

 

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,
make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others”
– Philipians 2:1-4

Here is the link to the blog post I was speaking of:

https://blog.vostel.de/en/2018/08/09/will-volunteering-help-me-find-the-bright-side-of-berlin/

 

golden.

After getting sick again, I found myself a little down in the dumps as they say. In order to satisfy my entertainment cravings and avoid the fact that I couldn’t enjoy the sunshine outside, I turned to Youtube. Needless to say, I watched countless DIY tutorials and nonsense videos for way longer than I would like to admit. I did however come across something special. A video of America’s Got Talent Golden Button auditions. We don’t have a T.V at home, so I am not actually that familiar with a lot of shows. How it works is that performers come on stage before a panel of 4 judges. They can sing, dance, do magic tricks.. any hobby humanly possible. They give their best performance and then its up to the judges to decide. On some rare and very exciting occasions, the golden button is pressed by one of the judges. Golden streamers fall from the roof while everyone cheers in jubilant joy. The button means the performer will advance to the live auditions, increasing their chances of winning.

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It was so wonderful to watch these men, women, children and families, share their gifts with the world. Seeing the audience members touched to tears, singing along, judges giving words of encouragement and everyone smiling, was truly beautiful. For me, watching this simple video was so inspiring. It reminded me of what this whole life thing is about;  sharing your God given talents, spreading joy, encouraging one another, choosing love, doing your best and blessing the world with our creative genius. Maybe this is the way the world becomes a little brighter. Golden.

 

 

 

smells like home.

If someone asked what your favorite place in the world was, how would you respond?  For some it is a travel destination, a place where family comes together and for others it is a secret location that only they have explored. Regardless of the location, I think we all have a place that speaks to our heart in a special way. A place where we feel ourselves. Where we feel at home.

For me, this place is my parents summer cabin. Countless childhood memories stem from this beloved place! Year after year I celebrated by birthdays there, played and explored in the woods, learned to drive for the first time and consumed countless smores and bush pies (best cabin foods ever!!) around the campfire.

This whole topic came up last weekend when my husband and I were walking along the seaside where he spent many summers as a child. It was a beautiful moment of peace and serenity. At one point he commented on how much he loved and cherished the smell of the sea. How it evoked so many good memories for him. It was funny because in those same moments, I was thinking that the sea smell was a bit too strong for me. That I could only smell the plants and soil of the grasslands around.

We had a similar moment a few months ago. While we were sitting around the campfire, I was closing my eyes, breathing in the smoke and sharing that this is my favorite smell in the world (I even love the smell of my clothes after a campfire). For my husband, the campfire smell is nice, but not that exciting.

After our seaside walk, I realized again how God uses our sense of smell to bless our lives abundantly! Smells can bring us back to a moment, a place, a person or an emotion. These smells are often capable of bringing peace, joy and comfort to our hearts. I also found it interesting to see the connection between our favorite places in the world and the smells related to that place. For example, the smell of the sea is especially beautiful to my husband because it is linked to his positive childhood memories there. The smell of campfire is especially beautiful to me because I always think about our summer cabin and I have such wonderful memories.

Just as our sense of smell is a blessing, the Lord didn’t stop there. He gave us the sense of taste to enjoy the most vibrant spices, flavors and food combinations possible. He lets us hear the voices of our loved ones, the notes of a gentle melody, the laughter of our children and friends. We can touch the hand of our beloved, cuddle in a cozy blanket, hold the hand of our dying parent. We can see the wonders of nature, communicate to others with our eyes, and observe the world around us.

Perhaps when we go about our daily routine today, we can take a moment or two to thank the Lord for the gift of our memories, our senses and for how he created us!

let your lips reveal his glory.

Why is it that we are so quick to ask for prayer, but so slow to share about our answered prayers?!  Perhaps its just easier to pray when we suffer? Or maybe when we feel better, we are so quick to resume our ‘regular life’, that we forget to offer prayers of thanksgiving.

This winter I had been very ill and found myself clinging to the prayers of friends and family. Often I did not have the strength or desire to really pray on my own. After a lot of doctor appointments, tears, waiting, google searching and praying, I am feeling back to my good old self. Even a bit better! I owe a lot of the success to the intercession of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (a story for another day). Just a few days ago, I came across Psalm 40 and the following verses stood out to me:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure…I have told the glad news of deliverance  in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

I just love this so much! The Psalmist is deeply touched by the saving grace of the Lord, that he finds no other answer but to tell the ‘glad news of deliverance’ and ‘speak of your faithfulness and your salvation’. After reading this verse, I saw so clearly that the Lord wants us to proclaim His mercy ! When he heals us, when he hears us, when he consoles us, when he inspires us, when he sustains us, when he speaks to us! We are called to share of how God works in our lives!

Like the Psalmist, I too must share my thankfulness to the Lord. That even through months of being sick, battling hopelessness, feeling abandoned, the Lord was holding me. This time of suffering was a time to really rest in the arms of my Father. To surrender to my own littleness. I didn’t think I would ever write a blog post like this, because I felt so stuck in that state. But the good news ( for anyone who feels this way), is that it doesn’t last forever. God will answer your prayers. God will bring you comfort. It might be a different timing, or a different style then you expect. But he will act. Let us continue to be like the Psalmist. Proclaiming the great and small wonders of the Lord in our lives!

 

It’s not Abram, it’s Abraham!

Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis is about the call of Abraham. The Lord called Abraham to be the leader of nations, the father of the Jewish people. This covenant promise between God and man through Abraham, was and reamains so fundamental for the life of the Church. For us! However, what struck me most about the reading today was the following verse, ‘ …no longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations’ (Genesis 17:5).

We often read stories in the bible where men and woman receive a new name through the Lord: Abram becomes Abraham, Saul becomes Paul, Simon becomes Peter (the Rock on which the Church was built).

For Abram, Saul and Simon, their new name is a permanent reminder that they have been changed and transformed through the call of God. These men truly ..’put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24). The new Abraham, Paul and Peter could proclaim the inner transformation of their heart through something external like their name*

A few months ago, this topic of names and naming in the bible was on my heart a lot. After getting married, I took the family name of my husband. It just struck me one day. I also had my name changed in the Lord! This was done through the sacrament of matrimony. When I gave my life to my husband, I said YES to the vocation of marriage. This was and is answering the call of God in my life!  When I now tell someone my name,  I bear a new identity through my marriage! Its so beautiful. It was a HUGE joy for me to change my name. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. For me, taking my husbands family name was a concrete sign of my unity with him, and with this new life in Christ.

Sometimes in life we need a name change, a big step or something radical to symbolize our YES to God. It is through these moments or occasions that we allow the Lord to step into our lives! We give ourselves to him so that we can, like Abraham, Paul and Peter, become the ‘…new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’

 

 

 

* There is also a much deeper discourse about the significance of name change in the bible. Names in the Old Testament were so highly regarded. There was a profound sense of identity when called by name ( see online resources for more info)

berlin bustle.

 

Growing up in a city of 200,000 people and moving to Berlin, a city of four million has been a crazy adventure! I didn’t know it was possible to have 4 Ikeas in one city?! AMAZING. I had also never drove on a highway with four lanes before. Fun and terrifying all wrapped up in one driving adventure. The lessons I am learning while here are countless. From simple things like new driving rules to more complicated culture changes… everyday is an adventure. I am sure any expat would share the joys and difficulties of the transition period. I definitely underestimated culture schock. As a person who loves traveling and experiencing new things, I figured this move was a piece of cake. But its been a huuuge eye opener for me.

Take for instance the topic of poverty. Not only have I been confronted by the materially poor, but also the poor in spirit. I have witnessed so many sad, angry and lonely people while being here. Living in a big city can be a blessing, but many people seem to be forgotten. Isolated. No hi’s, thank you’s or eye contact has an effect on us after a while. The other day I also caught myself in the typical ‘grumpy berliner attitude’ when some students took a seat beside me and forced me to move all my books, homework and backpack from the seat where I was studying. When they saw my reaction, they felt terrible and wanted to move seats. I could hardly believe myself. Wait, what? You are actually getting angry that these people are sitting beside you… on PUBLIC transportation?!  I tried to cover up my first reaction by being more friendly and thankfully convinced them to stay. But this moment has stayed with me since then.

In Canada, rarely did I have such a negative reaction to strangers. There was a different sort of stranger policy. Everyone was polite to everyone. That’s just how it was. After the episode on the train, I realized that I was letting the berliner attitude rub off on me too much. Unfortunately, over the past few months I have rarely seen friendly encounters on public transportation. Most times, everyone is busy with their own lives, stuck on their iphone and they don’t want to deal with another person who is in their personal bubble. And actually, I can understand that perspective. I have dealt with some strange, stinky and upsetting people on the train. But even still, we must not let that attitude keep us from loving. From being kind. I think these small gestures like smiling as you let someone take that empty spot beside you, or moving your bag so someone has more space, or letting the old granny take your seat, is a remedy against the poverty of spirit. Its definitely not the easy way, but I think its the way that brings light and joy and peace into our day and the day of those around us. Even if just for a train ride.

 

 

 

babysteps.

After moving to Germany, settling into married life, finishing a few more German courses, finding my blog password again, renovating my blog site a little… I’m back! It feels great to write again. I always forget that this is my creative outlet. When I negelct the blog, or journaling, I somehow feel a little lost. Todays post is something small, super difficult to practice, but an incredible encouragement for all of us.

‘ For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’ – Ephesians 3:14-19

Love is that which surpasses knowledge. Authentic love compels us to love without borders. To love without a reason. I was so struck and humbled by this verse today. What a difficult task and command from our Lord.  We all have those people in our lives who feel impossible to love. We find every reason why we shouldn’t put up with them. Yet the call today is LOVE. That we are filled with the fullness of God when we love radically and totally. I guess I/we should really ask the intercession of the saints to help us comprehend the depth of the call of our Christian life! And how beautiful that the Lord himself is there to give us his very own heart. When we ask with faith for a greater grace to love, he will grant it. When we ask with faith for a greater grace to forgive, he will grant it. What good news we have! This is the kind of motivation I needed to commence writing again. Another strong encouragement from our brother Paul who writes the truth of our Lord.

Lets pray for each other as we pursue greater love, forgiveness and kindness in our own hearts, our families and our communities.