We are Infinitely and Forever Loved by a God who Won’t Let Us Down

This past weekend, because of being just after Valentine’s Day, my thoughts have been about love. I saw a couple of Facebook posts describing in one instance a young boy, in another a gym coach,  handing red roses to every girl in their school because they wanted every girl to feel special on that day. An imaginative way to open the windows of a stuffy commercially driven celebration! These two individuals—and I’m sure there were others—shifted the center of their attention from what pleases them to what benefits others. Such a simple gesture, although I’m sure the roses were quite an investment. A gesture that will last a long time in the memories and hearts of these young women.

A woman on a retreat I was leading shared how she used to buy a small bouquet of flowers whenever she went to the grocery store. She would write on the little card: God loves you! After she paid for her groceries, she would turn and hand the bouquet to the person behind her, no matter who it was. Years later her son in Florida heard a woman on the radio relating how she had unexpectedly received a bouquet of flowers in a grocery line. When she had loaded the groceries into the car and slipped into the driver’s seat, she opened the card and read the simple message about God’s love. The woman was in tears: that message had meant the difference between life and death for her. When the son called his mom to tell her what had become of just one lady who had received one of her flower bouquets in a grocery line, she knew that in some mysterious way this simple gift, so small and hidden, a gift for which no one was able to thank her directly, had assured people they were loving, lovable, and infinitely forever loved by a God who would never let them down.

It is so easy to “sleep” through our days and nights. I have done it. I have objectified others and objects in the name of efficiency and right-thinking, right-doing, law-abiding righteousness. Not on purpose. Perhaps it is a stage we all go through as we embrace responsibility, mature into generativity, and at the same time juggle the judgment-laden atmosphere around us. It could be that middle years open windows to our spirit that wash our younger-aged beliefs and thoughts and judgments gently with ointment and anoint us anew as a child of God, hid with Christ in God, breathed into life through divine breath, and loving with the breath of love that created us.

In a recent survey we asked what struggles people wanted us to address. In the light of this love and this amazing story of the gift of flowers I’d like to speak to four comments that we received:

  1. God wants more of me, but I’m not sure what I should do. Books could be written on this, but I’d say for starters, begin with the life you have. Turn around and give bouquets of flowers to someone. Speak to Jesus when you go to Mass and ask him to tell you clearly what he desires of you. Find someone who can be a spiritual companion for at least a few conversations to jumpstart the journey into the unknown invitation. Follow your curiosity and read a book. Learn how to pray with Scripture. Basically, God is already leading you into the “more” he is giving you. You don’t have to figure it out, achieve it, possess it, maintain it. Take advantage of the next step, whatever it may be, in your life as it is, and through that step he will lead you step-by-step to the “more.”
  2. I struggle with forgiveness and the endless thoughts recirculating the pain over and over. I know. It is the nature of the mind to hang on and hang on to what has hurt us or was unjust, unfair, or just not right. These days for me the words of Flannery O’Connor ring true: “I do not know You, God, because I am in the way.” In the spirit of the “bouquet of flowers” I’ve noticed a new sister in the community showing love and kindness to persons I have felt hurt by. That act has touched me deeply to explore with Jesus why I am still hanging on. What I’m getting out of it. How this resentment is keeping an illusory sense of self alive. It is not my identity as a child of God and a beloved of the Father. Such simple acts I observe, yet they have meant much to my heart. As for the nature of the rat-race of thoughts in our heads see the next number.
  3. How to reduce busyness and embrace what has true value. The busyness of our life, or most especially of our mind, helps us sustain an image of ourselves, a “me” that is important, needed, useful, good, or whatever. Reducing busyness for me has started often with reserving a time period a little longer than usual to just be alone. I may need to organize myself very carefully to carve out this very needed and precious time. I go there with a couple of books, a Bible, and a journal. I go there to listen to God, to others through their written words that I read, to my own heart. I take walks, drink coffee, and pray. I follow the thread of what Jesus begins to show me through my journal notes. I learn what is of true value. It is here I touch that part of the little “me” that is resentful, that hasn’t forgiven, as we said above. In this sacred space I let God touch me. That divine touch melts that meaner “me” so that I realize that it isn’t my true identity. When it melts, all that is left is a loving tenderness. When I choose this as all I want, it becomes easier to confess and repent of resentful memories and withholding love to others who have hurt me.
  4. The healing of our fragmented inner space. Our “inner space” can feel fragmented and divided into a million pieces, particularly if we don’t carve out some sacred healing space. I’m seeing a growing number of articles about people saying they tried to do everything they (and others) thought they should do to be the best at what they do, and respond to every expectation and need. Finally, they just decided they could do it no longer. Some of these authors were people who didn’t have a great amount of responsibility for others and could easily walk off toward a blissfully quiet horizon. But some were people who carried responsibility for families. Here are some of the things that worked for them and for me: talk to others around you about how you can carve out this sacred time for your inner spirit. Discuss how this will affect the whole, what accommodations will need to be made, what things on the to-do list aren’t really that important to do at all and could be dropped, what are the highest values of each one in the group who will be  affected, how can you create a win-win situation for everyone, where is the stretch-area that will help everyone grow in respect and love for each other, what is the breaking point, how can you create a “format” for your sacred time to make it truly restorative and healing (watching TV and surfing the net, reading email and social media aren’t as restorative as other activities and without a “plan” your free time could degenerate into wasted time).

The time you preserve and protect for your deepest self will translate into a happier, more harmonious, and self-less living and giving if you do it right. You will be less likely to get caught up in resentful reactions, and more likely to focus on what is of true value. You will also find it easier to help others do likewise.

ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE? HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO GO DEEPER…

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 6 ways you can join me on the journey:

  1. Join my private Facebook Group and walk the road of healing with a great group of people. I offer a half-hour live spiritual conference here Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST
  2. Sign-up for my letter Touching the Sunrise. I write a letter a couple times a month from my heart to yours to support you along the way.
  3. Explore my books: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach; Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments; Just a Minute Meditations Deeper Trust and Inner Peace. Enroll in the free 5-day email series introducing Reclaim Regret.
  4. Enroll in courses on Midlife, Contemplative Prayer, and a do-it-yourself downloadable Surviving Depression retreat
  5. Become a part of the HeartWork Community, a place where you can ask the hard questions and find a path to a life that is free, fulfilling and fruitful.

 

God hears the whisper of your heart

God as potter is deeply invested in what he creates. The image of potter is often portrayed as an image of power: God chooses how to shape the clay. For me the image of potter is intimately one with the image of God pouring himself into his creation. It is an image of love. I can hear God listening closely to everything we say as he shapes our lives. The shaping of the vessel is part of an ongoing conversation of love between potter and clay. On a particularly busy day, I (the clay) may tell God (the potter) that I am tired. I need help. It is characteristic of God to bend over the little vessel he is loving into being and care for me. Listen closely, God, to the whisper of my heart. Bend over your creature, here, and let me know your ever tender love.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

 

Cherished by the Lord

May my life be a work of art

There are so many good things we could do; how do we know which specific deeds God desires most of us? This passage from the Letter to the Ephesians is full of clues. Words such as “rich in faithful love,” “through the great love with which he loved us,” and “it is through grace that you have been saved” tip us off. God has planned a tremendous work of art for humanity and civilization. This artistic creation is a direct reflection of God’s love and life. It is that simple. The Father, from all eternity, loved the Son. The Son turned around and, instead of holding on to this love which he had received, gave it away. He emptied himself, became a man, walked among us, lived our life, and died our death, so that, as the Father had done, he could pour himself out in love for us who needed salvation. It is by grace that we are saved. The deeds God desires of us are self-emptying acts of service of others, love to the point of giving our lives for one another.

Jesus, make my life a work of art. May I love others with a faithful love that seeks their good before my own.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

God trusts us

Jesus appointed twelve uneducated, unprepared, and unlikely men to help him in the very delicate work of saving the human race. They themselves were part of the humanity that needed salvation. If Jesus wanted the job done right, why didn’t he choose angels he could trust? What mystery that he entrusted himself instead to family, friends, disciples, and women “who provided for” him (Lk 8:3). Today he entrusts himself to you and me.

Never, Lord, will I complain about others in the Church now that I see how you have trusted us from the beginning to carry out your Father’s plan for salvation. Nothing we can do can destroy the power of that plan. Thy Kingdom come!

From the book Cherished by the Lord

Jesus is God in the world

We believe that God meets us in Jesus. Jesus is God in the world as the One who bestows Life and reveals the Father. The Church is the mystery of the Body of Jesus. It stands wide open to us, but, unlike other sociological institutions, the Church’s depths defy our sounding. This is the revelation God has made to us. We do not need to rely on lucky guesses or profound insights. We only need to answer, to respond with belief. Belief finds its own equilibrium through ways that are often unseen. Incredibly, it is only in believing that we know who we truly are. We can stand taller than labels, peel away criticisms, and go beyond curiosity to adoration.

From the book Making Peace with Yourself 

Autumn Gifts

How rich is God in his blessings to all!
 
Today as I reflected over the past month and noticed what God has been doing, I noticed a few of my autumn gifts. These gentle lessons from my Father help me to prepare for the extra-special intensity of Advent and I thought to pass them on to you.
 
1) There is something so refreshingly beautiful about tasting goodness: the goodness of life, of others, of nature, of food, even of difficulties. There is goodness because God is good and He gives Himself entirely to us in all of creation, in others whom I live with or meet, in the Eucharist. Lesson: Commentary, whether kept to myself or externalized through judgments and criticism, mars the goodness of the gift. Live, see, speak, think, judge “with soft eyelashes.”
 
2) Unwinding, resting, leisure is a spiritual need. Lesson: Gentle self-care is important: intentionally blessing the gift of food, honoring the sacredness of cleanliness, getting adequate sleep, moments of rest in nature, which I often call “God’s Cathedral.”
 
3) The gorgeous changing of the colors of the leaves here in New England is magnificent. I have been astounded particularly by the beauty of the leaves just before the sunrise. They are translucent, almost transported into some divine manifestation of God’s own beauty! St. Silouan gently called a monk to task when he broke off a flower as they walked. For the saint, every particle of creation deserves the respect and attention of being precious and a living testimony of divine love. Lesson: Take the time to notice every created thing: leaves, people, the homeless, drivers on the road, Christmas wreaths, cards I receive, bird song, clouds and sunsets, everything. Treat each living thing with gentle respect.
 
As we approach Thanksgiving, what have been your autumn gifts? How has your Father been manifesting his goodness to you, opening your eyes, and ears, and heart….to see, hear, and feel in new ways, the powerful presence of God all around you.
 
Thank you for joining me on the journey,
Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Jesus will show you the way

The suffering in your life can yield great treasures. It is possible to find gifts in the ashes, treasures in the flames. But don’t worry about that now. Jesus himself will show you where the gold lies. You only need to hold on to him, to lean in your weakness on his power, to trust in your poverty on his bountiful love. Lay your head down on his heart and rest as a little child sleeps in his or her parent’s arms.

From the book Making Peace with Yourself 

A blessing when one trusts

Unbeknownst to him, the Lord was not asking Abraham for his son’s life. It was Abraham’s life that the Lord still wanted, Abraham’s trust that he still had not received. Abraham, the Lord was asking, can you let me take your life into my hands? Will you entrust your entire life and future unconditionally to me, now when it seems everything has ended? “I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore” (Gen 22:17).

From the book Making Peace with Yourself

God asks us to trust

Unbeknownst to him, the Lord was not asking Abraham for his son’s life. It was Abraham’s life that the Lord still wanted, Abraham’s trust that he still had not received. Abraham, the Lord was asking, can you let me take your life into my hands? Will you entrust your entire life and future unconditionally to me, now when it seems everything has ended? “I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore” (Gen 22:17).

From the book Making Peace with Yourself

God’s plan for you

Abraham was available to God’s voice when it came. When God asked him to get up and move, he did so. He didn’t project his fears into the plan based on his experiences of the past. He simply moved where he was called, trusting that the God who was with him in the present, would be with him in each present moment of the future. You are important enough for God to speak with also. God is speaking with you. Being present to each moment and to your inner truth in each moment is the first step in hearing God’s voice. God’s plan for you will always be a blessing, both on you and on others.

From the book Surviving Depression