9 – How to Live with Greater Love

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-muf78-9e1824

God created the human heart to be like a large box vast enough to hold God himself. When we hate ourselves for what we’ve done or who we think we are, our hearts become smaller and smaller until our spirits have no more room to breathe. Sometimes we don’t think we can bring our shame into the open before God. Perhaps you believe that God won’t forgive you. You hide from God just as you hide from others when you are afraid to reveal your true self. At the root of this unhealthy behavior is the reality that you have rejected yourself. Do you love yourself in all your vulnerability and imperfection? When we refuse to allow ourselves to be held by God in the midst of our struggles, we deprive ourselves of God’s tenderness toward us.

To see who we really are is to see ourselves as God sees us. We need to expose ourselves to the messages, the Voice, the Words of God to know ourselves and others in truth.

 

7 – How to Live without Masks

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ma3tn-9e17f3

Many of us excel at putting up a facade to protect ourselves. We embrace our pretenses, defenses, games, ploys, or idealized self-images as though they were real. We convince others and even ourselves that they are real. But if we look closely at the masks we wear, we discover that they often project the opposite of the secret we are seeking to cover up. For instance, if my secret is that I am unable to accept my own hostility to others, I might create a mask that is sweet and kind. I may fool others for a while, I may even fool myself, but eventually the deception ends up bankrupting me. In time, my bitterness and hostility will come out in public, in a way  I can’t hide.

If my secret is that I regret having missed opportunities for advancement, I might cover my anger with a passive meekness. But beneath my humble words, a raging inner victim resents that others have what I don’t. Or perhaps my secret is that I have seriously injured a relationship by something I did—maybe I had an affair, stole from someone, or lied. I may cover my guilt by denying that I did anything wrong or had any part in injuring another. I blame someone else. But once I have the courage of truth, I stop denying that what I did was truly wrong. I accept my part in the situation, and admit my fault. I accept that something needs to be confessed.

Secrets can distort our entire lives without our being completely aware of it. Often a part of our psyche tries to hide the truth, but secrets can cause emotional and physical illness until they are faced, admitted, and, when necessary, repented. So take the courageous step to admit and repent your secrets. Only an interest in the truth that is stronger than your interest in feeling good about yourself will unbind your heart and free you. Commitment to the truth enables you to show absolute respect to the present moment in all its joy or pain, trusting it to unfold in God’s timing, not your own. The more open you are to your experiences as they come, and the more time and space you give yourself to live through what is happening without being pushed, hurried, or judged, the more you will discover the truth about yourself.

6 – How to get power over the power of your thoughts

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4bf7a-9c0c01

Have you ever awoken in the night with terrible thoughts about things you’ve done in the past, even when you were a child? Thoughts can go around and around like a hamster in the wheel. The Evil One can instigate over and over again our returning to memories of past weakness and faults, so that we never entirely move on. Thoughts can keep us intent upon looking at ourselves. God asks us to look at what he is doing, what he is saying, what he is desiring. God says, “Look at my wounds. Look at my love for you.” That is what is true. That is what is real. We explore the thought of Elder Thaddeus on how our life depends on the kinds of thoughts we nurture.

If only I could do things over again….

You are busy. Life happens. You can barely keep up. You know that you could be thinking about more important things, but you don’t have the time to stop and consider what they would be, much less do them.

And then something happens. You are stopped in your tracks. A spouse leaves. A friend dies. A job is lost. Opportunities pass you by. A child makes decisions that break your heart. As you absorb the pain of what is happening, the important things begin to surface. What was hidden, suddenly seems so obvious. The knowledge of what you could have done, should have done, for years perhaps, or years ago, leaves you feeling profoundly empty, or guilty, or depressed.

If only you could do things over again…

Regrets come in all shapes and sizes. Navigating the questions, self-doubt, and haunting what-ifs of your life can be difficult. Facing how your regrets may have turned you into a person you never wanted to be is even more difficult. Yet no one escapes this part of life. It’s the nightfall between yesterday and tomorrow, between the past and the future, between sunset and the coming dawn.

You may feel bad about something in your life that has happened to you or someone you love. You may have a number of things for which you are blaming yourself. Perhaps you have given up hope that you will ever be able to retrieve what you have lost in life or fix what has been broken. A woman once shared with me that she still wonders what she did wrong after her marriage ended in divorce over twenty years ago. To this day, she wishes she could go to bed and never wake up. She is not alone in her suffering.

Through a program I designed called HeartWork, I have worked one-on-one with many people haunted by regrets.  The people I have worked with often believe that if they just had just one more chance things would be different, but they also feel that no more chances re available for them. But God always offers second chances.

Hi. I’m the author of the forthcoming book Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments. I’m excited about sharing the book with you when it releases in September. But right now I invite you to join me for a five-day journey via email, a journey to inner peace. The email journey has exclusive meditations, insights, and sneak-peaks into the book, along with a special offer. I hope to see you there!

Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

PS You can get 12 free videos introducing you to HeartWork here

Recognize Beauty in Broken Things

God doesn’t love me.

Everyone around me is healthy and happy and I can’t seem to make things work out.

God doesn’t love me.

I’m not good enough to be in the popular crowd.

God doesn’t love me.

I can’t feel his love.

God doesn’t love me.

I’ve failed at being really good at anything, especially at being a good person.

God couldn’t love me.

I spent too many hours in my early twenties in the back of our chapel alone. Crying. Angry. Lonely.

Months before my twenty-first birthday, a day surgery on my left foot had extended into a two-week hospital stay. I woke up from simple ambulatory surgery dizzy, unable to speak, remember words, use my hands, or walk. My mother knew the signs immediately, though it took a week to confirm through tests. I’d had a stroke.

The 1984 Winter Olympics flashed across the television screen above me as I lay quietly in my bed trying to take it all in. As the graceful Katarina Witt skated across the ice while my heavy body remained pinned to my bed, I thought, “I will never be able to do that” (not that I could ever ice skate!) The beauty, smoothness and grace of the ice skater’s movements was a sad reminder that I could no longer stand on my own without the nurses’ assistance. The sisters came to help feed me. I tried to practice praying the Our Father but could never reach the end of the prayer.

Within two weeks I was sent home on a walker for a year of recovery.

I prayed to God, “You gave me this stroke, it must be for a good reason. Your will be done.” I pasted on a smile as I relearned how to use a fork, how to stand up, how to bathe myself.

There was a beauty to those days, a childlike wonder. Everything was new to me. But the effort was exhausting. Once the novelty wore off and the grudging work of recovery set in, the fear began to surface “what if God does this to me again,” and the anger, “why me?”

One day I sat in the middle of our chapel, surrounded by sisters praying, and the words came out of my heart, breaking it with each syllable, “I. Hate. You.” They startled me. Shocked and even scandalized me. Here I had been in the convent for six years and… this was all I was capable of when it came to suffering.

No holiness.

No saintliness.

No heroism.

Just anger. For weeks and months I underwent the pressure of the divine hands compressing my heart, puncturing it with his fingers, and breaking it apart, into pieces… at last… before him… in need of him…. Blessedly in need of him….

I had to admit that the twenty-one-year-old who could do anything she put her mind to was now a needy child, at the beginning finally of the mountain of the spiritual life, ready to start the journey, ashamed and yet relieved that the truth was out there.

I was nothing.

I was not a great saint.

I wasn’t even as good a Christian as others.

I was in need of him.

If at some point in your life you find you’re disappointed in yourself, feeling that God couldn’t love you, wouldn’t care, that you’re worthless goods—know that you are at the beginning. Allow the pressure of God’s fingers to hold you, to break open the outer shell you’ve built up to survive in this world, and to expose the raw childlike innocence of your inner spirit that’s so in need of him.

For anywhere God finds need, he gives himself, he takes over and gives himself completely. God can’t not give himself.

So give up the idea of perfection.

Stop striving and dreaming of what should be, what could be.

Immerse yourself where God has shown himself to be, right where you are. Right now, as you are.

Accept the raw sense of sinfulness and the astounding gift of God’s glorious kindness.

 

 

 

5 powerful ways to find the love you’re looking for

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

I sometimes check an app where people are encouraged to leave their secrets, things they wouldn’t tell others. After many months of listening to people’s stories in this hidden way, I can say that the driving force that is at the root of all their stories and my own, is the longing to be loved, known, seen, heard, cared for.

These whispered fears, adventurous stories, and shame-filled confessions may not be my personal experience, but I too weave my own life’s narrative with the yarn of this deep longing for love. I can’t help but feel this strong inner connection with the rest of humanity, for we all struggle, rising and falling, in this arduous search for an eternal love, often getting short-circuited into a situation that promises love but cheapens us instead.

How God must have compassion on our human hearts, so gullible to the flashing promises of love’s allure. After all he created us for Love (capital L), forming our hearts with his own hands. His own heart has been broken by our longing for a “god” other than the One who tenderly bends over us in compassion. His Son’s heart knew the bitter tears of rejection and isolation, the fire of desire and dreams, the soothing comfort at the presence around him of those he loved.

Some of the situations whispered about on this app would arouse in any of us the deepest compassion: the shame and suffering expressed by those who have experienced abuse, abortion, rejection and loneliness in the most difficult of situations.

I want to cheer for others who tell their story: “I’ve been a month without cutting.” “This is my first year anniversary of being sober.” “This is my child’s first day of school. I chose not to abort her and I am so glad.”

People around us are whispering their stories to us all the time. Too shy to proclaim their need or their success, too fearful of ridicule or shame, incredulous that anyone would even care, the people around us leave clues of their desire to be noticed. And we can so easily miss these clues. It’s easy to look at a social media app and flip through the whispered secrets of people’s lives. What would be different if we could respond to the clues all around us that people are leaving in real life?

I have to admit I often miss them. My attention is on my own needs, my own longing to be seen and heard. My drive to finish something important to me. And I can’t see. Am deaf to the beating of the hearts around me. Perhaps too tired to exert the energy to show another the compassion I long for myself.

We are all struggling to get what we feel we need. We find what we long for when we give it away.

There are five powerful ways to give love away and find the love we’re looking for:

  • Listen with your whole body. Look at the person who is speaking. Lean toward them. Hold yourself quietly. Don’t interrupt except to say, “Yes.” “I see.” “Yup.”
  • Be vocal about your appreciation. Make a habit of telling people what you appreciate about them as a person. “I love the way you….” “I’m so grateful when you do…” “You make everyone smile when you…”
  • Ask someone to help you. Use that opportunity to get to know them a little more and to share something about yourself. Your vulnerability will encourage the other to feel comfortable sharing with you.
  • Be observant and sensitive. Ask someone if they are okay when you notice that they are a little down, or quieter than usual, or you notice something else has changed in the way they present themselves.
  • Practice showing your love on your face. Imagine if you couldn’t speak and you had to communicate your concern or interest entirely with your facial expression. Practice and you’ll see how much you are able to communicate without a word. And sometimes with our words, we don’t communicate the intensity of our compassion unless we pair it with the visible expression on our face. It’s the difference between a casual, “Are you okay? And “I really want to know, are YOU okay?” And yes, I am ready to stay here to receive your answer.

When you give this love away, you will find it coming back to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening Rituals to Restore Yourself

I have to admit, I usually have at least 20 tabs open in Google Chrome on one of my monitors with eight to ten programs open on the other. I’m switching constantly between online and offline programs to accomplish tasks connected with maintaining a website, digital marketing, or facilitating digital publishing. At the end of the day, my spirit is fragmented into as many splintered pieces as windows that flashed in front of my sight and soul during the day. And of course, there is the token YouTube video, the news, and my favorite blogs.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the effect of internet and computer use on the human spirit. If I were out gardening all day I’d probably have other complaints, like a sore back and hurting knees, but being in nature would be healing and whole. Multi-tasking across multiple different platforms in front of a screen doesn’t quite have the same healing effect. Using smartphones and tablets, now so much of our organizational and communication tools can have the same soul-splintering experience if we are not careful to preserve space for our spirit.

One thing I’ve been trying to do is to spend 15 or 20 minutes before I go to bed, in a darkened room, in prayer or reading. Candles or incense awaken my senses to beauty once more. My reflections or conversations with God reconnect me personally to Someone who hears and listens and speaks and touches and tastes and holds and cares. It restores me to myself.

Do you have any small rituals you’ve developed to restore your fragmented or drooping spirit at the end of a long day?

May I come to your house, please?

The Rabbi, surrounded by the crowd,
looked up into the tree

and he opened his arms wide
offered freely the treasures of his friendship

“May I come to your house?
Tonight?

Please?”

Perhaps there was a hesitancy
on the part of the one who
was out on a limb.

“Me?”

“Yes. You. I won’t take no for an answer”

Not a command–
a reassurance that the offer
was genuine
true
not dependent on all the “buts” that filled
the little man’s head
who knew himself unworthy
tax collector that he was
outcast
despised
unjust

Forgiven.

One of the most colorful stories in the Gospel of Luke is the story of Zacchaeus, the little man who climbed a tree in order to get a glimpse of Jesus as the rabbi walked through the city of Jericho. To his surprise, Jesus stopped when he came to his tree and, looking up, invited himself over to dinner. There were plenty of “good” people among the crowd that surrounded him that Jesus could have decided to dine with. Instead, he chose the most despised person in town, the tax collector known for being unjust, stealing their money, betraying the Jews by transferring his loyalty to the oppressive Roman regime.

Read Luke 19:1ff

Imagine yourself as a tree climber like Zacchaeus. Merge with this little man who is trying to hide his interest, perhaps feeling a tug of remorse or desire, embarrassed when the eyes of the whole crowd look up and see him perched on the limb of a tree. What does it feel like up there in the tree? Relate to Jesus as someone who is curious, or as someone who is attracted to Jesus’ message but not quite ready to commit. What areas of your life are you keeping from full commitment to the Lord and his way, his truth?

Jesus invites himself into your heart. Perhaps he knows there are areas of your life you are too shy or fearful to open to him. Jesus loves you too much to wait around till you muster enough courage to invite him into your life. So he invites himself! And he doesn’t intend to take no for an answer. Certainly, you could say no…that’s your option. But Jesus will be waiting for you around the next corner. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come to your house?”

Zacchaeus teaches us the value of stopping to notice, and what wonderful spirit-filled consequences such a simple decision can have. He left his money changing table and climbed a tree because he noticed that this Jesus was someone people thought was important enough to celebrate in the streets of Jericho. There are many things that can keep us from stopping to notice.

Name one habit you have that keeps you caught up in the everyday effort to survive and prevents you from noticing what is a cause for celebration.

Practice: Breathing slowly for a while in a quiet place, unconnected to a digital device. What does silence sound like? Feel like? What does the silence teach you about yourself?

Prayer: Jesus, I won’t give you no for an answer. I’m willing to go out on a limb for my belief in you. Come!

God is faithful: Holy Saturday Thought

When we hand our lives over to the Lord, we come out of hiding—hiding behind our ideas of how things should be, hiding behind who we think we are, hiding behind our dreams for our future. As God showed himself faithful to Jesus on the cross, God shows himself faithful to us…and will manifest his fidelity to anyone who takes a trusting step into the unknown.

God makes the unlovable lovable

God loves us as if we were the center of his universe! We who have died and risen with Christ, we in whom the Son abides, we for whom Jesus answered to his Father with his life and with his death—we are the object of God’s delight. We are chosen by God. Jesus spent his thirty-three years of life serving our needs with his own hands, wiping up our mess with his own blood, opening our future with his own death. The life of the Word Incarnate was not a blip on the divine screen. For all eternity God will be serving us, bent at our feet in love and mercy and compassion. God makes the impossible, possible; the unbelievable, reality. What is unlovable will melt in his hands. What is ostentatious will thrill to be a cascade of lilies in a blooming field, clothed only with the brilliance of poverty. What is afraid will stand with the certainty of the resurrection. We shy away from grandeur and expectations, but we are drawn with confidence by this extraordinary mercy that will delight us eternally.

O Love! You wash my feet and tend to my vulnerability every day! Give me eyes to see you.