A Sinking Heart

bleeding-hearts

There are times we move through life with our hearts on our sleeves.  Wide open to receive God’s amazing love.  Moved to listen and understand, we are part of the vast family of the children of God. We offer prayers of gratitude for belonging.  We reach out to our sisters and brothers in loving communion.

With our hearts on our sleeves… we sing, we laugh, and we love.

There are times that our hearts curl inward.  Nestled deep within our souls.  We enter into a period of searching and deep contemplation.  Our hearts are wrapped in mystery.  We long to hear God’s whisper.  We know there is something God wants to teach us and we cling to the quiet so we may uncover His truth.

With our hearts drawn in… we listen, we pray, and we learn.

And still other times our hearts just sink.  We are lost in the fragments of a broken world.  Hope eludes us and despair overwhelms us.  We cannot imagine a world in which God is present and working for good.  Our rational minds tell us that God is out there, but with plummeting hearts we cannot see Him.

With our hearts in the depths… we doubt, we cry, and we ache.

If our hearts are going to sink, let them sink into God.  Not an out-of-control free fall, but a falling in faith. This act of surrender will bring us closer to God than ever before.  We give up our pain, our flaws, and our doubts, confident that God is strong enough to bear it all.  The further we allow ourselves to fall, the higher God will lift us up.

If our hearts are going to sink… let them sink into God.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part Five)

walled-garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. But the fifth sister did not appear. After waiting for some time, the Master Gardener went out in search of her, and found her sitting in her cottage, staring blankly at the walls.

“I come to ask about your garden,” he said. “How does it fare?”

“I have no idea. I prepared the soil and planted the seeds like you asked me to. And then I built a high stone wall around it to protect it from the rabbits and deer.”

“Tell me what grows in your garden?” the Master Gardener gently pressed.

“I really don’t know. I haven’t been in there in months. I just don’t see myself as a gardener. There are days I think about going inside, but it’s been so long now, that I don’t know what I would do in there.”

“My beloved daughter, I gave you this garden as a safe and sacred space. It is yours. All I ask is that you enter and sit awhile.”

The fifth sister did as the Master Gardener asked. She sat in her garden for a morning… and felt nothing. She returned for the next three mornings, and still nothing. On the fifth morning, she sat quietly in her garden and felt the sun warming her face. She watched a butterfly dance among the flowers. She breathed in the scent of earth and nectar and rain. She was overcome with a rush of feeling. A memory of the love she felt on the day she received this precious plot of land. Peace settled deep within. She vowed never again to wall herself off from her garden.

REFLECTION

A life of faith isn’t always easy. We wrestle with questions, doubts, and disagreements—matters that must be explored through deep prayer and examination of conscience. The process can be daunting. We witness those who claim to be Christian, yet do and say things that contradict the loving message of Jesus Christ. We see people use the name of Jesus to hurt and reject others. We don’t want to throw ourselves in with that lot. We don’t want to be anywhere near them. So we distance ourselves from the Church. It may seem easier to close ourselves off from the more challenging aspects of our faith. Avoidance is always easier.

Though our doubts may be justified, it’s our response to these doubts that can often drive a wedge between us and God’s love for us. But walling ourselves off from the love of God isn’t the answer. And the longer we do this, the more our faith becomes a remote and distant memory. Bring your questions to God. Bring your doubts, your anger, your dissonance. Trust that God loves you and will help you work through this time of uncertainty.

Just like the fifth sister, God only asks that you enter the garden and sit with Him for awhile.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part Four)

sunflowers-268015_960_720

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The fourth sister marched right up with her head held high and a satisfied smile on her face.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Oh, you have to come see it!” she exclaimed.“I threw away the seeds you gave me because I knew they wouldn’t produce the biggest, most colorful blooms. The flowers I chose are amazing! The prettiest in the village. Every day I stand outside so I can see the villagers walk by my garden and marvel at how beautiful it is.”

“My beloved daughter,” the Master Gardener replied. “While it is true I gave you the garden to do with as you pleased, it seems as if your only goal is praise and admiration. Your garden can be used for so much more. To grow food for the poor. To provide a quiet place where you might sit and pray. You have turned it into nothing more than a showpiece.”

The fourth sister was humbled by the words of the Master Gardener, and she realized he was right. It had become too important to her to have the biggest, most beautiful garden. From that day on she replaced some of the more ostentatious blooms with beans, peppers, and tomatoes, which she shared with all who were hungry. And in the early morning, when no one else was around, she spent time reflecting and praying in her garden. Over time, it came to mean so much more to her than the dazzling display she used to show off to the village.

REFLECTION

If we take an honest look at ourselves, I’m sure there are times we’ve been guilty of behaving like this fourth sister. Putting on a show of our faith. Praying to impress. We may not even realize we’re doing it. It’s perfectly human to want people to think well of us, but it shouldn’t take the place of an honest and intimate relationship with our loving Father.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).

A common misinterpretation of this Gospel passage is that Jesus is condemning public prayer. But we know this is not the case. When Jesus takes the seven loaves and fishes, he breaks the bread and very publicly gives thanks to God before sharing the food. This is what we do every Sunday when we gather to worship. Praying in community is not what Jesus calls into question here. Instead, Jesus challenges us to examine our motives.

Ask yourself these questions: Am I praying to put on a show, to garner praise from others, to compete? Is it more important for me to be seen as pious and spiritual than to really be present to God while I am praying? Am I making my prayer life all about me instead of all about God?

Years ago I belonged to a prayer group that gathered together once a week to pray for our children. I often received praise for the prayers I offered, compliments on a particular turn of phrase or the words I chose. I liked the feeling so much that the weekly sessions became like a performance for me. I was determined to impress each week with the prayers I offered. In my efforts to earn praise and compliments, I began to lose sight of why I was praying in the first place. It was a humbling lesson to learn.

Prayer life isn’t about appearance. It should go much deeper than that. Prayer is conversation with God—the words we speak to our loving Father directly from our heart. We don’t need an audience or a stamp of approval from our peers to achieve this kind of close relationship with God. Let your garden of faith become a time of quiet stillness. A time of praying and listening.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part Three)

weeds

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who provided all that they needed, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The third sister approached with shrugged shoulders and confusion in her eyes.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Not well, and I don’t understand why! I sit in my garden every day and pray. For hours I offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Yet my garden is a mess! Weeds are sprouting up everywhere, crowding the healthy plants and robbing them of sunlight and nutrients.”

“My beloved daughter,” the Master Gardener replied. “Your prayers are always welcome, but I gave you this garden as a gift, in the hopes that you would care for it through your actions, not just your prayers. The garden needs you if it’s going to thrive. You must show your love by tending it.”

Understanding dawned on the third sister’s face as she realized what she had failed to do. Running home, she spent an entire day cleaning up her garden. Pulling weeds, pruning, watering, and feeding her plants. As a result, it flourished. She had healthy, nutritious vegetables to feed the poor and hungry in the village. She promised never again to forget to do her part.

REFLECTION:

Jesus came to preach a radical message of love and social justice. Our actions matter just as much as our words.   Piety and prayer – while extremely important – is not enough. Jesus challenges us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. He reminds us: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I’ve written before about introverts like myself who are very good at finding time for quiet prayer, but more challenged by the idea of living our faith through action – or Inter-action in this case. God’s gift of grace is ours for the taking, but we must be active participants in this gift. We do so by living out Jesus’ message of love. By becoming the face and hands of Jesus for all those we encounter. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is the Samaritan – not known for being pious or obedient to the law – who wins the praise of Jesus through his act of compassion. So many of Jesus’ parables emphasize the importance of putting our faith into action through our deeds.

A faith lived in words only will resemble the neglected garden of the third sister. Take some time this week to look for ways in which you might reach out to others to spread Jesus’ message of love. Come up with an “action plan” for the rest of month or the next season. You will be rewarded with a garden filled with abundant love and grace as you begin to fulfill God’s purpose and plan for your life.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part Two)

crowded garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them as his own, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The second sister approached with dragging steps and slumped shoulders. Her cheeks were reddened from hours in the sun, and her tired eyes revealed dark smudges underneath.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Too well, I’m afraid to say. I wanted to plant as many things as I could, to thank you and praise you for this wonderful gift. So I have perennials and annuals, creeping plants and climbing plants, vegetables and fruits. The garden is truly bursting with life.”

“Then why do you look so unhappy?” the Master Gardener asked with kind but questioning eyes.

“Now it keeps me so busy I’m exhausted all the time. There’s so much work involved. Weeding, pruning, watering. It never ends. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even enjoy working in my garden anymore.”

“My dear child,” the Master Gardener replied. “I gave you this gift so you could find joy in your work. An overcrowded garden will not thrive and it will only leave you feeling tired and cross. You need balance and simplicity.

The Master Gardener helped her cut out sections of her garden (to pass along to other members of the village) and install a bench, where she could sit and rest in the shade and enjoy the beautiful bounty of her smaller and simpler garden.

A sigh of relief escaped her lips as the second sister delighted in the extra time she had to spend in quiet solitude. She promised never again to take on so much work that she forgot the reason she planted in the first place.

REFLECTION:

Does your faith life resemble the over crowded garden of the second sister? You’re involved in everything. You’re part of every church committee, prayer group, ministry, and Bible study. You can’t say no to anything. Like the sister Martha from Luke’s gospel, you’re overwhelmed with all the work you have to do.

This is a very common situation for many people who are actively involved in ministry and volunteer work. It’s called “church burnout” and we’ve all experienced it from time to time. Our busy schedule of church commitments begins to wear us down. It becomes a chore and even builds resentment. “Why do I have to do everything?!?”

Serving God through church ministries shouldn’t come at the expense of spending time with God.

The church work you do shouldn’t become a block to deepening your relationship with God.

Some points to consider:

Examine your motives. Why do you feel compelled to do so much? Is it an attempt to prove yourself worthy to God? A desire to impress others in the church? An inability to say “no”? There’s no doubt that God wants us to serve others. We see that in the example of his son, Jesus Christ. But we also see moments when Jesus left the crowds to go off by himself, taking time for quiet prayer and solitude. Look for this same kind of balance in your own faith life.

Set realistic boundaries. Once you become identified as the “go to” volunteer for getting things done, you’ll find you get called on for lots more. Be prepared for this and learn to say no if the work is getting to be too much.

Take a break.   “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) God’s grace is not dependent on a numbered list of good deeds we’ve accomplished. You’ll be no less deserving of that grace if you scale back a bit. Remember, God want us to live healthy, balanced lives. The garden of your faith life should reflect that.

So if you’re feeling like this second sister, take some time to sit in your garden and pray. Block out all distractions of fundraisers, committee meetings, and potlucks. Come to God in the silence and rest in His loving embrace. You’ll be glad you did and your faith garden will find new life after a period of rest.

*Read Part One of Allegory of Five Gardens here.

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part One)

dry garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The first sister approached with hesitant steps and slumped shoulders. She could barely look the Master Gardener in the eye.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Not well, I’m ashamed to say. My garden is dry as dust. All the plants have withered and dried up and the soil is hard and cracked.”

“Do you know why?” the Master Gardener asked with gentle but questioning eyes

“Lack of water, I suppose,” she answered with a sigh.

“My dear one, you know that I have an abundant source of flowing water. You need only have asked, and I would have given you all the water you asked. Why did you never come to me?”

The sister paused before answering. “Lots of reasons, I guess. Sometimes I was just too busy. It seemed like the distance was too far to travel to get to the water. Other times I felt too unworthy to ask you for such a precious gift. After a while, I no longer remembered the water you had to offer.”

With a nod of understanding, the Master Gardener sent a steady rainfall to drench and quench her garden and bring it back to life. The plants and flowers responded immediately. The roots were strengthened, the leaves returned to a bright and vibrant shade of green. Flowers opened as the stems stretched tall to absorb the warm sunlight that followed the rain.

Tears of gratitude filled the eyes of the first sister, and she promised him she would never again forget about this precious gift that was hers for the taking.

REFLECTION:

Does your faith life ever resemble the dried up and withered garden of the first sister in this story? You’re stuck in a rut, uninspired, and unable to access the powerful connection you once felt to God – The Master Gardener. You feel more distant from God than ever before, unable to hear His whispers or feel His presence. Your faith life feels lifeless.

You are not alone. We all go through spiritual dry spells from time to time. Some ending quickly, others stretching out for a much longer time. God has given each of us our own personal Garden of Eden, lush and beautiful and overflowing with the abundant blessing of God’s love for us. But like any garden, it needs nourishment. God gives us the Living Water of Jesus Christ to nourish our spirit and bring us to new life.

Being in a spiritually dry place is not always a bad thing. God may be preparing us for something or reminding us of our dependence on His gift of grace. We need to live through the dry time in order to more fully engage in the fruitful spirituality that is to follow.

What’s important is to recognize those times when we are depleted or dry, for they can sneak up on us. “O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!” (Psalm 63:1) The next time you find yourself in the dry garden of faith, let your prayer become a conversation with God.

Dear Lord, my spiritual garden has become dried up and wilted. Why do I feel this distance? What is getting in the way of a closer intimacy with You? In Your wisdom, reveal to me the path that has led me to this place of thirst and dust. Remind me of Your gift of grace, that I may seek life giving water and come alive again.

Find a quiet place to spend some time alone with God. Pray for inspiration and ideas to reconnect with God in a personal way. Read Scripture, attend a retreat, talk to a friend or your priest or pastor. Be gentle with yourself and have faith that this season of dryness will pass. Remember, even the most dead-looking plant is often only dormant, waiting for the first light of spring to come to life again.

Be Now My Vision: Seeing With Eyes of Faith

blurred Easter cross

This morning while driving to work, I put on my sunglasses and quickly realized that they were smudged, making everything a bit blurry and unfocused.  I could see well enough to drive safely, but I couldn’t wait for the next red light so I could clean them.  Wouldn’t you know… for the first time in the history of my commute, I hit nothing but green lights all the way!  So I was stuck with a smudgy view for this ride.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize the solution was simple – just take off my sunglasses.  Ah!  My vision cleared and everything looked crisp and bright and focused. The experience got me thinking about “vision” and how we see the world.  It reminded me of a gospel story we hear during the season of Lent.

Meet Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who lived on the streets of Jericho.  Life was difficult for Bartimaeus, but his blindness and his life on the streets made him adept at hearing and listening.  He had heard stories of a man they called Jesus who could heal people with the touch of his hand.  A man who told stories about lost sheep, a mustard seed, and a new kind of kingdom where all were welcome at God’s table.  Bartimaeus knew if he could just meet this amazing man, maybe touch his cloak, perhaps he, too, could be healed.

It was this rock-solid faith of a blind beggar that drew the attention of Jesus on the road to Jericho.  Instructing his disciples to bring the man to him, he asked Bartimaeus what it was that he wanted.

“Son of David, I want to see.”

Seven simple words and his life was changed forever.

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”

Easter cross

Though he was blind, Bartimaeus did not lack vision.  He was able to “see” with eyes of faith.  He could see… and believe… that Jesus came to bring us new life and a new way of living. He believed that Jesus was here to show us the way if we only seek him.

On Palm Sunday our church sang a beautiful song called “Christ in Me Arise.”  The first verse contained the following lyrics:

Be now my vision; open these eyes,
Showing me all that I must see.

During this holiest of weeks, let us take an honest look at how we view the world.  Are there times that we see through the smudged glasses of fear, jealousy, anger, or indifference?  Are we unable to see what’s really going on because of entrenched ways of thinking?  Does ignorance make us blind to the suffering of others or the true feelings of others? When we fail to see with eyes of faith, our world is smudged, like my cloudy commute to work.  We can’t see what’s really important.

We’re aren’t blocking out the “sun” with these glasses.  We’re blocking out the Son.

Let us pray that Jesus, the healer, will open our eyes and help us let go of whatever it is that prevents us from seeing things clearly.

Be now my vision, O Lord of my heart!

Finding God in the Construction Zone

construction zone
For the past few months, I’ve had to pass through a major construction zone on my way to work in the morning. The road is being torn up, sidewalks are temporarily gone, and the two lane road is funneled down to one. It’s a huge hassle that has the potential to start my day with stress and irritation.

Each morning, as my car is inching its way past this road work, I see a woman bravely walking through the mess. Wearing a bright pink track suit and a big smile, she weaves her way past bulldozers, police cars, traffic cones, and broken chunks of asphalt. I can see that this morning walk is part of her daily routine, and she’s not going to let a little construction stop her. I admire her. If it were me, I would immediately use this as an excuse to stop walking for the 8-10 months it might take to finish the road!

Does your life ever resemble a chaotic “construction zone”—filled with mess and upheaval? What happens to your faith life during this time? Do you find it difficult to pray, to find quiet time to be alone with God? Or maybe you’re so focused on the problem at hand that you forget about God’s presence in your life.

Last year I was scheduled to go on a weekend retreat with some women from my parish. Some unexpected things came up at home and I felt I couldn’t “afford” the time away. At the last minute I cancelled my reservation in order to stay home and take care of things. In doing this, I was failing to take care of myself. It resulted in my feeling more stressed and overwhelmed. I often wonder if I had gone on the retreat, would my approach to solving those problems been clearer and more effective?

Unlike the determined woman I see each morning, I think I would be quick to put off my morning walks until the construction was finished. How often do we set aside our faith until a time when conditions are more ideal for prayer and communion with God? Once things have calmed down in my life, I’ll get back to praying. Right now I just have to get through this.

What a silly, backward approach to life! It is precisely our faith that will sustain us through those “under construction” times. A few minutes of quiet prayer can make all the difference. Inching your way through the chaos with Jesus by your side can make the journey less burdensome and arduous.

God is here for us, waiting to guide us safely through to the other side. We only need to lean on Him.

I think of Jesus, facing the sick, hungry, and needy…believers numbering in the thousands. He would often slip away from the crowds, to retreat into the wilderness to pray. But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” (Luke 5:15-16)

Jesus knew that he needed time to be alone with God. I imagine he would come back from those moments of stolen prayer refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose, confident that he walked this journey with his Father. It was vital to the continuation of his ministry. We can and should follow his example. Keep on walking. Bring Jesus with you. Let God guide you.

Eventually they’re going to finish repairing the road I travel to work each day. I look forward to seeing this woman walking on a smoother path. It gives me hope that she persevered through the muddle and will now have an easier road to travel.

It gives me courage to keep on walking.

God Picks Us Up When We Fall

girl on bike
For three years my office window looked out over a church parking lot. People used it for all kinds of things. A practice course for school bus drivers in training, a path for neighborhood walkers, an unofficial commuter lot, a place for truckers to park and eat lunch. But my favorite thing to see was parents using the parking lot to teach their children how to ride a bike. What a sweet distraction from my day’s work. I could see the fearful looks on the faces of the young riders. I could hear the parents’ promises floating up through my office window.

“I won’t let you fall!”
“I promise you won’t get hurt.”

I remember my husband and I saying these exact words to our boys when they first learned to ride, and I’m very sure my dad made the same promises to me. It’s what you have to say to get past the fear in your child so they can take that leap.

If we’re being honest… these promises are not exactly iron-clad. It’s likely our would-be cyclists WILL fall. There’s a chance they COULD get hurt. Not too badly, you hope, but anything could happen.   What you might more honestly say is this:

“If you fall, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
“If you get hurt, I’ll be there to soothe your pain and dry your tears.”
“I will ALWAYS be there, no matter what.”

For me, there’s no better way to describe God’s role in our lives. But it took me some time to come to that realization. I used to pray exactly like those scared kids teetering on a bike for the first time. “Please, dear God, don’t let anything bad happen to me… EVER!” I was so afraid of getting hurt that I held myself back from new experiences and new challenges.

Life has taught me that it doesn’t work that way. We all fall. We all get hurt. It’s part of engaging in the world around us. Living up to our potential involves a certain amount of risk. This knowledge could easily leave us paralyzed with fear. Afraid to lift our feet from their firmly-rooted spots on the ground and peddle like mad.

But the beauty of our faith is that God is ALWAYS there for us. To offer comfort. To dry our tears. To ease our pain. To pick us up no matter how many times we fall.

This knowledge is what frees us to get on that bike and go. To fly. To take a leap of faith. To push ourselves toward our sacred destiny. It’s what God wants for us.

One beautiful spring day my son took his brand new bike out for a ride. A run-in with a nasty pothole landed him in the emergency room with a broken wrist, a mild concussion, and many cuts and scrapes. I smothered him with love for weeks after that, giving him all the comfort and gentleness a mother could give (which is a LOT!) His wrist healed, his bruises faded, and his headaches went away.  His worst fears (and mine) about getting hurt had been realized…and overcome. And so, too, we heal from the potholes and pitfalls of life. And we do so with the strength of an amazing God who will never let us fall so far or so deep that we can’t get up again… and keep on riding.

When Re-Gifting is OK

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Be honest, have you ever re-gifted something?  Not your proudest moment, huh? That’s ok, we’ve all done it. It’s your child’s final violin lesson of the year and you forgot to pick up a thank you gift for her teacher. Desperately searching the house, you find a vanilla scented candle that your neighbor gave you last Christmas. It’s in perfect condition. You never got around to lighting it. So you throw it into a recycled gift bag from Mother’s Day with some tissue paper from your most recent purchase at Macy’s. Your daughter is good to go and hopefully her teacher will be none the wiser.

This kind of last minute gift scramble is something we feel sheepish about and would never admit to. It somehow diminishes both the giver and the receiver (not to mention the original giver!)

Believe it or not, there are times when re-gifting is not only acceptable but encouraged. We receive tremendous gifts from God, our Creator, and He wants nothing more than for us to give them away. Here are three examples:

LOVE
Jesus gives us a great commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” We are meant to take the gift of God’s love and use it as an example of how we are to love and treat others. Jesus taught us how to do this in his every action. He humbly washed the feet of his disciples. He loved the sinner, the leper, and the outcast. He loved us to the point of death on a cross. How far are we willing to go to share his gift? Do we love those who challenge us? Do we love those that the world rejects? Do we love those who believe they are unlovable?

FORGIVENESS
Jesus teaches us about the amazing gift of God’s forgiveness through parables like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Surely this lost son might have received a blistering lecture from his father when he returned home. At the very least a resounding “I told you so!” Can we be inspired by this prodigal forgiveness to re-gift it upon those who hurt us? Have you been clinging to anger towards someone because of stubbornness or pride? Can you follow God’s example and forgive?

GRACE
Years ago we had an 80th birthday party for my grandmother and she received many gifts. As she opened each one she exclaimed, “I don’t deserve this!” This sweet declaration of feeling is the best way of describing grace; simply put, “the unmerited favor of God towards humankind.” Abundant blessings poured over us no matter what we do or how we behave. This undeserved gift is incredibly humbling and not to be taken lightly. St. Paul tells us that we are “faithful stewards of God’s grace.” (1 Peter 4:10) I try to remember this when I’m tempted to snap at my husband or criticize my children. Is there a more grace-filled way to interact with them? Am I truly living my life as an instrument of God’s amazing grace?

This week I invite you to reflect on God’s amazing gifts and be on the lookout for opportunities to re-gift them to the world. Use the comment section to share your thoughts!