The Power of Compassion

I didn’t realize I lost it, but I had.

I felt anxious, angry, and frustrated, but I could not figure out why.

Every little thing became a gigantic problem.

I was exhausted fighting everything that came my way.

Why did everything happen to me and my family?

I had lost something, but what exactly was it?

As I sat down to read a book that was given to me by a good friend, it became clear.  I had set my expectations way too high of situations and people, and I was engulfed by the “whoa is me” attitude that comes with it.  I had fallen into a trap of self-pity and misery, and in the process I lost…. compassion.

Without compassion, I no longer understood who I was.  My identity was lost along with it.  I had built my identity on expectations that were unrealistic.

I had fallen into a pattern of ruminating situations over and over in my head.  Analyzing them to the point of exhaustion.  Reliving them in my thoughts.  I was tired.

 Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

That Matthew verse has always frustrated me.  Why on earth would I forgive someone 77 times?

Compassion.

Compassion – that’s why.

Oh yeah.  Another reason… for healing my self-pity.

When I get caught up in self-pity, no one seems to measure up.  Everything seems to be chaos around me.  Jesus says to Peter that he should forgive over and over.  Not because the person deserves it necessarily, but because in order for Peter to serve God…Peter must dig deep to find compassion.

The repercussions that will happen if Peter withholds forgiveness are great. Peter’s heart will ache.  Peter will fall into self-pity.  Peter will no longer see the people he needs to minister toward with compassion, if he doesn’t learn to forgive.

Jesus knew the road ahead of Peter.  It was filled with injustice, condemnation, and disrespect.  It also was filled with purpose, Grace, and Mercy.

Without keeping compassion in his heart, Peter had no chance of leading Jesus’ mission.

Compassion.

So, just how do I get back the compassion that my heart needs?

Prayer, silence and wisdom.  Everyday, three times a day I sit and reflect.  I feel those feelings that are ugly and judgmental.  I name those feelings for what they are.  Breathing in compassion and breathing out self-pity, anger and frustration.  I listen to my heart and I acknowledge that these horrible, angry feelings are not me.  They are not who I want to be.  They do not form my identity.

I want to be compassionate.

I want to be loving.

I want to show mercy.

I want most importantly to serve God, and that can only be done if I find the compassion that I lost somewhere along the journey.

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Dear Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese

Dear Bishop of the Lafayette Diocese in Indiana,

This past summer my 18 year old daughter asked about teaching religious education.  As you can imagine, my heart jumped with excitement that she wanted to share her faith with children.  Since I teach full time, the idea while exciting also was overwhelming: more lessons, activities and creative experiences to be planned.  My daughter’s idea won over everything, and I took the leap to teach third graders all about Jesus.

What you do not realize is I have an eleven year old who suffers from depression, anxiety and seizures.  Since fourth grade, I have opted to not take her to religious education classes because it was overwhelming for her.  The students sat at desks and received lessons like in school.  She already had school 5 days a week that she could barely get through. It broke my heart to pull her out, but the curriculum was too overwhelming.  I was hopeful that our family could teach her to love Jesus on our own.

You see my own experience with Protestant “Sunday School” had always been positive.  I learned to love Jesus through eye-opening bible verses.  This love increased as I learned that my church was a “community of support” for me.  This only happened because my teachers made the experience positive and uplifting.  Their creativity was inspiring to me.  Their actions spoke volumes more than the bible verses ever did.  To top it off the community provided lots of opportunities outside of worship services to come together and support each other.

Never in all these years did I take an “assessment” of what I learned in “Sunday School.”  No. never.  So you might be wondering, “How did the church assess what the kids learned?”  They trusted that the teachers were doing what they should, the parents were reinforcing it at home, and God would ensure that in His time each child would find the right path.  After all, if parents are taking the time to send their kids to religious education there must be some support at home (even if it is small).  If the teachers are taking the time to come to class each week, they must be preparing something for the kids or it would be chaos.

I guess my question is, why are you choosing to assess our kids?  I know your staff says it isn’t a test.  Twenty two multiple choice questions certainly seem like a test.  The five oral questions that we must give to the students individually sure seem like a test to me.  Shouldn’t we just be teaching our kids to love Jesus?  I am not sure what an assessment for that would look like.  I can tell you it is not a multiple choice answer.  It is through actions, words and most importantly what they hold in our hearts.

Please reconsider your position on this because it is turning our classrooms into school.  It is stripping me of my creativity and instilling fear in myself (that I am not teaching the right thing for the test) and our kids (especially those who suffer from anxiety and learning disabilities).

This situation is making me sad to explain to my 18 year old who raised her hand to do this for Jesus.  An explanation that our church instead of teaching love (which cannot be measured) wants us to teach subjects that will be “assessed” to ensure they are learning all that they need to.

Sincerely,

Anne Slamkowski

Volunteer

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The Path You Didn’t Know Existed

When life hits you and all the sudden you see things VERY differently and your eyes open to an entirely new world, then you think, “How do these people do it?”

This has been my life the last several months.  As my kids have struggled and BIG changes have happened, I have often thought, “Who else lives like this?  I can’t be alone.”

I am not alone.

There are thousands of people dealing with similar circumstances, and they have persevered through it all.

Making tough decisions that affect your family are HARD.

Knowing that the choice you make will affect your children is the WORST.

Believing that others around you can empathize is PRICELESS.

One of the blessings of tribulations is that this whole new world reveals itself.  It was always there, but you ignored it.  You are part of a secret club that you didn’t know existed.  All of a sudden, the posts you made on facebook or the comments you made at a dinner party seem so insensitive, and you are so sad that you hurt people with your words.  You can’t believe that you didn’t understand what they were going through.

You ask forgiveness for your foolishness and pray they will forgive.

The last two weeks have been rough.  I have doubted, second guessed, felt guilty, screamed in anger, and cried in pain.

Yet I know that God is here for me.  I know through the many wonderful signs of confirmation that He has sent me that I am on the right path.  It has tons of storms, but in the end there is a beautiful rainbow.  A rainbow that lights up a path that I never knew was there, but I am sure am happy to see the people that are lining it, strengthening it, and cheering me on to persevere through it.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And Wisdom to know the difference.

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Being Real

I am a Caucasian woman who grew up in a middle class society within a two parent household along with 4 other siblings.  My school and community had basically 0% diversity. Okay, maybe 1%.

Why is this important?

The other day I went with a friend to see the movie, “Race.”  If you haven’t seen it, go.  “Race” is the story of Jesse Owens, the world famous Olympian sprinter who made history at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  (Note the date).  Jesse Owens was an African-American male who grew up in a poor area of Cleveland, Ohio within a two parent household along with 9 siblings, and worked his rear off to make it to The Ohio State University.  He is an inspiration.

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.” – Jesse Owens

As I watched the movie, I realized that I was uncomfortable.  I was uncomfortable with how the Olympics committee determined whether to go to Berlin.  I was uncomfortable with the segregation that was still happening in the 1930’s.  I was uncomfortable with the Nazi regime, and their hatred of anyone different from their white race.  I was uncomfortable with the way Jesse and his wife were treated at an American ceremony honoring him, and he was asked to enter through the back door.  I was uncomfortable that people felt entitled to act rude to people who were different from them.

Being uncomfortable is good.  At least I believe it is.  It made me think of all the times that I treat people differently just because I don’t instantly connect with them.  Maybe they look different.  Maybe they have a disability.  Maybe they act different.

My discomfort triggered me to look inside my soul and face it.  Why was I so uncomfortable during this movie?

The easy answer is that I hated how those people were acting.  They were idiots; unbendable and rude idiots.  That was the easy answer.

The difficult answer is that I feel uneasy around people who are different.  I don’t mean to feel this way and I wish I didn’t feel this way – but I do.  I just am unsure how to act and how to talk, and I overthink everything I say before it comes out of my mouth.  I am a blubbering idiot.

I always do my best to make everyone feel comfortable, loved and worthy.  In these different scenarios, that doesn’t seem to matter. I feel awkward, and have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I may put my foot in my mouth.

I had found the discomfort in my soul.  I had pinpointed my feelings.  I realized I felt a strong urge to make all those who are different feel wanted and needed.  I wanted them to know I don’t condone the actions of rude people.  I wanted them to know that I love them for who they are.

No wonder I felt awkward.  No wonder I felt like I might say something stupid.  I was judging them.  I was grouping all those who are different into the same group.  I had forgotten that we are all unique and different – and we cannot be lumped into categories.

Jesse Owens knew this.  He had an amazing skill for treating people with respect – even if they didn’t deserve it.

After watching this amazing movie, I read this from my bible…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5

Jesse Owens lived by this.  I don’t know if he meant to or not, but instinctually this is how he lived.  If we want to start treating each other more important than ourselves as Paul (Philippians 2:3) told us, then we must face the discomfort in our soul.  We must be real with what is holding us back.  We must recognize and face our weaknesses head-on.

In order to minister as Jesus did – to everyone, I know I must begin to understand that everyone has a story behind who they are.  Everyone is my brother and sister in Christ.  After all, aren’t we all heirs of His Kingdom?

God made us all unique and beautiful.  In His eyes we are all different.  Acceptance and love of these differences is the goal.

Go see the movie.  Experience the past to enrich the future.

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Hope

What the heck was He thinking?

That was the first thought that came to my mind when my 11 year old asked me, “Mommy, why do you think God chose you and dad to be my parents?  Because you are the best parents ever.”

It melted my heart when she said it, but it made me think too.  Why did He choose us?

My mind began to wander…

Does God choose what babies go where?  Why does He choose people who are in desperate situations?  Why does He choose those who will be abusive and unkind?  Why doesn’t He choose people who are trying so hard to have a child and would make such great parents?

All of these things crossed my mind.

In my own situation, I could see the struggles that Pete and I had endured before giving birth to Katie.  These struggles prepared us for what was to come.  Would I have noticed it at the time of her birth?

No way.

Looking back, I now see it as an “ah-ha” moment.  Katie is riddled with anxiety.  Before Katie was born, I began to fear flying.  We lived 2000 miles from family, and a visit required two different airplanes and 6-7 hour plane trip.  It was a long way.  I had always enjoyed flying, but at some point in my life I endured a horrible plane ride and from there I became severely anxious about flying.

My mind would race several days before the trip.  I would check the weather and panic.  I was engulfed by anxiety.  As I prepared for the flight I would feel sick to my stomach.  I would shake uncontrollably.  It was horrifying.  As a mother I had to set aside these debilitating feelings and help my two children prepare for the flight.  Pretending to be happy and excited to see family, yet inside I was miserable and on edge.

This is how Katie feels almost every day.  This gift of anxiety allowed me to view Katie’s pain firsthand.  I know how she feels.

God prepared me for her.  This is only one situation.  There are so many more things that have happened during my lifetime which make me very aware why God chose me as her parent.

I guess He knew what He was doing when He chose Pete and me.

There is still the question of why God chooses unhealthy people to have children.  That one is far more difficult to answer.  Probably because I don’t like to think of the answers. I have witnessed too many friends struggle with miscarriages, still births and infertility. Good people who I felt deserved a baby.

Romans 8:25-28 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God has ultimate control.  He chooses, not us.  What we do have is hope.  Hope that those who suffer from addictions will change their ways.  Hope that those who cannot bear children will be offered a new way to experience the joy of parenthood.  Hope that those children who are born into abusive families will experience help from their community to rise above the horrid life they have endured.

No matter what the circumstances there is always hope.  Sometimes we have to dig deep to find it, but it is there.  When God allowed Jesus to be crucified on the cross, it must have been horrifying for Him to witness the hatred that day.  Yet His hope that we all would experience the beauty of Jesus’ love even through evil was poured out to many of us.  That is the beauty of Romans 8:28 – “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

Amen to that.

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Holding Back

Acts 5:1-4  But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it. Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.” —from The Message

Money doesn’t take hold of us; we take hold of money.

Ananias (who by the way is not the Ananias who healed Saul for God) and his wife Sapphira decided to do something good.  They chose to sell their land and hand over the proceeds to the apostles. The apostles needed money in order to share the Truth.

The couple saw a good reason to give and decided to dedicate the proceeds of their land to this amazing cause.  Yet after selling the land for some reason they held back some of the money.  Maybe they needed a little extra cash to pay for something.  We don’t know the answer to that.  Scripture does not go into that detail.  We do know that they made it look like they were handing over everything.  So after Peter confronts them, both Ananias and Sapphira drop dead.

Harsh.

I can remember several times that Pete and I decided to donate to worthy causes.  We looked at our donations for the year, made decisions based on discernment with God, and handed over money that we were comfortable with.  The key word here is comfortable.  When we have donated our time, talent or treasure, we are rarely uncomfortable with the amount that we donate.  We don’t sacrifice food on the table, college funds for our kids, or retirement savings.  Let’s just say, it doesn’t hurt us.

I am not saying that what we have donated wasn’t worth it.  I am saying, we probably could have done more.  We held back.  Money didn’t hold us back; we did.

God wants us to give until it hurts.  There needs to be a little discomfort.  Ananias and Sapphira knew this because they were mortified when Peter confronted them – literally mortified.

Pete and I know this.  When we hold back, then we know we are avoiding fear; fear of not having enough.  We distrust that God will take care of us, and we focus on how we can take care of ourselves.

While I am sure Ananias and Sapphira were doing something good, they still voiced their distrust in God by holding back.  Peter knew this and confronted them with it.  It was a good reminder to me today that I need to focus on trusting God.  I need to let go of money, and allow myself to trust God will provide what is needed.   Many things hold us back from trusting God – pride, envy, lust, gluttony, anger, greed, or laziness.  The seven deadly sins – the ones that hold us back from being the unique person that God made us to be.

What sin is holding you back from trusting God?  Allow Ananias’ and Sapphira’s story be a lesson to you today.

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Unexpected Packages

Here is an updated version of an old blog post!

Making Room For God

Making Room For GodThe reflection today comes from Acts 8:26-40 and Isaiah 53

Acts 8:26-40 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

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You Are Not Alone

love this reflection

The Mystic Mom

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…

was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness,

tempted by the devil.”

-Luke 4:1-2

 

Each of the three synoptic Gospel writers who mention the temptation of Jesus in the desert (Matthew, Mark and Luke) anchor the temptation solidly between two other events:  Baptism and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

What might they be trying to tell us about Jesus—and ourselves–by this sequence?

First, perhaps to remind us that we are not alone in what we experience in life…good or ill. The Holy Spirit, poured out to us at our Baptism– the very same Spirit who told Jesus he was God’s “beloved Son” –is with us in times of joy as well as in times of suffering.  Through this single event of Baptism, we, too, become “beloved” sons and daughters of God.

Second, times of trial and temptation are a…

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Give It Up

 

Genesis 3:19 “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Humbling statement.  God’s staunch reminder to Adam that He created Adam with His own hands from the dust of the ground, and he will return the same way wasn’t just aimed at Adam, but at all of us now. When Adam and Eve chose their will over God’s Will, God rebuked them and handed down their punishment.  He didn’t pat them on the back and tell them that it was okay.  He didn’t send them to time-out to think about what they had just done.  He didn’t offer a way out.  He dished out severe punishment for what they did.  Punishment that would haunt their ancestors.  After all, if God would have handled this any other way, it would have set the precedent for all of us.

We all could sin and safely feel that God would forgive us with no repercussion whatsoever.  Some people do feel this way, but Genesis tells us a different story.

God said the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

Cursed are you more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you will go,

And dust you will eat

All the days of your life;

And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her seed;

He shall bruise you on the head,

And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Then He said this to Eve,

“I will greatly multiply

Your pain in childbirth,

In pain you will bring forth children;

Yet your desire will be for your husband,

And he will rule over you.”

Then He said this to Adam,

Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you will eat of it

All the days of your life.

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face

You will eat bread,

Till you return to the ground,

Because from it you were taken;

For you are dust,

And to dust you shall return.

When we begin to think that God is all kind and cuddly, we have lost the story of the Fall of Man in our hearts.  The Lenten season should be a reminder to all of us, that we live in a fallen world and we must fight our way through societal demands in order to do God’s Will.  Lent is the time to remember that we need God first in our hearts, not our own selfish desires.  Let’s face it in this day and age that is an uphill battle.  In Lent we are preparing for a battle.  The battle that Jesus fought off in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The battle that prepares us for the Crucifixion.  The battle that will arm us for the world.

So this Ash Wednesday, when you hear the words, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” keep close to your heart that God wants you to hear Him.  God has given us great instructions on how to live in this world, not of this world.  When we choose our own selfish desires, the punishment will be difficult.  God will not sugar coat it for us.  Trust me on this one.

When we choose ourselves over God, our life becomes more and more difficult.  We cannot understand why we are faced with challenges and struggles all the time.  We cannot understand how life is so unfair.  We cannot comprehend that we chose the wrong path.  We all do it.  Adam and Eve showed us the way.  Don’t allow the lesson of the Fall of Man to fall on deaf ears.

I don’t think Adam and Eve wanted to toil and labor in the fields in order to feed their family. This would have been especially exhausting when the weather and soil were uncooperative.  Talk about feeling out of control.  I know Eve had no idea what child labor would be like, but I am pretty sure when she did it was not something she wanted.

Does this mean that Lent is all fire and brimstone?  Absolutely not. Lent is hope.  We have hope that we can do better.  We have hope that God will help us back on the right path.  This is why committing to something during Lent is so important.  It shows God that we are ready for His will.  It shows God that we are ready to let go of one selfish desire (food, alcohol, social media, whatever is holding you back) in order to find God instead.

We have the opportunity during Lent to take God back into our life.  Don’t waste it on moaning and groaning about what life looks like now.

Phillipians 2:14-16  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Use the mistakes of the past to change the future.  Allow God to take control over something in your life and witness the change it makes.  Blessings on your Lenten Journey.

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Joyce Meyer – Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody

Powerful message today.

Daily Devotions, News and Information

Joyce meyer

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. —James 4:17, NIV

Years ago I heard a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

I once read about a shocking incident that shows the principles of this story at work—tragically—in real life. In 1964 Catherine Genovese was stabbed to death over a period of 35 minutes while 38 neighbors watched. Their reaction was described as cold and uncaring, a result of urban apathy and alienation. Later, research by…

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