Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reflections of My Journey to Holy Week

 

My heart is going to spill all over my blog today and it might be messy.  It might not be perfect grammar or words, but it’s time to let it flow out.   Please know that all of it is said from a heart crying deeply for love to pass from me to you, or better yet, from God’s perfect sacrifice, His Son.

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This Lenten season has been life changing for me.  If you follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, then you know I’m just about to conclude #30daysoflove #bekindorbequiet challenge.  I wanted (needed) a daily way to remind myself (really my pride) that I need to let my words be few and that my actions should speak love loudly in all things.   In just three days I will be entering the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.   I don’t want to enter in by words alone, I want this outward sign to be a true consecration of my life devoted to Jesus.   I want my life to become like all the Saints I have learned about this year.  One thing they all had in common was true humility.  They actively put their pride to death.   They all lived out Luke 9:23-27.

 OurDepthOfKnowingGod

 

 

As I reflect on the last two years of this amazing faith journey, I still don’t fully have words to describe what it all truly means to me.  This year has challenged me to own my faith.  It has pushed me past many comfort zones and to stop trying so hard, and to be still as God the Father pours out His love through His Son, by the power of His Holy Spirit.  

One thing I would like to say is this, “I’m sorry to all who I have ever led to believe anything negative about the beauty of the Catholic faith.”   Everything I was told in the evangelical world did nothing but set me up against what I now know to be a faith so deep in richness and beauty.   Traditions that have stood the test of time.  My Jewish roots are ALIVE in the Catholic Church.  Traditions passed down from God to Abraham, Moses, and all the way to Jesus, then onto the apostles and all of us today. 

Everything I learned and was told about Catholics not being saved, was and is ridiculous.  Everything I was told about Catholics not reading the Bible and not knowing anything about it, was false.  Catholics read their Bibles and are devoted to reading it through the liturgy of the word.   Many do this daily at morning Mass and it is beautiful to speak the Word together as a faith community.  Everything I believed about confession was false.  Everything I believed about saying the same daily prayers and many times each day, were false.  Everything I was told about Mary, false and sadly damaging to who God says she is.   Everything I learned about Mass, was false too.   Unlike the 35,000 denominations in the Protestant world, Catholics worldwide can count on the Mass never changing and the philosophy it is built upon to remain the same no matter where you go to church.  I spent seven years of my Christian life church hopping, and personally had to constantly discern if what I was listening to was true or was it the pastors personally theology.  

The Catholic Church is the first to recognize it is not perfect, and that it has had its fair share of issues since the moment Jesus began His ministry.  Because where there is man, there is sin.   Jesus warns all believers NOT to be lukewarm or He will spit us out.  Rev. 3:16   Here you can learn how many turn back from being lukewarm in their Catholic faith.

I’m so thankful for the questions many have asked me over the last year, because I had to do research to finally understand why there are 35,000 denominations in the Protestant church.  I never understood what happened until recently.  [Luther spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar. But in 1517 Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic Church’s scandal around the selling of “indulgences” to absolve sin.  One never could "buy" indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence.  There was no outright selling of indulgences.  The Council of Trent instituted severe reforms in the practice of granting indulgences, and, because of prior abuses, "in 1567 Pope Pius V canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions" (Catholic Encyclopedia). This act proved the Church’s seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.  Luther’s “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds—was to spark the Protestant Reformation. Although these ideas had been advanced before, Martin Luther codified them at a moment in history ripe for religious reformation.]  His intention was to reform the Catholic Church.  Whether or not you agree with how God set up His Church or apostolic succession, it doesn’t change the fact that no man has ever broken down what Jesus began 2,000 years ago.   

Maybe you left the Catholic Church and have deep rooted hard feelings towards it.   I would simply ask you to pray that God the Father, through the power of His Holy Spirit help heal that wound.  I would ask you to pray about what Jesus did and how He began His church and the fullness of grace given through the Holy sacraments.  Don’t spend the rest of your life hating something that isn’t set up against you or the people in it that hurt you.   Forgiveness truly is the only way to be set free to love and live like our Savior did. 

Knowing what I do now, I could never leave the sacraments behind, ever.  I’m not entering the Catholic Church because I love the priests or even my church. (I do by the way, but not the reason.)  I’m not entering it because of how good the homilies are each day.  I’m not even entering it because my husband is now a faithful Catholic. If it were for those things, then I could be let down and be disillusioned about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit when any of one of them didn't meet my personal expectations or possibly hurt me.  I’m entering because every single day I have the opportunity to partake in Mass and meet Jesus in the fullness of His grace, mercy, and love.

 John20.28Stopdoubting

 

You see this year I spent most of my time asking hard questions first of myself and my beliefs.  Then I started asking hard questions to God and allowing Him the time and space in my heart to answer them.   I spent time asking questions to my priests, my RCIA teachers, my husband, and other believers who truly walk out their Catholic faith.  I watched many without them even knowing I was paying attention to not just their words, but their faith lived out.   I have seen with my own two eyes the value the Catholic Church puts on reaching the hearts of all mankind, all the sacraments, especially confession (reconciliation – a healing sacrament), the dignity of life, whether it be through the sacrament of marriage, the fight for life, and the immense amount of work they do to defend and provide for the poor around the world.   They feed, clothe, and support more people than any other organization ever.   Yet, they are the most attacked and despised.   

I’m not here to convert anyone.  That is not my place or job.  I’m here sharing how the last two years have changed my beliefs, theology, and life.  I’m here to share how God has humbled me and gave me the grace to endure many challenges leading me to this weekend.   I’m here to once again ask all believers to act like Jesus commands, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”   We are commanded to be His hands and feet.  We are commanded to be the body of Christ.  Not try to tear each other down.   Seek to truly understand and celebrate my journey in humility, rather than defend what you believe to be right. 

 

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Over the last eight months I have taken on the challenge to own my conversion to Catholicism.   You might enjoy this post as well to fully understand this decision.

My goal and hope for 2015 is seeking to trust God and put my pride on notice that it is no longer running the show.    One of the most important lessons I learned this year was true meaning of forgiveness, which you can read about here.

  Staying Humble When We're Successful

 

 

Oh, have I eaten my fair share of humble pie this year.  

I have been shown areas of my heart that could not receive God’s grace, because of my pride. 

I have been shown areas of my life that were in direct conflict with living a holy life. 

I’ve been shown the depth of God’s mercy and love through it all. 

I’ve experienced His patience as He allows me to work out my frustrations, disappointments, and heartache. 

I’ve experienced His gentleness as I walked through memories that were locked so deep inside of me and only revealed when I was ready to receive healing. 

I’ve experienced pure joy and brought to tears several times during Mass, as one body we prayed the Gloria, the Lord’s prayer, or Holy, Holy (Sanctus) together. 

I’ve experienced great blessings walking in the Eucharist procession for a year without being able to partake of our Lord. 

I’ve received a spiritual union with Christ that I won’t experience again once I receive His literal body, soul, and divinity this weekend and until my last breath.

I’ve experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and received gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing.  

I’ve witnessed hundreds of Catholics working in the gifts of the Spirit and seeing things I would have called crazy only two years prior.

I’ve experienced deliverance from spirits sent to oppress me and hurt me. 

I’ve experienced deliverance from evil spirits that I agreed to when I was dabbling in New Age practices in my 20’s and early 30’s, and occult things when I was a young girl.   I had no idea just how damaging it all was or what it was truly going to do to me and my life!

I’ve experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in rich times of prayer with our children as we recite the rosary together, or pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

I’ve watched our children be touched deeply by the Holy Spirit and blessed by His healing grace moving in them.

I have experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding every time I spend in the presence of Christ during adoration.  Nothing comes close to this experience of true peace and joy. 

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I have experienced the holy sacrament of reconciliation now more than a dozen times since December of 2014 and the healing grace He dispenses through it, “WOW just WOW”!

I have learned to examine myself by asking these 99 questions and many others like it each time before I go to confession.   I have read posts like this on what confession is like for a priest and why they love doing it. 

Oh how I know this next quote to be true.  I didn’t realize how much my soul was begging for the grace that comes rushing in through confession. 

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Even when I am struggling with sharing my sins with the priest, I remember that it is Jesus meeting me there to help restore my relationship with His Father, my Father, who loves me.  I always feel 100% better afterwards and often times come home to take a nap.   I keep this image at the front of my mind!

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The word teaches us that Jesus is The Light of the word, and The Life, The Way and The Truth.   Nobody comes to the Father, except through Him.  And thus, I want to constantly be mindful of what I allow each day to stand between me and the Father.   As well as, what sins am I nailing into His hands and feet consciously or subconsciously through my daily choices. 

God, the Father is faithful to finish what He has begun in each of us.   He has not let me go no matter how hard I struggled in His hands this year.  He has not let me go no matter how much I questioned Him and His love for me.   He has not let me go even when I had nothing but the mere crumbs of a mustard seed of faith.  

It is impossible for Him to walk away from us.  Because His love endures for each of us for all time.   There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.  Nothing. 

 

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So no matter how far you have walked away from your faith.  You can still return and experience the truly abundant life in Christ.  Pray this Holy Week for God to make Himself known to you in little ways and how you can best receive Him now.  He will perfectly meet you right where you are.  It doesn’t matter what you have done.   He loves you.   He longs to lavish you with His grace, mercy, and love. 

How can I say that to you, a sinner?   Because I’m a sinner too.  Jesus died for all of us sinners.  He finished the work His Father sent Him to do, and paid for original sin upon His death on the cross and resurrection, which we will celebrate at the Easter Vigil this Saturday. 

Nothing would please Him more then to hear you call out His name today.   If you can’t think of what to say, then simply start with this, “Jesus, I’m sorry.  God, I need You.  Please forgive me.”   Then rest in His faithfulness and promise to be there for all who call upon His name.   There is NO greater name or more powerful than the name of Jesus.  

I’ve listened to more than fifteen testimonies this year during my time in RCIA and each one is proof of God’s promise to be faithful.   The stories were filled with His redeeming our messes and turning them into messages.  He restored the ashes of our lives and created beauty with it.   He resurrected marriages and families.  He healed the broken-hearted and the most hardened of hearts of criminals.   He poured out grace to break addictions.  He saved lives by calling them by name before they committed suicide.  He saved lives by stopping someone from taking another life.   He stopped abuse and healed the brokenness from it.

You see life is messy.   Sin is messy.   We are messy.   Love is messy.  

And we all need the perfect and pure love of the Father through His Son, and the power of His Holy Spirit to clean us from the messes we create.

 

1John2.2

 

ONLY GOD can take the mess of our lives and bring forth the fruit of true conversion.  I’ve seen it with my own two eyes week after week since September of 2014 in RCIA.   Not to mention watching my husband drastically change since he began his journey into the Catholic Church in August of 2013.  

 

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All of this leads me to my final wait to receive Holy Communion in just three days.   I am truly hoping my heart is ready for the sacrament of confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.   Here is an awesome video on the Eucharist that helped me over the last few weeks prepare for what I am saying “YES” to!

Once again, I’m speechless as I try to imagine what I will feel like finally walking up to the priest, but this time with my arms down to my side waiting for His body to be placed onto my tongue.   My heart can barely take the joy I feel simply writing those words.   I can only imagine the joy that is to come for my husband as he stands behind me and watched all of his prayers come to life right before his eyes.  God is faithful!

I am going to RECEIVE THE LIFE, THE WAY, THE TRUTH into my body!!!!!!!!!! 

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“Lord, I am NOT worthy that you should enter under my roof, but ONLY say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

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Friends and family, I come before you hushed and humbled asking for your prayers over these final days and this weekend, that I would be fully surrendered to receive the all that God has prepared for me since the beginning of all time.   That I would never be ashamed of all that He has done and share it boldly with the world every day that I am given to breathe on this Earth.   May my body be a holy vessel for Him to be ALIVE and set others free.   God, take what little faith I have and use it to grow, shape, and mold me into the woman You created me to be.   May I never stop seeking Your holy throne of grace with awe and wonder.   May I never take the Holy Eucharist for granted.  May I use the power of Your Holy Spirit to lead others directly to Your divine mercy and grace!  

To all who read this entire post, thank you.   I pray that it touched your heart and inspires you to seek God’s plans for your life, especially the ones you have ignored, denied, or refused to do. 

 

“In this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine:  He will give us His life, His body and His blood, His love.” — Pope Francis

My journey is truly just beginning, and I can’t wait!!!!

jill-siggy

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