Reflections On The Journey
Examine Your Life
|Posted on July 29, 2019 at 7:20 AM||comments (1676)|
Do you need to examine your life?
I mentioned last week that I am working through a book called “The Ignatian Adventure,” written by Kevin O’Brien, SJ. The “week” I just finished covered looking at my past sins. Wow – that took a bit of courage on my part. There is no way I could remember every sin I ever did…but I did recall several. These were the sins that affected my life the most – the ones that really hurt me or hurt others.
This review was not an easy exercise to do. It required a serious amount of time in a place where I could be alone with my thoughts. I jotted down notes as I traversed my past, dredging up a few things I really did not want to remember. And when I pondered them, I learned some things. I realized that those sins for which I have already confessed and received forgiveness have pretty much released their hold over me. I still struggle in those areas at times, but they are easier to identify and block.
But I also realized I have a few sins that I have not fully addressed. I decided I need to make another confession, ask for some forgiveness, and make some restitution and changes in my life. I am working on those right now.
Next I looked at all my sins more deeply, to try to determine WHY I erred. In examining my motivations and the feelings I had at the time, I discovered I had certain wants and desires that led me to the sin, allowing the sinful action to either give me comfort and pleasure or give me some temporary feeling of power and autonomy. I also realized that sometimes I continued certain poor behaviors even though I knew they were wrong because somehow those good feelings seemed to overshadow the gravity of the sin.
In addition, I now more clearly understood that when I acknowledge my sins and sinful tendencies and become conscious of my motives for these behaviors, and then ask for and receive forgiveness from others and from myself for these things, I can begin to change my ways and become a less sinful person. This is a key point for me to remember – it is a continual process, not a one-time event.
There are still many areas I need to work on. Every day I still fall in some way. That’s why it is important for me to make this review regularly. A good tool to use is called the Examen, which consists of five steps that St. Ignatius practiced. One version of these steps is listed here:
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
I’ve found a daily Examen which uses a series of questions to guide me through a review of my day, allowing me to identify anything which is faulty and helping me to address it immediately. And yes, it’s in an app! The app is called “Examen: Reimagining the Examen.” This app gives me a rotating list of questions to use each day. It even lets me choose a special focus area for the day if I wish. I have begun to use it just each night before bedtime, and I have been blessed by the results!
As humans, we will always fall into sins, but as long as we address them right away, confess our failures, ask for forgiveness and work to change our lives, we will continually become better human beings. A regular examination of our lives can help! Perhaps you could benefit from such a regular review of your life. I encourage you to do some sort of examination this week and see what areas in your life you may need to improve. Perhaps you could try using an app to help you through the process. It could be a lovely blessing for you, just as it is for me!
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2019 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on June 11, 2018 at 8:45 AM||comments (2232)|
I am challenged when it comes to asking for forgiveness. It’s hard for me to admit my failings. As an imperfect human, I have a tendency to believe that I am right – even when I am not. And it’s also true that I often don’t even recognize that I have sinned. If I don’t think I have erred, why do I need forgiveness? But even if I know I need to ask for forgiveness, that doesn’t mean I find it EASY… it can be embarrassing to ask for forgiveness!
Alexander Pope once said “to err is human, and to forgive divine.” How true - we all make mistakes, and it seems only God truly forgives. Fortunately, most of our mistakes are minor, and don’t make huge differences in our own lives or the lives of others. If I make a right turn at a red light when that turn is prohibited, that is a violation of a traffic law, but it probably didn’t harm anyone.
But some mistakes have dire consequences… seriously impacting someone or something. If I were to get mad at someone and stab them, that would be very serious. The other person could be seriously hurt, and I could end up in jail. Even if I felt I was justified in my actions, my act would be a sinful one, and one that requires me to ask for forgiveness.
But that task is hard. I don’t like telling another human being that I am wrong and I am sorry. And it is even harder for me to ask forgiveness of God. After all, God is all-powerful and perfect. God cannot make mistakes – He cannot sin. Yes, I know I am imperfect and am constantly sinning, but it’s still hard to admit.
What we sometimes fail to remember is that God KNOWS we are human. He knows we make mistakes and sin. And He provided a sacrament for us to use where we can ask forgiveness – Reconciliation. This sacrament is an amazing gift! God freely forgives us, no matter what we have done. Our slate is wiped clean in His eyes and we become free – and He actually loves us MORE when we ask for forgiveness!
Lewis B. Smedes said “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner was you.” I become a prisoner when I fail to admit my failures and ask for forgiveness – I lock myself into a cell of hardness and stubbornness. Going to God with my sinful heart open and my errors fully exposed is like giving God the key to my cell… He can then open up my hardened heart and soften it with his forgiving embrace.
Are you are struggling with the need to ask forgiveness? Perhaps you said something that hurt another, even if you didn’t intend it to hurt. Maybe your actions caused trouble for someone. One thing that has worked for me is doing a regular review of my actions and how they may have affected others. Ideally, I do this review every evening while the day’s activities are fresh in my mind, but even if I forget and only do this review weekly, it is still a good thing. I must be honest with myself, admit my failures, and ask for forgiveness.
Is there something that is preventing you from admitting your failures? What is holding you back from receiving Jesus’ forgiving embrace? I encourage you to take some time today to think about where you have made mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Jesus’ blessed forgiveness is waiting for you.
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2018 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on May 7, 2018 at 1:30 AM||comments (1727)|
Do you have wonderful memories?
When I talk about memories, I am not talking about the basic ability to recall facts…. In fact, my ability to remember certain things is slipping a bit! It sometimes it takes me a while to remember a person’s name even though I remember the face. And don’t ask me about historical facts – I wasn’t good at that even back when I was young! The loss of some ability to remember is just a normal function of getting older.
The wonderful memories I am talking about are the events we have experienced which bring us pleasure. We all have them – pleasant parties with family and friends, childhood events like climbing that huge tree in the back yard, your first kiss as a teenager, or amazing scenery from a delightful vacation.
Recalling these satisfying memories can help calm ourselves in troubling situations. Looking back to happy memories often brings gratitude – we can give thanks for the gift of these memories. Recalling happy times can pierce through the darkness of sadness or regret. And sometimes wonderful memories can even help us understand ourselves better and help point us into a career path or a new hobby.
The photo attached to this meditation is from my recent trip to Elche, Spain, where I visited the Palm Forest, a Unesco World Heritage site. When I view this and other photos I took on that trip I remember the vast varieties of palms I saw, helping me to appreciate even more the wondrous creation God has loaned to us while we walk on the earth. I can use this memory along with many others to bring joy and happiness to my life.
My prayer for you today is that you have many wonderful memories from lots of different events in your life, and that you can recall these memoirs to bring yourself to a happy, contented place. May you find joy in your wonderful memories!
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2018 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on January 8, 2018 at 7:05 AM||comments (4007)|
Have you had an epiphany lately?
I like the word “epiphany.” Epiphany comes from the Greek word that means "appearance" or "manifestation." It is often used to mean “the revelatory manifestation of the divine.” Epiphany is a word that sounds like what it means. It sounds like a sparkler on the 4th of July or a flash of lightning in a summer thunderstorm!
Epiphany is also a day, January 6. It marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas. In Scripture, the story for Epiphany is about the magi who discover a bright star. They follow the star from their faraway land to the little town of Bethlehem, and in the process they have an epiphany – they realize this baby is not an earthly king – he is the God-King both human and divine.
An epiphany is a moment when something is revealed, often unexpectedly. It is an illumination about something. An epiphany may be to and for you alone. For example, maybe you are talking to a friend or watching a play and you hear something that speaks to you, even takes hold of you. A word or a phrase jumps out at you from a book you are reading, seemingly louder or sweeter than all the others. Or suddenly a new creative idea is revealed – possibly generating a new direction in your life. No one else may notice it, and you yourself may not even realize right at the moment that this is an epiphany moment. But at some point this revelation illuminates your life like a bright star, causing you to understand something new. An epiphany almost always causes a change within you.
I had an epiphany recently. I sometimes awake in the night for various reasons, but on this particular night I roused from my sleep with an idea for a brand new play running wildly through my head. This idea just wouldn’t leave my brain, and I became fully awake. I finally got up and went to my computer to write it down. A few days passed and this idea continued to pursue my attention. So I laid it out to a few friends to see what they thought. They liked the idea, and encouraged me to spend some more time to flesh it out.
After talking to my friends I spent more time pondering this experience, and I realized then that it was an epiphany. I have already had success in writing, including one play, and I had been wondering whether I should pursue play writing in more depth. This experience illuminated for me that I am meant to continue to write plays.
We can’t force an epiphany to occur, but we can watch for signs that may be a revelation. Awareness is a key to recognizing an epiphany. Epiphanies may suddenly trigger a solution to a problem, or give you a new direction in life. But unless you are paying attention, and then act on it, the epiphany may be lost.
I encourage you to be aware and even look for signs or "stars" in your life - anything that might be illuminating or a revelation. You just may find an epiphany ready to bless you just around the corner!
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2018 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on January 1, 2018 at 10:50 AM||comments (1567)|
What are your goals?
Here we are at the beginning of 2018 – a brand new year. We each have 365 days of blank pages in which to create a “new and improved” YOU. Each year in January many people set resolutions to change aspects of their life. They identify things they are going to stop doing and/or things they are going to start doing.
Probably just like you, I have made many resolutions over the years, setting goals for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, I usually have minimal success at achieving these goals. Why? Looking back, I see that I made the resolutions in haste, without thinking things through, and without making a solid plan for how I would achieve the goal.
So for a few years I made no resolutions. I told myself that no resolutions meant no failure! That may be true, but no resolutions also meant no personal growth either. Those years I just cruised along and nothing happened. I did not become a better Faye. I maintained my status quo, but in some cases I slipped backwards.
I changed my thinking a few years ago. I know now that setting up several goals all at once (e.g. on Jan 1) was not realistic for I do better with one goal at a time, and not one set on some arbitrary date. So I decided not to make resolutions on January 1, but instead to set goals periodically throughout the year. It works much better for me to set a goal when I am really ready to work on it.
When I decide to set a goal, I use the SMART acronym that many of you already know. Goals should be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Once I have set my goal, I need to develop my plan to achieve it, get to work, and stick to my plan. In this way I will achieve it.
A personal example was early in 2014 - I finally felt like it was time to publish my first book. My goal was specific and measurable. But before I actually set this goal I did some homework to ensure it was realistic and achievable. I researched publishing options and talked with several people to understand the costs involved in this goal. When I found out that self-publishing would be a cost-effective and do-able option, that’s when I developed my plan and set my deadline to make it time bound. With all this preparation, I was on my way to success!
I believe most people need goals in order to make changes or accomplish something. Successful people set realistic goals, then work hard to achieve them. Goals don’t have to be huge – sometimes small goals are just as important as big ones.
So what are my goals with deadlines in 2018? One is to become a better singer, and another is to write two new plays which will be produced. I won’t divulge all my details about these goals here in this blog, but they are SMART goals - I have specific plans on how to accomplish these goals and measure my success. And I am confident they will be achieved!
Do you have goals set for yourself? If you do, I pray that you will have wonderful success in achieving them. If not, I encourage you to think about setting at least one goal for yourself, even if it is small. Here are some questions which might generate some ideas: What do you love doing that you are not doing enough? Do you need to take care of yourself in some way? Is there something you can give back to others? Is there a fear you wish to conquer?
Once you have figured out what you want to do or change, be sure your goal is SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound). Devise a plan on how you will accomplish this goal, and identify how you will know if and when you have achieved it. Then get to work!
May you be blessed in your efforts to achieve your goals in 2018!
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2018 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on December 11, 2017 at 8:50 AM||comments (1390)|
I had another birthday last week. Funny, it seems like I just had a birthday last year - where does the time go?? My husband and I celebrated by spending the day together and enjoying breakfast and dinner out. (A perk of being a member of various rewards programs are the “freebies” that come around your birthday – a free dinner, dessert or cup of coffee is a nice little treat!) We took full advantage of a few of those birthday perks!
My husband and I stopped giving each other birthday presents a long time ago. We don’t need more “things” anyway. I already have plenty of knickknacks which are just gathering dust on my shelves or in unopened boxes in my basement. The latest gadget for this or that doesn’t interest me - we spent money in the past on some of those quirky gadgets that were supposed to be the cat’s meow… we used them once or twice and then they ended up in the Goodwill donation pile. These days I am happy with a card from my husband, preferably one with some “mushy” sentiment that expresses his undying love for me!
Yet each time my birthday rolls around, I celebrate. No, not with a cake and fancy party. I celebrate by giving thanks that I have been given another year. I am grateful for the wrinkles and gray hairs that testify to my life experiences. I am not so happy about the few extra pounds I carry, but I am grateful that I have enough food to eat when many people do not, and I can share my extras with others.
Sure, I have had my share of trials, but overall I feel my life has been very blessed. So I celebrate - with gratitude for my dear husband, children, and grandchildren, and for my wonderful friends. My church family is outstanding, and I have been graced with many opportunities to develop a strong faith.
I celebrate the blessing of having enough in savings to do some traveling and learn about other people and cultures. We have chosen to sponsor several children in other countries, and we have been lucky to meet a few of them. And finally I celebrate the fact I am healthy enough to be able to volunteer in many ways. Yes, I am blessed!
Catherine Pulsifer said that "Life isn't about your age. Life is about living." I believe this is true. Whatever my age, I will live – I will live in gratitude for what I have, and I will live as a Christian, doing my best to fulfill my mission to support, help and encourage others. Even if I only can help a few people in my lifetime, that is ok.
How do you celebrate your birthday? The next time your birth date pops up on your calendar, I encourage you to take a little time to explore how you live your life. Are you living with gratitude for what you have? Do your actions match your values? I pray that you can honestly answer yes to these questions, and then have a happy birthday!
Have a blessed Monday!
© 2017 www.reflectionsonthejourney.net
|Posted on February 20, 2017 at 9:50 AM||comments (1449)|
I can name about ten times in my life when I have had vivid dreams that I remember. Usually the blare of the alarm clock shatters whatever was going through my mind while I was sleeping, and in my race to get ready for the day, my dream quickly faded along with the darkness of the night. But those ten times – wow. They meant something.
Just recently I experienced one of those lingering dreams. That particular morning I had no alarm to startle me awake, and the dream that had been incubating continued to dance around as I slowly brought myself into the present. But I was a bit confused… the dream centered around meeting with an employer about a possible job. Since I’ve been retired for some years, that didn’t seem to fit with my current place in life.
After I completed my morning prayers, the dream still lingered in my thoughts. Hmmm. Was God trying to tell me something? So I thought about the dream for a while longer. What type of “work” was I applying for? It was a writing job, and, well, I AM a writer. The wheels began turning…. and suddenly two other separate incidents that had occurred this week clicked into my mind. Hmmm. My dream expanded: what if I added A, B and C? Maybe God WAS trying to point me toward something! So now I am praying about this dream-idea and doing some preliminary inquiries…. we’ll see what happens!
How many times have you had an idea crop up in a night dream, in a conversation, or in a suggestion of a friend? Maybe you have been toying with an idea in your mind, but you aren’t sure if it would work. But then something else happens, and things start to fit together. This may be God telling you something! I encourage you to take the idea to your prayer time, and see what He tells you. As C. S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” It may just be that your dream will become your new reality!
Have a blessed Monday!
Reflecting on Resolutions
|Posted on January 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM||comments (1754)|
Where did this past year fly to? There has been so much that I had hoped to accomplish over the past year but I did not do. And things I did that I wish I had not done. I guess that means I am human!
For many people the beginning of a new year is a time to reflect and make resolutions – such as working to get rid of a bad habit (like spending too much time on Facebook or eating junk food), or starting something new (like starting a prayer regimen or an exercise plan). But I don’t make resolutions on January 1. WHENEVER I am ready to make a change is when I begin – whether it is January 1st, June 10th or December 19th.
I find that I need to periodically reflect on my life to assess what I have been doing. I must analyze my actions (and the consequences), and decide if these have been good actions which are improving my life. If so, great! I will decide to continue those actions! If not, I need to make restitution for any wrongs. I also need to forgive myself for making these mistakes, recognizing that I am an imperfect human. Next I need to reflect on what I will do (or not do) in the future to improve (i.e make my resolutions). Finally, it is important to me to begin to make those changes immediately.
Changes are hard, especially getting rid of old habits. Those tempting chocolates that a friend gave me incessantly call my name, along with the cookies and cake…. The desire to keep up with all my friends’ posts entice me away from precious prayer time. The battle to improve my behavior is a daily struggle, and will continue until the day I die. But I will keep reflecting and resolving to improve, and asking God’s help to do it.
I pray that you will take some time to reflect on your life. Not just now at the beginning of 2017, but regularly, and resolve to improve yourself. Reach out if necessary to others and to God for support and help. I’ll bet your friends will be there for you! And God will give you the necessary grace to change, if you only ask!
Have a blessed Monday!
Poor In Spirit
|Posted on October 31, 2016 at 10:20 AM||comments (1679)|
Who doesn’t like to feel loved and honored? We all do! It’s part of our human nature to want recognition and praise. We love to be recognized for our achievements, or acknowledged when something we have done helps others. We are elated when we are chosen as part of the “A Team." We feel pride in our actions, and want others to notice what we have done.
But in my reality, more often than not someone else is given the place of honor. It hurts when someone else is chosen to cantor that special song I love. I am disappointed when my Facebook post doesn’t get more “likes.” I feel indignant when someone does not thank me or fails to tell me what a great job I did.
The first of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3 teaches me that I should learn a little humility. It says “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” that is, blessed are those who are humble. Pope Francis also reminds us, “The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”
I know in my heart that I need to learn humility, but it is not so easy. How does that old song go? “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble…!” Oh, yes, how hard, indeed. Why is it so difficult for me to accept that I will not always be honored here on earth? I understand that others have many more talents than I, but I still do good work!
What I need to remember is that even if the world may not seem to love or acknowledge me, God does! He tells us that we are loved by Him more than any human could ever love us. God loves us always and forever, and with such immensity that He honored us by allowing his Son to die in order to take away our sins, including the sin of pride. Oh my, what an awesome gift! I am humbled by just the thought that He loves me so very much.
The next time I am tempted to feel indignation because I was overlooked, I am going to step back, doing my best to swallow my pride and embody that Beatitude to be poor in spirit. I will remember that no matter how I am treated on earth, that I am a beloved Child of God, and He loves me more than anyone here on earth, which is far more important than being honored on earth, anyway!
My prayer for you today is that you will join me in becoming poor in spirit. Have a blessed Monday!
As Sturdy As A Tree
|Posted on October 3, 2016 at 10:45 AM||comments (3442)|
Every year at this time I watch as the leaves changing – what once was green has now shifted to sparkling yellow, vibrant orange, or ravishing red. Some individual leaves may even have multiple colors on them. They shimmer with joy in the early morning sun, and dance with excitement in the evening twilight.
Trees are fascinating to me – they grow up from small saplings to become sturdy and tall, and yet they are capable of bending in the winds without breaking. Some have smooth bark, and others are pitted from insects or birds or rutted as the bark expands to accommodate new growth. Each tree is unique, as their branches grow in different directions, some providing shade and others providing food.
I think we are like trees in many ways. We each are a unique creation of God, and we each provide something back to God in return. Some of us are old and knarled, and others are young and full of life. But we are all an important part of the world God has given us.
Today I have a gift for you - a reflection I wrote which compares a woman of faith to a sturdy tree. Enjoy your Monday!
A Woman of Faith
A woman of faith is a sturdy tree in the forest of God’s creation.
She began as a tiny seed, planted by the Master in a unique place in His precious garden. As time passed, she grew as she sought wisdom, knowledge and strength from the rich soil of the scripture foundation beneath her, and from the nourishing sacramental waters poured out around her.
When she stretched her roots deeper into the Word, she grasped nuggets of wisdom nutrients to foster her faith. She was fed by the fertilizers of passing souls who each left their legacy from their own struggles and stories.
The Master caused rains of graces to cover her at the times she needed them, although she often did not realize what blessings she had received.
As she grew in strength, she revealed tiny buds of faith. The buds blossomed, and she tested these against the trials of life. Some withstood the tests, and some were false hopes. Yet she continued to branch out as an extension of Christ, developing a raiment of natural splendor in the golden hues of her leafy garments and in her graceful response to the promptings of the whispering Spirit.
She began to open herself up to travelers who happened by the spot that she had been given. They stopped for varying lengths of times to nestle and rest in her arms. While they were with her, she used her gifts to offer food and protection to hungry youngsters, and shelter to aging residents.
As she continued to reach out in faith, over time her branches became entwined with others near her. She gave assistance to them willingly, and also accepted support when she needed it.
But life was sometimes hard. The pains came as beloved branches snapped and were carried away in whirlwinds. Jealous bugs looked for ways to burrow underneath her bark, and wicked birds pecked away at her hope. She often was surrounded by foggy mists of uncertainty which threatened her self confidence. And occasional black shrouds of fear descended over her, enticing her to give up.
She continually had to fight to retain her faith. Periodically she would start to feel cold, and devilish storms would whip her branches, forcing her to bend at odd angles. Inevitably, the tears of winter would come, and her finery would fall into dull heaps around her. But her rooted faith remained steady, and she quietly accepted the snowy burdens as she patiently rode out the barren times, assured that Spring would come again to renew her.
And always the Son returned, and she would gratefully soak up the warm love. Gentle prayers of friends rained down around her, washing away the dirt and stains, and forgiveness would come. Her spirits lifted, and she was refreshed in body and soul, and was able to face life once again.
Yet even during the good times, once in awhile the Master would prune her, stripping away a branch or two of rotting sin. This left embarrassing wounds and scars, and sometimes even a noticeable hole where some large hurt had eaten away at her. Yet, she was able to prayerfully ask for healing, and in time the hurts and scars diminished.
Now she graciously allows others to see and use these wounds, to comfort those who needed to be gathered inside her heart for an understanding caress.
The faithful woman does not stand alone. She stands in a great forest with other women of faith, each planted in their own special places, each with their trials and their own gifts. Together they stand, tall and pure, upright, prophesying and gloriously raising their branches in praise and thanksgiving to their Master. They sway and dance with tambourine leaves rustling joyfully around them.
The woman of faith is a sturdy tree, committed to endlessly love and minister to those around her. She is a beautiful creation of her Master.