Reckless Love

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I spent the weekend with a group of teens at a youth conference in Steubenville, Ohio. It was quite possibly the best and most difficult thing I have ever done. I sweat more than I have in my whole life (sorry… TMI??), got only 6 hours of sleep total, and experienced some of the most true and fierce sacrificial love I have ever felt. I went into the weekend with an intense fire and with a great expectation to see God move. AND Y’ALL, God wrecked my heart.

Within two hours of arriving, God literally brought me to my knees. I was stripped of any and all strength I had and was faced with a choice. Tears fell down my cheeks as I cried out to my God. I laid down my will and surrendered everything that I was and hoped to be. Then, I raised my hands and worshiped my God; the One who fights my battles.

My friends, we have a God who is always relentlessly and recklessly pursuing your heart. A God who runs after you. He loves you! He has spoken how He feels about you and He is never going to leave you. He knows you inside and out. He desires your heart. He wants to be in a relationship with you.

It’s so easy to talk about God or to read about him. It’s so easy to go to Beloved, or youth group, or Pine Hills, or a conference, and have an experience of God. But He’s more than just an experience! Have you truly encountered God? Have you encountered the great and intense love that He has for you? Have you encountered His immeasurable mercy and healing? He’s calling your name. He’s drawing you to himself, even in your messiness and brokenness.

I’m messy. I was messy before I encountered God, I’m messy after. Since coming home, I feel messier than I ever have before. And that’s okay. I’m broken. I’m wounded. I have questions. There are days that I struggle. I still fall into believing the devil’s lies at times. But in the depths of my heart, God speaks truth: I am known and loved and cared for. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am sought after and fought for.

All these things are true for you too, my friend.

It doesn’t matter where you are, where you’ve been, or how far you’ve think you’ve gone. God loves you. God loves you and there isn’t anything you can do to stop Him. He wants you.

Father, in the Name of Jesus, I ask that you flood the person reading this with your presence. I pray that they would encounter you right now, in Jesus’ name.  Whisper into their heart their belovedness, that they may begin to see themselves the way you do. I ask that you would send a greater outpouring of your Spirit, the Comforter, to them. Meet them where they are right now and fill them with your love. Thank you, Jesus, for what you’re doing, what you have done, and what you will do. Thank you, Father, for pursuing and for running, arms open wide, to meet your children. Come, Holy Spirit. Thank you, God. Amen.

Freedom for Good

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It took me a little too long to learn that true freedom can be reached only when I embrace discipline in my life. Maybe you just read that sentence and thought, “Umm yeah, that is not a lesson I want to learn!” Hear me out though! When we think of the concept of freedom, I think we automatically think of it in the context of freedom “from” something. We think of freedom from prison or confinement, or in the summer, freedom from school or our normal responsibilities. I want to propose that, at least in this blog, we think together about freedom for good instead of freedom from things that we think confine us.

Freedom and Truth: Choosing What is Right

As you know, as human beings, we aren’t just random particles and atoms thrown together at random. Each one of us is created by God with a purpose and a particular design. Part of that intricate design is that all of us are created to know and live by the truth; not just a truth or any truth, but the truth that we are created by God, to live for God, and to be with Him forever in Heaven. This purpose includes an inherent need for every person to do what is right and good. Saint John Paul II writes, “Christ promised us: ‘You will know the truth and the truth will make you free’ (Jn. 8: 32). We must guard the truth that is the condition of authentic freedom, the truth that allows freedom to be fulfilled in goodness” (Apostolic Journey to the United States of America). Scripture tells us over and over that the ways of the Lord bring prosperity and happiness. In the book of Micah, the prophet writes, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Even the psalmist King David weighs in, praising God saying, “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).

We were created to choose what is right and true, and we know through scripture and revelation that the ways of the Lord are right, just, and life giving. We often think when we get to “do what we want”, we are truly free. But what we want is not always in accord with what is true, good and right. When we make choices that go against the will of God, we are not acting in true freedom, but a false sense of freedom based on the ability to do whatever we want. Saint John Paul II describes this, writing, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought” (John Paul II, Apostolic Journey to the United States of America).

When we choose what is in accordance with the truth, we become freer and in turn, more human, because we are acting in sync with how we were created.

Discipline Embraces Truth

If we want to enter into true freedom and consistently choose what is good in our daily lives, discipline is a tool we absolutely need in our toolboxes. Discipline isn’t punishment, but it is training ourselves with the help of divine grace and guidance. There are two practical forms of discipline I want to focus on here: ordering our daily lives and keeping our commitments.

When I say ordering our daily lives, I don’t mean keeping a rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for adjustments or changes. Trust me, I’m more of a Type B personality than a Type A. What I mean is crafting a daily schedule in which we are consistently prioritizing the right things. What are your top priorities and what are your daily responsibilities? After confirming what those are, we need to take stock of what place those things are taking each day in our lives. An ordered life keeps us on a consistent path with a guide of how to love and serve God. Living our days by a plan isn’t strict or boring, it keeps us from idleness and helps us to walk in God’s purpose.

The second aspect of discipline is keeping our commitments. We have gotten into the habit of “keeping our options open” or saying maybe to everything. But scripture calls us to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no (Matthew 5:37), even in the small things. A good practice of discipline is to stick to the plans that we make. Whether those plans are with friends, our family, going to an event or attending a small group, we keep them- even if something better comes up. This may seem like common sense, but we don’t really practice this in our lives. Letting our yes mean yes and our no mean no trains us to choose what is good and right over our own self interests.

You were created for greatness, for Heaven! And God has actually designed you to be able to get there with the help of his divine grace. He has set us free FROM sin, FOR the pursuit of what is true, for the pursuit of Him and union with the Trinity forever. Freedom is a gift we have been given, but it is a gift for us to use, not to receive and keep passively. Let us ask ourselves each day: for what are we using our freedom?

America the Beautiful

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Yesterday, I went for a hike in the Rocky Mountains. What better way to spend Independence Day Weekend than in a national park? Long before the afternoon storm clouds rolled in and before tourists streamed into the park and clogged the road with real or imagined moose sightings (those were totally just elk), the Vogel family hit the trail. Our boots were laced, our lunches were packed, and our hopes of meeting a moose were not yet crushed.

The mountane meadows are dancing with wildflowers at this time of year. I thought about sticking one behind my ear, but decided it would be rude to end their little lives in the process. Below the tree line, tall, skinny pines swayed in a sudden breeze. Air whispered through their furry tops and the trunks groaned, like doors with neglected hinges opening all around us. Creeeeeaaaaak. Was that a bear stepping over the threshold into our corner of the woods? The scent of sun-warmed pines, as unique to the elevation as the electrical smell is to a gathering storm, drifted through the air. I scraped my knee climbing up a rock, but felt appreciative of the reminder of the stalwart immobility of these mountains and the littleness of creation’s fans and foes.

Every once in a while, I find myself in desperate need of some trees and trails and wilderness. (Once, I hopped on my bike and rode ten miles in an effort to escape civilization, but was thwarted by a falling walnut.) When surrounded by creation and a whiff of pine floats through the air, the same shape of thought floats to my mind: this is just what I needed.

Here at the Revolution we talk a lot about freedom. In the spirit of the Fourth of July, I challenge you to find out where you feel most free. For me, that is in the land unpaved and undeveloped, where geological features claim the horizon, wild creatures roam, and God says to me, “I made you in the context of this beauty, not the fleeting attraction of collectables, accolades, or affluence.” Maybe you feel freest when you’re with family, or when you’re painting or singing, or when you’re eating dessert before dinner (try it sometime).

Maybe this is a trick question, because the truest freedom is found in prayer; the conversation that can happen anywhere and can move even those big ole mountains. Let’s marry the two, and bring the ways we celebrate our freedom on Earth into conversation with God.

And while you’re at it, a prayer of thanksgiving is due on this day for the sacrifices that make this Nation: may we always honor those who serve, and respect the true freedom that belongs to every person.

Summertime Apathy

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It’s summertime here in South Korea. School is still in session, as it will be until the end of July, and then I’ll be packing my over-sized bags and heading back home to America.

During my five months in Korea, I can say with confidence that the number one thing I’ve learned about is other people. I’ve been living in Ann Arbor, Michigan on and off for the past eight years now and I’ve been blessed with the wonderful Christian communities that exist in the area. Ninety-nine percent of the people I hang out with are Catholics who attend the same events and gatherings as me, they have fun at the same parties as me, they go to the same university as me, they work at the same places as me, they go to the same Churches as me—heck, they even live with me. My time in Korea has absolutely shown me what a blessing it is to have such a huge support group full of loving and caring people who totally understand you, your problems, and your ways of thinking. However, the rest of the world is not like that.

I always knew I was living in what we all call the “bubble”—a place where everyone thinks and believes all the same things as you, so you can go through most of your days with your beliefs mostly unchallenged. But in Korea, there’s no Domino’s Farms chapel where I can attend Mass every single day, no Perpetual Adoration chapel in which I can stop by to pray whenever I want, and no friends I’ll run into that will ask about my spiritual life. Even when I do go to church here, the whole Mass is in a language I barely understand, unless I’m willing to get on a five-hour bus ride to Seoul, the country’s capital. So, I’ve been struggling for five months not to give in to my inclinations toward apathy and indifference, which is all too easy to do. I’ve been too lazy and too preoccupied by other things. Even now, I still haven’t overcome this. But there’s one thing I know for sure: this is where Jesus wants me to be.

To make a long story short, Jesus opened the door for me to come here. It’s something I wanted but thought would never come to be, until it was laid out for me so perfectly that I couldn’t believe it was really happening for the longest time. Jesus wouldn’t bring me here and then abandon me; although I struggle and I’m imperfect in my pursuit of Him and I’m not always the best witness to those who don’t know Him, it hasn’t been all for nothing. I’ve met so many different people from many different countries—from Uzbekistan to Scotland to South Africa—and I’ve learned a lot from them. I can also see in them that they all have that same hole in their heart. These genuinely good people all just want to be happy and feel fulfilled. They’re looking for something more. Everyone’s chasing something, hoping it’ll fill them up—whether it’s partying, work, a hobby, travelling, another person—but those things never satisfy for long.

My time in Korea has shown me how much the rest of the world needs Jesus and the fulfillment He brings. We can’t stay in our bubble and keep His joy to ourselves. We can’t only stay comfortable and only spend time with the people who are easy to understand. We shouldn’t let the world and worldly things keep us from Jesus, but should instead bring Jesus to them through our kindness and selflessness that’s often hard to find in the rest of the world, drawing our Christian friends in to support us. You don’t need to stand on a soapbox and preach on the street; others will see the difference in you, even with your imperfections. You can show them that Christianity is not all that they think it is. Use this summer to branch out and show kindness to those who might be the hardest to understand. Deep down, everyone is looking for fulfillment that can only come from Jesus, and you might be the one who can introduce them to Him.

Jesus sometimes feels very far away, both during hard times and during times of apathy, so here’s a song for you: it’s called A Prayer (Clean Version) by Kings Kaleidoscope. I understand this song well since I’ve often felt this way throughout my relationship with Jesus—wondering where Jesus is and if it’s my fault that He seems so far away. So, take courage and know that He’s always pursuing you, even if you don’t feel it.

Break the Holding Pattern

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Hey ladies (and the men who read this), it’s me, Ali. Being a full-time youth minister in the summer can be insane. There are conferences and mission trips to coordinate, coffee dates to schedule, the upcoming year to plan, etc. I’m exhausted already and it isn’t even officially summer!! I’ve noticed in the past during this time that my prayer life can go out the window. Zip. Gone. I’ll rationalize it with, “BUT GOD!! Don’t you see all the amazing things I’m doing for You?! Shouldn’t that count as my prayer?!?” And God, being such a good and gentle Father almost always responds, “That’s great… but I’m really after your heart... I just want you.”

I am 100% a perfectionist and someone who likes to take control. I know that when I personally do something, I can be sure it’ll get done how I think it should be done. The same goes for my relationship with Jesus. I like to put Him in a neat, little box away in a corner and only access Him like my own personal genie granting wishes when I REALLY need Him. The truth is, God desires to be Lord over your entire life — not just for an hour or so on Sundays. He desires to craft a beautiful, adventure-filled, everyday duties and tasks kind of life for you. He desires to show you how much you’re loved. He desires to give you good things. He desires to BE the Good Father He KNOWS you need.

I HATE flying. I absolutely hate it- especially when it becomes bumpy. A really smart friend tried to explain the science behind it, but I don’t buy it. It’s terrifying. However, part of my job requires me to fly. Ironic, right? Thanks, Jesus. Sometimes, when a plane can’t land at a designated airport, it stays in what’s called a holding pattern. This means that the plane circles in the air, hovering over the airport until it can safely land. A holding pattern could go on for hours- or until the plane runs out of gas (seriously, the science behind airplanes is ridiculous…). How many of us live our lives in holding patterns? We truly want to follow God’s will. We WANT that adventure everyone keeps talking about. We WANT to be bold and truly happy… so why don’t we do just that? I think there are a lot of reasons, but sometimes it’s because we want to wait until everything is perfect to truly follow Jesus… to land the plane. We can get stuck in a holding pattern of praying for God’s will to be done instead of just boldly going forth in faith, trusting that Jesus really IS Lord over our lives and will guide us. Yes, it’ll be messy, sometimes inconvenient, and you’ll probably make mistakes… but that’s okay. Jesus never said, “Oops, you messed up too many times... I can’t use you now!”

Friend, YOU have such an amazing task given to you by the King for His kingdom here on Earth that only you can fulfill. You have a job to do. You have people to love. You can’t put God in a cute little box in the corner and expect the world to change. You want more peace? Be more peaceful. You want more joy? Choose to be joyful. You want more love in this world? Be. Love.

It starts with you.

Change starts with you. The adventure that Jesus is TRULY inviting you on starts with you saying yes to Him every single day and allowing Him to be God over your life.

I want to end this little post with a Litany of Purpose a friend recently wrote that I’ve been praying with for the past couple of months. Print it out. Write in a journal. Put it on your mirror, in your Bible, in your room. Pray it until you believe it. You have incredible purpose. Don’t let the summer slip by and remain the same in your relationship with Jesus. The world needs you now. Please know that I’m on this journey too. Lets pray for one another!

Love, Ali

From complacency. 
From the habit of procrastination. 
From the desire to put off what is meaningful.
From gravitation towards distraction.
From the tendency to complain.
From the disposition of meddling.
From wasting time.
From disdaining the mundane but needed duties of my calling.
From convincing myself that I am failing.
From seeking instant gratification.
From giving up often.
From constant worry.
From being intellectually stagnant.
From being lukewarm of heart.
From avoidance.
From the pressure of tomorrow.
From feeding my insecurities.
From the poison of comparison.
From loathing hard work.
From burying my potential.
From not speaking the good in others.
From not seeking what is transcendent in all things.
From these, deliver me, please. 

To move with purpose. 
To pray sincerely.
To walk with grace.
To seek what is holy in everything. 
To appreciate what is beautiful in everything. 
To treat every human as Yours. 
To encounter truth with passion.
To combat temptation with fervor. 
To work hard.
To rest well.
To appreciate leisure.
To take care of myself. 
To nourish my soul.
To practice virtue.
To plan intentionally.
To act accordingly. 
To be spontaneous.
To be creative.
To apologize quickly. 
To speak the good.
To run towards You.
To thank You.
To seek and notice You in all things.
To live through the lens of what is eternal.
To love and delight in You. 
For these, light a fire within me, please. 
— Litany of Purpose by Theresa Namenye (You can find her here: https://www.thehoneycombwords.com)

Happy Father's Day to Our Father in Heaven!

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What do you think Jesus will get God the Father for Father’s Day? A Father-Son fishing trip to Alaska? I know, I know, they probably don’t celebrate Father’s Day in Heaven. But as we approach Father’s Day, I realize that I often forget that Jesus and the Father aren’t just two members of the Trinity; they are Father and Son. Salvation History shows us that relationship with great intimacy and tenderness. Jesus’ death and resurrection reveal to us the Father’s heart of perfect love and His destiny for our lives, while His earthly life models for us how we are to live in relationship with the Father.

Jesus’ Passion: An Expression of the Father’s Heart

Before Jesus was born of Mary, He lived in perfect glory, intimacy, and unity with His Father and the Holy Spirit. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God desired man to be restored to his original glory. That means that the Father desired you and I to be with Him in Heaven, sharing in the love, intimacy, and glory that He had with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, before the foundation of the entire world. Let’s stop here for a moment. Can you believe that? The surest thing that you know about your future is that God the Father has plans for you to share in the very glory and love that flows between God the Father and His Son, Jesus.

You know how the story continues: the Father sends Jesus to bring all men to Himself. The Father wanted you to be with Him so much that He gave up His only Son to make that possible. But the Father doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just want us to share life with the Trinity as citizens of Heaven (as if that wouldn’t be enough), He wants us to share life with Him as His very children. This is an incredibly important and intimate detail. Isn’t it much different being a member of someone’s family than it is their friend? St. Paul writes, “For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He destined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). The Father allows the blood of His Son to be shed so that through that blood, we become heirs of the Kingdom of God and adopted children of the Father.

Jesus’ death and resurrection reveal to us the very desire of the heart of His Father: to be with us, as near to us in love as possible for all eternity.  Behind Jesus on the cross is a Father who weeps for His pained Son but rejoices that His Son has come to bring us Home to our Father.

Jesus’ Earthly Life: Our Example

Jesus not only reveals His Father’s heart to us, but He models how we are to live in relationship to Him: in obedience. Jesus came to die out of love for us and out of love for His Father. As Jesus got closer to His death, He told His disciples, “I do as my Father commanded me, so that the whole world may know that I love my Father” (John 14:30). What an incredible witness Jesus gives us of obedience! This obedience  stems from the confidence He has in the goodness of His Father’s heart. Over and over again, Jesus speaks of His Father’s will, His Father’s Kingdom, His Father’s glory. The Son comes to earth and cannot stop boasting about the goodness of the Father!

This is how we are called to live as Christians; with complete abandon to the will of God the Father and filled with desire to make His will, deeds, Kingdom, and love known through everything that we do. Before Jesus endures His Passion, He prays to His Father saying, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:1-3). I love this passage because in vulnerability it lays out Jesus’ entire mission on Earth. He is preparing to endure an excruciating death and He turns to His Father. He fixes His eyes on His Father, He gives glory to His Father, and from the depths of His heart He cries, “Father I want them to know you!”

I need to ask myself, is this how I relate to Him? Have I experienced and tasted the goodness of His heart and the tenderness of His love through Jesus in such a way, that like Jesus, my earthly mission and desire is for others to know Him?

As we reflect on Father’s Day and our own earthly fathers, let us turn especially to our Heavenly Father today. Whether you have a positive relationship with your earthly father or not, surrender your heart to God the Father. Let Him overwhelm you with His love and hold you close to His heart. As we draw close to Jesus He will bring us to the Father, and as we draw close to the Father, He will mold us into the likeness of Jesus.

Light Tomorrow with Today

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This is the first time I have gotten back on my computer to write anything more formal than a Facebook post since graduating high school two weeks ago; so I figured, what better to write about than graduation itself? First of all, a HUGE congrats to all the graduates out there! Whether it was 8th grade, high school, college, clown school, or anything in between, HOORAY! You did it! Your hard work and perseverance paid off, and the door to your next adventure is open wide awaiting your arrival!

With graduation being such a definitive ending of one part of a person’s life and the beginning of the next, there is a hopeful anticipation that each graduate exudes – the future, as we know it, is finally tangible and within reach! All of our enduring has actualized the dream we were working towards, and we can carry forward with confidence and enthusiasm!

However, as I have been reflecting on the beauty of this newly-graduated mentality, it has really struck me that I did not feel this elated at the end of any of my other school years. And while there is something special about moving to a new school or a new job to “begin anew,” who is to say that the future only begins once we receive our newest diploma? As Pope Saint John Paul II once said, “the future starts today, not tomorrow.” The future does not begin when we walk out the doors of our high school for the last time, or when we finally get that job we have been striving for throughout the entire duration of our career; the future begins even in the pursuit of these things.

No matter your year in school or position at work, I encourage you to adopt the excited anticipation that graduation has provided me; to really appreciate where you are now instead of seeing it only as a step down the path towards the goal for which you are striving. The here and now is just as exciting as the future that we dream of, because it is the here and now that makes that future possible! I once read a quote that said “light tomorrow with today,” which I think really is an accumulation of what I am trying to say here. The choices we make today, the work we put in, and the attitude we maintain throughout it all, are what builds the bridge to get us to tomorrow and ultimately becomes our starting point when we wake up the next day.

Graduation is such an exciting time. So many changes are taking place, and my world feels entirely different than it did a month ago! But I wish I hadn’t waited until I walked across that stage at graduation to let myself feel this way. Looking back on the late nights I spent doing homework or the early mornings I went into school to make test corrections or study with friends before a big exam, I realize that I was only enduring these things until I brought my goal of graduating high school to fruition. I thought graduating high school would be the start of my future, but I was so wrong! It was in those little moments, like waking up at 6 a.m. and going through the sometimes mundane routine of school, that my future began!

So, as I close, I just want to remind you that your future is not tied to a diploma or a promotion. Your future begins today, wherever you are and right where you are. Every single day is a new chance to start again and to create the future of which you dream.

A Warrior for Our Times

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Have you ever met another girl your own age and wished you could be like her? I mean something more profound than: “I wish I had her looks or her brains or her wardrobe.” If I had known about this girl when I was seventeen, I think I would have been stirred and inspired to reach beyond myself and my small life, to a greater calling and purpose.

If you don’t know much about St. Joan of Arc, here is a brief version of her fascinating, but short life: born to peasant farmers during the Hundred Years War with England, this uneducated girl from a small French village helped her father on the farm and prayed fervently. Her friends teased her for her piety. At age 13 she heard voices and received visions from St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret of Antioch, who encouraged her deepening faith. They also informed her that she had a great mission to perform. At 16 her “voices” told her that it was time to undertake this mission to save her country by helping the King of France regain his throne. The events that followed are hard to fathom.

Imagine yourself as a teenage girl, going to the Pentagon in Washington, DC and insistently demanding to see the Secretary of Defense, saying that God had given you a plan to end terrorism, and all you required was an army of soldiers with weapons, who you would lead into battle. That is precisely what seventeen-year-old Joan did as she stood before the French officials in 1429. Not only did it seem inconceivable that she was sent by God, but everything she said came true, exactly as she said it would. She heroically led the French army in battle, recapturing major cities, and restoring Charles VII to the throne.

Honestly, I’m not sure any of us can imagine ourselves doing what Joan of Arc did. She was so brave and so extraordinary in her faith and obedience to God. But her young life should challenge our deepest expectations about what our lives can be too.

Joan would have preferred to stay home with her family as a “normal” girl, but she was convinced that God was calling her to this mission and she would not disobey or stop until she had done what He had asked her to do. How often, in our daily lives do we choose what is safe and comfortable, rather than stepping out even in small ways to do what God is asking?

Joan’s life-line was prayer, and it was there that she received her marching orders, conviction, and consolation. How often and how readily do we discard our time of prayer, and allow that precious, life-giving time with Jesus to be replaced by other things? Joan knew with striking clarity who she was, and what she was called to do, not because she was full of herself with delusions of grandeur, but because she was full of Jesus.

She was persistent, courageous, unrelenting, and clever but it was her purity, her youth, her innocence and humility, that allowed her to do what she did. Today’s world tells women that to accomplish something great, powerful, and heroic, we must be just like men. But it wasn’t Joan’s "manliness" that allowed her to put on the heavy armor and become a warrior. Despite being surrounded by rough soldiers and the sufferings she saw in battle, she never compromised her dignity or her womanly virtue. Although a small young woman, she was great in stature and even the roughest of men admired her and stood in awe of her.

This is how Mark Twain, in his famous biography Joan of Arc, described her:

… she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; ... she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation...

In many ways, we live in similar times. Each one of us has a mission in this life; we are called to do something no one else can do. You may not think your mission can shift the course of a nation’s history as Joan’s did, but how you live your life in Christ and respond to His call matters immensely.

Joan’s sacrifice gained much for France, but the cost was her very life; she was burned at the stake by the English, as she repeatedly called on the name of Jesus. Are we willing to risk comfort and reputation, to push through laziness and selfishness to make a difference in our world? Will we speak for the unborn, the marginalized, the weak, the poor? Will we be led by the unseen but powerful voice of God who desires to direct our steps? Will we be authentic love to a world that so often values productivity and progress above human connection?

Joan of Arc is a great model for the Be Love Revolution! May her courage, strength, and love of God inspire us to great heights and to the conviction that we can change our world. Let’s begin each day by praying the words of this beloved saint: “I place trust in God, My Creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart.”

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There is Freedom

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Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
— St. Pope John Paul II

Freedom is one of those words with a thousand definitions. In fact, even as I was trying to find the above quote from St. John Paul II, I came across hundreds of other quotes about what people think freedom means. Many of them were confused at best; the general feel was that freedom means you can do whatever you want. We as Christians, however, know that freedom is much different than doing whatever our whims desire, but it is found in the act of submitting ourselves to Christ and His plans for us.

Pentecost was this past weekend. This feast is always a good reminder to check in on my relationship with the Holy Spirit. How have I been listening to His prompts in my life? Have I been spending time in silence? Have I practiced any of the Gifts of the Spirit? As I was thinking about this blog post, the song “Freedom Reigns” floated into my mind. I’m giggling a little as I write this, because that was definitely the Holy Spirit. The line, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” kept repeating in my head and it got me thinking. What does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit provides freedom?

I work at an amazing Catholic school. I teach middle school Language Arts and I love my job. I’m surrounded by supportive families, inspiring staff, and students that I really, truly, care about. The Spirit of the Lord is definitely present in my school. However, when I first started teaching it didn’t quite sink in how the Lord wanted me to respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in my school. When I got my job, I was incredibly grateful that I was blessed to work at a place where I could share my faith openly with those around me. I prayed before classes and attended Mass, but that was about the extent of it. A few years ago, I went to a Diocesan teachers’ conference and one of the speakers talked about the many great privileges we teachers have to work at a Catholic school- specifically the privilege to pray with our students. For some reason, I hadn’t really thought about that before, but I remember asking God for opportunities that school year to pray with my students. God, of course, provided. Throughout that year I was able to pray with a few students for various needs and it was an incredibly powerful experience. In the years that have followed, those opportunities have steadily increased and just yesterday morning I was able to pray with some of my 7th grade girls.

So what does this have to do with freedom? Just as JPII’s quote states that “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought”, when I opened myself more to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, I was able to freely choose to do what I ought- pray with my students. I very easily could’ve chosen to keep to myself and avoid any moments of vulnerability (and there are times when I still do), but because of the presence of the Holy Spirit and my willingness to at least be open to His promptings, I was able to respond. The Holy Spirit doesn’t demand that you do anything; like Christ, His beckonings are gentle and persistent. We have the freedom to choose our response or whether to respond at all. The crux of the matter is that when you are trying to know, love, and trust God, you are open to what He asks of you because you realize that there is an abundance of grace to rely on in every moment. It’s much easier to act when you know that Someone is behind you, guiding you and providing you with exactly what you need.

So look around at the areas in your life where you experience the Spirit of the Lord. In what ways can you respond to the freedom that reigns there and the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Do you have a few moments to practice silence today and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart about your day? Listen for Him- is there someone you need to reach out to? Is there something you can surrender? Is there a virtue you want to practice? Remember that when you “give your all to Jesus, there is freedom”.

Song Suggestion: Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture

A Love Note from Mary

  A tender look of love between Jesus and His Mother.   Image taken from:  Saint Paul Catholic Church  in Lexington, KY.

A tender look of love between Jesus and His Mother. Image taken from: Saint Paul Catholic Church in Lexington, KY.

I considered backing out of writing this blog post because I felt like the most unqualified person to write about the most holy woman in history: Mary. But as I prayed, a memory bubbled to the surface.

Two years ago, I went to Mass at St. Paul in Lexington, Kentucky. Before the Mass started, an image in a stained-glass window totally captivated me. It was the image of Mary and Jesus in a tender embrace.

It had such a powerful effect on me that I wished I had taken a photo! I Googled the parish website, and they just so happened to have a photo album called “Window” with only five images in it. Two of the five images are of the same window: the one I was captivated by. They have at least twenty windows. If this isn’t Mary wanting to be shared with you through my pen, I’m not sure what else could be.

So rather than rely on my own inabilities, I asked the Most Blessed Mother herself: What do you have to say to these beautiful young women?

This is her love note to you, yes you, the one reading this:
 

My Daughters,

You know who Your Father in Heaven is. But do you know that you have a Holy Mother too? I mean, do you really know, deep in your soul?

I am many things, most of which you cannot comprehend. But the most important is this: I am your Mother. I fulfill where human mothers fall short. I will never disappoint you. I delight in your existence because you are a daughter of the Most High King.

When you hurt, come to me.

When you’re lonely, come to me.

When your life is a mess, come to me.

And I will carry your suffering to the foot of the cross, where my heart was martyred for love of my Son as I watched him die upon the cross: a sacrifice He wanted to make because He loves you that much.

My daughters, sometimes you feel empty; human nature doesn't always provide the nurturing love and affirmation you need to grow into emotionally healthy adults. In your deepest of hearts, you wonder if there is something wrong with you, and you look for love in the wrong places.

My beautiful and radiant daughters, how can you grasp how incredibly loved you are? The hairs on your head have been counted! And all of Heaven waits to welcome you home.

Come to me with all of your hurts, with your emptiness and heartbrokenness, and I will shine my Radiant Motherly Love upon you, filling all the empty spaces of your being with the love that has not been given to you as it should have been. I, through my Son, will make your heart whole again.

I see you, I love you, and I delight that you exist.

Love,

Your Mother

 

Our Mother wants to hear about our lives, our hopes and dreams, just like Our Heavenly Father does. Don’t be afraid to start your own conversation with our Blessed Mother.

How can I talk to Mary today?

  1. Like a daughter would speak to her mother.

  2. As a friend to another friend.

  3. As a prayer team. Ask her to bring your petitions before her Son.

  4. Envision her alongside you, in this very moment. How does she look at you? What do her eyes look like? Does she scoop you up in a big teddy bear hug? Does she laugh with you, cry with you, console or encourage you? Use your imagination, imaginative prayer is powerful!