Wednesday, January 30, 2013


How great would it be if God answered our prayers immediately, presenting His will loud and clear? That would be quite convenient. That would make life so much simpler. That would make following God's will so much easier. Discernment would not be painstakingly difficult, but rather, nearly effortless.

But that's not the way it works. Sure, God is sometimes speaking to us in His thundering voice. But only sometimes. More often than not, He's speaking to us in that whisper. He is telling us what He wants from us in a barely audible voice. It is difficult to hear not because He does not speak loud enough, but because we block out His voice by focusing on other insignificant sounds.

It would be SO EASY to find the path God wants for our lives if He spoke to us in an obvious and spectacular voice. But He doesn't always do that. Why? He prefers to reveal His plan in subtle ways. Besides, in the words of Mark Hart of Life Teen (a Catholic youth ministry organization), "If God did everything my way—according to my plans— well then He really wouldn't be God." We want God to open every single door in our path immediately. But instead, He allows us to choose our path. As a result, we fumble from door to door until we get it right. Sometimes we choose the wrong path. Other times, one door closes and only then will we notice the other door God has opened for us.

I am only in the initial stages of my college search and I can already see that just because I ask God to tell me what He wants me to do with my life, it does not mean I will wake up the next day with everything mapped out in stone in front of me. Instead, I know I will debate and go back and forth and try many doors before I find the right path. If I am open to God, I know He will reveal Himself slowly but surely in my life.

 He unravels the plan He has for our lives piece by piece. He takes us where we least expect to go. It takes time to find for us to discover where we were meant to go. I think it is much more rewarding, anyway, to find your path in life not just because "God says so," but because your personal experience has proven to you that what "God says" is for your own good.

He has a plan for us. He is answering our prayers...just not in the ways we expect.

The prophet Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, desires desperately to speak to God. He needs the consolation and peace that only He can bring. God instructs Him to stand on a mountain in front of the Lord. Elijah waits and waits.

A great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

Elijah waited for God. Surely God would appear in the strong wind, and in the earthquake, and in the fire. But He did not. He did not choose to reveal Himself spectacularly to Elijah. He chose, instead, to reveal Himself humbly. It was the gentle, easily-ignored blowing alone that brought the voice of God. Though he did not expect it, Elijah realized that this low whisper was God and was restored by Him. Elijah, like us, expected God to come to him promptly and obviously.

Even later, the world expected Jesus to come spectacularly as the Messiah. But instead, He arrived humbly as a baby in a manger. The Messiah was definitely glorious, but His glory did not show in the material form of riches or rank. He did not bring salvation as the glorious, obvious Messiah that everyone expected. He brought salvation as a glorious but humble human.

The manner in which God chooses to speak to us is usually anything but spectacular. The effect of this revelation, however....that has the potential to be very spectacular.

When we pray to God, He is revealing the answer. We can hear this answer in the big things, in the little things, and throughout each second of our lives... if we are listening attentively. And we need not only listen for the blaring megaphone of God's voice that we so often expect. We also must learn to listen for that gentle, unexpected whisper, for even then, God is speaking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fall and Rise

Philippe Petit between World Trade Center Buildings
August 7, 1974
I've never tried it, but tightrope walking seems quite difficult. A narrow path makes it easy to fall off. All it would take it one wrong step. To stay on, you must concentrate. You must balance, and you must keep your eyes on the destination in front of you. The second you start to doubt that you can make it, you will become unsteady and perhaps you will even fall.

Following Christ isn't much different. The gate that leads to heaven is narrow. If you are going to devote your life to God, you'll be expected to follow His commandments. You can't take your eyes off heaven for too long or you'll lose balance in your life. The second you let something else come before God, you allow yourself to falter. One wrong step, one wrong decision, and you're falling.

But falling is okay.

Humans have been falling and failing and MESSING UP since the Garden of Eden. That's why God installed a safety net beneath our tightropes.

In our quest to enter heaven, WE WILL FALL DOWN. We will at times lose sight of God and of what is truly important in life (and after life). As we fall through the air, we may not see God. We may not know up from down or right from wrong.

And then we will land. Hitting this safety net means realizing that we have messed up AND turning to God to fix it. Sometimes we hit it because there is nowhere else to go; we've hit rock bottom. Sometimes, another person will lead us to it before we fall any further. And sometimes, we ourselves will simply hear God guiding us to Him as we fall.

As we hit that net, God surrounds us each individually in His loving embrace. Once we acknowledge Him, He looks into our hearts, sees our sin, and WASHES IT AWAY. Gone. Forever. All it takes is our plea for forgiveness and our repentance. Then God forgets all about the ways we have messed up. He no longer frets about how badly you have fallen off that tightrope; now His desire is to take your hand and lead you back to it to try again.

We walk on that narrow path. We fall. We rise. Over and over again. For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again (Proverbs 24:16).

It's inevitable. We all fall down. I have. I will. You have and you will. But don't be afraid of this inevitability; just because you will fall down doesn't mean you will stay down. "The hands that hold the world are holding your heart" (Safe, Phil Wickham). These hands are going to aid you as you once again endeavor to follow the difficult path of Christ.

Even the saints had to fall every once in a while on their earthly tightropes until they made it to heaven. What helped them finally make it their was that balancing beam. In this post's picture, you see Petit holding that horizontal bar to help Him balance. Well for a Christian, this bar is the Holy Spirit, Church, prayer, friends, mentors, etc. Anything that helps you maintain a balanced Christ-centered life will make that tightrope trip easier.

God will lead you above the evil and hate and pain of earth if you can manage to stay on that tightrope. You will experience a loving connection with God. At times you will fall. But you are never forced to stay on the ground.

God will pick you up and take you by the hand. He will be by your side as you walk the tightrope, as you fall, and as you rise. Every second of every day, He's there. Until you jump off the tightrope and enter His gates, He's there.

Shout out to Caroline for letting me come to her house to write this when my wifi broke. Jesus loves you, Caroline.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Abandon Your Nets

As [Jesus] passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him (Mark 1:16-20).

Simon, Andrew, James, and John were not waiting around for Jesus. These Apostles were busy when He called to them. But that didn't stop them. They dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. They left everything and everyone behind.

Gone were the days of simple fishing. Jesus had another plan for them. They would no longer be helping fish get from the sea to the boat. Now their job was to help souls rise from earth to heaven. Their nets, their voices, would reach out across the earth to invite each and every person to establish a relationship with Christ.

Jesus is loving. The Apostles knew that and wanted to be with Him. After all, with Jesus we can inherit the Kingdom of God. We can become fishers of men, lights of the world, temples of the Holy Spirit. That sounds pretty nice, huh?

Jesus is demanding. The Apostles knew that and still wanted to be with Him. God is both loving AND demanding. We must meet Him half way. We must disregard earthly matters and turn our attention fully to Heaven. God deserves nothing less.

Following Christ is rewarding without a doubt, but it's not easy. We must leave behind the nets we cast. We must take nothing on our journey (Luke 9:3). God expects us to give ourselves wholly and completely to Him. No regrets. He knows we may mess up, but He will never give up on us. He is dedicated to us, and we, too, must be dedicated to Him. Half-hearted love won't cut it. Jesus loved us with a lot more than half His heart as He carried the Cross. He gave all so that we could have eternal life. He loves each and every one of us personally with a love so great that it cannot be expressed in words. Shouldn't we try to return this love?

Come after me. Just as He called the Apostles, God calls us all to follow Him. As I mentioned in a previous post, hearing His call and answering it...well, that part is up to us. If we choose God, IT WILL BE DIFFICULT. We may have to leave behind the nets we were casting and trust in God as He transforms us into new people. But I can't stress enough how amazing it will be to become this new person focused on living a Christ-like life. We are no longer caught in our nets, slaves to earthly desires. Our nets are cast aside and we can finally raise our heads skyward and live a life in preparation for heaven.

By choosing to establish a relationship with Christ, we are able to hear His voice always in our lives. We can feel His presence and His overpowering love. Our lives can become joyful and fulfilling and purposeful, all with one word: yes.

When God called his disciples, they made a conscious choice to say yes, to follow Him. Jesus did not force them into forming a relationship with Him. Peter was even warned by Jesus himself of the fate he would face as a result of his faith.

“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me" (John 21:18-19).

Follow me. Peter (Simon) gave up not only his nets but life for Jesus. He was not discouraged by the difficult path ahead of him because he knew where the path would end. Once he breathed his last, he knew that the trouble, the earthly pain, would all disappear. He would see God face to face. He would enter the Kingdom of God and be entrusted with its keys. All of this was within reach for Peter the minute he chose to follow Jesus.

We, too, can have this opportunity for eternal life. It won't be easy to get there, but it will be worth it. So what are you waiting for? Abandon your nets. Abandon your fears, your insecurities, your chains. Your answer is all it takes to start the relationship. Answer His call and feel His presence in your life always. Answer His call and become fishers of men.

Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain
Related song:
The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Recently, I've looked up to see countless birds in the sky. When they fly away, these birds leave behind a bit of a mess. But, believe it or not, they also leave behind a great example of how to follow Christ. They teach us to recognize our earthly restlessness and strive toward union with a caring God who, even in our darkest hours, will never stop calling us to Him.

We're not too different from migrating birds. Most birds fly south every winter. They have done so throughout history and will continue to do so for ages to come. Somehow they know that they must migrate to find a suitable climate and food supply. Nobody makes them leave; they just know within that they must go. They know that migration is best for them.

When I relate these birds to humans, the first thing I think of is a famous quote from St. Augustine: "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You."

Capt. Dale Black, a plane crash survivor, had the amazing opportunity to rest with God and live to tell the tale. While traveling to heaven during a coma, Black said, "a strong sense of belonging filled my heart; I never wanted to leave. Somehow I knew I was made for this place and this place was made for me. Never had I felt so 'right' anywhere. For the first time in my life, I was completely 'whole'" (from his book Flight to Heaven).

Black realized that we are restless throughout all of our earthly lives. Our hearts are always drawn by some force to join Christ, as if He is a giant magnet. Some people realize this and fly to Christ like paperclips, while others do not. They resist His invitation. Those that are unaware of this restlessness either do not know God and the peace He brings or they choose to not know God. Such people are like birds who decide to stay behind and face the winter while their other bird buddies fly south. Sure, they don't have to endure the difficult journey south, but in the end, they are the ones who face the greatest suffering. Only when the frost comes will they realize the futility of their decision.

Those that do recognize their restlessness, however, strive toward a heavenly goal. They understand that earth cannot bring true satisfaction. They know in their hearts that we were never intended to stay put and face earth's harsh conditions forever; we were made for heaven. These people see that only after death, when we are resting with the Lord, will our hearts be content.  But they also see that we all must endure a lifetime of preparation if we wish to achieve this final goal. Each moment on earth becomes part of a journey. Every second these restless souls are flapping their wings, moving closer and closer to the final destination, a place where we will finally feel "whole."

But no one is perfect. Our wings grow tired and we falter on this quest. We turn away and get distracted.  The journey is difficult. Its trials make the final reward even sweeter, but they also can easily discourage us from continuing onward to Christ.

If Jesus is a magnet who calls us to migrate to Him, it is difficult for us to turn away from Him. To turn away, we must make a conscious effort to resist God's invitation to peace. Christ is always there calling us to Him. We are the ones who choose to turn away. Just because we decide to resist Jesus's pull, it does not mean He has stopped pulling. When we turn away, we think that God has failed to hear our prayers simply because we have convinced ourselves He is not listening. We think He does not care. We no longer feel the magnet. Our hearts are still restless, but we just fail to see the relief that only God provides. Like a bird who strays from its flock, we feel alone. We may not know where we are headed or perhaps we no longer even desire to flock to Christ. It is at times like this that we must trust God. We must remember that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Nothing else can satisfy us. Nothing else can bring us true happiness. And whether we "feel" Him or not, we must recognize that He is there. He is still calling us, even when we resist, even when we feel completely alone and absolutely lost during our journey. He will set our paths straight and lead us once again toward peace.

God alone can remind us of our purpose. God alone can pick us up, know us, and love us more than we could ever love another. God is the only One that could ever bring our hearts peace.

When we stray from the Lord, we resist the innate restlessness of our hearts. When we live each day for the Lord, we fly closer and closer to joining Him in paradise.

"For never can that heart be satisfied which seeks anything but God....He alone is unchangeable, He alone can fill the vast abyss of my desires" (St. Therese of Lisieux).