Tag Archives: Worry

Reality Check

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Do you ever find yourself getting your hopes up about something only to quickly suppress them with a “reality check?”  You think for a minute that what you have wanted is just about to come true!  Hopes are high and you are filled with joy and certainty that everything will work out perfectly.  And then the little thoughts creep in…

“well it’s not realistic to expect that to happen immediately…”

“Better not get my hopes up, realistically we couldn’t afford it anyway…”

“Just because I want it to happen, realistically there is a lot standing in the way and chances are pretty slim…”

We dash our own hopes with our perceived notions of reality.  We have an idea in our minds of how things “realistically” happen in this world.  And more often than not, that idea is filled with negativity.  Why is that?

We can tell ourselves it is because we are being realistic.  Because we are thinking logically.  Because we are analyzing the situation from various aspects.  Because we are simply preparing ourselves for what is most likely to happen. But what it really boils down to is this: a lack of trust.

Do we truly believe that our wildest hopes and dreams are too far-fetched for God?  Do we seriously think that for one second we know what “reality” is better than our Father? I’m not talking about tempting God with outlandish requests to see if He really will answer them.  I am talking about sincere hopes and prayers.

Like praying for a friend to be cured.

Praying for a new career opportunity to allow you to spend more time with family.

Or, in my case, even praying for a baby.

When we ask for these things, why do we feel the need to stack the odds against ourselves?  Do we feel as though our requests are too big, too difficult for God?

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.”  Mark 11:23

God knows what is in our hearts.  When deep in my heart I know my soul is pleading and praying for a baby, do I really think God is fooled by me listing all the reasons it won’t happen?  The only one I am fooling is myself.  Realistically the only thing I know for certain is that God has it under control.

Our God is loving, kind, merciful, forgiving.  Much more so than any of us ever could be.  When we pray and are open to His will in our lives, we need to have full faith that He hears our prayers. Not only that, but He answers them.  We may not know how or when, but He does.  And if the answer doesn’t come as quickly or in the exact way we wanted, we do not need to worry or feel discouraged.  Instead, we remain joyful and filled with the hope and love of Christ.  Because anything He has planned is far greater than what we could dream up for ourselves.

So while we wait for an answer to our prayers, forget about the logic.  Give yourself a reality check.  Not the kind our world tells us we need.  Not analyzing finances and listing all the reasons why it won’t happen.  But check yourself into the only true reality.  The reality that God loves you.  Remain constantly filled with hope and joy and the knowledge that God is answering your prayer!  And the answer is better than we ever could have expected.

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The Human Heart Guard

Doc1I love my little puggle pup. She warms my heart and is part of our family.   As such, I want to take care of her to the best of my ability.   That means treating her to protect against fleas and ticks on our many walks in the park, taking her to the vet when she is sick, and giving her the monthly dose of medicine to protect against heartworm and other worms.  One of the popular versions of this medication is called Heartgard.  Now I am not here to plug Heartgard or advertise for them…in fact I am not even sure that we use their brand!  But as I contemplated the second reading from Mass yesterday, “heart guard” popped into my head.

The reading we heard in Mass was Philippians 4:6-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

What a beautiful passage!  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts…”  Isn’t that wonderful?  I imagine a tiny angel standing watch outside my heart.  Serving as  my own form of “heart guard” by keeping out all the worries, all the fear, the doubt, the anxiety, the negativity.  Only the good is allowed to enter.  And there is certainly enough good to fill up our hearts!  With such wondrous things surrounding us, how is it that those sneaky feelings of doubt and worry and overall negativity somehow break through and enter into our hearts?

Medications like Heartgard are wonderful!  But if you don’t use them regularly, if you let them sit in their box unopened, if you only give them to your pet once in a blue moon, they won’t be effective.  Despite all the merits they offer, without proper use, they won’t protect against a thing.

Perhaps we need to contemplate our own human form of heart guard.  This passage tells us that God will guard our hearts.  But it also gives us the instructions.  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,”  These are our first instructions.  To let go of worry.  To pray about everything and to let God handle our prayers.  To do this requires full trust.  The kind of trust that allows us to leave it in God’s hands and trust our prayers are heard and answered, even if we do not know how or when.

Our next piece of instruction in this passage is hidden within the promise “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   I am not a vet.  I do not understand how my dog’s heartworm medicine works to protect against disease.  I simply trust that by following the instructions, she will be protected.   In the same sense, we need to trust in God’s loving care and protection even though we do not understand it all.  The human heart guard we are given is the peace of God.  This peace is beyond our comprehension and is far too great for us to understand.  That’s ok!  We do not need to understand it.  We just need to trust.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”    This is where it is really laid out for us.  How do we allow our hearts and minds to be guarded against negativity?  Simple – we focus on the positive!  Rather than filling our minds with thoughts of doubt and despair, we focus our attention on the wonderful things that surround us.  We count our blessings and take a moment to find the good in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

Notice this is not a one time deal.  The final instruction we receive in this short passage tells us “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”  This is a continuous process.  To keep doing what we have been taught.  To keep loving God, loving our neighbors, finding the blessings all around us, following God’s commands, and placing out full trust in Him.  To keep up with the things we have received through God’s grace and the Sacraments.  To keep following Christ no matter what comes our way.

What happens if we forget to follow the instructions?  If we miss a dose of our heart guard and find ourselves lacking that peace within us?  God does not leave us.  He is always there with peace so as to fill not only our hearts and minds but truly our entire being!  The more we empty of ourselves, of our own concerns and fears, the more room we make for God’s peace to fill us up.  If we find that we have allowed the negative thoughts, the worries, the fear and the doubt to creep back in, we need not fear!  The peace of God is always within our reach.  We simply need to pray, to trust, to give it all to the Lord, and to focus instead on the wondrous blessings that surround us.  And then we will find our hearts, minds, and souls protected by our very own human heart guard by being filled with a peace beyond our understanding. The peace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lay it All Down

4941bd027e19d087c78af653a152eacd“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22)

A few weeks ago I found myself feeling discouraged.  I was confused, hurt, filled with worry and doubt.  I just couldn’t understand why it was that my prayers had not yet been answered. I found myself in tears and in a vicious circle of thought.  I would pray for help, then worry about what I should do next.  Then pray for an answer to my prayers, followed by a prayer for God’s will, followed by more worry.

Then a different thought popped in my mind.  Lay it all down.  I took a deep breath and prayed but my prayer was different this time.  I told the Lord I could no longer worry about this.  The burden of worrying, wondering, questioning, was too much.  So rather than continue on in this pattern, I told Him I wanted to lay it all down at the foot of the cross. To leave it all fully in His hands.

With this new prayer, the tears stopped instantly.  I felt peace.  I felt calm.  I felt truly at rest.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)

As the days went on, I felt the same doubts creep back in.  I quickly prayed again to lay this down, to give it to the Lord.  And while I did feel peace, the same feelings kept resurfacing.  I felt frustrated.  I already laid it down!  Why is this still bothering me so?  I didn’t want to worry.  But somehow I kept feeling it creep in.

 “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:7-11)

Jesus has promised us peace.  But that does not mean we are exempt from hardships.  Because of the deep love our Lord has for us, we can cast all our worries His way and He will give us peace and rest.  Even so, in this word we are constantly faced with temptation.  Faced with trials, suffering, worries and fear.  That may never change.  What we can change is the way we react.

We are called to remain steadfast in faith.  To remain strong against the negative thoughts and worries the devil tries to throw our way.  To remember that we are not alone in the trials that we face.  As the weight of the world bears down upon us, we may find ourselves needing to offer our fears, doubts, and sufferings up to Him over and over again.  But no matter how many times we cry out, no matter how heavy the burden we wish to unload, God is always there to fill us with love, hope, joy, and peace.  We just have to lay it all down.

The Verge of Broken

It’s the point right before a breakdown.  The point where you are still holding it all together but your mind is racing and you just don’t know how much more you can handle. It might be a hectic schedule, lack of sleep, deadlines, financial woes, relationship problems, or any number of things.  You deal with them as they pop up but they don’t seem to fully leave.  Instead, all these problems, the big and the small, pile up on top of each other until the weight is so great that just one tiny pebble of worry or a single grain of doubt will send you crumbling beneath it all.   It’s the verge of a complete meltdown.  The verge of feeling completely broken inside.  And the devil loves it.

The devil loves to see us piling on worldly trouble after worldly trouble.  He likes to see our lives become so hectic that we neglect time with God in prayer. He wants to watch us become so weighed down by it all that we feel broken.  Like a failure.  Like we aren’t important.  Aren’t needed.  He waits for us to tip over the edge and go crashing down.  And then he swoops in with his evil lies.  Lies about how we’ve failed.  Lies about God abandoning us.  Lies about where to turn next.

But there is One far greater than the devil and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t fill us with lies or drag us down, but instead lifts us up.  Instead of waiting for us to fail and watching us crumble, He reaches out His hand to us to help us through it.  To show us where to turn next.

One place we can always turn is the Table of the Lord.  Through the astounding miracle of the most Holy Eucharist at each Mass, we are experience the True Presence of Christ.  Not a symbol, but truly and wondrously the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. What an amazing gift we have been given!  Despite our sins, despite our failures, our Lord died for us.  Through Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and through Holy Communion, we are able to spend time with Christ in a very real, very personal, way.  This time spent with God through the Eucharist is the lifeline that pulls us from the edge.  By attending Mass weekly and participating in this most sacred Sacrament, we renew our spirits and are pulled back to His arms.  The Eucharist is love, peace, and healing.  We may feel like we are on the verge of breaking, but our God will not let us fall.  We are never so broken that He cannot heal us.  

Life is full of troubles.  Some big and some small.  God does not promise us that this life will be easy.  But He is there for us through it all, waiting to relieve our troubles and lighten our load.  He comes to us through the wonder of the Holy Eucharist to fill our spirits with His love, His hope, His joy, and His peace.  The Eucharist contains a love so pure and so strong that it chases away the fears, the doubts, and all the troubles the devil wants us to dwell on.  Jesus cleanses our spirits, renews our minds, and refreshes our souls. The devil wants to break us down.  But the Lord wants to lift us up!  Our God wants to relieve us of our worries and troubles that weigh on us.  Our loving Father rescues us from the verge of brokenness and fills us with His wondrous and everlasting love.

Stress Beads

We all have moments when we feel completely stressed out and need a break!  Whether from work, daily worries, financial troubles, deadlines, or any number of other reasons, stress creeps into our lives and sometimes just doesn’t want to leave.  A quick online search of stress relievers brought up things like meditation, yoga, walks in nature, exercise, vacations, guided imagery, music, laughter, and the oh so wonderful stress balls.  Ah the stress ball.  That little  squishy ball that you can squeeze and squeeze until your stress just melts away.  Or so I’ve been told.

I’ve tried many of the methods listed above and while they do help to ease the worries and reduce stress a bit, I have found one thing that by far trumps them all.  One thing that combines many aspects of the above mentioned methods but that goes far beyond the relieving powers of any stress ball.  Instead, I go to my stress beads.

The Rosary.

Moving my fingers over the smooth beads of my Rosary as I pray and meditate on the life of Jesus relieves me of all stress and puts my soul at ease.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Rosary, it is a most beautiful series of prayers.  It is not worship of Mary but instead is a devotion asking for her to pray for us as we meditate on the life of Jesus.  (You can read more about the Rosary, and how to pray it here.)

Certainly the praying of the Rosary need not be limited to times of stress or worry.  The Rosary can comfort our minds and renew our spirits in any circumstance.  Just as all prayer, we should pray in times of great joy just as we do in times of great need or sorrow.  But when we just need something to help us relax, when the troubles of the world seem to overtake us, when we feel like the stress is too much to handle, we can always turn to these little stress beads, the Rosary.

The Rosary includes many of the stress relievers mentioned above too!  First, the Rosary is all about meditation.  While we pray, we meditate on the life of Christ. It is while I meditate that I believe the “guided imagery” stress reliever comes into play.  As I am praying I picture those moments of the life of our Lord.  I try to picture what it must have been like for Mary as she held the tiny Baby Jesus.  I picture Jesus as a young child in the temple while His parents were frantically searching for Him.  I picture Christ carrying His cross for our sins. I imagine what it must have felt like to meet Jesus after He had risen.  What Joy!

The Rosary can be prayed anywhere.  Even without the actual beads to hold, we can still pray it at any time.  In this way, it can encompass the stress relieving aspect of walking through nature.  Indeed praying the Rosary as I walk through a beautiful park is so relaxing and it renews my soul.  Another suggestion to relieve stress, music, can also apply to the Rosary.  At times I will pray my Rosary with a soft hymn or classical music playing quietly in the background, and bringing music into the prayer makes it all the more special.

As I pray and meditate on these mysteries, I feel my stress melt away.  I feel God’s presence surrounding me as if He is holding me close in His arms in a most wonderful embrace.  I think of the trials that Jesus endured, the strong faith of Mary, and the glory of His resurrection and I am reminded that my Lord has everything in control.  I have no need for a stress ball when I have these wonderful stress beads.

When we begin to feel stressed or worried, there is no better place to turn than to the Lord in prayer. For me, there is no prayer more beautiful than the Rosary.  A beautiful combination of prayer and meditation from Scripture, it instantly calms me of fears, erases my worries, relieves my stress and fills me with the hope of Christ. 

Only One Thing

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

This was the Gospel heard in Mass yesterday.  It is a familiar story but one that seems to always resonate with me.  Martha is busy serving, while Mary, at first glance, is doing nothing.  But the reality is, Mary was performing as service even greater.  You see, Mary was so busy serving, she forgot to take time to just be with the Lord. 

Yesterday as I contemplated finances, loans, someday purchasing a house, and as I thought of all those things next to my prayers to have a child, I started to worry.  I began trying to figure it all out myself.  My mind was running a mile a minute.  Calculating monthly costs, factoring in savings, trying to figure out if I would be able to stay home with a baby if we are blessed to have one, what expenses can we cut and by how much, and on and on and on.  By the time I was ready for bed, my brain hurt, and I felt exhausted.  I was so confused.  What should I do?  What should I do to prepare better for a baby, to save more money, to pay off more loans?  I was “anxious and worried about many things.”

And then I remembered the Gospel.  “There is need of only one thing.”  Jesus is all that I need.  I need to take a deep breath and focus on God.  I need to push aside my worries, trust fully in God’s plan, and just be with the Lord.  All these things I am worrying about are in God’s hands.  He can see everything and knows what is best for me.  After thinking on that for awhile, I felt more relaxed.  My worries drifted away and I was left calmly praying to just be with the Lord and for my trust in Him to grow.

+Lord Jesus,  Help me to be like Martha and serve those around me, but to also be like Mary and remember to put you first and take time to just be with You.  When life gets crazy, help me to remember that there is only one thing I need, and that is You.  Amen.+