When All Seems Lost: A Letter From a Friend

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Dear Anne,

We all go through times of having a place that becomes difficult for us to navigate through. When we are emotionally fragile and hurting we are not whole. Being whole means having peace about who you are and what you are doing. It means coming to a place of peace about your past and realizing that you don’t have to live there anymore. That takes recognizing and embracing the good aspects of it and coming to terms with the troubling, disappointing or hurtful parts of it. Wholeness also means having peace about your present situation—even if you feel it is not yet good—because you trust that God will make it right. It also means having peace about your future, no matter how scary it may seem. It is trusting that because you have surrendered your life to the Lord, your future is safe in His hands.

The amount of hurt and brokenness you have experienced in your past will determine how much healing you need now in order to be whole. No matter what bad things have happened you can still be set free from negative emotions. That kind of freedom cannot be found outside of God’s love.

In order to get free of negative emotions, you have to take charge and say, “I am not going to live my life in pain and brokenness. God has given me a way out and I am going to take it. I am determined to stop all wrong thinking.” Achieving freedom from emotional pain happens as you take a step at a time with the Lord and He helps you change habits of thoughts, feelings and actions.

Make a decision to put God first in every part of your life. This means even putting Him before your feelings. Say, “Lord, I will serve You and not my emotions.” Determine to line up your thoughts and emotions with God’s Word. Say, “Lord, what You say in Your Word has a better influence in my heart than my own feelings.”

Pray about everything. Don’t entertain negative emotions as if they are old friends. They don’t have a right to be part of your life anymore. Tell the Lord about each one and ask Him to set you free.  Phil 4:6-7 says that you are to be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and thanks, you are to let God know what you need. Then his peace, which is greater than anything you know, will guard your heart and mind in him. Say, “Lord, I refuse to give place to negative emotions, so I pray that You will take them away. Thank You for protecting my heart and mind, and giving me peace in the process.” I pray this process happens by your saying this from Ps 23:3: “God restores my soul and leads me along the right way.” Taking any other path in any other direction is a waste of time.

Tell him, “Lord, today I refuse all anxiety, fear, dread, anger or sadness for I know that they are not from You. By the power of Your Holy Spirit I resist the temptation to see the bad in life and I ask You to open my eyes to the good. Help me to sense Your presence at all times, no matter what is happening. My life is in Your hands and Your love sustains me. Give me a garment of praise to take away the spirit of heaviness.”

Love and prayers,

Joyce

Your Life

What if your life as you know it stops? No birds, no trees—just measureless space. And you ask, “How did I get here?” The question seems irrelevant, since an inner voice tells you it’s the end of the road.

But where are you? Seemingly suspended, you’re like a goldfish in a bowl, floating, looking through the glass. You hear a voice call your name. The very sound of it sends chilling vibrations—stunning, stimulating and scaring all at once—that make your worse day on earth seem like a peaceful snooze in the hammock. As you look more closely, you see a face through the curvature of the bowl: kind eyes, deep blue—like the ocean. Then, all too quickly, you see your life, unfolding frame by frame. You writhe and gasp. If only you could look away, but the truth is relentless. It’s a searchlight illuminating every wrong thing you’ve ever done. You want to plunge into everlasting darkness to get away. Already you are turning away, falling …

But what is this? The voice—like a soothing waterfall—gushing, singing, calling you back asks “Are you willing to turn to Me?”

Unbelievable! You almost can’t. How could you?

But the face, clearly before your eyes now, emits a light like none you’ve seen on earth.  And wonder of wonders, the eyes are misty, radiating a sadness that’s incomprehensible.

Still, you resist. “Why would he want me? I’m nothing like him. I don’t deserve it.”

The voice more tender than ever, “You have always been in my heart.”

You stop, consider the possibility. Your life was a dead-end. There were more heartbreaks and failures than you care to admit. And now this—an offer that trumps any good thing you ever had. But can you trust him? You aren’t exactly a good judge of character; all those train-wreck relationships are proof of that. But if this is real, you’d be a fool to turn down the offer.

Suddenly, your heart leaps at the thought. “Why not? Yes!” you yell at the top of your lungs, “a thousand times yes!”

Mercy waits for you. What are you waiting for?

Falling in Love

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What is it about love that makes us bigger than we are?

A baby has no ego boundaries; it feels at one with its mother and the world. That’s love. We big folks, too, turn decidedly nicer when we fall in love; our ego boundaries expand and we feel as if our hearts are as big as the universe.

I don’t know about you, but I feel the same way falling in love with God. The more I try to look at Him, the more this ego of mine gets lost in His greatness. Simply put, I don’t see as much of me anymore. When this happens, I find that I have to go out and love somebody. Either that or hold back a river jumping its banks in my soul. His love feels that big to me sometimes.

This fits very nicely into the commandments of God. He gave us two, you know: Love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves. The thing I try to remember is that the first commandment is first and the second commandment is second. So if I keep them in order, things work the way they’re supposed to. If I get them mixed up, I wind up struggling and I don’t love. I just wind up trying to keep rules for the sake of keeping rules. This includes loving others because I should. I think people can tell the difference.

It helps me to look around at the saints and see what they did. Take St. Catherine of Sienna. God told her to make Him the focus of her thoughts and He would take care of her affairs better then she could. I don’t think He meant that she was the only one He would do this for. Mother Teresa is another example. She spent a lot of time hiding out with God. Finally, one day she got it. And when she did, nothing could keep her from doing the hardest thing—loving the untouchables in the world. Again, God came first; her call to others came second. When she got things in the right order, she loved them both exceedingly well.

This is why I want to keep looking at God in everything—in my breathing, thinking, moving, sleeping, and working. Because when I’m full enough, the dam breaks and out comes the supernatural overflow. I almost can’t stop myself. I have to love. Just like the baby, and the lover. Just like Catherine and Teresa.

My prayer for you and me: “God, make us fall in love with You.”

Give God Your Gallbladder

You’re healed every time you pray. You may not feel like it.  You may not see it.  But trust God on this one—you are healed.

How can you be certain of this?

Psalm 103:2-3 says to praise the Lord and not to forget his benefits for He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.  God wants to heal us. He really does.  But sometimes we ask for one thing and He sees something else that has to come first.

Let’s say your gallbladder is acting up.  So you pray for God to fix it.  And, no surprise here, your insides still feel as though you just drank muriatic acid.  Still, God healed you as soon as you prayed. How is that?

Well, it may very well be that while you were focused on your gallbladder, God shined His healing light a few layers deeper to that burning sensation in your gut that flares up every time you think of Uncle George.  You know the one who humiliated you in front of the entire family.  The one you can’t forgive. It may just be that once that festering sore is taken care of, the rest will be easy.  And until it’s taken care of, fixing the other problem will be like applying salve to a broken foot. We see this in scripture when Jesus tells the lame man that his sins are forgiven, and after that, he tells him to pick up his mat and walk.

Does this mean that every time we have a physical symptom, there’s a spiritual symptom underneath?  No.  But only God knows.

So it’s best that we pray and He heals—any way He wants.

 

 

 

 

Wasting Time With Jesus

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2014 © Anne Rose

I don’t know about you, but I have things to do that sometimes seem more important or more enjoyable than just sitting around praying. But as with anything else, I’ve found that once I get started, spending time with Jesus is a lot more rewarding than I ever expected.  Here’s what I’ve come to learn as I “waste” time with Him.

He has a personality and He’s fun.

He cares deeply about me and everything that pertains to me. This makes Him vulnerable. He hurts when I hurt.

He likes me. He thinks I’m interesting and entertaining. He likes to hear what’s going on in my life.  Sometimes I hear Him talk to me in my thoughts about what I can do with the million problems that bother me, or how I can grow up a little in my spiritual walk.

Sometimes I’m too choked up, or too tired, or too bored to talk, so we just look at each other. He doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, I think He enjoys the fact that I’m not talking His ears off. I still try to tell Him how much I love Him, though. I know He appreciates this very much, especially when I don’t feel like saying it.

Once in a while I might hear a one-liner from Him that knocks my socks off. I try to savor this pearl of wisdom. It lifts my spirit high and gives me a peaceful feeling.

Occasionally, I’m so happy to be with Him that I practically eject from my seat. That’s when I sing out loud if nobody’s listening.

We’ve gotten to be such good friends. I think He really misses me when I don’t come around. I really miss Him, too.

 

 

 

The Perfect Prayer

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2014 © Anne Rose

If you could say only one word in prayer, what would it be?  Hmm, that could be tough.  Or maybe not.

There is one word that would say it all.  One word—if we believed in it—that would open the heavens, attract the ear of the Trinity, drive away fear and evil and  heal the broken heart.

Only to speak it with reverence, to whisper it with devotion, to think it with all our minds, to love it with all our hearts, would be to say what billions of words have neglected to say.

Jesus is such a word.  The Word.

May It say everything for us.

In My Life

2014 © Anne Rose

In case you were taking me too seriously …

Spring was rained out this year—as usual.

It got to me: the constant drone of drops pelting the roof, the seemingly ever-present darkness like the ninth plague of Egypt hanging over my house.  I knew the sun was shining somewhere.  If only I could see it.

One day in late May it actually made a cameo appearance.  That’s when I emerged from my house-ark to look for dry land.  Then, everything seemed transformed by an ethereal brightness.  The grass glistened with dew; the chain link fence that encloses the three and a half acres surrounding my house shimmered like a thousand diamonds.

However, this was not a perfect world I found.  As I walked along, two aluminum wires caught my eye.  Strange that they should be dangling precariously from the chain link fence.  Even stranger was the fact that they were cut in half.

Suddenly, my nature walk took on a more serious mission.  I quickly surveyed a hundred-foot section of the fence: sixty metallic hangers that laced the top of the fence had been filed to the point where they were nearly falling off the top support structure.  The tumblers in my mind hit like a slot machine jackpot: The kid next door must have done this.

His mother didn’t see it that way, though.

By the time I walked the perimeter of our fifteen-hundred-foot fence, I realized that this was no petty vandalism.  Close to two hundred hangers had been either filed to paper thinness or completely cut through.  Hmm, maybe a bigger kid did this.

Nobody had to hit me with a lightning bolt.  I knew it was time to warn the neighbors of a terrorist in our midst!  And when they realized that a total of eight other fences were gashed, they agreed it was time for a serious block watch effort—lights, dogs, whatever it took to catch the midnight hacker.

One retired engineer even guessed the assault weapon: a battery-powered die cutter.  It was the perfect tool—quick and quiet.  And he reminded me how the next-door neighbor’s fence had fallen down in the dark last summer.  Why, the little vandal could take out an entire neighborhood in one night.  I knew we’d have to act fast before all our fences were destroyed.  Maybe the police needed to hear about this, too.

I became obsessed with apprehending the culprit.  I felt the need to spread the message.  My zeal landed me ten houses down the street.  The same telltale signs were present.

That neighbor’s response was not the same as mine, though.  “It’s squirrels,” he nonchalantly told me.  “Squirrels?” I said.  “No, can’t be.  This is aluminum, not nuts.”  “Hey,” he said, “this has been going on in our yard for a long time.  Believe me, it’s squirrels.”  “Really?” I asked, grinning inside.

The squirrel idea was too far out, but I couldn’t let it go without checking some facts.  “You’d be surprised,” my vet told me.  “Squirrels are strange creatures—like rats.  They can chew right through the electric wires on your house.  And once they get a taste for something, they’ll keep at it.  Yep, I’m afraid your neighbor is probably right—I bet it’s squirrels.”

More squirrel stories kept popping up: the neighbor’s cable line that was chewed atop the utility pole; my high school’s now-famous suicide squirrel, whose appetite for electric cable shut down the school for a day.  After a while, I found myself on the other side of the fence—believing in the squirrel theory and telling others about it.  It was odd, though, how the people I talked to had that distant look in their eyes, as if thinking, “Squirrels, huh?”

So what do you think is going on?  Is there a monster kid with a malevolent plot to wreck our neighborhood?  Or is it the work of a few playful furballs, scurrying about in the light of day right under our noses?

The future safety of the world might depend on your answer.

How God Gave Me His Heart

2014 © Anne Rose

Some years ago, I got the idea to plant a large garden full of all kinds of wildflowers.  Nothing unusual there.  Perennials were the rage.

But I had something more in mind than just flowers.  I had the specific intention of honoring Our Blessed Mother and Jesus by shaping two large hearts, tip-to-tip, right in our front yard.

As excited as I was about this whole thing, I also felt a little hesitant about it.  Clearly, this would put my faith out there in a big way.  It would say more definitively than ever that I was totally camped in the back woods.

I don’t know why I was concerned about this, because if you’d ask anyone who knows me, they’d tell you that that’s always been the case with me.  But for some reason, in my mind the jury was still out.

I have to tell you, even in spite of these harassments, I put on my work boots and got out the spade.  Besides, with any luck, a jungle of colorful flora would eventually overwhelm the design, thereby hiding my crazy religious fervor.

I had plenty of luck in this regard.  Those flowers went nuts, growing all over the place.  After a few years, I could hardly contain the little weeds.  I had to cut ‘em back just to save the house.

You’d think I’d have seen it coming.  Why, it said it right on the can: “Wildflower seeds.”  And they weren’t kidding.  Did I think I’d wind up with a plot of pretty petunias?  No siree, that didn’t happen.  No cookie cutter flowers in our yard.

My husband, Jim, must have seen it coming all along.  I could see it in his glassy-eyed look.  As far as he was concerned, I might just as well have parked one of our old cars out there and planted it full of corn.  (Maybe next year.)  Anyway, it didn’t take long before he popped the question: “What do you think of tearing out that monstrosity and planting grass?”

“Oh, perish the thought.  How could I ever?—but if you insist.  It’ll kill me, you know …”

A backhoe did the trick (just kidding). It was especially helpful with those towering cosmos flowers.  I had broken two axe handles trying to get those things out of there.  But once they were uprooted, the rest took only about three days.

Now that the front yard looked like a Wal-Mart-readied site, I understood how much I’d miss that paradise-after-the-fall.  It had been so much me: well-intentioned and out of control.  When it got right down to it, I had loved my little garden and all its untamed ways.  And most of all, I had loved what it had stood for: my Mama and my Jesus.  As I said good-bye to this overgrown dream, I placed my hand on my heart and promised to always keep my two friends enclosed in it.  I remembered my promise every time I rode my tractor over the uneven spot in the lawn, every time I circled the scraggly ornamental grass, the only thing left of the garden.

In the meantime, Jim and I put on our logging hats.  Over the years our yard had started to resemble a bowling alley, so many trees had gone down.  After another fierce storm, I looked out the window one water-soaked morning and shook my head.  “You’ve got to be kidding, God.  We can’t cut up any more trees.  You’re wearing me out. Pleaseeee!”

It wasn’t until I walked alongside this last one, another gigantic cherry tree, then walked atop its long horizontal trunk, and finally stood beside it again almost teary-eyed, that the most incomprehensible words came into my head.  I’m trying to show you how much I love you.          

“Huh?  Come again with that one.  You show me your love me by knocking down magnificent trees: oak, maple, cherry, pine?  Trees that have been here for over 50 years?  I don’t get it.”

It got to the point where it was weird going to bed at night.  Who knew what havoc would be wreaked?  The first thing I’d think about in the morning after a storm was the bathroom—no, the yard.  And in relief, I’d ask “Hey, God, You still love me?  You haven’t knocked over any trees lately.  Just wondering …” Naturally, it was one of those questions I was almost afraid to ask.

But unvanquished, we sawed ‘til our ears rang with a relentless roar. Big old red logs.  Piles of branches ripe for the fire.  Oh, we’d be warm come winter.  It wasn’t all bad, it seemed.

Life has a strange way about it sometimes.  And as it turned out, this was one of those times.  For you see, I came to find out that it wasn’t about staying warm for the winter.  No, it wasn’t about most of the things I had imagined it to be.  Never could I have guessed, actually, what the true purpose was, except that He had told me.  And it lay hidden in that tree for over half a century.

You see, when Jim went to cut through the jagged edge of the trunk where it had snapped off the base of the tree, my eyes almost dislodged.  How could this be?  He loves me!  He loves me in a tree!  There it was: the tree was a cherry heart.  Never in a zillion light years could I fathom this God of mine.

We sliced a section of that heart and put it on our porch—as a remembrance.  Just like the thump in my chest every time I rolled my tractor over the little bump in the lawn.  All for them.

I would have been satisfied if that had been the end of the story.  And it did seem to be for about ten years.  But there was more …

One fine day the chain saw was at it again.  Ever the German, the elements in my life tend to be reduced to the fastest and the simplest.  Ergo, the saw.  We have eight ornamental grasses in our yard.  I don’t have all day to cut the old growth.  Besides, it’s fun.  Rev, rev and it’s all gone. So there was one left to trim—the one closest to my heart—the one from the garden.  I didn’t think He’d surprise me again.  Not like this.  Not another heart—a grass heart no less!  And of all things, it seemed to be pointing to the old wooden heart on the front porch.

I would have been satisfied if that had been the end of the story…

The next time God took only two weeks to work His wonders.  To my utter surprise, I won the big one: a replica of an original wood carving from Italy of the Holy Family with St. Anne that was specially done for our parish.  My two friends were back again, now hanging on my wall, the same wall that faces the heart on the front porch. The carving was worth $3500 by the way.  I only mention this because it was a hundred-fold return.  This, being all the sweeter, because I gave when my pockets were turned inside out: a $35 gift of a John Paul II video to the same priest who commissioned this piece of art.  (“Is there anything else you need, Father?”) You probably understand why I’m excited about waking up each day.  This God of ours loves to love.

I would have been satisfied if this had been the end of the story…  (My husband was not so sure.)

God woke me early just two weeks later.  It wasn’t to look out to see if any trees had fallen, either.  No, this time He brought a heart into the room at the foot of my bed.  That’s where I was sitting, reading my journal about all these events in my life. I didn’t notice it at first.  But then, I looked up to see it suspended there in mid air.  Oh, I know you’ll say that it was a helium balloon that simply ran out of gas.  And that’s true.  I mean after over 40 days hanging in my room, I’d expect that.  But this was more.

Somehow, this Valentine Day heart from my husband had maneuvered to a position that was dead center in the middle of the bed and face-high to me.  The hot air register kept trying to blow it away, yet it fluttered and kept itself squared off as if to look me in the eye.  I didn’t miss the message: A dove was taking flight toward a heart, with the words “My Valentine, I love you.”

I hope you know this isn’t the end of the story.  If you’re reading this, you’re part of it now.  And I know without a doubt that He wants to give His heart to you, too.

So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

Is That You, God?

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2014 ©  Anne Rose

Does God talk to you? Is it presumptuous to think so? How do you know for sure it’s not the sauerkraut you had for dinner?

Well, sauerkraut or not, I believe He does talk to us. And it’s as real and plain as the words on this page. How do I know?  He and I just met for lunch at the local diner down the street. And I didn’t notice Him being at a loss for words, either. I mean, what’s the big deal about talking to Him? Just pretend.  And then when you get an answer back you won’t be pretending anymore.

You might still say, “I don’t care what you tell me, He doesn’t talk to me. I sit down and get quiet and I don’t hear a thing.”

But what do you call quiet? You can sit alone in a cave and still have the 1812 Overture blasting in your head: Oh, my, how am I going to pay the heating bill, the taxes, or tuition? And what wilI I ever do about my kids? Why, they’re next to heathens.

Let’s talk about quiet. Think of the most placid lake, perhaps Lake Tahoe, on a nearly windless day, crystal blue and so tranquil that you can hardly tell where it begins and the sky takes up. It ripples if the slightest breeze whispers across its surface. When we are quiet like this, we can hear God’s ripples in the silent stirring of our souls. Ah, such peace.

Now, picture Lake Erie during a storm. Our racing thoughts can toss us about like a little boat atop tumultuous waves, not relenting until they spit us onto the Niagara River and plunge us over the falls. No time for reflection there. All that’s left is to cry out, “Jesus, I’m going down!” It’s no exaggeration to say that this is probably the most difficult time to hear Him speak. Wouldn’t you agree that it makes sense to ask Him to breathe calm into our souls before we shoot the rapids?

In pacific waters, God’s voice impresses and uplifts us. It instills strength like the chorus of a thousand angels.

Ah, to hear Him only once in this way will change us forever.

On The Dark Night—Is There Really Anything Funny About This?

2014 © Anne Rose

I just woke up. That could be a good thing—except a zillion racing thoughts woke up with me. They need to find another bed.

Mark Twain said he had many troubles in his life and most of them never happened. It seems like most of mine did.

In the last four years I’ve seen my credit rating take such a plunge that a leap off the Burj Khalifa in Dubai would feel like a fall from the curb. I’ve had the banks, tax man, water works, electric company, tenants, city health department, litter patrol, lead agency, rain, wind, common thieves, copper thieves, con artists, insurance companies, family, dogs and even the squirrels in my yard make Job’s trials look like a case of coffee jitters. My mother-in-law said to think about my troubles as if I have only ten more years of this. I was thinking more like ten minutes.

My husband bought two lotto tickets today. My only thought: Do you think 130 million will be enough?

Is your life a walk on the beach—during a hurricane? Then you get what I’m talking about.