Monday, August 21, 2017

Forgive Yourself

I have encountered a lot of broken souls in my counseling vocation. Addicts, abusers, runaways, homeless, incarcerated, paroled and more. I’ve spoken with the haunted and angry, as well as the broken and defeated. So many sad and empty eyes that once shined with hope and promise.
If there are any cracks in your protective emotional armor, this mass of tragic humanity can break your heart. So many people carrying huge emotional burdens. They’re seemingly unable to break through their pain and truly live again.
There are no neat and tidy solutions that fit every injured spirit, but there is one thing we all must do if we want a better life. If you can allow yourself to do this, you will free yourself to begin living anew. You will create a path to personal growth, better habits and greater fulfillment. What is this healing thing? Forgive yourself.
A dad just left my office who shared that he used cocaine for eleven years before he stopped using drugs. However, decades later his adult sons continue to blame dad for their problems today. This dad gets lonely without his family and wishes that his sons would visit or call him more often. Regretfully, while he has stopped using, his sons are all using drugs today.
A message about forgiving yourself can be the solution for not walking around in shame. Whether you are a person of faith or not, this message of forgiving yourself is important. 
Perhaps you are an alcoholic or drug user who has hurt many people in your life. Maybe you chose not to have the baby and are conflicted with the decision. Perhaps you weren’t really there for your children. Whatever it is, forgive yourself. You are not perfect, none of us are. The sins of our past don’t define who we choose to be today and who we will be in the future. Acknowledge that you stumbled. You blew it. You hurt people. Scars and bad blood and a lot of carnage may have been left in your wake. You may have to pay some dues, make things as right as you can, apologize to those hurt. Some will never forgive you. But in the end, you have to forgive yourself. You have to unshackle that burden. Allow for the statute of limitations on past transgressions to end. I know, you don’t think you deserve it. You don’t think you can. But you’re wrong. It really is possible to forgive yourself. And then move on. Why? Because a better life requires this.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are still shackled with guilt about their poor judgment in the past. Our Lord comes to those who have the faith to realize that we are not perfect but can count on God’s mercy. Bring comfort to those hearts that have been hurt by our selfish attitudes and behaviors and give healing to those who have stumbled and can count on your forgiveness. Help us all to receive the grace to forgive ourselves and move on. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Are You Walking on Water or Sinking Like a Stone


Let’s be honest with ourselves when we are talking about our faith. Some days you walk on water and other days you sink like a stone.  Faith invariably gives way to doubt before it again recovers its confidence, then it loses it again.

Remember the story of Peter walking on water. The story goes this way: The disciples had just witnessed a major miracle, Jesus fed more than 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fishes. Having just witnessed a miracle, their faith was strong. Soon afterwards they get into a boat to cross a lake. Jesus is not with them. A few miles out they run into a fierce storm and begin to panic. Jesus comes walking towards them on the water. Initially they’re frightened and take him for a ghost. But he calms their fear by telling them, right from the center of the storm, that he is not just Jesus but that he is God’s very presence.

Peter is immediately buoyed up in his faith and asks Jesus to let him too walk on the water. Jesus invites him to do so and Peter gets out of the boat confidently and begins to walk on the water. But then, realizing what he was doing and the incredulous nature of it, he immediately starts to sink, cries out for help, and Jesus has to reach out and rescue him from drowning.

What we see illustrated here are two things that lie at the heart of our experience of faith, namely, that faith (literally) has its ups and downs and that it works best when we don’t confuse it with our own efforts.

Faith has its ups and downs. Our own faith works exactly like that, at times it lets us walk on water and at other times we sink like a stone. The gospel-image of Peter walking on the sea speaks for itself.

We easily get discouraged because our faith vacillates in this way. My spiritual mentor was being wheeled into surgery and he was worried, but he folded his hands and prayed: “Lord, Your will be done,” and immediately he felt a sense of peace. Faith works like that: We can walk on water only as long as we don’t think that we are doing it with our own strength.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who feel like that they are sinking like a stone. Remind them that the Spirit comes into our life with a deep secret that sometimes we know, and then not, and then we know it again.  Faith works like that, some days we walk on water, other days we sink like a stone, and then later we walk on water. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Glimpse of Christ

I shared the story about the Transfiguration when we encounter Jesus, who reveals a glimpse of his divinity to Peter, James and John to prepare them for the cross, which would precede his resurrection.

I believe if we are paying attention, there are many times in our life when we come to glimpse a scene of perfect beauty. Whether a sunset, a beautiful round barn, a work of art, a beautiful piece of music, a sermon made by your shepherd, or the goodness and sincerity of people, that glimpse sustains us over a long time.

In our community, Tim has been working hard for over a year and a half to get folks in the county to support the Charlotte Comfort Home. However, it can be difficult to get folks from many different regions to work together for a common cause. A tad discouraged that his committee had yet to generate time and energy and funding, he felt discouraged and ready to call it quits.
This is where he was given a glimpse of the Risen Christ who appeared not in a dazzling display of light like fireworks. Rather, it came from a person who listened and reassured this humble leader that he would join his committee and work on raising the funds to restore the parish building that would offer comfort to the dying and care for family members.
You see, this Transfiguration moment is about letting our light shine before others. That is exactly what Tim found in the voice of his friend. We let the light shine when we live our lives as “other Christs.” 
To be “other Christs,” we need to reflect Christ to others by loving God, neighbor, and self – to follow the heart of our faith, the triple-love message  of Jesus Christ.  We do this when we forgive our enemies, give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, console the sorrowful, instruct those searching for a purpose, care for the dying, visit those in our hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.
It’s four o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and I just returned from church. No, I did not preach a four-hour homily. Rather, I visited the sick in two hospitals in Buffalo, extended our blessings to Bishop Peplowski at Brothers of Mercy and visited a dear friend who has multiple sclerosis and wanted to let me know that it’s time to have a little fun and set a date for dinner.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who radiate your light to those in need. Give us the grace to do better and let our shine before all in need of our helping hands.