Friday, July 25, 2014

GROWING TOWARD GOD

“Never question in the darkness, what you were shown in the light.”

I believe firmly in that principle.

Sometimes God tells us his will during prayer, at a conference, through someone else-in any number of ways. And in that one illuminating moment we often respond with a resounding yes, even when we want to say no. Our hearts, our heads, our entire being understands that God has given us his word, his will, his way. No amount of worry or worthless speculation carries any weight at that moment. God has spoken!

Then lo and behold-time slips away and slowly, temptation slips in. We begin telling ourselves tales of desire that tempt us into listening to that gnawing voice in our head. “I want this, I deserve this, I need this!”

It’s as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or Cain and Abel in the field of dreams. Jealousy, anger, prideful poverties push us into following our will and not the will of God. Instead of stopping the enemy at the gate, we romance our thoughts, rationalize our desires and eventually seek council to support our backsliding! Our will is being hi-jacked!

When we open to the door to God with our “yes” he can enter into our hearts and manifest his will for our lives. When we close the door with our “no” God is unable to tell us his plans. Our spiritual growth is stunted!
Saying yes can be uncomfortable, exhausting and even scary because of our fragile, fragmented human nature. But believe me when I say this-staying the course and going with God is absolutely imperative if we want to grow in spiritual wisdom!

It’s a lot like brain science. Scientists tell us in a baby, the brain over-produces brain cells (neurons) and connections between brain cells (synapses) and then starts pruning them back around the age of three. The process is much like the pruning of a tree. By cutting back weak branches, others flourish. A second wave of synapse formation begins along with a spurt of growth in the frontal cortex just before puberty (age 11 in girls, 12 in boys) and then the pruning back starts again in adolescence.

The brain actually consolidates learning by pruning away synapses and wrapping white matter (myelin) around other connections to stabilize and strengthen them. The period of pruning, in which the brain actually loses gray matter, is as important for brain development as is the period of growth.

Spiritual growth, like brain growth is progressive and the process of pruning however painful-will strengthen our spiritual muscle. God is removing all the heavy hurts and haughty attitudes that eclipse his love and block us from growing toward him.

God is challenging us to change. He is asking us to choose good over evil, selflessness over our own selfish desires, humility over pride. When we cooperate God is guiding us out of our inner darkness into his illuminating light, so that we will become exactly the person he designed us to become! A light for others!

Today’s scripture explains just how beautiful the pruning process can be.
2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Monday, July 21, 2014

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE!


I spent this weekend with the “Beautiful people.”

Bruised and broken, soulful and searching, loving and hopeful, beautiful women of courageous faith and extraordinary lives. A “Hedy Conference,” guided by the Holy Spirit, nudged us to Natchez Mississippi, into the old world charm of The Elms B & B, where we descended into the warm embrace of our heavenly father.

We came seeking greater intimacy with Christ, to humbly enter into his passion through the dusty details of desperation and darkness, which have drifted in and out of our human experience. In return we slipped into the, cascading river of hope that pours forth every time we are graced with the glory of our amazing God!

As I sat in this circle of faith, I felt the illuminating movement of spiritual muscle-pushing through the pain, pausing only to reflect on the pride that often keeps us prisoners to our own self-imposed sentences.

We entered the most intimate chambers of our heart, peeling away the layers of our lives, unveiling our vices and our virtues, honoring our gifts and our gratitude.

I marveled at the surrender and acceptance among the weary, as the spirit of wisdom-winding through our weaknesses, weaved its way deep into our wounds, and then ever so slowly, began to free us from the weight of worry.

It can be scary to dig deep, frightening to face ourselves, exhausting to exhume the details that sabotage lives. But with authentic honesty, these marvelous women braved the rocky terrain…Praying through the jagged and disjointed memories, and eventually reaching the summit of serenity that always comes when we seek God with an open heart.

Great movement happens when women of faith move together. The rhythm of truth and humility harmonizes so powerfully that lives are transformed.

It is my prayer as these beautiful women move through their lives, they will continue responding to the movement of their hearts and that they will take great comfort in knowing that Christ is with them, intimately, powerfully and eternally!

Friday, July 18, 2014

LIAM NEESON


Liam Neeson is right. “It’s a virus.” Drug abuse is a virus. I could just hug him for his sobering remarks! As a substance abuse prevention specialist, and a single mom, I need all the help I can get.

As an Iconic actor, Neeson may not know it, but he’s part of the genre known as “super peers.” Popular public personalities who together with the mass media: movies, music, television, the internet, influence adolescent health-related attitudes and behaviors, like the use and abuse of legal and illegal drugs.

Neeson got honest about drugs and alcohol during an insightful cover story that appeared in the April issue of GQ magazine. The single dad of two sons said, “A teenager can take it and suddenly they can be hooked, and it changes their life and their family's forever. That's my constant worry. And I trust them, and they're sensible boys, but it can be just that chemistry that doesn't work.”

What powerful insight! When youth mess around with drugs, including alcohol, they’re playing Russian roulette with their brains! The science shows that a teenager who starts drinking at 15 years of age or younger is four to five times more likely to become addicted than if they waited until the legal age of 21 when their brains are almost fully developed.

Alcohol and other drugs like marijuana, hi-jack the brain, by rewiring and sabotaging development. The progressive and long term use and abuse of mind altering chemicals often leads to the brain disease of addiction. That’s when a normally healthy, active and bright person becomes so physically dependent on their drug of choice, that they will go to any lengths to continue drinking or drugging.

It’s no secret that being a teen is already risky business, but that’s because the risk taking part of their brain develops first and judgment develops last. So it’s critical that we protect the adolescent brain through healthy habits until it’s fully developed.

In the ‘90’s I produced a documentary in Russia and Ukraine and I interviewed a young man protesting the sale of alcohol. He told me, “The communists used alcohol to oppress citizens.” Another powerful insight! Oppression is slavery and addiction literally enslaves the mind, changes behavior, and turns a human being into someone God never intended them to become.

It’s cunning, baffling and powerful! It’s up to all of us to fight this battle because whether you know it or not, everyone in every community around the world, is affected. And besides, in Neeson’s words, “Everybody matters. Everybody.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

LIGHTNING BOLT!


Hedy Boelte is a lightning bolt!

She leaves a searing mark on whoever she meets, on whatever she does, wherever she goes!

Like rapid fire flashes that streak across the sky during an electrical storm, Hedy literally illuminates her world with an extroverted confidence that burns desire. A deeply rooted conviction that there is no force, no love, no purpose greater than the will of the almighty God!

Intimately, powerfully and joyfully-Hedy’s life breathes an intense passion that is both persuading and providential. She is determined to share her God with anyone and everyone! “To ignite like fire and spread like wildflowers.” One human being at a time, one conference at a time, one conversation at a time, Hedy is changing lives.

I have been privy to countless discussions with Hedy and her overarching goal is always focused squarely on sending souls to God. I have never seen anyone quite like her!

So this week, we who cherish Hedy give thanks for the vibrant blessing that is her life, as we celebrate that pivotal point in history, when the heavens cracked open and the good Lord let down his guard…by delivering a colorful lightning bolt to light up the world!

HAPPY, BLESSED BIRTHDAY WEEK MY FRIEND!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

DIVORCE AND RESURRECTION


Several years ago I brought my husband inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and as we sat before the Lord I asked, “Do you really want this divorce?” He looked down nodding his head as he replied almost timidly, “Yes.”

I wasn’t prepared for the sudden rush of emotion. Tears spilled down my face and an unexpected, heart palpitating tremor surged through my entire body. Death…It was that awful familiar feeling brought on by-death. I wanted to run from it.

I stood up, my body shaking…and then-my husband frantically grasped for approval, “I thought you wanted this too?” he implored. I was dumbfounded! Death wanted my approval! I wanted a miracle! Looking him squarely in the eye I took a deep breath and replied, “This is your decision, don’t put it on me.” I turned and walked out of the chapel.

Denial immediately stepped in, circling my heart, seducing me into believing this wasn’t really happening. Denial helped me cope with the shock of death. And yet, somewhere deep down in that sacred reserve within, I knew that my marriage had died a long time ago. I knew the deadly dysfunction of our relationship had to end. Still, I was scared and ashamed and worried. I was a Catholic woman, a television personality, working with a well-known church figure. The weight of judgment would be severe.

My sons were 6, 7, 11, 15 and 19 years of age. “But we’re just little kids,” one of them cried as we huddled together in the warm safety of my bedroom. “I am so sorry,” I replied hugging them tightly. “Always remember that each one of you is loved and safe, and together, we are going to make it.” I promised myself we would. I loved my kids more than myself and that love would save me-and them.

However, I couldn’t shake that gnawing feeling of denial. And it bothered me because I knew I had been living in denial all my life. Denial had been my coping mechanism and my achilles heel. But it had stopped working for me-a long time ago. Denial actually hurt me, keeping me in bondage to so many things, like the pain of reality…and then when I couldn’t cope anymore-I drank, almost to the point of death. I found the strength to give up the drink…but-denial clung to me like a powerful virus that invades your cells.

I needed real help.

Initially, I shared my feelings with a friend, Fr. Bill McCarthy. “Let’s see what Jesus has to say,” he replied reassuringly. Fr. Bill placed his hands on top of my head and prayed silently. Then he spoke these words, “Mary Lou, you are not alone. I am your one true spouse!”

“Jesus is carrying you,” Father McCarthy declared with conviction. I smiled sheepishly. At that moment it didn’t feel like anyone was carrying me.

That was nearly ten years ago and I have done some grueling work to get myself emotionally healthy. However I can honestly say, with my cooperation Jesus has been carrying me…through the wonderful roller coaster ride of raising 5 sons alone, through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to the counselors office, to the 12 step meetings, to Mass, to and from work, through divorce court, through my children’s recoveries, into prayer meetings and healing services and service work to help others…and the list goes on.

Jesus has carried me every single day, straight into the sunshine of his sacred heart where there is no room for the darkness of denial. It is there, that I have found profound peace, renewed purpose and confident hope. When I finally learned to let go of denial, I received the providential gift of a radically authentic life…a life that transcends time and space and is brimming with mercy and hope and an ocean of love.

Divorce under any circumstance, even when it is the only safe option, guts the soul, shattering the myth that it is an easy, turnkey solution. It’s very simply-an awful, awful experience. However, believe me when I say this…There is absolute life after death and I am so grateful for having received the transforming gift of the resurrection!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

MIRACLE MAN

Bernie Klein’s life took a pivotal turn when he died. His death shocked him into seeing himself as God saw him. It was painful.

When he returned to life inside his battered body which had suffered the effects of a massive heart attack, Bernie knew what he had to do.

He made amends for the unhealthy choices he had made. He resolved to devote the rest of his life to serving God. Bernie’s death had pumped new life into the wounded heart of a man who had rejected the call from God.

Physically-Bernie would not recuperate. He never went home from the hospital. Yet he had been healed-in every single way that matters. His vision became crystal clear as he viewed his life through the eyes of his soul. His fragmented heart began pulsating to the rhythm of divine love and his conscience became illuminated by a glowing light that framed a contagious desire to know and serve the Lord.

Bernie shared his experience with his wife Judy, who is a close friend of mine...And now she is sharing it with the rest of us through her recent book, “Miracle Man.”

But you might ask, “Why did God let Bernie die, then allow him to return to life-only to let him die again and this time-permanently?" Since I’m not God I don’t have the answer. However, it’s been my experience that stories like Bernie’s reveal the loving mercy of God for the individual who is undergoing the experience, and for the rest of us who need spiritual growth.

For me, his story inspires deep reflection. Am I becoming the person God designed me to become? Am I following the will of God? If I died today, would I be ready to face God?

You can order "Miracle Man" at www.memorareministries.com

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SUDDEN DEATH, ETERNAL VICTORY!

My fifteen year old son Zachary, lay down on the sofa next to me and asked, “Would you cry if I died?” “Absolutely!” I replied. “A lot?” he continued. “I would cry rivers and rivers of tears,” I assured him. “I don’t know if I could handle it if you died,” he said. “Of course I’ll probably be able to handle it one day when you’re old,” he added trying to sound brave. His questions pierced my heart.

"Zack" I continued, "If you died I would really suffer. I love you and you mean more to me than you can ever comprehend."

My youngest son is struggling with some uncomfortable emotions triggered by the tragic death of his friend’s 8 year old brother Joseph. The little boy was also the cousin of another one of Zack’s close friends and so my son is suffering for both his buddies.

Unquestionably sad and heart wrenching death demands a lot from the living. Grief seizes every waking moment and is often characterized by disbelief and anger, fear and powerlessness.

I felt the rush of those emotions when my younger sister died of a brain aneurysm after the birth of her second child. At the time I was six months pregnant with Zack and the shock and circumstances of her death rocked me to my core. The pain was compounded because six months earlier I had buried my dad who died of a massive heart attack. Unfortunately this German/Irish girl made the mistake of short circuiting the process of grieving and the buried emotions would one day come back to haunt me.

My friend, the Archbishop who said Patricia’s funeral Mass (and my dad’s) tried to console our family with these words. “Just as we love to pick flowers when they are vibrant and beautiful, God sometimes picks us to return home to him at our most youthful, beautiful state.” The beautiful eulogy softened the blow, but honestly, I just wanted my sister to wake up so that her newborn son and toddler daughter would not have to grow up without their mom.

I think about her death and the Archbishop’s words every time someone young dies…and I am reminded of my essential belief: God is in charge, he has a plan for our lives and faith is our lifeline to deal with the sufferings of our humanity.

Zachary and I both agree that Joseph went straight to heaven, where he met radiant joy and peace in a world resplendent with God’s generous, illuminating love! And even though the rest of us may be left to deal with the often impenetrable sadness, there is great hope in knowing that death isn’t the end, it is the beginning of something very beautiful!

And yes, it’s tough to lose people we love deeply, but it’s worth the risk. Love defines who we are as human beings and enriches our experience in this life and our capacity to understand and accept the source and the summit of all love who awaits us in the next.

Jesus willingly suffered a very painful death at the hands of those he loved-because he loves us that much. And through his resurrection he delivered on his promise to transform our darkness into light; our fear into peace, and to carry us through every single human struggle-even death, to victory, on the wings of his eternal grace!