The 10 Things That All Christians Can Agree On Day #15 The Purpose Driven Life

AmberOBrien"

See how very much our Heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are!    1 John 3:1

I call you my sweet “sister” because in the family of God we are children of the same father and name you “Sweet” because we should be encouraging each other and sharing in each other’s joys.

So I wanted to share with you the joy of my granddaughter’s baptism. I hesitated before deciding to share this as I know different denominations differ on infant baptism. In fact, my son in law hestitated on having her baptized as an infant as well.  Utimately, all the Christians in my family (Protestants and Catholics) see this as just the beginning as we pray that Megan Elise will continue to say “Yes” to following Jesus all the days of her life.

I started this blog to reach out to ALL my Christian sisters as I have a respect for how God is at work in all denominations that believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”.  I grew up Methodist, spent my late teens attending a Baptist church and joined the Catholic Church as a young adult.  Through the years God has chipped away at many of my misconceptions and prejudices I had against the Catholic Church. I now know from experience that there are sisters and brothers who have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ spread throughout ALL the christian denominations. However, our enemy wants us to argue with our brothers and sisters over doctrinal differences so we have less energy to spread the gospel.

Our pulpits should not be used to speak negatively about different denominations but instead to preach the Good News of love, truth and peace. Our focus and energy should always be on how to work together to spread the gospel message that God has provided a way for us to be set free from the chains of sin and death.

So let us focus on what we all can agree on as sister and brothers in the family of God:

1. We can all agree that our deepest heart prayer is that our children will grow up to know, love and serve Jesus Christ all the days of their lives.   While I am thankful for the sacrament of baptism, my biggest prayer is that my granddaughter Megan will continue to say “Yes” to Jesus throughout her life.

2. We can agree that we are all works in progress and that we all make mistakes.  We all need the Lord.

3. None of us can earn our way to heaven. Jesus paid the price.  His sacrifice is enough.  While I am thankful for the graces I have found in confessing to a priest, I know that my protestant sisters can be forgiven by coming directly to Jesus with a humble heart.   (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 )

4. The evidence of someone who is in the family of God will be good fruit. They will slowly care more about the things that Jesus cared about: the poor, the sick, the aged, those that are chained by addiction and other sins. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Matthew 7:16

5.  Families share our  joys and divide our sorrows. In the same Church that my granddaughter Megan Elise was baptized in, my daughter Megan Elizabeth was given the sacrament of burial.  My family came to add to our joy for the Baptism.  My family also came to divide our sorrow for burial 22 years before.   I truly felt some of the burden lift through each person who came to the funeral and I received added joy for each family member who came to celebrate our great joy of committing  Megan Elise into the family of God.

So do your best to go to the funerals and to the baptisms, the weddings, the birthdays….While we can’t be everywhere and attend everything, love often requires sacrifice, so prayerfully do your best to be there for each other.

6.  We might not always get along with all of our family members. One of my favorite quotes goes something like this:  Some family members on your life will feel like Velvet and some will feel like sandpaper. God will use the sandpaper family members to make you less rough around the edges, smoother and able to reflect the face of your creator when others look at your life. The velvet ones give us a glimpse into to how much God loves and adores us.  We need both the Sandpaper and Velvet relationships to continue to become more like Jesus…..some people will drive us to our knees in prayer and some in thanksgiving.

7. Forgiveness. My favorite marriage quote is by Ruth Bell Graham “A successful marriage is the union between two good Forgivers”.  Really this is true for all relationships isn’t it? We constantly step (trespass)  on each other’s toes, each other hearts, hopes and dreams with lead feet. Has a family member disappointed you?    Let. It. Go.    Keep saying the quote that Jesus prayed as he slowly died a cruel and violent death. “Forgive them Father…they know not what they do”.  Pray for your sisters and brothers and especially for those who currently share a strained relationship with you.  The enemy’s goal is for division between us sisters and brothers. Don’t give the enemy any ground.  Our Jesus is the Prince of Peace. So let Him rule in your hearts, and in all your earthly and heavenly relationships.

8.  God loves us through our families.  So seek out and make time to be together.  Two of the Commandments are: Honor the Sabbath and Honor your mother and Father. Perhaps seek to spend Sunday with family more? Sunday dinner? Perhaps Pizza so no one needs to work? Play a game after dinner. Chat about the week. God loves us through our families.

9. What if I am really irritated or angry at a particular family member? Write 10 good things about them on a piece of paper. I bet by the time you reach number 10 that you won’t be as irritated. Focusing on the good  brings perspective. Writing things down changes your way of thinking so make sure you don’t just think of the positive things but write. them. down.   Consider giving the family member the list as an encouragement or as a present. (No need to explain the reason why you began the list:)

10.  We may have different Christian brothers and sisters through the many seasons of our lives, but we have one Heavenly Father who gave us his only son, Jesus Christ.  At  each season of your life, seek out Christian sisters and brothers to challenge and encourage you along the way.

So Thank you for sharing in my joy over my Grandbaby’s baptism even if you don’t believe in infant baptism. Thank you for praying with me that she will grow up to know, love and serve Jesus all the days of her life.

We are Family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith on a Thread

AmberOBrien"


Dear Sweet Sister,

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith? How did you reconcile your relationship with God?

I was recently approached with these questions and as they intrigued me, I thought I would share my answers with you.

Has there ever been a time when you almost lost Your faith?
I remember vividly the time when I held onto my faith by just a thread. It was about four months after my baby girl Megan had died and I wrestled with this troubling thought, “Why didn’t God heal my baby after I had prayed and begged for the 40 days she struggled to stay alive in the hospital NICU?”

This time of wrestling occurred during my 28th year, but my love relationship with Jesus had begun 12 years before when I was just 16 years old. While attending a summer Young life camp, a talk was given on how Jesus physically suffered on the cross for my sins and I remember asking Jesus in awed gratitude, “You did that for me – what can I do for you?” I heard in my soul the answer, “Give me your life,” and I wholeheartedly did just that. I decided to follow Jesus and seek to know Him and to trust Him with my future. What an exciting time of adventure and growth as I joined a bible study and witnessed firsthand a personal God who took an interest in every detail of my life. I witnessed over the next twelve years a God who intervened in miraculous ways as He moved in my life and in the lives of my Christian friends.

Now, as I sought answers with empty hands and a broken heart, the heavens seemed silent. I felt God’s peace the day she died in my arms and in the first weeks to follow, but as the shock lifted, my questions and emotions started to build, and I tried to push them down.  Finally, feelings of anger, guilt, hurt and sorrow that I had been stuffing down finally erupted one day as I stood at the sink washing dishes. I screamed out loud to God,

“Why did you give her to me only to take her away?”

I felt hurt and rejected as I knew of other premature babies that weighed less or were born earlier who survived and were alive and well.  Each time I heard of another premature baby that survived, it was as if salt were rubbed into a wound. Were my prayers not effective because I did not have enough faith? Had God turned His back on me? My faith, hopes, and dreams crashed when my husband and I helplessly watched as her small white coffin was silently lowered into the cold, hard February ground.

A few months after her funeral, a well-meaning relative gave me the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.  The author’s thesis stated that while God is good and loving and suffers with His people, He has no control over the universe and could not prevent this “bad thing” from happening.

I wrestled with this non-omnipotent thinking as I read this book. At first this sounded as a logical way out from my conundrum, for if God has no power then I could no longer be angry at Him.  However, the more I thought on it, the more I decided that I didn’t want to serve a God who had no power. Who would want to follow a God who did not have power? Didn’t Jesus claim be the Great I Am? Didn’t he conquer death when He rose from the dead? Wasn’t the reason I had peace as I held her and she took her last breath because I knew she was now free of pain in Heaven, and the reason Heaven exists because Jesus broke the chains of sin and death? Yet this book said that He had no control or power.

So my choices were that either God has no control and He wanted to help me but couldn’t, or that He has control and could have healed my baby and he chose not to. Ouch. I didn’t like either choice.

The scripture that seemed to parallel my dilemma was in the Gospel of John when some of the disciples turned away and deserted Jesus. Jesus turned to the Twelve who were left and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

Simon Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6: 66-69.

Similar to the twelve disciples in the above passage, I had to decide if I would follow and trust Jesus, even if I didn’t understand what He was doing — even if I didn’t like was He was doing. For what is the definition of Love? Love means commitment. Love is not based on feeling or circumstances.

How did you reconcile your relationship with God?
I thought I had “wholeheartedly” given my life to Him at 16, but now I needed to recommit my life to Him and trust that He who is LOVE and sitting on the throne allowed this for my good. I had a choice between continuing to grip onto to my anger, hurt, and disappointment with clenched hands, or to surrender my daughter with open hands into the loving hands of God.

As I worked on climbing out of the pit of all those negative emotions — self-pity, anger, hurt, disappointment, confusion — I started focusing on what I could be thankful for while I waited to see the good that could come out of this. I slowly came to realize that Jesus was suffering with me and caring for me during this tough time through many people and through His Church. A priest came to the NICU to baptize Megan when she was first born. What a gift to have a priest come and visit the hospital and offer the sacrament of baptism. My home church had a full graveyard but found a small plot so we could bury her and gave her the respect of a full burial and service. What a great comfort to visit her grave through the years and my husband found relief tending the garden around the grave as his way to actively grieve. St. Ignatius Church also gave us a room to dedicate to our daughter since she wouldn’t have a room in our home. We hired a muralist to paint a Noah’s ark themed room with carefully selected bible verses to go with each scene. Noah endured 40 days of rain similar to the 40 days Megan spent in the hospital. The biblical meaning of 40 days as a “time of completion after a period of trial and testing” gave me great comfort, as did the rainbow that God gave as a sign after the storm dissipated.

As an adult converted to the Catholic faith, I came to appreciate the memorized prayers of the Lord’s prayer and the Hail Mary as I fell back on them when I didn’t have the energy to pray conversational prayers while I spent time in the NICU. I also realized the gift of having the Mother Mary advocate for me as she is so close to his throne. Just as I called my best friend Janice to pray for me, I realized that we have so great a cloud of witnesses up in heaven close to Jesus’ throne that we can ask to carry our prayer requests up to God’s Throne.

Yes, God had not rejected me but had been there every step of the way: Grieving with me. Collecting my tears. Assuring me of Megan’s home in Heaven through scripture.   

I realized one momentous day that God did answer my many prayers for Megan’s healing, for she is now “healed in Heaven,” free of all pain, sickness, and sorrow. She is now praying for me and my family as we are still left in this broken, sinful world.

I still do not know all the reasons why our baby only lived 40 precious days. But I have learned that after the 40 days of testing in the Bible, there is always change and growth. My young toddler faith, which expected God to answer all my prayers, slowly changed to a more mature faith, with roots that, especially during this dry period, went deeper down into the ground. My spiritual experience is similar to how in a marriage one must navigate going from the infatuation stage to a deeper long lasting sacrificial love. Love is commitment and, for better or worse, rich or poorer, whether my prayers are answered the way I want, sickness or in health, I have chosen to follow Jesus.

I still believe God can heal and answers our prayers on earth, but I also know that He doesn’t always give us what we want because He is God and knows more than we as to what is best for us long term. As a result, I now always end my prayers with, “Thy will be done,” for I believe that God is good, God is love, and God is in control.

Just this weekend, twenty-one years after Megan Elizabeth’s death, God is still assuring me in miraculous ways of how He is in control. After my granddaughter’s baptism, I was reminded that my husband and I gave an envelope with money in it to the two men who dug Megan’s grave, as it was such a bitter cold day and we were so appreciative of their service. They told us that they could not accept the money but would use it as the first money to be put in a fund for the new larger church to be built near the graveyard — seed money.

On Sunday our granddaughter, who was named after Megan Elizabeth, Megan Elise, was baptized in that new church. She was baptized from death (original sin) into life in the church built with the seed money given to dig her namesake’s grave. Who but God could orchestrate such a beautiful analogy but the God who gave the rainbow after Noah’s 40 days and nights?    My many tears have turned into such overwhelming, goose-bumping Joy.

Psalm 126: 5-6
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow,
Will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them.

So my prayer for you, Sweet Sister, is that you will be honest with God through the years and share with Him all of your thoughts and feelings (in your mind, or better yet in a journal). He wants a real relationship with you, and that will include some wrestling.

Most of all, I pray you will always know that anything that happens is always filtered through His loving fingers and He works all things out for those that Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

He is good          He is Love          He is in control.

Ask your Generous abba (daddy) for help, but always end your requests with, “Thy will be done.”

His Forever,

Amber O’Brien

When you realize that Christians can’t just sit and watch the World go under… politics, prayer and the Holy Spirit

AmberOBrien"

The opposite of Apathy is Love.  Last Saturday my husband and I joined four other couples for a dinner club and the discussion around the table was anything but apathetic. Jokes about the election year and the wild ride ahead for us Americans mingled with updates on our families and local parishes. Wine glasses clinked and Italian sauced plates scraped clean as five  women and five men tried to predict how the public would soon vote and who our next president will be.  The famous quote, Never talk politics or religion in polite company” was disregarded and I believe with good reason. As Christians we care about our country, families and our churches and to sit back and do nothing would be considered apathetic. And apathy is the opposite of love.

Later in the evening when we resumed to the living room, the hostess presented our group with a challenge. Before Jesus ascended up to Heaven, He told his disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit has come down in power to help them. So for Ten days the disciples gathered together to pray and waited for the promised Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a “He” who was sent to be our advocate; to give wisdom, help and power.  He came in the form of fire.  A burning fire of Love that enabled the disciples to boldly preach the good news and change the world.  What if we all prayed and sought the Lord for ten days as the disciples did? We could all use a refilling of God’s fire of Love, couldn’t we? and what of our families, our churches, our Country …..our World.  I’ve heard it said that we need to come daily to ask for more of God as we are cracked pots who keep leaking and God is limitless in the amount of Love He wants to lavish upon His Children.

Tomorrow  is Thursday May 5th  Ascension Thursday and ten days later the Church celebrates Pentecost on Sunday May 15th.  Our dinner group has committed to taking this Holy Spirit Novena for the next ten days. All denominations of Christians are needed to join this time of prayer and seeking, as Jesus’s heart cry was that His believers would be unified.

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you,that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. John 18: 20-21 NAB 

So if you are a Protestant perhaps to spend time each morning asking God to pour the Holy Spirit upon your family, church, Country and all over the Earth.  A pray as simple as “Come Holy Spirit, we need you, forgive our sins and pour out your spirit upon my family, community, country and all over the Earth. Show us how to burn with Love for all those you put in our lives. Change my apathy to a burning desire to share your good news so others can share the joy of knowing you.  11 Chronicles 7:14 is often claimed during election time but is as verse for all times.

And if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.

For my Catholic Friends and of course Protestant friends are welcome here  too, there is a website called www.thewildgooseisloose>com by the Franciscans with videos about this special novena.  According To Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit was compared to a wild goose. Stop a few seconds and meditate on the word “Wild”.  We need to be praying for an outpouring of fire that is not tame…..Our families need a “wildfire” of love that will spread like……… well “wild-fire”. A chain of reaction of fire that will spread from our families,to our churches, our communities, country and eventually to the entire world.  This chain begins though with each of us quietly listening alone in our prayer closets, as we withdraw for a time as the disciples did in the upper room, away from all distractions and to “be still and know that He is God.”

My dinner group will individually be praying the third decade each morning on The Glorious rosary called The Descent of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the mystery for this decade is Love.

Jesus taught that the fruit of being a Christian is Always Love.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask, the father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another. John 15:16

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I believe God has the best for our families and communities.  I believe He want us to pray for godly leaders.  Instead of just complaining about politics, our families and churches, lets put love into action by first seeking and waiting to hear from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s chat again in ten days about this Sweet Sister.

Let the Novena begin.