Wolves in Sheep Clothing Part 1 by Amber O’Brien

AmberOBrien"
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  By their fruits you will know them. ...Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.                             Matthew : 7 15-20

Dear Sweet Sister, We were reminded again with the latest priest scandal that evil is in our midst.  Shepherds in the church preying on the most innocent. Disgusting, unthinkable, horrible…there are no words to describe this evil.  I have spent the last two weeks plus grieving over the innocence lost of these victims and for their parents. Grieving for other abused victims whose scabs of healing are ripped off each time they watch the news. I have raged with righteous anger against all the leaders and authorities that failed these innocent children. These are God’s precious lambs. Magnify your own sorrowing feelings by a trillion and imagine how much this breaks our daddy-God’s heart. Imagine your anger and magnify that by a trillion and that is how Angry our Lord God is that His shepherds abused the lambs that were put in their care. (I picked trillion for the trinity…the point is to think of a humanly  incomprehensible number) In fact Jesus talked about what will happen to those who cause “little ones” to lose their faith. (or stumble)

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin (a weakening or loss of faith), it would be better for a great millstone to be wrapped around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world for the things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! If you hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Matthew 18: 6-8

As the above verse warns, if a member of the body hurts “a little one”  then those in leadership are to remove that member. This is what did not happen in the Catholic church in many parts of the world. Instead of a pruning and a trusting in God to bring in replacements, priests were transferred and given an opportunity to prey on another flock of lambs.   Ultimately, a spirit of fear and a lack of trust in God and His desire for the protection of the most vulnerable resulted in decades of cover-up.

Trust.

It appears this happened because of a lack of Trust in God by leadership to provide for the church,  when dealing with gangrene priests.  Evil is an infection that spreads and only when let out into the open and revealed in the light does healing occur.

However, those that desire to please God do not need to fear. We can trust God and below are some of the reasons Why and most importantly How we can help with the healing process.

God is not Dead, Asleep or Stupid

Jesus was very aware that Judas was in his midst. God is aware of all injustices and pr0mises his children to deal justly on the judgement day. Jesus states that ultimate justice will be on the judgement day when he separates the weeds from the wheat. The enemy has sown weeds (children of the evil one) within the field (world) and Jesus promises that action will happen:

His slaves said to him “Do you want us to pull them up?”He replied, No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest: then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, 
“First collect the weeds and time them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”                    Mathew 13:29-30 

Did you know that a lot of good seed can help prevent weeds from spreading?  What are  we called to do so that we are considered “good Seeds”? While God does not act on our timetable and sometimes seem slow, can you trust His Word? His word says that He will separate and sort out and punish evil doers.

It is so hard to wait for Justice. It is easy to get stuck in the why’s.  I have wrestled with these questions myself…… “Why is it  taking so long for justice to occur?” While justice does happen on earth at times through our legal system, some of these offenders died or aged out of the local statues of limitations.

But let me ask you two important questions sister? 1. Would you be ready if Jesus came back today? 2. Would all of your family members be ready if Jesus came back today ?

I certainly have many family members who have not accepted the gift of salvation and are living in the dark. I pray every morning that God would keep them alive until they are right with Him. May Jesus hold off His coming until the scales on their eyes have fallen and they fall to their knees in humble realization of their need for the sacrifice of Jesus.

So could God’s slowness of Justice really be His mercy as He waits for our loved ones to repent and enter into the kingdom of God?

Saint Peter explains it like this:

The present heavens and earth have been reserved by the same word of fire, kept for the day of judgement and of destruction of the godless. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3: 7-9

So sweet sister, may the evil we see in this word be a warning sign that judgement is coming and we need to start with ourselves first.   I recently walked on the beach and asked God for help with my own hardened heart. I asked that He would forgive me for my anger toward the Catholic church, toward (Himself) God whose timing I do not understand, and toward some people in my life (who are made in God’s image).  I do not want a hardened heart.

I want to have God’s heart.  A soft heart. A heart that can help reflect His love and Healing.

The verse above states  “God does not wish that Any should perish but that All should come to repentance”. So we have a lot of work to do, don’t we sister?

Starting with asking God to forgive us and soften our own hardened hearts. A hardened heart struggles to hear God’s voice.  A hardened heart struggles to pray for others.

Next, let us persevere in praying for our loved ones and advocate that God would soften their hearts and open their eyes to His love and mercy.

Justice delayed, means mercy is still available today.

 

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this series and address how we can keep authorities accountable and help educate children so they do not become the next victims.

 

 

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