God’s Love

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As we approach Valentine’s Day, we feel a sense of ‘love in the air’. We are all familiar with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem, “How does he love me? Let me count the ways” …but consider a variation of this poem and focus on God’s love. How does God love us? Let us count the ways…

God’s love for us is unconditional. God loves us even when we don’t deserve it. He doesn’t wait for us to become ‘good enough’. You’re already good enough. God loves the neglected, the poor, and the minorities. He loves them so much that he came down from Heaven and became one of them himself. During His life on earth, Jesus experienced what it was to be hurt, abandoned, misunderstood, and betrayed. Jesus’ suffering absolved not only our sins but also our grief and our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).

We can never hope to list all the things God has done for us, but we can be mindful of the innumerable ways He shows His love each and every day… the big things, the little things, and all the things in between.


How does God love you? Let’s count the ways…

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Romans 5:3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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Finding the Center

Finding the Center
The labyrinth is a design based on a single path leading to the center and then back out of the same path. Along the way there are many twists and turns, symbolic of the twists and turns in our lives.
Often the labyrinth is confused with a maze, but the two are opposites. The path of the labyrinth always leads to the center. The maze has many paths that lead nowhere. In a maze we lose ourselves. In a labyrinth we find ourselves. The labyrinth allows us to relax and be present on the journey itself. Many times we see our lives as mazes…we feel that we have lost our way, that our path is leading nowhere.
As Christians on a spiritual journey, we need to change our view of ‘our life as a maze’ to that of ‘our life as a labyrinth’. We need to acknowledge that our path leads to One center.
The center is where we will all eventually meet.
Be thankful for your journey, cherish the moments, memories, and people you meet along the way.
An outdoor labyrinth can be found at Michaela Farm.
For smaller labyrinths, stop by the center. We have several that can be enjoyed!
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The following poem was written by Sally Meyer, 2014. Sally is a participant in OFC programs.
The Labyrinth
Entering into Your presence
Guide my heart
Draw me in O God
~
Send my feet
Each step intentional
You lead
~
Revealing pure moments
That come
Then go
~
I move on
Unknown paths
Yet I’m drawn
~
Trusting each step
With each prayer
Aware and listening
~
The final turn
The center
Stopping and waiting
~
My end
Is my beginning
Choosing to enter
~
Fire awaits
To cleanse and refine
Purify me
~
Exposed yet surrendered
Shameful yet humble
Merciful presence
~
Heart and hands
That in this place
Only God can hold
~
Turning back
To life
Renewed and loved
~

Pope Francis’ suggested New Year’s resolutions

It’s that time of year again…we hear everyone asking us about our New Year’s Resolutions. Looking back on 2014 did you grow in your faith?For 2015 do you have a plan to grow in your relationship with God? My hope and prayer for the new year is to put spiritual growth at the top of my New Year’s Resolution list…what will be at the top of yours?

CNS Blog

(CNS/Paul Haring) (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis met before Christmas with Vatican employees, mostly lay people with families, he asked them to do 10 things. The list sounded remarkably like suggestions for New Year’s resolutions:

— “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”

— “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”

— “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”

— “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”

— “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused…

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God Meets Us in Everyday Living: The Lady in the Grocery Story, by Sally Meyer

As I watched 2 people in front of me move through the checkout line, I didn’t notice anything unusual about the cashier. She was elderly with white hair, and had clear, blue eyes. When I got to the front of the line, she looked me square in the eye and gently asked, Do you have everything you need?” It was as if she really wanted to know the answer.

Her question touched me. Cashiers don’t normally ask that like that. Usually the phrase is something like, “Did you find everything?” It didn’t take long for me to answer. I looked directly back at her and said, “Yes, I do have everything I need.”

God finds a way to find me. And that day he met me through the woman in the check-out line.

What was it that stopped me in my tracks? What was it that made me feel like there was an urgency to her question? As I reflect back, it was eye contact. Her question meant something important because she looked at me. Then there was her voice.   There was a calmness and care in it, seeming to reach right out to me-as if I were important. I couldn’t help but think that this is how Jesus would look at me and speak to me if he were right here with me. It was in that precise moment, where the gentleness of voice, and the look of compassion, made me fully aware of God’s presence.

Questions continued to surface after that encounter. What does it mean for me to be grateful? Am I being grateful? Thanking God for all I have been given and acknowledging all the goodness in my life is important and something that is not to be taken lightly. But I can’t help but think I am being called to reflect more deeply on the cashier’s question. God’s love and care for me were affirmed in her words. How am I being called to use my own thankfulness to love others with more gentleness and compassion?

As I think about the most challenging times in my life, it is sometimes hard to imagine that God was there in all of it. Feeling grateful is difficult in hard situations. It’s easier to become angry, resentful, or depressed about what I do or don’t have. But God reaches out to us and meets us in all of our situations, messy or not. He is in the middle of all of it. We are not alone. The cashier behind the counter reminded me of that.

What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? Do you have everything you need?


 

Sally Meyer is a 6th grade teacher at St. Jude School in Indianapolis.  “Visiting the Oldenburg Franciscan Center has become one of my favorite ways to deepen my faith.  It is in such a welcoming place that I am able to practice being open to the Spirit, and in turn, write about finding God in my everyday life.  I hope readers can take something meaningful from my writing.

Really?, by S. Noella Poinsette, OSF

Salt makes everything taste good.
– Really?

Maybe if I went to bed earlier,
read more,
went to the beach every week

Maybe if I ate anchovies or stuffed myself at eating contests
then maybe I’d believe
God is Good
and Perry too
As he watches his National Guard
Push kids back.

Sure, violently
push them back
into the horror they’ve fled.

Maybe if I spent a slew of money
on a vacation
and stopped writing and creating

My eyes would be blind
to the gift of love
and blind to the fire brewing in intolerance.

They should just go back where they came from
And pull themselves up
By their bootstraps.

Then I could compose
Beautiful music
In peace, quiet, and luxury.

Then I could believe in Peace
and the lie of “Give me your tired, your poor.”

 

 

S. Noella Poinsette, OSF.  S. Noella is the pastoral associate for outreach & social justice at St. Francis DeSales and Our Lady of the Lake in Holland Michigan.  She is also a musician and composer.  She wrote this poem during a poetry workshop at Oldenburg Franciscan Center, following a writing prompt about “This I Believe” while reflecting on current events related to immigration.

Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Second Reading: Romans: 8:28-30
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

Reflection
Today’s readings seem to be about what we really value and what sacrifices we might be willing to make to attain something of great worth. God gives Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything he wants. What would we request in that situation? Would we ask for something for ourselves or something to help others? Good health? Money for a new home or car? College tuition for the kids? World peace? A cure for cancer? A forgiving heart? Wisdom? Solomon asks for an understanding heart so that he can rule the people well and fairly. Each day we have many opportunities to ask God for special gifts or for something we or our world needs. Let us consider how our values influence these requests.

In the Gospel parables, Jesus tells us about a person who sells all to purchase a field where a treasure is buried. Another sells every possession to buy a fine pearl. What is it that we find most valuable? Can others tell by the way we live what we truly value? Do we value our faith and our relationship with God enough to make even small sacrifices? Will we give of our resources to aid those who are poor? Will we give of our time to visit or call someone who is ill or homebound? Do we take time for private prayer daily and church services at least on Sunday? Do we make known that we disapprove of unkind, racist or prejudiced comments made by friends or family? It’s a matter of what we value and how much we value it.

Prayer
Loving God, the values we try to live by are based on the qualities we see in You and those lived by Jesus in the Gospels. Help us to be true to what we believe and to what we really value. May our lives speak loudly of our values, even when we don’t say a word about them. May we not be afraid or ashamed to stand up for what we value, even if we are alone or in a minority. Help us, also, to respect the values of others, especially when they are different from our own. May we value You and Your will above all else. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Maureen Irvin, osf
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

 

Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, by S. Barb Piller, OSF

ordinarytimeFirst Reading: Is. 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 65:10-14
Second Reading: Rom. 8:18-23
Gospel: Mt. 13:1-23

Reflection
As I drive through the hills country of Oldenburg I find myself praying the words of Psalm 65: “You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have You enriched it.” To my untrained eye, the corn and beans are looking great. The soil seems rich and brown. Tomato plants are showing signs of red and yellow. It seems to be a time of blessing. While rejoicing in this growth all around, I am aware that Earth still groans in labor pains as the second reading states. Mother Earth has been hurt by our misuse of her gifts. I ask myself what I can do to mend any of the hurts I/we have caused.

I am part of this planet Earth. How have I used the gifts God has given me? In spite of the possible misuse of gifts, God continues to bless us in the good times and the hard times. God is with us when we experience inner storms. God is with us when the “seeds” of goodness we try to plant miss the mark or fall on hardened hearts. This Sunday’s readings provide us with the reminder that Christ is the real “sower” of seeds. God is the real source of the grace we experience, the richness in our lives.

Prayer
Good and gracious God, I thank you for the reminders in nature of your constant, watchful care. Help me to hear the groans of creation and find ways that I can respond. I ask for the grace to be open to receive the seeds of goodness that you want to plant in me, in us and in our world. May your word fall on “good ground”, on open minds and hearts. Let us be people who trust in you during the good times and hard times. With gratitude for all your gifts I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Barb Piller, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg