Faith is not Feelings

Yesterday I read the quote,

“It wasn’t nails that held Jesus to the cross but love.”

The truth is: God loves you with an infinite love. He died for you. He died for you. Let me repeat that: God died for you.

Most days the truth is hard to swallow. We may strive in our hearts to believe the truth of the Gospels, yet a lot of the time you may feel nothing. 

It’s ok to not feel a flutter in your chest when you contemplate the love of God.

You do not have to feel in order to believe.

What matters is constant perseverance.

Repeat to yourself the truths that will set you free.

Jesus died for me.

God loves.

I trust in Him.

I will not be afraid.

I will persevere.

I will never give up.

No matter what lies attack you on a daily basis, we must continue to call upon the truth even if it if they feel fake.

I want to remind you today just how much God loves you. It is so great that it is incomprehensible.

Feelings do not equal faith.

Faith is greater than your feelings.

Faith is freedom.

 

 

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Rewind Kind of Mind

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.

-St. Mother Teresa.

Lately, a lot of my posts have focused on not allowing the past to impact your future. The idea of letting go and moving on is so fascinating mostly because it is so difficult. 

 

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Recently, I just took one of the biggest tests in my medical school career.

9 hours and 400 questions later I walked out of the testing center feeling like I had been wandering through a desert. I was super thirsty because I was dehydrating myself (barely any pee breaks). I was hungry. My eye sight was all blurry from staring at a bright screen all day. Most of all….I felt lost.

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My mind started doing that rewind thing it likes to do. A feature that I am sure many of you can resonate with.

What was that question again? *Quickly Googles topic and face palms*

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Right. Wrong. 

My rewind mind took over and I started googling my little heart out…only to be hit a whole lot of wrong choices.

DANG IT. DANG IT. DANG IT.

So naturally I started mentally screaming at myself.

“Why did you pick that you KNEW that was wrong….gosh come on you just reviewed that…..WHY…”

The test was over but my mind and body had not realized it. I was struggling so hard to break the vicious cycle that my rewind mind was salivating towards.

Just look up onnnnne more. Come on

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In that moment there is a choice, a choice that I am still working on, to allow yesterday to not stay in yesterday and to begin to live in the present.

I read a quote from St. Faustina this morning that talked about her desire to live in present. In the present moment that is where we find God. It seems like common sense to recognize that we cannot change our past nor control every aspect of our future. Yet, the human condition makes it appear that we can. This is a daily choice we must strive to make.

It is time to not turn back the clock.

Friends, I encourage you today to live out the quote St. Teresa once said. Yesterday is gone. GONE. Tomorrow has yet to come. We have ONLY TODAY.

 

It is time for you to begin. 

 

He will take care of it.

Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62

 

Choices are a part of life. They can free us or they can enslave us. Choices can bring us peace or anxiety. What we choose ends up shaping our mind and hearts. Our habits are formed by our minute by minute choices.

At first this seems pretty frightening.

We often ask ourselves, “Why can’t I change my choices, why am I so stuck.?”

The beauty of Christianity rests in the mercy of Jesus Christ.

His mercy overcomes our past choices and allows us to put our hand to the plow and never look back.

Life is very good at making us turn around.

We check everything…. think over all our past mistakes….ruminate on our interior struggles….

Christ tells us that we cannot be fit for the Kingdom of God if we look back, because through this decision we are allowing the fear to become our focus.

By focusing on fear we are paralyzing ourselves. Our God-given gifts cannot be utilized. Instead of doing good we become idle.

If we are to be fit for the Kingdom, we must trust that by focusing on Christ everything will be taken care of.

By no means is this an easy task, but it is a necessary one, if we are to grow closer to holiness.

I encourage you to set your hands on the plow today.

Whatever the plow is for you.

It may be your responsibility as a father or mother, a student, a member of the military, a  priest, a teacher; whatever it is…

Fulfill your obligations with love.

Grip the plow tight until your knuckles turn white.

Strive to glorify God through every minute of your life.

When you feel the temptation to look back in any form.

Move forward and trust that Christ will take care of it.

Because He will.

He will.

He will.

He will.

I am going to keep repeating it until it breaks through the barriers we have set up in our minds.

If we have confidence in Christ miracles will happen. 

If we trust in Christ our lives, though difficult, will have an interior peace. 

If we keep our hands on the plow, we will bring the light of Christ to a very dim world. 

 

Surrounded by Darkness

When I was young, my brothers, sister, and I would use our snow days to build snow tunnels.

My dad would get all the snow piled up along the sides of the driveway and we would start digging at one end. We would take turns getting deeper and deeper into the tunnel. We would use little hand shovels and other times we would use or feet to try to kick our way through.

This would take all day long.

I can remember being in the tunnel. Dark, cold, and jammed against the walls. I could barely do anything but slightly move my arm to clear away some snow. Inch by inch we would chip away doing all we could to reach the other end.

The picture is so clear to me. When after hours and hours of work. I would scrape away some snow with my gloved hands, and see a small beam of light. I would dig faster and faster and eventually I would squeeze my body through and make it to the other side.

Then I would go inside and have some hot chocolate. Celebrate the victory.

As I reflect on this I recognize that for most of the tunnel building process, I was surrounded by darkness. All I could do was continue to do what was necessary to finish my mission.

Maybe this is where you are at today?

Life feels hopeless. You feel like you are not making any progress forward. You feel weak. You feel like the tunnel is too long and you are not going to have the strength to continue.

It is okay to have those feelings. It is okay to be upset with where you are at and how little you feel like you are moving forward. It is okay. It is actually quite human.

But I encourage you today to focus on the goal you have. The goal that you are chipping away with day by day.

Focus on a goal, that feeds you with hope.

Hope in God’s plan for your life.

Hope in yourself.

Hope in the impact you will make.

Friend, if today you are surrounded by darkness. If you feel the walls of the tunnel falling in on you. I beg you to keep digging. Even if it is only with a tiny motion of your hand.

I promise you, the light will break through.

And in that moment, there will be no need for hope.

Only thanksgiving.

 

 

5 Things Changing My Life

I wanted to talk today about a few things I have started doing that are changing my life for the better.

1.The Practice of the Presence of God

This is based off of the work by Brother Lawrence. Basically, I have constantly been reminding myself in the present moment that God is with me right now. RIGHT HERE AND NOW. All so often we live in the past or the future. Many saints describe this and talk to us about the very fact that God’s grace does not cover our “imagined future” that is why it seems so scary!

My favorite quote:

St. Augustine said,

“Trust the Past to God’s mercy, the present to His Love, and the future to His Providence.”

 

2.Inner Mortification

When people talk about mortification they focus on fasting. However, inner mortification can be very powerful in drawing you closer to the will of God. Basically, I have been focusing on imaginal/memory mortification. What this means is when you catch yourself day dreaming or making up scenarios in your head you recognize it and stop yourself. Stop yourself before you get stuck in your own mental hole. This could be about something stressful like a test at school. When you notice yourself getting lost in doubt and confusion, stop, take a breath, and refocus on living in the present moment with God. You can also do mortification with memory. Many people have a past that is filled with fears and sadness. When you catch yourself living that moment over again and again, recognize it, give it to Jesus, and refocus on what you are to be doing in this moment.

3.Morning Prayer

Wake up. Stretch for a second. And then get down on your knees in front of a picture of Christ you admire. Open the Bible up. Pray the Jesus Prayer. Simply talk to your Father. Ask for guidance, protection, courage, trust, all throughout the day. I can assure you even a brief 10 minutes will change you forever. When you feel bored, when you feel like your prayer is futile, stay there longer. Pray even harder.

4. No Phone till later

Don’t touch your phone in the morning. Pray. Shower. Get dressed. Each breakfast with no external stimuli. Sip your coffee with God by your side. We are so prone to distracting ourselves constantly. We are prisoners of our own minds. Use your morning as a foundation for the rest of your day.

5. Notice Sorrow and Smile

When you catch yourself obsessed with the negatives, recognize it. Don’t get upset about it. Then smile. Think of the positives in the moment. Think of what you are grateful for. Think of how you can serve God in the moment. Think of those you love. Think about how you can be a light instead of a darkness for the world. Do this every single time. Every time. Flood your mind with the thoughts of God. This is a major component in your spiritual battle. The enemy wants nothing more than to discourage you on your walk with God.

Try these 5 out over the next few weeks and let me know how it works out for you. I have a feeling, actually I know, God will send you a wave of peace and security. Love you all.

Before the Suicide Note is Written

Over the last few months, news of suicide has been aired all over the media.

Prominent people who seemed to have very content and happy lives chose to take their own life.

Suicide continues to be discussed because it so hard to understand: for those who have never had suicidal thoughts/feelings.

Mental illness can be equated to getting a bad injury.

Lets say a broken arm for example.

You’ve never broken your arm. You’ve never not been able to use your arm. So when you see someone with a broken arm you can only imagine what they are going through. You can imagine how difficult it is to get up in the morning. You can imagine how hard it is to get dressed. You can think about how painful it is to break a bone. But all in all. You can never feel what they are feeling unless you experience it first hand.

You may have broken a finger and try to empathize, but most of the time it does not do justice to the other’s problem.

Whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, bulimia, anorexia etc. one can never know the full extent of the mental anguish. You may try to remember a time you were very sad, and believe this is exactly what depression is like. You may have moments of tidiness and assume this is how someone struggling with OCD feels. With mental illness, this is very difficult to do and more often than not perpetuates false stereotypes (such as OCD only being about cleanliness).

People say mental illness is invisible. It is so difficult to treat because unlike a broken arm, the public cannot see it.

I contest this statement.  

It is visible. Very. If we are paying attention.

For example. If my brother had a rough day at school. He may get into the car and be less talkative. He may turn up the radio a little bit. He might avoid a lot of eye contact. He may not eat as much dinner.

I notice this because I know my brother. I know how he acts during a normal day. I notice this because I am not focused solely on myself. If my brother walked into the car and I was blaring the radio and not connecting with him, I may never know how he feels. The more I think about myself, the less I would think about my brother.

Therefore, I would take action. I would ask him what happened. I could ask him why he does not seem like himself. Did he fail a test? Did a friend say something mean to him? Was he just tired? I could explain what I noticed and look for a solution.

I understand that with mental illness sometimes it may be a snap of the finger moment. An individual with depression or bipolar disorder may become depressed very rapidly which would prevent a friendly ear from seeing the signs.

However, I believe this is the minority.

Mental illness shows its face. It is subtle, but visible. We must be on the watch.

I write today to urge you to take action before the suicide note is written. Ask a friend why they seem so down lately. Get lunch with a friend that seemed really anxious all week.

Listen. Listen. Listen. 

We as a species are very astute when it comes to noticing an abnormality. As a kid I am sure you played those games where you had to spot the difference between two pictures. One picture had a flower pot with two flowers the other a flower pot with three. We have been trained to notice differences. If you could identity it in a game as a child you can identify it now in the people in your life.

Love. Love. Love. 

Deny yourself and take time out of your day to love others. Did your friend seem a little sad? Go hang out with them and get ice cream. The minute your mind starts saying things like, “They are okay, I have a lot to do etc..” stop it. Even if nothing is wrong do you think your kind act won’t be noticed? How do you know it will not have a long term impact? You don’t. 

Educate Yourself. 

Read up on mental illness to dissolve your stereotypes. Do you know the signs and symptoms of depression? Do you know the different types of depression? Do you know the differences between all the eating disorders? Do you know that OCD may have absolutely nothing to do with germs and neatness? The more you educate yourself the more capable you will be to notice problems, take action, and recommend counseling.

Before the suicide note is written, we all have a responsibility to…

Listen intently.

Love whole-heartedly.

Educate Ourselves and Others.

Through our actions, I pray at least one less suicide note will be written. 

Praise through Pain

I was sitting in Church today.

Before Mass started I decided to say a quick prayer.

“God, please allow this to be the best Mass of my life. Help me to let go and just dive deep into Your love. Let me be present. Let me feel Your presence. Fill me with courage.”

And naturally, two minutes in my mind started buzzing.

But, this time it was different.

This time it was worse. Much worse. 

Distressing thoughts were filling my head. I felt fear and anger inside of me. I was anxious. I was uncomfortable. Frankly, I felt like a bad person.

This was of no shock to me. Why?

Because I called out to God and evil tried to do all it could to prevent courage. 

I’m sure you have noticed this in your own life. The moment you strive for something good, the world tries to side track you. Evil tries to distract you.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the presence of evil in the world around me. In every situation I have started to ask myself, “Is this fear/doubt/distress/thought bringing me away from God?”

The world is full of trash that the devil places within our neurotransmitters.

Yes, the devil. Denying the devil’s existence does nothing more than give him fuel.

So, lately I’ve been calling the devil out.

I forget which saint said it but I enjoy the quote that goes something like this,  “The only person you can tell to go to hell is the devil.” So yeah, tell the devil to go to hell and scram.

I fought my flesh for the rest of the Mass. Second by second shifting my focus on the Lord not my mind. Rumination does nothing for the soul.

The minute I went up to receive the Eucharist. Everything changed.

I had a simple yet powerful realization.

I asked myself, “Why do I always feel like I am not doing enough?”

The answer I heard was: This is not Heaven. 

I then asked, “Well, how can I make this Heaven?”

The answer I heard was: 1. Receive Him in Communion 2. Praise the Lord Always

Simple yet it knocked the wind out of me and filled me with joy.

Is that not what Heaven is?

Praising God, loving God, and Him loving us FOR ETERNITY. 

Why not bring that here right now?

Bring Heaven to earth.

But how?

Praise Jesus Now and Forever.

Praise Jesus in every single moment.

Praise Jesus when you are anxious.

Praise Jesus when you are filled with joy.

Praise, and Praise, and more praise.

All in all, it was the best Mass of my life.

Because I received the body of my Lord and Savior and praised Him through the pain.

Friends, I encourage you to act as though you are in Heaven.

Filled with nothing but the love of God. 

You Are Sinking

The boat you are on is getting heavy.

Each of your worries materializes into a brick with a label.

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A few bricks say “Failure.” Whenever you stare at them you see your future self in tears.

Some say “Uncertainty.” When you see these bricks butterflies explode from your chest.

Some say “Doubt.” The more you stare at these bricks the more “Doubt” bricks get added.

At this point, the water is rising over the boat.

There is too much weight.

You need to make a choice.

You can either go down with the boat OR

Start chucking the bricks overboard.

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In a last ditch effort, you pick up a brick.

This one is labeled, “October 2014. 60 on your Genetics test.”

Gone. 

The splash seemed to consume it.

You reach for two more, each one is labeled, “1995-2018. You are not good enough.”

SPLASH. 

Your arms feel stronger now.

With each brick you throw overboard your biceps grow.

You start throwing bricks overboard like fish food.

The boat begins to rise.

_____________________________________________________________

Friends, stop sinking your boat.

Gosh, I know how difficult it is to let go.

To toss the worries out to the waves.

But you must, in order to save yourself.

By tossing the pain overboard, you will be able to sail ahead and continue on your journey.

Know, that you have a choice. Every. Single. Day.

It is not hopeless. Hope lives in you. Hope is your heartbeat. Hope is your sweat as you lift those bricks.

Hope will never let you sink. 

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God told me I was His branch

Before Church yesterday, I saw my Bible chilling on my desk.

I had not touched it in over a week.

Before I opened it, I prayed that a verse would strike my heart.

Immediately, a verse came into my head so I opened my Bible up enthusiastically.

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I was then disappointed because the verse really had nothing to do with my life. It was an OT passage discussing politics. Could not relate to it whatsoever.

After my disappointment, I continued to flip through the Bible and eventually my eyes were caught on John 15:1-8. 

BIBLE VERSE

I encourage you all to read it.

In this Bible passage Christ is explaining to the disciples that he is the vine and we as His followers are the branches. Those who detach themselves from Christ will die just like a branch detached from a vine. Christ explains that those who bear fruit will be pruned to bear more fruit.

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I was really drawn to the pruning part of this passage. For me this is exactly how the past year has felt.  In my undergrad years I thought I did a good job bearing some fruit; however, now it was through God’s love that he continued to trim me (LOTS of trimming) in order to do more of His will.

I reflected on it a bit and then didn’t think much of it as I shut my Bible. I then went about my day. A few hours later my friend texted me to see if I wanted to go to Church with him and his wife.

Why not? I was procrastinating anyway (he caught me midway through a youtube binge).

So, I went and right before the Mass started I had a thought.

“What if the verse I just read is the Gospel passage. That would be pretty crazy!”

I brushed it off and continued singing along to the songs and listening to the first 2 readings.

The priest then went up to the pulpit and sure enough, I heard a story about vines and branches.

And as the priest was finishing the Gospel, I heard the final words of John 15:

 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you”

At this point I was frozen. Was I crazy? Did I really think that thought at the start of Mass? Did I really read that exact verse hours before?

The doubts flooded in, as they do in this human condition.

Yet, peace consumed me. Because I knew God was speaking directly to my soul.

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God spoke to me and reminded me that I am attached to Him. I can bear no fruit, I cannot grow, I can do nothing unless I remember IN CHRIST ALONE I will grow.

We live in a culture so obsessed with control. We want to be our own branch. We want to shout to the world that we deserve this fruit.

We worked for this fruit! We earned it!

God reminded me yesterday that we are all His branches.

By accepting this we must allow God to do His will in our lives.

Whether that be to cut a few of our leaves off or not.

We must allow God to do this. To do everything necessary.

Friends, I encourage you today to reflect on the pruning that has occurred in your life.

How has God trimmed you up so you may bear more fruit?

When in your life have you tried to cut yourself off of God and be your own branch?

Are you so obsessed with bearing your own fruit that you forget only God can do this for you?

God told me I was a branch.

Not just a branch, His branch.

And my friend, so are you.

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Fastball to the Heart

Here is a poem I wrote about suffering, love, pain, and rejoicing.

I pray it resonates with you ❤

 

fastball.

i often pray

that God use me

as a window of His love

yet, whenever He tries to open me

and allow the fresh air to pour out

i choose to remain locked

so in order to answer my prayer

He allows a baseball

to soar right into my core

and shatter me

some are quick to hate God for this

angry at the broken glass

cursing the Windowmaker

but i can’t help but smile up to Heaven

thanking God for the fastball

right to the heart

because now the love is pouring out of me

and i have no lock to stop it.

-n.J.bellacicco

Instagram @n.j.bellacicco

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