God's Gifts Change Everything

By Sabrina Rhodes

Earlier this year, I attended a silent retreat focused on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.  The Lord gave me many treasures that weekend, all of which have changed my life significantly. One of these pivotal graces was the true understanding that everything is a gift. And I don’t mean that lightly. I mean EVERYTHING. Every cent in my bank account, my job, my shelter, my car, my material belongings, my physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological attributes, my knowledge, my skills and talents, my friends, my family, my opportunities, my past, my present, my future, my challenges, and my suffering. Every breath, every second, every molecule of everything surrounding me and dwelling as a part of me. Not to mention all the gifts of the faith like the sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! It overwhelms me to think about. Once this notion sunk in, I surrendered pride completely.

For me to believe that something was solely due to my action, my responsibility, my performance, was a deceptive lie fed to me by the evil one.  I accepted this lie because it was much more comfortable to believe I had some control over my life. It was easier to hold onto my own contributions, rather than admitting they are miniscule and that nothing is solely mine. NOT A THING. Of myself, I am nothing.  But through God, I am made worthy. I am equipped. And what a relief this has brought me! Nothing is up to me. It’s all in His hands. Praise God, I don’t have to worry, ever. I simply have to trust, love, surrender, listen, and follow. There is exisquite freedom in this. My job is simple (yet somehow so difficult at times!)-I love Him, I trust Him, I give my life to Him, and I follow Him. He does the rest.

The Lord has also shown me that He has entrusted me with these gifts, not only for my good, but also to share Him and His love with others. That’s incredible. He chose me, He trusts me, He knows me better than I know myself because He created me and fashioned me through His great design.

He also reminded me that to use His gifts for His glory and not mine, in the way He designed, I must consistently go back to Him, to ask Him for direction. How to use His money. How to use His time. How to use the talents and skills He’s given me. How to use the opportunities. This is a daily challenge.

That snowy, January retreat weekend, I repented both pride and ungratefulness and am more aware of these pesky sins popping up now that I recognize them more fully. Sometimes I fall back into an old way of thinking and forget to ask Him for guidance. Or I forget to thank Him for even the most mundane things. Or to thank Him for challenges and for suffering and pain. I forget they too are a gift, when given to Him. I also tend to forget that my life is not just happening because of what I do every day or because of the choices I make.  Even this is a grace, a gift. He helps me remember. He nudges. He reminds. And I ask, repeatedly, for more humility. More understanding. To keep moving His truth into my heart.

My life has been pure joy once I understood that suffering is a gift. That it bears immeasurable fruit, that it shapes me into a holier person, that it brings me closer to God. What more could I want than to be closer to my Lord, my Creator, the one whom IS love? I’m not saying I constantly ask for suffering. But sometimes, I’ll admit, I do. I let Him know that I accept any suffering He allows, for His greater glory, to lead to His will and to His plan for my life. From these crosses, He creates the most beautiful things. Nothing is wasted. In the end, if I reject this, reject Him, I am creating my own suffering through a broken relationship with my God. There is no suffering that compares. Nothing more unbearable. The fact that I comprehend this is an extraordinary gift.


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Jesus is Our Master Surgeon

By Sabrina Rhodes (and the Holy Spirit)

“Great love takes great risk.” “You have to hurt to heal.” These are the words that keep coming to my mind in adoration over the last few days, over and over, the Lord is placing these thoughts on my heart, interweaving them in my subconscious, ensuring that I GET IT. Love is not fear, worrying about rejection, walking on eggshells, self-seeking in hopes that expectations, hopes, or dreams are met.  Love is so much more than that. It runs free.

Think of God’s love for us. Unconditional. Boundaryless. Eternal. This is the love we are called to. How we should receive and how we should give. I should not love because I expect something or want something from the other. I should love because it’s who I am.  It’s who I’m called to be.

So many things can get in the way. Past experiences. Trauma. Fear. The evil one. Feelings of unworthiness. Not understanding our identity in Christ. Lack of faith or trust. Lack of role models. The list is endless. We are broken. Imperfect. Sinners.

But there is One who can fix us so we can receive the love we seek and give love the way it was intended. The One who can transform us back to our original design. The One who can make us new.

As I pondered this in adoration, I was sent an amazing vision and inspired to capture this message. I saw a bleeding wound, on a knee, and was led to think about how this injury might hurt during the healing process. It may scab up and sometimes the scab may crack and cause pain or start to bleed again. The wound might cause a limp or a hobble and walking on it might cause pain. But eventually the skin regrows and the old, dried blood flakes away. There may be a scar, but it no longer hurts and you can walk perfectly again, without pain.

Jesus is our master surgeon. He knows just what incisions to make, just what wounds to touch, and which sore spots to look after and tend to (but not jab!), because those spots need more time, patience, and tender care. He knows the diagnosis and what we need to do to aid our healing, guided by His divine direction. He prescribes to us medicine in soft, gentle whispers, in the stillness of silence when we come to Him. He writes the prescription on our heart, in case we forget or refuse to ask. He might even send the Holy Spirit to speak words, through others, so we hear if we are too busy, or too stubborn, to break away from the noise of the world.

Jesus is our doctor, our nurse, our surgeon, and the loving family member that sits by our bedside as we recuperate. Watching us sleep. Hoping to catch us as we drift in and out. Holding our hand. Whispering words of affection. He coddles us, cradles us, and rocks us to sleep. Everything He does is in love. Nothing forced. Nothing overriding our own exertion of will. He works best when we completely surrender to Him, open up and say, “Yes, Lord. Take my life, my will, do what YOU WILL.” Through this surrender, the Lord performs His miracles on us. Fixes things we didn’t know were broken. Works in spots we didn’t know existed. If we flinch from the pain and turn away from Him, He waits. Soothes us. Tells us it’s going to be OK. Reminds us of His love, so we feel safe to turn back towards Him again and He can continue His work.

Sometimes it’s just a Band-Aid and a kiss. Or He might have to reset something that’s broken. Sometimes it's even more drastic, like a heart or brain transplant. But all along, He does it with perfect love, perfect care, using a method that is flawlessly suited, and producing an outcome that has been heavenly designed for each of us.