How will you live? Who will you serve?

Who do you serve? Karen May, Amayzing Graces

When Moses approaches Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites freedom, his request is simple.

Let them go to serve their God.

Pharaoh responds that the Israelites need to serve him, and the battle for control begins.

Serve. It’s the same demand from each master, but very different realities. Serving Pharaoh means harsh, demanding work in poor conditions. Serving Pharaoh as a slave means you have no control over your life, your choices, or your future.

Serving God is another thing altogether. Yes, God is demanding, but in a much different way. God wants us to be free to serve through our own free will. He demands that we give ourselves entirely so that we can live fully in the way we are meant to live. When we place our lives in God’s hands, we become more free not less. We are freed from fear, from the control of sin, from the power of temptation. Instead, we are given peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and so much more.

It’s a question that seems to keep coming up in my life.

Who do you serve? God or Pharoah? Sin or grace? Yourself or Your Maker? Fear or faith? Sometimes we forget that it is our choice to make.

Time to choose.

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Finding the life-giving well

When I read this, I knew I had to share it with you. It’s a wonderful exploration of God’s will in things that don’t feel like God could will them.

“My greatest teachers about the will of God were the women I encountered on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Their context was urban poverty; their lives much sinned against. When their children died, and many children died, it was often called God’s will or God’s punishment. 

One night we reflected on that reality in the family catechetical program. The discussion began to focus on how God’s will is not that people be oppressed. Everything we see through Jesus is the proclamation of life and abundance. 

So it was that the mothers concluded that their children’ deaths were the will, not of God, but of bad water. A great deal of what happens in human life is contrary to the will of God. 

What God wills and calls us to is a continual emergence from the tomb. To translate these lessons from Lima to my own life continues to be a process of conversion. It is the will of God that I engage in that process, name the bad water in my life for what it is and through my actions find a new, life-giving well.”

Theresa Rhodes McGee

In this Easter season, we are living in the light of the empty tomb, but darkness is still present. Can you see the bad water in your life? Name it, and look for the life-giving well God has for you.

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Look to Mary

Month of Mary, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

May is traditionally known in the Catholic faith as the month of Mary. In this month we celebrate the woman who was chosen to bring the Son of God into the world. She has only a few passages related to her in the Bible, but in each one, we are given an example of how to live a life filled with grace and dedicated to the will of God.

To start, she agrees to one of the most overwhelming and intimidating requests I can think of without much information at all. She’s asked to bear and raise the Son of God. It’s intimidating enough to raise a child who only thinks they’re divine, much less one who actually is. Mary agrees to the plan without hesitation. I love her response: “I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

She lives to serve God. She knows without doubt that God’s plan is worth following, no matter the cost. I would love to have such confidence and peace. I fight God’s plan all the time. I hear a calling and I question it. I wrestle with my insecurities and my need to know the whole plan before I start something. I grow frustrated when it is difficult and doesn’t go as quickly or as smoothly as I would like. Those are the times I should look to Mary and remember. 

“I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

“Let it be done unto me, according to your will.”

She is the OG of Let Go and Let God.

Then, she heads over to Elizabeth to help in her pregnancy. The first response to being filled with the Holy Spirit and Jesus is to serve others. As she walks in, Elizabeth knows. Isn’t that how it should be with us? When we walk in the door, people should see Jesus within us. We should shine with His joy, love, and peace. We can only do that if we allow ourselves to be filled with his Spirit.  How do we do that? Back to the first example – just say yes. Listen for and follow God’s will for you.

There are several more – the nativity, Jesus’ dedication in the temple, and even losing the Son of God for three days. I have to say, I’d be a little nervous about the punishment for that one. Each time we see Mary in the Gospels, we are given a glimpse into a life of great faith. See what you can find in each one.

If all of this is a little new to you and you’re not sure what to do with Mary, you are not alone. As a spiritual director, I have many people who struggle with Mary’s role in their faith. Most of the questions have the same basis: “Why do I have to go through Mary to get to Jesus?” As with most struggles in faith, the question is coming from the wrong direction. 

Mary isn’t the gatekeeper to Jesus. She is a gift that we have been given. She is a mother who loves her Son. Wouldn’t you like her to tell you about Him? She taught Jesus as a child. She can teach us if we want her to. She was so close to God’s heart that He chose her to carry the Savior of the world. Wouldn’t you want her to pray for you?

This month, look to Mary as an example of faith when you need a little encouragement. Ask her to help you say yes to God. Ask her to pray for Jesus to fill your spirit and shine brightly through you. From what I’ve seen, she’ll be happy to help.

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Rising to New Life

Fifty Days of Easter, Guide to a New Life in Christ, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

I remember standing at the door with my infant daughter as my mother, who had been with me for a week, left to return home. My husband was back at work, and everyone was returning to their normal lives and mine was anything but. I had never been a mother before, and there were no manuals, Instagram feeds, or blog posts to follow. Even if there had been, I’m sure I would never have felt like I could measure up. I had no idea how I was supposed to handle this new life I held in my arms nor what my own life would look like either.

I started slowly, carefully, and I gradually realized that I was more capable than I thought. I could take care of her basic needs, enjoy my time with her, and this new life I was living was filled with moments of wonder, joy, and adventure. There were also plenty of times filled with stress, worry, and exhaustion, but those were only temporary.

I think of this time as we begin the season of Easter. It’s so tempting to let the story end on Easter Sunday and move back into our normal lives. Lent is finished, candy and coffee are back in our diets, and Jesus is Risen. Hallelujah.

Think about it. The story doesn’t end there. It’s just beginning. Jesus rises and stays for forty days to help His followers understand what just happened. He leads them through the scriptures, and helps them to see how their lives are going to change. Fifty days after the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they step into the new life they have been given. There are moments of wonder, joy, and adventure, and plenty of difficulties. In the end, the difficulties are only temporary and filled with grace that turns them into blessings.

It’s not so different with us. If we have really encountered Christ, we will be changed. Our lives will be different. It can be overwhelming. It can be frightening. It can be confusing. As we celebrate the fifty days of the Easter season, we will see how the apostles lived a life filled with the Holy Spirit as the readings for each day go through the Acts of the Apostles. We will see how they took on challenges and reached out to the world. We will see how God guided them, corrected them, and protected them.

We are headed to Pentecost. Read along and prepare yourself for the life Jesus has for you. Lent is a season of sacrifice and penance. This is a season of joy and grace. Don’t miss out on it.

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How do we become an Easter people?

Have you been transformed? Reflecting on Lent, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

At the beginning of Lent, I asked you what your Lenten practices were preparing you for. We have made it through the Last Supper, Jesus’ crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Easter, and today we arrive on Easter Monday. The tomb is empty, the price of sin has been paid, death has been overcome, and Jesus has risen to new life. Have we? 

I had a couple Lenten practices that went out the window in the first two days of Lent. I was really trying and utterly failing. Something got in the way of my practice every day for three weeks. God was making it clear that He had other plans for me. I had other things to work on.

“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This Lent I learned, yet again, that I need to be more attentive to God’s leadings, and I’ve learned to trust God more when I actually follow those leadings. It’s funny and a little frustrating how often I need to be reminded of these things. 

I’m going into the Easter season ready to listen and watch for the way I am to go. I have seen what happens when I don’t. Fortunately, the Easter season has just begun. 

I’d love to hear about your Lent. Did it go the way you thought it would? How has your Lent been transformed in Easter?

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True Story

Easter Sunday, I know this to be true, Karen May, Amayzing Graces, Walking Through Holy Week

Now, if you were telling the story of your involvement in a major event, you might tell your friends about the things you did wrong or the ways that you misinterpreted what was going on, but you would never share that part of the story as a part of your sales pitch to the rest of the world. However, we often see the disciples of Jesus in an unflattering light. This most significant of moments is no exception.

Surprisingly, [on the day of the Resurrection] Mary Magdala is the first one to the tomb, not one of the Apostles. Not only that, she’s a woman who used to have seven demons – not quite the highest level of society in this one. Then, [in John 20:1-9] they admit that Mary of Magdala has no idea what happened. The Gospels mention several times when Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection, and even as it happens, they miss it. Shortly afterward, the two disciples run to the tomb. One is too frightened even to enter, and only goes in after Peter shows up. Finally, they believe that Jesus has risen, but admit that they still do not understand what is going on. If they are trying to set themselves up as experts in their field, none of this is helping their case.

This is one of the reasons that the Gospels are given such credibility. So often we read the Bible as high literature, giving it an aura that covers what we are reading with a holy glow. Without denying that this is the Word of God, it is helpful to remove that glow and look to see the human side of the writers. Imagine that you had been a part of this incredible event. How would you explain it to people? How could you possibly tell the story? The best way is to tell it the way that it happened.

(Excerpted from Walking Through Holy Week)

Happy Easter everyone!

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We wait in joyful anticipation…

Holy Saturday, Waiting on a Promise, Walking Through Holy Week, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

When I was a child, one of the best parts of Christmas was going to sleep on Christmas Eve. The anticipation of Santa’s arrival was almost more than I could bear. I just knew that in the morning, there would be cookie crumbs on the plate, a half-drunk glass of milk, and presents spilling out from under the tree for my three siblings and me. The waiting was hard, but it was worth it. I would struggle through the excitement to go to sleep because if I didn’t sleep, Santa couldn’t come.

As an adult, Holy Saturday holds a similar appeal for me. As we begin in darkness and sorrow, I know that a glorious moment is coming soon. When I have been able to place myself fully in the celebrations of the previous week, the anticipation of the return of the light is almost more than I can take. I am ready for this heaviness to be lifted. I am ready for this weight to be given purpose and meaning. I hope you are, too.

(Excerpted from Walking Through Holy Week)

Get your copy on Amazon and discover the treasures just waiting to be found as we start our journey to Easter.  

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Good Friday – who’s running this show?

[As we read the story of Good Friday in John 18:1-19-42], let me remind you that everything today seems to be backwards. Look for these moments and more as you read:

  1. Four hundred soldiers come to arrest one person, Jesus. Jesus is innocent of anything, by the way.
  2. As they ask for Jesus, he answers, “I AM,” and they fall down in fear rather than Jesus being afraid of them.
  3. The high priests bring Jesus to Pontius Pilate and say that He needs to be crucified because He is a criminal even though the charges they bring are false. Who are the ones doing the wrong thing here?
  4. Pilate tells the crowd that Jesus is innocent, and they react by demanding His crucifixion.
  5. Pilate tells Jesus that he is in control and that he can release Jesus if he wants. When Pilate tries to release Him, what happens? Is Pilate really in control?
  6. A judge delivers a verdict to the accused from the judge’s bench, dictating who is innocent and may go free, and who is guilty and must be punished. Pilate sits Jesus in the judge’s bench and declares Jesus king of the Jews, but the punishment is death. Who is the true judge? If Jesus is the judge, who is guilty? Who is the punishment for?

The truth of who Jesus is and what He is doing is so intermingled with the truth of our sin and our separation from God, that it was lost at the time. It’s not so different now, even when we know the story. We can get turned around and lost in our sin and see the good being offered as something bad to be avoided. May this Gospel help to open our eyes to the truth. 

(Excerpted from Walking Through Holy Week)

Get your copy on Amazon and discover the treasures just waiting to be found as we start our journey to Easter. 

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Come to the garden with me

Holy Thursday, Come to the Garden, Walking Through Holy Week, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Every year [on Holy Thursday], my family and I enter [adoration] and pray for a while after the main service has ended. Sitting with Jesus in His agony is a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. However, this year for the first time, I came back at the end to spend time with Jesus before He left the garden. It is a very different moment from the beginning.

At the beginning, Jesus is begging God to take this cup of suffering away. There is fear, sadness, and loss filling the moment. He asks three times, “Please take this cup away from me.” Three times, the answer is “No.”

In the end, Jesus answers, “Thy will be done.” He knows that God’s will is for this sacrifice to be seen through to the very end. It is at this moment that Jesus stands up and leaves the garden in complete control and peace. He could run. He could hide. Instead, Jesus walks to the garden where his arrest is imminent. On the way, he approaches Peter, James, and John, who are sleeping under the tree, and says, “Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

Being present at the end of this time of adoration, I could see the strength of Jesus as He leaves the garden. From here on out, He is in complete control. This cup will not pass. He will make sure of it. I fell to my knees in awe.

(Excerpted from Walking Through Holy Week)

Get your copy on Amazon and discover the treasures just waiting to be found as we start our journey to Easter.  

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Is Lent over? Can I drink my coffee again?

The end of Lent, Karen May, Amayzing Graces, Walking Through Holy Week

Holy Thursday has long been a day of debate in our family. Officially, Lent is over, and we move into what is called the Triduum. At issue is whether chocolate, coffee, Netflix, or whatever else has been given up for the last forty days is available for guilt-free consumption. Some say that Lent is over, so there is no more need to wait. Others in the family say that Lent may be over, but Easter hasn’t arrived, so the waiting should and must continue. Even the priests we ask to help us solve our dilemma step clear of the quagmire and tell us to follow our consciences. I’m sure there will be another round of accusatory glances this year as some in the family trot out their treats before the Easter bunny has had a chance to deliver them.

(Excerpted from Walking Through Holy Week)

I love to hear from you. When do you indulge in the things you’ve done without for Lent?

Get your copy of Walking Through Holy Week on Amazon and discover the treasures just waiting to be found as we start our journey to Easter.

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