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This blog is simply meant to bring God the glory; no more and no less. I'd love to hear from you! Comments, questions, conversation. rebecca.labriola@gmail.com

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Paradise. November 15, 2018.

It’s been a wild ride for California recently. 
Fires and shootings. 
It seems like this is some sort of new normal. 
We could spend all day arguing about the causes of these things. 
But let’s not. 

This set of fires hit close to home for me. 
My boyfriend lived in Paradise, CA for 5 months beginning around this time last year. 
It’s a funky little mountain town that I had never heard of prior to him being there. 
But we came to love that funky little mountain town. 

He was there for 5 months and I on some weekends. 
We explored as much as we could.
We dove into the history of this town. 
We drove up and down that mountain countless times. 

The mountain hasn’t moved.
But the town in pretty much gone. 
The fire ripped through the town at ungodly speeds.  

I wasn’t there. 
I’m not there. 
I didn’t experience anything that the Paradise residents did. 
But I’m definitely sad. 
It’s a strange feeling. 

I didn’t lose anything compared to those in Paradise. 
But it’s a sad thing to know that the cute little apartment that you spent Christmas in last year is burnt to ashes. 
I even made Christmas tree shaped pancakes for breakfast that day! 

Migrating down the state, closer to home, Agoura Hills. 
Paramount Ranch. 
It’s this historic site that makes you want to hop on a horse in appropriate old-time clothes. 
It was used in tons of movies and TV shows. 
And there’s a bluegrass festival held there every year that’s important to my boyfriend and I. 
It was burnt down. 
One day after Paradise was burnt down. 

It was a tough week. 
Weird feelings. 
And feelings that we felt we had no right to feel. 
Because again, what did we really lose compared to everyone else?

We have gone through pictures over the last few days. 
It’s terribly sad. 
Every place that we ate at, explored, went to - gone. 
Except a particular building in both spots. 

The church. 

There’s a Catholic Church in Paradise that I used to go to while my boyfriend was at work. 
Every building surrounding it was at minimum damaged but many were destroyed. 
The Church was not touched. 
Not in the least bit. 

Paramount Ranch. 
There’s a little white chapel. 
Untouched. 
But the rest of the ranch in unrecognizable. 

These pictures.
These miracles. 
I couldn’t help but think. 

Maybe it really is our faith, our God that is the only constant. 

I never guessed that little apartment would be gone. 
Or the places we used to eat or explore or play music would be ashes. 
But now they are.

I never thought that our God would leave. 
And He hasn’t. 
And He won’t. 

Not that a church building defines or equates God. 
But it certainly stands as a symbol and a miracle. 

It feels like our whole state is on fire. 
That everything around us is falling apart. 
And maybe so. 

But our God is here. 
He is unshakable, unwavering, unchanging. 

The world might fail or fall or go up in flames. 
But there is our God. 
A stable and constant source of love. 


He isn’t going anywhere. 


This is the church in Paradise. 


This is the chapel at Paramount Ranch. 


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Identity. Wednesday, October 5. 2016.

A few months ago I was at a concert.
There was an intermission.
I was sitting on a bench having a snack.
There was a lady with a young toddler on the bench next to me.

The little girl kept coming up to me.
She wanted to share her cracker
and just speak gibberish.

Then she would go back to her mom
and report all that had happened just two feet away.
This was repeated a number of times.

Only later did I realize the lady was the lead singer’s wife
and the little girl his daughter.

According to the world,
she is the daughter of the lead singer of a band.
But she’s too young to have any idea.
She operates on joy.

She teetered as she walked,
went on babbling,
and dropped her crackers everywhere.
Having no idea that thousands of people paid to come see her dad sing.

She doesn’t need to please anyone
or be anyone.
She doesn’t have to act a certain way
or say certain things.
She doesn’t have to become a lead singer
or be just like her dad.

She isn’t tainted by the world telling her who she should or shouldn’t be yet.
And there is beauty in that.

She is not defined by who the world says she is.
She is defined by her identity as a child of God.
No strings attached.
No worldly definitions.
No expectations.

She is just free to be herself.
Herself as a child of God.
 
What if we didn’t let the world define us?
What if we lived as children of God
instead of as CEOs
and singers
and doctors?

What if our identity came from Christ?
Instead of coming from who the world says we are?

Would be able to walk around carefree?
Knowing that we are His?
And that our worth comes from Him?

There’s a little girl out there who wants you to know
that there is freedom to be found in freeing ourselves from
who the world tells us we are supposed to be.
There’s a little girl out there who wants you to know
that your identity comes from the God who created you and who loves you.
 
Let’s go be that little girl today.
Let’s lose ourselves by finding ourselves as children of God.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Unknown. Saturday, April 23. 2016.

I think that one of our biggest fears is being unknown.
Not being known for anything.
Not being acknowledged.
No one at our funeral.

We desire to be known for something...for anything!
We want to be acknowledged.
We want an epic eulogy.

The Magnificat has a reflection on St. Nicarete.
She was a little-known saint who pledged her life to Christ by way of service to the poor.
When asked if she would lead other women, she declined.
She remained with the poor until her death even though it meant a tough life for her.
The prayer at the end of the reflection reads:

 “Loving Father, through the intercession of Saint Nicarete, teach me to love being unknown. May I serve behind the scenes with joy.”

I don’t know that I have read a prayer so beautiful,
yet so against our human nature.
In what world does the human not want to be known?
Not an earthly or human world, that’s for sure.
A world where we don’t crave being known by others would be a divine world.

If we are unknown by the world,
that does not diminish our worth.
 
See, the God who created us,
He has us engraved in the palm of His hand.
He knows the number of hairs on our heads.
He knows our fears, desires, weaknesses, prayers, cries, and joys.
He knows us on the deepest, most beautiful level imaginable.

I’m not known to the world.
But that has to be okay.

If we are known by the world,
what worth is that?
What merit is found there?
For these things of the world,
they pass away.

If we are known by Christ,
there all worth and merit is found.
So long as we are known by Him,
it matters not if the world knows us.

The reality is people will pass us by,
we won’t have a million followers on Instagram,
and people might make us feel unknown or unwanted. 
But among this reality is also this reality-
you are known,
you are wanted,
you are worth it,
and you are loved.

We might not be known to the world,
but know that we are known on the deepest, most intimate level
by a God who died to know you,
who prayers that you might know your worth.

 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter! 2016.


Alleluia! Happy Easter! What a joy to celebrate the risen Christ!  As we prepare to search for Easter eggs and spend time with family, let us take a moment to reflect on the joy of Easter and the invitation that it extends.

The joy of Easter is life; life in Christ Jesus. Three days prior, it seemed as though death was the victor. But that, my friends, is far from the truth. This truth this Easter, and always, is that Jesus Christ conquered death. He is the victor. He destroyed death so that we might have life. Life with Christ is a priceless gift that nothing in the world can compare to.   

The Gospel of John tells the story of the Resurrection of Jesus in this way: Mary of Magdala arrives at the tomb of Jesus and finds the tomb empty. She weeps out of sheer fear and confusion. She knows not what has happened to the body of her Lord. John continues, “She turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’” [John 20:14-15] We have the upper hand; we know the answers to these questions. We know what happens. We know that Christ has risen from the dead. Alleluia! But these questions, they still burn within our own hearts.

The question, “Whom are you looking for?” touches us to the core. We are always searching. Be it searching for Easter eggs, searching for joy, searching for truth, searching for a place where we belong. We are searchers; just like Mary of Magdala. Pope St. John Paul II gives us insight to our seeking, “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness”. Mary of Magdala was looking for someone. That someone was Jesus. We are searching just as earnestly. Might we too be searching for Jesus? Maybe without even knowing it?

Whether you found yourself here this Easter by choice or by chance, welcome! Your search may have come to fruition. Maybe you have found whom you have been looking for. It’s possible you have encountered the risen Christ on this glorious Easter. Praise God! Please consider staying awhile. Hopefully, you find your home sweet home within Christ Jesus. Please, come in. Welcome home! 
 
 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday.

Good Friday.
The day of Our Lord’s suffering, passion, and death.
There are not words enough to do justice to the pain and suffering and glory of this day.

Barabbas was chosen to be released over Christ.
This choice was so that the Lord’s will would be carried out.
And the passion of Christ begins.
Christ was chained to a post and scourged.
His body brutally beaten with cruel weapons.
Weapons that sliced His sacred skin.
Weapons that when thrown upon His body took a hold of His flesh
and ripped it off of His body.
And He went through this because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

A crown of thorns was placed upon His head.
Actually, people believe that it was more of a cap of thorns.
The 2 inch thorns were forced into the sacred head of Our Lord.
Blood ran down His face joining with the rest of the blood that covered His body.
And He tolerated this all because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

Jesus carried the cross to Golgotha.
The heavy physical burden.
The wood rubbing against Christ’s skin, irritating it even more.
The dirty wood shoving splinters through Christ’s bloody ripped skin.
He falls on the gravel three times.
The gravel pushing up through the gaping wounds all over His body.
The burden of the cross falling down with our blessed Lord.
He carried His cross all because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

When Jesus reached the place called Skull,
He was rudely placed upon the cross.
Nails that are thought to have been 7-9 inches long were hammered to Jesus’ feet and His hands,
just below the wrist.
A block of wood was fastened to the cross under Christ’s feet which left His knees slightly bent.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The nails driven through His hand and wrist area did not break a bone
but they are thought to have hit a major nerve that controlled movement
and feeling of the shoulders.
Because of the strain on the nerve,
Jesus lacked the ability to lift up His head to breathe.
To be able to breathe,
Christ had to put force on His feet that were nailed onto the block of wood
so that He could force the rest of His body up to breathe.
He went through this pain because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

The soldiers mocked Jesus and made fun of Him.
They told Him that He should save Himself.
And He could have.
He is God.
He can do anything.
But He chose to stay on the cross.
Obedience brought Him to the cross
It was love that kept Him there.
His love for YOU.
Love kept Him on the cross.
Staying on the cross showed extreme humility.
His love brought about humility.
He humbled Himself to death, even death on a cross because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals.
One on His right.
One on His left.
One criminal joined in with the soldiers in mocking Jesus.
The other one repented of His sins and asked for Christ’s forgiveness.
Confession.
Right there.
On the Cross.
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
He instituted the sacrament of confession and is gracious enough to forgive us of our sin because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

Mary standing at the foot of the cross.
Her pain inexpressible.
Her motherly desire to reach out and help her son was a desire like no other.
But She could do nothing.
It was in this moment that Her fiat was required to be a silent one.
Her yes had to be quiet.
She could only pray.
And then listen to Her son when He said,
“Woman, behold your son.”
He would not leave His mother alone.
He will not leave us alone simply because
HE.
LOVES.
YOU.

At about ,
The hour of mercy, in Jesus’ great pain and agony,
He cried out to His father,
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Jesus then proceeded knowing that His time was almost finished and said,
“I thirst.”
He was given some wine on a sprig of hyssop.
This completed the fourth cup of the Passover from the night before and Jesus said,
“It is finished.”
Thus, that line has many meanings.
The Passover was now finished.
Christ’s time on earth was almost finished.
The suffering on the cross was almost finished.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father into Your hands I commend My spirit.”
Jesus bowed His head and died.
The earth quaked and people came to believe.
“Truly this was the Son of God!”
“This man was innocent beyond doubt.”
This man was innocent.
Yet He was obedient to the point of death on a cross so that we might live.
Truly He loved us.
Truly He loves us.
And truly He always will.
He gave His life for us.
The least we can do is live our lives for Him because 
HE. 
LOVES.
YOU.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Psalm 51:12. Wednesday, March 9. 2016.

The “honeymoon phase” of relationships is so fun and so easy.
All the good feelings and emotions take precedence over any negative at all. 
But the reality is, that phase ends.
The good feelings and emotions neutralize,
we come back down to earth,
and reality sets in.

Sometimes the truth is,
the outline above describes our relationship with Christ.

We are so in love!
We can’t imagine life without Christ!
We won’t ever sin again!
Prayer is something we just can’t get enough of!
We can’t find enough ministries to belong to!
We can’t get through the Bible fast enough!
The Rosary seems like the best time of our day!
And, and, and.

And then
the “honeymoon phase” ends.
For whatever reason.
Reality.
Life.
Circumstances.
Emotions fade.
Feelings wane.
Time gets the best of us.

This is reality, unfortunately.

We go through these dry spells.
These times of questioning.
Of being captivated by the world.
The prayer that we once held so dear
is now a well run dry.

We might consider this shameful or embarrassing
but the thing is,
we are not alone in this.

See, the psalmist, David, felt these feelings too.
Thousands of year ago.
He wrote a Psalm about it.
Psalm 51.

“A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.”
Psalms 51:12

And thousands of year after David first expressed these feelings,
a modern Christian artist expressed the same feelings.

Jon Foreman wrote a song called White as Snow in which he sings:

“Would You create in me a clean heart, oh God.
Restore in me the joy of Your salvation.”

Both men crying out for forgiveness.
Asking if the Lord could possibly forgive their wandering,
their faulty choices,
their flighty emotions,
and make their hearts clean, once again.

Not only did they ask for a clean heart,
but they also asked that the Lord give them a reason to be joyful again.
A way to possibly extend that “honeymoon phase”.
Interestingly enough,
that requested joy had nothing to do with the things of the world.
Quite the opposite.

Lord, let us find joy in your salvation.

These men, realized that there was not joy to be found in the things of the world.
The true joy was to be found in salvation.
In the opportunity of eternal life with Christ
because He took on death so that we didn’t have to.

Brothers and sisters, you see, there is always joy to be found.
Even in the dark, dull moments of our faith.
Even in the doubt and questioning.
Even when our emotions decide to take off in another direction.

It isn’t necessarily easy to find that joy.
Maybe we aren’t really sure how to.
But we might be able to take some advice from some incredible Christians and simply pray:

“Would You create in me a clean heart, oh God.
Restore in me the joy of Your salvation.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rich. Monday, October 19. 2015.

Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Luke 12: 16-21

This Gospel reading from today was a somber reminder.
Of a couple of things.

In this parable,
God reminds the rich man that he is mortal.
He will die.
And in this case,
very soon.

We all know that we are mortal beings.
But sometimes life sweeps us up
and we forget that death is inevitable.
We like to think we are invincible.

The idea of death is a scary one,
so we put it on the back burner
and we go go go on with our lives.

And unfortunately,
all too often,
the way in which we go go go,
is much like the way of the rich man.

We live in a world where most of us have to work.
We need food.
We need clothes.
And we need money for those things.
And as a result,
we work our lives away.
Money and materials become our livelihood.

We are oh so rich in the world.
In things of this world.
And we are oh so poor in what is rich to Christ.

“You’re going to die tonight
and all that you’ve worked for won’t matter anymore.”

How blunt!
What a wakeup call.
What a reminder that working our lives away on the worldly things
is basically in vain.

We need to work on our souls.
We need to work on our hearts.
We need to work on our relationship with Christ.
Strengthen our weak points.
Seek healing for our souls.
Learn to love.
Seek Christ.
Put our stock in things not of this world.
It is there that our work will never be in vain.

Being rich in what matters to the Lord is a journey.
A lifelong one.
One that we may fail at.
Even multiple times a day.
But a worthwhile journey.
One that will bring us closer to the heart of Christ.

Let us strive to be rich in what matters to God.
And to intentionally not be rich in what matters to the world.

To be rich in the Lord means to not have to worry about the things of this life.
Because they are in His hands.
In His control.

If we are rich in Him,
it does not matter who the world says we are.
Because our identity is found in Him.

If we are rich in Him,
we will trust that He will provide for our needs, whatever they may be.

If we are rich in Him,
we will live for Him
and we will die for Him.

Lord, help us to be rich in You.