Author Archives: pat

Digging Deeper Into Our Resistance

9.19.22

 

So much of our journeying with Jesus depends on our ability to deal with our resistance, our self-importance–in the main, our culturally-conditioned selves. We Americans are prone to set our agendas and stick to them, no matter what, we are mostly concerned about our own selves and what we need, and we do not like to delve deeply into any trauma or grief or difficulties we have had. So, when we take on this life in Christ, there are some pretty big obstacles to overcome and each of those obstacles may have many layers to address at different times in our lives. Yet, if we are listening to Jesus through the Holy Spirit within us, these issues will all come up at some point and no matter what has highlighted them for us, we must lift them up to the Lord in order to face the truth about ourselves and to ask for healing from that particular issue.

 

As we go through issue after issue on our journey, it is not that the old thinking never comes up again, but it does mean that we will not be so quick to react to it. At best, we will have become observers of these old patterns and just let them go. There are two ways I have found to address these old patterns of thought, one brand new to me, the other I’ve used for years.

 

  1. Metaphors: I am very aware of what is going on in my body as well as my mind. I have come to think of the issues in the body as metaphors for issues that need to be addressed in my mind and soul; these are issues that I need to let go of in favor of following Jesus. When something is happening in my body, say, for instance a back ache, I think about the purpose of the back and how that is being hampered. With a back ache I think my body is trying to tell me that I need to tell the truth, to face whatever is happening in order to be able to stand up straight again—in the truth.

With knee pain, I am aware that my ability to kneel before God, to worship Him, is somehow hampered and I need to address the underlying issue. With bleeding issues, I realize that a vital fluid is being lost because of some sin which I haven’t confessed, which is what is being asked of me.

As we ponder each metaphor, we can gain some clarity on the issue it is highlighting. We might each think of these metaphors differently, but we can always ask the Lord’s help is figuring them out through our prayer.

  1. Wave and Pat My Shoulder

Just last month I started spontaneously {without any thought about it] to wave at thoughts that are outer oriented, like how I look or what I think someone else is thinking/expecting of me. I make a small wave of my hand. Often it brings a smile to me and that preoccupation, which has been with me since my childhood, is highlighted for me.

The other reaction, a pat on my shoulder and the assurance that “it’s going to be okay,” comes from any fearful thought that I have. Whether it’s about being held up in traffic, the fear of being late, or fear of not being able to do what I need to do, the pat on the shoulder brings me a small smile as well.

I think that reacting in these physical ways just highlights these old fears more than just thinking them does. It also gives me a sense of how prevalent they are in my thinking.

 

I do believe that these thoughts will be with us until the day we die, but the more we can step back from them and just observe them and our reactions to them, the freer from them we will be. These two gestures help us do that.

 

8. 19.22 How We Live Our Lives

How we live our lives says a lot about what’s important to us. If we bookend the day with prayers and devotions, we are saying that God is very important in our lives. If we look for His presence throughout our days and what He is saying to us, then we are actively following Jesus Christ in all that we do. We don’t have to be in a monastery to live this sort of life. We can live it in the world, our work, families, and leisure time.

 

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young is the first thing I do in my morning prayers. I read today’s passage and look up the references in the Bible. Then I work with a journaling guide to a book of the Bible or, like today, I am following 40 days with Howard Thurman. I journal the answer to each of the day’s questions. And then I pray for our country and the world and people I know who need solace and His presence.

 

Throughout my days I am watching for God’s presence everywhere—in the beauty of the clouds and trees and landscape, in the birds at my bird feeder or the deer in my neighborhood. I feel His nudges/suggestions for what to do now. I hear His voice in what a friend or neighbor suggests to me to do or read that seems to resonate with me. Occasionally, in my life, I have actually heard Him speak directly to me in my mind. I no longer keep a gratitude journal, but I do express my gratitude for all that He does in my life, all that He suggests to me, because I do what He is asking me to do.

 

At night I say the Lord’s Prayer as I settle in to sleep. I often wake in the middle of the night, sometimes with worries on my mind. And I prayer then for His peace, again saying the Lord’s prayer and go back to sleep. Following God is a privilege and a huge boost to love and peace and joy and patience in my life; in fact it is a big boost to the growth of all the fruit of the spirit within us (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

I am sure that there are many ways to do this depending on the person who’s committed to God with their own selves. I highly recommend Centering Prayer and The Daily Examen, which is like doing a gratitude journal, silent prayer, memorizing Bible verses, and so much more. Each of can choose what God calls us to do, and enjoy all the benefits of that choice.

 

 

7.18.11 How we live our lives

How we live our lives says a lot about what’s important to us. If we bookend the day with prayers and devotions, we are saying that God is very important in our lives. If we look for His presence throughout our days and what He is saying to us, then we are actively seeking Jesus Christ in all that we do. We don’t have to be in a monastery or convent to live this sort of life. We can live it in the world, in our work and leisure time and in our families, too.

 

Here is a pattern of living that focuses on our devotion to God. First, we begin and end our days with devotions, perhaps spending more time in the morning. A year-round devotional book like Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling or Jesus Listens begins the day with a short reading and Bible verses. Then sitting in silence in the presence of God like in Centering Prayer shows our devotion to God. We could also journal, putting down the what is true about ourselves today. And we might end with prayers for ourselves, for people needing prayers, for our country and the world.

 

Second, we keep our eyes and ears attentive to God’s actions throughout our day. There are blessings or challenges for us, help along the way, or just the sense of His presence with us. As we look for instances of His grace, we are comforted, inspired and more. He might nudge us to do something we hadn’t thought of. He might suggest a person to contact. He might be present to us at any moment. The more we are looking out for Him, the more we will see how He is there with us and for us, and the more we will feel gratitude for all His caring.

 

Thirdly, at the end of our day, we can do the daily examen or keep a gratitude journal to note where we did experience His help and guidance. And then we can pray our gratitude and questions and prayers for ourselves and others. And end the day in His presence.

 

Bookending our days in His presence and watching out for it during our days keeps our “eyes on the prize,” on God Himself and our relationship to Him. It enriches everything we do and brings us peace and fulfillment. What a gift His presence is to us!

 

Questions to ponder: How do you live out your devotion to God in your life? How important is it to you? How faithful are you? Is there more that you could be doing if you only made the time?

My apologies for being late this month. I was away on vacation and forgot to bring the password with me…

 

 

 

 

If you really want to be free from the past…

6.20.22            If you really want to be free from the past…

 

Life is full of challenges, big and small here on Earth. So often we just shove down the pain of each challenge and loss in our lives—after all that was easier for us to do as children when we didn’t know how to deal with them. But, unfortunately, shoving things way down into forgetfulness does not heal them or undo their influence in us. The best way to deal with pain is to grieve whatever we lost, like our innocence, our will, our standing with others and more, and then to see what lesson the challenge brings into our lives. What did we learn about ourselves? And what did that lesson point us to incorporate into our lives?

 

Once we have seen the lesson gained in the challenge, then we are ready to face life in a new way. We are also releasing the pain and suffering to God and asking Him to heal this issue in us. As we do that with more and more issues, as well as the sins we have done, we will begin to feel a new lightness in us, a change in how we look at life. We might ever go so far as to connect with other people who have been through the same things. This is how these challenges and even pain, once healed, can point us to helping others going through similar pain. I read about a mother who raised a disabled daughter who finally graduated from college in her mid-thirties. Then her mother turned to help couples with disabled children. Or think of the former alcoholic who is not supporting people in AA. For who do we turn to when we feel challenged beyond our capabilities—the person “who’s been there, done that.” If we turn to someone who is not familiar with our problem, we will probably be confronted with “shoulds” from a person who knows nothing of our issue.

 

If you really want to be free from the past and present to God and to what is happening now—here are some questions we have to address. I would suggest journaling about them.

  1. What challenge/disaster/loss was the worst for me in my life? What did I learn from going thru that about myself, about life, about God?
  2. What did that lesson propel me to do? What benefit did resolving the pain bring to me?
  3. Has that brought me to my purpose? Am I giving back to others the lessons I have learned from that experience?
  4. What brings me joy in my life, not momentary happiness, but lasting joy? How do I share that with others?

Walking and Praying

5.16.22            Walking and Praying

 

One of the best ways I have found to pray is to walk a labyrinth. This is a circle of paths which lead to the center and then back out again. In a way walking the labyrinth is just like our lives: there are turns so often that it begins to remind you of all the sharp turns your life has taken as this thing and that came unexpectedly in your life. As we walk the labyrinth and execute the turns, we tend to slow down so that we’re at a meditative pace in which we can pray as we walk. When we reach the center, we can lift all these prayers/thoughts up to God, and then, just stand for a few minutes in prayer, before we turn around and head back to the beginning.

 

If you’re walking the labyrinth when other people are on the labyrinth, too, for a minute you will see them and then you’ve turned or they’ve turned and they are not in sight. Again and again. It is so interesting.

 

At the end of the labyrinth, I usually take a few minutes to thank God for all that He is to me, all that He blesses me with, even for the challenges He has given me.  When I lived just a quarter mile from a labyrinth, I probably walked it two or three times a month. When I moved to another part of the city, I haven’t found one that I like to walk—to my regret.

 

I am a walker—that’s my chief exercise. And when I walk through the neighborhood I carry on a conversation with God. I ask questions, I lift up my concerns, I enjoy the beauty of the neighborhood where I live and thank Him for the beauty of this earth. I don’t even care if neighbors think I ‘m talking to myself or whatever, I am engrossed in participating with God in my walk.

 

Prayer happens wherever we are, whatever we are doing. All through our days, we can turn to God for guidance, for comfort, for His presence. He makes our days so much more doable, more interesting, filling them with love and blessings and joy, no matter whether we are at work or at leisure, with family or friends, doing what we love or just doing what we have to do. God walks through all our days with us whether we are aware of His presence or not. How much more interesting our days are when we turn to God in prayer in everything we do.

 

 

How do we know that we are following Jesus?

4.15.22            How do I know that we are following Jesus?

 

To follow Jesus is a lifelong, ever-deepening task from the moment we give our lives over to loving Him with all of ourselves. To believe in Jesus and everything that the Bible says about Him is the first step on this long journey. From there, we must follow His teachings and live the life He asks of us. We start on the surface of our thinking, our attitudes, our prejudices and judgment and gradually delve into the deeper levels of unconscious attitudes and prejudices and judgments. And that is the level where most of the change happens, for there is so much in us that is of this world that we assumed way before we had the intellectual capacity to assent to it.

 

There are two areas that we are to pay attention to in this journey. First, Jesus says that we cannot serve God and mammon, or as it is sometimes translated, God and money (Matthew 6:24). We cannot stay attached to the world’s ways; we must adopt God’s ways of being in this world. Before the age of six we have already adopted as ours the ways of our family and the world—these are the things that we are, as adults, so attached to: the goals we set for ourselves and striving to meet them, the way we like things to happen in our lives—that bring things that are good for us and not very challenging, the people who are like us, how we are to behave and dress and so much more. Jesus is asking us to accept His ways, to adopt His ways as our own, to embrace of all the folks we ordinarily turn our backs on—the sick, the possessed, the crippled, the stranger and more.

 

To follow Jesus mainly means that we give up our ways, our expectations, our people, our goals—everything of this world– in order to follow Him. This means that anything that has been difficult or painful in the past must be surrendered to Him so that He can heal us of these hard times and their effect on us. These we hand over to His healing ways as we are reminded by Him that they keep pulling us back into the past. And then there are the challenges, big and small, of our day to day lives. These we also need to surrender: the occurrences we’re not happy to see in our lives, the ones that don’t match our expectations, pandemics like Covid, or the death of a loved one, our own goals that may or may not be realized. These we need to surrender to Him as well. For if we are to follow Him, we must turn our whole lives over to Him.

 

This is a long process, but the more we practice this surrender of things past and present, the easier it gets to say: “Oh, this is in my life now; what am I to do with it now?” Instead of resisting and resenting the appearance of something we are not at all happy to see facing us, we find that we suffer so much less when we just accept and embrace what already is in our lives.  Sometimes, it is easy. Like the time I heard these words from the Lord: “I have an agenda for my life.” At the time I was married with three little kids, the fulfillment of my life’s dream. But I was struck by the thought that there was something more I was to do. So, I started asking the question, “What do I really want to do?” instead of “What should I be doing?” which had been my mantra up until then. I really began to change when I answered that question truthfully.

 

Other times what the Lord asks of us may be very difficult. When my husband’s lymphoma recurred three months after he had been declared cancer free, all I wanted to do by three o’clock in the afternoon was to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and forget what was now in our lives. Then the Lord offered this to me, ”If you can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then….” Fortunately, I had been surrendering to the small things in my life, so after three or four days, I was able to surrender to this idea. I began to think that there were lots of endings, as the Lord had offered. I felt so much better, no longer just focusing on his dying. A few more days passed and I was given a gift of faith that had me standing of the rock that Jesus described (Matthew 16:18). As the days and weeks passed, I felt so supported that I was able to support Hank, our adult children and our friends through this—whatever the outcome. Just two months later, I called in hospice care and realized that the outcomes were fewer now, but still it didn’t mean that Hank would die. He did die ten days later with two of our children and one’s spouse and me with him. Then I dropped into the grief. But I never resented his dying—he was 60 years old, after 37 years of marriage. I was so supported through the whole thing.

 

The second aspect of following Jesus is gratitude to the Trinity for all that has happened and is still happening in our lives. If we look back at our lives and everything that has happened to us, if we can see Christ’s footsteps all along the way, guiding and supporting us all the way, then we can rest in gratitude for God’s presence in our lives, the guidance of Jesus Christ through the voice of the Holy Spirit deep within us. Keeping a gratitude journal or doing the Examen every evening or the next morning is one of the best ways to begin to see what God is doing in our lives every day. When I first did this, I realized that I had to have something to write down every night and I’d better pay attention during the day! And so, I began to see how often I could see the blessings or the presence or the suggestions made to me about what to do next. And the longer I kept the journal, the more aware I became of God’s presence.

 

Now I feel steeped in gratitude to Christ for everything that comes into my life and I can look back on my life and see His footprints in my life even before I was aware of His presence. I even feel grateful for one of the hardest things I had to endure in my life—the first thirteen years of my life my family were members of a hell-fire-and-damnation church. By the time I was an adult, God was a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. Now I can thank God for that church, because I wouldn’t be doing the work I am doing today, if I hadn’t had to find a way to love God or to find a God I could love. And He was there in the Bible all along! All I had to do was to follow God as He led me throughout my life into His arms and into His purpose for me: to be a spiritual director, a blogger and an author. Everything I do these days is about this: how do we live this life following Jesus?

 

With surrender to the way the Lord wants us to live and with gratitude to God for what is in our lives and even for what we have had to endure, following Jesus becomes an ever-deepening process. We can see the effect of all the healing that has come into our lives, transforming how we are in this world. We can live at peace, even if it takes us a few days+ before we can settle back into the peace as each new thing comes along. Our capacity to love God and others grows and deepens. We sense the growth of the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in us—joy (much deeper than mere happiness), patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and humility (self-control). The more we follow Jesus in our lives, the more these fruit come to be expressed in us.

 

All this depends on our ability to hear the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God who reminds us of who we are, who suggests what we are to do next. As we hear and obey, we find our lives taking us in a new direction towards fulfilling the purpose of our lives. And there, we can truly relax into the joy and depth of what we are called to do. Amen.

Our LIves As We Follow Jesus

 

3.14.22   Our Lives as We Follow Jesus

First, we have to come to belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God as He is described in the New Testament. Secondly, we have to allow Christ to direct our days and our lives through the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God that resides within us. We start with baby steps, learning to listen for His voice which is softer than any thoughts in our minds—the “still small voice” of God described in  1 Kings 19:12. As we learn how to give in to His small suggestions like taking a different way home or telling us how to respond to this person, or what to do for that one, gradually we come to larger and larger requests from the Holy Spirit. In my own journey I called this the 10,000 surrenders! That’s what it seemed like to me. And as I practiced the small surrenders to this interruption or that inconvenience that I hadn’t planned on, I came eventually to the big one in my life: my husband’s, Hank’s, bout with lymphoma and his death.

 

What I heard God say to me as his cancer came back raging was this: “If I can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then…” As I had surrendered on tons of small things, I could surrender to this suggestion. As soon as I was able to, I experienced a flooding of faith in me until I felt like I was standing on the rock, Jesus Christ Himself. For the next two and a half  months I was so supported myself, that I was able to support my husband, our adult kids, and our friends through this passage. As time wore on, I kept thinking about the possible outcomes being fewer, but still I wasn’t focusing on his dying, even as we called in hospice.

 

About 10 days later Hank died; his service was a few days after that. As soon as our kids went home, I fell into the grief, but I never resented his death nor was I angry at God for it. It was a huge surrender, but I went through it pretty easily as the Lord was supporting me through the whole passage.

 

Over the next few years, I finished the spiritual direction training that I had had to suspend during his illness. And the Lord led me to a whole new, and totally unexpected purpose in my life. Not only was I a spiritual director, but I also became a blog writer and then author whose sole focus was on this: how do I, how do we live the life following Jesus.  Surrender is a huge ingredient of our loving God. And so is gratitude for our lives here on earth in this beautiful setting, for our family and friends who accompany us throughout our lives, for the grace and blessings and leading that God bestows on us, and for so much more. As we continue to follow His “still small voice,” we find that our burdens become lighter and lighter. As God heals us of all the pain and suffering we’ve been through, we are freer and freer. As we come to the purpose for our lives, we experience so much joy and peace, because we are finally doing what we were designed to do by God at our creation.

 

All the fruit of the Spirit come to be expressed in us, as God heals the burdens in our lives. We are love peace, joy, patience, kind, good, faithful, and humble(self-controlled)(Galatians 5:22-23). We simply pass on all that God has given us as we come closer and closer to union with Him. We begin to live in the Kingdom of God here on earth and relax as the world’s hold on us just vanishes. We still live in the world, but we are no longer of this world. We live solely in God’s arms, in the kingdom, in love and forgiveness.

2.21.22 Practicing the Presence of God

What is presence anyway? It is the ability to not be concerned about anything past or future, to just be focused on this moment now, on the person(s) I am with and what is happening, and then on the next moment. Presence does not mean talking to someone and thinking about what I need to do next. It’s not about half-listening, and staying focused on myself. It is about being totally focused on who is here with me, what is being said and what is happening right now. And if you’re a follower of Christ, it means having an awareness of the presence of God. We have gone a huge step beyond believing in Jesus Christ and loving God, when we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, in this moment, in our lives. How do we develop that capacity, that awareness of God in all that we do?

 

There are several practices that are very helpful in developing this ability. After all, we all have the Indwelling Spirit of God within us; we are all made in the image of God[Genesis 1:26,27]. We just need to find a way to focus our attention on the depths of our being, rather than on the surface of our lives where the ego is in charge. These are not once-and-done practices, but over time they will bring us a growing awareness of the presence of God right in the midst of our lives, and these experiences make us seek to be present to the others we encounter as well.

 

The first practice to develop this skill is lectio divina. This is a practice based on short Bible readings. Choose a short passage in the Bible, say three or four verses. Set aside what you already know about this passage, and read it three times, slowly. And listen for any word or phrase that seems to stand out for you. After you’ve finished reading, focus on the word or phrase that seems to call your attention. Meditate on it, journal about it, seeking an answer to this question: what is the Lord trying to show me today in this passage? As you practice lectio divina you will come to realize that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you directly in these passages, with messages that you need to hear. This a great practice in being present to God.

 

Secondly, any meditation practice can help us learn to deal with the voices in our minds that were seeded early in our lives. Their sources are our parents, our own guilt at not being able to follow our parents’ directives, and the culture’s ways of dealing with life. These are loud voices, drowning out the “still, small voice”[1 Kings 19:12] of God. I know that when I first tried to meditate, I couldn’t stand listening to all those loud voices that had driven me since I was a child. Just for a few examples: “don’t be late!” “be poised in all situations!” “Keep on task!” and so much more! I would run from the chair where I was meditating. But I eventually realized that if I could become an observer of these thoughts, and not moved or upset by them, then I would be able to relax and actually meditate in peace. So I began to identify who had planted the thoughts in me. My Mom or Dad. My Aunt Grace. The teasing I got as a teenager. The cultural norms.  I began to identify them as ‘old friends,’ ideas I had grown up with, that had been driving me for a long, long time. Especially, fear and doubt were my constant companions, but with being an observer of them, I was no longer upset by them. Sometimes I even could just say, “Hello, old friend, you’ve been with me my whole life!”

 

And so, as this reevaluation of my thoughts went on, I was able to be silent in my meditations, no longer upset by the thoughts that came, and open to the present moment more and more. Now I do Centering Prayer, my favorite form of meditation, one taught by Thomas Keating. In Centering Prayer, you just use a word or short phrase when your attention wanders from the present to bring you back to the center of your being. Mine is, “Oh, Lord.”

As you get more and more relaxed around your own thoughts, you are sitting in the presence of God. And that has a lot of spill-over into your life.

 

A third practice that helps you in being present is to keep a daily gratitude journal. You are jotting down what blessings came to you from God and when you felt the presence of God. If you do it at the end of each day, it causes you during your day to keep an eye and ear out for those blessings, so that you have something to write about that night. And so you begin to notice God’s presence—in a friend’s suggestion of just the right book for you to read, in the meeting of the minds with another person, in the beauty of this earth, and countless other ways. the journal focuses our attention on seeing God’s presence every day, and so we gain tremendous awareness of all that He is doing in our lives. This also means that we have to be open to seeing it and feeling it. And what a wonder it is to discover that He is always there and always has been!

 

The practice of the presence of God over time will bring you so much in the way of blessings and direction, and purpose and fulfillment as you not only acknowledge God’s presence, but seek to follow Him in all that you do. Nothing will bring you joy and peace, love and patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—all the fruit of the Spirit[Galatians 5:22-23]. And just a word about self-control—it’s not about squashing who you are, but about our own humility, our place in the kingdom of God.

 

These practices change our lives, giving us a real sense of God in our lives, today and every day. They bring us gratitude and awe and joy and purpose. Finally we can feel and see the hand of God directing us, supporting us, healing us and so much more. His presence is the new reality in our lives. And we so depend upon it.

Tears Just Flowed

My tears just flowed as I read the Tibetan students’ stories in The Book of Joy. The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmund Tutu were visiting the Tibetan Children’s Village in India where the Dalai Lama had established a school for Tibetan refugee children so that they would not forget their rich heritage and the Buddhist religion along with the normal school lessons. They were not living with their families; they had been smuggled out of Tibet after the Chinese had conquered their country:

 

“They had written about their own wrenching journeys from their families in Tibet, often as young as five. Many had traveled for weeks with family members over the snow-covered passes out of Tibet…Because an education based in the Tibetan language and culture is suppressed or severely restricted in many parts of the country, their parents, often poor and illiterate farmers themselves, had sent their children to be educated by the Dalai Lama. After delivering them safely, the family members or guides needed to return to Tibet. Often these children would not get to see their families again until they were adults, if ever.”[1]

 

I could not believe the suffering that just leaped off the page as I read each story reported in the book. My tears were for the children, although well cared for at the school, still they were separated for years from their families. I also cried for the families who were without their children, although they had done the best thing they could for them, still they would bear the pain of their suffering for a lifetime.

 

I vowed right away to stop complaining about anything in my life! Knowing about these children and their families and huge numbers of other children and their families throughout the world who are also oppressed or separated from their families, I vow to live in absolute gratitude for all that I have and to pray for all the world’s oppressed, including those here in the United States of America, who do not deserve one thing that has been done to them. All this happened  so that someone else can be rich and rule with an iron fist and abuse anyone so that he or she gets the power and wealth they covet.

 

How can we of means in this free country complain about what we don’t have when so many in this world have nothing or next to nothing? And what are we going to do about the poor in our country? Judge them for not working their way out of poverty? or help them realize the dreams that they have for themselves and their familes?

[1] Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, (New York: Avery an imprint of Penguin Random House) 2016, p. 278

Sacred Fire

12.20.21

Lately, I bought a book by Ronald Rolheiser, Sacred Fire: A Vision For a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity. As a writer myself, I underline what particularly strikes me in the books I read. Then, I will dog-ear the pages that are particularly meaningful to me. And, if I’m working on a theme at the time I am reading the book, I also note pages and quotes about the theme in the blank page(s) at the end of a book. I don’t think anyone would want to read a book after I get through with it! But this Rolheiser book is more marked up than any I have read in a long time. It reflects so much what I have come to believe about the Christian life: that we must be deeply connected to Jesus Christ himself through the Indwelling Spirit of God who resides in each of us, if we are to become true followers of Jesus. Belief is not enough.  We must, first, allow the Spirit to transform each of us into people who can love like God loves—indiscriminately and fully. And secondly, we must offer forgiveness to everyone we meet.

 

That means that every issue that gets highlighted in us, say any trauma or pain or anger or fear or lack of forgiveness or love in any number of situations in our lives must be turned over to God for healing. To do that, we have to admit the truth about this issue of ours and not worry that we are imperfect people—we all are. So our prayer, when we realize that yet another issue is highlighted in some way for us, is one of laying our shortcoming on the altar and asking for healing and forgiveness from God.

 

We also must forgive ourselves for our shortcomings, our failures. Because if we can’t love exactly who we are and forgive ourselves, too, we will continue to be defensive and try to hide all that doesn’t reflect well on us. In that defensiveness, we are not open to God and where He is trying to lead us. We often project that defensiveness, that sin onto others, as if they are the problem, not we ourselves. There is no love in defensiveness, only self-protection.

 

Some examples from my own life:

  • I was taught to be so outer-oriented, to look good for everyone out there, that I was full of doubt about myself. The Spirit once spoke these words clearly to me: “I have an agenda for my life.” Shocked by that statement, I began to ask in every situation I encountered: “What do I really want to do?”
  • Later, I heard this: “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” I was like a rebellious teenager. I tried for two years to love her, then after spending a weekend with her, as my husband and I were saying goodbye to her on the railroad station in Wilmington, DE, we three were surrounded by a cloud of love which changed our relationship. I could love her and she was grateful from then on for every single thing I ever did for her.
  • Sometimes it’s just a manner of how I deal with life; in my case I’m quite impatient. For years I had listened to NPR radio as I drove anywhere. Then one day on my way home from the mountains, I felt that I must turn the radio off. And I was shocked at my anger, impatience, judgment of other drivers. Maybe they never knew about how I felt about them, but it was clear to me that this was a big issue in my life.

 

Once we acknowledge our faults, we need to become observers of them, acknowledging them, but not letting them affect us emotionally. They will return from time to time, but we will also begin to notice the healing that God is doing in us as we work at deepening our faith in God. And the more we are healed, the closer we move towards God, the more willing we are to look at all our faults and put them on the altar.

 

I am convinced that this life is a school for us in which we can, if we are willing, learn how to love and forgive—ourselves, our neighbors and our Lord. And that we must keep on learning to surrender all that we are—”the good, the bad and the ugly” as the old Western movie title goes—until the day we die. The issues do not go away, but we are just observers of them, not engaged with all those chinks in our armor.

 

Let us all let the ‘Sacred Fire’ burn in us! And celebrate the Son who brought this fire to us through the Holy Spirit!