Author Archives: pat

The Real Challenges of the Life in Christ

There are very real Challenges when we follow the teachings and leadings of Christ. Because of our very human nature it might take some time to really live through the challenges.


  1. Dealing with Doubts

Doubts are bound to arise about God, about whether He loves to punish us or to love us, equating Him to our parents. It is the way our mind works. But I think doubts can also be God’s way of leading us beyond where our beliefs and experience have taken us to far. Doubts can be the opening for more devotion to God as we drop some of the narrow beliefs about God and embrace a bigger, truer concept of God. What I am saying is that God himself can be the source of our doubts. Above all we want our concepts and beliefs about God to grow and change as we grow in our faith and drop some of the God-in-a-box thinking that makes Him sound like just a bigger-than-human, but still HUMAN deity. I’m not sure that our limited human minds can really entertain the whole of who God is and what He does. But the doubts we have can lead us to greater truth about God.


  1. Surrendering self, our expectations, to leave the world behind

Are we really willing to give up all of who we think we are, our desires that life would go the way we want it to go? Will we lay our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits on God’s altar? Will we give over every single area of our lives from family to work to leisure time to friends to dreams and longings? Will we walk hand-in-hand with God through every single thing in our lives and obey Him in all that we say and do?

It is not easy to leave the world and embrace God as the sole source of guidance. We’ve lived in the world all our lives and don’t often realize the extent to which it has trained us how to be, how to live, what to desire and how to get it. Standing apart from its influence is a great, huge step in trusting God.


  1. Seeing God as a loving God.

Are we afraid of God as described in all those angry passages in the Old Testament or are we in awe of the enormity of a God who created this entire universe, this planet with its projected 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 species of plants and animals? Are we afraid of His punitive nature or embraced by His love? Are we captivated by the beauty of this world that He created? Do we live in gratitude for everything that He has done for us and continues to do for us? Jesus taught that God is a loving, forgiving God, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. [Luke 15:11-32] That He sends His rain to fall and sun to shine on everyone equally. [Matt 5:45] That he cares for the needy, the poor and the foreigner. [Lev. 25:35][1]  That He is all about justice and mercy.[Micah 6:8]


  1. Actually feeling God’s love

To me this is the greatest challenge, because we can “know” from the Bible that God loves us and yet never feel His love for us or see His love for us or anyone else. Most of us are still holding God at bay because we have never felt worthy of His love. Our own self-images and all that the culture has taught us about ourselves has us holding God at arm’s length. The first step towards the God of Love is to think that if God can love me, then surely I can love myself. That I could actually look at myself and my life with God’s eyes of love. And when I do that, then I can embrace myself as I am sure that God does; then the walls I have built around me start to crumble. I am then more and more aware of His presence. I can feel His presence, His inspiration, His help and guidance. I begin to live in total partnership with God in which it is hard to distinguish where God ends and I begin.


  1. Keeping our attention on what we are called to do here on earth.

Let’s allow the Biblical teachings about what awaits us in heaven to recede as of much lesser importance than our calling in the here and now. We who are still living on this earth need to speak and act in God’s will, in His purpose for us to give to this world as He gives to each of us. We can be so excited about what awaits us in heaven and so ego-excited that we’re the chosen that we forget that we are to be love and peace and joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control(humility)—the fruit of the Spirit in this world, right now. [Gal 5:22-3]


All of these challenges, once laid on God’s altar with prayers for His healing, will be met by God. Any problems with trust in God or dependence on Him in our lives will be healed. That is what the bulk of the life in Christ is about: healing ourselves of all our rebelliousness and lack of integrity so that we can bring our whole selves to God in love and then live out our purpose here on earth. I have found that there is no end to the healing that can happen while we are here on earth, but that Christ knows us so well and the steps He would have us take to come to be able to love God, ourselves and others that we can, over time, feel how different we have become from the person we once were when we depended mostly on ourselves and on other people.


If you have experienced other challenges, please email me at I’d love to hear how they went for you.

[1] There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that tell us to take care of the poor and needy.

Recognizing the Voice of the Holy Spirit Within

October 12, 2020

My blog posts at By the Waters the last week in September and the first week of October were about the Holy Spirit. To me He is the One who dwells in us and in the world around us, who communicates with us constantly whether we are aware of His voice or not. He would guide us to a deeper life in God, something that we cannot accomplish by ourselves when we try to move closer to God on our own power. It is only God through the Holy Spirit who can heal and transform us, guide and support us, and bring us to the fullness of who He created each of us to be. It is our job to get on board, to be willing to go where He would lead us, to surrender all of our pain and suffering to Him so that He can free us of all the burdens that we carry. Remember that Jesus said that His yoke is easy, His burden light. [Matt 11:28-33] He is inviting us to unload all that troubles us, all that enslaves us, all the burdens we carry that have nothing to do with who we are, so that we can be free to be exactly who He created us to be.


In my experience the one sure way to hear and to identify His voice within us is to become an observer of our own thoughts. I mean that we have to know ourselves so well and the way that we think that we can identify the source of most thoughts that we have.  All thoughts in me about saving money come from my parents and my Aunt Grace who had little money of her own. My parents were adamant about being on time, and I am still driven crazy by an inward push to rush to get somewhere even when I know that I will be early—so powerful was that training. My eagerness to judge other people, particularly other drivers on the road is always self-serving and fails to recognize that I am often at fault, too.


Being an observer of my thoughts means that in the midst of thinking them, I can step back from them and let them go. And I smile, because there it is again! And again! When we know our own thoughts so well, then we can clearly identify God’s voice within us.


It’s often the voice that is so different from our own, that we reject it out of hand: “Oh, I can’t do that!” God calls us to a whole different life, so what He suggests will be different from the way we think. He says things that sound out loud in our minds like these that I have heard:

“I have an agenda for my life.” This led me from asking, “What should I be doing?” to ask this question, “What do I really want to do?”

“How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” I tried to love her after I heard this, but I was still caught in my teenage rebellion, in my 40’s!. Finally, God surrounded us with a cloud of love on a railroad platform and that changed both of us to gratitude and love for each other.

“If I can just entertain all possible outcomes equally, well, then…” My husband was dying and I just wanted this whole thing to go away! As soon as I could do what He suggested, I was filled with faith in Him. I was able to support my husband, our adult kids and our friends through this passage. And I never resented his death, but just dropped into the grief after he died.


Then there are the nudges about, say, going a different route home, or about what to do next. Or what to read. There are suggestions coming from other people that resonate with us. He can highlight difficult situations from our past that need healing. And all we have to do is to assent to that healing; then the Spirit will make it happen.


God has many different ways of communicating with us. That’s why it is so important to recognize the voice of the Holy spirit when it speaks to us. Otherwise, we are left with indecision, with insecurity and are basically stuck in all the old patterns of behavior from the past. We cannot live in the present, in the presence of God unless we are attuned to His voice, to His presence, and are obedient to His suggestions. He would lead us throughout our days, all day long, if we are attuned to his voice, His Spirit within us. Jesus called Him the Advocate. We could call Him our companion, our support, our friend, our guide to fulfilling our creation. If we are faithful and follow Him and His wisdom, then we will fulfill the promise of our lives.


Loving Everyone

            We don’t think of love as nonviolence. Or as compassion. Or valuing another person and all they’ve been through which formed them as they are. We don’t think of love as embracing our enemy, listening to them, seeing everyone as a child of God. We don’t look at the Ten Commandments as teaching us how to love all of mankind: no murder, adultery, stealing, lying, or envy. We don’t look at them as addressing our inner attitudes as well as our outer actions. But if we really follow these commandments because we love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then we would not tolerate all the ways we mistreat others, we would not tolerate the differences between our actions and the judgments we hold about others.

            Here is how John Lewis, the Civil Rights activist, describes their training in nonviolence: “You don’t have a right to abuse that spark of the divine in a fellow human being…You never give up on anyone.”[1] They were trained in the 1960s so that they could respond with love to the police and other citizens along the march routes, no matter what happened to them.

            In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is clearly teaching us that we must treat everyone, enemies and friends, as we would want to be treated. [Matthew 7:12] And that whatever we would do as a child of God must be done humbly and without calling attention to ourselves. [Matthew 6:1-18] Humility and Love. Compassion and loving. It is a narrow gate[Matthew 7:13] that we are to walk through as we shed our very human responses to others—the judgments, the anger, the fear. And when we do we are so ready to love everyone, to serve as we are called to serve.

            So, the way to divest  ourselves of all these sins is to put ourselves totally in the hands of God, to ask for His healing, to align ourselves with His will for us, to offer all these very human tendencies–that separate us out from other people–up to God to heal, to change the very bases of our thinking and reacting to others. It is a step by step process in which God highlights some sin within us and we are to consent to His healing. This happens time and again as we come up against our basic issues that keep us in a place of not trusting God or others, that keep us judging, that keep us complaining about this person or that one, that keep us tied to the world.

            The amazing thing is for us to see how differently we react to others as God does all this healing work in us. We will see that we no longer have the same responses to others. That we are beginning to see them with the eyes of love, rather than the previous distortion. It’s a wonder-filled and alleviating process which changes the nature of our relationships–forever.

            Here are some questions for pondering/journaling that will begin to connect you to this healing from God:

  1. What are the issues, pain and suffering, in me—probably begun in my childhood—that I need to take to the Lord for healing?
  2. Who in my life do I need to forgive?
  3. Who in my life do I need to ask forgiveness for what I have said and done?

Just a personal note: I have found that the Lord highlights one issue at a time. Recently, for me it has been forgiveness, but, in the past, it’s been the need to love my mother, the need to follow the Lord and His suggestions rather than my own tendency to always look to others for what I need to do, the need to overcome the teachings of a hell-fire-and-damnation church. Those have been the major issues and as each one is healed, I feel so much lighter and able to love and forgive myself. Up until the time I gave my life to the Lord, there was no peace or love for me, only doubt and anxiety. Now when I look back on my life, I can see that I never would have become a spiritual director or a writer about the spiritual life, if I had not spent 12 years in that hell-fire-and-damnation church. I can clearly see the footprints of the Lord throughout my life, healing and leading me to this purpose. And I am grateful for everything in my life that pointed me in this direction. Amen.

[1] John Lewis in an interview from 2013 with Krista Tippett of On Being

8.19.20 Fruit of the Spirit

            I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about the fruit of the Spirit, the qualities that are ours to express in this world when we truly follow Jesus. The first three: peace, joy and love are the essentials in the life of the Spirit. Peace takes us out of the cares of this world and transports us to the kingdom of God. So that, no matter what is happening in our lives, we are able to surrender to it and to maintain a certain calm in the face of, for example, the coronavirus, while the world seems to be falling apart in fear and anxiety. The peace of Christ is such a gift to us who still live in this world.

            Joy is the second gift of the Spirit. There is joy in being connected to God/Christ/Spirit. Whatever the Trinity sends us that awakens us to their presence—that is a joy. There is joy in loving and accepting who we are, in forgiving our sins, just as God has loved and forgiven us. We will find joy in anything that happens to us. For example, one of my inspirations during this time of isolation has been to learn the names of the tress here in the Charlotte area where I now live after years of living on the West Coast. I have an app that photographs and then names each species, so I have been learning the names/leaves/bark of many species. And there is joy in learning their names and in recognizing them again and again. Joy is a huge companion on our journey.

            And love…love is the root of everything in the universe, it is God’s most telling attribute. Along with love go forgiveness, mercy, justice, anything that would straighten out our lives. Love is what drives the rain to fall and the sun to shine on everyone, [Matt 5:45] both good and evil. Love is the embracing of all creation and God’s desire to have a personal relationship with each one of His people. To me, the last six fruit of the Spirit are all expressions of love.

            Patience without love is impossible. Goodness, kindness and gentleness are the true expressions of love. There is no judgment, no putting ourselves above anyone else with love. We are all truly heirs of God when we turn back to Him—again as a result of love. Faithfulness is impossible without love. Why would we even want to be faithful to God without our love for Him? And humility—that’s what I think self-control means—how can we see all other human beings as our peers, if we don’t have love?

            Love is Christ’s message to us in everything He taught. And love impels us to treat others as we love ourselves—the Second of Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves. For how could God’s love, unacknowledged, be expressed in the world if we can’t feel His love for ourselves, His forgiveness of who we are, His desire to be our loving companion? Only when we can apply His love to exactly who we are—all that we have been—can we then pour His love out to others.

            The fruit of the Spirit is a gift to us and to all human beings. Love is the message and the vehicle for that love.  

7.27.20 Are You Bored Yet?

I’m bored! is something I’ve come to acknowledge in this isolation period after four months. I do about 3 errands a week including two trips to the grocery store. The other might be a hair or doctor’s appointment or a trip to the pharmacy. I don’t go out to lunch with friends any more. I don’t “go” to church a couple times a week, because it’s all on-line. I have plenty of work to do, but that certainly doesn’t fill my days. I live with my daughter’s family, so there are people in my life. But… I’m watching more TV.  It’s not like before when I was engaged with people and loving all that I did.


For the first few months, I was dying silk scarves, but eventually I couldn’t see any reason, like a craft sale, where I could sell them as an incentive. So I’ve taken on a project of learning the names of the trees in North Carolina, at least right now the deciduous ones. And that has been very interesting to me. As I sit and work on my sofa or take my morning walk I have an app, PictureThis, which will identify any plant that you photograph. And so, I am learning the difference between Red Maples and Silver and Trident Maples and Sweetgum Trees, between White Oaks and Chestnut Oaks, and many more.


I love the trees in North Carolina; they provide so much beauty year-round for me. But that hasn’t been enough to offset the boredom, so now I am calling a friend every day, usually here or in California where I lived for 40 years, to keep in touch and to feel connected. And that is really working. My hunger to “see” my friends is satiated when I talk to them either just on the phone or on FaceTime.


How are you handling the boredom? The trees and the friends are the suggestions of the Holy Spirit which have really worked for me. What works for you? I find I turn to God so much more often throughout my days now seeking His sustenance and ideas. I am so grateful for the book I am writing about the Beatitudes and becoming unattached to the world. That major project is the sustenance of my life which these other hobbies and connections really supplement.


I think often of my grandson, Jack, who wants to be a chemist. He would be a junior in college this year, except he’s not interested in learning on-line. So he has applied for an internship this fall to carry him over to when his college decides to open in a more normal way. He has several hobbies which have kept him going for years. He loves to cook/bake and to play the piano; he does both daily. He grows potted plants. He is also learning computer programming and building a portfolio of programs he’s creating that he thinks will help him get into grad school. All-in-all he’s a well-rounded young man whose interests will serve him for years.


We all have talents and interests that we may have not pursued for many reasons. They help us express the whole of who we are, not just our profession. Now might be the perfect time to start one up, as there now seems to be no end to this long period of isolation. Blessings, peace, joy and love, Pat

Weathering the Storm

7.13.20  Weathering the Storm. When life hits us a curve ball, like the coronavirus and its effects on our country, we can duck it and try to avoid it, we can be angry that it is in our lives, or we can set aside any objections we might have in order to deal realistically with the challenge that is already in our lives. I have found that my suffering increases incrementally when I resist what is in my life and decreases as much when I do not resist the reality. That’s not to say I like Covid-19 or, say, my husband’s illness and death or the thousands of much smaller changes that I’ve had to deal with, but, and it’s a big BUT, if I can just see what this new thing is asking of me and do it, I am much more at peace, more fulfilled, even joyful at times.


What I have found in the lack of resistance is God’s presence with me is that I can see the blessings that this new reality has for me. As an example, one of my reader’s commented on my 3.2.20 blog post, “God Calls Us Out of Slavery to the World: ”What do you mean? God never condemned slavery!” I took that as a challenge and looked up all the references to slaves and slavery in the concordance and saw that he was right: There is no condemnation about slavery from God. By the time I had read those passages, though, I was hooked: I had to find out more about slavery both in the Bible and in the world. Pretty soon I saw a book in the making about slavery and, just as Charlotte was shutting down in favor of isolation from the virus, I was beginning a three-month-long research into slavery. I read through three volumes of The Cambridge History of Slavery in the World, along with a number of other books. And I had all this time because of the sheltering at home.


I wouldn’t have been able to so dedicate myself to this study if it were not for staying home all the time. So there was the benefit for me in this isolation. Now as the three months lengthens into four I am seeing that the book is not to be about slavery but to be about what God is calling us to, how He helps us release all the bonds that hold us to the world. And what a blessing and horror all this reading has been. I feel like I have been wallowing in the pits of human behavior and yet I see so clearly how God is active in our lives not in just moving us out of slavery(the Exodus story), but of promoting us while we’re enslaved(Joseph and Daniel), saving us from certain death(Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), saving us from our own resistance(Jonah), showing us how to avoid our sons being enslaved(the widow with olive oil), healing us from physical causes that enslave our bodies(Jesus’s healing stories) and so much more.


Even though God does not condemn slavery, it’s clear that He sees it as the condition we have to overcome to be His in this lifetime. Have you experienced healing after healing of the pain and suffering your life? That is God liberating us from what enslaves us. Are you able to love your self? That is God taking away the things that stand between us and God. Are you able to love others as you love yourself? That is God helping us to see with His eyes. And there is so much more.


Paul writes about being a slave to God[Romans 6:22]. But there is a huge difference between being a slave in the world and being a slave to God. Being a slave or servant to the world means we have little or no freedom and everything is done from the master’s point of view. With slavery to God we are brought to the fullness of who He created us to be. We find fulfillment in our purpose for which we were designed. We find joy in being our true selves. We find a partnership with God that is never-ending. We are not alone. And we are loved. What more could we ask? What more could we be? What more could we want? To be fulfilled in God’s presence is the height of human achievement. It’s not of our own doing, only our surrender. It is totally God’s doing in us.

The Life That Awaits You

6.22.20 “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”[1] I am quoting Joseph Campbell, once a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College whose interest lay in comparative mythology and religion. He understood what living in two worlds means: the very human world and God’s kingdom.  It is the human world that shapes the plans we have for our lives and it is God that shapes the life that is waiting for us, the one He created us to have.


Our willingness to surrender our plans to God’s plan for us begins our journey into the depths of our being, to the very nature of who we were created to be. Have you any idea what that life might be for you? Are there talents and interests that you have that are unexpressed and unexplored? Are you unaware, like I was, of what you might be capable of? There was nothing in my life that said I should become a spiritual director and a writer about the spiritual life. I was only aware of my tremendous desire to be a mother. Beyond that I had no idea.


The saving grace in my life was growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church. As awful as that was for me, it was the motivation for my search for a God I could love, and, later, as I surrendered my life to Him, and followed His suggestions to me, He began to reveal who I might become. The first break in my view of me in the world came with this thought: “I have an agenda for my life.” That was a shocking statement to me, because I had no idea who the “I” was who had an agenda, much less what that agenda might be. But it was a wake-up call for me, so in any situation I began to ask myself the question, “What do I really want to do? Instead of “What should I be doing.” And the answers to that question began to reveal the self beneath my world-conditioned self.


Now as I look back on my life, I can see God’s footprints everywhere in my life, leading me eventually to my true purpose. The training to be a spiritual director focuses on three things—what the other person is saying, what the Holy Spirit is saying and how am I reacting to them(because directees always bring up your own issues.). I was taught to set aside how I was reacting to reflect on at another time and to just focus on the other person and the Holy Spirit. Learning how to hold those two voices has deeply connected me to other people as well as to the Indwelling Spirit of God. And because of that, I can rely on God’s voice to direct me in all that I do. And so I’ve written a blog on living the life in Christ in the 21st century for twelve years; I’m researching my fourth book, this one on slavery in the world; and I am now writing my blog posts just before I post them instead of weeks ahead. The coronavirus has brought me right into the present with the Lord whispering what I am to write today, for this week.


That’s my story so far, and yet I cannot say what my future will bring. Only the Lord knows that, and I am content to follow His lead in everything. Willingness…surrender…that is the way to the true self that awaits you. Take the first step: turn back to God and let Him lead your life.





Living in the Presence of God

To live in the present moment, to have all our faculties—sight, hearing, mind, soul and spirit—attuned to the presence of God, to enjoy the deepest connection that we are capable to all creation, to the other people with us, to God himself and what He might be saying to us right now. That is the beauty of living in the present/in the presence of God. It is to be attuned to the spirit of all those present, to be open to all that is happening and what it means. It is joy and peace and love all wrapped up into one being, God’s being right here, right now. Here is how retreat leader Paula D”Arcy describes this ability:

“There is a love which itself has the power to free the human heart…The truth of this love is that, if we can be uprooted from our daily preoccupations and taken by direct experience into its presence, then a profound transformation is possible. Whoever arrives at this place looks at the world differently. The distinctions on the surface no longer exist. Here it is possible to suspend our certainties and touch something greater: the Spirit within us. [1]

What a gift of joy and peace and love, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control lies in this ability to be present to God. We are given the fruit of the Spirit in these moments. And we want to return to them more and more. They become the answer to all our prayers.


How do we get to this point of attunement to God? The most important thing we have to learn is how to disengage from the power that the mind has over us—those repetitive thoughts that have accompanied us from our childhood, still trying to make us live up to who our parents, our culture taught us to be. We have to become an observer of these thoughts and to move beyond their power over us. Then, no matter what life brings us, we rest in the peace of God.


I had hoped that the thoughts would go away, but I do know that I can just see them for what they are and not let them upset me. Here what one of my readers today wrote about the way the mind thinks in a comment: “For years I allowed myself to be held prisoner to what others thought or would think of me, whewwwwww what a miserable time it was for me, yet I wore the mask of confidence well. Question after question would be asked of God as to why he made me so different than everybody else.” This is the kind of preoccupation with the mind that we need to release to God, so that we can be in His presence.


In “The Practice of the Presence of God” Brother Lawrence in the 17th wrote “That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”[2] Let us remember that it takes practice to be open to His presence, that practice makes perfect or at the very least attainable. Please note that Brother Lawrence is talking about prayer in a new way—not just words but actual bringing our whole being to our prayer, to His presence. It is that state of openness with the totality of our being that lives in the presence of God.




[1] Richard Rohr’s daily email, Jun3 16, 2020  Paula D’Arcy, retreat leader, speaking.



The Trajectory of Our Lives

The Trajectory of One’s Life

November 15, 2019

Jesus’ Two Great Commandments are about love: love God with all of yourself and love your neighbor as yourself. What gets overlooked is to love yourself as in love your neighbor as [you love] yourself.  And I think that we often do love our neighbor as poorly as we love ourselves. We each grow up with a skewed self-image and beliefs about ourselves that we assume even in a loving family. Our self-image is a lot worse if there was abuse or neglect in our past. The resulting beliefs can still rule us till the end of our lives if we don’t wake up to a truer picture of ourselves, as God sees us.

It helps us to see what the trajectory of our life has been and what meaning that might reveal to us. It’s a bit easier to see God’s help in the past than it may be in the present, so to look at the longer arcs of our lives not only gives meaning to them, but also helps us to see where God has been active.

Just as example, the trajectory of my life revealed a lot that I had never thought about. I was raised in a hell-fire-and-damnation church and that layered a whole lot of negativity on me that as an adult, I couldn’t stand. I was out of the church for 10+ years because I could not tolerate the negative ties to God. My husband and I joined a cult, on that focused on Jesus’ teachings and not his divinity. For 8 years I was happy to belong, to do whatever was required, and then suddenly I began to argue with what the leaders were saying. In leaving that cult, it was the first time I had said yes to a deeper part of myself, and a no to the part that wanted to belong so much. Giving our lives to Christ was a priority in the cult, but for whatever reason I couldn’t do it, until a year or so after leaving it. Even then the Lord had to distract me from thinking about it, and in that distraction, I gave my life to Him. We did go back to the church; I read lives of saints and about Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. Everywhere I went I thought, “Oh, that’s what Jesus meant.

As I followed the suggestion of the “still-small voice” I was healed of so much stuff, guilt and shame. I became a spiritual director as I resolved my negative feelings about God. Later I began to write a blog about living this spiritual life in the 21st c. As I look back on my life, the trajectory was resolving the pain from that early church and doing what comes most naturally to me—living my life in Christ. As I look back I can see God’s footprints in everything—in that early church, but more in leading me out of it and into what I am called to do. I would never have been doing the work I do today if I hadn’t been brought up in that hell-fire-and-damnation church!

What would make sense of your live? Follow the prompts below and see where they lead you.






The process


Write out your answers truthfully, thoughtfully and fully. Take your time, as long as you need to do it thoroughly. Do it with prayer, asking God’s help in doing this assessment. And finish the project.


Weeks 1 and 2: Looking back over your whole life,

  1. Write out all the things/people that formed me positively.


  1. Write about the things/people that formed me negatively.


Weeks 3 and 4:

  1. Write about the things that I did that left me with guilt or shame.


  1. From which things have I learned the most?


Weeks 5 and 6

  1. Which formative things are healed in me?


  1. Have I been able to help people who were similarly mistreated or challenged?


Weeks 7 and 8

  1. What have I gained from helping others who faced similar problems?


8.List all the things/people in my life I am grateful for.



Weeks 9 and 10

  1. What would it take for me to be grateful for everything in my life?



  1. How can I live a life in gratitude to God for all that I’ve been given, all that I have lived through?


Part 3: Accessing your truer self


This is an exercise that starts with sitting in God’s presence or praying for God to reveal what you need to know now.

  1. Start with a prayer of your choice


  1. Draw or scribble, use crayons or pens or pencil or paints; put some image, good or not, down on paper. Starting in the right brain, even if you are not an artist, gives you access to the deeper parts of yourself.
  2. Write down whatever comes. And then figure out what God is saying to you in the drawing and the writing.
  3. Repeat this Pray/Draw/Write exercise maybe once a week until you feel you have completed the assignment to see the trajectory of your life.


God In My Thoughts

Sometime in the late 1980s I began to try to meditate, and at first I couldn’t stand being quiet and alone with my thoughts. So I quit after a few tries. Then, a few months later I tried again, because I knew how important meditation was to hearing God’s “still, small voice.”[1] This time I was able to sit with the thoughts and eventually, with a lot of practice, I began to be able to become an observer of my thoughts. I could think them without judging myself or someone else or feel guilty or shame or anything else. I was free of their influence on my emotions!


Once I could just observe them, I could hear God’s voice within my mind. And I discovered how different God’s thoughts were from mine. How, when I followed His suggestion, they moved my life forward, trying new things that I had never even considered doing before. My thoughts were always deeply rooted in the past and all self-serving. Here are just a couple of examples of God’s voice within that I heard clearly way back when:

“I have an agenda for my life.” I didn’t even know who the “I” was, much less what an agenda for my life might be. I began to ask, “What do I really want to do?” instead of “what should I be doing?”

“How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” This one shocked me and sent me on a 2-year journey to try to love her. And then God just blessed us both with a cloud of love on a railroad platform where she was seeing my husband and me off on a trip. That cloud changed everything—I could love her and she stopped being so critical of me.


Those were the big ones, but there have been so many suggestions to take a different route home or to do this next that have defined who I am throughout my days. And as I followed His suggestions, then my life really worked.


As I followed His voice and suggestions, then my life really began to take shape, minus the anxiety that had ruled me up to then. Eventually I heard my purpose defined in a dream to connect the dots between the Bible and 21st C. living. He snuck my writing career up on me by suggesting that I take Spanish lessons. So I started working with a tutor. In a year she had me writing paragraphs to turn in each week. At first I wrote about anything and everything, but soon all I wanted to write about was leading this spiritual life. Five years later in 2008 as I was moving to North Carolina from California I started posting a bi-lingual blog, By the Waters, twice a month. My tutor was my Spanish editor until she had a bad fall nine months later and couldn’t work any more. So I dropped the Spanish blog.


Three years later I was called to commit to posting every week which I have done since 2011.  At first I might take a week off for vacation, but since that year I have posted every Monday morning. And then came the books God wanted me to write: Thy Kingdom Come! and Exodus: Our Story, Too!  I am now seeking a publisher for a book entitled, Called to Help the Poor and Needy and researching a book on slavery in the Bible and in the world. All this because I was willing to take Spanish lessons. And what a gift the writing has been!5


Now the Lord is calling my attention to my thoughts again. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve responded to them, they still are in my head, they are always self-serving. They might be criticizing me or another person, defensive, sarcastic, outraged, or self-deprecating. They are the background “noise” of my life. I don’t pay attention to them, but they are very much a part of my human nature. I have asked God to wipe away these thoughts and their sinful connotations.  I guess that for many years it was okay to be an observer of my thoughts and not engaged in them, but now it’s time to get rid of these sinful patterns.


And so I am praying that God would heal these patterns in me, so that I can be truly free of them. I had thought that they would be my companions for the rest of my life, but apparently that is not the case. I can’t wait to see what God will do with me now!

[1] 1 Kings 19:12