Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

 

Grounding Our Lives in Jesus Christ

11.18.21   Grounding our Lives in Jesus Christ

 

To be grounded in Jesus Christ means that we are at peace no matter what our circumstances just because we know that He/God/The Holy Spirit are in charge of our lives and all that happens to us. We know that we can trust Him totally in everything. We can look to Him in everything for guidance and strength. Even when we are feeling most human, God is still in charge, He still loves us and forgives us for everything. We can count on His presence through all that we experience. This is what the Lord has promised us when we give our lives over to Him.

 

So how do we get to that wonderful point in our lives where we know in our hearts and minds and souls and bodies this truth? We give our lives over to Christ and then begin the lifelong journey (from whatever age we begin) to surrender the little stuff at first and then, gradually bigger and bigger issues, as we see them highlighted by God in our lives. And as we begin to obey His suggestions whispered to us in our minds, we begin to notice the small healings first, and, later, we can see the changes in how we deal with fear and anger and the outward nature of where we look for approval. Soon we are only looking to God for approval and direction.

 

Then, when the tsunamis of life hit us, as they will in the death of a loved one or some other great trauma, we look to God to get us through it. Just as an example, when my husband’s Lymphoma returned three months after he was declared cancer-free, I was devastated and only wished for this whole disease to go away. That’s when I heard this in my mind: “If you can just entertain all possible outcomes equally, well, then….” As I had years before given my life to Christ, and had been practicing small surrenders, I heard what He said to me deep in my soul. As soon as I could see that his death wasn’t the only possible outcome, I was at peace. And a few days later, I felt a gift of faith so huge that I felt like I was standing on the rock. As I went through the next few months, I felt at peace, able to help my husband, our adult kids, and our friends deal with what was happening.

 

He did die three months later, and then I dropped into the grief. But I was never angry about his death or resented it in any way. And then the Lord gave me a whole new life which has sustained and fulfilled me for the last 20 years!

 

In every incidence of pain and suffering that we go through, God has been there with us, even when we were totally unaware of His presence and His help. This we can count on!  Thanks be to God! Amen.

Hear the “Still Small Voice” of God

9.13.21

As Genesis 1:27 reports, “God created mankind in his own image.” Something of the Divine Spirit of God is implanted in each human being, but remains hidden deeply within us until we begin to orient our lives towards God. As we repent, turn towards God, leaving behind our oh-so-human ways and taking up a real relationship with God, we begin to activate that divine spirit within us. The more we surrender our lives to God, the more the Indwelling Spirit of God begins to “speak” to us in a quiet voice, that “still small voice” of 1 Kings 19:12. Still, it can take a long time before we will knowingly follow that voice because it can so easily be drowned out by the loud voice of our own minds and the priorities that were set in us as children.

 

Our self-image and many “do’s and don’t’s” are set in our minds by the age of six. We have absorbed our parents’ ideas of behavior and the direction our lives are to take, plus the values of our culture that early on. These values and behaviors were forged in our own guilt and shame as we failed so often to follow these instructions.

 

These early ideas speak loud and clear in our minds, so they make it hard for us to hear the quiet voice of God. When I first tried meditation, I ran from the room because of those loud voices that had so much power over me. I have found only one way to quiet these loud interior voices: that is to become an observer of them, to step back from any emotional involvement with them—guilt or anything else. It helps to see the source of many of them. For me, my parents wanted us to be on time for everything, if not a few minutes early; so I still feel that pressure when I’m on my way somewhere. Even If I know I’ll be early, the pressure still comes up in me. Now I just relax and let it go. My parents were cautious about spending money, and my Aunt Grace couldn’t stay on the phone more than a few minutes without hanging us for fear of it costing her, even if I had called her. So money is an issue for me. As is being poised in all situations. And so much more—all the “shoulds” of my life!

 

As I have become an observer of these loud interior voices of mine, I have been able to greet them like old friends—after all they’ve been with me all my life practically—but I no longer get upset or change what do, because of them. I had hoped for a long time that not paying attention to them would result in them going away, but I can tell you this—they don’t disappear! So, I don’t pay attention to them. And I am free from their influence.

 

As their influence over me has gradually diminished over many years, my ability to hear the Indwelling Spirit of God has grown greatly. The first thing I heard was this: “I have an agenda for my life.” I was shocked. All I had wanted to be was a wife and mother. But the Spirit of God was telling me there was so much more. So I started to ask: “What do I really want to do?” instead of “what should I be doing?” Later I was led to spiritual direction training and after that to being a writer totally from the eyes of a spiritual director.

 

Another time I heard, “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” That stopped me cold. I was like a teenager with her, although then in my 40s. I tried for two years to love her, but it was impossible for me until God surrounded us both(and my husband) in a cloud of love while we were waiting for a train to take us further north. From that moment on our relationship changed radically: I was able to love her for who she was and she was grateful for every single thing I did for her. All the way on the train ride, all I could think, with awe, was that God took my rebellion and turned it into love!

 

Over the years I have heard more and more of what the Spirit of God is saying to me, from what to do next, to what book to buy, to what to write. I no longer have to think a lot about what to say in my weekly blog—it just flows out of me. I can hear His soft voice easily as I go through my day, and follow what it is saying to me. The Spirit has come forward in my life to now be the Pilot of my life, with me being the oh-so-willing co-pilot. What a gift! A grace! A treasure! I am no longer on my own. I live in peace. I am deeply engaged in my life and in the people God brings to me. My work is such a blessing, since I had no career before retirement age; while most people my age retired, I have written a weekly blog post since 2011 and four books since 2015, with another in process. I am so grateful for the life that God has given me! And for His quiet voice which has sustained me and led me through the last forty years!

8.23.21 The Journey in Christ

As we deepen our lives in Christ, living more and more into the kingdom of God, we are leaving behind the obsessions of this world with money and power and prestige in favor of love, forgiveness and mercy. We are leaving behind our ego-obsession with how we look to our neighbors and friends in favor of how we look to God. We are leaving behind the ways of the world and living into our most natural talents and the purpose for which we were created.

 

This journey in Christ takes a long unfolding of the issues that come between us and God and our turning them over to the Holy Spirit to heal and transform into love. Months, years, the rest of our lives are spent in surrendering all that we are to Him, so that we can become true servants of God, who, with every act and word will be carrying His message of love and forgiveness and mercy to everyone we meet.

 

Our belief in God, surrendering our lives to Christ are the first steps on this journey, but we have to go way beyond belief to actually living the love for God, our neighbor and ourselves, the absolute trust in His love and providence at every level of our being. For it is not just our outer behavior and the attitudes that we demonstrate to another that counts in loving God; our subconscious and unconscious attitudes must also reflect that love and our trust in Him. This is a tall order for us humans, for we are not on this journey to look like the Pharisees who are showing publicly what they want others to think of them, but underneath they were not pious and faithful.

 

Our journey in Christ is to bring all of ourselves to God in devotion and in truth—our behavior and what we say, our lack of love for ourselves and others, our inner attitudes and judgments. As we lay all of these attitudes and lack of love and devotion on His altar, surrendering our failings to Him, The Holy Spirit will heal us and then transform us into the people that we were created to be.

 

So, surrender all that you are to Him. Pray for His healing and transforming for your very human sinfulness. And then, see for yourselves what God can do within you to bring you to love, to forgiveness, and to mercy. Forever and ever. Amen!

July 19, 2021 How Can We Come to Love Ourselves?

In His Two Great Commandments Jesus first tells us to love God with all of ourselves and, secondly, He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think the problem is that we don’t know how to love ourselves or even what that would look like, so that we often do “love” our neighbors as poorly as we “love” ourselves. So, how do we learn to love ourselves, when our self-images are so low and rejecting, when we are trying to live up to a family or cultural standard that probably does not take into account all that we are? We internalized a self-image when we are five or six years old, during the time when we are trying to obey our parents, but failing often. So, our self-images are colored by the guilt and shame of those early failures.

 

When we become adults, that self-image means that we are still trying to improve who we are and rejecting ourselves as we fail to live up to the early standards set for us by others. We can spend our lifetimes trying to be all that others say we should be and failing, because we cannot love who we are. We were never shown who we were created to be. We were seldom acknowledged for our strengths and talents and interests as the focus has always been on where we fail to live up to what the world wants for us.

 

I certainly see this clearly in myself. The defining image of myself was for years full of doubt and fear about who I was. This was not just from my parents, but also from the church of my youth. Until I was 13, my family belonged to a hell-fire-and-damnation church, which promoted an image of God in my who was capricious and vengeful, and not loving at all. I was also born during World War II which meant that my prospects as a woman were to be determined solely by the man I married and had nothing to do with my talents. I was so clear about this that my one burning desire as I grew into adulthood was to be a mother.

 

By my late 20s I was out of the church, because no matter what image of God the current church I attended had, I was stuck with the image of God as a raven ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. So how could I love myself, when it was clear that God couldn’t love me. The saving grace for me in all this is that I was so attached to God in this negative way that I had to find a way to love God or to find a God that I could love. So, I began a long search for God. And I now believe that God was leading the way back to Him as He really is. My husband and I entered a cult that studied the gospels, but didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. There I learned that there were different interpretations about God’s word—a revelation to me. And from there He led me on a long journey reading about other religions—Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. And in everything I read, I thought, “Oh, that’s what Jesus meant!” I especially liked Taoism which said that we shouldn’t try to go upstream, to fight the current, but that we should follow the energy wherever it flowed.

 

I was also reading the works of the saints of the church. In the end, I ended up giving up my life to Christ in a period of time when I was beginning to deal with exactly who I am. I began to ask myself, “What do I really want to do?” And that led me to reevaluate all that I do, instead of just following the shoulds and have-tos of my self-image. And continued with the charge to “Write!” which I heard first on an airplane and then often over the next three weeks. With three small kids, there was little time to write, but I began to write out my heart’s desires, my images of myself on scraps of paper, whenever I had a minute or two to myself. In the midst of all this writing, I surrendered my life to God and walked on air for three days. I came crashing down to earth with this thought, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me!” I spent the next weeks listing all the things and people in my life that I put before God. And I can report that the last forty years of my life have been about giving up all those gods. And I am sure that I am not done yet.

 

Much later, I thought that if God could love me as I am, then surely I could love myself. And so I made a conscious decision to love myself and all that I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as the old western movie title put it. I am so much more accepting of all that I have said and done than I used to be, and, at the same time, more loving of other people. In fact, I feel that God has led me on a journey the last twenty years since my husband died to see people as they really are, instead of what I project onto them. Through two stays in Haiti, one in Oaxaca, Mexico, a year-long stint interviewing poor people at Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte, the books I have read, especially these two: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and Tatoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle plus the research for the books I have written, 1) about the poor and needy in the Bible and 2)about the problems in our country and how we ignore all the poor and needy—the Lord has definitely changed my mind about how I look at other people, especially the ones who are not like me.

 

Love myself, love others—the two are radically intertwined with loving everyone’s Creator, God Himself. We are commanded to love God, ourselves and others. And the sooner we get down to loving all of these, the sooner we will lead fulfilling, purposeful lives.