Category Archives: Uncategorized

1.16.23 Three Practices That Help Us Deepen Our Lives in Christ

Lectio Divina, an Ignatian practice

Lectio Divina is a way of reading shorter passages in the Bible, say three or four verses, aloud all the while paying attention to any word or phrase that stands out for you. Read the passage three times slowly, listening for any word or phrase that stands out for you. Then, take some time to meditate on that word or phrase to see what wisdom the Holy Spirit is offering you. This is a direct way for God to communicate to you.

 

The Welcoming Prayer

The Welcoming Prayer by Father Thomas Keating works in a different way for us by helping us to let go of our resistance to whatever is happening in our lives. It leads us into a deeper practice of gratitude for everything we experience. I have learned so much from dropping my resistance to whatever comes into my life. Each new thing has its challenges as well as its benefits for us. In this culture we tend to complain about anything we didn’t ask for. But I have learned that the challenges also have a big benefit for us that we will see when we can give up our resistance.

 

“Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen.”[1]

 

Centering Prayer

The third practice is Centering Prayer which was also developed by Father Keating. Centering Prayer is a form of meditation, of stilling the mind which can lead to the ability to hear “the still small voice of God”(1 Kings 19:12) within our own minds. Done on a daily basis, , we sit in God’s presence and develop the ability to hear the voice of His Indwelling Spirit. To begin to practice Centering Prayer, choose a word or short phrase[mine is Oh, Lord] to use when your thoughts take you away from the stillness. This is to be a daily practice. It’s a good idea to work your way up to 20 or 30 or 60 minutes, by starting with, say, 10 minute-sessions and then adding 5 minutes until you can sit quietly for a longer time.

 

A good way to begin is to breathe in and out slowly for four or five seconds for a minute or two. This will help settle you into the quiet. Set your timer and begin. As you build up to 20+ minutes practice, you will find the quiet becomes more sustainable, that the word or phrase you use to recall yourself to the quiet. Your mind will always be there calling your attention to some lack or problem or must-do, but as you sustain your practice it will be easier and easier to let go of the thoughts. The best way I have found to do let go of the power that our thoughts have over us is to become an observer of them. If they bother you when they come up, figure out who the source of that thought may be. Then, step back from them by smiling or nodding at them as you would an old friend. But do not engage with them. Over time they will have less and less ability to upset your meditative time.

These three practices are complementary and together really help develop the attention that is focused on God and whatever He is communicating to you.

[1] https://crossministrygroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/R-Group-Process-Welcoming-Prayer.pdf

12.19.22 Beyond Belief

Belief in God is an important first step in dedicating our lives to loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. But, it is not the end-all-and-be-all of the Christian life, just the first step. Believing in God and all that He promises us depends on the depth of our faith and our ability to follow Jesus Christ as His disciples were asked to do. To follow means to be present to Him and all that He wishes for us. It means to gradually give up our attachment to our ego and the American culture and all that the world has to offer. And it means to be ever growing in our faith and our ability to be present to God and to others and to all that He asks of us.

 

Our primary loyalty becomes focused on God Himself in all His manifestations—Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our primary loyalty is no longer to the church but to God Himself. We still belong to the church and are part of the community there, but we are dedicated to God in all that we do, first and foremost.

 

This dedication takes us on a journey that is directed by God, that is moving us towards the purpose that He created us for. It takes a lot of listening for how and when God is speaking to us. I’ve found that there are two practices that foster this listening. First, Centering Prayer helps still the mind and provides the silence in which God can be known. Second, keeping a gratitude journal helps us see what God is doing in our daily lives. I’ll detail both practices below. Once we have some experience of God’s presence in our lives, then it is easier and easier to find the motivation for these practices. Once we’ve heard Him speak directly to us in our minds, it is much easier to listen for and to recognize His voice within us.

 

At first, when we hear what He asks of us, we might say, “Oh, no! I can’t do that!” because we have never thought of ourselves in that way before.  Or it might be such a relief that we are keen to try it. You can be assured, however, that He created you just to do this very thing, and that He will help you accomplish the task, whatever it is. Remember that Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” And that Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” as well as, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (v.6).” As we do what God asks of us, the blessings will follow! And the challenges!

 

Centering Prayer: This is a form of meditation. So, we sit quietly and use a word or short phrase (mine is “Oh, Lord”) every time our mind wanders off and tries to grab our attention. It is best to start with, say, five or ten minutes for a while until we get used to sitting quietly. After practicing the shorter times while using that word or phrase, practice for a longer and longer time each week until you can sit comfortably for 20 minutes or half an hour. Then, extend the number of days you practice Centering Prayer to 6 or 7 days a week. If you have trouble keeping your attention on the stillness or the Presence of God within, what I find helpful is to count to four or five on each inhale, and do the same with each exhale. You will see how this practice spills over into the rest of your life, bringing peace into your life, far less worry, and a sense of the presence of God in and with you.

 

Gratitude Journal: At the end of each day or the following morning, list all the times you experienced God’s presence or help during the preceding day. It will take a while to really begin to see these examples of His presence, but once you do, and record your gratitude for all of the times you experienced them, you will see more and more every day. And your journal will grow and grow. So, each instance that you feel grateful for reinforces your love for God and all that He does in your live. Soon, as this practice really begins to enhance your life and love for God, you will begin to see His presence in the blessings accorded to you and also in the challenges. We grow so much more from the challenges, because they call us to give up the parts of ourselves that come between us and God. And with each one that we turn over to God, we are becoming freer and freer of the hold that the world has on us. And that is such a blessing!

The Greatest Challenge in Our Lives as We Follow Jesus

11.14.22

 

The greatest change in our lives as we follow Jesus is in developing true humility. As we give up the issues that consume us, the values the world insists that we live by, as we live into the healing that God offers us for all our pain and suffering, we find that the focus of our lives goes from total self-absorption to being God-oriented and other-oriented. Our story is no longer about what we need or want, but what the people around us need and desire for their lives. And the way that we do that is through our focus on loving God with all of ourselves and seeing the people we meet as equal to us and deserving of our help. So, we get to know them, what their lives have been about, the good and bad choices they have made [like everyone else], and we affirm their value in this life.

 

As we follow what God is suggesting to us, we go from

  1. Being self-centered to God-and-other-centered.
  2. Assuming that education and the work we do is of supreme importance in this material world to letting God define the purpose of our lives.
  3. Being angry, fearful, prejudiced and judging of others to loving everyone.
  4. Unaware of our deeper, truer selves to living in our depths, expressing the truth about ourselves.
  5. Believing in Jesus Christ to following Jesus, through the guidance of the Indwellng Holy Spirit, in everything that we do.

 

This is the path of the follower of Jesus: to give up our worldly ways and take on the spreading of love and forgiveness in the world through everything we do. Often, we find, that our purpose comes to us through the resolution and healing of challenges from early in our lives. For me, it was getting over the teachings of the hell-fire-and-damnation church of my childhood. For others, it might be helping others with the same addictions or challenges in our lives, like an AA member sponsoring others in AA to disengage from the hold that alcohol has on them or a parent of a disabled child, now an adult, who helps other parents of disabled children by sharing what he or she has learned from the experience. Once we have acknowledged the lessons learned from our difficulties, they are often what we are called to give to others in similar circumstances. And what a blessing that is to the giver and the receiver!

 

There is joy in the giving/sharing. There is peace in the resolution of the challenges. There is love galore in accepting the lessons we are to learn in following Jesus. And we have so much more patience in us when we deal with others in the situations that were once tough for us. The fruit of the Spirit begin to grow in us as we embrace life’s lessons for us. And, oh! how much we can relax as we give up these burdens! We are “Free at last, Free at Last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”[1] as the Rev. Martin Luther King revealed.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/10538-free-at-last-free-at-last-thank-god-almighty-we#:~:text=Learn%20more)-,%E2%80%9CFree%20at%20last%2C%20Free%20at%20last%2C%20Thank%20God%20almighty,we%20are%20free%20at%20last.%E2%80%9D&text=Read%20more%20quotes%20from%20Martin%20Luther%20King%20Jr.

The Key Practice

10.17.22          The Key Practice

 

The most important thing we need to do in order to follow Jesus is to be able to hear the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God in our minds. Otherwise, we are just doing what our preacher or church are telling us to do. Just like believing in Jesus Christ, that is a first step on our journey, but if we don’t connect directly with the Trinity and follow their path for each of us, then we will forever be believing in Him, but not living our faith and God’s love in our lives. The journey with God is an ongoing, ever deepening path to living in the kingdom of God here on earth—and, of course, in heaven.

 

To hear God’s “still, small voice” as Elijah experienced it in 1 Kings 19:12 is a difficult task for us, since the voices in our mind regularly drown it out. But if we follow the psalmist’s order in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God,” then we can begin to hear the Spirit of God’s voice within us. To be still is a meditative practice. Centering Prayer is a good way to begin. The hardest thing about all meditative practices is to allow the mind to still speak, although more quietly than usual, and still maintain the quietness. Practicing meditation or Centering Prayer essentially means that we are sitting back a bit from our own thoughts and becoming an observer of them.

 

As we listen in the stillness, we become more accustomed to our thoughts–the way our mind works–and we begin to see the sources(from our childhood) of many of these repetitive offerings. We can even know the sources of some of them, our parents or other relatives, teachers, and the culture. As we get to know them without reacting to them, we can just allow them to be. They no longer upset us or call us to do something NOW! We can observe them without disturbing our stillness before God. They are losing their power over us and really quieting down. Then, we are able to hear that “gentle whisper”[NIV] and to feel the nudges, the suggestions that God makes to us, not just in the stillness, but throughout our days. We develop a sense of His presence when God is speaking to us.

 

Eventually, through maybe years of practicing this stillness, our voices and thoughts become merged with God’s, so that we no longer have to wonder if this is God’s voice or mine. Then we know that we are being guided throughout our days, all because we could quiet the influence of our own minds and truly listen to His word to us. Amen!

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.