Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Now that the world is opening up again….

6.21.21

Now that the world is opening up again after a year of being sequestered in our homes with our immediate families, we need to take the time to acknowledge the lessons that the COVID-19 has raised in us about our country, about our lives as they were before the pandemic so changed our lives.

 

On the national level, we need to acknowledge that our system has created masses of poor people who have little access to health care, good education and good jobs. So many of the poor are our ‘essential workers,’ but they get little money and most likely no benefits for working these difficult, exposed-to-everything kind of jobs. While our CEO’s salaries have gone up 1.000 percent since the 1970’s, these essential workers’ wages have only increased 11.5 percent during the same time period.

 

Health care is so expensive for our poorer neighbors that they mostly don’t even try and since rural hospitals have been closing, the cost of getting to a hospital may be prohibitive or not even possible.

 

Racism is still rampant at all levels of our national functioning. When will we live as if our motto is true: “All men are created equal.”

 

And what am I called by God to do about these areas of our lives together?

 

On a personal level, COVID-19 has raised many questions about our work, our lives and how we really want to live. If we take the time to really assess what works for us, and forget the culture’s standards for how we are supposed to live, we have a chance to set goals for ourselves that really suit us, rather than just responding to the cultural norms. Do we really need all the material goods our ads say we should buy? Do we really need to stay in jobs that are not fulfilling to us? What is it that I/we really want to do with our lives? With our family?

 

These questions may not sound like a spiritual assessment, but they point to the real questions:

What do I really want to do with my life?

What is fulfilling to me at the deepest level of who I was created to be?

What brings me joy and real satisfaction rather than momentary happiness that

vanishes the moment I think of the next thing on my list to acquire?

And most important of all,

What way of life is God asking of me, suggesting to me, leading me to?

 

As we take this opportunity to assess the ground of our being, thanks to COVID-19, we have a chance to live full, productive, fulfilling, joy-filled, purposeful lives. And that is what God is now calling us to do.

Following God’s Directions

5.17.21  The most important part of our journey in Christ is to be able to identity God’s voice as He speaks to us in our minds. This is so difficult, because our own interior voices are so loud and persistent that they can easily drown out God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). And even if we do hear that voice, God’s suggestions to us are often so unheard of in our own thoughts that we are apt to answer, “I can’t do that!” and forget that it ever happened.

 

So how do we learn to entertain God’s thoughts in our minds? To my mind there are two ways that work well. The first is to do lectio divina with short Bible passages. For instance, if we were to take the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-8, we would read it through slowly three times with a good pause in between each reading. At each pause, we would look for any phrase or word that seemed to be highlighted in us and think about its importance is to us. Lectio is a way of reading the Bible to see what God is saying to us this very day in this passage.

 

A second way is to meditate in silence or to do Centering Prayer. The biggest obstacle to sitting these ways in silence is that it is so hard to sit quietly and listen to our own thoughts. The best way to overcome this reluctance in us is to become an observer of our thoughts. As an observer we are acknowledging our thinking, but refusing to engage emotionally with what the thoughts are telling us. When we can observe them, they no longer upset us or make us afraid or judgmental of ourselves.

 

The repetitive thinking in our minds is a product of our early childhood when we had trouble following our parents wishes for us. Usually formed by the time we are six, before our reasoning brains can kick in, these thoughts are trying to make us into the perfect people we think our parents wanted us to be. And then as we grow up, any abuse or trauma or alienation or experiences in school and the culture just seem to make these early thoughts stronger. Now as adults, we can be driven by our own criticisms of how we look or what we are doing or saying. My favorite example from my childhood is that my parents thought being on time was the most important thing we could do in every situation. Even today, many decades later, I can still feel pressured to be on time, anxious even though I know that I’ll be 10 minutes early. Now I just relax, instead of succumbing to the pressure within me. And that’s just one example.

 

To become an observer of our thoughts means that we step back emotionally from them and discover the source of many of them. In the example above, it was clearly my parents who were the source. My parents and my Aunt Grace who could not talk on the phone longer than three minutes no matter who was paying were the source of much of my thoughts about spending money—they had all lived through two world wars and the depression. Many of my thoughts also come from our culture which highly values individualism and attaining the goals we set for ourselves–what our culture extols in its citizenry.

 

The more we can step back from our thinking and see the sources of it, the more we become just an observer of the thoughts. We no longer have to fight them or push them away or be upset by them. They are just a part of us. I had hoped that observing them would make them go away, but I think that they stay with us for all our days. The important thing about these old thoughts is that they don’t have to rule us. We can just be like this: “Oh, fear, old friend, there you are again.” And we do not have to be afraid.

 

I want to highly recommend a book that my son, Peter, who is a therapist, gave me last Christmas. It’s called “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living.”[1] I just finished it. The author, Russ Harris, gives many exercises that help us step back from the pressure of our thoughts and then shows us how to lead a meaningful, rich life. If you are interested in stepping away from the influence that your thoughts picked up in childhood have on your life, and are looking to live as fulfilling a life as you can, this book will help.

 

Maybe you can see the connection to what I wrote last month about the lens through which we see life. So much of our lens has been formed by these old thoughts, but as we move towards disengaging with them, our lens gets clearer and clearer. And we can see ourselves and our lives with more clarity and less with our conditioned thinking. So we become freer and freer to just be the persons that God designed us to be. And think about how much lighter and freer we will feel without all those old burdens!

 

Not only can we sit in silence and not be bothered by the thoughts which still try to engage us, but we can begin to hear God’s “gentle whisper” as the NIV version of 1 Kings 19:12 puts it. Sometimes there is a nudge to go home in another direction or to do “this” next. Sometimes it’s a thought that is loud and clear in our minds, like this one—one of the first I ever heard from God: “I have an agenda for my life.” At the time I didn’t know who the “I” was who had that thought, much less what the agenda was for me. But, after thinking about it, I began to ask another question each time something came up: “What do I really want to do?” instead of “What should I be doing?”

 

Sometimes God can speak through a friend or another person who says, “You should read this book” or other suggestion. Then there are the thoughts that come with lectio divina. Here’s another thought that sounded loud and clear in my mind: “How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother?” That led me on a two-year search to undo my teen-ager’s rebellion(in my 40’s!) against my mother; I was not successful. At the end of that time, on a railroad platform in Wilmington DE where she lived, He surrounded us with a cloud of love (my experience of it) and transformed our relationship.

 

Probably the biggest help God has been to me was when my husband had lymphoma, was treated for it, declared cancer-free, and then, three months later he was back in the hospital with the cancer raging. I was devastated; all I wanted was for him to be well, for all this to go away. By three o’clock in the afternoon I would wish the day were over and I could crawl into bed and forget all that was happening. At that time, I heard this: “If I can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well then…..” I was already practiced in surrendering to His messages, at least about small things, so I worked at holding all possible outcomes equally. As soon as I could do that, I could see that there were many different outcomes, only one of which meant that he would die. With that realization He gave me a gift of faith that felt like I was standing steadily on a rock of faith. As the disease progressed, I was able to support my husband, our adult children, and our friends. I was at peace.

 

Even as we called in hospice, I was still thinking: “the possibilities are fewer, but it still doesn’t mean that he will die.” Two and a half months after I heard God’s voice, he died. And after his memorial service, I dropped into my grief. But I never resented his death, only tried to grieve and to adapt to it. I was already two years into a training program for spiritual directors from which I had taken a leave of absence when Hank got sick. That training program became the basis for a whole new life for me that culminated in my moving to Charlotte NC, beginning a writing career and living close to my grandchildren.

 

My experience of following all the suggestions that God gives me is this: I live in peace with who I am and what I am to do and with what is happening in my life. I am dedicated to the work He has given me to do. At a time when most people are retired and thinking about their next trip, I am writing a weekly blog and, now my fifth book on leading a spiritual life in Christ. I had no idea in my life that I would be a writer, much less have a career at the end of my life. But, God, who blesses us all, had this in store for me long before I knew it. He has similar plans for you, based on who He created you to be. Follow His guidance! You’ll be amazed!

[1] The book was published in Boulder CO by Trumpeter Books in 2008.

The Lens Through Which We See Life

The lens through which we see life is formed early in our lives. We pick up the attitudes of our parents and all they try to teach us. We absorb the cultural goals for us. We see through the attitudes of our peers in school and whether we are accepted or not. The pain and suffering in our lives also form the lens through which we see life. As we grown into adulthood, all these experiences solidify our own personal lens through which we see and assess and judge and welcome or push away everything that happens to us. Our personal lens can greatly restrict how we see others, affect what we consent to or not, color the truth to how we want it to be and so much more.

 

Our self-image is often formed through the reactions and opinions of others about us, especially our parents. We learn to be impatient with how we are and how we do things. We wish we were like someone else. Or that we could do or be in another way. This is probably the hardest part of our lens to overcome.

 

Our inability to see what is real and true is probably the biggest effect our personal lens has on our life. We celebrate those who agree with us and feel confident in our opinions when others share them. We avoid or ignore those who don’t agree with us. And there we are safely encircled and confident that we are right. The facts don’t matter as much as our attitudes and opinions do. So we can live in a state of unreality.

 

 

We can form opinions about other people just by the way they dress or their race or other superficial means without getting to know who they really are. We can miss the richness of knowing a lot of different kinds of people, whether they agree with us or not, and fail to find out maybe why their lens is so different from ours. Our lens can blind us to so many things. I was talking to a woman the other day whose husband was regretting that he had never studied engineering. And she said to him, “Why don’t you go back to school?” And he responded,” It’s too late, I’m just turning 40.” His lens on life was telling him that he should ignore a desire he had had for a long time, because it was too late.

 

And that’s where our personal lenses can dampen our natural talents and abilities; we can choose the “prevailing wisdom” instead of something that is so natural to us. We dampen our own desires to fit into the cultural norm. And we can’t imagine what joy there would be when we are doing things that totally serve our own inclinations. We choose what is safe and acceptable, instead of what is most natural to us.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are to be growing into our created selves, into what God created us to be and to do, as we grow into our love for Him. We are to be developing a lens on the world and the people in it that is true and embracing, forgiving and merciful, just like Jesus’s lens on us. If we are still thinking the way we have always thought and doing what we’ve always done, we are not following Jesus. It is in our interactions with Him and His suggestions to us that we follow, that we begin to see the limitations of our personal lenses, of the culture we grew up in, of our family’s attitudes and points of view, which have limited who we are and who we can be. Jesus will reveal our truer selves and our purpose in life and how we are to accomplish it. And in His healing and transformation that takes place in us, we begin to experience real joy as we express who we really are, not the momentary happiness that our culture would have us seek in material things.

 

As our lens grows and expands to see things in truth and love, then we are seeing as Jesus sees. We are seeing other people for who they are and what each has to offer. We no longer live in judgment of others. We are seeing the way the world is and the way God wants it to be. We are seeing our purpose and how we are to achieve it. And we are living in peace and joy and love, because we are no longer attached to the world’s ways. Thanks be to God!

Leaving Your Negative Self-Image

3.15.21

 

We absorb so much from our culture and our families. I’ve read that before the age of six, we have absorbed what our parents are trying to teach us. Then, add to those instructions any abuse or trauma or illness or suffering in the young child and the self-image of the child is set in those early years. Our guilt and shame from these early years are hidden from us. Our tears and grief get buried deep within us. All of these early events form our self-image and the lens through which we view ourselves and others and God. For myself, the hell-fire-and-damnation church of my life up to the age of thirteen, led me to fear God above all, and to look at myself with doubt and fear, knowing I would never feel safe and accepted. It took years for me to step back from the effects of this church and to see that its teachings had nothing to do with me, but it was a long journey to get free of the capricious and vengeful God.

 

Fortunately, God was right there with me, guiding me, leading me, even when I was totally unaware of His presence. Eventually, I came to see that there were many different interpretations of the Bible passages and that I could come to love a wholly different kind of God—one of love and forgiveness–from the one I had been stained with. Eventually, I gave my life to Christ and since then, much has been done to repair my self-image and how I treat and think of myself and others. Much has been healed in me and today I live my life in gratitude for God in my life and I am at peace, no matter what happens to me.

 

What saved me? It was becoming an observer of my thoughts—stepping way back from their impact on my life, so that I could see the source of that repetitive programming in my mind—the “shoulds,” the “ought-tos,” and the “have-tos.” At first it was difficult to sit with my thoughts in the quiet. I wanted to run from what they were saying(and had been saying since I was very young) about me. But I realized the necessity of sitting in the quiet and could begin to sit and think about the thoughts that drove me crazy before. I could identify the source of each one after a while: my Dad for any impatience, my Mom and Dad for being on time, my Aunt Grace for not spending any money unless you had to, and so many more. As an observer, I could see that they had been with me all my life, “old friends” in a strange way. But I no longer was upset about them, nor did I do what they were trying to get me to do.

 

I had hoped that they would go away over time now that I could just observe them, but not involved with them emotionally. But they stayed. Now I just smile at them when they occur and I think that they will continue until the day I die.

 

I am able to sit in the quiet no matter what I am thinking. Those old thoughts are pretty loud in my mind, but I have come to know the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 KJV) of God that resides in me beneath all the clamor of these learned responses to life. Now I just listen to God and willingly do what He suggests. And my life is full of purpose and joy and fulfillment as I walk through life totally accompanied by God. It is a miracle, given where I started from. A blessing. And grace.

 

You, too, can walk away from the self-image that these early experiences froze in you. Try it out. Write down the “shoulds,” etc. in your life and think about the source of each one. Step back from them and see what anxiety or fear or anger they produce in you when they come to you loud and clear. See them as old friends, but no longer formative of who you are, and watch God step in with His “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV).

 

Then continuing the quiet, listen for the soft and gentle voice of God: suggestions not harsh law, guidance not “have tos,” love and forgiveness not orders from headquarters. Then follow those suggestions and see where He leads you. You’ll go deeper and deeper into the self that He created you to be, and you will feel more and more fulfilled and loved and forgiven! It’s an amazing outcome of just being still. Thanks be to God!

 

Prayer

2.22.21  Prayer

 

Prayer is a broad spectrum of practices that keep us in touch with God. From memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer to any dialogue with God to silence in His presence, the ways of prayer are varied and rich. Prayer is asking God for help and healing for ourselves and others. It is lifting up our sins to God and asking for forgiveness. It is asking God what He has in store for us this day. It is listening to God for what He is saying to us in this Bible passage today. It is hearing from the Holy Spirit what God wants us to do now, with this person. Prayer is the whole gamut of the relationship we have with God.

 

It includes acknowledging His grace and presence. It is gratitude for all that the Lord does for us. Prayer is the way of walking in God’s presence every day and in every way.

 

The one kind of prayer that doesn’t come easily to us is the prayer of silence, of contemplation. Years ago, when I first tried to meditate, after a few minutes of listening to the mumblings of my mind, I would run from the chair as fast as I could. A few months later, acknowledging that this was an important practice for me to learn, I began to be able to sit with my thoughts quietly and without running away. How did I do that? I learned how to step back from being engaged with them and letting them upset me or make me anxious–how to become an observer of my thoughts.

 

What thoughts arose in me? All the shoulds! But when I began to step back from their influence on me, I could see the source of each thought and acknowledge the person(s) who taught me how to think like that. From my parents, the major lesson was to be on time, if not early for everything. From my parents and my Aunt Grace, don’t spend any money that you don’t have to. From my Mom, have poise in every situation. And so on. There were also all the society’s rules of behavior and, mainly, conforming to society’s goals for me. As an observer I could look on all these early influences on my life with distance and interest, rather than nervousness and upset.

 

As an observer of these thoughts, I was able to sit in peace, to not let them distract me. For many years I sat in meditation or Centering Prayer for an hour each day. The more I was silent, the more I could hear God’s “still, small voice” [1 Kings 19:12] throughout my days. And then I was able to surrender to whatever He was telling me. My spiritual practices evolve over time, so right now I am no longer meditating daily. I keep a daily gratitude journal at night and read the passages from ”Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young and “Face-to-Face with a Holy God” by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy on Isaiah in the mornings. In addition, I have followed two journaling guides that I produced, one on the Two Great Commandments and the other on the Beatitudes. These practices keep my life centered on God and aware of His presence throughout the day.

 

Prayer is an expression of the all-encompassing nature of our lives lived in the presence of God. It is rich and varied depending on the person and what God is asking of you right now. Mostly, it expresses the ever-deepening nature of our relationship to God in our individual lives.

Adapting to Life As It Is

1.18.21  Prayer in troubling times

 

It has been ten months since Covid-19 disrupted our lives and brought so many changes to us. Ten long months of isolation, of lack of social contacts, of time on our hands that we had not experienced like this. We humans are designed to be adaptable, but, sometimes, we get tired of adapting. I’ve been at peace all these months until the daily changes have just seemed to pile up. I’ve been experiencing shock at the smallest changes. I have had to sit for a while to settle down again and then adapt to whatever is being asked of me.

 

Here’s how they have piled up. 1) my daughter had her 3rd surgery in six months right before Christmas. Two weeks later, while she is recuperating from major surgery, her husband was hospitalized overnight with some sort of heart problem. Meanwhile I am trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, driving some of their kids to and from school, running errands and such. So I was driving four times a day since school started back up. Then our county announced that all school should close last week until February 2nd, suddenly my days were clear of driving. Except the next day, one school that their kids attended reopened. And now it seems to be day to day changes. The other school is still closed and trying to figure out what to do.

 

My work had pretty much been on hiatus since my daughter’s problems returned around the middle of December. [By the way she is recuperating and her husband is okay, too.] Now in January I was just getting back into the routine of things and all these changes happened. It felt like each one was a door slamming in my face. So what I found was to stop and relax, to pray, to ask God for help in dealing with these changes. A little while later, I would be at peace again whether it meant more time or less time to work, more interruptions or fewer.

 

He is my mainstay through everything that has happened in my life. And He comes through for me in a variety of different ways, but they all work on my behalf and on the behalf of the work I am doing. What would I do without Christ in my life? I know for sure how I lived before I gave my life to Christ: I would be anxious and fearful. I would be outer-oriented, looking to our culture and to other people for how I should be. I would stay in the background, living my life in the wings, not on stage for sure.

 

He has brought peace and fulfillment to me. He has given me back my life as He designed it to be. And I am slowly recapturing my real, true self. Taking my true self back from the conditioned self, who I thought I was, but no more. Just this week He revealed to me that I am not the ENFP on the Myers Briggs or a #6 on the Enneagram, that those describe my conditioned self. Now that was a surprise to me that I am not who I thought I was. These describe the cultural overlay that I took on as I grew up and experienced what life for me would be like. So now I am awaiting for what He will unveil in me as He reveals my real, true self. I can’t wait!