The deeper meaning

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

When you read Psalm 46:10, what comes to mind? What do you think God is asking you?

This verse has been a headline in my head for years.  In fact, it has been a part of me so much that my phone case has the verse on it.  Several years ago, I found myself hearing this in so many things I was reading and the music I heard.  I even remember a session in spiritual direction on this very topic during that same time period.  I remember it so vividly because at the time I was hearing this message, I had signed up for not one but two retreats, back to back weekends – insanity perhaps or may be divine intervention. My spiritual director looked at me and asked me to pray about this because one of the retreats she was very familiar with was not “be still”.  I can vouch for that, neither retreat involved resting in the stillness of God.  

abendstimmung atmospheric background beautiful
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After I had attended the second retreat I found myself on the floor in my study surrendering something that had overcome me – “fear”.  At the time, I knew that the retreats were definitely meant to be because of the fruits I received that I desperately needed at the time.  What I didn’t realize was that God was about to lead me on a journey of learning to surrender and trust Him.  Several months after the retreats, a defining moment in my life and spiritual journey began as my ex-husband began to pursue custody of our children.  I began reading a book on surrendering to the divine providence of God that spoke volumes to me.  What I saw was how much God’s presence in my past had impacted so much goodness in my present; how much He had delivered me from and how much He held me and loved me.  As the reality of my struggles in my past shed light on my present and the goodness God had brought out of my past, I began to learn about trust, trusting God.  The moments when I truly placed my trust in God, I found inner peace.  I knew things would be ok, no matter what the outcome would be.

Why? BECAUSE ALL THINGS ARE FROM GOD AND OF GOD… GOD CAUSED OR GOD ALLOWED. AND HIS GOODNESS WILL ALWAYS BE REVEALED EVEN IN THE MESSES.

Last night, I was driving home from a meeting and on the radio the DJ was talking about the Hebrew meaning of “be still” from Psalm 46:10.  What he said really spoke to me about my journey.  He said that the meaning was to let go, to surrender.  I was amazed as I began to reflect on my journey of trust that began 2 ½ years ago. When I was trying to understand and discern what God meant when He was telling me to “be still and know that I am God”, really was a discernment of trust and not so much stillness as I had assumed.  I was embarking on a path in which I would need to surrender and trust Him and His ways, knowing that all good things come from Him. This surrender would begin during these two retreats as they began to open me up to see fear within me and to allow me to let it go by dropping to my knees that Sunday afternoon after returning from the second retreat.  

TRUST and surrender are still illuminating my path as I journey through my life, now with a beautiful family of ACTS sisters. This year the theme for the retreat I am teaming on, the same retreat I attended first 2 ½ years ago, is “my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust,” Psalm 91:2.  

Although sometimes, I do believe God is calling me to rest in stillness with Him, I now know that when He called me to “be still,” He was telling me to let go and let Him be my God, taking care of what is dearest to my heart – my children.

God has a beautiful plan for each of our journey’s.  Sometimes we may not understand at first, but the more we are open and in tune with Him, He sheds a bright lamp upon the path and reveals more to us about our journey and His plans as He molds us.  

I will not be shaken

“I keep the Lord always before me.  With Him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

Are you aware of God’s constant presence with you?  If He was sitting next to you, whispering to you, would you hear Him?  If He stood behind you and gently pulled a strand of hair to get you attention, would you notice it?

Over the summer, I bought my girls each a tree frog.  When it was feeding time, I went to feed them live crickets.  In doing so, I removed the top lid from the terrarium and placed it on the ledge the terrarium was seated on.  I had only noticed one frog when I began to place the crickets inside.  I just figured the other frog was under the moss.  When I went to put the lid back on, as I picked it up I noticed something had fallen off the lid.  I quickly realized it was a frog.  I screamed and jumped backwards, dropping the lid.  Yesterday, I was met with a similar fear of a small reptile.  As I was eating breakfast with my kiddos, my daughter began to get my attention and was pointing down at the table within one foot of my plate.  When I realized that she was pointing at a lizard, I jumped and screamed creating quite a bit of excitement and adventure in catching the lizard.

You may say, what does the presence of God have to do with tree frogs, lizards and a screaming woman?  Actually it has an interesting perspective and parallelism.  You see, in either case – the instance with the tree frog and with the lizard – I did not see the small creature right away.  I was not expecting either to be within my personal space and when I did notice I was very startled.

It can be the same way with God.  When we are not attentive to our relationship with God, we may not recognize His presence or His call to something He is wanting us to do or say.  When we finally realize God is there, we may become startled, especially if He is calling us to something and we are headed the other direction.  On the other side of the coin, we may not have a relationship with God and are shaken by many things in our lives, especially in moments of struggles.

The very essence of it is that God is always with you and it is your attentiveness to your friendship with Him that is the key to all things in your life.  God has paved the road in front of you.  He has constructed the scenery along the path and He is directing you.  It is your awareness of Him along your journey that creates the peace in the adventures of the joy filled moments and the painful moments.  Being aware that God is on the journey with you carrying your baggage when they are too heavy and running carefree along the countryside when there are none to carry prepares you so that you won’t be surprised, but filled with peace and excitement.

woman wearing blue and white skirt walking near green grass during daytime
Photo by Ana Madeleine Uribe on Pexels.com

Although He is always near, God does not force Himself into any of our lives but if we nurture a relationship with Him and know He is “at [our] right hand, [we] shall never be shaken.”  Even in the biggest trials along our journey, we will not be overcome.

Are you nurturing your friendship with God, tuning in your awareness to His presence?  Will you notice when God taps you on the shoulder or whispers to your conscience?   Are you prepared for the unexpected or will you be startled?

When the unexpected comes to visit, fear may stop in to visit as well but it can turn into peace knowing that God is present guiding you in all things.

Just say YES

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Have you had intentional or unintentional moments when you did not say yes to God when He called you to something?  Have you brushed that feeling off, that little nudge to help the person on the side of the road or the homeless person at the corner?  Perhaps you keep telling yourself you will write that book, talk to your friend about going to church or serve in that ministry you keep being asked about?  Sometimes I think procrastination and fear of stepping out of our comfort zone are Satan’s favorite in keeping us from saying YES to God in the moments He is calling us.

What if Mary procrastinated or just didn’t feel comfortable saying YES when St. Gabriel told her she was chosen by God to carry and deliver His son.  What would that story look like?  Would the Bible end at the Old Testament?  Would Christmas even be a day of celebration?  What about Easter?  What about us?  What would life be like for us sinners?

I think it’s interesting to look at salvation history if Mary had not said YES, if she had not trusted God and His plan for her.  Seriously, could you imagine the fear she must of had, being so young and told that she would be the mother of God’s son?  The fear of potential shame of being pregnant and not for the one she was betrothed to?  In our world that’s a scary thought and would be considered a heavy burden.

jesus christ figurine
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

In this perspective of Mary’s YES, I think about the many times that I have said NO out of fear or I procrastinated something that perhaps God was calling me to do.  I wonder how much richer life would be if I said YES and trusted God at least 75% of the time when He is nudging me.  I honestly wish I could just kick FEAR to the curb and didn’t make so many excuses of why I don’t have time to do something except put it off.  As I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating writing two other pieces because I’m afraid of what others may think about it.  In fact, my plan as my day started in prayer was to spend my day writing.  I found so many menial tasks to do today and didn’t pull my laptop out until 8 pm.  At that point my mind is restless and ready for bed.

Some time ago, I noticed an elderly man on a chilly morning sitting near the curb in front of a department store.  I felt this nudge to give him some cash and then began to talk myself out of it.  I could feel this sense deep within me to help him out.  I drove by where he was and lowered the window.  Gave him the cash I had.  The smile on his face and the words of blessings that he spoke told me that this was a God moment.  I’m not sure what that little bit of cash was able to do for this gentleman but that wasn’t for me to know or understand.  I was only to say YES to the feeling in the pit of my stomach to do something that would make some difference in God’s plan.  What if I had just kept driving?  Would God have nudged someone else?  Would that person have helped him out?  Would that poor elderly man been able to get something warm to eat or drink?  What if this man was the face of God calling me, calling you to compassion and mercy, love and kindness?

When St. Gabriel came to Mary, did she know or understand God’s plan?  Or did she just trust that God knew what He was doing and she was His humble servant?  I’m always astonished by Mary’s model of trust.  She is one of the greatest example of trust alongside Abraham in my opinion.  This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s take a minute to thank Mary for her YES and ask Jesus for the courage to resemble the trust that His mother had in accepting God’s plan for her, for Him and for us.  Without her YES – would we be celebrating Christmas, would we celebrate Easter, would we have eternity to look forward to?

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror?

Do you often feel like you get drawn back into your past?  Perhaps, you go back to relive a very happy moment?  May be, you haven’t healed from an event in your past and you go back wondering what went wrong, you ask a bunch of what if’s or you just can’t move forward because of the pain?

Why does the past often seem so attractive? Can we relive an exact moment in our past, re-create it?

Our past is never meant to be re-created.  In fact, it never can be.  Even if I walk the same path today as I did yesterday, my foot prints will be different, my thoughts will not be exactly the same and the environment around me will be slightly different, even though it is the same path as yesterday.  No matter, where or how we walked the journey yesterday, we are meant to always be in the present moment.

person on a bridge near a lake

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

So, why does God give us this capacity to remember the journey we have already traveled?

I think He does so to reveal moments of joy and happiness and moments of sadness and pain to aid us in the present moment.  They either will help us through a learning experience or they will bring a smile in the moment when we need it.

Sometimes, I think in my own personal life, I feel I get sucked back into my past through current circumstances. I have two choices in those moments. I can either allow myself to be sucked into a place that no longer exist or I can choose to move forward in the present moment by choosing to deal with the circumstance through the grace of all things God has provided in that moment to aid me to continue the path forward, only looking back to learn how to best proceed.

Then there are memories in my past I cherish, memories that bring pure joy. Being a mom of two beautiful young ladies, I cherish the memories I have of their childhood, the moments they brought laughter to my day by their actions and words, the moments when they made their first accomplishments as they grew into the the young ladies they are today. I also embrace the memories of those who have gone before me or who have provided me with great wisdom and love through my childhood and young adult life. These memories are things I can look back on and be filled with joy and also learn from as I embrace the current moment.

As I reflect on my own journey, God provides these memories to me for a purpose and that purpose is not for me to try to relive the moment or to go back and stay in the past.  He gives them to me to learn from them, to rejoice in them, to strengthen me and remind me of all the gifts He has provided for me in the journey.

If we try to drive looking through the rear view mirror, we will never move forward and reach our ultimate destination.  The rear view mirror is there to help us journey forward by seeing what is behind us and using that to make the best decision to maneuver as we travel the road ahead in the present moment, where God is, providing the ultimate compass of guidance.

Are you walking your journey looking through the rear view mirror or are you using it to aid you as you maneuver the challenges of life?

Ripples of the Holy Spirit – are you open to receive them?

Do you struggle with listening and hearing God? Do you struggle with being still and resting in His presence? How about being open to everything around you and how He will speak to you or reveal Himself to you?

Do a little exercise. Get in a comfortable place, somewhere that is peaceful for you. Perhaps a place where you have experienced God before.  Take two deep breaths and release them.

Now, imagine you are sitting next to a calm lake. The water is still. There is absolutely no observable movement on the surface. The surface is flat throughout. It is absolutely undisturbed.

conifer daylight environment evergreen
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Now close your eyes, keeping this image with you. Imagine you are this body of water. You are still. Your mind is clear. Your body is at rest. Allow the Holy Spirit to drop something into this body of water, into your presence, your being. Open your mind to receive it.  Release all the pressures of the day and receive what God is offering you in this moment.  Do you hear a whisper, feel something within, or envision something? Perhaps it’s a word? Perhaps it’s an answer to something you’ve been discerning to do? Perhaps it’s an object or a scenery? May be it’s a person’s face?  Or perhaps it’s a feeling of love embracing you?

Does it make a ripple when it hits the surface of stillness within you? Do you have an overwhelming feeling throughout your body? A feeling of joy, comfort, or rest? May be you feel a peace of some resolution that has taken place within or that needs to take place?  Whatever it is, soak it up.  Stay in this moment and rest.

Just as the stillness of the water creates a ripple through the lake when something is dropped within it, does our inner space when we allow the Holy Spirit to drop His thoughts upon us.

dawn dusk nature ripple
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The ripples fill the lake as the Holy Spirit fills us. The ripples are only bound by the edges of the lake. We too place boundaries upon the ripples in our lives when we aren’t open to receiving all the Holy Spirit has to give us. His presence is boundless if we are open to it.

Open your eyes and always be prepared for God’s surprises.  Let Him drop a single thought into your mind, a single smell of freshness into your nose, a song of beauty resonating in your ears, and a sight of art and feel His love surrounding you.  God presents Himself to you in everything around you.  He whispers to you His plans for goodness in your life and fills you with rest in times of despair.  The key to it all is being open to receive it.  Allow your Heavenly Father to walk your journey with you today.  He seeks your friendship and will drop His very thoughts into your being, creating ripples in your life that are endless and perfect.  Trust in His will for you and joy will overflow from you as the water overflows from any body of water when it fills every ounce of its reservoir.

Which path will you choose?

“Never say or do anything until you have asked yourself whether it will be pleasing to God, good for yourself, and edifying to your neighbor.” St Ignatius of Loyola

In discernment, there are always two paths. One leads to God’s will and the other to your will. Which will you choose? And how do you know which is which?

I think these two paths can be broken down into more paths in the decision making. Each can have a variety of answers aligned with God’s will or your will; but there are always two main paths.

Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola. St Ignatius started the society of Jesus and is also known for his spiritual exercises. In his spiritual exercises, he teaches his pupils to meditate in prayer, seeking indifference, to contemplate their feelings and to ponder the spiritual movement of those feelings.

Why feelings? Our feelings tell us what our deepest desires are. If God has control over our desires and He places them in our hearts, then we should search our deepest desires for direction. Just as in the picture above where a red flower has grown in the center of the trees between the two paths, God is at the center of our being. When we have feelings that are joyful, satisfying, fulfilling that gives us life coming from this core, then we know with no uncertainty those are from God. The choices in life that produce these feelings within that center are from God. This, my friends, leads us to the path aligned with the will of God.

What happens if I choose the other path, the path of my will? Will I be struck down by lightening? Will God be disappointed in me? By no means will God bring wrath upon you or discontent. There are no wrong paths as long as they do not involve sin. God will walk with you no matter the path. A wise person told me the flower in the middle of the path can also represent that God will bring fruition on both paths, whichever we choose.

Why discern if God will bring fruition upon either path? I think it is important to search and make the best choice. Perhaps in doing so, one will bring more joy and peace in fulfilling the will of God and the other less. One will be more life giving than the other, yet God is still present in both.

As you discern your life choices, don’t forget to include God in your discernment. Don’t forget to search deep within to identify with your deepest desire and ponder the feelings that bring exuberant life.

Journey through the desert

Take a journey with me. Let’s walk along a path that seems to have no foot steps in front of us. Perhaps there have never been any or perhaps they have been covered up by the sands.

There is nothing living among the path we walk, everything appears to lack life. As we walk, let’s look at the moments in our journey that did not bring life into us. Look at them closely. Is there anything you can learn from those moments that will breathe life in you today? Something present that will help you with a trial, tribulation or a feeling of unrest?

Walk along this desert floor and feel the heat of each of these moments. Feel the dryness of your faith. Do you thirst for God as you trodden this warm, sand filled land? Do you see a mirage of your Heavenly Father before you inviting you to sift through the sands of the desert in your life, to draw closer to Him by offering these feelings to Him, bringing life upon you? Or do you see a mirage of something that isn’t from God, tempting you to turn back and dwell in the journey behind you suffering death within, clouding your vision to move forward – to see God in the moments of hurt and pain? Which mirage will you turn to? Which one draws you near?

You continue to walk along this journey and notice above your head there appears to be a dove. He flys just in front of you. You have to glance upward to see him. You wonder what is a dove doing in the middle of the desert. Yet you feel an exuberant amount of peace. Could it be the dove’s presence? Can you feel his guidance along your path? Follow him. See where he takes you.

It looks like he is guiding you to a spring ahead? It appears to be a spring of life giving water. Is it another mirage tempting you? Or is it a spring from your Heavenly Father inviting you to dive in His love, accept the grace He has given you? Will you drink from it? Will you dive in? Or will you pass it by because your vision is cloudy and the reality of the spring has been covered up by your conscience?

adventure alone arid barren
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is your choice to drink from the spring of life to come to the table and receive the Eucharist, the life giving body and blood of Christ. It is your choice to dive into the moments of desolation, the moments when God feels distant and search for His presence, His invitation. It is your choice to allow Him to bring life into your being or remain in the desert of death. Which choice will you make today? God will draw close to you in the desert filling you with a spring of life.