Traveling together, a journey with one focus

“Just as the wise men traveled together to find Jesus in the manger, so we travel together to find Jesus born in our souls.”  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling

Have you encountered a companion along your journey that has helped you grow in your relationship with God, perhaps in the form of a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a guide?  Have you encountered companions that seem to draw you further from God?  Which one brings you life?

I have had many companions in my short life.  Some have taught me about life, love and faith, some have comforted me, some have inflicted pain and some have guided me.  They all have one thing in common, the journey they accompanied me on was headed to one final destination.  My journey has been a walk through the valley, the desert, the mountainous terrain, along the beautiful springs rushing by and through the fields of a thousand flowers.  I have swam the depths of the ocean and soared on the wings of eagles.  All the while being accompanied by others to a destination in my heart to find Jesus waiting for me.  In the pain and in the joy, in the hardships and in the simplicity of life, there has always been one compass pointing to one direction.  The beauty of it all was that my companions helped me to see this path forward, whether they intended or not.

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There are going to be positive guides and companions in my life, spiritual friendships and mentors.  There will also be negative companions that will rip at my spirit, test my strength and weaknesses and prey on my vulnerabilities.  At the end of each day, it is I who am the one discerning the path to take to reach my destination.  When I don’t have my eyes focused on Jesus, I will miss the path to take.  I will wander off onto a path that is lonely and treacherous.  I will have no companion and I will only seek the desires of my self will.  This is when I find myself broken and damaged, depressed and forgotten, hopeless and in disparity.  I will find myself needing companionship to be alive, to continue along my journey.  When I see myself in such a desolate state, it is imperative that I seek companionship.

In the book the “Inner Compass,” Margaret Silf draws on a unique perspective of companionship and our need for others in guiding us to our final destination.  In 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah sees Elisha and when “he came to Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself with the twelfth, Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him.”  What she goes on to describe is the act of plowing a furrow, “your furrow of life.”  Ahead of you, you have 11 oxen, helping you carry the load and keep your eye on the focal point so that you stay on a straight path as you plow.  You are not alone in your journey, you have companions that will help guide you and keep you focused on the destination, Jesus.  We all have a story to tell along our journey, our faith share.  It is in this story, that we see our 11 oxens, our companions that help keep us focused on Jesus.  Perhaps, a few of these companions may be your anamchara, Celtic for “soul friend”.   We also see those that help us become stronger in our faith because of the trials we endure.  In all circumstance it is you and I that are the ones making the choices that mold our story into a faith share that only we can claim.

Are you going to allow others to travel with you “to find Jesus born in [your] soul?”   Are you going to allow them to help you companion with you to keep your eyes on the focal point, Jesus?  He is the destination and the ultimate companion, but He gives you others in your life to let you know you are not alone.  He speaks to your heart through them as they guide you, mentor you, keep you grounded in His love for you.  Have you thought about who are your 11 oxens, who are your “soul friends”?

Magnificence in the details

“Countless, unseen details are often the only difference between mediocre and magnificent.” Author unknown

What details in your life seemed mediocre at the time but brought about a magnificent encounter with your relationship with God once you realized His goodness, His presence and His grace?

What about in your trials and sufferings or in times that seem to not be going the way you planned?  Have you wondered how sweeter they would be if you accept the fullness of God’s grace and surrender to His will in the midst of what is going on in your life?

Almost every morning, I begin my day with a walk to clear my mind and to ask that God be present with me in my day.  When I begin my walk, I ask God to reveal to me what He would like for me to see on my walk.  Sometimes He teaches me about life or connections in my life through observation of the ducks or the movement of the water.  Today as I walked along the quiet path seeking God’s guidance, I noticed the remnant of a recent storm that cluttered the path with leaves, twigs and pine needles.

As I continued to walk, my mind kept wondering back to the debris on the path.  How often in my own storms of life have I felt everything had been blown around, cluttered, out of “wack”?  I walked back around to the spot on the path that appeared to have the most debris.  As I looked down, I noticed the pine needles touching one another, the leaves over lapped each other and was reminded how intricate each detail of my life is connected.  Even in the storms, there are connections to the beauty and joy in my life.  In fact, it is through the rubbish that I am able to see the beauty and God’s goodness in my life.  Often times, it isn’t until after the storm has passed when I see His grace.

So I sit and wonder how much sweeter would it be to see the fullness of His grace in the midst of the storm?  Would I feel an immense joy?  Would the suffering appear to be full of love?  Would my heart feel alive?  Would I be overcome with peace?  What emotions would sweep over me?  Would I experience the same feelings Jesus felt as He experienced His passion?  If so, what would those feelings look like?

Whatever the feeling may be it would be Divine experiencing the grace that God gives me in that moment. To see the details, when I am in the middle of these moments of chaos and trials, through the eyes of God could only be magnificent compared to the mediocre view that I see when I don’t allow myself to receive His grace in these times of struggle.

Each day as I grow closer in relationship to God, I am beginning to pay attention to the small details in my life and see the beauty He reveals to me on my continued journey with Him. I truly see the magnificence in the smallest details of life as I become more aware. Through awareness, I can piece these details together like a puzzle and find meaning that speaks to my heart and my discernment in life.

Are you allowing yourself to be open to the fullness of God’s grace in the midst of whatever it is you are struggling with in life? Can you see the details that radiate His magnificent goodness present within these moments or are you caught up in the moment and only see the mediocre rubbish of the storm? Have you taken a short walk and experienced the tiniest detail in nature that speaks directly to your soul, revealing God’s love to you? If not, take a 10 minute walk and just pay attention to all that is around you, the rubbish on the ground, the butterfly on a blade of grass, even the tiniest ant walking along the sidewalk. You will be amazed at the connection and the beauty you discover.

Discovering purpose in the ashes

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  1 John 3:1

“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

Ever wonder what your purpose is in life?  Have you asked God what He created you for – what your purpose is?

Over five years ago, I found myself asking that very question.  My life felt very numb.  I thought I had a purpose but wasn’t sure what it was.  I remember praying, asking God what my purpose was.  A few months later, I was asked to be involved in a new ministry in the church, which was a catalyst in my relationship with God.  On the surface, I thought the invitation to start the new ministry was God answering that question and leading me to a purpose of being more involved in the church.  What I realized through the events in my life that followed and through my growing relationship with Him in my faith and through the foundation I was establishing in the Church,  that the answer God was revealing to me was that my purpose was to receive His love.

Today that message is so vivid as I look upon the ashes in my life, the chains I have broken.  With those chains, I could not receive the LOVE of God in its entirety.  I had to release my past, my feelings of rejection, fear, not being good enough, and not being loved.  Today, those ashes of my past have revealed a love so great that I know my purpose and it is a very simple purpose – TO RECEIVE THE LOVE OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER.  There were things in my past that prevented me from being able to receive His love.  When I cried out to Him over five years ago, He placed me on a path to see that my purpose was simple – allow myself to be loved by Him.

Everything else freely falls from accepting God’s love.  Fulfilling His Will becomes incredibly easy once we embrace this love by living it, breathing it, tasting it, giving it to others and receiving it from others.

Have you opened your heart to receiving the LOVE of God, completely?  Do you have walls or chains preventing you from receiving this immense love?  Perhaps you have some unforgiveness buried deep within your heart that is building a dam from this life giving water of love?  Perhaps you are hanging on to a lie that you aren’t good enough to receive it?  Whatever your story may be, your past, place them in the fiery pit and let the ashes be swept away by the breath of the Holy Spirit as you embrace the greatest gift in your life, a gift of LOVE that your Heavenly Father wants to give you because you are His child and nothing can take that away.

Will you allow God to shape and form you?

“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever wish life were simple, everything worked out, there was no pain, no suffering? Do you think if you had no pain and suffering you would be the person you are today?

So often I wish God would take away all my pain and suffering, just put me in a bubble and protect me from all inflictions. If only each piece of sin and suffering would bounce off the wall of the bubble and I can watch in peace. When I sit and dream of such a beautiful, perfect life with no heart ache, no unhappy tears, I’m reminded of all that I have gained in the midst of pain and suffering. If I had not suffered pain and inflictions, I may not have the relationship I have with God. It is through these trials that I have grown the most in my faith and relationship with God. It’s in these moments that I cry out to God and seek His love and guidance the most. It’s in these moments that I learn to trust God more and more because I know there is much more greatness God has in store for me.

As a parent, I am always wanting to place my girls in a bubble, protect them from all things in the world that can inflict pain, hurt, heart ache. But being a parent, I also know that putting my kids in a bubble and not letting them experience these things is not good for them. In order for them to grow, I have to step back sometimes and give them space to experience situations.

God does the same for us in so many ways. He knows what we need and He allows us to go through these moments so that the happiness He designed for us through love for Him is pruned and blooms.

What masterpiece can be created when you fire up a slab of metal and mold and shape it? What can you create when you twirl around a piece of clay, guiding its formation? Is God not the artist and the potter? Will you let Him shape and form you today through your pain and suffering, because you are His perfect work of art?

Has your veil of darkness been lifted revealing the love of Christ?

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the veiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.” Mary’s Way The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God, Judy Landrieu Klein

Have you had moments when your faith was weak?  Moments when you were in the valley or in shear darkness?  Perhaps, you couldn’t see past the circumstance you were dealing with and you were just fighting to survive, to keep your head above the water?

There was a time in my life when my lens was very narrow.  All I could see was the storm I was in.  I bobbed in the ocean I was swimming in, just trying to keep my head up and above the surface.  Physically I was surviving but spiritually and emotionally I was drowning.  Then one day, this little spark of faith widened my lens and opened my heart.  I began to anchor myself in the love I found.

I found this man, who was human and divine.  His eyes looked upon me with love and sadness at the same time.  He knew my pain because He had felt an enormous pain of His own.  He was rejected no matter how He loved.  He was stripped of His clothes, beaten and spit upon for His love.  He endured the greatest level of humiliation.  Yet, His love remained.  It was unfailing and unwavering.  When I came face to face with Him and saw His enormous love radiating towards me, I knew my life was transforming.  No matter my rejection, my humiliation, my brokenness, He loved me.

Have you ever felt this love – truly experienced it?  Have you felt it in the midst of your pain and suffering?

If you are struggling in your marriage, your health, with addictions, parenting, loss of a loved one, any relationship or brokenness, try embracing it.  Allow the veil of darkness to drop and see Jesus looking right at you with love and sadness.  Give thanks for your cross and allow Jesus to be your Simon of Cyrene lifting the greatest weight of your cross so that you can complete the journey of hope and glory that is beyond the grave, in the light shining in the midst of the darkness.

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Discover the power or prayer in these darkest moments.  Embrace His gaze upon you as you kneel before Him, praying for those who hurt you, for His will in your health and addictions, for comfort through your loss, or to mend your brokenness.  He loves you to the “heavens” and back, even in your weakest, darkest moments.

Understanding in why we are asked to carry these crosses is beyond our limited view.  In all things, God is good.  When our FAITH is tested and strengthened, we are given a greater perspective revealing this goodness of God anchored in the center of our circumstance.  May your faith be strengthened when the storms of life test it the most.

Love a deeper force of attraction

St John of the Cross, “soul is in God like a stone buried in the earth. The soul is attracted to the deepest center of God like the stone is attracted to the deepest center of the earth. This attraction is mutual. The force of attraction between the soul and the center of God is not gravity but love.”

Where is the anchor of your heart? What about your soul? Do you feel an attraction to something that is unexplainable? A deep desire for something bigger than your physical life?

St John of the Cross’ metaphor of our soul’s attraction to God by love being similar to a stone attracted to the earth by gravity is a beautiful image.  It reminds me of Margaret Silf’s road map of our lives in the book Inner Compass.  She explains that our lives are comprised of layers: Where I am? How I am? Who I am? The deepest center – I am.

Where I am is my connection to circumstance, the things in my environment I cannot change. This is my past.  It is my family, where I come from, the outer part of me.

How I am is how I respond to the environment, my circumstance and to others. I can love. I can be angry. I can be afraid. I can be merciful and compassionate.  I can accept things or not.  This is where I make choices and affect changes within in myself and the world.

Who I am is my true being. It is who I truly am, where I face my indifference. It’s the comfort and peace of my being and it is the challenges I face as I see the differences between the outer me and the person created by God. This is my spiritual being in the I am that lay at the deepest part of my soul. This is where my relationship with God is, where my seed of God’s love grows and produces fruit.  This is where I journey through prayer, the very essence of my journey.

In our lives, we will move between each of the layers – back and forth. Some people may never move into the who I am because of the risk and the challenges they may face by approaching a relationship with God.  Those of us who do move here may be faced with challenges by seeing the gap between life in the where we are and the person God created us to be.  In this space we gain wisdom, strength, and love.  We begin to find acceptance with joy to circumstance that we cannot change.  It challenges us to see the things where God is calling us to transform to be resurrected from.  This is where our intimate relationship with God fuels a trust in Him.

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As we continue to dive deeper the love of God attracts us to the center, to the deeper core of us. This is where our deepest desires lay. Where we are most in touch with who God is in us and who He created us to be. This is where our anchor is. And everything else should be centered and directed from this point as we transition through each layer of ourself back and forth. Processing circumstance into our action based on who we truly are in the one who created us.

Through this movement, there are times we may have an experience that is not explainable, that is providential.  It is something that is tangential to all the layers of our being.  It is a moment when we have truly been touched by God and he has moved and united all layers fusing our where I am to the how I am and the who I am, driving roots to the center, anchoring our total being to Him.  When this happens His light shines around us, glowing from our center for all to see.  This is a point of spiritual freedom, the top of the mountain in our journey.

Have you allowed yourself to be open to move into the who I am, allowing God to anchor Himself from your where I am to the center of your being, to your heart?

Do you wrestle with stillness?

“Be still and know I am God.”  Psalm 46:11

Do you struggle with stillness?  What is God saying to you when He says “be still and know I am God?”

A couple of years ago this verse danced in my head and I questioned what it really meant to me, what was God saying to me when He said be still and know I am God? 

A few weeks later, I had gone to see my eye doctor just for a regular exam so I could get some contacts.  As I’m sitting in the chair, my doctor looks at me concerned and began asking me a series of questions.  He asked if I was dizzy and having headaches.  I looked at him very confused and slowly stated, I was fine and no I hadn’t been having any issues with headaches or dizziness.  He explained to me that my optic nerve looked swollen.  He said it could be one of two things, it was swelling, which would indicate neurological issues or there was calcium deposits causing it to look like swelling, which would affect my peripheral vision.  He referred me to a neuro ophthalmologist to run further tests.  Of course, like most people, I go home and search the internet, not very wise.  Everything bad under the sun comes up, heightening my anxieties.  I made an appointment to see the specialist.  I spent an entire day undergoing several exams on my eye and was becoming very concerned through each exam.  After all the tests, she still could not make a determination what was going on with my eye and made me an appointment at another facility to have an ultrasound done on my eye.  I was alone and frightened as none of these tests revealed a definitive answer.  I had a couple of hours before the appointment for the ultrasound.  I found myself longing to go sit quietly in a church.  I found a church just down the road from where my ultrasound was scheduled.  When I walked in, I noticed they had Adoration in a small chapel.  I went in to sit, to “be still,” with Jesus.  Being there brought about a calmness and tranquility and all my anxieties on what could be wrong with my eyes were gone.  I was in a state of stillness and I knew that God was in control.  I knew that no matter what the doctor found, this was part of God’s plan in my journey.

Now, when I read that verse and contemplate its meaning, I know that God is telling me, “relax, I have this figured out, you are mine and I am your God, your Heavenly Father who loves you, who has a plan for you and all things in  your life.”

Being still and allowing God to be God, does not mean you have to go to a church or a chapel and find complete solitude or quietness.  You can find this stillness in your home or outdoors.  God is all around you and anytime you find yourself needing to be still, find a comfortable spot, pause and allow Him to reveal to you that He has everything under control because He is God.  This stillness is a moment of focus on God in all matters in your life.