Prayer – my design or God’s?

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

Do you feel frustrated when you sit down to pray and your mind is cluttered with distractions? Do you think the clutter is really clutter or a distraction or is it there for a reason?  Does this clutter or distraction have a purpose in that moment, in your prayer?  What is God inviting you to discover?

Many years ago, I remember walking into my very first meeting with my spiritual director and telling her that I couldn’t pray, my mind was cluttered with all this stuff.  Her response to me was – perhaps you should bring this clutter into your prayer.

I had to chuckle today as I was reading today’s message in “An Ignation book of days” by Jim Manney.  It was exactly this topic – What to do about distractions.  There was a quote from the book “Finding God in All Things” that said exactly what my spiritual director had mentioned to me about 5 years ago – “make the distraction the content of [your] prayer, to hear God’s word in this person, situation, whatever it might be.”

For me during that time period, prayer was a place I went to in order to remove myself from what was going on in my life.  It was my escape, my refuge from my life.  I felt so at peace in my prayer time.  In other words, my moments in prayer FELT GOOD.  They were shear moments of me conversing with God about how He was moving me internally at the time.  At the time, He was helping me move through a key time in my life, so I think that I needed to feel this refuge and fortress from my life -this inner peace, comfort and protection.  So when the clutter hit, it through me for a loop.  It didn’t feel peaceful or comforting – it was far from GOOD.  I know today, it was God inviting me to deal with the things that were cluttering my life, not just my mind.

Over the years, I still feel uncomfortable when a ton of things fill my prayer time that I don’t intend to bring to prayer.  I want my prayer time to be peaceful, to just bask in the presence of God.

As I have grown in my faith journey, I have come to realize that this is me placing God in a box.  When I am frustrated with the clutter, I’m not happy with inviting God to do some of the conversing.

Prayer is a key part of our relationship with God.  In fact it is the kick of flavor in our recipe of our faith journey.  Just as in our earthly relationships we have to allow the other person to do some of the conversing.  We can’t always monopolize the conversation or we won’t really have a great relationship with that person.  When we control or monopolize our prayer time, it is no different than taking the steering wheel from God in our life and directing what we want in our relationship with God and not what He may be inviting us to.

Listening is necessary in any relationship, especially the one we have with God.  Next time, you feel distracted in prayer, listen to what God is inviting you to bring to the conversation and deal with in your life.  It could be the next best thing in your life, a golden opportunity in your journey of life.

I love this song “King of the World” by Natalie Grant.  It speaks volumes to me when I’m trying to control my life, especially what goes on in my moments of prayer.  May God always be the King of your world.

 

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.  

A Christmas twinkle that never burns out

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the decorations, the atmosphere and the excitement of all the children.  There are times, when Christmas seems rushed, running around trying to make everything perfect but at the same time missing the moments.  At other times, their is sadness, painful reminders of the past or loneliness that fills the air.  I think each of us can relate to some of these seasons through our life journey this time of the year.  Yet, we each know that the season of Advent is not about the decorations, the presents, the rushing, the perfection, the pain, the sadness, or the loneliness.

It’s a season of waiting, waiting for Christ.  

Interesting that in the midst of all the preparations so many of us go through that the focus of the season is to wait.

So, let’s explore what this “waiting” may look like? 

Perhaps it’s a time of stillness, a time of anticipation, a time of readiness.

In the waiting are we preparing our hearts?  Are we excited in a joyful anticipation?  Have we made space, reviewed the areas in our lives that are too busy, preventing us from sitting with Jesus?  Are we hopeful that the darkness in our lives will be brightened by the light of Christ?  Are we open to seeing God around us?  What about welcoming change within us to be a good and faithful servant?

A few days ago, there was a heavy fog present as I walked along the pond at work.  I always look for God’s presence as I walk around this pond.  It gives me a peaceful start to my day, a hopeful anticipation of what God may reveal to me throughout my day.  During these walks,  I listen to the sounds around me, open my eyes to see all that I can take in and I just talk to God.  On this morning, I thought about the limited view that I have, the dark areas that have not been uncovered, not illuminated.  As I circled around the pond, I noticed a white pelican.  He walked cautiously into the shallow end of the pond’s edge, rapidly dipping his bill into the water in search of food.  I wondered if he could sense the feel of where the fish may be or if he just randomly dipped his bill in, in hopes he would scoop up some fish.  I think this is kind of what Advent is.  It’s that stillness, being open to where God may reveal Himself to us.  Yet, it’s also a time of anticipation and hopefulness of what God has in store for us that we cannot yet see.

It reminds me of the crosses I often see, many times I see them along my path during my morning walk.  Each time I see a cross, I smile as I know that God is opening my eyes to see His presence in my life.  When I come across a cross that has been formed by two twigs, pine needles, or branches, God is shining light upon the darkness in my own life, my crosses.  But He isn’t reminding me of the pain, He is reminding me of His presence in my journey as I carry these crosses.  He is opening my heart and my mind as I wait for Him to reveal what He wants me to see, hear, touch or smell during my walk.  He is showing me hope in the cross, reminding me how He has carried me or has lifted the weight and the burdens of these crosses.  But most of all He speaks to me within the transformation from the darkness through His love.

This Advent as I sit and wait for the coming of our Lord, I’m reminded that Jesus came humbly as a baby, born in a stable and died humbly through an unconceivable love.  It is the cross that was His destiny and it is through our crosses that we will reach our destiny, our journey home.  During this Advent, I pray for humbleness, stillness, peace, an anticipated hope and joy, knowing that life may have moments of darkness but that darkness can never overcome the light that Christ brings into this life when we are open to receiving Him.  Blessings and Merry Christmas!  May Christ shine His light upon all areas within you as you companion with Him.

Have you asked God to re-gift you?

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”  Psalm 139:13-14

Have you re-gifted a gift someone gave you before?  You took the gift and wrapped it in the most beautiful paper and placed the best bow you have on it, giving it to your mother-in-law.  Couldn’t resist the humor in that but I think just about everyone can say that they have re-gifted a gift.  Now hold that thought.

adult birthday birthday gift box
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Have you sat down to pray, totally fell to your knees, and asked God to take away your trials, your suffering, your pain?  And as the days go on, it’s all still there.  You are still going through the trial, may be, you are still suffering and in pain.  What if you flipped the prayer and asked God to walk with you through the trial, lightening the burden of the suffering and the pain?

I want to talk about something that struck me listening to Chrystal Evans Hurst this past weekend at the Women of Joy conference.  It so fitting in my life and helps me to place the right perspective and see the process that God is asking me to see.

In Chrystal’s talk, she spoke about the package that God made when He made you and I.  He didn’t make the package lacking anything.  The package includes your gifts, talents, career, physical features, family, your joy and happiness; and it also includes your trials, suffering and pain.  You could not be you if you do not go through the trials that God allows.  If you do not go through the trials He allows you may not bring forth the fruition of the gifts that He has given you.  All things in our lives are “God given” or “God allowed.”  And all things work together for the glory of God, for His purpose.  When you ask God to take away the trial, the suffering, the pain, you are asking Him to re-gift the gift He gave you, the package He created and designed – YOU.  When you were formed, God wrapped you in a beautiful package and placed the most perfect bow on you that is unique to you and delivered you into the hands of your mom.

 Why would we want to change, re-gift His “wonderfully made” package?  

I totally understand that sometimes the pain is too much, the trial is a huge burden and drains the life out of you.  Sometimes I feel like my trials will never end, they begin to just merge together and I find myself restless, asking God to take it away that I’ve had enough.  But then there is the glimmer of hope, my FAITH that jumps in and opens my eyes and shows me that the package is made complete in my trials and through my trials.  My trials and my suffering will produce perseverance, they will provide growth within me, they will ultimately flourish the gifts God has given me and ultimately, they will make me stronger for the next trial.  God is equipping us in our trials, suffering and pain.  I think what He wants from us is to not ask Him to take away the trial, but to ask Him to help us get through it by companioning along the journey with us and by lightening the load by helping us carry the cross that rest upon our shoulder, just as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.

Accepting the entire package is difficult.  Sometimes I just want to kick and scream but God grabs my hand and tells me “get up and let’s fight this battle together.”  You are not alone and He will walk along the journey with you, carrying you when you need to be carried, embracing you when you need to feel loved, lifting the cross so it’s not so heavy when you begin to fall under the weight of it, and providing you rest and protection under His wings when you become weary and afraid.

img_3265I want to share this poem I wrote.  It is a poem of feeling beaten down, yet hopeful, longing and finding God after a fresh rainfall in a droplet that remained on the tip of a leaf.  God refreshes us daily if we open our eyes, ears, minds and heart to His presence in all things surrounding us.

Rays of sunshine

In the ark of the morn

As birds perched above sing

To a heart that’s been torn

Darkness has crept

Through the cracks of my being

Depleting Your goodness

My heart started fleeing

Crushed and broken

My heart cries out

Where are You?

Why do I doubt?

A quiet path

Your presence I longed for

To refresh my spirit

On this path You implore

Light of grace

Reflecting on the leaves

Revealing a droplet

A newness conceived

Your presence refreshes

As I sit before You

A whisper of Your love

My spirit is made new

My faith prevails

Your Word running deep

Rooted in my heart

I’m perfect and complete

Fruit in the Silence

“Attend to the sound of my cry, my King and my God”  Psalm 5:3

Have you ever been in a place or a state when all you feel like doing is crying, hoping that it will bring you solace?  What about prayer – have you sat down in silence and struggled and found your self resting, being consoled and comforted?

I found myself today practicing being present to God in silence.  I must say this is a total struggle for me at times.  My mind tends to wander all over the world and back.  As I sat in the chapel in Adoration, in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I settled my mind and engaged in silence and total presence.  As I sat there, an image popped into my head.  The image, at the time I found to be intriguing.  It was the ocean washing ashore.  At first there was a wall present and then I realized the wall was gone and the water was just washing away the sand before me as it came ashore.  Because I was centering myself in prayer, I didn’t want to analyze this too much but felt that the wall was a blockage for me to be present to God and as the water washed ashore, He removed it so that I could center myself.  Then I realized as the sand began to wash away, that God was washing away the top layers of my being and revealing my inner self, my center in Him.  At that moment, I don’t think I realized the impact this would have later in my day.  This created free space for me to be present with God, in preparation for what would come later.

sea landscape beach landmark
Photo by Zukiman Mohamad on Pexels.com

Later as my day emerged, more things began to surface affecting my peace and I found myself crying out to God and found myself centering my inner being in His presence unveiling a greater peace and comfort.  As I am faced with a challenge ahead of me, this presence and act of centering my soul in a cry to “my King and my God,” prepares me with great strength, with peace, and with trust.  These are the moments when my prayer life struggles yet strengthens and my faith grows leaps and bounds.  It is where my heart meets the heart of Christ, and my pains, His wounds.

So I asked myself and I ask you, have you sat in silence lately, centering your being in Christ, crying out to Him from the deeper core of your heart, allowing Him to comfort, hold and whisper His will for you?  Silence can be scary in a world of noise, but it can also be comforting and restful to heart that is in need.

 

Are you patiently allowing God to mold you?

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.”  Jeremiah 18:6

Ever watched a feather fall to the ground?  Notice how long it takes?  Ever prayed about something and it seemed to take God forever to answer your prayer, just like it took forever for that feather to fall?

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were talking about praying for something she was struggling with and she looked at me and told me “but God takes too long to answer.”  As we discussed God’s timing, I thought to myself, good point to reflect on deeper.

I see two parts of the lesson,

  • God teaching us patience as we wait for His answer.
  • God ensuring everything lines up to provide us with a perfect answer given all circumstance, present and future.

I often am humored when I am asked about my pursuit of a relationship with the opposite sex.  This is one of these areas that I feel God is asking me to be patient and is molding me in preparation for what He Himself has in store for me.  God knows that I cannot truly have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex that is healthy, stable and grounded in Him unless I have healed, am grounded myself, and whole in Him and my faith.  When I know and understand my identity in Him, then I am ready to share myself and my love with another that He has prepared for me.

handmade ceramics pottery workshop
Photo by Regiane Tosatti on Pexels.com

As my life journey moves forward, I see His hands molding and shaping me “like clay in the hand of the potter” through my healing of many deep wounds in several relationships in my life.  I see my life like the feather falling to the earth.  It is slowly moving towards the center of who I am in God, towards my body’s universal pull of love of my Eternal Father.  The virtue of patience is my vehicle to enjoy and embrace the marvelous view along the way.  Sometimes it isn’t easy and the view seems a bit dull, but I know that waiting on God in all things in my life is worth the wait.  The view will be more spectacular as His plan unfolds.

The potter does not form his work of art in a hurry.  He takes his time allowing his hands to gently mold and shape it into his creation.  So to is the work of God.

Are you allowing God to form you like the potter forms the clay? Are you allowing Him to sculpt the intricate details of your inner being? Are you resting in patience as he writes your story unfolding His plan for your well-being?  Just as the feather slowly falls to the ground in the exact place it was intended, so will your life fall into place as you trust and allow God to work in your life.

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.