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?

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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.

Have you named and claimed the pain stealing your joy?

As I stood up, I could feel blood streaming down my face.  I was 5 and had been standing behind an aluminum horse swing.  I had just been told not to stand near the swing and like a typical kid, I did anyway.  The results – a gash on my forehead requiring stitches.  Interesting fact:  when our bodies bleed, a signal is sent from our brain to the blood vessels to try and constrict them to stop the bleeding – initiating the healing process.

Just as our brains recognize the physical wounds, we must also recognize our emotional wounds to begin to heal and ‘stop the bleeding’ of our hearts.  Accepting that there is hurt and it’s time to move past it is important to start the healing process. Often, we become so deeply a part of what is embedded in our daily trials that it becomes a part of our identity, dwelling in this place of pain and hurt.

So how do you recognize something is wrong?  How do you uncover this pain, name it and claim it?

When my check engine light comes on in the car, it is a warning sign that something is definitely not right and I need to have someone take a look at it.  If I fail to acknowledge it and continue to drive my car with the check engine light on, I may be able to get several miles out of it before something happens that may leave me on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck and cost me more money than if I would have had it checked when it first came on.  Unlike our cars, we don’t have a flashing warning light that is visible right in front of us.  We just feel this emotional pain constantly piercing our hearts.

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If you ignore the piercing of your heart, refusing to name it and claim it, the pain continues to grow, binding you and strangling your joy – costing you more, just like ignoring the warning light on your car.

Name it 

I remember the day after I left my ex-husband, how bruised and broken I felt.  It wasn’t until after I left and reality began to settle that I realized how much I was bleeding internally from the open wounds of my marriage.  Within an instance my world was shaken up and now I had to name what seemed normal in my life.  Without giving it a name, I could not deal with it, eliminate its constant infliction upon me and move past it.  I had to know what it was to begin to deal with it, to heal from it.

Until you give it a name, even though you have recognized that you are hurting, you can’t move into the healing phase.  Naming it gives you this affirmation that there is a wound that needs to be healed.  It provides you a focal point and identification of what you need to heal from.

When you go to the doctor because you have stomach pain or some other ailment that is bothering you,  he performs a diagnostic based on your symptoms.  Then he tells you the name of the ailment and how he is going to treat it.  He can’t treat it unless he knows what he is treating.

This is the same with our spiritual and emotional healing.  Until you know what your ailment is, give it a name, you can’t move on in the healing process.

Claim it

Now that you have given it a name, you have to accept it.  It is a part of your life journey but it does not define you as an individual.  Accepting the pain allows you to surrender to God to enable Him to walk with you and heal you.

The most vivid image I have of this part of my own healing process is peeling the layers of an onion.  This is an image that crops up often in my spiritual direction meetings.  Just when I think I am healed, another layer begins to come off.  And just like peeling an onion, tears are shed.  The more layers I peel, the deeper I go within my heart, uncovering roots of the pain in my life.  The grace of peeling that onion is the wisdom gained as I face the deeper pain and accept God’s help.  What I have discovered is that the closer to the core, my relationship with God deepens, my dependence on Him strengthens.  This is how I know that I am personally healing spiritually.

Are you feeling a piercing in your heart?  Have you named it and claimed it?  If not, start today so that you can heal within and unravel the chains that have been binding your joy.

Has God placed a friend or a community in your life?

“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe

Do you have that one true friend that would lay down their life for you?  What about a community of friends?  Is there one friend or many friends that have been there in the midst of most or all of your struggles? In a moment of weakness, has a friend or your community of friends given you strength as a result of their support?

Today as I was taking my morning stroll around the pond on our company’s campus to clear my mind and talk to God, there was a momma duck and 3 babies at the edge of the pond and 4 ducks were sitting on the bridge rails above her. As I approached, one duck began making lots of noise. I watched for a while. I realized these 4 ducks on the rails were protecting the mother duck and her ducklings by giving her a warning signal of my presence nearby, potential danger.

I thought that was quite interesting and began to reflect on the example these ducks revealed to me of a community of friends, a family. Like the mother duck protecting her ducklings, God protects us when we are in trouble. And just as the 4 ducks on the rail were on the outside looking in, serving as warnings and advisors, our community of friends and family do for us.

It is important in times of struggle and need to have a support system. Often in the midst of your issues, you don’t see clearly or see the entire picture. Your support system is your wide lens, helping you to see the things you don’t. The friends in your life that guide you in accordance with God’s will are unique in your life. They are hand selected. They are not placed in your life on accident but for that very moment where God knows not only do you need the protector at your side but an advisor to be present with you on His behalf to guide you away from danger.

Over the years, God has strategically brought many friends into my life at pivotal moments to support me in accordance with His will. I know I can call several people in my community of friends in a moment and ask for a flood of prayers, guidance, or just a listening ear. Often I feel guilty that I may be wearing my prayer line out or the ears on which I pour out to. At the end of the day, these ladies will always be advisors, comforters, and words of warning when I am in danger or just in need of a reminder of His presence. God placed them in my life to reveal His very own love and guidance to me.

We are all connected in God’s divine plan and it is no coincidence when new friendships are formed. It is no coincidence when you need help in the midst of a struggle and a friend calls you or drops by to just say hi. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your friends are advocates in fulfilling God’s plan in you through support, love, and guidance.

Treasure the community around you that God put in your path. Call them to tell them thank you for being a part of your life. Let them know that their love reveals the love of your Heavenly Father and how much you need and appreciate their comfort and compassion. If you are at odds with a friend, go to confession, ask for forgiveness and ensure to contact your friend with an apology and an act of love and kindness.

Are you seeking spiritual freedom?

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Have you been exploring your spiritual journey internally? Uncovering roots of the disorders in your external self?

When I began my spiritual journey, like most, I was seeking God to help me with things in my life that were on the surface, my external self. At the time, I didn’t see this as being an easy journey, very difficult in fact. As I continue to grow after scratching the surface of my life challenges, I am diving internally and uncovering the roots of the external feelings that seem to continue to circle me and feed sin and pain in my life. Walking my internal feelings, the ones I buried deep within that stir up the feelings externally, is ten times more challenging than dealing with the emotions and circumstance on the surface. I think that’s why there are psychologists and therapists.

To better understand your external and internal feelings envision an iceberg. If you are in an industry that focuses on safety, you are very familiar with the iceberg analogy.  Above the surface there is a narrow triangle and all this is what you see externally and deal with daily. Below the surface lies the base of the iceberg, the internal emotions and feelings that no one can see not even you that are the base of all the things on the surface.

I think that these things externally that continue to show up in your life through confession or repeat offenders in every struggle you deal with in life is God inviting you to take a deeper look, to begin discerning the root of these disorders.  For God to transform you completely through Christ within you, you have to look at the internal life and uncover the source of the sins and the pain on the surface.

Do you see patterns of sin in your life or patterns in the pain you feel or the struggles you deal with routinely?  Name these disorders and ask God to help release you from them.  Let Him help you unpack them and reveal the roots to you. Just like weeding your garden, you have to get to the root of the problem to fully remove it from the fruitful garden within you. You can’t just pull the top of the weed and expect it to be gone from your garden, you have to pull it from the root.  The same is true with dealing with things on the surface in your life. If you don’t search internally and determine where the sin and pain are coming from, they will continue to surface in the things in your life and you will not have spiritual freedom.

These disorders come in many packages, wrapped with various layers from your life. They affect our relationships with others, ourselves and God.

Are you repeatedly saying things to a loved one out of jealousy that affects your relationship?  If you peer within, you may uncover that throughout your childhood and adulthood that you are afraid of not being loved because you have always had to compete for love in key relationships.

Do you find yourself always afraid and passing up opportunities that you feel God is asking you to step out of your comfort zone and do? Look deep and you may realize that in your childhood, when you stepped out of your comfort zone, you were made fun of or rejected.

Do you find yourself confessing often your anger towards those you love? Search your inner core and you may discover feelings of hurt from emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child or an adult that you thought you dealt with on the surface but the residual of this anger, the roots are still dug within.

I have learned through my walk on my own spiritual journey that looking within, although challenging, uncovers things that are binding me to sin and pain.  As I discover and begin to deal with the internal sources, I begin to reach a freedom, to unravel the chains binding me.

I sort of see it as God purifying me into a gem. Just like purifying gold, I am purified. He helps me to bring the impurities to the surface to learn from them and seek Him at a deeper level in removing the impurities from within so that my relationship with Him and myself is as pure as a precious metal.

Are you seeking spiritual freedom? Have you searched within to discover the internal disorders that are roots to those disorders that are external?

Take the challenge, search your internal being and discover what God is inviting you to pay attention to and learn from that has been tucked away in a little crevice within.

Is the seed in you being nourished?

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit”  Mark 4:26-28

Is the seed God planted within you growing and bearing fruit?  Have you been nourishing it with the proper sustenance?

I remember a conversation with my dad some time ago.  One of my daughters loves any and everything about nature.  We decided we would buy some seeds and plant them in a pot and watch them grow.  I was telling this to my dad.  In our conversation, I remember telling him that I don’t have a green thumb.  His response was that it isn’t a matter of a green thumb or not, it’s making sure you give it attention and water the plant.

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My lesson from that conversation with my dad and from the gospel reading today is that we have to give our bodies – heart, soul and mind – the proper nutrients for the seed of God to grow in us to build His kingdom. It is through the proper ingredients of prayer, the Bible and the church that the seed will grow into abundant fruit by the will of God, just as the land yields fruit.

One thing I am discovering within is that the more I provide nourishment to the seed in my heart, God reveals a disorder internally through turmoil whirling around externally. As He reveals this disorder through the Holy Spirit, He guides me in unpacking it or as my spiritual director says, guides me in peeling a layer of the onion.  Lately, it seems I have a lot of layers to peel and sometimes it feels exhausting.  The one truth I do know about each time I unpeel a layer is that I learn the roots of sin and lies that are buried within me.  God gives me the grace through the Holy Spirit to illuminate my mind, stir up my faith and trust that God will grow His love within me through the tiny seed He planted during my creation.  The more layers I unpeel the more fruitful branches grow within and the closer my relationship with God is.

Do you feel that you are growing daily in your relationship with God or do you feel you are growing further away?  Are the branches in your life bearing fruit or are they withering away?  Are you nourishing your mind, heart and soul with the right ingredients to grow the tiny seed within you into a massive tree where others can dwell in its shade?

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Nurture this seed that God has planted within you to flourish and by the will of God, you will be a vessel in your community and family – pouring out generosity, love and the Word of God.

One last thought on this day where we honor all fathers, remember that it is also important to equip our children with the ingredients to grow the seed God planted within them so that they too may nourish it and produce healthy, fruitful branches within.

Is your life a game of Twister?

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands, turning your ear to wisdom, inclining your heart to understanding; Yes, if you call for intelligence, and to understanding raise your voice; If you seek her like silver, and like hidden treasures search her out, then will you understand the fear of the LORD; the knowledge of God you will find;” Proverbs 2:1-5

Ever feel like your life is like a game of Twister?  It’s twisted in this direction and that direction – your mind on green and your feet crisscrossed on red and blue, while one hand is behind your back and the other moving forward?  Do you most often feel like this when you are not looking to God for discernment and help?

It may seem easy to spin the arrow in life and land on a color and then another and img_2271before you know it, you find yourself in a mangle that leads to off balance and a tumble.  On the opposing side, if you take a few minutes to pray asking for wisdom and understanding, you may just find that your mind, hands and feet are all in alignment.

Over the years, I’ve been learning a lot about discernment, trusting and conforming to God’s will through the wisdom of others more seasoned in their faith and through reading books that just seem to fall into my lap.  It’s definitely been a slow process. I feel like I’m still in the elementary school of discernment, with a graduation date that is beyond my horizon and into eternity.

When I first began reading about discernment, I thought some giant NEON sign would just appear to me telling me what to do.  WRONG!  Now, I am beginning to realize that discernment has a lot to do with being present and observing things around me, the encounter of God through all things.  As I move through this journey of discernment, I’ve begun to pay more attention.

Often the things I read speak directly to what God is wanting me to do or see in a particular situation. When I need to work on forgiveness and relationships, everything I seem to get my hand on talks about forgiveness and my own faults. When I am worried and full of anxieties, I pick up devotions or read random verses on peace, rest and God’s will.
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I also see things around me that cause me to ponder and connect my circumstance and God’s guidance. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and feel I can’t carry it no longer, I notice an ant carrying something that is 20-100 times it’s weight and realize the strength of God carrying the weight on my shoulders.  When I am troubled, I see a cross displayed before my eyes and I’m reminded of the peace and rest found in Christ.

When I am in tune to hearing God, listening to others, songs or peace around tend to guide me to think more and seek more understanding. Often when I am seeking wisdom and guidance, I hear lyrics to a song so much clearer. If I’m afraid, they tell me that “fear is a liar”. When I need strength I’m reminded that “I am a warrior”. When I need to trust, I hear “thy will be done”. When I am not including God I hear He “will always be the king of the world”.

Most recently, I was experiencing difficulties in my relationship with my daughter.  I prayed for direction and also for God’s will in our relationship and in both our hearts.  Each day, there was something subtle that popped up pointing me in the direction in which God wanted me to handle the situation with my daughter.  I conformed to this and today I feel that we have repaired a part of our relationship I felt was breaking. Prior to asking God, I was spinning and the colors I was landing on were not coming out the way I had hoped. I found myself knotted like a strand of Christmas lights that had been in storage for a while. Not a place you want to be in a key relationship in your life. Something had to change, I had to seek guidance and let God spin for me and guide me in accordance with His will.

THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON I’m learning is that my self compass is not better than God’s.  When I pray for His will to be done, I am not disappointed in the outcome.  When I don’t, I find myself wondering where God is and when He will answer my prayers.

When you take time to pray, asking God to spin the spinner for you, you will be less tangled, less unstable by the mangle of spinning the arrow and listening to your own selfish guidance.  Give it a shot and just may be your feet and your hands will line up and not be twisted this way and that way.

No time to pray? Discover an endless block of prayer.

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Do you struggle with praying? May be you don’t quite know how to pray? Or perhaps, you feel you don’t have time to pray?

I have struggled with prayer often over the last few years. I use to have what I thought was a pretty solid prayer life, very consistent. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, read a few verses from the Bible or a spiritual piece of work. Then, I would meditate on that and how it related to my life, journaling my thoughts. Afterwards, I would pray my intentions. I also would take my lunch break in the chapel to just sit with Jesus and write my thoughts as they came to me or just be still. I enjoyed these blocks of time I set aside each morning and at lunch.

Today, I struggle with the time to set aside these blocks for my prayer life. My schedule with my children has become busier and because of it I beat myself up constantly and feel like I’m disappointing God in some way by not giving Him this time I use to by allowing the busyness of life to fill this time that was His.

I have a very wise spiritual director, who is probably reading this and I just may get kudos at our next meeting, not sure it works that way but worth a try.

She is wise because she does a great job listening to the Holy Spirit as she provides counsel to me. She is use to hearing my struggles with my prayer life.  She once told me or perhaps I should say often reminds me that my life is a prayer. She told me that spending quality time with my girls is a form of prayer. Kind of sounded weird at first until I realized the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:31.

As long as you do everything for the glory of God you are “pray[ing] without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Sure it’s nice to be able to set aside time blocks for God, to sit still with Him, to give Him 100% of your attention; but He doesn’t love you less for not doing so consistently all the time. He wants you to glorify Him in all things and by doing so He is fulfilling His will in you and this is the greatest form of prayer.

Everyone has had to ask for permission to do something when they were growing up.  Do the same thing with God.  Approach Him and ask Him for guidance and direction about tasks and decisions so that you know that your decisions and actions will glorify Him. Thank Him throughout your day as you spend time with your children, your spouse, grandchildren, friends, mother or father. Thank Him for the breath He gives you when you wake in the morning.  Each is a form of prayer as you approach your Heavenly Father in thanksgiving and guidance, glorifying Him in all that you do.

By seeking His guidance and thanking Him as you spend quality time in your relationships, you will conform to His will and your prayer will be unceasing and as endless as the horizon. What a beautiful landscape you will paint with His hands guiding you in all that you do as you discover an endless block of prayer.