Let nothing frighten you, really? How is that possible?

It’s been 4 weeks since I closed my brick and mortar business due to this pandemic.  It’s the business I’ve owned and operated for 30 years.  As a single mother and grandmother, for the past 17 years, it has been the way I’ve supported my family, kept a humble roof over my head and food on the table, for which I am eternally grateful.  It has been the way I’ve contributed and served others by employing between 20 to 30 people, mostly women.  Many over the years were single mothers, themselves. Though rewarding, It has been quite challenging throughout the years to be a small business owner; however, it has given me the flexibility I’ve needed to give birth to this ministry of 20 years, that God planted in me since I was a child.  This experience is in the top three dark challenges: divorce, child’s drug addiction and now living through a global pandemic.  I do not say this glibly, as I’ve fought some hard won battles, but I’ve come to the realization that all as gift.  I’ve lived the reality that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.  Now is no different. 

When I heard the invitation of Christ decades ago, to “Follow me” I was so naive.  Yet the desire for authentic connection with God and my truest self could not be appeased any other way.  It requires grace and grit, freedom and surrender all of which are the action of God within me. During those times of darkness and pain when I’ve tried to control the outcome is when I suffered the most.  When I tried to escape what I feared the most, control outcomes or take the go along to get along approach, is when I created more suffering for myself and others. 

So what has allowed me to not be utterly battered by the storms?    It has been my relentless pursuit (which is the fire of the Holy Spirit in me) of a deeper relationship with God through Centering Prayer.  That has been the common denominator.  Yes, meditating on scripture and other forms of prayer have been integral to my life as well, however, Centering Prayer is the sacred container that holds my unbridled yes to God.  So whatever draws me into prayer, whether a global pandemic or the love for my family, friends and strangers is drawing me deeper into God, into Love, into Peace.  I can say whether life circumstances appear as  blessing or curse I enter into Centering Prayer where I put into practice the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “Let nothing disturb younothing frighten you, all things are passing, God never changes. Patience wins all things; those who have God lack nothing: God alone suffices,”  

What if today is the day you’ve been hoping for?

 How would you choose to live it out?  You opened your eyes to a new sunrise, a new display of nature’s magnificence. You’re included in God’s master plan for humanity.  How will you choose to spend it?  I first thought seriously about this concept as a 17 year old high school senior.  I was chosen to play the lead character, Emily, in the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder.  Little did I know that role would change my life forever.  Even now, I could cry as I recall the moment.  Emily was a young woman who died giving birth to her first child.  There was a scene after her death in which she pleaded with the Narrator, who was the God character, to live once again.  After some deliberation on his part, her desire was granted; to come back to earth for just one more day.  “Make it an insignificant day”, said the Narrator, “for it will be significant enough”.  Emily was thrilled and spontaneously blurted out, “My twelfth birthday!”.  She began to relive this ‘insignificant day’ with her family in the scene, just as it had happened.  Suddenly her eyes were opened as she tried without success to get her mother to stop and truly listen to her.  From her new vantage point, she could now see the beautiful gift of life in the simplest moments.  “Mamma, look at me, really, really look at me.”, she said, as her mother busily scurried about trying to prepare the meal.  As the scene unfolded Emily could not contain her feelings any longer.  Turning to the Narrator, she burst into tears crying out with deep sadness, “Doesn’t anyone realize life while they’re living it, every, every minute?”  He wisely replied, “Some poets do, I suppose”. Thornton Wilder, in his great wisdom, unveiled the meaning of the play and life in that one sentence,  “Doesn’t anyone realize life while they’re living ?”.  

Will you realize life while you’re living it?  I ask myself once again, that same question; will I realize life while I’m living it?  While I still have breath?  As you’re reading this, turn inward and notice that yearning you feel right now as it emanates from the deepest recesses of your being.  It is the desire to live fully, authentically, deeply connected and engaged.  To know God and be known by God.  To love and be loved.  The spiritual journey is the foundation for all of life, for it is life and life is the container for relationship, first with God, then with self, others and the world.  How will you choose to honor this day, to receive the gift of this day?  Don’t let another moment go by, another breath leave your body without your awareness of the magnificence that is your life.  Don’t wait until your moments are numbered before you wake up on the inside and cherish each one, for even the most insignificant of days is significant enough.  

Freedom Comes From Within

God is Relentless. Love will never stop pursuing you. What you desire and have longed for your whole life…what makes you cry quietly in your pillow…what would cause you to move a mountain…is already available to you.  It is the Presence of Love, the Living God in the core of your being and Love will not let go. The culmination of your deepest desire dwells so profoundly within you, is so intimate and immanent you can not be separated from It; not in sleep or wakefulness, in life or death.  Yet, to deeply connect with It comes with a great price.  A price that not many are willing to pay. The price of letting go of the ‘you’ you’ve come to know.  The price of turning off and identifying with the loud voices of the world regardless of where they come from and who is speaking. The price of shutting down your need to be right.  The price of being willing to turn from the direction you’ve been traveling for a lifetime. The price of turning from the feelings, emotions, thoughts, behaviors and ideas that you think will make you happy. (Which never seem to work anyway.) The price of making the Sacred Turn that will save your life from ebbing away into unfulfilled dreams, hidden sorrows and private suffering. So I ask, are you willing to pay the price to receive the Love you seek? To connect authentically and deeply with the God you desire?  Are you willing to awaken to the Presence that is sustaining your life?  That is keeping your heart beating and lungs breathing?  Are you willing to be stirred from your slumber, awakened by the Most High Spirit?  Are you willing to receive and believe that your God has already made a way for you in the desert of this world, to be happy and to live in peace and freedom?  Then it is time to receive and believe.  For true freedom comes from within.  True peace is given by God regardless of external circumstances.  I invite us all to let go of our personal agendas, to embrace the intention of our hearts and celebrate Freedom in the Silence of our souls. 

I’ve Fallen Into Negative Thinking and I Can’t Get Up!

What is that one nagging, critical thought that keeps you stuck and has you believing you aren’t meant for an abundant whole life, inner peace, freedom and purpose?  
 
I’ll share my big one today with you and then you get to share me yours. To think I’m not even halfway through my day yet! Here it is…drumroll please…”You’re so lazy”. Yes, that’s a big one for me. Probably because I heard it as a child. As an adult I can look back and realize it wasn’t true, I wasn’t lazy at all.  (Listen to me defend myself.) I was just a young contemplative!! I always did what I was supposed to do, told to do, expected to do. However, my mom didn’t understand all those hours spent alone in my room, praying, thinking, reflecting or reading.  I’ve always had a contemplative nature. Yet, after all these years you would think that thought wouldn’t even be on my radar screen.  Well, it is.  Especially on a day when I’m not up dressed and out of the house early.  It is a thought that can hook me. It can sidetrack my attention and worse yet my intention.
 
Sometimes I notice the false thoughts and am able to do my Prayer of Turning. However, there are those times that I fall for the lie, usually because I’m tired or feeling a bit overwhelmed by responsibilities or both.
 
When UNABLE to turn away from the critical story line what do we do?  Here are FIVE important things that really work.
1.  Don’t be afraid of the thought.  Notice it and recognize it is not of God.  There’s nothing holy or humbling about self-critical thinking because God never accuses or condemns.  To merely engage the thought with more thinking isn’t effective.  Movement is necessary.
 
2.  Sit in Centering Prayer either more times during the day or longer periods of time. In this case more is more and more is best!  Yes, Centering Prayer is movement.
 
3.  Talk to someone.  I call my bestie soul friend who knows and loves me.  Her compassionate listening and loving input always puts me in a place of acceptance.  I confess to her my negative self introspection.  Just hearing the words come out of my mouth I start to feel the shift within me and the thoughts dissipate.
4.  If there’s a recurring thought, remember to bring it to your next Spiritual Direction appointment.  Unpacking it as your Spiritual Director holds you in the Light of this sacred space, is transforming.
5.  Remember God is in the movement.  I’m not talking about frenetic busyness or pressured action but movement.  Sometimes just putting your attention on making a good meal can be enough.
 
So right now, breathe deeply.  These self critical thoughts can sneak in on anyone, like dust floating in the air.   The next time one of ‘those’ thoughts floats across your mind, remember to be gentle with yourself.  Remember thoughts are not reality they just are and remember transformation, inner peace, freedom and purpose is possible through The Deeper Connection. 

Synchronicity

Ever wake up late or get out of bed already preoccupied with stuff and you simply let your Centering Prayer time slip away?  Before you know it, you are dressed for your early morning appointment and out the door.  That was me this morning.  I prayed with my St. Patrick’s prayer and the Lord’s Prayer while moving through my morning.  Now, as I sit for Centering Prayer I pick up the book The Cloud of Unknowing and these words jump off the page and into my soul.

Chapter 41:

“ I hope you’ll never stop doing this loving work as long as you live.  I’m not saying that it’s possible to keep the same high intensity all the time.  You can’t always keep your zest for contemplation.  Sometimes you’ll be sick or worn out mentally or physically and sometimes life just intervenes, pulling you down and preventing you from scaling spiritual heights.  Stick to it, in all circumstances…When something intrudes and you can’t practice contemplation prepare for it still.  Remain spiritually alert…For the love of God try not to get sick.  Discipline yourself as much as possible so you won’t be the cause of your own weakness…You must learn what rest is.  So because you love God take care of yourself.”

This, my dear soul friends is the synchronicity of the Holy Spirit.  I experience life and the Spirit intervenes beckoning me to stay the course.  I simply recognize that no matter what,  “ in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28  I will admit a day without Centering Prayer is like a day without oxygen.  So disciplining ourselves is necessary for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Without it we participate in creating our own weakness. 

So press on, set your heart’s intention in alignment with God’s desire stirring deep within you and you can not go wrong.  Remember there is no judgement or condemnation in Christ.  God’s will, God’s yearning for you is always and in all ways drawing you deeper into His Presence and Love lives in you and through you.  Love God, love you and live.