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. 

Before Tech Support

Here’s the back story leading up to my prayer encounter during my chat with email software tech support. I awoke that morning to the peace of a beautiful winter day. I was soon interrupted by anxiety when the realization of a very challenging financial situation crossed my computer screen as I opened up my online banking site. We all have fear triggers and I’ll be transparent here, one of mine is financial security. Couple that with some real financial challenges and I’m doing a face plant on my bedroom floor in prayer. Now, I absolutely love my ministry work and can’t imagine my life without it, to the point that, I can get so engaged in prayer, writing, recording, teaching, client sessions and more that I have to remind myself passion doesn’t pay the bills. This morning was one of those times when the trigger hit provoking a litany of doubts, “Am I really supposed to be doing this?” “If so, how do I keep a roof over my head?” “Am I doing something wrong or missing something I should be doing?” “Creating an online presence might be necessary but it’s so confusing!”

The voiceless Voice finally managed to get my attention in the brief gap between these thoughts and I heard, “Keep moving”. So, I returned to my computer and started plowing through some administrative and technical stuff. I got stuck on something when the little ‘live chat tech support’ window popped up as if prompted by an angel. No one but me knew I was struggling in that moment, or so I thought. I opened up a conversation with ‘Zoe’ and the rest you can read about in my blog post “Even Tech Support Needs Prayer”. (Pause here and read it, if you haven’t already.) I was humbled to the point of tears to say the least and grateful my ‘in the moment’ need for encouragement was met. God has shown me over and over again throughout the years, this is my work; inviting people into a deeper connection with our Most High God, themselves and others through contemplative Christianity. Inviting people into partnering with their Beloved as He transforms their lives. Inviting people to honor their stories of transformation and freely sharing mine. Reminding everyone, of who we truly are, the beloved of The Beloved. Perhaps most importantly, sharing my love of Christ, in my little way, letting the world know He is real, He is alive and He will meet you where you are.

Even Tech Support Needs Prayer

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not very tech savvy. So today I found myself in an online tech support chat with the email software provider I use for my ministry emails. Though I’m sometimes able to pick things up fairly quickly, I always have a lot of questions. The woman on the other end of the chat was very knowledgable, professional and oh so patient. She would not only answer my questions but would create a 30 second tutorial and send me the link. One time while helping me with a video upload, she took a little longer before responding. Then her question popped up in the window, “Is this your newsletter, are you the person on the video?” I answered, “I am.” She answered, “I just watched it and I want to thank you. I’m going through something hard right now and your prayer has helped me so much.” I was speechless. My fingers sat on the keyboard and my eyes welled up. I was truly taken aback by her openness. I immediately sent to her the links to my other videos with a prayer and a blessing. She said, “Well, you have another follower in me.”

The Spirit of our Most High God is always and in all ways healing. In that moment, I came to a clearer understanding that no matter who or where we encounter someone, they need God and everyone needs prayer whether they realize it or not. From the time I was a child, maybe because of challenging life experiences, I’ve always turned to prayer. It feels like a pure gift of the Holy Spirit. For it is God and God alone who draws all into His healing, loving Presence. The harvest is plentiful as God is calling in His workers even through live chats.

When Mindfulness Isn’t Enough

There may be a few people, a very small percentage of the world’s population, that are untouched by the present climate of anxiety and stress. These individuals, if they exist, are probably living ‘off the grid’ of what we call ‘normal’; having little or no contact with social media and news outlets.

The rest of us are trying to find our way, trying to create calm in the midst of chaos, peace in the midst of stress, serenity in the midst of anxiety, joy in the midst of loss, faith in the midst of doubt, trust in the midst of lies, confidence in the midst of fear, love in the midst of contempt. With hidden addictions, shame, guilt and remorse the rest of us are searching for any morsel of reality or a modicum of truth that will keep us from becoming a statistic.  The search for answers in spirituality is at an all time high.  Spiritual seekers and teachers are everywhere and any course, workshop, practice or meditation that promises some kind of peace at the end of the day, is in demand. 

Today I listened to a popular teacher of secular spirituality.  I respect him and his work, send him prayer and blessing.  He was encouraging individuals how they can change their lives by becoming more mindful.  That if they just used mindfulness practices and techniques, in a short period of time, their lives would greatly change for the better.  As I continued listening I heard something else.  Not from the teacher on the video, but from the Teacher within. 

That inner voiceless Voice spoke, ‘Cease striving and know that I Am God.’ In a moment Reality made this abundantly clear, it’s impossible for me to heal my own life. I’ve tried endlessly to escape all my fears, shame and guilt.  Only to arrive at the fact that I can not completely forgive myself and others for how our combined poor choices have wreaked havoc on my life. Bottom line is no matter how adept I get at any of these mindfulness practices I can not transform the inner workings and deepest motivations of my life.  The old thinking is always there. I might ‘feel’ a little better in the moment but I can not create a stress-free, peace-filled existence.  As I continued watching this very convincing, beautifully filmed video I recognized with great clarity, the only way to true transformation is not from me but through me.  The One and Only, who dwells in me, the Source of Love, Sustainer of Life, Creator God, Living Christ, Holiest Spirit who breathes through me, the Great Healer whose Presence I can not escape is the One who does the transforming.  The teachings that say it’s up to me to heal my life, can actually create more pressure and stress.  “How so?”, you might ask.  After all there are so many studies that prove how the brain responds to mindfulness meditation, etc.  I don’t deny that at all.  However, I believe that whether we acknowledge it or not, all healing comes from God, the Great Healer.  Surrendering to that Reality connects us to our God in a deep, profound way, clearing out the interference and foggy thinking that clouds our understanding and pulls us off course.  Striving and struggling with no intention toward surrender only creates more of the same.

Yes, we must willingly show up to silence, prayer, scripture and service, willingly show up to be transformed. That is our part.  However, the work really happens when we wholeheartedly consent and are present to the Presence, when we surrender to God’s Greater Work within.  For it’s not when we muster up more effort but when we relinquish our weakness.  Not when we acquire more knowledge but when we can admit to knowing nothing and fall into Divine Wisdom.  Not when we live perfectly, but when we acknowledge our flaws, embrace our failures, weep with our vulnerabilities, receive forgiveness and keep showing up. 

Any discipline, practice or level of understanding that supports our surrender is what will serve our transformation.  For as God has God’s way of love and healing in our lives, so too will the world be healed. We do not have to be about changing the world, rather allowing change to happen in each each one of us.  Yes, one person matters.  Each of us has a part to play that begins with surrender.  Remember, through one, Jesus the Christ, we’ve been shown the way of true life.  The way of surrender that leads to resurrection and eternal life.  Let it be so.  Let it be now.  Let it be.