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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.  

Being Present Is Simpler Than You Think

I make it a habit to ask anyone I come in contact with a simple question.  Whether in a store, on the street, getting gas at my local gas station, etc.  when the opportunity presents itself I always ask, “How’s your day?” Most respond surprised  and with a simple answer like “It’s ok.”,  “Not bad.” or “Good, work is almost over.”  It’s a way to help me be more present and notice the person in front of me.  I don’t believe in coincidence so I will say God caused my path to cross with a man yesterday who until then, was a complete stranger.  As I looked into his eyes I felt prompted to ask a simple question, “How’s your summer been so far?”  I expected to hear one of the typical answers of, too short, too hot, too busy, but not this time.  He looked up at me with the saddest eyes and said, “Not good, not good at all.”  I was taken aback but quickly replied, “Oh, what’s happening?”  Without hesitating he answered, “My wife is on hospice and is going to die any day now.”  I was blown away and in that moment I understood how profoundly important it is to be present to this man.  I looked deep into his eyes and said, “I am so very sorry.  Truly sorry for your loss.”  It’s as if time stood still for a brief moment.  I reached out to take his hand and he reached back with both hands.  I held his hands in mine and simply looked at him.  No words were necessary.  It was a moment of deeper connection that I speak about all the time.  Had I been lost in thoughts of anxiety, worry, doubt or judgment about something else, I would have missed it completely.  Consolation, connection and a sincere smile is what he needed and what I needed to share.  That was a moment of being present to the Presence of God I hope I never forget.  What did the moment require?  Me.  Looking at the person in front of me. Seeing him.  Engaging him. Listening to him.  Reaching out, bringing a simple word of consolation and silently praying for him.  God happens when we least expect God to show up. 

Transformation happens in the ordinary moments.  If you string together enough of those moments through the simple way of seeing, listening, reaching out, connecting and praying you will experience the peace and contentment you long for through the  life-giving, life-changing Presence of God.