Archive for the ‘peace’ Category

Prayer in the midst of distraction

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

In my reading of Thomas Dubay’s book, Fire Within, I have come upon the chapter describing St. Teresa of Avila’s seven mansions. As a preliminary to the discussion of the mansions, Fr. Dubay described her teachings regarding vocal prayer.

Letting go of old habits

As a pure beginner in contemplative prayer, I have felt confused of late as to whether I should be using my imagination to conjure up images during prayer, or think of concepts. From my reading I have gathered that my imagination falls very short of what is possible just by letting go of everything human and allowing myself to be drawn into God’s presence.

Being a creative sort, and a visual learner, putting aside my imagination has been hard to say the least. I have found some wonderful consolation in prayer doing such things, and have also pondered many wonderful ideas. These things aren’t wrong, but they just scratch the surface. God is inviting me to go much deeper and to do that, I must put aside these primitive ways of praying.

Concrete suggestions

Bless St. Teresa and her innate understanding of human nature. She offers concrete ways to enter into this prayer, and I tried one this morning amidst an array of distractions.

She suggested focusing on a favorite image of Jesus and I have an icon I treasure that hangs on wall across from the rocking chair in our bedroom where I will pray and write. It’s pictured to the left.

I began to pray my rosary and focused on the picture. Now mind you, there was an unusual amount of noise and chaos going on around me – the roofers had arrived promptly at 7:30 am and were tearing our roof apart! Shingles were falling like rain!

Peace in the midst of chaos

In the middle of the rosary, one of the workman knocked on the door, needing to get into our basement to access the chimney. I calmly let him in and resumed my prayer.

My son then came in and we discussed plans for the day. I continued to remain calm and returned to prayer as if nothing happened.

This has never happened before!

Interruption to prayer always entailed frustration, aggravation, irritation. Yet this time I managed to stay in the presence of Jesus and remained calm. My peace was not disrupted.

Gazing upon the face of Jesus

The only thing I can think of that I did differently was to keep my focus on Jesus and just gaze upon Him.

My spiritual mother daily sits in her rocking chair and just contemplates the face of Jesus. I was in awe of that and envied her.

Now I have a taste of what she experiences.

Possibilities

It’s possible for me, and it’s possible for you too. Fr. Dubay reminds anyone who will listen that we are all called to deeper communion. St. Paul reminds us to “pray always.” It can be done.

And the more you taste it, the more the desire will grow.

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Throughout this series I have shared with you ideas that I had about becoming beautiful as God means for us to be. This has been a deeply personal journey as I have literally lived with this topic for the last 3 months, reading a little bit each day, outlining the chapters in  The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier and The Authentic Catholic Woman by Genevieve Kineke. As we know from gardening, a downpour is not going to be particularly beneficial to the flowers – it might beat them down and surely the bulk of the water will run off. It’s those gentle rains, even drizzle, that persist from day to day that bring the real benefit to the garden. This reading, bit by bit, day by day, has acted as a gentle rain on the garden of my soul. Where total surrender to God was once a lofty thought is now something I have embraced, and my journey has just begun in living it.

I find that I am more at peace with my life and can take the longer view down the road while still remaining in the present. Recently my husband, who is a contract worker, was between jobs and was becoming concerned that he would not find a new assignment soon enough to continue with the contracting company which gives him a salary and our health plan. He knew I was praying daily for the unemployed and asked me to remember him which I gladly did. As I prayed, I thought to myself that no matter what happened, even if he lost his job and we lost our health benefits, that everything in the long run would work out for our best. My trust in God was deeper because of this journey of surrender which I had embarked upon.

My love for Mary, our Mother, has truly grown. She truly is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known, and will ever know. She lays out a simple path to follow (simple to understand but not necessarily easy to follow), speaking it plainly at the Wedding at Cana when she instructs the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knew from the many deep experiences of her life that following the Lord wherever He led was the only way to lead an authentic life. She came to understand in the course of her life that this way was not free of pain or suffering; in fact it probably was more intense because she chose a more radical way of living. Her “yes”, however, transformed all of history, helping to open the road to Heaven to every human being going back to Adam and Eve, and going forward to the end of time. She held God incarnate in her arms – caressing and kissing, listening to and consoling Him, and laughing with Him. She witnessed Him risen, saw Him ascend to Heaven, and experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon her at Pentecost. Every moment of her life was a “yes” and every “yes” opened the door wider to God’s grace and mercy.

No wonder she was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known!

I earnestly pray, beg, that God’s light, His image, like those of the beautiful icons, will glow within me and will not be blocked by any shadow. I pray, I beg, that God will help me continue to remove the wall that blocks Him from me, stone by stone and eventually, boulder by boulder as I become stronger in Him.

I deeply desire to become a beautiful Godly woman that will be evident for all to see. I desire that people will look at me and see not me, but the Lord. I want to be that bold, that transparent. I want to be like those women I admire so much in my own life who to me epitomize holiness – my Noni, the master teacher of hospitality, the realtor in my office who positively glows with God’s light, and my dear spiritual mother whose mastery of sacrificial love in spite of her illness inspires me daily.

Dear Lord, make me like those women! Make me beautiful like Your Mother. Mary, mother to us all and my mother, pray for me.

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Thank you for following this series on becoming a beautiful Godly woman. Here are links to the other 10 posts in case you missed any:

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Here are links to 2 other companion posts:

Praying in new places, in new ways – an example of a creative routine for daily prayer and scripture reading

Why does love chase away fear? – Total surrender to God chased away fear, allowing us to face anything in our lives

 

Letting Go of Fear

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

(The Red Room website was calling for articles about letting go in honor of Lent so I submitted this post. This isn’t really about Lent, but it is about letting go, and it shows that it doesn’t have to be swift and painful for it to work. God is gracious and merciful).

I profess to have faith in God and as such, am supposed to trust in God. But when it came to the family finances, I never seemed to be able to find that pool of trust.

My husband and I are talented at many things, but managing money is not one of them. Even though my husband works as a financial analyst, he has no interest in using those talents to balance our checkbook. I am quite motivated, but often have to add up the numbers more than once on the calculator to get the right answer.

As a result, we always seemed to be in financial trouble, and this caused me a lot of stress. It would usually play out in the wee hours of the morning, the dreaded 4 o’clock hour: waking up, stomach hurting and palms sweaty over the big monster in the closet. Somehow that monster always shrank when the sun would rise and I’d get up for the day. The monster may not have been physically present, but the fear was very real.

I prayed to God about our finances. First it was, “Please send us extra money get through the month.” Then it was, “Please teach us how to handle our money.” I wanted a miracle, I wanted to win the lottery. But that’s not how God works.

Finally, a few years ago, something broke and it came about because of a purchase: the purchase of a tandem kayak.

We had moved into an area full of lakes, streams and ponds, and my husband kept bugging me to use the credit card and purchase a kayak. I have abhorrence for credit cards and kept saying no, but finally to keep the peace, I gave in. It turned out to be a momentous decision.

Some husbands and wives should never work together and that was us – just too competitive, each of us always wanting to come out on top. Yet, when the kayak came, that all changed. Very naturally we took our places – he handled the physical end of the boat (how to put it up on the car, how to carry it, etc.) and he graciously allowed me to sit up in the front to determine where we would paddle to. The smooth silence of the water complemented by the beautiful hot summer days made for blissfully peaceful trips down lazy rivers and streams. We’d drift and look at birds, run our hands through the warm water, stop to go fishing, all the while talking to each other in soft voices. In the kayak, I could let go of everything that was bothering me.

Winter came and the kayak was put away but I longed for that peace and harmony to continue, especially when I’d wake up at 4am worrying about money. That’s when God went to work, slowly changing me, pouring His grace upon me like a light mist falling on fallow ground, until that ground became soft and bore fruit. He used the imagery of the kayak trip to teach me about floating down His river of grace, all the while letting go and letting Him steer. Slowly I shed the worries that burdened me and turned them over to Him, letting them flow downstream. I began to sleep through the night and let the sun wake me up in the morning rather than the monster in the closet.

I learned how to let go of my fear. I learned how to trust. The good and gentle God took me by the hand, used something that was so sweet and delicious to me and taught me how to trust. And I haven’t turned back since.

How we can see with the eyes of God

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96:1-6; Luke 2:22-35

I received an iTouch for Christmas from my wonderful husband. At the time that I received it, I was very ungracious about it. I had made up my mind that I didn’t want touch screen technology but rather preferred an older model of the iPod and I was a little annoyed that he got me the iTouch anyway. Even my two grown children remarked about how I reacted with such ingratitude. Ouch!

Now that I have gotten acquainted with it, I am finding that it has many rich possibilities and I’m getting excited about it. My eyes have been opened, my stubbornness has fallen away. I apologized to my husband, told him he was right (not easy to do! :-) ) and asked his forgiveness.

I had made up my mind beforehand that I was not going to like it. I was stubborn, and it caused me to offend someone I love. That certainly is not seeing with the eyes of God!

In today’s Gospel reading, baby Jesus is brought to the temple by his parents to be presented to the Lord. An old man was there, Simeon. He had been patiently waiting for the Messiah to come and trusted in God’s word that he would indeed see the Christ. What if Simeon had been like me, mind made up, stubborn in his perception? What if he had set in his mind that the Messiah should come like a great king, or on a cloud, or in some other spectacular fashion? If he had done that, he would have missed everything! Instead, he was open and trusting, ready in love to receive the vision of the Messiah in the form of a helpless infant. By being open and loving, Simeon saw so much more than a great king. He saw God fully divine and fully human. He saw the unfathomable, uncontainable God incarnate as a little helpless, humble infant. Imagine what he learned about the love of God simply by beholding Jesus in this fashion! Imagine the incredible, uncontainable joy he must have felt as he held this wonder in his arms; the peace and gratitude in knowing that God had kept His promise, not only to Simeon personally, but to the whole human race!

So how do we keep our eyes open and keep our hearts trusting, as Simeon did? John tells us in the first reading: if we keep His commandments, we are in union with Him. If we love our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light, and the light allows us to see with God’s eyes.

How easy it is to be blinded by our pride! My know-it-all attitude regarding my husband’s wonderful gift blinded me to its possibilities, and worse, made me act unkindly towards my husband. I walked in darkness. This may be a small thing to be in the dark about, but it’s the totality of all these ‘small things’ that creates a larger darkness in our lives, a darkness that prevents us from seeing what God wants us to see.

Mother Teresa always said to do “small things with great love.” St. Therese the Little Flower served God with a smile for everyone she met, whether she liked them or not. These small things add up to a loving and trusting heart, able to see what Simeon saw. This is what I will strive for today and always.

p.s. It’s really cool to be able to read the Daily Readings on my iTouch! And I haven’t even begun to explore  Apps yet . . . :-)

Spiritual Prosperity – reflections on readings for December 10, 2010

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalm 1:1-4,6; Matthew 11:16-19

Today’s responsorial psalm struck me today (bold italics are my emphasis):

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

He is like a tree
planted near running water,

That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.

I stopped when I read it because it rang so true. Being on the same page with Jesus guarantees prosperity. Not prosperity such as the world understands it (money, power, fame, etc.), but a different kind of prosperity – peace, joy, love:  the fruits of the Spirit, which cannot be contained within and shine out as a beacon of light, the light of Christ.

Lately I have found people asking me for prayer. And I’ve had people tell me that I have blessed them. I know it’s not anything I am deliberately doing, except perhaps the act of trying to remain in God’s presence at all times. That constant clinging to God, running to His side, keeping an ear open for His soft voice, feeling that longing in my heart for Him – these things drive me to Him and I’m guessing that because of that, the light of Christ is somehow getting past me and getting out for the world to see. It’s certainly not because of any good that I purport to do.

My thoughts again drift to Mary who because of her oneness with God, produced the greatest fruit of all – the baby Jesus. Talk about prosperity!

I saw this cool section in a book I am reading (again) called The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier. In the preface he writes:

” . . . He [Christ] took up residence in a womb [Mary's], making it a tabernacle of flesh. The work of redemption began in utero . . . Mary was the first evangelist, bearing witness of Christ’s incarnation to her cousin Elizabeth. She won the first convert in utero, in the person of John the Baptist . . .”

Remember the votive candle post from a few days ago and how the light of Christ was within the womb of Mary? Mary was following today’s responsorial psalm, delighting in the Lord and staying close to Him and because of that, she prospered. And because she prospered, the light of Christ within her could not be contained and the babe in Elizabeth’s womb sensed it and leapt for joy!

This kind of prosperity is the one kind we can take with us when we depart this earth. As long as we work for it and deeply desire it, we can never lose the treasure of Christ’s light within us. And because we prosper, we light the way for others to follow along with us.

And believe me when I say that the world’s prosperity (money, fame, power, etc.) cannot even begin to match the benefits of spiritual prosperity. Having experienced both to a degree, I am so glad I am here now and would never go back.

Where the Lord Wants to Lead Me (Reflection on readings for Nov. 10, 2010)

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Readings for today
Titus 3:1-7; Psalm 23:1-6; Luke 17:11-19

Sometimes I think I would have done quite well in the era of oral tradition. While I like to read, listening to someone else read often makes words or phrases stand out that otherwise wouldn’t. That’s what happened today.

I often listen to the daily scripture readings at the Verbum Domini site. There’s no commentary, just a simple rendering of the daily readings. Because the USCCB site is the only place authorized to use the New American Bible, Verbum Domini uses the Revised Standard version and today I’m glad they did.

The ever familiar Psalm 23 was the responsorial psalm today. As I listened to it, these first lines stood out:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;

Still waters. I thought about what that looked like, like a sea of smooth glass reflecting the sky, the trees, whatever happens to be around. There is much that lurks beneath still waters. Fish. Insects. Turtles. Plant life. The still waters contain many signs of vibrant life and yet they are quiet (New St. James version), restful (New American version), peaceful.

I thought back to the phrase, He makes me, in referring to “He makes me to lie down in green pastures” and it helped me to make sense of something I’ve been pondering for a while and even talked about with my spiritual mother last night.

I mentioned to her that I wondered sometimes why my life was so serene right now, restful with few worries and responsibilities. My creative life is blooming and I feel more alive than I have in many years. Yes, I did come from a long, drawn out battle that was my mother’s illness and passing, but I wonder about my life being so easy now. Somehow it doesn’t feel right (much as I enjoy it).

And my dear, wise friend told me to graciously accept this grace from God and not worry. There would be trials ahead but right now, accept, enjoy, and go along with it. Today’s psalm was an affirmation of her words: God wants me to lie down in the green grass next to the still waters.

The famous Ecclesiastes 3 (“To everything there is a season . . .”) really rings true for me today. This is my season to heal, my season of peace.

As the leper in today’s Gospel runs to Jesus, prostrates himself at His feet and thanks him for his healing, so I must do the same: accept the gift and be thankful for it and put away all worry. Live in the present moment and let the future take care of itself.

Thank you, Jesus.

The organic love of Jesus – reflection on daily readings for Nov. 4, 2010

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
Philippians 3:3-8; Psalm 105:2-7; Luke 15:1-10

The Gospel reading from Luke struck me in a very organic way today. The first line that jumped out was:

15:1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus . . .

In verse 1, I pictured the tax collectors and sinners drawing near to Jesus and thought of the warmth and acceptance that must have been emanating out of him. These people were accustomed to being taunted, ridiculed and rejected by most people. Most likely they were hardened so as not to feel the pain of rejection. Therefore, it must have taken a real leap of faith to attempt to place their trust in anyone! There is something very comforting to me, reflecting on that crowd of wounded, hardened people melting in the presence of the love of Jesus.

Then, there was this verse:

15:5 And when he does find it,he sets it on his shoulders with great joy

Again, it struck me in an organic kind of way as I imagined the flesh of the sheep touching the flesh of Jesus and how the warmth would have caused the sheep to calm down and feel safe.

I am an unabashed cat lover and I consider myself very fortunate to have two cats that enjoy being cuddled. One of my cats, Bacci, is elderly, turning 14 this month. I adopted him last year from the assisted living facility where my mother had been living. He had come from an extremely protected environment and was not used to other cats. The poor thing was subjected to bullying from my male ginger cat (who has since passed away) and since then, my female torti. Bacci didn’t have much of a ‘backbone’ to begin with and I felt the instinctive need to protect him. It was said that he didn’t like being picked up but I found he did in fact like it because it made him feel safe. He’s a big fluffy boy and when I pick him up, it’s in a soothing and quiet way, and he settles into my arms and purrs.

That’s what I thought about today when I read verse 5. The touching of flesh to flesh communicates messages of love, peace, acceptance and safety like no other.

I found myself longing to do the same with Jesus but reminded myself that I can consume Him through the Eucharist. It’s a wonderful and intimate thing, the best we can do until we meet Him face to face.

What a wonderful thing to consider, that our God, who is so big that no one can conceive of Him, would come in the form of man so that He could pick us up and set us on His shoulders, and lead us home.

There’s a song by Bob Dufford of the St. Louis Jesuits that ran through my mind today. It’s called “Like a Shepherd” and here’s a video of a choir singing it. Think of Jesus holding you close today.

Running the Race to Win – reflection on readings for Sept. 10

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Today’s readings can be found here.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27; Psalm 84:3-6,12; Luke 6:39-42

From today’s Divine Office, morning prayer:

2 Corinthians 12:9b-10
I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

St. Paul tells us to run the race to win.A cup of coffee so I can wake up, a longer commute than usual because of heavy traffic . . . I think you know where this is leading. It’s painful like no other. I struggle mightily with this pain even though it is so small in the scheme of things. In the midst of it I tried hard to remember that it would resolve itself in due time, but in the middle of it, I was desperate. I could not figure out how to maintain my peace .

This happened a couple of days ago and I am still reflecting on it. Then I read the above reading from the Divine Office and wonder how Paul did it. Did he lose his peace when he was in pain? Or did he maintain it? I suppose the best way to find out is to ask him through intercessory prayer, and to study his life.

In today’s first reading, Paul talks about running the race to win. Since I am not an athlete, I never could relate to the analogy of running a race. But now that I have begun working out at the YMCA 3 times a week, I am beginning to understand. It’s about total commitment, and total belief in that commitment. You can’t run a race to win if you don’t believe you can win.

I have to believe that I can win in my spiritual life as well. How can I lose with the Lord’s Holy Spirit inside of me? I can lose only if I don’t believe.

I think I would almost welcome the challenge of my “pain” after coffee again and see if this time, I can run that race to win!