Archive for the ‘God stuff’ Category

15
Jul

Making His Appeal Through Us…

Last Sunday I preached at my church. I, with much trepidation, told about my experiences with God over the past 4 years. Some of my faithful readers are probably saying, “But you blog openly about it!” 

True. But I don’t have to look many of you in the face as you read it! So, if you hate what I’m writing, I don’t have to know about it. I can live in a delusional world where everyone loves me! 

So, to get up in front of people I adore and love and ask them to believe all of this stuff is really tough territory for me. Thankfully, some were quite kind and said it helped them. Others simply politely kept their mouths closed! (This would be why I love my church!) Others, who were unable to hear it for one reason or another, asked that I let them read it. So, for those folks and for my faithful readers:

For those of you who don’t already know me, I am a mother of three grown children, the mother-in-law of two great people and the new grandmother of one fantastically awesome grandson. I’ve been in the mother role for over 30 years now. And some maternal habits don’t die easily, even after your children are all grown and you have no need of maternal habits anymore.

So, when our pastor asked me to preach today, I almost instinctively reached up to put my hand on his forehead and check his temperature. Here’s why:

I’m a preacher’s kid.

Wikipedia says that the stereotypes of a preacher’s kid are twofold: “in one, they are perfectly angelic role models, in the other they are rebels at the opposite extreme.” I tended toward the latter so here’s what I learned about church being Dad’s daughter:

  1. If the service begins at 9:30 am, you will have to be at church by 7:30 am, properly dressed and CLEAN. And there are few excuses tolerated for not doing so. “Not being a morning person” is NOT on the list of acceptable excuses.
  2. You can fit exactly 12 tic-tac-toe games on the back of an offering envelope. You can fit 16 on there if you write really small. Theoretically, you can fit 20 if the pew pencils are really sharp. However, since the preacher’s kid is usually responsible for sharpening the pew pencils, this will probably never be proven.
  3. Never sit on the right side of your mother’s elbow if you are snickering at Mrs. Zwiefelhofer’s oddly flowered hat during worship.

 

I will attempt to do something a bit more productive than what I just mentioned. But, if this goes seriously awry, I’m blaming our pastor, since he’s a preacher’s kid, too.

Unlike my dad, unlike our pastor, I am not a theologian. I’m something far worse.

I’m a blogger.

I comment on what I see around me and tell stories. So, today, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about me:

My body hates me.

It rebels at the most inopportune times. I have had horribly debilitating migraines since I was 6 years old. I have had 4 heart attacks without any pre-existing risk factors for heart disease and I will probably have more. My rare condition is not remedied by medication, diet, exercise or being in a Zenlike position for the rest of my life. I developed anaphylactic shock reactions to most antibiotics and some painkillers after the first heart attacks at age 39. I never know what the next moment will bring. While I feel fine right now, I may be in the hospital ER when I leave here. But yet, I consider all of that good stuff.

Yes, good stuff. I don’t think I would have gotten to the relationship I have with God now if it weren’t for all of my medical adventures. But, I’m hoping what I learned about God in the process is now of some benefit to you.

Heart attack # 4 occurred on June 17, 2013. It was a doozy. I thought it was my ticket to Heaven, quite frankly. What was even more unsettling is that I couldn’t sense God’s presence at the time in my life when I most needed Him. I tried to pray, but it’s a little difficult to pray when your entire body is in severe pain. The one person who could relate to my situation, our minister, was moving to Ennis. Our new minister was moving to our town.

I recovered from “4”, I came home, and began to weep uncontrollably for several weeks. Nothing consoled me that used to console me. And I didn’t understand what God wanted me to do.

I became convinced that writing a blog had something to do with what I was on Earth to do for God. I had this sense of peace about it that only comes when you know something is of the Lord. There was only one problem. No one and I mean no one, was reading this blog.

As part of the anguish of a life that I thought had not produced much for the kingdom of God, I asked, “Why do you want me to keep writing this blog? No one is reading it.” I just hung the question out there for once in my life. My normally busy brain and interior voice, for once, was silent. In that silence, a quiet voice said, “Because I want to be with you.”

What?! I knew that voice was not mine. My voice would have said, “No one wants to be with you.” I had never heard that voice and I sensed an instant peace I cannot even describe. The only conclusions I could reach? Either that was God or it’s time for a psych eval at the local hospital.

Whatever it was…all I knew is that I wanted more of it. But I had absolutely no idea how to hear from that voice ever again. And was I even supposed to hear from it again? If it was indeed God’s voice, who am I to want God to speak to me more than once in my earthly life? I should be thankful for such an awesome gift and let it be.

I don’t do “Let it Be” very well. It’s my least favorite Beatles song.

Thankfully, God led me to a program in the metroplex that teaches exactly that. I am now surrounded by people who not only hear from God often, but also have visions and experience God in a myriad of ways that I never knew were possible. It has been a huge paradigm shift for me…everything inside of me is changing.

How do these people know how to do this on a regular basis? Because our beloved Christian saints of the past left us a road map. That road map comes in the forms of prayer practices that unfortunately, are not often shared in our churches today. Kory said it was not presented in his studies at his seminary. A lot of the books written about them are no longer in print.

Do I think this gift of God’s real presence in our lives is just for some of us and not for all of us? No.

Let me say that again: No.

Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s quite clear that Peter does not think that this inward manifestation of God at work in us is just something reserved for the Apostles or only really, really devout Christians. If I can have this type of relationship with God, so can you.

Will God speak to you? I don’t know. Why? Because I’m not you and I’m not Him. He may choose to reveal Himself to you in a completely different way because you’re very different from me. What is meaningful for me may have no meaning to you. But trust me on this—God is at work in your life.

Why don’t we hear more about this kind of encounter with God if it’s possible for all of us to have it? I have a few theories about that.

First, it sounds crazy. Obviously, I’m not the first person to recognize that. Today’s Scripture reading says:  “If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake.” (2 Cor. 5:13-21) Even our movies consider it fun to mock a person’s experience of hearing from God. As a result, those of us who have had this experience often fear how we will be viewed by others.

Second, we think we want to hear from God, but also fear it. What if God says something that we don’t like? What if He asks me to make a huge change or sacrifice to my present life? Mary Ann Scofield says, “It is natural to resist anything that threatens the status quo: Since God is always leading us toward becoming more loving, we will often resist God’s approach.”

Third, this sort of experience requires silence and stillness. It takes focus. Does that sound like 21st century America to you? Scofield further states: “Our culture does not value stopping, waiting, noticing, or pondering, though all of these are required for prayer. Our culture…rewards good deeds and punishes evildoing; God persists in being extravagantly generous and forgiving, upending all of our ideas about what is fair. Our culture lauds talent and success; yet God chooses to identify with the least among us.”

Everything screams for our attention and if our attention is not solely focused on God, God is polite and waits until we get quiet. It was just pointed out to me yesterday that the word silent has the exact same letters as listen. We have to stop and listen to God.

Was I anxious to lose the respect of the people I love and admire? No. Was I fearful about what I might hear from God? Yes. Was I good at being silent and still? Um. No. I was lousy at silence and stillness. But that scripture that says, “Be Still and Know that I am God” is oh, so true. If we want to know God, we have to get still, inside and out.

I’m entering my last year of training. As a way of documenting our journey with God, we are encouraged to keep a journal. I have never kept up with a journal or diary all the way to the last page. (I held up my four, sizable journals.) These first 4 journals are full—completely full of God moving in my life. God talking. God giving me visions. God teaching me, sweetly, gently and lovingly.

Do I write every day? No. Because I, like everyone else resist this new thing in my life that is upending my status quo.

So, how do I know that this is God’s voice and not something else? As my training group leader has said, “Does it produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit when you hear it? If not, it’s probably not God.” These conversations are supposed to produce something good, something kind, something loving, within me…within my family…within my neighborhood…within my community and perhaps, just perhaps, some day, within my world.

I’m the first to say I still don’t see outward signs of transformation. Most of the changes are only ones God and I notice. That’s why the journals are so important. When I’m feeling depressed about my walk with the Lord, I reread my first journal and realize I have, indeed, come a long way.

Here’s just a few things I’ve noticed about my life before and after these conversations with God:

  1. I used to love the latest and greatest Bible study on the shelves at Lifeway. Beth Moore was my girl! Now I’m looking for texts written by 11th century monks.
  2. I never understood the Scripture, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Now I do.
  3. I used to think there were only 4 kinds of prayer at most. Now, I know there at least 50 ways to pray to God and a pile of variations for each of them.
  4. I used to have an opinion about everything and was very judgmental. Now, I prefer to wait and hear the other side of the story and suspend judgment. I try to simply accept people as they are now.
  5. I used to think I was not a great Christian if I wasn’t constantly doing something for His kingdom. Now, I prefer to just imagine myself sitting with the Lord.
  6. I used to play the loudest music on the planet and like contemporary music in worship. The louder the better. Now I prefer silence.
  7. I used to prefer praying “off the cuff.” I still do this a lot, but I now understand all too well the value of the prayers of others, written down and published.
  8. I no longer worry who will read my blog and often don’t write a thing there.
  9. 20 minutes of silent prayer once a week seemed like an eternity two years ago. Now, I may spend 5 times that amount in one day and it flies by.

 

It has been an adventure. God surprises me often with what He wants me to know. Here are a few snippets of what He has taught me:

  1. He has a sense of humor. One sleepy morning I was definitely having trouble focusing on Him. I asked, “Jesus? Did you ever wrestle with distractions? The reply? “Are you kidding? I had 12 and I handpicked each one.”
  2. I don’t fully trust Him. I don’t fully trust Him because I don’t fully trust people. People have hurt me. People have rejected me. They are human, after all, and make mistakes, like I do. I’m trying to overcome such fear, but it’s not easy.
  3. God accepts me as I am. In the words of William Paul Young, “He’s rather fond of me”.
  4. He tells us things in bite-sized pieces as we’re ready to hear the things He wants to tell us. He does this to prevent us from being overly frightened by the future. I could never have shared this story with you 2 short years ago. But, I’m here now!
  5. Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God. It may look senseless, foolish and wasted to us, but God is still using it to bring light and love into us and into the world.
  6. God’s love and even correction is gentle, calm, peaceful, the joy of all joys, kind, and well-timed.
  7. When he speaks, I often cry. And I consider myself a rather stoic person. I’ve learned to keep a box of Kleenex and a large wastebasket nearby when praying.
  8. God speaks simply. He is often brief.
  9. What he repeats is what is important.

 

Perhaps you are wondering what God might say to us, as a church? So, I asked Him. And this is what I wrote in my journal as His response:

“I have much to tell them. Tell them I love them. Tell them I miss them. I am waiting for them. I will answer, if they pray. I am more than a church service on Sunday morning. I am more than a sermon and a prayer. I am a way of life. I am the way of life. I want to be an intimate part of everything they do. That is why they are created in my image, so we can be together for all eternity. I am waiting for them. I have much to tell them.”

So, how to hear what He has to tell you if you have never done this before? There are many ways, but let me suggest that you consider the following:

Give God 20 minutes of today.

Away from all of the noise.

Away from other people.

Set a timer for 20 minutes and open your Bible.

Find a scripture. Read it slowly. Let it wash over you.

Then, ask yourself: What word or phrase is jumping out at me? Ask yourself: What does God want me to know about this Scripture?

Then, be silent. Be still.

If it’s helpful, write this question in a journal and then write the first thing that comes to mind.

Trust that what you write is God speaking. Even if it isn’t, God still knows that your intention is to find Him. And He will, one day, somehow, honor that intention.

Keep writing, even if you don’t know what to write. Draw a picture if that makes more sense to you. Doodle, if like me, you’re not a great artist.

Silence the critic within you and wait for God. He is waiting for you.

31
Mar

The New Adventure…

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaackkk! My sincerest apologies for not posting for many months. My spiritual direction program asks us to do a “retreat year” as part of their 3-year program. During that time we are to say no to any new commitments and to reduce, as much as possible, our existing commitments.

This was the worst (and best) year for me to extract myself from such commitments. Why?

# 1: My eldest son is marrying his sweetheart several hours away from us.

# 2: He is renovating a 58 year old home with his fiancee…himself.

# 3: Our daughter and the DSL announced in July that they were expecting their first child and our first grandchild.

# 4: The hubby had some significant health issues. But he seems to be doing well now.

# 5: We are still slowly working on that cabin in the woods. And we are doing the inside ourselves.

If that were not enough, I could not forsake my beloved church and chose to facilitate a prayer technique course based on the book 50 Ways to PrayI did pray first about it and told God that if certain individuals came forward and volunteered for the course, I would facilitate. They all came forward. God can be soooo inconvenient sometimes! I think that was his warped sense of humor just making sure I got the message.

And I can’t turn my back on my beloved Compassion Counseling Center, even though I only now serve on its board. I chose, at the end of 2016, to work on a fundraising effort because we were in rather dire straits for funding at that time. Honestly, I’m still not sure that was the wisest idea for me, but it did seem to bless a few people who could use some blessing.

Something in the current schedule had to go. While writing is my therapy, it is one thing I can, without disrupting other peoples’ lives, say no to when necessary. I had hoped to warn all of you about my sabbatical, but it just didn’t happen. What can I say? God isn’t finished with me yet.

I am not going to fully resume my writing schedule just yet. You will only see an occasional post from me here and there until at least May, if not June. My Log Rhythms fans want to know about the cabin progress and Maizie is shedding and drooling all over my keyboard waiting to discuss the important things in her life. But there is one subject I do want to discuss right now:

My practicum year and an opportunity (for you or someone you know) to ponder!

I will begin, in July, my spiritual direction practicum year. I have to work with at least 4 people who are willing to meet with me once a month for an hour at a time. I will be happy to work with more if God thinks that’s a smart idea for both of us. It costs these folks nothing. Yes, it’s free!

During our meetings I will be listening for where God is at work in your life and assisting in helping you to deepen your relationship with God. I don’t really like the term spiritual director because it makes it sound like I’m in charge of your spiritual life and of course, only God is in charge of that. Plus, how God directs my life may be totally different from how He directs yours. So, my training has been to just notice (preferably internally) when I think God is trying to communicate with you in the way that works for both of you (or could work for you) and let you know about that, so that you can pursue that possibility with God when we’re apart.

I cannot meet with family members and best friends. Why? Because there may be times when what God has to say about your relationship with Him will have to come out of my mouth and if He’s asking you to change something, you may not like that! And, of course, that could destroy our friendship or family relationship and I don’t want that to happen to either of us.

If you like this idea, but you are uncertain about whether or not we could meet based on the above, then I encourage you to ask God about that and wait for some indication from Him about whether that is wise for you and me. I will do the same, if you ask me to do that.

If I consider you my best friend, you already know that and of course, my family members know they’re related to me. However, you may consider me your best friend and I just haven’t figured that out yet! I leave it to you and God to decide if you want to risk our relationship. I trust Him about that. I have lost more friends than I care to mention for some really awful reasons, and God has guided me through that and given me grace. Yes, for a while, I did have a rather large pity party for myself about it, but this is just a part of life and I think God allowed it to happen so that I could now do spiritual direction and know how to seek out my true best Friend if it ouches to lose a friendship.

If we barely know each other or are strangers, you’re probably a great candidate. I do believe in safety first, so for the guys, we will meet somewhere where people can see us meeting, such as a room with a glass door, etc. Also, if I suspect that your intention is less than honorable and honest, I may suggest you seek someone else for spiritual direction. If you intend to maliciously, dishonestly take advantage of me, I will be calling the authorities.

Yes, it is preferable for us to meet in person. If you strongly think that you’re still supposed to meet with me, I will be the first to say I’m not a video chat kind of girl. But, I will consider it if you tell me why you believe it’s important. I will pray that God guides us both in such situations.

I have already been blessed by several saying they are willing to meet with me. So, if you want to be a “directee,” then you probably need to speak up soon by emailing me via MIP’s Contact Me page.

Blessings on you all and may God direct your steps in a grace-filled way until I post again.

25
May

Examining Examen…

statue-of-ignatius-of-loyola-1213597

All those who have never heard of examen, post a comment! Until HeartPaths I had never heard the term examen (Merriam-Webster says examen is pronounced ig-ˈzā-mən, although I have heard it pronounced like the word examine, too.). It is a prayer practice initiated by Ignatius.

If I had to guess, most Christians do an informal version of examen without realizing it. While there are countless ways to do it, the essence is this: Review the previous day and find the underlying meaning of the day’s events. Do this every day. Most contemplatives would say that examen is the most important prayer practice.

Thus, my next year in HeartPaths will be focused on doing examen daily and reflecting on what I’m learning. Ignatius also created other spiritual exercises and I will also be doing those. Don’t ask me about these, since I won’t start them until this fall!

Some forms of examen also ask us to look forward to the next 24 hours and ask God for assistance where needed. However, let me be

18
May

Walking with the Lord…

Labyrinth walking

Labyrinth walking

It’s an amazing coincidence that I’m now to the point in the “prayer exploration” journey here on MIP where it’s time to discuss Body Prayer and today is the 17th anniversary of the day I had my first heart attack due to Prinzmetal Angina.

It may be more than coincidence.

Body prayer consists of a whole list of prayer practices involving the movement of your body to facilitate new ways of understanding God and communicating with him. In HeartPaths we moved our hands for one prayer time; walked a labyrinth in another; prayed the Lord’s Prayer accompanied by certain postures for certain phrases of it; and examined pictures of ourselves growing up to learn more about Body Prayer. While each of these was new to me and each was meaningful, I became fascinated with one practice that demands a little explanation.

For those not familiar with labyrinths, they are NOT mazes. Mazes are designed to trick the human mind; labyrinths only have one path that leads to the center of the labyrinth and then another path or the same path back out. It simply has a lot of turns in it similar to a maze. Labyrinth walking has been around for centuries and the most famous is in the cathedral at Chartres, France. Many new labyrinths are patterned after that one.

Labyrinth paths are now being painted onto canvas so that churches can simply roll them up and put them away when not in use.  Some churches lay them out during Lent and Advent and may even play music in the labyrinth area. Labyrinths can also be found outdoors. One that fascinates me is one where the path is marked by field stones. I’m already getting ideas in my head for how to incorporate a field stone labyrinth into our lot at the Reserve!

First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, TX (FPCFW) is building an outdoor labyrinth in a new meditation garden. This is exciting since FPCFW already has two canvas labyrinths that are maintained and furnished by a “Labyrinth guild.” The labyrinth guild members even undergo training about the use, preparation and care of the labyrinth.

For instance, the day we walked the smaller of the two labyrinths at FPCFW, the room was dimly lit and simple votive candles were dotted around the room. Chairs also bordered the labyrinth at various points, enough for each person about to walk the labyrinth. In addition classical music softly played in the background. A member of the labyrinth guild read an introduction and gave some simple instructions about labyrinth walking. As people walk the labyrinth, a few of the labyrinth guild members sit off to a side and pray for those walking the labyrinth.

For instance, outside the entrance of the labyrinth was a round table with a larger center candle lit and some unlit votive candles. We were told to sit in the chairs and prepare our hearts for prayer. When we felt led to begin, we moved to this round table and lit an unlit votive candle from the larger center candle. Then we formed a line at the entrance of the labyrinth and waited until the person ahead of us had reached a predetermined point in the labyrinth.

We were given instructions on how to work around people obstructing our path and what to do when reaching the center of the labyrinth. Most of us stepped to one side of the center and prayed a bit before heading out of the labyrinth again. When finished walking the labyrinth, we were invited to take our lit votive candle back to the circle where we journal about our prayer experiences and continue praying until all had gathered in the circle.

Here is a little bit about what I experienced while walking the labyrinth:

“I started too soon! That is probably representative of my character–I am eager to jump into a lot of things…without properly preparing myself. In so doing I am probably making my “path” more difficult. Perhaps I am not asking God to prepare me…

“As I passed others on different parts of the labyrinth, I wondered, “How many times am I near others, feel close to them, but don’t reach out to them to hug them or smile at them?”…

“At one point I got off the way out of the labyrinth because of crossing paths with another person and I realized how easily we can get off the path to God. It helped if I took a moment to look at the center of the labyrinth to find where I needed to be again. As Christians, we sometimes should stop and look to “our center,” Jesus, to find our bearings again.”

The entire walk was meaningful for me as well as the other Body Prayer practices and I realized I have a rather large “disconnect” between my body and soul and that’s another “sermon” for another time, but if I hadn’t tried all of these practices, I probably wouldn’t know that about myself and it wouldn’t be transforming who I am, body and soul, at this time. Perhaps the longest lasting lesson from Body Prayer is that all I do with my body can be an offering to God if I just slow down and remind myself to do that.

Some studies show that when we slow down, movement-wise, we are actually more efficient because we can anticipate obstacles that may impede our progress. Slowing down is counter-cultural in modern America, but then again, so was Jesus and so, slowing down is probably the best thing we could do for our “walk with the Lord.”

How’s your walk? Slow? Hurried? Non-existent? Stumbling? Need a road map or GPS? (I now refer to GPS as my God-Positioning System!)

Literally walk with the Lord today and see if the “pathway” becomes a bit clearer.

Friday’s Post: Hangin’ Out with Monks

You Might Also Like: Who’s Your Guide?; My Thoughts Are Your Thoughts?; and Coming to My Senses

11
May

Who’s Your Guide?

Blue sign with arrow pointing right, directing traffic one way

As a master’s level psychology student, various classes required that we practice visualization. Visualization is meant to help people handle anxiety. The premise is that you close your eyes, relax, and visualize a pleasant, peaceful scene. The scene is supposed to cause you to calm down and deal with what caused your discomfort more easily.

I, for whatever reason, seldom got much out of such exercises. Until now.

Enter guided meditation. In guided meditation group members are asked to place themselves inside a scene as described by the facilitator. The facilitator is always conscious that certain scenes may not be helpful for all; we have experiences that make us fearful of some scenes. Thus, the facilitator always gives people the option to create a different scene for themselves.

Even if feeling comfortable, the members are free to see things as God moves them. The results are astonishing. While one member may envision the scene with certain surroundings, another, with the same scenario, envisions something totally different! And yet, both people find something meaningful! Here is what I described from a guided meditation:

04
May

My Thoughts Are Your Thoughts?

girl-in-thought-1311632

Thinking prayer is right up my alley. Ask the hubby and he will tell you that one of my worst faults is overanalysis! Hence (Does anyone even use the word hence anymore??? Point made about over-analysis!), when we were asking to pray using our “thinker,” my fear was that I would learn nothing new. HeartPaths has taught me so many new ways to pray that my faith is growing by leaps and bounds and thus, when I encounter a way of praying that is my “wheelhouse,” I can lapse into thinking it will be boring and I will not continue to learn.

What foolishness! Because if something is geared for how God designed you, then of course, God is going to use it for your growth. Duh.

For this prayer exercise we were asked to remind ourselves of Biblical virtues (like the fruit of the Spirit) and then pick one that “called” to us. We were asked to ponder these things in reference to it: Define it. What happens when it guides your life? What happens when it isn’t guiding your life? What changes might have to take place in your life to see it as a guiding force?

Here’s what happened in my journal when I decided to ponder self-control:

“Self-control is about trusting that God is in control. It’s very tied up with our ability to trust God’s timing, love and ability to provide for our needs…When self-control guides my life, I feel better physically; I am at peace; I am in awe of God;….I remember others’ needs better and am more loving; I am on time and I have space in my life for all that’s important….I pondered what my day would like if I gave 8 hours to rest; 8 hours to work; and 8 hours to nurturing my walk with God. I probably would be a model of efficiency and be amazed by what I could accomplish with such discipline. I would be happier and feel freer.

Tears came to my eyes while praying and I asked God what that was about: “Sadness” came back. Sadness about what, God? “Sadness at how a lack of self-control has wreaked havoc in your life and that you won’t fully yield and trust Me with your life. You won’t let go. It scares you. This bewilders you because of your health issues.”

I would love to say that that little revelation from God has transformed me into a woman of self-control, happiness and efficiency. The happiness is coming, but the self-control and efficiency are still “at-large”. But I am still glad that God can take that old “lens” of mine, aka thinking, and work “magic”. One day I will let go and let God and on that day I will be “fearfully and wonderfully” re-made. I’m looking forward to over-analyzing that, too.

How about you? What fruit or virtue is calling to you today? Over-analyze away!

Friday’s Post: Log Rhythms returns!

You Might Also Like: Coming to My SensesSlow Reader Friday: Praying Our Experiences; and How’s Your Intuition?

27
Apr

Coming To My Senses…

hands-and-yarn-1183609

Sensing spirituality, or sensate prayer, concentrates on the here and now, unlike intuitive prayer that looks for the mystical in life. I confess that I honestly did not see the point of sensate prayer in the beginning, being a much more intuitive kind of person.

However, now that I have experienced sensate prayer for myself a few times, I not only saw its relevancy and helpfulness in my walk with the Lord, but decided to develop a retreat session utilizing sensate prayer! This is a pretty big “leap of faith” for myself!

In sensate prayer one gathers a variety of every day items that will appeal to all of your senses. In our HeartPaths group, we had aromatic spices to smell, semi-sweet chocolate to taste, sandpaper to feel, and shells to listen to, among other items. We were first directed to close our eyes and allow our senses to notice all the sounds, feelings, tastes and smells just naturally around us in our meeting room.

20
Apr

How’s Your Intuition?

What Path Are You On?

What Path Are You On?

As discussed last Wednesday, I am an INFP soul type. This means that I really enjoy exploring the mystical side of Christianity. What do I mean by mystical? Just that God is mysterious and He does not always operate in quantifiable, verifiable fact. Often, He speaks to us and works in the world around us “in the spiritual realm” and thus, we may not always exactly understand what He’s up to and how He can communicate with us.

HeartPaths caters to the INFP crowd, no doubt. We readily embrace that God can speak to us through our inner voice, which we generally refer to as the Holy Spirit. And we believe that God is definitely interested in what we will do with our lives in the future. He has a plan and He would really like us to get “with the program” and be in tune with what He is doing.

Enter Visio Divina, a prayer practice that finds the spiritual meaning in graphic images, photos and pictures. The day we practiced Visio Divina our meeting room was filled with two sizable tables full of photographs of nature. Most were from calendars. I wondered how well I was going to adapt to this prayer style, since I don’t think I appreciate nature as I should.

The lack of appreciation is more about the fact that to appreciate nature, one often has to be in nature. And as I have alluded to here before, being in nature usually results in a lot of sneezing, blowing my nose, taking allergy meds and then turning to migraine meds when the allergy meds clear up the congestion a little too well! Thus, I don’t often get much time to focus on how God might be trying to talk to me through nature.

Thankfully, I’m not allergic to calendar pictures!

We were instructed to go around the tables and select a picture that “called to us.” I, being Ms. Thorough in such situations, looked at all the pictures on the table first. About 4 or 5 “called to me,” most of which had some path or steps in the picture. The one I liked most was selected by another person in my group and so I landed on a rather wild, but groomed black top path in a garden. The picture had some rather old stones in it and the plantings were quite obviously mature and had been there a long time.

As I returned to our circle of chairs, we were told to just study the picture and ask God to tell us why we were called to that photo. Since we had about 10 minutes of silence to thoroughly look at every nook and cranny of this picture, I began to notice things I wouldn’t have ordinarily appreciated. Here is what I wrote in my prayer journal that day:

“It immediately reminded me of a picture in my mind I had of the Shack‘s garden which the protagonist didn’t want weeded and beautiful growth pulled out to create a new, even more beautiful garden. The Holy Spirit pointed out to the protagonist that pulling out the dead/unproductive parts of his life…allow for even more beautiful parts to grow in their place.

I think the photo was saying, “I am creating a new creation in you, MaryAnn. You don’t want to surrender things that are precious to you, even though they are no longer useful. In clinging to old things, there is no room for me to replace them with even better things.”

The path was paved, but littered with natural debris and that reminded me that my life doesn’t have to be perfect to be a beautiful representation of God at work in my life. Also, while the picture was full of lush greenery, I was more drawn to the vivid pops of color from wild flowers growing along the path. But I realized that I probably wouldn’t notice those pops of color without the lush green background. I began to realize that even though the greenery seemed dull, it served a purpose that helped to produce beauty.

In my own life I tend to “separate” the mundane aspects of my life from this mystical little adventure I’m on and I felt like God was saying that even the mundane is part of His plan. I didn’t fully get why He was bringing this to my attention back in January when I wrote the above excerpt, but I sure do get it now. We’ve been encouraged to be contemplative all day long, walking with a certain posture and trying to bring God into everything we do.

I often think of quiet monks tending fields and even washing dishes and what they might be striving to do while attending to these tasks. Monks move slowly and quietly in their tasks and it occurs to me that when I emulate them, I am actually more efficient because I have time to think about the most efficient way to get something done!

And, trying to be as quiet as possible while washing dishes is a challenge, but if I were in a monastery, I might interrupt another’s prayers if I’m clashing the plates together and letting cupboard doors slam shut. Stillness is often where we find God, so if I can learn to be quieter as I do certain jobs, I might find God more often in my life!

There were also remnants of old stones along the more modern path and yet, this contrast was quite beautiful, even those the stones were worn down with time and parts of them were missing. This reminded me that the parts of my life that I consider ugly actually add to the overall beauty of my walk with the Lord and I shouldn’t be ashamed of them–I should quietly rejoice that they now add something beautiful to my life!

The calendar picture now is “back cover” of my HeartPaths binder and is an ever present reminder that while I may very well be “in progress,” there is much to appreciate about where I am right now and that it’s okay for the unproductive parts of my life to be pulled up for something far better in the future. In March and April God sure did some “weeding” in my life that is still ongoing, and honestly, it’s been very painful. But, I can already feel God “planting new seeds” into my own spiritual garden and I can’t wait to see what “blooms” next.

Friday’s Post: Book Club Time!

You Might Also Like: How Are You Feeling?; The Wild Child; Out of Breath?; and Slow Reader Friday: Creating a Life with God

13
Apr

How Are You Feeling?

feelings

You don’t need to be a shrink type like me to be familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which breaks down personality characteristics into 16 types, based on 4 scales with extremes at either end. Honestly? I have not been a huge fan of Myers-Briggs in the past. My type never really seemed to define me well.

Until now.

HeartPaths feels that it is patently wrong to “program” how people build and form a relationship with God unless personality types are taken into account and there is programming for a lot of different types of people. A book called SoulTypes addresses how the Myers-Briggs test can be used to indicate how different personality types might need different kinds of spiritual practices and different kinds of worship.

I was excited about this book in the beginning, probably because of the psych background, but the writing style drove me nuts. It was a little too formulaic for me and I kept re-writing it in my head (a chronic disease if you are a writer or blogger!). But the recommendations for my particular soul type were right on target…now.

06
Apr

The Wild Child…

biker-chick-1499025

The longer I am in the HeartPaths program, the more I am convinced that they put together their program with a lot of thought and an active response to prior students’ experiences. I think the roots of that sentiment began with today’s topic: Centering prayer. I learned, quickly, that Breath Prayer was really a warm-up for centering prayer!

If trying breath prayer was challenging for me, centering prayer made breath prayer look like a breeze! In centering prayer, you again empty the thoughts in your head and just try to be with the Lord. The difference between it and breath prayer, or the Jesus prayer is that you choose one word (yes, just one word) and use that word to bring yourself back to just a state of being with God whenever your mind begins to wander.

You’re not even supposed to change the word as you pray. In the Jesus prayer it was common for me to change the phrasing I used if I felt like I couldn’t settle myself with the current phrasing. Thus, settling on just one word and sticking to it was really challenging!