Posts Tagged ‘Heartpaths’


Slow Reader Friday: Christian Meditation…


Happy 4th Anniversary to the darling daughter and her hubby, aka, the DSL! Hope you have a joyous remembrance of that lovely Texas day 4 years ago and a fun celebration!

The MaryAnn In Progress May 2016 Book of the Month is Christian Meditation by James Finley. Finley studied under the much-vaunted (at least in the “spiritual formation/discipline” circles) Thomas Merton. Thus, Finley has authored a book with a great deal of insight from Merton.

I read this book when we were studying Breath Prayer and Centering Prayer. Both forms of prayer are difficult for someone like me, who tends to be a thinker, analyzer, and processor when praying. Both of the aforementioned prayer styles are about emptying your mind as much as humanly possible and allowing God to interact with us in whatever way He wishes.


Coming To My Senses…


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.


How Are You Feeling?


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.


Slow Reader Friday: Creating a Life with God…

giving hands

Howdy, MIP Book Club Fans! I hope you have enjoyed Creating a Life with God by Daniel Wolpert. This book has pretty much been our “textbook” for HeartPaths and thus, we are just now finishing reading all the chapters.

In fact we have read the chapters out of order to ensure that we’re informing ourselves about the spiritual practices corresponding to what we’re studying in HeartPaths. The longer I’m in the HeartPaths program the more I’m convinced that the leaders of the program have paid particular attention to presenting material in a certain order so that we learn the easiest spiritual disciplines first and then “graduate” to the trickier ones later. Quite obviously Daniel Wolpert doesn’t completely agree with our little order.

Even so, this book is really helpful for introducing me to these disciplines and I also appreciate Wolpert’s very readable format. I am not required to have a Ph.D. like C. S. Lewis (and maybe a translator?) in order to understand the topics being discussed. And, if you don’t have an e-reader, this book is much easier to carry around than Soul Feast. 

Unlike Soul Feast Wolpert’s book explores, in depth, several prayer practices, such as Examen, Lectio Divina, Body Prayer, Breath Prayer, and Centering Prayer as well as journaling, creativity, praying in nature and corporate worship. There are lots of practical suggestions on how to use each pursuit to deepen your relationship with God. Here are just a few examples:

“One of the best ways to begin practicing solitude is to notice times when silence occurs naturally in our day…we can appreciate these times and savor them. We can use these times to turn inward and attend to our feelings.”

“One of the best times for me to pray the Jesus Prayer is at night when I cannot sleep.” (This works, by the way, and this is a chronic insomniac talking.)

“Your eating and meal preparation present rich avenues for prayer…take the time to think about your food. Everything you are eating came from the earth…so that you may be sustained…These…reflect the presence of a loving God…”

If you haven’t yet taken the time to create (emphasis on create!) your prayer life and time with God, then, I wholeheartedly recommend that you consult Wolpert for some fresh suggestions on how to do that now. What you might create is a brand new you!

Monday’s Post: Get your word nerd on

You Might Also Like: Slow Reader Friday: Soul Feast and Slow Reader Friday: The Early to Rise Experience


Homeostasis and Change…


As part of my Heartpaths assignments, I’m currently reading the book, Mastery by George Leonard. It’s not a particularly “religious” or Christian book–Leonard merely outlines what’s necessary in order to master anything we choose to master.

In Chapter 10 he discusses one of the realities that can derail mastery–homeostasis. Homeostasis exists for a very good reason: to create stability. The problem is that sometimes we need to shake up our homeostats in order to change for the better and master whatever we choose to master. That’s the only way permanent change takes place.

When we succeed in shaking up our homeostats, these pesky little things urgently try to return us to “normal.” Leonard feels that this is why we backslide on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and eat better. He adds that sometimes people can also be homeostats–trying to get us to return to a former state as well.


What Will You Teach Me?


Did you feel the earthquake last Thursday? No?

I’m glad you didn’t feel it. Because it was awful. It was a 10.

Thankfully, the earthquake was only intended for me. But, earthquake it was.

I met with my spiritual director last Thursday as part of my training at Heartpaths and it was rather obvious, in that meeting, that I have an arrogance problem. This brings tears to my eyes even as I type for several reasons:

  1. I’ve already concluded that arrogance and a lack of humility are a huge problem for me and have been really trying not to behave arrogantly. Obviously, I’m failing miserably at that.
  2. I’ve always been overly sensitive to criticism. I so wish I could conquer that when people are simply giving me constructive criticism meant for my own good.
  3. I think God designed me with a teacher’s heart. While that is probably a good thing long-term, it can create huge problems when trying to strive for humility. I am constantly teaching “in my head” and sometimes it comes out of my mouth when it is least needed.
  4. It’s been suggested that I’m becoming more like my mother. Becoming more like my mother is not exactly a compliment for me. It simply reminds me that I’m failing miserably at conquering my faults.
  5. This is transpiring in February–the time when my brother decided to quit cancer treatment and died. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders and seemed to know exactly how to help his little sister. It really ouches to know he’s gone when I need it most.
  6. I’ve always had low self-esteem. Not exactly sure why, except that I grew up in a household of really bright people and by being the youngest by a long shot, I always felt left out and that I was a moron for not understanding all the conversations in my household.
  7. I’m well aware that my low self-esteem causes me to over-compensate when intimidated (which is pretty much all the time) and my over-compensation for it comes off as arrogance.
  8. I know only God can fill my low self-esteem abyss, but I can’t quite comprehend how God is going to do that. I keep hoping he will magically fix me, but He doesn’t.


What’s Your Rule of Life?

woman reading

You read that post title right. I didn’t goof and use the wrong preposition–I meant Rule of Life, the totality of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly spiritual practices that Christians decide to undertake to intentionally develop a closer relationship to God. In Heartpaths one of our first tasks was to develop our own Rule of Life.

Many famous people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. had their own Rule of Life. Based on his example alone, it’s worth consideration! Here is my Rule of Life:

  1. Read something spiritual every day. (That can be Bible verses, a chapter from a book on spirituality, an internet posting, or Heartpaths assignments.
  2. Pray for 20 minutes every day. (This usually centers around whichever prayer practice we’re studying in Heartpaths right now, but I do so silently.)
  3. Journal for 20 minutes every day. (I journal about my experience during prayer as if I’m a reporter.)
  4. Juice fast once a week. (No one is more surprised by this than me!)
  5. Meet with my spiritual director once a month.


Time Is to Love As Wind Is to Fire…


In my teen years I had a walk-in closet in my room and I decided to put inspirational quotes on the back of the closet door to remind me who I wanted to be. Since this was pre-Google and pre-Internet and pre-app, I found the quotes in a variety of places. I literally tore the paper I wrote them on (no copy and paste function and I didn’t own a laptop or typewriter then!) to give the paper and quote a more creative twist.

99% of what I wrote on the back of my door I can no longer recall. But the one that actually permanently lodged itself in my long-term memory was this:

Time is to love

As wind is to fire–

It extinguishes the small

And kindles the great.

It is a modernization of a quote by Roger de Bussy-Rabutin. And it seems particularly appropriate for discussing how my Heartpaths group prayer meetings are structured.


God Isn’t Miked…


Thank you. I am humbled by your response to last Wednesday’s post. I actually have tears in my eyes as I type this because for a long time, I have felt “left out”–that I don’t fit in with the rest of the world, so when you tell me something resonates with you, it makes me feel a bit more a part of the world. So, thank you. And thank You to the God above who generally writes such posts. I merely put my fingers on the keyboard.

First, let me say that we are such little snowflakes in God’s universe that what works for me in prayer may not work for you. And that is the way it’s supposed to be! God wants so desperately to minister to your unique soul that my prayer practices may be totally wrong for you. So, all I can do is tell you what it’s been like for me and what I try to do regularly and then hope that God will direct you on your own path.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on this journey, I realize that God has been preparing my soul to go on this journey for a long, long time. If I’m honest with myself, He started preparing me for it in 7th grade. Why? Because He knows I freak out easily! Thus, little by little, He’s been revealing Himself to me so that I now embrace the moments when He just blows my mind. So, my friend, the more you get over your fears of what He might say or do for you and with you, the more He will show up in your prayers.

I also had to let go of my preconceived ideas about prayer and some prayer traditions. I’ve never been much of a kneeler; now I kneel regularly. I was antsy with extended periods of silence, now I’m slowly starting to seek it. I used to revel in the latest and greatest Bible Studies. Now, I’m searching Amazon and Google for works that are out of print because they are that ancient. I’ll probably ache to find Moses’ tablets next! These ancient writers were on to something and many of them had the same hopes, fears, and cravings for God I now have.

Before the hubby I spent a lot of time at Catholic masses. Why? Because I grew up in Indiana and a good number of my boyfriends were Catholic. And I failed to understand why Catholic services, even in the 70s, were so filled with ritual. Now, I’m starting to understand. Thus, monks and nuns and monasteries are really starting to intrigue me. This, from the woman who adores innovative and unique worship services. Stunned? Yep. Me, too.

These texts and traditions will readily tell you that God wants to actually speak to you when you’re praying. Read that sentence again. Let it soak into your brain, your heart and your spirit. He has a LOT to say to you–about how much He loves you–about how unique you are and how He revels in that uniqueness. Does He see your sin? Oh, yes. But He still loves you and will only gently remind You of your sin for one reason: So you can spend more time together.

Read that last sentence again. Let that one marinate in your mind for a while. Your sin isn’t upsetting Him (He took care of that with that crucifixion thing, remember?)–It’s getting in the way. It’s a distraction. It’s a buzzing fly on the wall. It’s not essential. The more you sin, the less likely He is to show up in your prayers. That’s it. That’s all it is. So, the more you strip away what I call my “stupid sins,” the more He is likely to show up in my prayers. Am I less sinful now?

Um. No. Heck, no! I am irritated, annoyed and ashamed of my sins like you are. But, the more I succeed in changing my bad habits, the more He shows up. And all I know is that I like Him showing up. A lot. So, I’m slowly (emphasis on slowly) changing my habits.

Thus, last fall I realized that one of the distractions–one of my stupid sins is–get this–noise. Yep, noise. When the hubby is on the road (and let’s be honest, sometimes when he isn’t!) I surround myself in noise. I leave the TV on while I do my household tasks. I blare my favorite Christian rock from my car stereo as I roll down the highway. I even put headphones on while on a noisy jet so I can block out sounds that are too loud. I’m a “can fan.” What’s a can fan? Let’s suffice it to say that I’m probably deaf in one ear because of it.

Even when I take out the headphones, even when I turn off the TV, turn off the car stereo, etc., there is still noise. The heater makes a sound. The automatic ice maker dumps ice into its bin. The dishwasher and the washer and the dryer and the ceiling fan all make noise. And I’m uncomfortable with too much silence. (We’d be here all day if I described why!)

As Marjorie Thompson says, “God’s first language is silence.” Remember that story in the Bible where God said He would reveal Himself to the prophet and that the prophet should go and hide in the cave? Loud, dramatic weather roars past the cave, but God isn’t in them. Instead God showed up by whispering! Yep, whispering. God is not miked. He doesn’t generally use a PA system to talk to you. And His way of speaking can be more than just verbiage. It can be images, feelings, or whatever He thinks will let you know what He wants you to know.

My prayers, prior to Heartpaths, were largely me telling God what I was thinking and what I thought needed His assistance to change. But I wasn’t experiencing God in my prayers. Because even though I was silently saying these things to God, I was still talking! Hello!?!?

I am slowly learning to shut off ME in my prayers. It’s not easy, but God is in the silences. So, if you want to invite God’s love, God’s presence, God’s mind-blowing thoughts on YOU into your prayers, then you’re going to have to be really, really quiet. Quieter than you have ever been.

Point to Ponder 1: Right now, wherever you are, count how many different noises you are hearing: distant conversations, the heating or air conditioning system, refrigerators, other appliances and fixtures, office equipment, keyboard clicks, music–whatever it is. Right now (without the TV or music on), I can hear five and sometimes six different ongoing noises! If you’re reading this at work, you may get up to nine! Post the number in a comment to this post.

Point to Ponder 2: How many of those noises are up to you to control? Can you put the heating/AC on a different setting to shut it off for a while? Can you wear a sweater if it gets cold because of it? Can you live without the ceiling fan? (I suggest wearing lighter clothing, if you’re constantly warm.) Can you mute the TV? Whatever you can control, try to eliminate at least one of those. How does that lesser noise make you feel? Scared? Awkward? Weird? Sad? Acknowledge that by asking God to help you get more comfortable with silence.

Point to Ponder 3: Ask God into your present circumstances wherever you are. Ask Him to reveal what He wants to reveal to you. Even while you’re working or doing something else. Don’t be upset with Him if He doesn’t seem to be talking just yet. Don’t be upset with YOURSELF if He isn’t speaking yet. Just keep praying that prayer whenever you think of it. Be as honest as you know how to be. Particularly confess any fears you have about this! It’s okay–God already knows your thoughts. Half of them He put there Himself!

Friday’s Post: Maizie’s Favorite Surface

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My New Adventure…

Forest Trail 1Those new to MaryAnn In Progress (MIP) may be wondering why I decided to leave my volunteer position at Compassion. Go here to learn more about Compassion.

Since Compassion’s opening almost a year ago, we have completed 800 hours + of counseling. The average fee is a little over $ 7 per session. Our cost for providing counseling is currently over $ 15 per session. We rely on donations to make up the difference.

I began as Compassion’s Board secretary and then as a daily volunteer who scheduled appointments, arranged rooms for counseling and church purposes, created new client files, drafted grant proposals, promoted Compassion, and did any other tasks that needed an extra set of hands and/or feet. It became so time-consuming that I finally had to give up posting here 3 times per week. While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the other volunteer staff members, something else was going on internally.