Posts Tagged ‘prayer’


YOU Are Invited…

In May I received a certificate in spiritual direction from HeartPaths DFW. What does a spiritual director do? For me, it means that I sit with directees and listen for where God is active in their lives and I lend my expertise to help people develop a better relationship with God through prayer.

We 21st century folks often fail to notice God’s activity simply because we don’t slow down long enough to focus on God’s actions. God doesn’t trumpet his actions or post them on social media, so if one isn’t quiet and still and looking for that action, he or she will often miss it.

One of the best ways to “train” for this is through prayer. There are a plethora of ways to pray, but unfortunately many of those traditions have been lost over the centuries. Thankfully, spiritual directors are “keepers” of those traditions. Thus, I have exciting news for you!


Slow Reader Friday: Be Still…


Last night the eldest called and reported that, for a rather monumental birthday soon, he is going camping…alone. Yes, totally alone. Why? Because when looking at Jesus’ example, he noted that He often went away from the crowds and spent time in solitude. The eldest thinks he needs to do the same to find a better, closer relationship with the Lord.

Be still, my heart! An answered prayer, for sure. So, it is probably not coincidence at all that the MIP July 2016 Book Club Selection is entitled Be Still by Jane Vennard.

As I’ve mentioned before in my spring 2016 posts, God doesn’t usually speak when we are distracted. In 21st century America we are constantly distracted, except maybe when we’re asleep. And unfortunately for us, it’s often difficult to experience God while asleep, unless we have prophetic dreams like those described in the Bible.

Thus, we need silence. And because of the many distractions we now have, one of the few ways we can encourage and “grow our silent time” is to go on retreat. Vennard’s book explains both why this is important and how to create prayer retreats that focus on being still and being quiet.

We Americans are uncomfortable with silence, as a rule. We are so accustomed to noise that we no longer even notice it. Right now, as I type this with the TV, radio and music off, I can still hear 5 sounds! I can hear my ceiling fan both rattling (because it needs to be tightened up!) and whirring and I can hear the AC and the gentle clatter of me typing on my keyboard. And my breathing sometimes makes a sound, probably because my allergies are acting up!

Where I am typing is also close to a road. So, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear outdoor noises, such as a car going by (as it just did!) and roofer noises from the neighbor getting a new roof!

Thus, when we go to a remote place, and we switch off the phone and just sit, we often start fidgeting. Even if we manage to sit still, we often want to manipulate God’s communication with us. Of course, this is foolish! And if you are anything like me, you assume that God can only communicate by talking to us through our thoughts. In reality I have learned, in the last year, that God can give me sensations and visions and that ALL of that is Him communicating.

How do I know that it’s God communicating and not just me or some evil entity talking? (I get asked this a lot!) Practice. More than likely if you’ve never experienced God communicating, He’ll give you a little “taste” of that unseen world by answering a heartfelt question or giving you a sensation or a vision that you KNOW just can’t be anyone else other than God. The first time it happened to me it DEFINITELY did not sound like something that came from head! It even involved this blog and yes, I blogged about the experience.

After that experience I just got crazy excited to have more of that in my life–it’s freaking awesome! Enter Heartpaths and the reason why I read Be Still and other recommended books from Year 1 of this 3-year program.

Did I know that studying prayer was going to lead to more “revelations” from God? No. But since we are to communicate with God via prayer, it makes sense that He would communicate back this way. However, we Americans like to dominate “the prayer conversation” and not allow God to enter into that conversation–it’s more like a soliloquy for most of us!

I thought that there were only a few ways to pray. Wrong! Having studied and practiced a handful of them now, I’m learning to recognize “God thoughts” from “MaryAnn thoughts.”

Vennard not only discusses why we need contemplation in our lives, but also how to design retreats that encourage contemplation and teach various prayer techniques. In addition she outlines designing retreats so that people have breaks periodically, avoiding the typical problems associated with such retreats, and promoting them successfully.

Vennard begins the book with an enticing story about a church that began with two people simply wanting to start a centering prayer group in their church and how that small group became a whole new ministry that completely transformed the church. At one point there was even a rift between two groups of church members and they “prayed their way” through that rift and became a cohesive unit again through simply seeking the Lord.

Be Still makes me want to give such a gift to my own congregation and normally, I would charge forth, confident that I could do this all by myself. What hubris!

But after a year of reading, praying and experiencing God’s communication, I now prefer to spend a considerable amount of time praying with my minister and others on how best to bring this to my church and to have as many people involved in planning it as possible. I welcome suggestions by others who may be more knowledgeable than I.

I think a prayer, contemplation and silence revolution is on the way. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, if you ask me. Want to join the revolution? Let me know by posting a comment below or sending me an email here. Then get busy and read Be Still🙂

Monday’s Post: What is the definition of the WOW?

You Might Also Like: August 2016 Book Club and Slow Reader Friday: SoulTypes


Examining Examen…


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


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 a Microwave…


When I joined the Heartpaths program, it was a little unsettling learning that I was expected to pray for 20 minutes at a time. Up until last September I would have been happy if I could sustain 10 minutes without looking at my watch.

Now, I am actually wondering if I can schedule 30 or 40 minute prayer sessions. And 20 minutes seems to go by faster and faster the longer I permit myself such a time period with God.

So, what changed my mindset? An awesome God. God, on a pretty frequent basis, is blowing my mind when I dedicate such time to Him. And blowing my mind in the best possible ways.

Unfortunately, getting to “mind-blowing” usually takes considerable quiet time. Why?

Good question. I’m still figuring it out. But I think a good portion of the reason is it takes about 10 minutes for me to get all the “noise” out of my head so I can hear, feel, or see what God is trying to communicate. (And yes, I used those 3 verbs for a reason. More about that another time.)


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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The New Chapter…

giving hands

Have you missed me? I’ve missed YOU! Don’t get TOO excited. My current schedule is ridiculously crowded right now, so posting will be sporadic at best, but I find myself missing the writing more and more the longer I’m away from it, so a-posting I will go!

Since I’m rather rusty at the writing thing, today you get “Random MaryAnn.” Okay…okay…okay…so that’s nothing new for me. But, it may take a while to get that WD-40 in the right squeaky parts of my ancient brain so that the creative writing juices are flowing as they should.

Remember way back when I was exploring spiritual direction as a new pursuit in my life? Well, I now have a scholarship to Heartpaths Training and will be pursuing my Spiritual Leadership certificate this year. Every time I meet with the Heartpaths staff, two things happen: I am instantly at peace and I feel like “I’m home” even though we’ve basically only met. They are all Heartpaths graduates, are so calm and “zen-ish” (Yes, I invented yet another word…Deal with it.) and they all say they weren’t that way when they started.

If these folks can get MaryAnn to “zen-ish,” then that place down south just froze over. I am required to be quiet in this program. Note to self: Look up “quiet” in the dictionary and actually learn the meaning of the word. Can you picture me being quiet? Yeah. Neither can I.

I start September 12th and I already have homework. But, instead of feeling stressed about this homework (a chronic occurrence during the pursuit of the master’s), I am actually giddy waiting for my first book to arrive from Amazon and begin that homework. (This is probably a serious symptom for something delusional in the DSM-V.)

The book? Soul Feast. I hope this doesn’t mean we’ll be feasting on souls…that sounds less than zen-ish.

Let’s all hope it means a feast for my soul. If so, then I’m all in. I love nurturing souls, particularly when it’s mine!

Doesn’t the title suggest a good cup of tea? It just brings that to mind every time I think it and that also sounds soothing and calming to me. Remind me to stock up on Constant Comment the next time I’m at the store.

This first year I will be intensely studying all different types of prayer. I hope that, as I take this journey this year, you will stay tuned to “this bat channel.” Because I hope it will inspire the ol’ MIP blog with some “Points to Ponder” and some interesting, thought-provoking stuff here.

And I may throw in a joke here and there just for fun.

Next note to self: I probably should stock up on duct tape now to work on that quiet thing. A 4 foot high pallet of the stuff may get me through the first seminar.


Point to Ponder: What bothers you about your prayer life? Does it even exist? Why or why not? Does it seem boring? Unproductive? What could be done to make it a more meaningful part of your life? Maybe start with a cup of tea??? Maybe get up before everyone else in the morning and journal your prayer instead of just thinking it? 


Word of the Day: Absolute


Those of you who regularly read the Word of the Week (WOW) are probably thinking, “Did she forget that she already gave us a new word on Monday?” Actually, no. It just occurs to me that so many of you enjoy the WOW blog post on Monday that perhaps I should start a new feature discussing a single word and its ramifications for our world. Lofty aspiration, hunh? Yeah, it scares me, too, but here goes nothin’!

I chose “absolute” for today, because it’s a word that is not used as frequently as it once was. Even with advanced technology and increased knowledge from research, there are few absolutes in our world. One hundred years ago, most people in the U.S. went to church on Sunday, cheating in school was virtually unheard of, and most people were virgins on their wedding night. (Yes, I went there.) Today none of that is something we can take for granted, along with a lot of other things that used to be absolute.