Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘lent’

Do You Ever Feel Stripped?

Romans 8:28, 31 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Throughout life we are stripped in many different situations. Daily we strip from our clothes in order to cleanse our body. Thus we have the sanitary reason for stripping. Whenever I make my annual gynecological visit stripping is also required. Thus we have the medical reason for stripping.

Refinishing furniture requires stripping off the old finish. A stripped screw can no longer function properly. And of course we have the whole adult entertainment industry where stripping is used to attract and tempt men and women.

There are other examples of stripping I could include, but I want to focus on feeling stripped as a result of a death. A stripping you cannot control; more on that a little later.

The idea here of feeling stripped is about loss; not of clothing but of emotional support. Since losing my friend I have felt stripped of her presence. It is like I do not have my complete wardrobe.

Looking into my ‘closet’ I am not able to find an acceptable substitute. I get dressed, but always something is missing. I feel things do not coordinate together. Something I highly valued has been stripped from my life.

Throughout our lives we are involuntary stripped of things we hold dear…material things….money…personal security…peace of mind…hopes…and dreams…health…the list could go on.

I know in my heart that it is more about how I react than to what I perceive is being stripped from me. This realization requires vigilance.

I often try to connect situations in my life with a familiar biblical story. When I think of being stripped I picture Jesus being stripped of his clothes. He chose to submit to this humiliating act allowing the soldiers to strip him and cast lots for his garments. No greater Love!

Without clothes you are naked and vulnerable to the external elements. Without clothes you lose some protection. There is nothing to cover your sensitive skin. The death of my close friend to me is much like being stripped.   I feel vulnerable.

Being stripped of your soul friend leaves you without familiar cover. Not that you can hide inside your clothing, but the friendship provides a safe place. Within friendship that which is less than perfect and hidden from others is accepted by your friend. Inside the clothing of friendship you are not preoccupied with what others think. You are accepted and loved for just being…you. You can actually be better at who you are.

Occasionally I have left home without something as simple as my earrings. It seems ridiculous, but I feel naked without earrings. I know it makes no sense. Earrings are a very small part of being dressed.

I feel stripped and vulnerable without my friend, but at the same time there is this sense of freedom. This sense of freedom almost makes me feel guilty. Freedom seems to contradict the loss and feelings of being stripped. A freedom from being stripped is the freedom from expectations.

Piet Mondrian

As we approach Lent I invite you to consider; what you can strip from your own life. During Lent we have the freedom to look at our lives and decide what we can strip away in order to have a closer relationship with the Lord.

We can ask ourselves these questions, “What am I hiding behind?

What is compromising my acceptance of God’s plan for me?”

“What am I clutching onto for dear life?”

Like St. Paul I often do not know how to pray as I ought; especially when I feel stripped, vulnerable and sometimes even deserted by God.

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Soul Stirrings: Joy within Sorrow

 

Nestled within our penitential season of Lent is the wonderful solemnity of the Annunciation. As I was trying to absorb the depth of Mary’s ‘yes’ I was struck by the church’s timing. Here we are well into Lent, a time of renewal… A time of repentance for our inability to love as we should… A time for true change. And what does the church give us, but the joyful Annunciation. What an example of renewal, love, and change. The Annunciation during lent to me represents joy within trials and sorrow. When the angel revealed to Mary, a young girl, that God had chosen her to be the mother of the messiah, she had to renew her commitment; willing to do the will of God. She was blessed with abundant grace and the capacity to love beyond measure. Little did she know then how much this love she felt in her soul would be pierced with immense sorrow. That blessed day Mary’s life changed forever and her body truly became the temple of the living God, Jesus.

My mind is flooded with images of the Passion. My heart is saddened by Mary’s sorrow as she must stand by and witness unspeakable assaults on her precious son. I see the exquisite image of the Pieta…Mary tenderly holding the lifeless body of her beloved Son. Mary’s joy at the angel’s announcement is somehow entombed within this season of lent. But yet we often hear of the many joys that can be found within pain and sorrow. Some even consider these gifts.

Reflecting on the Annunciation during Lent is a reminder to always be mindful of the joys in our life.

Celebrating the Annunciation during Lent is a reminder that even when we are struggling with life and draped in purple cloth joy can still be found.

 

Every year during Lent; we have the opportunity to renew our commitment, love more, and change our heart. Mary had one moment in time when she embraced the ultimate commitment to love more and she was forever changed for us.

Where have you missed the joy in your life?

Has sorrow instead overshadowed the joy in your life?

 

Soul Stirrings: Surrendering

What does it mean to surrender? To yield to the power, possession, control of another…to give up completely. In a military situation the weaker side may be faced with surrendering in order to prevent bloodshed. Sometimes we surrender or ‘give in’ because we are just tired or frustrated with the circumstances of our life.

But I want us to consider what it means to surrender in the scriptural sense…the relinquishment of one’s own will to that of a higher power…surrendering to God.

When you think of someone surrendering you probably can visualize the person’s arms stretched out and raised high up.

Surrendering to God however; presents a different visualization, one of a person totally relying on the grace and guidance of God not in a position of defeat.

Surrendering to God allows us to let go and let God take over in our lives. Surrendering to God allows us to let him lead us in all that we do with our life. Let’s look a minute at the Prophet Jonah. Jonah ultimately was led to surrender to God in order to save his fellow seamen from the violent waters. God saved Jonah in the belly of a large fish and spewed him out after three days and three nights. (Remind you of anything?) Jonah attempted to ignore what God asked of him by fleeing only to find that his presence on the ship caused trouble.

Jonah says in 1:12 “…Pick me up and throw me into the sea…since I know it is because of me that this violent storm has come upon you.” He ultimately surrenders to God’s will and is later instrumental in saving Nineveh.

Now I want you to consider Queen Esther. Esther in a time of distress for her people prostrates herself upon the ground, together with her handmaids from morning until night. Begging for God to help her, Esther prays “Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God.” Prayer of Esther C: 12-30. Esther surrenders herself to the mercy and intervention of God.

Prostrating oneself before the Lord is such an outward sign of surrendering. I am reminded of how prostration is such an important part of the Ordination to the Priesthood ceremony. Laying face down on the floor signifies before the whole community their complete surrender to do the will of God.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus surrenders himself into the hands of his Father with these words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This was an echo from Psalm 32:6 which Jesus certainly knew well. This beautiful verse is also prayed daily in the Divine Office during the final prayer of the day.

When things seem to be out of control in your life; recall this verse. “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Make it your mantra.

What do you find difficult about surrendering?

 

 

Soul Stirrings: A Steadfast Spirit

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Ps. 51:10)
It is hard to have a “steadfast spirit” in the face of temptations.

Jesus was led, some say even driven into the desert. (Matt. 4:1-11) Why? Was it only so he could be tempted? Or was there some other reason? Did this time in the desert somehow prepare him for the rest of his life? He had already been assured by the father at his baptism the he was indeed the ‘beloved’ son. So why was this time of seclusion so vital to his purpose on earth?

Our temptations may or may not occur when we are in the desert of our lives. There are so many implications about being in the desert. In the desert Jesus was isolated from those he had been keeping company with. I think about how much stronger I am in my faith when I am surrounded by those who are of like thinking. But I must ask myself, is that always the best? This may surprise you, but how can I know for sure if I have a ‘steadfast spirit’ if I am never challenged?

Jesus was led away from others into the desolation of the desert where the devil could occupy his thoughts and entertain him with ‘What ifs’. Oh that brings me to my own struggles with ‘What ifs’. You know you can make yourself a little stressed thinking about the ‘What if’s’. Perhaps this conversion of heart called for during Lent could be about allowing yourself to be free of the ‘what if’ temptations. What if…I had more money, a better spouse, a better job, more free time, or more education? I am sure you can fill in your own personal ‘What if’ statements.

In the desert Jesus could think more clearly even though he was probably struggling inside of his humanity with surrendering to the will of his Father. In his humanness Jesus, like us had free will. The temptations in the desert placed Jesus in a position where he had to choose to use his divine powers for himself or resist and do the will of the Father.

I have often wondered, ‘why 40 days’; other than the obvious parallel to Moses leading the people in the desert for 40 years. I think it takes time to make the adjustment when you go away from all that is familiar. It takes time to realize that you only have your own thoughts to confront and or wrestle with. Maybe when you are all alone in the silence of the desert with fewer distractions you are in a better place for a true conversion of heart. No one is there to get you off track. In the silence of the desert God can be heard more clearly. In the silence of the desert more can be drawn out and treasured from deep within.

Thomas Merton says in Life and Holiness, “[The] ‘upsetting of our inner life is essential to spiritual growth, because without it we remain comfortably at rest in more or less illusory ideas of what spiritual perfection really is.” Merton goes on to say “There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and interior conflict.” In the desert Jesus experienced this interior conflict. He had to experience what it felt life to be fully human. Jesus’ human experiences give him profound credibility for us. Without these human situations we could easily dismiss what he calls us to be by simply saying…BUT Jesus was Divine

I invite you this week to set aside some ‘desert’ time in your home. Commit to the same time each day in the same ‘sacred’ space to spend time with God. Contemplate the ‘What if’s’ in your life and how you can surrender them to the Lord. Ask for the grace of a ‘renewed steadfast spirit’.

If you can actually get some sand bury your hand in it…lift up your hand and let the sand fall between your fingers. Embrace your prayer time through your senses. Feel the texture of the sand, the coolness of it against your skin.

“Soul Stirrings” for Lent

As Jason Upton writes, “…in the silence you are speaking” For some time I have intermittently spent an hour in Eucharistic Adoration and I feel God is inviting me to make a regular appointment to be in silence with him. To sit in his holy presence…to be still…to be silent…to listen. To allow him to stir up my soul. And then allow him to remove the sediment that has settled to the bottom. Cleansing it of all that is not of him…cleansing it of all that does not give him glory.
Am I ready and willing to accept these ‘Soul Stirrings’ sitting in silence before him? It is a rather unsettling feeling. Do I trust him enough to submit to the changes he wants to make in me? It is hard to ‘let go and let God’ as the saying goes.
These are some tough questions I can not honestly answer at this time. Of course my intention would be to say, ‘yes’, but secretly would I be holding back just a tiny bit?

Throughout these next forty days of Lent, please join me as I post personal reflections called ‘Soul Stirrings’ for Lent. God never asks us to be more than we can be and he never promised it would be easy.

I hope you enjoy this video as a prelude to our time together this Lent. Look at the images in this video they are a rich complement to Jason’s lyrics.

Be still and know that I am God. Ps.46:10

Live Authentically

As the lasts few hours of February tick away I find myself filled with appreciation for this short month.

During this month I spent time with friends on a cruise…staffed an awesome women’s retreat…facilitated a women’s day of prayer…attended my neice’s wedding shower…celebrated my best friend’s birthday…enjoyed Valentine’s Day with my husband…had dinner with some girl friends…rejoiced with friends as they were ordained permanent Deacons.

When all is said and done the past four weeks have brought with them so much joy. How can I be anything less than joyful with my life? And yet there are days when I feel so frustrated with my inability to get more accomplished. I ask myself how can I do more…be more…for others.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is March 9 this year. I have been compiling notes with the intention of offering on this blog something I will call “Soul Stirrings”. My hope is for us to journey through Lent together. I want to create a place where we have a stonger connection with our readers during this Lent. So watch for the “Soul Stirrings” beginning very soon.

My goal for Lent…to be more disciplined in my writing. A faithful reader recently requested that I write more often here on this blog. I guess my apprehension comes from wanting to write from a place of inspiration and not ‘just because’. I always want my words to reflect my openness to the Holy Spirit rather han coming from a personal agenda. Not sure if I am always successful though.

Just got the quote below in one of my email subscriptions. I guess that is a message to me loud and clear to continue what it is I do in order not to ‘fail our community’. These three words stand out to me…express…listen…contribution.

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.”– Rollo May (1909-1994), American psychologist, from The Courage to Create

The mesage here for all of us may be; to live authentically.