Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘prayer’

Window Falling—Fan Recycling

 

 

Is this describing my feeble attempt at praying?

 I certainly hope not.

 

The morning sun is streaming through the windows warming the edge of the bed. It is a cool crisp morning. There is a light breeze today. The leaves are beginning to change to shades of yellow. The branches sway and the leaves dangle like the mane on the back of a horse’s neck. It is the beginning of Fall. The time has changed and the holiday season is right around the corner once again.

A little bird flew up to the window this morning curious to see what was inside. He could not stay long for his tiny claws had very little to cling on to. He flew away and then returned for one more attempt to hang on and peer inside the room.

 

Part of me wants to lie down on the bed and soak up the warmth of the sunshine. I want to feel its heat on my body. I want to be in the light yet remain unseen.

I cannot open the window because it does not work properly. It appears to be a functioning window, but in fact it is dysfunctional. The windows are a safety hazard in reality. When you raise them up they later come crashing down and fall out of the frame. Not really what you expect to happen when you open up a window.

We discovered this quite by accident when we needed to open the window after heating up some oil too hot. Electric stoves are a challenge to control.

First we turned on the overhead stove vent fan only to find that it drew up the smoke into the cabinet above which quickly seeped back into the room. There must be some safety code violation here, but who knows. So the vent fan is useless for venting it just recycles…novel concept at best.

We really do not want the smoke detectors to begin going off alarming the whole building. That would be soooo embarrassing.

This is when we discovered the dysfunctional windows. There are even parts on the window that say do not use. It seems someone got a good deal on some windows; not bothering to make sure they would work. Maybe they do not fit properly into the frame and that is why they just fall out. Maybe they were not properly installed from the beginning.

Later in life when you begin to feel the necessity of prayer; then comes the question…

Is my prayer life simply dysfunctional windows? Is my prayer life just a method of recycling my inability to turn to God?

If your prayers are not bringing about change in your life they are just like the vent fan recycling the same smoky air. I recently read that the devil does not mind if we pray and worship God just as long as we do not change. Prayer should be bringing about a change in your heart. We can pray night and day, but unless we are willing to let God change us we are like the windows in the hotel….nice but non-functional.

If you do not let God change you into a better you; then you are going to fall out of the window frame when the first real crisis comes along.

The time has changed, the trees are changing, the season is changing…now is the perfect to take an inventory of your heart. How have you changed since last Fall?

Are you saying your prayers and letting them wash over you like water off a duck’s back? Are you ‘installing’ the proper words on your lips even if you know they are not from your heart?

As long as the window remains locked and not raised it appears to be a functional window…when it is in fact broken.

As long as the vent fan is not needed to do its job the switch does go on and off…but the intended results cannot be realized.

Even if the window is falling and the fan is recycling; they still have the potential to be working properly.

Prayer must change you in some way… no matter how great or small.

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Grafted to My Heart

In spite of how much knowledge we believe we have acquired there is so much we have yet to learn about our own physical bodies. There are so many theories circulating especially about the heart. So I am going to add my own heart theory.

This theory has been circulating through my mind for some time now. I truly believe that when you make the choice to love another person that over time the very makeup of your heart cells is changed.

Now to be clear I am not talking about the love you have for your spouse. This is my one sentence disclaimer.

Loving another person calls your very being to a higher level. I believe with the passage of time as your love for the other person grows you begin to change. With every passing year you gain more understanding and love for the person. The more you are with the person the more you share; the deeper the understanding. Gradually your heart begins to change in response to this love.

I am not talking about the feelings of being in love here; I am talking about the genuine love which comes from God’s commandment to love one another.

There is a visual I keep getting of little minute pieces of the one you love being sprinkled into your cells invigorating them, nourishing them if you will. Love really is good for us. Love keeps us physically healthier.

Certainly the love for God keeps us spiritually healthy. So why wouldn’t we reap physical benefits from loving another human being. We were created to love one another.

Any way back to my vision of the cells in my body…what if as you learn to love another person more and more with time little pieces of their essence take up residence in you and become part of who you physically are as a person. (Forgive me for that terrible run on sentence…) In this manner they would really be with you forever.

When you have loved someone for a long time after they die the parts of them in your cells do not die along with their physical body. This presence is more than a vivid memory of who they were this is a part of your heart.

You carry a part of them with you wherever you go. They have become grafted to your own person. The grafting of plants is very common. I think we can experience a grafting of the spirit of another person.

Once this grafting is firmly connected in the heart it is part of the cell structure.

When this happens you are overheard making comments like, ‘I felt her presence with me’ or ‘she was leading me to _______’. Once you have someone grafted onto your heart they are there as long as your heart has the life giving blood rushing through the veins and arteries.

There are numerous references to the heart in the Bible. The very act of praying comes from the heart. Prayer the raising of one’s mind and heart to God. The heart is the dwelling place where God resides. The heart is our hidden center. The heart is what we honor with our decisions. The heart is the place of truth. The heart is where we first make a decision.

If the heart is where we encounter God and live in relation with him; to me it follows that the heart must also be where we are in relation with all those we love deeply.

Whether or not my little heart theory is correct does not really matter…What matters is how you love another person and how that love gets grafted onto your heart. What matters is how this love changes the very essence of your cells as they are changed to include the other person’s love for you.

Your love for one another changes not only your heart, but the other person’s heart too. You exchange cell grafts. Once you love another person you are never exactly the same ever again.

The love God has for us certainly changed us for all eternity. “For God so loved the world” John 3:16

When Jesus says I will be with you always until the end of time it is precisely because his love has changed our hearts. God is love and he is in our hearts.

As with any other graft you must care for this gift of love.

Accepting versus Giving Up

As you recite this prayer recently shared with me… Draw each phrase into your heart… pray to be free of what keeps you from pleasing God more.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude” 

~Accepting versus Giving Up~

So we have come to a point…is it acceptance or is it giving up? What a question to ponder. I think sometimes it is appropriate to use the phrase “giving up”. I have given up on the idea of acting on stage…snow skiing…deep sea diving…having my own_____…and many other things.

I have definitely given up on the thought of ever being the perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbor, or friend.

I have given up trying to please everyone in my life and living up to others expectations of me.

I have accepted what God has laid out before me right now. Accepting that God’s will for us is sometimes not what we want. God has prepared me for where I am right now. Even if I was unaware of this preparation; it was occurring as the path of my life daily unfolded.

Accepting is NOT giving up!

Giving up usually has some negative overtones. We often encourage others by admonishing them to ‘never give up’. To me, giving up can represent defeat or despair. When a person is giving up to law enforcement they raise their hands above their head, palms facing out. You may even be commanded to drop to your knees so as not to run away.

During Lent I may choose to give up those things that would represent a sacrifice to me, but when you are facing something like death you are Not giving up.

When you surrender to God your hands are raised above your head, but your palms are facing up toward heaven. At times you may prostrate yourself before Our Lord realizing that you are powerless without him.

 

Accepting leads us, as Christians, to surrendering to God’s will.

 

  ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts neither  are your ways My ways’, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

 

Hanging on the cross Jesus cried out to his father…into your hands I commend my spirit.

 

 Jesus found the strength to utter those words only after crying words of anguish…My God, my God why have you forsaken me? It is through dying that we are born again. Only through dying to our ‘old self’ can we be fully alive in Christ.

 

Lord, you alone can turn my tears into tears of joy!

Lord, only you can transform my sadness into happiness!

Lord, only you can soothe the invisible pain in my heart!

 

 

I do not know who Herman Hesse is, but his words here touched a place deep within my soul. 

Some of us think holding on makes us strong,

but sometimes it is letting go.

 

~Tethered Soul~

A tether is a cord or fixture that anchors something movable to a reference point which may be fixed or moving. There are a number of applications for tethers: balloons, kites, boats, pets, and live stock.

 Tethers serve a purpose unless the tethers are keeping your soul from its final destination… union with God in heaven.

Tethers by design hold an object securely keeping it safe from harm.

 

 

Perhaps a tethered soul is under the illusion of being safe.

What are the tethers of the soul? Tethers of the soul can be fear, family issues, future plans, anger, and unfinished business.  Tethers of the soul are those things that block us from peacefully letting go. Tethers of the soul hold us in place with little movement possible.

Several years ago while teaching elementary science we were fortunate to have a tethered hot air balloon visit. It was fascinating to watch the heated air rise in the balloon lifting it off the ground; only to see that it was not going to fly. I must admit it was disappointing that we were not going to experience a real hot air balloon ride. Tethers prevented the balloon from rising more than a few feet off the ground.

 A hot air balloon is designed to FLY! 

It is not designed to be held in place.  When you hold a hot air balloon in place it will generate many great forces on the structure of the balloon that will greatly stress the balloon. 

 One hour of tether time on a hot air balloon is generally equivalent to 2.5 to 3 hours of normal wear on the aircraft as if it were in normal flight operations.

 

 

Our soul is designed to return to God! It is not designed to be held here on earth. When the soul is held…tethered, it will generate considerable internal stress and turmoil. Unlike the balloon tethers which are very visible, the tethers of the soul are not visible with the naked eye. Many times these soul tethers go unidentified as the source of discomfort.

Hot air balloons fly only with the wind.

 

They typically lift off early in the morning when the winds are more calm and gentle. 

Dawn…the beginning of a new day…

death is the beginning of not just a new day,

but the beginning of something much more…

Eternity.

 

 

 Hot air balloons may need wind to fly,

but souls ‘fly’ with holiness steered by currents of grace.

When the tethers are finally released the soul is free to rise into the loving arms of God. Un-tethered souls fill with love, experiencing who they were created to be…

God’s Beloved Daughter or Son.

To launch a hot air balloon there is a ground crew as well as a pilot. The ground crew is responsible for making sure all tethers are detached from the basket.

 Perhaps a ground crew for a loved one’s soul has merit. I am willing to serve as part of my loved one’s ground crew.

Lead me, Lord.

Is there a way to help release all of the tethers, a way to free the soul? 

 

 Maybe we are not capable of untying our own soul tethers…that’s what friends are for…to be part of the ground crew gently loosening the tethers.

Guide me, Lord.

Richard Rohr says, “God walks with us into our fears, to feel them…” in his book Job and the Mystery of Suffering.

Teach me, Lord, to trust enough that these ‘soul tethers’ will silently slip away allowing the soul of my loved one to soar into the outstretched arms of God.

You are the Divine pilot! I know you are here, Lord.

 

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” 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

Labyrinth Walk

Yesterday I was blessed to join a wonderful group as walked an outdoor labyrinth together. The morning began with some friendly sharing of breakfast and socializing.

What followed was a peace-filled presentation on the beauty of  walking the labyrinth as a form of “Body Prayer”. The presenter began by playing her singing bowl leading us into becoming more centered as we focused on breathing…always good to remember to keep breathing. We became aware of our intention to be open with our mind, heart, whole being. It was an opportunity to surender to the experience of the labyrinth walk without grasping for any preconceived outcomes. 

Silence was imposed for the duration of the walk as we headed out the door. Leaving the comfort of the air condition, we began the two block walk down the tree lined streets to the entrance of the labyrinth. It was an unusual experience to walk almost in single file without talking on a bright Saturday morning.

Most were anticipating the unknown…their first labyrinth experience. But, for me it was eager anticipation to experience this walk with so many others. Most often when I have had the experience of walking a labyrinth it has been alone. Walking alone is a much different experience than walking with twenty others. Walking alone you have no one in front of you, no one behind you. Walking alone you can be focused only on yourself…Is that being selfish? Who am I to say. But, this was a very different experience.

The leader acted as the gate keeper so to speak and allowed only one person at a time to enter the labyrinth. After a few minutes the next person was given the affirmative nod to enter the sacred space. There was a sense of calm waiting for permission to begin the walk.

Once the rhythm of walking the path begins the labyrinth holds you, guides you, and takes you in to it’s center. You can let your mind go and become more aware of each individual step you take. Sometimes walking straight, sometimes making sharp turns, sometimes being closer to the outside, then being closer to the center.

There is so much about real life that is paralleled in this “Prayer of the Body”. The person who was in front of me missed the first turn and I followed so the path led us around again. The next time I was paying closer attention and even though she missed the turn again I turned and continued the circuit. I reflected on how many times I have been following others and missed something I should have noticed.

At other times I had to pause and allow another to pass as the path was only wide enough for one at a time. I could have stepped around and passed using the adjacent path, but then I would have risked getting confused. There was the risk not getting back on the right track. How many times in life did I gat “off the path” and get confused…not bale to find my way back to the “right path” right away.

As I reached the center there was a sense of peace and accomplishment. I had completed the walk into the belly of this labyrinth, but I knew I could only remain ther for a short period of time. Others were on their way to the center also and there was only a small space for lingering.

The walk out was filled with a sense of release. I was comng out of the labyrinth. It was almost like being re-birthed back into the real world. This birthing process is gentle and familiar as you walk along the same familiar path that led you to the center. The path is the same, but you are changed because of this experience.

As I was coming out I walked a short distance along side my friend. Walking in silence it appeared that we were both walking in the same direction, but suddenly as we came to the turn I discovered we were really walking in opposite directions. Sometimes things are not what they appear to be! Much there for me to reflect on and carefully unpack in the future.

Each person who enters the labyrinth has their own unique experience. Each person has the opportunity to receive many gifts and insights along the journey. I find the experience of walking the labyrinth reflective of our lives in many ways.

May you always be Blessed in all ways!