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Archive for the ‘Personal Bible Study’ Category

I’ve been in the desert, a bit arid in my prayers lately. I recognize the cycle, I know it as He wills and it will pass in His time.

While I wait, I take time for my regular morning prayers. This morning a reflection begins and He speaks to my heart: “Woman, your thoughts are not mine!” (John 2:4) and I burst into tears.

I know my thoughts are not His and in an instant I see myself unmasked, without the façade I have built before myself and others: unkind, uncharitable, judging, crude, rude, callous, without compassion, cold, unwilling to soften my heart.

He is with me in this moment. He doesn’t reject me nor even admonish; He is simply present, tender and gentle.

“Be humble by what you see. Be softened, be malleable, cooperate with Me. Let Me transform you; let Me make you holy.”

I desire this very much. I am ready, and grateful. Yes, Lord – Jesus, I trust in you!

 

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“My plan for you is not the one you have created and entertained in your mind. My plan for you is the one that is unfolding day after day in all the humiliations and apparent failure to achieve great things that make up this phase of your life.” (From In Sinu Jesu pg 116)

This ties in both with my posts earlier this week, plus something He showed me several years ago. Then, people were arguing whether “works” or “acts of obedience” could save us. My response was YES! They can! God gave Noah a very specific work to do – build a boat. I don’t know how much sense this work made to Noah and certainly it was crazy-talk to other people.

What if Noah had said instead, “LORD, I’m going to build a home for orphans and widows. You talk about them a lot in scripture, clearly this is a good work, I have dreamed of it for years and that’s the work I’m going to do and I will dedicate it to you.”

Would Noah and his family have been saved when the flood waters came? I think not – God saw what no one else did. He planned the work, gave it to Noah, and used Noah’s work and obedience to bless him and his family.

Likewise, I had a big dream that was a “good” dream. But clearly it’s one that I “created and entertained” in my own mind.

It’s ok to be sad about this failure, this loss of my dream. And while I’m not yet making sense of His plan that is “unfolding day after day in all the humiliations and apparent failure to achieve great things,” I do trust Him. He sees clearly what I do not.

As I pray the Liturgy of the Hours I have noted this psalm each time I read it; I think it’s time to memorize it and take it to heart:

Psalm 131

1My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
   both now and forevermore.

 

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My last post was only two days ago and since then I have been feeling very burdened and sad, wrestling with many things about my marriage, examining my motives, my expectations, wondering why God is so quiet and not showing me how to move forward.

On this Holy Thursday morning I left for my hour of Adoration, still very much struggling with the angel as Jacob did. I took with me two books that have helped me grow deeper in my prayer life with God: In Sinu Jesu and The Cloud of Unknowing (I read this many years ago and am re-reading it now).

And as I read … clarity. Light. Even … Eureka!

In a very Godlike WOW!-way, some big things fell into place for me, finally making sense and also comforting me that I’m not so lost and confused as I sometimes think I am.

I want very much to record them, to have them available to reflect upon when I need encouragement and that’s what this post attempts to do. And yet … spiritual things are not easily recorded in ways that make sense.

But I came to understand today that “contemplative prayer” is not simply a form or type of prayer (although in a way it is.) More than that, it is a lifestyle – a way of living. Long ago I realized that to “pray without ceasing” didn’t mean walking around reciting The Lord’s Prayer or Hail Mary, but a way of turning to Him throughout the day, speaking with Him, seeking to give Him my entire day as opposed to a set time in praying.

This is a continuation and expanding of that understanding. When the books I’m reading talk about “distractions in prayer” they aren’t only talking about the thoughts that pop up in our head as we try to focus on praying. They are, in fact, the very things in life that grab our attention and take our eyes and minds and hearts away from God. These can even be “good things!”

The dream that was smashed two days ago was a good dream, with good intentions of how it could help me be closer to a church and more active with my church family – maybe even help launch Adoration at the new church. I’ve examined my motives on that over and over and they are GOOD intentions. But they are not God’s intentions for me, now. Therefore they are distractions – things I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about and hoping for, but they aren’t God’s will.

Giving them up was so hard – IS so hard! And this too, according to In Sinu Jesus, is a very real suffering. I’ve always thought of “suffering” as something enormous, like Jesus experienced on the cross or the death of a loved one. But it is not always so. According to the book it can be the daily failures, fatigue, disappointments, sorrows, and humiliations of life – of our inability to do the good things we hope to accomplish.

But when we accept these distractions and sufferings and unite them with LOVE – when we receive and accept them gratefully as God’s will and gift to us – then we are living a contemplative life in greater unity with Christ.

I can see how the surrender of my dream and the accompanying frustration, anger, sadness and disappointment has been a good thing for me! Because of them I walked into Adoration at 7:30 a.m. filled with sadness, disappointment and distressed about so many things. At 9 a.m. I left filled with joy and gratitude and feeling flooded with light and love.

Rarely is my time in Adoration so dramatic but I do know God is constantly working within me, creating and transforming and I’m so very blessed when pieces fall into place and make sense to my scattered and finite little mind. I love the Eureka! moments not only because they are awesome in themselves, but also because they help carry me deeper toward Him and help sustain me when a new distraction, trial or suffering surfaces.

I’m in awe. What a joy-filled Holy Thursday for me. I hope and pray it is also for anyone who happens to read this post.

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w.a.i.t.

Like a monkey swinging vine-to-vine, we move through a forest of life’s stages and hopes and dreams, j-u-s-t releasing one as we take hold of the next.

The LORD has been thinning the forest and vines ever-so-gradually over the last years. I’ve had more things to release and surrender, but fewer and fewer to reach for, to grasp and hold on to.

Then last night, I let go of the single remaining dream I harbored for this life. I’ve been nurturing and praying and waiting for years. It was taken away and now it’s done.

I feel like I’m sitting very still on a little grassy knoll. This is very unfamiliar to me; is it human nature to always be working toward something, planning and readjusting and figuring how to achieve it? I have none of that, now. There are good things happening around me that make me happy, but nothing is “mine.” How strange to have not one dream or goal or thing I’m hoping for.

Am I deceiving myself, just sitting out, letting the last “best years” of my life slip away? Or perhaps, am I now in a place where I can be useful somehow to the LORD? He’s very quiet. I really don’t know.

I can only wait.

 

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struggle

Is this really how it’s supposed to be? Life lived seperate and disconnected from people you cherish? Rare moments spent together always under the shadow and clock of knowing it’s for “this many days” and then it’s over again without any idea when you may see each other again? Am I really supposed to just resume day-to-day routines and feel … what?

Yes, other people have it worse, other people suffer more, other people … have their families close and see each other often and talk often and know their kids’ friends and the movie they saw last weekend and the person at work who annoys them the most and that their new favorite restaurant is …

I know His ways are not our ways and all things work for the good of those who love Him. I trust there are reasons and things happening behind the veil for our good that we don’t perceive. I don’t pray for God to “change” this. I believe this is God’s will for me; I trust. I know I’m greatly blessed in all ways

I just feel sad. Deeply sad. I miss them, I miss us. I enjoy their presence and personalities and laughter so much. I struggle again and again with what I’m supposed to do with this.

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I often ask the LORD to “make it obvious!” for me, and when it’s important He certainly does.

Usually, though, He directs me through very subtle nudges. They may seem unrelated but over time I have to smile at how He weaves them together:

  • A chance comment directed me toward the book, In Sinu Jesu. I have devoured it over & over, learning from it the importance of praying for priests and the immense value of time spent in Adoration both for me and for others around me.
  • A note in the church bulletin caught my attention, inviting women to be part of a Seven Sisters Apostolate¹. I found it intriguing.
  • A tug on my heart led me to pray for families every day – to pray for “the family” in our country. The traditional family is so under assault spiritually, culturally, politically. I believe many of the problems we face with violent young men is a direct result of this.
  • With praying for the family in mind, I found a tiny statue of the Holy Family for my prayer corner, and “for some reason” have been taking more notice of St. Joseph.
  • I’ve read several reflections on St. Joseph – no words are recorded from him, yet he was husband to Mary, step-father to Jesus, protector, head of their family. He believed the angel, trusted God, became a refugee when he took his family to Egypt to escape Herod, and brought them back to Nazareth where they lived as an ordinary Jewish family, observing Jewish laws. He worried when Jesus was “lost” and worked as a carpenter to support his family.
  • I saw another note in the church bulletin inviting women to join the Seven Sisters Apostolate; then another. I finally sent a message to the organizer, telling her I’d help out if they were still in need. She replied immediately – the Apostolate for our own priest at St. Cecilia was filled, but she was organizing for the two priests at St. Thomas Aquinas as well and would let me know when it was ready to start.

None of these is huge; certainly none of them are worth a blog post or special mention to anyone else and yet cumulatively, for me, they have led me in a deliberate direction.  This last Monday, March 19 2018, I joined my Seven Sisters at daily mass where Father Seda commissioned us.

At that mass I learned it “happened” to be the feast day of St. Joseph.

At that mass Father Seda’s homily touched on the power of hidden things that ordinary people do to make a big difference. Even though Joseph’s life, actions and words are largely hidden from us, he still played a significant role in the life of Jesus and for the plan of salvation.

Just so, unknown and ordinary people today have a significant role to play in the lives of others, often in hidden ways.

I am very humbled and grateful. Sometimes I feel a little lost and useless, wondering where I fit in and whether I do any “good” for anyone. Leadings like these, though, help me remember that it is God who is at work using ordinary people in sometimes hidden ways. Others may never know how we’ve prayed for them. We ourselves may wonder “what good am I doing?” But some day the veil will be lifted and I do believe we will be surprised at how our response to a nudge from God was used by Him.

Thank you, LORD.

¹Seven Sisters Apostolate is a formation of women who pledge to each pray one hour a certain day of the week for a priest. More information can be found here.

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