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Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

canstockphoto0678700If I checked in with God as as often as I glance for new information on my devices, I would have an amazing spiritual life.

Recent studies have shown that people check their phones between 85-150 times a day. Astounding, isn’t it?

And that doesn’t even take into account the hours we gaze at the computer screen.

I have to admit that trying to reduce my “device time” (or should it be divisive time?) poses a challenge.

God keeps nudging me though – with my guiding word for the year, Presence.

Little did I know how often this  word would appear in print –  and invade my thoughts.

So many of my devotional readings emphasize the value of 1. being aware and grateful for God’s constant, devoted Presence, and 2. the importance of spending time with Him.

We are often wrapped so tightly in our own lives that we can’t shed the thin veneer that covers us.

But oh, how sitting in God’s Presence can help us begin.

Just a few moments of quiet prayer, asking Him to help clear our minds so we can be more aware of His will and purposes can virtually expand our days, helping us stay calm and centered as we go about our normal routines.

God delicately unties the knots and loosens the pieces of tape that prevent us from opening ourselves to Him.

And think of this….God is always online…ready and waiting to hear from us, to be with us.

I’m thinking of opening a FaceLook account; one where I can set my sights upon His Face, where I can check in to see if my thoughts and actions are in line with His ways.

And where the only reinforcement I need is the knowledge that He.Is.There.

I pray that you can take a moment to be refreshed and recharged in His Presence.

And that He may surprise and enlighten you as you shed your outer wrappings.

The prize of a winning lottery ticket remains worthless until it is cashed in. The contents of a gift remain useless until it is opened. You have been given the most incredible gift of all: God’s guiding presence in your life.

~ First 15, Craig Denison

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You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence, and the pleasures of living with you forever. ~Psalm 16:11

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canstockphoto8785750Procrastination is a characteristic of mine that I am not particularly proud of.

The morning went something like this:

(Upon awakening)  Wow!  I have almost 3 hours until rehearsal.  I can get in some quiet time, exercise, and catch up on a few chores before leaving the house.

(After coffee and my husband leaving for work) I’ll just get the kitchen cleaned up before I sit down with my devotional. Then my mind will be  more settled.

(Kitchen in state of  partial clean up, glancing at the fireplace) Boy, that  wind was fierce yesterday! I had better clean out the fireplaces and close the flues.

(On the way to get the ash bucket, looking at the  the dining room mirror)  Oh my, I could get rid of those nasty streaks with my new Mystic Maid cloth that a friend gave me!  She says it works like a charm.

(Admiring the crystal clear glass)  Amazing!!!  It won’t take too long to wipe off all of the other glass surfaces in the house.

(Parts of the house, newly sparkled)  Hey, why not try this on the piano!  After all, the tuner is coming this afternoon – and he really wouldn’t want to look at  3 days of dust, would he?

(Looking at the clock)  Let’s see…that only took 1 hour.  I still have time to vacuum out the fireplaces, and do the floors, too.

(Taking the bag of ashes down to the trash)  While in de-cluttering mode, I might as well get rid of the mountain of recycling in the garage.  I can’t stand looking at it any longer! I can take it all to the dump on the way to rehearsal.

(After loading up the car)  I had better hustle if I want to squeeze in some prayer time.   But oops, I forgot I was supposed to copy that music for rehearsal!  

(Abandoning the copy attempts – machine not cooperating) I really should send those emails before heading out.

(Finishing emails, and refraining from attempting to get to the next level on Candy Crush) I’ll have just enough time to get a quick shower.

Then…the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer walloped me right between the eyes.  I subscribed to his email Devotional, shortly after Lent began.

And here are his words:

Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day. The wasted time we are ashamed of, the temptations we succumb to, the weakness and discouragement in our work, the disorder and lack of discipline in our thinking and in our dealings with other people – all these very frequently have their cause in our neglect of morning prayer. The ordering and scheduling of our time will become more secure when it comes from prayer.

It was then that I knew that every bit of my frantic “doing” did not clear my mind in the least.  And the smear-free mirrors and pristine piano lid matter little in the big picture.

They certainly did not help the day to unfold in a more orderly fashion, either…and  all the while, my guilt kept increasing.

I regretfully admit that as I piled on chores, the opportunity to spend time with God dwindled away to nothing.

And I’m sure this preoccupation must  have disappointed Him. And, no doubt, He sees through my flimsy excuses.

My “spin-cycle” morning finally stopped when it pointed in the right direction: toward God, and the need to put Him at the top of the list – with no excuses or distractions.

Tomorrow is a new day;  my quiet time will come first.

Then, with a prayer and peace-filled heart, the day can begin.

Lord, hear me as I pray;
    pay attention to my groaning.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
    for I pray to no one but you.
 Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
    Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.  ~Psalm 5:1-3

 

 

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Breath of Heaven

canstockphoto16337199Not much is written about how Mary was feeling about her pregnancy and the imminent birth of the baby Jesus.

Do you suppose she struggled with morning sickness, or had food cravings?

At the very least, the concerns of all first-time mothers occupied her thoughts.

The song Breath of Heaven expresses her doubts and fears in a beautiful way as she tells God she is apprehensive, and asks Him if there was someone else who might have taken her place.

She prays, Hold me together, Be forever near me.  Lighten my darkness, Pour over me your holiness. Help me be strong.

My immediate reflection upon hearing this song was to remember the instances where I have felt unsure, fearful, or confused  – and how God (thankfully!) infused His peace into my heart, helping me trust Him with every situation.

Sometimes I could barely hear His subtle murmurs.

God is always there when we need Him the most….and when we least expect Him to be.

His quiet breezes surround us, each and every day, permeating our lives.

Have you sensed His presence recently?

Here are some recent Breaths of Heaven I have experienced….

  • An impromptu gift wrapping session that became a lovely sharing of faith and friendship
  • A dear friend’s mother, now in heaven with the Lord, after a battle with cancer
  • Little voices that are excited when they hear their Nana on the phone
  • Lunch with a sweet young friend – edifying and heartwarming
  • Hugs from those I love, anytime, anywhere
  • Being wished “Merry Christmas with stars on it!” by a woman at a Memory Care center (I just love that image!)

I invite you to close your eyes and recollect the simple ways God surrounds your day with Himself.

He is our zephyr, our background music, and our bright star. He has given us the greatest gift and life-force of all – His Son.

Let God’s gentle whispers wash over you…

And make you love and appreciate Him all the more.

Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! ~Psalm 150:6

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When it comes to ironing, I am the Procrastinator Supreme. Why I have this aversion is beyond me.

Perhaps it stems from all of those dampened and starched pillowcases I had to press as one of my weekly chores during my childhood days.

Any household jobs requiring rubber gloves are not an issue – but the mounting wrinkled mass in the laundry basket has been, well….easily and indefinitely ignored.

A few of the clothes have rested there for so long they are in danger of becoming vintage pieces.

I knew this was a serious issue when, as I began my quest of diminishing the massive heap, my husband asked me if I had bought him some new shirts.

How could I have had such a lapse?

My disdain for de-wrinkling surely stems from the fact that, to me, it is tedious, boring work.

Oswald Chambers tells us that the challenge of walking with God is to find Him in the mundane tasks before us. He says,

The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God.

As I prayed through the ironing, God prompted me to wonder if there was anything else piling up in my life…or in my heart.

Hmmmm….making mountains out of molehills took on a new meaning.

God can certainly show us ways to reduce our emotional (and material!) pile-ups, and help smooth out life’s wrinkles.

Though we are grateful for His blessings that astound us, we honor Him most by recognizing His presence in the humdrum of our days… in the most laborious tasks.

So, dear friends…let’s press on!

We are not meant to be illuminated versions (of the new life God has put into us), but the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God. ~ Oswald Chambers, parentheses mine

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Scientists recently announced that as our life expectancies have increased, 72 is the new 30! Heartened by this exciting news, I promptly declared my adolescence and revamped my outlook on adulthood.

The promise of the years ahead has buoyed my spirits.

In all seriousness, of late I have been thankful for the wisdom of my years…and for the freedom and confidence that comes with being comfortable in my own skin (wrinkles and all).

Back in my teen years, my world was ruled by raging hormones, coupled with unbridled narcissism. Oh, that I would be popular! And would that boy I had a secret crush on ever like me?

Adolescence had me in such a spin. Thoughts of inner growth and development were a foreign concept. Focus on all things exterior were of utmost importance.

But now….oh joy…we get another chance at growing up!

The beauty of this is that we now are better equipped for the experience. Our backpacks for the journey now hold containers of life experience (along with various bags and sags which I refuse to discuss).

Way back when, puberty just happened. At this stage of the game, we can actually welcome – even cherish – new ways of growing and seeing.

All it takes is that “bring it on” attitude, and a willing and open heart…one joyfully expectant that there is more to life than we ever imagined. (And… these days just waking up every morning is enough to fuel gratefulness with a capital G.)

Now that we have such a new lease on life, where or to whom will you devote your time and energy? What thoughts will you allow to occupy your mind?

I hope that spiritual development will be high on your priority list. For as our years advance, our best and most secure investment is in the Lord. Let’s jump into to this “bonus phase” with gusto…and enjoy a deeper life for the long haul.

We will always win the popularity contest with Him.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

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Have you ever been listening to a radio program intently, when suddenly, much to your frustration,  the sound becomes fuzzy and far away?

That is an apt description of my spiritual journey for the past few weeks.

Though I have not “changed the channel”, copious amounts of static have interfered with my connection – so much that my attention has been diverted away from what is most important.

How could I allow this to happen?

This takes me back to my college days, when the imminent approach of piano juries and final exams would prompt me to place organizing my closet or cleaning my dorm room as a top priority.

Here I am, 40 years later, still struggling with those nasty avoidance/procrastination issues.

Except now, God’s persistence cuts through the static.  He prods me to stop and think about what might be the root cause of my distraction. He encourages me to bring these issues to the forefront and look them straight in the eye.

No more hiding behind  household chores, piles of emails, phone calls, or mindless web surfing when God is calling.

This temporary mindspin had me in a vicegrip which was not the least bit pleasant.

So I asked…begged God to help me out of it.

What finally cleared up my reception issues (and aren’t they related to my word for the year, receive?) was honestly admitting what was preventing me from sitting down each day for quiet, restful time with the Lord.

Contemplating my contemplative challenges proved to enlighten; and admitting my weaknesses and confessing my lack of discipline lifted the heavy weight from my heart.

Feeling far away from God is no fun at all.

Once I was honest with myself, those pesky attention diverters quieted down – and moments with God became the anchor points of my day.

I could almost hear  Him saying, Don’t touch that dial! I am working to resolve your technical difficulties! With your consent, you will soon hear My Voice clearly.

God always has something to teach us – even during brief lapses when we think He is somewhere in the distance.

May you feel Him next to you today…and hear His every whisper.

For he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today!   Psalm 95:7

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Mass Messaging

Has anyone else grown weary of the incessant email marketing barrage? You know, the 50-80% off with free overnight shipping from buytheseproductssoyouwillbestylishbeautifulandhaveahappylife.com

For the past few days, I have been unsubscribing.

It all started when my tech-savvy daughters were aghast at the 12,000 odd messages sitting in my email inbox. Clearing out those excess bits of information had not been high on my priority list for some time.

Make no mistake – I do enjoy shopping on my favorite websites. And I love the rush of purchasing something at an additional 40% off the already reduced price. (Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to be a bargain shopper.)

But really…do we need to be inundated with electronic temptations from multiple sources every single day? I have had more than enough of these Continuous Temporal Distractions cluttering my inbox – and my mind.

Is there such a syndrome as CTD?

And so, I delete – again and again. I doubt I will ever win this one, but it sure feels good trying. (And my inbox has been significantly lightened.)

So here’s a thought…what if we received frequent online messages from God? He certainly doesn’t need to market Himself – and He is not troubled in the least if His ratings have dropped in the latest polls. But He does reach out to us on a regular basis.

What if He tried GMail…the celestial version of Constant Contact?

The cool thing is, God could personalize His communiques. They might read something like:

Whoa! There goes that fear creeping in again. Trust me on this one.

Did you notice how beautiful the sky is today? All for your viewing pleasure.

No offense – but your patience threshold has been a bit thin lately.

Thanks for spending a moment with me in quiet prayer. I am always glad to be with you.

The fact is, God’s communications are perpetual.  No need to click a link on your latest device to read or hear them.

All you need to do is make Him your Number One Contact…. and open your heart.

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