Psalm 23 – A Psalm for the Living

dark valley Psalm 23
God is our refuge and our hope.

This was the topic I found myself writing about when preparing for a retreat several years ago. In looking for some Scripture to use, I went straight for the Psalms which contain dozens and dozens of references to this kind of loving and protective God. I was immediately drawn to Psalm 23. You know this one:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…

After considering it for a moment, I quickly rejected it for the purposes of my talk. For most people, this Psalm is too closely associated with funerals, death, and dying. I can still remember the scene from the movie Titanic when a priest recites these lines to a group of terrified passengers as the ship sinks further and further into the ocean. As beautiful as it was, I wanted to talk about life… I didn’t need a Psalm for the dying. Continue reading

God’s Work in Progress

potter clay
Christians often refer to the season of Lent as a second chance at our New Year’s resolutions. Our broken January promises are renewed as we vow to give up unhealthy foods, to take on healthier habits, to change in some significant way. For the most part, I love this time of year because it ushers in a season of transformation and renewal, as we embrace growth and progress. But there are some “side effects” of this approach than can actually halt our progress in two significant ways if we’re not careful.

  1. A constant focus on all the many ways we need “fixing” can become a roadblock on our spiritual journey if we hold ourselves back from God because of this belief that we are not good enough.
  2. Our efforts to do it all ourselves as we choose and control our own path to change can get in the way of God’s plans for us.

On both January 1st and Ash Wednesday, I always used to say: “I’m a work in progress.   There’s a LOT of work I need to do.” Somewhere along they way I reframed this statement

I am God’s work in progress, and he is working in me. Continue reading

Prayers from a Night Worrier

digital clockAre you a night worrier? My mother has never had any trouble falling asleep at night. But once in a while, if she’s unlucky enough to wake up during the night, that’s it for sleeping. She calls them “racing thoughts.” Turning, churning, and tumbling in her mind at a pace that won’t stop.

What is it about the middle of the night that things always seem so dire? We awake with a feeling of dread. A worry that seemed small during the day seems to blow up in the dark of our bedroom. Taking on a menacing shape. Like that monster from our childhood, threatening to creep out and grab us in our sleep. Larger problems seem insurmountable, even hopeless.

In the dark we are scared children again. We’re alone and helpless. We forget everything we know about God’s love and faithfulness. We let fear take over. It becomes impossible to place our trust in God. We focus on the darkness (the metaphorical absence of God’s light) instead of the quiet.

But remember…the quiet is the best time for hearing. Listen to what God is whispering to you: Continue reading

A Woman’s Lenten Journey

woman in woods

The season of Lent is a journey.

A journey to the foot of the cross at Calvary…and to the heart of Jesus.

Years of working in retreat ministry has shown me that more than anything, women long for a daily encounter with God. Whatever form that may take, the desire to connect with the Divine is a major driver in a woman’s spiritual journey. A retreat presenter recently urged, “Don’t ever be satisfied with where you are with God at this moment. Always desire something deeper.”

Reaching for that “something deeper” can be a real challenge. Today’s woman is pulled in a million different directions. Always on the go, we are doers and nurturers. This hectic pace can make if very difficult to listen for the voice of God.   Women need TIME! We need quiet. We need a safe, sacred space, free from distraction. We need to stand still long enough to be found.  Only then can we take up our cross once again and resume the journey. Continue reading

Pray Where You Are

Prayer Therapy
For many years I’ve been collecting a book series on spirituality called “Elf-Help Books” by Abbey Press. The series contains over forty mini-books on a variety of topics, each one accompanied by charming illustrations by R.W. Alley. Titles include: Trust-in-God Therapy, Stress Therapy, Forgiveness Therapy, Keep Life Simple Therapy, Be–Good-To-Your-Marriage Therapy, and many more. The books are beautiful in their simplicity. 35 to 40 short statements to help you reflect on each topic. Click here for more information on how to order Elf-Help books.

One of my favorites is Prayer Therapy, written by Keith McClellan, O.S.B. In the foreword he writes: “Real prayer is organic—it grows out of your own life, personality, needs, and rhythms. Each day and every moment are filled with opportunities for prayer. If we seize these moments, we open ourselves to the greatest enrichment—and most effective therapy—possible. Prayer isn’t for specialists. Prayer is for you and for me.”

I love this idea that we all have access to a rich prayer life if we only embrace it. Prayer is not reserved for only the most holy. It does not take place only in churches. It does not have to consist of poetic words. Prayer is simply a connection to God in whatever form that may take for each one of us. As Fr. McClellan suggests: “Pray where you are. God is everywhere.” In line at the grocery store. In classrooms. On a busy street. Deep in the woods. High on the mountaintop. In the depths of the valley.

You can bring any emotion or thought to prayer. God loves you and knows you best, and He wants to hear it ALL. Bring your gratitude to God. Your sorrow. Your anger. Your confusion. There may be times when you can’t even find words for what you’re feeling. Let your sigh become a prayer. Or your tears. Or a shrug of your shoulders. Or a clenched and shaken fist. God knows what your heart is experiencing and is listening and loving you.

If you pray where you are often enough, you’ll find it becomes a part of you. A “second-nature” response to every situation. This living, ongoing conversation with God will enrich your life in countless ways. Answers will come. Peace will come. Contentment will remain.

Fr. McClellan closes his book with this beautiful thought: “To pray is to breathe. Do it deeply and you will be filled with life.” AMEN!


 

How Healthy is Your Spirit?

boardwalk to ocean
We hear so often about the importance of wellness of body, mind, and spirit. We visit a doctor for our annual check-up. We measure the health of our bodies through blood work, cholesterol tests, EKG’s, etc. We have assessments for measuring different aspects of our brain and intellect. But how often do we give our spirit a check-up? How often do we ask the question: “How healthy is my spirit?”

Try this little exercise. Read each statement below and say whether you agree or disagree: Continue reading

A Light in the Darkness

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

For today’s reflection, I would like to share the following story.  The author is unknown, and the story can be found in various places on the internet.

There was once a dark cave, deep down in the ground, underneath the earth and hidden away from view.  Because it was so deep in the earth, the light had never been there.  The cave had never seen light.  The word “light” meant nothing to the cave, who couldn’t imagine what “light” might be.   Then one day, the sun sent an invitation to the cave, inviting it to come up and visit. When the cave came up to visit the sun it was amazed and delighted, because the cave had never seen light before, and it was dazzled by the wonder of the experience. Feeling so grateful to the sun for inviting it to visit, the cave wanted to return the kindness, and so it invited the sun to come down to visit it sometime, because the sun had never seen darkness. So the day came, and the sun entered the cave, it looked around with great interest, wondering what “darkness” would be like.  Then it became puzzled, and asked the cave, “Where is the darkness?” (Source Unknown) Continue reading

The Language of Silence

snowy silence
16th century mystic John of the Cross once wrote: “Silence is God’s first language.” Now, I’m a firm believer that God comes to us every day in any number of ways, through the bubbling laughter of our children, the joyous harmony of a choir, the hustle and bustle of a busy day, even the anguished cries of a broken heart.

But there’s something special about silence. Continue reading

Called to Holiness

old phone
When you think of a “holy” person, what image comes to mind? Perhaps you think of a priest, deacon, nun, or other clergy. Or that person in your parish who attends daily Mass. Or the volunteer who devotes his or her time to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other charitable organizations.

When you imagine a holy person…do you ever picture yourself?

To be holy is to be like God. Doesn’t that seem kind of lofty? How on earth could ordinary ol’ me achieve such a thing? The answer lies right in the question. Holiness doesn’t come from the “earthly” world. It’s not something we earn, or work towards, or deserve. It’s a gift from God. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4)

God chose us. How beautiful! Continue reading