How Do You Talk to God?

A few years ago I went on a weekend retreat with my college roommate. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, and we were both so excited to reconnect and catch up. In the days leading up to the retreat, we planned out our late night chats, making lists of topics we needed to discuss. Knowing it would probably be another few years before we were together again, we didn’t want to leave anything out.

It made me think about the ways in which this kind of deep and close connection resembled my relationship with God. I have a dear friend who says: “I talk to God all the time, about any little thing.” It sounds so simple and inviting…and easy. Just talk to God. In doing this we are sharing our lives with God. Sometimes we feel God inviting us into relationship. Other times, we invite God in. It’s a give and take that changes based on our everyday experiences of our faith.

In the words of David L. Fleming, SJ, “Prayer is a natural outcome of this close relationship. It is not something mysterious or esoteric or something that we learn how to do in school. Prayer is conversation. If we can talk, we can pray. Of course we can learn to pray better, just as we can learn to be better conversationalists. The essential activity of prayer springs naturally from our humanity. It is a matter of conversing with a very good friend.”

If you’re looking to improve your “conversation skills” with God, I would recommend the following three steps:

Be yourself! Don’t try to take on a formal “persona” or a particular voice when talking to God. Just talk in a way that feels comfortable to you. I gave the example of the easy flow of conversation with my college roommate because that’s exactly how you should talk to God. Make a list of topics if that’s helpful. Share with God what’s on your mind and in your heart, knowing that God loves you and is waiting to hear from you!

Talk to God about everything. For the longest time I struggled with the idea that God cared about my ordinary life. I pictured God brushing aside my trivial problems or my “silly” worries. God had far more important things to do than to listen to my humdrum stories. I eventually realized this couldn’t be further from the truth! God cares about EVERYTHING we do, think, wonder, doubt, and fear. There is truly nothing that we can’t bring to God.

Examine the areas of your life that you tend to hold back from God. Ask yourself why you do this. Is there a particular hurt or wound that you haven’t been able to bring to God? Are you hiding from God for fear of being rejected? Ponder the gift of God’s unconditional love and mercy. There is no such thing as being rejected by God. Open up your heart to God and see what happens.

In his book, Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer, Max Lucado puts it so beautifully:

“God will teach you to pray. We speak, He listens. He speaks, we listen. This is prayer in its purest form. God changes His people through such moments.”

Talking to God in conversation will help you grow in your faith. It will help you feel more connected to God. When you create a habit of talking to God, you’ll hear God answering you. You’ll be inspired to take action in living out your faith. You will always have a place of deep truth to turn to during difficult times. 

I encourage you to spend some time this week talking to God just like you would talk to a close friend. Do this every day for a few weeks and see how your relationship with God changes. Return to this blog post and share your experience in the comments section below!

Allegory of Five Gardens (Part One)

dry garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The first sister approached with hesitant steps and slumped shoulders. She could barely look the Master Gardener in the eye.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Not well, I’m ashamed to say. My garden is dry as dust. All the plants have withered and dried up and the soil is hard and cracked.”

“Do you know why?” the Master Gardener asked with gentle but questioning eyes

“Lack of water, I suppose,” she answered with a sigh.

“My dear one, you know that I have an abundant source of flowing water. You need only have asked, and I would have given you all the water you asked. Why did you never come to me?”

The sister paused before answering. “Lots of reasons, I guess. Sometimes I was just too busy. It seemed like the distance was too far to travel to get to the water. Other times I felt too unworthy to ask you for such a precious gift. After a while, I no longer remembered the water you had to offer.”

With a nod of understanding, the Master Gardener sent a steady rainfall to drench and quench her garden and bring it back to life. The plants and flowers responded immediately. The roots were strengthened, the leaves returned to a bright and vibrant shade of green. Flowers opened as the stems stretched tall to absorb the warm sunlight that followed the rain.

Tears of gratitude filled the eyes of the first sister, and she promised him she would never again forget about this precious gift that was hers for the taking.

REFLECTION:

Does your faith life ever resemble the dried up and withered garden of the first sister in this story? You’re stuck in a rut, uninspired, and unable to access the powerful connection you once felt to God – The Master Gardener. You feel more distant from God than ever before, unable to hear His whispers or feel His presence. Your faith life feels lifeless.

You are not alone. We all go through spiritual dry spells from time to time. Some ending quickly, others stretching out for a much longer time. God has given each of us our own personal Garden of Eden, lush and beautiful and overflowing with the abundant blessing of God’s love for us. But like any garden, it needs nourishment. God gives us the Living Water of Jesus Christ to nourish our spirit and bring us to new life.

Being in a spiritually dry place is not always a bad thing. God may be preparing us for something or reminding us of our dependence on His gift of grace. We need to live through the dry time in order to more fully engage in the fruitful spirituality that is to follow.

What’s important is to recognize those times when we are depleted or dry, for they can sneak up on us. “O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!” (Psalm 63:1) The next time you find yourself in the dry garden of faith, let your prayer become a conversation with God.

Dear Lord, my spiritual garden has become dried up and wilted. Why do I feel this distance? What is getting in the way of a closer intimacy with You? In Your wisdom, reveal to me the path that has led me to this place of thirst and dust. Remind me of Your gift of grace, that I may seek life giving water and come alive again.

Find a quiet place to spend some time alone with God. Pray for inspiration and ideas to reconnect with God in a personal way. Read Scripture, attend a retreat, talk to a friend or your priest or pastor. Be gentle with yourself and have faith that this season of dryness will pass. Remember, even the most dead-looking plant is often only dormant, waiting for the first light of spring to come to life again.

God Smooths Out Our Jagged Edges

smooth stone

Have you ever taken a close look at a river rock?  These flat rocks, found in riverbeds and on beaches, are unique in size, shape, and color but with one similarity.  They are smooth.  No jagged edges, sharp corners, or pointy bumps.

What makes these rocks so smooth?

Water flowing in a river is constantly moving.  A powerful force that carries along dirt, sediment, and smaller stones in its path.  These rough items bump up against the river rocks, acting like sandpaper.  They break off the pointy bumps, round out the sharp corners, and smooth the jagged edges.  This is a natural process, called weathering or erosion, and occurs over a long period of time.  The end result is a smooth and shiny stone, beautiful in its purity.

Can we compare this process to our own lives?

At times… are you the jagged rock?  Uneven and rough.  Covered in sharp edges that cause pain in your own life or the lives of those around you.  Each rough spot representing a heavy burden, a sharp tongue, a harsh response, a jealous thought, or a past pain.  Without realizing it, you become something that causes others to wince upon contact.  Something that cannot hold or be held.

And how often do you feel like that rock being tumbled around in a swirling river?  Bumped and tossed.  Crashing into those around you—or being crashed—with a force you feel you can’t control.  It can make you feel helpless… or even hopeless.  There’s no gaining your footing in such a riotous atmosphere.

I encourage you to look at this in another way.  The pain is real, but the process is powerful and profound.  The driving force is the water and it’s no random occurrence.  The water represents the Divine Source that is constantly washing over your jagged soul, breaking off those burdens and pains.  Carrying them away.  Smoothing them out.

We believe in a loving God that shapes us in this way.  We are first introduced to this Living Water at our Baptism.  An outward sign of an inward grace.  A never ending flow of mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness. The process isn’t always easy.  Weathering can be painful!  Life tosses us around whether we like it or not.  God uses these “tossed” experiences to shape us.  God uses our trials to smooth us out until we are transformed.  “See, I am doing a new thing!”  (Isaiah 43:19)

Does this sound good to you?  Are you asking: How can I get in on this deal?  It’s simple.  All you have to do is let it happen.  God is always working in you, whether you realize it or not.  Let the healing water of God’s love rush past you and surround you, making you smooth, shiny, and new.  If you’d like to become more tuned in to the ways in which God is working in you… try prayer, Reconciliation, meditation, or reading and reflecting on the Word of God.  You’ll find yourself gaining in awareness of God’s constant and overflowing presence in your life.

Take a look at the stone in the picture above. As you gaze at the surface, use God’s eyes to search for your shining reflection. What do you see?  Do you see the grace-filled moments of your life reflected back at you?  Can you see the unfolding of your purpose?  Can you see God’s promise and His deep love for you?

May God bless our journey and continue to polish us into shining reflections of His love.

A Prayer for Today

fall foliage

Dear God, I thank you for making me wonderfully unique. You knit together my talents, my flaws, my moods, and my dreams. At the moment of my creation you were there, loving me beyond measure. You know what it is that I need for this day and for this season. You provide me with abundant blessings and gifts to meet each challenge with love and patience.

On the days when I can’t seem to get anything right…You are there, holding me gently.

On the days when I can’t stop comparing myself to those who are smarter, better, thinner, or just MORE… You are there, reminding me that I am your Beloved Daughter.

On the days when stress, fear, doubt, and worry threaten to stop me in my tracks… You are there, gently nudging me forward.

On the days when words don’t seem adequate to thank you, to praise you, to glorify Your name… You are there, understanding the prayers that spill from my heart.

Dear Lord, help me to listen to what it is that you ask of me today and in this season. Let me live and act with compassion and kindness. Help me to love boldly. Guide me in following the example of your Son, Jesus Christ, in all that I do and say.

AMEN.

Refresh Me, Remind Me, Release Me

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Lord, there are days when my prayer life stagnates. When the old trusty prayers fail to inspire. When new words won’t come. Everything is dry as the desert. On these days, I ask you to come to me in a new way. Help me discover fresh ways to see you, to talk with you… to know you. Refresh my desert days with living water.

Lord, there are days when I forget to pray at all. When signs of you are all around me, but I fail to see them. Instead my mind focuses on the endless “to do” list. The daily distractions of the outer world. On these days I ask you to send me a reminder of your loving presence. Help me to see your authorship in all that surrounds me. Guide me from my wandering with a gentle reminder.

Lord, there are days when I find myself stuck. Clenching my fist tightly around a past hurt or a stubborn mindset. This holding on becomes a holding back. On these days, I ask you to grant me permission to let go. Release me from all that holds me in chains. So that I might move forward in love and action and inspiration.

Amen.