Do You Hear What I Hear?

“In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands—a life where we are not ashamed of our weaknesses but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.” – Henri Nouwen

Sometimes it can be hard to let go of what I want, or what I deem as necessary. It’s funny though, when I do let go, I almost always end up getting what I really needed, but didn’t know I needed it, until I got it.

I cannot help but wonder, what causes me to have tunnel vision at times? What is it that causes me to be trapped in a line of thinking? Invariably, it comes down to judgments…judgments based on MY perspective.

What is it that prevents me from looking beyond my perspective, at times, causing me to put myself in a box, limiting myself, and others? A broad perspective makes a world of difference. Perhaps that is why time heals all wounds. When I can take a step back and look from more than one angle it is often to the benefit of all involved.

Perspective! It is interesting how two people can hear (or see), the same thing but notice or perceive it in ways that are very different. We all have our own perspectives, but so often, it seems the tendency is to name one as being right and dismiss the other as being wrong. I wonder what causes this and how much is overlooked or missed in this process.

What would happen if the process was slowed down? If judgment was suspended and a closer look was given to that which is so readily dismissed? Could we…would we, find some value in it?

What kind of difference might doing so make? Could there be learning and growth waiting for all parties involved? What would happen if the focus shifted away from the judgment of right and wrong, or any other kind of labeling, until after previous notions and ideas are let go, and honest consideration is given across the board?

How might things be different if the starting place was more consistently one of seeing each other as being created in the image of God, and trying to receive and respond to each other with openness in our hearts and a genuine desire to try to see or hear from each other’s perspective? Not only trying to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, but actually letting the other person help us to do so. That is, instead of judging or tossing aside the other’s point of view, or assuming we know what it is like, saying, “Tell me more,” “What do you mean?” or “Help me to understand your experience of this situation?”

I wonder, how often, when people or things are tossed aside and deemed “unworthy” are we unknowingly, saying “No” to the Spirit of God within another…or within ourselves?

There Will Be An Answer…

“There will be an answer. Let it be.” – Paul McCartney

Trust that there will be an answer. Wait for it. That can be so hard at times, especially living in a “right here, right now” world. A fast paced, blink and you will miss it, world.

There are so many sayings about time…time is of the essence…once you lose time you cannot get it back…time waits for nobody…so little time, so much to do, and so on. What, then, is essential for me to do with my time? Perhaps it is choosing wisely how to spend it…something that, yes, takes time.

“For thus said the Lord GOD,
the Holy One of Israel:
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.
But this you did not will.” – Isaiah 30:15

What makes it so difficult, at times, for me not only to wait, but also to trust that, as I wait, an answer is on its way? Not only does Scripture tell me to wait for the Lord, trusting in divine providence and grace:

“Truly, the LORD is waiting to be gracious to you,
truly, he shall rise to show you mercy;
For the LORD is a God of justice:
happy are all who wait for him!” – Isaiah 30:18

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

but when I take the time to reflect, so does my life experience. So often, taking the time to slow down, to continue to pray and to discern, and to wait for God instead of jumping into the fast lane and forging ahead as the world would have me, has lead me to a better answer…a better decision, than I could have devised solely, on my own. By allowing time, that precious time, and waiting, I have often been granted an answer… a nudge…a tweak to my original course of action or plan that has made a difference for the better and made waiting not only worthwhile, but also a gift…a blessing.

When I am feeling impatient and pressured by the ticking of the clock, I need to call myself back to the truth. I need to remember how good God has been to me. To remain faithful and trust that God will continue to be good to me, and perhaps most importantly, I need to cherish the time I spend waiting. I need to toss aside the clock and trust in God’s time.

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Who Am I?

“To be nobody but myself–in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else–means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings

As I look around, so often it seems like what I do matters more than, “who I am.”

I am, first, and foremost, a child of God. Then, a daughter, wife, mother, aunt, friend and neighbor, and the list goes on. There was a time when my list would have started with my job title and then worked its way back with “child of God” being somewhere further back on the list, maybe even last. While in lots of ways, I was a success, having all the “necessities” of life and more, I was not happy. I did not have a happiness (or joy) that permeated my being…only a surface happiness. I recall thinking, at times, “There has to be more to life than this. This can’t be all there is.”

There was something missing. Come to find out, God was missing. No, actually, God was not missing. God was there, but I was not inviting God into my daily life. Despite attending Sunday Mass, I had no relationship with God, or at least not one that had any depth to it. I find it interesting that as I have worked to deepen my relationship with God, I have not only come to learn more about God, but have also come to see, more and more, who I am at the core of my being. In addition, I have come to see the gifts God has given to me as well as to consider how God might be calling me to use them in a way that is beneficial for me, and the people, and the world, around me. In chapter 1, verse 27, in the Book of Genesis, the Bible states:

“God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

What does it mean to me to be created in the likeness of God? While this may seem like a simple question, it cannot be answered without digging a little deeper. I need to have some idea of the following: What do I believe about God? How have I experienced God? Who has God been to me? and who is God to me now?

In my own life, I have found that putting my relationship with God at the center of my life…staying connected…listening and speaking with God and spending time with God’s Word, which has led to taking in, with new eyes and ears, the beauty of all of creation, has been the key to experiencing true happiness in life. That is, a sense of peace and well-being, that no amount of money or earthly people or things could give. This is not to say that everything goes my way all the time, but as “being a child of God” has moved forward on my list of who I am, whether things go my way or not is becoming less relevant.

St. Paul says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col 3:12-15)

When I am able to hold fast to these truths, having only goodwill in my heart, nothing can harm me or take away who I am…who God created me to be, and…I am truly happy. There is no better feeling than that of joy in the Lord. Praise God!

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But Moses said to God, “Who am I…” – Exodus 3:11

Where are you?

With all the events happening in the world, I find myself wondering, “Why?” or better yet, “What?” What is it that really causes conflict? What is it that turns a situation from being one of working together to one of working against? What is it that divides?

A number of months ago and out of nowhere, I had an experience that blind-sided me. At the time, I felt taken advantage of and betrayed. I had trusted that there was honesty and authenticity, but come to find out, there was not. There was an exchange that started out in what seemed a positive direction, but then it came to light that there was only darkness and deceit on the other side…and hidden underneath that darkness and deceit were assumptions, judgments and misinterpretations driven mostly by fear.

There is the saying, “Money is the root of all evil,” but it certainly seems that fear ought to be right up there next to money, if not above it. It is often fear unchecked, that is behind words, actions, and inactions that can cause damage and destruction for both, me, and the world around me. It can stop me in my tracks. It can unleash anger and anxiety (among other feelings) that may tempt and cause me to act in ways that I would not otherwise. Fear, unchecked and in charge, can make me run fast, far, and wide, and most significantly, it can lead me away from the very place where I need to be.

In the Book of Genesis, while we can see that jealousy played a part in all that happened between the serpent and Eve and then Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, we can also see that fear was right there too. After the fruit has been eaten, Adam and Eve hear God walking in the garden and they hide. (Thousands of years removed, and from what I have come to believe about God, I find this somewhat humorous. Like anyone can actually hide from God. However, I suppose we can, and do at times, allow ourselves to think we are hiding from God.)

God says to Adam, “Where are you?” God does not say, “What have you done? One tree, man! I asked you and the woman to stay away from one tree!…” God does not criticize Adam and Eve up one side of the Garden of Eden and down the other. God does not shame them, try to make them more fearful, or strip away their dignity (further than their actions have already done).

While there are consequences for their actions, God still cares for them and about them, and does not abandon them. God already knows what they have done and could simply call them out and punish them, but instead God starts by simply asking, “Where are you?” What a great question!

God wants to hear their story. God wants to hear our story. How open are we to hearing each other’s stories?

Imagine how different life might be if we took the time to ask and to consider of ourselves, and others, “Where are you?”

I imagine there would be fewer assumptions, judgments, and misinterpretations…fewer misunderstandings…less fear…and more love in the world.

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