Week 23 – The Fruit of Silence

One of our assignments has been to spend an extensive amount of time in silence, suggested to be 36 hours.  Due to deadlines at work and other obligations I haven’t been able to do this yet, but it reminds me of a formula for peace I heard about by Mother Teresa many years ago.  It goes like this:

The fruit of silence is prayer.

The fruit of prayer is faith.

The fruit of faith is love.

The fruit of love is service.

And the fruit of service is peace.

M Teresa fruit

Even though I haven’t been able to incorporate an extended period of silence into my life right now, I can use this simple formula even for the moment.  It helps me to focus, and it also helps me to be more at peace.

An example recently is, when I was out to dinner with a friend, she was sharing and talking, and I found myself thinking about what I might say next and not really listening.  I caught myself and silently prayed.  I allowed myself to be in the silence of my own mind for a moment.  I connected with the Lord and felt faith and love.  And I was able to listen to my friend.  To really listen.  To not react.  To not respond on my own tangent.  And it truly was a moment of service, a moment of peace.

When I heard about Mother Teresa’s formula many, many years ago, I was not able to apply it to my life because I was too uncomfortable with the silence.  I didn’t like myself very much at that point.  I was insecure and, actually, a fairly angry person.

I’m so grateful to be able to be silent with myself, to be silent with the Lord, to hear Him speak, and to be enveloped by His love.  There is freedom in the silence.  Freedom and peace beyond all understanding.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

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Week 22 – The Beauty of Marriage

When recently I heard a person say that they were never going to move from their dream location so they hoped their spouse liked it, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us live like this.  I really had to stop and think.  How many of us treat our dreams, our goals, our desires as more important, more valuable, than our marriage, than our love for our spouse, than our relationships.  Is this how I want to live?  Is this how I’m living?  I had to get real with myself.

I’d seen a Facebook post, by someone for whom I have great respect, entitled, “Marriage wasn’t for him.”  This piqued my curiosity, as I knew this person was a firm believer in marriage.  I wondered what it was about, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the content.  The gist of it was about a boy who was about to get married to his long-time sweetheart and, as most people do, was having second thoughts:  what if it doesn’t work out, what if I’m not happy, and on it goes.

His dad, with great wisdom, told him that we don’t get married to make ourselves happy.  We get married to make the other person happy.  True marriage and true love is never about you.  It’s about the person you love, their wants, their needs, their hopes and their dreams.  Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?” while love asks, “What can I give?”

The link to the article can be found here:  http://www.loveandsayings.com/man-just-realized-marriage-is-not-for-him/

This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago about a woman whose husband just passed away.  She felt so lost and said, “Now who am I going to take care of.”  What a beautiful sentiment.  She was all about caring for others.

I also found this site on Christian marriage:  https://carm.org/christianity/devotions/marriage

The gist of this one is “Marriage is a sacred institution established by God for the primary purpose of bringing Him glory.  Its main purpose is not, as some think, to procreate, or to have companionship, or to fulfill sexual needs.  No.  It’s primary purpose is to bring glory and honor to God.”

Bringing glory to God.  I think all marriages have their ups and downs, but when we live our lives out of love and not out of selfishness, love wins.  May the Lord Jesus be at the center of my marriage and all my relationships.  And yours too.  God is good.  All the time.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Week 21 – Using the Tools

Using negative thoughts as a tool takes practice.  I’ve begun to think of 10 to 20 things to be grateful for each time I have a negative thought.  It helps get me back on track, and it gives me some wonderful things to think about.  Sometimes I’ll even stop and actually write them down.  That’s a powerful exercise to help break a bad habit and replace it with being grateful, giving thanks in all things.

This morning when reading a devotional from “God Calling,” which can be found at twolisteners.org, it said, “Pray for more faith, as a thirsty man in a desert prays for rain, for water…Pray daily and most diligently that your faith may increase.”  I felt God putting on my heart to not only think of things to be grateful for, but also to use this as an opportunity to pray when I have thoughts or feelings that are considered negative.

I can only imagine how a person in a desert might pray for water.  What would that be like?  Do I want to increase my faith that badly?  It’s a choice.  Yes, I want to grow.  I want to grow closer to the Lord. “In Him I live and move and have my being.”

I can pray daily.  I can be diligent.  And by the grace of God my faith can increase.

The question becomes what do I want the tool to do?  What’s the objective?  To eliminate or at least reduce the feelings of fear, guilt, unworthiness, anger and hurt.  To increase positive thoughts.  To experience more joy, more love.  To be grateful.  To love.  To get closer to God.  To have freedom.  To love.  To have peace, and a peace that is beyond understanding.  To serve.  And to love.

To God be the glory.  Amen

http://twolisteners.org/February%2016%20-%2028.htm#February 26

Week 20 – What if these are tools?

How can fear, guilt, unworthiness, anger, and hurt possibly be used as tools?  I had these thoughts the week before our last lesson, what if, I thought, what if I could use these challenges and turn them around.  And then it was a point of learning in our last lesson.

I had a disagreement with a co-worker a few weeks ago, and I had to apologize to her.  I definitely hurt her feelings, and now I feel bad about it.  I wonder if God can use this for good?  He promises He can.  I pray that He does.

In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Another challenge I turned around this week was I had some things I needed to do at home and didn’t really want to do them, so I kept putting them off.  Then it occurred to me, what if I turned it around.  What if I said to myself, “I really enjoy doing this.”  Then next thing I knew, I’d gotten the things done AND even enjoyed doing them.

Gods mindI believe the Lord is helping me to turn many things around.  I can rely on His love and guidance more than I can rely on my own efforts.  I will continue to check my thoughts and trust Jesus to guide me.  Romans 8:6b says, “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  1 Corinthians 2:16b says, “We have the mind of Christ.”

Ask. Seek. Knock.

A friend recently shared that she asked God to send her a friend.  Within a few days, a neighbor approached her and they became fast friends as God used and guided their relationship.  It can be that simple, simply asking God for something specific.  All I need to do is ask.  He will answer in ways that only He can.  The answer isn’t always what I thought it would be, but Father knows best.

To God be the glory.  Amen.

Week 19 – Happiness and Success

Last week we saw a video of Shawn Achor talking about happiness and success.  He said people who are happy tend to be more successful and tend to learn better and have an overall better life.  It makes a lot of sense.  There are specific things we can do to be happier, and he suggests these five specific things:

Be kind to someone, for instance, send a positive email to someone every day.

Exercise.

Write three things we’re grateful for every day.

Journal about a positive experience from the day before.

Sit in quiet meditation every day.

These are exercises we’ve gradually added to our program over the course of weeks.  They are fairly simple to do and have a tendency to add a positive spin on the day.

The clip of Shawn Achor can be seen here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work#t-20598

Of course, as a Christian, I add prayer, reading the Bible, and singing hymns to my daily routine.  Staying close to the Lord is key for my life.  One of my favorite quotes from author and mentor Dave Ramsey is “The only way to have true financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.”  It can also be said, “The only way to have true peace, not just financial, is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace.”  What joy there is in knowing this peace.

A missionary I support is having some challenges right now and this is how God answered her prayers:

“ I needed time to process some unfortunate news with God (work permits and visas being delayed), so I immediately went to my room and started to pray and write in my journal. The first few paragraphs read a lot like a lament Psalm but it didn’t take long to hear God’s voice quietly pressing Matthew 14, Peter walking on water to Jesus, into my heart.

(30) “But when he saw the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ (31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'”

“God was reminding me of His sweet provision by saying, ‘Have I not already allowed you to walk on water this far? Aren’t you already in the midst of my miracle working? Why do you doubt that I will stop working miracles now? Watch me continue to provide for you.’ He is going to provide and He is going to make himself known in the process. I must continue to look to His face and keep walking towards Him rather than being distracted by the ‘boisterous wind.’” 

What joy it is and what happiness it brings to know that I can make the choice to be happy.  I can choose to leave all my burdens with Jesus.  I can trust his sweet provision.  By His grace I can dance.

To God be the glory.  Amen

Week 18 – Staying the Course

We’ve been encouraged to stick with it and to stay the course repeatedly.  I really didn’t understand the emphasis on this until the last couple weeks.  I’m finding it more and more difficult to keep up with all the requirements.  I’ve begun missing getting assignments done as the days go by.  I’ve found I’m losing steam.

Of course, I believe part of this is having a crisis a few weeks ago of losing a dear friend.  That has certainly taken the wind out of my sails.  I’ve had some projects at work I’ve needed to focus on, and I just haven’t felt 100% this last week or so.  I’m sure these things have contributed to my losing steam.

But I think there may be more going on as well.  I wonder if it’s possible that I might be getting close to having more of a breakthrough.  It’s a matter of how much of my life is built around habit and unconscious/subconscious choices and how much is built around habits I’d like to change, things I want to do differently.

I know deep down my life could be different.  I can be more loving. I can live in a more organized and purposeful way. I can serve more people.  I can have more energy.  I can get to bed earlier, drink more water, get more exercise, be more positive.

At the same time I have so very much to be grateful for:  God’s love, married for 32 plus years, family, friends, work, a nice home, a solid church home.

Sometimes though I just need to rest.  Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28.  May I find perfect rest and perfect peace through Him.

To God be the glory.  Amen

Week 17b – The Hero’s Journey

I chose to begin this course because I knew there were changes I wanted to make in my life and I felt stuck.  The Hero’s Journey is listed as the pathway to help assist us to change, and it means several things.  What we’re exploring are what results do we want?  What actions do we need to take to get those results?  And what are the thoughts and beliefs that cause us to take the actions that we’re taking.  We’re discovering that the more we charge our thoughts with feelings, the more our beliefs will change and, in turn, our actions will change, and then we will get different results.

We are causing change to happen through many different exercises.  Some of the exercises are teaching us new habits:  The habits of reading certain things every day, of keeping the time before bedtime quiet, of catching ourselves in negative thoughts and turning our thoughts to God instead, of sitting in quiet 15 minutes daily.  These are just a few of the habits, some mental and some physical.

Another very big part of the process, which plays a huge role, is the support.  I’ve done many of these practices before and I’ve made changes before, but I didn’t have the amount of support behind me and I didn’t understand what was going on.  I didn’t know why these changes were taking place, some very rapidly, and I didn’t have the support and encouragement to stay the course.

I think having support is one of the key ingredients, and I’m grateful to have many forms of support:  Of course, my main support is the Lord.  He is in total, loving control.  Then I have the support of a Christian mentor from church.  The course provides a guide who is available to talk, text and e-mail just about any time.  There is also support from the Alliances area of the MKMMA site, the support from reading others’ blogs, the support of the class webcasts on Sundays, and the support of connecting with another person in the course.

I’m so grateful to be on this journey and to be learning some powerful lessons.  I’m becoming a more positive person, more loving, more focused, and more joyful.  As I grow closer to Christ through this process, may He increase as I decrease (John 3:30), and life becomes sweeter and sweeter every day.

To God be the glory.  Amen