Saturday, December 20, 2014

Believing to See

I look at the second to the last post I've written and saw that it's been exactly a year.  How uncanny is that?  

I've scattered my thoughts in many different places but still one place beckons me to stay still.  To write to believe.  It seems like an anthem that I'm hearing.  A sheep's horn begging me to come out from hiding.  

And I am. 

The year has been difficult.  There were relationships I had to let go of and relationships that I've chosen to keep.  There were duties that I had to stick out for and woundedness that I had to face.  It's been a sifting kind of year and it wasn't easy.  I am amazed that I am still here alive and grateful for unexpected places of grace.  

I've chosen to simplify many things.  Like the way I write and the way I live.  I realized how difficult it is to keep having to shape-shift around many people.  They won't always be like me and I will not always receive what I need from everybody even if I put 100% of me into every single one of them.  

But no matter how the sands shift with the tide, God stands firm.  He seems to have proven that to me this year over and over.  The peeling of my masks and all that has been falsely giving me satisfaction has been stripped off one by one and I am left with almost nothing but flesh that is raw, real and sore. 

I'm here this morning breathing in the silence and just paying attention to a few things.  The gray orange hue of the sun.  The lady cleaning the garden outside the house across the street.  My breath filling my hungry lungs.  The highlighted words of Ann Voskamp's devotional, The Greatest Gift. One that I ended the year with last year and coincidentally the same words motivate me to peacefully bring this year into surrender. 

Miracles begin understated.  They begin, and the earth doesn't shake and trumpets don't sound. Miracles begin with the plainsong of a promise--and sometimes not even fully believed.  This is always the best place for miracles: God meets us right where we don't believe. When our believing runs out, God's loving runs on.  This is the season of the Advent God. The barren will birth.  Dreams will wake into reality. Nothing is impossible for God.
There is this.  Never doubt that there are two kinds of doubt: one that fully lives into the questions and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living.
Breathe easy into the questions.  The name of God, YHWH--inhale, exhale--is the sound of your breathing.  There is your miraculous answer.  As long as you are breathing, He is always your miraculous answer.  
And HE will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord.  Now miracles stack, multiply.  You don't have to work for the coming of the Lord--you don't have to work for Christmas.  The miracle is always that God is gracious.  You don't have to earn Christmas, you don't have to perform Christmas, you don't have to make Christmas.  You can rest in Christ.  You can wait with Christ.  You can breathe easy in Christ. Open your heart to the miracle of grace.  He will prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord.   
Your name has been drawn.  Come to Him just as you are.  Give up trying to be self-made: this is your gift to Him--and His gift to you.  Simply come.  The miracle of Christmas is that you get more than proof of God's existence.  You get the experience of God's presence.  
You always get your Christmas miracle.  You get God with you. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sacred Days

I wrote this a week ago on a different space.  I've totally forgotten about this page and right now I'm asking God what He really wants me to do with it.  So many things have happened the past few months and I've been recovering from a lot of things.  From immense burn out.  From relationship fall outs. From losing fragments of myself in this transitory period of my life.

But during Holy Week I found myself coming into wholeness again.  Able to listen to myself and hear God a little bit more closely.

This is what I went through during 4 days of silence.

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I've never experienced a silent retreat before until this year. I decided to go because I felt that for the longest time I lived such a noisy life. This noise comes in many forms. Exterior noise and interior noise. When the noise becomes overbearing it becomes hard to hear yourself or God. So this year I made a decision to go on a silent retreat that spanned the entire Holy Week. I had many thoughts and fears going into it. What would I discover? What would I feel? Am I "finally" being called into convent-hood? *tense pause*

Contrary to many who think silent retreats are only for those discerning the religious life, I've realized that silent retreats are necessary especially in today's fast pace rhythm of existence. A book I chanced upon in the retreat house entitled "The Shattered Lantern" gave me so many insights on why today's life is so absent of satisfaction even with the variety of opportunities and the wealth of information. Allow me to share some meaningful paragraphs I picked up from the old worn copy of Fr. Ronald Rolheiser's book.

"Today nothing seems enough for us. The simple and primal joys of living, those that Merton describes, are mostly lost as we grow ever more restless, driven, compulsive, and hyper. Within our lives there is less ease, more fever; less peacefulness and more obsessive activity, less enjoyment and more excess. These are the telltale signs of unbridled restlessness.

Being filled yet unfulfilled comes from being without deep interiority. When there is never time or space to stand behind our own lives and look reflectively at them, then the pressures and distractions of life simply consume us to point where we lose control over our lives. Furthermore this lack of interiority is largely the product of undisciplined restlessness. When we are unreflective, invariably it is because our restlessness lacks a proper asceticism and simply propels us into a flurry of activity which keeps us preoccupied and consumed with the surface of life with the business of making a living, with doing things with distractions, and with entertainment. It is the that our actions no longer issue from a center within us, but instead are products of compulsion. We do things and we no longer know why. We feel chronically pressured, victimized and hyper-driven. We overwork but are bored; socialize excessively but are lonely: and work to the point of exhaustion but feel our lives are a waste."

No, God didn't call me to convent-hood. No, I don't have a list of plans laid out for the next 5 years.

But He did invite me to do this: He invited me to live from the center of my heart because He resides in there. He invited me to let Him lead and move to His rhythm. He invited me to rest in His truth and involve Him in my every day. He invited me to live from a deeper trust that He who knows me inside out knows exactly what I need and what I long for.

It sounds vague to those who probably have never experienced a 4-day silence. But the silence forces us to face the reality of ourselves unmasked. The deepest questions surfaces and there is nothing and nobody who can answer except the One who put you there. And when you become patient enough to sit with the silence and be still enough to linger in His words, you begin to allow Him to reveal Himself to you in a way that only you can understand. And in a way that only He can assure you of.

Silence (and prayer, which was recommended for 4 hours a day) became the way in which my senses have been opened to see the sacred in the secular. It has reminded me again that there is more to life than what we see and feel from the surface of our thoughts. Silence allowed me to unclench my fists and let God lead the way into rediscovering what He wanted me to receive.

A restoration of an identity unto Himself.

There is an attractiveness that emanates from people who live with such an interior freedom. The people I met in this retreat were seekers just as I and I saw that it is possible to have this freedom as long as you create a tabernacle within for silence and meet God there.