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Ink Slingers Mandi

Lead Me: Letting Go and Letting God

Lead Me Letting Go and Letting God

Imagine, your eyesight is temporarily impaired, and you are totally reliant on another to guide you.  A friend comes along to comfort you and asks to walk with you. Reluctantly, depending upon the intimacy of your relationship, you allow yourself to be led. As the two of you journey along, your friend alerts you of bumps in the road ahead, assists you safely crossing streets, stepping down curbs and climbing upstairs.  At times though, you pull away confident your way is the way. This causes you to trip or even stumble. Gently your friend pulls you back or sets you right, as you realize having someone to walk with is good. Eventually you become adept at listening for cues, even sensing the direction you are being guided next. And, after a time your bond has grown, your anxiety has lessened, and you find you are at peace.

Saint Teresa of Avila’s definition of prayer: “Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved.”  Daily prayer is necessary in order for us to mature in faith, growing closer to God. This is a discipline of the will and a devotion of the heart and mind. It is thanksgiving and petition in daily communion with God. I liken it to the everyday interaction I have with my closest friend.  When we do not habitually communicate with one another our friendship changes, our intimacy dwindles. We intentionally make time to connect in order to maintain the closeness of our relationship. Sometimes this is as simple as a text message exchange until we can catch up with one another in deeper conversation.  This connectivity is what allows us to freely spill our hearts out to one another. Prayer is like that too.  We need – no, we must carve out quiet time each day inviting God into our lives, building a friendship. 

God thirsts (John 19:28) for us. He is the first initiator of prayer. This is worth spending a lifetime meditating on.  God thirsts for us.  He initiates the conversation with us because He loves us and longs for us to fall as deeply in love with Him as He is with us.   It is so amazing!  Our God, Creator of all is pursuing a uniquely intimate relationship with each one of us.  Are we willing and intent on showing up and sharing ourselves with Him?  When we make time to offer God our hearts and minds in prayer each day, we acknowledge in faith our desire to be in relationship with Him too. Consider what may be preventing you from a deeper prayer life? And, then begin by asking God to help you come to Him freely. Maybe you have heard that saying, “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyway”. God knows. There is nothing about us that is hidden from Him and yet He loves us infinitely more than we comprehend.  To mature in faith, we should be honest and genuine with ourselves and God in prayer. We don’t need to dress it up or make it pretty.  It is our weaknesses, our fears and our failures He wants us to bring to Him, along with our gratitude and thanksgiving.  God is the Father that longs for us to stop and talk with Him about the things that fill us up and those that break our hearts. Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7). 

Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. 

Prayer is a battle. 

 Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter 

who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. 

(Catechism of the Catholic Church 2725)

Time spent in the company of friends is joyful, light work. Mostly that is true, however, there are periods when it is laborious and can feel like a chore.  In any relationship that matters, we experience seasons that require patience and endurance while working through difficulties.  This happens in our prayer life, especially when we allow our feelings to dictate the depth or quality of our conversations with God.  Our emotions are unreliable.  There will be stages when our prayer life seems insufficient and lifeless.  Yet, we must fight back discouragement and maintain faithfulness especially when we feel the absence of God’s response to our petitions.  Show up, allow God to do the work. He is patiently and unceasingly drawing us into a deeper friendship and spiritual life.

Love to pray.

If you want to pray better, you must pray more.

Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself.

St. Theresa of Calcutta

We need friends to walk with us in this everyday life.  Good, gracious friends teach us much about the bond of love. We do not know what any given day will bring us. Blessings or burdens, each a different gift from God. He is working through people and situations in our life to turn our hearts and minds to Him. Be still and know that I am God. Be not hesitant or lukewarm in opening your heart to our Father.  Be steadfast and confident God hears you. (1 John 5:14)  We are called to do God’s will as Jesus did. Love God with our whole heart and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves is what Jesus told us.  But this mission is impossible without leaning on the power and grace of God. We need Him to guide us in the way we ought to go. We cannot do this without the intimate exchange of heart-to-heart with Him. Our Father is waiting with arms wide open to embrace us. He yearns to fill us up with his goodness, joy, peace, kindness, mercy and love so that we may share our abundance with all those we encounter.  We can choose to give our whole heart or just a little; that is the battle. He thirsts for you. Be still, pray and be led. 

Recommended reading:

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Books Ink Slingers Mandi Reviews

Book Review: Can We Be Friends?

REVIEW: Can We Be Friends?

Can We Be Friends? By author Rebecca Frech is a timely book for me and my family. This book arrived for me to review the very same week my teenage daughter experienced a major blow up with a friend she has had for most of her life. And, unfortunately, this mess spilled over into my relationship with her friend’s parents. It has proven to be quite challenging to navigate. So what a gift it was to open up this book while wading through these rough waters.

Rebecca begins simply enough reminding us friendships are an absolutely beautiful and necessary part of life. In a culture that seems to increasingly isolate ourselves, it is important to remember we are created for relationships. As John Donne is often quoted, “no man is an island entire of itself.” We need one another to live a full, glorious life. We must learn how to make friends and keep friends by being a good friend. Rebecca reminds us to be attentive to whom we invite into our life as a close friend versus who we decide are best kept as acquaintances. This idea of acquaintances has fallen out of favor in our current culture of social media friend gathering. She advocates bringing that idea back into favor and I have to say I agree! She also notes how technology can both help and hinder friendships to be cultivated and grown today.

Throughout the book, Rebecca shares sweet and insightful anecdotes from her grandmother. In her grandmother’s day, it seemed much easier to find your friends. But, I imagine you still had to put the same amount of time and energy into sifting through your friendships to find the few that were authentic keepers. She helps us identify the different personalities and characteristics that make-up quality friends and build a healthy tribe. As we become intentional about creating our circle of support, it is important for us to be aware of what we are willing to invest in each unique friendship as it evolves.

As I was reading this book, I found quite a few chapters that were significant for me as I was helping my daughter to weather this current friend drama that had now affected her entire friend group. We talked over the chapter that covered establishing healthy boundaries in relationships. While also noting the importance of giving others the benefit of the doubt before becoming upset with them for something they may or may not have done. I was glad to hand off this book for her to read the short chapters with sound advice that could be easily revisited when wrestling with a situation. We both found her suggestions for realizing when it is time to call it quits useful, in light of the current situation.

I would recommend Rebecca Frech’s book Can We Be Friends?  It is a quick read that includes many touching stories and reliable advice on maintaining and discovering friendships. As I am packing up our current home to relocate to the other coast, I am going to keep this book within easy reach. I think I may need the encouragement to get out there and find my people to build up a new circle of friends in our new hometown.  I might even gift a few of these books to some young ladies I know heading off to college this fall!

You can purchase Can We Be Friends? from Our Sunday Visitor.

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Ink Slingers Mandi

Who is My Master?

Who Is My Master?

“Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:13-15

We are slaves to many things in our daily lives; work, commutes, money, material goods, physical fitness, sex, food, sports, entertainment… even family life and religion can become our master. I only have to look at what is consuming my mind and my time to identify what or who it is I serve. While I must work to provide the necessities of life, I must not allow myself to be lost to the work. It is a tricky balancing act. I can easily become overwrought with the endless to-do list ever looming over me. It can be exhausting. I become agitated, weary, and anxious; in fear of never getting it all done. I am a gerbil on the treadmill of life. I am in need of rest.  

“Remember that you too were once slaves…and the Lord, your God, brought you out… with a strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” 

He delivered us. His majestic arm is outstretched to us. He is calling us to come to Him, to rest in Him, to seek Him. I know I need rest. Not merely rest but renewal. After a long day and even longer week, I need to be revived. To where should I go for this rejuvenation? Do I go to my bed? Or maybe I head to the gym or the spa? Will I find it in the mall or in food or alcohol? Or will it be seen in mindlessly watching episode after episode of my latest favorite Netflix binge? Have any of these activities ever left me feeling reinvigorated or transformed for the better? Do they fill my heart with the sense of wonder that comes with acknowledging that all I have and am, comes from a gracious and loving God who thirsts for me? He longs for us with an outstretched arm to come to Him; rest in Him. Our Creator desires our attention. And, He commands us to make the Sabbath day holy. 

Sunday is Church day. It is the day of the Lord. He commanded it for our good. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…” (Mark 2:27). Our bodies and our minds need to be set free from the things of this world. Our spirit needs to be reset and strengthened. It is not for God’s benefit that I should choose to suspend all activity and turn toward the Lord, glorifying Him. I offer all the stuff of my life- the good and the bad- to Him in praise and thanksgiving. In my coming to Him, He heals my brokenness, He nourishes my soul. He lifts me up and lightens my burdens. And, it is for my betterment that my attention is focused on Him. Naming the graces in my life creates in me a grateful more generous heart. My mind and spirit are awakened; reminding me that my thoughts and actions are often self-centered rather than God-centered.

I expend my energy on many things, some fruitful and others not so much. Am I, as St. Ignatius of Antioch described to early Christians, “living in accordance with the Lord’s Day”? Am I building my days, weeks and life around this holy day and the commands of the Lord? Is the rhythm of my daily routine set around seeking God? Freedom to choose is an extravagant thing. I may consciously or not choose all sorts of things to be my master, but none will fill me with the magnificent beauty and peace that is an encounter with our Lord. We breathe because He loves us. We exist because He said it was good. Simply put we are His. Why then, am I searching anywhere else for the peace and joy only He provides? It is a lack of humility in me. Humility says He is God and I am not. A humble heart can see the gifts in all things good or terrible. When I don’t stop to praise God who is everything, my vision has become obscured and I cannot see the abundant blessings all around me.

We ought to go to Church on Sunday not because it fulfills a commandment or because we fear we will anger God, but because we desire to. We need to gather together and sing praises of thanksgiving for a God who has delivered us, set us free. I need and want to celebrate the many wonders and blessings He has done for me. The Sabbath day is for me to seek God, to joyfully pour out my tired and weary soul on the altar, humbly asking our Lord to make me new. Participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer for us as Catholics. Our prayers are joined together and lifted up to the Lord around the world. We are united with Jesus in a special way in the Eucharist. The peace my heart has been longing for is found there, so completely. It is a beautiful gift for which I am unworthy. God is with us indeed. It is a miracle that leaves me in awe. I am so moved I am often brought to tears. My heart and soul experience a joy, a peace, and a love that is so awesome it cannot and should not be contained. This love, this joy, must be lived and shared. It must not remain behind in the pew but be carried out into the world to be seen and heard. The attention I give to Sunday, the Sabbath day, is not about an obligation I must fit into my week but it is about the longing of my heart; my soul which is seeking the One who loves perfectly.  

“’Living in accordance with the Lord’s Day’ means living in the awareness of the liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant self-offering to God, so that His victory may be fully revealed to all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.” ~Pope Benedict XVI