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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Prayer

Removing Distractions, Seeking God

February2014CSPostLife is full of distractions. Anything and everything around us can be a distraction to something else. Some are good distractions (our kids being silly and distracting us from some household chore that can likely wait while we enjoy the distraction). Some distractions are neutral in that maybe they would be considered a waste of time in some instances, but in others they simply provide a welcome respite from a busy day. And then there are the negative distractions, the ones that pull us away from the good things in our lives.

Lately I’ve been more aware of the negative distractions in my life. I’ve been home on maternity leave since December, enjoying time with my newest bebe and the welcome break from my work. During these last few weeks of my leave I finally feel well enough to do more around the house, to get out to run errands and meet up with friends, and overall I just feel more like myself. Through all of this, I have had more time to evaluate things in my life, something I never get to do while balancing family and work, and I’ve taken more notice of the things that have become negative distractions. I have come to the stark realization, therefore, that there are things in my life that have to go.

Begone. Scram. Outta here!

For me, right now, I’m looking at the time wasted in front of the TV, my time online, and the piles of stuff I accumulate that need to be read, filed, or tossed. Those are the most looming at the moment. The most important realization in contemplating these negative distractions is how they affect my prayer life and my relationship with Christ.

That relationship is something I have been seeking for a long time. It’s something I greatly desire. And yet, no matter how much I desire it and seek it out, I feel like I haven’t grown in this area at all. And it’s not for want of trying. But there is an element I keep missing:

A regular, scheduled prayer time.

I’ve always taken a casual approach to prayer, basically that I will fit it in during the day “at some point.” You know what happens when you do that, right? Yea, I’m sure you do! We’ve all done it, I’m sure. You say you’ll spend time in prayer “at some point.” The first day you spend a bit of time in prayer after the kids go down for a nap. The next day you get it in before bed. Then you remember after you’ve climbed into bed, you tell yourself you’ll do it in the morning but mid-way through the day you realize you once again forgot. Slowly it becomes harder and harder to fit it in or you forget completely or something else distracts you and before you know it things start to unravel.

Calendar-Clip-Art-FreeI schedule almost everything in my life. If it’s not on my calendar, it won’t get done. I’m also a list maker. There are three lists at work: a yearly “big projects” list, a monthly goals list, and a weekly to-do list divided up by each day of the week (which technically could be considered two lists in one). At home I also have at least one to-do list, sometimes two. I keep an electronic calendar at work which syncs with my iPod Touch calendar. At home we also have a wall calendar and I try to put everything from the wall calendar on my electronic calendar as well. Most things on the electronic calendar also have 15 or 30 minute alarms set. And the older I get, the more I rely on all these calendars and lists and alarms.

You know what the one thing is that is not on any of my lists or my calendars/schedules? Prayer!

You know what else is not on my to-do list? Watching TV, reading blog posts, sifting through Facebook, and playing online games. And yet I somehow manage to do all those things, practically daily.

They are all distractions. That has been my (oh so obvious!) conclusion. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out, but sometimes genius thoughts escape me. Oh, who am I kidding, genius thoughts never get anywhere near this girl.

It’s easy to get in a rut. And when that happens it’s easy to not see the obvious. I kept looking at prayer as something to add to my day, on top of everything else I was already doing. Instead, I need to refocus, get rid of the distractions, and make prayer a priority. A better prayer life will lead to a better relationship with God, which will in turn also lead to a healthy family life.

After thinking through all of this I realized that I have a good opportunity to start working on this. Lent is coming!! Less than two weeks from now we’ll be starting the penitential season of Lent. It’s a good time to work on a more intimate relationship with Christ. So this year, my husband and I have decided to give up TV.

As we approach Lent and you start thinking about what you are going to “give up,” I challenge you to consider this idea of “giving something up” as a way to clear the cobwebs and distractions from your life so as to have a clearer path for seeking a more intimate relationship with God. Hopefully in giving something up for Lent we are doing so in order to gain something else. That’s what I’ll be doing this year.

What distractions in your life are keeping you from bettering your relationship with God? Will you take those distractions into consideration when discerning what you will be doing this Lent?

If you need suggestions for things to do in Lent, check out last year’s Handy Dandy Resource Guide to Lent.

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Colleen Offering your suffering Prayer

On Loneliness

We live in a world of busyness, a bustling world filled with constant music and TVs and talking and noise, a world where we can communicate instantly via cellphone or the internet. We can play a game with a stranger in China, or video chat with a relative in Germany. We can seek friendships with those who live across two oceans. And yet, despite the billions of other people in this world, hundreds of coworkers and fellow parishioners and neighbors, dozens of friends and family members… sometimes we just feel lonely.

We may have a disagreement with our spouse which leaves us frustrated and annoyed. We get into a discussion with coworkers that leaves us feeling persecuted for our religious beliefs. A series of misfortunes leave us feeling beaten down and financially strapped. And we feel so alone. We have no one to sympathize with us, or at least, no one who can quite understand the depth of our struggles. We cry out to God, beseeching him to fix our problems, to make us happy again. Does He not want us to be happy? Why do the hurts of this world pierce our soul so deeply? And why does God allow us to feel lonely?

As humans, we are made to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him in the next. God allows us to be lonely because He desires that we seek Him. If we could float through life completely fulfilled by the things of this world, then what need would we have of God? As St. Gerard Majella said, “Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?” Loneliness is not a punishment, but rather, a manifestation of the soul’s desire to be in union with God. He wants us to seek Him in our struggles, give Him our whole hearts, to rely on Him and to trust in His goodness alone.

It is the nature of the human soul to seek companionship. As C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” We find other souls who understand us, who share similar values, with the same sense of humor or the same love of coffee or of 19th century British literature, and we bond. We spend countless hours discussing, laughing, sharing. The same illustrious author said, ““Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”

But even with our good, godly friendships, sometimes a sense of loneliness pervades our soul. We can never find true peace and fulfillment in the things or the people of this world, no matter how beautiful or wonderful they may be. Any consolation we receive from a friend, any love they show us comes from God through them, for “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)

A true friend consoling us in a time of need is a balm for a weary soul. If we are surrounded by faithful companions in a time of struggle, we are truly blessed. What a grace we have been given to help us through our difficulty! But if we are struggling and feeling the sting of loneliness, it is God’s gentle way of encouraging us to seek Him. He can heal the deep wounds of our soul, and He alone fulfills our inner longings. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him, says St. Augustine. Seek Christ. Visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament, receive Him in Holy Communion, seek His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. He heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). Allow Him to fill your emptiness. Do not despair, for “He who has God finds he lacks nothing – God alone suffices.” (St. Teresa of Avila)

“I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.” – J.R.R. Tolkien