Category Archives: spirituality

The Difference Prayer Makes

While sitting on my deck early this morning and feeling overwhelmed, this prayer said out loud helped me breathe evenly again. Prayer is the one daily ritual I practice that keeps me above my circumstances

The Difference–by Grace L Naessensimage

” I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task;
“Why doesn’t God help me?”
I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on gray and bleak;
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”

I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys in the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.”
– Grace L. Naessens

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Making Sense of Good Friday

This is a powerful day in history of humanity.
Sometimes it’s easy to just let the day slip by. As a kid growing up in an Italian home ‘venerdi santo’ (good Friday) meant being quiet, not turning on TV, and eating fish, and going to 3 pm Mass, the hour Jesus died. To be honest, I rarely understood, but over 50 years later, those memories linger and mean a lot more to me now that I have encountered my Lord Jesus many times.

Years ago I read a wonderful story in a book I cannot now recall the author. It’s about a little boy who sacrifices himself to save his little sister.

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a lovely little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare life threatening disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had somehow survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Would you and I be that quick to give something precious and valuable of our own to add value to someone else?

 

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Measuring Your Life on a 24 Hour Clock

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Measuring Your Life on a 24 Hour Clock

The brevity of life is one of the harshest realities of life.  During the summers my wife and I vacation in Southampton, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron.  In the winters we like to vacation on the Gulf coast in Venice, Florida.  Both locations have many things in common but one that hits me every time is the benches along the boardwalks.  They usually have the birth date and death date of some person.  And I often find my self pausing and wondering what that person’s life amounted to.

What happened in the ‘dash’ the ‘in between’ the birth date and death date?

There’s a fitting line from the movie Gladiator where Maximus the Roman general says just before a climatic battle, “What we do in this life, echoes in eternity.”

Who hasn’t taken inspiration to live a greater life from that one line?

Australian minister Mark Conner uses a thought-provoking illustration to demonstrate the brevity of our lives with the 24-hour clock.

If life were a 24-hour clock, what time is it for you? When we were born the clock began to run. When we die, the clock stops running. What if we get only 24 hours on our clock of life? Under these rules, what time is it in your life? Is it 10:00 am, noon, 5:00 pm or is it nearly midnight?

According to the World Bank, life expectancy for an average human being is currently numbered at 78.4 years.  If 78.4 years represents our average life span, we can assume our clock will hit 24 hours when we reach that age. We have 24 hours of time to live and it will take us 78.4 years to live that 24 hours.  Therefore, each hour will be represented by 3.267 years of life lived (78.4 years divided by 24 hours of our life clock).

  • When your 24-hour clock reaches 3 A.M. you will have lived almost 10 years of life.
  • When you reach the age of 20 years old your 24-hour clock reads 6:24 in the morning.
  • At 30 years of age, it’s just after 9:00 am in the morning
  • At 40 years of age, it’s past noon for you.
  • A person 50 years old is looking at the clock and it shows a time of 3:18 pm. That person is approaching dinner time in their life. They have less than 9 hours remaining in life on their 24-hour clock.
  • A person 60 years old is looking at the clock and it shows a time of 6:22 pm in the evening. That person has less than 6 hours remaining on their 24-hour life clock

The point is, whatever you’re going to do with your life you’d better get on it because time is running out.  The other point is, if you’re not doing something with your life it really doesn’t matter how many days you’ve got left anyway.

So what are you going to do with 2014?   How will this year be any different?  How many of you would like 2014 to be better than 2013?

Last year may have been a tough year.  Perhaps for some of our readers it was  a year of challenges, a year of choices.  It was a year of changes.  It was a year of some crises.  The fact is for some of you 2013 was a disappointment.  For some, you experienced a loss, maybe you lost a loved one.  Maybe for some of you 2013 was a year of a failure.

The good news is this: With a new year we get to start over.  In my view of the world, the good Creator brings us life in bite sized pieces, in hours and days and months. Every year we get to wipe the slate clean and start with a brand new year.  It’s like starting over.  And that’s good news.

How will 2014 be better than 2013?  The key is this, you’ve got to have a plan.  You don’t just enter 2014 and say, “I hope it’s going to be better.”  You’ve got to have a plan to make it better.

The great biblical sage Solomon wrote in our vernacular, “An intelligent person aims at wise actions, but a fool starts off in many directions.” Ouch.

For many of us that may describe 2013.  We were headed off in many directions.  The key word above is “aims”.  That means they have a goal, an objective, an aim, a target.  Have you set any goals for 2014?  Or are you just going to walk into this year and hope it’s better?  You’ve got to have a plan.

A few days or weeks from the start of the new year I would like to offer an oversimplified plan to get you jump started in the direction of some ‘wise aims’ or goals for 2014.  But before we do that let me quickly give you four steps and call them the “A, B, C, D’s for maximizing the coming year. These may seem oversimplified but they may be what you need to ‘jumpstart’ you.

And if you’re really keen you might even want to enlist a life development coach to get you moving from ‘here to there’.

A – Accept responsibility for my life.

This is something that is hard for many people to do. Some people would rather blame someone else for the problems and difficulty in their lives. These are people that go around looking for someone who will accept responsibility for them. Someone who will accept responsibility for the way they live their lives and the choices they make. When things don’t turn out the way they hope, they have someone they can blame.

Accepting responsibility for one’s life is not a popular concept in our society, because we live in a culture that embraces a concept called “political correctness”. This basically says, “None of your problems are your fault. Everything bad in your life is somebody else’s fault. Blame the environment. Blame the educator. Blame your parents. Blame anybody else, but it’s not your fault.” If you get in an accident, it’s never your fault. If you spill some hot coffee on yourself, sue McDonalds; it’s their fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault. We will never be a success in life and we will never make our lives count if we have the attitude that it’s someone else’s fault. We must accept responsibility for our own lives.

An ancient scripture says,  “Each person must be responsible for himself.””

The timeless truth is this: I am responsible for my own life, if I like it or not.

All of us reading this face two kinds of circumstances.

· Those circumstances which we have no control over. None of us knows what we will face throughout this coming year. There are certain things that are going to happen regardless of what you do and how you plan your year. That is no excuse for not being prepared or having a plan. (Example of some things that we have no control over: We have no control over the weather, the economy, the companies that we work for, or the words and action of others.)
· There are some circumstances that we face as a result of my own choices, actions or lack of actions. (Example: I’ve known people that have had financial problems because they quit their job and didn’t have another job to go to. The reason they quit their job is because they didn’t like it or someone made them mad. Then when things got tight, money and food was low, these people blamed their family, the church or someone in the church because their family, the church or someone in the church refused to accept the responsibility for the decisions and actions of those people. What they really wanted was someone to accept responsibility for their lives and bail them out of trouble. There are people like that in the world. I am not talking about someone who through no fault of his or her own fell on hard times. I’m talking about someone that did something without considering the consequences of his or her actions and how these actions would affect others around them.
· While we may not be in control of all the circumstances that we will face this coming year, we do have control of how we will act and respond to them.

Rick Warren, author of best selling Purpose Driven Life says there are three kinds of people in the world. I’m sure there’s more but this is a good list.

· There are accusers.
· There are excusers.
· There are choosers.

There are accusers. They always blame everybody else for their problems. Their favorite phrase is, “It’s all your fault.” It’s never my fault. It’s someone else’s fault.

There are the excusers.
Excusers are people that always have an excuse for not making a decision or doing something. There’s always a reason why they can’t make the most or get the most out of their year. In the long run they end up being the losers. I’ve discovered that whenever I want to procrastinate on something, any excuse will do. The good book says, “A lazy person is full of excuses.”

There are the choosers,
they say, “I choose to accept responsibility for my own life, goals and happiness. I’m not dependent upon somebody else. I choose the direction of my life.” I’m not depending upon the crowd. If we do this, we will already be a jump ahead in 2014.

B – Believe I can change

Stop saying, “I can’t” and start saying, “I can”. The person that believes that they can change with the help of God will change.  Although I love the little story of the engine that could, I do believe we all need divine help if we are going to truly change.

We all get that ‘divine help’ through a variety of places. I recommend everyone explore this part of their life.  Once one gets clear on what is their foundation, what is their center it gives a whole new momentum for optimizing one’s life.

Maybe you were raised in a religion of some kind and found it useless and you moved on. Unfortunately, you didn’t replace it with anything.  I would recommend one of your goals might be to go back and see what you left, and if it’s still wanting, then go on and explore some other ‘place’ for meaning and significance.

We are remarkable human beings. There’s nothing I can’t master! That means there’s nothing you and I are going to hit in the next 365 days, no problem, no situation, no circumstance, no hassle that we can’t handle, that we can’t manage, that we’re not competent to handle with the help and strength our Creator gives us

Many people never succeed in life because they believe they can’t change. They never enjoy life because life to them is just one big failure after another. They face a new year with regret rather than the joy of knowing that the good Lord wants to help them.

I have a theory about New Year parties.  This is a bit tongue in cheek, but see what you think.  I believe I have discovered why there are so many New Year parties were people get so drunk they can’t see straight. They get drunk to forget the past year and because they are afraid to face the New Year.

Generation X prophet Douglas Coupland wrote these words over 20 years ago but I think they are still so true for people today—

My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

I don’t know what your values are around belief in a Creator, but I think Coupland speaks to a sense that many people have.
With the help and grace of God I can overcome the past and face the future. I have a new handle on life for this coming year. I believe and know I can change.

C – Clarify what I really want

You must decide what’s important and what’s not important. We have been given each of us an incredible gift called the freedom to choose, the freedom of choice. This is one of the ways that we are different from animals, we have the freedom to choose between good and evil. We have the freedom to choose what we want in life.

The only way can clarify what we really want is to make a list and decide what is important and what is not.

It’s amazing most people never do this. They never stop and think through and write down on paper what’s really important to them. Maybe some of you have never done this. You’ve never written down the things that are important to you. You must ask yourself,
What’s important to me? ” What really counts? We can’t do what’s important until we clarify what’s important. Otherwise you’re going to be pushed around by the pressures of life doing this and that then all of a sudden the year is over and you’re saying, “ Where did the year go?”
Your values determine your vision. Your desires determine your direction. Your roles determine your goals.

Most people have never made up their mind what they want out of life and if you aim at nothing, you’re going to hit it. Most people have this vague feeling of, “I just want to be happy.” But they’ve never really sat down and figured out what is it that’s going to make me happy? What does the Creator want me to do with my life? Why am I here? They’ve never written out their values.

I want to challenge each of you to, make a list of things that are important to you, a list of things that you want to accomplish. What do I value? What do I want to change? Put it down. Then make this your reflection list. Pin it up on a wall and review it everyday and reflect on it. Then make a plan of action that will help you accomplish your goals for this year. Then do what ever you have to, to make and get the most of this coming year. Then see if any  miracles occur in your life. Clarify what you really want.

There are some things in life that we will do that are permissible but may not be necessarily to our advantage. There will be some things that all of us will do this year that will not benefit us at all.

We are going to have to make a decision between what is good and what is better. Between what is better and what is best. There are many that we can do, but not all of them will be beneficial. Some things aren’t necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary. We don’t have time for everything. We need to clarify the two or three things that we’ve got to get done this year. What are the things that are really important?

May I suggest two or three things that need to be at the top of your list?

· Your spirituality or what I call my relationship with God. What are you going to do this year to strengthen and improve your relationship with God? What are you going to do to become more intimate with this Being?
· Your relationships with family and friends and colleagues.

What are you going to do to build a stronger and better relationship with your family? What are you going to change about yourself that will help you to accomplish this?
· Your relationship with a faith community if that’s important to you—a church, a synagogue, a temple, a self help support group. What are you willing to do to improve the quality of your community?
These are the three things that I have heard people on their deathbed, wish they had given greater priority to. I have never heard anyone say, “ I wish I had spent more time at the office, at work or building my career.

So, Clarify what’s important.

D – Don’t wait to begin.

Do it now! These three words can change your life. Do it now. If you and I wait for the right situation or the right kind of circumstances we will miss out on life all together. There will never be an ideal set of circumstance to start out on. To make the most of 2014 and to accomplish the things you want to accomplish, start now. Don’t wait to begin.

An ancient proverb says,  “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

We always say, “ When things settle down.” Or “When things get better.” The problem is things may never settle down or get any better. That’s called life! If you’re out there using that as an excuse, “ When things settle down or get better, I’m going to start having a daily quiet time to reflect on my life, you’re never going to do it.

You learn to reflect  and pray when things are unsettled and not so good. “When things settle down, I’m going to spend more time with my kids.” They’ll be grown and gone!

There are a lot of people that have missed out on life waiting for the ideal set of circumstance or waiting for things to get better. While they were waiting, time just kept right on going and passed them by.

We must learn to enjoy life under circumstances that are less than perfect. Whatever you’re going to do, that which you want to do, start now! Because things may not settle down or get better until you’re in the coffin.

Some of you are saying to yourself, “ I’m going to make the most of this New Year. I am going to set some goals and accomplish them. Right now you are being motivated, you are pumped up to make the most of this year. However when you turn this program off, there will be no one to motivate you or to encourage you. You have to determine right now that it doesn’t matter what happens or what comes your way, this is going to be the best year yet. What kind of person will you be this year?

So as you discover what time your life is at on the 24 hour clock, don’t just sit there and sulk about it. Do something about it.  Get a jumpstart on the new year by considering some of these ideas.

One of the best examples of a perfectly balanced human being was Jesus of Nazareth. Whether you are religious or not, Jesus is a pattern for many of us in basic human relationships.  Below is a view of his life from infancy and an expression of how he grew through the various stages and areas of life.  Perhaps this brief model could be a way of you formulating some initial goals for 2014.

MY PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in

favor with God and favor with men.”  Lk. 2:52

  • INTELLECTUAL:  What do I want to learn in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Do yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper.”

  • PHYSICAL:  What will improve my health in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Being cheerful keeps you healthy.  It is a slow death to be gloomy all the time.”

  • SPIRITUAL:  What will deepen my relationship to God in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “Grow in spiritual strength.”

  • SOCIAL:  What will be my service to others in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: “God has given you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other…”

Who will I be close friends with in 2014?

Timeless Wisdom: Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

Graduation, Holy Determination and Spiritual Direction

imagephoto-4This  last weekend my beloved wife of 37 years—-Rosetta— walked across the platform to receive her Masters of Theological studies degree, after a four year journey of focused study, tenacity to finish, and to do it with excellence.  What’s most impressive is that 8 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her rigorous radiation and chemo treatments, she decided to invest in her future by committing to an academic graduate degree. Her focus of study is in being a certified director, and she has already initiated her practice. Her clients speak well of her gentle and insightful approach to how she assists them in aligning their lives with God’s purpose for them.

I loved talking to one of Rosetta’s ‘clients’ who came to see her mentor graduate. She told me, ‘Rosetta is very wise and good at directing me’.

Rosetta has begun her practice of spiritual direction and if you are interested in exploring what a spiritual director could do for you, see her website at http://www.seterjourneys.com

Thanksgiving Prayer by Soren Kierkegaard

Thanksgiving Prayer by Soren Kierkegaard

A Thanksgiving Prayer from Kierkegaard

“Father in heaven! You hold all the good gifts in your gentle hand. Your abundance is richer than can be grasped by human understanding. You are very willing to give, and your goodness is beyond the understanding of a human heart, because you fulfill every prayer and give what we pray for or what is far better than what we pray for. Give everyone [their] allotted share as it is well pleasing to you, but also give everyone the assurance that everything comes from you, so that joy will not tear us away from you in the forgetfulness of pleasure, so that sorrow will not separate you from us, but in joy we may go to you and in sorrow remain with you, so that when our days are numbered and the outer being is wasting away, death may not come in its own name, cold and terrible, but gentle and friendly, with greetings and news, with witness from you, our Father who is in heaven! Amen.”

– Kierkegaard, opening prayer to “Strengthening in the Inner Being,” from Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses

The New Serenity Prayer

No doubt many of us have seen the traditional Serenity prayer, often displayed in old church basements where AA or NA meetings are taking place.

This week I really enjoyed reading Fr James Martin’s fresh rendition of the Prayer which he simply called ‘the New Serenity Prayer’. And because I tend to talk too much and say things that aren’t needful, this prayer stops me from gushing when it’s not necessary.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Amen

“Only for Today’ Rules for Daily Living by Pope John XX111

I enjoyed reviewing this ‘handy list’ of daily commandments that Ronald Rolheiser posted.He provides a nice summary of the late Pope John XXIII  ‘decalogue’ for daily living.

Whether you acknowledge popes or not, you have to admit these ’10 rules for daily living’ will inspire you to pursue excellence in your personal life, and in your relationships with others.

This Decalogue for Daily Living that Pope John XXIII wrote for himself, his own Commandments for daily life  reflect his depth, his simplicity, and his humility:

1) “Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world buy also in this one.
4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world
10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours, I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.”

In the North America there is an ongoing debate about the value or non-value of posting the Ten Commandments in certain public places. Proponents argue that, as a culture founded on Judeao-Christianity, we owe it to ourselves and our children to post publicly our essential moral code. Opponents argue that this isn’t fair to other religions and, beyond that, we would serve ourselves better by posting the Beatitudes, the real challenge that awaits us beyond the Ten Commandments.

The most important part of this dialogue is that we internalize these ‘rules’ and let them infuse our lives with meaning every day.

A True Friendship

Recently my friend Matthew Eckert wrote a blog post reflecting on 26 years of relating to me. He entitled it “Be a Luch to someon”. I found this overwhelmingly honouring.  I only pray I will continue to be worthy of this tribute.  Enjoy Matthew’s post below.

 

 

True Friends: Be a Luch to someone

 

DSC_0214I recently shared the stage at a conference with my friend, mentor, ministry partner and colleague, Luch. He delivered one of his passionate talks at the conference of which I too was able to present. It was fun to do it together. In fact, we’ll be sharing the stage again in a couple of months along with his wife Rosetta.

Luch and I have connected for a long time – more than 25 years actually. I was in second year university when I met him at another event where he was speaking. During one of the breaks I told him that I wanted him to journey with me, to teach me how to be a disciple of Jesus. For the next three years Luch met with me on a regular basis. He taught me the importance of a daily “quiet time” with God – actually he modelled it more then taught it. He demonstrated to me the importance of prayer. I recall one occasion where we walked around one of the sports fields at the University of Guelph for at least 30 minutes praying and talking and looking at scripture as Luch helped me gain insight into a decision I needed to make at the time; as Luch said, we couldn’t gain insight without prayer and he wanted to live that out with me.

On more than one occasion Luch got annoyed with me and called out my laziness and lack of commitment to the discipleship process – I didn’t like him for it at the time, but he was always right. You see, that’s what people do when they care about you, they don’t want you to settle for second best.

Since those years at the University of Guelph our paths have crossed on many occasions. Sometimes we go extended periods without connecting, but when we do get together we simply pick up where we left off. We never have a problem going deep on a topic or with each other, we just know that we can trust each other and that we have each others’ back.

Since my initial 3-year journey with Luch, I’ve had the privilege of being a “Luch” to a lot of other guys. I’ve done my best to give to them what I have received. Some of these guys have become great friends like Luch and me. I can trust them fully, I know that they are there for me. Many of them have chosen to give to others what I gave to them because of what Luch gave to me. You see, it never ends, this process of discipleship always continues to the next generation.

We love the verse in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men, who will also be qualified to teach others as well.”

It’s what we do, it’s what we will always do. O that you would be so fortunate to have a Luch in your life. If you have not, why not start the process and be a Luch to someone, you will never be disappointed.

For the kingdom.

Waking Up My Soul in the Morning

I am enjoying waking up my soul each morning. I find I cannot face my day without first taking some time to invest in my spirit.  Throughout my day I will be ‘facing giants’, and God knows, I want to be prepared to thrive not just survive my day.

Ken Blanchard, the One Minute author guru, talks in his spiritual life story, We are the Beloved, that every morning he has a ritual of ‘waking up his soul’. Just like we splash water and soap on our face in the a.m, maybe even shower, so we need to ‘wash up the soul’ with some journaling, reflective spiritual reading, and whatever else nourishes your inner person.

No one said it better than C. S Lewis in Mere Christianity, the value of ‘listening to the Other Voice’ in midst of the noise that comes rushing at us in our day.

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” (Mere Christianity)

i don’t know about you but my personality can get gripped by my many ‘fussings and frettings’.  Taking time to wake up my soul is ‘coming in out of the wind.’ How good is that!!Why not try setting aside 5-10 minutes each morning this week.

Resource:http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Beloved-Spiritual-Journey/dp/0310488206

The Only Necessary Thing

While on a wedding vacation to Florida, I have had some extra time to be alone with my Creator.  My regular positive ritual includes my daily 2 cups of morning java, along with finding a quiet spot where I hide myself away and journal my thoughts, prayers, and so some spiritual reading from the Scriptures as well as some other enriching spiritual reading.

Currently my reading is from my favourite author, Henri Nouwen.  His book is so good that most of my pages are underlined in yellow marker.

Here’s a sampling of some of the contents of that book.

What is Silence and Solitude?

Henri Nouwen (from The Only Necessary Thing): Solitude is not just a private therapeutic place where we go to escape the noise and demands of the world. Solitude is a place where we meet with God and God alone. In solitude we get to spend quality time with our truest Lover, Maker and Father. We walk with Him and talk with Him and He tells us who we are in this place of silence.

It is also a place where we meet our true selves. As the world’s voices fade and we cease from our striving, self-defining/self-affirming action we are left naked and vulnerable. Our true self is exposed in all its ugliness, sin and uselessness. Here we are everything that we have been avoiding and covering up. All of the emotional junk that we have thrown into the closet is laid bare here. But this is actually a gift because it is exactly here that we meet and experience the grace of God in its fullness!

Finally, solitude is a place of freedom. In solitude we are exposed to the truth that we are exactly who God made us to be and all that we have to be is His child. As we bathe in God’s rich grace and begin to accept our true identity in Christ we are set free. We are freed from the need to show others what we have and what we can do. The desire to hide and seek fulfillment from empty jugs dies here. Here in solitude, we are freed up to be people who raise empty hands to God in recognition that all we are is a free gift from God.

What happens in solitude that makes it so vital for our health?

Henri Nouwen (The Only Necessary Thing): It has been estimated that we encounter somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand ads a day from multiple forms of media. All of these ads are attempting to tell us: who we are and what we should be pursuing. That is a powerful shaping force! We need a counter balance if we hope to live our lives with and for Jesus. Solitude is the vehicle for this counter balance. Solitude makes living a spiritual life possible.

Silence and solitude makes us available to God. The noise and business of life crowds out our ability to hear from God and seek Him in any meaningful way. By getting alone and quieting ourselves we shut out all the distractions and give God our full attention. This is the place where God can shape us into the people He wants us to be.

Solitude also restores our dependence on God. As we get alone we become increasingly aware of our own weaknesses and sin. This is a good thing. The more we realize that we are not capable of living for God on our own the more we discover our absolute dependence on God.

Finally, solitude provides us a place to rediscover our true identity in Christ. The world is constantly trying to shape us into a form that it desires us to be. The world fuels our false self. In solitude God reminds us that we are His creation, His precious child, the objects of His faithful love. Without this reminder we are doomed to accept a spiritually weak life with far less joy than was intended for us by God.

When we emerge from silence and solitude we are freshly charged with a renewed sense of purpose. We have a renewed sense of confidence and strength that comes not from ourselves but from God. And we have a renewed joy that flows from the understanding that we are possessed and loved by our Great Father. Filled and blessed we are no longer dependent on others or ourselves. We are free and even encouraged to love others with the same generous love that we just received from God.