beauty beyond brokenness

The Empathy Journey

John 16:20: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”

I prayed for wisdom and got sorrow instead.
Funny after all these years to finally realize
she was the best gift God could have given me at the time.
She followed me around like a puppy dog for years and years,
only she walked too slow and didn’t know how to play.
And believe me, she wasn’t cute or small …
She was nice enough, but I always felt like she was weighing me down with her lumbering gait …
I’m not sure why I didn’t have the heart to shake her off –
something in me felt the need to wait …
and wait and wait and wait, as patiently as I could
for her to catch up.
The thought of leaving her behind felt like an amputation –
I couldn’t abandon her,
but I loathed her at the same time …
I lamented missing all the fun because
by the time we got anywhere, the party was over,
or when we’d finally arrive, she weighed down the room,
and the crowd quickly dispersed …
Again and again, I was left alone with only her burdensome presence by my side.
So I finally surrendered and let her choose our path …
This is when the miracles started to happen –
She led me beside silent waters, sparkling and clean –
to quiet places of beauty I could have never found if I had stayed with the crowd.
She showed me natural wonders that whispered wake-up calls into the depths of my soul …
I started to trust her, and she never stopped amazing me.
I inched behind her up the skinniest, steepest trails I’d ever seen,
risking everything along stone-edged cliffs because it was worth it.
The views were pristine –
Majestic ravines of unspeakable purity energized something at the core of my being …
something essential that had been waiting patiently inside me for a very long time.
She led me into pitch black caverns, where there was nothing to do but pray
and learn to love the silence with her by my side.
In her own somber, winding way, she taught me to slow down and forgive, to let go –
to love more deeply from afar than I ever could up close-
She gave me space to make sense of things that had always troubled my soul,
which were the reasons I’d prayed for wisdom in the first place, all those years ago …

Even now, she calls me further along the treacherous winding road, and
and I will gladly follow her into the abyss of majesty, mercy and wonder,
wherever she leads.

The funny thing is now I’m the slow dog lumbering in sweetsad kindess,
looking up with peace-filled puppy dog eyes,
welcoming others to join me on the journey to the depths of reverence.
My heart smiles playfully,
imagining they probably think I’m just sadness.

Reflection
Do you create space in your life to embrace the fullness of your emotional experiences? Or, do you find yourself doing anything to avoid feeling painful emotions in yourself and others? Can you make more room to open your heart to the fullness of empathy and compassion, in order to create a more authentic spiritual connection to God? It’s worth it, I promise!

Prayer
God bless anyone reading this to have the courage to embrace the fullness of their emotions on their journey toward authentic spirituality. Help us to avoid the temptation to skim through life on the surface level, missing the joys found in a deeper relationship with self, God and others.

Action Step
Take some time to read the psalms, and journal about the ways you can relate the feelings expressed in your own journey of faith. Did you know even Jesus read the Psalms in His youth? A life of faith isn’t easy, but it is worth it for the depth of peace Christ brings to the fullness of our human experience.

 

Your broken heart can be your breakthrough

 You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
-John 16:20

Out of difficulties grow miracles.
-Jean de La Bruyère

Who longs for suffering? Only the saints. Rather than welcome sorrow, most of us would do anything to avoid it.

When pain sneaks into our hearts like a Trojan horse anyway, we may start to notice that others would do anything to avoid us because they’re as uncomfortable with our sadness as we would be with theirs.

This can complicate our grief with loneliness. When the deepest parts of our emotional experiences of are treated as untouchable by others, we can feel kind of like a leper must have in biblical times. We may be tempted to hide our pain with a happy face, but even if we manage to accomplish that, the sadness catches up with us in our quiet hours.

Anyone who has experienced grief knows that sorrow demands to be  experienced until it’s fully processed, no matter how unwelcome it is.

But paradoxically, Jesus declared “Blessed are those, who mourn.” So how can we experience the blessings Christ promised to us through our own sorrows, which ache in the very foundations of our being?

How can we begin to think like Saint Peter, who said “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4 12-13)

Here area few ideas:

1-Forgive everyone
Whether we blame God, ourselves, a loved one or a stranger, if we want to experience the blessings of grief, we have to get in touch with any feelings of resentment we’re harboring and let go of them to grow in compassion and mercy.

2-Accept everything about the situation
When we are brave enough to experience the full reality of all of our heartache and allow ourselves to feel the depths of our sorrow, rather than avoid feelings through escapism and denial, we are able to grow stronger through the grief process.

3-Open your heart to others
We can choose to cultivate empathy by developing compassion for those, who are going through similar struggles, rather than focusing entirely on our own pain.

4-Choose gratitude for what you still have
We can  open up to grace by choosing to treasure what we still have or we can become bitter, due to what we’ve lost – it’s our choice.

5-Detach from the superficial
If we allow it to, a gut wrenching loss can help us gain a big picture perspective of what’s truly important in life, rather than sweating the small stuff.

6-Embrace the spiritual side of life
When we lose what’s most important to us on the physical plane, we can grow a deeper sense of spirituality through prayer and meditation, which can never be taken from us.

7-Cultivate resilience
It’s empowering to realize we can survive a loss and faith is really all we need.

8-Embrace humility
In experiencing the powerlessness of a tragedy, we can let go of illusions of control and more fully realize our dependence on God’s grace.

9-Expect more happiness than ever before 
Our faith promises resurrection after death, blessings out of burdens, but we need to have faith to stay open to receiving them.

10-Seek wisdom
If we open up to receiving grace through hard times, even we can begin to see and experience the gifts of suffering like the saints. It may even begin to seem desirable to us for spiritual growth, like it was for them(we are all called to sainthood after all).

These aren’t easy blessings to embrace! But they truly are gifts from God, which can be attained through suffering if we pray are way through it and have the courage to lean into our feelings instead of falling into the temptation to close our hearts.

Christianity isn’t an easy road, but as the Psalmist said “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” My prayer is that you can feel His loving presence, as you work to embrace whatever difficult life lessons you’re going through, so you can more fully experience the joy He has for you.

Are you in a process of grieving? Comment below, and we’ll pray you through this challenging time. 

 

How to transform your fears into faith

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

I am a born worrier, who has been transformed by grace into a prayer warrior, who doesn’t stay stuck in fear for very long.

I credit my sensitive disposition as one of the factors that sparked my spiritual journey, which has forever enriched my life.

So if you’re a worrier, I see that as great news.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not an advocate of fear by any means. I agree with Jesus, who  advised us to “be not afraid” in a myriad of creative ways.

But I also see anxiety as an excellent launching point to grow a soul-satisfying faith life.

I mean! So many people wander the earth in a superficial way, carelessly trodding through life oblivious to people around them and the negative effects of their insensitivity.

Worriers don’t make that mistake.

Worriers  tend to be highly sensitive people, who feel things deeply and naturally want to care for others. Worriers tend to be thoughtful, compassionate and fiercely loving human beings, who are wired to pay attention to the emotional landscape all around them.

Though worriers run the risk of getting overwhelmed, it’s because they’re perceptive and brave enough to notice the heartache and risks that really do exist all around them.

I see this a good thing because we can’t pray for a problem that we don’t even know exists.

The mind of a worrier is a natural prayer list creator – we just need need to practice shifting our fears into faith, so God’s grace can start transforming us into the prayer warriors He’s calling us to be.

Here are a few habits that can begin to transform your fear into faith:

1 – Take time to quiet your mind in prayer and meditation every morning
The early hours are best for this because it’s quiet, while everyone else is sleeping. This literally can rewire your brain to be more peaceful.

2 – Cultivate mindfulness throughout the day
Pay attention to your thoughts, take more deep breaths. Notice when you’re starting to think fearfully.

3 – When you find yourself panicking, pray instead
When you pay attention to your thoughts, you have the power to shift into prayer. For example, if a news headline makes you fear war, pray for peace. When you’re concerned about a friend, cover her in prayer. When you’re afraid of losing your job, pray for God to guide you to a more secure one.

It really is this simple! Just stick with it. Grace is transformational, but it takes time to rewire our brain from worrying into warrior-ing.

Do you struggle with worry? Comment below, so we can pray for you to experience more of God’s peace in your life?  

Do you know what God is calling you to do? www.uniteinprayer.org

Answering the Calling

Did you know that poetry can be considered contemplative prayer on paper? Or in this case, contemplative prayer on a computer screen;) Dive a little bit deeper into your life of faith by pondering the meaning of the words below and reflecting on the questions afterwards. God bless you on your spiritual journey! 

This poem explores the beauty of following a calling from God, even though it takes us through times of trial. Enjoy! 

Answering the Calling

It’s like a little ball of light in your heart that glows
and gets bigger the longer you follow it.
Brighter
and bolder too.

It will help to know some things in advance.

While mesmerized by the brilliance of it,
You can fully expect to be led into dark places that terrify you
and make your soul scream with the heaviness of every emotion you’ve ever avoided.
You will ache deeply.

The light will be your only consolation until it’s gone.

One day after putting all your hope and trust in it for years and
letting go of everything else in the process,
it will disappear entirely from your view.
You will be left alone,
lost in the deepest woods to fend for yourself with no comfort.

Being prepared for this won’t make it any easier.
But please know in advance that this journey is worth the toll it takes.

You are going somewhere.
Your trust was not misplaced, and
when the light comes back it will be more radiant than the brightest dawn.

You will be illuminated with every love, joy and truth known to man.
The glistening purity will pierce your soul, and
You will know the difference between who you are and what it is

Suddenly, you will be free to do more than blindly follow:
You will become one with the light.
Others will sense something luminous in you and have an opportunity to decide for themselves.

Is there any other path to freedom?

Reflection: Have you ever thought about what your calling from God is before? Have you ever had a sense that God was nudging you to follow him in a particular way? Did you listen? Have you ever prayed to God for guidance? Do you have the courage to follow Him even if He asks you to do hard things? 

Prayer: God bless everyone reading this to hear Your calling for their life! Fill their heart with a sense of Your presence, adn give them the courage to follow Your voice, along with the strength to persevere through their highest calling from You. 

Spiritual Toolbox: If you’re still learning to tune into Divine Guidance, I encourage you to try Lectio Divina. It’s an ancient practice of diving into the Word of God in order to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. Learn more here. 

Have you found true spiritual freedom?

American Soul

Did you Did you know that poetry can be considered contemplative prayer on paper? Or in this case, a computer screen;) Dive into a deeper life of faith by pondering the meaning of the words below and reflecting on the questions afterwards. God bless you on your spiritual journey! 

American Soul

I think my soul is getting too big for this place

It’s like trying to fit a magenta sunrise over the pacific ocean
with fluffy marshmallow clouds and the joy of leaping of dolphins

into a tiny
plastic
cup,

And I don’t want anyone to try and drink
a squished version of me
or even take a tiny sip that doesn’t reflect my diversity.

I know who I am
and how long it took for me to become this radiant, enormous being

How many times did the volcano have to erupt before it created this island of my soul?
I stopped counting and surrendered into the Fire bigger than myself,
flowing out of myself.

It wasn’t my plan, it burned.
But I survived,
and here I am like the radiant dawn herself.

Now that it’s time for palm trees, cool evening breezes and wild flowering trees,
I don’t even need time anymore
or ballot boxes,

at least not to tell me who I am.

I know
politics can’t contain this love in me,
this compassion.
That tiny list of who I can vote for is a joke.

As if I could choose between unborn babies and refugees or teenage mothers with no support, who are scared to death and make a choice. Don’t get me started about the prisoners on death row …

What happened to them to stunt their growth?

I just want them ALL to come to my shores.
I want everyone to feel the breeze of Truth and Mercy that blows here
and sustained me through my own trial-filled years.
I want them to be still and rest quietly,
listening to the waves of love crashing on my rocky coastline.
I want them to bask under the gorgeousness of my stars
and begin to get a sense of their own inherent vastness.

Will I erupt again?
I don’t know,
I am not in control of this life I’ve been given,

But I have noticed how much bigger I’m getting …
I don’t fit here anymore,
It’s like trying to squeeze the size of  purple mountain majesty into a tiny box
with a check mark on it …

I am open for more.

I’m outgrowing this,
but I’m not going anywhere,
And you can’t move me either.

I’m too big for politics
but just the right size for grace
and Truth that can move mountains and create whole new spaces.

You don’t need a plane ticket or freedom, food, water or shelter to rest on my shores.
You don’t even need to know about me.
My heart is open like an island rose,
and YOU are here in my prayers, which are powerful.

I look forward to watching you grow.

Reflection:
I wrote this trying to reconcile all of my feelings about the goodness of America in contrast to the the way our political landscape has divided our nation to such a dramatic degree. I invite you to reflect on where your own spirituality fits in with your politics. I also invite you to reflect on ways you can begin to help be a healer and a peacemaker in these troubled times. Are you willing to reach out to someone, whose beliefs are different than yours to try and find common ground? Are you willing to see the best in others, even when you don’t agree? Are there ways you can bring more of God’s healing love into our troubled world? 

Prayer: 
God please bless our nation to truly be guided by Your Highest Truth, Mercy and Unconditional Love always! Heal us, bring us together as one for the common good and Your Glory. Amen. 

Copywrite Nicky Gant 2/2/2017

Do you know the feeling of being uplifted?

Christ Gave Me Wings

Did you know that poetry can be considered contemplative prayer on paper? Or in this case, contemplative prayer on a computer screen;) Dive a little bit deeper into your life of faith by pondering the meaning of the words below and reflecting on the questions afterwards. God bless you on your spiritual journey!

This poem explores themes of friendship, Christian community and taking leaps of faith. Enjoy! 

Christ gave me wings

Christ gave me wings even though I’m still on earth,
only they’re not made of feathers but friends.
They shimmer with inside jokes and thoughtful gestures.
They’re colored with personalities,
laughter and support.
If you look closely, you’ll see how glittering prayer and inspiration
are woven into their core,
strengthening them into communities and families that are powerful.
They lift me up and strengthen me to lift others too.

Christ gave me wings even though I’m still on earth,
not because I’m an angel though.
I think it’s because I stood on the edge of a cliff looking up at the stars and
down at the valley below sensing something more.
Alone and wondering what was next,
I believed in the very depth of my soul I had a future to soar to –
So I jumped,
and all these people appeared out of thin air.

I don’t have to be an angel to know the feeling of being uplifted.
It’s funny the way people can’t fly, but we do.
When we’re guided by our spirits;
When we’re brave enough to trust that invisible sense He gives us –
we find each other,
and we rise above it alldo-you-believe-god-has-a-plan-fo-ryour-life-are-you-willing-to-leap-into-the-unknown

Reflection: Do you have a strong sense of community in your life right now? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to surround yourself with supportive network of like minded people? I hope and pray that you are. Everyone deserves friends, who truly care about you and lift your spirits. I encourage you to keep the faith and keep searching until you find a strong sense of community!

Prayer: God bless anyone reading this to find a loving, supportive faith community to learn and celebrate life with!!

Gorgeous Chaos

Did you know that poetry can be considered contemplative prayer on paper? Or in this case, contemplative prayer on a computer screen;) Dive a little bit deeper into your life of faith by pondering the meaning of the words below and reflecting on the questions afterwards. God bless you on your spiritual journey! 

This poem explores the benefits of letting go of control to trust God with our lives. It also encourages us to live in the present moment and have gratitude for the little blessings life offers us. 

Gorgeous Chaos

There are some things we want
that we can’t work for to get.

Snow falls down from the sky on a Tuesday
and stops
that night without ever asking if we had enough
or even if we wanted it in the first place.

Of course, we did.
at least a part of us did;
the part that likes to gaze out the window at fluffy beauty raining down like joy …
the open part of us,
the awe and wonder.
The stalwart core of us that’s willing to embrace the cold and bundle up
to experience magic first hand at a moment’s notice,
oblivious to the bitter chill in the air.

www-uniteinprayer-org-8

There are things we can work for too.
we can set goals and accomplish them.
we can make money and keep things orderly.
we can stick to the plan no matter what’s falling from the sky.

I think we have a choice to make when snow comes.
It makes sense to decide it’s too cold and wet to go outside;
There really will be too much laundry.
But will we reject an outpouring of gifts from the heavens because of a little mess?

Who created this gorgeous chaos anyway?
Don’t you think He wants us to experience it?

who-created-this-gorgeous-chaos-anyway

I opened up the deepest chamber of my heart and made a choice.
Then suddenly, I felt something in my soul hop on her sled.
She slipped down to the edge of the yard faster than she expected.
I found her beaming at the bottom of the hill
with fluffy flakes swirling around her face like a picture frame,
expressing the purest joy.

Reflection: This poem is not about the snow!  It’s about accepting God’s grace, which isn’t always easy or practical. We all know God’s plan for our lives is more amazing than we can imagine, but we don’t all have the courage to follow it. Are you open to the gorgeous chaos of God’s vision for your life? Or are you missing the blessings because you’re so focused on being in control?

Prayer: God, give us the eyes to see the gifts and guidance you give us and the courage to accept them with open hearts and minds. Amen.