prayer

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

On the occasion of George Floyd’s burial today.

I have wanted to write something to help uncover our racial narrative for my Christian white friends who are asking,

“How am I a part of the racial dichotomy of America (world)? Do I have a part to play and what is it?”

These are deep questions that hold great potential, and stymies many. I have found that often the way forward is illumined when we spend some time with God in our personal past. We all have unconscious structures of felt belief that guide our choices. We must uncover our racial narrative for it is a prime place for such hidden drivers.

We are, as a nation, at a point of magnified recollection and reflection. God is shining light in dark places to do a deep work of transformation. Every one of us is a part of it, no matter how distanced we feel or think we are from the racial issues in our society. It is imperative that we non-racist whites, specifically, do some deep reflecting, allowing God’s spirit to move us into better awareness and action. It is brave and difficult work, largely unseen by the world, but its ramifications will certainly change the shape of our lives and those of our society as we remain faithful to it. Ours is to walk with God into our memories, our unconscious structures, and have our eyes opened by his healing Spirit.

Many, including maybe you, agree racism is wrong and don’t want to be a part of it, yet are unaware of how it’s been present in our lives. We are grappling with saying “This is mine.” We have not made slurs, avoided blacks or browns, preferred whites, done violence, or withheld care. Have we? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Often we aren’t aware of times we’ve participated in a racial slant toward white and away from anyone else.

I deeply believe that God is working in us always to make us whole, and to bring wholeness in our divided culture. This is necessary work. We have a special invitation at this time in our collective history to dive into our personal histories with him and partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing wholeness into fruition. Let us not give up in doing good, deep work with him, spurring one another on towards good deeds to love kindness, act justly and walk humbly with our God. I hope and pray that you will join me and the Holy Spirit in this reflection activity to uncover your racial narrative. I pray for the Spirit to bring his liberation to your being, revealing the beautiful truth he has placed in you with the eyes to see the beautiful truths of others.

 

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

Begin by reading Psalm 139 meditatively. Allow the words that stand out to you to linger between you and God. Consider why they resonate. Ask God for his light, recognize his steady “for you” presence, thank him for desiring your wholeness and the wholeness of the world, and ask to see your life with his eyes. Then ask yourself these questions about your relationship with the black experience in America:

Where do I hurt?

We might feel more pain and defensiveness at being accused of being racist simply because of our whiteness. We may feel more moved by the stories of suffering and injustice coming from blacks and browns. Perhaps the pain of guilt rises to the forefront. Acknowledge the hurt and talk to God about it. He wants to move from where you are towards healing.

Ask “Lord, why? Why do I feel this way?”

Then pursue deeper and ask again, regarding those answers, Why? Why do I feel this way? Show me, Lord, my hidden agendas, my sympathies, my protections and my hopes. See if there is any offensive way in me.

 

Have I witnessed a preference for white over black or brown, and remained silent?

It could have been a silent snub on the playground (read my friend Jen’s poignant recollection here of just such an instance), a white co-worker always given the better tasks, a joke using the n- word, the possibilities are multitude. Allow the Spirit to lead your body into the recollection, how did you physically feel then? What emotions were stirring? How do you feel physically and emotionally in this moment? Allow it to pour out to God.

 

How do I respond to others’ experiences that are different from my own?

Jesus came into our experience, to suffer alongside and know intimately the struggles we have with sin. Allow him to come into your experience of others’ experiences. When someone is telling you about theirs, what do you do internally? There is a spectrum of possible response. Consider with Jesus whether you tend towards rendering blacks and browns accounts unbelievable because it’s not your own, or if you counter and minimize theirs with your own, or if you leave their experience uncontested and you untouched, or if you try to stand in their shoes feeling and seeing what they say. Do I include and expand my views to welcome them or discount and dismiss? Talk with God about it.

 

What justifications or excuses have I given for believing I need not be involved in fighting racism?

Though yours will be your own, these were my primary ones:

  1. “I am not a racist, therefore it’s not my problem.”
  2. For the first fifteen years living in America my excuse was that I am Canadian, it’s not my story. It’s not my history, I have nothing to do with it. I conveniently disregarded my American citizenship and my residence.

Spend some time in the discomfort of examination, allowing the Spirit to reveal what needs to be revealed.

 

Where do I feel resistant regarding my racial narrative?

Resistance can often feel like boredom, avoiding, depression, minimizing, frustration, not wanting to engage with someone or something. Stay with that feeling, holding it, not judging it. Ask yourself gently, “I wonder why I’m resistant.” Listen for God’s guidance and invitation.

As you end your time of reflection, write down what you’ve learned, ask God to reveal one way to keep saying yes to his invitation toward wholeness. Commit to ongoing reflection and learning with him. I had to literally write in my rule of life, and in my monthly goals, to continue to listen to black voices mainly by reading, but also in relationships. I know it’s too easy for me to step out of the fray and back into a white bubble. 

Become better acquainted with history told from a black point of view, rather than from the dominant white narrative. Watch movies like, Harriet, Selma, Just Mercy, Remember the Titans, etc.; read the books and speeches by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr, Howard Thurman, Maya Angelou, and many others. Upon this foundation then one can better hear the voices of today. The racism of the past is different from our experience today and we need to connect the dots for the “nice whites” who agree in our heads but have trouble connecting our hearts to know how our “niceness” is contributing to the problem. Leslie Verner has extensive resources for white people to start, or continue, their journey into oneness with the blacks of America. Take a look here.

Hopefully this reflective practice we just engaged in has helped examine our personal past for non-catalyzed moments: times we witnessed racism but didn’t do anything, a time we felt something was off but couldn’t quite name it, a time we thought “that’s just the way it is”, a time we pulled away because it stirred conflict or tension.

As you do your hard work, know that the Spirit is leading us together deeply and into unity and reconciliation. Lean in and take His invitation to whatever your next step is. Grace and peace to you my friends as you faithfully pursue wholeness, right-relatedness, and faithfulness in such a time as this.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Community, Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

A Story for the Overwhelmed Leader in Today’s Crisis

A sharp snap and the water washed into my face with the force of a summer hose. Stepping back, through unfocused eyes I saw the showerhead idling in the basket underneath, broken off. Turning the water off with an unsavory word, I commenced to redress and look for an extra showerhead I’d seen somewhere in the house. I punctuated my internal self-condemnation with stomps. Ashamed, I hoped my husband wouldn’t notice, but knew I’d have to tell him anyway. Avoiding the others in the house, I found and installed the new head then turned the water on to resume my escape to the privacy of the shower. Frustratingly, this one offered a weak stream that hardly tickled. I longed for the flagellating force of the old one. It would match my mood of recrimination better. Soon my tears flowed with the rivulets of water, and I faced the anger that was roiling inside.

I’d only made it to day twelve of the lockdown due to the threat of COVID19.

I was heartily disappointed with myself, angry that I couldn’t keep my peace longer. I’d increasingly felt trapped and imprisoned, not by the walls of my house (I took lots of walks and bike rides) but by the needs and anxieties of my family.

The first week I expended an enormous amount of energy to set and maintain a rhythm that would work for all of us, while being the constant, trustworthy presence for my daughter who was in the throes of anxiety-driven fury. Yesterday, I discovered that while I was immersed in one child’s needs, I’d missed guiding my quiet one through this turbulence and now she was suffering.

Noise was increasingly becoming intolerable for me, so when my mom started putting away the dishes I had to leave the room. I went up to my bedroom and found my husband there. I glared because I assumed he was going to take a nap, and I’d have to move again.

He was only putting on his socks.

Chagrined and dismayed with myself, I flopped into my chair, too riled to work. That’s when I thought a shower might help calm me.

As I sat in the shower, feeling all the pent up anger, voicing it in colorful language and hot breath to myself and God, I finally owned it. For a while, it was just raw and ugly. I was breathing hard, fierce and tense, my voice hoarse and vehement. All the energy inside me punctuated the air like shrapnel as the shower water washed it down the drain. But as the ferocity of feeling ebbed lower, I could start to listen for God.

In tandem we looked at my desires fueling my anger. I desperately wanted to have some space, to not be responsible for anyone else, and to live as I wished. The demands on me felt like too much. I felt selfish, a wimp, and sorely limited. I hated that such a small amount (in my estimation) overwhelmed me, and disappointed in my inability to remain positive and calm.

A huge desire rose in me to push everyone away so I could have space, even though I had carefully been taking breaks, getting exercise, spending time in prayer, practicing mindfulness, doing things I enjoy—all the things that help me take care of myself. Still I was sobbing on the floor of my shower after having broken the showerhead in anger! What was wrong with me?!

What’s wrong is that I want to be God. I want to be able to do it all—in this case it meant not devolving into the anxieties I felt around me (because I’m better than that, right?) I could accommodate my limitations to others and not bump up against my frailties. I could remain calm and balanced always, a constant supply of help to everyone. Truthfully, I was proud that I was not anxious like everyone else while dealing patiently and equitably with the tempers and whines of the kids.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

I did feel humiliated, but only before my ego, not God. He warmly and readily welcomed me, as if my shame, nakedness and disappointment were not cause for separation. I experienced Romans 8:39 personally:

Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

I very much felt like he was opening his arm with a broad smile as he said, “There you are! I’ve been waiting for you!” Not a hint of recrimination, condemnation, or vengeance—he was not like a vengeful teenager wanting to bring an arrogant classmate down a peg or two. Rather, his was the glad welcome of a dear friend from whom I’d been separated. And only a dear friend is willing to meet you where you wallow.

As I sat in my vulnerability with him, he gently reminded me of various truths. The first was regarding how he’s put me together: I am steady during a crisis for everyone else, then fall apart once they’re all okay. This was part of what was happening.

He also gave me the experience of the truth of forgiveness. It washed over me like the soft rain from the showerhead as I confessed my desire and efforts to be god. Confessing my dislike and rejection of my own limitations and needs, I ended with deep, glad breaths for who God is and who I am with him. I felt resurrected, and the rest of my day evidenced this. The Kimberley who stalked into the shower to hide came out a truer Kimberley ready to give.

I tell my story because perhaps the toll of leading and caring for others has taxed you beyond what you can bear. Maybe you are hitting, or are past, your limits, and the you who is showing up is not who you wish to be sharing. She keeps threatening to take center stage, and it’s harder to push her off to the wings. She refuses to remain the understudy. Her tenacity is flummoxing you more and more.

It’s time to look her square in the eyes and take her seriously. God does. He’s already there with her in the wings, waiting for you.

This is the astonishing welcome of the good news of Jesus. Not that we welcomed him, but that he welcomes us. Every actor within—the ones we approve of and the ones we don’t—is held in his embrace as one. He brings our wholeness to us. And in our limited, but wholehearted, ways, we can then collaborate with him in welcoming wholeness in our world.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Encouragement, 4 comments

Faithfulness 2020

What is your faithfulness?

This is a question I’ve learned from the Quakers this year in my spiritual direction training. It’s a gentle question that orients me in confusing situations, carries with it the whisper to look to the triune God for all, and welcomes me to drop into my unique selfhood. It isn’t a mandate, another link in the chain of “should” that weaves and pulls through my life. It is a question asked in trust and respect, honoring the wisdom I’ve gained, acknowledging the weaknesses and limits I have. There is space in it.

As my social media has exploded with proclamations of goals, “#oneword” inspirations, and calls to get on board with jubilant intentions, I’ve struggled to plot my way forward and declare it with confidence. I’m just not clear on it yet. I could easily take one of my numerous ideas and force feed it into production. But I wish to live intentionally into the paths and patterns, the values of God’s kingdom as they take their shape within my particular life. That is not a haphazard endeavor. At this time a settling needs to happen before I can move forward in faith.

This late fall and early winter I’ve been attracted to the gentle laying down of leaves and snowflakes that softly cover everything. Perhaps because it was a lovely counterpoint to the scattering whirlwind of assignments, family schedules, and work responsibilities that persisted week after week, I found myself often staring at a new spill of brilliant yellow gingko leaves, or the emerging tracery of  whitened tree limbs. The soft surrender of leaf and snow released new beauty. Invariably, my shoulders lowered, my breath expanded, and I’d remember God’s presence to me. Like the surrender of leaves or snow, these January days my faithfulness is to still and wait the change of the year, allowing the blanketing leaves of the previous to settle and fertilize the coming one.

 

 

Snow Tracery

By Kimberley Mulder

One of my greatest agitations disturbing this surrender has been that I have not been consistent in writing to you on this blog, and yet I have not found a way to manage it with the other claims on my time. I’ve felt guilty, troubled, and sorrowful about it. I feel my lack of consistency with shame, yet I cannot muster more.

I brought this to the Lord and we had a talk about faithfulness and finitude. As 2019 progressed, I encountered unexpected needs in my family that required my constancy and creativity. I had to make choices between taking care of my body and soul or pushing through to write another post. I chose the former out of respect for my limits–a lesson in humility. He impressed upon me that:

In each moment, I can only be faithful with one thing.

Given all the factors, I had done that to the best of my ability. And with this realization, I released the guilt. New beauty appeared as I saw my life through the loving eyes of God. Then He asked if I had found him steadfast. There were so many, I felt like Elizabeth Barrett Browning in How Do I Love Thee?, “Let me count the ways!” 

And so, as I settle under the blanket of steadfastness from 2019, I can declare my intention to keep asking “What is my faithfulness in this moment?” When I do write, it is with God, and I trust it feeds your soul. When I don’t write, it is with God, and I trust his fidelity to draw you to him to discern your own present moments of faithfulness.

Take the question with you for your new year:

What is your faithfulness?

Grace, mercy, and peace to you in 2020, friend.

Kimberley

Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Let There Be Light

Light’s radiance—there is a core from which it comes, its spreading brilliance splaying on anything or anyone.

The visible spectrum rays touch the surface of things, irrespective of what they fall on to. But the invisible ultraviolet rays penetrate into the darkness underneath, into walls and bodies, dense and hidden innards.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by the power of his word.” Hebrews 1:3

Patterns of Light from "Let There Be Light" at kimberleymulder.com

Photo by Kimberley Mulder

In this winter season of darkness, of waiting for Christmas where we don’t see fully yet, may we take notice of the light of Jesus speckling our lives with patterns of grace. And may we be aware that this is just the surface—his radiance glows deep into our hearts and souls, cauterizing wounds, warming cold hearts, and radiating the good work of sustaining his grace in your life.

Let the light catch your eye and hold your attention for a few moments. Whether the shifting glow of sunrise on bare branches, a shimmer off the shiver of ice upon wending water, a brilliant gloss carpeting indiscriminately, a mute radiance of smoky clouds—pause to take it in, let it filter into your soul.

Engage in purposeful pause—a silent staring into a flame can draw your mind into a spacious place. A space to let your shoulders shift back down, your breath draw in with grace, and your creased brow to soften, where your spirit can flicker forth at last to dance.

Advent Candle for "Let There Be Light" at kimberleymulder.com

Photo by Kimberley Mulder

In this season of muchness, find a flame to focus on, and dial down to let your spirit speak. The season, and life in general, is so much richer and enjoyable when we engage with our whole being.

There is light.

It is here.

For you.

Enjoy.

Posted by k2mulder in Advent, 0 comments

How to Unpack Your Burdens with Jesus

“Come to me, you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

It is hard to receive these life-giving words into our hearts, despite our desperate “I want it!” Why?

There may be many reasons, but mine is most often an unwillingness to unpack my dirty underwear. Let me explain.

I am currently facing too many assignments, far more than I can accomplish in a day than is realistic even if I were not tired, and I am weary from weeks of responsibilities, challenges, and new things. I have deep problems to pray about that require time and attention and energy and intentionality—four things I feel I don’t have. But God does have these. And he is the one that called me into all these labors. So, it’s not that I am to ditch my backpack of calling, job, roles, and labors. All I can do at the moment is labor under it into God’s presence.

So I come, Jesus, I come as I am—overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and dismayed. And before I confess the various sins that are apparent here, I simply sit with you in this morass, my backpack on but in your presence, for to wrest my burdens from me now would be an act of denial and unacceptance. I don’t want to be too quick to separate myself from something I have allowed to define me. I would only succeed in pretending the pack isn’t there. I’d simply be ignoring it like the so-called elephant in the room. So I sit with the weight of it on my back, acknowledging I’m carrying it.

You see me. You see my discomfort, the exhaustion in my posture, the sweat on the sides of my face and sticking in my hair. You see my desire to do what you’ve asked of me, you see that it is love that first moved me up this mountainside with a pack too heavy. You see my self-condemnation that I am worn out, and I am only at the base of the mountain, my disbelief that I will ever climb the entire thing. You see my worry that I will not figure out how to do this. You see my judgment of my insufficiency—and that that is actually a judgment of you. Now, I’m angry. Angry that you have not equipped me better, angry that you should demand so much of me, angry that there is a cost to my family and to my time spent doing things I like. There is fear that all ahead is dogged drudgery instead of the joy that first led me to take all this on. There is fear that the joy you’ve unearthed for me the last few years is now going to suffocate under a massive pile of responsibility and trial.

I’ve come to you and I’m unpacking my bag. I am not confessing or asking forgiveness—yet. That will come after I’ve unpacked the burden of these emotions and thoughts. They tumble helter skelter about me as I audaciously toss each crumpled emotion out of the pack like dirty underwear. You wanted me to come to you and unpack my burden? Well, here you go, the unedited, unpacked me.

And still you are there, unoffended, patient, watching me without incredulity or judgment or bated breath. You knew what I had packed in my bag. You knew I’d be at this point on my journey and you met me here. You aren’t looking away, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Rather, you are relieved, glad, welcoming. You get up from where you’ve been listening, reach for my hand with a smile, and invite me to keep walking.

“But what about my stuff? Aren’t we going to deal with that? Shouldn’t I pick it up?”

“No, leave it there. Let’s walk.”

Two people walking up hill

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas from Pexels

 

Posted by k2mulder in Being Present, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Where Can I Find Peace and Quiet?

My soul hungered for quiet with just Jesus. With an unexpected hour of uninterruption before me, I took the opportunity. I rushed to the bench we usually meet at, and hurriedly sat down to commence “The Time of Being Present” (cue soundtrack indicating an important moment!).

Only I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stop talking. I felt as if tiny flashes of electricity were flowing under the surface threatening to shock me into action any second. I kept flicking my eyes to see who might be coming, ready to look busy. And Jesus wouldn’t say anything! He just sat there. 

In my discomfort I began to realize that Jesus was holding the quiet for me because I couldn’t.

He was guarding our peace, refusing to bow to the busy-ness of my brain. He remained in quiet peace, because it was in him. There is no confusion in him, no conflict, no tug-of-war in his being, like there is in mine.

Awe washed over me, chasing my pesky, distracting thoughts away. 

Take a moment and let that sink in: Jesus holds the quiet for you.

When you are having difficulty quieting yourself, focus on Jesus, knowing He is there holding the quiet for you. Be willing to surrender your thoughts to his. You could say, “I’m here, Jesus, and I want to lay down my thoughts to hear yours. I welcome you.” Then allow Him to be quiet with you, allow Him to speak to you, allow Him to show you something. Whatever He chooses to do with you, He does for you, not against you, with your best interests in mind. 

Sometimes that means saying nothing, just being present.

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Why should a Christian practice “being present”?

For some Christians, practicing being present sounds too other religion-y, too “out-there”, too vague. To Christians who love the “go” of the gospel, who find purpose in a mission, and joy in activity, being told to “be present” is too inactive, even a trap of the devil to stop the forward motion of the kingdom. Aren’t we supposed to be looking forward to Jesus’ coming and the full expression of his kingdom? Yes, we are. Aren’t we supposed to turn from our old selves? Yes, we are. But these are not the only aspects of following Jesus. We follow him today, too.

So, why is it important for a Christian to be present? And what does it mean?

First, although God spoke the Bible into being in the past, His word is alive and active today. He has also embedded every “today” with his presence. In Hebrews 4:7, 9-12a, it says:

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David,…

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish… For the word of God is alive and active.

When you read a certain passage and it strikes you as especially pertaining to you in the moment, that is the Holy Spirit speaking today.

To those who are compelled to go and tell, do and act, it is important to recognize daily that Jesus does not only live in the future of heaven, but in today. Let that future inform the present, but not take its place. In our eager anticipation, let us not gloss over the realities of today.

Second, our creating, life-giving God is making today and gifting it to us who live in it. He has purposes for it and for us. God speaks in Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

All time is in his hands, for he made it. In Isaiah 46:10 he says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” Yes, he has created us for eternal life and called us into His promises, but He is giving us life today to live that out now.

Third, to be present means three things for a Christian:

1) to be attentive to God in the moment,

2) that we are called to be his disciples today, not living nostalgically for a real or imagined past, or living with disdain for today because we think the future is the only place we will find happiness and fulfillment,

3) that we are able to attend and minister to others without our own thoughts and concerns taking precedent.

The biggest difference between the practice of being present within other spiritual traditions and Christianity is that a Christian is seeking and experiencing God in the moment as His beloved creation. We are listening to God in the moment.

Jesus left heaven with its lack of time, to enter our here and now at a very specific time. He did not live longing for the past, or ignoring the importance of today because of the future. He lived in Mary’s now, and Joseph’s now, and Peter’s now. Then he sent the Holy Spirit to be our present help in the todays that followed in which we now live. In John 14:26 He says, “The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you.”

I will elaborate in another post how practicing being present helps Christians minister to others. For now, may I merely point out that when we are present with God regularly, our worries and preoccupations dim because we are able to leave them in his hands, thus making more compassionate space within ourselves to minister to others.


Now, I am by no means an expert on other religions, but I wanted to make an effort to point out some important lessons we can learn from others who practice presence far more frequently, as well as some fundamental differences.

In yoga, it is an exercise, a practice, meant to waken you to yourself on the way to perfection. While Christians do not share the same belief that self-awareness will make us perfect, there are some lessons we can take from yoga. For example, “Yoga uses the simple clarity of the body as a means to bring the mind into presence. Rather than just dictating actions to the body, the deepest yoga practice teaches the mind how to listen to the body in the pure light of awareness without judgment or expectation.”

This stance of listening without judging or expectation is necessary for Christians too. Jesus listened deeply, and he did not cast judgment, reserving that for the Father when He deems the time right. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” John 3:17.

While Zen Buddhism recognizes that we are limited beings, it denies God, certainly a personal, loving God. But it does recognize that the problem lies within us. Christians go further and name it sinfulness.

“It’s how our mind handles those external forces [like interruptions, conflict, pressure and chaos] that is the problem.”

This is true. We try to solve things on our own, without God. No matter how brilliant we are intellectually, how emotionally intelligent, we are still sinful, including Christians, so our natural bent is toward broken, independent-of-God solutions.

Practicing being present, which really puts us in touch with the experience of being a creation and beloved at the same time, helps us to humbly accept this again, and find God in the here and now.

In Buddhism of a more general nature, practicing being present is a way to be released from suffering, from the attachments we make with our expectations and desires. Ultimately, Buddhists deny any permanent, essential soul and self, so practicing presence is a way of losing those attachments that create the illusion of self. This is very different from why a Christian practices presence!

Christians recognize the permanent eternity of our souls, that God created each and every unique one, and when we are present we are allowing ourselves to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. It is much like paying close attention, so close that we forget our own concerns and preoccupations, to a dear friend.

To those who acknowledge the inspired word of God, the historical humanity of Jesus’ divinity on earth, and base their lives on God’s past actions and the promise of His future actions, it is important to be open to His presence and action in today.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Three Questions to Ask When Your Spiritual Appetite Has Disappeared

Apparently over a quarter of the students at my kids’ school are absent this week due to the invasion of influenza. We, too, have succumbed. And along with it our appetites have disappeared.

Sometimes our spiritual appetite disappears too. Praying, reading the Bible, going to church feels like eating dry crackers without water. Guilt sets in, further alienating us from living water. Like when we are physically sick, we’d rather go lie on the couch watching TV.

What do you do when your appetite for God is near-gone?

First, stop trying to evade it or to increase your efforts to feign hunger. Accept it, face it, and sit with it. It will be uncomfortable, but you need to know what is causing the loss of appetite. Its remedy depends on it. Then ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you exhausted? Have you been taking care of yourself? Relationships require energy, even your relationship with God. Fatigue and exhaustion can be great spiritual appetite suppressants. If this is you, give yourself grace and ask for the Lord’s help to rest. If the exhaustion is due to your choices and commitments, admit and confess them, then listen for His guidance on what to keep and what to get rid of. If the exhaustion is not of your making, then let your exhaustion lead your appetite with the prayer: “Lord, may my desire for rest draw me to You, the true resting place for my soul. Fill me with your rest, and as you replenish me, show me who You are. Thank you for your gift of rest and care.”
  2. Are you busy? Is there something that you are allowing to take center stage in your life? Something that is demanding lots of your mental energy? Something distracting and all-consuming? It could be a good endeavor, it could be a temptation, it could be an overwhelming circumstance of life. Whichever it is, allow Jesus to walk on the stage and direct you regarding it. He may say to cleanly turn away from it (as in the case of temptation), he may say to allow him to control it (as in the case of overwhelming circumstances), he may say something else. The key is to let him enter it, let him speak to you about it. Then you can discern whether you’ve been stuffing your appetite with a substitute, or you’ve simply been ignoring your hunger.
  3. Is it that you are bored? Maybe you have been following the same Bible reading plan, going to the same church service, doing the same things, and it has become too comfortable. In this case, change things up. Change the time of day you regularly pray, or take a walk, or read a different translation of the Bible (I especially like using The Message or the The Passion Translation for their more modern language). Try a different way to serve: volunteer for kids ministry or serve in a food pantry. Try practicing meditative prayer or lectio divina. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is especially helpful for learning what these and other prayer forms are and then employing them in your life. I am looking forward to reading Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson which also converses on just such topics. Like reaching a plateau with your exercise routine because your muscles have gotten too used to it, your spiritual routine needs to change too. We need to stretch and challenge ourselves in new ways. When you change a workout regimen, you also change your appetite through new stimulation.

How did you recognize that you weren’t hungry for God and what did you do about it? Do you have any resources you recommend? Please share in the comment section below this post, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Where was God in 2017?

Without reflection we could see nothing. Our world would be void of colour and shape.  We depend on the reflection of light off of objects to bring them into our awareness, granting them their hue and bend. All things of substance remain hidden.

This necessary property of reflection that brings substance into life and contours our world physically, can be applied to the spirit as well. Our spirits need reflection to bring into view the substance that lies there.

Light shines on the world of our spirits but without reflection we shall never see it. It is imperative to reflect in order to bring into focus and shape that which the Light is illuminating. What is the Lord bringing into high relief in your life? Where are the shadows and the bright edges? Where is He in the midst of gray fog and what might He be showing you there – His touch?

Pursuing Jesus’ presence in reflection, allowing Him to draw into substance His presence in your past moments, be they a lifetime’s or a day’s, is a rich practice for your spirit. There are times we are aware of His presence and working at the moment, but so much of the time we are unaware of it and reflection, under His guidance, unmasks that which was lost in the moments before. At times, it is like watching a city on a distant horizon grow into vast view – naught was there to your vision before, but now you behold a great, solid, hope.

So, in these few days as we turn from an old year to a new, look not only forward. Allow the mirror embedded in this turning to have full view before you look through the window into next year.

There is an aged practice, called the Prayer of Examen, that is especially helpful in allowing the Lord’s light shine in one’s reflections. Originally implemented as a daily practice (which I encourage) it can also be used as a weekly, monthly, or yearly practice.

Rather than our reflection simply be a recounting of the year, we look at it under His guidance of our memories allowing Him to bring to light those things He wishes to show us. Invariably, whatever He shows You is shown in order to illuminate His presence in your life.

Below, you will find my paraphrase of the practice, fitted for a year’s consideration.

Because this is a yearly examen, set aside 20 minutes to an hour to be in a quiet, undisturbed place. A daily examen is usually shorter. Turn off any devices that might distract, and get comfortable. Some like to take a walk in nature, others sit with a candle lit, others like the anonymity of being in a library. It is helpful to take notes, especially for the next year’s examen when you can look back at this year’s and be reminded of all He has been to you during this year!

A Yearly Examen

Become aware of God’s presence. Relax, let tensions drift away, breathe deeply. Remember that God is present and is looking at you with love. He is glad that you are here now, regardless of anything you have done or not done before. Spend some minutes simply enjoying this fact. If your mind wanders, gently, without condemning yourself, come back to God who is still here loving you.

Ask God to reflect on your year with gratitude. Allow the year to gently surface and focus on the things you are grateful for. Don’t choose what to be grateful for, but allow God to bring clarity to what emerges. Take note of the joys and gifts He’s given you throughout the year. He may bring very small things to mind, these are gifts of His in the details. Give thanks!

Ask God to show you His presence in your year. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you particular times that He was present, whether in a situation, in another person or in your internal experience. Allow Him to bring to mind these things, then ask Him to show how He was present. Take note of any themes or patterns He shows you, or things that stand out to you.

Take note of your emotions. Recognize your emotions regarding these things the Holy Spirit is showing you. God’s presence is in our emotions too. What is God saying through these feelings? He may show you where you fell short, allow him to speak life into you. He may show you pain, allow him to bring healing. He may show you exhilaration, allow him to be glorified. There are a multitude of ways that He is present to you in your emotions, let him in to lead.

Ask God to show you your need. Allow God to lead you in identifying your needs. Ask Him to fulfill these needs and look forward with hope and trust that He knows them and wishes to provide for you.

From these reflections pray for next year. You may have something arise from your reflections that you wish to pray over for the coming year – a particular situation, a need, a desire for growth or more experience of God. Again pay attention to your feelings regarding the upcoming year. Allow your reflections and feelings shape your prayer for the coming year.

Our Father, beloved Lord, and welcomed Counselor – Great thanks we give you for your ever presence and your willingness to show yourself in our lives. It is so reassuring to meet you in our reflections and to look forward knowing you will be there too. Thank you for this time, thank you for 2017. Thank you for all that you have shown us. Where we are still tender and smarting, bring your balm and grace. Where we are invigorated and hopeful, flow your direction and guidance. Lead us into this new year after having brought the old into relief. May this year be filled with your presence and glory. Amen.

Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 0 comments