Inward upward onward Day 7=Miracles and Mother Teresa

And so the story goes… one day in the mother house in Calcutta one of the novices who was working in the kitchen came up to Mother Teresa and said they had made a big mistake.  They had not properly planned and the kitchen was bare.  Three hundred nuns would be coming in less than 2 hours expecting the daily meal and there would be nothing.  The young novice says that she expected Mother Teresa to pick up the phone, call one of her benefactors and get the problem solved in minutes.  Instead, Mother Teresa simply said, “Sister you’re in charge of the kitchen this week?  Well then, go into the chapel and tell Jesus we have no food.  That’s settled.  Now let’s move on.  What’s next?”

Here is an excerpt from the story as told by the novice, herself.

“Lo and behold, ten minutes later there was a ring at the door and Mother Teresa was called downstairs. A man she had never seen before was standing there with a clipboard. He addressed her saying ‘Mother Teresa, we were just informed that the teachers at the city schools are going on strike. Classes have been dismissed and we have 7,000 lunches we don’t know what to do with. Can you help us use them?’
God provided for the needs of his children. “
A God moment for sure. Can you see the young woman racing around trying to find a solution?  Enter Mother Teresa who tells her to go and pray. The novice prayed.  She let go and let God take over.  These moments don’t just happen to Mother Teresa.  We have all seen them.  At that moment when we stop moving and turn it over to God, God steps in.   I tell a long and involved story (too long for this blog) about my days in Africa.  I was working on a project and literally stuck in the lobby of a major relief organization who had put a halt to everything.  Angry, frustrated and unsure of what to do, I turned to prayer and then sat down and just began singing.  I was working to learn the song, “Here I am Lord,” in the local language.  As I sang, the head of the relief organization walked down the hall, heard me sing “I will hold your people in my heart” in his language and stepped in to save the day.

I know,  I know….for every story like these they are stories of the prayers where we did not get the answer we were looking for.   So what is the thread in the examples of God visibly moving in the world?  I certainly don’t have THE answer for that, but I do have some thoughts.  I’ll start with that great verse from Matthew 6 verse 33.

 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

In his book, “The Workbook of Living Prayer,” Maxie Dunnam adds this:  “ …we need to remember always that success is not in maximizing our self-interests, but in living in interdependence as a part of God’s family.  Our petitions then, are focused not upon our self-interest, but upon our deep need for community and the needs of humankind. “

When we are seeking His kingdom first, we go out into the world to do his work knowing and trusting that God is moving with us and in us and through us.

Grace and Peace

MM

Lenten Blog Day 6 Living Prayer

Growing up in a Baptist church, I do remember my Baptism.  I remember it very clearly. I was 8 years old.  I remember this sensation that I had not known before and this urge to talk to our pastor about Jesus.  The days and years after my Baptism I experienced a closeness to God and Jesus that I would spend much of my life trying to find again.  Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to this time. What made the difference?  How did I find that closeness? Yes part of it was the child-like acceptance of God.  But I believe the most important factor was that I was in constant communication with God.  I remember lingering at school in the room where we hung our coats (who remembers the cloak room?) to chat with God.  And that time in the early grades when you put your head on your desk to rest….I was in prayer…chatting it up with God.  I had no label for it then….but I was “living” prayer. Author Maxie Dunnam puts it this way, “The nearness of God, if we have the grace to grasp it will transform our praying and our living.  His nearness makes all conversation with him intimate.”

The world would pull me away from this closeness of my childhood and as I start now to chart the times in my life in terms of my relationship with God two factors stand out.  First communication, my willingness to come to God in prayer and second, my willingness to be open and honest with God and with myself.  The first is simply a matter of time…the second is much, much harder.   But remember, we go in prayer to a God who is good, a God loves us, a God who wants to be in relationship with us.

I often tiptoe in…reciting scripture, the words to a hymn and praying for those in need.  And that is OK.  It is the road to relationship.  In no time, I am telling God about the things on my heart. (It’s me. It’s me. It’s me, O Lord. Standing in the need of prayer….)   Before I know it, we are looking at those things that are getting in the way, the things clogging up my life and my relationship with Him.  The road gets easier and easier.     That is the power of the Living God, in Living Prayer.

 

O God, I want you to be my God

I want you to be real to me as a vital experience

I am beginning to realize that such an experience can be mine through prayer.

So teach me to pray.

(from The Workbook of Living Prayer by Maxie Dunnam.)

 

Day 5 Alone but not Lonely

Yesterday was an unusual service at my church.  For the Lenten Season we are practicing “silence” as part of listening to God in a noisy world. We did a long, meditative “prayer practice” in silence.   We took communion in silence.  We had the traditional words (those normally spoken) on a screen and the pastor broke the bread and held up the cup….but in silence.  When we talked about this service ahead of time, it made me uncomfortable.  I couldn’t imagine it.  I was amazed at how quickly I was comfortable in the quiet.  It was a guided tour into silence…if you will. It was powerful and it broke the barrier of fear and distrust of silence and being alone, with ourselves and with God.

Jesus tells us to go into a room by ourselves, shut the door and pray to our Father who is there in the secret place. (Matt 6:6)

Prayer is personal and Jesus is reminding us that we need to be in the place of the fewest distractions, the least noise… so that we can listen to God and listen to ourselves.  In his book “The Workbook of Living Prayer,” Maxie Dunnam says:  “If we are going to have a life of prayer, Jesus is insistent that we must go into our room, shut the door, and be alone with God.  To be alone with God is creative, purposeful solitude.”

It is also how we build the relationship with God.  We bring our truest selves to God in the quiet place.  As the relationship builds, we find that being alone with God is anything but lonely.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see my good friend Evelyn Bratton.  Evelyn was a neighbor for many years.  After the death of her husband, she moved in to a retirement home about an hour away.  We celebrated her 91st birthday together in January.  She is always such a delight, she is ….as we say in the south…sharp as a tack.   But her lifestyle in the retirement home is nothing like what her life was here in the neighborhood.  Her mind is sharp, but her body gets weaker every time I see her.  She does not go out very often.  At one point in our visit, she saw the worried look on my face and she said, “Now don’t think I am lonely, because I am not.  I have elaborate conversations with God; we talk all the time.  This is the time in my life for that, you know.”

Evelyn has found the silence and the alone time with God and it sustains her.

The challenge for Lent:  find the silence, turn off the TV and the computer, mute your phone and spent some “quality time” with God.

Grace and Peace,

MM

 

Let’s kick off day 2 of Lent with a great quote from Mother Teresa.

“In the silence of the heart God speaks, If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.”

In the silence of the heart, God speaks.  Yes, we want to hear God speaking to us, but the question is how we do that? How do we find the silence?  How do listen to our hearts?  “Follow your heart” is something we hear often.   But what does that really mean?  And how do we reconcile that with our minds and most importantly with God?  Even as I typed the words my brain jumped to that 80s song, “Listen to your hearrrt.”  Ok, I never really liked that song. Still, you can see what I’m up against as I try to “tame the brain” and find the silence to explore what is really in my heart.   We’ll go there slowly and to appease the brain, I’ll begin with a definition.

Listening and following your heart means following your passion, listening to that gut feel or natural drive.  It is not necessarily logical or strategic.  (Following what is not logical, not strategic as defined with this world…does this sound like any one we know…”the last shall be first”…)

Let’s go deeper.  We think of following our heart as a career choice, doing what we love, following our passion.  In this Lenten Season, let’s explore what that means in our relationship with God.  Look at these verses out of Proverbs

So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:4-5

The words that are process in my mind are Trust and Silence.  Finding the silence and trusting God and of course “not leaning on our own understanding.”    I have a great story from Mother Teresa’s life on trust…but that’s for tomorrow.

Inward, upward, onward

Day 1

It is the first day of Lent and the launch of the Lenten Blog.  I begin this year with a story, because…well, that’s what I do.  (BTW, Sarah Warren I am so glad this story brought joy and laughter to your family…)

I preached my first “official” sermon at the church in Royal Oak in January.  The congregation was filled with family and friends who had come in support.  I saw my children sitting there in the second row and what can I say… I went for it.  (I mean really…how many times to you get the chance to literally “preach” to your children?) . Ok… I went a little long and Ok, I covered A LOT with a lot of passion.     The next day I asked my daughter what she thought and after the obligatory “you were great,” she said “does it always have to be so intense?”

With that in mind, I take a deep breath during this Lenten season, calm it down, and dial back the intensity (at least until Easter).   As I look around me the soap boxes are all pretty crowded, so I will step down and turn my attention “inward, upward and then onward”.  That is the title and theme of this year’s blog.   All three words denote movement and direction. Lent is a good time for us to examine the direction of our lives.  Where are we headed?  What path are we on?  Is our path intentional or has the current of life swept us in some new direction?

I’m headed to the cross roads to look for where the good way lies….who’s with me?

Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16

Welcome to MYRAdical Life.com.  It is simply the stories of my life mixed with my observations of God moving in the world.  Here is how this site began:

When Lucy Strumbos suggested that I write about my radical life, (and she cleverly combined the words for a title), I laughed out loud. Then I looked up the definition of radical and found: “extreme, especially  regarding change from accepted or traditional forms”.  The laughter continued ….only now at myself.  My life has always been filled with extremes and I circle in an orbit far from “traditional”.  Whether my stories and ponderings are of any interest to anyone, I haven’t a clue.  But I write them to help me remember and for my friends and my grandchildren.

Read more

 

Living in the Present; Living in the Presence Day 1

I love watching God move in the world and I never tire of seeing something and just knowing God’s hand was there. Sometimes it is in the smallest of things. I was looking for a phone number for someone I hadn’t talked to in years. I knew his phone number was probably on an old email, but on an account from a company now out of business. Oddly enough, that email account was still on my computer and even more amazing, it was still active. Most of the recent emails were just ads but there was one from Rob Bell’s website. The New York Times once called Rob the Billy Graham of our day and I am a big fan of his writings and sermons. In the email Rob tells the story of his recent skiing accident and head injury. It was an injury that gave him amnesia and forced him to “live in the present.” His brain healed and he is using this experience to hold events/ seminars on living in the present. I struggle with living in the moment, so on this day God led me to some help. As Rob Bell would say…”are you tracking with me?” I went to an email account that should be closed and found a recent email that set me on a better path. Seeing and acknowledging God’s hand is part of what I call …”living in the presence.” God’s hand moves and his presence is all around us whether we see it or not. But when we do, amazing things can happen. For me, I often miss the obvious because I am not engaged in the present. I’m a day dreamer and here’s a wacky confession: I sometimes spend hours creating a story in my head or reliving a book I’ve read and adding a few chapters to the end. It was for many years my way of escape, a coping mechanism. But lately I find it to be a distraction from living in the moment. And tonight at the beginning of Lent I am asking myself, “How can I take the creativity that swirls around in my head and bring it into the present? How can I use it as a bridge and not a barrier to God’s presence? I’m starting with a blog. A little discipline that I will share.
Grace and Peace on this Ash Wednesday