I'm Back!: 1 Year Older and Feel Several Years Wiser....

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To all of you who prayed for me during my birthday hermitage experience, thank you so much! I could feel it. :)

God says, "You will find me when you seek me with all your heart." 

Like all His promises, He plays no games and tells no lies!

Have you ever had an old/semi broke (knockoff, lol) charger and it takes 1.5 days for your phone to charge? Then, one day, you cave and buy a real charger and your phone charges in 1 hour?

This was the hermitage experience for me. 

Fruitful time with God requires stillness and quiet. How we are still and quiet varies from person to person. But, there can be no shortcuts or knockoffs if we really desire to clearly hear His voice. 

Sometimes, we may say we are too busy and overwhelmed. I have. But, I realized that's spiritual warfare. More specifically -- its the debil!! As my friend said, "If the devil can't nudge you to be bad, he will nudge you to be busy." 

Busyness makes hearing God's voice near impossible. 

Jesus walked, rested, prayed and rode on a donkey (in the heat prob with limited shade). But, He fulfilled his purpose. When it was time to spend time with God, he let everybody know he was out! This means God gives us the strength and ability to accomplish what he purposed us to do while staying close to Him.

Everything else may be things we've put on our plates. What often happens when we miss the mark in getting all these things/things done (because our strength is not sufficient), we feel more unfulfilled, ashamed, are moody, disappointed, exhausted, etc. Then, we add even more to our plate fo fill the emotional wounds those unfilled gaps created. It's a never-ending cycle. 

The key to a happier and more content life -- strive less. Less really is more especially when you are aligned with God's will.

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So, as you can see, God spoke to me like crazy during this retreat. Most of it was through the reading of this book: 

Armchair Mystic by Father Mark E. Thibodeaux SJ.

Quick summary: This user-friendly book blends theory and practice, gently and concretely taking the reader through the first steps of contemplative prayer.

Now, I brought all my own books (like 5), had my own curriculum, my own plan, etc to hear God's voice. When I arrived, this small book (Armchair Mystic) was tucked away on the window seal. I know the Holy Spirit nudged me to pick it up because A. I had no idea what the title meant and b. the cover wasn't super interesting -- it was just an image of an armchair.  

But, when you surrender to God's will and are still.....questions that I had for months, years, were answered and confirmations I needed were given.

Yall, I read the entire book in like 8 hours -- about 120 pages! 

Here are some of my key takeaways from my notes.  

I pray they encourage you: 

CONTROL

I never had an issue with the word control before. I pride myself on being a strategist. A problem solver. A fixer. But, I realized my relationship with God CANNOT operate this way. Why? Because another way of saying control is lord.  And that's the human condition. Deep down most of us want to control (be lord) over our lives. But, God ain't having that. But, he also won't dethrone me. He gave us free will. I have to willingly give up the throne and allow him full authority. Much easier said than done, but this convicted me deeply.  Now I'm aware of when I am looking to control (be Lord over) the situation/problem instead of God. I've checked myself a couple times today already, lol.

Funny, Jonathan McReynolds Make Room was on heavy rotation the whole week before my hermitage. God was preparing me...

DISCERNMENT

How do you know if you are hearing your voice or God's voice? How do you know if its God's grace and not a spiritual distraction?

1. When a new opportunity, person, idea, etc. presents itself offer it back up to God on the altar and ask, "Is this a treasure for God's greater service, glory, and praise?"

2. One of the best ways to do this -- journal! You can journal in a zillion ways! He says a prayer- journal is a spiritual scrapbook of the graces God has sent throughout our prayer life. It helps you clarify what you are receiving/experiencing and you can put in context with other graces you have received and past prayers. How is it consistent and how is it different?

3. Talk with a spiritual friend. He mentions sometimes when we fall in love with God (just like a person), we may lose objectivity. This means we can fall in love with a god we created in our head and not the true God. A spiritual friend will help you discern the difference. 

4. Find a spiritual mentor. This is a person who is further along in their walk and can use their own set of experiences/lessons to help you navigate and unpack the situation you are in any questions you may have and if they align with God's will. 

5. Find a spiritual community. This really convicted me. He talks about not getting sucked into a God & me spirituality where you think that just the two of you are sufficient. That's what the world says. The debil says. But God says the complete oppositive. You need people.  As an introvert, I can sometimes fall into this “I don't feel like being bothered” trap. But, If you really want to discern God's voice -- you cannot be alone.  Additionally, because of God's power, a spiritual community will help you be strong when you are weak, help you see where you can't, and celebrate with you how God and His glory is moving in your life. That is His end goal after all. 

PRAYER

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There are some seasons where prayer can feel boring. The author calls it "The Desert Experience". This is when you need to be praying even more because this is where your relationship with God deepens the most because:

1. Prayer is a mountain climb -- it's intentional, purposeful, deliberate-- and that's what God wants from us. Anyone who's ever hiked or walked a 5K knows how grueling it can be but that satisfaction and growth when you get to the end??!?! Priceless!

2.  Prayer is a discipline -- it takes work!

3. Prayer is a relationship -- even when we don't want to can we still stay committed?

4. Prayer is a recognition of God --  it clarifies our spiritual senses and disposes us to hear God's voice

Ok, I think I will stop here. Believe it or not, I still have pages and pages of notes. But, I really felt the spirit to lead me to share this. 

Congrats if you made it to the end, LOL!

If you are interested in staying where I stayed, the information is below:

St. Raphela Center

616 Coopertown Road
Haverford, PA   19041

As you can tell, I highly recommend it!

If you have any further questions about anything in this email or like to discuss a point further, please shoot me a note. I would love nothing more to walk with you and encourage you on your own personal journey with God.

Likewise, when I wander off course, please check me and redirect me back to this post. :)