Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coming Back to God -- again and again

I like to think that God is always in my mind and my heart, but I will admit that huge chunks of the day can go by before I realize I have not thought about Him, let alone prayed to Him. It's not like I don't have reminders: A crucifix hangs above interior doorways of our house; a Bible rests on a table on every floor. A small wooden cross even hangs from the rear view mirror of my car.

So how is it that I can forget about the God who I believe made the earth and all its creatures? How can I possibly spend hours writing, driving my kids places, running errands, cleaning the house and not have it dawn on me that all this was made possible by God?

When I do finally remember, I try to throw out a quick prayer. "God, please bless so-and-so....God, please help me through my day....God, please look after my kids."

What can God be thinking? "Well, hello there, ungrateful creature of mine. Nice of you to remember me! Do you think I go hours without thinking about you? But that's okay, you go back to whatever important tasks you were doing, and don't worry about me. I'll be fine, of course."

If I make God sound like an Italian grandmother handing out guilt like a full plate of spaghetti, it's because that's sometimes how I imagine him. He's loving and kind and generous, but He can throw a guilt trip at you in nothing flat. 

And if I do sometimes see God like this, why doesn't it make me more aware of Him? Shouldn't I want to escape the guilt and spend more time with Him?

Then I have to think: Perhaps I am indeed spending time with Him -- every moment of my life. This is the life I was given, and every task I do -- whether it's going to church or washing the clothes -- fulfills my mission as a child of God. The fact that I am not conscious of that fact every second of the day could very well be God's way of keeping me focused on my life and what I am supposed to be doing.

That eases the guilt to a great extent, but it doesn't erase it. There's still that bit about forgetting God is in my life for hours at a time. Shouldn't I be thanking Him or talking to Him as often as possible?

The answer, of course, is yes. But how do I do this? One way is to reopen this blog, which I unceremoniously abandoned more than three years ago. In one of my infrequent chats with God, He reminded me about this blog, and, I'd like to believe, He encouraged me to get back at it. Maybe so I could continue to write every day. But perhaps He told me to start writing blog posts again so I could spend more time with Him. And that's a nice, guilt-free way to welcome more frequent visits with me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lenten Renewal Project

Lent is a time for renewal of purpose, and so I am renewing my commitment to this blog! It has been quite some time, but my journey remains constant.

I am trying to read the Bible everyday, but with a different attitude. My goal for so many years was to "get something out of" reading the Bible. Now I understand it's not a self-help book (although I guess it kind of is when you really think about it). When you look at it as THE WAY, then it's got nothing to do with my personal feelings or needs, but everything to do with how the world should be. That's almost too enormous for me to deal with at this moment!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Taking a Vacation From Prayer?

What a relaxing week at the beach! The weather could not have been more pleasant: low 80s everyday and not a cloud in the sky. I greeted each day early, savoring the opportunity to go for a long walk or bike ride while the rest of my vacation mates slumbered. At the beach, I read a whole novel, and at night I walked along the boardwalk with my family. Sheer harmony.

But when I got back home, I realized something: I had pretty much forgotten to pray throughout the whole vacation! Sure, there were moments, especially in the morning, when I thanked God for the sunshine, the ocean, the chance to be with close family. But did I ever get down on my knees--or even lie down in bed--to say an Our Father, a Hail Mary or to ask for blessings for others? Nope. I didn't even consider it.

What happened? Did I get so relaxed that I let go of my faith as well as my cares and worries? And why didn't I immediately feel guilty about the gaffe?

I'm hoping that God understands. Whatever tribulations had been on my mind before vacation trickled out of my head while at the beach, which means I'm able to concentrate better now that I'm back. (Well, I've only been back for two days, but so far so good!) Perhaps that was the spiritual as well as the emotional getaway I needed: to remove myself from the daily grind and to focus on the simplicity of nature. Now perhaps, with my batteries recharged, I can move ahead with prayer in a more relaxed and earnest fashion, instead of the speed and fury with which I'd been doing it before I left.

Nevertheless, praying on vacation would have been nice and should have been done. Now I'm praying that the next time I go on vacation, I remember to count my blessings and share them with God everyday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bragging Rights

I had the opportunity to do something wrong the other day. Something that I had managed to rationalize as not being really wrong, but more like temporarily incorrect. Because I would be able to right this wrong, fairly quickly, and everything would be okay.

But something--I guess it was my conscience--made me stop short. I didn't need to convince myself that what I planned to do wasn't right; I simply said to myself, "You can't do this."

And that was that. I never looked back. And it felt really good. So good, in fact, that I was practically patting myself on the back, praising myself for doing the right thing (or not doing the wrong thing). Honestly, I almost started skipping down the street as I thought about it yesterday.

Then I asked myself: Is this really something to be self-congratulatory about? Can you really brag about being very, very close to committing a sin and deciding at the last minute not to follow through?

I was convinced that I had no reason to be pleased with myself. Instead, I should be upset with myself for even considering doing something wrong!

But in church today, when we got to the part where we ask God for forgiveness "for what I have done and what I have failed to do," I realized something: If my conscience hadn't stepped in and told me to do the right thing, I would have had that sin on my mind. I would have had to confess that I had "sinned through my own fault." Instead, I was able to thank God for giving me a conscience and the good sense to pay attention to it.

It may not have been a reason to brag, but it was definitely a moment to realize that doing what's right feels a whole lot better than feeling guilty about choosing the wrong path.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Martha, Martha, Martha!

"As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.' The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'" (Luke 10:38-42)

Do you ever find yourself relating very well to someone in the Bible? I am so totally a Martha!

Putting our kids to bed has always been a long, arduous process. First, there's the chase to get everyone dressed and have them brush their teeth. Then there are the individual rituals. One child wants to read out loud to you. The other wants you to read out loud to her and then lie down with her for a few minutes. The third one simply wants you to give up the rest of your evening and cuddle with her until the sun rises.

My husband conveniently has other things to do at this time of the day, which leaves me completely frustrated. I love my kids, and I love helping them settle into bed, but the process takes up most of my evening, some of which I try desperately to use to clean up or work.

The other night, the bedtime ritual was taking longer than usual, and I'd had it. My husband came up for one brief moment to kiss everyone good night; then, he fled to the basement to iron his shirts and watch sports. I was livid! I raced downstairs and made huffy noises until I got his attention. "Clearly, I need some help putting the kids to bed!" I shouted. He didn't say a word, and went back to his ironing. We've been through this before. I always get huffy, and then it passes. Nothing new.

The next morning, I sat down to read the Bible, and to what story did the pages fall? The story of Martha and Mary. I have always been fascinated by this story because both of these women clearly loved Jesus, although they took different paths to show their love.

Initially, you think, "Aren't we supposed to serve God? Martha's the one in the right, and Mary should get with the program!" But Jesus doesn't see it that way. He knows that his time on earth is short, and that Mary has chosen to spend her moments with Jesus enjoying his company and learning from him. Martha, meanwhile, is no doubt in the kitchen grumbling under her breath while she prepares some appetizers. She's missing all the joy of the moment!

How often do I miss the joy of the moment? Too often, I fear. There are so many demands: house, work, kids, husband, dog, cat, chores, appointments, etc. There is never enough time in the day, and when I do try to carve out time, it is consumed by something else I didn't have planned. How much more peaceful and meaningful the evening would be if I devoted it to my kids! The time will come soon enough when they'll put themselves to bed and won't even want to cuddle with Mom.

This doesn't mean I should leave the kitchen a mess or blow off my work, but it does mean I should recognize the precious, memorable moments in life and savor them. How wonderful it would be to think, "Diane has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Need a Prayer to Help Me Remember to Pray

Why do I find it so hard to remember to pray at the end of the day? You would think that after 44 years, it would be as natural as brushing my teeth. I pray with my kids every night, so I guess that counts. But there are other things that I need to say to God. I need to look back on the day and realize what I did well and what I could have done better.

Something often seems to get in the way. Either I fall asleep with one of the children, or I fall asleep reading, or who knows what. Ideally, I should be praying before I cuddle with the kids or pick up a book, but the thought sadly doesn't usually cross my mind.

Why is prayer at night so important, anyway? If I pray in the morning, asking for help and for the well being of those around me, do I really need to pray again? Certainly I could pray for strength in areas where I failed on a particular day, for good health for someone who got sick or for forgiveness for a misdeed. How long could it take, and wouldn't I feel better afterward?

Think about how many times holy people pray--five, six, maybe ten times a day? Imagine if I carved out that many time slots to talk to God and read the Bible. That would be something!

My goal is much more modest: twice a day. Is that too much for God to ask? Certainly not. So I'm praying that I'll remember to pray tonight and every night. Is there a special prayer for that?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is God Dead... Again?

Every few decades, there is a need to declare that we have become a godless society. In the 1960s, for example, the term "Godless Christianity" came into being. Now Newsweek is announcing to us that fewer people consider themselves Christians and that we might be entering a "post-Christian" era in the United States .

In the case of Newsweek, this has been declared as a great thing because, FINALLY, we can separate church and state. Naturally, it's easy to separate church and state if no one believes in church anymore!

I was about to get upset about this article, but then I realized that I simply don't care. You are never going to completely remove Christianity or any other religion from our society. It just won't happen.

Why? Because there are enough people out there who will remind us that George Washington, the first president of our country, never failed to mention God when he spoke to this young nation. Religion is too tightly woven into the fabric of our country, no matter how hard some may try to remove it.

Even Jon Meacham, the author of the Newsweek article, agrees with this notion:

America, then, is not a post-religious society—and cannot be as long as there are people in it, for faith is an intrinsic human impulse. The belief in an order or a reality beyond time and space is ancient and enduring. "All men," said Homer, "need the gods." The essential political and cultural question is to what extent those gods—or, more accurately, a particular generation's understanding of those gods—should determine the nature of life in a given time and place.

If you read the last line carefully, you'll see the reason for all this hubub on religion. Quite a few people are afraid or angry that religious views are too influential in our culture and our politics. More specifically, issues such as abortion, stem cell research and homosexual marriage can too easily be seen through what is considered the narrow lens of some religions. Religious people--Christians in particular--are holding back progress, for heaven sake!

This, of course, is not true. We are a nation of many religions and many ideals. We are all given the chance to make decisions and have opinions, and those may not gel with what the current culture dictates. There will always be debates, then, and one side will have to lose now and again. But the fact that we are permitted in this great country to have our faith and our ideals and not suppress how we feel because of our culture or our nation's leaders is a wonderful thing. Instead of rolling our eyes at people with religious convictions or views different from our own, we should be thankful we live in a place where we are free to have our own minds.

On this Good Friday morning, my children decorate Easter eggs and put on puppet shows. Later today, we'll turn off the TV, put on our nice clothes and go to church to remember what this day signifies. It is part of our history and our faith, and no one should take that away from us. Thank God we still live in a country where no one will.