Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘General’ Category


 

 

Fear is the absences of faith—AA Slogan

Father,

It is so easy to live my life each day,

Never taking the time to pay attention

To You or to all that You have done for me.

I haven’t disregarded You purposefully,

But I don’t make You a priority either.

Then, when everything seems to unravel,

When nothing works and everything

That can go wrong definitely does,

My focus becomes immediate and complete,

And I regret my capriciousness instantly.

Becoming panicked, fearful that my world will crumble,

I want You to “fix” things quickly and easily.

Being candid about my desires, it’s not You I want

As much as what You can do for me.

It grieves me to admit this, but it’s the truth.

In fear, pain, and discomfort, I call upon You

From the depth of my being, begging for relief and a way out.

 

Then, I hear Your voice, which gently but firmly tells me,

To be still and know that You are Almighty God—

That You are in charge of everything, and all is well.

I know that this should give me confidence,

And that I should cease from my anxious fretting,

But that’s not what happens at all—

That has never been my experience.

Instead, I become more intense and insistent than ever,

Beseeching, whining, moaning, and carping—

Anything to get Your attention and gain relief.

But no matter what I do or how animated I become,

Your answer never varies—not even a little.

As I sit in my solitude, in moments when all is quiet,

Your voice becomes even clearer, reminding me

To be still and to know that You are God.

If I were stronger, I would cease from all my striving,

But it isn’t in my nature to trust You that easily.

I wish this was my way, but it’s not.

I want to learn to rest, but this doesn’t happen

Until I’ve exhausted myself with distress, fear, and worry.

Finally, when I am completely spent and can no longer

Muster a complaint, I bow my knee, as I should have earlier,

And submit to the small quiet voice that never ceases to say,

Be still and know that I am there for you—that I am God Almighty,

Amen.

They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wit’s end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! (Psalm 107:27-31)

Jack Watts

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Father, I know who I am.

My past is ever before me, weighing me down.

I see my shame and cringe at the things I have done.

O, how I regret my greedy willfulness,

And how I have hurt others with no other

Purpose than to enhance my pleasure.

My sin is ever before me,

Grinding me down and keeping me

From being a better version of myself.

Is my remorse to be my lot in life forever?

Or, can I finally divest myself of the poisonous

Attitudes that have made my life a wasteland,

Filled with purposeless self-destruction?

In my heart, I know the answer,

But I have difficulty letting go of my guilt.

In my head, I know You have forgiven me,

But in my heart, I have refused to accept

Your forgiveness—not completely.

Father, I need You to change my heart—

To renew my spirit, so that I can

Be free from the shackles of my past

That have tied me to my repeated failures.

Create in me a clean heart, Lord,

So that I can smile at the future—

No longer be hobbled by my transgressions,

Amen. —Jack Watts

Read Full Post »


Calm, Strong, and Sane

 

Let go and let God—AA Slogan

 

Father,

In my pain and my anguish—

When my heart was broken

And darkness threatened to overwhelm me—

I felt so lost and abandoned, but I wasn’t.

Despite my anxiety and my trembling heart,

You were there, never leaving my side,

Diligently working within my heart,

Stripping me of all of my pretense,

Scourging me of all of my arrogance,

And revealing each of my self-serving ways,

Which have made my life a wasteland.

For so long, I had no concern or awareness

About anything You desired for my life.

My only desire was to find relief from my torment,

But Your determined pruning ran far deeper

Than anything I ever conceived or imagined.

I thought my anguish would never end

And I would never smile at the future.

In my distress, I revealed the desires of my heart,

Repeatedly asking You to grant my wishes,

But You never would, compounding my sorrow.

What I have gained through my loss,

I now realize may have been

The most valuable lesson of my life.

 

Out of my pain and ennui, You have raised me up,

Placing my feet on solid, immovable ground,

Strengthening me with power in the inner man,

Making me sound at the core of my being.

No longer fearful or timid, I am peaceful and confident.

Instead of filling my hours with fretful apprehension,

My state of mind has become one of strength and resolve.

None of this could have taken place

Had You not changed my heart’s desire—

Irreversibly transforming my perspective.

Without Your loving, consistent attention,

I would never have learned my lesson,

Which would have destined me

To repeat my mistakes endlessly,

Like an unreasoning animal

Rather than like Your blessed child,

Amen.

 

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Look upon my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with a violent hatred. Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee. (Psalm 25:16-21)

Jack Watts

Read Full Post »


Insisting on My Way

Let go and let God—AA Slogan

 

Father,

I want to control the outcome

Of events that impact my life.

You know that the desire of my heart

Is for You to orchestrate circumstances

That would allow me to have my own way.

I pretend to more noble than this,

But I really am not.

When things don’t go the way I want—

The way I want them to be—

Which seems to occur far too often,

I become sulky, peevish, and petulant.

I resent that You don’t conform Your will to mine,

Even though my desires might not be the best thing.

When I behave like a child, I think like one as well,

But I don’t realize how juvenile my thinking has become.

It never occurs to me until my fretful emotions

Have run the gambit and I am spent—

Emotionally exhausted from dictating my will to You.

When I become worn out from stress—like always—

I become humble, contrite and sorrowful,

Realizing that You are God, and I am not.

Forgive me for my waywardness, and restore

A sense of humility to me.

Teach me to focus on my role,

Which is to do the next right thing,

Regardless of what that might be,

Rather than the things I cannot control—

Which are clearly in Your domain.

I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; not with Thy anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:23-24)

Jack Watts

Read Full Post »


Rattled but Not Crushed

 

 

Refer to Step 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

 

It will not do, my friend, to grant an easy indulgence to natural appetite and desire, for they ever seek to be our masters.

—T.S. Arthur

 

When things go wrong in your life and you’re convinced God has abandoned you, it will shake your faith, regardless of how strong it might be. At the same time, the disquietude that comes from this doesn’t have to be destructive. In fact, it can be very constructive, depending on what you do with it.

When I was a young man, I prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for always being there for me and for not allowing anything difficult to happen in my life. I have You to thank for that, and I do thank You.”

I was thirty-three when I said this prayer, and I meant every word of it. It was true. From nearly that moment forward, however, things began to change. Nothing seemed to go right—except for one thing. My relationship with Christ grew through my adversities—not in spite of them. It wasn’t a steady line, and I routinely fought Him by indulging in anger and self-pity, neither of which helped me mature or resolve anything. As one difficulty after another threatened to overwhelm me, my faith and commitment to Christ increased rather than diminished—not because that was what I had planned or wanted, but because I had no alternative.

He was all I had. After years of wandering in a fruitless desert, I finally understood the line from my favorite Christian song, which says, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise.” When I was young, that’s all I wanted—riches and praise. Now, such desires seem shallow and vapid. When I was young, I wanted what the Lord could do for me more than for who He was. My thoughts and desires were completely self-serving, and sometimes still are.

For the most part, that has changed, however, and all it required was three decades of pruning. My adversity may have rattled me, but it has also made me stronger—much stronger. I may not be rich, but I definitely have greater value than ever before.

 

 

Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5)

Jack Watts

Read Full Post »


Twenty-two years ago, God talked to me in my attic apartment.

I never expected to write that sentence, much less expose myself to the sorts of thoughts some of you are thinking right now. Trust me, I’m with you. I get it.

But I’m doing this because just the other day my nine year old son said to me, “Mommy, don’t God and heaven sound like fairytales we tell ourselves to feel better about death?”

Jude makes first communion

And so I am writing this. I view these essays almost like letters to my children (letters read by lots of random strangers everywhere, and I thank you for that). I wanted this story to be here, whenever he’s ready to read it.

I was my son. Some of my earliest memories are of me torturing my poor mother with questions. But how is God there? Who made him? I don’t understand, he’s just there? And how did he make all of this? I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor woman’s hands shake from the mere memories of those years, her trying to read me stories in my children’s bible, me not buying it.

Santa was another story. I had no trouble believing in him because he showed up at the mall every year. I saw him. I sat on his lap. I asked for things. I got them.

What this God I never saw promised — eternal life, salvation — didn’t stand a chance against the chubby, red suited man who brought me Baby Alive.

My sister and I went to a Methodist Sunday school growing up. It had been a conscious decision on the part of our parents who had been raised a uniquely strict and stifling version of primitive Baptist. In my eyes,theirs was a church of ‘No’ and ’Hell.’ No pants on women, no make-up, no dancing, no TV’s or telephones — no fun. If you did any of these things, you were absolutely 100% headed for Hell. My first grade self thought this was crazy. What kind of God thought I could climb trees in a skirt? What kind of God didn’t like Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch?

My parents got thrown out of their church when I was little, when a member paid a surprise visit to our house and saw the TV in our basement (they didn’t see my father’s beers in the refrigerator nor did they know my parents hosted some of the wildest dance parties in our neighborhood).

St. Ignatius

I was still drawn to church, one in particular, Saint Ignatius, less than a mile from our house. Catholicism was the Nancy Drew of religions to me, cloaked in mystery, hidden behind a haze of smokey incense and words sung in latin. I was envious of my Catholic neighbors who shuffled off to midnight Mass in their Christmas coats, the children sleepy and the adults buzzed on wine and bourbon eggnog. When I got older, I went to that midnight Mass, my head leaned back against the pew, listening to music that  made my chest expand, that made me feel closer to God or whatever it was that was beyond everything.

By the time I went away to college, I quietly decided I was agnostic. Atheist sounded too final. Too sad. It was easy to put aside my diminished faith because soon after, I began my TV career and fortunately, it demanded all of me. I was happy. I was working my dream job!

Then, I lost my mind.

I was at my second job in television. I lived in a cozy attic apartment at the top of a massive English tudor, and one morning I woke up and realized I had lost something very important.

the big haired agnostic years

But I had no idea what it was I had lost.

As a rational person, I knew it was nutty that I was so panicked over losing something without knowing what the something was. For two weeks, I ransacked my apartment. I tore everything out of my closet and my dresser, searching every corner. I did the same thing with my kitchen and my bathroom. I even lifted up my cream couches to check if it was underneath them.

I was so very frightened by my behavior, certain I needed medication, or worse, that I might need to be sent away.

And I was crying. Like, all the time. I remember one day when I was searching, removing everything from the trunk of my gold Toyota Corolla, the owner (my landlord) of the house walked out. He innocently asked what I was doing. It  was like he’d caught me robbing a convenience store at gunpoint.  I stumbled and stammered and said something about looking for something, my face burning with embarrassment and shame over my non answer.

I finally gave up searching. It wasn’t there. Whatever it was.

The night I quit looking, I had a dream. I was sitting at an unusual dark wood desk,  ornately carved, with a chair to match. All the issues in my life were dropping from the ceiling onto the desk in the form of glittering gold balls that were labeled. I remember one said ‘your job,’ another ‘your family,’ another ‘your life.’ In the dream, with the landing of each ball, it became more difficult to breathe until I reached the point I felt I was suffocating. Suddenly, all the balls rose off the table, high above my head, allowing me to breathe again. And then a voice said, “I’m with you.” I opened my eyes and I was sitting upright in my bed.

That’s God,‘ I thought. I thought it the same way I might look at a pencil and think, ‘That’s a pencil.’ It was that obvious. That evident. It was 3:14 a.m. and God had just talked to me in my bedroom. I remember I was smiling, feeling the most loved I’d ever felt, a love so intensely euphoric I would not have guessed it existed. I had never felt it before and have never felt it since.

I fell back asleep, but by the next morning, I had brushed it off as a dream. Nothing more. Of course that wasn’t God, it was just further proof I was coming unhinged.

I kept crying — at the station, in my apartment, in my car.  My once normal, once sensible life was falling apart. My closest friend at work (who didn’t know exactly what was wrong with me because I couldn’t tell anyone) suggested I talk to her friend, Joe. I realized at some point that this Joe was a priest.

“Oh no, I don’t think so,” I had said to her, like an alcoholic who is gently asked if they’d like to go to a meeting. “I don’t need a priest. That’s like the last thing I need.”

where I met Joe

She told me he had been a brilliant judge, that he had given up his career  on the bench to become a priest. Something about his story appealed to me, legitimized him in my eyes. A judge is logical, analytical, rational. To me, priests were none of those things. Maybe we could have a good, factual conversation about what the hell was happening to me. I was finally at the point that I was willing to accept help from someone, and this Joe sounded as good as any other shrink or counselor whose couch I might wind up on.

I walked in the church on a Saturday morning at five minutes ’til nine, weaving my way back to the church offices where a receptionist told me Father Joe would be right out.

Then he was opening his door and I was standing, him reaching out to shake my hand. I walked into his office and froze. There it was, maybe eight feet from me. I started to cry. Not the silent sort of tears that dainty women cry. No, I was gasping and muttering nonsense as big, fat, hot tears rolled down my cheeks.

When I could speak, I lifted my hand and pointed. “That’s the desk. That’s the desk in a dream I had.” Which sent me into another round of wailing. I could not believe that damn desk from that damn dream with the gold labeled balls was here in this room.

I did not feel elation when I saw the desk. I was not relieved that some set of bizarre dots had just been connected, nor did I think, ‘It’s a prayer answered! It’s a miracle!’ All my life, I had barely cracked the window for God, and suddenly, instead of opening the window, the entire side of my house had been peeled away, allowing everything I had kept out to come rushing in.

I calmed down enough to sit, to tell Father Joe about my lost something, my dream, my God in my bedroom, and now here, with the damn desk.

Father Joe said God had tapped me on the shoulder, that he had never received such a tap, even though he had given up a career to become a priest. I remember him saying to me that day 22 years ago, “Many people never experience what you have. Now it’s up to you, how you’re going to answer that tap.”

A year later I converted to Catholicism.

I would like to tell you that all of my doubts left after that day in Father Joe’s office. They didn’t. Occasionally they’re there, trailing me as I attempt to live a life of faith.

Sometimes I think atheists have it easy, having closed the door on God. With all the terrible things that happen in the world, I don’t understand why an omnipotent being wouldn’t intervene. We can talk free will and deep theology and you can quote bible passages, but it will never make sense to me.

ry=400But the older I get, the more I think that’s how it’s meant to be. That it’s arrogant to think it all begins and ends with me. That it’s even more arrogant to think I have all the answers. In my own life, this sort of thinking has prevented me from fully appreciating some of the more amazing moments and miracles that have happened to me.

Like the dreamy, creamy filling in a Twinkie or a Ho Ho, I think the good stuff, the holy and sacred stuff, is on the inside. Of us. We gotta go inward to get to it, either through prayer or meditation or just sitting still (without a phone in your hand). Most of us don’t spend much time going inward. Why would we, when there are so many awesome things we can be out buying, when Facebook and Instagram are waiting for us to post a picture of that next meal we’re eating, when there are kids to fret over, mortgages to make, bosses to impress. Why would anyone go in, when we can all STAY OUT?

Because I’m convinced that going in is how we get out. Period.

So when my son wonders if it’s a fairytale, I’m not going to bury him in biblical passages that may only further confuse him or make him feel guilty for questioning. I’m going to let him know it’s okay not to get it. That I don’t always get it. That we may not ever fully get it in this lifetime.

I’ve told my story to very few people. I’ve found they will either be amazed, or will not believe it, meaning they will think ‘She had a hard time, she had a dream, she saw a desk — she made it all mean something’.

As the founding member of the ‘Just The Facts Ma’am Band,’ I wish it were that easy.

I confessed to a friend  years ago that I still struggled with faith. I felt guilty because the‘God tap’ hadn’t cured me of all doubt. This friend of mine has enough faith to power a small city.

“Don’t feel bad about it,” she told me. “That’s just your relationship with God.”

What I heard her say was that I had a relationship.

With God.

I’d never seen it that way.

So maybe it’s imperfect. Maybe it’s me who snipes, “But how is that possible and why did you let that happen and if you’re really all knowing why didn’t you know this?”

And despite all of that, maybe it was God who told me in the middle of the night I wasn’t alone, who decided it was time to connect the dots with dark wood desks and good men named Joe.

I think we got a thing.

Me and God.

 

Read Full Post »


Obedience is a Choice

 

Refer to Step 2: I commit to stop living my life in pursuit of self-defeating behavior.

 

 

I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.

—Saint Teresa

 

One of the great misunderstandings of Christianity involves being obedient to God’s will. Because people like the idea of thinking they are masters of their own fate, following God’s will is viewed unpleasantly by many. In their minds, they conceptualize it as following God in a mindless, robotic way, which is particularly unappealing to a generation where willfulness is elevated above all else.

Instead of seeking and choosing to follow God’s leading, many people, including those who have been used, abused, and discarded by their church or Christian organization; chase after the desires of their own heart, believing that they are making a free choice to do so. It’s easy to see why they believe this, but it’s not the road to freedom. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

It isn’t until they have become hooked by alcoholism; addiction to prescription medications, pornography, or inappropriate sexuality; or by over eating, over spending, or other self-destructive issues that they realize what an error in judgment they have made. Choosing to be free, they find themselves imprisoned by self-defeating behavior instead. They wanted to be free, but they became the exact opposite.

Unable to extricate themselves, they finally arrive at the place where they are willing to do whatever is necessary to get back on track with God. It’s at this point that they make a resolution to abandon their destructive compulsiveness and follow God’s leading. They never realized that taking each avenue involved a choice—one leading to self-destructiveness, the other to love, joy, peace, and fulfillment.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior. (I Peter 1:14-15)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »