My Heart Is Sick of Being in Chains

Photo Credit: Paul Domenick

Photo Credit: Paul Domenick

I don’t need to listen to the song to hear it; it’s all there within me, intensely vivid as only a song you loved at fourteen can be.

Why do we crucify ourselves, every day?

Crucify myself

Nothing I do is good enough for you…

Strange to remember how little it meant to me at the time, that word “crucify.” My teenage brain skipped over the image as someone in a hurry might skip a step. I went right to what I felt was the heart of the song, put it on like a magic cloak under which I could safely travel the land of my own suffering.

Every day I crucify myself

And my heart is sick of being in chains

I felt those chains. Constantly I felt other people’s eyes on me, measuring me, judging me, weighing me and finding me wanting. I was a slave to other people’s opinions of me. The tiniest words of praise or blame sent my spirit soaring or plummeting.

Part of me wanted off the rollercoaster. I knew it was making me sick. But like any addict, I was apt to forget the inevitable lows when enticed with the prospect of another high.

I didn’t want to admit all this was out of my control. I didn’t want to ask for help – and yet, deep down, I did want help.

I’ve been looking for a savior on these dirty streets

Looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets…

Please be

Save me, I cry

This struggle is still a part of me – to some extent, it probably always will be. But at least now I know where to go for help. This song is a dark mirror to the hope I’ve found. Maybe, strangely enough, it even helped me find that hope. Maybe mouthing the lyrics was for me a rough and inchoate prayer, the Spirit’s groanings.

I’ve been raising up my hands

Drive another nail in

Just what God needs

One more victim

So what the Cross mean to me now, when it’s not an abstract symbol in a song but my saving hope? What can I possibly see in the Cross other than stupid suffering?

What does taking up my cross and following Jesus mean? Does it mean hatred toward myself, salvation through violence? Does it mean the guilt and burdens and chains that Tori sings about?

No. The Cross means freedom from all those things. The Cross means I can get off the rollercoaster and start living an abundant life.

Here’s the thing: Jesus did not come to condemn the world – he came to save it. He emptied himself to take on our burdens. He became sin for us so we no longer have to be slaves to sin.

But isn’t what some people call “sin” what makes life worth living? Isn’t it exciting and beautiful? Isn’t it another word for what makes us human, our ultimately lovable imperfections?

I used to think this, used to clutch my sins to my chest because I thought they were what made me myself. But then I realized my sin is not me. It’s part of me, but not the heart of me. In fact, it wars against all that is good in me.

Who can’t relate to what St. Paul said?I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

So often, I open my mouth and say the opposite of what I really feel, the opposite of what I would choose to say if I was actually thinking. So often, all my willpower can’t stop my destructive urges.

So what’s the way out?I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.” Everything Jesus said and did was aimed toward setting the world free – most of all his death on the Cross.

Jesus died on the Cross so I could die too – not my beautiful, unique, God-created self, but my false self, my ego. The destructive part of me, the parasite that eats away at my healthy, authentic self. The one who keeps putting those chains back on. My false self has to die so I can be more myself than ever, like a plant that gets cuts back to bear more flowers and fruit.

Of course, the Cross accomplished so much more than my personal freedom. Jesus came to set the entire world free, to break the chains we all make for ourselves, not just individuals but socieities and cultures and yes, even religions. And yet I can’t help but give thanks for the chance I’ve been given to crucify myself every day so I can truly begin to live.

Lord Jesus, save me. I want to be free. Help me draw strength from your Cross today.

Crucify my apathy to make room for your love.

Crucify my cynicism to make room for your joy.

Crucify my anxiety to make room for your peace.

Crucify my entitlement to make room for your patience.

Crucify my pettiness to make room for your generosity.

Crucify my anger to make room for your kindness.

Crucify my hypocrisy to make room for your faithfulness.

Crucify my pride to make room for your gentleness.

Crucify my selfishness to make room for your self-control.

I have faith that your love can break my chains and lead me into abundant life. Thank you for everything.


Addiction and Living Water

My dad and I once talked about the moral implications of legalizing drugs as we waited in line at the post office. That probably tells you all you really need to know about our relationship.

Me: I just don’t think drugs are good for people.

Dad: Yeah, well, that bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream you have every night isn’t so great for you either.

Me: That’s different. I’m not addicted to eating ice cream.

Woman in line behind us: I am!

That conversation took place back when I was a teenager and knew everything. But the medical definition of addiction is “the persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful.” So, yeah, in that case, I am addicted to ice cream. And a lot of other things. Considering what I know about the harmful aspects of ice cream (the fat, the sugar, the non-fair trade ingredients, the mood swings and blood sugar crashes it causes), I should realize it’s potentially physically, psychologically, and socially harmful, but I love it and don’t want to give it up. So much for that argument.

The medical world also defines addiction as characterized by increasing tolerance, so whatever you’re addicted to, it leaves you wanting more. To me, that seems like the worst part of all, the fact that you’re always chasing some elusive horizon of enough, always seeking just a little more.

So much of my life is like that, if I’m honest. I’m addicted to so many things. They’re not illegal; most of them are even socially acceptable (my bouts of compulsive people pleasing come to mind). But I ignore the harm they do because they make me feel so good – I ignore their true nature because of their momentary appearance.

In a way, my addictive personality is perfectly natural, because I live in an addictive society. All around me, people overeat, overwork, overanalyze. We chase all kinds of things that, deep down, we know have nothing to do with true happiness. We spend our lives yearning to get rich quick, stay young forever, or some other impossible thing. Our society positively encourages addictions to money, power, violence. It’s hard to see another way, much less live it.

God does not want this for us. I love that that’s right there in Scripture. God does not want us to be endlessly, fruitlessly chasing something that doesn’t love us back.

God calls to us sadly through Isaiah: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

The book of Jeremiah echoes, “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

These words jump off the page for me, because I have lived them. I keep on living them. I feed my soul with junk food and let life-giving water slip through my fingers. And the whole time, there is a source of true happiness out there. The Bread of Life, the Water of Life are there, if I’ll reach out my hand and take them.

Jesus once sat with a woman at a well. She was an ordinary woman, just like me. She was out to get water and schlep it back home, the same old chore she did day after day. And she’d been trapped in an addictive cycle her whole life – wanting another person to complete her, protect her, satisfy her – but none of her five husbands, nor the man she was living with, had really ever helped her longings and loneliness become less.

She heard Jesus say the words living water. Right away, she asked where she could get it. How to get something to combat this raging thirst for more, something she wouldn’t have to chase after, pure joy with no side of pain?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She said, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

And then, gently, he brought her addiction to light. As they talked, she realized that he could set her free, that he was the truth that would set her free. No more need to spend her life running after food that just made her hungrier and water that was never quite enough. She was so happy, she told everyone she knew that she had finally found the source of living water, joy welling up inside her and overflowing.

I want that kind of joy. I mean, who wouldn’t? But the question is, do I want it more than ice cream, or people’s praise, or a sense of accomplishment? Can I stand turning my darkest deeds over to the light of truth? Can I empty myself of ego so there’s room in there for the good stuff, the water of life, life to the full?

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: First Thoughts on Therapy

So six months after realizing I want to be healed, I finally visited a therapist. I climbed the stairs to her office on the upper floor of an old blue house. I drank the tea she offered me and filled out paperwork. She asked me why I was there, and I admitted it: I don’t know how to live the simplest commandments. How can I love God and my neighbor when my ideas about love have flourished misshapen, like a tree cramped and dwarfed by structures around it? She nodded, asked for details, took notes unobtrusively, while I struggled to articulate the things that seem to be holding me back from loving with my whole heart.

I was afraid, climbing the stairs to that room, afraid of a lot of things. I was afraid the therapist I’d chosen wouldn’t understand my faith. I was afraid she would understand it and would judge me. I was afraid she would decide it was the root of my problems. Most of all, I was afraid this would be a waste of time, or worse, that it would somehow cause me to be less loving, that what was meant to heal me would only make me worse. I feared that therapy would encourage me to be selfish, that instead of learning to love others better, I would stop at loving myself. All these fears had held me back from this moment: I’d shopped for the “perfect” therapist for months, delayed making an appointment, convinced myself I didn’t have the time or money to do this after all. But I made it: I fought through that naysaying crowd to say, “I need help.”

It all boiled down to this: I was afraid when I walked into that office, Jesus wouldn’t come with me. But even after just a few visits, I know that’s not true. Although my therapist doesn’t share my faith, she’s already started to shine the light of truth on my life. And the truth is, it’s been really dark in there for a long, long time.

For instance, already I’m starting to ask myself where all these fears came from, anyway. Not from Jesus, who says over and over in the Gospel not to worry about anything. I can hear Paul’s voice booming, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free,” but I let myself be shackled and ruled by anything I think will keep me safe from judgment, criticism, ridicule, disrespect, abandonment. I soften my opinions, hide my true self, the self that is my gift from God, because I fear rejection. But Jesus didn’t do that; Jesus knew exactly who he was, spoke bold words with love and without fear.

Perfect love casts out fear, so the Bible says. I have to not get caught up in the word perfect. I can never make my love perfect, and neither can my therapist, no matter how many hours we spend in her homey little office. The only perfect love comes from God, and it’s only God who can perfect me, make me complete. But I believe God can use this therapy thing, and I believe I need to go forward with it, with all the bravery I can muster. Once and for all I want to break that yoke of fear I’ve been living under for so long, the one I convinced myself I didn’t really mind. God wants me to be light on my feet, ready to help carry another’s burden without being crushed by the weight of what I’m already dragging along.

What do you think is holding you back from being healed? What is helping you move toward healing?

That Broken, Beautiful Jesse Tree

Georges DelatourWe light a candle, turn on the twinkle lights, and open up the Bible. This isn’t a usual thing at my house; I’m the one obsessed with the Word, inclined to spill all these words about it. But during Advent, it’s somehow different. We have this tradition of the Jesse tree, Jesus’s family tree. We read about prophets and patriarchs and promises and wayward Gentile women and other weird relatives of the coming King of Kings. We remember that the Christmas story is actually part of a much bigger story.

Sometimes she asks questions that just floor me, like why God didn’t send Jesus before the flood. If Jesus was around in the beginning, was always part of the master plan, why the waiting? Why not send him right away and save all those people and animals from drowning?

Like lots of people, she wonders about Abraham and Isaac. Why would God ask a man to sacrifice his only son? And what man would try to do it? What in the world is such a story trying to tell us?

But the story that really sticks in her craw is Rahab. What is she doing on this Jesse tree? It seems she saved her family but doomed her town by cooperating with the Israelites. How could she sleep at night?

We talk it over, around and around. I argue that Rahab was doing the best she could, that she was positive the Israelites were going to sack the city anyway, that she was not a powerful player, couldn’t escape the game being played by the men around her.

Across the table, in the candlelight, my loved one shakes her head. My words do nothing to quench the fire of anger in her, anger at all this needless violence. And I have to say I respect that in her, her utter intolerance for all this war surrounding the newborn Prince of Peace. She raves about it like a prophet. I wish injustice shook me up that much.

Maybe I find it easier to reconcile all this ugly stuff in the Jesse tree because it’s a lot like my own family tree. People I love, people who did unspeakable things, people who suffered unspeakable things: they’re the same people. Even my little nuclear family was full of genuine love and twisted love, love that helped and love that hurt. My parents tried their best, but they weren’t good for each other. I can’t say I regret they’ve parted ways, but how could I wish they’d never met? Out of that twistedness and brokenness and yes, real love, I was born.

I’m almost comforted by it, actually, the fact that Jesus wasn’t born into perfection. He was born into a war-torn world, a people and a family that did crazy things to keep themselves from getting torn apart.

But I can’t find anything to censure about Jesus in these pages. Not a single thing. And the grace Jesus gave extends backward too, back to all the dubious ancestors who helped bring him into the world.

We read the story of Joseph back in Genesis every year, and there’s one phrase that sums it all up for me. At the end of Joseph’s story, his brothers, who sold him as a slave and faked his death back at the beginning, are worried he’s going to take vengeance now that he’s in power and their father has died. They send him this nervous message, like Guess what? Before he died, Dad definitely said you should forgive us for all the stuff we did. Really.

Joseph starts crying when he hears this, which freaks them out even more. They throw themselves at his feet and beg for mercy. And then Joseph says this to them:

It’s okay. You tried to hurt me, but God meant it for good…

I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past. And I know, from what I’ve gone through with my own family, that you can get to this place. The place where you realize God can do anything with anything, can take the stupidest things you’ve ever done and the cruelest things people have ever done to you and work it all out for good. Just like with Jesus, out of the twisted stump of your past can sprout – of all things – a new life.

It takes a long time for the story to get there, of course. And I can’t explain why suddenly Jesus bursts on the scene after all that carnage and darkness, any more than I can tell you why one day I could call my mom after not speaking to her for over a year. But I need to wrestle with the why. I love when she asks me these questions, because I need to remember what the questions mean. When you can ask questions, it means you feel safe, you feel loved, you love enough to want to get to the bottom of things. Her questions remind me this is not some Sunday school story: it’s real and messy, just like mine.

So we keep reading in our tiny circle of light, unable to see the whole room, unable to see the whole story yet, our own or anyone else’s. But in the questions, in the long, dark shadows cast by the candle as it lights up our faces, there is beauty too.

When It Doesn’t Feel Like a Wonderful Life

English: Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna...

Is there such a thing as Holiday Baking Anxiety Disorder? Because if so, I definitely have it.

I made some pie crust on Wednesday night, and it came out tough and brittle, and I didn’t have time to redo it, and I kind of lost my mind. This comes on the heels of me flipping out over the failed caramel apples for Halloween.

And now I’m remembering many other failed batches of baked goods that I let ruin holidays. Cookies destined for care packages that melted all over the pan. A lemon cake for my little brother’s birthday that looked like it got sat on. No-bakes for a visit to a friend that crumbled in my carry-on bag.

In retrospect, of course, all these things seem totally silly. Baked goods are a way I like to show love, but when they flop, it doesn’t mean my love is worthless or unwanted. But ridiculous as it seems, in the moment, that’s how I feel.

It’s definitely a pattern with me. I hate showing external failure, no matter how small it really is in the scheme of things. And when I’m backed into a corner and can’t help but show it, I feel like my life is meaningless.

In those moments, I always wish for the angel to show up like in It’s a Wonderful Life. I want proof from God that my life does have meaning, that people are better off because I was here, that I have worth even when I feel like I look worthless to the world.

Well, so far God hasn’t sent an angel.

What’s up with that, God? How come only Jimmy Stewart gets one? How am I supposed to know you love me even when my feelings tell me otherwise?

Oh… I’m supposed to just believe it? You mean, have faith? Take seriously all those promises in the Bible about how God will never leave me or forsake me and loves me enough to have died for me? Keep perspective on the things that really matter, remembering that success without love is nothing and humility in failure will always be met with grace?

But that’s so much harder than in the movies.

In all seriousness, I need to stop waiting around for the angel. I can’t truly live if I’m addicted to praise and afraid of messing up. I may never be able to see the true worth of my life while I’m alive – and that’s okay. In fact, it’s even kind of normal.

Paul talks about this in Hebrews. He gives us this long list of Bible folks who did outrageous things because of their faith: Abraham, Sarah, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Moses. Did any of these people get proof of the promises God made them while they were alive?

No! As Paul says, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…” Their faith itself was the goal, the ability to believe things would turn out okay even when all signs pointed to worthlessness and failure.

We all need to have “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” That’s what helps us keep going when things feel too overwhelming. We need to believe there is hope, hope that is more real than our feelings of despair.

So I’ll try to see my Holiday Baking Anxiety Disorder as an opportunity to strengthen my faith and my patience. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Christmas cookie season is just around the corner…

Thankfulness and the Writing on the Wall

This image shows the view from the carpark &qu...

The carpark “Rest and be Thankful” near Arrochar in Scotland.

Confession: I’ve been seriously struggling with that whole “attitude of gratitude” thing lately. Ironic, I know, given the season.

It’s been quite a month at our house: a broken laptop, two pairs of broken glasses, a stolen purse, an ER visit, and a cold that’s come back three (3!) times. All of which, I hasten to assure any family members who may be reading this, seem to have turned out fine, or at least as fine as could reasonably be expected.

But still there’s this gnawing in my chest, this voice in my head that whispers, You deserve more.

When I show up at my colorless office, it’s hard to remember the things work has to teach me, easier to wish I was in grad school pursuing my dreams.

When my partner applies for job after job with no luck so far, it’s hard to hope, easier to worry about our long-term financial situation.

I could go on, but I won’t.

And I know that all these things are what we like to call first world problems. I have a job, a job that is not exciting but that ensures both of us have insurance and food and a place to live and some money left to give away to those who have less, and yes, even to have fun. But it’s all too easy to lose my perspective, especially in this consumer culture where cravings for More make the world go round.

Today I got a nice reality check: I volunteered at a free dental clinic, a huge one that happens once a year in my state. People camp out overnight in the cold like it’s Black Friday, but instead of a great deal, most of them are just hoping for some pain relief, for some friendly care they can’t get any way else.

I wasn’t that skilled of a volunteer, not being part of the medical community, but I did what I could, helping a few Spanish speakers navigate, fetching the dentists more gloves. But it was so amazing just being there, seeing the dental professionals pour themselves out for their patients, seeing the patients start to relax, to smile with confidence for the first time in a long time.

In the volunteer lounge, they’d pasted all these patient comments up on the wall. The comments from a single day plastered one whole wall and started to creep down another.

“Thank you for doing God’s work.”

“I can never repay you for what you’ve done for me.”

“I will be praying for you today and during your work tomorrow, that you can help many others like you helped me.”

“Everyone was wonderful. Thank you for being so kind to me and smiling.”

As I read their gracious, overflowing thanks, the lightbulb started, belatedly, to go on. An entire wall of thanksgiving for something so basic – something I took for granted: for care. Care for their flawed bodies and, maybe even more than that, genuine care for them as people, as dignified, beautiful human beings.

I realized it’s not the job and the food and the privilege I take for granted: it’s also the love with which God has blessed me. Some of it has come from friendships and relationships, some of it straight from the source. And I remember vividly specific times I wept and prayed for that love, prayers I didn’t even believe could work, prayers to a God I did not know.

And I realized, looking at that wall, that thanksgiving doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s a cycle that starts with giving: we give what we can, and we’re reminded how much we were given, and the thankfulness we feel overflows into even more giving.

May I actively seek an attitude of gratitude at this time of year and always – because it keeps the cycle going, because having so freely received, the only loving thing to do is freely give.

Broken and Blessed

English: Jesus healing the sick by Gustave Dor...

So remember that post I did about how I want to be healed?

Apparently I didn’t want it as badly as I thought.

In that post, I announced my intention to get a therapist and/or spiritual director to help with some pesky issues. But then I just didn’t do it.

I didn’t do it because I felt empty, lacking in so many things: time, money, energy to navigate The System of getting help. And I, by the grace of God, am not currently burdened with the kind of mental or physical health issues that can be such a huge drain on these things. Mine are just the normal demands of bills, job, and life.

In one sense, my lack in those areas can’t be denied. But aside from that, I think the issue is the very thing I outlined in the original blog post: I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to define myself as someone who needs help. In short, the real issue is my pride.

I love to be seen as someone who helps people, who prays for people. I’d rather see everyone else as in need of my help. I want to believe I can fix all my problems myself… with God, of course. But the thing is, if I could just do that, I would have done it by now. And the longer I wrestle with unhealthy relationship patterns and long-buried issues without any real solution, the more I and the people I’m close to suffer. Ironically, I become less and less able to help others. I’m so blinded by the stick in my eye that I cannot see clearly to help others with the things that blind them.

I so easily forget that Jesus loved needy people. He was always hanging out with them. Lepers, outcasts, untouchables: he loved them. And he said God loved them too, maybe especially so. In the end, we are all fragile, we are all broken, in different ways. Blessed, Jesus said, are those who know it.

It’s time to let go of the notion that I’m different from others, that they are the ones with the problems and I’m the one with solutions. The fact is, we’re all struggling at different levels, and we all need help. The time has come to root out my pride and realize I am a broken person… and my very brokenness is blessed.

Now to pick up that phone and call some therapists. But I may need help even for that.

So do you mind if I ask for your prayers: for healing, for wholeness, for the courage to seek it?

I Must Become Less

When I was a teenager, I’d occasionally dream I was someone else. My dream alter ego was never anyone I knew; once I dreamed I was a stocky, pale-haired young man named Charlie, and I dreamed up a best friend and a mom for myself out of whole cloth, too. When I woke up from these kinds of dreams, my thoughts went like this:

First, Whoa, that was weird.

Then, Wow, that was such a relief!

Especially as a teenager, obsessed with my appearance and how others perceived me, it was amazing to get to be someone else for awhile. My constant preoccupation with myself was a burden I only noticed when it was temporarily lifted.

That’s a part of what prayer is to me, too.

In Christianity, we say things like, “We have to die to ourselves,” or “He must become greater, I must become less.” I know this sounds shocking to some people, like following Jesus involves violence to oneself.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is just the Christian way of saying something that many other religions also say, most notably Buddhism. The false self, the ego, the impostor, whatever you want to call it: so much of our constructed identities are actually burdensome to us.

And we don’t realize this until we lay the burden down for a few minutes. When we become less and the Higher Power becomes greater, it’s like the cage gets smashed open or we peek our heads out of the cave to see the world above.

I must become less… not because God wants me to suffer, but because God wants me to be truly free.

Today’s 15 minutes of prayer: In the conference room at work again. The word of the day was “love” – I know I could meditate on that one for a long, long time.

I’m spending this month blogging with other Faith and Inspiration writers at The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. Here’s the complete list of my posts for the month so far.

Words Vs. Silence

Have you ever stopped yourself in the middle of a sentence, cutting off a rant that had been going on for minutes, and think to yourself, Wow, I’m being a jerk?

Well, I kind of hope it’s not just me.

It was one of those crying-in-my-cubicle days, one of those days when I realized something about myself, and ultimately I’m glad, but the realization hurt. I realized that too often, without even realizing it, I use words to tear others down rather than build them up. It’s generally not malice, it’s just carelessness, but it still hurts people.

Luckily, I know the antidote to carelessness. The opposite of carelessness is mindfulness.

So prayer today was especially meaningful. In mindful silence, I could lay down the burden of the words I’d wielded earlier. I could practice refraining from speaking as a gesture of peace. I could center my mind on divine forgiveness. I could cling to hope for change.

Today was a reminder of why silence is precious.

Today’s 15 minutes of prayer: Knelt on the bath mat again. The orange, fuzzy bath mat. The weird setting helped me take myself less seriously… and take the prayer more seriously.

I’m spending this month blogging with other Faith and Inspiration writers at The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. Here’s the complete list of my posts for the month so far.

Prayer and Healing

I’ve talked before about the fact that I sometimes feel like desiring healing is selfish. Since Centering Prayer is primarily a way of healing my spirit, it brings up those feelings again. How can I sit alone with my eyes closed when there are dishes to be done, loved ones whom I owe a call, causes that need my energy, all kinds of obligations to be met?

It’s good to take a moment to step back and examine what my prayer practice is supposed to accomplish.

Just because it’s an activity I do alone, does that mean it’s just for me? Is the primary reason I desire the healing of prayer to alleviate my own suffering, feel better about my spiritual life, fight off guilt, check it off my to do list?

Prayer does heal my spirit. But prayer is not something I do truly alone. Prayer is something that brings me into communion with God. Through the practice of silence, I am emptying myself so God can fill me, and that is what heals me.

The effects of prayer don’t stop with me, either. The more I’ve allowed God to heal me and heal our relationship, the more God can affect whatever I do – even those mundane things like dishes or emails. The quality of everything I do can change. I can give of myself more fully. I can love more easily. I can sympathize with others more readily.

When I think about it this way, prayer is not a waste of time. Prayer can help me spend all my time more wisely. Prayer is time set aside to love God authentically, with more and more of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And when I do this, love of neighbor follows.

There is no commandment greater than these.

Today’s 15 minutes of prayer: Cross-legged on the bed as the last one awake in a sleeping household. So much activity in my day today – all good things, but made even better with a moment to rest in gratitude.

I’m spending this month blogging with other Faith and Inspiration writers at The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. Here’s the complete list of my posts for the month so far.