What’s Happening During Your Confinement?

“God’s absence in the carnage is due to one single rather unnerving fact; that at some time past He honored our request that He leave. And if we are not brutally honest with ourselves regarding that choice, it is we ourselves who have set the stage for the next tragedy.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Never before in the history of humanity we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s causing a universal reaction – social isolation and fear. Here in the United States there is hysteria about buying up all the toilet paper and hoarding spaghetti noodles.

How are you handling this new life? We live so fast and immediate that having to adjust to a quarantine without an end seems beyond belief. We cannot imagine it. There are no words for what we are experiencing now. It’s just not in our vocabulary.

What are you doing with your life in this new orbit? Sure, there are things you must do. But there is also so much else that’s going on during your quarantine.  Your life is being rolled up with all these experiences that you would never have chosen. They are now a part of your history, every day that follows. Your children have this inserted into their journey.

This is an un-American experience. We have lost freedom, so few of us are pursuing happiness, control is out of our hands. No one likes to be told where and when to go to church, grocery shopping or running in the park.

This is also a great American experience. Each generation needs a common enemy to draw us together and help us to see what “we” truly are. Sometimes in our past that enemy was the brutal frontier. Then it became wars with foreign enemies. We may not remember our medical battles against dark foes like influenza, polio, bird flu, mad cow disease, and SARS. These brought us together to do battle and save our people (especially children).

What are you doing with your life right now while under confinement? I know you’ve been bombarded with suggestions and even some good ideas. I’ve collected a few and am trying some to see how well they help.

“Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first.” ― Wayne Cordeiro

While you are stuck in your house, you start to pay attention to the place. Maybe it’s time to make some changes?

  • How about moving some of the pictures on your walls around?
  • Don’t you have a closet that desperately needs to be cleaned out?
  • You really are never going to wear those clothes again, why not bag them and donate them?
  • You may need to ask permission, but what about rearranging your furniture?
  • Most Americans have a number of items in the refrigerator that have really gone past their expiration date.

There are probably some bigger projects that you have time to tackle right now:

  • Make some connections with people who need to hear from you (and haven’t in a long time)
  • Aren’t there some books you’ve been meaning to read? Pull them out and hide your TV remote
  • Tax deadlines really will arrive, why not start putting the pieces together? You could develop a system.
  • Anything big out in the yard that needs your attention? It’s only going to get hotter (down here in Houston)
  • Organize your photos, music, contacts, socks?

While you are living a new kind of life pay attention to the quicksand that can happen every day if you’re not careful:

  • Try to set up a routine for each day
  • Come up with some reasonable goals for the week (write them down and post them)
  • Connect with other people during each week, make a list and start to work your way through it
  • Schedule breaks and do something with the people that you love, even it’s on Face-time
  • Don’t let the TV determine your daily routine
  • When you are out, socially distant, smile more often

“An intelligent person, looking out of his eyes and hearkening in his ears, with a smile on his face all the time, will get more true education than many another in a life of heroic vigils”.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

What about some of the larger and more meaningful projects in your life that deserve special attention now that things are so disoriented?

  • Get in contact with people more often than you would normally
  • Tell people that they matter – when we’re isolated we have fewer experiences that affirm this truth
  • Make a prayer list of people who are especially effected by this disaster
  • Send a meal to someone else
  • Figure out a way to use technology to communicate with others using live images of yourself – let others SEE how well you’re doing
  • Comb your hair, shave your face, make your bed, put on some perfume, act like the real you, not the “shelter in place” you – do who you really are not the who you’ve been forced into

 

Acquainted with the Night
Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

 

 

It Really Isn’t Good To Be Alone

In our new national war on the plague, social distancing is one of our chief defensive weapons. This means we are holed up in our homes with immediate family. We are with fewer daily social contacts than we are used to, and some of us are now spending much more time alone than ever before.

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke through the chimney.”  – Vincent van Gogh

Before this plague arrived I began to notice some of the effects of newly being alone in my own life. I was (and am) forgetting things and having trouble juggling normal daily routines. Here’s what I decided was probably the cause:

  1. I no longer have anyone at home with me to rehearse and review my daily schedule. This taken-for-granted activity has tremendous effects when it comes to reinforcing memory and solidifying routines.
  2. There’s also an important effect that life-long partnership produces, a running feedback on one’s activity and thinking. Sometimes this takes the form of a long and often repeated speech made at the wrong time. I was always good at this. Other times it’s just a smirk or a roll of the eyes. Last week I discovered how important this facet of living was when I assembled a double sized bed frame for a single sized mattress, both sitting in the same room. In the past, that day long project would never have gotten off the ground, argument included.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.”  – Genesis 2:18

I think this means that we are not designed to live like hermits. Social distancing is just for emergencies. Selfishness is what often drives people away from each other (without realizing it at first). Sure, friendship and deeper relationships always come with a cost, but in the long run the payoff is well worth it.

Being alone too long can produce a wide variety of physical, emotional and social ailments:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Poor Digestion
  • Muscle Tension
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Disordered Sleep
  • Social Awkwardness/Panic
  • Mood Swings

Many of these problems we don’t see coming, instead being alone becomes a cause of other symptoms. It can take longer to piece together the causal chain and then even longer to find solutions.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” ― A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

In my case, I’ve got to institute some new routines to replace the review and rehearsing that I did each day without even realizing it. Becoming more intentional about daily life can produce a host of beneficial results. It’s a habit we all need to develop. Think about why you do WHAT you do and why you’ve got THAT on your calendar.

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.” ― Fernando Pessoa

  1. Start the day with a rehearsal of the big events – talk it over in the car ride to work
  2. End the day with a review of what worked and what didn’t – you should be keeping a journal
  3. Post-it notes are still a great idea – but after two weeks you no longer see them
  4. Talk with someone about something in your day each day – even a text message
  5. Try to check in on others – set a goal to do this each week

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. ” ― Pearl S. Buck

 

Social Distancing and Loving Your Neighbor

As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.  -Colossians  3:12-14 (Phillips)

The Apostle Paul wrote to the new Christians at Colossae a town in what is now Turkey. He urged them to live out their beliefs as they interacted with those around them.

I taught a class on the Sociology of Religion this past summer. We read about one of the reasons why Christianity spread so effectively through the ancient world. These early believers lived out their faith. They helped others who were in difficulty. They cared for the sick, dying and aged. They loved their enemies.

Remember, the ancient world didn’t have a faceless state to take care of it’s citizens. No Social Security Administration, Obamacare or Medicaid. If the plague came to your house, tough luck.

The plague has now come to our world. It’s an opportunity, in the midst of fear and panic, for people of faith to put their money where their mouth is. Is your Christian faith a hobby or a way of living?

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” ― Paulo Coelho

To remain healthy and keep this plague from spreading one thing we must do is keep our distance from others, especially in large numbers.

To keep others feeling safe and secure, loved and accepted, heard and connected, we must find ways to shorten the distance between us. Replace all the idle fear chatter with some concrete ways to reach out and draw near to those who need it most.

Now is a time to be thankful for all this technology at our fingertips. Talk on the phone more, text often, send an email to as many people as you can think of. Especially be conscious of older people you know, people who are feeling marginalized.

“Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard there’s nothing you can do.” ― Golda Meir

Help people who are suffering in all sorts of ways to bear it:

  • Pray for peace, a good night’s sleep and protection
  • Make more frequent contacts
  • Share some extra toilet paper??
  • Send a card in the mail
  • Send some groceries to an older person

You’ve probably already thought of dozens of better ideas. Do something right now to help make someone else’s world a better place. Tie that golden chain around someone else.

“When there is a crisis, let your heart pray, but let your hands work.” ― John Kramer

 

Turning Loose

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

Saturday arrives and I’m reminded of so much that’s missing from my life right now. I even made a list. Of course in moments like this I don’t think about all that’s been added by friends and family to my life. So many good things that ought to be put on my list. But that doesn’t fit the immediate narrative.

Bad news comes to all of us. Sometimes it’s relatively minor but still very hard, can you imagine being quarantined on a cruise ship? Life threatening diseases, auto accidents, or economic disasters can drastically change everything in a moment or take long years to devastate.

“But in real life things don’t go smoothly. At certain points in our lives, when we really need a clear-cut solution, the person who knocks at our door is, more likely than not, a messenger bearing bad news. It isn’t always the case, but from experience I’d say the gloomy reports far outnumber the others. The messenger touches his hand to his cap and looks apologetic, but that does nothing to improve the contents of the message. It isn’t the messenger’s fault. No good to blame him, no good to grab him by the collar and shake him. The messenger is just conscientiously doing the job his boss assigned him. And this boss? That would be none other than our old friend Reality.”  ― Haruki Murakami

I was in the grocery looking at items I would never buy again (tomatoes). On Saturday mornings I always used to cook tomatoes for my wife’s breakfast in bed.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ― John Banville

While gazing at those crates full of Saturday morning memories, I thought about that man I had just passed in the parking lot. He was sitting out just past the parked cars. It looked to me as if he was wearing pajamas and a ski cap. I think he was waiting for someone to come and pick him up. He was sitting there patiently in his wheelchair.

With that “poor me” list in my head and pushing my cart through the produce section I realized that guy in the parking lot was a dramatic sign. He was a message for me about my here and now. I think there are signs like that all around us and we usually miss out because our spiritual eyes aren’t attentive enough.

You and I both know how the past can hold us back from moving on:

  • unforgiven friends and relations
  • people and places you missed
  • conflicts that never got resolved
  • wonderful memories that can be no more

Some of the most difficult obstacles in anyone’s life involve dealing with the past in healthy ways. Problems like these are part of the human condition.

“In magic – and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. ‘Time’ doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.” ― Paulo Coelho

Who wants to spend today, sitting in the crippling past, waiting for who knows what future to come? Instead, get up each day and make something new out of your life. That’s my challenge. Find something new in the produce section to buy! On this trip I bought some bok choy.

 

 

Learning to Fly

Well, some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up (Learning to fly)
Must come down

I’m learning to fly (Learning to fly)
But I ain’t got wings

– Tom Petty, Learning to Fly

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.  – Romans 12:2 (The Voice)

I get to keep my grandson this weekend. It’s one of those rare treats that don’t come along often enough. He just turned two. Every time I see him he seems to have changed. He’s literally growing up right before my eyes.

Every now and then I see a former student of mine. It seems like I’m stuck in time, they always look so grown up. These college graduates have launched themselves into careers, families and difficult but bright futures.

My peers at my church Bible Study all have grown up children. I’ve gotten to watch them move through school, off to college and now entering into the world of work. What’s always remarkable to me is the tremendous change that always takes place in the lives of these young people. They each become their own marvelous version of an adult right before our eyes.

“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ” ― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

I must confess, when I do run across former students or people from the past, I’m not sure there’s always much change in my own life that’s evident. I look back over years of journals I keep and, sad to say, there’s not much progress. I’m too often writing the same lyric over and over. You know what that’s like, being stuck in the car for a too long road trip with only one tune on the radio?

But, keeping track of myself by writing it all down, does help tremendously. I am able to see patterns that all too often lead to ruts in the road. There are also breakthroughs that demonstrate, little by little I really am making forward progress in the process of transformation.

“Either your purpose is running your show or your process is.” ― Jim Lawless

What about you? What transformation is taking place in your life? Is it intentional? My grandson is really working on learning words because he wants to be more specific with his important constant stream of requests.

When all of us get to a certain age, we tend to sit back and just let things happen. Until an emergency knocks us off our groove. But you don’t have to wait for a crash to start moving out of the lane you’re in right now.

“If you spoke to your friends the way you speak to yourself – would you have any friends left?” ― Jim Lawless

  • Keep a journal each day and reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going
  • Easier to do if you get in the habit of self-talk, while you’re alone in the car, waiting in line, sitting by yourself for a few minutes
  • Self-talk is much more constructive if you turn it into prayer

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Ongoing internal conversation can help to raise your awareness of both external and internal reality. This practice builds your connection between who you are and how you are transforming. Regularly let someone in to listen so that you can remain grounded in social reality as well. Transformation isn’t a solitary experience.

Becoming more self-aware is usually the first step in transformation.  The next step is to start making some realistic goals. Find some more ways to love, that’s always going to be the right move.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ― Paulo Coelho

Someone Out There Needs You

There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.   – G. K. Chesterton

This is a photo of an event that took place in 1989 that became known as The Baltic Way. Two million people, across three countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), joined hands to protest their subjugation to the Soviet Union.

It’s always amazing when we see people come together en masse to accomplish something great. I think it’s also incredible when we as individuals come alongside others every single day and keep someone’s head above the waves.  There is someone near you right now who needs you. Maybe it’s something as simple as a smile.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t you already know the people in your life who need you? A child, a spouse, a dear friend, a partner-in-crime?

There may be people out there who need you every now and then (and then they really do!).

What about people in your life who don’t realize (yet) their need for you (or anyone else)? You’re not one of these kind of people are you?

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan

Of course you old folks out there are familiar with Barbara Streisand’s version of People Who Need People -but Shirley Bassey had a version too. Remember Bassey? The only singer to to three James Bond theme songs. Can you name all three?

The apostle Peter wrote to the emerging Christian church these words:

Most of all, love each other steadily and unselfishly, because love makes up for many faults.  (1 Peter 4:8, The Voice)

Do you see the important instructions here?

  1. He has shared a lot of wise counsel, but tells them, “most of all” to love each other. Can you think of anything better to do when you are living, working and sharing with others?
  2. Don’t love just on Valentine’s Day, do it steadily, because doing it that way keeps our relationships moving more securely and in staying in balance. Be someone who is a constant and consistent presence to others.
  3. Don’t look for anything in return – be unselfish in your giving of love, which means the giving of yourself, which means time, attention, resources. If you don’t take people seriously they can tell, they then get the message that you don’t really love them (only in word not in deed, 1 John 3:18)
  4. You’re going to make all kinds of mistakes if you live with people. I know I do, every single day! But if I just demonstrate love it tends to cover over all the failure. If you’ve ever baked a cake and part of it sticks to the pan, you know you can overcome those holes by using extra icing.

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” ― M. Scott Peck

What’s your advice about helping others? Post a reply. It will help me!

Advice to a Younger Self

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.” ― Robert Frost

“Do not complain beneath the stars about the lack of bright spots in your life.” ― Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Every day I’m around people who are looking for sound advice about the future. Or I’m around people who ought to be looking for this sort of advice and don’t know it yet.

I need your help right now. What advice would you give a younger you? What do you NOW wish you had known THEN?

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“Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use. ” ― Wendell Johnson

What Did You Promise Yourself?

Driving home down that same highway
Sun in my eyes this time
Trying to find a song on the radio
A tune I haven’t heard a million times before
Something that resonates with my mood today
Reliving today’s missed opportunities
What’s at home for dinner?
This life is still strange to me
I don’t have the right rhythm yet for this new dance
I promise I’m going to figure this out
And continue to become who I’m supposed to be

“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” ― John Green,

Twice over the past six months I’ve heard different people say that the promise of a marriage was worth breaking if happiness was at stake. This was hard for me to hear. My wife and I were married for 35 years and spent the last five of those years fighting cancer together. She was so strong and valiant. While I wasn’t always a very nice caregiver (think Nurse Ratchet), I never thought about jumping ship. We weren’t very happy during this battle. But leaving our marriage never crossed my mind. Now, over those 35 years we had many ups and downs. I honestly don’t think either of us spent much time tossing around the idea that abandoning our marriage was one of the choices we could consider. Regardless of how happy we were at any given moment.

“A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.” ― Anne Lamott

The more I think about it, I wonder if it’s the promise to someone else that’s easier to back out of?  Don’t you think we live in a world where commitment is never certain in anything anymore? People back out of contracts, loans, friendships, etc. every day. Maybe it’s always been like that?

Are most people living together rather than getting married today because they area afraid to make promises they can’t keep?

cohabitation 1

My subject is marriage but the promise that I think is essential here is the one we make to ourselves first.  I believe it’s the promise we make to ourselves that makes the promises to others possible. Relationships work – even when it’s terrible – because we’ve first made a deep internal promise that affirms who we are and what we actually believe. People who can’t make that kind of promise or at least start the process, don’t make it very well in the relationship journey.

“We make promises to live, not to keep.” ― Marty Rubin

In order to start a relationship on the right foot and keep it heading in a healthy direction – each partner must be able to make a promise and keep it. The first thing to understand about making promises to other people is that they never work if you can’t hold on to promises you’ve made to yourself. I don’t think my wife and I would have made it for 35 years if we hadn’t, prior to marrying, each carried within us the promise that marriage was permanent. Then we could make the same promise to one another. I think keeping a promise with each other depended, in a large part, on our promises to our selves.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ― Ernest Hemingway

You already know that you can’t change someone else. You can’t make other people keep their promises to you. What you can do is make certain you keep your own promises. The place to start is to be certain you are true to the promises you’ve made to yourself. Most of these promises center around who we believe we are (and are becoming).

What kinds of promises do you make to yourself?

  • to live up to your roles (parent, spouse, friend, employee, etc.)
  • to put others first
  • to keep changing , growing and learning

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke

 

How Not To Pray

That was the night I learned how not to pray
God does what God wants to any way
And I never did tell my mother, I kept it from my sisters and all my brothers
That was the night I learned how not to pray

Chorus to song by Iris Dement

When I heard this song I took a different meaning than when my wife heard it. I’m  not sure what meaning she took away – she was always more of a concrete literalist. When I heard the song (it’s about a little girl praying for her younger brother who has fallen down the stairs and is rushed to the hospital – he doesn’t make it) I understand the lyrics to be about someone growing up and deciding that prayer isn’t about trying to tell God what to do. I think my wife thought the song was about getting mad at God and giving up on prayer. There are a lot of people I know who have gotten mad at God. Many more who have given up on praying. I’m not sure why I haven’t.

As I’ve grown up, praying has changed in many ways for me. It has become a much larger territory to explore. It has kept me alive and kicking during times when I was ready to lie down and never get up again.

During my whole life of faith has involved prayer. Here’s what prayer has never accomplished for me:

  • I never had all my problems solved (not even most of them!)
  • Financial problems always remained – although I did often get mysterious money in the mail – but it was never more than just enough for that moment
  • My difficulties and situations at the different jobs I had were never easy or solved just like that
  • My wife eventually died from cancer that had moved into her brain – countless people prayed for her to be healed

“The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prayer has always been a method of survival for me. It’s a practice that keeps my center, my sanity, a longer perspective. Praying keeps my feet on the floor and my head above the waves. Quick fixes, even long solutions are external and eventually pass away. Instead, prayer is the path I take through each obstacle. Sometimes things get fixed, sometimes they don’t. Prayer is the method of transformation that is taking place in my eternal life.

I have prayed in all kinds of ways:

  • laying on the ground with my face to the floor
  • holding hands with others
  • out loud in front of a group
  • when hearing a great song (usually in the car, alone)
  • nowadays, each time I walk out of Starbucks
  • alone on a long walk
  • in writing
  • with someone on the phone
  • while writing on the wall of a room
  • when worshiping with the church
  • laying hands on someone
  • joining with others to compose a single prayer out loud

“When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person.”  ― Philip Yancey

Praying is a private activity. There is also a very public dimension. I pray with others all the time. I pray on behalf of others out loud. Sometimes just one or two come together and pray about personal matters. Praying is a social activity as well as an intimate relationship with God.

I know that prayer isn’t a

  • private internal meditative practice
  • a religious ritual
  • some way that I have to earn God’s love and favor

Instead, for me, prayer has always been centered around relationship. One that I have been building with God and a way I can help people I know and love. Praying for other people (intercession) is wonderful way to build relationships and to keep myself from being too stuck in my own problems.

“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.” ― Corrie ten Boom

Why have I never stopped praying?

  • I have always heard words of comfort, guidance, correction and assurance when I pray
  • Because I have grown up with a lonely soul and needed someone to talk to
  • It seems the only way for me to maintain this essential relationship in my life
  • When I pray, I receive answers – I know that God is listening and responding to me

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of  the one who prays.”  ― Soren Kierkegaard

In an American society that has taught us all to want results now and to take charge of our own lives – prayer is usually a last resort. It’s not a habit that reflects how we’ve been raised to approach life. The practice of prayer demonstrates dependence, waiting, and following. Praying shapes our self into another direction, a different way of thinking.

Each crisis I have faced in life – betrayals by closest friends, the bottom falling out of my life’s work, cancer destroying the only person who loved me – so far, I have survived these only because I was able to pray. I was never alone in any of these terrors. I didn’t know how to escape, but I knew I wasn’t alone. God keeps walking me through the darkness.

“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”   ― Martin Luther

What Do You Do When You’re Alone?

“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.” ― Paulo Coelho

As I thought about it the other day, living alone for the first time in my life has created all kinds of new options and realizations:

  1. Extra time to think about lists of what you can now do while living alone!
  2. It’s okay to walk around without your pants on
  3. You don’t have to make dinner, you can actually eat meals whenever you want, or not at all
  4. Every mess in the house has only one culprit
  5. The TV is okay company, I leave it on, but usually have to watch a program several times to understand what’s going on – I’m not paying enough attention the first time
  6. You never run out of hot water – although I did, had to have the water heater replaced
  7. It’s okay to leave the door open when going to the bathroom
  8. When you’re alone you (with no pets) you do more out loud talking to yourself, at least I do – even in parking lots, at the store and while waiting in line. I have to be more careful though. You can imagine.
  9. There isn’t anyone else who’s going to pick that up
  10. I’m not always certain that what I’m wearing matches

“There is a wilderness we walk alone
However well-companioned”
― Stephen Vincent Benét

When the internet and cell phone were introduced into our society, the boundaries between work and home began to fall. We are busier because of technology. It has not liberated us as was promised.

Cell phone addiction strikes at a very young age and even begins to alter your brain. Many of the leading innovators in technology, people who invent Apps for example, won’t let their own children have cell phones!

As we get older, we will spend more of our time alone. But what will we do with this time alone?

I don’t think you’re ever going to make much progress if you don’t consistently spend time alone. But not just in seclusion. Alone and thoughtful about yourself, others and the situation. It’s going to take a long time. Your whole life. But in the noisy chaos that invades each moment, you’ll never find who you really are and what needs to happen until you (1) put down that phone, (2) walk out on the routines that trap you, and (3) unpack all the fear, frustration and dreams that are crammed into your soul.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.  – James 4:8