Raining Grace


 

"Do the thing and you will have the power" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). It's a quote I try to live by. I believe we all have incredible resources. The Master of the universe has decided to take up residence within us. If that weren't enough, In Him we live and move and have our being. We are swimming in grace! As a longtime spiritual director and a chaplain for all faiths, I’ve witnessed firsthand the workings of grace. It rains abundantly. (Sometimes I wear a waterproof parka and can’t feel a drop. But divine grace awaits my awakening to it.) 

Hopefully some of these reflections will encourage you to access more and more the grace God offers. I'll be posting a new blog the first of each month. May something written here help you remember what you've always known and live the truth within you. Read the thing and you will have the power.                                                                                                                                                                                  Acts 17:28

 

Today, be aware.

God's Life floods your heart.

It's always Raining Grace.

 


 

BELIEVE

IN THE POWER

OF THE SPIRIT

WITHIN YOU.

LET FAITH

CAST OUT FEAR.


 

 

 

Authenticity Begins Where Ego Ends

Most of us struggle to be authentic. If we don’t win the battle to be our self, our self will never have a chance to be. No one else can take over the privilege and challenge of our self-expression.

I believe the glorious freedom of authenticity lies in realizing our lives are not about us. In the scheme of things, we’re not all that important. If we are not the central focus of our lives, the burden of proof—of proving we are worthy—falls off our shoulders. We are liberated.

In my youth, I was a people pleaser. The source of the problem was not self-adulation, but a sense of not being good enough to live up to self-imposed ego demands. If others were pleased with me, I felt worthy. Like the chamaeleon, the people pleaser needs to adapt to the environment, to the surrounding people. They please others at the expense of maintaining the unique identity that is their gift.

For an artist, people pleasing is deadly. When I was a pleaser, I couldn’t  freely write, pour out my heart, find my voice and let it be heard. To do any of those things was to risk rejection, to have people not pleased with or about me at all. Writing this blog entry and then posting it would have been impossible.

But I can have the pluck to be me and write freely if I realize I’m just not all that important. Let’s face it, in 60 years I’ll be dead. (I chose that number because old habits die hard. I knew you’d think I was fairly young—which seems to please a lot of people.)

If the point is not to prove myself as a writer, if the point is you, my audience, and what I can contribute to your thought life, or to your life in general, if you are my focus, then I’m liberated. The point is, I am not the point, the be-all, the end-all of writing, or of living. My life is not about me.

As ego diminishes, courage increases. As concern for others becomes larger, my need to be larger than life (larger than I am) becomes smaller.

Actually, this insight is nothing new. Long before the internet made it possible to be humiliated instantaneously on the world stage, to be undone in the time it takes to press “tweet,” this idea was floated. Some 2,000 years ago it was written, “Love castes out fear.” When I reach out to others in love, whether it be on a keyboard or around someone’s dining room table, I am without fear.

Well, maybe not without it. Maybe just less dominated by it. I’m human, and it’s human to want to be loved. The prayer of St. Francis says it well: “Let me not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”

 I the final analysis, we’re all “perfectly imperfect.” We do our best. And we’re dependent on the grace of God, which, thank God, rains abundantly.

Today, be aware.

God’s Life floods your heart.

It’s always Raining Grace.

 



Welcome Visitor!


 

 

 When We Don't Make the Grade

It was my last class of the week—my first week as a teacher.

“Ms. Metzger, you made a mistake when you totaled my score on the quiz. I earned an 87, not a 92,” the student said.

“Wow! How honest you are. I’ll fix it.”  

The student’s eyes widened. “You’re not supposed to fix it! Most teachers reward honesty by not changing the grade.”

I smiled. “Then I won’t change a thing.”

When life tests you and you score poorly, it’s safe to come to God and admit you only deserve a C. God is gracious. He doesn’t record your mark in some giant gradebook in the sky, fixed for all eternity.  One of the most important aspects of prayer is to be yourself, to be real, to be honest. Intimacy is always based on transparency. If you want a deeper relationship, bare your heart and soul to God. (Nothing you say will be news to Him anyway.) 

Perhaps authenticity is most critical when you've goofed up. Owning up to your failure gives God opportunity to work miracles. He patiently labors to transform you. He gives us you the strength, wisdom, and courage to begin again. God loves you in spite of you, and rewards your humility, and trust with grace abundant. God promises to distance you from your mistakes “as far as the East is from the West.”

I find looking at my moral mistakes difficult. I want to avoid the uncomfortable. Today, we say that shame is unhealthy, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that mental health lies in hiding our guilt or justifying our less than noble actions.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, formulated a daily practice called the Examen. It’s an examination of consciousness, not merely an examination of conscience. You ask yourself: How did I do today? Where did I find God? Where did I miss His presence and His promptings? What were my motives? What fears drove me? It’s a practice that demands candor and courage and leads to spiritual and emotional growth.

In dealing with everyday negative emotions, 12 Step programs recommend that you “Name it. Claim it. And Dump it.” (“I feel nervous. This fear belongs to me. I don’t need to keep carrying this … ”   This simple little process can prevent burying feelings. When you bury your feelings “alive,” they tend to dig their way to the surface, where they can trip you up on your journey time and again.

The same process of naming, claiming, and dumping is healthy when dealing with everyday negative actions. Naming and claiming them before a Power greater than yourself gives you a power greater than your own to move on. You are given a clean start. God makes all things new.

Psalm 103:12

Today, be aware.

God’s Life floods your heart.

It’s always Raining Grace.




 

 

BE TRANSFORMED

BY THE RENEWING 

OF YOUR MIND.

Romans 12:2

 

 


 

 

 

Twilight Zone (Or Lost)

 I was five years old, squirming in my chair. My haircut successfully completed, I was waiting for my mom’s hair to be finished.

“Honey, do you want to walk home all by yourself?” Today Mom’s hairdresser would call Child Services, but we lived in a small town, it was a different time, and Mom’s offer seemed perfectly reasonable.

“302 Main Street,” I recited in my mind. There were no turns involved, and I headed out. I walked. Walked. Walked. I took a deep breath and walked. Walked. Walked.

The numbers were getting closer and closer to 302, but nothing looked familiar. Finally, there was the number “302,” a filling station! I stood before the building, tears streaming down my face. I had no possible explanation of where I was or what was happening. I was starring in the scariest episode of The Twilight Zone possible.

Someone was looking out for me that day. A nice woman at the filling station noticed my tears and drove me home. I had walked far enough in the wrong direction to end up at 302 West Main Street, not 302 East Main. Thankfully, the woman didn’t merely redirect me. She got in her car and took me home. She waited for me to go inside where my mom was in a panic because I wasn’t there.

Do you remember the feeling of being lost? The confusion. The fear. Eventually, the panic.

When we are lost, emotionally or spiritually, all we need to do is reach out to God. The woman at the filling station that day was surely my God with skin on, revealing God’s character and care.

God sees our tears even before we shed them. He walks with us. Won’t leave our sides. If we wander off, He watches us, roots for us, moves heaven and earth to get us back on track. He places people in our paths that can show us the way.

The trick to the trek, to getting home safely, is to reach out to others and find God within. Self sufficiency is an illusion. Without God we separate ourselves from the fabric of our own being, for we live, move, and have our being in God. If we stay centered in God, we are our truest selves, and we save ourselves the agony of being lost.

Acts 17:28

Today, be aware.

God’s Life floods your heart.

It’s always Raining Grace.

 




Divine Encounter

I Struggled to Give My Son a Faith I Didn't Have 

I flew out of bed at the sound of Brian’s chilling screams. My five-year-old sometimes had bad dreams, but this was different. The air in his room seemed charged with danger and dread.

“It’s okay, honey.” I sat on Brian’s bed and patted his hands. “I’m right here. It’s just a nightmare.” I tried to assure both of us. 

Brian’s body remained rigid with terror. I flicked on the overhead light, kissed his cheek,  and carried him to the rocker. Brian was inconsolable.

It occurred to me that I should pray. In fact, I should pray out loud. But what if I prayed, and God did nothing? Brian was just learning about God. I needed to protect his young faith against the slings and arrows of outrageous life. Sometimes God’s “mysterious ways” made me doubt his providence altogether. “It’s okay, honey. Really. Shhhh,” I hushed in motherly tones. But Brian’s fear was building, not abating.

“Sweetheart,” I said in desperation, “let’s talk to God about this.”

“Dear God,” I began.

Between the words “Dear” and "God," Brian’s little body went limp with peace. My prayer wasn’t powerful, memorable, or well-spoken—a lackluster string of words—but it didn’t matter. The moment, the meeting, belonged to my son and God. My prayer trailed off with a final “Amen.”

As I rocked my peaceful child, I realized I’d had a wake-up call. Not Brian’s terrified screams in the middle of the night, but a wake-up call concerning my own lack of faith. After all, I’d been afraid to pray out loud with my son. I’d had so little trust that God would come through. In addition, it seemed I was interpreting the struggles in my life as some sign of abandonment. When God’s answers weren’t what I’d hoped for, I felt He hadn’t answered at all.

Brian stretched, re-positioned himself in my arms, and laid his head back on my shoulder. The warmth of his body comforted me.

I knew I had so much spiritual growing to do. I remembered the man in Scripture who asked Jesus to heal his son, telling Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief.“ I could identify! If doubts are part of being human, if they are natural, I needed the supernatural. I needed God’s grace. I knew faith was a gift God longed to give …

Brian interrupted my thoughts, sitting upright in my lap. His eyes wide with wonder, his little voice solemn with awe, Brian whispered, “Mommy, how did He get here so quick?”  

Mark 9:24

Today, be aware.

God’s Life floods your heart.

It’s always Raining Grace.

 

 

 


Tune in to the Drama Within

Many of us have more or less sworn off drama. We realize there are people who manufacture torment in their lives and relationships because it gives them something to do, enemies to fight, problems to gnaw on. We know there’s no need for such creative pursuits. There is authentic drama to be had. We live in a world where life and death decisions are sometimes demanded, where people fall in love, grow ill, choose between right and wrong … It’s not an uneventful, boring life! So we can say no to artificial drama and live in (relative) peace. And we’d be wise to limit our contact with drama-creators lest we become an actor on their stage.

But to secure true peace, we need to tune in to the interior drama, the conversations, confrontations, and battles within us. We may actually need to participate in this drama until things quite down inside, in our minds.

Most of us earthlings grew up in an imperfect world. Our siblings and classmates weren’t saints and our parents weren’t perfect. The voices of those early influencers still pipe up in our minds unless and until we’ve done some inner work. According to psychologist Donald Weaver, Ph.D., "We are each a committee of persons.” In our thoughts or self-talk, unrealistic demands from childhood are often still echoed by certain committee members. Many people have a relentless critic within them.

Greater than the danger of feeling oppressed, stressed, and depressed is the danger of thinking the voice of the demanding bully is the voice of God. A careful reading of the whole of Scripture tells us that God is love, not a big, old, judgmental tyrant. Spending time with God confirms that message in our minds and, more importantly, in our hearts. The inner voices need to be heard and some dissolved. Ask for God’s grace to discern what is of God. (Grace rains abundantly.)

I had a fairly good childhood, but (I tell myself) I’m sensitive. I made mild family dysfunction go a long way. At one point in my life, I decided I needed to be an involved, intervening parent to my somewhat trampled inner child/adult. I decided to stick up for the downtrodden within and put a halt to the words of the critical perfectionist my tormented committee members lived with. I realized I had been more compassionate to other people in my life, a much more vocal advocate for them, than I had ever been for myself.

If you decide to adopt the role of self-advocate and begin to listen to your inner dialogue, you can become an encourager, a comforter. You will perform better when you're not so abused. Decide to give the heckled and harried inner person a break. Actively stick up for your harassed committee member(s). Make sure a new, kinder voice rings through and rings true in your thoughts. A time will come when just awareness of what is going on inside your skin will be enough. You will find the bully or bullies are full of hot air and even a look their way is enough to silence them.

The more time you spend with God, the Source of all compassion, the easier it will be to be loving, even with yourself. Actually, the human predicament being what it is, sometimes the “least of your brothers,” the one you need to have mercy on, is yourself.

When you have compassion for yourself, there is more peace inside. A peace that is greater than the peace this world can give. It’s time to bloom in the sunshine of self-love.

(1 John 4:8)

 Today, be aware.

 God’s Life floods your heart.

 It’s always Raining Grace.

 

 © 2019 Sally Metzger

Unless otherwise noted, images are courtesy of the generous pixabay.com community.