Fighting demons while you sleep

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Orthodox Bulgarian icon of St. George fighting the dragon (photo credit: Wikipedia).

I used to have spiritual warfare dreams. For what seemed like hours, I would dream that a demon was trying to attack me. To repel him, I had to say, “In the name of Jesus, be gone!” Then he would leave–and be back a few minutes later. Over and over I did battle with demons. I would awake exhausted.

Spiritual warfare in daily life I don’t usually have such dreams any more. But some days I feel like they’ve become my waking reality. Life as a homeschool mom can be trying. I must overcome constant temptations. One moment, three kids ask me for help at once. The next, “J” spills juice on the floor I just mopped. Then two others get in a fight, and one talks back when I discipline him. All during math class.

Now none of these situations is major. But when you barely have time to breathe between one and the next, you get exhausted. You discipline in anger instead of love. You yell at the toddler for acting like a toddler. You argue with your older son.

Or maybe you don’t. But I often do.

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

My Heart is Not in Stuff

 The sky alone is an extravagant present 
that continually fills me with the joy
 if I remember to take a break from my ‘important’ business. 

A writing prompt asked writers if we could only take five objects from a burning house, what would be the most difficult things for us to leave behind?  Well really, the only objects I consider to be important are photos of family, my computer, passport and ID, a bible and bank card, assuming that I am wearing my wedding ring and gold cross like always. That’s it.

As for regrets, I really do not think that my heart is in things. Since I was a little girl, I have felt content with what I have materially. Even now, when my nine kids ask me what I want for Christmas, I pause for a moment with a blank mind. I have to search to come up with a list.
Rather a strange state to be in because this is not the result of spiritual striving, fasting or prayer, it is just how I am. Living with little people has only strengthened an innate tendency to enjoy the little things, to be grateful to be alive and in communion with the Spirit. In addition, as a large family with barely enough cash but many blessings, we have experienced many incidents of God’s providence. This scripture resonates within all of us.

MATTHEW 6:25-34DO NOT WORRY

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Kids understand these words, reminding me that the key to happiness and joy is not stuff but thankfulness and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. There is much to be grateful for if we will simply stop for a moment and really see what actually surround us every day. Children delight in the plethora of tiny details all around them. They are born with a sense of wonder and the ability to enjoy simple pleasures.  Perhaps it is because they are closer to the ground when we tried to go for a walk but they stopped at every flower and bug, especially a bug on a flower. As  they look, touch, smell, even lick each wonderful new discovery, all their attention is riveted on that one thing. At first it was difficult to slow down during our walks and let the toddlers set the pace but it was a wonderful instruction in how to relax and become fully present to the moment.
At first I was only capable of enjoying whatever captured my children’s notice bu t now I realize that they were experiencing so much more than I initially thought. In their silent, non-verbal attention to nature, they were in deep communion with God Himself as He is present in His creation. Adults struggle for years to merely glimpse the intimacy that little children have naturally with God. They do not need to strive or work for this state of contemplation because they are without guile, prior opinions or expectations; they are open and look with trust, ready to absorb the love, joy and peace that envelopes them. Children are grateful for everything.
Ah, to live in a constant state of gratitude and thankfulness is a taste of heaven. Even if I were to live in the midst of a concrete jungle, I could at least stop for a moment, look up and give thanks. I simply need to remind myself to glance upwards, above my little busy world and enjoy the sky. The sky alone is an extravagant present that continually fills me with the joy if I remember to take a break from my ‘important’ business. Every time we attend mass, we are constantly reminded to give thanks to a Heavenly Father simply because life in, with and through Him is a joyful experience no matter what our situation.
“The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.  Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1360).

Finding patterns in the Bible

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Transfiguration by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Last week for homeschool we did a narration of the Transfiguration. While reading the story aloud, I had an epiphany: it echoes the story of Moses receiving the 10 Commandments. I shared the parallel between the two stories with my boys. Now I’d like to share it–and the principle behind it–with you.

As a writer and avid reader, I am convinced of the inspiration of Sacred Scripture. (Besides, of course, being convinced as a Christian by the authority of the Church.) Dozens of writers over thousands of years produced the book we now call the Bible. They were from different cultures, used different literary genres, and had diverse purposes.

Amazingly, the same themes are developed throughout the Bible from beginning to end. Types and anti-types, prophecies and their fulfillment, fill its pages. You can follow one idea like a wave on the sea from Genesis to Revelation, or stand on the shore and admire the rhythm of the ocean that is the entire Bible.
I love to share these patterns with my children. I get excited about them, and that excites my boys!

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Are you making a daily morning offering?

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Praying Girl by Heyerdahl (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

St. Francis de Sales is the master of the spiritual life for lay people. His book, Introduction to the Devout Life teaches us how we can grow closer to God while living out our lives as spouses or single people in the world.

One of the practices St. Francis urges his readers to make a habit of is the morning offering. In fact he says, “Never omit this practice.” A morning offering sets the tone for your day. It helps you acknowledge that the day is God’s, not your own. It can give you the strength you need to face trials, peace amid busy schedules, and added grace for unforeseen temptations.

I confess I was never taught to make my own morning offering as a child. We sometimes had family prayer in the morning. At Catholic elementary school we started the day with prayer. But no one told me I should make a private morning offering until I was much older. I found it hard to take up the practice, and even harder to maintain it over the long-term.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

COME OUT OF THE CAVE

The worst possible fate for me would be to die and discover that I had lived an existence similar to the allegory described in Plato’s Cave. Plato describes man’s condition similar to living in a cave, chained, only seeing shadows on a wall cast from a candle. Yet the human race believes that this is all there is to life. When one person manages to break free and stumbles out into daylight, he realizes that what he thought was real were actually shadows of real objects. After this messenger makes his way back into the cave to explain this revelation of the real world, no one believes him. No one else has any reference point; they simply cannot grasp this alternate reality.
When I speak with someone who is curious about the faith, I realize my revelations about the spiritual life in the Mystical Body of Christ are completely foreign. I might as well be a fantasy character explaining life in an alternate reality. Psychologically speaking, people need to hear a completely new concept at least three times before it even begins to register in their minds. Sharing about spiritual reality is like helping God make new neurological connections and this transformation takes time. Seekers who has existed on the surface, experiencing only physical reality is wearing God-filtered glasses; the life in Christ that I share with someone is completely alien. They have no reference point… read  more

Falling asleep during prayer

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Sleeping Biy by Lrylov (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

If you are a parent trying to grow in holiness, you have no doubt fallen asleep in prayer. Among nursing babies, sick toddlers, wet beds, and waiting up for teenagers, parents spend years being sleep deprived. Then we go to pray and find ourselves nodding off, or even dreaming. How should we handle this?

Am I being lazy? Before reading Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, I would get mad at myself and feel like a failure when I fell asleep. Of course, if I were to tell the whole truth, I was often at fault. I used to pray mental prayer last thing before going to bed. Even though I’m a night person, this is not a good time to pray. My thoughts are already on sleep. My mind and body are tired, and it feels like I’m giving prayer the lowest priority on my daily agenda. Sometimes I prayed that late due to forgetfulness. (Whoops, I haven’t prayed yet–better do it now!) Other times I was putting it off. But at least I was making some effort.

I find morning is the ideal time to pray, even for a night owl like me. It’s harder to forget and makes prayer my top priority. My mind isn’t racing with the business of the day.  And if I’m too tired, I can adjust the time I go to bed at night until I get it just right.

That’s how I reasoned in my single days.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Our Biggest Delusion

I was never designed to live alone like an island unto myself. 
Yet, in my pride, I cling tenaciously to my throne and crown.
 Only when I was completely depleted and shattered,
 only then did I resign and give God  back His job.
There is a world of difference between a man who is aware of himself, sitting on a hill and looking at a beautiful sunrise and a man so enthralled with that very same sunrise that he forgets himself and becomes  absorbed in the scene. In the first instance the man is egocentric; he is at the centre 0f his world, not God.
When I see beauty everywhere, I experience joy and a sense of connection because my eyes are not on myself. The truth is that I am simply part of the whole. Everything does not depend on me. I am free to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the Spirit of God which permeates all when I am in the right place in the scheme of things.
I am living in a fantasy when I see myself as the center of the universe, viewing everything as it circles around me. As believers we sing and recite prayers that proclaim that God is the centre of all but our psychological make-up screams the exact opposite. I view people, events, history and yes even God through my eyes, judging what is right, trusting my thoughts and my feelings as the final judge of what is real. When Jesus says that we must die to ourselves, He is not speaking about some pious self-sacrifice that makes us look holy, no He has something much more radical in mind. The kind of inner transformation Jesus desires literally rips the rug up from under our feet and shatters our world view.

◄  Galatians 2:20  ►
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Why is modern man so anxious, nervous, out of sorts? Part of the reason is probably that many people barely see a blade of grass during their normal work day. Surrounded by concrete and glass, our innate self craves connection with the rest of the natural world, other people , the communion of saints, (both living and dead) and at an even deeper level, God Himself. Instead we live in isolated, man-made prisons which shut out other humans never mind other living creatures and God.  Each person is at the centre of their little artificial universe. That means that each of us has assumed the role of king or queen of our tiny kingdoms with everything depending on us.
I was never designed to live alone like an island unto myself. Yet, in my pride, I cling tenaciously to my throne and crown. Only when I was completely depleted and shattered, only then did I resign and give God  back His job. Only the did I surrender an ego centric point of view and embraced reality which is that God is at the centre of the universe and I am simply part of the Mystical  Body of Christ.
Silly?
Definitely absurd but I only saw this fact after I surrendered and let go of control. I cannot  find what is really important in life in self-created delusions butI can discover truth as I learn to live in harmony with a bigger universe than the one I create.

In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’
Abraham Kuyper

St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Crux), who lived in the 16th century  explains the inner process of becoming one with Christ.

I lose myself and remain,
With my face on the Beloved inclined;
All has come to rest,
I abandon all my cares
There, among the lilies, to die.