Are You to Busy for God?

This past weekend at a retreat with the Sisters in Spirit at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins Minnesota, my colleague Laurie Erickson and I spent time together creating a safe container for women to talk about living in God’s love and light.

We opened with the story of the woman at the well in John 4. We practiced raising our levels of awareness and increasing our ability to be present at the moment. Being able to slow down, clear our minds, breathe and be able to create an opening and to create safe space is a foundational piece for living in God’s unconditional love and light. We shared stories about the challenges of being a woman and being able to have awareness and being present in our daily lives.

We went deeper in the challenge of busyness by spending time in the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. As we listened to the story of Martha complaining about all the hard work she was doing while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. How Jesus approached her, and they were able to walk and talk. Spending quality time with Jesus, Martha came to realize that her relationship with Jesus trumped all her works.Learning to sit with Jesus and spend time with Him was the beautiful lesson for Martha.

We asked ourselves, why are we so busy? Why do we focus so much on works rather than sitting and spending time in prayer and reflection? What are the true reasons that we are keeping ourselves so busy?

After we spent time considering why our culture is so focused on busyness and so focused on doing rather than being we had ah-ha that we drive the busyness ourselves. We many times create the pace of our world. We posed a question to the group of what are the things that are separating you from God?

What separates you from God? This is a big question for a lot of people including myself. What are the things that I am doing? Where am I spending my time of my day? How much of my day do I dedicate to God? Is it five or 10 minutes of prayer versus the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day.

How do we spend our time each day and how much of it is with God? This is a big question for a lot of people including myself. What are the things that I am doing? Where am I spending my time of my day? How much of my day do I dedicate to worldly matters versus Godly matters? We posed the question to the group and asked them what separates you from spending time with God?

What I loved about this activity was the honesty from the women in the group. While we do have responsibilities with our family and with work, there are organic opportunities to sit and spend time with God. We shared ideas from doing devotions before the day starts to saying prayers during your commute time to doing evening prayers with our children. In sharing suggestions in the community, we can learn from each other. From generation to generation. From woman to woman. From Sister in Spirit to Sister in Spirit.

My next activity was one of my favorites. We asked everyone in the room to spend some time writing on a piece of paper what burdens they were carrying with them today. What were those heavy things on their heart and mind that they might be willing to let go to God? We listened to that beautiful song by David Crowder called Lay Down Your Burdens. As the women in the room had their concerns written on slips of paper, we asked them to crumple up those papers, and we had the women release those slips of paper into an urn with the fire and burn them. We released our burdens to God.

We sang the song be Let Our Prayers Rise Up Like Incense Before You. We watched as the smoke lifted from the urn and our burdens were released to God. We were making a sacred space for God. It was a very moving moment.

With lighter hearts and a sacred space, we spent time in God’s love notes, which is what I call the Bible. We read scriptures about how we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and how God loves us unconditionally (John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to name a few).

We encouraged everyone to find a way to live daily spending time in God’s love notes. Whether it’s a quick song Good morning God, this is your day; I am your child, show me your way. Or perhaps it is a devotion, or a Bible study, or reading the Bible. Being in the word of God every day is a life changer and a heart changer.

Today as you think about where you are, and where you would like to be, I strongly encourage you to make time to sit at the feet of Jesus and share your burdens with him. He resides within your heart and awaits you. I also encourage you to invite God’s love and light into your physical body. Just closing your eyes and visualizing his love and light pouring through the cells in your body to help heal what deals you is also a very powerful exercise.

I would like to thank my colleague Laurie Erickson who co-lead this retreat with me. Laurie and I have a new book coming out in April 2017 titled: Seeing Yourself As God Sees You: Don’t Let Lies Be Your Truth. This seven-week devotion provides healing for the inner critics and mis-beliefs that each of us can carry. Stay tuned for information on ordering your copy.

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What do Excelsior and Decorah have in common – Spirit!

I have written before about the power of the coincidences and the power of the Spirit at work, but I have a story from this week that I have to share. I need to go back to November when I was in Northfield Minnesota leading a Strength Finders workshop for hospitality teams from Minnesota and Iowa. During the workshop, I like to use real-life examples so participants can get to know and become more familiar with teammates strengths in action. I commonly use my strengths as an example.

One of my strengths is – Individualization. People who are exceptionally talented in this area are intrigued with the unique qualities of each individual. They have a gift for figuring out how different people can work productively together. (Source: Clifton Strength Finders Themes Card 2002) I like to paint a picture of what the area of talent and strength look like in the workplace so workshop participants become familiar and can begin to recognize the areas of expertise and strengths in their teams.

One of the fundamental tenets with Strength Finders is the importance of growing and developing your areas of strength. After equipping the teams on the areas of talent, I then share ideas of how team members can practice and develop their strengths. With practice, you can begin to perform at top levels of performance most of the time. Ok back to my story.

Next, I shared with the workshop participants that when I took Strength Finders, I was not sure about the Individualization strength. To me, it sounded kind of lonely and well individual. At first, I resisted this strength as I am such a social being. The more I read and learned about my area of talent, the more curious I became. Strength Finders gave me language for a talent that I had always taken for granted. For me, the real magic happened when I began to read about the ideas for action to refine and develop my Individualization strength. One of the suggestions I read about for those with the Individualization strength is writing about people’s unique stories. Well, I thought that this isn’t a good idea as I feel I am a terrible writer. When I sit down to write I have great ideas in my head, and they make it to about my elbow, and then they keep going straight out in the universe – they never make the 90 degrees turn onto the paper! After trying to write some devotions, I found people responding very positively to the devotions and stories. With prompting from others, I began to write more stories to the point that I published my first book on December 2015 and my second book is coming out in April 2017. I began to see first hand the power of Strength Finders, and I was encouraging the workshop participants to be open to trying some of the ideas for action.

Participants in the seminar respond warmly to the personal examples, and it was at the next break that the fun began. One of the participants Tom from Decorah, Iowa came up and shared that his mother used to publish books back in the day. He asked what the title of the book. When I shared the title name Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Lesson of Hope and Healing, Tom shared his mother wrote on spirituality as well. We loved the connection – especially as he told me how his mom Betty would carry books in her trunk. Yes, I do that too!

Next, I asked Tom where his mother lived, and he said she lived next to Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins Minnesota. I said no way. I just signed up to lead the Sisters in Spirit Women’s Retreat in February at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. To which Tom said my mom attends that retreat.  What a small world and beautiful connection – but wait there is more.

During the break, Tom purchased a copy of my book and asked if I could deliver it to his mom at the retreat. You bet I would be thrilled to give Betty a copy.

In the days before the Sisters in Spirit Retreat, I received a package in the mail from Tom. To my delight, I found three books written by Betty inside. As I glanced through the books, I discovered a poem titled Mary? Or Martha? Which Am I? This caught my attention. You see I had been searching for a poem or prayer for none other than my session on Mary and Martha. How perfectly divine that the Spirit would be at work in Tom to connect two Sisters in Spirit to prepare for the retreat and to accomplish good far greater than each of us could individually.

Friends, when we make and take the time to slow down and form meaningful connections beautifully things happen. Complete strangers from Decorah, Iowa and Excelsior, Minnesota while visiting Northfield, Minnesota can positively impact the world. So breathe. Be open and find meaningful connections.

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