Monthly Archives: September 2013

Living Awake

IMG_1775By Judy Villanueva

“Mindfulness”. A word that seems to sum up the concepts of attentiveness, awareness, being present to, awakened to and connected. “Full of mind” or in other words, a mind full of awareness! Don’t we often move through our days out of touch with ourselves and God? Occupations and preoccupations, television, email, facebook, and twitter, not to mention the plethora of other things that fill our time and attention, leave most of us fragmented – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

How are you? Do you know? How are you and God? Do you have an awareness of the condition of your heart and soul? Where are you feeling conviction that leads to repentance? Where are you experiencing goodness, joy and love? Can you name your dreams and disappointments? What are you learning? Are you living awake?

The point is that without a bit of quiet space every now and again, it is near impossible to experience a mindful existence. Our souls need time to catch up with our fast-paced lives and this happens best when we slow down and quiet ourselves. Silence, being quiet in a quiet space, and solitude, simply being alone, are helpful and awakening practices. They confront our need to save ourselves and control everything. They help us to bow!

Yes, in silence and solitude we learn to bow our minds and our hearts before God. And, this is reorienting to our souls.

The difficulty is that these are quickly becoming lost practices in our culture. Little in the routines of home, school and work invite us to pausing places where we learn to catch up and connect with ourselves. And, the danger is that, without such practices, we become “functionaries”without a heart, unaware of the needs in us and around us. We may live busy lives but we miss out on the richness of living awake, in touch and present to God, ourselves and others.

If any of this rings true for you, then the next question is “Where to begin?” Any habit of quieting will be helpful. Taking a few of minutes a couple times a day to be alone and quiet is a great way to start. Make it simple and doable. Turn off the “noise” of your life including your computer, cell phone, television, radio and sit alone quietly. There is no need to think or say anything. Just breathe, sit with God, and allow the silence to begin to create some peace inside of you. If emotions come up, acknowledge them but return to them later. In these few minutes, the goal is simply to rest in God’s presence. And, if you need a little more motivation read Psalm 8:3-4

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

God is mindful of me! He is mindful of you! To consider that the infinite God of the universe takes notice of me is beyond astounding! He sees us and is completely and totally awake to our every thought, breath, tear, smile, and prayer.

“How I pray for Holy help in daily awakenings, mindful presence with myself and others, and for greater awareness that I am on God’s mind and that He cares for me. Amen.”

What about you?

Are you living awake?

How are you and God?

Where are you experiencing goodness, joy and love?

Can you name your dreams and disappointments?

Have you ever considered that you are on God’s mind?  You are on God’s mind and He cares for you!

 

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Jesus Wept

DSC00088_2By Judy Villanueva

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

I love that Jesus wept. Oh, not at first…initially, I didn’t understand why Jesus wept for Lazarus when He must have known that He could raise Him from the dead. Even if the Father had said “No” to that plan, Jesus, more than anyone, knew that Lazarus was in a better place. So, why did He weep? I mean, He didn’t just shed a tear and give Mary a hug…Jesus wept!

But, I love that Jesus wept because it tells me that our God is with us. Our – God – is – with – us! Jesus could have skimmed over that moment where death had stolen a dear friend and brother’s life, but He didn’t. Yes, He was omniscient and yes, He was all-powerful! But, knowing all and being All didn’t prevent Him from living that important moment with Mary and Martha in the fullest way. He did not shy away from suffering a deep sorrow. He didn’t minimize it. He didn’t move ahead of it. He lived it with them and Jesus wept.

I love that Jesus wept
because it reassures me that I am not alone in my suffering. My Savior, who knows what is working together for good, doesn’t ignore what is at present hurting, nor would He ever dream of having me endure it alone! He stays right with me and because of His amazing love, chooses again and again to weep when I weep.

“Thank you, Jesus, for being with me all the time and in everything. Thank you that I am never alone in my joys or sorrows. Thank you that, even though I forget you regularly, You cannot and would not ever, ever forget me. I love that you wept for Lazarus and I love that you laugh and weep with me. Amen.”

What about You?

Do you know that Jesus is with you all the time and in everything?

Is there a place of sorrow where you need to remember that you are not alone?

Whether you are experiencing joy or sorrow, share it with Jesus. He is with you and cares deeply for you.

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Reaching for His Hem

DSC_0194By Judy Villanueva

“When she heard about Jesus…she thought, ‘If I just touch His hem, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:21)

There were throngs of people pushing in at every side and yet Jesus knew when faith had touched Him! Ah, faith…why does it seems so elusive? Within my grasp one moment and completely evaporated the next, usually right when I need it☺ Only a mustard seed measure will move a mountain! That doesn’t seem like much, so why aren’t mountains moving, we may ask, and, why aren’t our sick being healed? Is it faith we lack? Or, is it something else?

Then, there were other times in the gospels when Christ, moved with compassion and authority, commanded life to be lived in wholeness! “Come forth!” and a dead man walks out of his tomb! Now, this is more up my alley because it takes my lack of faith out of the equation. But there’s something more…what am I missing?

I think it must please Jesus when we reach for His hem…when we cast all our hope on Him and Him alone. When in spite of twelve years of bleeding, disappointment, fatigue, loneliness and despair, we get a glimpse of our Savior and remember what we’ve heard! We think to ourselves, “If only I can touch his clothes…” And, despite our determination not to risk another disappointment, we strain to touch His hem! We dare to hope again.

“Help me to remember You, Jesus! I know that you see me and I know that there is never a moment in my life that you don’t know and care about. It’s hard not to understand why what happens, happens sometimes! Help me to trust you anyways. Speak life to my tired, discouraged places and inspire me to hope as I reach for Your hem today! Amen.”

What about you?

What do you need faith for today?

Do you feel like you can reach Jesus?

Do you believe that Jesus knows and cares about your life?

Let Jesus sit next to you a while, and if you can, tell Him what you need today.

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Mary and Martha

DSC_0157.JPGBy Judy Villanueva

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Oh, to sit at the feet of Jesus and let Him be THE distraction, sounds so elusive at times! More often than not, I find myself in the kitchen with Martha, scowling at Mary and wishing so badly I could be the one sitting at Jesus’ feet! I mean, practically speaking, someone has to prepare the meal, right? But, as I slow down with this passage and take my pulse, I become aware that I don’t want to miss out! I want to be with Jesus, but how do I drop all my doing and find a place by His feet?

I become aware that I feel pretty unimportant in the kitchen and pretty stuck. As I sit still…stuck…I suddenly realize that all I really need is to look at Jesus! One simple nod from Him is all it would take to help me drop my dishes and run to sit at His feet. Can you imagine it? Jesus looking at you in the middle of your day, catching your attention and with a nod, beckoning you to come sit and be with Him?

So, sitting with my Bible on my lap, I imagine the scene and I look at Jesus…and He looks at me! I see Him seeing me and I hold my breath…and then, He gives me a smile and a nod and I run to Him! I realize, as I make my way over, that I didn’t think there would be room for me and I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome. But, looking up at Jesus face I find His love and a big welcome and looking down at His feet, I find a place prepared just for me!

“Jesus, thank you that always see me. It means the world to me! I give you permission to nudge or nod me out of my busyness! Thank you that I will always see a “welcome” in your eyes and find a place in Your presence prepared just for me. Help me today to bring that same welcome to others. Amen.”

How about you?

Where do you find yourself in this Bible story? Are you in the kitchen, busy with preparations? Or, are you sitting at Jesus feet?

Does your pace of life leave room for noticing Jesus nodding you over?
Are you interruptible?

Do you define yourself by the “many things” or by the “only One”?

What do you need from Jesus today? As you sit at His feet and have His full attention, how can He help you today?

Do you believe that Jesus longs for your company? That you are important to Him?

Respond to Jesus in prayer and tell Him all that is on your heart today.

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Listening for Love

DSC_0494_2By Judy Villanueva

Do you want to hear God? I do! For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see and hear God☺ Sometimes, as a kid, I’d sit up alone late at night by the light of the Christmas tree and wait, so hopeful for a peek at God! I’d finally get tired and go to bed disappointed. I prayed hard and studied prayer as a young adult, certain that if I kept at it, I’d find the secret to hearing God. I read the Bible and had the sense that prayer wasn’t meant to be a one-way dialog but, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to tap into the Divine voice. I often felt like Zaccheus hanging out on that branch straining to see Jesus, until one day, the branch collapsed.

Life had gone from charmed to inexplicable. Circumstances had pushed my faith in God to a breaking point where I no longer felt the surety of Him under my feet. Life felt random and I felt hurt and disappointed with God. It was during this season of complete disorientation where God began to teach me how to hear His still, small voice. No longer able to pray and having lost my way spiritually, God began to sneak up on me from behind with tender words of love. I remember, for example, being on a walk one day during this dry season, and becoming aware of a sweet fragrance that seemed to enfold me. It was accompanied by a lovely breeze and before I knew it, I felt a hug from God! These gestures of love would catch me so off-guard that they’d make it into my heart before I could put up any defense against them, and once in, began their work of healing.

My prior concept of the sound of God’s voice included thunder-like encounters where the “boom” of His voice was loud and clear. I supposed that God’s voice might even be audible or at least, obvious. Many Christians, when speaking of hearing God, recount stories of Him telling them this or that in rather clear, definitive terms. My experiences of hearing God were expanding but remained more ordinary and required an openness to “count” impressions and notice when my heart seemed drawn by God to His goodness whether through a song, a person, in nature or a passage of Scripture.

In the years to follow, I began to appreciate how God speaks through ordinary things, like a smile, a Gerber daisy, a rainbow, through beauty, stars, a kindness or even dark chocolate! I had narrowed the sound of His voice to only include the extraordinary, but God started opening my eyes and ears to His divine voice that sings throughout the day and night. God was awakening a kind of “hearing” that helped me feel, smell, taste and see His voice! And, I began to “count” all of it as His voice of love around me.

I believe that God is always speaking and longs to have us hear His voice of Love. My sincere hope is that this blog will invite the reader to his/her own discoveries of hearing God. One of the sweetest places of encountering God, of course, is in His Word and learning to “hear” Him speak in and through the passages of Scripture is a wonder, a joy, and a life-changing encounter!

The format of this blog will normally be a personal reflection on a passage of Scripture and a few questions to help guide the reader into places of pausing, noticing God, and responding to the Word. I don’t know if this will mean anything to anyone, but I pray God uses this blog to help others tune into His magnificent voice of love.

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