A moment for the inner-critic

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

We all seem to have voices in our heads; some are loud and intrusive, like the inner-critic; and some are gentle whispers like the inner voice of love. One of the most significant challenges in my life has been quieting the inner-critic so that I could hear my inner voice of love speaking and encouraging me to become my best self.

The inner-critic was with us in childhood to keep us safe. It was essential. It protected us from the things that were harmful to us. It is that same critical voice within us, that now lets us know when we are moving into new or dangerous territory. It will never leave us. Our inner-critic will be there to chime in when we approach something new, either hazardous or productive. The complication is the inner-critic cannot differentiate between the two. It is not useful in decision making on its own. We need to be able to hear the other voices inside us for honest discernment.

Perhaps, we can equate the inner critic to a helicopter parent. The inner- critic, with all its good intentions of protecting us and preventing harm or embarrassment, fails to teach and encourage us to become our best selves. It tells us we are inadequate to the task and must not move forward on our own. Like the helicopter parent, the inner-critic operates out of fear and mistrust, which is fair enough in this dangerous world. However, we are in this world and must learn to navigate our experiences for both survival and enjoyment. In addition to the protection we need love, encouragement, and trust.

We should not silence the inner-critic. We need to give it a moment. Identify it, name it, and appreciated it. You will, then, be able to calm this part of your ego. This calming will free your inner voice of love to tell you what your strengths are and how capable you are of tackling the danger or novel situation.

Once the calmed inner-critic steps back, the inner voice of love and empowerment is more apparent. With this dual perspective on your internal processing, you are more equipped to distinguish between what is a new experience and what may be a dangerous one. We can now intellectually weigh the pros and cons, and well informed proceed on the path to becoming our best self.

You can!
You have what it takes!
You are beloved!
You are worth it!

The beloved of the Lord rests in safety— the High God surrounds him all day long— the beloved rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

A moment the heart hears

Photo by jonas mohamadi

Often I wonder, as I pray, where do prayers go? Can anyone hear them? The words, “When we pray from the heart, the heart hears.” came to mind and has been with me all week.

At this time, when many of us cannot be together to pray or offer support and encouragement face to face, I would like to share these reflections with you.

I believe that prayer is a conversation of the heart. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, and an omnipresent God, our prayers are invisible threads that tie us all together. God both hears and responds to the heart, with his heart, by speaking to our hearts and to the hearts of those for whom we pray. Though I cannot visibly attest to God’s presence, I am assured, by the words speaking to my heart, how much we are loved. I pray that these words may reach your heart and give you hope.

Many of us are praying for the sick who are far away. We are praying for the dying who cannot have loved ones at their bedside. We are praying for the lonely and shut-in. And we wonder, does it matter at all? 

Yes! When a heart speaks, another heart hears.

We pray from our hearts:

Genesis 24:45–“Before I finished praying in my heart

Prayer of Manasseh 1:11–And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness.

Our hearts connect to God’s:

Genesis 8:21–The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart

Luke 7:13–When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her, and he said, “Don’t cry.”

God speaks from His heart to ours:

Proverbs 2:10–For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

2 Thessalonians 3:5–May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Our hearts hear:

Song of Songs 5:2–I slept, but my heart was awake. 

2 Corinthians 3:2–You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts.

Praying for each other is a conversation of the heart:

Romans 10:1–Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

Colossians 2:2–I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself.  

Conversations of the heart make a difference:

Psalm 21:2–You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.

Philemon 1:7–Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

The apostle Paul, in his ministry, knew the pain of being separated from those he cared for deeply. He did not lose heart and continued to offer prayers for the hearts of others.

1 Thessalonians 2:17–As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face.

He prays:

1 Thessalonians 3:13–And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Perhaps the thread of prayer is felt as a tug connecting one’s heart to God’s and God’s heart to another’s pulling us all closer together.

“Wherever a person is in their life’s journey, there may come a time when the longings of their heart ask, ‘Is this it? Is this all there is?’ In these moments, someone could have a tug in their heart that says, ‘Maybe there’s more.  I want to take it to that next stage .”- Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

May your heart, in this moment, hear the promise of God’s heart hearing. 

A Mary/Martha Moment

“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

This time of staying home has been very different for all of us. Some people have had more time for contemplation and prayerful moments, and others have been busy cleaning closets and garages, while some are hard at work holding themselves together as best they can. Sometimes I get a little frustrated by this scripture that seems to tell us working hard is a bad thing. We can’t all drop what we are doing and sit at the foot of Christ. People are counting on us to do our jobs.  

I understand how Martha feels when she asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. I can hear the groan as Martha, likely tired and resentful, hears that “Mary has chosen the better part.” Couldn’t it be said she selected the effortless task? The way I look at it now is that Mary was Mary at her best. And Martha would have been equally at her best if she first accepted Mary for who she was, and second, admitted that perhaps she was most comfortable serving Christ by, literally, serving him. Could Martha have turned a listening ear to Christ while going about her tasks? Would Martha have seen things differently if she was less focused on what Mary wasn’t doing and more focused on the guest she had welcomed into her home?

     I have a dear friend who often tells me when I am busy to “take it easy, Martha.” I always respond with, “I am my best Mary when I am Martha.” I have my time sitting with and listening to Christ. But some Martha moments are so filled with His presence that I cherish them deeply.

One such Martha moment occurs, at the end of the day, during a retreat I am facilitating. I love to return to the empty conference room and in the silence of the evening straighten chairs, clean up tissues and glasses, and other such tasks. It is a sacred time for me, a time of reflection, prayer, and listening.  

Another sacred Martha moment is when I am cooking. I like to cook, but I love to cook for people. It is a time of prayer and listening, where I feel deeply connected with Christ and those for whom I am preparing. I feel such love when I cook for others that I know I am my best Mary and Martha simultaneously.  

To be honest, I am not always a joyful worker. However, I will continue to refocus when I find myself taking my eyes off the Guest of Honor.

Whatever you are doing at this time, be your best self.

Remembering,

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (NRSV)

I would love to hear about your Mary/Martha moments!

Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Peace

A moment for What Now?

Photo by Engin Akyurt Pexels.com

So many mixed messages are coming at us as the stay-home directive begins to lift. So we ask, “what now?” Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no easy questions, no simple answers, and the incoming information changes daily. Some are protesting, with good reasons, and they ready to go out. Others, also with sound reasoning, are reluctant to leave their homes. 

If you were to ask me, “what now?” I have to answer with what I decided would be my take away from this time of COVID-19. Be deliberate in love. As I watched some people in public places wear masks and others chose not to, I realized I often make choices that affect others without thinking. As we move out of this crisis, I hope to be more intentional about my decisions. I hope to recognize and understand the ripple effect of my choices in my home, my community, and the world in which I live. I want to respect the dignity of those around me better and preserve the unity that will come as a result.

I was recently reminded by a dear and wise person in my life that the experiences I have are not only about me; they are about “we.” Every encounter we have with others is an opportunity to both learn and teach. We have the opportunity and obligation not only to grow but to help each other grow as well. 

I am currently reading Isaiah and unpacking some of the correlations between the challenges in that time and the challenges we are currently experiencing. “Set apart to become a blessing to all humanity, the People of God are now coming to the point of inevitable judgment. They are now on the verge of being dispersed into exile in order to emerge, through suffering, capable of deeper forms of learning inaccessible by any other means.” (Foster)

And I ask myself? Have I learned anything?  

Will I personally begin to go out or continue to stay home? Yes, to both. I will choose to stay home when I can because this isn’t over, and I want to do my part, not only to stop the spread but to express my respect for those who are in places where the threat is too close for comfort. And, I will go out when I need to because beginning to return to the routine of life is essential to our economy and mental well-being. I also, however, want to move into something better post-COVID-19. In the book of Isaiah, we witness the journey from loss into hope. But, we are not to merely be receivers of that hope, we are to be participants in the creation of hope. We are to be good neighbors, loving each other by choosing to pay attention, and by choosing to both learn and teach more compassion and grace. By this intentional living, we will see the promise of hope realized.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever    in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. Isaiah 65:17-19


Foster, Richard J., editor. “The People of God in Rebellion.” The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Deuterocanonical Books, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005, p. 976.