Invitation to Rest

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Developing Spiritual Resilience – Part 2

In the previous post, we talked about the Apostle Paul and his example of spiritual resilience.  He encourages us to keep our minds and hearts continually on things above and not on earthly things. I would like to continue to expand on Paul’s example by sharing the stories of two other people who experienced freedom and resilience as they followed Paul’s example.

But first, take a look at the picture on the heading of this post above.  Notice the look on that child’s face, a mixture of mostly joy but maybe a little fear as they are being thrown up in the air.  That is kind of a scary thought, being thrown up into the air left to the relentless pull of gravity  unless… that child can trust that someone will be there to catch them.  Perhaps the first time the child was tossed, his face was a little more fearful but as the action is repeated over and over and his trust grows in the one who is there to catch him, fear is replaced with joy.

As we continue to set our minds on things above our trust in our Father grows and relentless pull of fear is replaced with love and joy and peace.  But again, resilience is a process so it takes time, commitment, and practice in setting our hearts and minds on Jesus.  The good news is we can make this choice. No one or no thing can prevent us from choosing to place our minds on Jesus. Dallas Willard, in his book Life Without Lack, makes the follow statement  about this freedom and its lasting consequence on our lives:

The ultimate freedom we have as individuals is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon and think about. The focus of your thoughts significantly affects everything else that happens in your life and evokes the feelings that frame your world and motivate your actions.

Let’s consider two wonderful examples of people who chose to direct their attention to things above and see how it impacts the rest of their lives.

Examples of Resilience

Nicolas Herman

Nicolas Herman lived in the 1600’s in France.  He grew up poor and joined the army and fought in the 30 year war.  At one point he was going to be hanged because he was thought to be a spy.  At war’s end, he was left with crippling injuries that would impact him for the rest of his life. But Nicolas had resilience and a strong faith in God.  He decided to devote the rest of his life in service to God by living in a monastery as a “lay brother”. 

His duties were to serve in the kitchen.  And yet, Nicolas continued a life of setting his mind and heart on Christ as often as possible.  Eventually, his life became so attractive that people marveled at his faith and even the church leaders came to interview him to find out his “secret” for his deep love of God.

Nicolas is better known today as Brother Lawrence, the name he took when he entered the monastery. The classic book, “Practicing the Presence of God” was written about his life.  Brother Lawrence gives us a very practical way of setting our hearts and minds on God.  We are practicing being in Gods presence.  Practice is a process, it is a setting forth as a way of life where experiencing Gods presence is a continual pursuit.  Below are just a few quotes from Brother Lawrence:

He said we ought to establish ourselves within a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with Him. It would be shameful to quit His conversation, to think of unimportant and silly things.

He found that he was often more united to God when practicing God’s presence within his other activities and duties than when he practiced God’s presence during the time set apart for meditation and prayer.

In the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.

What hits me the most in Brother Lawrence’s comments is how he experienced God fully and powerfully as he went about his day to the point it was even more meaningful than when he set aside specific times for prayer and study.  Not that setting aside time is not important, but this is huge because we can be convinced that only through setting aside long periods of time can we really grow in our walk with God and then we get discouraged because our days can be so full and we don’t carve out the time and the enemy comes into those moments to condemn and discourage us. Brother Lawrence, as would Paul, encourages us to set our hearts and minds throughout each and every day.  Every moment can be a place of experiencing God’s presence.

Frank Laubach

Frank Laubach was a missionary to the Philippines in the early 20th century. He was alone, trying to reach a people whose language he didn’t understand and a people who had no understanding of the God he wanted to share with them.  At times he experienced great disappointment in his life and his relationship with God. But at some point, Frank had this discovery:

But this year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, ‘What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?’

He began to set a goal for himself to think of God at least once every minute of every day. That kind of sounds like what Paul was saying.  Frank eventually turned this into something he called the “Game of Minutes” where he encouraged others to join him in the game of seeing how many minutes in a designated hour they could keep their minds focused on God.  Through this experience, Frank offered these reflections:

It is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will, to make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need think about. Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and percept?

The most wonderful discovery that has ever come to me is that I do not have to wait until some future time for the glorious hour. I need not sing, “Oh that will be glory for me”—and wait for any grave. This hour can be heaven. Neither tomorrow matters, nor yesterday. Every now is an eternity if it is full of God.

Practice

Nicolas Herman and Frank Laubach were ordinary human beings who experienced extraordinary fellowship with God by simply practicing being in God’s presence and making every now as an opportunity to experience God. They experienced this even though they dealt with loneliness, discouragement, threats on their lives, and physical impairment. A true example of developing spiritual resilience.

How about this week you play the “Game of Minutes”? In this game, you pick one hour in your day and then try to see how many minutes in that hour that you were able to focus at least once on God in each minute.

You can tabulate the results of your game with this simple phrase:

During this hour, I thought of God at least once each minute for ____ different minutes.

When you first start, you might have a low number.  Don’t be discouraged, you are beginning the process of bringing your attention to God.  After several times playing this game, you might see that score go up and more importantly experiencing God more fully. 

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