Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Solitude Retreats

So I was overdue for my quarterly retreat.

The small cabin I stayed in.

As missionaries of InnerCHANGE, we have to take 4 solitude retreat to rest, refocus and discern. I usually enjoy my solitude retreats, and I was looking forward to this one.

What I usually like doing in my solitude retreats is read, pray, exercise, and read some more.

I went to this beautiful place in Scotts Valley called Fasting Prayer Mountain. The place is decorated witth countless tree trunks that serve as seating, with countless gardens around you and majestic redwood trees.

I was tired. I'm tired with feeling anger towards my church and how legalism and rules often get in the way of loving people.

Stairway to one of the trails.
I'm tired of avoiding my past wounds and avoiding my inner child to get out and finally heal from all the wounds to tell him "it is okay you felt that way and it wasn't your fault".

I'm tired, and God gave me rest.

Solitude retreats aren't always easy. It is easy to go back to old habits of just being. You want to avoid the feeling of loneliness. You want to avoid the voices that spring up inside of you as noise of people and cars and civilization are minimized.

Amphitheater at Prayer Fasting Mountain.
I usually enjoy my first day. By the second day I start to miss family and friends, and almost always feel tempted to just go back. I had to fight the urges to get in my car and just leave home on the second night, but I felt the gentle whisper of God saying "stay", and I did.

Solitude retreats can be difficult, as coming to a sudden halt and rest can bring up many feelings and issues we rather leave untouched. We can become bored. We can become lonely.

As this retreat was drawing to a close I felt God calling me to take "mini-solitude retreats" to listen to Him and to myself as a way to deal with loneliness.  More on this on a future post!

What if we took some time everyday to be by ourselves, to quiet ourselves, and listen to ourselves? How will our lives change?

Why wait till we make the time to retreat into the woods and reflect?  We can have times of solitude everyday, where we make it a point to quiet ourselves to better hear ourselves, and in the process, hear God who is always calling in the silence of our hearts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolution February Update!

Hello friends! Spring is in the air! This is my favorite time of the year!

It's that time of the month again, where I get to divulge once again about my progress in my 2014 resolutions!

So without further ado, let's dive into them...

Resolution #1: Calorie Count Everyday.

Calorie counting can be tedious work, but I'm happy to report that it's getting progressively easier, as it is being ingrained as a habit!

Okay, okay, I haven't counted calories everyday since 2014 started, but I have counted calories most days.

Unfortunately I didn't lose weight in February. I lost 3 pounds in January and I was able to maintain my weight for February. The reason for this is because I was able to keep  my allowed calorie intake for some days, and then on some other days...

Resolution #2: Spend 30 Minutes a Week Cleaning my Room.

Time to eat crow!

I have to confess, I don't remember any time where I actually cleaned my room. It's pretty horrible. Next...

Actually, no, let's think about this for a minute. Why haven't I done this?

I said that I'd clean my room on Saturday afternoons, but I'm usually never home on Saturday afternoons. In fact, I'm not in my room a good chunk of my week.

Thing is, I don't like being in my room!

Maybe if I spent more time cleaning it I'd actually like being in my room.

Resolution #3: Update my Blog Twice a Week.

February has been a slow month. The same difficulties that I explained in January were still true for February.

I have been updating my blog more frequently this month however, and it is my intention to keep at it!

Discipline, discipline, discipline. It's something I need to work on.What suggestions do you have for improving your discipline? What has helped you the most?

See you next month!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Resolutions for Lent 2014!

Oh Goodness gracious!!!

As If I didn't have enough resolutions already...

So, good people of Israel, let's make some Lent Resolutions for 2014!

I have been thinking about what to give up for lent, because you know, you cannot be a good christian unless you make vane resolutions that you'll probably give up after a couple of days.

So being the good (and apparently humble) christian that I am, I'm making some lent resolutions!

Keeping with the dietary adventure theme of last year's resolution (I was a vegetarian for lent) I am making a diet resolution!

So here it is, my little and probably painful lent resolution: limit my calorie budget to 2,000 calories!

Wait what?! That seems like a lot of calories right?

In a way yes, but given how tall and big I seem to be, in order to maintain my current weight I'd have to inhale 2,900 calories a day! Now that is a lot of calories.

It is unfortunately, what I'm used to. And a little more.

I am embarrassed to admit what I have written here before: I'm addicted to food! Especially bacon. And maybe sausages. Okay definitely bacon and sausages.

In all honesty I don't want to be addicted anymore. I don't like being addicted. I don't like being overweight. And I'm tired of putting up goals I never fulfill.

This is a great opportunity for me to (once again) tackle this head on.

I'm usually consistent with my lent resolutions, if strangely enough more so than my New Year's Resolutions, so this little and probably painful lent resolution should be interesting!

What are you giving up for lent? Do you make resolutions? Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent MEME!

This LENT MEME is very easy to follow. 


1   Copy paste this post on your Blog.

2   Contact as many other Bloggers as you like and leave them this comment: "You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog".

3   And now the difficult bit: Do someone a good deed. Anyone. Relative, friend or stranger. Any good deed. Saying a prayer for someone in need. Helping an old person with shopping, transport, gardening. Visiting a sick person. Giving some money to charity.

Just use your imagination and do any good deed.

If you are greedy you can do more than one good deed. To more than one person. You can do a good deed every day of Lent if you wish. The minimum is just one good deed.

4   That's it. I can't think of any other rules.

5   Thanx. God bless.

Thanks to Victor S E Moubarak for tagging me for this meme. He is a Catholic English author and you can find his reflections on his blog here.

God bless you!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Living in the Moment

So much has been written about living in the moment that I feel naturally hesitant in adding more to the noise.

Living in the moment is such an ubiquitous phrase that is easily ignored, at least for me.

I didn't even know what the heck it meant to live in the moment. I'm not even sure I do now.

I remember reading that one can only get anxious about two things: the past and the future. Do you want to not be anxious? Live in the present, and your anxiety levels will go down.

"Okay, got it, now how in the world do I that? Isn't it ontologically impossible to live anywhere but the present?" I thought to myself.

One Tuesday morning I was walking through the streets of East Oakland, headphones in ear, as you would usually find me on the streets.

"This is it!" said someone named T. Harv Eker (a motivational speaker on wealth, I learned later. While simplicity is my desire, not wealth, he did teach me something that morning) on a podcast on men's growth, as he explained his favorite quote. This is it, there is no past or tomorrow you can live in so don't keep telling yourself "If only I get this or that in the future then I'll be happy, content, at peace...etc"

Those words, for some strange reason, sunk in for perhaps the first time in my life.

It identified an internal dialogue in my head, one so subtle and persistent that I hardly noticed it before: if I get this in the future, if God gives me this answer to prayer, then I'll be more content, peaceful and even happy..."

The problem with this kind of dialogue is twofold:

1. You contentment in life is persistently contingent on the future, which is never present and ever coming.

2. This creates a habit so that no matter what you get in life, the dialogue will keep reiterating itself with new unfulfilled goals and ambitions, and so that future never comes.

This toxic dialogue in the end hides a lie: it tries to make a reality of what it can never be, namely, the evasive dream of "the finished self".

Now what the heck do I mean by the "finished self"?!

It is important to realize that many of us, dare I say even all of us, have a desire for things, for life, and for ourselves, to get better, or perfect, or "complete".

This evasive perfection, however, is unattainable.

The "once I do this or that or once I accomplished this or that then I'll be ____" can only be followed by the same type of thinking once we get what we like or hoped for.

"We are works in progress" we often hear. But what is ever rarely said, I believe, is that the work progressed in us will not be finished.

We should not then have as a goal what I call "the finished self". There is no such thing, in this lifetime, as the finished self!

I believe until we get rid of this notion that our goal is to be the perfect finished self then we will never be content with who we are!

I say content, not complacent, which are two very different things.

Contentment says "I'm okay with being a work in progress NOW" and complacent says "I'm okay if nothing will change".

This is the key, I believe, with living in the moment: be content with always being a work in progress because, truth be told, you will not be anything in this life than a work in progress.

Our goal is, therefore, to keep being works in progress, not the evasive "finished self".

The "finished self" will come, as a fulfillment of all our desires, when we see Him who IS face to face, and are purified by His radiant light.

Until then, let us be content with who we are, works in progress in God's hands. If that's what you are, then you have already reached your goal to be content now.