How to Connect With God All Day Long

Prayer is the Key to Daily Communion with God

For many years, I struggled in my attempts to remember God throughout everyday life. I was too busy, too distracted, too ignorant, and too inexperienced to know what it was like to commune with God during the day. I would start out well enough in morning devotions and prayer. But, a sense of God’s presence did not remain with me as the day went along.

How to Begin

How can you begin to commune with God in your every day life? Just a hint – it won’t happen by reading this post. It won’t happen by wanting it to happen. It won’t happen by longing for it. It won’t happen by reading a book on how to commune with God 24/7. You will need to learn how to commune with God. You can learn by training yourself over a long period of time. And, of course, your training will only be effective as you participate in the grace and life of God flowing in you. It boils down to this. You are able to commune with God throughout the day as you learn to pray from your heart.

An excellent way to begin is by saying prayers throughout the day. As you continually do this, you begin to notice your heart being drawn into communion with God. Now you’re getting somewhere!

Three Helpful Prayers

So here are three prayers that you can say often during the day. Train yourself to commune with God by saying them as often as you’re able.

  1. Lord, teach me to pray. This is taken from the disciples’ question to Jesus as they observed him praying.
  2. Lord, enlighten my darkness. This is an “arrow” prayer (shot to the heart of God) made most prominent by St. Gregory Palamas (14th c.)
  3. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Known as the Jesus Prayer, this is a theological and personal expression of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Repeat one, two or all of these prayers throughout the day. Do this for days, months, and years. When you do, you’ll find yourself living in communion with the Triune God.

You’re Obeying Scripture 

You’ll also find that you are fulfilling some challenging scriptural exhortations –

  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4.2)
  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17)
  • Praying always with all supplication (Ephesians 6.18)
  • Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11.1)

The solution to your desire to commune with God all day long is to learn to pray from the heart. Pray. Pray. And, pray some more. Pray these short prayers. By the grace of God, you will commune with God all day long.

Which prayer will become “your” prayer today? How about this week? month? year?

Share your experiences of learning to pray below. Comment on your struggles and/or joys as you learn to pray. 

Dr. K 

5 Conversation Killers That Hurt Your Relationships

Enhancing the Principle of Putting Others First

As an introvert yet one who enjoys good conversation, I get to observe the dynamics of others interacting with one another. I have made it a study to note the way people communicate one-on-one and in groups. Some people have wonderful conversation skills while others struggle. In certain situations, I struggle. But I have learned over a life-time of experience what enhances good conversation and what kills it.

Do you want to improve your conversation skills and thus your relationships? Then improve the way you communicate when you’re with others. Are you guilty of these conversation killers?

  • You regularly draw attention to yourself. You can do this passively by refusing to participate with others or intrusively by inserting yourself into conversations or situations uninvited.
  • You insistently talk about yourself and your life situations moving the conversation from others to yourself. In conversations, do you predominately talk about yourself? On any subject matter, do you relate it to something that has happened or is happening in your life? A little of this goes a long way!?!
  • You are quick to give your opinion. Opinion is defined as: “a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” An opinionated reaction is not as meaningful as a well-thouOpinion-Quotesght-through response. Do you think that a good conversation entails two people “debating” about whose opinion is right? That’s an argument not a conversation.
  • You fail to ask suitable and meaningful questions of others. When you’re only focused on your own little world, you blind yourself to someone else’s world. But, asking good questions of another helps you see more clearly. “Become genuinely interested in other people” is classic Dale Carnegie. “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”
  • You fail to really listen. Again Carnegie: “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” My wife, Rhonda, is a great listener. (I have to work at it.) She is able to bring out the best in people simply by listening and interacting with what they say. She builds strong relationships and influences people everywhere. She would say she’s not the smartest or wittiest person. But, because she has learned good listening skills, she puts others first in conversations.

Bible Insights 

Being a good conversationalist is a way to practice some basic Bible principles. Here are a few exhortations that can be put into practice:

  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12.10)
  • Encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5.11)
  • Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2.3-4)

It sounds like a good conversationalist possesses a love for people and a humility to place them above ones self.

Be honest with yourself. Are you killing good conversation in one of the ways above?

Share your conversation experiences – good or bad. Can you think of someone you admire for their conversation skills? Why are they good conversationalists?

Dr. K  

 

Your Spiritual Journey is Super-Important to The UnCommon Journey

We Need Your Input to Connect The UnCommon Journey to Your Needs

A survey? I don’t want to fill out no stinkin’ survey! Who cares what I think, anyway?  I bet it doesn’t matter if I do or if I don’t. Besides, I don’t have time to do it. And, I really don’t need a couple days of peace and quiet.

A few days ago I sent you an email containing a survey. And here’s WHY —

  1. I care about what you think. When I was pastoring, I set the agenda for my preaching. In other words, I gave the people what I thought they needed to hear. That is not the approach of The UnCommon Journey. I want to address your needs. I want to enter the spiritual conversations you’re having and be a part of them. But, I don’t know what conversations you’re having. Let me know. Your issues matter to me. I want to help you on your spiritual journey. So, I have to know what’s going on with your journey.
  2. It matters that you fill out the survey.  By telling us what you think and experience, you are helping others. You face the same spiritual struggles and challenges others face. You might feel that your situations are unique. In some ways they are. Yet, there are common challenges that everyone who seeks God must deal with. Whether you’re 25 years old or 75, there is much about God and your journey with Him that is shared by all. Your input matters to others. If you don’t think your input will help you, then do it for others.
  3. Though you are busy, you can find 15-20 minutes to complete 25 simple questions. It’s more a matter of “want to.” Realize that your input will help you find better content in The UnCommon Journey posts. In other words, you are helping yourself by filling out the survey. Certainly, it helps me to gauge how things are going so far and what to address in the future. But more importantly, you are helping yourself.
  4. Imagine a couple days of carefree living. That’s what you could enjoy if you fill out the survey and are chosen. You’ll receive a $100 travel voucher and two days at Homestead Hospitality House. The voucher/money is yours if you live close by or far away. The days at HHH will refresh your soul.

The deadline is midnight, November 2nd. 

You received the survey on Saturday, October 24. Check spam if you did not see it in your regular inbox.

A huge THANK YOU to all who have already completed the survey. You’re input is highly valued!

Thanks for your feedback!!

Dr. K

You Can Find More Than Help – You Can Find Healing

God Wants to Heal Your Heart and Mind

What good is God if he makes little difference in me today?  What’s the point of a relationship with God if my life right now is miserable? I put on a good front. But inside, I feel wretched. Let’s be honest. I don’t just need help. I need healing.

Our guide, Dr. Meletios Webber writes:

The purpose and aim of the spiritual life is to allow God to heal us.

But, how does this healing come? Real healing comes not from revisiting our past, but from living with God in the present. Real healing comes not from merely thinking positively but from going deep into the heart where God resides.

I began this series of posts with an invitation to enter the Mystery of God.

  • This Mystery is entered from the heart not the mind.
  • This Mystery can only be experienced in the present moment.
  • This Mystery is the place of healing for the soul.

The greatest challenge to entering the Mystery is that you’ve been trained to think that the best way to engage God is with your mind.

Here’s the problem

  • The mind creates an awareness of a shallow, or sometimes false, sense of self.
  • The story this shallow self concerns itself with is the ego of a person.
  • The ego invents and imitates reality but is not real at all.
  • Most people live from their ego.

Here’s the solution

  • A deeper self – a more real self – is found in the heart or soul. Here, you have the capacity for direct contact with God.
  • Emotion and feeling belong to the mind, not the heart. “While providing a great deal of color to everyday life, emotions and feelings belong to that part of us that needs healing.” (Webber)
  • The heart and mind need each other though they function differently and are fragmented.
  • Only the life and grace of God can bring healing and reintegration as you participate in the Mystery of God.

How?

Dr. Webber tells you how:

The rift between the heart and the mind is healed through “ascetic labor” – prayerful effort – which begins with making the mind quiet, and ends with wrapping the mind and emotions in prayer and placing them in the heart where they rightly belong and where their final integration takes place. 

“Ascetic labor” is the spiritual work of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other “prayerful efforts” that cause you to move from living in your thoughts to living in your heart. I’ve written about these efforts in previous posts and will do so in the future.

In what condition is your “prayer effort?” I invite you to establish a place of solitude, make the mind quiet, and do as Dr. Webber suggests above. Healing is found in your heart with God.

(My thoughts and the quotes for the past nine posts come from Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Meletios Webber, Conciliar Press, 2007)

Dr. K

How To Never Get Stuck On Your Spiritual Journey

Your Spiritual Journey is Lived From the Inside Out

I know people who are in the same place on their spiritual journey as they were 30 years ago. Not much of a journey, huh!? It’s like running on a treadmill while all the time thinking you’re running cross country. You think you’re progressing because the scenery around you changes constantly. But what matters most, your own soul, is stuck right where it was many years ago.

Are you stuck in your journey with God? If you spend more time concerned about the condition of politics, family, church, finances, diet/food, children, reputation, building your business, and success than the condition of your own soul, you’re stuck. The evidence that you are stuck is your preoccupation with many things.

How do you become “unstuck?” By doing the one thing necessary – go to your heart where God resides. Or as George Maloney says: “Paradoxically, the ascent toward God begins with a descent into oneself.”

As long as you live in your mind, thinking about so many things, you will make little progress on your journey to know God and your own soul. When you travel inward, a whole new world opens up to you. And, as you become comfortable in this inner world, your thoughts about the outer world slowly become transformed. This is called progress, growth, maturity, and living. Jesus called it living in the Kingdom. This is what you are to “seek first” (Matthew 6.33). This kind of living is to be your highest priority. In this place, you never get stuck.

Dr. Meletios Webber, our tour guide, writes:

The heart experiences the Kingdom of heaven, although at this time in the fallen state, in shadow rather than in light. Within the Kingdom there is no time, simply eternity – or more plainly, only “now.”…The very atmosphere of the Kingdom is love and life and peace, and these have no opposites; they are absolute. They are the love of God, eternal life, and the peace of God which is beyond understanding.

The Way Into This Kingdom is Silence

The language of the heart is silence – not a bleak, empty silence, but a profound and meaningful silence that ceaselessly sings the glory of God.

As with the prophet Elijah, part of our spiritual path is to come to an awareness that God is not in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, where we expect Him to be. God is in the sound of silence (1 Kings 19.12). We listen to this silence by becoming intensely present by listening to the silence…[in a state] of being completely ready, completely alert, totally conscious. When we are lost in thought (so often mistaken for a deeply prayerful state), we are not alert, present, or aware. We cannot be any of those things until we go beyond the mind, seeking a deeper and yet deeper silence indicative of the presence of God.

How to Enter Silence of the Heart 

It is simple yet difficult. Begin small – 5 minutes/day. Expect a wondrous struggle since you are entering your heart which has barely been functioning and you are taming your thoughts which are used to governing.

  • Establish a place of solitude
  • Utilize a lit candle to help focus your heart and mind
  • Control your mind with prayer – “Lord, have mercy.”
  • Gently, as you are able, unite your mind with your heart

This has been the way for Christians to quiet the thoughts and enter the kingdom of silence were God dwells since the first centuries. This is the teaching of Jesus (Mt. 5.3, 8; Lk 17.21). Others followed – read the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

The invitation is for you to do the same…and never get stuck on your spiritual journey again.

Dr. K

18 Amazing Secrets of the Heart

Insights for Knowing God From the Heart

I have struggled for over 40 years to know God. I remember crying out, “I just want to know You! Help me!” What I was taught in church, books, and school was to think my way into a deeper relationship with God. Accept this theory. Know these doctrines. Understand these concepts. Think and grow. I did all that and was left short of actually experiencing the reality of God. What I was missing in the struggle was an understanding and experience of the heart.

Our guide on this journey to the heart is Dr. Meletios Webber, a counselor, monk, pastor, and teacher. He writes succinctly about the heart and then describes it.

When it comes to describing the heart, words begin to fail, and the experience of silence becomes more and more important. There is no rightness or wrongness here. Here there is simply awareness.

The heart:

  • is quiet rather than noisy
  • is intuitive rather than deductive
  • lives entirely in the present
  • accepts the reality God gives in the here and now
  • does not seek to distance or dominate anything or anyone by labeling
  • begins with an awareness of its relationship with the rest of creation
  • accepts rather than rejects
  • finds similarity rather than alienation
  • finds likeness rather than difference
  • knows no fear
  • experiences no desire
  • never needs to defend or justify itself
  • never seeks to impose itself (unlike the mind)
  • is patient (unlike the mind)
  • is undemanding (unlike the mind)
  • CAPABLE OF CONSTANT AWARENESS OF GOD and we can see that awareness, even in a weakened state, whenever we quiet the mind long enough to hear the silence
  • functions at a more profound level than the mind
  • is removed from the vanity of emotion

Your heart plays the central role in your relationship with God. As you look over this descriptive list, you can see why. As much as you are told to think your way into a relationship with God, it does not work. It is in the heart that you commune with the Triune God. The heart is the place of awareness of God, not the mind. Is this why Jesus elevates children as those who live in the Kingdom? Their simple and innocent hearts know God.

Notice, the heart is not the place of your emotions. Hollywood talks like that. People describe the heart as the place where emotions dwell. “He has no heart” meaning, he lacks emotion. Or, “feelings of love come from the heart.” But, emotions are responses to thoughts. Granted, at times, the heart and mind are so intertwined it seems there are feelings in the heart.

The heart is often said to be subjective. In actuality, it is the mind, with its changing thoughts, theories, reasonings, “convictions” and emotions that is subjective. Yet, as the mind and heart are healed and unified, subjectivity begins to lessen and reality begins to be experienced. Then God is becoming real in you…and you are becoming real in God.

Read over the secrets of the heart again. Share your thoughts below. Share this post with a friend. 

Dr. K

Knowing About Your Mind Helps You Move Forward on Your Spiritual Journey

A Brief & Fascinating Look at Your Mind

Author Stephen Covey tells the story of riding a subway one morning. There was a father whose kids were jumping around like maniacs. Covey grew irritated and angry as he watched these out-to-control children and this detached father. Finally, he confronted the dad. In an indifferent kind of way, the dad looked up and said, “Oh, you’re right, I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess I don’t know how to handle it either.” Knowing that changed Covey from a harsh judge to a compassionate human being. The mind, because it is judgmental, often takes us to places we should not go. Why is this?

Our guide on our journey to know ourselves better, Dr. Meletios Webber, writes:

In fallen humanity, the mind and the heart have been alienated from each other. The heart has been almost entirely hidden from view, or at least obscured. The mind has started to function on its own, separately from the heart…The mind is a very good and valuable tool, but it does not have the strength of character to be independent…Estranged from the heart, the mind has set up an independent operation; it begins to act with a sense of independence which, if unchecked, ultimately brings ruin and destruction to everything it touches. In its independence, the mind ultimately brings ruin and destruction to everything it touches.

Why is the mind destructive?

It operates as the great defense system we need to process all the information we receive. However, in so doing, the mind is:

  • self-centered
  • judgmental
  • fearful of attack

The mind:

  • expects and assumes the worst from the world, from other people, and ultimately from God.
  • measures everything against its usefulness to the mind’s story of the self, the ego.
  • attempts to replace the real center of being, the heart, with a center of its own creation.

The two aspects of the mind that have great impact on your spiritual life

  1. The mind is judgmental. It loves to label people. It deals with people as a threat or challenge. They are “too small, too fat, too good-looking, too proud, too sinful, too unfriendly, too different, etc.” You label people and then justify your dismissal of them. “You have your label – I have summed you up – now go away.”
  2. The mind’s “dualistic thinking.” “The mind lives in a realm in which everything that is known has to have an opposite. “Up” must have a “down,” “good” must have a “bad.” The energy of the mind consists in comparisons…[your] experience with [my] experience, this word with that word. The mind sees everything in contrast, valuing differences and ignoring identity.”

So, as needful as the mind is for your spiritual development, it is not enough. It must be transformed and “reigned in” by your heart (which I’ll address in the next post).

Think of a time when you judged someone wrongly or thought of them as “useful” or not. How has your “dualistic thinking” impacted your spiritual life? Share below. 

Dr. K 

Find Joy and Peace In The Present Moment

God Dwells in the Here and Now

When I “changed jobs” in 2010, there were many mornings I’d lay awake thinking about the future. I would panic with anxiety over our finances, our children, our housing, our marriage, and my own soul. How will we make it? This decision doesn’t make sense. I’ll fail. As I met with God one morning while watching a gorgeous sunrise, He clearly assured me in my heart, “I will take care of you.” Tears flowed as the burden lifted. It was in the present moment with God that my whole perspective shifted.

The Mind Rejects the Here and Now

That experience, and many like it, help me relate to what our guide Dr. Webber writes:

One noticeable way the mind works is that it rejects the here and now…The mind prefers to work in the past or future, since these dimensions are both actually constructs of the mind’s own workings and thus the mind controls them. The present moment, however, is completely outside its control and therefore ignored.

Have you ever awakened at 4:00 AM unable to get back to sleep? What usually happens? You begin to think about something from the past. You begin to be filled with remorse, guilt, or desire to change the past (impossible, of course). Or, you begin to think about something coming up. Anxiety begins to set in. No wonder you can’t get back to sleep. Your thoughts have highjacked your rest. You may pray as a final resort. Not a bad idea. Yet, you continue to wrestle with your thoughts and the anxieties they produce. Isn’t there a better solution?

Live in the Present Moment Where God Dwells

A better solution is to live in the present moment where God resides. This is the place of reality. This is the place of joy and peace.

Unfortunately for the mind, the present moment is the only moment that is, in any sense, real. Moreover, in spiritual terms, the present moment is the only possible occasion in which we can meet God (or anyone else).

God does not dwell in our past or future. He only relates to you in the present. When your thoughts and feelings dwell in the past or future they do so apart from God’s presence. As Dr. Webber writes, “God is exiled to the past or the future, where He is totally powerless – He is completely at the mercy of the human mind which imprisons Him there.”

Peace and Joy Reside in the Present Moment 

The present moment, where God dwells, is distinguished by many qualities. Since God is there, it is filled with joy, peace, goodness, and love. Your mind takes you to the past or future where these qualities may be found as well in fond memories or joyful anticipations. Yet, in these places also dwell pain, fear and anxiety. There is no pain, fear and anxiety where God is…in the present moment.

The present moment is experienced by the heart not the mind. Learn how to live there. (See the post: “What Mystery Will Teach You about God…And Yourself”)

Share your thoughts on this post. What has been your experience of living in the present moment? 

Dr. K 

How Living in the Here & Now Is Truly Living

Be Still and Experience God

After I wrote the previous post, I read a chapter from the NY Times Best Seller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It fit so well with what I’d written that I thought I’d share it with you.

In his chapter on Focus, he wrote this and then told a story.

It is mind-bending to consider that in practical terms we only ever have now. We can’t control the future in a literal sense, just the now. Of course, we learn from the past and can imagine the future. Yet only in the here and now can we actually execute on the things that really matter. (p. 217)

Recently Anna and I met for lunch in the middle of a busy workday. Usually when we meet for lunch we’re so busy catching each other up on the events of the mornings or planning the activities for the evening that we forget to enjoy the act of having lunch together in the here and now. So this time, as the food arrived, Anna suggested an experiment: we should focus only on the moment. No rehashing our morning meetings, no talking about who would pick up the children from karate or what we’d cook for dinner that night. We should eat slowly and deliberately, fully focused on the present. I was totally game for it. 

As I slowly took my first bite something happened. I noticed my breathing. Then without conscious intent I found it slowing. Suddenly, time itself felt as if it was moving slower. Instead of feeling as if my body was in one place and my mind was in five other places, I felt as though both my mind and my body were fully there. 

The sensation stayed with me into the afternoon, where I noticed another change. Instead of being interrupted by distracting thoughts, I was able to give my full concentration to my work. Because I was calm and present on the tasks at hand, each one flowed naturally. Instead of my usual state of having my mental energies split and scattered across many competing subjects, my state was one of being focused on the subject that was most important in the present. Getting my work done not only became more effortless but actually gave me joy. In this case, what was good for the mind was also good for the soul. (pp. 218-219)

It is important that you learn to live in the here and now since that is where God is. To be where God is brings life and joy to you. Life and joy in you brings life and joy to others.

To live in the here and now is to live in your heart with a quiet mind. It is to enter the depths of the heart where God dwells. This does not happen automatically. It begins by regularly entering solitude – a place of quiet waiting for you. There in that quiet place you come to know God (Psalm 46.10).

Dr. K

How Thinking Gets You into Trouble

Silence is the Solution

I was talking with a young man this week. He was feeling depressed due to some changes taking place in his life. He kept playing future scenarios over and over in his mind. This was making him feel anxious, fearful, and lonely. And amazingly, not one thing he was thinking was actually true. His thoughts were creating havoc in his life. But, he didn’t know how to live any other way.

Streaming Thoughts Are Trouble

I want you to live a different way. Thoughts are necessary but they don’t have to control you. I invite you to learn to live from your heart. But to do so, you need to learn a little how the mind works. Let’s go to our guide, Dr. Meletios Webber for help.

The stream of thoughts is negative because the mind dwells in a land of unrelenting desire and boundless fear, and it attempts to influence us to experience these two areas as our rightful home…Some people actually hear an almost constant stream of conversation going on in their heads…encouraging them to want and need, to be afraid, to feel alienated and alone.

This is what was happening to this young man. Does this sound familiar to you? Is this place of need and fear where you live? Do you experience life as “unrelenting desire” or “boundless fear?” If so, learn silence.

Silence is the Solution 

It is not until we learn to quiet our thoughts that there is even the possibility of learning to use our hearts. Apart from anything else, the mind uses noise constantly to reassure itself of its own existence. The language of the heart, on the other hand, is silence. Here I am not referring to an empty silence, one that is simply waiting for something to happen. Rather I refer to the overflowing silence, the silence that is the heart’s means of communication, a full and profound experience of being, and a deep awareness of God.

Do your thoughts control you? Do they create the noise, desire, and fear you so want to defeat? Then, learning the language of silence is the solution. Because God dwells in silence. And silence is found in the heart not the thoughts.

How are your thoughts controlling you? Do they bring up “stuff” from the past? Do they paint scenarios about the future? Both thought processes evoke fear and desire. You can learn to live differently.

Share your comments about this post below. Do you have examples about your thoughts creating fear and wrong desires?

Dr. K