Tag Archives: distractions

Distractions: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #2

Another peculiar package of God’s blessings are distractions in my “prayer life.”[1] How can I conceive of such a thing? Distractions, after all, take you away from prayer! Nonetheless, I am convinced that, in some way, distractions are a blessing. Like the previous package of pride, distractions are something with which I am plagued and at the same time, through God’s grace, by which I find another path to faith.

I am convinced that, without God’s help, I cannot get rid of distractions in prayer. I used all the techniques in the world: from anxiously waiting for them to pop up so that I can banish them from my thoughts [a useless exercise in futility; they only become the focus of my attention] to sitting on the riverside, letting them float off into the oblivion. I have prayed until I am blue in the face for God to set me free of them…but normally, in everyday ordinary prayer, be it my own or during the Eucharist, the recitation of the Hours or the rosary, etc., distractions arise from every point of the compass, flights of fancy, starting piously innocent but ending up far afield.

On special occasions God grants me the blessings of focus and concentration.[2] But the majority of the time that I am plagued by distractions about everything under, and even beyond, the sun.

Are these simply the floating garbage of life washing up on the beaches of my prayer? To regard them as such would be to somehow fall into the trap of separating my body, mind and emotions from my soul, my spiritual life from my “normal, everyday” life, the sacred from the secular. Since this is the opposite of what I know to be true, the oneness and unity beneath the structure of the analytical categories into which I box reality, how should I re-evaluate these distractions in light of God’s providence? How do I refocus my vision to bring into alignment God’s knowledge of these distractions with their seemingly ungodly purpose of taking me away from prayer, from talking with Him, from praising and reverencing Him, that is my purpose in life? His constant answer: “I am here, learn from it. My grace is sufficient for you.[3][2Cor 12:9]” I must understand why this answer to my pleas are part and parcel of His unconditional love and desire for my greatest happiness, when in fact, these torture me constantly.

This is not an “either/or,” but, like many of God’s mysteries a “both/and.” I also find there are many intertwining answers: (a) growth in faith and humility, (b) seeing God in all things, even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant things in life, and (c) acceptance of my vocation to live the life of the ordinary Sunday-go-to-Church Catholic with all its joys and sorrows, ups and downs, desolations and consolations, nothing out of the ordinary, and with great need to find God right there in the midst of all that clutter of life, chaos of family and job.

I am what is to be a sheep of which Pope Francis wants the clergy is to smell. I am one of the millions and billions who live lives trying to bridge the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between doctrine and dogma and the lived reality in God’s world. I am only one very small part of this Church in the Modern World, this Body of the Cosmic Christ. I am a beneficiary with all of the blessed mercy and forgiveness necessary to transform the world into God’s Kingdom. And if I do my part of that right here in W. Pawlet, Vermont, and you do your part in San Francisco, Tokyo, San Paulo, Seoul, Beijing, Mumbai, then, not by our individual or even combined efforts, but by the power and providence of the Father working through the Holy Spirit to bring the world to His Son, this ultimate transformation will happen.

Distractions are a microcosms, the evidences of this life and, if I, by realizing that they too are God’s reflection, can use them to come to Him,[4] then I will have brought one more microscopic portion of the Kingdom into focus. I don’t always achieve this; in fact, it is a rarity that I even am conscious of this. But, like Merton, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” [5] And, in that, I am comforted.

Finally, one of the blessings that You, God, have brought about with distractions is my confrontation with “You.” By constantly realizing that I am off the track again, that I have wandered, I then find you searching for me even there. You are indeed the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find this one lone straggler and bring me home on Your shoulders. You exude the smell You wish Your sheep to have, the odor of humility and faith, “of sanctity” as it use to be known. By humbling Yourself in constant service to us, Your brothers and sisters, Your creatures no less, You provide an example for us to follow…You walk the walk, not just talk the talk. By having faith in me as a person, that I am someone for whom it is worth Your time and energy to go out and search, You extend to me the hand of fellowship, of love, of caring; You hope that I will return. And by setting me on Your shoulders with great joy, You show me by your emotions that the joy of the Gospel is a lived joy, a joy of deep friendship, of love, of the bonding of Shepherd and sheep, of God and man. Your actions make clear that there is really and truly more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk 15:5,7]

So I keep fighting the distractions, shooing them away, to come to You. But at least I know that You are with me anyway and that I am beloved by You, even when distracted. Would that I were not distracted in prayer with You, in conversation with You, in communion with You! But I am and probably will continue to be. I thank You for coming to find me and for our bonding each time after Your rescuing me once again. That is truly such a blessing. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] “Prayer life” is somewhat of a misnomer. It is normally used to designate that time or portion of one’s life which is set aside specifically for talking with God. While Jesus Himself taught us by example that there are times each day you need to go up to your mountain alone and pray, particularly before making important decisions, He also modeled praising God and speaking about God and calling on Him throughout his normal day. Finding God in all things, in the world around me, is not a separate special investigation I undertake only when I put my mind to it. It is a constant habit that I enjoy, finding, seeing, talking to God wherever I am, whatever I am doing, with whomever I am.   Thus, prayer life is all life seen from the perspective of living in God’s presence and carrying on conversations with Him as you do with family and friends throughout your busy day.

[2] One of the reasons I pray at my computer, typing what comes up between God and myself, is that I am not so distracted, I am forced to concentrate, I can listen to the Spirit for the next inspiration, for His reading on the topic, for what is true and what is false, what is on target and what is not….and raise my mind and my heart to Him in thanksgiving and praise as I relish and record to the best of ability His wondrous view of reality, a feeble attempt at recording a grand masterpiece.

[3] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

[4] Not “back” to Him; He is, somehow in some manner which may be totally unrecognizable to me, present in all things, people, and places; so my realization is just an awareness of Whom is already there.

[5] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Good Reads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/80913-my-lord-god-i-have-no-idea-where-i-am

Meanderings: Random Inspirations along the Journey #1

[There is no particular pattern to these inspirations of the Holy Spirit, His sharings into the spiritual dimension. They merit a comment but do not necessitate a complete mediation.  Enjoy!  Amen.  Alleluia!!!]


Are distractions a way to God?

Yes and no, I guess. Depends on how we use them. If I acknowledge to God that I am distracted and ask His grace and helping focusing back on Him, then, no matter how many times I have to do this, I believe God is not just pleased, but right there by my side, encouraging me. He’s my Spiritual coach, my trainer, instead of “One more push-up,” whispering: “Once more, back to basics. Back to Me. You can do it! Good. Keep coming back.”

However, if I stay away and allow myself to be captivated by the distraction, bowing to it rather than to God, it becomes my god, my idol. If I try to fight distractions on my own, it is a loosing battle from the start: the effort of trying to get rid of the distractions is itself distracting and, realizing this, I try to get rid of that, and thus the never ending vortex, the black hole of oblivion. The additional problem, of course, is that, in this scenario, the entire focus circles back to me, me, me and never on God. This, of course, is the poster child for insanity or at least obsession: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

So, correctly used as a humbling reminder of my dependence on God, distractions can be true prayer…perhaps not the gentle abiding communion for which I was hoping, but definitely a workout in the gym with the Almighty.


The many faces of faith

There’s

  • the I believe in one God, the Father Almighty[1] faith vs the moving mountains faith;
  • a past faith with a present faith;
  • a passive faith with an active faith.

These are both/and faiths. We must have both.

Then there’s

  • the God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you[2] faith vs take up your cross daily and follow me faith;
  • the many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life faith vs the Where shall we go. You have the words of eternal life faith;
  • the we wish to see a sign from you faith vs the blessed are those who have not seen and have believed faith
  • The ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go faith vs the ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went faith;
  • The I have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry! Faith vs the take nothing for the journey faith;
  • The I will follow you, Lord, but first faith vs the Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God faith;
  • The Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? faith vs the whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me
  • The “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” faith vs the “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

These are the choices along the journey of life faith. These are the: “Lord, help me. I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk 9:24]


How to live in Heaven NOW

Jesus modeled and taught how to live on earth in a loving way, and he said that this was indeed heaven! But Christians have all too often pushed heaven into the future. We’ve made Jesus’ death and resurrection into a reward/punishment system for the next world, which creates tremendously self-absorbed and self-preoccupied people. It doesn’t transform anyone into compassionate, loving individuals.[3]


Indifference with a difference

A contradiction with Ignatian discernment is that “indifference” is far different from its more common usage: I am indifferent = I don’t care. In the Ignatian sense, to be indifferent is to care whole-heartedly towards something, with full desire and hope; but with equally full openness and freedom towards whatever the outcome. In other words, it would be with full hope but no expectation.[4]


 When is Good not Good…

When it is a temptation to distract from a greater good. And all goods, both material, physical and spiritual, are relative when compared to God. “All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.”[5]


The Glad Tidings of Cana

While I often think of Cana as a miracle, one of John’s seven Signs, it was also one of the first instances of Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of bringing glad tidings to the poor. [Is 61:1; Lk 4:18] In Jesus’ Kingdom, glad tidings are not just preached, they come in many forms: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. [Mt 11:5] What better glad tidings, at that embarrassing moment in Cana than to tell the frantic bridegroom you have kept the good wine until now? [Jn 2:10][6]


Emmanuel: God with Us

God is with me, right now, right here. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.[Jn 14:23] Remain in me, as I remain in you.[Jn 15:4] Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age, [Mt 28:20] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.[Jn 14:16] By creating the Eucharist, He guaranteed that He would be with us through both here on earth and throughout Eternity. By creating the Church, we are united to each other and to Christ; we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rom 12:5] Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. [1Cor 12:27] It is comforting to know that I am never alone.


[1] First words of the Nicene Creed, our profession of faith, the what of our faith. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. The contradictory quotes are: Mt 16:22 vs Lk 9:23; Jn 6:66 vs Jn 6:68; Mt 12:38 vs Jn 20:29; Mt 21:30 vs Mt 21:29; Lk 12:19 vs Lk 9:3; Lk 9:61 vs Lk 9:60; Mt 25:44 vs Mt 25:40; Mk 4:38 vs Mk 4:40.

[3] Rohr, Richard, A Change in Consciousness, Buddhism: Week 2, Sunday, September 6, 2015, Center for Action and Contemplation

[4] Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org September 10, 2015

[5] St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J., “The Principle and Foundation: Who We Are Before God,” Jesuit Collaborative, Fordham University, New York, NY June 19 – 21, 2009, http://jesuit-collaborative.org/principle-and-foundation

[6] Of course, many, many things came afterwards which were literally, infinitely better: sins are forgiven, living water, the bread of eternal life; and the pièce de résistance, resurrection and eternal happiness with God in heaven.

Excursus on Falling into the Hands of a Loving God

Unlike my Protestant forefathers who emphasized “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,”[1] this morning I fell, or rather threw myself into the hands of a Loving God.  It was one of those mornings when my mind was flitting from pillar to post, completely untethered, the extreme opposite of the recollected contemplative state in which it would seem best to be during prayer….and I fought and I tussled and I berated myself for being so ornery and unholy and discombobulated and completely without focus on God.  Indeed, every time I caught myself and tried to bring myself back to even getting through the “Our Father” while thinking about what I was saying, poof, I would be off on one tangent or other, a million miles from what I intended to do.  Praying the rosary was even more disconcerting, when one finds oneself contemplating the majestic sunrisen clouds trimmed in gold, how did He get that blue, and, isn’t it amazing that some artists can actually capture that glorious array and it must take a long time to paint such a sky and,…and…, and…when one is suppose to be concentrating on the mystery at hand…or worse, figuring out how we’re going to get the AC into the car, or neither or both…ah, it was a jolly ride with nothing at all to do with God.  But I did keep coming back to the prayer at hand, which by many spiritual writers, seems to be the point, God extols the effort, not result, it’s one of those “do what you can and leave the results to God” things…

And finally I just gave up fighting.  I told God: “As you have pointed out, I can do nothing good on my own.  I give up.  I submit.  I can’t do it and, not only can’t I do it and realize I can’t do it, I accept the fact that I can’t do it.  Only You can do it.  So do it.”  And he did.  All of a sudden the turmoil of my mind, even the turmoil of the world seemed to be streaming and swirling about over my head, while I was safely ensconced in a groove, a rut, perhaps, tootling along, one Hail Mary after another, happy as a lark, and completely relaxed and at peace.  I was letting God after I had let go.  Thus, I fell, or rather dumped myself, into the hands of a very loving and very comfortable God.  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Jonathan Edwards, July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut.