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Reflections on ACTS retreats and Overcoming a really bad attitude

10 Aug

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After completing my Daniel Fast, I stepped away from the blog-o-sphere for a while. When I began this blog, it was with the intent of documenting my journey through the fast, and I wasn’t really sure to go after that. Truthfully, I am still not quite sure, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

For all of you Catholics out there, I am sure you have heard of the ACTS retreat program. Women and men throughout the parish leave usually on a Thursday night and come back for Sunday morning mass much louder than they were before and much more engaged in parish activities. If you have never been, you probably wondered what it is all about and what to expect.

If you have asked someone what it is about…they probably didn’t tell you. Before I went on my ACTS retreat, I dug around the Internet, asked parish members and still couldn’t find answers. “I can’t tell you exactly what we do, but I can tell you that you should definitely go and experience it,” was the canned answer I got from everyone.

Still somehow, when I saw the retreat advertised in the bulletin, I felt compelled to go. I registered, packed my bags and on Thursday night I boarded a bus of about 40 other women who I didn’t know and ventured off.

The first night of the retreat, I had the worst attitude you could ever imagine. Really. I felt like a cartoon character with a little devil sitting on my shoulder. “Why are you here? Don’t you have something better your could be doing? This is stupid. You’ve never been on a retreat, and you shouldn’t have come this time because there is no point. If Jesus wants to talk to you, he can do that at home.”

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Somehow, in the midst of this horrible self-talk, I realized that I was so busy listening to the voice of the enemy, that I couldn’t hear Jesus speaking through the noise if I had wanted to. I’ve heard it said that the devil doesn’t put much effort into those whose attention he’s already got, but rather he tries to distract those whose attention God has already got.

“Help me, God,” I prayed. “I am allowing my attitude to prevent me from opening up to you.” And help He did.

Though I have promised not to talk about the rest of my retreat or give away the secrets, this is what I will tell you about it:

  1. There was an amazing team of people who were there to help, guide, feed and serve us from a place of genuine love.
  2. I was brought into a much more regular practice of my faith that has continued. No longer do I “just go to mass,” but I have become an active participant. I find myself praying the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, reading the Magnificat, studying scripture and really engaging with God in a deeper way.
  3. I met people who were real believers, not just ‘cafeteria Catholics,’ but women with a real living relationship with Jesus Christ. These women were not perfect and many have struggles, just like me, but they were beautiful.

So, what happens at an Acts Retreat anyway?

I can’t tell you exactly what we do, but I can tell you that you should definitely go and experience it.

Daniel Fast Day 2…I wasn’t expecting a miracle

22 May

Day one of the Daniel Fast came and went without a hitch. I was a little sleepy and had some stomache growling, but nothing too serious. As the day drew to a close, I crawled in my bed for my evening prayer and scripture study. Before I began, I prayed that God would make Himself apparent to me during this time of fasting and prayer and that my doubts would be erased.I was not expecting the answer (miracle?!) that I got. Read to the end of this post to see how God works in amazing ways when we just confess and ask.

Then, I picked up the study that I am currently working through by Beth Moore entitled David:Seeking a Heart Like His.

David

To be perfectly honest with you, I love Beth Moore bible studies, but this one wasn’t really ‘speaking’ to me lately. Well, last night we finally got into the good stuff! David and Bathsheba. Here is a man who is the King. He has everything he could possibly want, but he is not satisfied with that. (Sound familiar?) He spies someone else’s wife and he wants that instead of the bazillion other wives and concubines that he has. He brings her to himself and not only sleeps with her, but he gets her pregnant as well. Then, he sends for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and tries to trick him into sleeping with Bathsheba so that he can pass the unborn child off as his. When that doesn’t work, he has Uriah killed. Read the story yourself in 2 Samuel 11.

Most of us have heard this story before, but what I loved about the lesson was the fact that God gave David multiple opportunities to confess, repent and stop sinning already. Moore writes:

After he committed the act of adultery, even though the consequences of the pregnancy were already at work, David could have fallen on his face before God, repented, asked for mercy and begged God to help clean up the mess he had made. Throughout his encounters with Uriah, he had many opportunities to consider his actions and recant. He didn’t.

How many times have I been in the midst of sin and just decided not to confess, not to repent, and not to stop sinning already? Too many. I put my Bible away, lay in bed and began to make my confessions to God.

That should be the end of the story right? Confess, God forgives, the end? Apparently God’s ways are bigger than that. Keep reading…

Do you see those sleeping guys at the bottom of the picture? That is what happens to me when I pray in bed. Something like, “Dear God…I confess…zzzzzzzz…”

sleep prayer

Well, tonight on just Day 1 of the Daniel Fast, God was NOT having it. He had bigger plans for me that I expected.

At 3:28 am, I was sound asleep. At 3:29 am, a strange sound woke me up. It sounded like our new beagle puppy, Chloe, had somehow escaped and was scratching on the front door. So, I ventured to the front door…then the back door….only to find a beagle puppy sound asleep on the kitchen floor. On my way back to bed I felt the nudging of the spirit, “You didn’t finish praying and you have been tired. I wanted to spend time with you, so I woke you up.” 

Alrighty then….I lay back down, wide awake and began my prayers. First confession, then thanksgiving, and then a special prayer for someone very close to me who was recently diagnosed with cancer and needs healing. 

In the darkness, I heard my husband’s voice, “What time is it?” he asked.

“About 3:40,” I said. “What are you doing awake?”

“I can’t sleep,” said the man who could literally sleep through the bombing of Hiroshima.

“I think God woke me up. He was asking me to pray.” I said.

“Hmmm….” he got out of bed and went to the living room where he later told me that he spent some time with God too.

Before you think that we are these especially dedicated people (or just weird insomniacs), let me assure you that is not the ‘normal’ case. I haven’t been wakened in the night since my youngest (going on 5 years old now) was a baby and even then it was just to make sure she was okay and go quickly back to sleep. I do not wake up early unless I have to, and I certainly do not forsake sleep for …. well, anything.

Skip ahead five hours. I just dropped my son off at school when the phone rang. An excited voice on the other line said, “I just got a call from MD Anderson. My lymphnodes are clear. The cancer has not spread. There is no evidence of disease.”

Praise be to God. Not only did he answer my prayer, but he woke me up and reminded me to pray. Speechless.

Lesson 4: If you are open to God and make yourself available, He will surprise you with his faithfulness.

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