Distractions

 The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irinia Demkiw”
and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper)
and my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on February 7, 2012.

(Note: Scriptures from Douay-Rheims Bible translation)

Sometimes when I want to hear God, little things can cause me to look away, to be distracted from God. Sometimes it might be a big thing. Sometimes it is not big. Sometimes, it might be a small thought. When I respond to distractions, I can be easily lead away from God’s plan for me. I am learning how weak I am.

I have been taught that thoughts come from three places: me, God and the enemy. My thoughts encourage me to think I can do whatever I want in my life and these thoughts lead me to sit on the throne of my life. The enemy’s thoughts encourage me to look away from God believing that everything is good and his goal is to rob me of my salvation. Thoughts from God will encourage me to trust and believe in Him, bringing me closer to Him and helping me to grow up spiritually to serve God and others; God is on the throne in my life – His throne.

The thoughts that are not from God; that is, myself or the enemy, usually come as distractions rather than revelations. These distractions are subtle and have an appearance as being good. I have heard from another person that “everything is good, but not everything is right.”

Some of the thoughts might seem like innocent fun that has a little evil in it. There is a scripture, Hosea 4:6, that says, “my people perish for lack of knowledge.” When we are living without an informed mind, we have lack of knowledge and what seems like an innocent bit of fun or entertainment could ultimately cost us our salvation.

Many people today love to play games with their minds that could be called “self-deception,” “self-indulgence,” and “self-fulfillment.” Here is a scripture that encourages me to grow and work at having a healthier mind:

But if you will discipline your thoughts and be willing to learn,
You will be kept safe in this life and will be granted mercy after death,
For judgment day comes after death.
Edras 14: 34,35

When I was a child, my mother often would say, “Oh, you August people are all alike!” I did not understand her message and when I grew to be about 12 years old, I asked her, “When you say “you August people are all alike,” what do you mean?” She responded that she heard from people through her life referring to horoscopes; that those in a category were the same personality and had a similar destiny. She said that the daily newspaper had a section and often she would glance at it and decided that there was some truth to it. I never questioned her if it was something that God would be pleased with and she never indicated that God was involved.

As I became an adult and had a time in my life that was stressful and difficult, I wondered about horoscopes and what message I might find that would be helpful to me. At the beginning, when I first began to check out “my sign” it seemed innocent and playful. My mother, I remembered, had mentioned it as something that she trusted. As days and months went along, I found myself eagerly checking out what was written for the day. A few times it seemed as if it was written especially for me. “Oh, my goodness,” were my thoughts as I rationalized the message into my life. Without meaning to, I was embracing this occult habit into my thinking. I never said that I believed it, but I was always “just checking” the horoscope for the day. I was doing all this without an informed mind or conscience. I would tell myself that I was just being playful.

What other games have I played? What about playfulness with tarot cards, palmistry, dreamology, numerology, etc. As a Christian, have I invited Jesus into the play? What will I do if Jesus refuses to play?

I had a time in my life when I never asked God for his opinion on anything I did. But after I got serious about my salvation, my relationship with my loving Heavenly Father helped me to understand that Jesus came to help me overcome anything that would try to take me away from God. Jesus called me to repent over these playful activities. At first, I was taken aback and could not see the harm. I did not want to give them up so I asked Jesus to teach me. Boy, I am really prideful wanting Jesus to tell me why I should not be in these playful activities.

Jesus gave the disciples two commandments:

You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and with your whole strength; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves, we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church, and perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Moses provided us with God’s Ten Commandments:

I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not kill.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

You shall not covet you neighbor’s goods.

What I sensed I heard after being in prayer was that I was breaking the first commandment. God is all-knowing and omnipotent. When I need guidance, I am to go to God for help. I was not going to God for help but seeking direction from horoscope. Once I let the horoscope into my life, I was becoming desensitized and as many years passed by I began to look to other distractions, namely, palmistry, dreamology, numerology. I found that as I had embraced each of the seemingly innocent but dangerous activities, my love towards God was changing. I did not run to Him for guidance and help, but sought my answers in these distractions. God was so merciful to me. He did not disown me but sent me loving people (God with skin on) to help me understand that I had sinned. I repented and went to confession.

When I see someone else caught up in to these distractions, I want to run to them and say, “You need more knowledge about God and understanding that these playful activities will draw you away from God and cost you your salvation. Either God is God in your life, or these playful activities. Only God fits on the throne of your life. He loves you and desires the best for you and is eager for you to be with Him until the end of time. “

I thank my Jesus for helping me. When I sense I am being distracted from Him, I can ask for help and wisdom. It says in scripture:

9And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find:
knock, and it shall be opened to you.
10For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth;
and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
11And which of you, if he ask his father bread,
will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion?
13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit
to them that ask him?
Luke 11:9-13

My God has rescued me again from being lost. Time with Him in prayer is sweet and I am peace-filled and wanting more of Him. Recently, someone asked me to spend 15 minutes in quiet, with a candle lit, without an agenda and just soak in God. I have done this. I want more.

 

Copyright © 2012 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

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Steps to God: Holy Things

The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irinia Demkiw”
and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper)
and my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on January 22, 2012.

Note from author, Gloria Winn:
This message was written for the New Year of 2012 however since the New Year of the Church begins on September 1, I believe it is an appropriate message and timely.

 

May this year, 2012, be your best year yet. I wish each of you a “Holy” New Year.

I do not wish you a happy new year because I believe that the word “happy” limits the amount of joy that you might receive. The joy that the world gives at new year celebrations is carnal and does not sustain us for the whole year.

I believe that whatever is holy is the best and the joy of Jesus, having been received by us, is complete and will sustain us and re-create in us all that we need spiritually for the whole year and all of our lives. Imagine, complete joy! Awesome!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
Now remain in my love.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
(John 15:9-11 KJV)

Our Father has given us Jesus who is “God with us” and He is the best gift.

Whenever I am in a hard space and I step back and reflect on the words Jesus, Emanuel/Immanuel, meaning “God is with us” the depth of my discomfort lessens and I am strengthened. I am so grateful that God is with us all the time. He is with us every second and every breath. We have been promised that we would never be left alone – God is with us! Wow!

After a time of meditation, what came to me is “If God is with me, am I with Him? This caused me to reflect deeper. God’s Holy Word, Scripture, reveals that God sent His only Son Jesus – God with us. I understand that it means that God desires intimacy with me and loves me so much He would not leave me but always be with me. This thought touched me in my inner part – my heart. I looked back through my life and was able to find several instances where I realized that God was really there with me by the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(Galations 5:22-23 KVJ)

I needed to go to pray and meditation regarding the words “am I with Him?”

Many years ago I had a spiritual mother who taught me a phrase that still causes me to take a deep breath and reflect. Her words were: “Do not do holy things without becoming holy.”

I have learned that I cannot make myself holy. Only God is holy and for me to become holy would be a work of His hands in me. But further, what I have learned is that the words of the Divine Liturgy help me to give myself to God so that I am with Him and giving him permission to do with me whatever He wants.

During our Divine Liturgy, we pray holy words but the effect of these words is limited unless we are heart connected. During our Divine Liturgy we commend ourselves and our whole lives to Christ our God three times.

Firstly, we pray these holy words at The Great Litany,

Remembering our most holy and immaculate, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, together with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

Secondly, we pray these holy words at The Litany of Supplication,

Having asked for unity of the faith and for the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

Thirdly, we pray these holy words at The Thanksgiving Litany.

Having asked that this whole day may be perfect, holy, peaceful and sinless, let us commend ourselves and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.

My challenge is to live the words passed to me by my spiritual mother, “Do not do holy things without becoming holy.”

Lord I cannot do this without you. Lord I thank you that I am baptized and that you are my Lord, my sovereign God, my Saviour, my Redeemer, my very breath. I can do nothing without you that will be good. May I have your Holy Spirit please so that I grow and become all that You have planned in my life. I want more. Yes, Lord, I want more.

 

Copyright © 2012 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Learning and Discerning Vocations: …. Baby Steps to God; Obstacles

 The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw”
and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and
my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on December 11, 2011.

When I desire more of what God has for me, I am feeling the need to draw closer. I sense that He wanted me to come and listen. This listening is such a learning curve. For me to hear His messages is life giving.

As I am learning how to listen, I am recognizing that there are times when I find it almost impossible to hear. I pray hoping to discover what am I doing differently when I am unable to hear and when I am able to hear.

Sometimes I sense that I desire to hear the message from God more than spending time with Him. I have been taught that this is a selfish attitude that is really out of order in the listening practice. God has designed us to be a reflection of Himself and so He knows when we are pure hearted towards Him or self-seeking when we reach to Him. I know that when someone wants something from me more than being with me, I am not too receptive to hear him or her. I feel used.

Sometimes I want to hear God’s message so that I might find relief from the struggle and pain in my life. Again, my attitude is not pure. I am like a child reaching and demanding His attention. God is so loving and compassionate that He will still receive me and let me know that He is with me. Scripture says that God will never leave us.

When I have acknowledged to God that He is my all and I cannot live without Him being at the helm of my life, I am beginning the path to a pure heart. To love God without an agenda is the start of pure heart loving – unconditionally loving Him and receiving Him and desiring to be in His Presence. When I get lost in this loving of God, and I stop living in my head, I am moving closer to fulfilling the scripture,

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 (KJV)

Someone shared with me many years ago that her aunt made a point of going to prayer with an agenda of not ever asking God for anything but to spend time in thanking Him only. I was so touched by the story and have tried it. I found it to be difficult because my inner child wanted to have my needs met. I found it to be work to spend time only thanking Him for my life and all the graces provided for me. Surprisingly, this work has proven to be joyous. When I have worked at praising God, my spirit is lifted out of its comfort zone and enters into a space where I sense a greater freedom and happiness than when I began to pray.

The early church fathers have often taught about the Jesus prayer. This prayer is similar to only praising God and thanking Him for all graces received. This prayer takes my thinking out of myself and my head and heart soon are in oneness. Praying this prayer in rhythm of my breathing has been so beneficial to my hearing God’s voice. I have occasionally read the early church fathers and do pray the Jesus prayer. These are tools to help me hear God’s voice.

My major obstacle to hearing God’s voice is sin.

I need help to even recognize my sins. I use books that have been written to teach how to discern sin as a preparation for confession. Sometimes, I need to have my spiritual director to help me recognize my sins and point me to the steps I need to take to live a healthier spiritual life. A heart committed and fully surrendered is my goal. I cannot even do that without God’s help. I have prayed for God to help me to be surrendered.

I heard from a friend something that made an amazing difference. He told me to give God permission to change whatever needed to be changed in my life so that I could live a better life with Him. It took me a long time to be able to say that prayer with full conviction. But when I finally did, I know that God has embraced me and I am different…..in a good way. I want more.

 

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Learning and Discerning Vocations: Baby Steps to God; Who Am I?

The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on November 27, 2011.

When I am reaching for God, seeking His peace, seeking His face and presence, I sense His love encouraging me to come closer. It is so quiet and subtle. In hindsight, it seems as if my God was wooing me to be near Him. He is always near me but I am not always aware that I am near Him. This nearness takes place in my heart, my soul, and my spirit.

Earlier I mentioned that I understood that God chose me. This intrigued me. I never felt worthy to be chosen to be His. The scripture that comes to mind is

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. John 15:14-16 (KJV)

Upon reflection I sensed that God wants me to “know” that He really was with me and selected me to know Him. I wanted to know Him better.

I heard a story that still makes me smile. A television cook was excited that he was preparing lamb for Easter and went on to tell his audience why he was so excited about it. He said that he always serves wine with the lamb. The wine was the reason he was so happy. The story goes like this.

There was a shepherd who was tending his flock. He called the flock and the sheep turned in the direction to follow the voice of the shepherd. The cook described that in Europe and eastern countries, the shepherds do not “herd” the sheep like cattle – that is coming from behind. They are at the front of the flock and call them and then lead them to the next pasture. Then he said the shepherd found that in the flock there were two ewes that were ready to delivery their lambs. One ewe delivered a beautiful lamb and immediately the lamb began to suckle. The ewe did not recover from delivering the lamb and died. The other ewe delivered a lamb. This lamb did not live long and died. The shepherd realized that he needed to do something quickly or the new born lamb that lived would soon die if it did not have milk. He knew that if he presented the lamb to the ewe that lost her lamb, the ewe would reject it. She would smell the lamb and recognize that the lamb was not her own. He took some of the blood from the lamb that died and wiped it on the lamb that was alive and presented it to the ewe. The ewe smelled the blood of her own lamb and received the alive lamb as her own. The cook said that is how God the Father receives us because we have the blood of Jesus on us and he receives us. This touched my heart. Maybe not good theology, but now I understood that Jesus’ blood was the key for me with God the Father.

I am a slow learner. I spent time in prayer just thanking Jesus for what He had done for me and for every person whom God the Father has chosen. I believe that everyone in our world is chosen. I believe that we are all given our mission, our destiny. I am still learning about this awesome responsibility.

As I began to know Jesus better, I recalled scriptures that state that we are created to take care of God’s creation and His creatures:

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. (Genesis 2:19-20 KJV)

When you have been given the responsibility of “naming” something, this is a sign of responsibility for you. God gave the privilege of “naming” to Adam and thus we human beings have the inherited onus or responsibility for these creatures.

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8: 5-8 KJV)

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, 
a son of man that you care for him? 
 You made them a little lower than the angels; 
you crowned them with glory and honor 
and put everything under their feet. In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.     (Hebrews 2:6-9 KJV))

For me to understand who I am, I need to look to scriptures and to the early fathers for wisdom. I am a physical being, but also I am a spiritual being. The earth is the physical home for my physical body, but since I am a spiritual being as well, I need to be in touch with my God who is teaching me about living my spiritual life. If I embrace the physical more than the spiritual; that is, if I choose to focus more on the “world” than on living and growing spiritually, then I risk that my spiritual life will be so diminished that I might die spiritually. I choose the spiritual life and choose to know, love and serve Jesus. This is a choice that I renew daily.

Jesus taught the prayer, the Our Father. When I received the word “our” I realized that He was saying that His Father was my Father too. This message went passed my head and straight to my heart. Deep in me was this new awareness that I was a daughter of God, a child of God. Before, these were just words, but now there was a reality to the words. The nearness of God was constant and when I focused on receiving all that God has for me, the sense of belonging came stronger. After seeking for so long, I felt that I was home. For me, home is God and I was becoming more aware of the love of the Father for me. Jesus was helping me. There was a difference when I prayed to Jesus. I felt there was a greater intimacy.

I am getting to know the Holy Spirit. He comes and holds me in my spirit and comforts me and teaches me.

I believe that to discern and listen to what God has for me in my life, it is important for me to know Him and to know who I am in Him. In my journey, which is constant discovery, I have learned that I am a woman of God, a child of God, a daughter. Glory to God!

For so many years of my life, I went to church regularly and almost missed the fact that I am a child of God. So often when attending church, my focus was to be involved with the community, being a part of the organizations, supporting Ukraine especially before independence was announced. I had a sense of belonging to the church. The priests probably said it at the pulpit that each person is a child of God, and scriptures may have been read aloud about it but somehow I did not get it. This revelation was amazingly personal and I felt a very deep sense of belonging to God as I received the truth and treasured it in my heart.

Upon receiving this revelation, the subsequent reaction has been that the words of the divine liturgy seem more relevant to me, more personal. I have always enjoyed going to the liturgies and socializing. I always feel good afterwards. This experience of the divine liturgy stirring my heart was new for me — to hear the words of the divine liturgy seem like God was speaking right into my heart and I had a deeper desire to listen. The time flies by when I am at a liturgy. Those words bless me and change me from the inside out. We are so truly blessed in our church with the holy scriptures and the holy divine liturgy as personal messages to each one of us. It is important for me to hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow like a sheep. I have just begun. There is more to learn. I want more.

 

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Learning and Discerning Vocations: Baby Steps to God; About Listening

The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on November 13, 2011.

When I am feeling like I am being cared for, listened to, provided for, and not alone, this sense of safety feeds my soul, my spirit, my mind, my heart with responsive love to my God. I was beginning to know God by His subtle nudgings and whisperings which sometimes were clear at the moment they were happening, and sometimes only recognizable in hindsight. When I took time to reflect on the happenings of my day, often I could see that God sent some answers to prayers. Whether it was a person who I desired to see or hear from, or whether it was hearing about someone for whom I had prayed for, that his or her need received an unexpected answer to that need, I always seemed to be surprised. I know I was grateful. I could feel myself growing in faith and trust.

Listening is not my first gift. Listening is hard work. Listening causes me to change my daily life and make room for God. My attitude about my life seems to be “about me.” Listening changes that perception. I started out learning how to listen to God because of what my mother said to me “You should be listening to what God wants you to do with your life.” As I began to strain to “hear” God speak to me, I noticed that I desired to be with Him more. I had a sense in me that said that this is good. When something is good, like a child, I usually will reach for more.

I heard on a television program about monks that they pray continuously and come together many times throughout the day to pray as a community. One monk explained that he felt it was important to listen to what God was saying but that it was equally important to respond to what God was saying. He named this part of the listening as obedience. I could feel my skin ripple. I am not good at obedience. But my spirit desired to understand. I sensed that God allowed me to watch that monk on TV so that I would have information about listening. It was one of His nudgings.

A very important teaching about listening came to me through several books and Christian Catholic and Orthodox evangelists. These teachings were cautioning that it is important to “know God’s voice” and to discern that there were three voices that could be heard. What? Three voices? Uh-oh! I did not know that. There is a scripture that says,

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)

 What I understood from the teachings about the three voices is this:

a)    A voice that I might hear might not be God; it might be my own voice.

b)   Another voice that I might hear might not be God; it might be the enemy.

c)    Another voice that I might hear might be God.

I did not want to be destroyed because I heard a voice that I thought was God.

I continued to read and study and pray on how to discern which voice was from God. This took time. I am a slow learner and I made many mistakes. These mistakes caused me much frustration. I began to understand and know that I cannot do this discerning of voices unless I was filled with love for God and a heart open to God. When I make room for God in my heart, I am trying to do what that monk said about listening and obedience. Obedience is not one of my strengths. My ego lives in my head. My head has thoughts about “me” and I began to recognize that voice as my own. When it is my own voice, the message will feed my ego, my pride, and lead me away from God. The message will subtly try to sound like God, loving, encouraging, but a tricky sneaky nuance that will put my ego or my pride on the “throne” of my life. Oh yes, I have made many mistakes. Thank God that He loves me still.

This discerning of voices was and still is work. This work is worth it. To know God’s love, recognize His Presence, to receive His graces, is all worth it.
This other voice that I was warned about showed up sometimes. I was usually caught off guard. I was anticipating hearing God’s message and yet this “other” voice snuck in. Often I did not recognize the other voice until I reflected on the “fruit” of the message.

The acts of the flesh are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
(Galations 5:19-21 NIV)

This other voice from the enemy would try to make me believe that God was speaking to me. The message would sound like it was a blessing but over time the result of the message would be leading me away from God. The teachers of this lesson of the three voices say that the enemy is joyful when we listen to his messages. I do not want to listen to any voice but God’s. Often these sneaky messages would cause me to lose my desire to be with God, to think that I do not need God or that I do not want to be a blessing to others.

This other voice that I really desire to hear, that is God’s voice, is the only one that will bring good fruit into my life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is
love,
joy,
peace,
forbearance,
kindness,
goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness, and
self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

When I have heard God’s voice then He is on the throne of my life. I worked at listening, clearing the way for His voice by going to confession and apologizing for my sins. I have and am still learning that my sins get in the way to my hearing God’s messages. He does not love me less but my sins are like thick clouds distorting my vision (hearing).

I am still learning that it is important to “test the waters” of the message that I hear. It is so easy for me to be like a child and instantly react to whatever message I hear. When I have done so, I have found myself having to struggle to get back myself, my faith, my trusting of what I hear.sense that God is pleased when I continue to “work” at listening and discerning His voice.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
   whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
   —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
   Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
   or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
                                                                                (Phillipians 4:8-9 NIV)

 His voice brings me peace, a sense of safety, a sense of love for Him and everyone. I want more.

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

Learning and Discerning Vocations: Listening

 The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on October 30, 2011.

 Learning and Discerning Vocations: Listening

The desire to hear God’s voice was growing inside of me. Up to now I had “gut” senses of what He wanted when I asked Him a question. I began to make room for Jesus in more areas of my life than just whether I should go to a dance or a movie.

I had a job that I enjoyed but did not make very much money. I found that if I needed something big, I had to save for a long time. When I am saying something big, I do not mean a car or a trip. I am referring to a winter coat.

Yes, I had to save my money; it was a challenge for me. Some people do not have trouble but I did.

Winter was fast approaching and I needed a winter coat very badly. I needed one that would withstand strong winds (chill factor) and strong fabric for good long wear as well as warm and fashionable. My list was long regarding the details of the coat. I began shopping for one.

Every Saturday for weeks, when I had time, I went for a couple of hours searching for this coat that I needed. When I saw a coat I liked, the price was well over what I could spend considering my savings. It was hard work to keep checking on coats in the less expensive racks. Finally, the first snowfall threatened. I felt panicky. What would I do? I took some friends with me to help me pick out the coat on the next Saturday. I tried on one that looked really good but the price was just above what I could spend. I was so frustrated. It was the only one up to this time that was good. My friends complimented me on the colour and style. I felt sad because it was more money than I had to spend from my savings. I said to my friends, “I need to keep shopping until I find something that is less expensive!” The next store had a coat on sale that was in my price range and it answered all the requirements as well. I tried it on. When I looked in the mirror, I found that it was not nearly attractive as the other coat. I felt desperate. There was a $45 difference in the price. I felt inspired to do something different. I prayed. I asked Jesus what to do? I explained about the two coats and that I did not know what to do and also explained that the cold weather was arriving and I needed this new coat. I stood in a quiet space in myself. I heard the words, “Go and put a deposit on the more expensive coat.” I was surprised at the words and that I “heard” the words. I told the Lord, “Okay, I will do it because I believe that I heard from you Jesus.” I went back to the other store and took the coat to the salesperson and asked if I could put a deposit on the coat. They said it would be fine and took the coat and my deposit and gave me a receipt. I said that I would be coming by as soon as I could and put more money on the coat until it was paid for. The salesperson smiled and nodded.

On the next Saturday, I wanted to put more money on the coat but my finances were not enough to do so. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me get the money for the balance outstanding on the coat. I did not hear anything. Several Saturdays went by before I finally had some money to put down on the coat. When I arrived at the store, in the window, on display was the same style coat that I had “laid-away” and the sign said that it was on sale. It was marked $45 less than the original price. I had enough money with me to pay off the coat. Would the store allow me to do it since I contractually purchased it several weeks ago? I approached a salesperson and explained the situation and she said that it was not a problem and if I took the coat today, I could have it at the sale price. Glory to God! Wow! I felt like I had been given a special surprise gift. My God proved to me that He heard me and I heard Him. What a lesson!

I knew that God loved His people, but that day I felt that God reached to me and touched me. I have never been the same. When I feel loved, I desire to love back. God is my provider. He knows my needs even before I “tell” Him what I need.

I felt this desire to love God back growing. I thought that by going to church and being a good person was a good start. All that felt good. But I sensed that there was more. I felt like I was being cared for, listened to, provided for and not alone. I wanted more.

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Learning and Discerning Vocations II

The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) under a column title of “Shedding Light,” and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on October 16, 2011. This is the second part of “Learning and Discerning Vocations Baby Steps.”

 

Learning and Discerning Vocations II

Whatever I had received during Lent by attending church daily (or almost daily) left me with a longing for more. I felt satisfied that I had completed the days of Lent coming to church with my new found young friends. I was no longer working at making room for God. After Bright Week, I felt that something was missing. It was not an in-your-face experience but a cooling from a warmth that I had felt during Lent. I was not sure what it meant. I was not sure how to gain back the warmth that I enjoyed since I was not attending daily church services. I was slowly being distracted back to the patterns of my life before Lent. Only when I was alone did I turn my thoughts to Jesus. Saying His name stirred something within me.

I had heard a story about a young priest and an old woman who showed up at church every day. The woman would come and go every day. She often sat alone in the church. She never approached the priest. The priest was curious as to why she would come every day and sometimes just sit alone in the church. Finally, the priest decided that he wanted to know who she was and what she was about. He came to her and sat beside her. She looked at him quickly and turned her head back to the iconostas. The young priest spoke to her, “Welcome to our beautiful church!” The woman seemed shy and struggled to look at him. After a moment of silence between them she spoke, “Thank you Father!” Again, there was this long silence between them. Father decided to ask her straight up why she was here every day. “I am the pastor and I welcome you. I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me why you come every day and sometimes sit alone in the church.” She smiled a big smile, with her eyes filling and said, “I want God to know my face so that he recognizes me when I die and leave this earth.” The pastor smiled back at her and patted her hand. He stood getting ready to leave her and spoke saying, “I am sure that God knows your face very well and is pleased.” They both nodded at each other. The pastor left the old woman in church to attend to his many duties in the parish office. The old woman continued to sit alone in the church.

When I heard this story, many thoughts came flooding. I loved the message of God recognizing my face because I took time to be with Him. I was not sure if I needed to be in a church every day so that God and I would get to know each other’s faces. I knew some prayers and at bedtime I began to add little prayers sometimes. Instead of my usual “Thank you God for… (naming the best parts of my day)” I found that I was praying for others. I felt a warmth growing within me.

I found myself talking to Jesus when I was walking to the bus stop, when I was waiting in the grocery line, when I was taking a shower, when I was hungry or lonely or angry, when I was buying a new dress, and so on. I liked to talk to Jesus. I felt His Presence sometimes. I felt safe.

My mother said to me one day, “You should be listening to what God wants you to do with your life.” I asked her, “What do you mean?” She said, “You should be asking God if you are supposed to be a religious, or a wife, or a dedicated single person in your life.” Those words surprised me. My mother often spoke to me about God only to remind me to “Go to church!” and “Don’t forget your night prayers!” This message was different. For days I dwelt on those words. The thoughts that came to me were “I do not know how to hear God.” “How do I hear God?” “How will I know that it is God speaking?” I sat with the questions for many weeks. One day I had a sense to ask God whether I should go to a movie that many people were flocking to see. After I had sat in a quiet space for a while, I asked the question. I did not hear words, but in my “gut” I felt a happy feeling, a peace. I said to God that because I had the “gut” sense of “It is okay to go to the movie” I would go with my friends. A week or two later, a dance was coming up and everyone I knew was going. I wanted to go so much. I was picking up on their excitement in the planning of the event. I had a sense to ask God if He wanted me to go the dance. After sitting and listening, I had a tight, sad feeling in my gut/middle. I was surprised. This sad sense in my middle seemed to me that God did not want me to go. I told God that I would not go to the dance because I felt that He said so. It was hard to make that decision. Later, I learned from my father that he would not have allowed me to go the dance because it was taking place during Lent. Whoa! This news fitted in with what I sensed when I asked God if I should go to the dance. This was a learning curve.

I had found something important for me. I found that I was learning how to hear God. Most of my life had been my speaking to God, or rather telling God what I wanted or needed. This new growing communication with God was quiet, subtle, and feeling like I wanted more.

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

 

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.