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.

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; 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.