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.

Link

Glory to God! After two years of tearful writing, soul searching, prayerfully listening to God and myself, this book will finally be published. The background to this book started soon after I was healed from grieving for 18 years. When I shared my story with another person, they often commented that they changed in their grieving. They told me that their grieving had lessened. When this happened several times with different people, I began to wonder whether the story should be put into a book form. When I shared this with my spiritual director, he encouraged me to put it on paper and thus the process began.

As I wrote, I received many graces from God. You see, in school, I was told many times by teachers that I have no imagination, no creativity. They said that it was a waste of time to do a composition because I would not pass. I felt so incompetent regarding writing that even to write a journal page is “work.” But, here I was, trying to be obedient and honoring God, writing this story. When I wrote on my own steam, the thoughts and words did not flow. However; when I prayed first and then wrote, the words came easily. It was truly a lesson of grace.

I hope you will read this book and receive whatever graces God has for you in the pages.

Tears has received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.

Tears will be available through Amazon in paperback and e-kindle formats.

I will let you know when it is available for sale.

May God be glorified!

Blessings, Gloria

God is with us! Manna!

The words “God is with us” are announced at Christmas and these words bring me such comfort. These words are true all year long, even through Lent. I am stirred in my spirit with tenderness and love in response to these words. God is always with us. Am I always with Him? Sometimes. I am a sinner and unable to be perfect in my focus and desire and prayer to be with God. I am able to be present to Him, for Him, only by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am humbled and I recognize that I cannot do this in my own power or desire. Only as I recognize how powerless I am, I see my poverty. But I have hope. God is with us! God is with me. God being with me gives me the thirst and desire to be with Him. When I reach to Him and ask Him for mercy and grace to be with Him, He gently floods my spirit and I am renewed and refreshed. This is like manna in the desert and I need to come to Him daily for this new “manna” so my spirit will flourish and grow. As I receive Him, I am changed every so subtly but nevertheless different than before this “manna” filled me. Come Lord Jesus!

Copyright 2012 Gloria Winn

 

Feelings

Feelings are such fickle things. They come and go. They rarely stay long; however they can dig a hole and hang on for life. I do not believe that feelings are meant to hang on. I believe that they are meant to be for us a guide, a tool, and a measure of what we are experiencing in this incredible journey of life.

Feelings can be like decisions. You can choose them and then they gently ebb us into the space in that moment. Like loving. Love is a decision. When you choose to love, even if you are angry, the feeling of love (loving, caring, etc.) will slowly move in and the anger will take a back seat.  However, if you choose anger, it might gently ebb to you or it might erupt like a volcano in you and then you are in an uncomfortable place with another.

As a child I could not put words to my feelings. I would act out my feelings so easily. I wanted something and since language was limited, I would make noises trying to communicate that, which I so desired, e.g., ice cream. Sometimes my body language was gentle but sometimes it could be obnoxiously selfish in my desire for the beloved ice cream. Slowly as I grew, I learned that expressed feelings are not always welcome in the public milieu. I learned that sometimes I should keep them to myself. But I have also learned that it not good to ignore them. They can come in the back door and kick you in the pants.

We have been given a wonderful gift from our Creator. Because the Son of God came and lived as one of us, He knows what feelings are and how some feelings are such a blessings and others are such a cross.

For many years I believed that I could not help my feelings. It was only when I began to grow in my faith and understanding that I learned that feelings can be chosen. I can choose good feelings rather than bad feelings. Sometimes I need to choose good behaviour and then the feelings follow. Abraham Lincoln said it well when he said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”

I can choose those feelings that will help me to grow and become strong rather than choose feelings that will drag me into a dark hole of isolation and woe. I remember a few more lines from Abraham Lincoln who said “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” and “Every man’s happiness is his own responsibility.”

To be free in your feelings is healthy.  In your life, your faith walk, feelings are wonderful gifts of expression. I learned to bury my feelings as a young person. I would watch movies and television and believe that the way emotions were portrayed was the way to do it. It was all a lie.

My God loves me so much he did not leave me as I was. I have had some very hard experiences in my life that were sent to me as opportunities to grow and learn about God, myself and others. I am slowly becoming more alive than I ever have been. Feelings are such wonder gifts. Thank you God for the gift of feelings.

copyright 2011 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.