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: 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.