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Entering the Quiet: Key to Discerning God’s Will

posted Jan 6, 2012, 7:10 AM by Web Master

By Micky Wolf

     If there is one topic that regularly comes to the fore in spiritual direction it is discernment. The questions are similar: How do I discern God’s will for me? How do I know what I’m hearing is God? Or not? When I respond by posing another question, “How much quiet time are you willing to give to God to find out what He is speaking to you?” they sigh, slumping a bit in the chair.  “What exactly do you mean by quiet time?”

     Unlike many of our ancestors, most of us are not plodding through fields, plying wheels of wool, or thrashing sheaves of wheat. In these times, if we are honest, many of us find ourselves slaves to the rigors of various schedules, our own as well as those others try to impose upon us, even in the name of being good Christian servants. While it is important to take care of our responsibilities, it is also requisite that if we hope to discern God’s voice, we need to make an intentional choice to enter into the quiet.

     Most of us acknowledge the need to spend time with God. But what does entering into the quiet mean in practical terms?

     Inner chatter clutters—and informs. We know sitting still is a challenge for two-year olds. At the same time, grown-ups might be able to reign in the body parts, only to realize our insides are cart-wheeling in a dozen different directions. It’s not that God wants us to become mutes; quite the opposite. What we need is to settle and calm the inner self—whatever time it takes to become quiet on the inside. Notice—I did not say become silent. 

     In becoming quiet, we are more able to notice certain thoughts and identify specific feelings. This time of noticing helps us to discover patterns or particular characteristics in what we are thinking and feeling. Maybe a certain word or phrase keeps running through our head; maybe it is an emotion that is poking around. Because our lives are so busy, we tend to be only vaguely aware of the inside stuff. On other occasions, we would just rather not give the stuff any attention, especially if we believe it’s only going to cause problems—frequently spelled p-a-i-n. In that regard, choosing to ignore something because we believe it might be unpleasant will usually not improve the situation or make it go away; things will likely only become more uncomfortable over time.

     Spontaneity and openness. God longs to hear what it is we desire to understand, or discern, however, if we have little sense of what it is we are really trying to say to God we can very easily end up reeling off little more than a list of ‘I want, I need, please help me with this or that’. There’s nothing wrong with requesting, even pleading with God. Cloudiness develops when we try to organize, evaluate and explain things [mostly for our benefit] rather than spontaneously and openly laying it all out before Him. It’s the difference between working to give God the blueprint and plans for what we think is going on and needs to happen as opposed to simply sharing, friend to friend. “I’m sad…I’m upset…I’m confused. I don’t like me very much at the moment.” Or “I had a major disagreement with the boss or spouse today…There’s no money to fix the car…the doctor’s report doesn’t sound good.”

Being quiet is not about organizing and cataloging each and every thought and feeling into our idea of order. The quiet serves as the milieu through which all the little pieces—all the fragments of who we are in that moment—can bubble to the surface. As we allow this to happen we can step back and look at things more objectively, or at the very least, with enough detachment that a meaningful process of discernment can continue to unfold. Our questions take on new meaning: What among this stuff is good? What is sinful? What has more to do with my strengths? My weaknesses? My woundedness? What is colored with fear? Seasoned with anger? Interwoven with unforgiveness? The more spontaneously open we are, the more likely we experience the real truth of our present state of being, which in turn leads to a more fully surrendered heart, one that is more responsive to following God’s will rather than our own.

     Unlike the fluctuating stock markets here and around the world, God’s economy is one of stability and generosity. He holds nothing back. He is ever willing to lavish us with all that we need, including insight and revelation about who we are and what He would have us to do in any aspect of our life. God’s invitation and availability is one of inspiring us to ‘come as we are’ into His presence. As unsettling as this may be, it is in giving to Him all the bits and pieces that our hearts are more fully disposed to clearly hearing His voice, in all things.

I Believe…

posted Jul 25, 2011, 7:36 AM by Web Master   [ updated Jul 25, 2011, 7:39 AM ]

I Believe…

By Micky Wolf

…It takes a humble person to stand still in the presence of God’s loving gaze as together we allow Him to animate our strengths, expose our sinfulness and heal our wounds.

…It takes an honest, persevering person to take up his or her cross and step out in love and compassion; to be part of the Lord’s work in bringing about the Kingdom of God here on earth in the time He has allowed for each human being.

…It takes a courageous person to be used of God to help carry His light to the dark places of our world, our communities and the doorsteps of our homes and hearts.

…It takes every one of us fulfilling His call on our life, in whatever manner or form that may be, to live each day as contemplatives in action, choosing to be part of the solution rather than perpetuators of prejudice, pain and pretentiousness.

How Will I Behave?

posted Aug 10, 2008, 8:10 PM by Web Master   [ updated Aug 12, 2008, 10:03 AM ]

By Micky M. Wolf


Revelation comes quickly at times.  We praise our awesome God for those moments when “we get it”; then we pray for the grace, mercy and perseverance to carry this new life within us.


Sitting in my chair late this afternoon, following a lengthy and intense conversation with a beloved sister in Christ, a calmness permeated the room.  And then, in the peacefulness, aware the Spirit was gently touching my heart, I heard Him say…”how would you behave with others if you knew I was with you in each and every circumstance?”


“Well, of course, you are always with me,” I answered.  How else could a believer respond to such a question? 


“No,” He firmly and insistently responded.  “What I mean is…what if you really understood that I am with you in each and every encounter…with those you love, with the stranger you meet…”


“I don’t get it – you’re there; I know that…”


“Yes, I am there…I see…I hear…I feel…every word, every thought, every action, every gesture…”


I took a deep breath.  I was beginning to sense His specific desire, now, to show me something I needed to see. “I’m listening…”  While the words were not spoken out loud, they were audible in every way that transcended the spoken sound.


“The next time you are with someone…on the phone…sitting in your family room…across the table for a meal…traveling from one place to another…see me…open the eyes of your heart…I am there with you…I see…I hear…I feel…every word, every thought, every action…every gesture…”


The stillness and peacefulness…and then again…an awareness of His presence. 


“If you see and know me when I am with you here in this room…If you see and know me in my sanctuary…If you see and know me in the beauty outside your window…Will you see and know that I am with you…where ever you are?”


I took a deep breath.  “Yes, Lord…help me…open the eyes of my heart…that I might behave in a way pleasing to you, where ever I go…”


A sense of sadness began to stir within…


“Why are you sad?”  He asked.


“I do not behave very loving sometimes, Lord.” 


“I know…and that is why I am with you…always…to help you, guide you, lead you, and show you the way…”


The rain outside began to pitter-patter against the window…a tear rolled down my cheek…a tear coming forth from my heart, sensing the gentle touch of my loving Father, a forgiving, loving, compassionate Father who understands His daughter in all her ways…especially when she stumbles, and He reaches to gather her into His arms.     


[Copyright 2004]

Peace...And Reconciliation

posted Aug 10, 2008, 8:09 PM by Web Master   [ updated Aug 12, 2008, 10:03 AM ]

by Micky Wolf


I knelt alone in the pew.  Oh, there were many, many others about me, but they were seated randomly throughout the sanctuary of St. Paul Church.  Music played softly; notes and themes conducive to meditating and reflecting filled the air.  After awhile I raised my head from prayer, glancing to the main center aisle, my eyes meeting those of a friend who had come to participate in the Community Penance Service, December 12, 1999.  Words were unnecessary.  Actions were insignificant.  In a that brief moment of connection, each of us seemed united in communion with our Father, but were oblivious to the hundreds of other people moving quietly along isles to the various stations for individual confession.


Confession.  I have been a Catholic all my married life, almost twenty eight years.  That word and its historically significant connotations has created as many, or more, uneasy feelings and perceptions within my spirit than few other “religious” words could initiate.  Fear.  Unworthiness.  Rejection.  And maybe most importantly in recent years…indifference.  Yes, indifference. As I sat there in the pew, literally washed in the blessings of the gathering, I was only too fully aware that it had only been a few months earlier in August, that I had experienced the healing restoration of confession.  Why had it taken more than 10 years for me to realize all that awaited me in this sacrament?


My thoughts returned to that hot summer day.  I sat in my car, trembling in anticipation.  What would he [the priest] say?  What would I say?  In the recent weeks leading to this day I had experienced more pain than I could have ever imagined humanely possible. Memories of years of childhood abuse and the consequences of poor choices as a young adult had been shoved into the darkest recesses of my mind – until neither I, nor a loving God could allow them to exist in the darkness for another moment.  I knew that Jesus had walked side by side with me through this incredibly painful but healing time of my life.  Now, in His revelation to me, I knew this was one of the final personal acts of my will that could bring me into a peaceful restoration with our loving Father. 


I picked up my cell phone and quickly dialed a friend.  “I’m scared to death – I can’t do this – but I know I must!”  She hesitated, then in a firm, reassuring voice spoke…”go, go and meet with the priest…and you will find Him there with you also…” After a few words of prayer, I hung up, slowly setting the phone aside and getting out of the car.  One step in front of the other.  One step, then the next.  Every movement was a specific effort on my part.


His eyes were full of compassion and love, his voice soft and gentle.  Gradually, my trembling ceased as the priest said a prayer, then encouraged me to share what was on my heart.  The sentences and phrases I had tried to pull together before this moment had vanished somewhere back in the parking lot.  I began to speak…”Father, forgive me…” A few words, fragments of thoughts. Stated simply…from my heart.  The priest listened, then slowly raised his hands to bless me.  Somewhere in the midst of the peacefulness, he quietly gave me a sense of spiritual direction and prayers for my penance.  Why had I waited so long?  Why had I allowed fear and unworthiness, the feelings of my flesh and sin nature deceive me into believing there was something so unbearably uncomfortable about confession and reconciliation with my God and with my parish community?  It was then that I slowly began to realize my true sin of indifference had become far more deceiving than any other I may have stepped into.


The music continued.  The lines of people passing by the end of my pew moved slowly, but steadily.  It was as if God was giving me the personal opportunity to sense the individuality of each who had come to participate.  Tall people.  Short people.  Wide people.  Narrow people.  Young people.  Older people.  Each wonderfully unique.  Each coming to join in an experience of confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.  Each anticipating the presence of God in their personal few moments with priests who would later comment they could not remember when they had seen so many people participating in Communal Penance Services.  Praise the Lord!


I settled back into the seat. My eyes gazed on the altar and the crucifix, Mother Mary and St. Joseph.  What a blessed Advent and Christmas this year!  I could not recall when I had experienced such peacefulness and joy.  My prayer was that every single person who was present would experience the same sense of healing restoration.


Our season of Lent brings with it new opportunities to participate in this sacrament.  Many who may read this will not have experienced situations similar to mine, but maybe, some will share an awareness.  For those who have not, there will be other circumstances of pain and choices made in darkness.  Maybe the greatest barrier to coming to confession is, in reality, the sin of indifference.  Jesus loves you more than you can comprehend. He welcomes you in forgiveness of whatever you may have struggled to bury from His sight or yours.  Think about meeting with Him in this sacred, healing and restoring sacrament of our church.  He awaits your visit with open arms.


[Original Text December 26, 1999]


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