Develop A Spiritual Practice

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I get a lot of feed back from people in regards to their seeming inability to be able to carve out quiet time for themselves. Taking that another step further, I had the opportunity last week to present a holistic health message to nurses and managers in the skilled nursing facility setting, and self-care is a big concern. We can all struggle with making space or creating margin in our lives, but it is imperative for over all physical and emotional health. Even beyond that, we are spiritual beings who need to be connected to the source of our strength and to know what to pursue and what to relinquish. The development of a spiritual practice helps us to navigate those questions so we can live fully in our humanity.

I have been a long time fan of Henri Nouwen. Henri, who is now deceased, has been a beloved author, priest, and world famous spiritual counselor and guide, who’s writings continue to inspire and re align his readers in profound ways.

I am re- reading his book Spiritual Direction and I was struck by this;

Developing ears to hear God takes time. We all have strong resistances to listening. First of all, we find it very hard to create empty spaces in our lives and to give up our occupations and preoccupations, even for a while. We suffer from a fear of the empty space. We are so concerned with being useful, effective, and in control that a useless ineffective, and uncontrollable moment scares us and drives us right back to the security of having something valuable to do.

I know that for myself, when I am taking my daily morning time to be alone and meditate, I can feel as though I am “wasting” time and my mind will begin to fill with chatter. Thoughts of my to do list, the kids activities, the bathroom that needs cleaned….whatever, will start to infiltrate my mind until I push them back and give myself permission and encouragement to be still. The truth is, I cannot go very many days with out long periods of alone time to start my day.

The morning spiritual practice is so integrated into my life, it is as if I am cutting off my right arm or not drinking water when I defer it at all. The more you are intentional about it, the more deeply it embeds into who you are. The Bible says that Jesus retreated often  and the New Testament talks about “praying continuously”. For me this looks like at least an hour in the morning of reading the Bible, in my head or out loud, and writing my prayers out. I have a designated space in my bedroom where I do this. When I am exceptionally pressured, I set my alarm and do not allow my self to get pulled away into a different direction. I often times write one scripture or a short theme out on a post it note and refer to it through out the day. Any time I start to get anxious about any situation, I pause and read it and it puts me back into The Vine (John 15:5), the source of strength. As you are intentional about creating this time for yourself, others will begin to understand, respect and give you your space- but that will only happen after you show consistency in guarding it and making it a priority.

Do we want to see the truth in our lives? Maybe we don’t….maybe it is easier if we don’t. Henri went on to say this in the same chapter; Resistance in the form of preoccupation and distraction often prevents us from seeing the truth of our lives, hearing God’s voice and living a spiritual life. To listen with obedience to the voice of God requires building up a resistance to all the other voices that compete for our attention.

I know for myself, the spiritual practice continues to be a persistent intentional routine, but it has also become a deep place of peace that no other thing or person on earth can replicate. I have had times where I knew I was running, so to speak, from hearing the voice of truth in my life. It leaves one empty and shallow. If we are going to tap into who we really were created to be and tap into the things we were expressly created to do in this short time called life, we are going to have to spend time with The Creator.

I encourage you to create empty spaces in your life. Decide to swim against the water of culture and abide in the place you were designed to be. This is not time wasted, it is value added. Do not be afraid of the quietness, be intentional and begin your spiritual journey<3

 

* Honest Aromas offers  Christian Life Coaching! If you would like more information on this idea, visit  juliaallman.com

Creating Margin…

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I have known for a long time that I need a lot of space for myself to be quiet, read, and pray  to be the person I was created to be. God rested on the 7th day and Jesus often retreated to a quiet place, why do we think we can just keep motoring through hour after hour, day after day?! This morning, I was reading a John Maxwell devotional and John takes 20% of his time- roughly 3 hours a day, to schedule nothing. Doing the math, that adds up to 6 days a month and 72 days a year!! He calls this Essential Time Off.  It allows his mind to be quiet and re focus on the things that are in front of him or be present for his family. He says that he is much more efficient with this un- scheduled time, scheduled in, than he would be with out it.

I have come to find this true again and again. No one is going to provide this margin to you or I. Others will keep taking our time if we let them and this concept of creating space takes great intentionality. Our world and our lives are so complex, we need scheduled times of peace. I just enjoyed 3 days off and it was great to put demands on hold while I spent precious time with my family. When I get back into my schedule, I will continue to have a few hours off every morning to focus on who I really am and what purposes I am here for.

In seasons when I have been really over committed, I find that just one more thing, even if it is seemingly insignificant or mundane, can make me implode if I am not having sufficient quiet time.  This time ultimately allows me to release creativity and stop to think about, and address, the details of my life- something that simply cannot be done on the run. This time also re aligns me with who I really am not just the roles I fill for others. If Jesus needed time to rest and listen to His Father,  I am sure there is abundant wisdom to realize that we need it even more!

I am right here walking this path of wholeness with you and I would love to hear from you today!

 

Addicted To The Chaos

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Like this page from  Shauna Neiquist’s, Present Over Perfect says, when we are addicted, it is damaging to us. We keep running back to the “false comforter” in what ever form that is, be it a person, a substance, work, busyness, etc., and it does comfort for a minute but it is in a vacuum. What ever comfort we get at the moment is over shadowed by torment the rest of the day…the pull of it is almost unbearable, but it destroys from the inside out.

As we head into a new year, I pray that I would be free from the things that have held me captive and I pray it for you too! Maybe you need to slow down and you know it, but keep putting that off. Maybe you need to cut off an un-healthy relationship and you know it, but you are passive-waiting for a better relationship to come along. Maybe you are addicted to something that you cannot seem to live with out. With man, any of these things can be impossible to over come. But With God, all things are Possible! Emmanuel, God IS With US! And NO ONE, loves you more than Him! The false comforters will destroy us; our minds, our emotions and our relationships. Come to the true Comforter, The Prince of Peace, who is able to do above and beyond what we can ask or think.

Blessings to You in The Name of Jesus in the New Year! True Health to your mind, will and emotions! I am right here, journeying with you, and I would love to hear from you today<3

The King of The World Came as A Baby

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What kind of God would send Himself into the world as a baby? So fragile, so in danger, so completely dependent, born to a willing teen age girl who knew she would face rejection from a shame-based culture. A short blog could not fully answer the question, but it is worth pondering and discussion.

God could have chose to send a full-grown, muscle laden warrior into the world to overthrow the  dark realm and take His own to Himself….He’s God, He can do anything! But a baby? Why? God, had so much trust and peace to place himself in the womb of a human, don’t you think?

The Bible says that Jesus was “tempted in every way as man.” Jesus, grew up from a baby to a boy, from a boy to a man and  experienced every thing we do. Frustrations, anger, lust (and joy)….but He never committed sin in any of it.  God put Himself in the place of vulnerability and learning like a person, just like we have to do so He could relate to us and so that we could come to Him boldly, knowing He understands.

He came to a woman, one of the lowest of the lows in that culture. Revealing Himself in the most intimate of ways to her. Showing His tenderness and vindication, championing women over and over raising them up in a culture that devalued their existence.!

Revealing Himself to Kings! Why would rich, notable kings travel such long distances to pay homage and give gifts to a baby born to a poor couple in Bethlehem? Think about it, what if that happened today?

Revealing Himself to the Shepherds! Again, another sect of society that was thought of as dishonest, foul-smelling, no bodies. Yet, He filled the sky with angels in their presence to herald the coming king, lying in feeding trough under a star!

His closest friends were ordinary people, not the elite. He reached out to the prostitutes, those with health issues that no one else would touch, and those with embarrassing, non-desirous jobs.

We often think God will be the first one to throw stones at us or “have the ceiling fall in if we darken the entrance of a church”, but that is a lie that has been perpetuated. He is our number one advocate when all turn against us. He is the one that makes all others throw down their stones while saying to us, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He is the one waiting at the end of the drive, with His arms open wide, while the house is stirring, creating a delicious feast for a returning child who has wandered far away from His goodness and blessing.

So, this Christmas, while these “festivities” are swirling on around us that have little to do with the reason for this season, take some time to stop and pause and consider why God would send His only son in this manner. I pray that He will reveal Himself to you in personal ways, as is His custom. He is the true gift, an eternal treasure, and wise (wo) men still seek Him! Have a very Blessed Christmas<3

 

 

Do Not Worry

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I was having a conversation with our oldest daughter last evening. She was telling me that it is accepted as normal for Millennials to be stressed and anxious! She was sharing some realizations with me about who she is and what she has learned about her self and I was relating things I have learned about my self and how we have some similarities.

I am so happy for her that she is learning not to be stressed and anxious at a young age and she is accepting of her self in areas that she feels the culture saying; “press through, try harder, suck it up”! She is learning where to let go and accept her limitations and seek peace in stead of striving in her life.

I have been re reading Dale Carnegie’s book; How to Stop Worrying and Start Living! A co worker gave me this book to read when I was 18 years old and working in a dead end job. I didn’t have a relationship with The Lord the first time I read it, but the bits of scripture that were peppered through the book made me curious enough to read The Bible.

Carnegie gives three steps for eradicating worry that were devised by Willis H. Carrier, the engineer who launched the air-conditioning industry, through his own journey with anxiety. He gave multiple examples of business people who have used these steps with life altering success. Even those who were on their death beds with stomach ulcers and other health concerns.

Carrier hailed  this as the Magic Formula for Solving Worry Situations: 

  1. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
  2.  Prepare to accept it if you have to.
  3.  Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.

I was presented with the opportunity to use these steps this past weekend! There were some relationship issues that were troubling me and I used this method to help myself deal with the situation. I also had to agree, that in the past when I was in a huge trial, that this is exactly what I had to do to move through it!

Jesus said: (Matthew 6:26) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

There have been times when Jesus Spoke clearly and directly to me regarding turbulent times and told me to look straight at Him and not the waves that were crashing all around me.  I know He doesn’t  want us to worry and be stressed. He wants us to trust Him.  I find, like Willis Carrier, that acceptance of the situation is a must if we want to move forward in peace. And acceptance requires thinking about the situating, counting the cost, and accepting my part or failure in any given situation.

Back to the conversation I had with my daughter, I was so grieved that so many young people feel hopeless and helpless, paralyzed by stress. Of course in my Aromatherapy business, I have designed my Calm Down and Lighten Up roller bottle for just that sort of support. I am also aware that there is an anxiety epidemic in the world that play out in many  mental health and behavioral problems. Debilitating diagnosis like,  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, is not just reserved for those who have been in war like situations. So, I felt so inspired to write and bring a glimmer of hope and help to some one else who may be struggling with this 21st Century “disease”.

Get knowledge! And in all your getting, get Understanding! I pray for each of you as I pray for myself, that we would not worry and we would have The Peace that surpasses all understanding to guard our hearts and minds. Happy Monday, have a peace filled week<3

 

World Peace

 

I went a way this weekend to celebrate 25 years of marriage with my husband. We went to our favorite place, our favorite woods in Pennsylvania. They call to us. They draw us in and envelop us with their serenity. The world and the cares of this life melt away almost instantaneously as we deeply breathe the hemlock infused, mossy, terra firma, feel the chill of  the crisp, autumn breeze and listen to glassy cascade of the nourishing, river rhythm.

Much of the four days and three nights we were immersed in peace that seemed to be worlds away from our home, deciphering our lives and bringing crucial knowledge to solve all of our problems. Taking time to pray, to give thanks and to read deep, Christian, men and women’s thoughts.  I do not just desire it, I need it to survive this ruthless world. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16- I find myself in good company.20171001_130601

Of course this kind of peace cannot be had all the time or at will…at least in this way. There is a peace from Him that surpasses our understanding and guards our hearts and minds. It isn’t necessarily felt at first, but it is remembered and called upon even in the midst raging chaos. Chaos like this morning’s news. Random devastation of historical proportion produced by a human’s free will.

So I, so you, must go deep. We must extend into the compost of love, mercy, and grace that is not from this world but available to us through Jesus’ wounding for all of the atrocities of the world, this one included. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27. 20170930_141541

This peace, this paradox, is the tangible peace we have accessible to us now and for eternity. This is world peace.

 

 

In A Storm

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With all of the hurricanes that have been hitting the US lately, and as I consider how frightening these times can be for people who are hit the hardest, I have been thinking about the storms I have weathered.

When you are in a storm of this magnitude, you have to keep your head about you and stay focused or you literally could be swept away. I remember a particular time when the circumstances of my life were in such a complete mess and the fall out from it was creating a storm, of such proportion, that I could have become completely emotionally impaired. My husband, George, had been speaking with a person whom we always respected and cared about very deeply, but the man was creating such waves out of his own fears, that my husband and I nearly drown in them.

One particular day, my husband was relaying a conversation to me that he had with this man earlier in the day. My husband was tired and distraught and so was I. As George was speaking, I started to feel that I was actually getting slapped by one enormous wave after another. With every question and accusation the man had posed to him from their earlier conversation, George’s voice actually started to fade into the background even though he was standing right in front of me. Next, my eyes started to glaze and I felt as if the pressure was starting to pull me under the water and I was literally starting to gasp with no strength to resurface. Right at that point, I heard the voice of Jesus clear as a bell; “JULIA!, Look at ME, listen to ME, follow ME!  I actually looked up to where I thought the voice was coming from. The roaring waves immediately turned into serene, foamy, level water! I came to my senses and with a clarity I had not known until that very point and I was able to be in complete peace and not be anxious. The storm, although I was still in it, was completely calmed as I looked to Jesus. It was truly amazing!

Jesus had done something very similar many, many years before with a man named Peter. Peter was a fisher man. He knew in his head that a man cannot walk on water. But one day when he saw Jesus walking on the water and he asked if he could do it! Jesus told him to come, and he actually did walk on water for a bit, but then it says in Matthew 14:30; “but when he (Peter) saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid and began to sink and cried out, saying, “Lord save me!”

It is natural to be afraid when the storms come whether they be natural or figurative. It goes against our natural inclinations to have faith and hold on to an anchor in the midst of a storm, but that is exactly what we must do. The heroic stories coming from the news tell of just such things during these natural disasters and have the theme of focus and faith all through them. We have to choose not to be afraid and place our grasp firmly on the anchor that will never let us be swept away in a storm.