Praying with a Pen

QUARANTINE WHITE SPACE: Fill it or still it?

What a strange time we live in. Could any one of us have predicted on January 1, 2020 that terms like “quarantine,”  “social distancing” and “shelter-in-place” would be part of our regular vocabulary by April 1, 2020?

I, for one, have abandoned all my well-intentioned 2020 New Year’s resolutions under these circumstances.

But no matter how we feel about the stay-at-home orders imposed, there’s one thing we all have to admit: Our collective pace of life has slowed to a crawl. Most of our extra-curricular commitments have evaporated from our hyper-scheduled schedules. My April monthly calendar looks like someone played a manic game of tic tac toe on it, with the O’s being a no-show and the X’s winning by a massive margin. And now that crisis homeschooling is coming to an end for most parents, the calendar gets even more spacious.

Whether we wanted it or not, if we are not front-line workers, we probably have newfound white space.

Are you familiar with the term white space? Check this out from my book, Praying with a Pen:  [White space is a concept I learned during my marketing and advertising career. It means advertisers shouldn’t cram a print ad with all kinds of pictures and information. They need to leave room for the readers’ eyes to move freely so they can absorb the information more readily. Our brains don’t respond well when the content is too dense and too complex. Ad designers need to intentionally create “white space” in the ad where no content exists in order for the advertising to be most effective.

We human beings need white space too—spiritual white space. Intentional breaks and gaps and pauses in our day, every day, to turn to heaven and talk to our God in order to grow in our spiritual life. Our lives need white space. Our brains need white space. Our souls need white space. ]

How long has it been since you’ve given your soul some white space? Now may be the perfect opportunity. Resist the culture’s cry to completely fill your quarantine down time with projects, puzzles, or pedicures!  There’s nothing wrong with any of those, of course—they are on my list too (the Good Lord knows what shape my winter feet and super-washed nails are in!).

But, epically funny memes aside, we now we have an unprecedented opportunity to carve out more time for prayer. To be still with our God.   

We did not choose this situation. It has been thrust upon us. It’s unsettling, disorienting, and for some, seriously hazardous.  What better time to increase our prayer life? And then years from now, when you look back on this era of quarantine, you can say you used the unexpected time given to you in the best way possible: To draw nearer to God.

Quarantine white space can be a blessing in disguise. Don’t fill it. Still it.  

Praying with a Pen

“Among Women” Podcast with Pat Gohn

I had the honor and privilege a few months ago to be interviewed by the wonderful Pat Gohn, author of “All In–Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” and host of the popular “Among Women” podcast.  Her superb interviewing and editing skills helped me sound coherent on this broadcast and for that I am very grateful!

Tune in HERE to find out more about the wonders and rewards of establishing a persistent prayer journaling habit. My segment begins around the 18-minute mark, but be sure to listen to her fascinating presentation on Saint Olympia too!

Praying with a Pen

Get Away From Your Crowds

You already know this: It’s important to get quiet and be quiet—to set aside a silent, focused time to pray. We must get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and go on a mini-retreat with God on a regular basis. Even Jesus had to get away! The Bible cites a number of times during Jesus’s ministry on earth when he left the crowds and went off to pray and talk with his Father. If Jesus Christ himself needed alone time with his Father, we mere mortals certainly need it even more! It’s crucial to our faith lives. But it’s not easy.

Jesus knows it isn’t easy. Often when he was by himself praying, his disciples would come looking for him or the crowds seeking more miracle healings would discover where he was and press in on him. You may not have crowds of people pressing in on you and begging for miracles, but I know you likely have a crowd of family members around who each want a piece of you. Plus, you have to get your day started. And let me guess—your mind is already racing before your eyes are even open in the morning. Thoughts of meetings, projects and deadlines at work can crowd in too. And then there’s the housework and the groceries and all the appointments. Yea, that can all add up and make it feel like the walls are closing in. Who has time to be still?

The answer, of course, is all of us. We all have time to be still and spend time with God. Our new friend St. Francis de Sales says it best: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Nailed it once again, St. Francis!

The problem? Being still is not a practice that is honored in our culture. We are taught to worship the gods of technology and multi-tasking. We are told that being constantly busy equals being productive and successful. We are bombarded with noise from every angle, practically all day long. But if we continually find ourselves in the middle of all that chaos, we can easily be drawn further away from God and our faith. I know this; I used to be hooked on all that stimulation too. And it was definitely not conducive to a strong spiritual life.

When life is busy and messy and chaotic and loud (which can be most of the time), we need all the more to be still. That’s the ideal time for us to stop and pray. To get away. To be quiet. To be alone with God so we can learn to recognize when it’s his voice telling us what choices to make and which path to take. You can’t get to know someone’s voice or have a good conversation with them when there’s too much noise in the background.

(Excerpted from Praying with a Pen–A Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling. Get the book here!)

 

Praying with a Pen

An Attitude of Gratitude Radio Interview

Gary Zimak did it again! I was invited to return to Gary’s show “Spirit in the Morning” on Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia and somehow he made me sound coherent. On the day before Thanksgiving, we discussed being intentional and practicing  thankfulness by writing down things for which we are grateful every day. And where’s the perfect place to practice daily thankfulness? A prayer journal, of course! 🙂 Click here for the interview: my section runs from 18:00-28:37.