I was a lost sheep, a prodigal daughter, who spent over 20 years running from God. I went to church every Sunday, but a person can still be a prodigal and sit in a pew week after week. In His perfect timing, God began calling me back to His fold. I didn’t realize what was happening at the time, but now that I look back at this incredible love story, I see how God drew me to Himself, and through that relationship, revealed my Divine purpose.
What I have learned in my walk with God is that the “experience” always precedes the “knowing”. When God told Abram in Genesis 12:1 to “go to a land which I will show you”, notice the “go” (action/experience) came first and the “I will show you” (direction/purpose) was revealed later. That is what happened to me. My experiences, like individual threads woven in and out of a piece of fabric, would eventually reveal a tapestry of transformation. God called this prodigal daughter, this lost sheep, back to the fold and then revealed her calling, her part in His kingdom plans.
I’m going to tell this story the way it unfolded in my life………….month by month, ‘thread by thread’. I think as you read, you’ll begin to see the tapestry taking shape.
Thread #1-December 16, 2007. It all began with a license plate. I was driving home after teaching my first class as a catechist, and while pausing for a stop sign, a license plate on a parked car caught my eye. The seven letters on the plate were COUNSEL. I was thinking that maybe the owner of that car might be an attorney. Hmmm. (I passed that same car every Sunday for a year!)
Thread #2-January 2008. I was home visiting my parents on Long Island and found a book titled, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy. Hmmm.
Thread #3-February 2008. I rented a video titled, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, featuring Deepak Chopra. As I was watching the previews, one in particular caught my attention. It was about a man who heard God’s voice and he started writing their dialogue on a notepad. The movie was titled, “Conversations with God”. The next day I found the DVD and rented it. The film had a profound affect on me and I was wondering who I could possibly talk to about it. Only one person came to mind and I gave him a call. I asked my close friend if he had ever heard of that film and he said it was based on a book written in 1996! Where had I been that I had never heard of that bestselling book? I then asked him if he thought it was possible to hear from God. He answered with a resounding “yes” and proceeded to tell me about his dialogues with the Divine over the years. Hmmmm.
Thread #4-March 2008. I was watching a Christian television program, “Marcus and Lisa” and their guest for the evening was John Eldredge. He was discussing his new book, Walking with God. Talk to Him. Hear from Him. Really. Later the same month I attended a diocesan conference and there was a local bookseller on the premises. It seemed that the prevailing theme of all the books was centered around “coming home” and “returning to God”. Hmmm.
Thread #5-April 2008. I was in the Christian Inspiration section of Barnes and Noble looking for books written by Bruce Wilkinson. While running my finger along the spines of the “W’s” I came across a book written by Dallas Willard titled, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. Hmmm.
Thread #6-May 2008. Once again I was at a bookstore and I found a devotional book written by Dallas Willard titled, Hearing God Through the Year. I Providentially opened the book to the entry, ‘Learning to Recognize the Voice’. The scriptural reference was 1 Samuel 3:8-9. The story of how Eli helped Samuel recognize the voice of God. Hmmm.
Thread #7-June 2008. I found a devotional book written by Anita Donihue titled, Here I am, Lord. Once again, I Providentially opened to a page where 1Samuel 3:10 was the featured scripture. It is when Samuel tells the Lord to speak as His servant is listening. Hmmm.
Thread #8-July 2008. I walked into a local bookseller to pick up an order. As I was heading for the customer service counter, I caught a glimpse of a ‘yellow-orange ball’ in my peripheral vision. I looked to the right and about 10 feet away was a book featuring a brilliant sunset on the cover. The title of the book was, How to Hear the Voice of God by Susan Shumsky. Hmmm.
Thread #9-October 2008. I attended a diocesan conference at a local high school and during the break I went to the gym to check out the vendors. In the middle of the gymnasium there was a display featuring a radio station that was looking to set up in the Lehigh Valley. The station was “Hearing God’s Call Radio”. Hmmmm.
Thread #10-November 2008. In the middle of the month, I received the December issue of In Touch magazine, a publication of Charles Stanley’s ministry. The cover featured a night-time scene of a home with its porch light on and a lit Christmas tree in the front yard. The prevailing theme of that issue was bringing the prodigals home. Hmmm.
As I look back on 2008, I call it my ‘homecoming year’. God was calling my name, wooing me back to Himself, restoring the connection my soul so desperately needed. It was through this intimate connection that He eventually revealed my Divine purpose.
January of 2009 would ‘herald’ my passion and the calling that God would place upon my heart. Again, as before, let me share my ‘thread by thread’ experiences with you.
Thread #11-January 2009. It all began with a quote from Einstein, “No problem can be solved with the same consciousness that created it”. That profound observation turned my world upside down. It made me realize that we have to change the way we think to get humanity headed in the right direction. Throughout the month, God was sending me “threads”, signposts, guiding me toward my passion and calling. The guideposts appeared on billboards, bumper stickers, brochures, magazines, books and in music. What were the prevailing themes? Unity, oneness, connection, building bridges and shifting our perspective from “me” to the collective “we”. What changed in my thought life? That together we are ONE. Seeking unity not uniformity. Dissolving distinction not diversity. At the end of January I found a book titled, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, MD. As I was reading, I came across a word that I did not recognize. The word was ‘cathexis’. It is a noun that means an investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea. Little did I know at the time that the word ‘cathexis’ would come back into my vocabulary in a life-changing way.
Thread #12-February 2009. On February 4th I was taking the last class of a 4-week course on the History of the Church, a requirement for catechists. At the end of the last lesson, I learned that Jesus had a final prayer to the Father and it is found in John 17. It was after the Last Supper while Jesus was still with His disciples that He prayed this special prayer. I never knew that! When I got home, I read John 17 and five times Jesus prays that “they all may be one”. When Jesus repeats anything I pay close attention. After reading John 17 several times that night, I realized that oneness was something that Jesus was very passionate about. That scripture had a profound affect on me. It was as if the verses leaped off the pages of my Bible and landed in my heart and took root in my soul. The very next day, February 5th, I was scheduled for a four-hour shift at a local department store as part of a ‘community day’ fundraiser for the Cancer Support Community. On my way to the store, I got behind a car that had a seven letter word on its license plate: CATHEXS. The only reason I knew what that word meant was because I had looked it up the month before. Hmmm. While I was setting up my display, I heard music playing overhead and started singing along. The lyrics were, “C’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together try to love one another right now.” Hmmm. As I placed the discount shopping coupons on my table, I noticed that the words “CommUNITY Day” was written on each one. Hmmm. Taking my seat, I prayed quietly, “Lord, I get your message loud and clear! There is a white-hot passion, a cathexis, burning in my heart about unity, connection and ‘becoming ONE’. I feel a sense of overwhelming peace and joy pouring over me. Amen”. The seedling of a calling was taking root.
Thread #13-May 2009. On May 23rd, in the middle of the afternoon, I was sitting in my serenity garden and I asked the Lord out loud, “What can I do while I’m still on this earth to make Your Son’s final prayer come true?” From deep within my heart I ‘heard’ the answer: “I want you to create a place, a sanctuary, where people can come to rest and reconnect with God, themselves and others.” That same day, I went to the 5:15PM Mass and guess which gospel was the scriptural basis for the homily? John 17!!!!! I looked heavenward and smiled broadly. The calling that had taken root in my heart and soul was beginning to bloom.
Thread #14-July 2009. After attending an organizational meeting for “Hearing God’s Call Radio”, I was driving home and passed a billboard that caught my eye. In large letters was written, “Listening is just the beginning.” It was a new slogan for Lafayette Ambassador Bank. Hmmm.
Take a moment now to stand back and look at all these threads from a distance. Can you see the tapestry of a transformed life taking shape? Can you see the Divine Thread that is woven throughout? It is a story of redemption and grace. It is a life filled with passion, purpose and possibility. It is a partnership, co-laboring with God, to fulfill His mission in the world.
So what am I doing now to answer God’s call on my life? My blog is a way that I can share my experiences and walk with God with people from all over the world. I am also excited about launching my new program, “A Sanctuary Experience: Come to rest and reconnect with God, yourself and others” at my parish this October. It will coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Year of Faith’ which will open on October 11th and run through November 24, 2013. The ‘Year of Faith’ is aimed at reconnecting Catholics with their faith and bringing people closer to Jesus.
God still speaks. He calls us into a relationship with Him. He invites us to draw close and listen as He reveals Himself. Then He invites us to join Him where He is at work in the world. No matter how long you have been running from God, no matter where you are in your life right now, He is calling your name. He wants an intimate and personal relationship with you. As you spend time with Him, and your relationship grows and matures, you will eventually discover your calling, God’s Divine purpose for your life.