December 1, 2013

Expect God-Awareness

At a recent retreat, the spiritual director mentioned that we should Expect God to Act. That really caught my attention and I started wondering what difference it would make in my attitude if I started living as if I Expected God to Act in situations, rather than trying to manipulate them to what I thought God (or I) might want… It seemed the perfect topic to delve into during Advent. These 4 weeks of preparation for Christmas are often cluttered and it can be difficult to find a minute to breathe, much less take time to expect God. But, really Advent is all about being in Expectation of the Christ Child and of God coming into our lives in a new and powerful way!

For me, to Expect God means to live in openness, faith, prayer and to be willing to allow God to be in Control! I wonder if these Advent meditations will help me be more active in my Expectation of God in my life-we shall see. 
In order to Expect God we have to be aware and look for God in and around us. We like to think we are rather self-sufficient creatures. After all we have all these electronics that give us instant access to anything we might want-whether it’s buying something or looking up information. We can be in constant touch with our friends and acquaintances via Twitter and Facebook and the myriad of other social media opportunities. We can share our joys and sorrows with the world and we can believe that they care.
In reality we are insulated from real relationships and from God by those very electronics. Instead of going out in traffic and finding a parking space and fighting through the crowds on Black Friday, we can stay cozy in our PJ’s and shop online. Sure it is less hassle, but do we miss the opportunity to meet a friend unexpectedly or offer a friendly smile to an exhausted sales person or give our place in line to a harried mom with small children? I’m not saying that I make a point of going out in crowds, esp. on Black Friday, but I wonder if I’m missing some human interaction because of that.
Expecting God to act in our lives means we have to be available to God. Expecting goes hand in hand with Experiencing God. The ancient root for Expect means to look at or see, while Experience comes from to try and to be present. They are active words that require response. However, it is all too easy to let the challenges of the day snatch away even our deepest experiences of God. Morning devotions bring us close to the Holy. An hour later a crashed computer or irritable co-worker make us forget that in all things God is present if we just look around and expect God. Like this poor dove sitting on my doorstep last year, we can smash into the glass and sit there stunned for awhile.

Although the sitting quietly was forced on this dove, I wonder what would happen if instead of letting the challenges of the day snatch away my awareness of God, I paused and even practiced some deep breathing exercises, to bring me back to awareness of God, when circumstances start to stress me out... It has been shown that when you are stressed, deep, slow breaths actually do help you relax. When you are stressed or angry you breath in short bursts and don’t fill your lungs entirely. That is why a child having a tantrum sometimes starts gasping even though they don’t have asthma.
In this time of Expectation for Christ's birth, which often translates into time of greater stress, I'm going to try it:
Breathe in slow and deep and breathe in the expectation of God acting-Breathe out all the air and let go of the tension of anticipating bad things.

Breathe in slow and deep and breathe in the expectation of God making all right- Breathe out all the air and let go of the need to be right or to ‘fix’ the problem.
Breathe in slow and deep and breathe in God loving me-warts, and failures and all- Breathe out all the air and let go of feeling inadequate or mistreated.
Breath in slow and deep and Expect God to act in the present, in the now and be open to being aware of that happening.
Next time, we will look at Faith and Expecting God.

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