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It’s about time to make time for God
By: Susan K. Rowland
Recent polls reveal that fewer people are bothering with New Year’s resolutions these days. That may be because the trend has lost popularity or people have become discouraged with the results. Still, as each year draws to a close, as we approach a birthday, begin Lent, welcome a new month, new week or even a new day, it’s a good time to evaluate the past and think about what we would like to do differently in our lives.
Many of our resolutions have to do with how we use our time. We may want to form new eating habits, get more exercise, pray more or build better relationships. None of these things will happen unless we spend our time differently.
It all comes down to time: how we use it, how we waste it, whether we just let it drift away doing the same things we’ve always done. Each of us has the same number of hours each day. Wishing for more time will not help us, but putting forth the effort to use those hours differently can change our whole lives.
Changing our habits
Have you ever noticed that, no matter how determined you are, how passionately you want to carry out a life plan for yourself or just change a bad habit, your past resolutions have often been fruitless? By the end of the year, the end of Lent or whatever time you gave yourself, usually nothing much has changed. Why is that?
Philosopher Simone Weil wrote, “We cannot bind our will today for tomorrow.” And there lies the key to all resolutions, promises, plans and desires. There is only one guaranteed way to change: We must make the choices each day that move us toward our goals and toward becoming the people we want to be. Resolutions and plans are good. But they are only the beginning, the bare outline of the new habits that will change our lives.
Our daily choices to honor and carry out our resolutions make the difference. When the time comes to take those 10 or 20 minutes in the morning to be with God, to choose to make a salad rather than grab some chips, to go to the gym or for a walk versus sitting in front of the TV, it’s the choice we make at that moment that matters. Our New Year’s resolutions, no matter how passionately we make them, will not carry us through when we are bored, hungry, tired or simply want to indulge ourselves. We cannot “bind our will today for tomorrow.”
Taking time—the common denominator
Almost all of our plans and resolutions could be done—and done fairly painlessly—if we took the time to slow down, relax a little and “be.” We rush around “doing” all day long, and before we know it, the day is ended, we are exhausted and nothing has changed in our habits. We would stick to our diets if we took the time to make healthier meals and eat more slowly. We would exercise more if we weren’t rushing around so much that we don’t leave time for a session at the gym or a long walk.
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All our relationships—with God and everyone else—would improve if we just gave them more time and attention. Finally, if our goal is to be more creative, pursue a hobby, take a class or practice an art, the key ingredient is to make time for it.
Making time for God
If there is one resolution all of us can make that will radically change our lives, it’s the decision to make more time for God. In today’s busy world, with all the distractions, challenges and expectations we face each day, our daily prayer appointment with God is often the first thing we let go. Or we rush through some rote prayers on our way to our “real” lives at the office or school or home. But prayer cannot be rushed. Prayer is about relationship, and no relationship can be hurried.
Prayer requires unhurried listening. We cannot listen to God if we are doing all the talking. Prayer is a two-way conversation. Conversations take time and attentiveness. God speaks softly and quietly in the inner reaches of our hearts. We have to acquire the habit of stillness in order to hear God. If we are doing all the talking, complaining about our many obligations, chattering away about our problems, we cannot hear Jesus say, as he did to Martha, “...you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:41-42). What is that one thing? You have to take the time and be as quiet as you can to find out.
The secret to all resolutions
Here is a secret I learned several years ago, after decades of worrying about how much I got done and being frustrated that all my plans and resolutions came to nothing. When I made one resolution—to meet God for prayer and silence every morning—everything else fell into place. I developed the gift of slowing down, of being more present to my life, of making better moment-by-moment decisions. I even took the time to exercise and eat right, two other resolutions that were always on my list! In other words, the resolution to be faithful to daily prayer was the key to changing my other bad habits.
Carving out time for new habits and keeping our resolutions means reordering how we do things. We need to make the time for those things that make life richer and more meaningful. It takes time and patience to change our habits. Perhaps the one thing we should work toward changing is to nurture the habit of spending quality time with God. If we do that, next year at this time, we will see real progress in our growth and spirituality.
Permission to Publish received for this article, “It’s About Time…to Make Time for God,” by Susan K. Rowland, from Rev. Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 8-10-2010.
By: Frank Frost
Movies tell of dreams, ambitions, goals, resolutions and persistence. That’s why we like them. October Sky is such a movie. It’s based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a West Virginia teenager who is inspired by the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 to pursue a newfound interest in rocketry.
■ What resolution or change of habit would you like to make? What is holding you back?
■ How faithful are you to making time for God in your daily life?
■ How might taking more time for prayer make a difference?
■ What change can you make today to help you accomplish your goals?
Homer’s father (Chris Cooper) is a supervisor in a coal mine and looks forward to the day when his two sons will join him there. His older son receives a football scholarship to college. He refuses to support Homer’s interest in rockets.
Watching Sputnik pass overhead one October night, Homer is inspired to build a rocket himself and dreams of joining Wernher von Braun’s team at Cape Canaveral. The aspiration becomes an actual goal, thanks to encouragement from his teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) and his willingness to buck social pressure by befriending Quentin, a brilliant nerd (Chris Owen). Their goal is to win the county science fair, with the hope of going to the national fair and getting college scholarships.
The first rocket that Homer, Quentin and two other friends build blows up. With new resolve, they begin serious research into fuels and rocket design. Success is elusive, complicated by opposition from Homer’s father, arrest for allegedly starting a forest fire and Homer’s leaving school to work in the mine after his father has been injured. His eventual success is enriched through reconciliation with his father and countered with sorrow due to the illness of his inspiring teacher.
The film clearly demonstrates that a dream becomes a reality only after it becomes a resolution that guides our choices in the use of time.
Next time you watch October Sky, ASK YOURSELF:
By: Joan McKamey
When it comes to making time for God, Franciscan Father Tod Laverty knows how challenging it can be within a busy life. At age 66, he pastors and guides the Catholic communities and outreach ministries of St. Aloysius, St. Patrick and St. Dominic in inner-city Detroit. He says, “I go sometimes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. I have meetings all the time. I have to be on my toes. I come home at night, read a little and conk out. It’s difficult to get enough leisure time to unwind.”
■ What are the critical points at which Homer might have abandoned his resolution to build a successful rocket?
■ How important was the support or opposition of others in either shoring up or challenging Homer’s resolve?
■ How important is the support of others in helping me keep my resolutions?
This may sound familiar, yet Father Tod also says, “At my age, I’m doing more, am busier and happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”
It’s critical that his busy life and ministry are grounded in prayer, but when and how does he manage to fit that in? Father Tod tells Every Day Catholic, “My prayer time is not so much a distinct time each day. For me, it’s a harmonization, a blending. Throughout the day, it’s being conscious of God’s presence and turning to God in constant conversation.
“There doesn’t need to be a strict line between prayer and life. If you’re one of those people who go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, there can be sacredness in this busy day. If you’re thinking of loved ones for whom you’re buying gifts, it can be a day of prayer. My mother whistled while she worked around the house; she was praying the whole time.
“I say daily Mass and prepare my homilies by reflecting on the Word of God. I also lead Franciscan pilgrimages to Italy. During those concentrated times of physical journeying, there’s a dialogue going on between me and God, one foot in front of the other. All the experiences of a pilgrimage become part of my prayer.
“As for resolutions, there are things I need to be able to do and don’t know how to do yet. The key is to be patient with myself, to not lose hope. I offer that same encouragement to those who come to me for confession and counseling,” says Father Tod.
“Many of us spend our lives trying to measure up to expectations and feeling bad about ourselves,” he says. “As a confessor, I try to communicate the patience of God. The most natural thing is for us to grow. We’re living, so we grow. God clears away any obstacles to our growth. We don’t have to be afraid. God has given us an indomitable spirit. We’ll live forever.
“Motivation and seeing it through are the real spiritual journey. It’s about not giving up when we hit bumps along the way. The desire to grow is grace. In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes about having this desire but not the ability, yet he ends up saying, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (7:25). And even if we do fail sometimes, we haven’t lost the love of God.”
By: Jeanne Hunt
It’s mid-December. Rose is overwhelmed as she looks at the family calendar. Christmas preparations are in full swing. She’s hardly begun Christmas shopping, and the pile of unaddressed Christmas cards leers at her from the desk. She hasn’t thought of her Advent reflection book in weeks. O come, O come, Emmanuel has never been more important.
Advent calls us to slow down and listen to God’s voice. This can be particularly difficult in the busy weeks before Christmas, and it’s something we must make an effort to do all year—not just during Advent.
Christmas’s earlier-every-year arrival in our stores represents the hustle and bustle of many of our lives. We’re driven to be faster, to do more—and many of us wear out trying to keep up. Seeking and finding balance, much less regular time for prayer, is a true challenge.
In our consumer society, December is a time to celebrate Christmas by spending money on gifts, food, drinks and anything that will boost the economy and help us make merry. Jesus’ becoming man for love of humankind can sometimes seem to have little to do with it. So how do we reconcile the two paths—the Church’s path of Advent listening and anticipation and society’s path of go, do, spend—without compromising our faith or disappointing friends and family?
First, it requires forethought. Plan your calendar with a mind for the sacred: Pencil in the parish day of reflection and Reconciliation service. Commit certain days and hours each week to personal and family time.
Next, celebrate the days of Advent. Begin your family Christmas celebration starting on Christmas Eve. You’ll find that you’re anticipating, waiting and preparing for God’s coming, making Christmas that much more beautiful and meaningful.
Finally, give Emmanuel some time every Advent day. Rise earlier for prayer, create timeouts with God or a period in the morning and at night to pray—whatever suits your time and temperament.
Rose realized it wasn’t too late to salvage this Advent. She excused her family from the coming weekend’s Christmas hoopla. Instead, they stayed home and enjoyed time together. They also welcomed an unplanned guest: Jesus.
Rose is confident that if they can slow down during this hectic time, they can do it all through the year. Plus, now they’ve had a true experience of finding the Prince of Peace in the midst of the chaos.
By: Jeanne Hunt
Preparation: Place a lighted candle, a braided bracelet for each participant and an open Bible on a prayer table.
“You Are Mine” (or similar hymn)
Lord, we need to make more room for you in our busy lives. Come into our hearts and stay with us through all of our days. Help us to become more aware of your presence among and within us. Amen.
“[T]hose who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Response: Slow us down, Lord.
When we are thinking about doing too much…
When we are not listening to one another…
When we are too busy to pray…
When we can’t find time to rest…
Let us each think of a daily time when we can meet God for prayer. (Pause)
I invite each person to come forward to the prayer table. Please take one of the bracelets and share with us your God time. Wear the bracelet or carry it in your pocket throughout the coming week as a reminder to slow down and as a symbol of Christ’s presence with you.
“You Are Mine” (or similar hymn)