WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN…?

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What do you do when the hardships you face seem like too much to bear? It could be something very serious happening to a loved one, it could be your health, it could be your living situation, it could be your marriage…it could be all of the above at once. Everything is shrieking at you to pay attention to it, to tend to it, to do something, for God’s sake!

So what do you do?

Honestly, I can’t tell you what you should do, but I can tell you the only thing I know to do, the only thing that makes sense, though it goes against everything the exterior world clamors…

For God’s sake (and my own and others’)…I get very, very still. I go inside…into the inner chamber of my heart…and there, I find God waiting for me. There, in the stillness, in the quiet, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen,” as Rumi wisely said.

And so I listen.

And I hear a call above the waves and wind shouting, “Be still!” (It’s incredible how loud that inaudible voice can be.) That call is the anchor that draws the little boat of my soul back into the only harbor that gives peace…God’s presence.

There, my thoughts are calmed. There, the injustices that stare me in the face lose their power. There, answers are found. There, my heartbeat is restored to a normal rate.

There are some extremely frightening things going on in my life right now, in the life of someone I love (life or death things not related to illness) so being able to even sit down and write this is the only proof I need that it’s true–there is power in stillness, there is power in faith and hope, and there is relief from fear in God’s love. I don’t feel it every minute, but that says more about my wandering focus than about God.

There is a time to do all we can to work, to help, to tend to…and there is a time to be still, to trust and to wait for the answers to come. It is a very fine art to find the balance between these two and to live within them.

I do not know of anything that is made better by anxiety and fear. I only know of all the things that are made better by trust and love.

 

– Monique Amado

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* Image credit: Christian Schloe

Remembering Your Belovedness (with Henri Nouwen)

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Dear friends,

The best way to value ourselves is to remember, and bask in, who God says we are and how much God values us. If we stay grounded there in that Great Love, it becomes less and less likely that we will devalue ourselves or allow others to do so.

This is an old talk by Henri Nouwen which I think will help you, as his words have helped me, to stay connected to who God says you are. It will strengthen you in all your inner and outer dealings in this world. I listen to the entire thing at least once or twice a year to refresh my memory and keep me strong.


In case you don’t know who Henri Nouwen is, he was a grace-infused human being who lived and worked among the L’Arche Community and said that these lovely people taught him more about God’s acceptance than anyone else. He said this was due to the fact that they did not know or understand anything about his degrees, his accolades or his accomplishments (let alone his failures and weaknesses), but only knew him by his heart.

Believe me, time listening to these words will be time well spent.

Wishing you God’s peace & security…

Monique

CHRIST IS IN EVERY STEP

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I don’t think that we can strive our way to God. I think we can only rest and trust our way to him. In a culture that is obsessed with work, doing, achieving and debating, it seems counterintuitive to rest and trust, to be still, to step away from everything. But to live a contemplative, God-centered life, it is so needed.

This doesn’t mean that we should never do anything. What it does mean is that from this resting and trust, there comes a sense of peace that permeates everything else we do. Washing the dishes becomes meditative insofar as one approaches it as such. It isn’t just a chore to be hurried through. It is an act of awareness of divine Presence in the common and ordinary things. In those acts, one realizes that there are no ordinary moments, no ordinary things. All of life is extraordinary and drenched through with the marvelous.

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The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who was a good friend and ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a book called Peace is Every Step, which is full of lovely, calming thoughts. My spin on the title is that Christ is in every step and that is how there can be peace in every step. Not only in the sense of being accompanied, but in the sense of the wonder that surrounds us if we are attentive to it. Everywhere, everywhere we look, there is something to behold if we would only stop running, striving and overcommitting long enough to notice.

May he be in your every step…

Monique

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ON PERSISTENT PRAYER & NEVER BEING ALONE-PODCAST

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Hi friends…

Sunday before last was my birthday and I thought the best way for me to celebrate it and give thanks for my life would be to put myself in a position for God to speak through me. So since our pastor is on vacation and we needed someone to fill in to prepare and share a sermon, I said, “Hey, I’ll do it.”

I’m seeing more and more why Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet,” and I’ve realized I may never be able to speak to a group of people about God without crying. I think I’m okay with that. It’s just hard to talk through tears is all.

Someone asked me afterwards what made me start crying. I later thought, “Well, that’s a pretty intimate question!” At the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer, but after thinking about it more, I realized it’s partly because when I look out into the faces of people, I can see in their eyes the pain they are carrying. For some, it may not be on a conscious level. For others, it’s very much on the surface. In any case, be it a blessing or something else, I’ve always been able to pick up on things going on beneath the surface when I walk into a room. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is a gift in that it gives me the ability to tune into what people are not saying and be sensitive to it. I suppose this is part of what made me cry.

Also because as I prepared this message, I thought mostly of my dear brother and his affliction, so he too was there in that sea of faces even if I couldn’t see him with my eyes.

I know people who have suffered, or are currently suffering–people I care deeply about–who think that God has abandoned them. And I want so much for them to know that it’s not true. Despite all outward appearances, he has not abandoned them. Or if you’re reading this, he has not abandoned you. Your spouse may have, your friends may have, your family may have, but God has not and it is a tragedy to confuse the two.

As for me, I can attest that it is God, and God alone, who has patiently carried me through every darkness, every pain and every trial and never left me. And that is perhaps why I cry when I speak about him. Because I so much want others to be free from suffering and just as much, I want them to know that when they are suffering, God is there suffering with them.

I hope this message will encourage you. Feel free to share with anyone you think might need to hear it.

To schedule an appointment for life coaching or spiritual guidance, please click this link.

Blessings,
Monique

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THE ANTIDOTE TO CYNICISM

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With the invention of social media, we have been given the opportunity (or burden) of seeing people’s internal lives become outward ones in a way we probably never would have dreamed as each expression, each post reveals something about the poster. Be it a video, an article, a picture—each one is unwittingly a snapshot of the interior of a person’s heart, life and inner landscape.

One thing that has become clearer than ever as I’ve observed this over the years is that it really is not possible to be a cynical person and a happy, peaceful or joyful person at the same time. They cancel each other out. Cynicism and joy are like oil and water: they don’t mix.

Loving people project outwardly a loving world. That doesn’t mean they don’t see the evil and darkness; they may see it more than anyone else. They just don’t believe that forever dwelling on it or pointing it out is the best way to extinguish it. Sitting in a dark room and talking about how dark the darkness is will never make it light. Only turning on a lamp or lighting a candle will do that.

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Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.” And he ought to have known. He was on his feet, on the street, being love in a way that few people have ever been. Ironically, that’s why he was killed. To draw a movement of that size around the force of non-violent love is scary to those who are in opposition to it. Jesus knew that too.

The cynic, on the other hand, has a problem for every solution, a sarcastic comment for every positive one, a suspicious thought for every good you have the audacity to point out.

It will suck the energy out of you to attempt to reason with a cynic.

Yes, we need to question things, speak out against injustice, expose evil, but it needs to be tempered with grace and loving intention, otherwise no one will listen no matter how loud someone yells. A bit of skepticism is necessary so that we don’t fall for every trick. For example, I don’t trust governments, any government (except maybe the former president of Uruguay, “Jose’ Mujica–the world’s most humble president“)…with good reason. But if we’re spiritually tuned in, we won’t fall for anything and everything. Well, hopefully.

The problem happens when cynicism and skepticism are chronic, as in non-stop. At that point, it’s more of an illness of bitterness and suspicion than just a tick.

So, I put forth a suggestion, an antidote: instead of railing against cynics for how cynical they are, I would bid us to pray for them instead. Or if you’re not prone to praying, send loving thoughts in their direction, no matter how difficult or impossible that may seem.

Think: how unhappy must a person be to constantly dwell on awful things? How powerless must one feel to feel powerful only when sharing their (often volatile) opinions? How unheard must one feel? How alone? How hopeless? How afraid? No matter what show of bravado is there, it’s a pretty good bet that each cynic is inwardly afraid of something that even they can’t name.

It is heart-breaking…and infuriating.

And that’s why they need our prayers. Because we, who arm ourselves with love and light, have been given more power than we allow ourselves to believe.

We have the power to speak words of hope, to speak words of beauty, to create, to do all those things St. Francis talked about in his prayer to be an instrument of peace.

I, for one, will continue to believe that love can drive out hate and darkness. And I will continue to believe it can even heal and free people’s bound-up hearts that are shackled in chains of fear and gloom. Will you join me?

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CAKE (a poem)

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There was a movie called Flashdance
(stick with me).
The main character said,
“I’m not a dancer like that.”
She wasn’t trained, didn’t have degrees
on the wall (hung mostly to impress).
She could just…dance. No one knew how.
No one saw her sweating it out in her living room,
practicing behind closed doors,
away from human eyes.
She was also one of “those” dancers—
the ones that don’t call themselves strippers
since they’re still wearing a string of cloth;
she had bills to pay, and besides, it was the one place
she could shake without judgment.

Like her,
I am not a writer “like that.”
I just…write.
I don’t have a scroll of accolades
trailing behind me like a wedding gown.
I’m not hip to who is currently the “best” in the country,
nor do I have a clue about the New York Times Book Review,
perhaps because so much of what moves me
isn’t making it to the bestseller lists
(you’d need to buy your own copies for that)…
obscure mystics like Evelyn Underhill,
and whisperings from the past by Blake and Rilke,
Dickens and George MacDonald—
people who wrote in blood and parchment, ink and blotter.

So I took “stripper” jobs (there were bills to pay).
Or what felt like their equivalent to someone
who writes for the love of writing, the written word,
and the power it has to bring light—
like music, like film, when it’s done well.

And I wonder: if artists were paid for
sheer love of what they do—
for the doing of it with heart’s blood—
not for applause,
not for kudos and thumbs-up,
not for being deemed part of the new trend,
how many would be rich, and how many poor?

There are the rare ones who hit the jackpot
without selling their souls—
those who stay true to their core
regardless of others’ jealousies, despisings, and misunderstandings,
unmoved by the questioning expectations left and right,
(nevermind words like “marketable”),
the C. S. Lewises, the Woody Allens.
But many are pushed aside by the loudmouths,
the narcissists, those pretending to shine,
and threatened by those touched with fire.

Little do they realize
that the glow of the True cannot be snuffed out.
Darkness has a go, but cannot overcome them.
Theirs is the final conquest,
the limping triumph of those who have made mosaics
from the broken pieces of themselves and their lives.
It is not registered in anything but
the peace and tranquility
of authenticity.
If money comes in a rushing wind,
it is the frosting, not the cake.
The cake is a soul
at peace with itself.

 

© Monique Amado
written November, 2012

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