Sunday, May 18, 2014

How to not get your car towed!

I love the early morning atmosphere when the world comes alive. It was early on a Saturday morning, when I parked my car in my usual parking spot along North Shore Park. I saw that the city had put up “No Parking" signs for the St Anthony’s triathlon race, which happens every year on a particular Sunday. Knowing that is was a Saturday, I walked towards the water and took a few pictures as I do every morning before walking on with my dog Joy. There were more people than usual at the park and I realized it was the children's triathlon that day. I thought briefly about my car and had the intuition to go back and check the dates. I “knew” though that my car was safe because the main event was the next day.
When the sun rose over Tampa bay, I stopped to watch, breathed a full breath and came fully into the present moment. It  was absolutely stunning and I was praying and thanking God for all the blessings in my life. That’s when my phone rang. I looked at the number and didn't recognize it. I thought about not answering it and letting it go to voicemail which I do most of the time when I don’t know the number. I even felt self righteous and judgmental that some stranger and very likely a telemarketer was calling me this early in the morning. After all, I was praying! 

But then I remembered the prayer “On the Telephone.” Somebody was on the other end of the phone and was trying to reach me. Even though I didn't know who it was, I knew it was a child of God. I picked up the phone and a woman's voice asked me whether I was Ms. Schuller and whether I had parked my Prius along North Shore Park. I answered affirmatively and she told me that she had just called a tow truck because she needed to clear the street for the children's triathlon. Hadn’t I seen the no parking signs? Yes, but I “knew” they were put up a day early like all other years. I told her that I could be there in 5 minutes and to not have the car towed, pleeeeaaaase. She said come quickly because the tow truck was already on its way. 

When I got there, I apologized and thanked her for calling me. I knew she didn't have to do that. I even gave her a hug, I was so happy.

The question I struggled with afterwards, was why had I not listened to my intuition and looked at the dates of the no parking signs? I had had the intuition to look closely at the signs but I overwrote the intuition with my rational mind. I “knew” that the triathlon was the next day. I had an uneasy feeling about it the whole time but every time that little voice in my head questioned my decision, I “knew” the triathlon was tomorrow.  

And why did I listen to my intuition and pick up the phone? I almost never pick up when I don't know the number because I have been disturbed too many times by telemarketers and I don't want to be rude to people who are just trying to make a living. 

I think the difference is that I came fully into the present moment watching the sun rise and listening to the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13) inside of me. I connected with the Breath inside my breath.  I didn't override the “still small voice” within me with the loud voice of my rational mind. I do believe that I know the difference between God’s voice within and my own voice but I have not learned to follow it at all times yet. I am also asking myself whether it is my intuition that is connected with the Higher power that sustains us all? When I listen to my intuition (look at the no parking signs for the date), it has always been the right thing but when my mind overwrites my intuition ( I “know” the triathlon is tomorrow) because my mind knows better, it has been wrong. Since my car wasn’t towed and I am a person who tries to see the good in everything, I am grateful for the experience and hope it has gotten me a little closer to listening to my intuition.

Practicing the Presence of God by consciously coming into the present moment as often as possible is the key to staying connected with God, ourselves and others-- and to not get a parking ticket!

Saturday, May 3, 2014


From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.—Psalm 113:3(NRSV)
The glory of a sunrise is beyond words, so praising God’s name while watching a sunrise comes naturally. I am blessed to be able to watch the sun rise over open water. Every morning is different and shows that beauty is in every circumstance. Some mornings the sky is clear and the sunrise is completely visible from it’s first red glow to it’s full round beauty. Other mornings it is cloudy and the sun peeks out behind a layer of clouds and goes back into another layer of clouds as soon as it is risen. Sometimes the sky is completely overcast and the sun cannot be seen at all, but I know that the sun rises every day whether I can see it or not.  

Can you imagine what life would be like if the sunrise looked the same every morning? We would not appreciate it as much or know the beauty in diversity. The sun rises without fail every morning and its beauty is available to all of us, but how often do we get up to receive this gift?                                                                                                                                                         The sunrise is a wonderful metaphor for God’s work in our lives. Sometimes we can see God’s work clearly in our lives, while at other times it is hidden behind a cloud of pain, to peek out again when we least expect it. As surely as we know that the sun rises every day, we can also be sure that God is present in our lives every moment—whether we can feel it or not.
This blog is about practicing the presence of God  in every circumstance in life and my hope is that you will remember the analogy of the sunrise when you question God's presence in some events of your life. If we practice the Prayers of Presence in our daily life, we will be more prepared to see God and beauty in all of life. After all, the most beautiful sunrise happens even when it is cloudy!
Anthony De Mello provides a beautiful metaphor for the above truth:

“Is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?”
“As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”
“Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?”
“To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”


Monday, April 28, 2014

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”—Genesis 28:16 (NIV)

Practicing the presence of God requires us to stay in the moment and to be aware of our presence in the world. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the moment.”—Coptic Gospel of Thomas #3                                                                       
Don't we often just function without being aware of ourselves, our surroundings, the people around us and even less of God?

Let’s take a moment right now and relax… Rest in your breathing and become aware of your body…Where are you sitting right now?… While you are breathing gently, be aware of God’s breathing within your breathing… “I'll breathe my life into you and you'll live.”—Ezekiel 37:14(MSG)… Receive the Breath of God right now and surrender into it… All is well and all shall be well…

Most of us have become used to a life cut up into different sections: this is work, this is free time, this is time with my husband or wife and children, this is housework and this is time for me and this is time for God. And more often than not, it's in this order!
We perceive some of our time as fun but most of our time as work, including our jobs, errands and chores. How many of us work in order to be able to pay the rent and groceries and not because we enjoy what we do? An attitude many of us have adopted is that we “need to get things done” to be able to enjoy life in the future or we just have “to get through this” and then we will live a happy life. 
I was certainly guilty of living this way before I had an epiphany a few summers ago. I was jolted into the present moment by the beauty of nature and finally understood what it meant to enjoy every moment in life. 
I was on my last days of vacation at our cottage in Canada when I discovered that I needed to repair the boathouse roof. I had been looking forward to enjoying my last days canoeing on the lake, relaxing, and having fun before I had to go back to my busy life in Florida. I certainly did not want to spend my last days working, but the repair needed to be done before the winter. On this particular morning, I got hammer, nails and shingles and went up on the roof. I was resentful and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I don’t remember what made me look up from my work, but I was stunned by the beauty I saw. The lake glistened in the sun and a beautiful cool breeze made the water look like a million diamonds were dancing on it. Time stood still! 

I realized that it did not matter whether I was canoeing or repairing the roof; I was still on the lake, enjoying the beauty of it, getting exercise and experiencing God’s presence in my life. I was grateful beyond measure for this moment of clarity and conversion. I realized by the grace of God that I had created my own divided reality and I suddenly had “eyes to see” (Mark 8:18 NIV), thereby experiencing what Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the sixteenth century, had said so many years ago: “He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it.” (Tony Jones. Practicing the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Brewster:Paraclete Press, 2007, 22.)
I certainly did not expect God on the boathouse roof. I was jolted into the presence of God by the beauty I saw when I looked up. The lake had always been there, the sun had been shining for hours and the breeze had been blowing for a while. It had all been there, but I had been too wrapped up in negative thoughts and feelings. God was present and I was absent!  
Margaret Guenther, a spiritual director and former director of the Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary in New York, writes, “We hear God speak, predictably in sacred settings, but also in wildly unlikely places and circumstances: the subway, the shower and the messy garage. After all, the Holy Spirit is blowing over us all the time... It is all a matter of paying attention.”(Margaret Guenther. My Soul in Silence Waits. Meditations on Psalm 62. Boston: Cowley, 2000, 119.)
The Holy Spirit literally blew over me, and repairing the boathouse roof became a prayer. When we live in the presence of God, we do not need to divide our life into “work and play” or “good and bad.” Our life is our life no matter what happens. We will be able to accept every facet of our lives as meaningful and as an opportunity to grow, if we stay in the present moment—the only moment we are living!

Do you recall a moment like that? Give yourself permission to sit quietly for just a minute or two and recall a moment where you felt connected with God, yourself and life on a deep level.
Where were you? How did you feel? What did you see? What did you smell? What did you hear?

We can have countless moments like this if we just stop from “automatic pilot living” and become aware of our breath and God’s breathing within our breath!

The following prayer will help us to come into the present moment and really live:

Breathe, Listen, Watch
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”—Genesis 28:16 (NIV)
None of us wants to feel the way Jacob felt, but like Jacob, we often are not aware of God’s presence. Our thoughts dwell in the past and the future instead of in the present moment. Staying present is one of the most difficult things for us adults to do. Let’s tap into this knowledge and become present again.
Notice that there is a power other than your thoughts that can change your awareness from your thoughts to your senses. This is your physical connection to God within you. Whenever you feel disconnected from your life and God, turn to this prayer with an attitude of worship and the assurance that God is right here with you. If you stay present using your senses, you will always be connected to your life and God’s life within you and all around you. 
“Yes. I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”—Genesis 28:15 (MSG)    

Breathe gently and simply observe your breathing… No need to control your breath… Breathe in God’s presence and breath...
When your mind strays, listen to what you hear… Simply listen without attaching a meaning to the sound…
When your mind wanders again, guide your awareness to your surroundings… Simply watch...
Alternate between observing your breathing, listening, and being aware of your surroundings when your thoughts take you away from the present moment… Pray this way until you are present and calm...
Can you feel the power within that guides your awareness? How does it feel?
When you pray this way during the day, you will become present to God’s guidance and promise in your life.
Prayer: I am aware of God’s presence. Amen. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 22:43 (NIV)

I was sitting in my usual meditation place, ready to practice Centering prayer, when my daughter Sophia came in and said, “I’m leaving.” The words, “Bye, have fun! were on my lips when I caught myself and stopped at “Bye…”
Sophia was going to a memorial service for her 17-year old-friend and last year’s prom date, Pat. Pat died in a car accident on March 22, 2014. He was hit by a car while crossing a street in St. Pete Beach. His friends who had been waiting for him at a restaurant saw his body lying in the street. They all had rented a room together in St. Pete Beach to celebrate the beginning of their last high school spring break.

How do you say good-bye to your daughter when she is going to a memorial service of a friend she sat next to in sixth period at school, who won’t be sitting there on Monday? How do you talk to your 17-year-old about the death of her friend? How do you bring God into this event? Where is God in the death of a 17-year-old boy about to leave for college?

While Sophia was at the memorial service, I sat in silence and prayed and held all of the grieving kids and especially Pat’s parents up to God’s care… That was the only way I knew how to practice the presence of God at that moment and how to feel connected to a God who I know is loving. I don’t like God’s timing and I don’t understand why a 17-year-old boy who has always been kind and considerate to everybody had to die. I don't understand it but I know by faith that God is in all of life and God is also with us in death. 
Sophia wrote a Facebook entry for her friend Pat as all of his friends did. It said,
“Thank you for being the most amazing prom date and friend. Rest in paradise, Pat we all love and miss you.” 

This blog is about practicing the presence of God in all of life and the Holy in the ordinary events of life. Is death an ordinary event in life? Logically, I can say yes, death is a part of life!

Can I see the death of a 17-year-old as Holy and practice the presence of God in it? Definitely not! I am not one of those people who could say to the parents that their son was “called to be back home with God” or that it was “his time to go home” or that “God is taking care of him.” I still question God and ask “WHY? Why God, why does a 17-year-old boy have to die?”

My friend Runelle’s daughter Margaret was murdered by Ted Bundy in 1978. Runelle is the most loving and kind woman you will ever meet. When I first met Runelle and she told me about her daughter’s death, I could not believe my ears when she said that God has blessed her with feeling no hatred toward the murderer of her daughter. I asked Runelle to share a sentence or two for this blog entry and she wrote, “Jack [her husband] and I realized that there was no acceptable alternative than to go on with our lives. God's grace, many prayers offered for us, and counseling gave us the strength to carry on; God was with us every moment.” 

God was with us every moment, wrote a woman who lost her daughter to the cruelest murder I can imagine. 

Runelle, I admire you and I look to you with awe, learning how to accept and experience the presence of God in all of life. You are truly living what Kent Nerburn wrote in his beautiful book, Ordinary Sacred:

“We are not called only to proclaim God but to be the presence of God, reflected.”

My friend Ann’s son, Frederick John Cox, died at the age of 27 in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. His favorite quote was, “Do what you love; love what you do!” Though Freddy’s life was taken at a tragically young age, he spent his years truly living! He celebrated each day and turned adversity into opportunity for growth.

I was blessed to be part of Ann's grieving and healing journey. I am humbled by her courage and determination to turn this excruciating loss into good for other children with her non profit organization, Bettaplace.

Ann wrote, "At age 21, Freddy dropped a friend off at home after a night out at a party. His friend went into the house and committed suicide with a gunshot to the head. This is an excerpt from an essay that Freddy wrote afterwards:

'Learn from your experiences; good or bad. But why does it take such drastic measures to create a lesson in life for some people? So it all comes down to WHY?  But to strive to answer that question will only lead to dead ends. To stop asking why and accept and believe will be the only step that will move you forward on your journey in life. Don't look at that day. It is important to remember the good things, and not to dwell on that day.'

When Fred died on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center on 9-11, I used his own words to save me from myself. I never looked at any images of 9-11 or at Ground Zero. When Ground Zero was completely cleared one year later, I went to New York to see where my son, whose first breath I witnessed, breathed his last breath. I created a foundation in his honor, and published the childhood story I told him as a boy, as a children's book, with illustrations and songs. As Fred pointed out, I learned so many lessons...and I learned new ways to get closer to God, as I travel the road of grief and forgiveness. As for losing my son...I have no words. But today my best prayer is, 'Dear God, show me what you want me to do, because I really want to do it. Amen.'"
I love you Ann and I am grateful for the presence of God, reflected in you.

Today, I am meditating on what Mary might have felt on this Friday so many years ago when she watched her son die on the cross, and I am praying for all mothers who have lost their sons and daughters… 

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. Rest in paradise, Pat, Freddy and Margaret, we love and miss you.” 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Patience! You've got all the time in the world—whether a thousand years or a day, it's all the same to you.—Psalm 90:3 (NIV)

Practicing the presence of God in the check out line

I have a favorite local store where I get most of my fresh fruits and vegetables. When I went to the store yesterday, my grocery card was pretty full because I hadn't been in a while. Waiting in line  and practicing the Daily Awareness Prayer “In the checkout line,” I noticed that the woman behind me only had two tomatoes in her hands. I offered her to get in front of me, which she appreciated.  When it was her turn to pay, I overheard her say to the cashier “I will just get one tomato then.” Looking up, I realized that she didn't have enough money to buy both tomatoes. I offered to pay the difference but she said, “No thank you.” I assured her that it would be my pleasure to give her the dollar but she refused again. I had to let it go because I did not want to offend or embarrass her. She left with one tomato in her hand when it was my turn to pay. The woman at the cash register who I had not met before, said to me, “Offering to pay was very nice of you."
 “I wish she would have let me pay for the other tomato because she obviously wanted two,” I said, “ but I didn't want to offend her.” 
“I know,” said the cashier, “but it was really nice that you offered.” 

My bill came to $30,24 and when I handed her my credit card, I felt God’s grace and abundance like I had never felt before and I said out loud, “I am so grateful that I can pay this without having to put something back.” The cashier looked at me, nodded and put the last item into my bag, mentioning how nice it was that I had brought my own bag. She then put a box of Baklava  cookies on top of my fruits and said, “This is like paying it forward which you were trying to do. Have a great day!”
For a split second I thought about saying “No thank you” because my Lenten discipline this year is to fast on sweets. I stopped myself just in time and said “Thank you so much. That is very kind of you” and I left the store.

Can you imagine if I had told her I am not eating sweets right now? It would have been rejecting her generosity in the same way that happened to me a few minutes before. It had not felt good at all. I don't think the woman with the two tomatoes knew that the gift I was going to give her, would have been a gift to me if she had accepted it. But she did give me the precious gift of being aware of the blessing that I can buy all the fruits and vegetables without having to think about or putting any back.
It makes me wonder, how many gifts I am rejecting daily without being aware of it? How many gifts that God is trying to give me that I don’t see or appreciate? 

Becoming aware of the moment as I write this, I see the beauty of our cat Peaches. She is lying peacefully next to me while I type this story. The morning sun is coming through the windows playfully painting leaf shadows on the wall and the palm trees are swaying in the wind outside while the steaming green tea right next to me, is waiting to cool off. And these are only a few of the blessings I am aware of right now because I came into the present moment and looked up from my typing.

I hope you accept all the blessings that God and life has in store for you! I would love to hear what they are! Here is one of my blessings in life: 

Below is the prayer I prayed to practice the presence of God:

In the Checkout Line
Patience! You've got all the time in the world—whether a thousand years or a day, it's all the same to you.Psalm 90:3 (NIV)
The grocery checkout line is the most wonderful place to practice the presence of God. Have you ever watched the lines and gone from one lane to the next because you thought it was faster just to discover that you would have been out the store had you stayed in the first one?
Patience! It wont go faster if you are impatient, nor will it make you happier if you get out the store faster. Your impatience will still be with you and you will rush to the next thing in life, missing life as you rush through it. If you accept that waiting in a checkout line is part of life, you will already be a happier person.
Practice patience the next time you go shopping, being present in your life, present to God and those God put in your path that day.
“We have all the time in the world, time enough for life to unfold.”—Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

  • When you stand in the checkout line and find yourself wondering whether this is the fastest lane, take a deep breath and stay in the lane you are in…
  • Be aware of your body and stand with your weight equally distributed on both feet… Relax your jaw, shoulders and stomach... Allow your breathing to calm and quiet your mind...
  • God is with you this moment… Be aware of the pure miracle of it… You are alive now…
  • Look around and appreciate everything you see, hear and feel… Be completely present and look at the people God put into your life in this moment… Smile… Talk to someone and make their day...
  • Be present and let God’s patience and love flow through you into the world.

Prayer: I have all the time in the world. Amen.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.
Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B
A Tree Full of Angels

Sunday, March 30, 2014


When I woke up this morning, I felt how “cold” it had gotten over night. It was a late March morning and the temperature outside had dropped to 48 degrees-- which is cold for us here in Florida!
Usually, I walk my dog Joy first thing in the morning along the shore of Tampa Bay to watch the sun rise. I hadn't been able to do it the last two days though because it had been raining. I was looking forward to my walk but it was so cozy and warm in bed that I decided to stay in bed and just have a cup of hot tea to warm up.
Then I remembered the prayer “Awakening” that I say every morning: 

This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.—Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

I asked myself what would make me rejoice and be glad during the day? Would it be staying in bed and drinking a hot cup of tea and then getting up to work on my retreat preparations? Or would it be getting up, putting on some warm clothes, taking a hot cup of tea with me and walking in the beautiful cool weather, probably seeing a gorgeous sunrise? After all, we don't have that many cold days in Florida.
I didn’t have to think long! Of course I realized it would be the later. I would come home refreshed, my body would be completely awake, my spirit would be rejoicing and my emotions would be glad.

And that is what I did! I walked briskly in the cool breeze, saw a beautiful sunrise and when I came home, the 64 degrees in my home felt really warm and comfortable. I didn’t even have to raise the temperature in my home but just put on a warm woolen sweater. My walk was not only good for me and Joy, but also for the environment and my energy bill! Now THAT is practicing the presence of God!

Kent Nerburn wrote in his beautiful book Small Graces, 

“Now is the moment when I must pause and lift my heart—now, before the day fragments and my consciousness shatters into a thousand pieces. For this is the moment when the senses are most alive, when a thought, a touch, a piece of music can shape the spirit and color of the day… What is needed is only a pausing of the heart so the spirit can take wing and be lifted toward the infinite.” (Kent Nerburn, Small Graces, 1998, p.17-18)

I believe that I am letting my spirit connect with God’s spirit within me when I pause every morning before I am fully awake and pray the Awakening prayer. When I wrote the prayer I chose the verb “awakening” rather than “waking up” because if I start “my waking up” with prayer, I am not just waking up from a physical night’s sleep but also awakening from my spiritual dormancy – and we are all spiritually dormant in one way or another.

If I remember to start my day with the Awakening Prayer, I connect with the presence of God and I am more likely to stay present during the day. I also pray this prayer during the day, which keeps me grateful for all the blessings in my life and aware of the miracle of each day. 

Here is what I would have missed if I had stayed in bed this morning. Have a blessed day everyone! 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Breathing in God's stillness

The prayer “Breathing in God’s stillness” has helped me in many life situations and I would like to share the most recent one with you:

I don’t use my checkbook often but occasionally I do need to write a check, so I keep it in my purse just in case. Last Monday, I needed to pay my yoga teacher for the next five weeks of yoga and I realized that it wasnt there. I didn't panic because I was pretty sure I had left it at home. However, I couldnt find it that night and it remained missing over the course of the next few days. I still didn’t panic because no money had been taken out of my account. When I went to the bank to get some new checks, I learned that it would cost $30 to cancel the old ones. The bank employee advised me to look a few more days before doing the cancellation.

I was still confident they were not stolen, so I decided to follow his advice. I tried to think systematically where I could have put them and realized that I hadn’t seen them since my trip to Germany two weeks before. So I went into the storage area and made sure I hadn't left it in my suitcase. Then I looked in all the places I had looked before... I even turned the paper recycling upside down to make sure it hadn’t fallen into the recycling bin. Now I started to panic! And then I realized that I hadn’t done the one thing yet: Pray!

I sat down and breathed in God’s stillness for a few minutes, becoming aware of the presence of God with me at all times.  And then I said, “God, you know where my checkbook is; please guide me to it.” (Actually, I was not as polite as I make myself look now. I was annoyed at that time and fearful and demanded: God, guide me to the checkbook right now!) 

Immediately I knew where it was without thinking about it!!! 

I had taken the checkbook out of my purse in Germany because I didn't need the checks.  To keep it safe, I had put it into the side pocket of the computer bag I wasnt carrying with me regularly.
Im still amazed when prayer is answered this way. Here is why I found it so easily: I didn't rely on my thoughts of where it could be! I asked for guidance and help!
My thoughts had taken me to all the places I “thought” the checkbook could be but my thoughts (my will) are not always connected with the knowledge of the Universe. I had to come to the point of asking for God’s help (Thy Will) and that made it possible for me to get out of the way and let God guide me to it. The Breath Prayer "Be Still" helped me to calm down enough to listen to the knowledge within me.
How does it work? I am not exactly sure but I know that if I pray and meditate in my life and am aware of God's presence within me, I don't have to know. It just works!

Why does it take many of us so long to connect with the power of prayer? Why is it the last thing so many of us think about?