The Waiting Heart

Mailboxes wait. . . and wait. . . and wait.

Mailboxes in snow--by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA

Mailboxes serve as the “waiters” of messages, providing a space for something specific to happen. They don’t appear to do anything, and yet mailboxes are serving the purpose for which they were created.

So, too, the contemplative heart waits upon the Lord, dwelling in prayer, being observant, listening, pondering the ways of God–doing precisely what the Lord intended.

Wait for the Lord, take courage;
          be stout-hearted, wait for the Lord.   
Psalm 27:14.

Will you pray with me?

Lord, we know you are always with us, listening to our prayers and guiding our ways. Help us and all who “wait” to do so with patience and courage. May we truly listen to others this day–not only with our ears but also our hearts. May the words we speak be filled with your compassion. Come, Holy Spirit, guide us in all your ways! 

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. Are you on Facebook? Check out “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty” for little spiritual nuggets to get you through your day!

Attentiveness: A Spiritual Word for 2013

During 2013, I hope to learn some new layouts and methods for posting on my blog. (This one is called “image” for a shorter post with a single image.)

Remember the blog post about choosing a word for your spiritual theme for the new year?  Here’s my word, sprawled out on a whiteboard design I created:

Whiteboard art by Julie McCarty (click to enlarge)
Whiteboard art by Julie McCarty (click to enlarge)

Yup, that’s my word for this year, “attentiveness”… I want to ponder the meaning of the word, how to live more attentively, and most of all, how to be more attentive to the presence and action of God in my life.

Thought question of the day: What or who in your life captures the most of your attention each day?  Your job? Your family? Sports? Facebook? Shopping? Or ??

How does your daily focus coordinate with the quality desires of your deepest, truest self?

Please think about it. I plan to!

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. Looking for daily spiritual inspiration? Read short spiritual nuggets and updates at Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty” on Facebook.

Prayer for the New Year

For everything there is a season,
     and a time for every matter under heaven:
          a time to be born, and a time to die;
          a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
          a time to kill, and a time to heal;
          a time to break down, and a time to build up;
          a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
          a time to mourn, and a time to dance. . . .

God has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. . . . whatever God does endures forever. . . (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 11, 14)


North Shore of Lake Superior--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA
North Shore of Lake Superior–photo by Julie McCarty–Eagan MN USA

Another year draws to an end, and a new year dawns. One chapter closes, another begins. One project finishes, another starts to bubble within. One human dies, another is born.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many readers of Spiritual Drawing Board blog and its partner Facebook page of the same name. I enjoy creating these sacred spaces and look forward to continuing to share my spiritual thoughts and budding artistic creations with you in the coming year. I appreciate the thoughts and comments you post or send me. Thanks!

Below is a prayer I wrote this morning. Will you pray with me?

Blessed are You, Lord God,
     Creator of the gift of time.
Every moment truly belongs to You.
With the help of your Spirit,
     may we use every day, every hour,
     to love and serve you in the New Year,
     and in all that is to come,
     both in this life, and in the next.   Amen.

Lily--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN USA
Lily–photo by Julie McCarty–Eagan MN USA

Creating things anew with God’s help–a look back, and forward

Some of you may remember that I selected the word “co-create” for my spiritual word for 2012. The spiritual word provides a theme or focus for one’s mind and heart over the course of time, an idea I learned from Christine Valters Paintner, the “online abbess” at the website Abbey of the Arts.

For me, “co-create” means to cooperate with God’s grace in making the world a better place. I found the word helped me to focus on trying new creative things, such as practicing nature photography and learning watercolor painting.

Downy Woodpecker underneath branch--photo by Julie McCarty, Eagan MN USA.
Downy Woodpecker underneath branch–photo by Julie McCarty, Eagan MN USA.

However, as so often happens when one takes up a spiritual practice, I was surprised at how many other, often deeper, meanings and ap-

Julie with her "Campfire" watercolor painting at Instructor-Student Art Exhibit --BTAC
 Julie with her “Campfire” watercolor painting (above) at the Instructor-Student Art Exhibit –BTAC

plications to “co-create” arose in my mind over time. These new understandings came to me through reading, talking with others, and thinking about my life experiences in journaling.

For example, when grieving the loss of my dad, the creative activities often consoled me as something new being “born” in my life. When waking up in the morning, I would find myself asking God, “What will we co-create together today?” As I did housework (something I dislike), I began seeing chores in a fresh light, as something that re-creates a beautiful, wholesome environment. While weeding the garden, it occurred to me that growing vegetables is also creating something good with God–good for me and good for others. 

From this year's garden
From this year’s garden

The year 2012 will be over soon. In fact, for Christians at least, the new liturgical year has already begun with Advent. I find myself wondering… hmm… what will be my “spiritual word” for 2013? What does God have in mind for me?

I invite you to ponder the same question with me. Is there one word or short phrase you would like to be your spiritual focus for 2013? Let us pray, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal a wise word to each of us for the good of our spiritual growth and service to others.

May the Good Lord bless you this holy season.

Until next time, Amen!

For more pictures from Julie’s watercolor class and other spiritual nuggets, visit Facebook’s  Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty.

Spiritual Drawing Board Page now on Facebook

Looking for a short spiritual nugget to brighten your day? A reminder that God’s divine presence is with you, even on a “bad day”? Something motivational, thought-provoking, or creative?

ImageSpiritual Drawing Board now has a Facebook page of its own. I’ll be continuing to write here, on this WordPress blog, but now you can also receive little spiritual nuggets on the Facebook page “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty”. 

Expect to find encouragement to pray or meditate, to love others, to seek wisdom, to go beyond politics and “group think,” and to learn from famous spiritual figures.

To find the link, log on to your Facebook account and search for this:

“Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty”
(click on “like” to start receiving in your news feed on FB)

And, while you are there, I hope you will share your own inspiring thoughts or questions you wrestle with. The spiritual journey includes community focus–and I would love to hear from you, on the FB page, in the comments on the blog, or via e-mail (see contact page for e-mail).

Please, do spread the word. Share what I post on SDB on FB all you like. The world has enough sin and hate. It is up to Spirit-filled people to spread the message of  compassion in whatever ways they can.

Until next time, Amen.

P.S. For those new to Facebook:  If you “like” Spiritual Drawing Board FB page, you will receive “news” from the page, but your personal posts will not come to me unless you choose to put something on my page or message me directly. I will not see the messages you send your FB friends unless I’m already one of your friends on FB.

Work to live or live to work?

Do you work to live or live to work?
A Guided Meditation 

Labor Day weekend is a great time to think about this question. Do you work a 9-5 day and set it all aside afterwards to pursue your heart’s desire?

Or, are you blessed with a career so meaningful that work is living at its best?

Whether you enjoy your job or not, how does work fit together with the other pieces of your life?  Do you experience quality time with family, friends, and God? Are you able to give back something to your community? Ever just stop to smell the roses?

To reflect on this question, you might want read about how people in places outside the U.S. view work in  Mariela Dabbah’s article “Work to Live or Live to Work?”     To read about the effects of overwork on one’s health, check out this article on , or explore Are You a Workaholic?  on WebMD. If you are a business manager, you might want to read about how overworking can actually lower productivity in the workplace, and ways to overcome the problem on  Joe Robinson’s website .

In hard economic times, many people feel immense pressure to work longer hours or risk losing their jobs–and that makes it all the more complicated to discuss the question. There are no easy answers here–and I certainly find it challenging to juggle all the pieces of my own life (it feels like a moving target!).

Even so, it’s worth thinking about:  Is my entire self-worth wrapped up in the work that I do? Do people have value beyond what they accomplish in the business/career world? What is the place of Sabbath and prayer in my life? Where is God leading me, and how do I best respond?

O God,
 You created us with many abilities, gifts, and inward beauty. May we always use these gifts wisely and yet remember that your love for us is not based on mere productivity. Open our eyes to the beauty of your creation and give us the courage and time to “smell the roses.”


When there is no vision, a people perish.–Emerson

Morning Light on Smoky Mountains–photo by Julie McCarty, Eagan MN USA
(click on image to enlarge)

When there is no vision, a people perish.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Funny how getting away from it all for a time can give one a new perspective. Vacations and retreat experiences are important to our well-being. Unhurried time with family, long walks, extra sleep, and different surroundings are good for us on every level.

This summer, while taking some breaks from blogging, I’ve been focusing on other creative activities. I’ve experimented with new plants in the garden and practiced taking photos of nature. I attended a couple of seminars connecting art, writing, and spirituality, and vacationed with my hubby.

Although I haven’t blogged much during the summer, I think the break will be fruitful in the long run. Funny how that works: sometimes when you stop trying, something good is percolating deep down inside. (We’ll see if this is true…!)

In future blog posts, I hope to bring some fresh ideas and new formats. In addition to the longer spiritual reflections now and then, I hope to add some simple creative images (photos, artwork) along with spiritual quotations. I hope to provide starter dough for your own prayer and spiritual reflection, as well as my own.

Mid-August is a time of preparing for the new school year, planning church ministries, and signing up for sports and recreational programs. As I plan activities, the words of Emerson draw me to think more deeply than mere scheduling:

When there is no vision, a people perish.

What is your vision for today and tomorrow? How will you make the world a better place? What is the one thing God is hoping you will do?

Take a moment and just think about it. What is the best thing you could offer God right now? How do you envision your future–and the future of your children, community, and world? What one step you can take today, headed in the right direction?   

(pause and pray if you are a praying person)

Until next time, Amen!

A Personal Note from Julie

Be still and know that I am God.
 –Psalm 46:10

I know that many of you have been praying for my dad this past year, and some of you may not have heard that he passed away, peacefully, on April 23 with his family gathered around him. Your prayers are greatly appreciated!

I spent some time with my family in Arizona, and now I’m back home. These days I’m allowing myself some quiet time, planting the vegetable garden, cleaning house, talking long walks, and having “downtime” in general. Although I am a writer, I am even more a “contemplative” with an artistic streak which demands at least some solitude.

I don’t want you, my readers, to think I’ve forgotten you in all this! We are one in the mystical union of Christ (or the Divine One however you may perceive God).  For me, writing is not just about cranking stuff out on paper, but taking my time to ponder life, to communicate with others, to serve the community of God’s people with words.

And so it is, I trust you will understand if my blog is quiet for a while. In the silence, God is present, between you and me, within us, and around us.

Until next time, Amen.

(Re) Discovering Your Sacred Rhythms in Lent

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.  –Mark 6:30-32.

In the beginning of the book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton describes a time she felt Christian fatigue syndrome. Although heavily involved in doing church activities and service for Christ, she no longer felt the joy and peace she expected to feel in giving her life so fully to God.

I believe that people who are alive with love for God sometimes can become so busy doing for God or for others, or learning about God, that they can forget to just spend quality time with God.

This situation is compounded by the fact that we live in a culture that heavily promotes busyness, high productivity, multitasking and, in general, doing over be-ing (the poor economy doesn’t help). People I know who visit other parts of the world often comment that people in other countries are not such workaholics. Some cultures have shorter work days, more vacation time, and longer lunch hours–and they actually think Americans are crazy to want to focus so much on their jobs over relaxation with family and friends.

For those of us who follow Christ, this raises an interesting question: How do we spend time with God? Certainly, God is always with us, everywhere we go, but how are we “with God”? That is, how do we find time to make our hearts and minds attentive to God’s presence in the midst of our everyday lives? How do we experience God?

One way is to examine how Jesus approached work and ministry. In the biblical passage above, the apostles are getting back together after having been sent out in pairs to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. They have also just been given the news of the death of John the Baptist.

What Jesus does at this point in the story is rather remarkable. Jesus does not ask the disciples to use their success to build media hype. He doesn’t require new multitask methods to increase the profit margin (baptizing with one hand while healing the sick with the other?). Jesus doesn’t send them into battle to revenge the death of John the Baptist.

Instead, at the height of all their ministerial productivity and popularity, Jesus says:

Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.

I wonder if the disciples were surprised at this sudden shift of gears. Maybe they thought to themselves, Are you kidding? Didn’t you just commission us to spread the good news and heal the sick? Now you want us to ignore the needs of these people, escaping out into the wilderness? Could you make up your mind?

Jesus isn’t interested in milking the media, maximizing profit, or getting more done in less time. Jesus doesn’t view people as electronic gadgets that never need sleep (well, even those need recharging!). Jesus treats every disciple (and all people) the way best friends or intimate lovers treat each other, saying, in effect:

Let’s get out of here. Let’s go someplace where we can be alone.

In the story, Jesus and the disciples escape the crowd in the boat, going off to rest, to talk, to pray. The mob, with their many legitimate needs, would find them tomorrow, at which time they would be lovingly served.

People reading this blog do a great many things to serve and love God’s people–and what a great thing indeed that is! But among the many things you “do” this Lent, may God bless you with the rediscovery of quiet moments tucked here and there, an awareness of God’s presence during your work, or perhaps even a whole day or two to run away for a tryst with the One you love above all others.

Until next time, Amen!

Sunrise through Winter Frost: Reflecting Divine Light

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12.

Not much snow in Minnesota this winter, but the frost patterns have been lovely. Here’s a photo I took one morning of sunrise, looking through our window and the frost on the storm window:

Sunrise through Winter Frost–by Julie McCarty– (click on photo to enlarge)
The sparkles you see in this photo are reflections of the sun (camera flash was off). We often think of all the sin and darkness in our world, but this picture reminds me of the beauty of human souls reflecting the light of God. When we open our hearts to God, when we act in ways of love, we become reflections and conduits of God’s light in the world. So often, we are swimming in this light of God without even thinking about it.
Spiritual writer Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda put the following quote on her Facebook page today, and I share it here because I think it goes well with the above photo:

“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As you take another breath (right now!) it means that God is choosing your existence now, and now, and again now…Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather, a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, living in awareness of the Presence, and even of enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights inside of an active and experienced Union.” ~Fr. Richard Rohr in “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.”

We are always in the presence of God, but we forget God is with us. Like each little “snowflake” of frost in the photo, we are already in the presence of the God. All we have to do is open our hearts and absorb the light of God’s presence. And, in so doing, our souls are capable of reflecting that light of love to others, who in turn reflect God’s light to still others… a ripple effect of light and love.
Until next time, Amen!