I feel different.
The first weekend in June, a good friend of mine and I attened a retreat for men's group leaders which was held at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.
I was originally under the impression that it was going to be more of a conference, where men would exchange ideas and tips on how to run men's groups/conferences better. To my surprise (and joy) it was MUCH more than that.
The weekend (as well as the location, for those who have never been to Franciscan University) was life changing. On the first night, we took part in benediction and adoration. Truth be told, I have never been good at adoration. Either my mind wanders aimlessly... or I fall asleep. This time I begged God to speak to me in this setting. 75 men worshipping Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament after having been through confession. I asked for Him to show me true happiness. True joy that would not send me "seeking" in the wrong (and sinful) places, or cause anger and frustration when let down by those in whom you've put your trust.
"Please," I begged. "Please, please, please..." And He spoke to me. And His words were few, but powerful.
"Find joy in me."
"Of course!" I thought. But I kind of knew that. He is the source of all joy. For what seemed like 15 minutes, all I could hear in my head were those four words. Find joy in me. Find joy in me. Find joy in me.
But as I continued to think... and soon became destracted... the phrase (or at least the emphasis) changed. Soon it was: "Find joy in ME." At each distraction, I was "snapped" back to the center by Christ saying, "Find joy in Me." Not is other people being more quiet. Not in the bad driver. Not in the screaming children. Not in your job, your friends or your family. Over here! Find joy in ME! Not over there. Find joy in ME.
There it was, a true (to my definition) "centering prayer." One that brings your focus back to God and not on the noises in the periphery. One that holds your gaze, your attention and your spirit.
Finally! I had "found" something in adoration. But that was only the beginning. The Masses at the University were the most amazing I have EVER attended. I was prayed over and deliverd from so much brokenness. I heard speakers who pierced my soul. I talked with men who LOVED God.
I came back to Portland unconcerned that I had only sold a handful of tickets to a conference I was funding with my own credit card. As my wife and I began a Novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary... the registrations came pouring in. On the day of the conference I had 60+ walk-up registrations. The day was amazing!
The next day (Father's Day) was full of joy.
The next day (Monday) I was fired from my job.
It was not a "good" break up.
But you know what. I know now that I can't look for joy in others. They'll let you down every time. As I drove away from my now-former work, with my box of stuff in the passenger seat, I smiled. I know that our God is an awesome God, and that He has WONDERFUL things in store for those who love Him.
As I write this I am three weeks into being unemployed. I don't know how I'll pay my house or car payments next month. I'm having some problems with an old knee injury and have no insurance. But I know where the source of joy is... was... and always will be.
In my Lord who strengthens me.
"Find joy in me."
Thank you, Jesus. For the simple message that speaks so much.