Busted Halo

Practical tools for your personal spiritual life from Phil Fox Rose.

June 21st, 2010
What Works: Talking with God
Deepening your personal relationship with God through conversational prayer

I had always been fine with the “God is everything” and “There is that of God in each of us” kinds of conceptions of God, but I was finding it hard to turn my will and my life over to a concept or The Universe; and I was being told that it would really help if I could learn to relate to God in a more personal way. I’d always struggled with the idea of a God personal to me. I’d always rejected anthropomorphizations as childish.

Then a wise spiritual friend I admired, Shana, made a suggestion. She came from a rural area where people drive everywhere, and she told me how, when she was learning this herself, she’d buckle the passenger seat of the car and talk to God as if he was sitting there. Though I lived in the city without a car, I’d spent plenty of years in car culture and this visual helped me with imagining how to approach praying in a conversational way.

And praying conversationally changed my conception of God. They fed each other. As I prayed “as if” God was a person in the room with me, I found it easier to feel comforted by God’s presence. As I felt comforted by God’s presence, it became easier to relate to God any time, anywhere — to just stop in the midst of a situation and have a few words with God.

Of course, Christians have always had the person of Jesus to pray to, but I wasn’t raised with any teaching in this area, so that idea was foreign to me. It may be easier to imagine for some. But even if you can easily relate to the idea of praying to God as a person, praying conversationally, and out loud, can still seem strange or silly.

June 7th, 2010
What Works: Enjoy the Silence
Protect the silence in your day and consider a silent retreat this summer

“Words are very
— Depeche Mode

There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.

When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.

The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.

That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:

We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?

Might it ask us to change?

This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.

April 12th, 2010
What Works: More on the spirituality of being on time
What Works columnist Phil Fox Rose is interviewed about being on time on NET TV and responds to reader comments

Recently, I was interviewed for the show Currents on the NET TV network about the spirituality of being on time. Watch the video right here on this page; I’ve queued it up to my segment in the show. So that seems like a good enough reason to revisit my column, “Being On Time.” I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when this became one of the most popular What Works columns.

It was a delight to do the interview with Nathalia Ortiz, and to see the co-anchors discussing the subject with her afterwards. Their comments, her questions to me, and the popularity of this column all underscore that so many of us struggle with being on time, and we want help!

Much of the feedback has been about realizing you are bothering others. So let me focus a little more sharply on the issue of selfishness. But before I do, let me stress that I’m not encouraging you to beat up on yourself. We are all selfish a lot of the time. What I’m encouraging is greater awareness.

Selfishness can take several forms. Many people who are late have a mixture of them.

Self-seeking is when you choose your own gain over the interests of others. It’s self-seeking behavior to maximize the productivity or convenience of your own time at the expense of other people’s schedules. Doctors, for example, do this on purpose, because their time has so much monetary value, and, well, they don’t care about yours — and, as with the chronically late, typically they get more and more behind schedule as the day progresses. (If you haven’t already figured this out, book doctor’s appointments in the morning, when they still might be close to their schedule.)

January 18th, 2010
What Works: My “aughts” weren’t awful, they were awesome
A New Year's challenge: Enhance your connection with God

Fra Angelico's The Conversion of St. Augustine (my patron saint)

I’ve been taken aback these last few weeks by all the retrospectives and their universal declaration that the “aughts” were an awful decade. Objectively, it’s hard to argue as they trot out disaster after disaster, setback after setback. And when pressed, I recall that as the decade began I had a six-figure salary at a high-flying dot-com, millions to come with the genuinely likely public offering, and a beautiful girlfriend. I had none of those things within a few years. But I need to be reminded of the losses and setbacks and derailed career, because my perception of the story line of the decade is entirely different. For me the aughts weren’t awful; they were awesome.

You see, for me the key events of the decade are: reclaiming my sobriety, my conversion and baptism, and feeling and answering the call to return to writing, with a new focus on spiritual work. The past decade has in many ways been the most joyous of my life. It has been a period of spiritual growth, of expanding community, and of a radically increased sense of usefulness and purpose.

There’s an obvious connection here. As I said in my column, “Losing your footing and finding the ground“, losing the material things that define our lives can shake us into adjusting our focus, our priorities.

But mine is not a neat and tidy conversion story of: “My life was pointless and painful, then I found God, and now everything is rosy.” For me, the life stripped away by the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 did matter and, in many ways, was good. I looked forward to going to work every morning and figuring out how to bring more music into people’s lives. My work was both creative and challenging. I lost a good thing. And the same was certainly true of my relationship.

December 13th, 2009
What Works: When a parent is an alcoholic or addict
Making the best of a bad situation


Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore?

Ever since I first wrote about alcoholism and addiction in the What Works column (Am I An Alcoholic?, Spiritual Recovery), people have asked about a parallel issue — when a friend, family member or partner is an addict or alcoholic. It’s too big a topic to cover in a single column, so for this family holiday, I’ll tackle the most relevant part of it: a parent who’s an alcoholic or addict.

Before my parents passed away, Christmas meant visiting their home. And, among other things, dealing with my dad’s alcoholism. My dad was usually a pretty harmless drunk, getting gradually mellower and eventually passing out. But occasionally he would get rageful instead. And though he never resorted to physical violence, that is all too common a result when alcohol simultaneously fuels anger and loosens inhibitions. (Being of a mix of pilgrim and pioneer stock, my parents’ form of punishment was not violence but shunning — the silent treatment — which could last for days.)

But family holidays meant more drinking than usual, and it meant my dad stayed up and engaged. This combination meant an “incident” or two — of anger or inappropriateness — was likely.

October 4th, 2009
What Works: Turn Off the News
You won't miss anything important


I don’t mean to put anyone out of work in this difficult economy — I even have several friends in this profession — but I implore you to turn off the news and leave it off. Mainly, I want you to turn off the local news, where “if it bleeds, it leads” and the priority, after titillating you with gore, is to scare you — because they thrive if we think we have to watch or we’ll die.

There are a number of reasons I recommend turning off the news. First, life is stressful enough already. Who needs this? Second, if you are powerless over something, there’s usually no benefit in worrying about it. Third, exposing yourself regularly to the ugliest aspects of society darkens and coarsens your view of other people, which takes you away from compassion and love, and thus away from God. It undermines your spiritual fitness.

Rather than helping us better to mourn — to see the suffering in the world with an open heart — watching the news regularly hardens our hearts. In order to face so much suffering with no option of relevant action, we detach from it; we tune it out, if you will.

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