Isn’t it funny…

June 22, 2010

Isn’t it funny how we learn things, forget things, and re-learn them, and only later remember we had “learned” that once before?  How the a-ha moment seems like the a-ha moment…again?  <sigh>

I guess it’s enough to be thankful for the a-ha moments, however often they may make encore performances, eh?

I look back over my journal entries sometimes (the blog, too, but I’m speaking specifically here about personal journal entries that don’t make it to public consumption.) and am amazed that I am ecstatic to finally “get” something, only to agonize over it again a few months later and then “get it” again, with the same grateful delight or passive resignation, whichever the case may be.

What are these things that I get and forget repeatedly?  Oh, I don’t know, that prayer is important?  That God actually enjoys spending a little time with me.  That I frequently enjoy that time, too.

May God’s peace be with you.

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Excerpts of tonight’s personal journal

March 3, 2010

Recently I provided someone a moment of graciousness and kindness, and it was perceived as such by the person to whom it was directed, and encouraging.

I was a little ashamed at my felt sense of pride in that recognition of kindness and the other’s appreciation afterward.  But maybe it’s a healthy self-assessment in the face of so many other not so healthy judgments I’ve directed toward myself?

I recognize that I bask in the glow of being appreciated. Is that basking a “pure” kind of joy that is a normal and expected result of following God’s call to service, or self-puffery?

*********************

Lord, help me to be a blessing in the lives of those whom I touch.

Lord, help me to fix my gaze on you, and enjoy the pleasures in my self and with others that comes in serving, and, sure, even in being appreciated.  Keep me from both inordinate self-puffery and inordinately harsh self-judgment.

Lord, help me to be unafraid to trust you and freely and joyously offer my life for you to use me as you see fit, whether for public and greater or lesser recognized service, or for quiet unassuming care of those around me and in my personal prayers.  Help me to both recognize and accept the path you will continue to show me, all the days of my life.

Amen.


A Personal Review

February 10, 2010

Was looking over my last few blog posts.  Due to my infrequent posting, that actually took me back a ways chronologically.

I noticed my talk of piano lessons.  And my talk of getting Taize music for my mp3 player.

What prompted the review, was actually a lack of being gentle with myself over a lack of committed prayer. (another post about being gentle with oneself popped out at me.)

It’s true, I haven’t been praying as I ought.  But then I backed up a bit, and realized my listening, singing along, and now PLAYING taize music on the piano is not random.  I even believe there is a certain spirituality in the discipline of practicing any genre of piano music for me.  I’ve begun learning how to improvise,if you can use the term very loosely with me (particularly if you actually are a real jazz improviser!!!) on Taize music.  What an adventure!  What poetry does for some, music does for me.  It gets a litte frustrating sometimes to be unable to play technically the song in one’s head, just as it is to be unable to express in words the longing of one’s heart.  I believe there are real overlaps, but I think I have a better chance of overcoming the technical limitations, and allowing music to communicate at the heart level.  Makes one’s heart sort of yearn and ache.  The one I’m working with right now is called, “Jesus Remember Me.”  The lyrics are simple and repetitive by design.  The music combined with the simple lyric makes the heart to ache with longing…

Which brings me back to more traditional prayer and the longings of the heart.  I think that may be one reason why I avoid prayer.  Maybe?  Cracks you open to longings when it is sometimes easier to just keep busy, or even just be lazy with mindless entertainment, rather than be still and take some time to give God some access to your mind or heart.

I’m about to embark on a 12 week class as one of the co-facilitators for Community of Hope.  It is premised on the notion of being formed by prayer and silence, and encouraging that in the students who gather.  I’m motivated to dig in and return to  some of that, partly out of concerns of outright hypocrisy if I don’t, partly due to natural seasons of returning longings that happen to me sometimes.  But with this sort of strange feeling of trepidation.  What will happen if I pray?  (and/or what won’t happen?)  Will I find God in the ordinary, in the ways I profess to believe he is to be found and the Rule of Benedict from which our group will study asserts?  (Lord, I want to see!)  Will God confront me with something difficult to do, or ask me to change something uncomfortable about myself that I might prefer to cling to or hide behind? (“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg you, don’t torture me!”)

Do you ever find yourself asking these questions?

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Something about that prayer speaks to me, with a certain assurance that the mercy is already ours, but asking for it still feels “right” and not “grovel-ly”. 

What do you think?

Be blessed!


Facing our darkness

May 25, 2009

I enjoy a blog called “real live preacher.”  I read this particular post a month or so ago, and some of the stuff reminded me of some of my stuff.  Wanting to be good, denying that darkness that lives inside all of us, etc. etc.  Recently I had an occasion where I allowed some of my darkness to surface and am currently pondering it to try and make some sense of it.  I haven’t decided yet if it was healthy or not…too soon to tell.  But it brought back to mind this blog post, and I thought you might find it interesting, too.

http://reallivepreacher.com/node/1384

Here’s a little taste, if you like.

That’s an interesting thing to say. “I’m trying to be what I’m supposed to be.” What are you supposed to be?

Okay, yeah yeah. I get this. I know. You’re supposed to be who you are, be yourself, all that. I get that. I’ve told people that myself. It’s just…I AM a person who wants to be what I’m…supposed to be. You know, do the right thing. Be the right person.

Okay, let me try again. I’m really not trying to catch you in some ontological paradox. I just don’t get it. You say you want to be what you are supposed to be. And I just want you to tell me what that is. Who is this person you’re supposed to be? How would you describe him?

I don’t know. Nice? Nice to people? Caring about them and just, you know, where you go places and interact with people and it’s better because you were there. People are better off. You help people when you can.

Okay I’m still not really getting it. How about this: we’ll allow that somewhere in your mind there is an idea of what a man is supposed to be. And let’s agree that this man you want to be is a wonderful man. Just a smashing person. Leaving beauty and healing and well-being in his wake as he goes through life. Real Jesus-like.

I’m not trying to be Jesus.

Well Foy, who are you? I mean now. Forget the man you are supposed to be or want to be or will be or whatever that is. Who are you now? Let’s imagine that there is no god looking over your shoulder, okay? And you’re in a secret room with someone who will never tell anyone what you say. And further, this person is going to think the best of you. So even if you felt like punching someone in the face, you could say that and the person listening knows you would never do that.

(a portion has been snipped out—go read the original!)

What did you say?

What I said was “F*** everyone in the world but me!”

———

Of course, I don’t mean it or anything.

I know you don’t.


My Lord and my God!

April 20, 2009

Ah, yes. Yesterday’s gospel (the first Sunday after Easter) was the “Doubting Thomas” passage. Thomas was looked upon negatively by my elders when I was a child. But I think he is a well-intentioned, fervent seeker. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to see the living God? Who would settle for a second hand account without yearning for their own touch or glimpse? Who wouldn’t fall to their knees in awestruck recognition when faced with the living God and cry out (or whisper depending on your individual expressive style), “My Lord and my God!”

Have you had moments like that? I thought I had, here and there. And I treasured them in times of prayer or remembrance of them then.

They fade though.  In fact, it faded enough that I began to wonder if it had all been in my imagination, this God-moment stuff.  I missed several weeks of church in a row recently, and didn’t even miss it.

Today, in the sermon, our priest announced that next week we’d be having a parish listening session on desires for Christian Formation in our parish community. And he gave us “homework” to do; much the same sort of prayerful process he goes through during the week to prepare a sermon. He requested us to pray that God show us what he would have us say. And to simply show up.

The rational part of me totally gets the pragmatic, functional intended meaning of what he meant to communicate to our parish at large, and its needs at this moment in time. But whether part of his intent or not, and I have to doubt that my own individual stirrings of the soul registered in his sermon prep process….

…all the same, I am 100% convinced that God used this sermon to touch my heart and reach me. To invite me to return to him, to “put my hands in his side, put my fingers in the nail holes. ”   To show up, in action and prayer to come closer to the living God.  In our priest’s sermon, he reminded me of something I have long intuited, but had trouble putting into words, the thing that has always troubled me about an atonement, transactional understanding of salvation:  we can’t “do it” on our own, of course, but God uses us and works with us all the time; not merely as pawns, but as partners in bringing the Kingdom, glimpses and touches of it here and there, to our earth.  One way of wrapping our minds and hearts around the resurrection, I think it could be argued, is that it is the ultimate “showing up.”  God could have risen and gloried from afar, but he came back.  He showed up.  Even to a doubting Thomas.  Even to you and me.

To make our best attempt at fully living out that partnership, we need to do our “homework.”  We must listen.  And perhaps even more importantly we must make the effort to show up, and allow ourselves a little vulnerability for God to work on us, and in us, and through us.

We must seek out the living God, and then affirm him with our own  unique, God-inspired expression of…

My Lord, and my God.


Sinfulness

February 4, 2009

Okay, so it’s late, and I’m sick (sinuses/chest/bleck) but I can’t sleep.  So I’m hashing some spiritual stuff over in my mind, in preparation for meeting with the SD tomorrow.  Not that I “should” prepare, but it’s fitting ponderings for that type of conversation, so I was being a little more intentional about connecting some dots, and identifying the questions to explore more deeply.

And you, my dear readers, aren’t privy to ALL of those ponderings of the heart/soul. <smile>

But as I was pondering, it occurred to me that with little tweaking of these late night ponderings, I could pelt out a quick followup post to the mini-rant about the Episcopal Rite 1 Confession of Sin that *could* be blogged upon.

Here’s the deal.  I’m only too aware of how frequently I sin.  Sin=separation from God, the whole things done and left undone, in thought, word, and deed bit.  Yup.  I “suck” truthfuly.  We all do of course, and intellectually I’m quite aware of that, and I am further aware that I could be nothing more than an inadequate & sinful being, not being God and all.  Do I find that comforting and reassuring?  Not especially.  No, in the still, quiet hours when I go before my Lord, I “know” and believe that he loves me [us] for my [our] good intentions and even forgives us when our intentions themselves are impure/self-centered and we return to him to express our genuine sorrow.

That knowledge that I will always be a [forgiven!!] sinner do not help reassure me.  I want to be better.  I want to not be a sinner.  <sigh>  It is becoming my conclusion that a return to prayer for repeated gentle, loving confrontations of my human imperfection will result in, maybe partially in this life, and if not in the next, a bathing in a more full recognition of God’s love and forgiveness.  I believe this, but I do not in any way feel this.

Enter in good ol’ Rite 1 and its statement that I as a feckless sinner have provoked God’s wrath and indignation.  Harumph!  That is not helpful to me, and in a weaker state of mind than I currently find myself in (maybe you find yourself there?) downright hurtful and decidedly unhelpful.  I sin, I do not do the things I have a hunch God would want me to do.  I do some things that probably make God cringe in disappointment, but wrath?  Indignation?  I do not mean to diminish my sinfulness, indeed a spot where Rite 1 gets it right, there is a pervasive sense that my sin is an intolerable burden (i.e. drives me CRAZY “to do those things I hate”), and I wish God would work a little quicker to “fix me up” to be that which he calls me to be.  But I must land on the side of those saints and Saints which insist to me that God is all love and mercy (and most assuredly NOT wrath and indignation) to those who are trying their best. (specifically at this moment I am praying with a devotional of writings from Therese of Lisieux.)  I hope that you will embrace that belief in God’s love and mercy, too, if you find yourself in relationships or church bodies that would try to tell you otherwise!

Okay, rant mode off.  May you have peace in your heart.


The love of Intention

December 6, 2008

The following snippets are excerpted from the article, “Toward a Post-Christian Spirituality” by W. Paul Jones in Weavings Jan/Feb 2009 issue.

Background: talking about lack of consolations in modern faith, lack of modern reinforcements for “easy” life of faith, etc. Example given is discovered journals of Mother Teresa’s struggles and doubts, and extended dark night of the soul.

Removed from consolations, caught tautly between longing and emptiness, Teresa became convinced that emotions are both unreliable and deceptive. Never give way to your feelings, she warned her sisters, and never rely on them either for your strength or your conviction. Having lost what she called “the sweetness of presence,” the alternative as a love of intention — an act of sheer will in the face of what emotionally feels impossible. This is the post-Christian spirituality of living heroically “as if,” not “because of” but “in spite of”.

And here’s a better couple of examples of phrasing “fake it till you make it” also found in the same article! How convenient so soon after my recent post on such a thing!

While taking the temptation of unbelief on herself (Teresa), her outward smile bridged others into belief. This was not pretending the untrue to be true, but was more like Augustine’s will to believe in order to understand, and Wesley’s instruction to doubting ministers to preach it until you believe it.

Hmm. On second thought, fake it till you make it is not too far from Wesley’s advice at all, is it?

Heavenly Father, brother incarnate suffering Jesus, help us to be faithful in spite of all that is around us. Console us if you can – cuz you know we’re not as strong as Mother Teresa. But in the final analysis, make us stronger, and bring us to you in the end. Amen.