Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Soul Stretching So We May Be Filled

Long have I been aware of what I call the curse of being "pretty-much-okay".  I realize that when our lives are doing pretty much okay we are less aware of our deepest needs, and we are more likely to be self-satisfied to the point that we fail to see the hurt and need of the very people around us, the people who sleep on my doorstep for instance.  I think of the Jack Nicholson character in the movie, "As Good as it Gets".  He is deeply aware of his suffering and need, and when two acquaintances of his tell him everyone suffers he replies, "That is not true.  Some people have a good life.  For some people they have what they need.  For some people life is noodle salad.  For some people they don't know much suffering."  [Okay I don't remember the actual words but I feel I do justice to the sentiment.]  I think he is talking about people doing "pretty-much-okay".

Charles Simeon whom the Episcopal Church commemorates today wrote, "There is a kind of religion which is held in esteem by mankind at large.  An outward reverence for the ordinances of religion, together with habits of temperance, justice, chastity, and benevolence, constitute what the world considers a perfect character."  He goes on to say this pretty much describes St. Paul before he met Christ on the road to Emmaus.  Paul came to realize that he needed Christ.  He needed a savior.  There was sin in his life,  he needed the love of Jesus, he needed to attach himself to the mission of Jesus.  St. Paul came to realize that he could not attain the beauty God could envision for him on his own.  When we are pretty-much-okay, like St. Paul was, we are settling for far less than what God has in store for us.

St. Augustine tells us we need God because we are unable to imagine or describe God, and God chooses to give nothing short of Godself to us.  St. Augustine says we can desire that which we cannot describe.  And in that process of longing God expands our hearts more and more so that we can contain the blessing that God chooses to give.  If we hoard other things in our heart, money, sex, popularity, family, feelings of competence or feelings of incompetence in denial of our God given gifts, if we hoard these things in our hearts we do not have room for the better things God wishes to put there.

There are many in life who find it hard.  I'll be honest, I am one of those.  The blesssing in that is that in my struggles I come across my need for God, and I ask for the grace of God to open me to his workings in my life.  And since to be open to God cannot be an infatuation with my own health, at the same time I pray for those who have either in their struggles not turned to God yet, or for those who have fallen under the curse of being pretty much okay.  I feel certain that the lover of our souls will be busy at work until he meets their eyes in mutual affection.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Never be Satisfied!

I am in mid-life crisis.  I know this because I am intently aware of my dissatisfaction with what I have accomplished and who I have become.  Imagine my delight to hear the words of a wise teacher who tells me never to be satisfied!

St. Columbanus tells us  "...that is lovely to excess which is ever eaten and drunk, and ever hungered and thirsted after, ever tasted and ever desired, wherefore the prophet-king [David] says, 'Taste and see how lovely, how pleasant is the Lord.'"

God does not desire to satisfy us.  His desire is to feed us over and over again in loving relationship. The more we taste of God's goodness the more we desire, and this is God's joy and ours.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A More Glorious Day

Yet lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day! The Saints triumphant rise in bright array!

Last night in our spiritual growth group we wrestled over what it means to repent, and what it means to live a "perfect" life.  So lo and behold I came across a reading this morning that commented upon our discussion, and reflected some of our thinking.

"There must be both ethics and doctrine in every gospel we present to the world.  But the moment ethics predominates over doctrine,  the moment, that is, that the thought of man ousts the thought of God from the place of primary honor the whole purpose of a gospel is undone, whether the gospel be Christian or any other.  Ethics, the teaching about man and the conduct proper to him, centers a person's thoughts upon himself; and the end of self-centerlines* is unethical and unevangelical alike.  It is bound to result as St Paul so clearly showed either in spiritual pride or in spiritual despair; and by neither of these roads can we find our true destiny.  The path of purity, humility, and self-sacrifice is only possible to those who can forget themselves, can disinfect themselves from egoism; where the mind is centered not upon self, but at least upon one's fellows and their needs, and at most and at best upon God, and our neighbors as seen through the eyes of God."  from The Vision of God by Kenneth Kirk and included by Atwell and Webber in their volume of readings Celebrating the Saints.

* he speaks about self-centerlines and God-centerlines.

No Looking Back

I have played with the idea of gathering ideas in a place to share many times before.  Mainly I have
been too timid to actually say what I think.  I lack confidence.  Even when people around me see me as very self assured ... make no mistake.  That is fake.  I distrust my instincts.  I distrust my judgment.  I live with a lot of fear.  But nothing good happens without risk taking.  There comes a point when one must dare to try, put oneself out there, attempt to be humble, but also be willing to be open and real.  So here goes after many tries.  May God bless risk-taking, and may the one or two people who actually make it here actually find a blessing.
By the way, the pictures on this blog are just to add color.  Only occasionally will the pic actually have anything to do with the post!