Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Possibilities of Prayer


Attending traditional Anglican services and using the Book of Common Prayer there, as well as personal use of "The Divine Hours" (Phyllis Tickle) and "Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals") (S. Claiborne et al), and recent exploration of Centering Prayer (see Cynthia Bourgeault), leaves me with the feeling that in the tradition I was raised in we missed out to some degree on the possibilities of prayer.

We prayed a lot--at home we had "grace" before meals, daily "family worship" in which each of us, even small children, were expected to take a turn praying, individual daily devotions, lots of scripture memorizations, and extemporaneous, individually created prayers whenever circumstances called for it--illness, setting out on a road trip, praying before guests left, upcoming events, financial needs, and so on.

At church, we had a fairly lengthy prayer (by the minister, usually) in each service, opening prayers for special events or services, and of course, mid-week prayer meeting when everyone could pray in turn (or sometimes individually yet all at once), kneeling by the pews.

At school, we all repeated the Lord's prayer and listened to a scripture each morning, at least until it got phased out when I was in grade 9 or so, when we were on "shift system" and there just wasn't enough time in a 4 hour school day to include "extras." Soon enough, schools stopped doing morning prayers altogether.

Overall (excepting school prayers), the emphasis in the evangelical tradition I was raised in was on personal requests--for health, safety, finances, guidance. But we didn't often use Scripture as a prayer or guide, other than the Lord's Prayer and sometimes scripture in prayerful hymns or choruses, through which I suppose we felt we were covering "praise" and "seeking God" and "worshipping." Very occasionally, we would have a "responsive reading" from the back of the hymnal, a leftover from our denomination's Wesleyan and Anglican roots, I imagine. There was a simple liturgy of prayers, about once a month, for communion, spoken by the minister.

We didn't, so far as I know, draw upon other traditional prayers passed down through the church ages, nor did we use any of the creeds. I was 12 years old when I first heard of the Apostle's Creed, which we had to memorize for a badge in our church's children's club. No context, no use of it in our services, so I just memorized it and got my badge, with no idea where it came from or understanding of its significance. Oddly enough, I didn't think to ask anyone about it; mind you, I don't think we did a lot of "asking" about things like that. 

There were some prayers in the denomination's "Book of Discipline" in the section on rituals such as infant dedication, baptism, and so on--but again, these were read by the minister and were not in that sense congregational/ participatory.

In a sense, the hymns we sang (and we sang many) were our congregational prayers. And worthy ones, at that. Happy and joyous, deep and repentant, even militant (which at that time no one questioned). The hymn book was our "liturgy" I think, along with our informal but quite religiously followed "order of service" as laid out in the weekly bulletin. In fact, I didn't know what a liturgy was until I was at least in my late teens; I'd heard the word kind of whispered in "tut-tut" discussions of how "those mainline churches, and Catholics" worshipped. At any rate, I wonder if maybe when we gave up hymns and hymn books, for the most part, and replaced them with "worship choruses" on overhead projectors, if we really did lose an important part of our worship--in fact, our liturgy, though we'd never have called it that.

I have a copy of the hymnal of that denomination, which says of "The Role of a Hymnal":
The faith and life of the church have always found expression and reinforcement through its hymnody....
The hymnal teaches and inspires. It expresses faith, hope, and love. It voices our experience and aspiration. It is a way to share. It is a rich source of biblical theology. It is where we join with the saints of other centuries in a common expression of joy, praise, and worship. It is a force for unity. It is a stimulus to Christian action and evangelism. It leads us to God and to men. The combination of lyric and melody fastens truth upon the inner man.
Sounds rather like a description of liturgical books like "The Book of Common Prayer," doesn't it--although I still wish we'd had more participatory focus on scripture reading and congregational prayers. More emphasis on the "deep things" of common/ congregational worship. Still, I'm glad to have discovered some of those possibilities of prayer now, even if it's been a long journey to get here.


 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Afraid ... of church

Recently (for the past few months) I've been attending an Anglican church (early Sunday morning service; traditional liturgy) and I'm longing to be a "part of the family" ... and yet at the same time, I'm afraid.

The people are lovely and caring. I love the liturgy. The interim minister (who is Lutheran) is friendly and a good preacher. The church building is beautiful in an old-timey traditional way. What's to be afraid of, you might wonder?

It's not this particular gathering of the church I'm afraid of. I'm realizing more and more how deeply my heart was broken a number of years ago when two churches in a row, which I attended with full-heartedness, both dissolved into bitterness and anger and terrible disunity, and one ended up closing down completely. To this day I cannot understand how such a thing could happen, how a family with God as their Father and Christ as their elder brother could tear into each other with such rancour. And I don't think I could bear to go through something like that again. Probably it didn't help that at the same time I was dealing with my mom's dementia, and then both my parents' deaths within a year and a half and most of my children growing up and leaving home in that time period and so on, but out of all those things, the most heart-breaking to me was the acrimony among members of Christ's body. How, oh how, can that happen?

I have been part of a very small house church gathering in the intervening years, and I do love those people and I'm so grateful they accepted me as part of their family at a time when I was in so much pain. But I miss the sense of being part of the family of God across the world and through time--and I have been finding that in the Anglican communion. But oh my goodness--what if something happened and they split at the seams, too? Is it even possible to find a group of believers that really are in unity and will stay that way? How could it be that those who believe in Jesus could descend into such grievous disunity and pain? I don't understand. And yes, I'm afraid.

God, lead me, please.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Feeling Zombiefied

(originally journaled Feb 26, 2018)


I dread being relaxed ...

I hate how I can sit down in front of the TV and watch 3 or 4 episodes non-stop of repetitive stuff like forensics shows. Or slouch in front of the computer screen and scroll through endless Facebook memes. When I just glaze over and go with the flow--and end up feeling so guilty for wasting time.

I've been having a hard time avoiding screen time. Dear God, please help me fill those dull, empty spaces with things that will draw me into relationship with You and into loving others with Your love.

I feel like I've been zombiefied lately. I need to get active--but how? The more I work (and I've been working hard, especially brain work--tutoring, editing, writing), the more tired I become. Yet the more I sleep to overcome the tiredness, the more it increases. I feel like maybe I'm using sleep as a way to avoid something, though I don't know what. I'm so tired of blah days.

I don't care so much about happiness and pleasure and success. I just want Your joy.

I don't care so much about mushy human love and friends. I do want the love of God and neighbor that You offer and promise.

I don't care so much about solving wars and political upheavals (or even Christian/religious ones, which there seem to be a lot of these days). But I do long for contentment in You through Your peace that passes all human understanding (because that's the only way true peace will ever come).

I'm so tired of feeling zombiefied. Please awaken, enliven me with Your abundant life.

Amen.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Honor God and Parents--Or Tell Lies



I woke this morning and lay in bed wondering why it is so hard for me to tell the truth about the tiniest things that might have someone think negatively about me. I was pretty sure it had to do with the guilt and embarrassment I feel when I think people will not approve or will catch me out not doing the best I can do. "Study to show thyself approved unto God (and people, oh yes! people especially), a workman (a hardworking one)..."

But at the same time, I actually fear that if I am successful I will be guilty of pride, that core sin. If I reach too high or am pleased by even small successes, I am stepping out of my place in life which is to be a humble and obedient little Christian girl, thus pleasing God and grandma and church and sometimes parents too, who in turn were under pressure to raise me that way--and by extension, everyone else (humans more than God, I strongly suspect).

Yet at the same time, I know I believe, deep down, that I am supposed to do well, particularly in anything related to academic education, writing, and teaching, to please and reflect well on my dad, the teacher.

Further, when I commit any one of an endless number of thou-shalt-nots, I find myself faced with the deep urge to cover it up by telling a little white lie. And then I instantly feel guilty, because by lying I have broken one of the ten commandments. It matters not that when I look up those ten commandments, I can't find the one about lying. The closest is to not bear false witness against my neighbour--but it seems that what I am really doing when I tell one of these lies is that I am bearing false witness against myself in order to please others.

After I got up and started the day, I checked my Facebook and did something I rarely do--took one of those silly quizzes. This one was about "success blockers" and after just eight questions, it decided that my personal success blocker was "feeling unworthy." It explained this goes back to the preschool years when our brain mostly is using theta waves, the same kind used for hypnosis and meditation. We sponge up everything that comes our way, and it affects our subconscious for the rest of our life. That fit in pretty well with what I'd just been thinking about, don't you think?

So sometimes I lie because I feel unworthy, or more likely unapproved, and need people to think well of me--while at other times I feel I must cover up my illegal feelings of worthiness (pride, you know) to prove my humility. It's a hopeless balancing act, an unattainable tiptoe walk along a narrow fence line. Yet I can't seem to avoid it because it is buried deep inside me and I know it goes way back to my earliest days when I was faced with expectations that, in reflection, I think were impossible for a child to live up to.

I know those in authority over me meant well; I know they were trying their best to themselves obey God and be humble yet approved, and I have no doubt that they were probably raised under stronger strictures that I ever was. I even have no doubt that I've passed some of this on to my own children, while at the same time trying to be more relaxed and approving, then feeling guilty for doing so in case it might lead them astray.

Yes, I'm an adult now and have been for 40 plus years. Yes, I should be able to overcome that beginning. Or at least be able to figure out what parts of my upbringing were an overreaction and set that aside, holding to the many parts which were good. And yes, I've tried. And tried and tried. Occasionally I manage, a bit. But then I find myself telling another little white lie, quite frequently in fact.

Am I alone? Am I hopeless? Should I be trying harder? Am I "unapproved" by God because of all this? Is there a way out, an escape? The video I watched offered a free course on how to set aside one's success blockers and become successful--but I turned off the video at that point because I had that little voice in the back of my mind warning me against "worldly methods" ... but what else am I supposed to do? Why does it seem like all my prayers and Bible study and church attendance and participation and submission and seeking the guidance of God's Spirit, and so on and on and on, is not helping either?

Do you face this struggle? Is there an answer in this lifetime? How do those perfect, approved Christians do it? Or are they struggling, too? And maybe telling their own little white lies (and maybe even big ones sometimes)?

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Fitting the Puzzle Pieces Together

(Journaled February 20 ... and following up from my previous post!)



Sometimes life just seems to carry on, day after day, like a pile of jigsaw pieces scattered over a table, with no obvious pattern, direction, or picture emerging.

And then, all of a sudden, it seems like a few jigsaw pieces suddenly fall into place and, wonderful surprise, a piece of the picture emerges!

I've been having some of those serendipitous (as in, I'm sure, providential rather than accidental!) experiences lately. I was wondering and praying so long about what to do in regards to meeting with the church, feeling discouraged, not knowing where I might belong or be of help. Then we went through a "Spiritual Disciplines" study (which I'd written years ago, led once, and then shelved) at our house church gathering, and it surprisingly has given me a sense of Father's direction more than I've experienced or expected for a long time. Meantime, I started attending Anglican services (traditional ones, following the Book of Common Prayer) early on Sunday mornings, and I feel more and more at home there, though I still don't know what my part might be.

And daily, I'm so enjoying using Phyllis Tickles interdenominational Divine Hours and The Common Prayer pocket ed.(though I've also used the full edition in the past) and the Hymns of the Living Faith (which brings back so many memories of my Free Methodist childhood) and of course the Bible, using a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year chronological process for personal devotions, as well as my own prayer lists.

I have found myself actually managing to cut way back from sugar and chocolate and baked goodies for Lent. And have come to a much better understanding about tithes and offerings--from several sources at once. And rewatched The Shack movie with friends and was reminded of God's love, which gave me a renewed trust in Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) despite life's circumstances.

I've been spending time with Catholic folks and fellow teachers through a Catholic school I do tutoring contract for. I've also been amazed by the way Father has been bringing Christian writers and writing into my life lately, as I'd been feeling really quite conflicted about the state of "Christian writing" in the past few years. A friend's new memoir was an encouragement, even a revelation to me of God's work in her life even with all its ups and downs. And I've discovered some really helpful websites where Christian writers have been sharing their writing journeys from the perspective of being believers.

I attended a talk recently at our local college by a First Nations friend, Greg Younging, and bought a copy of his new aboriginal writer's style guide, Elements of Indigenous Style, which I'm looking forward to reading and using, as I have been looking for clearer direction in my own writing around indigenous issues on my HaidaGwaiiBuilding Bridges website and elsewhere. Although I've been married for 35 years to a First Nations man and we have 5 children with native status, and I've been deeply involved in many indigenous activities, I've become rather paralyzed with fear about writing on indigenous issues as a white person. I feel this book is an answer to help me overcome my fears and write responsibly and thoughtfully.

Even spending some time the other day talking with some eager "Mormon missionary boys" and seeing their love for the Lord and at the same time being able to share the gospel of Christ as I've known and understood it, encouraged me to reflect more clearly on what I really believe and why, share my faith more openly, and listen to others, find where they are on their spiritual journey, and share thoughts with them from my own experiences.

I am seeing God's path and ministry for me, at least in this season of my life, is to live His love to a wide variety of people--and leave the judging to Him, the only truly knowing and understanding judge of each heart. Sometimes I've felt worry and guilt because of thoughts that I might be too "liberal" and not "strictly evangelical Christian" as in how I was brought up. But here I am, and God knows my heart, and I am becoming far more assured that He is directing my paths, and giving me courage to share the gospel of the cross of Christ, and love Him and others with His love while leaving the work of the Holy Spirit up to Him. I do believe, more and more, that God is powerful enough to do His part (I think we often don't really believe that...) and that I can trust Him even when I can't "see" the answers to my prayers or understand His ways with my so-limited human heart.

A recent blog post from the Simple Church Journal, "Starting Churches Is Not the Mission," (by Roger Thoman) was a real encouragement to me, and a confirmation of how those jigsaw pieces in my spiritual puzzle have been fitting together. It stated:

Our mission always begins with people. The people whom God has called us to.... That is where we must begin to walk out an organic, Jesus-following, fruitful lifestyle with a Scriptural mission. And every one of us have different people that we are called to. Some of us are called to encourage and support out-of-church believers.... Some of us are called to work with people on the streets.... Some of us are called primarily to care for our own family for a season.... Some of us are called to work with [people of other religious beliefs].... Some of us are called to work primarily with [the groups of people we encounter in our work or recreation].... The ministry of reaching people, making disciples ... begins with the context of the people that God called you to.... the methods, and tools, and strategies will come out of the people you are called to work among. Stay there! ....focus on your mission to bring the Gospel and make disciples (followers) within that unique context.





Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Come Out From Among Unbelievers" Or ??

(Originally journaled February 15, 2018)


2 Corinthians 6: 14-18:
"Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? .... For we are the temple of the living God...
Therefore come out from among believers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don't touch your filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty."

Dear God, how far are we to take this "come out from among unbelievers"? This seems so harsh. How will they know we are Christians by our love if we aren't living Your love in relationship to them?

And how do we know whether or not others are truly seeking and following You--and when what they believe seems perhaps quite similar to my beliefs but is different in some points--and even whether or not I myself am truly seeking and following You? It just seems like this is a lot more complex than this scriptural advice might suggest.

Am I to totally avoid people who claim to be Christians but have what seem to be "fringe" beliefs--or whose lives, political leanings, even church services seem to have bought into the surrounding culture? Or? Am I to totally avoid people who are not believers? How then do I reach out with the gospel? And what if I'm not even sure about what I believe and whether or not I'm really on Your path?

Please, please show me Yourself, show me Your truth, show me Father, Jesus, and your Holy Spirit. Help me to trust You, seek You, obey You, follow You. Please give me discernment. Please give me Your wisdom.  I want to trust You, no matter how things seem to me. I don't want to judge others, but leave judgment to You. How does that fit in with "coming out"?


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Transcendent



(originally journaled February 9, 2018)

I've been longing for a deeper walk with You, Lord.

I was listening to a radio program and one word, especially, hit me--"transcendent."

I have longed for years and years for opportunities to really study--but it never seemed the time was right, even though I got to kind of study alongside my husband when he was in Bible school; and to write and lead Bible Studies; and write those church newsletter articles; and participate in the street ministry; and blog, too.

And, recently, speaking engagements for Christian writers' groups (which made me feel a bit hypocritical, and actually made me realize how far I'd drifted from You).

And doing the Spiritual Disciplines study this winter.

But that word, "transcendent," (which was actually being used in a discussion about artificial intelligence [AI] and where it is taking us ... and the difference between super machine intelligence and general intelligence ... and how the latter is what, so far, separates us from machine intelligence)...

Well, You spoke to me through that word. I realized that in the past, my longing for study, though not wrong, was more based in my love of learning--a more intellectual, reasoning kind of approach--while now, in my older age, I am experiencing a longing to know You in a more intimate way.

To grow into Your mind (as in "Put on the mind of Christ") and to live in Your love and allow You to share it with others through me.

I did go through a time (or times, maybe) when I would hear Your voice and write it down and share it with others). But in that long period of depression and/or exhaustion, I seemed to totally lose that.

I am enjoying, even looking forward to my devotions again, with Your word and hymns and the Divine Hours and my written prayers. But I end with a feeling of "but shouldn't there be more?" I long to meditate, to hear Your voice. How?

Maybe I need to set aside my annual "read the Bible through" and just focus on one short scripture passage a day? And not forget to ask You to speak to me? "Centering prayer?" And not be afraid to write down what I hear--or don't.

Yes, I have been afraid. For a long time. Afraid to move from a rational (along with some emotional--peace, joy, etc.) knowing of You, to a more transcendent relationship with You--The Transcendent One.

Lord?

(And then I opened the hymn book and the first words I saw:
     Be very sure, be very sure
     Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.
     That Rock is Jesus ... the only one!)