Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Looking Back for Assurance and Thinking About Prayer

When I'm going through a "dry spell" (AKA wilderness experience), it's helpful to look back through my journals and be reminded of past moments when I was feeling more light. (A good reason to journal). Here's an  example:

(Journaled August 14, 2017)

Well! I had a wonderful "mini-retreat" kind of weekend ... and feel much more assured you love me, are with me, approve of me ... and are guiding me even when I don't "see" it in any emotional or "concrete" way. But on the other hand, this whole weekend has provided pretty concrete assurance You are in me, in my life.

Yes, I'd like to somehow be more "clearly Christian" and reach out to people more clearly and be surer that I'm including You in all my daily activities, but I am glad to know You are with and in me even without the "for sure, clearly."

The Flee, Be Silent, Pray book has been a great help and assurance, and I feel relieved at the thought of being able to have short devotional times a few times daily vs intensive many chapters of reading and long prayers.

I've been wondering about so many people with their "needs." I always remember hearing about that girl in India who would pray by name for 500 or 600 people every night. And great men of the church who'd pray for 4 or more hours a day on their knees in the closet or at their bedside, wearing dips right into the floor. And Susanna Wesley's prayer times with her apron over her head while her dozen kids ran around (though she did have a cook, gardener, and maids). 

We were so taught that real, great Christians prayed and prayed and prayed—until they "broke through"--though these mostly seemed to be clergymen with wives to take care of the home and family or single people without too many daily responsibilities. :-)

I've always been attracted more by Brother Lawrence's approach, which is much more related to being aware of and listening to You in all the little moments of the day (as explained in The Practice of the Presence of God). And the books I've been reading lately, like The Divine Hours and Contemplative Prayer and The Examen seem to line up with this path. I've been finding the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Claiborne's Common Prayer helpful in this way, too.

Rational to Transcendent

(originally journaled Feb 9/18)

I was listening to a discussion on the radio 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 AI). They were using the word "transcendent" and You spoke to me through that word.

I realized that in the past, my longing for study, though not "wrong," was more based on my "love of learning"--an intellectual, reasoning, rational approach—which now as I'm getting older, 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.

Some years ago, I did go through times when I would hear You and write it down and share it with others. But then came a long period of depression and exhaustion—and avoiding "churchy" things—and I seemed to lose any ability to hear You.

I'm back to doing "devotions" again—scripture, hymns, Divine Hours, personal prayers—but so much of the time I end up feeling "but shouldn't there be more?"

Part of it, I know, is that I'm afraid to write things down that I do hear from You. Afraid of what people might think, yes. But also afraid to move from a rational (with a bit of emotional) knowing of You to a more transcendent relationship with You, the Transcendent One. Lord?

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Simplicity vs Clutter

(originally journaled Jan 8 2017)

I'm feeling overwhelmed by "clutter" ... so much stuff I truly don't need or even want. My life feels cluttered.

I want simplicity: " ... the arrangement of life around a few consistent purposes, explicitly excluding what is not necessary to human well-being." (Willard)

I'm afraid this constant drive I have to learn, learn, learn, teach, teach, teach, write, write, write, discuss, discuss, discuss, reason, reason, reason—may be driven to a large degree by my fear of dementia. Every time I forget a word I begin to panic (and then I really can't remember it).

Oh dear God, I want peace. And I don't think peace comes with dementia. My mom was such a peaceful person (in You, I'm sure), and then the dementia took her peace away. She became worried and upset as she realized what was happening. She did some bizarre things she would never have done before. Yet at the end, the nurses on the dementia ward commented on how very peaceful she was in her last days. No fear. No worry. Sweetness and gentleness (like she used to be).

But generally, so far as I can see (I spent several years visiting my mom in dementia care units, and so I saw plenty of it), dementia does not seem to be a peaceful state, at least until the patient doesn't seem to know anyone or anything anymore. (And even then, some become more and more unpeaceful... Maybe they're people who never learned to trust You? Or?).

Is it all right to ask You this: Where are You when dementia takes over? Are You still present? Are people with dementia aware deep within of Your presence?

And what about people with serious mental illness? Children born with serious issues who never develop mentally or spend their lives in bodies that don't function? People who never did anything wrong to "deserve" it?

I get (mostly) that what You think is worthwhile and important is way different from what we think. But I feel like time is just rushing by and my life is so busy-busy and cluttered, yet with all my effort I'm not doing anything truly worthwhile for myself or my family or anyone else—even for You. I see so many failings on my part.

Oh! But just now I am experiencing a deep sense You are pleased with me even if I can't see anything particularly worthwhile. Peace in the midst of my self-induced storm. You really do love me, don't You? Amazing grace. Thank you.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Stories I've Bought Into?

(originally journaled August 5, 2017)

(And now, a year and a half later, too much of this is still true. Truly, it is time for change!)

My brain is going all over the place. Scattered. Lack of focus.

Maybe I really do need to do that DIY MFA ( with lots of reading—and writing. Maybe I do long for my dream of intentional community where I could be the granny teacher/facilitator/intellectual/thinker.

Is it all right to dream? Or is it greedy? Or foolish? Or self-centred?

happened to listen to an interview on CBC Radio with Harold Johnson, author of "Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours)." He said we believe stories. That's why they are so powerful. But if a story is casting us as victims (or other negative things) we need to change the story. We need to make a new story and believe it and act on it.

I think that is right. He talked about "the drunk Indian" story but I think it is also true about other stories we tell ourselves. Or stories others have told us about ourselves and have accepted.

Personally, I think that is why I feel so tired, exhausted, sort of depressed these days: I am believing stories like:

- I am old. (Is 62 really too old to start something fresh and new? Nah ... right?)

- I am likely going to have dementia since my mom and both her sisters have died from it, so it seems like it might be hereditary (but her brother is in his eighties and is still an active lawyer, so what about that?) (and all the girls' dementias were different types, from different causes). And every time I have a little "forgetful moment" (peoples' names, occasional words), I panic and think, "Oh no, it's already happening, so there's no point, no hope in starting something new."

- I can't afford to start something fresh and new because we've always been on the edge financially, and hubby is on disability, and we don't have a big pension to look forward to (and anyway, getting rich ... or even too comfortable ... is potentially dangerous, sinful, isn't it? I seem to recall hearing that little sermon many times back in the day).

- I never got a chance to get my PhD because I made "choices" (bad ones, apparently) so I don't deserve to be a specialist or an expert or whatever. (And anyway, that's not a Christian woman's place in the world, is it? Another sermon I heard a lot back in the day...)

- I'm tired of "obeying" other people, doing what they think is best for me, but all my life I've been obedient (yeah, submissive) to people in "authority" because that is what women (and especially Christian women) are supposed to do? Yep, I'm feeling really rebellious about that sermon...

- I'm kind of "stuck" with tutoring and editing because they make me enough money to pay the bills ... even though I want to do less of them and more writing.

- When I look at all the writing out there in the big wide world, I tell myself I have nothing truly significant to write about, and I'm really not that smart ... and even if I am smart (I must have been a wee bit smart since I was in the gifted program in school, and completed university in fewer years than normally expected, right?) ... anyway, even if I am relatively smart, I should be humble and not let on ... (yes, another oft-heard sermon).

Right. Those are stories I have bought into. Those are stories I want to toss.

I've been doing what I believe. But I don't want to believe those stories anymore.

I want to create new stories. Positive stories. It's time! Now!

Dare I? I so, so, so want to!

Lord? Please!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Longing for Deeper Belief and Deeper Following

(originally journaled February 1, 2017)

Part of my prayers over the past year, in the "launching out into the deep" part, have been for a renewal of hope for eternity in God's kingdom. I don't know how I lost that so much ... listening to people who believe here and now is the kingdom (or for whom at least the present is the emphasis and the future is ignored); listening to others who scoff at the evangelical twentieth century (and further back) emphasis on the "ABC's of salvation" and "giving your heart to Jesus" to get fire insurance ... or maybe just my general questioning and doubts about almost everything except for Your ultimate existence, maybe from some of my "friends" but also maybe from my own deep discouragement I've gone through (and maybe YOU allowed it to allow me, in the end, to long for You most of all).

But whatever--at some point as I read that prayer over and over, I started longing for deeper belief and deeper following, living in You.

I longed for a renewed understanding, appreciation for, yes, need for, Your blood ... and then You pointed me to that writing about "Will I stand in God's house by night ... and become united with Him in His suffering..."

And then the other morning I awoke humming, "Mercy there was great and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me, There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary." And I have added both of those to my prayers. And this morning I woke humming, "What a day that will be when my Jesus I will see..." and I'll be adding that to my prayers, too.

Maybe a couple weeks ago, a Facebook activity was posted in which snatches of lyrics from 15 old hymns were listed, and the player was to choose (from 3 choices each), the name of each hymn. I haven't heard or sung any of those songs for years, and yet I got 15/15. I posted it and all kinds of other people, even those who no longer consider themselves Christians, were also getting 15/15 based on childhood memories ... people now in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Time to start listening to, and/or reading, those old hymns again. For sure, a treasure stored in our hearts and minds, if only we are willing to have You reopen them for us. Thank You!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Inerrancy, Doubts, and Faith

I’ve been talking to S. about our struggles with the Bible—especially as taking it as “inerrant truth.” Both she and I struggle with that “faith” in the Bible stories as precise, historical truth. I think of how I accepted them without question as a child and passed them on that way. But later they have become a real source of questioning, even of doubt, for me--and also for some of those to whom I taught the stories as historical fact.

Yet I also suffer from “guilt” for even questioning my “faith” in the stories as presented. And for wondering if God really did tell the Israelites, for example, to kill every living person and animals, and other things like that. I find myself wondering if they interpreted their understanding of God and his ways through the dominant tribalistic cultural ways of their time (don’t we still do the same)? And if so, what does that say about the “inerrant truth” of scripture? 

I see God revealing Himself overall (and especially through Jesus), but at the same time, I wonder how much in the Bible is man’s understanding and interpretation? I wonder what the Bible would sound like and focus on if it were written today—even by faithful, well-meaning, knowledgeable Christians who are doing their best to serve God and to love and follow and believe in Jesus? How might people a hundred or thousand years from now look back at the books we have written in our era about “what God has told me.” 

For that matter, we often look askance at interpretations by present Christian people we admire generally but have a hard time believing God really told them this or that. In fact, I have had plenty of doubts, looking back (sometimes not too far—or even presently) at things I’ve been pretty sure He’s been “telling” or “directing” me (including things I've written in this blog. I've thought of going through and removing some things--but the blog is a "Journey" as the title says, and those things are part of it). Things that seemed right in the moment, but it didn't take long for me to have second thoughts. 

How oh how do we possibly know and understand these "matters of faith"? I really do think we truly still, even with all our knowledge and theology, “see through a glass darkly”—and yes, will continue to do so until we “see face to face.” 

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Off Track and Welcome Back

(originally journaled May 20, 2018)

Yesterday a friend posted on Facebook, wondering if it's possible to return to Jesus without having to deal with church. I responded, sharing a few of my own fears (such as being afraid I won't be accepted after I've "denied" God to some degree ... embarrassed about what people might say ... fear of maybe having to go to church and/or do other things I don't want to or am afraid of).

Lord, Your will be done ... and please forgive my denials. Please? You know I still worry about that a lot even though it's pretty apparent You called me back--a miracle in itself. And You know, too, that I sometimes have moments when I wonder if You are real--when I'm not having any "emotional experiences" and I'm still being influenced by the walking away times... and I know the enemy is trying to pull me back. Though I'm pretty sure I never did reach a time when I really didn't believe. Well, I know it's an "intellectual wondering" as deep inside I've always known You are with me, always have been. You don't let your children go, do You? (Unless they really want to, I guess...).

Been thinking a lot lately about that Chuck Girard song from back when I was a teen:
Welcome back to the things that you once believed in/ Welcome back to what you knew was right from the start/ ... I know that you thought you could turn your back/ ... But I can see that you know better now/ ... and I'm so happy now to welcome you back/ Sometimes you just don't know what you're missing/ Til you leave it for awhile/ Welcome back to Jesus.
I've found myself wondering, lately, where I got so off-track for so long. And why? But maybe it was a stripping kind of time, pulling away from parts of my faith that were extras, padding--that were blocking me from seeing You. Which is maybe why I'm nervous about picking up things like church.

I don't want to do things because I "should" but only because I believe and love you (even though it is still hard sometimes to know if I even do that ... It seems like that is the hardest part).

It's easier to "do things" that "show love" than to actually bare one's heart and be vulnerable and actually love. I don't like to be hurt. And I like to be intellectual because it feels safer. And it's easier to accept, too, because it can be proved. And I'm a bit skittish about things that can't be proved (like when I took an Apologetics course, and it seemed like so many things they tried to prove weren't provable in a dry, scientific way, and it just seemed like grasping at straws).

Faith is a hard thing because we can't see it, quantify it--and can't feel it emotionally, a lot of the time. Yet ... You've always been here with me. I've never doubted You (though I have doubted, and still do sometimes, the theology and theory of it).