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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Slipped moorings and feeling adrift

(Originally journaled October 27, 2014)

I've been wasting so much time in my life. Way too much TV, radio, newspaper, and certainly way too much email (subscribed to too much!) and facebook. And way, way, way too little time with You. I did start listening to Christian music for a bit, and I've been Bible reading very sporadically. But very little prayer--just little "arrow prayers" I guess, when people ask for prayer. Or maybe when I'm feeling desperate, occasionally.

It's been so long since I "longed" for You. I have wanted to, but I've just been so adrift. Yes, I did seem to slip my moorings when I was depressed. And then I was so "negative" about "church" and stuff. And I was "embarrassed" about "Christianity" and let that slide into being embarrassed about admitting to belief in You--and that led me to slide into really not following You actively.

I've gone through times when I really wasn't sure--intellectually--what I believed any more. Yet I never stopped knowing You are real, knowing I want to know You. (Even when the enemy--and maybe even my "brain"--questioned Your reality. The thing about that is that when it happened, I found myself defending Your reality because I know, in the deepest part of me, that You are REAL, and that I want, most of all, to be in relationship and to remain in, abide in You).

Yesterday we were reading John 15 at our church gathering.  Reading about You, Jesus, being the vine--and how apart from You we can't "bear fruit." Indeed, apart from You we can do nothing! And we certainly can't be "in the Father" unless we "remain in You." (I was concerned about the "bearing fruit" part because all my life I have felt a failure and guilty for not "bearing fruit" because I don't seem to be able to "count" anyone who I've "led to the Lord" to "say the sinner's prayer" or whatever (unless I "count" some of my kids when they were little--and yet, have my doubts during their teen years driven them away?).

John 15:9ff "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.... My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.... You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

Do I believe this? So many seemingly unanswered prayers back when I was so energetically "following" ... and oddly enough, so much protection and care in the past few years when I have not been trying to, working at, following hard ...

There's one thing of which I'm now convinced: Your love doesn't fail. But I'm still a bit puzzled about the "whatever you ask" part. And I'm scared to ask anything except "Your will be done"--but maybe that's the point! After all, Jesus, You Yourself said you did nothing, said nothing, except what Father said. Maybe prayer is listening--and asking only, "Your will be done." Could it be?

Yes, it is time to get back into some discipline in my life, to make sure I have time set aside especially for You. For Bible reading and study, writing (journaling with You most of all), praying (and in that, really listening) ... and making the best of the rest of my time. Not frittering it away.

But most of all--I want to HEAR YOUR VOICE AND DO WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO ... and trust You to take care of the things I really can't (which is a lot).

Archbishop Oscar Romero:  "We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.... We cannot do everything.... It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the results... We are prophets of a future not our own."

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Hanging onto reason and fearing dementia

(Originally journaled March 4 and April 9, 2014)

On CBC last night, I heard someone talking about dementia, and they said the reason we have such a hard time dealing with it, and why we dread it so much is that we've really bought into what Descartes said: "I think, therefore I am."

But what if that isn't true? What if our ability to reason is only a small part of who we are? And if it is only a small part, can dementia then actually be such a terrible thing after all?

I was recently visiting with an American friend and was so amazed at her "American sensibilities," the way she sees life and society and all. And then I began to doubt whether my own ideals, beliefs, thoughts are really "right" after all. I keep catching myself doing and saying and thinking things that I am sure other people think are pretty weird,  inconsistent, hypocritical--or just plain wrong or evil. Things based on what I've been "taught" rather than in what "is." Based on my white-middle-class-Judeo-Christian-Canadian upbringing and "values."

And so much of the time ... NOT coming "from the inside of God" but rather "from within my own sensibilities and capacities." (Jack Bernard)

These "capacities" include my "ability" to think things through, to reason. It's an ability I have often prided myself on. I see more and more clearly now how limited my thinking capacities are. I see so many other viewpoints. I state my case, and then others point out theirs--and I can see their side, too, and I try to integrate that as well. Sometimes it works; their thoughts add to mine and seem to make mine more complete or accurate.

But sometimes it seems to me that I must be wrong after all and I may well have to toss out my dearly held thoughts (and actions). And sometimes I just find myself confused. I am more and more convinced of my weaknesses and limitations--which is not always a pleasant realization.

Sometimes (often!) I worry that I am "losing it" too. I hate when I can't think of the "right word." It terrifies me! And when I hear or read things, and I can't immediately remember all the details, or worse, I'm not even "sure" of the "gist," so I read and re-read, and come out still wondering. I used to just think, "Oh that's right!" or "Oh, that's wrong!" But now it's never so simple. Sometimes I think that's because I'm getting "older and wiser" and seeing that life is not nearly so simple, but then I fearfully think that maybe I'm just "losing it."

And You know I don't want to lose it.

Of course, if I were a "good Christian" I'd find it easy to lay that down at the cross, too. (Another fallacy, I think! It is never easy, in my experience, to lay down anything that we value. To let go, realizing that in many situations, there really is "no hope in me" solving a situation.)

And I already know that there's "no hope in me" as far as there being any final "choice" in "losing it or not." But what I'm really terrified of is being CUT OFF from You. It's cruel enough to be cut off from other humans--but how can You let us be cut off from You? Maybe we aren't, but how do I know that? HOW DO I KNOW THAT?

"Just trust." That's so difficult because I want evidence, not just promises. Do You even promise that? "I will be with you, even unto the end of the world." Okay. Even if I can't respond? (Isn't "responding" essential? Or maybe not? Maybe resting is more needful?)

Fear: Will You still love me? I guess Your view of my identity and value is different than mine.

(Even from birth, some people never have--apparently--the ability to think or respond, and we assume You love them. So I guess You'd still love me anyway ... maybe even more. (Okay, I know that's not possible, Your loving "more" or "less" ... but I'm thinking in a "mother hen" protective way, I guess.)

A friend told me that her mom, who has dementia, was yelling at You. I really don't blame her one bit. I wonder if  my Mom felt like yelling out at You, too, when she had dementia--or if she just trusted You? Or?  I guess there are some things we'll never know ... and maybe that we don't need to know ... IF we can trustingly live in and for You who art LOVE. (It would be nice to be able to trust You like that. Can You help me do that? Please?)

"Lord, reveal to us all that makes itself an enemy to the life You want for us. Amen."

I've thought of dementia as such an enemy. But maybe it isn't. Maybe dementia just "is what it is" ... but my reaction is the enemy.  Open my eyes, Please!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Little White Lies

(originally journaled April 3 2014)

Father, I feel sick. Feeling bad because the next door neighbour told me it wasn't neighborly (and he's right) to trim his tree on my side of the fence without asking him first (though it is legal).  I told him we mentioned it long ago, but he says he doesn't remember. The thing is, I don't remember either... though L says I did ... the thing is, I should have told/asked the guy... and I should not say things that are untrue or even that I'm not sure of. This is a big problem that I have--telling untruths--even if they have some truth to them (which I can't even be sure of in this case!)--to cover my butt!

O dear God, please help me have the courage to tell the truth. All my life, pretty much, I've been concocting little half-truths and little lies to cover myself when people accuse me or when I think I'm in trouble. And I tell myself they're just "little white lies." But there is no such thing. Lies are lies. Maybe it was because there were so many "rules" growing up--and so much fear of getting caught: spankings, other punishments, shame, "sin."  Getting "caught"--even for things I did not do--was not acceptable to me. Better to stretch the truth--even lie. Ha! Wrong. But it sure seemed safer at the time. And still does. Yes, it's a long-time bad habit. But it also still comes from fear. And instills guilt and feeling sick.

Okay, so in this instance, guilt is good because it's pointing me to sort this out with You. Please forgive me. And please help me work this out with the neighbor. Your way (and Your courage). (Doing right is not always easy! Often it isn't...) (You know!)

How is it that I fear the anger, disgust, disapproval of the world so much? Why can't I seem to get it into my mind and heart and being that You are infinitely more precious and worthy and awesome--and that You love me! Help me, please!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Year and a Half Later and Has Anything Changed in the World?

(originally journaled Aug 11, 2014)

It has been a depressing round of news this summer. Starting with the teacher strike in May/June, which could now extend into Sept/Oct); all the wars in the Middle East, mostly with Muslim extremists taking over big areas and beheading children and forcing young girls into marriage and forcing FGM on girls and women and killing Christians and other kinds of Muslims etc. en masse; and the civil war in Ukraine and the Malaysian airplane shot down with almost 300 dead (and the other Malaysian flight that went missing over the Indian Ocean a couple months earlier); and the foolish stuff that media spends big time reporting on, while they totally ignore way more serious stuff (because ratings are important of course; and also because of who the media are run by, both corporations and government); and all kinds of horrible environmental issues, like the ongoing pipeline disputes; and this past week the big mine tailings disaster up by Likely, BC.; and on and on and on. And it all makes me feel just sick.

I probably should just "ignore it"--but how can I? I just cannot understand how human beings can be so evil. (I've started reading through the Bible again, and it seems that the world has always been a cruel, cruel place. And yet there have always been pretty decent people--but the bad ones generally rule the roost. It seems like in the "western world" I was "privileged" to grow up in during the second half of the 20th century, there was a brief time of relative peace and calm (I think the atomic bomb and 2 world wars kind of scared folks for a while). But really, even during this seemingly peaceful and calm time there have still been lots of horrible things happening--Vietnam, Middle East, Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, the Balkans .... Maybe we just managed to ignore it since we've been pretty "safe" here in North America (until 911 anyway).

But meantime our own country is being torn apart environmentally for the sake of $$$$ for big multinationals who don't care about anyone or anything except their own  base profit line. And when people do try to rise up (Idle No More; the 99% vs the 1% uprising, etc.), how can we really fight big government and big corporations? Watching some documentaries on Auschwitz last night--and wondering how much longer till we ourselves fall into that kind of evil? After all, it's happening in places all over the world right now, especially the ISIS (or IS Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria.

There are people who say that the elites are happy about it, supporting it, so that large populations can be wiped out and the elites can have even more control. But control over what? Who wants to be in control of a devastated planet, with the few remaining "regular folks" in dire circumstances? I've heard the elites are buying up all the remaining decent lands and plan to set up their own little enclaves and let the rest of the world just die (and yes, what about climate change and all the other "natural disasters"? Earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. Are there really more than in the past? Is this different than before? Is "mother nature"--and/or God!?--rising up in judgment?

Why, why, why do people want to be so rich? What's with that?

I am sitting here looking at all my learning supplies. I want to give free lessons. I still would love to live in an intentional, cooperative community where others could make whatever minimal amount of money is needed to survive--while I could be "grandma teacher" and help with gardening, etc.

I read all the comments on the news items--there are so many good, caring people, people who want a world of justice--but there are also so many rude, crude, racist, selfish, ignorant people out there.

How can anyone continue to support the neo-Con policies of Harper and Christie Clark--and, south of the border, the American Republicans and Democrats, both?

I wonder if President Obama had any idea at all what he was getting himself into? Did he really have all those dreams (or was it just political rhetoric)? It's been just--what? 6 years or so?--since he first became president, and he looks like he's aged 20 or 30 years.

And whatever happened to "democracy"? What we have now certainly isn't democratic in any traditional meaning of the term, and it's getting farther away from it day by day. (And Christianity isn't "democratic" either, despite what some politicos and their followers seem to think...)

(And "free market capitalism" is so not Christian, despite what a lot of "Christian" politicos--and their voting followers--claim. It's all about greed and destruction and power ... evil!)

Okay, well ... I just had to get that out of me.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Your truth, Your church, Your dreams

(originally journaled Feb 20, 2014)

"Every truth without exception--and whoever may utter it--is from the Holy Spirit." --Thomas Aquinas

Jesus promised to send the "Spirit of Truth"--and we sing--with truth--"All over the world the Spirit is moving, all over the world, as the prophet said it would be; all over the world, there's a mighty revelation of the Spirit of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

Yes, there is a mighty revelation, if we--if I!--open my eyes and ears to see and hear it--open my heart and mind to You!

I'm afraid many times we are far too narrow in defining "truth," wrapping up our private version in a neat little box and holding on tight to it, sharing it only with a few chosen, "trusted" others, those we believe will agree and hold on to it tightly with us. We do the same with You, of course--or rather, our personal version of You, because we can never wrap You in a box of our making. How presumptuous that the created thinks it can contain and determine access to and control over the Creator--or even truly know and understand more than a small part of You.

Yes, I do believe all truth comes from You...

And that much of what we call "truth" is only partly so, corrupted and condensed, summarized, simplified as truth is when it is held in human hands, because our sinful nature does corrupt all it touches. And yet You, THE Truth, can never be corrupted--it is just our version, our understanding, that is corrupted.

You shine bright, always.

"Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference--so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked." (Frederick Douglas)

And yet You love Your church--but aha! It is the people You love, Your people, Your children: Your children are the church. Not the physical buildings and programs and systems that we physical beings seem to need. Just You and Your children, washed in the blood of Jesus--and in Your eyes good, pure, and holy.

It is so hard for me to imagine that!

How different You are from us! How amazing!

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen"

"Lift us by awe at the things we see: To set our minds on none but thee."

I've been struggling with the concept of dreams--maybe because "my dreams" are simply too small--too much me!

"Jesus, even in our waking, grant us dreams by which to guide our lives. Make us dream of justice for the oppressed, reunions for those torn from loved ones, hospitality for immigrants, and the healing of all wounds. Amen."

And yes, You use us to work out and fulfill these dreams in human lives--if we are listening to You, and are willing to walk alongside and be conduits of You!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

More about liturgy and other questions

(Originally journalled February 2-3, 2014)

I wonder . . . how did my mom and dad feel about those three "Anglican" years in the small community where there was no choice? About about what "evangelicals" said about "those liberals"? Did they just "grit their teeth" and put up with it until they could get to larger towns where "real Christian" churches were? I remember Mom said she always felt the lay reader there was a "real Christian." That's something, I guess . . . I just can't imagine my mom--or grandpa--feeling that way. . . judgmental, it sounds like to me now . . . and yet . . .

Well, I am going to meet with a dear friend who is Catholic (and was Protestant at one time). I'm not looking to "convert" I don't think . . . I just want to hear from someone else who was maybe also looking for something "deeper" and found at least something of what they were looking for.

I've talked to some of the ladies in the "Writing Group of 7" who looked outside the church (into "new age" and "metaphysics" ) . . . and I know that is not the Way nor the answer (or depth) I seek.

I asked my husband about "believing" and he says the thing is to be "discerning." He says when people believe something, it is real to them. And that there are good realities and bad realities . . . and that if you watch people for a while, you will see (in their behaviors and attitudes) what side they are following and believing in . . . and if you are discerning, you will be able to sense which side it is, too, just talking to them or whatever, I guess.

A friend was looking at my "Common Prayer-Pocket Edition" last night. I commented briefly on it . . . and his response was, "I don't like liturgies." I said, "Oh." And then, "Because you were brought up Catholic?" "Yes." "And it was stuffed down your throat?" I added, but he didn't hear me or just didn't answer.

I've been wanting to be able to "believe" like this one or that one, or be "accepting and comfortable" like this one or that one . . .

But I am wondering, right now, if that isn't right . . . because You have made every one of us uniquely; You have placed every one of us in different circumstances. And even though You want us to be family and community, at the same time You want us to know You individually, child and Father, as well as communally, children/family and Father.

So that is not going to look the same for each of us.

It just hit me, right now (Your voice?) that even in the Old Testament, although there were many communal commandments and rituals, when we look at all the different individuals, their personal "relationships" with You were really quite different. They really weren't "cookie cutter." And the same was true in the NT--and through history.

I'm thinking it is possible--even desirable--to have individuality within unity and community and family. Even in human family relationships, though we have general behaviors and attitudes and values we share, and that provide unity and cohesion, at the same time we never have exactly the same relationships. I have 5 children, and though I did my utmost best to "treat them equally," the fact of the matter is that each mother-child relationship has been very different. BUT all are founded in love . . . and though sometimes there have been very rocky moments, individually and in the family as a group, we are family, and we do have an amazing amount of unity and community.

So I don't know, Father, how far that stretches in relation to "believing in You," in "relationship with You," but I suspect pretty far. Yet at some point, there is a line . . . isn't there?

Is there evil? Yes.

Do You want holiness, goodness, love? Yes.

Do we live in a space right now where we tend to slip and slide between? Yes.

Can I even imagine pure goodness right now? No.

But at the same time, evil distresses me more and more, and I sense evil in myself more than ever before, so I'd say, Yes, You are guiding me over to Your side.

It would be easier to "be bold" if I could "be sure." And that's true whether I "believe in a set doctrine," or whether I "believe in and know You." I need to know You MORE, don't I? Deeper!

I think one of the things about liturgy and community is that we get a chance to know You more and better as we see You through the eyes and hearts and lives of others. We have a shared foundation of Your love and Your sacrifice and Your salvation. We have the chance to "know You" more through others--and at the same time to know You personally, individually, uniquely. We need all those ways, I think.

Some people just make it simple, and say You are not. That You don't exist. That even if You did at one time "exist" as part of our mind, our survival mechanism, You are not needed anymore.

But then the majority of such people still speak of love, hate, values, purpose . . . which, if all is simply mechanistic and a result of random chance, can not be real or exist either. At all. To really be an "athiest" one must also be a full anarchist . . . yet, by defining "anarchy," we are, even then, "believing" something beyond simple mechanistic principles of physical science. It seems to me that we cannot escape You. Therefore, the question is, Who are You? And how can we know You? I mean, really know You?

Perhaps it is more about You knowing us, than vice versa.

I feel like I need an anchor to ride out this storm that is life. I know, I know . . . You (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit) are "the anchor." And Jesus in the flesh was also provided as an anchor, a touchable, physical one for those who saw You. But maybe Your church is also meant to be a kind of anchor--one that stretches across time and through all the places.

Okay, one last question, which I barely dare to even write down . . .

What about all the other people who don't "know You" in the "Christian way"? What about that?

And what ARE the "boundaries" of the "Christian way"?

And what happens to everyone outside those boundaries? And is that "fair"?

Or does "fairness" have anything to do with it? How can God "be love" and yet not be fair? And why, if we are made in Your image, do we have such a longing for "fairness"? And what is it, even? Not "equality," I don't think . . .

Why is everything so complex? Have I just been going through a "desert experience" to, paradoxically (there we go again), draw me close to Yourself?

Am I supposed to "just trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey"?  (And why does that sound so simplistic--and even desperate?)

Okay, I have a million other questions, but I have to stop for now. My tummy is hurting, like ulcers.

(I was shaking, driving to the Anglican church yesterday . . . like I do when I'm kind of terrified, but also excited and hopeful . . .)

Friday, 11 December 2015

Why I like liturgical services

(journalled Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014)

Woke up early this morning. I summoned up my courage--and went to the 8 am traditional "Common Prayer/Communion" service at St. Savior's Anglican Church. There were maybe 20 or so seniors, me, and one guy maybe in his thirties or forties.

They used the traditional book of Common Prayer, plus a hymn book, plus a bulletin with today's scripture readings and collect. I recognized many of the prayers, the Nicene Creed, the responses, and the Communion order of service, and was even able to repeat some parts quite accurately, even though it has been a long time since I attended Anglican services.

I enjoyed the hymns instead of just "worship choruses." I enjoyed the prayers.

But when it came time for communion, tears were trickling down my cheeks, though I didn't go up for communion. It was like a great dam in my heart was springing a leak. The tears were coming down before I even "felt" anything . . . except that in some very deep and profound way, I was "home."

I wonder . . . I remember loving the Anglican service in Keremeos ... and Old Massett . . . and Masset . . . and and in those places too, I felt at home. I wonder if it might have some relationship to my earliest memories when my parents went to the Anglican Church in Masset (and sometimes Old Massett) when I was very small. I remember Mom said they often had to get a baby-sitter because young children were frowned upon in the Masset church (too noisy). But still, I must have been there sometimes. Maybe it's "home" like the town of Masset was "home" when I went back as an adult after being gone for 22 years. Maybe those early years really do have a really profound imprint.

Yet I have, at the same time (and always have had) this slightly "guilty" feeling -- judged feeling -- for going to a "liberal" church, where, supposedly, it's all "social gospel" and "ritual" and way too much "liturgy" and "tradition."  That, too, was implanted in me from my earliest years, as letters between my parents and grandparents in those times show. It was such a big deal then, the differences between denominations. So sad . . .

Yet, in actually attending Anglican services over the years (at first because it was the only choice in a small town, but soon enough because I found I loved it), I have found only "home" and "family" and yes, tradition, deep roots that stretch through time and history and around the globe--a true sense of "the church universal" . . . and a lack of judgment . . .

I told my husband that I felt this morning that the people (and the service, and the atmosphere) were, well, gentle. I felt like a little child wrapped in a soft blanket and held close in my mother's or father's or grandfather's arms/lap.

Why did I not take communion? Scared. Afraid of getting drawn in, perhaps (I'd truly rather go there than to "evangelical churches" or even to the small house church Sunday gathering I've been attending. Though I wouldn't mind both the Sunday gathering and the Anglican service. I think I'd really feel like I'd been both fed, and had Sabbath rest! I don't expect they'd mind, either.

I also felt . . . yes, the load of my sin (we avoid that in "evangelicalism." We talk about the glory of the cross, about its victory, about its forgiveness, but when we don't  really speak what we have been rescued from, then where is the glory, I wonder?)

And I felt the sense of awe and wonder . . . of the majesty of God, I suppose . . . and the fullness of God. I feel like so many Christians ("evangelicals," the ones who feel so smugly superior to the "liberal social gospel types," who, yes, feel the "liberals" really aren't Christians at all), well I feel like their God, all loving and personal and Fatherly and "intimate" . . . that their view of Him is really awfully shallow. I miss the "deep, slow moving river" I find in the Anglican liturgy; even if it is not nearly as "exciting" as the "springs of living water" that some churches constantly celebrate.