Monday, December 23, 2013

A light shines in the darkness

"A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

A Word for those who need something to hold onto.

A Word that brings Hope to the hopeless.

A Word that alludes to the "here, but not yet".

A Word that defies the odds and looks to the day when a single flame will become a blazing fire - the Holy Spirit covering the entire earth.

Surprised by Hope - Ch. 1 - All Dressed Up and No Place To Go?

I'm finally starting to read N.T. Wright's Surprised By Hope and it's a pretty good read so far.  It addresses the disconnect I have often and more increasingly felt with "typical" Christian belief in life after death and the present time and reality of the world we live in.  We seem to throw away the created world in preference for a future ether-like existence.

Mr. Wright sums up this fracturing of "this world" and "the world to come" in his first chapter after describing 5 distinct pictures of death (emphasis mine):

This book addresses two questions that have often been dealt with entirely separately but that, I passionately believe, belong tightly together. First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present? And the main answer can be put like this.  As long as we see Christian hope in terms of "going to heaven," of a salvation that is essentially away from this world, the two questions are bound to appear unrelated. Indeed, some insist angrily that to ask the second at all is to ignore the first one, which is really the important one.  This in turn make some others angry when people talk of resurrection, as if this might draw attention away from the really important and pressing matters of contemporary social concern. But if the Christian Hope is for God's new creation, for "new heavens and new earth," and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together.  And if that is so, we find that answering one is also answering the other.  I find that to many-not least, many Christians-all this comes as a surprise: both that the Christian Hope is surprisingly different from what they had assumed and that this same hope offers a coherent and energizing basis for work in today's world.

Yes, it seems as though us Christians, as well as our non-Christian brothers and sisters around us seem to be fairly confused over what it is that we believe about heaven and what it means to the here and now.  Is this current life just a stepping ground to next? Is this present life all there is? Or is the answer something that puts "here and now" and the future on the same level of importance and marries them together in a way that should have never been separated?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gotta Prioritze

You can't fit in the more important stuff after you filled your life with the less important filler.

This image of a jar with rocks, pebbles and sand came to mind to me this morning.  I realized that part of why I've been feeling so "off" lately is because I'm not learning to appropriately prioritize the things in my life.  It's not that the important things aren't valuable to me, but I just end up putting silly little things first and can't fit the big things into my day.

This is particularly the case in my walk with God.  I notice it especially at night when I should be going to sleep.  I would say protecting time to meditate on God's goodness as well as rest and sleep for my body should be considered "large rocks".  Instead I would spend too much time putzing around on the internet and going from video to video...further stimulating my overworked brain and making it harder to sleep.

I hope to reverse this and start to put the "big rocks" ahead of anything else.  What are the big rocks in your life that you are (inadvertently or otherwise) replacing with sand?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Writing big blog posts vs Keep it simple!

So, it's been a while since my last post.  I've had plenty going on in my life lately.  In October, I started an intensive "cohort" with my boyfriend and  The House of Saint Michael the Archangel (whew...mouthful!).  We are reading through the early church fathers, many whom chose the life of a desert solitary.  It's been interesting reading the perspective of one whose context is so vastly different from mine, and yet, finding a ton of good applicable stuff for my own life.  We meet every other month to discuss the readings.

I had this new post in my drafts since October.  I was going to post about our second reading of Evagrios the Solitary, but then time passed and we now had our 2nd meeting and have moved on to our 3rd set of readings.  I realized that I might have put too much pressure on myself to write about things in a fairly academic and well-crafted way.  This might be a mistake, because I will sit on big writing projects instead of actually doing them.  From now on, I will commit to write what I'm inspired to write.  If I need more time to post something more detailed I need to figure out how to do it in bite-sized pieces and not feel like I have to have a thesis paper every time I write and post.

Actually this fits well with where I'm at with my faith.  It's a vicious cycle, and it goes something like this:  I get in a slump and at some point I realize how blind and lost I have been.  I turn back to God and renew my commitment to spending time with Him.  I set up devotionals and books and other things.  Aaaaand then I fail to follow through because I made it way more complicated then it needs to be.  And the process much that each time feels even's hard to believe that God is the Father in the Prodigal Son story if the son KEEPS ON doing the same thing over and over and over again.

The problem, is that I'm making it about ME and how I can "pull myself up" on my own power.  Of course I'm going to fail, I fail at the gate because I'm trusting more in myself than the One who can actually bring changes to my heart.  The sermon this past Sunday at Church of the Ascension really brought this home to me: Yes, prepare the way for the Lord (which means prepare your heart)...however I need Christ even to level and fill in the bumps and crevices of my own heart before the Spirit can enter into it.  I need God all the time, not just when I "can't handle it myself".  I can't handle it, period.

The second problem, is that I somehow think change can happen overnight.  This is definitely not how heart-changes work.  I get so impatient with myself when I don't get things right away.  I need to be more patient with myself.  I also need to perhaps not set myself up for failure by thinking I need to do ALL the things in order to get in a relationship with God.  I need to focus on the small things: 5 minutes of intentional silence before God, saying a quick prayer when I feel tension at work, smiling at a homeless person instead of ignoring them, a small thank you before a meal, making sure I get sleep and rest so I am awake enough to go through my day and be a healthy person.

Basically, I need to do really the bare minimum with the hope that God will follow through and make the path straight so that Christ can help me with all the rest.  It starts here and if I try to jump ahead to the "next level of enlightenment" it's not going to work.  As I mentioned before, Richard Foster in his book on Prayer explains that Simple Prayer is the kind of prayer that everyone needs, no matter how far down the spiritual path they have walked.  To deny that basic, primal spiritual need for God is to deny the whole thing.  No one is beyond the simple stuff.  Indeed, I am starting to believe more and more that simple things are really what our faith journey is about.

Ok, so this blog didn't end up simple, but I had to start that way. :) Just like how God came to earth in such a simple state.  A child.  I need to likewise, become a child, in order to more fully receive Him.