Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thomas Merton

"This then is what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God; to cultivate an intellectual freedom from concepts and the image of created things in order to receive the secret contact of God in faith; to love all men as myself; to rest in humility and to find peace in withdrawal from conflict and competition with other men; to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads, judgement and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions that I have no obligation to carry; to have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down into its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God, poised in tranquil and effortless concemtration upon the point of my dependence on Him; to gather all that I am and have and all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of a perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God, to do His will. And then to wait in peace and emptiness and oblivion of all things.
Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

Friday, May 25, 2007

Life Goals

A couple years ago a friend told me about a list of things he wanted to do in his lifetime. He wrote it while he was in high school and by this point he had graduated college and realized his time was running out to accomplish some of the things on his list before the strains of adult life held fast their unrelenting hold on him. The most remarkable thing on his list was to run a marathon. This man was at least a hundred pounds away from running a marathon but that didn't stop him, it actually became greater motivation. He inspired me to come up with my own list. Now two years later I think I'm finally ready to give this list a try.

Life Goals:
1. Hike the entire Appalachian Trail
2. Run a Marathon
3. Spend a minimum of 8 years in another country
4. Adopt children
5. Write a book

Now we all know that dreaming about doing things is not enough. Unless we make concrete efforts to accomplish goals they will never get themselves done.
So here's where I'm at in accomplishing each of these things:
1. Looks like I'll begin preparing to make the voyage across 14 eastern states from March-September 2009.
2. I'm trying to run 2-3 times a week to maintain current shape but have not selected a marathon or year.
3. Preparing to work on a Servant Team with Word Made Flesh this fall to see if WMF would be an organization that I could serve with for many years.
4. I know that I want a boy from Africa and a girl from South East Asia but I'm single and in a transitional stage in life so I am not prepared to have kids of my own yet. I would prefer to wait until I'm married and plan to live in one place for several years before beginning the adoption process.
5. I have an outline for the book I want to write. I plan to work on the majority of it after graduation from Wheaton while working in Lubbock. Some before the AT and finishing after just before going overseas long-term. Approx. date of release: 2011.

There, that was a fun exercise. I'll come back to this in a year and see what kind of progress has been made. You should come up with a life goals list as well. No matter how young or old you are goals and very good to motivate us to constantly better ourselves and benefit the world we live in.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines

I'm in a wonderful class right now (week long) about Spiritual Formation and Witness. So far this class has really been refreshing and will just be a wonderful transition into a week by a lake in the forests of Maine (next week). Today we spent time discussion praying the Psalms. I prayed through Psalm 25, again. It's just been where my heart is lately. And then we wrote our own Psalms. Interesting but I think it gave me some perspective on why the Psalms are in the style and voice they are. Good exercises.

Just a refresher course for those not real familiar with the spiritual disciplines:
Most authors on the subject generally recognize two groups of disciplines, Abstinence and Engagement

The practices of abstinence include:
solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy (listen more interject less), sacrifice, and watching (such as Paul's practice of giving up sleep)

The practices of Engagement include:
study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission

What I want to wrestle with today is what luxuries or common things can actually be used for disciplines?
For instance I really enjoy my work because I get to practice service, fellowship, and sometimes secrecy. At work is one place where I can actively live out some of the disciplines. But I would be able to do the same if I worked elsewhere or even if I didn't work at all. The practices are not contingent on my job.
Another example is I like to have my Sundays free from anything except church so that the rest of the day can be free to participate in any of the disciplines. I keep one day completely free so that I can never use the excuse of being too busy to carve out space for solitude or fasting or prayer.
Are you getting the picture?
For a while I claimed my iPod was part of my routine of discipline because 90% of the music was Christian-ish or would at least be capable of evoking a worshipful or celebratory response. Now however, it just fills the silence with more comfortable clamor.
I have been reflecting upon my semester that included a tremendous amount of travels to places like NY, CT, MA, NH, KY, IN, MI, and the places in between. Soon I'll be headed to ME and then for a long journey through NE, CO, NM, and TX. Some of my journeys have been on the seat of a motorcycle. The bike did something strange for my spiritual journey. For one I was forced into silence and solitude. There was no radio, cell phone, no reading, no human interaction (besides dodging traffic), and I was strangely at one with nature. Able to sense the changes in the air including subtle temperature changes, smells, winds, sounds. It is a unique experience that bikers share. I wonder if it could really be considered a valuable part of my spiritual formation and disciplines? Will my spiritual life suffer without the bike? Is that enough excuse to cleave to it even in the face of desires to become more frugal and live more simply?

That's all.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


A week ago at Via Christus we talked about healing from Luke 17 with the ten people with leprosy. Then last night a friend and I had a conversation about healing in the context of the Episcopalian church being a place of healing.

Does God desire to heal our brokenness? I remember a few years ago reading "Mere Christianity" and getting really excited that the goal of humanity is to become like Christ. Not that we will achieve it on this side of eternity however we can make efforts toward that goal.

The process toward perfection and Christ-likeness seems to also include healing from brokenness. But is that something that comes in this lifetime? Is that healing from brokenness a prerequisite for ministering? Is brokenness a necessary component of the minister?

At the beginning of the conversation I tended to feel that in my particular instance healing was not going to occur in this lifetime. I feel like this particular brokenness has caused growth in so many areas of my life and has given me authority to minister to other broken people. Without this burden perhaps I would grow content or would loose my validity.

But my friend tossed in an idea of Malachi 3:10 and following about God daring Israel to be faithful with their tithe and see if God will be faithful to his people. This friend said that God was daring me to believe my brokenness can be healed and see if God is not faithful to that.

Now I'm curious. What does healing look like? It is different for different folks. Even in Luke 17, the man with leprosy asked Jesus to have pity on them. I guess asking for pity resulted in physical healing and spiritual cleansing. Perhaps I need the same.

So anyway, I'm just wondering about healing and whether it is necessary to be effective in ministry? And I'm also wondering if God desires our brokenness to be healed or does He desire for us to have transformed lives? Can we be transformed without healing (experience for me says yes)? Just seeking ideas. If anyone would like to join in the wondering feel free.