Monday, May 18, 2009

The will of God is a tough nut to crack, or is it?

Dear all,

I was working on a post about sheep vs. our intellect, and the more I got to thinking about the will of God and how to interpret it, the more difficult it became. I started out talking about how the will of God is vague when it comes to instructions for our everyday lives, issuing out instead broader strokes for how to live an ethical life but not specific about what to do in our careers, marriage, our finances, et cetera.
Then I thought perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'm avoiding the idea that really I and all of us have been called to surrender all our money, our ideas of job security, healthcare, comfort and careers, and live like Christ did, in voluntary poverty, serving the needy. And that's a scary thought.
I remember trying to read some of Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation, or worse Thomas A Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, and I found myself often not being able to take it because there was such a rejection, bordering on loathing, of the self and the joys of this world, versus the joy of Christ. I LIKE myself. I LIKE my desires. I LIKE my goals, my ambitions, my passions for things other than God. And for these texts to call me to shed that existence is a hard pill to swallow.
Sometimes I feel like you can't commit yourself to following Christ's words to the letter while also going after a successful career and raise a healthy secure family. Christ rejected his family and lived his life as a nomad: I do not long for that existence.
So to what degree are we called to follow absolutely in his and the apostles' footsteps, and to what degree are we called to do as they say, but not as they do? And do I have less faith if I say "No, I'm not going to give all my possessions to the poor and go around with only a robe and walking stick, thank you very much"? Am I ignoring the will of God? Am I a lost sheep, no longer following my shepherd?
All I can think of are questions for now. There's a book called "The Year of Living Biblically" which seems to apply to my predicament. I think I'll look it up.
Next up...a look at Suze Orman's teachings vs. the Gospels on money.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Working on post, re sheep and intellect

You caught me at the end of a very busy week: after finishing my last paper Wednesday morning at eight, I had two video projects to complete for freelance work before a trip to Albany with friends. Now that I'm settling back, I haven't got much to say except I could use your input on an idea for a post.
Earlier in the week, I was on my prayer site, Sacred Space, and came across that passage from John 10: "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me." It's interesting that in our culture, being called sheep is somewhat derogatory- it usually brings to mind subservience, blind faith, a lack of intelligence. It robs us of our intellect and makes us into creatures governed by instincts and trained reactions.
What are your thoughts on the shepherd-sheep metaphor? How do you get around it?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It's so easy to lose perspective and gratitude in the midst of illness. I was down with the flu all week, and every day I was irritable, grouchy, and feeling sorry for myself.
Then I went to the doctor and she asked me to rank my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being next to none, 10 absolutely exruciating. On the wall was a scale with a happy face next to #1 at the bottom, and at #10 the face of absolute friggin' agony, the tears pouring, the mouth stretched down to the edges of the chin. I don't think even Christ had it as bad as whatever happened to #10 face.
So the doctor asked "Where would you say you rank?" And I said "4." Then I thought, "4? After all this grouchiness and wallowing, I'm only a 4?" And I realized my perspective was as much in need of healing as my illness.
At my church group this Friday, we talked a bit about what brings perspective and emotional healing in the midst of suffering. One of the biggest needs is to just let people in. My friend Paul talked about a surgery he'd had around Christmastime: a group of carolers was making rounds at the hospital and wanted to stop by his room. At first, he told himself, "Screw them. I'm cranky. I don't want to hear any Christmas music." But he yielded to it and actually got into their rendition of "Jingle Bells."
My friend Isaac had my favorite story. He was about to go into the hospital for kidney stones, and he was in wrenching pain, crying his eyes out. Before he left the house, he stopped in front of the mirror and thought "If I'm going to go outside a crying mess, I'm going to at least keep some dignity." So he stopped, and went into the bathroom and applied some hair gel. And before he headed out to the e.r., he looked at himself in the mirror with his good hair and it brought a smile to his face.
Being sick can be a great opportunity, as much as a burden. And I believe God can bring good out of the hardship. I can't accept that God causes our illnesses and disease, but I believe we can grow closer to him through these experiences. Psalm 18:28 says, "You O Lord keep my lamp burning; my God can turn my darkness into light." The God we believe in can turn this life's lemons into lemonade.
So, I wish you health, but more importantly I wish you faith, despite whatever lemons may come your way. Have a great week.