Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Anti-faith forces ...

When pondering our lack of spiritual growth

Christians often blame "the world," "the culture," and anyone or anything other than ourselves.

I needed this sharp reminder today that very often the reason for my tepid faith lies within.

Ronald Rolheiser speaks powerful truth here:

"What are these antifaith forces?

They are not the product of some conscious conspiracy of godlessness.

They are, instead, all those things, good and bad, within us and around us that tempt us away from prayer, from self-sacrifice, from being more communal, from being willing to sweat blood in a garden in order to keep our integrity and our commitments, and from mustering up the time and courage to enter deeply into our own souls.

Hence they are not abstract, foreign forces.

They live in the house with us and are as comfortable to us as a well-worn shoe.

What blocks faith is that myriad of innocent things within our ordinary, normal lives which precisely make our lives comfortable:

our laziness,

our self-indulgence,

our ambitions,

our restlessness,

our envy,

our refusal to live in the tension,

our consumerism,

our greed for things and experience,

our need to have a certain lifestyle,

our busyness and overextension,

our perpetual tiredness,

our obsession with celebrities,

and our perpetual distraction with sports, sit-coms and talk shows.

These are the antimystical forces of our time."

(From Rolheiser's The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality)

 

We get to feel like God ...

It was a pretty normal week for me.

Some good work - both at home and at church.

Saw some good friends, spent good time with my husband, connected with each of my kids.

Enjoyed that spring was finally having its day in the sun, so to speak.

And I was faced with choices - daily, small, ordinary choices - about how I was going to choose to behave.

Should I ask that person how they are doing, or turn away because I am in a hurry?

Should I take an extra 5 minutes to greet a neighbor, or rush inside?

Should I call that family member or put it off?

Should I write that little note of appreciation or assume my friend knows how I feel?

And I don't know about you, but I often don't choose to do the right thing. I just don't. I take the out. I choose the lazy path. I procrastinate. I make an excuse based on all kinds of things - my personality, my schedule, my "freedom in Christ." You know ...

But lately, I've experienced an epiphany of sorts.

When I choose the lazy path, the out, the excuse ... I feel small. I feel a sense of disappointment; a sadness that lingers.

But when I choose the act of kindness, the extra moment to express care or concern or simple neighborliness, when I make the phone call, write the note, give the hug, I feel alive, buoyant, joyful. It's like a fresh wind blows through my spirit for a moment.

And I started to wonder - Is this part of what Jesus means when he talks about the abundant life?

I mean, I CAN choose to be petty, small, indifferent, narrow, closed-off. I can. I live by grace, not by law.

But those are not the ways Jesus wants me to live.

However, if I choose, in my freedom, to live in ways Jesus taught me to live, a small breeze of abundance seems to float into my life. 

I stumbled across this idea this winter in Ronald Rolheiser's classic book Sacred Fire. Listen to how he summarizes it:

"When we act like God, we get to feel like God.

Conversely, when we are petty, we get to feel petty.

There is a clear cause and effect here: when we do big-hearted things, we get to feel big-hearted; and when we do small-hearted things, we get to feel small."

This is powerful, life-changing truth, friends.

The abundant life may not be "out there" at all; it may be right here, in our next daily choice.

Make the kind, grace-filled, merciful choice next time ... and watch for the breeze of the Spirit to blow.

Letting Go ...

I am a bit of a control freak.

This has served me well in my life ... at times.

And it has also caused me to ruin many a moment; to miss things because I am disappointed or frustrated with how reality is playing itself out.

This makes me sad.

So, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to live fully present in each moment, with open hands, open heart, open mind. No trying to rip control from the universe. No more judging, insisting on labeling each moment as "good" or "bad."

What might my life look like if I stopped trying to force things to go my way?

How might all the small, ordinary, daily moments have more meaning, more richness if I give up coercing, manipulating and pushing?

I pulled out a book I bought over two decades ago - Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn - and it is so helpful on this journey.

For instance, his short chapter entitled "Letting Go" is something I have been dwelling in all week.

Here is what Zinn writes,

"Letting go means just what it says.

It's an invitation to cease clinging to anything - whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire.

It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of the present moments as they are unfolding.

To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them ...

It's akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to."

 

I wonder how many moments you might be missing because, like me, you find yourself judging each moment rather than simply noticing it, experiencing it, paying deep and close attention to it, actually LIVING it.

Might we all try today, as a gift to God, to let our palms open - literally or figuratively - as each moment unfolds in front of us, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating, yes ... but also, sometimes joyful, sometimes beautiful, sometimes unbearably sweet. 

Each moment a gift.

Each moment one-of-a-kind.

Each moment with something to teach us, or give us, or say to us.

Try it. Open your hands.

More on this in the coming days...

These days are dangerous ...

Read this today and thought it was so spot on:

"These days are dangerous.
Virtue is choked with foul Ambition,
And Charity chased hence by Rancour’s hand."

(William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616)

Oh Bill Shakespeare, how can you be so wise?