Nov 29 2009

Consolation

Lullabye

Lullaby

I recently read a book called Theological Reflections: Methods, a wonderful exploration of various ways people in the Christian tradition think and feel their way into wisdom as they place life and faith into conversation.  One of the interesting parts, reading excerpts from original sources, was how people use scripture in times of stress or discernment.  I already knew that Augustine’s life changed drastically after hearing the child’s voice in the garden calling, “Tolle lege!”  Take up and read! He opened to a bible verse that acted as a lightning rod for his determination to live differently, and due to his subsequent theological writings, impacted Christianity is enormous ways.  What I did not realize was that this scriptural “casting of lots” was done by two other big names in history.  Francis of Assisi prayed and then opened to a scripture text which led him to begin the Franciscans.  John Wesley of the Methodists notes in his journal how he opened his bible to specific texts that spoke to his situation, went to a service and heard more pivotal texts and found “his heart strangely warmed.”  Wesley’s life changed that night.  While some people may inwardly cringe at this seemingly magical use of scripture, the influence of a specific text at a particular time on a person is undeniable, and can drastically influence the course of history.

Using scripture like this is common in the communities in which I have been a member, even alongside an awareness of the contextual nature of the text and a historical critical approach.  In my own devotional life, there have been a few pivotal moments where I randomly opened to a particular text and found surprising synchronicity.

Last night, after discovering I had missed a crucial source in my dissertation research, I was incredibly discouraged.  While I’m still uncertain how much I will need to change my own proposal, the horrible sinking feeling drove me to prayer and to scripture, and Augustine, Francis, and Wesley were on my mind.   I closed my eyes and opened to 2 Corinthians 1, to a passage I had marked a number of times over the years:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

I had already studied this passage before.  Consolation in these verses is paraklesis in the Greek and means  calling to one’s side, giving aid, advocate, interceding, encouraging.  It is also a familiar word, Paraclete is a name for the Holy Spirit.  So we have been consoled not just by God, but with God’s presence, and we can, in turn, console others.  Whatever happens with my topic, the reality is, I can walk through this, and whatever consolation that I’ve received in the process, I can share.  Often, I am my own worst judge when it comes to mistakes, but I believe this passage suggests that God acts as advocate and encourager.  God walks alongside and comforts us in trouble, even when we can’t be kind to ourselves.  The Paraclete God models walking alongside others and gives strength for us to be an embodiment of God’s consolation for those we love.


Nov 23 2009

Maturity

Sun Leaf

Sun Leaf

The image of perfection and the perfect life captivates:  a vision of beauty, a compelling illusion, promising wonders in return for abandoning and disowning the self.

Rather than running toward an illusory perfection,  practicing maturity means standing faithful to the wonderful-hard-painful-amazing-challenging-puzzling life that is only being lived by one person in 6 billion. It helps me learn from mistakes, and move on, not live in instant replay over and over.

Perfectionism shames and lives fearfully.

Maturity loves and lives generously.


Nov 20 2009

Intention

Milo

Milo

In your immediate circumstances, imagine the next hour devoid of meaning.  What would you do? How would you feel at the end?

In your immediate circumstances, now imagine it full of meaning.  Describe the hour as colorfully and clearly as you can. What would you do? How would you feel at the end?

What is your intention for this next hour?

(adapted from The Writer’s Space by Eric Maisel)


Nov 12 2009

Commit to Your Life

Impact

Ripples

As I walked yesterday, thoughts about my prospectus swirled in my mind, as they have for months.  Fifteen pages seems so small compared to papers and projects I have previously written.  It also seems a tiny number in comparison to the stack of pages that will ultimately comprise my dissertation.  I have been learning from these chaotic thoughts and fears the difference between simply writing to fulfill course expectations and writing that flows from a much deeper place: from what compels me, from what wakes me up at night and begs to be expressed–not for myself alone, or for a grade.

As I wrestle with writing, a phrase keeps coming to mind: commit to your life.  There is no other life than the one I am living right now, so one option is to write. Now.  Not when I no longer feel panic. Not when I have a cottage by a lake or peaceful mountain view.  Not when I have memorized everything about my topic. Nothing will magically make expressing ideas from my visual brain into words any less difficult or writing from my passion (from the Latin passio, suffering) any less painful.  Certainly, there is also joy, but not all the time. The ideal time, setting, mood or  Susan will not suddenly appear.

If I wait, I will never write.

Or I could choose not to write. A perfectly fine choice.

But I can’t imagine that.  Oh, I can vow I’m done with it all, but something keeps bringing me back to the page.  Something keeps nudging me to commit to my life,  “put it in writing,” risk making some ripples, and trust that something good and beautiful can come of it.

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