Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where is God in the blurry mix?

Details--and more details.  Things to do.  Worries dangling over some threatening precipice.  We cannot identify their source, yet their weight threatens to undue us.

Sometimes it feels as if our days are shattered into a million tiny fragments. There are, after all, so many things to keep in mind—so many plates to spin in the process of our life-- and of making a living.  Far from having focus, our splayed vision shatters concentration like a prism scatters light, except that there is no beauty in the dispersion.

What is the product?  Confusion, lack of focus, anxiety and frustration are a few symptoms.  Stress, sadness, depression, hopelessness are a few more.  

Where is God in the blurry mix?

I find great encouragement in Philippians 3:4-14.  Paul completes his thoughts with a bombastic statement.  "This one thing I do..."  How can that be true?  Paul travels, faces immense persecution and suffering, starts churches, trains leaders, manages them at great distances, writes letters, faces-down Roman governors--and all the while he is composing Christian Theology and church polity on the fly??  One thing?? 

Right.  Where was he hiding his "to do" list?

Once, when Jesus had impressed the multitudes with his miracles, a group of religious followers asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"  

Jesus answered them: "The work God requires is to believe in the one he has sent."  (John 6:28-29)

We ask the great questions of life in the plural.  

                                  Jesus answers in the singular.  

One thing is required.  Jesus.  And Paul understood.

And I'm trying.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First fires, and rekindling my spiritual disciplines

I just placed the first fire of the year in our wood stove.  Forty degrees this morning and a frost warning for tonight.  When the cabin thermostat showed fifty-nine, it seemed a solid enough hint.

Looking now across the room, the glass in the wood stove displays beautiful, dancing flames.  But the struggle to get that fire started was not an easy one.  There were repeated trips to the newspaper stack.  A fresh splinter received from the process of tearing kindling from a stubborn, yet well seasoned piece of fire wood.  I re-lit and puffed and rearranged the ingredients until finally, the fire had its own life.

First fires are tough.  The beauty and warmth they provide are life sustaining.

I find it a similar truth when rekindling my spirit.  Prayer and spiritual discipline require steady and determined effort to catch their own life; and now and then, despite myself, I find nothing but ash in my soul.  At those times, I have to begin again.  I need to attend to my spiritual disciplines.

I no longer despair in times like these--thinking that God has deserted me, or is hiding until I prove myself worthy of a restored flame.  No, the truth is simple.  Relationships require two or more.  And sometimes I'd prefer to be the served master, rather than a responsible partner.

The Psalmist David once said: "Restore to me the joy of my salvation."  And then, I assume, he proceeded to his spiritual disciplines.