Saturday, April 12, 2014

40(ish) Days of Devotion - Day 39

I'm sitting here this morning wondering a more than a few things. Some are simple, like should I go upstairs and get a cup of coffee? Others are more complex, like wanting to understand the reasons for making the sign of the cross. The third category that I'm thinking about is more practical, like when I'll be able to change my laundry over so that I have dry clothes before I leave. I'm sure that you don't care about most of that, so I'll go get myself some coffee and write more about what I'm learning about crossing yourself.

Since I didn't grow up Catholic, or in any other Christian tradition that does the sign of the cross, it is a new thing to me. I learned how to make it several years ago from secular movies, using less than holy rhymes to remember the order. But as I've been (less than perfectly) reading and praying through A Seasonal Book of Hours, I've started to find myself less troubled by the gesture. There are times where I find myself using it when I am praying, even without the book. I'm still not comfortable with using it in public, but that may just take time.

So, what is the sign of the cross?

According to Wikipedia: Sign of the Cross: The sign of the cross (Latinsignum crucis), or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of many branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with the right hand, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of the trinitarian formula.

The motion is the tracing of the shape of a cross in the air or on one's own body, echoing the traditional shape of the cross of the Christian Crucifixion narrative. There are two principal forms: the one—three fingers, right to left—is exclusively used in the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church of the Byzantine and Chaldean Tradition; the other—left to right, other than three fingers—is the one used in the Latin Rite of the Catholic ChurchAnglicanismMethodismLutheranism and Oriental Orthodoxy (see below). The ritual is rare within other Christian traditions.

This can lead to another question. What is the trinitarian formula? It is a simple phrase. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." These words appear in the Bible in Matthew 28:19. (Again referencing Wikipedia: Trinitarian Formula.)

If this sign is so common, and has a Biblical basis for the words that accompany it, then why aren't we more familiar with it?

Thoughts to be continued in another post...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

40(ish) Days of Devotion - Day 21

Once again this year, my intention of blogging almost daily has been seriously derailed. I hate how busy life is, even when I try to make the effort to quiet the busyness. I know that one of Satan's tactics is that if he can't lead you away, he can at least keep you busy. This doesn't mean that I've been trying to inch away from God, but there can be too much of a good thing. Between bell choir practice, teaching Sunday school, working, grading work outside of school, searching for a summer job, errands, spending time with family and friends, I've again let my God time become neglected. I honestly struggle with overcommitment. If you ask me if I'm available for yet another "good thing," I'll say "yes." It doesn't matter that I'm severely overbooked, I'll cut into my sleep and crank the stress level a little higher to help you out.

Now, I'm not blaming everyone else in the universe for my lack of time with God. I realize that while I can't just decide that I'm not working for the rest of Lent, I can try to simplify my schedule. It is possible for me to say the dreaded "no" when someone asks me to participate in another activity. Saying no doesn't make me a bad person, it just makes me a person who is working within reasonable boundaries. Boundaries that I'm going to have to find a way to put into place.

If I don't develop a sense of boundaries sometime soon, I'm going to find myself completely burned out. I can feel myself moving in that direction now. The struggle to wake up in the morning because I'm so exhausted, the lack of caring about what food I'm eating because I just need enough energy to push me to the next meal, the zombie-like interactions with others - when I interact at all... these are all warning signs that I'm starting to take notice of. It's when I'm in full burnout that I tend to see some of my worst habits starting to return... things like smoking and alcohol begin to become almost obsessive thoughts and cravings. For me, that last step after burnout is self destruct. That mode of operation isn't just scary for me, because I feel so out of control, but it is scary for those who care about me as well, because there isn't any guarantee as to what point is officially "off limits" as the line I won't cross.

I think that my next step forward is to declare myself off limits for the rest of the night. As I finish typing this, I'm contemplating the comfort of my bed and the sleep that I hope to enjoy. Yet, I feel like I still have about 500 things to do before I can crawl between the sheets and rest. Now, to go and make sure that I have everything laid out for the morning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

40(ish) Days of Devotion - Day 12

Yesterday, while I was out running errands I picked up a couple of new books at one of the local thrift stores. I was quite excited to walk out with copies of both An Everyday Book of Hours and A Seasonal Book of Hours by William G. Storey. While I don't know that much about them yet, I'm looking forward to starting to read them.I do know that they are written for Catholics, and that I am not Catholic, but I believe there is something to be gained from them. The one thing that I don't intend to practice that I've seen so far is the Mary stuff.

I'm trying to use the seasonal book this morning as there is a section for during Lent. I find the "Morning Hymn" really interesting today. This is what it says.

     O sun of justice, thaw our hearts;
     you draw the spring from the earth's decay.
     Then melt our safe complacency
     which rests content with yesterday.

     The "time acceptable" is now!
     The dormant earth to growing gives way.
     In prayer and fasting thaw our hearts;
     let alms a world remade display.

     You take us as we are,
     and spread our dawning days with light;
     may we rehearse your ways of love
     till all we do gives you delight.

     O everlasting Trinity,
     we yearn to see that day of days
     when all the earth, reborn again,
     is vibrant with its Easter praise. Amen.

I don't know that I have the words to explain it just yet, but reading through the morning prayers is actually rather intense. This isn't a bad thing. It includes multiple prayers, scripture, and some insights, along with sitting quietly and listening to God.

I am definitely looking forward to church this morning, but it means that I need to get moving if I am to be ready to walk out the door with the others.

Friday, March 14, 2014

40(ish) Days of Discipline - Day 10

They came! My books are here on interlibrary loan. :D I decided that I wanted to read more about some of the topics discussed in Celebration of Discipline. So, rather than buy a stack of books that would take up space that I don't have, I'm borrowing them. Here is what has come in so far:

Radical Together by David Platt
Sanctuary of the Soul by Richard J. Foster
Quiet In His Presence by Jan Harris
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard J. Foster
The Great Omission by Dallas Willard

I've got a few more on hold that haven't come in yet, but I'm excited to start with what is here. The biggest question is which book to begin with. I'm thinking one of the books on prayer.

As I think about my decision to have fish instead of "meat" on Friday nights, I can see the impracticality of this already. It seems that it is something that will have to wait until my living situation changes. Perhaps, in another year or two, I will be able to do this.

I am still determined to pursue fasting breakfast and lunch on Fridays, but today was not a successful one. This was partially due to having my standard sleeping and eating schedules altered due to a fundraising meeting for work last night. I just want to be healthy about fasting and not set myself up for serious issues because my blood sugar dropped too low. I know that God can keep my sugar up if He wants to, but at the same time, I know that He wants me to take proper care of my body, which means acknowledging its limitations and working with them.

With the weather starting to become more pleasant again, I hope that I can see my spiritual life blossom in much the same way. This past winter has really pushed me to the brink of exhaustion, and it is at that point that I need God the most. Unfortunately, I struggle the most with reaching out to God and to others when I am so drained and feel like I am marching steadily into burnout. The good news is that I have maintained my sobriety now for 127 days, in spite of my struggle to reach out and touch base with my sponsor.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I don't know.

I don't know.

I just don't know.

There is something going on in my head and I don't know how to explain it, exactly. It's like I'm overwhelmed, though I don't really have any reason to be. I feel like my spirit is screaming at the top of it's lungs, and I don't know how to soothe it. This makes no sense, I'm sure. I kinda feel like crying, but I can't see what good that would do. I look out the window at yet another snowfall, and I want to lash out. It's like the snow is punishing me for some unknown misdeed. I'm sure that snow wasn't meant for me personally, but the snow is definitely leaving me feeling thoroughly ticked off.

In this moment, peace escapes me.

I suppose that it could be that my entire day has pretty much felt bass ackwards. Really, I don't know where to begin. I guess there will always be days like this. Literally, my only peace today has been while sitting in the ladies' room at work, and hearing the song It Is Well With My Soul coming from another room on that floor of the building. I had kind of hoped that whoever had it playing happened to have it on repeat. No such luck.

Perhaps, I will find peace again in the bottom of a bowl of chili. I'm looking forward to dinner.

Monday, March 10, 2014

40(ish) Days of Discipline - Day 6

There are several types of prayer. One of these is the "if it be Thy will." This isn't a statement that needs to be in all of our prayers. It has a definite time, place, and purpose. When asking another person for directions, we don't ask someone to give us directions to a specific place "if they want to." They either do, and we are helped along our way, or they don't, and we are left seeking another source for the information we need. It's like that with God. We don't need to have an "if you feel like it" type of prayer life. This type of prayer, when used as your only type of prayer, may quickly leave you feeling like your prayer life is apathetic at best. Another type of prayer is the "not my will, but Yours be done." This holds more potential to grow our prayer life, as it isn't just asking God to do something if He is in the mood to do it. This type can be vital when we are certain of what we want to see the a result of our prayer, but we know that whatever God answers will be the right choice. I can't say that this is an easy prayer, because it requires us to surrender our desires and our will to God so that we can accept His answer. A third type of prayer that we are meant to engage in is intercessory. I'm sure that it sounds kind of odd, especially if you aren't familiar with the word intercessor. An intercessor is someone who stands in the middle and prays. Not physically in the middle, but spiritually. Some people are exceptionally gifted in this type of prayer, while others have to work at it. That doesn't mean that we all aren't capable of it though. This kind of prayer requires compassion and empathy every bit as much as it requires faith. It is used when we come to God and ask for healing or restoration for a person or a family. Yet another type of prayer, a prayer against evil, exists. Have you ever heard the phrase "spiritual warfare?" This way of praying is truly a battle, as Satan wants nothing more than to convince us that God is not enough. As Christians, we know who ultimately will win the war of good and evil, but we are tempted daily to forget what we know. This warfare can be waged on behalf of ourselves, another person, a country, or even the whole world. There are other types of prayer still, but I'm honestly running out of energy for the day. Perhaps tomorrow, I will have more time to write.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

40(ish) Days of Discipline - Day 5

Praying.

It is both a simple action and a complex task. It can be done in a moment or it can be performed ceaselessly for the remainder of one's life. Both intuitive and learned, praying is something that we are called by God to do. 

When Jesus first chose his disciples, they had no idea how to pray. That is why we have the traditional Lord's Prayer aka the "Our Father." For those who don't know it yet, or struggle to recall it, here it is. 

     Our Father, who art in Heaven,
     hallowed be Thy Name.
     Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done,
     on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
     Give us this day our daily bread,
     and forgive us our trespasses,
     as we forgive those who trespass against us.
     And lead us not into temptation,
     but deliver us from evil.
     For thine is the kingdom, and the power, 
     and the glory, forever.
     Amen.

This is how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. It is also how many of us learned as children to pray. Unfortunately, because many of us learned it by rote, we never learned the significance of the words that we were speaking. There are other prayers that we also learned in this manner which have become relegated to things that we recite with more thought on which words come next than what the meanings behind them are. 

Looking at the Lord's Prayer, it can be broken down pretty easily. The first two lines are direct address and honoring God. The second two lines are an invitation to let His will be known. Line five is asking not only for physical nourishment but also for God to spiritually feed us. The sixth and seventh lines are asking God to forgive us in equal measure to that which we have forgiven others who have harmed us. The next two lines are asking for God's guidance and protection. Lines ten and eleven are giving acknowledgement to God that all we are given is still His. Wrapping up with amen gives your prayer a distinct ending, but it also means "so be it." Using this concluding statement, you are saying that whatever God's response is, you will accept it even if it is not the one for which you had hoped. 

There are other types of prayers, but in the interest of getting some sleep so that I am able to be prepared to go to work in the morning I am stopping here for tonight. In the next few days, I hope to continue the visit into this chapter, as well as to begin reading another book on prayer by the same author, Richard J. Foster. I've got a few books that I've requested on interlibrary loan to go along with the rereading of Celebration of Discipline