Prison vs Freedom

Thomas Merton writes that contemplation does not imprison God in our own ideas of Him but “On the contrary, contemplation is carried away by Him into His own realm, His own mystery, and His own freedom.”

When I capture God
In thoughts, in words
In my own understanding
I imprison the Divine
I shrink the Omnipotent
I limit the Limitless

When God captures me
In moments of love
In experiences of wonder
I am freed
I grow beyond my self
I touch the Limitless

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Psalm 84

How wonderful when my mind dwells with faith on You
Almighty, truly God
How often I yearn for that faith, envy those who have that faith
How often I ask why not me
For goodness sake, because of goodness, in goodness
Those whose lives are simpler than mine
Those who have the gift, the grace of firm faith
They are blessed with easy closeness to You
They live praising you effortlessly
They find strength – not confusion – in their faith
They go through life as through a beautiful valley
Watered by faith, swimming in pools of grace
Even in troubles, they go from strength to strength
Strength of faith, strength in God
While I flounder, drowning in pools of doubt
Hear my prayer – ah, but what is my prayer?
Do I really want You to make me a different me?
Do I really want the assurance of easy faith?
Do I really want to be an anointed one?
Here I am, God, believing – or trying to believe –
That better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere
I read that You are a sun and shield, that You bestow favor and honor
That You withhold no good thing from those whose walk is blameless
But in my mind You remain elusive, You come and go
One day I may spend in the sureness of You, Your existence, Your grace
But a thousand upon a thousand I spend in darkness and doubt
Struggling against all that weighs me down, all the not good things and thoughts
God Almighty, what can I pray today except that You
You who may or may not exist
Bless me as one who trusts in You and doubts You. Amen

Psalm 83

O God, do not remain silent;
Do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof
I need You.
Hear how Your enemies –enemies of my peace of mind – growl within me
See how Your foes – foes of my faith – rear their heads in my mind
I feel like my worst tendencies conspire against me
They plot against me even though You cherish me
“Come,” they whisper to me, “we’re stronger than your faith
When we’re done, you won’t remember God anymore”
With one mind – my mind – they plot together
They form an alliance against Your spirit in me
Like Israel’s enemies of old, these dark tendencies fight against my faith
To me they are indeed like Israel’s enemies of old
And so I make bold to claim my inheritance as one of Your chosen people
Defend me as You defended Israel when its enemies said,
“Let us take possession of the pasture lands of God”
Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind
So that they tumble from my mind, blow away from my life
As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze
So pursue these enemies of my peace and faith with Your tempest
Terrify them with Your storm of righteousness and faithfulness, O God
Bury the unfaithful, doubting parts of me, so that I will ever seek Your name
May I never be ashamed and dismayed, may I never perish in disgrace.
Remind me always that You, whose name is YAHWEH
You alone are the Most High over all the earth – and over me. Amen.

God’s Good Climate

After emailing with Norma about Erin’s thoughts:

Sometimes storm clouds
Sometimes clear skies
Sometimes rain
Sometimes sunshine
Weather changes

Sometimes cold
Sometimes warm
Sometimes new growth
Sometimes falling leaves
Seasons change

Through all weather
In all seasons
Always we live
In the climate
Of God’s grace and mercy
Her unchanging love

The Best Part of Being Older

I got a big, bright “HI!” from a toddler in the grocery store
And I was reminded of shopping with my own toddlers greeting strangers
And I was thankful for my children.

I bought a bag of Cheetos
And I was reminded of Nancy who also likes Cheetos
Nancy and I renewed our friendship each year at the faculty picnic, over the Cheetos
And I was thankful for Nancy and my friends on the math faculty.

I walked outside and heard thunder
And I was reminded of hiking with Debbie in the Canadian Rockies
We were thankful for cooler weather for the last grueling half mile to the summit
When I looked up and saw Debbie’s hair standing out from her head
And I looked further up and understood why it had cooled off — storm clouds!
We laughed as we raced the storm down the mountain
And I was thankful for Debbie and my mountain adventures.

I deposited a check at the Instant Teller
And I remembered when we didn’t have Instant Tellers
When faxes were the big new thing
When we didn’t have internet
And I was thankful for all the conveniences in my life.

I pulled into our driveway, walked through the yard made beautiful by Woody’s love
And I thought of the more than a decade after Gordon died
And I was thankful for Woody’s love and his generous heart.

I came home to my almost 93 year old mother
And I thought of Ann and Wendy and Carol whose mothers had died
And I was thankful for my mother.

I walked downstairs
And remembered Norma moving in with me
Making bearable that move without Gordon, helping make the new house home
And I was thankful for Norma and for friends helping friends.

I thought of St. Paul
And how easy it is for me now
To pray without ceasing
In a life filled with memories and realities to be thankful for
And I wrote my thanks.

Psalm 82

My plea to God: How long do I have to go on knowing my failings
Living with doubt, depression, despair – my terrible Ds
Even while knowing myself to be blessed
Loving and being loved
Strengthen my weakness, O God,
With Your own strength
Restore my orphaned hope
Rescue my weak and needy spirit
Deliver me from my own wickedness
I have neither sufficient knowledge nor understanding
Time and again, I leave Your light and walk in darkness
I am shaken to my core
I reassure myself that I can make my own life good
But instead my efforts crumble into dust
So, please, God, rise up in my mind, my heart, my soul
That I may remember that I belong to You. Amen

My own parable

As I prayed through Psalm 86 this morning, making it personal in my usual way, an image came to mind that made me laugh at my own greediness. I imagined myself drowning in a rough sea. Like Peter, I was sinking beneath the waves. But a woman in a boat threw me a lifeline and hauled me in. She saved me. I was so grateful. I thanked her again and again.

We got to shore. I went home. I dried off. I loved telling the story of how I almost drowned, how I had swam out too far in water too deep, too rough for me. But I didn’t drown because this wonderful woman saved me. She was there, she used her boat, her lifeline, her strength to save me. I loved telling that story.

Then, one day, I needed money and so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her for money. Another day I had problems at work and so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her to fix those problems for me. Another time I had made some of my family angry with me so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her to get them to not be angry with me anymore. When I realized I didn’t like myself very much, I went to the woman who had saved me and told her that since she had saved me, it was her responsibility, her duty, to make me better.

I made the woman who had saved me once responsible for my whole life, for making everything right, for making everything better.

What a totally absurd story. That poor woman who had saved me would have had to join the Witness Protection Program — the Savior Protection Program.

Fortunately for me, God is not human; She doesn’t care if I am being absurd. She is willing to help me every single time. Still, I do feel that perhaps I could be just a bit more reasonable in my expectations.