Thursday, 3 August 2017

Busyness, Self-Reckoning, and the Bigger Questions of Life

(originally journaled July 19, 2017)

I'm having a hard time getting back into the "intellectual mode" since most of our company has returned to their homes. I guess I was just getting used to relaxing my brain--and my body at bit, too, though I did lots of cooking, housework, childcare, etc. while everyone was here.

I have this weird "feeling" hanging around the edges of my brain that I need to make some changes in direction (spiritually/in everything) but I can't seem to get a hold on what that should be. I did read an article about listing everything you do--and then adding the words "with God" to each item. I kind of feel like that might be where to start.

I haven't done Bible reading/prayer/devotions for at least 3 weeks, maybe more. I just got so "bogged down," so feeling "obliged ... dutiful" although maybe that was partly because I was feeling the same about writing, tutoring, etc. My brain was so tired--and resentful a bit, too. I just read a study that suggests that after age 40, people should start slowing down, working less hours a week, because after that age, as the brain starts to slow down, stress from trying to keep up with "full-time" can really affect productivity--so it's better to work less and be productive and unstressed during "part-time work." Sounds good to me, LOL!

Hmmmm...

And then today (Aug 3) I read the following quote:

“Kierkegaard, in Either/Or, makes fun of the “busy man” for whom busyness is a way of avoiding an honest self-reckoning. You might wake up in the night and realize that you’re lonely in your marriage, or that you need to think about what your carbon footprint is doing to the planet, but the next day you have a million little things to do, and the day after that you have another million things. As long as there’s no end of little things, you never have to stop and confront the bigger questions.” -Jonathan Franzen, Best American Essays

Hmmm... am I too busy? Work? Hobbies? Chores? Just rushing around? So many little things... Is it time to "stop and confront the bigger questions"? How do I, as a busy person (who admittedly has enjoyed the busy life, even if I'm feeling kind of tired of it just now), do that? I want to switch gears...but how?

Monday, 31 July 2017

Devotions or Not or Just Different or?

(originally journaled June 29, 2017)

Since the beginning of January this year I have pretty faithfully been doing "devotions" every day, reading 6 chapters of Scripture (one each from the Pentateuch, historical books, poetic books, prophets, gospels, and epistles), plus a long list of prayers, and even some coloring in the "Inspire...Creative Journaling" Bible I was given for Christmas.

I really loved this hour (plus) daily for a long time, but lately, I've been getting less enthusiastic. Wishing for a change, but feeling kind of guilty since I kind of committed myself to this for the year (or at least until I finished reading the Bible through, which still has a way to go, especially through all those prophets--some sections I'm well into a second go-through).

And I feel kind of committed to praying for a lot of people, yet at the same time, I sometimes wonder if this is really what God wants. At one time, I would have even said "expects" or "requires." But lately, I've been wondering (again) what is the "right way" to pray and spend time with God.

So many books I've read and sermons I've heard in the past about the "right way to pray" and "the right way to have devotions"--and yet none of them really agree. I've tried lots of different ways, and all of them (or at least most of them) seemed to "work" for a while ... but I don't seem to have the "discipline" or whatever it takes to stick with one method for the rest of my days, though apparently, some people do.

But then that "one thing for the rest of my days" isn't really my nature, is it? I tend to move on from one thing to another in terms of jobs and hobbies and interests, though I have overarching things I stick with, like loving to learn, teach, write
--and seek God! It's just that I like to explore new ways to do things, and different emphases, and I don't think that really is a problem (though I'd probably have a better pension coming up if I'd had more "stick-to-it-iveness" in my teaching career, LOL)!

I've been reading an e-book called "Flee, Be Silent, Pray" about the kind of meditative practices of the early church fathers and in monasteries--and which continue to the present in some Christian traditions. Reading it has made me really relax about my devotion worries--so much so, in fact, that I've "gone without" since I started reading the book 6 days ago. I feel "relieved"--if a bit "guilty." And I don't intend to do "catch-up"--and even plan to "take a break" at least for the next 2 or 3 weeks or so while I have a lot of company coming. So there.

Though I may start again after that, and/or change my "process" ... Lord, I need Your guidance here.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Reflections on Blessings, Cursing, Nature, Fairness, and You

(originally journaled June 19, 2017)

I'm wondering ... we've been finding our Okanagan Lake (and rivers) unusual flooding this year to be quite astonishing--but it really is nothing compared to other parts of the world where floods are so much more massive and destructive, and they take or harm so many more lives.

Is it bad to pray for these local flood needs (nb. And, a month later, wildfire threats, with a number of homes in our region destroyed and many people under evacuation) when in reality, compared to other places our problems are quite small? Especially if we fail to pray even more so for "unknown" people far away?

And how much DO You interfere with nature's course? This does raise that prickly (to me, anyway) question about "fairness." It's true--You do bless both the good and the bad with sufficient rain and sun to provide good crops. But it also seems that both good and bad are "unblessed" (cursed...) by too much or too little. So I suppose that's "fair" in a way, too, isn't it--even if we don't particularly like "unblessings."

This reminds me of wildfires in our region in 2003 when whole neighbourhoods (about 250 homes) on the edges of our largest city were burned to the ground, and yet here and there remained lone houses, seemingly untouched.

And I remember that a group of Christians had been praying for one family--whose house indeed escaped the flames. And the Christian group chalked it up to God answering their prayers because the family in question were Christians. Maybe so. But then what about other Christians who lose their homes? And what about how those pronouncements made those others--and those in the community listening to these proclamations--feel about how You supposedly were selectively caring for special people and--what? punishing? warning? (and even, if they were also Christians, ignoring?) others. What about that? What, indeed, about all the good who have suffered along with the bad (often suffered more than the bad) all through time, all over the world?

We so happily jump to conclusions about Your "blessing" when we're not the ones suffering at the moment. Does it make You sad? And are You even in the "fairness" business? So many wonderings...

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Dancing Time!

(originally journaled June 10, 2017)

I have been having so much fun the past few days with those Quora questions. At first, it was the research and upvotes that attracted me. But then I started to toss in humorous bits--trying to do it at least once every day--and while people are responding very positively to my "witty" answers (as someone described them), I am actually really enjoying the feeling that my inner child, the real me, is being loosed, freed at long last from strictures imposed by rules about "good writing" and "good behaviour and belief" -- and by that period of depression I've never quite been able to OR (startling thought!) allowed myself to escape.

Ah! See! It could be partly--even a big part--MY fault, not just the cages imposed by others. Something freeing about that, too. Admitting to my own fears and self-imposed imprisonings.

Dancing time!

(including the freedom to dance!)

Monday, 3 July 2017

Truth

(originally journaled May 24, 2017)

Dear God,

How can I know when it's Your voice and direction I'm "hearing"? I feel so tangled up in all the different perspectives and traditions and worldviews and dogmas (and "heresies") I've been taught through the years.

Am I really not to have "fun" and "humour" and "adventure?" If not, if I'm supposed to be "serious," then what about the "joy" You promise?

What about how I feel about Your Presence and Your direction when I read Your word and pray and ask for Your guidance--and then I get "whacked" by people who apparently think I'm way off from Your way? Yes, I feel like they are "weed-whacking" me, trying to destroy all the "weeds" they perceive in my thinking. If necessary, mowing me totally down to the ground.

And yet here I've thought You've been guiding me, and even hoping maybe I was hearing Your voice at least a little. Yet right now I'm feeling totally lost instead and maybe even that You have "cast me out," like I've "committed the unpardonable sin" or something.

Yes, I know I've failed You and denied You even, over and over. But You know my heart and You know my longing to truly do better, to love and follow and obey You.

So what's up?

Is this all a part of the process of changing me, remaking me, moulding me to Your will and way (rather than to the will and way of other people, no matter how well-meaning and sure of their rightness they may be). I don't mind You doing that, either--as long as it is truly You and not just some person's perception and interpretation of You.

Because there are so many different perceptions and interpretations of You, and I'm totally sure that not a single one of us (individual believers or groups/denominations of believers) have You all figured out. Only You are Truth, right?

Though You have decided to use us weak human beings to bring Your Truth to the world. But how can we, how can I do that, when I can't seem to find out what truth is, beyond its being You... You who are more than I could ever really know or comprehend!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Talking to God about my life

(originally journaled May 20, 2017)

So Anne Lamott says (in Bird by Bird) that one's deepest beliefs must drive one's writing.

It occurs to me that I'm not even sure what my deepest beliefs are. And I read today that depression often causes people to "lose their faith." Looking back, I'm pretty sure that the time I went through deep depression a few years back was about the same time I "lost" my dreams, my sense of adventure, my sense of humour, my love of learning, my deep desire to write--and also became rather unsure of what I believed in (though I still believed in God's existence and Jesus as God incarnate ... and God as beyond our tiny imaginations and understanding).

I seem to manage to tutor quite well, and to organise writers' events and workshops and such quite well, and write useful (if boring) blog posts. BUT!

What I really want is to run along a cold, windy, salt-blowing, stormy north-west Pacific island beach, and spread my arms wide, and open my mouth wide and gulp in that cold, wild, salty air. Is that too much to ask?

And I want some time for myself occasionally, without responsibilities to clean and cook and wait on people. Is that too much to ask?

I want to be excited and joyful and have an adventure. [I wrote that in capital letters in my journal!] And I want to get to know You much more deeply, too. And find out what it is You want and who You are.

I would love to dance and twirl and laugh and shout. And have the energy for it, and not be embarrassed and not care what people think.

I want to break through this long, long, long, long, long, long feeling of depression and dullness. And loss.

I feel like I've lost myself.

I'm tired of researching and passing on information (and seeing other people do the things I want to do--things I've taught and encouraged them to do, but can't convince myself to do!)

I want to cry. To really, really cry. I want to be freed to be emotional.

I thought for a while that it was good to be calm and to give up my dreams. I thought it would please You, for me to give up "me" and just live day by day and never have another exciting moment as long as I lived if that's what You want for me. To be submissive to You, You know. (But I'm beginning to doubt that's what You really want, after all).

I'm tired of being nice little peacemaker, encourager, good tutor and decent editor and sometimes writer, kind of smart Norma.

I think maybe I'm longing to live a bit dangerously, take risks once in a while. Have fun! Take a flying leap! Before it's too late (You know--I'm 60-something already...)

And it would also be nice to have some clearer idea of what I believe.

And not care if people disagree with me or are shocked at me.

Are You shocked at me? I kind of doubt it, though, because I'm pretty sure You know way more clearly what's in my heart and mind than I do. And I'm pretty sure You love me anyway. In fact, I suspect that I, too, may well be one of Your "favourite people," like in The Shack :-)

Why did You make me so complicated? And let me get so mixed up? Does it really matter? I mean, as long as You love me?

I'm tired of being busy all the time, but feeling like I really am not accomplishing anything significant, important, worthwhile. And not earning enough to pay off those old bills that piled up last year when my arm was broken and I couldn't work much.

I want to blog and write for fun! I'm tired of being a boring old granny. I'm feeling tired and resentful and tied down...and I want to break free of that feeling.

Dear God?

(Thank you--for listening ... and answering)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Balance in Christian viewpoints

Journal May 20, 2017

Oh dear. I read, and then shared on Facebook, what I thought was a good explanation of some of the political/Christian issues in American. And then one of my "friends" wrote a long, long response, using words like "diatribe" and "vitriol" to describe the piece I'd shared (but obviously not considering those words might fit his own piece, too). He obviously feels that "holiness" and "righteousness" is far more important than caring for those in need (as if they are not connected, even). But I guess that's his right, too, to express his feelings and understanding. I think he sees himself as a "prophet" like those in the Old Testament--and that's the job of such a prophet: to stand solidly and unapologetically and even fiercely for "righteousness."

He spoke of a balance of God's love in providing salvation, and of righteous, holy living as a result of salvation. He talks a lot about God's justice at the end of time, but he doesn't seem to have much interest in "justice" in the world we live in right now. Though scripture (including as quoted in that post I shared) is clear on that as being very important, too. Well, I remember from my childhood the fears of many evangelicals about "those liberal churches that focus on social justice"--as if social justice is simply a distraction of the enemy from what's really important for Christians, and is, therefore, to be avoided.

Lord, there's so much I don't understand.

(And I guess I do "deserve" that response for chuckling when I posted it, that I'd probably get some strongly worded responses. Little did I realise how strong the responses might be.)