Thursday, 22 November 2012

To contribute to a growing awareness of God's presence...

Christopher Hinkle, leaning on St. John of the Cross writes something in his article "A DELICATE KNOWLEDGE: EPISTEMOLOGY, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS" that I really like:
"Specifically, one must be prepared to leave behind homosexuality if it does not genuinely contribute to a growing awareness of God's presence. Of course the same standard is to be applied to all activities and convictions, particularly to the creation and enforcement of anti-gay doctrine."

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Holy Spirit is like unto...

Today I was playing soccer with my sister.  I really like playing soccer with my sister, and I like when she is on my team.  We play well together because I recognise her still, quiet voice.  "Back" she says, and I know I can pass the ball straight behind me and she will get it.  I do not even have to look.  "Time" she whispers later on, so I take the time to look around me.  I know her voice, I trust her voice, I understand what she is saying and so I act according to what she has told me.
I wish I could say that my relationship with the Holy Spirit is like unto playing soccer with my sister.  I wish I knew and understood the voice of my shepherd and trusted what he says.  I wish it was that clear, but unfortunately it is not.
I think about my other friend with whom I pray soccer.  His voice is not as clear to me.  He will say "yep" or "here", but I have to look up to see where "here" is.  Still, he is speaking to me, and I get a general sense of his position from his voice.  My relationship with the Holy Spirit is not like that either.  Honestly I am not hearing anything at all.
Another friend with whom I play soccer rarely says anything at all.  Yet I have played with him long enough that I generally have a sense as to where he will be.  If he passes me the ball, he will run up field and get in the open.  I look for him there and then I can pass it back to him.  This can be quite successful, especially for our basic play, but when I am trapped in the corner, I wish I knew where he was so I could pass him the ball.  I cannot say my relationship with the Holy Spirit is like that either.  Sure I have read his playbook, but I am never sure where he will be, and when I look around to where I think he could be, I never see him.
There are a few new players.  I think about one guy who neither speaks much, nor do I know his moves.  I am constantly looking around for him, or passing the ball to where I think he should be but he is not.  We don't play well together, but as we work towards the same goal we are slowly learning.  The Holy Spirit and I are not like that either.  I feel no progression in our relationship, and I am not sure we are even aiming towards the same thing.
I have another friend who I texted today to invite to play soccer with us.  He never responded to my text.  I do not know if he is just too busy for me, changed his number, doesn't like soccer or is dead.  I feel like my relationship with the Holy Spirit is a bit more like that.  I feel like our relationship is only my half hearted attempts that I don't know if he is ignoring, not getting, or if he just doesn't care.  Maybe the Holy Spirit only uses facebook.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cookies and Biscuits

The table is set, the water hot for tea, my mess shoved into the closet.  I’m waiting for him to come.  He never gave me a time so I’m antsy, nervous.  I go into the kitchen once more, wipe off the counters and put the dry dishes away.  I glance at the beige table cloth I’ve chosen, is it too dull?  I look at my other choices –too childish. –too bright.  –stained.  I hold the one I think he’ll like best.  An olive green, simple but embroidered with leaves.  I glance at the clock.  It won’t take me long to change the table cloth, but what if he comes when I’m in the middle of the task?  I put the olive table cloth away.  I go flick the kettle on again.  Then I sit down with a book, with his book.  He’d be pleased if he sees me reading that when he comes.  I’m a little too anxious to focus on the words.  I go change my shirt, wash my face and brush my teeth.  I wonder if I should be wearing a dress.  I glance in my closet and shake my head.  He’ll have to be fine with me in a t-shirt and jeans.  I sit back down with his book.  Then I get up and change the table cloth.  I am just replacing the last tea cup when the doorbell rings.  My heart jumps.  I detour through the kitchen to turn the kettle back on.  I take a few deep breaths to try to calm my racing heart.  I unlock the door and creak it open.  There before me stands a boy with a silly smile on his face.  Maybe he is a man, I cannot tell.  The worst thing ever is happening.  I do not know if this is he.  Perhaps it is just a boy scout from the neighbourhood selling cookies standing at a loss for words, or maybe it is I who is at a loss for words.  I stare at him until I feel rude then I quickly turn away.  He stands there grinning.  It is as if he enjoys the misery he is putting me through.  Suddenly I feel that even if this is him, I am not sure I want him in my house.  Finally the silence, beating like a drum, forces me to act. 
“Come in” I say at last.
He steps inside the doorway and looks up at me, awaiting the next direction.  I’m still wondering, if this is him, wouldn’t he be more assertive?
“Come sit down for some tea”
“It is a pleasure to meet you” he says as we walk towards the table.
“You too,” I reply halfheartedly. “take a seat, I’ll just grab the tea.”  I think about asking him what kind of tea he likes, but I doubt he’s picky so I chose earl grey so I can use the same tea bag twice.  Then I wonder, what if he’s Mormon.  I don’t want to offend him, so I pull out my herbal teas.  Raspberry lemon drop?  Is that too girly for him?  I settle with apple cinnamon.  I stack my homemade biscuits on a plate.  I cannot wait to see his face when he bites into one.  He’ll be telling me I’m a good cook.  I know it.  I take out his tea and the plate of biscuits.  When I go back for my tea and the plate of cookies – I plan to impress him with the array of baked goods – I start to worry.  What will we talk about?  I try to look at my reflection in the microwave.  Nothing’s between my teeth; everything’s perfect.  I sit down across from him.  His face still dons a large smile.  I look away from him and focus my gaze on the cookies I just sat down.
“Try some,” I offer. “There are oatmeal, double chocolate chip and peanut butter.”
He reaches for a double chocolate chip cookie, “if I didn’t know you better” he smirks “I’d think you were trying to make me fat.”
I don’t know what to make of his comment so I decide to be offended.  I take a cookie and slouch back in my chair, diverting my eyes to my tea.  This isn’t him, I reason, he wouldn’t say that.
“What would you like to talk about” he asks after giving me a moment to sulk.
I thought he would know, but right now I just want to hear him say that the cookies are delicious, the table cloth is just right, and my house looks beautiful.  He takes another bite of the cookie, but I cannot tell if it is because he enjoys it, or if he is just trying to be polite.  I take a sip of my tea and it burns my tongue.  I bit my lip to avoid saying anything I’ll regret.  Of course he knows what I am thinking.  I look up to see him still smiling.  This time I want to curse at him.  I wonder if he knows, but his mannerism doesn’t change.  Of course, I think, he is supposed to love me even if I am not quite perfect.  My imperfection isn’t going to shock him, but I thought he might at least comment on my perfection.  His question still hangs, unforgotten in the air.  I think I am supposed to echo it back to him, but I’m afraid to hear what he wants to talk about.  I could ask him about the morality of homosexuality, but I’m not sure I want to hear the answer.  I could ask him why I am so lonely, but he’d probably answer with a confusing parable that would leave the blame on me.  I think about asking him why there is so much suffering in the world, but I am not sure I was to hear his answers.
Finally I reply, “Don’t you know.”
He nods, sets down his mostly unfinished tea and stands up.
“Where are you going?” I ask him frantically.  Had I offended him?
“I’ll come back when your heart is open to what I have to say.” He says as he slips on his shoes.
“But I thought that was part of your job!”  I protest as he slips out the door.
I stare longingly after him as he walks down the sidewalk, and turns, walking out of my sight.
Angrily I survey my tidy house.  I pick up his barely touched cup of tea and throw it against the wall swearing.  I rip the table cloth from the table and watch as the biscuits and cookies fly everywhere.  I stomp on the ones that land on the floor.  Cursing, stomping, pushing things over.  Then utterly exhausted I collapse on amidst the mess.  I lie there, steeped in misery, hoping he’ll come back.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Driving with God

I went for another long drive with God.  I felt like our conversation from yesterday had been cut short, and it needed to be finished.  I am not one for driving aimlessly, but with the mountains an hour away, there is always an aim.  It was pretty spontaneous, and I was pretty set on it.  I didn't even double check my agenda book to see if there is anything I was forgetting to do today.  
I tried to figure out why I was unsatisfied.  What was it that I wanted?  The answer I believe is pleasure.  I was trying to figure out what this "life to the full" that Christ offers really is, and I was getting quite tired of waiting for him to give it to me.  I was thinking that it was about time to go look for it on my own.  I've always felt like living a Christian life is not about feelings, nor is it about being happy, but I wanted to feel God near me.  I wanted to be happy.  Is there anything wrong with that?  
I hiked up a mountain quickly, until I was sweaty and gross.  I had to get to the top before the sun started going down.  I didn't want to hike back in the dark.  All I concluded is that God is my hope, my only hope.  There is pleasure in enjoying God's creation; I love hiking.  Singing kids' songs with actions while running down a mountain may not scare to cougars away, but it's a challenge and lots of fun.  I don't have the answers, but I'm not about to give up anymore.  I feel a lot more content than I have for a while.
Now I have to do the homework that I put off to go hiking in the daylight...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Swearing at God...

Today I went for a long drive with God.  I had just turned on the music, when a sudden urge came over me.  I wanted to swear.  I didn’t just want to swear, but I wanted to be able to hear it.  I turned off the music before I could even identify the song and reached my teeth over my lip.
That was just the beginning. 
For the past could of years I’ve held the belief that swearing when praying is perfectly acceptable.  It is part of being open with God, right where you are at.  That said, I’d never done it before.  After all, I don’t really swear, and by "don’t really" I mean Monday was the first time I’d ever said the "f-word".  It is such a cold, harsh word, and I wondered if allowing myself to say that word caused me to say or think things that I otherwise wouldn’t have said to God.  I am pretty sure the answer is yes.  It wasn’t that those thoughts were not in my head; rather I had no way of articulating them.  The "f-word" was the medium I needed to get my thoughts out and to get my point across.  If I hadn’t been using the word, I wouldn’t have said what I did.  I probably wouldn’t have said anything at all.  As I thought at one point “I can’t cry, but I can swear.”  It is not often I take the time to express myself.  After swearing a lot this afternoon on my drive, I started thinking about the idea of swearing around people.  It is something I don't think I'd do.  I tried to imagine people who I could see myself swearing around, but everyone was scratched off the list for one reason or another.  I thought even if I am not in a healthy place with God, at least I can be myself around him which is better than around anyone else.  I am not currently very happy with God, and while swearing when praying is different than swearing at God, I did both.  Maybe the latter is not okay, I don't know.
I don’t have a happy way to end this, but I prayed today, for a lot longer than I’ve prayed for a long time.  Prayer is good, right?

Let me sleep a little longer.

Augustine of Hippo contemplated “what evil is there not in me and my deeds; or if not in my deeds, my word; or if not in my words, my will”.  While my deeds and my words may not obviously display evil, the evil within me is not without its vices.  I have stopped my “race of virtue [which] marks the beginning of the race of evil” (Gregory of Nyssa).  The former is a marathon (not merely the race, but all the training involved); the latter a walk in the park.
In my class we discussed the word spirituality.  I have held onto the idea that spirituality is made up of divine experiences that stimulate our emotions and leave us changed.  Not only did this concept of spirituality feel very foreign to me, but it also felt like something which I was unable to obtain.  If I could not make God show up, and I couldn’t, then I could not be spiritual.  When the definition shifted to be “theology lived,” suddenly the onus was on me.  I haven’t been living my theology.  I have not been racing towards virtue, but rather I’ve fallen away “from the perfection which is attainable” (Gregory of Nyssa).  I know many of the things I could, and should do, but I have no desire to participate in these things.  Gregory of Nyssa suggests that “those who know what is good by nature desire participation in it”.  Do I believe that God is good?  Do I see the value of reading my Bible?  Do I credit any merit to prayer?  Maybe not.  Reluctantly I sat through chapel on Wednesday.  I wanted to leave.  I wanted to escape.  Recently my escape has been story writing.  I wasn’t feeling close to God, and I knew that story writing wasn’t helping me feel any closer to him, but sitting in chapel wasn’t helping either.   I know it is not all about feelings, so I started to wonder how my beliefs would act themselves out at that moment.  I couldn’t justify writing.  I couldn’t justify running.  I reckoned that if I truly believed in community that I would stay around and be open with people.  If I believed that through others God works, then maybe I could find healing.  Chapel ended.
As I walked down the hall someone approached me
“Hey Patricia, how are you?”  She asked.
“I’m okay.”  I wasn’t okay. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” and with that we parted ways.  So much for living authentically.  So much for living my theology.
Reading the works of Basil the Great reinforces my theology of community.  I cannot go through life alone for we “require the help of one another”.  So frequently, however, I am unwilling to accept that help.  I am selfish, not seeing my gifts as “common possessions” of the community.  I also do not see the gifts of other in this way.  I feel bad being a burden to anyone.  While I may be willing to help someone carry their burden (as long as it is not too heavy and the journey not too far), I carry mine alone.
I do not know why I fear community when it is a gift from God.
I do not know why I escape to story writing when Christ alone is my refuge.
I do not know why I look to the blogosphere to fill my desires when I know that “the longing for Jesus is always underneath our every desire” (Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality).
Though my brain is stuffed with knowledge I am not a spiritual being.  Over and over I fail to live my theology.  I do not know why.  With Augustine I ask “why [do] I find so much delight in doing this”?  When I believe that God is the “true and highest Sweetness”, “by what passion, then, [am] I animated” to do evil?  How easy it is to say that I will suffer with my Lord, but when the suffering is not glorious, when it is simply denying myself of my cravings, how quickly I am to give way.  While I have spoken now mostly of my deeds, often it is my evil will which threatens my theology.  My rebellious desires seek “nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself”.  How harsh are Augustine’s words, and yet how deeply they struck me as true.  “My sole gratification” is in the thought of “my own sin” and there is not much holding my back.   With Augustine I want to say to God “Presently; see, presently.  Leave me alone for a little while” and then I want to fall back into a deep sleep, and not walk up until the interesting dream is over and my responsibilities are left undone for so long that I cannot go back and do them.  Though I want to give myself fully to God eventually, I am “bound by the iron chain of my own will”. My current desires will only make this chain stronger, rather than fight against it.  Maybe I don’t live my theology because I don’t really believe it.  I know the right things to believe.  It is easy to say that God is love, but hard to live in such a way that would proclaim I believed it.  Who is this “sweeter than all pleasure” and how can I know him if not through my “flesh and blood”?