Psalm 55 was part of Morning and Evening Prayer today. This morning I was struck by these verses:
And I said: ‘O that I had wings like a dove, ♦Psalm 55:7-9
for then would I fly away and be at rest.
‘Then would I flee far away ♦
and make my lodging in the wilderness.
‘I would make haste to escape ♦
from the stormy wind and tempest.’
I often want to escape. I am never sure if I have faith or just a very strong desire to escape. Maybe a better way to put it is that I am not sure whether I have a vocation or a strong desire to escape?!
So I identify with the above verses. Indeed I would like to be a dove that flys into the wilderness and is never heard from again. And that urge is so strong sometimes. But is it the wilderness that I want to escape to? Or is it into Jesus that I want to escape?
I just wanted to share Psalm 62 again. It was set for Morning Prayer and it always speaks to me. So here is the whole Psalm with Refrain as found in Common Worship:
Refrain: Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul.
1 On God alone my soul in stillness waits; ♦
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, ♦
my stronghold, so that I shall never be shaken.
3 How long will all of you assail me to destroy me, ♦
as you would a tottering wall or a leaning fence?
4 They plot only to thrust me down from my place of honour;
lies are their chief delight; ♦
they bless with their mouth, but in their heart they curse.
5 Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul; ♦
for in him is my hope.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, ♦
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. [R]
7 In God is my strength and my glory; ♦
God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge.
8 Put your trust in him always, my people; ♦
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
9 The peoples are but a breath,
the whole human race a deceit; ♦
on the scales they are altogether lighter than air.
10 Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take no empty pride; ♦
though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
11 God spoke once, and twice have I heard the same, ♦
that power belongs to God.
12 Steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord, ♦
for you repay everyone according to their deeds.
Refrain: Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul.
O God, teach us to seek security,
not in money or theft,
not in human ambition or malice,
not in our own ability or power,
but in you, the only God,
our rock and our salvation.
So I started a new job this past week. And to say it was an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. The end of the week was much better than the start but there were so many triggers that I really struggled the first three days. The job itself is not bad (and not my dream job, either, by the way) – the people are nice, the work is ok, and the context is pleasant enough. It is just me!!!! The context reminded me of all those dark times and the negative thoughts that can dominate. I have a habit of taking everything personally.
There was also some grief over losing my freedom to read and work “my way”. I have settled into a routine with my prayer life and that has helped. I will need to find time to read and do the other things I want to do.
I am glad that I have a “support team” that helps me and gives sound advice. Maybe what I am thankful for above all is people who listen!
… I have not mentioned it: I have started using Common Prayer: Daily Prayer as my office book. And I must admit I absolutely love it. It is physically a very nice book. And the offices are within the Anglican tradition and solidly traditional in their shape. It provides Morning Prayer, Prayer During the Day, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the end of the day. I like the four-fold office as it is doable for me in my current context. And, to be honest, I do not want more at the moment!
I will admit that sometimes I feel some anxiety about not using the Australian prayer book that my parish uses. But that is for another day to consider!
I have decided to keep a list of some of the books and articles I have read in the last month or so. So go to Anchorite Reading List.
Aelred of Rievaulx, in his Rule of Life for a Recluse, laments that some anchorites like gossiping:
… their purpose no longer to being to arouse desire but to gratify it.
I think that is also true for a lot of reading in a modern context. People read all the time – online, on their phones, emails, etc. In a sense, anchorite solitude is all about space to read. But read well! Reading to “arouse desire” for Jesus. Not reading to pass the time or “gratify” a base desire. Reading to move closer to Jesus.
I think people of faith should make more time for reading to arouse desire. Not just the Scriptures or the Prayer Book – both of which should be a very important part of every day. Lectio Divina should become a part of every Christians’ day.
Also good Christian books. Our tradition is overflowing with good reading material for which a whole lifetime would not be enough to read. Guided reading – with a spiritual guide – would be a magnificent place for people to feed their spiritual life.
Sorry if that is a little preachy.
I have used this verse from the Song of Songs (2:5) as my tagline on this blog for a couple of months:
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his intention toward me was love.
Today, I was reflecting on the monastic cell – the place where a religious “lives”. It is the place where God leads the individual and the intent of God is only love. And the intent of the religious is on God alone – their naked intent is for Jesus.
I find that thought really comforting – there is a place where I am alone with God and where God is all about love. A place God himself has “brought me”. A place of rest! A place of no hiding from God or myself.
I have been reading Wisdom in Love: Kierkegaard and the Ancient Quest for Emotional Integrity by Rick Anthony Furtak. It has been on my list for a while and it was on special so I thought I might as well. I have been thinking about emotions a lot and this book really hits the spot on that topic.
So here is a quote from the Introduction:
One uncomfortable truth which emerges from this inquiry is that we cannot sustain the emotions that hold us together without accepting the risk of suffering the emotions that tear us apart.
All life involves risk! Maybe that is the fundamental problem with people today?! (Sorry, that is really judgemental and generalised.) Maybe that is the fundamental problem with me!? Life always involves risk because it always involves faith.
I did a quick google (as you do!) and found this article: Kierkegaard on the Psychology of a Risk Averse Society. It is worth a read.
So my point? I think we have become a society that likes to watch because we like to play it safe. It is much more fun watching someone else do the risky thing. More fun watching the “love story” or the “adventure movie” than loving or acting ourselves. But can we really grow (spiritually or emotionally) if we never risk? With the risk of being wrong can we ever really be right? Without the risk of hate can there ever really be love?
Open, O Lord, my mouth to bless thy holy Name; cleanse also my heart from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts; enlighten my understanding and kindle my affections; that I may worthily, attentively, and devoutly recite this office, and so be meet to be heard before the presence of thy divine Majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have used the traditional prayer before the Office for many years. (Yes, I still use the more traditional language above because my mind is old and I cannot learn anything new.)
I have been thinking about “kindle my affections”. For many years I have tried, at all costs, to keep emotion out of my relationship with Jesus. But is it really a “relationship” without emotions? Yes, ordered affections! But not “no affections”. Part of my struggle with depression has been an unwillingness to see my feelings as real – I have feelings. I still need to learn to express them in the right way in the right context. But these feelings are not pre-defined for me by my context.
I have learned that I am not a robot – I have feelings and desires. And my relationship with Jesus is not about stopping those but ordering them to Jesus – “Jesus, I desire you alone!”. Holy tears are part of that discovery.
Jesus wants a human response to Him and that response must include feelings.