… does in fact please you

To be honest, I have found prayer very hard for most of my life. I have tried to “intellectualise” it and go searching for the perfect prayer book or liturgy. This made prayer ever more and more complicated and involved. Naively I thought that the more complex it was the more God must want to listen. It never worked as the bookshelf of prayer books will testify.

Recently I have started using the standard Prayer Book for Australian Anglicans – A Prayer Book for Australia. It has an order of Morning and Evening Prayer for every day of the week. The Psalms are divided over a longer period than older versions of the Prayer Book.

Maybe it is not about “how” we pray but “why” we pray that matters?

This morning I thought about how I feel that I am a little “aimless” at the moment. A time of waiting and I do not really enjoy waiting. And Thomas Merton’s Prayer came to mind:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

I have always been struck by the phrase “does in fact please you“. The desire for communion, for intimacy with God, for openness, does please God. And this desire sets the tone of daily life.

Prayer is not about getting somewhere but about being in the presence of God. The “how” of prayer is less important than the desire to be open in prayer – to listen and speak with God in intimacy. I like the obedience of using a Prayer Book and it is very much within my own personal tradition. But it is not the how but rather the desire to set aside time to rest.

Like Merton, I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

Well …

Just to illustrate my blogging expertise!? I was wondering why no one had ever commented on a post. Today I worked out why – I did not allow comments on this blog. Grrrrr?!?!?! So comments are now available on future posts.

existential individual

We are born biological beings but we must become existential individuals by accepting responsibility for our actions. This is an application of Nietzsche’s advice to ‘become what you are’. Many people never do acknowledge such responsibility but rather flee their existential individuality into the comfort of the faceless crowd.

Thomas Flynn, Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction.

I remember first reading the above quote and being caught off-guard. The philosophy I had read before that had been western Aristotelian – Thomas Aquinas and the more conservative Roman Catholic philosophers. I read Augustine’s Confessions one Lent and became more interested in Plato and Christian Platonism. Somehow (by God’s grace) I read a few books about existentialism and ended with Kierkegaard. I’ll admit that just being able to spell “Kierkegaard” was a point of pride. I was attracted by Kierkegaard’s view of the self but the Absolute Paradox keeps me reading. But that is for another post!

The above is a thought I have often returned to because it puts it so simply and elegantly. Kierkegaard, of course, would speak of becoming a “single individual” before God. Often in Christian circles I have heard people speak of the evil of modern individualism. I think that is how some people would read the above quote. But the issue with modern individualism (what is that?) is the idea of freedom – someone being free does not mean that their actions are right. Again, for another post!

“Actions and consequences before God” is how I read the quote. (And how I understand Kierkegaard’s “single individual”.) I am responsible for my actions and for my relationship with Jesus. There is no magic formula or secret handshake that creates and keeps me in that relationship. No doctrinal position or liturgical rite will take away from me the responsibility I have before God for my relationship with Him. God makes the first move and reaches out to me. I am called to respond to Him in my particular and individual situation.

Maybe I should write a little about “faith” in the future? But the above is just as true for me in my daily life with depression. The moment I took responsibility for my mental health things changed. I remember crying for the first time during counselling – not hiding the pain behind a mask given to me by the crowd, not allowing the crowd to define me and box me into a role. Finding out what that “me” is has been painful and very hard. And it is a daily struggle not to run back into the crowd and just surrender “me” to a function I have been assigned.

So, anyway, I just wanted to share that quote.

Walking and thinking

I have exercised three days in a row. I like to go for a walk early in the morning before Morning Prayer. I pretend I pray but really it is a time for me to think. Sometimes it is about ideas or people, and sometimes it is dark and not useful. I often turn the thoughts into posts here or I write them down in my journal. The last three days have been good and I physically feel better.

I am never sure if it part of the cycle I go through or if I am generally improving. But I walk, I think, and I listen to music. I like it better when it is cold. I need the solitude of the walk and physical exercise to try to find some balance before the day starts.

So now I am going to have a cup of tea and say Morning Prayer. I pray you have a hope-filled day with Jesus!

I am just a nobody …

I have been listening to the Casting Crowns album Only Jesus. The first three songs are very much about my situation at the moment. So here is one of the songs that I relate to in particular.

I have struggled to write the “About Me?” page. Who I am is a difficult question for me. But trying to write it down has helped. Wanting to be “somebody” seems a very natural thing in our modern world. But when does the “wanting to be” define the “somebody”?

Surrender wanting to be “somebody”. Allow yourself to be a nobody for Jesus – only Jesus. It is so against everything that is happening around me. Live the new life in Jesus with possibility and be a “nobody” for Him.

Take 4!

So I finally got a podcast recorded. It only took me 4 takes – all because I keep switching off the recording when I put my phone in my pocket.

So there it is: Take 4!

Some reflection on Easter. It is always fun recording and producing the podcast so I hope you enjoy.

grrrr …

I started a recording while walking this morning. But it appears it switched off when I put my phone in my pocket. So no podcast today. I did have a perfect reflection on Easter and some general insights on life. But it was not to be!

I am hoping to record Thursday on the gospel for this coming Sunday. Hopefully I can get the technology working!

get used to different

I was slow to jump on The Chosen bandwagon. But now I am leading the parade. We are planning to watch it as a parish and I am looking forward being together. And I am looking forward to Season 2.

But this picture for me is not about Season 2. It is about the caption: “Get used to different“. That should be my motto. Things are changing and my life is looking different. But there is one constant: Jesus. So focus on Him. Live with Jesus now and stop holding on to the past! Let life flow and let Jesus be Jesus.

The old is gone

Today is Easter Sunday. The liturgy was lovely this morning with a very good sermon.

Today’s gospel (John 20:1-19) has Jesus and Mary meeting at the tomb. Mary does not recognise Jesus until He calls her by name. I wonder how often we do not recognise Jesus in our daily lives? Yet more: I wonder if I ever close my ears and do not hear Him calling my name? The Resurrected Lord is alive and active now – Jesus lives. The moment is now for my life and my relationship with Jesus. The past has lost its power.

I was thinking this morning about how Easter is the proclamation of how the old is dead and the new life is full of possibility (Matthew 19:26). Letting go of the past is not always easy. I have found that moving from “I am …” to “I was …” an almost impossible leap. My struggle has always been that I allow things that I do to define me. I find it hard to accept that I am much more than the sum of my parts. And I am much more in the eyes of Jesus than in the eyes of other people.

Blessed Easter to you! It has been a life-changing one for me this year. I feel the power of the past has lifted and I am called to a new life. Not sure what it will look like and I am sure that I will have periods of darkness. But this new life is full of possibility – full of Jesus.