Monday, September 29, 2008

Trouble and Peace

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46:1-4

You rule the raging of the sea
and still the surging of its waves
Psalm 89:9

Verses from two different Psalms speaking to our Lord's power to calm us and keep us. I have been attempting to read from the Psalms near the beginning and end of each day recently. Last night, as I attempted to end my day I started the Psalm readings assigned. I was feeling anything but close to God, I only opened the prayer book because I have, recently, made it a habit. Two Psalms were listed, and I read the first with little, if any, enthusiasm, and started the second, Psalm 46, and was greeted with "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". I could only laugh. Here is God speaking to me from the pages of a book as I am sitting on my bed and stewing about life.

This morning the assigned reading was from Psalm 89. The Psalm starts with the line "Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness." Certainly a great line to start Monday morning on. Being typically human (or at least so I think) I had not forgotten both the my discomfort at the end of the day, nor the wonderful response from God, I read verse 9 about God ruling the sea and stilling the surging waves.

Can I remember to listen?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obedience, A Timeless Choice

Hear my teaching, O my people;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children

We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done.
Psalm 78:1-4

As I started my day today, I looked out on my balcony and saw the moon and morning stars. I had already read from a portion of St. Benedict's Rule a continuation of his chapter on Obedience: "This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to people only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or halfhearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness."

"Compliance" and "obedience", ancient concepts still used. It seems they bring a negative resonance all to often. It's not what we want to do, most especially when we are told we must be compliant, that our obedience is required. Perhaps we don't use the word obedience very much, but I expect many of us are issued rules, expectations, directives, policies, and regulations so often we simply want to crawl under the desk (or tractor, fishing net, or oil rig) and have the rest of the world deal with it all.

St. Benedict reminds us of our free will, our choice. We will always struggle with both our wanting our own way (read the next 35 verses of Psalm 78 for a vision of human desire in the face of God's gifts) and making a choice to obey.

Obedience by choice, the generations that have said and lived the Psalms, and God's gift of light, or more surely God's gift of our world, remind me (perhaps each us?) how I am in the company of many both here and now, and throughout time, as I struggle to freely choose to be obedient in God's call to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To be formed in God's good time

From Sister Joan Chittister's commentary on the daily Benedictine Rule reading for September 21 we read "A willingness to be formed is the basis of formation", and in Chapter 5 of Benedict's Rule itself (in a portion commonly read on September 22) we read "Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished".

These two passages ask something of me I find quite difficult: To be formed in God's good time. I am quite willing to give up the hard and boring activities required of me at work. I am more than happy to have an excuse to skip the household chores when I think of something "more important" to do.

In Sister Joan's commentary for today (September 22) we read "This voice of God in the demands of community life is not something to be dallied with or contended with or speculated about or debated". So there it is, God calling me when I don't want to listen.

I have been in quite the "tizzy" of not listening (at least some of the time) in the past few weeks, attempting to force my spiritual life or spiritual path into some vision I have, adjusting my support group meetings to match "my" schedule, getting new and more work assignments, joining a photo club. All of this and I catch myself in the troubling habit of comparing how successful I am feeling inside with all of the apparent "success" of others I see, read, or hear about.

God, I DO want to be formed, please give me the willingness to accept your advice, and the patience and insight to do all that is needed, rather than all that I want. Thank You.