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spiritual exercises: Romans 8:26-34 October 13, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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I have a hard time with the word “predestined”, which shows up in this passage. In the last post, I touched a little on my love of language and my pride in my ability to use it well. So, I guess you could say I have a real relationship with words, and just like relationships with people, there are some that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. “Predestined” has always been one of those words that has given me an icky feeling. I like my free will, thank you very much. I believe in personal responsibility, accountability for the choices you make and consequences, both good and bad. The word “predestined” seems to contradict everything I believe in. I want to believe that there is more to it, something that I’m not understanding about the word and the concept it represents, so once again, I turned to The Message, where I certainly got what I was looking for.

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided
from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same
lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he
restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed
it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on
a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed
with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.”

“The original and intended shape of our lives”…more appealing words, certainly, beautiful ones, even. But it also sounds to me like the argument that some folks use to rail against all the wonderful, different ways in which we human children were made. In other words, “Don’t rock the boat – don’t be different – that’s not the ‘original and intended shape of our lives’.”

However, immediately preceding this passage are the words that have brought so much comfort to many: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” These are words that sanctify our struggles and encourage us to let go of SELF, along with our fear and self-loathing.

I guess I could say therefore that this passage causes me some distress, even disturbs me a little. There seems to be a direct contradiction between the idea of an existence rooted in mystery, and my appreciation of that which is concrete and well-defined and easily controlled. I like the ideas of holy mystery and profound truths and God’s desire for me, but I can’t quite get my mind around them, because that would involve my complete and unconditional surrender, and I really don’t see that happening anytime soon.

spiritual exercises: Job 1:21 and 38:1 – 40:5 October 12, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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“Naked I came from my mother’s womb…I must bow down before the creator’s wisdom.”

In the NRSV, chapter 38 of Job starts out with this:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: who is this
that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your
loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

The Message says this:

“And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent
storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk
without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job!
Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want
some straight answers.”

Ah ha! I get it now. While the last several years have seen me make a career transition from hotel professional to social worker (a downward trajectory according to our society, not to mention my mother, so can anyone please tell me why I’m enjoying myself so damn much?), when I’m doing one-on-one with people, I always seem to slip into the vernacular seen in the latter translation. Doesn’t matter what your job is: I think I’ve met more than my fair share of people who just don’t seem to get it, whatever “it” happens to be. So when God says to Job, “Up on your feet!” THAT makes sense to me. It’s how I was spoken to as a child when I was in the wrong, and it’s how I speak to others now. I consider myself to have a good head on my shoulders. I also know that I am “beautifully and wonderfully made”, and yet, just like Job, I confuse the issue. I keep thinking that I’ve got it all figured that, that I know what needs to be done to accomplish the objective at hand, and I keep getting knocked off my feet. And it’s starting to occur to me that I need to take more time to just LISTEN. I think our latest change of residence may wind up being very conducive to that: the directions to my house include the words “turn left on the unmarked dirt road”, and the house has a neat back porch that looks out over a whole lot of nothing. It’s tough, though. To me, words are power. Having a good vocabulary, being able to explain myself clearly and concisely, having a knowledge of grammar and sentence structure – these all lead to the perception in others that I am intelligent and accomplished. The fact that I know how to use language is a big part of what I use to reassure myself that I am still the same person I’ve always been when everything else in my life is sliding around and it appears that I may not be so intelligent after all. And this attitude of mine towards language and intelligence is really a small symptom of the larger sickness of having to be in control of…well, just about everything else. This passage hits me where it hurts. It says, “It’s not about YOU. Once in awhile, you just might need to GIVE UP.”

So, what do I most hope to get out of this retreat? I think it would have to be this:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have
opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m
ready to shut up and listen.”
-Job 40:3-5 (The Message)

Love is in the air…la dee dah dee dah… October 12, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in marriage.
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As husband leaned in for his goodbye kiss this morning, instead of puckering up I did what I do when I’m feeling silly, which is give him a raspberry on the mouth instead. And then he did that thing he does that’s always so adorable – crinkled up his eyebrows and said, “You’re weird.”

Happy anniversary, dear. The flowers were gorgeous. And I’ll even forgive you for putting “Thank you for 5 years” on the card, when it’s only been 4.

Hee hee 🙂

spiritual exercises: Exodus 3:4-10 October 11, 2006

Posted by introspectreangel in prayer, theology.
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This passage made me think of my husband and a conversation that we had while dating. He has struggled with issues of faith much more than I ever have, and I remember him telling me that he would give anything – absolutely anything – to have a physical experience with God or His angels like Moses’ experience I read about in Exodus last night. I, on the other hand, have always been more able to see the holy ground in the everyday happenings of my life. As a child, my holy ground was the park that my mom took me to. It was the place where she told me that God is not an old man in the sky with a white beard, but rather that God is all around us, a lesson that I am now in the process of teaching my son. At this time in my life, my holy ground is the sanctuary of family, the family that is made up of myself, my husband and son, and sometimes, my daughter, when circumstances arrange themselves so that she can come for a visit. Last night, after reading the passage, I meditated on the meaning of holy ground. The physical structure that our family calls home has changed a little more often than I’d necessarily like in our 4 years together, and on one level, I’m quite peaceful in the knowledge that every move we make is leading us closer to where we are supposed to be, even when we don’t understand how or why. On the other hand, I feel insecure when I have to explain to people where we lived before and how we came to be where we are now and how moving seems to be a way of life for us. I feel judged, and I feel like people are looking at me and thinking that I must somehow be unstable.

I guess this is all a really long-winded way of saying that I try to take my holy ground where I can find it: my back porch, my drive to work, the birthing center where my niece came into the world this past Sunday night are a few places I’ve experienced recently. Last night as I prayed, I experienced a desire to begin searching for more holy places, and a vague admonishment from somewhere that I need to be aware that they won’t always be where I expect.