Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A fresh look at forgiveness

Lent is a time of reflection. The faith traditions that celebrate (is that the right word? Hmmm) Lent see it as a time in the desert.. a time of dryness...a time to contemplate how we are doing (usually not as well as we think we are) and look forward to the refreshing Water of the Resurrection. For most people, that includes a look at forgiveness..both at God's forgiveness of us, and of our forgiveness of others. As I was reading earlier this week, I came across this essay on forgiveness by Father Richard Veras. It was written on the fourth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. I hope you enjoy this excerpt...

Forgiveness does not begin with feelings, it begins with a judgement. A true judgement begins with the fact that God is ultimately the judge of the living and the dead. The truth regarding those terrorists, and anyone else who has hurt me, is that I have no say in their final destiny. Their salvation is between them and God the Father. Only the Father knows the offenders heart; and only the offender can use his freedom to accept or reject God's fatherhood. I don't know how much responsibility belongs to the person himself, and how much belongs to the person's culture or environment; only God knows. I do not know if there is anything in the depth of the person's being which can still repent of sin and respond to mercy and embrace the truth; only God knows. Forgiveness begins when I say to God the Father, "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend their spirit. You are justice. You are mercy. I trust in you.

...Before God, before our ultimate destiny, I am not the judge. In fact, I am not even the jury. God will not consult me, for only he, in his infinite wisdom, can see into the depths of the infinite and so often twisted human heart.

Let us remember that we, like Peter, are in the Presence of Christ who tells us that forgiveness is limitless.

What stood out to me was the fact that "I am not the judge. I'm not even the jury. God will not consult me.." Wow. I'm not saying I haven't given this lip service, but this time it was like a jolt of electricity. My feelings don't change God's feelings. The human heart is infinite, and God's mercy is infinite. God's forgiveness is "limitless."

A comforting and challenging thing for me to contemplate this Lent.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Turning the other cheek....

The idea of respect seems to be reoccuring in my life in several different areas. Does that happen to you? You hear a word, or an idea, or a phrase or a song, and then all of the sudden it's everywhere? That's how it's been with the idea of respect for me this past few weeks. Respect for children, respect for my husband, respect for other people's opinions, respect being talked about at church in the context of marriage, respect for tradition. But how do we apply this concept of respect? Do we think of respecting our children the same way as our friends or the cashier at the grocery store? Are there different levels of respect depending on the relationship we have with the person or people in question?

Last week two bloggers resigned from John Edwards' campaign after a firestorm of protest over some things they had previously written on their private blogs. When Julie posted about this on her blog on Feb 21, it percipitated a good disscussion. ( The discussion highlighted for me some fundamental differences in how people view the idea of respect when it comes to faceless groups as opposed to a "real" person. It was enlightening and helpful and prompted continued thought on my part. The gist (for me) was that when mrginalized and silenced, people may strike back at their perceived opppressors with anger, vulgarity, and general disrespect. That disrespect is targeted at a group or ideology in general and should not necessarily be personalized by anyone who happens to line up with said ideology. In other words, it is possible to be angry with, and abusive to, a group of people without carrying those feeling over to any particular individual within the group. Shocking language is arguably an understandable and effective way of getting heard, of making people sit up and take notice.

My "gut" feelings are that respect is fundamental, and that lowering the level of discourse to the level of vulgarity and abuse is never productive. Or even if it proves productive, it has consequences such as continued polarization that aren't worth the momentary gain, or momentary feeling of relief! For my purposes in the post, I'm not trying to argue whether or not the two bloggers should have been censored for their private views. This post is me processing in writing about how I see respect in general.

When it comes to respect, I see a sort of concentric circle, with me and my husband in the middle, and then moving out like layers in an onion (or ogre) to the following: children, family, friends, strangers you meet during the course of a day, anonymous strangers, and "enemies." While we too often disrespect those closest to us, our spouses, children and family, we at least give lip service to the idea that you should treat people with dignity. We perhaps are better at respecting our friends who can decide not to have anything to do with us if we treat them shabbily. The concept starts to unravel when it comes to strangers we meet physically in the course of the day, or talk to on the phone. As the physical contact gets more remote, the concept of rudeness is more acceptable. We can cuss out the person in the car that just cut us off, or we can berate the person on the other end of the line when our insurance has screwed up our coverage again. Let the person become more anonymous, more faceless, and the idea of rudeness is excused because it is supposidly no longer directed at an individual, but a group or short, it is now directed at "our enemies." With the glut of movies and TV shows glorifying vengence and making sure the bad guys "get theirs," it's understandable that payback has become glorified and even dignified in our society. The bastards who done you wrong don't deserve any respect. In fact, isn't it a good thing to fight back at those who are angry and abusive themselves?

I don't want to give a Bible study here, but I am convinced that Christ teaches a radically different way of reacting to those who hate and persecute us, as well as how to treat "the least of these." The strangers we come across, the cashiers, the mailman, the bank teller, are all deserving of a smile and patience as they go about their jobs. The faceless masses, who include the poor and disadvantaged, are deserving of special respect and care and we can show that through donations of our time and money, and through advocacy of their cause. But the faceless masses also include the guy in the car who is acting like a jerk, or the writer of that newspaper column who just doesn't have a clue. As a parent, my attitude expressed in front of my children influence how they view other people, who is worth of respect and who isn't, and from me they get the idea of "victimization" or forgiveness.

The hardest group of all to deal with are the "enemies." These are the people who have marginalized you, who are fighting to unravel what you hold dear or advocate what you abhor. How are we to react to them? Even if we are truly victims, how are we called to respond? "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Resorting to vulgarity and shock-value isn't an option, in my opinion.

My friend (ampersand) is right. I am called not to take the insults personally. In fact, as a Christian I should be very, very difficult to offend. On the other hand, I am convinced that resorting to abuse is never an effective way to change things for the better.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kreeft, and my private epiphany

The conference "unofficially" started on Friday evening with a series of free talks. First up was a talk by Peter Kreeft geared to the teens of the audience called Are All Religions Equal? He spent time using contradictory statements (God/ No God) to narrow down the differences between Christianity and the other major world religions. It wasn't anything really new to Will and me since we've listened to so many of his lectures, but it was still fascinating. What I love about Kreeft is his respect for other religions and his refusal to assign "unsaved" status to anyone. He firmly believes in heaven and hell, yet he also just as firmly believes God gives every man the choice, real choice, for salvation. And while all salvation is through Christ's work on the cross, how God applies that work isn't our business. Kreeft remided people several times throughout the weekend, "God is God, and you're not."

Even so, Kreeft obviously thinks Christianity is superior to other religions because it has the "fullness of Truth." And he believes Catholicism is the fullest expression of that truth. But while he is somewhat conservative and orthodox in his beleifs, he blends that belief with the real, honest practicing of love and acceptance of others. This juxtaposition of those two ways of living is exciting to me, and someplace I long to end up! I long to hold my faith in Christ dear to my heart while also loving others who differ, and not feeling threatened by them or self-protective. During a question/answer session, someone asked what Kreeft thought of the rash of books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. He just smiled and said he welcomed their hard questions and strong emotions. "They are closer to the faith than those who don't care." This is how I want to feel.

Kreeft gave two more talks during the weekend. One was a whirlwind trip through prevalent worldviews today, and the last was What Christ Calls Us to Be. Both talks were good, but the last one was perhaps the most practical for me. He talked about the five steps we needed to take toward becoming "little Christs."
  1. Christ calls us to be honest, with ourselves and others.
  2. Christ wants us to practice justice and moral honesty. We are moral agents and subject to natural law. We need to chose to act accordingly towards others.
  3. Charity- We rely solely on God's mercy for salvation, and we need to show that kind of love and mercy towards others. There is no room for pride.
  4. Sanctity- We are called to be saints, on the road to perfection.
  5. Christ calls us to share the divine nature- theosis. We are to be, as Christ says, "born again," truely transformed day-by-day into Chirst's body. Just as Christ has a dual nature, so do we from the moment of baptism. Although our divine nature is a small drop in an ocean of humanity, it is there, born again by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. (Kreeft refered us to C.S. Lewis' essay The Weight of Glory for a more thorough treatment of this topic.)
Where does faith come into this? Faith is needed to be honest with ourselves and God since we can't see what will happen each step of the way. We must have faith that honesty is the right way. So faith is needed for the start, and for every step afterwards.

Kreeft wasn't the only speaker, but I admit he was the one I came to see. There were other good speakers (Mark Shea and Steve Woods being two) and I enjoyed listening and learning. It was definitely different being a bit on the outside, not being Cahtolic or even officially in the process of becoming one at this point. The conference was aimed at strengthening the Catholic faith and witness within the larger Christian community as well as outside the Christian community. There was a great deal of emphasis on what the Catholic strengths were, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, for example. Since this is one sacrament I can't participate in, I was somehow unaware of how truely central this is to the Catholic experience. I heard some about saints and Mary, and I heard some about the Rite of Reconciliation, and about how important those all were in the Catholic walk. But what I heard most, or felt most, was how the Real Presence set Catholics (and a few Protestant traditions) apart, and gave them added strength and blessing. The emphasis was on Christ physically indwelling His church. And I realized something: I have to understand this or I will never know whether I belong there or not.

So what I came away with that is truely profound for me is that I have to seek an understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in order to ever make that step across the threshold into the Catholic church. This will answer my hesitations, or solidify them. If I come to accept the Real Presence, then no matter what other objections might still linger, I will know where I belong. If I can't accept it then I don't belong there, because this is central and, as far as I can see, all important for being part of the Church.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Feeling frustrated...

I've written two posts that I'm not satisfied with. They don't say what I mean to say. When the posts were in my head, they sounded good..but as I tried to write them down they sounded rather trite. I have them saved as drafts, yet each time I read them I don't quite like them, and I don't know why. Meanwhile, here my blog sits.

Maybe tomorrow I'll post my general impressions of the conference. I don't know.... maybe I'll finish that post on respect...or rewrite it. Or talk about my kids. Or think in writing about whether or not I ought to teach biology at the homeschool tutorial again next year or take a year off and do something else. Maybe I only have half-a-dozen thoughts in my head, and once I've written about them it will all go silent in there. ;-)

Till tomorrow....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I'll be scarce for a few days....

Will and I are attending a conference called Ignited by Truth ( this weekend, so I won't be around much. It's a Catholic conference, and one of the key speakers is author and Boston College philosophy professor, Peter Kreeft. ( Kreeft is a favorite author and speaker of ours and I can't wait to hear him in person. Years ago when my fahter died of cancer, and then a few years later when our infant son died, Kreeft's book Making Sense Out of Suffering was very helpful. One of Kreeft's articles posted on his website called Hauled Aboard the Ark was influencial in our decision to look into the teachings of the Catholic Church. His style is winsome and entertaining.

Enjoy your weekend!

PS. I can't seem to make the links work right in my test. Anyone want to point me toward a tutorial on how to have a highlighted word instead of the whole link? Thanks!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Playing theological Twister

"Right hand on Bible as the inerrant Word of God."
"Left foot on questioning the effectiveness of prayer."
"Right foot on questions about Mary and the Saints."
"Now left foot on researching the Real Presence."
"Right hand now on studying the early church."
"Left hand on trying to understand methods of biblical interpretation, including the historical critical method."
"Right foot on enjoying Catholic Mass and having your husband now going through the membership process."
"Now, for a real contortion act, left hand on doing the above while still attending your local evangelical church with your children."

This game is bound to lead to the chiropractor, if not to the nearest psychologist. It's leaving me stumped about where I belong, what I believe, and where to go from here. The road has been long and convoluted...leading from a childhood in mostly mainline churches to an adult spiritual path marked with a wide variety of experiences, from a charismatic praise-singing community to three years in a church that had no instruments and only sang psalms, and then back to an evangelical church with charismatic leanings. That experience left me bewildered about the dizzying array of beliefs within Christianity and left me skeptical about who has it "right." My searching has led me to the Catholic Church and it's long history. I love the richness and the ritual of the mass. I love the sense of timelessness and I love the "big tent" attitude. I've spent a stimulating year wrestling with the doctrines and wrestling verbally with the young man in charge of people like me... people in the Inquiry class.

Add to all this the fact that I've spent 8 years or more watching several dear friends go through life-changing spiritual journeys...some to Catholicism, some to Eastern Orthodoxy, some to skepticism, and some to the postmodern acceptance of the unknowable. These friends, and those whose faith hasn't gone through upheaval, have all forced me to look at my life and beliefs more closely. I was encouraged to stop spouting party lines and to start looking closely at what I was saying. I saw inconsistancies and learned to wonder about many things I'd never questioned.

So here I am, playing theological tangled up about what I "know" and where I belong that I don't foresee ever really figuring it out. I have part of my heart in two different churches, not just because literally my heart is with my husband at one church and with my children at the other, but because I see so much beauty, truth, meaning, worship, and service going on both places. I feel paralyzed in the middle...unable to make up my mind to leave one or the other, yet knowing that fence straddling isn't a permanent answer either.

Yet, since my youngest child is only 10, I'll probably be straddling the fence for some time to come. I'm commited to supporting my children's involvement in their church. I'll continue to read and search, and juggle my time as well as juggle the questions of my well-meaning Protestant friends who can't understand why I'm going to Mass. Maybe it will all come clear someday soon. In the meantime.....

"Left foot on dropping kids off at Youth Group early so you can get to Ash Wednesday Mass"
"Right hand on keeping up with your friends at Grace and your friends at St. Thomas More."
"Left foot on meeting with the RCIA director to discuss his book recommendation."
"Right hand on trying to figure out Church authority."
"Right foot on trying not to wish for the days when we all were happy at the same church."
"Left hand on the belief that God is bigger than any church."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Getting in touch with your inner cat....

People say we ought to learn to look at the world through the eyes of a child. If we could only recapture the wonder and the curiosity of a child, we could shed our jaded ways be open to new things instead of skeptical and cautious. I have a better idea. We should learn to look at the world through the eyes of a cat, or more precisely, a kitten. Neko has been with us for about 9 weeks now. He came to us as a less-than 2 lb little orange ball with bright blue eyes. Even on unsteady legs he was determined to explore everything, including the huge mound of fur that happened to be our aging golden retriever. Now at almost 18 weeks old, he's 5 lbs of orange fur, lean and angular, and the eyes have turned an interesting shade of yellow. And he's the most determined explorer I have ever known.

None of my children ever threw themselves into knowing their physical world the way Neko does. Exploring and learning are full-contact sports. He climbs every piece of furniture, explores the source of every sound, attacks every movement, climbs into every opening, and dashes through every open door. Once on top of a piece of furniture, he then procedes to clear it of all objects. One by one each object is carefully batted to the edge, then quickly dispatched. Neko spends a moment looking after it, then goes to the next item. Once everything he can move is cleared off, he jumps down to look over the collection on the floor. Ocassionally he picks out an item to play with further, or to carry off to some other part of the house. (It took us a while to find Erik's contact lens case one time.)

Every open cabinet door is an invitation. He's been shut in the refrigerator twice, and pulled out of it at least a dozen times more. He's accidentally jumped into the toilet, and twice into open trash cans he thought were closed. Shopping days are expecially exciting, for Neko has to crawl into each and every bag we bring in the door, and into every empty, or not so empty, box. He takes running leaps at the plastic bags and rides them across the floor like a surfer. This cat can, and does, make a game out of everything. He explores, tastes, jumps, touches, bats, bites and scratches everything in his quest to know his world. He usually finishes his day snuggled in someone's lap, purring wildly because he is one happy kitten.

I think cats are must be good at playing the "believing game." They seem willing to open themselves to experience it all and find out for themselves what is pleasing to them and what isn't. They throw themselves into each new experience with wild-eyed wonder, more than a little reckless and often getting into trouble. Curiosity may be said to "kill the cat," and I can see where the old saying comes from, but curiosity also makes for one heck of a ride, if Neko is any example!

So, to paraphrase that other old saying, let's learn to look at the world through the eyes of a kitten, where all things are new, exciting, and exotic. We should apply this not only to new experiences, but also to the "old" and well-known. Maybe we're so used to some ideas, people or experiences that we don't think of them as holding anything new or interesting. I bet Neko would find them worthy of a second look!

I don't recommend jumping into the toilet, though.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Biden's misstep an eye-opener..

Not only is Biden's foot-in-mouth quote an eye-opener about the deep-seated nature of racial stereotypes, but it is an eye-opener on media favoritism. Julie, if you're reading, remember posting about how black athletes who give coherent interviews are called "well-spoken," as if that was a surprise, while white athletes are assumed to be well-spoken? This is another example in a different arena.

An inadvertent truth.
2/9/2007 From The Week Magazine

Joe Biden has made an amazing discovery, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Last week, he called his Senate colleague and potential presidential rival Barack Obama of Illinois “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Forget, for the moment, Biden’s seeming astonishment that a black man could be nice-looking and bathe regularly. “For my part, I never made it past ‘articulate.’” Apparently, Biden can’t quite believe that Obama, a Columbia graduate, former president of the Harvard Law Review, and best-selling author, can “speak in complete sentences.” Am I overreacting? Then why are white orators such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards always described as “eloquent”? “Articulate,” by contrast, is used by patronizing lunkheads who find it “improbable and wondrous” that a black person could sound so … well, white.

What Biden clearly meant to say, said Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald, is that Obama is the first black presidential candidate who has a chance of winning. “But what he wound up saying is revealing, and what it reveals is not pretty.” Funny thing, though, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial. If a conservative had committed this gaffe, he would have been crucified. Remember the firestorm last year when Sen. George Allen called an Indian-American a “macaca”? How about when House Majority Leader Dick Armey called Rep. Barney Frank “Barney Fag”? The media relentlessly pummeled both these Republicans, insisting they’d revealed themselves as flaming bigots. But because Biden is a liberal Democrat, pundits are merely shaking their heads. There goes old Joe, they’re chuckling, putting his foot in his mouth once again.

This time, Biden’s foot has made a valuable contribution, said Cynthia Tucker in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In his own inept way, he’s shown that race remains a minefield in this country. Despite all the progress made by the civil-rights movement, it’s still impossible for blacks to escape their physical appearance. For us, “not only does language matter, but so does tone of voice. So does dress. So does hair.” Obama’s reaction to this mess was as noble as you could hope for, said Ginger Rutland in The Sacramento Bee. “We have more important things to talk about,” he responded. “We’ve got Iraq. We’ve got health care. We’ve got energy.” As Obama well knows, however, we also have race. In the months ahead, as he continues his presidential run, voters would probably appreciate it if he addressed this explosive subject with the candor it deserves. “I know I would.”

Friday, February 9, 2007

One more book I want to read......

Main Image
American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion
Barrett debunks myths surrounding Muslim migration to America.
by Paul M. Barrett

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
$25.00 Release Date: 12/26/2006

Only spotty data exists about America’s Muslim population. Estimates suggest there are between 3 million and 10 million Muslims nationwide—including Asians, Arabs, and African-Americans—and that about 1,300 mosques dot the land. But the U.S. Census doesn’t ask about religious affiliation, and there’s no reliable count of mosques. What we do know, says journalist Paul Barrett, is that the American Muslim community is slightly more prosperous and significantly better educated than the American population as a whole. To speak of them as a “community,” however, obscures the significant differences in background and ideology that divide them.

Barrett, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, has wisely built his portrait of American Islam not with statistics but through seven detailed individual profiles, said Laura Miller in Even so, his thoughtful, scrupulously evenhanded book includes a “concise overview of Islam in general and American Islam in particular” that may be better than any other published since 9/11. His subjects form a diverse lot—a prosperous Michigan newspaper publisher, a militant African-American imam, an iconoclastic Pakistani-American feminist, an Indian-born entrepreneur who dabbled in hate theology during his college years in Tennessee. The overall mix appears weighted toward “unconventional and even progressive members of the religion,” but Barrett clearly “aims to give all sides their due.”

Barrett’s case studies imply, reassuringly, that radical Islam is unlikely to gain the traction here that it has in Europe, said Neil MacFarquhar in The New York Times. Though Barrett details how Saudi money has built mosques and spread fundamentalist teachings here, his profiles make clear that many Muslims in this country have embraced American values. They are not ghettoized in ethnic enclaves or alienated from the larger society. What’s more, many moderate Muslims are vigilant about extinguishing radicalism when it crops up in their midst. Though our leaders in Washington don’t yet seem to recognize this, said Reza Aslan in, the Muslims in this country may in fact be “America’s greatest weapon against jihadism.” The moderates, after all, fervently believe in the benefits of pluralism and “know that they are more threatened by jihadism than any of their non-Muslim compatriots.”

From The Week Magazine February 9, 2007

Books on my To Read list

Having a blog creates a cetrtain pressure. I seemed to have something to say for the first few days, but this week my mind has been occupied with sick kids, sick kitten, and motherhood in general. Usually that wouldn't bother me too much, but now I feel this obligation to say something witty or profound at least two or three times a week.

Well, I don't have anything witty or profound right now. So instead, I'll post what I intend to read to spark those witty and/or profound thoughts in the future.

On my To Read stack next to my bed:

Dublin Foundation by Edward Rutherford. Saw this at Borders on the celarance table and decided to go for it. It's huge.

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by simon Winchester. I read The Professor and the Madman, which was about one of the contributers to the dictionary... a slightly deranged mental patient. That book was interesting, but choppy. I ahven't read a nything else by Winchester, although I find the subjects of several of his books intriguing.

On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 by Gerhard Forde. Very small, very dense book. I've actually started this one but put it aside due to holiday demands and haven't picked it back up. I'm trying to understand the differences between the theology of grace and the theology of the cross. I'm trying to keep an open far I'm fighting my tendency to critique to work and argue with it. Not a light read.

Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification edited by David Aune. Another dense book, it was recommended by Will's RCIA director and he said he's read it and discuss it with me. the Protestant perspective is from Lutheran perspective (not Missouri Synod).

Others on my To Read list but not presently in residence in my house (and I don't have all the authors' names handy):

Freakonomics I'm curious about some of his assertions.

Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson. this is the true story of a racially motivated slaying in Oxford, NC in 1970. It gives the history of civil rights in general, and in the small-town south in particular. I've read a few pages here and there in the book and think it will be a worthwhile read. Powerful.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston? I've ordered this to read for a book discussion.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less - I read the summary of the book and thought, "That's me! So many choices that I never feel happy about any I make. I'm always second-guessing myself and lacking confidence that I made the "right" decision.

Now, off to try to re-order my days so I take the time to concentrate on reading! Then I might have insightful or witty comments to share!


Monday, February 5, 2007

What is prayer?

I started thinking about prayer in church yesterday. I guess that's an appropriate place to start, but I don't think where I went with my thoughts was exactly where the pastor intended. The sermon wasn't about prayer, but it touched on it and off my mind went. I pulled out the little notebook I keep in my purse and started to write thoughts and images down. I'm sure the people around me thought I was really getting a lot out of that sermon! And in a way, I was.

I started thinking about how most evangelicals view prayer, including myself. I've assumed since I became a Christian in my early 20's that you are to pray and pray daily, and to pray about everything going on in your life. You pray about all decisions and you pray for help in times of trouble. You pray for healing and rescue from trials, or for the perserverence to go through them. Of course prayer involves worship and praise, and I suspect some of us are a lot better at that part than others, but I'd wager that prayer is mainly used to ask God for something, either for ourselves or others...including the salvation of souls through missions and outreach.

But prayer has been an enigma for me almost from the beginning. I have a hard time praying, a hard time concentrating and, frankly, a hard time believing my prayers are in any way effective. So while I've tried to "just pray harder" and "get more disciplined," I've pushed back my feelings of confusion about how prayer really figures into my beliefs in a sovereign God.

I think I've been drawn to the ancient traditions, both Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, in part because of their practice of prayer. It seems different to me. Yes, they certainly do make supplications of God. But it seems the focus is on meditative prayer...prayer that helps us focus on the magnificience of God and his power and, hopefully, his infinitely good plans. I think I finally realized why praying the Rosary appeals to is essentially a prayer to ask someone else to pray for you...someone perceived as having influence (something I don't see myself as having).

As I wrote my thoughts in my little notebook, I tried to think of passages in the Bible that deal with prayer. I am no scholar, and this isn't a scholarly piece, so bear with me. But what came to me was when Jesus taught us to pray using what is called the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father. The prayer has this format, which I think must be important:

Prayer as praise- this takes up a good portion of the first part of the prayer...right down to " it is in heaven."
Prayer as supplication- seven words total...hmmmm
Prayer for forgiveness- linked to how we forgive others
Prayer for protection from sin- "Lead us not.."
Prayer for deliverence - from "evil"which could be many things.

That, actually, is the end of the prayer Jesus taught. We tack on the rest of it. ;-) The majority of the prayer is simply praise and an admission of God's right to be God. The daily things of our lives are pretty much taken care of in a few short, cryptic sentences. So it makes me wonder what the reason for prayer really is.

If prayer is mainly to commune with God about his being God, to praise and worship him, then how we pray takes on a totally new meaning for me. I see how the formal prayers, the written prayers of Prayer Books and such are so appealing to me. Perhaps they have it right. The daily office goes through Psalms and canticles from the Bible, as well as Old and New Testament texts, while interspercing mainly generalized prayers for groups of people instead of specific people. Day in and day out you go through the prayers, many of them repeated daily or almost as often, and you feel a rthymn and beauty in the emphasis on Who God Is and What God Promises, instead of what is going on in my small area of space and time today. The written prayers help me focus on Someone Else and take my eyes off of me for a little while.

It also helps me with that big my prayers mean anything? Does God answer prayer? When I pray and something happens is it because I prayed? When I pray and nothing happen is it because I didn't pray right, or enough or get enough people praying for em to reach some critical mass? Prayer now becomes about God, and the world in general and less about me in particular.

So what about the verses in the Bible telling us to pray? I certainly haven't gone over them all, but yesterday I started seeing them in a new light. Pray without ceasing can be an attitude, not constant supplication. "In all things, with prayer and supplication" seems to even separate out the two words, prayer perhaps being meditation and praise, not mainly supplication.

I am seeing prayer as open communion with God, and the formality of written and structured prayers give me a framework and release me from having to come up with everything ex nihilo. As I pray the Office, I don't have to search my brain for the next thing to say, in fact, I don't even have to give the words my whole focus. I can think of God I can "be still" and relax, not wondering what to say next.

There is more tumbling around in my head on this subject, and I don't even think I've written exactly how I'm feeling. Words are so slippery! But here it is, for your consideration...the best I can come up with at the moment. ;-)


Friday, February 2, 2007

Nothing profound...

Not much deep thinking going on in my head today. I taught my science classes today and I've pulled something in my back, so between the tiredness and the pain, I'm not very profound!

But I did want to say how much fun I've had this week, letting my blog go public and getting such warm and encouraging support. I feel humbed that anyone feels like I think deep thoughts or express myself well. Wow! That's wonderful, and so affirming. After the first comments came in I called Will and told him, "I can write! I really can express myself! I can do this blog thing!" Will didn't think that was "new" news. He's so sweet.

Right now I'm still thinking about thinking, and still wondering how to get better at it. I'm also still thinking about how what I say and do in cyberspace affects others. How to share my journey and think my thoughts without boxing someone else in or, as Julie said, too narrowly define them or their ideas.

One thought I haven't blogged about yet is happiness, or contentment. I'm thinking thoughts on that, as well. I can be such a glass-half-empty person. Is there really power in positive thinking? That's worth an experiment, I think!

Off to be mommy and chauffeur....Thanks for blessing me with your time.