Today after reading
I started to think about how we view and talk about prayer. I am somewhat of a eccentric Christian and have finally found peace after 77 years with my beliefs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions. I will always have them until I “fly away.” But I am at peace about forming a relationship with God. Again, this does not mean that the relationship is perfect on my part. I am sure God’s side is ok.
We humans have spent centuries making a relationship with God complicated. We have created rules about prayer, rules about worship, and rules about anything else we could think of. I don’t remember Jesus mentioning any rules except:
Matthew 22:37-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
He broke many rules of his time. He ate with tax collectors, gentiles and women. He touched lepers to heal them. He excluded no one. He was radical. So often we have managed to turn him into someone I am sure he would not recognize.
So what about prayer? He gave us one prayer called “the Lord’s Prayer” because he was asked to teach us to pray. It is a wonderful prayer but it is not the only prayer. Prayer comes from the heart of the person praying. There is no rule for how it is done. It is simply pouring out your heart to a loving God. If you have a routine…fine. If you don’t…fine.
The thing about prayer is the person you know best is the one you speak with the most. If we speak with God about our day, our hopes, our distress, our job, our pain, our family….I could go on and on, then we spend time with God. Tell God what is on your mind and know that you are heard. That’s all there is to it and the more we do it the closer we become with the one who loves us.
Prayer is simple!
It happened on Sunday. The pastor in his sermon asked us to answer a series of questions. I only heard the first question. I don’t know if it was the mood I was in or if my mind took a vacation but I was completely blank. The question was: “what is your greatest joy?”
It was terrible to be asked that question and to have absolutely no answer. We were told to just think about the first thing to pop into our minds but for me that was nothing. I have been thinking about it since. Do I not have a greatest joy? My life is really good. I have a wonderful husband and family, a beautiful home and I could go on. What is wrong with me? I don’t know if the words “greatest joy” drove all else from my mind or if I really don’t have an answer.
Many things bring me joy. Sometimes just the smallest things but I can’t classify them as the greatest joy. I guess my list is either endless or nonexistent. The question has totally overwhelmed me.
Is there something wrong with me?
Am I taking the question in a wrong way?
Does anyone have any thoughts about this?
I don’t know if anyone has noticed but it is almost impossible to open the things you buy in the store. Some foods come in packages that are supposed to open easily but I invariably end up getting a knife or some scissors. The plastic that items are encased in won’t even open with scissors. Sometimes I think I’m just supposed to look at the item and not ever open it.
The other day I tried to open the casing for an-over-the counter pill. If it had been something that I needed quickly I would have never gotten it. It actually had tiny lines with a tiny pair of scissors shown so that you knew it took scissors to open it but it would also have taken the world’s tiniest scissors. I finally punched a hole in it with a seam ripper used for sewing.
I begin to think I could use a set of medical tools like scalpels and forceps to get into packages. If this is supposed to keep us from stealing things then they will need bigger packaging so that it can’t be secreted away in my bag.
There should be a place in Dante’s hell for the people who make these packages!
We all have bad things happen to us in life. When that happens some of dig deeper into a relationship with God. Some of us just let God go. They can’t believe that a loving, caring God could let bad things happen. Some are very angry at God and doubt his existence. This is a ‘both and” (see below) in that if you don’t believe in God how can you be angry at him?
I can understand this as the problem of terrorism, murder, rape, and other acts of violence do make us ask questions. This question has been kicked about in major theological circle for centuries. Some thinkers have tried to explain it but I don’t think that anyone has ever done it.
There are some things that we will never understand. I don’t know that I want a God who can be totally explained by someone. God is so very far beyond our very small minds. I don’t have any problem understanding that.
To accept this God we sometimes have to accept two things that are opposite each other but both are true. For me this is called both and. It can be called an oxymoron and there are some simple examples of this such as “found missing’ or “alone together.” We don’t have any problem with those but the problem of a loving God who allows pain is difficult to swallow.
I can’t explain it. For some reason I don’t feel that I have to…at least not to shore up my faith.
What is your take on this?
I have decided that I am a somewhat unorthodox Christian. I have difficulty following the rules. I am enamored of those who stepped outside of the norm: Matthew Fox, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi. Hildegard of Bingen, Jesus and many others. I also love the stories/parables of Anthony DeMello and the plain speaking of Marcus Borg. I grow reading them.
I grew up in an eclectic family. My grandparents were Methodist, my parents Presbyterian and my Aunt and Uncle Lutheran. I guess I decided early on that no denomination had all the answers. I still feel that way. Jesus did not follow rules but loved people. He broke the Sabbath rules and many others.
As the “church” grew throughout history it took the message of Jesus and added rules/doctrines to try and be sure that we all follow the norm…. that we are all in sync. This is not wrong in and of itself as we do struggle with the meaning of the writings in the Bible and the words of Jesus. We must listen to the teachings of others and weigh them against our own experience. We also need the community of other Christians. We learn and are supported by the stories of others. I hope that I find a middle ground in all of this.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t find our own way. It’s freedom within form. I don’t ask others to follow my path. Each of us must find our own way and I pray that God leads me in mine. May he also be with you in yours.
There is some new information from several studies that is linking high intelligence with mental health issues. It seems that being extra smart sets you up for problems. One study said that the reason highly intelligent people have anxiety is because they can imagine more scenarios….see more bad outcomes….than the average person.
I don’t know if this is good news or bad. If you saw the movie “A Beautiful Mind” it was clear that his genius and his mental issues were connected. A recent blog http://eclipsedwords.com/2018/06/23/inspiration-from-the-mental-health-of-3-famous-leaders/ —talked about three famous people with mental health issues.
The blog talked about the depression experienced by Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt who was potentially bipolar, and Martin Luther King, Jr. who also had depression and attempted suicide as a child. Clearly three very extremely intelligent people.
With tongue-in-cheek I wondered if we are either not very smart and don’t suffer with mental illness or we are extra smart and suffer. Some choice! I guess this is one of life’s little jokes.
I guess we will have to see how this research turns out. Are we blessed or cursed? Who knows?
On Friday evening my grandson graduated from high school. He has been successful in school and is a wonderful boy. He works hard and puts himself into the things he does. Next fall he will be going to college and like most 18 year-olds he has no idea what he wants to do with his life. It worries him.
Some people are blessed by finding a passion early in life and driving forward to fulfill that dream. Most young people are not that lucky. The world is a big place and there are so many things that we can do. So many choices. In the past people were just looking for a job to feed their family and were grateful for anything. It is just as hard to get a job but many kids feel that they are a failure if they don’t do something that seems wonderful or exciting.
Most of us spend our lives just doing a job. In today’s world it is not unusual for someone to switch fields over their lifetime. People used to work for one company for most of their lives. Today they may work for many companies. Things are not the way they used to be and with technology moving so fast what you start out to do may change quickly and you may have to learn new things. Today we have to learn to be more flexible and that makes life stressful and more challenging.
Don’t be afraid that you don’t know what you want to do. Your choice could change over night. The job itself could change over night. Don’t be afraid. You have a lifetime.