To Be Faithless and Repent

“In the time of his distress he (Ahaz) became more faithless to the Lord..For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.”

–      2 Chronicles 28:22-23

Oh, Lord- I have more than a little Ahaz in my heart. You, too?  When life really gets hard do you look around and make idols of the gods that are working for other people?

I make idols of lots of things. Of Mexican vacations that bring friends back refreshed and relaxed…of  Law of Attraction philosophy that ‘brought’ wealth and health to a business colleague…of dream houses with granite countertops and in-ground swimming pools…of size six jeans and 6 min mile splits…of all the things that I want  that I don’t have. Of all the things that I want, but that I am not really willing to work for.

So instead of going to God with these desires- instead of seeking first the Kingdom… instead of surrendering my dreams, big and small at the foot of the cross and letting my King work all things for my good- I seek out all the tiny little gods of this world and sacrifice to them.

I sacrifice peace to the god of escapism.

I sacrifice contentment to the god of scarcity.

I sacrifice gratitude to the god of covetousness.

I sacrifice joy to the god of the narcissism.

They are my ruin.  They don’t bring life. With each sacrifice, I silence the voice of the true King in my heart, and doesn’t it seem worse when the chips are down?  At the very moment when I should be surrendering control to God, at that very moment is when I mostly tightly clench my fists around the desires of my heart and seek out an idol that puts me in control.  I wrestle with the Spirit within that quietly asks for surrender…I gag Him with rules and doctrine and drown Him out with loud music and sparkly shoes.

And then, one morning, when my sacrifices have brought weariness, I turn back to Life.  I open this love story looking for hope and find a diagnosis for my soul-sickness.

“In the time of his distress, he became more faithless to the Lord…he sacrificed to the gods…that had defeated him.”

Scripture’s truth and application ring over me like a courthouse bell rings over the town square.

Gong…when you were down, you turned to the world.

Gong…you followed their ways to find success.

Gong…you put all these things before me.

Gong…it’s destroying you.

Gong…Come back to me.  I will provide for you.

And so I choose to turn today- from all the idols I have created trying to be a ‘better’ person and from the ruin of sacrificing to the world’s little gods and their formulaic systems of success.  I choose to listen to the still, small voice that whispers words of grace and love over all the things I would change about my life.  I choose to read up on the promises made by a benevolent and compassionate King, the one true King- promises to give me the desires of my heart, to provide for my every need and to never forsake me.

And when I turn, I taste it….I hear it….I see it….I touch and feel it….

Life. 

“ I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

-John 10:10

Why I love kids camp…

Church camp is a brand new experience for me. I never went to away camp as a child, so the experience of counseling eight 5th and 6th grade girls through this adventure has been full of lessons.

Lesson #1:

Girls are NEVER quiet!

As I sit and look at this sentence I think about the ironic application in my life. Most of my post-motherhood adult life has been a search for a moment of silence to steal. I’ve been on a mission to teach women to seek and find these quiet moments with God. And as I watch these young ladies flit to and fro like manic bumblebees, I realize that I might have inappropriately diagnosed our “lack of quiet” problem as a function of our busyness. Perhaps this need for chatter is truly something we are born with…a “girl thing.”

As I sit here in this quiet spot tucked away from the swimming pool and basketball court, this bench in the shade overlooking the lake, I am joined only by boys who come away for a moment or two of stillness.

The girls walk in groups of two or four chit-chatting and giggling, swatting at bugs and barely noticing the beauty of this place. The boys break away for just a moment to feel the breeze and gaze over the peaceful waters of the lake before running off to join their friends in play.

It’s not all fun, the girls can and do broach serious topics, but even in their silence-they are never quiet. No wonder I struggle to silence my own inner chatter…I have lived with noise for as long as I can remember.

Lesson #2:

As quick as the pace is here, God stops the world sometimes.

So far there have been moments, a couple of them, where time seemed to stand still. Moments where I pray I lived up to the title of “Counselor.” Moments of connection that made camp wonderful. In those times when a student reaches out for God’s answer, I am blessed to be able to come alongside and point the way. In those moments, it seems, the chatter quiets, time stands still and the world stops.

I am sure that there were LOADS of other lessons…some that will come out in the days to come…others that are still unknown to me. Suffice it to say I had a blast! (Every kid should go to camp–even if they have to wait until they’re grown!)

Reflections from St Scholastica: On Fear and Solitude

When describing my retreat experience several weeks ago at St Scholastica Retreat Center in this post, I described the unease that welled up within me in the emptiness of solitude as fear.  As I sit with the emotion that made itself known in those hours, and that hasn’t fully left since, I think perhaps it was less fear and closer to sorrow.  Or maybe the bowling ball in my stomach was sorrow and, rather than explore it, my response was fear.  Either way, God was so gracious to provide exactly the support I needed to work through part of it, but now, as I prepare to lead a retreat on Practicing Sabbath this weekend and look back over my notes from my own retreat, I found this resource that Sr Macrina shared with us, and realize that my experience of immense sorrow…and of something beautiful and mysterious underneath, is not uncommon…and He’s been there all along.

In his book, How then Shall We Live, Wayne Muller speaks of his first week-long silent meditation retreat and how during the retreat he discovered a deep sorrow and struggled with where it was coming from. As he became more silent he began to sense a unique presence deep within. These are the words he uses to describe the experience:

“Then it got quiet, quieter than ever. I began to sense something beneath the sorrow. I could feel a place inside, below all my names, my stories, my injuries, my sadness—a place that I lived in my breath. I did not know what to call it, but it had a voice, a way of speaking to me about what was true. Along with this voice came a presence, an indescribable sense of well-being that reminded me that whatever pain or sorrowI would be given, there was something inside strong enough to bear the weight of it. It would rise to meet whatever I was given. IT would teach me what to do.

All my life I have felt this presence, but at that moment I could feel its fundamental integrity. As I think back upon my life to the times when I have been lost, I realize that whenever I have ignored this voice I have quickly found myself in more confusion. There  is something inside me that has—for as long as I can remember, since I was very small—always guided me toward what was right and true. I also realized that when I am too busy, rushed or preoccupied, I rarely take the time to listen. It is this desperate unwillingness to be quiet enough to hear what I essentially know to be true—that has been the cause of much of my suffering in this life.”

Reflections from St Scholastica: Fire

Saturday, 2/26/2011

One of the wonders of this personal retreat was taking part of the Day of Recollection: Discovering the MonkWithin Retreat led by Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr. The theme of the whole weekend for me really became about finding solitude in the everyday, about experiencing life as a monastic outside the monastery walls.  About slowing the pace and measuring all the steps of our days.  This poem is one of the beautiful nuggets Sr. Macrina presented us with.

“In our lives, the spaces in between are the places of waiting.”

– Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr.

Fire

What makes a fire burn is the space between the logs,

A breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

Too many logs packed in too tight

Can douse the flames

Almost as surely

As a pail of water would.

So building fires

Requires attention

To the spaces in between,

As much as to the wood.

When we are able to build open spaces

In the same way we have learned

To pile on the logs,

Then we can come to see how it is fuel,

And absence of the fuel together,

That make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log

Lightly from time to time.

A fire grows

Simply because the space is there,

With openings in which the flame

That knows just how it wants to burn

Can find its way.

– Judy Brown

“Wherever I am, the world comes after me. It offers me its busyness. It does not believe that i don’t want it.” – Mary Oliver

Reflections from St. Scholastica

I am just returning from a three day personal retreat in Fort Smith. My dear family gave me the soul space to make a retreat to a monastery and retreat center not far from our home to spend a little time seeking and resting in God.

Choosing to go to a Catholic retreat center  was, well, a good bit out of my comfort zone(I am not, nor have I ever been Catholic), but I found heart sisters there none the less.  More importantly, God met me there.  Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some reflections from this trip with you.  I hope that you are blessed by them.

This next reflection was from my first evening at the retreat center.  Enjoy!

St Scholastica Retreat Center, Fort Smith, Arkansas

2/25/2011

Dear God,

How do I seek you? How, How, How?

I am riddled with how, and how come, and when and where and why. And I am sorry that my human need to understand overshadows my soul’s desire to obey. Have patience with me, Dear Father. I am like a young child, full of wonder, but just cresting into the age of exerting my independence.

I’m not sure why I’m here in this place. To seek you, I know. To draw near to you, to spend quality time with you, but my busy mind doesn’t know how to be quiet. My heart doesn’t know how to be still. Nouwen spoke of how his intellect was a hindrance—always looking for ways to spread your message, but often losing out on the golden moments of absorbing it himself.

Even now, if I’m honest, I write with a dual purpose: both to put words to and process how I am feeling and to express to others that this humanness is not something to hide—that it is a shared experience.

I am learning that in this monastic community are the perfect picture of the inhale and the exhale of solitude and community. There is a place for both. But I am afraid of the community today because I’ve come seeking solitude—is it wrong to engage others?

I leapt at the chance to take supper with the monastic community here: both out of curiosity and an also a visceral need to share this experience with another human being. I find myself in the common areas more than my room to listen to laughter and concern and conversation of others. It is music to my soul, but I’m afraid that it is escape—a distraction from the disruption of God in my life. Is it? Am I defiling this sacred time? Am I running away from you?

I don’t understand this way of being. I only know DO-ing. Give me something to do and I am comfy, cozy there. My God, this just being, this act of presence—I find my skills rather shoddy.

Help me, Lord, to quiet my mind—my spirit, my heart and just know that there is no wrong way to spend time with you. Save not at all. That by making this sacrifice of time, I am already drawing near to you. I am not being graded on this experience. Meet me here, Lord. Let me see you and feel you and hear you…Amen.

You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires. My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction and I do not possess my house in silence.” – Thomas Merton