I commented yesterday that how to maintain our spiritual foundations is not something that can be encapsulated in a single post. As I thought more about this I realized that it is in fact too important to confine in that way and so decided to add this post as well. Much of it is adapted from a previous post I wrote and may seem familiar to many but I make no apologies as I think we cannot be reminded often enough of these important foundations. The steady stream of natural disasters and economic uncertainties hound our lives and undermine our security. Economic indicators seem to bring hope one moment and despair the next. Many of us live on a rather bumpy roller coaster ride with constant fear and trepidation that often reaches panic level.
How can we imagine new ways to respond so that the devastations of our physical world do not undermine our faith or destroy our ability to trust in our loving, caring God whose heart aches for all of us in the midst of our anguish? How can we respond without allowing compassion fatigue to form walls of indifference between us and those who suffer? And how can we respond in a way that strengthens our faith and draws us closer to God?
Once again I am reminded of Thomas Merton’s words in Seasons of Celebration, where he talks about how God’s people were called out of the slavery of Egypt and into the desert so that they could be educated into freedom. It was in the desert, not in the promised land that they learned to strip away the false securities that distracted them from a whole hearted commitment to God.
Trial and struggle teach us what it really means to follow Christ. It is in the desert and not in the abundance of the promised land that we learn to look beyond ourselves and really grapple with what it means to love God and neighbour as ourselves – the very commands that are at the heart of the gospel. It is in the wilderness places that we learn to care for each other and become concerned about protecting the weak and vulnerable. It also in the desert that we confront our own places of vulnerability and discover how God can transform them into new strengths.
Following Christ into tomorrow’s world is a challenging commitment. It will require us to grow deep roots that anchor our souls and provide stable foundations that withstand the buffeting of wind and storm. My own spiritual roots have grown deep over the last decade as I have, like many others, delved into ancient spiritual practices that sustained followers of Christ throughout the uncertain and turbulent times of past eras. The resurgence of interest in ancient practices such as a rule of life, daily offices, and the liturgical calendar are heart warming signs that convince me God is alive and very active in our rapidly changing world.
Developing a rule of life is one valuable practice I engage in that provides a deep stability for my life. It has challenged me to re-imagine what my life could look like in the light of God’s priorities rather than those of the secular culture. It has enabled me to establish a rhythm of prayer that entwines through all of life and has encouraged me to live into God’s new world of wholeness and abundance by developing a balance between work and rest, solitude and community, feasting and fasting. This has been made possible by my involvement in the Mustard Seed House community where we participate in morning and evening prayers and community meals.
The use of centering prayer is another practice that has strengthened my faith. This practice begins with a time of silence focusing on the presence of God and reminding us that Christ is the center of all we are and do. Reciting a short bible verse or phrase like God is love can help block out distractions and quiet our hearts. In this quiet place meditate on God and are able to pray in response to God’s great love. As a result of this type of meditation I began writing prayers that often flow out of my attempts to grapple with the challenges of our turbulent world. Reciting these prayers on a regular basis calms my soul and frees my imagination to develop creative responses to the challenges I face. It was this practice that initiated the Light for the Journey prayers which I post regularly on facebook. These I know nurture not only my soul but the souls of many others as well.
More than anything, what has drawn me closer to God in the last few years is the recognition that life is a journey in which every experience entered into and every activity undertaken is an opportunity to both represent and meet Christ. Looking for God’s love in a mother’s embrace of her child or in the compassionate sharing of resources with the poor is breathtaking way to both unveil and respond to the story of God.
We live in a changing world and I don’t think that the coming years will be any easier than the last few. However I do believe that it can be a time in which God’s people shine as beacon’s of light encouraging all the world’s people to journey towards a society that reflects something of God’s eternal world of peace, harmony and wholeness, a society in which all the world’s people share abundantly from the riches of God’s storehouse. A society in which there is mutual care and concern once more as there was at the beginning of God’s creation.