Cutting to the Essentials

‘St. Francis cut to the essentials and avoided what had been, and continues to be, a preoccupation with nonessentials… separation from the world is the monastic temptation, asceticism is the temptation of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, moralism or celibacy is the Catholic temptation, intellectualising is the seminary temptation, privatised Gospel and inerrant ‘belief’ is the Protestant temptation, and the most common temptation for all of us is to use belonging to the right group and practicing its proper rituals as a substitute for any personal or life-changing encounter with the Divine.’

~ Richard Rohr

Ouch. That last sentence in particular. We, as individual followers of Christ and as collective groups of believers, must always question (and be aware of) our motives. God looks at the heart, the inside, not the outside.

Wisdom to Know the Difference

I went along to a wellness coach this morning for the first time. She has given me some very simple stretching and strengthening exercises to do and after about an hour of very gentle exercise I felt not tired but refreshed. Hurrah! So I will see her again. It helps to have someone who is both encouraging and to whom I am accountable on a regular basis. I hope my health will benefit and that I will be able to do more than my condition currently allows. ME (aka CFS) sucks.

Alongside the talk about gentle exercise and the importance of eating well, there was some unfortunate pseudo-science/waffy stuff. I am too polite to tell a stranger to her face that she’s spouting bollocks nonsense, but it got me thinking. By apparently going along with it, am I dishonouring my faith? Am I opening myself to bad influences?

Not necessarily. I am willing to learn physical techniques that will be of benefit, even if they are couched in – er – terms I don’t agree with. I won’t be worrying about aligning my chakras, and I won’t concern myself with a pantheistic, New Agey, earth-worshipping approach that draws ‘energy from nature’ or whatever (you catch my drift).

I will use the breathing techniques and methods of exercise. I will praise God and thank Him for the wonders of creation, rather than seeing my redemption (?) within nature itself. If nature is sacred it is because it was made so by God. And I am not sure as to the argument that creation itself is sacred, but I am sure that we are supposed to exercise good stewardship over God’s creation. Anyway…

My faith is secure enough to be able to take hold of that which is right –

…I have [not] already obtained this, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…

(Philippians 3:12 NRSVA)

 – and to let go of the rest. God has given me His Word with which to ‘align’ myself (or rather, for Him to align me with!), a brain to discern what is right, and a permanent Helper to guide me and to convict my conscience when I do wrong or am tempted to do wrong –

‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.’

(1 John 4:1,6)

He has told me what I need to focus on and how I should be, by grace –

‘…if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.’

(1 John 4:12)

And if I study His Word regularly and stay ‘connected’ in prayer I empower myself with the weapons I need to not worry about these sorts of questions.

‘If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.’

(James 1:5)

Incidentally, if I felt something was going too far I would have no compunction about saying so. Politely, of course.

Let it Go

If you have daughters of a certain age you will no doubt have repeatedly heard the dulcet refrain from Disney’s ‘Frozen’. In our house it has been less dulcet and more, shall we say, decibels, when my two giggling beauties belt out, “Let it go! Let it goooooo!”

That was the refrain that came to mind as I read Richard Rohr’s words this morning. My brain assigns a song to pretty much everything I do. Musical insanity. My husband says it never happens to him. Perhaps he’s the sane spouse. Anyway…

[The] spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic West we keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success… We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room… for God… 

~ Richard Rohr (highlighting my own, for emphasis)

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Going up? Or down? Image from idpinthat.com

Like a good little baptist I immediately wanted to locate a relevant biblical comparison, and this is the first one that came to mind:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

It also brings to mind the Beatitudes, in which Jesus says we are blessed when we are low. Maybe that’s not just a way to bring comfort to those who are suffering, which seems to be the usual (perhaps rather shallow) interpretation, maybe He was telling us that the whole point is to go lower, to be less, to welcome dishonour and unglory, because only when there’s less of me can there be room – any room – for our beautiful Saviour.

Emmanuel: God with us.

Learning to Breathe

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Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure… We are not saved by any formulas or theologies or any priesthood extraneous to the human journey itself. “Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can help the brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

I went through a ‘Peter’ experience a few years ago. I promised to love God, to be His child, to follow Jesus with all of my heart – and then I went and did something I was immediately ashamed of. I didn’t just do it once, either. It was a very messed-up time. I think I wanted to show God how unworthy I was of His love. I had been on the receiving end of so much hurt that I truly believed, deep, deep down, that no one, not even God, could love me, and that my behaviour would prove it. What did God do in response to this display of weakness and pain? He brought me, within months, to baptism by immersion (an amazing experience) and a few weeks later to the man who seemed to see the ‘me’ underneath all the hurt and loved me in a way that I never knew was possible (of course, I came to love him too, but Frank loved me first, in so many ways that I could never even have imagined). It was truly a match made in heaven.

When I read the words above by Richard Rohr this morning, I recognised their import and impact on my life. Suffering – for reasons I don’t claim to understand – and shared suffering, are essential for growth in Christ. Maybe we human beings can only truly appreciate (and participate in) the Light when we have experienced darkness.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14 (NRSVA)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2

Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

Live

…God [loves] us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves.

God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

“Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live.”

Ezekiel 33:11 (GNT)

“I came [so] that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (NRSVA)

Reblog: The Paralympics, Disability and the Church

I sometimes wonder if Jesus would recognise what we now call ‘church’. People who are different, be it physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise, should not only be welcomed in our churches but valued and esteemed. Jesus always made room for those on the fringes. Throughout the bible God used the (seemingly) small and/or broken for His glory.

I am not virtuous because I have a disabling illness, paralympian or not. Perhaps the illness makes me more aware of my powerlessness (that’s another post) but the smallness of being that comes with struggles is exactly the way He – the Great Redeemer – grows big, bigger than anything I ever dreamed, even though to all outward appearances I yet remain in the smallness.

I’m very tired today. Neurological disorders tend to do that. So I am not sure if I am making sense 😴 Should probably not be blogging so I’ll leave it there. Please read Matt’s post. He makes some very pertinent points that really should be higher up the radar of Christianity today.

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Paralympics start today!

I have two children with disabilities, becoming their dad in 2012. That was around the time of the London Olympics, withits mythic opening ceremony, and the first time I remember theParalympics really entering the public consciousness.
Or maybe it was just my perspective that had been broadened; maybe I was seeing the world with new eyes and a different perspective and a glimmer of awareness of my own privilege. A lot of that has beenworked out on this blog.

Four years later and the Paralympics have come round again. There have been concerns about their viability due to poor ticket sales, and that might be telling, but ultimately the Paralympics allow us to celebrate sporting excellence, and
that’s great. I hope Team GB win lots of medals, and I’ll becheering on Team Refugees too. I’m not a sportyperson…

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