The following comes from some journaling I did today at the Academy for Spiritual Formation.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
(Ps. 42:5 [repeated in v. 11!])
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you…
In retreat, and yet I am finding it hard to “let go” of the things at home. Budgetary discussions – which I think disclose more about our anxieties and understandings of ministry than any real difficulty – keep drawing me back; in no small part because a ministry I value, our All Church Camp, is seemingly in jeopardy (though, reviewing potential funding sources, I foresee no problem). As a spiritual and church leader, I want us all to put ministry first; but I seem regularly drawn into conversations or “solutions” that place finances before ministries. Granted, finances are not my forte; but our current problem seems to me to be more related to the standard “summer slump” churches experience (eg. half of what we have ‘overspent’ for the year is a bill that comes due once yearly, but is budgeted for monthly)…
In my quick email summaries and/or responses, I fear I may have already lost both the gentleness and courtesy I am wanting to practice this week.* Mercy Center may only be a laboratory for living spiritually, but herein, again, is where it fundamentally matters (eg. my daily life/ministry). Lord, open my heart, give me ears and understanding to listen more quickly than I am to speak, or judge. Give me patience and gentleness as I seek to understand the anxieties of others, to hear their fears and, in whatever small way, to help them know greater love than their fear. Amen.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
I wonder – to what degree do fear and anxiety drive my negative behaviors? When I sit down to our checkbook, to pay bills and balance things, don’t I become uptight and nervous? If “perfect love drives out fear,” why then has my faith and experience of the love of God not (yet, anyway!) healed me in this area of my life?
We had an interesting experience in worship this morning, a reading of the story of the raising of Lazarus with a musical background and response. I closed my eyes and imagined the scene as we experienced the reading together. I saw myself with Jesus, in the crowd, witnessing the stone before the cave/tomb; all as I’ve experienced it before…
but then, the scene changed. I felt/experienced myself on the other side of the stone. In the dark. Bound. Hearing a voice, sensing the light piercing the darkness wherein I found myself, hearing the invitation, the call, the command: “come out.” As the reader continued, describing Lazarus coming forth bound in bandages (that others would have to help him remove!), I was Lazarus.
And I had/have to wonder at this new and startling response: what has me bound? where am I caught in the darkness? what is Jesus of Nazareth calling me to “come out” of?
The Psalmist recognizes the need when his soul is downcast – in the dark, perhaps – to “remember” and to “put [his] hope” in God. Paul shares, when we are anxious, to lift our requests to God. To turn to God, to remember God, to praise God, to trust God…
Did Lazarus remember or trust before being called forth? He was clearly in relationship with Jesus, and I cannot imagine such a relationship without mutual trust. Whether Lazarus remembered or not… Jesus did. Jesus remembered, and called to Lazarus, and brought him forth…
In the words of the “good” thief: “Lord, remember me.” Remember me when I forget myself, let alone You. Remember me, and call me forth from the darkness into your light.
I had a dream this morning which may be partially connected, through the marvelous movement of Spirit and subconscious! The details are faded, but the memory that is clear is that I was hired as the fourth member of the writing staff for “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (fictional show within the NBC show). I must have been on staff for at least a week prior, because in response to being challenged by one of the actors/comedians – who declared that I had shied away from some religious topic in the previous week’s show – I had drafted three sketches, two of them having to do with Noah and Moses…
It was an interesting dream. I’ve never had an inclination to be a professional comedy writer (though several years ago I had recurring dreams of being a previous cast member / writer for SNL), but humor was once a large part of who I was/am… I sometimes wonder if my fear or anxiety in some way leads me to self-bind my humor…
Lord, there are moments I feel bound: by fear, by anxiety, by despair. I lost sight of the light of your love, your joy, your pleasure in who you created us to be. Lord, release me form all that binds me – from others’ expectations, as well as from my perception of those expectations. Release me to be the me you created. Amen.
*From previous day’s journal:
“I’m looking back at the invitation/challenge from Renovare, my devotional journal, wanting to make this my aim this week:
- speak evil of no one
- avoid quarreling
- be gentle
- show every courtesy to everyone.