In his brief book, Praying The Psalms, Thomas Merton writes, "There is one fundamental religious experience which the Psalms can all teach us: the peace that comes from submission to God's will and from perfect confidence in Him." (pg. 26.) This past Saturday I was at the Abbey of Gethsemani. I thought again about these men who pray all 150 Psalms every two weeks. Their eight daily services are primarily composed of praying, as a melodic chant, the Psalms. My friend Father Michael has been at the Abbey for almost 50 years. It is no wonder that the Psalms are a natural part of his conversational vocabulary. When asked a question, he gives a very thoughtful answer which usually has quotes from the Psalms involved. Several years ago my class was visiting the Abbey, one of the students asked Father Michael how he would teach someone to pray. His answer was simply, "Pray the Psalms everyday." I think a wonderful prayer is "Lord, I give you thanks, for Your mercy endures forever." (Psalm 118:1)
Sunday, October 7, 2012
In his book, Signposts of Spirituality, Trevor Hudson quotes William Temple, "... if people live with the wrong view of God, the more religious they become the worse the consequences will become." There is a young woman who suffers from anxiety surely made worse by a mother who demands perfection and, therefore, is always critical of her daughter. She lives with the fear that she isn't good enough for God. A woman who believes God "took her son" by suicide because she was too emotionally involved with a male co-worker. A man who believes he can never be forgiven by God because he struggles with pornography. I believe our image of God is to be found in Jesus, i.e., "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Whatever else church may involve, it seems to me that the foundation is to help others have a healthy view of God. By healthy, I mean the image of God revealed in Jesus. It has been interesting for me that all of the above examples relate to very religious people, if by religious we mean individuals who are very active in their church, even in leadership positions. I've a friend whose favorite saying is, "Just because you park your car in a chicken house, doesn't make it a chicken." Whatever else church may involve, the foundation is to help others have a healthy view of God.
I've been reading Frank Laubach's book, Letters by a Modern Mystic. Dr. Laubach was such an influence to the world that he has been called, "The Apostle to the Illiterates." After his death in 1970 a USA stamp was issued with his picture as a way of honoring his international influence. This little book is a wonderful collection of letters that he sent to his father during the time he was a missionary with the American Board of Foreign Missions. He served on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The first letter is dated January 3, 1930. He writes that living in the atmosphere of Islam is a wonderful stimulus as he seeks to know and do the will of God moment by moment. He writes, "It is exactly that 'moment by moment,' surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, 'lost in His love,' that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions. First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the master." (January 26, 1930, page 6.) The letters of Frank Laubach were written after a period during which he found himself "profoundly dissatisfied." It was in his dissatisfaction that God revealed the need for this new attitude of constant attentiveness to God. This constant attentiveness resulted in discerning 'God's moment by moment will' for him. Too often we've heard God's call to a ministry, and then gone off thinking we could do it by ourselves. It is the attitude of "Thanks God for the general direction, now I can handle it from here but, don't worry because if I get in trouble I'll get back to You." I suspect that the basic discipline of spiritual formation is constant attentiveness.