Understanding Our Journey

21 07 2010

Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years; awake at six and back down at ten or eleven (check the calendar before I go to sleep so I know what is facing me the next day). Much of what I do between the hours is forgotten; at the end of the week when someone asks me, “how was your week,” I often can’t remember how it was.

Proverbs (in the Bible) today, is urging me to do more than “live out” my days: “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way” (Proverbs 14:8).

Do I, do you understand your way?

  • Do you ever stop doing, doing, doing. Just stop? I don’t mean the kind where you drop onto the couch and flick on the TV. I mean the kind where you choose to stop and think with purpose.
  • Do you pause between one thing and another? Or do you just blaze ahead, solve your dilemma, find a new job (*This from a Twitter today: “Heard this recently: “The average person under 40 will change jobs every 20 months for the rest of their lives.” Pete MacIntosh), latch onto a new relationship, move on, move out, move in, move over? A certain group of monks always observe the “moments between moments” and we would do well to do the same, to understand where we have just been and where we should be next (not just could be).
  • Do you ask yourself good questions? I don’t mean the heat-of-the-moment ones, I mean the smart, unhurried ones that actually help you understand you, your life, your world?
  • Do you ever allow yourself some intentional quiet to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to you and interact around His Words so that something new can happen in you?
  • What’s going on in that inner world of yours these days?

There’s many-a-day where I just get through it and get it done; but something is amiss in all of that; something tugs at me and calls me.

This morning I was thinking about all of this while swimming laps at JBMAC. The first half is me working way too hard to get across the pool (do not imagine style and grace), but the second half I just put the fins on, get out a board and I swim, head down, staring at the blue tiles at the bottom of the lane; and I think. No one says a word to me in the sanctuary of the water; and so, back and forth and back and forth, thinking about this Proverb.

A whisper: a word comes to mind and I am more than a little excited to unlock it. That’s how I find God works in me; sometimes one word out of His Words. Sometimes a little thought and it sends me somewhere, on a journey. It doesn’t always happen this way, I don’t always feel like going on a journey. I miss words; I miss nudges. Sometimes I am just distracted; sometimes I really do not want to hear from God. But when my ears are open; things come to mind and I turn it over and over and hope it finds the place where I gain understanding.

We are designed to discover things – far away things or things in our own backyard; things that are distant from us, things that are in front of us. We are travelers; pilgrims. Mike did a great paper on this topic, based on a book he read called the “Art of Pilgrimage” (if you want to know more, go to mybookreviews.info). He quotes in his paper,

“We all have a longing to discover something and unfortunately we can travel and not actually discover, we can put on miles and not see anything. Mark Twain says that travel has a way to eliminate narrow-mindedness, but this requires of the traveler a kind of introspective; as she covers the ground outwardly, so she advances fresh interpretations of herself inwardly.”

And this is what Proverbs is calling us to: fresh interpretations. How fresh are mine? Am I living on interpretations handed off to me? Knocked into me? Borrowed from others? Am I interpreting life based on correct understanding or out of my illusions or disillusionment? Would my whole life change if I had a new interpretation of it?

The way you tell me to live, God, is always right;
help me understand it so I can live to the fullest. (Psalm 119:144 MSG)

— Teresa Klassen

First Afterword: If you want to read a GREAT book and learn how to read the Bible and have it “read you” — I would definitely recommend The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior by Wayne Cordeiro. Not a hard read. Really worth it.

Second Afterword: The word that came to mind as I swam was the word “consider;” that might not seem like anything to you, but it is my white rabbit. If you want to know where it is taking me; here is what I did next. I made a list of “consider the” phrases found in the Bible and I am going to take a run at each one over the next weeks. Join me if you like; its a work in progress.

NIV

  • Consider the generations long past (Deut. 32:7) (same theme Job 8:8)
  • Consider the blameless (Psalm 37:37)
  • Consider the great love of the LORD (Psalm 107:43) (same theme Psalm 107:43)
  • Consider the word of the LORD (Jer. 2:31)
  • Consider the plan,  and if they are ashamed of all they have done…(Ezek 43:10)
  • Consider the message and understand the vision (Daniel 9:23)
  • Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap…(Luke 12:24 and 27)
  • Consider the people of Israel… (1 Cor 10:18)
  • Consider the outcome of their way of life…(Hebrews 13:7)

NASB adds

  • Consider the wonders of God (Job 37:14) (same theme Eccl. 7:13, Isaiah 5:12)
  • Consider the Covenant (Psalm 74:20)
  • Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Colossians 3:5) (same theme Ecclesiastes 5:20)

NLT adds

  • Consider the joy of those corrected by God (Job 5:17)
  • Consider the rock from which you were cut,the quarry from which you were mined (Isaiah 51:1)
  • Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring (James 5:7)
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The Second Journey

20 04 2010

(Quotes in this blog-post are all from Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”)

Sometimes you walk through a series of events and at the end of them all, or sometimes in the middle of them,  you know you have changed, or that you are changing. I realize it could be argued that everything changes us, everything steers us in a direction, but I think there comes a time of significant change, when we are “dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns” to face a new reality.

Brennan Manning, in his EXCELLENT book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” says that this often occurs between the age of 30 and 60 but I think for some it happens younger — especially if that person has walked through some kind of fire. At whatever age this happens, suddenly life comes into focus and it is your life, only different. Manning calls this our Second Journey.

“Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.” (158)

I really identify with and love how Manning has described this.  It is a different kind of enlightenment then you hear about on Oprah – which is all about self-awareness – because, for the Christ-follower, this understanding is “often accompanied by a second call from the Lord Jesus. The second call invites us to a serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people.” (159)

When the Bible says that God takes everything and works everything out for good (Romans 8:28), I think that we see this when we begin our Second Journey; we hear Jesus saying, “I am with you, I am for you, I am in you. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself,” (168) and we finally begin to understand that. We finally begin to see that God really does use all the “random” events of our lives for His good and our good and they do become tools in His hands to reach out to others and draw them in to His love.

It is during the Second Journey that I think we finally begin to move away from our illusions (see my last post on the “Adidas Bag”) and see our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and “enemies” more realistically and are able to truly forgive them “acknowledging with unexpected compassion that these people are neither angels nor devils but only human.” (159)

I think we can stand in the way of a Second Journey, or we can open ourselves up to it. I am watching myself in this regard.  I feel like I feel when I swim laps. I am not that great of a swimmer so I really have to think about what I am doing. Am I fighting the water or am I using it to carry me? Am I thinking about what my arms are  doing? Am I thinking about whether I am at the surface of the water or am I drooping down into the depths where there is unnecessary resistance? It is all about form.

I think the same could be said for my own Second Journey which I am awkwardly “swimming” through and what I am letting Jesus teach me. Am I fighting Him or am I letting Him carry me? Am I thinking about what I am doing? Am I thinking about whether I am where He wants me or if I am sinking to places where I am facing unnecessary resistance? It is also all about form.

— Teresa Klassen