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Posts tagged ‘Greg Boyd’

2013 was the year that…

Since I was a teenager, I’ve kept a year end list of reflections on the year gone by. I have to say I’m kind of addicted to doing this. The routine, starting with the opening phrase of this blog title, is so ingrained in me that the new year just doesn’t feel right if I don’t look back. As author David Sedaris said of journals, “It’s an awful lot of work for something no one is ever going to see”, but still I forge on. For better or worse, it’s a habit I stick with.

I’ve noticed that the events in my bulleted list have changed over the years, leaning more towards just seeing the blessings and leaving out the difficulties. My sister Lorie and I used to have a year-end conversation of the “3 best and 3 worst events”. After a while, I stopped seeing the relevance of the 3 worst things. In my experience, difficult events or situations have lessons and blessings that are often the most meaningful and somehow part of the “best”.

Over the Christmas break, I dedicated a day as usual to sift through old e-mails, pictures, books I’ve read and blogs I wrote. The exercise left me grateful for every part of my life. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, says that “It’s possible to have a meaningful life even if it isn’t an easy life.” Mine  is abundant in meaning, faithful friendships and blessings that keep me grounded. So here’s the blessings of 2013.

2013 was the year that…

  • Trip to Minneapolis – In May, Lyle and I took a weekend trip to Minneapolis to see a play adaptation of C.S. ImageLewis’ brilliant book The Screwtape Letters. Not only was the weekend very fun together, but the play was also so worth seeing. We got to meet our hero Max McLean (producer of the play) after the show. We also attended the church of a preacher whose books have come to influence us both, Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church. Despite having a  cold that weekend,  we were both so glad we went.
  • Passing of a friend – Very sadly, my dear cousin Evy passed away in July after battling cancer. She was an epically fun cousin to grow up with, but it was the meaningful way she died that will always be a legacy to me. She would much rather have lived, but she and her husband Jerry leaned into trusting God in difficult circumstances. She embodied the bible verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 Rest in peace, dear friend.
  • Watershed Community – The community life, studies and worship of our small house church of Watershed continues to be the most abiding blessing of my life. I don’t know where I’d be without everyone’s encouragement and continual pointing to see God in my day. Whether it’s celebrating birthdays, singing, laughing, telling and listening to stories, doing stuff together, movie night, studying scripture and great books, worshiping together, or praying for and with each other daily, we are all the richer for our life together.
  • Adventures in Blogland – I finished my 3rd year of blogging. I am grateful for each person who took the time to read my scribbles and listen to my deeper heart, but I’m even more grateful for how it recharges my batteries . I have never walked away from the question of my blog without an answer, and this can only be attributed to God’s incredible mercy and endless creativity. The more I look, the more I see and I hope my awareness continues to grow.
  • Books Why is reading so calming? I suspect it’s because we turn our attention to something completely outside of our day to day experiences. As some wise person said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” In my own quirky academy awards ceremony, I annually give out two awards:  Best fiction of the year was Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and best non-fiction was Greg Boyd’s book Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now
  • Musical highlights – One of the gifts my parents and my Mennonite upbringing nurtured in me was a love of IMG_4472music. I’m convinced it is a way of praying. I’m so blessed to have two friends, Marilyn and Eldon, who practice new and old songs with me for our Sunday worship and other occasions. Musical highlights last year were singing with the seniors at Lion’s Manor, and preparing songs for some special events like our fall retreat, a 50th birthday party, our “Hanukkah for Christians” celebration with dear friends Arthur and Debbie, and who can beat a rowdy sing-a-long of “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” for our Christmas Eve party?
  • Proud of our son – I’m eternally grateful for our son Joel and how he is finding his way in life. 2013 was a year of milestones for him – he moved out, and got his B.A. in german studies from University of Winnipeg (with a gold medal to boot). He is finding what gives him joy (all things 482454_10151469840812773_177331308_nbotanical) and finding ways to express that through his creative and inexhaustible website at http://www.momentaryvitality.ca. Not only that, but surprisingly he is finding that he enjoys teaching and working with kids. He even works at the community centre connected to my school, and we love talking about students we know in common. I’m super proud of him and very, very grateful for the friendship Lyle and I continue to have with him. I’m also very glad that he remains open to a life of faith and learning in our community.

Prayer and the Imagination

The alarm on my clock radio was going off way too early. Hadn’t I just gone to sleep? I’d spent a few too many late nights getting my school alarm-clock-ringingassessments done. My stomach was achy and my yawns were insistent.

But, habit is a routine hard to break, and I got up and went to my daily quiet time with scripture and prayer. As soon as I sat down, a cynical thought greeted me that morning. “Why are you even doing this prayer thing? It’s foolish not to be sleeping instead. It doesn’t change anything anyways.”

My disbelieving thought stayed with me for a moment. It felt so logical and I considered heading straight back to bead, but another thought kept me there. Unbidden, my friends in the faith came to my imagination, and I realized they’d never agree with the skeptic. They would (and do) encourage me to stick with the discipline of prayer, believing, as C.S Lewis once famously said, “we were made for another world.”

I stayed with the prayer time. I usually pray for my faith community, my family and others who come to mind, but that morning, I just imagined them in a circle with me, joining hands, united in a purpose beyond the logic of the world.

That prayer time, as with many others, came to me as a gift that morning and despite feeling hemmed in by the demands of the job, the day felt expansive. My cynical thought had insisted that prayer doesn’t change anything, but my experience proved otherwise. It stayed with me all week, and deepened a sense of gratitude even as I  took deep breaths trying to get everything done.

Present-Perfect-CoverPrompted by a book I read this year called Present Perfect by Gregory Boyd, I have been imagining Jesus with me during my prayer time. Boyd says that this practice helps us rest in God instead of making prayer an obligation. Jesus sits with me in my imagination, and encouraged by the verse which says to “cast all our anxieties on him”, I imagine giving all my worries to him. I literally take them and dump them on Jesus’ lap.  Boyd writes that this sense of resting in God is not just a technique, but is how we stay awake to what is true.

Over the months since I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed a few things. First of all, it helps lighten what is weighing me down. I remember often that I’ve given things to God and it’s like resetting a computer or erasing my whiteboard at school at the end of the day. Jesus has become more real; Someone I love rather than an idea. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I have also been noticing far less bodily aches and pains in the months since I’ve begun this practice.

Earlier in his life, C.S. Lewis had quite an inner battle of the use of imagination vs. the use of reason. He used to think that reason trumped the imagination and became an atheist as a result. It began to dawn on him that everything that his mind came to solely through reason produced only a dull and unhappy life, whereas the places that his imagination led him produced joy. He began to see that while reason was the natural organ of truth, “imagination [was] the organ of meaning.”  His friend Owen Barfield, introduced him to the notion that reason and imagination could co-exist and it changed his world forever. Giving up his atheism, he gave his life to God, then Jesus and the world is much the richer for it.

It’s this sense of meaning that has accompanied me in my journey of imaginative prayer. I’m the furthest thing from an expert. I am often distracted by what the Buddhists call “monkey mind”, and my imagination clearly is often limited by mistrust and doubts. But I have tasted enough of Jesus’ presence to feel encouraged to continue; to steep my life in the reality that I am not alone in this universe.

When I was a teenager, our youth group painted the walls of a room at church with murals. Though the walls no longer exist since the church was circlesdestroyed by fire in 1998, one mural has always stayed with me. The mural depicted 2 thrones. On one throne was a great big S, which stood for a life where the Self directs life, and on the other throne was a cross. Here, the Self is not in charge anymore and the Self yields to Christ.

In both circles, the dots represent our interests. When self-directed, our interests result in discord and frustration, but given to God, they result in harmony.

It is a simple depiction of my deepest desire. I want always to sit with Jesus, giving everything to God’s care and serving God’s purposes. In the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, “I want what God wants.” And on the days when my imagination is clouded by self-direction, when I am fighting this release, I give my scattered-ness to God, asking to “want to want” a life touched by God’s imagination. It is the only life I want.

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