Very Little Life in a Lifetime

When I focus on goal setting and making habits I have three different kinds of goals I make. Habits, Targets, Achievements.

We are Always getting ready to live, but never living…

The work of self-improvement–always under the nose,–nearer than the nearest, is seldom…engaged in.

R. W. Emerson, Journal 1834

For Habits these are things of daily life that I want to do without thinking about. I want to take them off the decision table. Habits are such that, even when your daily life is disrupted, or you stop engaging in them for a day or two, you pick them right back up again with little to no effort.

A habit is something you don’t have to think about, it becomes a part of your identity. It can be diet, exercise, mental habits, ways you think about yourself or talk to yourself. Things you do. It is really really difficult to get a habit ingrained, but it is worth it. Last year, I worked on dietary and mental habits. The year before it was prayer. I am where I want to be with those. For 2019 I will work on exercise habits. I want to fold exercise into my daily life so I’m not making a schedule or setting targets, but just doing it.

Habits don’t imprison us, they support us.

Emerson quotes (including blog post title) from A Dream Too Wild: Emerson Meditations for Every Day of the Year, Barry M. Andrews, ed., (Skinner House Books: Boston, 2003), Jan 1 entry.

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Nothing is Impossible

Just a short post today to remember the most important lesson.

Nothing is Impossible with God..

The Lord’s are the earth and it’s fullness:

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24

I don’t know what is coming next and I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know what I want and I don’t know how to achieve it.

Great peace floods out of a place of waiting and surrounds me like a placid lake. A boat will come.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?

Who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24


Fear Not, O Worm Jacob

I am exhausted with my groaning;

every night I drench my pillow with tears;

I bedew my bed with weeping.

My eye wastes away with grief;

Psalm 6

In one of the books of the classic fantasy series The Belgariad, by David Eddings, there’s a scene that always struck me as a writer’s cheat. In it a character is told that a prophecy holds clues to a great danger he goes into the library to pour over them. While he’s there, the voice of the prophecy, which also lives inside his head (don’t ask), says to him, “Hey, you don’t need to read every word, just sort of let your eyes move over them and I’ll I make the relevant passages leap out to you.”

As a teenager reading this I was like “COME ON! ridiculous.” But as an adult with a daily habit of reading the Bible, I have had this experience many times. There are times when unimportant phrases and words in passages read many many times almost become brighter, standing out against a darker wall of text.

And sometimes an entire group of readings are clearly meant for me and my current situation, for hope and comfort.

I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand;

It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Fear not O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel: I will help you, says the Lord.

Isaiah 41

And maybe it will bother some to think of God referring to his people as maggots and worms, but for me, I see this kind of language as an honest reminder of the truth of my own power. Now, to be clear, I don’t have low self-esteem and I value work and personal responsibility and I try to put those values into place and teach them to my children. And they are important. But the experience of my life is that mere goals and striving can accomplish nothing. They are necessary but not sufficient for life. The importance of goals and striving is not to achieve external things, but to develop good character. But you must always remember that the goals you think you are working for are all vanity in the eyes of God.

This lesson might make you hopeless, until you reach a time in life when there is no forward progress, and indeed, not even to a path to walk on. Locked in a paradigm of goal setting and achievement, you will spin your wheels and grow frustrated and myopic. Put recalling the true goals will set you free.

I especially need to remember this when there are no goals to be achieved and my problems and obstacles are things I have no power over. In those times I like to remember there is only continuing to live in faith. In those times Isaiah leaps out to comfort.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 

I will open up rivers on the bare heights,

and foutains in the broad valleys;

I will turn the desert into a marshland, 

and the dry ground into springs of water.

I will plant in the desert the cedar,

acacia, myrtle, and olive….

Isaiah 41


The Lofty City

The more you read the Bible, the more you see that there are two worlds, coexisting. They overlay each other, like a two layered skirt. You can live in either one at any time. One is separated from God and the Kingdom of Heaven by sin and the affects of sin, and the other participates in Grace.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.”

Isaiah 26:5

I missed blogging yesterday because I’ve spent the last day very very sick with a stomach flu. The vomiting was not so bad as these things go, but I was so dehydrated that once when I sat up I passed out and fell forward and split my head open.

I am chronically dehydrated, I think. I don’t notice much from day to day but when I got sick, it became very apparent that this is a problem for me. It’s hard for me to not make an analogy between this kind of thirst and the thirst for the living water, the grace of life that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman at the well. Or, to today’s gospel: the house built on sand.

Everyone of them who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
Matthew 7: 24-25

People who build their house on rock seem to step out of this world and walk with God when they go through tragedy or setbacks or hardships. They become more sure about what is important, more full of Grace, more thankful, more kind, more present. This is just a personal observation I’ve made of friends and family who have suffered immense and almost unthinkable badness.

But people who live in the lofty city or who merely sit at its gates slavering to get in are brought to utter desolation when something goes wrong. They isolate, they grow bitter, become angry, lash out. I include myself in this category, in the past and surely also in the future.

The lofty city maybe looks shimmery and bright and powerful and high up and real, but it disappears when you reach out to touch it and ask for something you really need. Or if you are in it, you find yourself ignoring it if someone reaches out to you. It provides no sustenance, no living water.

If you live in the lofty city you discover it only when the rain or the fire or the floods come.

and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:27

It’s hard to know if you are living in the lofty city. Not all things that are fun and glittery and insubstantial are bad. Rich people can live in the city of God, poor people can live in the lofty city. There’s nothing wrong with fun or frivolity taken in its turn. So here’s my shorthand.

The lofty city has no neighbors.

Resounding on the Waters

I have been in a reflective frame of mind. And as Advent asks us to prepare for the coming of Christ, I’ve been thinking about how Christ came into my life the first time. 

 I was raised Christian, but more as a community than as a faith. In college I rejected God and Christ. It wasn’t until graduate school that I met intelligent people of faith willing to talk to me without trying to convert me, and eventually I was called to the Catholic Church. But before all that was something that I often forget, a book that planted a seed. A book that was called to my mind by this passage from the Psalm in this morning’s prayer.

The Lord’s voice resounding on the waters,

The Lord on the immensity of the waters;

the voice of the Lord, full of power,

the voice of the Lord, full of Splendor.

Psalm 29

Often in the Bible, the ocean is at once a reflection and a manifestation of God’s power and His Will. A source of fear and life for men. An alien world within our own. This passage of the Psalm resonates with the Gospel reading from Mass for today, the First Sunday of Advent.

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Luke 21:25

The link between the sea and space implicitly made in this passage reminded me of that book I read so long ago. It was a science fiction book called The Face of the Waters, by Robert Silverberg. Silverberg is a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winning author, but I have only read this one book by him.

In it, humanity has an uneasy truce with alien allies on an ocean planet; but they live in constant fear of being engulfed and destroyed by the hostile environment. I won’t spoil the book by saying what happens in the end, but I carried its message with me through years of life as a non-Christian in a world that I perceived to be hostile to me. It gave me a little teasing hint that maybe those who lived a life of faith weren’t actually out to enslave me with babies or condemn everyone who disagreed with them to Hell, which is what the dominant culture tried to teach me. 

As I thought about this first step in my conversion, I realized it might be interesting to write about that here on my blog. So, that is what I am going to do. 

As long as you receive the sea,

those waving circles of the sea

into your open eyes,

you feel all depth, every frontier

drowning in you.

But your foot touches a wave

and you think: it is the sea

that dwelt in me,

spreading such calm around, such cool.

From “Shores of Silence” in The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II

Two small coins

For perhaps the fourth time in a month someone said to me that I should start a blog. And I said to myself, “no, I can’t do that, I have no time, I need my time, I’m overwhelmed, burnt out, I have nothing.”

As I chased the thought away, I opened up my small book of morning prayer and daily Mass readings, and one of the readings for the day was from Mark. In it, Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people coming with their offerings to donate. And he watched as the rich put in their large sums and then as a poor widow came and offered her two small coins. He called his disciples and told them the widow had given more than everyone together, “for she has put in everything she had, her whole living.”

Advent, which starts this Sunday, like Lent, is a time of penitence–where we pray, fast, and give alms in preparation for the coming of Christ. I have nothing, not even two small coins to give as alms. I am depleted of words and time and patience and space.

So from my poverty I offer this blog. I hope you enjoy it, my internet friends who have given me so much laughter, comfort, hope, and friendship.

My intent is to post passages that strike me from my daily readings and also my short stories and poetry–my new songs. In due time and with God’s Grace, it will morph into an author blog; a landing place for news about my writing and for selling books.

Welcome.

O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill. Psalm 33