The Big Question We Never Ask

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Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time asking myself What would my life look like if I gave myself totally to God? This is probably the scariest question I have ever asked, because the short answer is – very different from what it looks like now.

 Perhaps I have been reading too much about monks lately. I am really challenged not just by the rhythm of life the desert Fathers and Mothers, Celtic monks and Trappist monks today live by, but by the passion and discipline with which they adhered to their commitment. And I crave the deep intimacy so many of them seem to experience.

This is in fact the question that one of the Trappist monks in August Turak’s book Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks asks. It was the question that led him to become a monk. There is something terribly wrong with spirituality today, he says:

It is as though the materialism that has a death grip on this culture has taken our spirituality as well. Most of what’s called spiritual is actually humanistic if you think about it. People don’t want the adventure of God on his own terms or for his own sake. They want a better world, a happier life, better relationships and all the trimmings that go along with it….. We’re urged to seek God because this human good will come of it. People don’t realize “because” implies that the end is the human good and Truth (God) merely the means” (19)

So this morning again I ask myself What would it look like to seek God only for Godself, to shape my life around the craving for intimacy with God? And how willing amy I to shape my life around that quest? 

So here is where I am at.

First I know that prayer and deepening my relationship to God should take priority over everything else. Sometimes I feel I do well at this and other times work and the busy distractions of my mind overtake me. I need to establish a rhythm of prayer through the day and develop the discipline to stick with it. If I truly placed God at the centre I would make sure that I am never too busy to pray and never be too tired to listen.

Second I know that relationships – to God and to others should take priority over work. Our intern Amanda grappled with this over the summer. In her blog post on her time with us she comments: after a time of checking in and working we would come together to have lunch. I loved that there wasn’t any thought to delay lunch or to work through lunch, but rather, it was a priority to take this time to come together and replenish. Her words are an important reminder to me of this priority. I work to live, not live to work.

Third I need to take time for myself, to make space for the exercises that replenish my spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep are all important priorities. Jesus’ admonish in Matthew 11: 28-30 is a constant reminder to me of the balanced and I think relaxed rhythm God intends for us.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

When I get stressed out and overextended I frequently need to remind myself of this. Committing myself fully to God means recognizing my need to organize my time and my habits so that I am constantly receptive to God’s voice.

Fourth I need to take time for God’s creation. Gardening is part of the rhythm of my life. I also love to walk in the midst of God’s creation, and in the mornings I sometimes sit just soaking in the beauty of the mountains I can see out my office window.  But when I get too busy this time gets swept aside.

 

Fifth, the use of my resources would be totally in God’s control. I would give generously, joyously and enthusiastically whenever God prompted me. I would be more concerned for the needs of others than for my own wants and demands.

Most of us spend our lives striving for success rather than striving for God. Our passion for significance in the eyes of the world often far outstrips our passion for closeness to God. We consume spiritual tools in the same way we consume food, clothes and electronic gadgets.

So what would it look like for you to give yourself totally to God? I challenge you to take some time this week to reflect on this question. Let me know how God prompts you to change the rhythm of your life, the use of your resources

 

Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks.

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Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks by August Turak was the second book that I read last week. To be honest this book frustrated me a little because of Turak’s underlying assumption that capitalism is the only possible business model that works and I felt that at times he justified what and how the monks do things to fit that model.

In spite of that I found the book very helpful. It is well worth the read for any Christian business person really wanting to put God and God’s purposes at the centre of their lives. Hopefully it will also encourage us to ask the seldom asked question: what should a Christian business look like?

The business model that the Trappist monks use confounds all our usual business principles. Turak quotes USA Today as saying: “The monks break every rule in Business 101 except attention to quality.”  They only work 4 hours a day. They do no marketing. They are not profit driven and they don’t feel they need to make more product this year than last.

They are people passionately committed to their mission of selfless service to God and others who happen to have a business. Business success for the monks is merely the by-product of living a life of service and selflessness. (7).

He goes on to say that he feels part of the reason for their success is that they tap into the hunger within all of us for transformation from selfishness to selflessness, believing that it is this longing that produces passionate commitment to a business, transcending profit making as motive. He points out that though many businesses start with this passion they don’t finish with it. The key to 1500 years of success:

they not only incorporate personal transformation into their missions but institutionalize this process through methodologies such as… the Rule of St Benedict. (13)

A colleague of Turak’s commented that the monks have the advantage of free labour. Turak’s response:

The most important issue is why monasteries get this level of commitment from people and our secular organizations do not?

This I think is one of the most important questions Turak asks, especially for people of faith seeking to establish a business. Transforming people from selfishness to selflessness, calling them to something beyond themselves and their own success, putting faith in the process and in the One who has designed it, these are all important lessons that come out of this type of approach. It is not the drive to be successful, to make a lot of money or to be well known that should motivate us. Or in other words:

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and God will give you everything you need. (Matt 6:33 NLT).