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

 

Monasticism Remix: Traditional & Neo-Monastic Spirituality in the 21st Century

Monasticism Remix: Traditional & Neo-Monastic Spirituality in the 21st Century

Mustard Seed Associates invites you to an evening of prayers and explorations of Traditional & Neo-Monastic spirituality.

In this event neo-monastic practitioners and traditional monastic sisters and brothers will come together for a generative conversation about living monastic spirituality in the 21st century.

The evening will include a light meal, prayers, conversation, and a compline service at the end.

You are welcome (and we encourage you) to come to the 5:00 PM service at Church of the Apostles beforehand as well.

When? Dec. 13 – 7:00 PM

Where? Fremont Abbey Arts Center – 4272 Fremont Ave N, Seattle
We will gather in the downstairs cafe area of the Abbey. The worship service takes place in the Great Hall upstairs.

Suggested donation: $5-10; no one will be turned away for lack of money

Register Online

Feel free to contact us at mail@msainfo.org / 206-524-2112 with your questions.

We are looking for volunteers to help us set up and clean up afterward. Contact us if you are interested in volunteer.

This is event is hosted by Mustard Seed Associates in partnership with Church of the Apostlesand The Fremont Abbey Arts Center.

Reading About Community

Some of you are aware that this last week I started a self imposed reading discipline to undergird my desire to understand more fully why, from a faith perspective, community is important.  I have a stack of books a mile high in front of me and recommendations coming in every day.  Some of them are faith oriented, some are secular.  I am still looking for books that deal with community and faith historically, as well as theologically and practically.  I am also looking for books that discuss community models today and in the past – monastic communities, intentional communities and even virtual communities.  I also want to look at books on community organization as well as those on community within organizations.  So if you have any other suggestions of must read books I would love to hear from you.  It’s a good thing that I am an avid and fast reader.

As you look over the list you may notice that many of the links are to amazon.com  That is because often I could not find a good review or description elsewhere.  However if you plan to purchase these books I would highly recommend doing so from a local independent bookstore or from the author directly.

I started this week with a couple of very stimulating books

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom is a very important book about the power of decentralization within organizations. I have also read Organic Community and The Search to Belong by Joseph Myers which both talk about how to shape an environment in which community can emerge naturally.  Now I am into Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living by Stanly Grenz.

Next on my list are

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of Community, Ray Oldenburg

Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein

The Becoming of G-d, Ian Mobsby

The Consuming Passion: Christianity and the Consumer Culture, Edited by Rodney Clapp

Community Organizing in a Diverse Society, by Felix Rivera and John Erlich

Church After Christendom, Stuart Murray

StormFront: The Good News of God, Brownson, Dietterich, Harvey and West

The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsh

Water from a Deep Well, Gerald L Sittser

Making Room: Discovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Christine Pohl

Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger

Journey Inward/Journey Outward by Elizabeth O’Connor

A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace by M. Scott Peck

When Love Bends Down: Images of Christ Who Meetss Us Where We Are, Michael Lodahl

Authentic Relationships: Discover the Lost Art of One Anothering: Wayne & Clay Jacobsen

Followed by books that describe various communities

Communities: The Story and Spirituality of Twelve European Communities, Jeanne Hinton

Fire, Salt and Peace: Intentional Christian Communities Alive in North America, David Jenzen

Celtic Christain Communities: Live the Tradition, Ian Bradley

Then I plan to revisit some of the old classics or at least what I think of as classics as well as books on the monastic traditions that still have so much to offer as we reflect on the place of Christian community today.

Community and Growth, by Jean Vanier

Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Nouwen, McNeill & Morrison

The Community of the King, Howard Snyder

Companions to the Poor , Viv Grigg

Restoring At Risk Communities: Doing It Togetehr and Doing It Right, John Perkins

Get Satisfied

This morning I have been making granola, reading Get Satisfied edited by Carol Holst and keeping tabs on the discussion about monastic orders of the white man on Eliacin’s blog.   Talk about multi tasking.  And what do all these things have in common you may ask?  To answer that let me refer back to Get Satisfied.  This is a great collection of stories about people who really have found the satisfaction of living simply and being satisfied with enough.  There is growing evidence that our increasing consumption and profligate spending is not good either for us or for our planet.

As I read the book I was reminded of Paul’s wonderful words in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. ”  And that led me to thinking about monasticism and the new Christian communities that are springing up all over the world and grappling with issues such as simplicity and with what a monastic order should look like in our day and age.  We certainly need to learn to be satisfied with enough but at the same time we need to grapple with how we can make it possible for others to have enough too.  We very definitely live in a multicultural world in which those with enough are often those from white Anglo-Saxon heritage.  It is very definitely time for us to listen to those from other cultural backgrounds and learn to practice a simplicity of life and faith that embraces all the people of our world.

Tall Skinny Kiwi & Monastic Orders

Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, has just spent stayed overnight with us. It was wonderful to catch up on what he is doing from his base up in the Orkney Islands. As he reported on his blog we fed him almost entirely out of the garden – leek, mushroom and potato soup, garden salad (last of the year’s tomatoes) and apple berry cobbler for dessert.

Eugene & John enjoying cobbler

Tom dishing out his famous mushroom soup

Cheese on fresh baked bread

Like us Andrew is struggling to live out something of God’s kingdom values in his life and community. He is here for a conference this week with Alan Roxborough and Allelon discussing rules of life. What was interesting is that we too are struggling with what a rule of life could look like for us in Mustard Seed Associates. This morning we reviewed the rules we are most familiar with – St Benedict, 3rd Order Franciscan, Nothumbrian, Iona Community, The Simple Way and others. Andrew shared his experience with The Order of the Mustard Seed which comes out of the 24-7 prayer network, and the Church Mission Society, a 200 year old mission society that is in the process of reinventing itself more as a monastic order.

There are certainly a plethora of possibilities to look at out there so why invent something else? At this point we are not sure if we will. We are revisiting our Mustard Seed Affirmations which we developed some years ago to provide a framework for our lives. This could be the basis for our rule but we are grappling with how to interpret this for people from different church traditions, different ages and different cultures, some of whom live in community and some of whom don’t. So your prayers and comments are appreciated. What we are really grappling with is how to authentically live out our faith in today’s world. Prayers appreciated and I am sure there will be much more to share in the coming weeks.