Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bending and Breathing the Way St. Ignatius Did

This is neither at the YMCA, nor is it yoga... but I'm really
getting into climbing
This summer my wife, Amanda, and I have been trying new things together in terms of fitness and well-being. We've been going to the YMCA more often, taking yoga-based classes together as well as making use of the climbing wall more often. I think I've done more climbing in my life than Amanda has, but she's done more yoga in her life than I have, so I think we've successfully avoided any conditions by which we would be competing with each other (well, that's not entirely true, but I hope you understand what I mean... we're able to avoid taking any grudges home with us).

At the same time, I have been going through the Ignatian examen less and less. That's a confession, not an update that I'm happy to offer. But, that being said, the guys over at Pray As You Go are really awesome with their social media presence and it was through their Twitter feed that I found out they're doing this #31dayswithIgnatius in preparation for St. Ignatius' feast day on the 31st of July. So I went and checked out this page they've set up that gives you the rundown on the examen prayer.

I think it had been a suggestion put out by Pray As You Go via their Twitter account, but for whatever reason I listened to the audio file they've posted as an introduction to the examen (I would recommend it to you, too, if you're at all curious about the prayer... it's on the same page that I linked to just above). What I took away is that the Jesuits at Pray As You Go have framed the examen as a method of praying through the events of your day, not just simply reflecting on them. This phrasing may be obvious to some of you, dear readers, but it's an important emphasis for me, with everything that's been going on in my life lately.

For me, lately, reflecting on anything life-related in spiritual terms has been difficult and uncomfortable. I feel like my spiritual life is going in a direction that I did not want it to go and that I'm prevented from taking it in the way that I thought I was being called to take it (if you need context for this remark, read this post I made a couple weeks ago). So a method of prayer and review that actively invites God to show me divine movement in my life... I've been shying away from the examen because it is difficult for me and causes more discomfort. But lately, I've realized that this sensation is analogous to the way I feel doing yoga.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming Back from the North Shore

I usually try to post something every weekend but this past weekend, I did not. I didn't post anything because I was off camping with my wife and some of our friends.

I snapped this one of my friends at Temperance River
State Park and posted it here.
Now that I'm back, I have this sense of longing and I feel like I'm always forgetting something. I think that this sense of emptiness, if I gave into it, could cause me to go back out into the wilderness, thinking that everything is easier there. And I think it is... things seem to make more sense, there is less to worry about. People even seem more honest when you're out hiking through state parks.

And then there's the scenery. We were up on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the vistas were incredible. They were moving. And I know I might be painting a "grass is greener" type of picture, but I have genuinely felt sad here at home now because the potted plants and the mowed lawn outside my sliding glass door don't really inspire the same sense of awe and majesty that I felt gazing at the landscape on the North Shore.

So let's see if I can describe to you what I felt and see what shape it takes...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Still Looking for Direction, or, Death and Resurrection is Tough

This makes me think of the proverb "Still waters run deep."
Picture from
Do you know that deep sense of calm and groundedness that comes with a sense of purpose? Yeah, I have not felt that for a few months now.

Before I get too far into this post, let me say that this is not me describing a crisis of faith. Faith in the God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is alive and well in my life, if somewhat obscured by events. I’m also not trying to be barbarous to any person or organization that I have interacted with lately; if anything in this post seems barbarous, I apologize ahead of time. The intended purpose for anything on this blog is to articulate some of the stuff going through my head. I know that this post may seem angsty and petulant, maybe even have a “poor me” sense to it, but that’s not what I’m going for. Like I said; just working out my thoughts about purpose and the uncertainty therein.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is America So Beautiful? Or, I Didn't Expect to Write a Fourth of July Post

Yesterday was the Fourth of July; Independence Day in the United States of America. Of course, this day means lots of different things to different people (and some people who have no idea what it means). For me, when I began reading through some of the more erudite parts of the Book of Common Prayer, I found out that Independence Day is actually a feast day in the Episcopal Church (listed under "Other major feasts"). So really, we should be having church services on the Fourth of July, even though most of the churchy people that I know are really uncomfortable with bringing in any kind of semi-patriotism into church.

But regardless of any of that, I sang "America, the Beautiful" at church today. All the verses, not just the first one or the last one. I think those ones are sang most often because they are thought to be the most poetic. They are certainly the most platitudinous.

If you've not sang or listened to all the verses lately, here's your chance:

And if you're one who thinks that takes too long, you can read them here

So if you're paying attention, you'll notice that the end of second and the third verse include conditions. This isn't just a song of praise, it's also got some expectations in it:
America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine! 
This morning, as I was singing this, I was realizing that it's not just a Hoo-rah! Murica's the Greatest! song. This one is specifically asking for action on the part of God and on the part of the people present. As I was singing this song, I realized that the prayer it contains is going unfulfilled. 

Our national gains are not divine. Far from it, I think that many of the "gains" are for the privileged and taken from the downtrodden. I'm thinking in economic terms here. Wealth is often collected in the hands of the wealthy, not used for the good of all.

How many "successes" can we say are actually noble? On Independence Day weekend, I'm thinking about the red, white, and blue decisions that come down from Capitol Hill. I don't think there's a whole lot of nobleness there. Heck, I think that the successes we've seen lately have come from the streets. They're hard-won but I'm still not sure I would call them noble.

Self-control is popularly thought to the opposite of liberty and freedom. This always makes me laugh out loud, since I would cry if I didn't. More often than not, I encounter Americans who have an attitude of "In Murica, I'm free to do whatever the f*** I want." But that's not what was intended when our founders started talking about whether we really were interested in protecting Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

So that's my soapbox and you can stop reading here if you want. But I know that some of you, dear readers, come to read my blog because I've usually got the "Church, for the rest of us" attitude. And of course, that's true again today.