Monday, February 9, 2009

On Life, Death, Prayer, and Lent

I have been having some very deep thoughts about prayer, life, death, and relationships lately. This post is one attempt for me to straighten out some of them in the context of Lent, which is coming soon.

Lent is a time of preparation, purification, penance, and a growth in our attempts to grasp for grace. Every Lent, for many years now, I have really challenged and pushed myself spiritually, physically, and mentally. One of the ways that I have pushed myself is to take on hard penances in an attempt to rightly order my priorities. Leading up to Lent 2009 has been somewhat different. While I still have the desire to push myself, it is in a different direction than ever before. Please bear with me as I try and explain.

Recently, you may have heard that Michael Dubruiel died. He was the husband of Amy Welborn, whom I have had the pleasure of corresponding with several times. I never met Michael, but his death had a deep impact on me recently. I believe this is because of some similarities - we both like to write and speak about our faith, we both have small kids, and a few other similarities including the fact that he died while exercising (which I love to do). God can use the death of others to challenge us out of our complancency and I think think this is one of those instances. Michael's death has meaning for me. It helped me to once again see the value of living in the moment.

I recently found myself constantly looking forward to the next big thing. It could have been an event here at St. Mary's, traveling to visit family, or a speaking gig I had. Regardless, I found myself just "passing time" and not being in the moment. We all do this from time to time, but this meant that I was not finding value in the work, time, people and duties that I had each day. I wasn't living my life with the intent of finding God in ordinary things, I was looking only to find God in the big ones. To be quite honest, God doesn't want us living life in this manner.

After talking this out with a good friend (and later other people including my wife) I started to pray about it and had another connection with my prayer. I noticed that I wasn't really entering into being present with God in prayer, but rather I was trying to conquer ground. For example, when doing my daily Bible reading, I found that I was trying to make sure I got a certain amount done, rather than spending time with God, regardless of how many pages I read. I also found myself not really entering into my daily rosary, but just finding myself busy with it. I also wasn't quiet, or more correctly, I wasn't "still".

I think that God is calling me to what I can best describe (and what keeps coming to mind in my prayer) as a "radical reorientation" of my life. How I describe this gets a bit sticky.

This is not in the sense that my vocation, profession, duties, etc. change.
Not a mid-life crisis.
Not an attempt to find myself.
Not trying to "do" too much for God.

Rather, it is an attempt to answer the continual call to conversion where I have always found Christ leading me to. I really want to be holy (and understand both how hard this is and how far I am from it) and answering God's call is the only path I have to get to holiness. Here is what I find God calling me to (knowing that my spiritual director has to be a part of the process before I go for it).
  1. Giving up my daily rosary for Lent - I know this is difficult for many to understand. I think that progression in prayer naturally means we go from more active to less active. I have been resisiting this for some time and think I need to be more still in my prayer. My rosary has become a way to keep me busy for a time in some distant prayer activity, without having to really go deep. It isn't a matter of praying the rosary in a different way or with a certain technique. It is about stillness.
  2. Taking care of my mouth. What goes in and what goes out. I exercise more than 99% of guys my age (which is the only reason I don't weigh a lot more), but I eat a lot. I need to start controlling what goes in my mouth more. I am thinking about limiting the kinds of food I eat during Lent to a select list, which will be very difficult for me. But, on the flipside, I need to be more affirming with others - hence what comes out. The tongue is a deadly weapon and I know how to wield it all too well.
  3. Finding God in the ordinary. God is not just a God of miracles and wonders. He made everything, including time. We are stewards of our limited time, as we are of all of His creation. Thus, I need to make sure that the time I spend on this earth is spent realizing God's gifts - even the tasks we find mundane and the people we find irritating.
As I continue to work through these thoughts and try to answer God's call to conversion, I ask for your prayers. I also ask for you to pray for the soul of Michael and for all the faithfully departed and with the same breath, we ask for their intercession.

Conversion is never easy but is always worth it.
At midday, along the way, O king, I saw a light from the sky, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my traveling companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.' And I said, 'Who are you, sir?' And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up now, and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen (of me) and what you will be shown. I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.' "And so, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. - Acts 26:13-19
Peace to you all.

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