Gem #1: Seek God, not ministry to or for Him.

The perfection of the twelfth-century Cistercian architecture is not to be explained by saying that the Cistercians were looking for a new technique.  I am not sure that they were looking for a new technique at all.  They built good churches because they were looking for God.  And they were looking for God in a way that was pure and integral enough to make everything they did and everything they touched give glory to God.

We cannot reproduce what they did because we approach the problem in a way that makes it impossible for us to find a solution.  We ask ourselves a question that they never considered.  How shall we build a beautiful monastery according to the style of some past age and according to the rules of a dead tradition?  Thus we make the problem not only infinitely complicated, but we make it, in fact, unsolvable.  Because a dead style is a dead style.  And the reason why it is dead is that the motives that once gave it life have ceased to exist.  They have given place to a situation that demands another style.  If we were intent up on loving God rather than upon getting a Gothic church out of a small budget we would soon put up something that would give glory to God and would be very simple and would also be in the tradition of our fathers.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

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Life has been so unbelievable up to now.  (It seems to me.)  It’s difficult, still, for me to get around its harshness.  I want to soften the edges.  I want to forget–or misremember, at least–the hardest, most broken parts.  And yet, in some strange way, these are the very parts that have made me feel truly alive.  These are the deep(est?) places in my experience and they cause me to feel most present to myself.

It’s strange–and silly–to me that even the smallest of life’s disappointments and fears can trigger so quickly the deepest moments of life’s pain and hurt.

So my Office-Depot-boyfriend up and got married.  So what?  So …

So all of a sudden I am wondering again at my own misguided hopes and ideas for intimacy.  Past and present.  (Does nothing I aspire to in life make sense?  Are none of my inclinations founded?)  Are You, God, here in this on-going conversation with me?  (Or had I only imagined as much?)  Must I be forever out of step with Your agenda?  What’s so tough about us getting onto the same page?

It seems such dissonance is not in the essentials.  We’ve got the daily tasks and errands figured out; I’m on-board with the purposes of life.  But in the non-essentials.  In the moments of wishing and hoping; in desiring and deep-longing … why can I never seem to be in synch with what You’re all about?  When “we” pause from the duties at hand, pull-off the roadside for Kwikstop, and run inside for a treat … why do I always feel so disappointed in the end?

O Lord, may I more fully receive Your desires for me.  And not just in the big moments or lofty-goals … but in the little “I want chocolate” or “I’ll take pink” (ice-cream & Starburst) moments.  I need to believe You are signed up for those with me as well.

I have missed us–and such honesty together.  Has it been a day or a decade since such candor?  Forgive me for failing to be more forthright.  Begin–please–to mend our very small and average conversations of-late.  Begin to keep company with me in the places where I’ve been withholding interaction and trust.  I’m wanting to love you still (and so much deeper than I do) …

3/08, Jt’s Journal (because every once in awhile it’s okay to let others peek-in)

Some of us lived it.  (See why I love ’em?)

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(It may be the ears.)

Undoubtedly, one more cause to wonder at the creativity on display in our universe. (Can anyone say “Planet Earth” …?!) This place (we call home) really is amazing.

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Oh, how I love the layers (in life, in art, in redemption … and almost all respectable desserts).  Turns out, one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols is even more dense (and deserving) than I knew.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel — founded on the seven refrains of the early church practice: “O Antiphons” —  points to seven different names for the Messiah while (at the same time) referring to Isaiah’s prophecy about Christ.  (Specifically, the seven verses of the song correlate respectively with the following: Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Morning Star, King of the Nations, Emmanuel.)

 A lot of times when I am among the gathered community of faith (in Christ), I have the distinct feeling that I am a saturated-sponge — simply incapable of taking it all in.  Discoveries like this only add to the “all” …

in medias res

October 28, 2007

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I was overcome with hope today during the last 20 minutes of corporate worship.  After a solemn message provoking my sensitivities regarding war, I wept as Christ (in and through His Body) proclaimed, again, the final word: We’ll join in singing with all the redeemed, Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.For now, we feel so deeply what it is to be in the middle of things.  And in this place (in the middle), I think Chesterton is right:

What we need is not the old acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it.  We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and fiercer discontent.  We have to see the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

And so it should be – this life of ours – in between the “ought” and the “is” …

But living so veritably – so earnestly and truly – amidst two irreconcilable realities (both of them pressing-in) is an elusive practice for me.  (Most days, I feel “surly content” … not “fiercer delight and fiercer discontent.”)

Not this day.  In the presence of my own deep consternation … in the presence of Christ’s incarnate community, (alas) the train did wreck.  And the universe was an ogre’s castle and our very own cottage come evening.  Where – save in the community of faith – does such perfect paradox find expression?

Our Father, we have listened to thy word, and loved it; we have found comfort and inspiration in song and psalter; we have enjoyed the companionship of those who, with kindred minds and hearts, have praised and worshiped thee.  Now help us understand that, as we leave this sacred House of God, we shall become thy Church in the street.

–Anonymous, A Guide to Prayer