Friday, August 24, 2012

Sleeping on a prayer.

The problem with my day job is that half the time I am working at night, and often such nights result in me getting home at around 3am. And every now and then, it is impossible to sleep. So, instead of falling asleep and sleeping till noon, I am going about my day with high hopes of making it till noon.

The oddly nice thing about days like this is that I have more time to myself than usual. Thus, I find myself sipping my triple grande caramel macchiato and nibbling on my cheese danish at Starbucks writing this blog. TGIF.

After I made the realization that sleep was not in my cards, I showered up and and took my Bible and Prayer Book outside in the cool twilight to pray and read the Morning Office. At some point during the service, I realized how much prayer has assumed a new (perhaps, renewed) role in my life.

As of fairly recently, I have decided instead of fighting against forced singleness, I would win the fight by choosing it willingly. It was like being on an extended fishing trip, a really bad one, where my line was constantly out, bait was changed every now and then. The line had a few nibbles here and there, and I even made a few catches where either I tossed the catch back, or the fish just jumped back in the water. In reeling this line back in, things have come up with this line that I weren't aware were there; leaving me with junk I'm not sure what to do with.

St. Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing". For century's Eastern monks have taken this to heart, literally. The common Orthodox "Jesus Prayer" (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" is typically prayed at least 100 times before the monk falls asleep after the Great Compline. The intention here is to pray without ceasing, even during sleep. The monk tries to live their life in such a way that they learn to pray without ceasing at all times. By doing so, they attempt, and surely in some cases; do, leave leave profane completely and live in the sacred.

Easier said than done. Of course though in monastic setting it is much easy when the secular world is left behind and distractions are minimal. But what about the rest of us? Some are indeed called to live such a life, but what does this mean for person who pursues the reality of God, but must live in the world which is wholly other?

We have many outlets, channels, for expression. Expression is a gift. Expression is almost sacramental in how when we put ourselves in something physical, we experience the Grace of God on our most inner parts. Music, art, building, running, writing...all expressions, all gifts. Prayer, however is an expression where we cannot attribute something that "we did" by our own merit. Prayer places the merit entirely on God. 

Prayer has allowed the space to do something with all that junk. In adjusting to a life where I am aware of being single by my own choosing, I have caught myself acting in ways where I compensate for what I have let go of. Listening and playing to music helps. As does things like this blog. But it is in prayer that I am able to let all that crap bubble out into one spot, and let it be dealt with in a healthy expression.

As of now, I am not receiving the call to monasticism. Until then, or until I die, or until the restoration of God's Kingdom, I along with the majority of humanity must live in this dichotomy of Sacred and the constantly complicated and inconsistent Profane. What makes it doable? Realizing that there is absolutely nothing than can be done about it, that it cannot be changed in my own merit, but only in prayer.

And now, join me in praying  that the sacred manifests itself in the caffeine I have consumed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On waiting.

I had forgotten all about the existence of this blog. This is great! I don't have to go through the painful process of registering and setting up. Just change my profile picture and lay out, and bam. Good ol' blogger, your name might be changing, but you have waited and I have returned a few years later to continue to lay out my thoughts on theology and spirituality. I'm kind of excited, yet I am completely putting myself out on the open for criticism. Which of course, (if it is good), I will try to accept graciously.

My best friend Andrew has been waiting. He was telling me that he was waiting for his car to come out of the shop from its extended  vacation, waiting for a background check to come through, and waiting to hear back from a new job.

I am in my own season of waiting. I did not make it into any of my wait-listed classes (the classes you have to wait to know if you are registered for, and praying that the first 10 people on the list don't show up). So, my academic goals are being placed on hold for another fives months, another five months being counted towards the fact that I am twenty-six and degree-less. Anyway.

Western culture, especially the younger generation, is not fond of waiting. We are instant-gratification driven.The more we can do in less of time, the better. But as human experience will show, waiting in the line at the bank Friday at noon is completely different from waiting to be a parent for the first time. I do think there is a difference between waiting in the profane, and waiting in the sacred.

I have no formal training, but I'm sure I could find someone to cite the fact that waiting is a huge spiritual theme in Judaism and Christianity. Judaism waits for the great "clean up" of the world through the coming of the Messiah and/or the return to the Holy Land. Christianity waits for the the return of Christ the Messiah and/or the Kingdom of God/Heaven. Both waitings have an idea of who, what, how. But not when.

I didn't bother to count, but Strong Exhaustive Concordance dedicates almost a whole page to the words "wait", "waiteth", and "waiting" (160 times according to It's easy to recall how many psalms and other Prophet spoken passages mention something along the lines of "This is what is happening, and it sucks. But if you wait on God, then God will act".

I'm thinking a theology of waiting is more than a conditional statement. Waiting involves letting go of the condition all together.  "If I make it into my classes, then I will be one step closer to a degree." Of course, I need my classes. But the motivation for school is is driven by the goal of graduating and moving on. The condition of my situation has not happened, but if I really believe that God has some sort of influence in my life, and I am doing the things I should be doing, then for right now the condition doesn't even matter.

In the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent, the theme of waiting is accompanied by anticipation or expecting. I hate to challenge hundreds of years of Church practice, but when applied to every day life, this doesn't cut it. Anticipation and expectancy put ones eyes on the future. Anticipation and expectancy almost put the power in our own hands, when that power is not ours to begin with.

Waiting puts the power back in the hands of the divine. Waiting admits that there is little or next to nothing we can do until whatever "it" is happens. Waiting may not look to the future as much as it does to hope.

I'm also waiting for a boyfriend, but that is a whole other post coming.