working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Posts tagged ‘ego’

Abundant life in transformation

I am not an artist. I am definitely not crafty. This has been my identity for a very long time. In 6th grade, I was forced to make daily sketches for art class, and I was miserable. I just didn’t know how to translate what I saw to the paper. And ever since then, I have avoided artsy-craftsy situations like the plague. At VBS, I’ve busied myself with learning the music for the next day instead of helping in the craft room. During Sunday School time, I’ve always had very important pastoral duties to attend to whenever there’s been a request for help with the art projects. I’ve always felt that there was just no need for me to even dip my toe into that pool. Art and me don’t mix.

But that’s where God’s humor comes into play. Lately I’ve found myself smack dab in the middle of artsy-craftsy chaos. Here I am at Messy Church, surrounded by kids and adults being creative:

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And again, helping kids learn about the Lord’s Prayer by making a bead bracelet:

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And then, in the midst of learning different prayer forms to help people descend into the silence of contemplative prayer, I’m instructed to use my creativity and create a collage:

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Honestly, what is going on here? I was perfectly happy avoiding art and devoting all my time to something I’m already good at: music. Why am I continuing to bump into craft projects that make me feel inadequate?

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe in those times when I’m feeling off-kilter, when I’m caught off-guard, I’m more open, more able to hear the whispering of the Holy. When my ego has to take a step back, there’s actually a little bit of room for the Spirit to move around in and do the work of transformation that’s needed in my heart. It doesn’t feel great – being put in a position of ignorance. But it’s in the not knowing that my heart is softened and my mind refocused on what is truly life-giving.

I still don’t plan on leading the crafts at Messy Church any time soon. But I’m learning to be grateful for the chance to try a new project, and for the gift of the Spirit working through my inadequacies. There is abundant life in our weaknesses, and transformation underneath every failure. Bring on the scissors and glue – I’m diving in!

abundant life in the darkness

We were 20 minutes out from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport when the pilot came on the speaker with the routine update for passengers. He dutifully reported the balmy conditions that awaited us – even at 10:30 at night, the temperature would be 80 degrees. I fly enough to know the temperature reading is usually followed with a report about the cloud cover, something central to a pilot’s world, but not necessarily to mine. But this time the report made me pause: “Visibility is endless.”

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I looked out the window. It was dark. Really dark. I could see tiny lights on the ground that marked the outer band of development of this sprawling city. But mostly, I could see nothing. Endless visibility? Hardly.

Darkness and visibility don’t go together. Or do they?

The practice of contemplative prayer invites us to quiet our minds, set our egos aside for a moment, and lean back (as Tilden Edwards says) into our spiritual hearts. But when we do – when we actually release the images and ideas and random thoughts that pop into our minds, what’s left is darkness. Just me and my emptiness. And that doesn’t feel great. The darkness we meet on the inside is far scarier than much of the darkness we face in our everyday lives. I long for the light of my thoughts, the brightness of my carefully constructed ego with all of its success and pride and satisfaction in what I’ve built around me. I grasp for ideas and solutions that flow through my mind, eager to climb back out of the abyss.

And yet when I’m able, for whatever reason, to let go, to release what I’m clinging to, to fall into that darkness within, I discover something incredible. That the visibility IS endless. In the darkness, I can see Love. In the darkness, I can see Peace. In the darkness, I can see New Life. 

I’m grateful for the gift of the darkness. I’m grateful for the courage to let go and let the darkness close around me. Because when I release all I have collected to make me feel safe and loved and powerful, I discover true security, true love, true power in the arms of the Divine Creator and Lover of us all. Thanks be to God for the discovery of abundant life in the darkness.

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