Monday, January 31, 2005

developing a rule of life

One of the books I have been reflecting on lately is Centering Prayer by Basil Pennington. He outlines a “rule of life”, a simple way to develop our priorities and keep faithfully to them. Here is a summary. Try this as a spiritual exercise.

1. God is infinite, and can do all things, but my gifts, talents and opportunities narrow the possibilities. What do I most want to do or pursue? Write this down on a piece of paper, as simply and as clearly as possible.
2. What do I need to do or have in order to attain these goals? Be realistic. Keep in mind commitments to family and work, and the time and season of life.
3. Look at the immediate past. What has prevented me from doing what I need or want to do? What are the obstacles? I will begin to develop a practical program to reach my goals. Some things can be done daily. Others can be done weekly. Take one three hour period, once a month, to review steps one through three.
4. Formulate a “rule of life”. This is the most difficult step. Make hard choices. Do the things that are most important. Make regular appointments in your spiritual life: times to read the Bible, pray, and serve those in need. Find someone---a friend, a mentor, your husband or wife---who will hold you accountable. If you try this exercise, let me know how it goes.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

why comparing ourselves to others is a bad idea

The story is told of Rabbi Zuscha, who on his deathbed was asked what he thought the kingdom of God would be like. The old rabbi thought for a time and then he said, “I don’t really know; but one thing I do know: When I get there I am not going to be asked, “why weren’t you Moses?”, or “why weren’t you David?”. I am going to be asked, “Why weren’t you Zuscha?”

source: Centering Prayer, by Basil Pennington.

Why do we try to copy others, when we are in fact unique creations? When we give up the need to compare ourselves to others, we begin to discover who we really are; the bad we work on, and the good we rejoice in.

A sermon given at Providence UMC on 1. 23. 05 explored this idea in more detail, and can be accessed at

big fish

One of my favorite movies of the past few years was Big Fish. It was the story of a son trying to learn about his dying father by getting him to retell the stories of his life. The father’s stories are pretty amazing---as a baby , he went shooting out of his mother’s womb down the hallway; at eight, he was bedridden for three years… to pass the time he reads through the encyclopedia and comes to the reference to goldfish:

"If goldfish are kept in a small bowl, they will remain small.

With more space, the fish can double, triple or quadruple in size."

He decides that he needs to do bigger things in this life: he becomes a star athlete, a science fair winner, and a hero when he rescues a dog from a burning building. He is presented the keys to a small town for convincing a giant, seen as a monster by many, to leave town with him. He goes into the world, because he is unwilling to be a "big fish in a small pond”. I won’t tell you how the movie ends, but it is a baptism, and he is carried back into the waters and released.

The son gradually realizes that this adventure might in fact be true. We do need a story that is larger than our own stories. In Big Fish, the son listens to the larger story of his father’s life, for only then can he make sense of his own story.