Sunday, July 22, 2007


I like how Tony Jones opens his chapter on fasting in "The Sacred Way":

I hate fasting.
So, seriously, I
hate it, and I avoid it at all costs. It is my least favorite of the disciplines in this book. In fact, I wish I didn't have to right about it. I wish it weren't so deeply rooted in the history of God's people Then I could ignore it.
But I can't ignore it. It's too prevalent, and, honestly, too important.

My main issue with fasting as always been my focus. Being a dieter, my mind tends to wander onto how fasting will help me to lose weight,and other physical cleansing benefits, rather than the spiritual benefits. So this time I am determined to get it right.

Some quotes from "Celebration of Discipline"

Foster notes that "the constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation."

Fasting is "distinct from health dieting which stresses abstinence from food for physical, not spiritual purposes." This is the one I need to beat into my brain. "Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights - these must never replace God as the center of our fasting."

He notes that there are no biblical laws that command regular fasting, so that we are free to fast whenever we wish. In the sermon on the mount Jesus "seems to make the assumption that people will fast, and is giving instruction on how to do it properly." Jesus "made it clear that he expected his disciples to fast when he was gone."

Foster makes the point that Jesus gave instruction on how to properly give, pray and fast in the same passage, but the emphasis today in the church is on giving. "Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money."

Foster says that during fasting, it will be come apparent what controls us. David repeatedly humbled his soul with fasting. "Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear - if they are within us, they will surface during fasting."

"Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them."

"In the fourth century, Asterius said that fasting ensured that the stomach would not make the body boil like a kettle to the hindering of the soul."

Some scripture about fasting:

Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus' instructions not to make a big production of fasting

Matthew 9:15 Jesus' disciples to fast once the bridegroom was taken from them

Acts 13:2-3 During fasting an praying the Holy Spirit selects Paul and Barnabas to be sent off

Luke 2:37 Anna never left the temple, serving God with fasting and prayer

Zechariah 5 The people ask God whether they should go on fasting, and he replies that they were never doing it for his sake.

Psalm 69:10, 35:13 David humbles his soul with fasting

John 4:32, 34 Jesus tells the disciples that his food is to do God's will

So I will give it another try. Of course, I can't tell you when. ;)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some ramblings on prayer

I couldn't possibly do just one blog post of prayer - I'm finding there is just so much to read and learn and try. I thought I'd be moving on to another discipline by now, but it looks like I'll be here for awhile. I've been struggling with prayer for quite some time now, especially when put on the spot in a group. I go through the motion of praise and thanks and pleases that I think are expected of me, but I don't feel anything. I know emotions are not to be trusted, and I know I am explaining this badly, but I feel like there's a block. I know God is out there and listening, but I'm not getting through to him, and he's not getting through to me. And when it comes to praying for others, the will is definitely there but I never know what to say. "Please be with so and so" sounds really lame, as does telling him what to do to fix the problem, like he needs my helpful suggestions.

So I set out to experiment with other forms of prayer outside of the basic formula used in the evangelical church. I like the word experiment, it makes me feel like this cool scientist in a lab coat tapping away at a computer and spouting technobabble. And some of the terms I read seem like technobabble until you break them down. I also like the words Spiritual Exercises, because it implies strengthening, toning, shaping, increasing endurance. Then my cool scientist takes off her lab coat and sports arms and abs of steel. I bought a little calendar organizer to record each days physical and spiritual exercises - just a brief line of what I did each day, so after a few months I can get an overview of what I've been working on with body and soul.

Don't get me wrong, petitionary prayer is certainly important. Richard Foster has an excellent chapter on it that I will be returning to in a while, and experimenting with some of the things he suggests.

I tried structural prayers, using the book of common prayer, and The Divine Hours, and they helped a bit, focusing on God and incorporating scripture into the prayers. The hours is especially good for travel, when you don't have much time or space to yourself, and now it comes in a portable version with one week of prayers.

Right now I'm experimenting with contemplative prayer. The silence/solitude and meditation that I've been working on are building blocks to this. I tried centering prayer as well, where you just concentrate on one word, but apparently I think too much and so meditation works better for me. My current favorite tool is Sacred Space, a daily prayer site takes you through several frames of prayer and scripture, based on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, which I'm studying now. According to Tony Jones, Sacred Space is "actually a hybrid of Ignatian prayer leading to a lectio divina on the lectionary-assigned Scripture passage for the day." I found the website from his book, which was written in 1999, and the site is still going strong. I think part of it appeals to the geek in me to be praying at my computer. I like how you select the time to move on to the next frame, choosing how much time you will spend thinking and praying in between. I also like how it encourages you to imagine Jesus sitting in the chair next to you and to turn and tell him what you're feeling. I've actually been switching on the computer in the morning looking forward to prayer, which is a big step, for a baby.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Interview meme

Cross posted from Live journal:

via whatthefaith

1. Leave me a comment saying anything random, like your favorite lyric to your current favorite song. Or your favorite kind of sandwich.Something random. Whatever you like.

2. I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better.

3. You WILL update your LJ with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and offer to ask someone else in the post.

5. When others comment asking to be asked, you will ask them five questions.

My Five Questions:

1. You are no longer a nurse. You are an English teacher. What is the first novel you teach and why?

Guess it depends on the age level I am teaching. Middle School/ Junior High what jumps to mind is the Harry Potter books, partly b/c I'm rereading them now, and partly b/c the kids would read them. For young people I don't think it's as important that they read a great classic with all sorts of deeper meaning, but that they *read*. Learn to appreciate books, and get lost in them. I think I learned more from the Star Trek novels I smuggled into study hall than anything I was assigned in English class.
For adults, I'd go with Pride and Prejudice, b/c I read it again as an adult and like it, and it would give me an excuse to show the miniseries with Colin Firth in class *g*.

2. You have 24 hours to spend anywhere in the world but you have to pick one spot. Where will you go and what will you do?

Will I be able to stay awake the whole twenty-four hours, and would travel time be instantaneous? If so I'd go to New Zealand and wander all over Middle Earth. (*covers ears as shrieks*) Travel time, topsy turvey jet lag, and airfare are what have kept me in this hemisphere thus far.

3. A movie is being made of your life. Who plays you?

Sandra Bullock

4. Belief system: mainstream or non-denominational?

Both. There is no one tradition I'm completely in agreement with, and bits I like about most of them. For example, I love contemporary worship music, but I also like what I am learning about more ancient disciplines like solitude and contemplative prayer. In short my system is a hodge podge of picking and choosing. Maybe I should start my own church! Nyah, I'll stay where I am and be subversive *g*.

5. Has there ever been a time when you thought nursing was not your field?
Yes, but aside from my fantasies of becoming a best selling novelist, only when i am disgruntled with my current job. Then I come to my senses and realize that:
a. every job has its good and bad days, and difficult people. (reading my friends list helps with this, lol)
b. I'm a good nurse, responsible *sigh*, the patients like me for the most part (tho I often wish the PITAs would request another nurse), the squick factor doesn't bother me at all.
c. It pays well and my current job gives me plenty of flexibility to do all the other non-marketable things I want to do.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cloisters picspam

Went with a friend on Sunday to the Cloisters, which is the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval art collection, in a recreated medieval monastery in a gorgeous park. One of my favorite places, partly b/c it's just beautiful, I love gardens and castle/cathedral type places. Also I am a sucker for unicorns, and it is the home of the famous unicorn tapestries.

We had a picnic in the park, overlooking the Hudson river.

Wandered all around the gardens and galleries . All in all a nice day :)