Our server was having trouble, so I was unable to post weekly during Lent as I had hoped.
And so today, on this most glorious Feast-Day, I want to make the primary point that I have gained from My Utmost for His Highest.
It is simply this:
In the little things, choose God.
In the big things, choose God.
When life is overwhelming, choose God.
In the quiet moments, choose God.
When the cat is gazing at you adoringly, choose God.
When your child has just dumped all of the remaining guinea pig food into the guinea pig cage, choose God.
At every decision, choose God.
Because in your smallest, loneliest, crudest, most horrifying moments, he chooses you.
He chose you.
And that is the glory of Easter.
I’ve been keeping up pretty well with reading My Utmost for His Highest, and it’s got me thinking about some things a little differently. Mostly, though, it’s reinforcing a lot of what I’ve written here in the past and what this blog is supposed to be about. So I thought that for Lent this year I would write a series of posts (one each week) about how this book is challenging me and what this blog is meant to be.
Let’s talk about The Becoming.
I call this my God-blog, because it’s where I write about my faith journey. I talk about the things that I think about regarding God and Christianity, and I bring it in to the personal a lot. I also talk about my own life and how I see God working in it on a regular basis.
Its URL says that the blog’s name is “hermiting,” and that is because of my interest in that as a lifestyle. I was particularly intrigued when I read about someone who was an urban hermit. Obviously I am not a hermit, as I am married and have a child, but there are aspects of the ascetic lifestyle that I continue to find interesting and appealing, and they are not things that are impossible for a married mother to adopt.
The actual blog title is “In the Mist of The Becoming.” It was supposed to be “midst” (as in, in the middle of) but a happy typo got me there and it was too perfect to change.
You see, The Becoming is the process we go through in our earthly life, to become the person we were created to be. I believe that, even as God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, he knows us perfectly and has a purpose for our lives. Whether or not we fulfill that purpose is up to us, and The Becoming is how we journey towards fulfilling our purpose and becoming our true selves.
The thing is, when you’re smack in the middle of it, you can’t see your destination and often you can’t remember where you’ve come from. So you wander in circles a lot, wondering if you’ve seen that tree over there before or if it’s a different one this time. You often feel lost, and you have to depend on God to guide you through the mist so that you can get to where you’re going.
My Utmost for His Highest is about The Becoming. That’s not what Oswald Chambers would have called it, to be sure, but that’s still what it’s about. And The Becoming is always challenging. It always reveals new things, brings home truths that we always knew but perhaps had forgotten. So I feel like I am gaining a lot from this discipline of reading a page a day, and I hope that my forthcoming blog posts will help you in your own Becoming.
I was given My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers) for Christmas by my brother. I started reading it on Sunday, January 1, and continued until Wednesday, January 4. Then life happened, or I happened, not sure which, and I missed three days. I am hopeful that I will be able to resume this week.
I thought I would share some of my insights though, so here you go.
January 1 — Let Us Keep to the Point
He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide — for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.
The point here being, of course, that we are supposed to give everything we are over to God. Excuses don’t fly here!
An interesting point: God sends us crises to make us choose Him. How many little crises do we face every day, and do we choose Him in those moments? I am going to try and notice and choose.
January 2 — Will You Go Out Without Knowing?
Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.
Trust. I have that visceral reaction to “do not worry” because it’s never that simple when you have anxiety. I mean, I trust God. I just don’t trust anyone else, you know?
I also really like control. I like to know what’s coming, what to expect. My anxiety ramps up when that control is taken away. I regain control and equilibrium by figuring out a plan for what I will do if the anxiety-based disaster happens.
But maybe this is like choosing God in the little crises each day… maybe the start of combating anxiety is prayer, choosing God, allowing the unknown and making space for it in our lives.
Maybe it really does always come back to God.
January 3 — “Clouds and Darkness”
That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way — words.
I find it interesting that a book so lauded by Evangelicals talks about approaching God with formality. And equates our informality with a lack of true knowledge of Christ.
As someone who has been given messages in pictures (visions) I disagree that God doesn’t speak to us that way. However, I very much agree that words are how we first come to God and how he speaks to us daily.
January 4 — “Why Can I Not Follow You Now?”
Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt — wait.
Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His irresistible charm, but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him.
I like the caution to wait. Doubt and impulsive ideas are both things to sit on. Wait for God’s certain leading. Wait for God’s confirmation.
I thought I would write a short update.
We continue to observe the church year by praying the Collects at dinner, though I
admit to forgetting periodically. I am working on our menu planning for this month so
that we can observe Fridays by abstaining from eating meat.
My son has a book that is all pictures of different scenes, and in the picture of the
family in their house, there is a box on the living room floor. He points to it and
says “Amen, Amen” — he thinks it is that family’s Prayer Box.
I received a copy of My Utmost for His Highest for Christmas, and I intend to use it
for my personal devotions this year. I am hopeful that it will spur me to deeper
thinking about my faith and a deeper, richer relationship with God.
Many nights we’ve prayed, with no proof anyone could hear,
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood.
Now we are not afraid, although we know there’s much to fear;
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could!
Help me be strong, help me be, help me…
In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain,
Hope seems like the summer birds, too swiftly flown away.
Now I am standing here, my heart so full I can’t explain;
Seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I’d say:
Breath of Heaven, hold me together,
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven.
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness,
Pour over me Your holiness, for You are holy…
Breath of heaven.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear…
There can be miracles when you believe;
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve;
When you believe, somehow you will;
You will when you believe.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
(“When You Believe,” from The Prince of Egypt; “Breath of Heaven,” recorded by Amy Grant; “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” trad. — this medley is something I put together for the church talent show in 2005. Transpose everything to Em and have fun with it. It’s good stuff.)
My son adores “Amen,” as he calls Prayers. He has taken swiftly to the concept of lighting a candle (now two) at dinner time and praying the Collect(s) for the day, then saying grace before we eat.
I decided that my personal observance should be simple. I am trying to read the “Our Daily Bread” devotional each day after we do Prayers together, and other than that we have our pre-dinner prayers and that will have to suffice for now. Start slow and see where it goes.
I am hoping to eventually observe days of abstinence (all Fridays at the moment) by eating vegetarian, but while I’ve taken steps in my meal planning to make that work, I haven’t followed it yet. It’s only been a week, give me time. (Also, this past Friday was my husband’s work Christmas party so it was a really weird day.)
I will check in again next Sunday. I am hopeful that my personal devotional reading will become more automatic with time.
Since my last post I did indeed institute Prayers with my son.
He enjoys doing Prayers and knows that we will do them most mornings after we are dressed. He points to where I store our materials and says “Amen, Amen.”
I keep our materials in a wooden box that once housed bottles of wine. We have two LED tea lights, a brass bell with a cross for a handle, a Toddler Bible, and a board book of the Lord’s Prayer. I bring the box down and set up with the bell and candles on top of it. My son rings the bell and then I call up Jesus Loves Me on my iPod and we sing that. Next we read a story or two from the Bible, and then we do the Lord’s Prayer. After that we “Pray to Jesus” (a simple spontaneous prayer that is typically “Thank you for today and please let us have a good rest of today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”) and move on to a Sunday school type chorus that I grew up with called Love Tree (Lee & Sandy Paley). Then he rings the bell again, and we are done.
The fruits of this?
My 20-month-old son puts his hands together to pray. He says “Amen” at the end of prayers, both at home and at church. He sings Jesus Loves Me to himself (so far he can say “Bible” but he’s got the tune) and requests Love Tree from me at random times. He enjoys looking through the Bible we use.
With the Advent of the new Church Year, I thought it was time to institute more observance-wise for me, as well. I have created this PDF booklet (22 pages, 11 if printed double-sided) to carry me through Advent, and I will shortly be adding one for Christmas. It contains the Collects for each day of Advent, as well as the readings as assigned in the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada. I hope to use it to help inform my daily walk, and I hope you might find it useful as well. If you don’t want to print the booklet, you will find each day’s entry posted by 5.00 a.m. Saskatchewan time over at http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre.com/blogs/devotionals.
I also hope to blog here weekly with updates on how my attempt at observing the Church Year is going.
When I was young, I read a lot of Grace Livingston Hill novels. These are fluffy Christian romance novels, often pretty heavy on the salvation angle, complete with scriptural support and so on. But I loved them and still enjoy going back to them periodically. I find that they’re better written than a lot of Christian fiction these days, for all the heavy-handedness.
I was reminded of them recently as I am quickly working my way through Beverly Lewis’ Abram’s Daughters series (currently on the third book, probably be finished all five within the week). These books are well-written, and the first two are quite an interesting look into a particular Amish sect. This third book, however, is getting more into the question of salvation and relationship with Christ.
I always find it strange, reading books about people (real or fictional) who spend time every day reading their Bibles, praying, and just generally considering God in every aspect of their lives. I have never been able to figure out how to do that. Not because I don’t believe God is a part of every aspect of my life, but because, I suppose, it feels like there are some things that don’t seem “big enough” for God to bother with, even though I know he’s in them anyway.
I have tried, over the years, to institute a regular prayer time for myself. I’ve tried first thing in the morning, but I like sleeping in too much for that (I can’t do early-morning writing, either, early-morning stuff that does not involve pillows and bedclothes is just not a thing for me). I’ve tried last thing at night, but if I’m awake enough to pray then, other activities call me and distract me too much for me to feel like I’m using my time well.
I have a good friend who has four children and they do daily prayers and have an icon wall and the kids draw pictures of their favourite saints and stuff like that. I’m jealous of that, jealous not in the bad way that leads to coveting something you shouldn’t have, but jealous in the way that hopefully will lead to my figuring out how to institute something similar in my own home. Perhaps I can finally get my daily devotions to happen more — well, more daily — through spending time in prayer and in worship on a daily basis with my son. We are Anglican, not Catholic or Orthodox, so I’m not sure about an icon wall (I do have some icons that I could hang if I can keep them out of my son’s reach so they stay safe) but we could certainly have a small prayer altar and light a couple of candles each day, play some music, and sing and pray together. It’s the when of it that I get stuck on: when we will spend time with God that is a protected time when we are able to do this together every single day. Because every single day isn’t something we can do. Most days we can do, but not every day. So I have to think about that, too. And, of course, schedules in general are the bane of my existence.
But I feel like this is more important, somehow, now that I have this little one to pass my faith on to. I promised to bring him up in the faith at his baptism. He is learning words quickly, so he could start learning to say short prayers soon. I suppose private time devoted to prayer and worship is also important, but just now I think I will gain a lot simply from doing this small thing with my son every day that I am able.
There is more to dig into regarding the characters in these books, but I’ll leave that for another post.
That’s Article Fifteen of the Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church, read from the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada, 1962. (My voice reading it.)
Here’s the text:
XV. OF CHRIST ALONE WITHOUT SIN.
CHRIST in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world, and sin, as Saint John saith, was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I think this is stating (without saying it outright) that (a) everybody sins except Jesus, and (b) this means that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not without sin either. Remember, these were written to make it clear what makes Anglicans different from Catholics. Some of the Articles are really blatant about it and get a touch snarky; this one is less blatant but this is pretty clear all the same. “We don’t believe the BVM was sinless as only Christ was so and no human can be.”
That’s Article Fourteen of the Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church, read from the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada, 1962. (My voice reading it.)
Here’s the text:
XIV. OF WORKS OF SUPEREROGATION.
VOLUNTARY Works besides, over and above, God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.
I think this is basically saying that there is no such thing as going above and beyond the call of duty if you’re a Christian, and that saying you do is arrogant. Be humble!