Between God And Me by Susie Duffy Buehler

Matthew 6:25

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?


Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s Day this year, and on a date celebrating both love and penance, the Deacon at the Lenten commencement service advised the flock to figure out what is standing between each of us and God. It’s a good Lenten message and the congregation is uplifted and motivated, left meditating “what is standing between me and God?”

I’m embarrassed when an answer presents itself immediately and with insistent clarity. What’s standing between me and God is worry, and more specifically self-absorbed worry about earthly goals, having security, and being in control. I haven’t been heeding the words of Matthew, and worried obsession is taking up too much head space. There is not enough heart space left over for God and others. It’s a humbling project for the next 40 days. How does one go about giving up worry?

Several years ago, the Dalai Lama spoke at the University of Texas in Austin. As he entered the stage at Bass Concert Hall, he settled himself into a big white easy chair, crossed his legs underneath himself, adjusted his yellow robe, settled more comfortably again into the chair, and then looked out across the assembly with a smile so peaceful and impish that the audience was spellbound before he said a word. And then his words were simple and profound.

“The secret to a happy life is to seek a still and quiet heart. And if you can do that, and only if you can do that, then seek to have compassion for others.”

His words echo those of Jesus who said pretty much the same thing when the Pharisees tried to trip him up by asking him which is the greatest of all the commandments. Jesus replied that first you must love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. That’s a big all-encompassing endeavor. And on top of that he said you must love your neighbors as yourself. If we spent enough effort following just these two commandments, it’s pretty clear there would be little time left over for worry.

I’ve heard this message many times, in many versions. Years ago, Father Alan Oakes, in one of life’s best-ever sermons, said that the key to a peaceful spirit is to be quiet, let go, and serve others.

Be Quiet. Let Go. Serve Others. It’s a good prescription for do not worry.

I go to the beach in winter specifically to be quiet. Not the be-quiet of close your mouth and stop speaking, but the be-quiet of slow down, sit still, and listen. It’s an annual pilgrimage of solitude to let heal the wounds of a too-busy life. Listening to the waves and the air and the birds clears the static in my head. In quiet rest, you can hear God’s whisper. Listen.

Letting go is a little harder. An exasperated friend, working on her own obsession with being in control, once said in a moment of inspired brilliance, “I must let go of the vanity of assuming that everything is my responsibility!” Another friend, a Sufi, once told me his teacher regularly admonishes him “we start from here.” Let go of the past and start now at this one precious moment you have here at hand. Trust.

While at the beach my sister made breakfast for us all week. Beautiful green anti-oxidant bowls designed to calm and cleanse our bodies. It was a gentle service of nourishment. I cleaned the dishes, recognizing that service doesn’t have to be grandiose. No act of small kindness or service is ever wasted. Make a difference to one person. Be kind.

What is standing between you and God? Easter was on April Fool’s Day this year, and on a date celebrating both resurrection and playfulness, I’m glad God has a sense of humor. Forty days later I’m worrying less about worrying too much. But I’m also working on it, seeking that still and quiet heart filled with love and adoration, and seeking along the journey to have compassion for my neighbors.

Do not worry about anything, turn over your worries to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart.
Philippians 4:6

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Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

 


Susie Duffy Buehler is an Austin based writer regularly seeking to see people through God’s eyes. Sometimes the challenge is harder than others but there is no shortage of practice opportunities.

That I May Save Some

awaiting-the-deliverer-1933NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”


When Pope Francis praised Thomas Merton (born on this day, January 31st in 1915) in his recent speech to Congress, many had never heard of the Trappist monk who was a prolific author of over 60 books.  He is known for his deep, reflective interior life which led him to inter-religious dialogue with people such as the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and D. T. Suzuki.

His is the spirit evoked by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 as he first credentializes  himself as an apostle, only to set it aside for his greater love for people.  Paul, like Christ did not require that people fit a certain mold in order to be acceptable.  As Michael Green wrote in his book To Corinth With Love

Paul would not have tolerated the middle-class captivity of the church in the Western world. He would have been as active in evangelizing skinheads as undergraduates. He would have been as much at home talking of Christ in the bar or the open air as at the supper party.

Ministries to the outcasts and marginalized of our day begin to implement the vision of “all things to all people” that Paul presents.  Paul compares the evangelistic lifestyle of true believers to athletes who sacrifice normal pursuits for the sake of strict training and a competitive edge in order to achieve, as Cicero said,  the Summum bonum – the “the highest good.

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1 Corinthians 9:19–27

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;

27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Dig Deeper

Art: Awaiting the Deliverer by Xu Beihong , 1933

Literature & Liturgy: Thomas Merton

Trappist Father Thomas Merton is pictured with Dalai Lama in 1968, whom Merton met during his Asia trip. Morgan Atkinson's new documentary on Father Merton, the famed Trappist monk from the Cistercian abbey in Gethsemani, Kentucky, was "40 years in the making," he joked. (CNS photo/Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University) See MERTON May 4, 2015.
Trappist Father Thomas Merton is pictured with Dalai Lama in 1968

Trappist monk and writer. Born in Prades, in the French Pyrenees, he was educated in England at Oakham School and Clare College, Cambridge (which he left without taking a degree), before he went on to Columbia University in New York. In the USA he became a RC and in 1941 he joined the Trappists at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, taking the name of Louis. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948; pub. in a slightly abridged form in England in 1949 as Elected Silence) portrayed a traditional conversion to Catholicism, but at the same time it presented monastic spirituality to the public, and it had a very wide appeal. Merton’s development, recorded in his immense literary output, echoes the changes in modern RCism, leading to a greater openness to other traditions (both Christian and non-Christian), and to a deep concern for the moral dilemmas of modern man. His understanding of monasticism also developed, leading him eventually to seek the life of a *hermit. He died, electrocuted by a faulty shower, while attending a world conference of contemplatives in Bangkok.

Bibliography

M. Mott, The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton (Boston, 1984; Lorndon, 1986). D. Grayston, Thomas Merton: The Development of a Spiritual Theologian (Toronto Studies in Theology, 20 [1985]). Popular Life by M. Furlong (London, 1980; rev. edn., 1995). L. Cunningham in, ANB 15 (1999), pp. 370–2.
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1081.