For October 3 my Commonplace Book quote comes from my favorite atheist, Percy Bysshe Shelly. "I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them. on the sand, Half-sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And Wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that it's sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, snapped on lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear; "my name is Oxymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away." In an age of vicious political discourse, i am reminded that all worldly power is fleeting.
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 RSV
As i was reading Shelley’s poetry i couldn’t help but think about the tragedy that in the words of his contemporary, William Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us…” and poor Shelley did what so many do, he looked for God within himself. My heart aches at the darkness of the culture. The Shelly’s of our age feel the pain and know no whence to go to find the light. When they find darkness within, they deduce that God does not exist. All the while we, who have been blessed to have been given a flicker of light blow out our candles by hurling vituperative at the dark.
i am thinking that St. Silouan the Athonite was on to a greater truth when he began to pray for the world. “The ontological unity of humanity is such that every separate individual overcoming evil in himself inflicts such a defeat on the cosmic evil that its consequences have a beneficial effect on the destinies of the whole world…Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish…”
To be light we need to pray for the world. We don’t need to pray that our enemies will be vanquished. We can remember that all earthly kingdoms fail. “The great ones” are just modern day Ozymandias. We need to be praying. If we pray in the spirit, in the Spirit, as James epistle teaches above, we can allow the Spirit to burn through our prayer.
Are we praying for the world?
You feel the beat of my heart, Lord.
You hear the sounds of my doubts.
You overhear the words of my mouth,
Before I say them out loud.
You know what I really feel
When I have buried it deep.
You see the show from the truth,
What I truly believe.
You know all that I want,
My secret hopes and dreams.
You read the depths of my doubts,
What things are not as they seem.
You say that I am enough.
You listen to my ardent dispute.
You have compassion for me,
Lord, you lived here too.
You sing soft songs to my heart.
You say, “Be still, my dear.”
I tell you, “I’ve got a plan.”
You quietly hold me near.
You say, “I’ll fight for you.”
I beg for more strength.
You conquered death for me.
You’ll go to any length.
You won the battle with sin.
I fight my own way.
You plead, “Please, be still.”
You defeated the fears I can’t name.
I give us lists for each day.
You wait quiet for me.
I implore, “Lord, just speak!”
You whisper my name.
Like Mary, I’m stilled.
For a moment fear fades.
“My Savior, He lives!”
You won’t go away.
We sit in silence a time.
My attention, it fades.
I run off chasing the mist.
Why can’t I remain?
My word for 2015 began to impress itself upon my heart one evening in December as a lay recovering from passing out. I had spent just a little too long on my feet as I hurried to catch up with my exponentially accelerating To Do list. I planned to take a few days off during Christmas week and, as I believe is common with most women, the work, shopping, baking, decorating, and wrapping all mounted while the time decreased.
For me there is nothing more frustrating than being forced to lie flat on my back accomplishing nothing. A whole evening was lost while the blood flowed back into my brain in sufficient quantity. I ended up spending most of my time in prayer as a means of keeping myself calm. I have often realized that God will knock you flat on your back if that is what He needs to get your attention. I speak from experience.
My desire for my prayer life was that it be full and rich. Honesty compels me to admit that I found myself complaining most of that time. I was focused on communication with God, however, and I did eventually get to the end of my tirade to the Almighty. One evening doesn’t seem like that much time to loose out of a life but for me it has inevitably felt like an eternity.
I realize, as I share this, that the depth of my prayer life has been inhibited by treating my active life like something that is so packed with commitments that one break will cause the whole thing to fall apart. The obstacle that I have not figured out how to overcome is that your cannot schedule illness. It never comes according to plan. I would plan it out of existence if I had any control.
In the calm induced by a couple of hours of uninterrupted prayer I began to find the notion impressed upon my heart that although my agenda looked unfinished my day was complete in Christ. I kept being reminded that I am complete and lacking in nothing because of what Christ has done on my behalf.
I never complete my To Do: list. For years I felt that I was a failure for this. Then I began to understand that if I only put on the list what I could accomplish in one day I would lack imagination. What I can dream will always exceed my ability, but that gives me something to look forward to for the future. My sufficiency comes from Jesus not my achievements.
“…and you are COMPLETE in Him, who is the head of all principalities and power.” Colossians 2:10 NIV.