The Episcopal Café and Forward Movement are partnering to bring you highlights of their excellent materials. The Episcopal Café shares their mission to inspire and empower Christians around the world and to encourage spiritual growth.
Today’s piece are Excerpts from the soon-to-be-released Note to Self: Creating your Guide to a More Spiritual Life, by Charles LaFond (a new title available from Forward Movement)
(from the Preface)
We humans need reminders.
That is what happens in church. We listen to passages from scripture and to words that describe the Last Supper. We listen over and over and over again. But then Sunday afternoon happens, and Sunday night. And by Monday, we have forgotten. And yet…
Would we work on our issues of sin and guilt without Lent? Would we imagine wonder without Epiphany? Would we spontaneously pledge in churches without a stewardship campaign? Would we consider the gifts of life without Easter? Perhaps. Fleetingly. Occasionally. Accidentally. Alone.
To remember how to live, we need constant reminders. In making an effort to be better people, we need help to choose kindness and goodness. We need a way to train our minds and souls to be good and kind and to make good choices in the same way that athletes train their bodies to have motor-memory, so that when the ball comes, their training kicks in and the body responds.
A Rule of Life is an ancient technology for building soul-memory, for training minds and souls to be kind and good. It is a technology of grace that we can offer to ourselves.
(from Chapter 6: On Listening)
We humans live inside God. God is not “out there” but rather is everywhere. Imagine a hot air balloon. That is like God. Now imagine a child’s birthday balloon wafting up inside the hot air balloon’s opening and into its great cavity. That is like us. We exist in God just as a birthday balloon might float around inside a massive hot air balloon. We, each human. We, each planet. We, everything in the cosmos, live inside God.
It is from within God that we strain to listen for God’s voice. Sometimes the membrane separating us from God feels thick like the leather of a cow hide. And sometimes, on rare and wonderful occasions, the membrane feels as thin as a birthday balloon or even thinner—as thin as a bubble made with a hoop and a bar of soap.
We float in God, and we often strain to listen for and to hear God. What am I supposed to do with this life I have been given? What clues is God leaving me to point me this way or that? What people in my life is God speaking through—trying to offer me a word of comfort or challenge?
Connection is essential to listening because it is a powerful tool for God in our discernment and conversion. Jesus connected. Indeed Jesus is the incarnation of God’s desire to connect with human beings. When people need advice, connection to others provides it. When people are frightened or lost or confused, they connect in order to tell and retell the stories that guide each of us back on track.
Connection is a human craving without equal. We see the value of connection when people come to our churches. Some come to church seeking beauty. Some come for the teaching or for the service to the poor and marginalized. Others come for the sacraments. But everyone—everyone—comes to the church craving, longing for, and often finding connection.
The importance of storytelling for procreation and continuation of the species is so great that the human body actually secretes hormones and chemicals into the blood stream when a story is heard from beginning to end. This biological reaction encourages us to tell stories, connect, and survive.
When I am in trouble in life, I do two things. First, I get quiet. Second, I find friends with whom to connect. I do not necessarily want their advice or their strategies to overcome my difficulty. I simply want connection.
When we connect, we tell stories, and when we tell stories, we listen for truths that help us to live. Your listening section would do well to include a chapter on how you plan to connect with others.
About the Author:
An Episcopal priest, teacher, retreat leader and writer,
Charles and his canine companion Kai live on a twenty-acre horse farm raising apples and peaches, where they read his Rule of Life most days. They are members of an area house-church based around silent prayer, study, spiritual practice, and very fine soups and fresh breads. Charles raises money to house those experiencing homelessness. He is a master potter (www.charleslafond.net) and maintains a private studio called Setting Moon Pottery at Coyote Clay Studios in downtown Albuquerque.