Sometimes I think I’m not a very good Christian. I think this because I don’t give enough grace, I don’t read my Bible enough, and I don’t really pray at all anymore. I justify this by believing that the amount of grace I give is way more than most the people around me. I look around, and I see the way people treat each other without even thinking about each other at all and without considering how they are making other people feel. Of course, comparing yourself to other people always gets you just short of nowhere. Just ask any of the Psalmists about comparing yourself to others. I don’t think you’d find one of them, or any other biblical writer for that matter, who advocates measuring yourself on a worldly standard.
That being said, in comparing myself to a biblical standard of grace-giving instead of comparing myself to each other, I fail miserably. In fact, comparing myself to any religious systems standards of person-to-person interactions, I fail miserably. Buddhists might say I am too attached to myself and too concerned about my worldly pleasure. There is a quote that says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” I think compassion for Buddhists is a lot like grace for Christians. They’re both difficult, because you have to look at people with other-worldly eyes. You have to see past the history you have with them, and look into who they are. It’s like the Christian concept of seeing Jesus in people or the Jewish concept of loving your neighbor. And in Islam, “in one Hadith the Prophet -peace be upon him- said that Allah has commanded him about nine things. One of them he mentioned was ‘that I forgive those who do wrong to me.’” It’s so difficult to forgive, to give grace, to show compassion when we feel we’ve been wrong. In this way, I think I need to practice my Christianity in a more direct and conscious way.
My poor attempt at Christianity lately could stem from the fact that we haven’t been to church in … well, I am unsure how long it’s been. I can’t speak for Bec, but I am starting to miss it. Finding a church is a difficult thing, though. I suppose this problem is then compounded by the fact that I haven’t been reading my Bible consistently, and the fact that very rarely pray. I mean, really pray, or really read the Bible. I do the thing that I despise in other people. I break out the Bible when I get in a theological argument with someone who hurls scripture at me, hurling scripture back at them with equal (sometimes more) ferocious velocity, and I pray when it’s convenient or when I need or want something.
By really praying I mean uttering words from my mouth or in my head to a God who I think is listening. I do, however, pray a lot, if by pray you mean worshiping God for the amazing things [They] have made, praising God for the ability to move my body, as sluggishly as it may be, on my morning run, or thanking God for my amazing life, friends, and family. I think this type of prayer is valid, but it isn’t focused. I haven’t consciously thought about who I am praying to, what or whom I am praying for. I simply let whatever thoughts or ideas I have float up (out, down, around) to God, not really expecting a response or acknowledgment. Does it make prayers invalid if you just worship? Do you have to ask for things?
The same goes for scripture reading. I exaggerated a little when I said above that I only use scripture to refute other people. That’s not entirely true. In fact, recently I have done a few little exegetical projects for friends that have really been challenging and fun, but I don’t do it consistently. I don’t have a set aside time period each day when I devote myself to God alone, reading [Their] words and talking with [Them]. It’s difficult for me to figure out how to develop this discipline while teaching, dissertating (which isn’t a word, but really should be), running, cooking, and whatever else the day holds.
Maybe the conduit for grace I crave to become would come to fruition if I disciplined myself in reading the Bible and praying more. I know in my favorite book of the Bible, James says, “The effective and fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.”
I am not good at playing games. I never have been.
I had a great conversation over coffee with a very conservative friend of mine this morning. It was the type of conversation I like to have. We do not agree about anything except books and their magic, and yet, when we part company, we can hug each other and know that the next time will be just as good.
I turned right around and had another excellent conversation with two other friends about polar opposite topics. We talked about the road trip we are about to embark upon, and decided that we are all SO ready to see our other friends and spend some time going cross-country. The trip is going to take us to Nebraska and Minnesota, but we are working in North and South Dakota and possibly Kansas, just so we can say we did. Unfortunately, the Badlands are on the other side of South Dakota, so we won’t be able to check those out like we had hoped. Sad day. Either way, we are excited.
It always amazes me how such different people can bring out facets of us that we wouldn’t know we had except for their persistence in bringing those things out in us.
Today has been an excellent food day. I started off with granola in soy milk and a decaf Americano while I did my work and waited to meet with Reta. Once she got there, I got a soy chai latte in a ceramic mug. I have to say that soy chai was possibly the most perfect hot drink I have had in a long time. Chai tea is so comforting, almost like the crying squares on the quilt I’ve had since childhood. The quilt, made by my Aunt Aglaia, has two squares of incredibly soft material. I used to use those two squares to dry my eyes when I cried, and I did lots of crying. I think it is my weird artistic sensibilities. I need to do some art, because it might help me get back to who I was before graduate school before working in a church, and before I became so jaded. I was softer when I was an artist, but I suppose we all change as we age and grow. But I digress.
For lunch, my two other friends and I went to Sketchy Thai, and I had tofu Mee Krop and spring rolls. I followed it up with an iced soy chai. The first one was so good, I couldn’t resist the second. Finally, for dinner tonight after Bec and I went on a nice (our first this summer, and blissful as usual) bike ride, we had garden green beans and sweet potato gnocchi with sage “butter” sauce. I finished it all off with a scoop (or maybe two) of Ben and Jerry’s Berried Treasure Sorbet and a couple (or four) of my mom’s delicious vegan sugar cookies. I would say it was a perfect food day to fuel my six-miler in the morning.
I am hoping to run a fairly even tempo tomorrow, so I am going to get up early to run while it’s fairly cool. I ran three miles yesterday in my Vibram Five Fingers, and my feet felt fantastic when I was finished. But, I am going to run the six miles in my regular running shoes, so I don’t injure myself by transitioning to “barefoot” running too quickly. I’d much rather go it slow than hurt myself.