Desire and Discipline

My SIL (who drew my name in the Christmas gift exchange) got me 2 books I really wanted – and I have had a fire in my bones as I’ve been reading them! The first one is “Celebration of Disciplline” by Richard Foster – I believe he’s a Quaker minister, and he goes through various disciplines to help us develop in our relationship to God. He draws on many familiar names (like the saints) and his book is just opening up worlds and ideas for me. So far I’ve read the personal disciplines – meditation, prayer (I’ve been practicing these already), fasting (he’s right, there isn’t much in the way of guidelines or social encouragement in the practice of fasting nowadays … and I haven’t been practicing this in quite a few years) and study. Study is interesting because I”m naturally inclined this way, but it isn’t just books. He talks about verbal (books) and non-verbal (people, interactions, nature, etc) and how we can study them to see God revealed. It brought me back to my late highschool and early university days, when I was breathless with wonder and burning with curiosity at seeing bacteria under a microscope; at reading how a plant balances all its living systems; at why insects are restricted to a smaller size. The thrill of science really calls to me. I’ve always thought of it as God’s fingerprints being everywhere. It’s been awhile since I felt that kind of wonder.

He also talks about how God uses all we are to communicate with us – our intellect, our emotion, our imagination – if we are open to Him. I have felt very strongly drawn to pray for the desire to want “they kingdom come” in all areas of life. I also asked God how I could pray for DH – the prayer chapter focuses on intercessory prayer, but there’s another book it mentions for other kinds of prayer – that is now on my list of things to get! In my mind came an image of my DH as a baby, for me to cuddle and love and then give to God. I think it relates to God providing for our every need, and how DH really needs that right now – even more than usual – because we are in such difficult times. So I am praying with this image. On prayer, Foster also says to pay attention to how we are feeling when there’s an issue or a person we think we should pray for. If we are strongly drawn to it, we should pray for it. If not, or if we really don’t want to do so, perhaps it isn’t for us and God will bring it to someone else’s attention.

The other book is “On desire – why we want what we want” by William Irvine. He’s a philosopher and I heard an interview with him some time ago on CBC radio – probably the program Tapestry. Anyway he was talking about how subject we are to our desires, how little we understand about where they come from, how the affect us deeply. So far I’ve read about a philosophy of desire and some physiological explanations. Basically, the idea is that emotions motivate our strongest, end-point desires. Our intellect helps to set desires that will get us to the end-point desire. Often we have no idea how these desires are formed. To me, this seems like the perfect entry point for God or the devil to influence our thinking and drive our desires one way or another! (my dad would say, humans have always invoked God when there’s something we don’t understand … which is true … but after all, we have eyes and the capacity for sight, we have ears and the capacity to hear, if God exists, wouldn’t he give us a means for communication with Him??)

Now I’m only about 1/3 of the way through, but Irvine does have some chapters on managing/living with our desires – including religious advice, philosophical advice, etc. He likens these desires and the way we deal with them to being a homeowner. A guest unexpectedly shows up, and we think to ourselves “I must have wanted this, here he is” and we let him in. He takes up our time and energy, our leisure time and perhaps even our work time. Then another uninvited guest appears, and again we think “well if he’s here, I must have invited him” and again our resources are depleted. If we are more conscious of our desires, we can be more selective about who we let in and spend our precious energy and time on.

He also talks about the human tendency to want and go after something, and as soon as we get it, discover that it’s not what we wanted after all OR we get habituated to it, so it’s no big deal anymore. I think this is where the process of consciously being thankful for all the we have can really keep before our eyes how fortunate we are.

I haven’t made any particular New Year’s resolutions yet, but I am working on distilling my current thoughts into a personal mission statement (a la Franklin Covey), and no doubt these books will have a big influence!!

I am just really hoping that 2011 will bring us more peace and security. Both DH and I have many gifts and talents that are just not being used as they could be, and we are not as fulfilled in our careers as we have been in the past. I pray that this will be the break-out year for us. It’s been about 3 long years of this slogging through mud, and it feels like it will go on forever. I call to mind my mother’s wise words …. “this too shall pass ….” I sure hope so!

And I wish all of you a wonderful 2011 also!


One thought on “Desire and Discipline

  1. CM says:

    3 years of slogging- I feel you!

    I really liked some of the stuff that you were talking about of being mindful and conscious of God at different times. I went for a hike today, and I am reminded that often hiking is a conversation with God without words. He speaks through beauty, and my awe is the response. (Only sometimes I need to put down the camera and simply fully appreciate the gift He has given! 🙂

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