Prone to wander… I feel it

I’ve written about this song twice, and I probably daren’t write about it again. In this post from 2008 I speak of waking up in a great organ-filled, bombastic mood of strength and happiness:

Prayer Closet Video – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Today, I’m stuck in that line toward the end about…

“Prone to leave the God I love.”

The humanity in me always pauses on that phrase. I always hear it when singing the lyrics to a song I have sung hundreds of times and memorized so very long ago. Prone to leave God after all these years? How is that possible?

Medical treatments over the past decade have left my brain with adult onset ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which makes for a great challenge in paying attention and getting things done. You might have heard the term “his mind was wandering for a second,” and that’s more like daydreaming … to stop paying attention for a moment but then being able to jump back into the conversation.

ADHD isn’t like that at all: it’s like the mind is bolting out of the gate and not likely to return to the conversation at hand. It spoils work performance. It puts undue strain on social relationships. It plays complete havoc with being able to show up for appointments on time.

How does that effect the spiritual relationship with one’s Almighty? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle of those two, since I always seem to wander back to the spiritual life at hand.

First remember that we are all humans: we are guys. And as such we do human things. My friend Rev. Tammy speaks eloquently of how our relationship with The Almighty is like a river in that there are the slow, deep sections where one’s boat glides along easily. There’s the rapids where one is holding on to the boat with white knuckled fear of being dashed against the rocks.

And there are the times that the water seems to have run out, and we have to get out of the boat and carry it through the mud to where the water gets wide again.

That’s the way it is.

My mind may wander from one fantastic idea to the next, always wandering away at that idea phase. My concentration may want to become impatient and wiggly like a toddler who doesn’t want to sit still in church. I get like that with God now: wander away to something sparkly and entertaining, and then eventually toddle back and sit still.

This is the cycle of our relationship with spirituality, if the relationship is true. Ebb and flow. Zealot one moment and Peter denying Jesus three times the next moment. I have learned not to feel sad about the wandering off on some tangent and forgetting about God because I don’t notice that I’ve done it until I come wandering back. And then it’s like:

“Hey God.”
“Hey boy.”
“Sorry about wandering off like that.”
“I’m sorry, too, boy. I see you had a rough time. I’m glad you’re back.”
“I love you, God.”
“Yeah, I know. And I love you too, boy.”

And from there, the story – and the travels – continue.

Keep the faith!
 – Amen

Come Thou Found of Every Blessing

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise;
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer,
Hither by thy help I come;
And I hope by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.

O to grace, how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let they grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee;
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

Saints and Sinners

The Christian Catechism basics are pretty much the same across any religion that uses them for confirmation (the rite of passage into the active life of the Church.) There’s a few bits and baubs that get changed, mostly due to politics in the church that have nothing to do with the communion of The Church.

Benedict VI added in a bit that homosexuality is “objectively disordered” and called a meeting of scientists at the Vatican to prove his point.

That Pope likely had the same math professor I had, who taught a university course in “how to lie with statistics.” We shall see how this changes under the Francis papacy, since he seems – at least semantically – to disagree.

It’s Church Politics, not The Church.
There’s some cool stuff about a church’s rubrics (the fine points of how to move and act during a service in order to bring one closer to God) that you don’t see as much in a text book as you do by being on the ground, seeing it for yourself. Bowing, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross are the most visible examples.

In the Roman Catholic church, a new confirmand must take on the name of a Saint at the time they are being entered into the church by the confirming priest.  Episcopalians don’t do this, so it was an insight to watch. The back of my brain was wondering while this was going on in the service: how would a 12 year-old (more-or-less) decide which Saint was theirs? Would there be later-in-life irony or despair, or great elation on that name choice.

This isn’t like a monastery or convent where the person gives up their earthly name to take on the acquired name, but it’s the name you sort-of pick to go with you through life.

Of course at 12 years old I was a Southern Baptist, there was no such thing as Confirmation into the church, and Baptists don’t believe in (venerated) saints.

I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church “late in life” as a Sophomore in college after quite a bit of spiritual upheaval (we nicely call that discernment.) In our case, there’s the laying-on of hands (we use a Bishop for this rite) and pretty much, you’re in the club. I won’t go into the ecumenical meaning behind the confirmation here (that’s a whole other essay that’s more of theology geek than it is a spiritual resting spot.)
Sitting in the Catholic confirmation service I wondered what would it be like to take on the name of St. Lawrence (he was martyred by being roasted alive on a grid iron, and legend has it he kept asking his tormentors to turn up the heat because the room was too cold.) That could be taking on a little more of a karma load than your average tween should have to deal with.
I gave the saints thing some thought today in the car: which one would I have picked? Why them?  Driving around town is a good meditative practice for me because it’s one of the few times in my day when my mind is totally engaged and focused.
I came to like the idea of St. John of the Cross. 
Juan de la Cruz was a 16th Century Spanish mystic, poet, and theologian, and his work The Dark Night of the Soul (La noche oscura del alma) is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of Spanish poetry. His theological work mostly involved lengthy interpretations of his poetry, and The Dark Night of the Soul became a spiritual term describing our journey from “earthly matters” (as the 19th Century preachers called it) to our personal place with God.

As you can imagine that particular pathway can be a little crooked, mostly uphill, and lots of sharp rocks on the path that you stub your toe on and bruise your heel.

Generally it’s not a happy place to be.
I will be the first to admit that Christian life – like all of life – is not easy, and it’s not fair. And, like all of our life, we get out of it what we put into it. St. John of the Cross was the one who told us that the whole Christian process can be very difficult, and very depressing at times. The strong ones stick with it, the weak and lazy fall away. Religion and spirituality is not given to us, we must take what we need, pass that along, and leave the rest for the next person. If you have the means and the opportunity, read his poetry in the original Spanish. Spiritual counsel is semi-hidden in there, among some of the most beautiful Spanish lyrics you will ever read.
This is the guy who I thought I’d pick as my Saint name, if this was something I’d had to do at confirmation.
Driving in the car today, this whole thing came to mind with an old-ish (a couple of years old) song that came up on the play list in the car. The more I listened, the more I thought, “yeah!” Me and San Juan de la Cruz have got it going on!
This is a break-up song about two people who have to agree to break up, not be near each other any more, and the singer is pretty jaded on the idea (“the great lie”) of love. I looked at the official music video for this, and the song is set during a Civil War battle which I suppose makes sense in the context of the lyrics. The battle scene was too distracting so I looked for a version that spoke to the mood of the song, and focused tight on the writer’s concept of “some nights I don’t know what I stand for.”
Plus, if you get angry, need to go outside and stamp your feet hard on the ground, jump up and down and wag your fist in the air, this is the song you want to play! It’s not a gentle ride. No Moon River here.
This is what all the religion stuff is all about: if you can go 24/7/365 and never have any sort of doubt at all about the how’s and why’s of all this religion speak, maybe you’re walking in the shallows of the river and you need to wade out farther and take a deeper swim.
I think about these questions of “what do I stand for?” and I have no permanent answers. Religion in general and Christianity in particular is a constant quest. Most of the answers and truths that I found yesterday might be proved wrong (to my spiritual being) tomorrow.

This is the point in our lives – in our journeys – at which we both evolve and come closer to our concept of God. We must ask these simple questions occasionally, as times change, to make sure we are on track:

  • What do I believe?
  • Why do I believe it?
  • What am I going to do with it?

Keep the faith, and keep that questioning mind open!

 – Amen






Turn your eyes and see peace.

Christ Jesus,
in our hearts,

It is by looking toward you,
by gathering in your name,
that your Church grows in unity.

Enable us to love faithfulness
and to walk with you.

You guide our steps
on the paths of peace.

– Amen


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
by Helen H. Lemmell, 1922

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!

    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!