Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dark Cloud of Unknowing

If you've read this blog even just a little bit, it's easy to pick up that I struggle greatly with my ability to have faith when it comes to knowing God. The truth is, it has been a long time, maybe years since I have clearly felt or heard the voice of God in an irrefutable way. Radio silence. And yet I cannot seem to abandon Him, or is it He won't abandon me? Either way, I find myself in a holding pattern. A frustratingly long holding pattern. I haven't known how to proceed. How do I keep praying without doing it out of mere obligation and guilt? How do I read the Bible without disintegrating into a quivering heap of questions in the corner of my room? How am I to relate to my Christian friends who ARE hearing from God?

As I've been slowly savoring my way through The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, a desire has sprung up in me to begin practicing contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is a discipline in silencing the self in order to make room to just be with God. Contrary to my original hopes, it's almost never a spiritual experience. It does not promise an encounter with God, it does not promise my questions answered. Contemplative prayer is a call to relinquish all control...something which I unfortunately hold onto, white knuckled. "God can only be met in emptiness, by those who come in love, abandoning all effort to control, every need to astound. The presence of God may, as often as not, be perceived as an absence. God is revealed in what others may blithely disregard as a barren nothingness."

Sam Keen, a noted author and philosopher, hits the nail on the head when he says:
A psychoanalysis of chatter would suggest that our over-verbalization is an effort to avoid something which is fearful- silence. But why should silence be threatening? Because words are a way of structuring, manipulating, and controlling; thus, when they are absent the specter of loss of control arises. If we cannot name it, we cannot control it. Naming gives us power. Hence, silence is impotence, the surrender of control. Control is power and power is safety.
At the heart of contemplative prayer is a deep longing for God alone. This is hard. I come to God in prayer with frantic requests for my friends, for me. I tell Him what I want from Him. Ironically, despite the fact that my petitions are mostly selfish in nature, the thing I want most is just Him. I talk and talk and I ask and I ask because hearing my own voice is at least better then hearing nothing at all. But at my core I only want Him; sometimes so badly that sometimes it's a physical ache. Far from making me apathetic, His silence only makes me long for Him more. My mind may only grasp at the edges of God but my heart beats fully, painfully for Him. Belden Lane continues in Solace...
"A dark cloud always separates the believer from her deepest desire, a God beyond the reach of human reason. It is a frustrating darkness through which the mind cannot see, yet it serves to intensify the longing for that which is loved. The only way the thick cloud can be pierced is by a 'sharp dart of longing love,' by utterly forgetting oneself in the quest for what is loved above everything else....The ego is relinquished, along with its constant flow of chatter and illusion of control, so that love may happen. Love, after all, is the only way God can be known." soon as I move into my new house and get my own room again (and turn it into my "hidey hole of peace and tranquility"), I will begin the practice of contemplative prayer. I don't know what to expect.  In fact, I think I'm going to try and have no expectations at all. I'm ready to meet with God, even if that means silence, in a place bigger than the pitiful space I've carved out for Him.

Have you ever practiced contemplative prayer? What happened/didn't happen? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

animated characters I kinda have a crush on

Sorry I've been slacking on the blog lately. Summer is always the busiest time of the year for me and this one is no exception. I've also been pretty tired lately of talking/thinking about theology....more on that soon.

SO instead of posting nothing, here's a little something. As I was watching Disney's Robin Hood today with the kids, I found myself swooning, seriously swooning over the (literal) fox, Robin Hood. This is not the first time I have had a crush on an animated character, and a non-human one at that. So without further ado, in no particular order, I give you my top five animated hunks:

1. Robin Hood
How can an animated fox be handsome? I have no idea, but somehow Disney managed it. Not only is he hot, he is a champion of social justice- stealing from the corrupt Prince John to give to the poor. A man after my own heart. He also has a sexy voice and an English accent. Everyone knows girls can't resist a man with an accent. He is smitten with Maid Marian and not afraid to show it- girls need affirmation. If Robin Hood was real and not a fox, I would date him.

2. Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty
There's not a whole lot to this one. He's handsome and he can sing and he doesn't have a mullet like some of the other Disney princes. My high school boyfriend liked Sleeping Beauty as much as I did, actually probably better, and he could quote most of the movie by heart. Sometimes for fun we would start at the beginning and see how far we could get by memory. Little did he know that I was imagining what it would be like if he was Prince Philip and I was Princess Aurora. In hindsight, it's pretty weird that he knew the movie as well as he did.

3. Max from A Goofy Movie
What is Max? An anthropomorphic puppy? A weasel? I guess he's Goofy's son, so that makes him a dog. But I have never in my life seen a dog like this. Regardless he's cute, in that dorky, "Ahyuck" sort of way. He's quirky, and Lord knows I love quirky boys. Also he's enough of a rebel to break the rules to impress the girl he likes. I had the BIGGEST crush on the Max the first time I saw this movie as a girl. Guys, don't tell me you didn't think Roxanne was little vixen too. I've come to learn from some of my guy friends that she was a common animated crush for them too.

4. Dean from Iron Giant
First, if you've never seen Iron Giant, do yourself a favor and watch it on Netflix. Seriously, one of my favorite animated movies. Dean is the original hipster- tight pants, Ray-bans, and artistic ability. He's cool, he rides a motorcycle and he stands up for the under-dog. What more could you ask for?

5. Flynn Rider from Tangled
Flynn Rider is just misunderstood. He's coping with his upbringing as an orphan by living his life as a common thief. He acts tough and selfish, but deep down he's just a man looking for a home and someone who loves him. Flynn plays the hero by sacrificing his own life to save Rapunzel's...doesn't get any better than that. And whenever I start to feel weird about how attractive this animated man is to me, I just imagine that it's actually Zachary Levi, who voices the character and is just as easy on the eyes. It should be noted that any time I am fantasizing about the boy I will some day marry, whoever he is, we are almost always singing a duet together. Boys, take note, girls like duets.

So that's it for my list. What animated characters do YOU have a crush on?