June 24, 2012

Into your Hands... Abandonment

We have been looking at Charles de Foucauld’s “Prayer of Abandonment.” Foucauld prays to Abandon our life into the hands of God. When we are able to freely say, “I am ready for all…” we gain much more than we think we will lose. Opening our heart and soul to God’s will brings joy. Self-offering to God, freely and with love brings us a return of love.
“Into your hands I commend my soul”-Foucauld’s words echo Jesus’ cry of total abandonment on the Cross (Luke 23:46), which is in turn a reference to Psalm 31:5. The Psalm continues, “Into your hand I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of Truth.” Letting go into God’s care is not giving up. It is embracing and accepting the redeeming love from God. Foucauld knows that yielding the soul to God is an act of love and is received by Love and rewarded in Love.
How often do we keep our hearts shielded from love of all kinds, too afraid of being hurt to freely abandon our souls? When first ‘in love’ we are willing and able to throw open the doors of our hearts. But the little hurts can sneak in and gradually we start to push the door closed. With each little perceived slight, we push the door a little more tightly shut, until it is latched.
The same thing happens in our relationship with God. Children are open to seeing God and welcoming God in. Then we start wanting ‘our way’ and when things don’t go the way we want, we can get angry or frustrated with God and shut the door.
The famous painting of Jesus at the door is symbolic of what God does. God asks for us to open the door so he can come in. God’s love is so great that God will not batter down the door. God waits for our invitation.
We recently returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest with some of the grandchildren. One sight that inspired me was the ‘Agate Bridge’ in the Petrified Forest. This petrified log across an arroyo was been reinforced underneath with concrete. I found it symbolic of what God’s love does. Like the petrified log, we have cracks and are in danger of crashing into the arroyo. God’s love supports and reinforces us so we don’t disintegrate.
Foucauld says “I offer [my soul] to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord.” Can I see God through the eyes of a child again and open the door to let God in so that God’s Love can sweep out the staleness of hurts and anger? Do you feel God’s love strengthening and under-girding your life?

June 17, 2012

I accept all-Abandonment

 Abandoning everything to follow God’s call is what we are looking at this month as we study Charles Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment. We’ve seen that “Abandon” means giving up control and also gaining freedom from restrictions.
Foucauld goes on to pray “Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures -I wish no more than this, O Lord.” It is not easy to say ‘I abandon myself to your will’ but over and over in the Bible, we see men and women being changed and transforming their world because they were willing to do so.
That takes a lot of courage because when we abandon ourselves to God we don’t know what will really happen. There are no guarantees of a happy ending. In fact Paul’s recitation of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11) makes it clear that too often saying ‘yes’ to God means a challenge to living a ‘normal’ life. He says, Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:36-38).
But-and this is the big thing-those who abandoned themselves to God also, “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (Hebrews 11:33-34)
Foucauld says, “Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.” The total abandonment of self to God is a joyful thing despite the struggles because “God had provided something better.” As Mr. Beaver tells the children, "Aslan is not a tame lion...but he is good."
Paul goes on to encourage the early church, and us, to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) Climb out of the box that keeps you captive and accept the Call of God to be free.
Foucauld calls us to give thanks for the chance to Abandon all to God: “Father, I abandon myself into your hands do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures -I wish no more than this, O Lord.”
As Paul says, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
Even though “God is a consuming fire,” the cost is worth the risk of Abandoning self to God. That is why we can give thanks for the challenges and rewards that will come when I can let go of my agenda and Abandon myself to God. There may be trepidation in my heart, but the alternative is to remain bound and enslaved by the boxes I put myself into.
Can you Abandon yourself to God? Next time we’ll see the result of abandoning ourselves is Love.

June 10, 2012

I Abandon Myself to You

Last week we looked at the definition of ‘abandon.’ We discovered that it can mean giving up everything, and also gaining everything. It involves stepping outside the boxes by which we define ourselves! Charles de Foucauld’s “Prayer of Abandonment” says, “Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.”

That’s a pretty sweeping statement and a bit scary. It’s rather like the joke my daughter recently posted on Facebook. A pig and a chicken were walking down the road when the chicken turns to the pig and says "we should go into the restaurant business together. "The pig replies "What should we call the restaurant?" The chicken says "Ham and eggs." The pig states "I don't think I want to go into business with you, you'd be making an investment, I'd be giving up everything."

She noted, “Similarly we want to serve the kingdom of God with our extra eggs, but Jesus requires everything.”

How many people can you think of in the Bible who offered themselves fully to God by ‘giving up everything’ and saying ‘I abandon myself into your hands’? As I noted last week, Moses, David, and Mary are three. However, every other person in the Bible had to respond to God’s call, either by saying ‘do with me what you will,’ or by saying ‘no.’

In the New Testament we hear about many men and women who abandoned themselves to God’s will. The disciples and Mary of Magdala, the Samaritan woman and Paul are all people we look up to because of their willingness to say, ‘do with me what you will.’
Sometimes the Call from God to Abandon ourselves comes in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-6) or flash of lightening (Acts 9:3-6). Just as often that Call comes in prison (Genesis 39:23) or in a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-18). It can be an invitation from a Galilean rabbi saying ‘Follow me’ (Mark 1:17) or in a vision of glory (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Can we, like Isaiah respond “Here I am, send me,” when God asks “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) Being willing to Abandon the boxes of our life in order to live into the Freedom of God’s vision is scary, but it is the first step into being transformed more and more into the real person God envisioned.

God tells Jeremiah (and you and me) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) That’s a pretty amazing statement and a promise that can perhaps give us courage to climb out of the confining box to give God everything.

Where in your life is God saying ‘go into business with me’? Are you willing to give up everything or just the ‘extra eggs’? That’s a hard question that I’m going to have to spend some time praying about.
However, I think the first step is hearing God saying ‘come, follow me’ and, like the disciples, abandoning the fishing nets and setting out on the road.

June 3, 2012

What does Abandon Mean?

This year of blogs started out with looking at Philippians 4;4-9 and 1 Thessalonians :16-20 in their parallel instructions to: Rejoice-Pray-Give Thanks-Be at Peace-Practice Faith-Do Good-Fulfill the Will of God. During Lent we explored Roads and Choices that can lead us to new beginnings, even though the path itself may be circuitous. Since Easter we’ve explored how the lessons of Psalm 100 might inform and inspire our lives and worship through joy, thanksgiving, and praise. Throughout, I’ve noticed that these are all things that pretty much anyone would agree are good. You don’t have to be a church-goer to know that being happy and positive, peaceful and joyful, focused and consistent are ways to live a better life.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the acclaimed 1970’s book by Richard Bach tells the story of a seagull who wants to be more than just a seagull searching for food on fishing boats. He wants to fly far and wide. After much work, he discovers, How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”

The same is true of our journey of faith. We cannot live a life open and dedicated to God’s will without practice. We have to be willing to be open to new experiences and step outside the box. We each have ‘boxes’ that we use to identify who we are and what our ministry is. Just maybe God has something better planned and we have to quit the ‘drab slogging back and forth to the fishing boats.’ That’s why during June, I’ll be looking at what it means to ‘abandon’ myself to God.
There are two types of definition for the word “abandon.” One is to leave completely, desert or withdraw from and give up control. That is certainly one way of viewing what happens when we abandon ourselves to God like Charles de Foucauld suggests in his Prayer of Abandonment. The other definition is equally apt: to yield without restraint or moderation and give over to natural impulses (like joy or grief or life or God’s Call).

Few of us like to give up control of our lives or desert our plans. Sometimes, God calls us to change direction. Moses was called from being shepherd to lead the people of Israel, so was David. Mary was called from being a provincial teenage girl to the Mother of our Lord. Each of them had to abandon their plans and dreams. However, in answering the Spirit’s call, they also discovered a life that was totally and without moderation Abandoned to the joy of living and being “a man/woman after God’s heart.”

Yes, we are called to Abandon, to Renounce, to Yield to God’s call, but it is in that very yielding that we find Freedom. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull discovered ‘we can be free…to fly!’ Answering God’s call to Abandon ourselves can provide us with, as Jonathan says, "the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way."

Think about what boxes you have put around yourself. Do you identify yourself as ‘mom’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘PTA president’ or ‘manager’ or ‘administrator’? Are there boxes of your past that you still have around that need to be emptied? Can you find the courage to get out of the box and let God act? 

Next time we’ll start exploring Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment. How can we more and more fully say “I am a Child of God, fully abandoned to God’s will for my life”?