Posted by: crosspeace | October 13, 2009

A Year of Formation

The following article uses some quotes from Donald Millers new book,  A Million Miles and a Thousand Years.
“I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means that you matter, and that you can create with in even a I have created you. ( p. 59)
For a long time I have had a dream about the Last Judgment. In this dream I stand before the throne and a voice asks me, “Well what do you think?  About your life, how was it?” Sometimes in the dream when I have been feeling depressed I give it a thumbs down sort of like the guys you see on TV doing the movie reviews. “Two popcorn boxes out of ten. Definitely not a must see.” At other times I am all excited and full of thanks and wonder. “A ten, definitely, a ten!!” In my dream when I pan the movie that is my life I feel guilty and sheepish. When I give it thumbs up I am happy. It’s a good dream. I’m not sure my dream is prophetic like Jacob’s Ladder or Peter’s bed sheet full of formerly forbidden foods but somehow there is quality about it that always makes me take notice. I don’t like the dream but I suspect that the frequency of its coming to me is a message from on high. I’m treating it that way, in any case.
Last year a number of things happened which, by all rights, I would have given as “thumbs down.” But as awful as the experiences were, there somehow was the sense that I was in an adventure that ultimately would turn out OK.  And it did. In brief, last year I wound up in a job where I was a complete failure. I had never failed completely in a job. My marriage was having difficulty. That was no fun for either of us. My relationships at church became strained because of my difficulties at work and I no longer felt like I could attend there. That was really hard.  Everything was looking pretty disastrous and yet in the middle of this came the invitation to attend a retreat in Virginia and become a Franciscan Monk. I had been a Novice studying for some time. I always have been fascinated by monastic living and had become involved in a “third order Franciscan and Benedictine” group on the Internet called The Company of Jesus. At the time of my invitation things in the rest of my life were looking pretty down. My movie was looking like a “2” and yet this rather intriguing invitation came. After some struggling within myself and the commensurate “ I really shouldn’t because I need to be at work” excuses I decided to go.
I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. (p. 59)
After some difficulty I got to the retreat in the Virginia mountains. The weekend came and went. I honestly can’t say I remember a whole lot about it except for the fact that someone there sat down with me at lunch and asked a whole lot of personal questions and I spilled all the beans to him and, rather than put me off, he volunteered to walk with me though this experience that we called the desert time and to explore with me the places where God might be present.  Quite an offer. Sort of the Godfather, “Make him and offer he can’t refuse” sort of thing. Later that weekend I made a profession of vows to be a Franciscan. If you know anything about St. Francis you know that he embraced suffering and responded to it by serving others. The more suffering, the more service. He was one of the happiest guys that ever walked the face of the earth because somehow his suffering and the suffering of others connected him with the suffering of Christ. “If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me” he said in his own way. As of that evening service my discomforts in life had a meaning. They connected me in some mysterious way to Francis and he was connected to Christ. It all took on a new meaning.
Well I can’t tell you that when I came home all was rosy or that all of a sudden I had a beatific outlook on life which made me take on the Sermon on the Mount with glee. No, I still stunk on the job and eventually was let go, my wife and I continued to struggle (though she didn’t let me go, thank God), the money was still short and everything I left in Havelock was still waiting for me in the driveway when I came home. But more and more this movie that I call my life moved from being a dark tragedy to being an adventure. I ceased to be just a schmoo struggling along with pointless failures but became a sort of Indiana Jones searching the desert for things of great value. My friend and I continued to talk each week as I told my continuing story and we explored the plot weekly as one event or another opened up. There were opportunities that presented themselves and I found more and more people to serve and, like my hero Francis, began to experience some joy in it all.
If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. (p 68).
That’s it. Transformation or Formation as the term is used in seminary. Transformation does not happen because the story gets easier or that the mountain one needs to climb mysteriously disappears. As a matter of fact, the view from the top of the mountain is an endless panorama of more mountains. The point of life is to live through the challenges not to somehow retire from them.  Francis discovered the answer to one’s burdens is to take on someone else’s. The answer to despair is faith which knows that the challenge is not the end but just the opportunity. Because Jesus triumphed over the most desperate of circumstances and defeated in his resurrection the most daunting challenge of all, death, in Him we can go forward undaunted.
And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life, then life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve form one kind of person to another.”
I think Don Miller is right. If our story has no challenges it does not have the possibility of  change, of transformation. If our story is secure and predictable we stand no chance to be formed by faith in Christ. It is precisely in sharing Christ’s sufferings that we may become transformed by Him. Francis is right and I thank Jesus for those “two thumbs” moments because they are they are the material for a really great life movie.
Br. Ed (COJ)
(The following article uses some quotes from Donald Millers new book, A Million Miles and a Thousand Years.)

“I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means that you matter, and that you can create with in even a I have created you. ( p. 59)

For a long time I have had a dream about the Last Judgment. In this dream I stand before the throne and a voice asks me, “Well what do you think?  About your life, how was it?” Sometimes in the dream when I have been feeling depressed I give it a thumbs down sort of like the guys you see on TV doing the movie reviews. “Two popcorn boxes out of ten. Definitely not a must see.” At other times I am all excited and full of thanks and wonder. “A ten, definitely, a ten!!” In my dream when I pan the movie that is my life I feel guilty and sheepish. When I give it thumbs up I am happy. It’s a good dream. I’m not sure my dream is prophetic like Jacob’s Ladder or Peter’s bed sheet full of formerly forbidden foods but somehow there is quality about it that always makes me take notice. I don’t like the dream but I suspect that the frequency of its coming to me is a message from on high. I’m treating it that way, in any case.
Last year a number of things happened which, by all rights, I would have given as “thumbs down.” But as awful as the experiences were, there somehow was the sense that I was in an adventure that ultimately would turn out OK.  And it did. In brief, last year I wound up in a job where I was a complete failure. I had never failed completely in a job. My marriage was having difficulty. That was no fun for either of us. My relationships at church became strained because of my difficulties at work and I no longer felt like I could attend there. That was really hard.  Everything was looking pretty disastrous and yet in the middle of this came the invitation to attend a retreat in Virginia and become a Franciscan Monk. I had been a Novice studying for some time. I always have been fascinated by monastic living and had become involved in a “third order Franciscan and Benedictine” group on the Internet called The Company of Jesus. At the time of my invitation things in the rest of my life were looking pretty down. My movie was looking like a “2” and yet this rather intriguing invitation came. After some struggling within myself and the commensurate “ I really shouldn’t because I need to be at work” excuses I decided to go.

I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. (p. 59)

After some difficulty I got to the retreat in the Virginia mountains. The weekend came and went. I honestly can’t say I remember a whole lot about it except for the fact that someone there sat down with me at lunch and asked a whole lot of personal questions and I spilled all the beans to him and, rather than put me off, he volunteered to walk with me though this experience that we called the desert time and to explore with me the places where God might be present.  Quite an offer. Sort of the Godfather, “Make him and offer he can’t refuse” sort of thing. Later that weekend I made a profession of vows to be a Franciscan. If you know anything about St. Francis you know that he embraced suffering and responded to it by serving others. The more suffering, the more service. He was one of the happiest guys that ever walked the face of the earth because somehow his suffering and the suffering of others connected him with the suffering of Christ. “If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me” he said in his own way. As of that evening service my discomforts in life had a meaning. They connected me in some mysterious way to Francis and he was connected to Christ. It all took on a new meaning.
Well I can’t tell you that when I came home all was rosy or that all of a sudden I had a beatific outlook on life which made me take on the Sermon on the Mount with glee. No, I still stunk on the job and eventually was let go, my wife and I continued to struggle (though she didn’t let me go, thank God), the money was still short and everything I left in Havelock was still waiting for me in the driveway when I came home. But more and more this movie that I call my life moved from being a dark tragedy to being an adventure. I ceased to be just a schmoo struggling along with pointless failures but became a sort of Indiana Jones searching the desert for things of great value. My friend and I continued to talk each week as I told my continuing story and we explored the plot weekly as one event or another opened up. There were opportunities that presented themselves and I found more and more people to serve and, like my hero Francis, began to experience some joy in it all.

If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. (p 68).

That’s it. Transformation or Formation as the term is used in seminary. Transformation does not happen because the story gets easier or that the mountain one needs to climb mysteriously disappears. As a matter of fact, the view from the top of the mountain is an endless panorama of more mountains. The point of life is to live through the challenges not to somehow retire from them.  Francis discovered the answer to one’s burdens is to take on someone else’s. The answer to despair is faith which knows that the challenge is not the end but just the opportunity. Because Jesus triumphed over the most desperate of circumstances and defeated in his resurrection the most daunting challenge of all, death, in Him we can go forward undaunted.

And if story is derived from real life, if story is just a condensed version of life, then life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve form one kind of person to another.”

I think Don Miller is right. If our story has no challenges it does not have the possibility of  change, of transformation. If our story is secure and predictable we stand no chance to be formed by faith in Christ. It is precisely in sharing Christ’s sufferings that we may become transformed by Him. Francis is right and I thank Jesus for those “two thumbs” moments because they are they are the material for a really great life movie.
Br. Ed (COJ)


Responses

  1. Right on, Br. Ed! How important it is to live — really live and even come to love the struggles and challenges. Thanks for posting this.
    –Ed


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