Moving Forward in the Spiritual Life

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"Is This All There is?: Spirituality for the Long Haul", "Moving Forward in the Spiritual Life"

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All right, a few more books to show you, based on some things that we talked about earlier today. There's a series of books called, Deans of the Lord, the Liturgical Year. And if you're interested in kind of understanding how the readings for the Sunday Masses fit in with the liturgical year. And there's always a section, like this volume is the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. So, it also has some explanation of the daily readings as well. And this is a smaller, older version of something similar by Benedictine called, Adrian Nocent. I'm sure this one's out of print, but again, these kind of things are available at ABE. And does he still use books too at 8th day? 8th day, yeah, I'm pretty sure he does. And he would be likely to have some of these sort of things. He will track anything down.


He will also make these amazingly wonderful recommendations. Yeah, so if you ask him for books about the liturgical year. Yeah, he would make good recommendations. And then, specifically in regard to Advent, these are three books that I use every year. This one is called, Watch for the Light, it's readings for Advent and Christmas by contemporary and recent authors. Which, you know, chapters on different topics. Including Henri Nouwen, going back to Bernard of Clairvaux, Catherine Norris, Isaac Pennington, just a whole range. And then, Wendy Wright is a professor at Creighton University and she's written a lot. She has a book called, The Vigil, keeping watch in the season of Christ coming.


And another book that I know is out of print. Books don't stay in print all that much. Sorry to say, it's a series that was published by, the publisher is called LTP, Liturgy Training Publications. Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago. So, some years ago, New Cardinal, New Direction, No More This. So, in fact, this was published back in, let's see what the date is, 88. So, but again, it's got, what I like about that is, for different days of the season of Advent, it just has this lovely little short readings from scriptures and other places. So, it's the kind of thing that you can use to feed yourself throughout the season. Really good. So, again, if you want to look at some of these tonight. And finally, some picture books.


If you get tired of words, you want to just look at pictures. It's a three-volume series called, Imaging the Word. And it's based on a common lectionary, which is used by a lot of the Reformed churches. And what it has for particular Sundays are modern, contemporary, and classical art, prayers, music, poetry. Again, tied in with the readings for the Sundays. And it's a three-volume set. And so, it's just another way to break open the word for you. And finally, this is what's called a parallel Bible. So, in here, you've got four different translations of the Bible. The New Revised Standard, New American, New Jerusalem, and the Revised English.


Now, the benefit of doing this is you are reading from... Usually, you'll be hearing from the NRSV or the New American. But you'll find that there are some slight differences in the translations from the various books. And sometimes, just reading it from a different translation can, again, open the word up for you. So, this is a... I find this a real treasure. So, I wanted to mention that. All right, I'm done. And now, I turn everything over to Paul. Well, one more book I'm thinking of. Yes, please. And, Denise, you may... You know Christine Balter's painter, Heapner's work. It's her latest book on the Desert Fathers. Have you seen that book? I've seen it before. Oh, okay. Yeah, it's really a nice book. If you are familiar at all with The Way of the Pilgrim, the annotated version of The Way of the Pilgrim,


where you have on one side the pilgrim is speaking, on the other side there's little notes about what was happening historically, all this kind of surrounding information. It helps you snap the ancient words into focus. And that's what she's done with a selected handful of Desert Fathers sayings. So, I find it's a really good tool for doing Lectio on the sayings of the Desert Fathers. And her last name is Balters-Heapner. Christine. Anyway. And she has this website? Yeah, she has the Abbey of the Arts website. Yeah, you can probably find it on there too., right? Yeah, I think so. Okay. Probably, yeah. We were looking at this little list and realizing we hadn't quite finished it. We've gotten to about here and it's bailed out. So, what this group who wrote up here,


could I hear from you group? Was this your group, Jeff, who wrote this? Yeah, I actually do remember. Jeff, could you expand on that a little bit? Yeah, it just seemed to be a common theme that a lot of people wanted to come was to be in the atmosphere of prayer. Oh, okay. And sit in that and circle that, yeah. So, how do you do that outside of your... How do you tackle that problem of creating an atmosphere of prayer in the middle of just life? No, you're not supposed to do that. You can't talk about it. We need your ideas. It doesn't have to be a designated place that you go to, you know, whether it's just something on your dresser or, you know, just a spot that you know that you're going to meet God with. Okay, so it's set up for that purpose, yes. My son moved out and it's going to become a meditation room.


Ah, he's taking over. Full bedroom, huh? Great for you. Yeah, great. I try more to pray without ceasing. I use the Jesus Prayer. It's never a particular time, but it's continuous. Kind of an ongoing practice. Yes. Well, what about, like, you have to pray on the run? Yes. Good. Which... Say that again? Praying on the run. That was as well said. It doesn't have to be rush. Yeah, exactly. Man's prayer seemed to need it the most at those times anyway. And it might keep you from rushing quite so much, right? Yeah. Yeah. Father Bernard used to say, Come on, Jesus, here we go. Yes, on they have a gong that you could download. So I set that and it just went at work


and it just makes me stop and just do like a prayer. It's great for whoever I'm working on at the time. Cool. Yeah. I love time. A reminder. A reminder. Yeah, that's great. What was his name, the guy who wrote about the thinking of God every minute practice? Lavok or Bhagavad Gita? Yeah, Lavok Literacy Program. He began consciously thinking of God. I think he started at 10 minutes and 5 minutes and every single minute he would think of God and that became this kind of living in prayer Jesus thing. Yeah, without actually saying the Jesus prayer words. Yes. Every activity can be a prayer. Washing dishes, you can make that into a prayer. And my husband had to give a class to young mothers who couldn't come to his class at church so he came to their home and he told them changing diapers makes that into a prayer.


And so they didn't feel so bad anymore about changing diapers. Yeah, and that's really the goal, isn't it? That every single thing we find ourselves doing. Whatever you do can be a prayer because God is with you whatever you do, wherever you are. Sometimes your prayers are more urgent than other times because of what we have to do these days. And that's what Brother Lawrence did. Of course, yeah, the practice of the presence of God. There's some great websites, Sacred Space, and then there's the 3 Minute Meditation, so if you're at work or something, they're easy. I was also on the run, I'd like to be listening to the radio, listening to love songs, and that's the word speaking for me, speaking for the Lord. That's very interesting. Yeah, I've got to do this. There's actually a podcast called Pray As You Go. It's a lot of chill. It's a side of 10 minutes. It's a lot of chill. It has the effect of making us pay attention to life a lot more closely.


We started years ago, Janet and I and a couple of other objects went to a Lawrence Freeman silent retreat. I forgot if it was a weekend or a long weekend or something. It was all silent meditation. At the end of it, we got to talk at lunchtime. We said, we should do this. We should start something. It's been about seven years ago maybe that we started this every Monday evening at 545 at the top of our barn. People come and go. Sometimes they'll come once and never come back. We've got a core group that's been doing this for a long time. In the winter, it's all dark and sometimes rainy. In the summer, it could be really hot out there. It's a totally unfinished barn. There are rodents in residence, but nobody seems to mind that. It's a space that we've taken over for the meditation group. People are very, very appreciative of someone's willingness to open up their home to do that.


That's another idea for an atmospheric practice. This one is about not needing to earn God's love. That was also you? That was me. I was focused around getting away from the activity-oriented life and the contemplative experience, and realizing that the nature of God's love for us, that it's not about what we do. It's the way that we love our kids or the people that we love in our life, and even more. Are you saying that maybe a way to keep that in mind is through our own love for others? In other words, attempting to love others that way? Absolutely. Absolutely. In the same way that you just said, what father of you, if your child asks you for a fish, is going to give you a serpent. If you being evil would do that, then how much is God?


Right. Good. Other ways that you've found to remind yourself of this, especially if you suffer from my favorite sin, being in glory, thinking you have to earn love from people and God? You've all given up. Yeah, I've given up. He's given up. What do I have to earn? My favorite way to remember that, that comes to me occasionally when I'm listening to Holy Spirit, is that picture of Jesus gathering us together like little chicks. Under His wings. Yeah, yeah. Father Patrick used to do that with his robes out, and it was just a very lovely picture of, no matter what, He's going to hold me. He is holding me. I think one of the really beautiful things about medieval cathedrals is that they're so dependent on the stained glass windows


to convey these gorgeous stories, the parables were in an age where most people couldn't read the Bible, so they were learning through this symbolic portrayal of things, and I think gestures like that, or if you can keep those images in your head, sometimes that just really helps to keep it in mind. Poetry is good for that. If you get a line of poetry, when you said that about Jesus in the wings, I think of the end of God's Grandeur by Hopkins, the Holy Spirit broods over us like a soft-breasted bird, and it just keeps that in our minds. And then I want to back up to this atmosphere of prayer. Sometimes if you're doing Lectio, a little line will stick with you, so a three-by-five card in your pocket can be useful for that, or Scripture just pops into your head if you get exposed to it enough,


as we do with praying the Psalms as often as we do. So like when the fog is coming, I think of the line from the Psalms of Touch the mountains, read them, and smoke. That's what it can look like here when the fog comes in. When I was doing more work, I found coffee breaks and lunchtime was a good time, too, because I always made sure to get those in. That was male. That was male. And to spend a moment in some sort of prayer at those times, too, because that's in there. And I've talked about the liturgical year, but there's also the liturgical day, right? So getting up at 2.45 and celebrating your own vigils like Paula does. Or if you have time in the morning to spend a little bit,


but if you don't, this is a new day, this is a beginning. Midday prayer, a moment just to settle oneself. Then the evening on the way back or whatever, and then a moment at night just to kind of mark the passage of time with a moment of prayer. And to develop that as a habit can be helpful. I think also having icons or icons in your house. I'm so amazed at the effect of icons on small children who come in. I have the Trinity icon in the room, loved one, and our little neighbor boy was over three years old. I had no idea if he'd ever been to church or anything, and he spotted that icon and he said, who are those three people? And I said, well, who do they look like to you? And he said, I think it's God. I'm like, wow! You are right!


They're drawn to them in a way that leads me to believe that there's something inherently attractive to all of us if we can see that. Help again to think of God in prayer. In some ways they're not so attractive. They can look very odd at times, but they really are designed to take one inside and to get a glimpse of something beyond ourselves. To go back to not needing to earn a non-stop, I teach children religion, and I have first communion class and other classes, and I think in preparing them, you're talking about baptism and the Eucharist, I mean, you really, you bet it to yourself, you see, that they can never conceive that you have to wear God's love,


because we are loved so much. We are loved so much. And made in the image of God. And when you teach that day in and day out, I mean, you've convinced yourself, haven't you? The supplements, I take them. I mean, I do the supplements, the program, all that, and I have a great advantage because I'm always talking and thinking about that, yes. Do you teach your really small children? Yes, I do, and I have the first communion class as well. And I have a couple of friends that teach Catholicism and the Good Shepherd, and they talk about, oh yes, every time, I mean, out of the mouths of these little tiny kids, all these amazing insights, you know, very natural. So then the spiritual thought, you know, when I say to a child, if you sit and if you see somebody, if you see somebody else who has fallen outside on their plane,


and I say to go over and help them, I say then, what kind of a spirit, the spiritual thought, you see? And they have that spiritual thought within them, so you already have their attitude. So do you remember Art Linklover? Yes. He does interviews with kids. He's pretty amazing. There's a writer, Robert J. Lifton, called The Spiritual Lives of Children, you know. Yes, I think I read that a long time ago. Yeah, where they talk about, you know, in very profound ways. Oh, yes. And it's important to remind ourselves that we haven't lost that either, you know, that that's something that we have to re-access. Jesus said. That's right. And I think as we, you know, move along in time with this, we do find ourselves re-accessing this.


Another wonderful, and you know her, Sophia Cavaletti, who was a dear friend of Maria Montessori, who started the whole star-spinning in Italy after the war, and so they were contemporaries, and she just, she wrote a lot about the religious sensibility. In fact, that's one of her great books, The Religious Sensibility of Children and Continents. Yes, and also the presence of God, because when I ask, when we say a prayer, we go fast. And I say now, we're standing in the presence of God. God is listening to you. He's listening to me. Then we close our eyes for a moment, and then we pray. As God, as we are in the presence of God, and he's listening to us. And they're very good at it. And they are amazingly good. And they don't doubt that. No, no, no. No, this isn't God. Oh, to be young again, huh? It is a wonderful practice to hang around with little tiny kids.


Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Well, maybe we will shift over to these questions. And as a way to kind of introduce the Desert Father Project to anybody who isn't familiar with that yet. Just maybe in answering these questions, and starting to get addressed. But, B, did you want to give just a little historical intro to these guys? Yeah, just real briefly. So, we have the period of Christ. We had the period of the apostles. And then we had the period of martyrdom. So, the flame of the Spirit was really alive. And just as the persecution and suffering that Jesus had, so did those people in the first 100 or 200 years or so afterward. But then the church became part of organized society.


And so we moved from what they called the red-robed martyrs, martyrs of blood, to the white-robed martyrs. And so people were going to commit themselves. They wanted a more intense experience, in fact, to answer these sorts of questions. So there was this movement into the desert. They were hermits, but it's important to remember that they weren't as isolated as people sometimes think, because people were forever knocking on their caves and their little huts to ask them for what was going on, and they'd move out a little further, and that sort of thing. And this took place in the Middle East, and particularly in Egypt. And we had the beginning of this with the people living as individual hermits, and then hermits and community, and they had a technical name called the lara, L-A-R-A, for that. In fact, the Kamaldolis are loosely based on that kind of idea


of a community of hermits. And then with Pachomius came a movement towards larger, actually in his case, for the time he died, rather huge communities of people living. Thousands. Yes, thousands, this monastic impulse. And there's something quite powerful, because the monastic impulse is very close to, in terms of time, between the first moment of Christ. And while we continue to have martyrs throughout this day, we have a lot more monastics. So that's kind of nice, I think. And I think the power of that continues to expand in different and new ways. And they were really after this deep, deep, deep connection with Christ, preparing themselves for the end time,


which they had a sense was going to be much nearer than, in fact, it was. But because of what they did in writing, we have their very powerful, fresh words to meditate on. And even though they were supposedly all isolated out there, their stories just kept whipping through the Near Eastern world. And it was one of the things that caused the conversion of St. Augustine. Just a couple of hundred years later, there's a biography written by one of these first Christian deacons, Father Herbert St. Anthony. So they've had a huge effect on our imaginations, our religious imaginations. So what did it mean to know the self, to live with integrity, if you are one of these people in year 350 or something out there in the Palestinian or Egyptian desert? So I just jotted a few notes down here, and maybe we'll go through it this way,


and then turn it back to how we can apply that in our time. I think that might be the most fruitful. Well, they were seeking to know the self for them, meant to be able to see into one's own psyche and one's own soul in ways that we think we can see, but we really are often blind to. And so it's like an increase of vision. And to recognize what habits of thought and attitude and behavior were getting in the way of a deeper relationship with God. So any of those kind of internal obstacles, the weak planks inside of us, that was one thing they were after. And so how did you learn to see the self so realistically? And it was through these various spiritual disciplines, some of which seem extreme to us nowadays. Fasting was a big one, or the severe restriction of most types of food.


What we're looking at is extreme poverty, living with one little tunic and no sandals or whatever. Everything seemed very extreme. It's radical compared to... Sharp and pointed. Very much so. But again, I think they backed in on our imagination so powerfully because they served as these kinds of symbols I was talking about. This is what it looks like when you take Jesus' words literally. Sell everything you own, give it to the poor, and follow me. Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but the Son of Man does nowhere lay his head. So don't worry about having a house. Well, they did that. They did it literally. And these disciplines were, first of all, a way to learn to see. Because if you tried to fast and discovered that you were totally incapable of doing that, you knew you had a problem in relationship to food.


There was something that needed to be gotten past, that you were probably spending too much of your focus on food to be able to focus as much as you wanted to on God. And then once they saw these habitual behaviors and ways of thinking, patterns of judgment, self-righteousness, whatever it was, would begin to be revealed as they pitted themselves physically against themselves, basically. They were brought up to a mirror in which to see themselves. And then the same kinds of practices or different ones would be used to try to get past that particular habit and develop a new one. So there was a whole array of what they called spiritual disciplines. And one of them was vigils, like praying during the night, restricting one's sleep. Of course, chastening was a big one. All intended to help remove the distractions that prevented one from having a single point of focus.


That's what they were after. And so to live with integrity, then, meant to do the things that are heard in scripture or from the lips of the elders. To practice what one preached, or to walk the walk, as we would say today. It was very much an active type of life, of spiritual life. Does that make sense? No? Okay. Second one, how could one learn to contend with a seemingly uncontrollable force which had assailed one from within and without, and as Bea pointed out earlier, they were referred to as the demons. And there's a lot of familiarity with a wide array of types of demons. And their defense against that was basically to put on the armor of Christ. They really saw themselves as suiting up for these events. And the main way they did this is through watching of the thoughts and guarding the heart. So, noticing what came flowing in, knowing that often it's internally generated.


There's no demon involved. It's just us repeating our habitual nasty thought that we have about someone's self. Sometimes, however, they would see it as an external attack on them by way of a thought. And then how do you deal with that? One of the reasons I recommended one of those books by Kyriakos Markidis, the orthodox Cyprian guy, is because he spent a lot of time laying out that whole business of watching the thoughts and guarding the heart in a way that's very understandable and makes a lot of sense. Guarding the heart had to do with a deeper level of shielding the self. Right. Seeking to maintain a certain sort of equanimity in the face of things. Passionless, depending on how you understood it. Passion. Here's a nice little saying from a former director of religion and psychiatry at the Medgar Clinic,


where I also worked. Everything interesting is messy, and everything messy is inherently messy. So, I recommend that phrase and that attitude when you're attending to your thoughts. So, rather than becoming angry or guilty or shameful or whatever, as you become aware of what's happening inside, just, well, isn't that interesting that these things keep coming up? Striving for some understanding. And there's a philosopher, and I don't recall his name right now, he made a nice distinction between seeking an understanding versus our current-day understanding of a current-day approach to mastery. Because the early tradition would talk about mastering the passions, but what they were really talking about was having a deep understanding of them.


Nowadays, when we talk about mastery, it's more associated, in our anthropological setting now, which is different than back then, it has to do more with power. People are masters of things, and we strive to be masters. No, we strive for understanding because that's more associated with wisdom than mastery is. In our current setting, even though they would use the word differently. Yeah, and use many more words that sounded like armoring and defending and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, that's what happens when monks take on the habit, when they're given the cowl and the tunic and the cincture and the hood. So, you're putting on the... The phrases are often scripture, but it is all about this armoring. Those are the phrases. And in the old days, when monks would put their habits on, they would say those prayers to themselves every time they put their habit on.


Interesting. Another way they had of defending themselves against these seemingly uncontrollable forces was through a constant recitation of the Psalms. That was one big practice they used. Meditation on scripture. They're pretty sure, according to this book at least, that there were more written texts out there than at least was originally thought, so that clearly some people could read. And there were a number of people who went out to the desert who were highly educated. They'd been lost perch or royalty or whatever, government people. And so they did have education, so there was some reading. But the primary way of taking in scripture was through memorizing it and reciting. And then through this escasus or practice of these various spiritual disciplines.


And most of all, the development of humility. That was kind of the front line goal. For everything that was going to follow, all this stuff was intended to somehow attain humility. So in that sense, there was no room for the vision of mastery as gaining power. Mastery simply meant to keep oneself from, preventing oneself from moving toward God. That's really what it was. So mastery of anger, or at least keeping it under control as a way to keep from being derailed by anger, which blocks prayer and memory. So, what was the possibility of achieving freedom from these forces in a sense of abiding peace? Well, they would have said, I think, and this is just a kind of quick summation, that it was at the point where one had finally given up his own will.


Sort of what we were talking about earlier, about the surrendering, the trusting, whatever. And was able to rest entirely in the providence of God. And we had a conversation after the last session about how does that differ from a kind of passivity, or even fatalism, you know, all I have to do is sit around and think holy thoughts and God's going to just move me from A to B or whatever, or make all the changes by waving a magic wand over me. This clearly was a very active kind of practice in Irrigation, so they weren't in that sense at all passive. But they did see their own propensity to get in their own way. That's what they were trying to get past. So, we're going to leave this last one for tomorrow morning because it's so giant to talk about. This whole business of what did it mean to give oneself and love. But for now, just for the time we have left, I'm wondering how we would do this now. Or can we? You know, let's see what I said here.


Oh, okay. Are these questions meaningful today? Are they meaningful today? Is there a modern... Yes, Jack? It's funny, I think it was here about two weeks and I woke up about 13 miles in. I had on my mind the word holy. You can use that all the time, but I didn't know what that meant. So I spent the next two hours doing a study of the word, and found that the meaning is almost synonymous with integrity. So in the sense of wholeness, completeness, being distinct, any separate would be, but distinct and authentic. So those have really helped me to understand this idea of becoming holy.


It's like being true to the deepest note in myself, which is God's love. So, you know, maybe it's a simple thing, but I think understanding the words that I use in the prayers has been very helpful, maybe bringing them into a more modern sense of the words. So in other words, okay, that makes sense to me. Knowing these prayers or these scriptural things we say all the time, breaking down what that means, the parts that you don't get, finding out what they mean, how does that apply to you? I love that business of integrity as a kind of unbroken whole. Someone else had a hand up. Yes, yes, yes, I'm just wondering, could we relate this to Thomas Keating's, you know, he's very big on the false self and the true self. Yes, I think so.


I think so, yes. Yeah, you know, Thomas Merton, simultaneously in the psychoanalytic field, the writers were also talking about this notion of true and false self. And from the spiritual standpoint, the psychological standpoint, they stand for different things in some ways, but they are similar in others. So to know who one is, to peel back layers of inauthenticity or falseness, that's that process of revealing what's in. And that takes the time as we work through these things. Yes, because you recognize it in yourself once you have spoken from that false self. And it's recognizing it. So the psychologists would say that we move from having these egocentronic symptoms to egodistonic.


So that is when we start recognizing the false and inauthentic aspects of ourself and start putting those aside. So the first step has to be, you know, to be uncomfortable. We have to learn to be uncomfortable with some of the things that we're altogether too comfortable with. And that's something to be interested in. Because it's messy. Because it's messy, yeah. So whenever something is messy, then that's, oh, here's something I get to look at. Wonderful. And to put it on kind of a personal level, for me, I've already mentioned vainglory as being, I've identified it. That was part of the job of getting to know the self. Then what do you do about it? You start figuring out what practices am I engaged in on a daily basis that feed it? And one of the scary stories I heard about vainglory one time was a surgeon who couldn't help himself. At the end of the day in the hospital after doing surgeries all day, he rushed over to see if he had beat all the other doctors


in terms of how many he pulled off. Vainglory can be dangerous to oneself and others. And vainglory has a very strong temptation to lie. You know, the vainglorious person can't bear to be seen in a bad light, a negative light, because that constitutes failing to get the love a person is seeking. So then I began to have to get aware of, am I tempted to prevaricate here and there to keep myself from looking in a bad light? Somebody mentioned to me that they appreciated my candor. That's a practice. Yes, it totally is. It's a way of diffusing that temptation always to look in the best light. And it's been a very effective way to do that, both in writing and in speaking. So that's what I'm talking about, if that makes sense, to begin to identify those things and then start working with them,


not as an antagonist. I think one of the big steps in life for me in terms of this vainglory thing is I always looked back on my child self as disgusting. Because when you're vainglorious, you're always wanting to get better and better and better. So when you look back, oh gee, who is that wretched creature? And one day I was able to look back and say, poor little thing. And that was a big major step for me. Yes? I was just given some tips, I guess, in the past in introspection. It was to observe yourself as if you were standing on a balcony and watching yourself. And give yourself an honest sense of not what you think of you are, but who you really are. Yes, right. Which they would say is the essence of humility. To see yourself as you are, that's very difficult. Not this kind of grandiose thing, not this abject worm


who revels in their own awfulness and shame, but just who you are. How hard is that? Getting back to Thomas Keating, with the meditative processes, people are often shocked to see the kind of things that emerge during the meditation. And again, isn't it interesting? So, if you leave with one thing, you need to have a sense of interest about this. Because it may be a new discovery to you, but it's not news to God. Or the people around you. Or the people around you, exactly. All you had to do was ask. More than happy to tell you. The next question. I'm just going to say, the Holy Spirit is right there, always ready to reveal to us, our true selves. So if we get in the habit of asking, Jesus, what do you think about this?


What is up with this? Why am I reacting this way? He will reveal what it is. But I have to be honest enough and willing to ask, what do you think about this? It's a big deal to us. We don't always really... I'm pretty sure I don't. One of my sisters, I think I mentioned her to you, is the wife of a pastor of a gigantic mega church. A senior pastor. The church has ten pastors. That's a big church. So she has spent her entire adult life totally in the limelight. And being a lifetime Protestant, she told me one time, I just don't know how you people go to confession. She said, I sat and thought and thought and thought, I can't think of a single thing that I would need to confess. I said, okay. You're in the right church. I know that you are working really, really hard to be good, Gretch.


But you might want to pray about that. Ask God to show you if there is anything you might need to confess. She told me later that within that week, she'd had a dream where she was sitting in the front row of an auditorium filled with people. There was a movie going. It was about her and her life. She saw everything. She said it was the most horrifying experience. So be careful what you dream. She now understands the purpose of confession. I have one more comment. Yes. When you said the Desert Fathers, they used ritual, fasting, chastity, poverty. I think we can incorporate that in our lives today. Yes. So, and then those things will reveal a lot. Have you tried any of them? Well, I'm married, so no. So they definitely trials, right? I have had experiences of being jobless.


So that teaches you a lot about yourself and what is important. And my husband, or my husband lost his job. And that was a very good experience and a gift to us. And the fasting, yes, I'm always working online. You know, that kind of thing. Eliminating things. Fasting for a weekend. Nothing drastic. It does teach you about yourself. I found out I was addicted to salt. And it was a true addiction. I had no idea. I was in such deep denial about it. Because my blood pressure was starting to go up. And a doctor told me, You might want to stay away from salt. And I said, I don't eat processed foods. I don't know where I'm getting this salt. And I had an acupuncturist say, You have swelling in your back.


You might want less salt. And I was like, okay. I'm going to try not adding salt when I make food. Then it dawned on me. I had a salt shaker in my hand for everything. And so I stopped adding salt. And I started tasting food. And I was like, oh, an apple is sweet. Because I would put salt on the apples. Salt on everything. Oh, so this is what Brussels sprouts taste like. And then you went for the salt. But what you just said in a kind of symbolic way can apply also to, you know, living our life in a deeper, more spiritual way. Once these kind of little crutches and handicaps start getting identified and brushed aside, suddenly you're tasting life at a much deeper level, right?


Yeah, it can come through. Somebody had a hand up over here. Yes, Dave. The whole essence of this for me, and it's probably because of where I'm at, is you mentioned humility. Because it seems like humility is at the root of what's wrong with me anyway. Almost everything that's sinful. And so if I get involved in something I'm doing, and then I think, you know, I really didn't act the way I think I should have been. If I put that to prayer, if I sit and think about that, or I wake up at two in the morning, all of a sudden it dawns on me how I wasn't humble. And I want to know why I acted the way I was. You could just look there. So as far as that being relevant to this age, absolutely, very much so. Well, maybe even more so, because basically we're urged to our own horns in this era.


I mean, you almost have to yell to be heard, because there's so many other voices already raised. You know, just visit the Internet. Look in the comm boxes on the Internet. Everybody's kind of prancing around saying their piece. And we feel like if we don't do that, we're just going to get steamrolled right over. You know, who's going to listen to us if we never talk and we never... All the popularity of Facebook. Yeah. Does that not count? Sure. Yeah, exactly. You need to brand out yourself to other people. Exactly. Most of us don't. No, it's very true. We have many opportunities, you know, to actually have the opposite of humility fostered in us by the type of culture we live in. You know, you were talking about different kinds of fasting and giving things up. One of the ways that we talk about it in our congregation these days is that we're working to practice elected simplicity. So, you know, because poverty has, you know, sometimes a bad...


You know, people shouldn't necessarily be poor. But if we think in terms of, you know, choosing to be simple in various aspects of our life, you know, that's an important practice. And then that applies to so many things. Everything. Social life, possessions, attitudes towards money, all of that stuff. And schedules. Yes, like for me, you know, roughing it is a four-star hotel. So when I practice elective simplicity, then I go to a three-star. So I can't talk you into backpacking. You've got to. You know what, it's already 5.53. Okay, and the bell's going to ring in a moment. Yes, so we should let you go. But tomorrow we'll pick it up where we left off and we'll really try to focus the most on this last one. That's right.