Thursday, December 16, 2010

"the things Christians do"

Never try to write a blog entry on “spiritual practices” while eating homemade tiramisu liberally soaked in Kahlua. I learned that this evening. Who says you cannot learn new things as you age?

Spiritual practices, though, are not one of those new things… not for me, anyway. My family didn’t call them “spiritual practices”, of course. My mother called them “the things Christians do.”

The major one was called “Sunday worship – EVERY Sunday.” This really pissed me off when I was a teen. It saved my life after my divorce.

Another one was called “nightly prayers” when we were forced to name before God the many we loved… and some of the ones we didn’t. I suppose morning prayers would have started the day off better but not being allowed to go to sleep before prayers were said had a very salubrious effect, too.

Memorizing scripture was really big. And I didn’t do it for the coloured stickers you would get for the decorative certificate, suitable for framing (and hung on my wall for a decade or two). Really… I didn’t. The King James poetry still resonates in moments of peace or anxiety.

If you know my family, you know we sang. If it was Sunday morning it was gospel songs along with Jim Reeves. If it was on summer vacation in the station wagon between radiator meltdowns it was whatever hymns we could remember, which were many, sprinkled with ‘50s bubblegum and the chart-breaking early Beatles before they grew their hair too long and wore blue jeans.

In first year university I found a very quiet, dusty corner in the basement of Main Library, UBC, where hand-written scrolls from Augustine’s time must have been stored, and each day before class read The Gospel of John, word by torturous word, along with that faithful guide, Raymond Brown. I kept notes, basically rewriting Brown in my many notebooks.

After marriage while still a student, living in a subsidized basement suite with a one evening a week paycheck and a few odd jobs between us, my wife and I decided to start tithing. It did not amount to much in those days. The ten percent seemed like a real breeze, though, compared to our childhood practice where 15 cents of my 25 cent weekly allowance had to go into the collection plate. I guess it really was “practice” for the day when it might mean something, maybe even something spiritual. I am still practicing… at the Biblical rate, not the childhood one!

Now I live on my own and am on pretty good terms with silence. The tv is only on for the occasional Canucks game. I long ago decided not to answer the phone – Jesus didn’t need one, why should I? I have no dog and my plants just whisper politely when they need attention. I have a decent reflective, meditative interior life or I would not have a life at all. None if this feels particularly spiritual – it is just life.

What makes the difference for me are “the things that Christians do”: regular community worship, prayer, hymn singing (with a smattering of The Beatles), scripture study, tithing… eating tiramisu with a grateful heart

Shalom, Doug Goodwin

1 comment:

  1. I think you are quite right, Doug. We must take care that we don't miss the "mystery" in the "ordinary". There is spiritual practice in being attentive to the "whispering" of thirsty plants or the sound of gentle waves breaking on the sandstone shore. Hmmm, now that you mention it, I too remember a rather large "tithe" on my 25 cent allowance. :)