Philip Yancey, a noted Theologian writer and editor of Christianity Today magazine recently wrote a book entitled, Soul Survivor; How My Faith Survived the Church. In it, he describes his personal struggle to reclaim his belief in Christianity after growing up in a southern racist church environment that he now sees at cultish. This book, his latest, pays tribute to individuals who have helped Yancey transform his life and work. The thirteen “mentors” identified vary from novelists to leaders to researchers. What they all have in common are similar spiritual roots that have helped guide their chosen paths; and the inspirational motivation to make a difference. It’s an illuminating read.
One of the individuals that Yancey devotes a chapter to is Frederick Buechner – a contemporary who is also an author and lecturer. As an adult, Buechner chose to study to become a Presbyterian Minister while he was a struggling novelist, after attending a church in his locale and experiencing a moment during a sermon that altered his life path. It is Buechner that I resonated with the most.
Buechner's purpose in his writing and teachings seems to be to encourage the reader to ponder more deeply the meaning of their own lives. He does this through personal examples of his life experiences. The fact that he chose a religious path as an adult also intrigues me as I evaluate and consider my own path. Though I have only just "met" the man, I am struck by some of his accessible messages. He already has me pondering..........which of course affects my ability to concentrate on the other duties of the day! This is a true conundrum because he states:
"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less that in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and the heart of it because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."
Ponder, ponder..........think, think..........wonder, wonder..........wander, wander..........
And while I'm busy preoccupied and lost in thought, I've missed out on the moments that Buechner refers to! Ah well. And to think I was a multi-tasker.
Another quote that I have resonated with is:
"Everybody prays whether you think of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket burst over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else's pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself."
Praying.............it always seemed so foreign and ritualistic to me. I have never been comfortable praying en masse with a congregation, or consciously praying on my own when I felt I needed to find strength. When I read this passage, I realized that my expression of emotion, whether it was outward or inward is an expressional prayer. I like that. It makes me feel like I belong even though I may go about connecting with a higher power in a unconventional way, and that's alright.
When I read the following passage, I knew I wanted to learn more from this man. He states:
"Pay mind to your own life, you own health and wholeness. A bleeding heart is of no help to anyone if it bleeds to death."
Buechner has written 30 books, some fictional and some memoirs. I'm looking forward to delving into some of them, gathering more ideas to ponder, think, wonder and wander about. Now, if I could only figure out how to do that, AND take in all of life's adventures and daily routine activities at the same time.