Today’s Lectio Divina:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12: 1-2 (MsgB)
Ignatian Truth #7: Ignatian spirituality is all about Holistic Spirituality. We intentionally focus on inward feelings, emotions, and desires, but we also live our lives in balance; tending to the body, the mind, and the spirit…our actions, our thoughts, and our feelings.
The NIV Bible translates this verse in today’s reading (Romans 12: 2) as being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Last time, we discussed the importance of the human body in Ignatian Spirituality. To Ignatius, one who believed God to be actively involved in all things, it would be inconceivable for a true follower of Christ to be focused on the spirit alone, forgetting the importance of this human body we’ve been given by God. No…to him, and other 16thcentury reformers like Martin Luther, there is absolutely no separation between the secular and the sacred. Just as God is spirit, so God is incarnate…God in flesh.
I believe Eugene Peterson does a marvelous job with his Message Bible transliteration of Paul’s strong wholistic message found in Romans 12: 1-2. You see, it’s never good enough for Christ-followers to be caught up in the things of God while letting earthly matters go to hell in a handbasket. As Jesus prays for His disciples (see John 17), He asks the Father that His friends be protected from the evil one while they are living in this world. Thus, the expression, “Be in this world, but not of it” has originated out of Jesus’ powerful prayer that His disciples never attempt to intentionally remove themselves from this world but be held carefully in the Father’s love as we move and have our being in this present reality.
And to do just that, Paul is absolutely correct when he calls us to:
…don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
In other words, my friends… THINK…for heaven’s sake…THINK!
Seriously, folks, I’ve been in churches where the leaders have advocated checking out of mindful purposes in order to pursue spiritual truth! “Too much education fills your mind with earthly nonsense,” they say, “That’s stinkin’ thinkin’…stick with the Spirit and refuse all that man-made stuff.”
To that line of thinking, might I politely say, “Bah, humbug!”
As I see it, we need more spirit-filled, Christ-loving worldly thinkers who will ponder and pray on earthly matters, and who knows…maybe the God of heaven just might respond by giving a few heavenly solutions to some of our human-sized dilemmas?
Case in point?
Let’s consider, for a moment, the story of George Washington Carver.
Born in Missouri as an African-American slave in 1864, Carver went on to overcome countless obstacles, becoming a well-known American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. His slave owner, Moses Carver, was a German American immigrant who had purchased George’s mother, Mary, and father, Giles, in 1855, for seven hundred dollars. After slavery was abolished in 1865, Moses Carver and his wife, Susan, raised George and his older brother, James, as their own children. They encouraged George to continue his intellectual pursuits, teaching him the basics of reading and writing. In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver’s talent for painting flowers and plants and convinced him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames. He transferred there in 1891, becoming Iowa State’s first black student, and eventually its first black faculty member!
In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to relocate to Alabama, leading the Agriculture Department at the five-year-old Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. It was about that same time when a severe drought hit the South, and when combined with an explosion of the boll weevil population, the cotton crop in Alabama was devastated, leaving many farmers and farm workers destitute.
A devout, God-fearing man his entire life, Carver made a practice of getting up early each morning to have, what George called, his “morning discussion with the Almighty.” One day, as he was pouring out his concerns over the devastation the farmers were facing, he heard the Lord ask him, “George, have you considered the peanut?”
This Divine-given question captured his attention and over the next few months, he began experimenting with what agriculturalists now call “crop rotation,” inviting the farmers in his region to plant peanuts instead of cotton. Low and behold, this change in crops worked, and the boll weevils moved on, leaving the farmers with a huge crop of peanuts. But Carver didn’t stop there. Every day, in his prayer time with God, he’d hear another suggestion of what George might do with all the peanuts his neighbors were harvesting.
Historians now tell us that it was George Washington Carver who developed over three hundred uses for the peanut, including a staple in all of our homes called peanut butter! In one of his speeches given near the end of his life, he gave credit to God for giving him all the clever inventions that are traced back to him.
Not bad for one humble man who decided that education was a good thing and believed that God had a lot to say about the world around him if only given an opportunity by someone who might listen and respond!
My prayer: Father God, I thank You for the ways You come to us, encouraging us to use the mind You gave us. Thank You for the gift of a good education and thank You that as I come to You regularly, You do the good work of transformation that not only prepares me for my long-term future with Christ, but You also can give amazing insight for how I might better live life today. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So, what witty inventions might be awaiting me if I’d take more time in my day, like George Washington Carver did, to chat openly with the Divine Creator? Am I willing to use my mind, investing my talents alongside the work of God, so that more life-changing opportunities might come my way, for the greater glory of God?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!