April 2008

Dear sisters and brothers,

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. Foster is a minister from the Quaker tradition, but he has no difficulty drawing from the full breadth of Christian tradition; I've read several of his books and can recommend them all. Not surprisingly, in this current book he refers to St. Francis more than once! This book has a lot of food for thought, from small things we can all consider doing up to the prophetic (not to say extreme) actions to which only a few may be called.

Foster makes the excellent point that simplicity is not solely, or even primarily, about externals. A lot of the book is about singleness/simplicity of heart, mind, and soul; God's will is not only first, it is the ONLY thing...and all else unfolds from there.

However, my intent was not primarily to give a book report (as you may find if you read the book and don't recognize my points above!). Rather, I tried one small action from the book and wanted to share it with you. Foster mentioned setting out to pray for everyone he met for a day. Naturally, he left for work and then realized he hadn't prayed for his family at the breakfast table! I decided that this was something small enough and concrete enough for me to try.

So...I went to work with this resolve. I didn't see anyone immediately, which made it easier. Of course, in hindsight I should have been praying for everyone in the cars I passed in traffic. Praying for people makes it harder to think and say nasty things about them at the same time, I'm finding.

When I went for a walk at lunchtime, I passed a lot of total strangers and worked at raising them to God in prayer. I started noticing the truth of the old saying that prayer changes US not God. I started feeling as though I should be smiling at people instead of just passing by. (Smiling at strangers may be a little weird for the workplace...we'll see about that.) I started thinking about what it would mean to pray for anyone who called me...whom I happened to think of during the day...for the people who really, really annoyed me... Yes, this puts a different perspective on how I approach other people!

I found that it was very difficult to be mindful of this while I was actively interacting with someone. At least I could pray for them afterwards, when I remembered.

So far, this was an experiment for a day. I'm not sure Foster continued his experiment long-term either. It does seem like a pretty Franciscan thing to do, though, and definitely could help me work on my attitude toward some of the people I have difficulty with. Just another baby step on the journey...

Your sister, Vickie