Recovering from Surgery with a Smile

I suppose one has to be a pessimist to appreciate certain humor in the world, but as I continue recovery from my surgery, and as that experience recedes into the past, I was amused by the twisted logic and reasoning of Cervantes‘ Don Quixote who helps put all things in perspective:

“Allow me to remind you that there is no memory that time does not efface, no pain that death does not destroy.”

Viewed from just the right point of view, one can find something to hold on to!  I guess the surgeon could straighten my spine, but my twisted sense of humor was left intact.   Other sayings which require that particularly twisted sense of logic to appreciate the humor on them:

“I was feeling better, but I got over it.”

“Today will be better than tomorrow.”

“It is never so bad that it can’t get worse.”

I am amused by these statements.  I once heard a Blues’ singer claim that the Blues have a lot of this intentional humor built into them.  Things are so bad and the Blues’ singers try to make them even worse through their lyrics.  He claimed the Blues are not just mournful, but so pathetically mournful that they are actually funny as the various singers try to out do each other on how bad things are or seem or can be.   He said part of the purpose is to make fun of how miserable life can be or to make every experience so ridiculously bad that one has to laugh at how it is being described.

In reality, my experience so far has not been unbearable, thanks be to Christ the Physician and Healer of our souls and bodies.  There is a way to go, and the process is slow.  There is plenty of time to work on repentance and regeneration of a soul weary in well doing.

Why Pray? (III)

This is the 3rd blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.”  The first blog is  “Why Pray? “ and the previous blog is Why Pray? (II).

When prayer is not merely one activity among many that we do, but becomes our way of living in which all we do is to acquire God’s love, then we can pray without ceasing.  When all we do is directed toward God, then all of life is prayer.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Notice how St. Paul does not separate out prayer as an activity unrelated to other aspects of the Christian life.  Things we are to never stop doing:



Giving thanks.

Sometimes we find fellow believers quoting and focusing only on “pray without ceasing” while ignoring the context of St. Paul’s words and his complete message.  Too often there is this idea that prayer is the only activity worthy of Christians, but this is not the teaching of St. Paul.   Prayer is one continuous activity in our lives as believers, but so is rejoicing and giving thanks.  When we forgot all of these elements, we practice a reduction of the Christian faith and of St. Paul’s teaching.

“We must pray that we may be constantly and firmly assured in our hearts that everything we have – both of soul and body, in prosperity and adversity, and all our possessions as well as all the circumstances of our life – come from God, from His Power, and not from nature, or chance, or from ourselves.  If you cease praying to God, you will soon forget your Benefactor, Creator, and Lord, and in forgetting Him you will fall into every evil.  Therefore, you see that prayer always brings you real benefit.”   (St. John of Kronstadt, MY LIFE IN CHRIST, p 128)

When we remember that all things come to us from God, then we learn to give thanks and rejoice in every circumstance.   Prayer is the means by which we can acquire the love of God, but also the way we remember God’s love in and through the world He created for us.  Rejoicing and giving thanks equally with prayer gives us proper orientation toward our God, the God of love.  Prayer restores in us the memory of God and of all of his deeds.

In so doing, by establishing our relationship with God, prayer is also a way to learn, think about and remember virtue – those things which those who know the love of God do in their daily lives.

“Virtues are formed by prayer.  Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit into the soul and raises man to heaven.” (St. Ephraim the Syrian in Orthodox Prayer Life, pgs. 31-32)

Notice how in St. Ephraim’s teaching: prayer helps us in knowing how to live on this earth while simultaneously lifting us to heaven.  Prayer makes God present in our lives.

“With prayer I cleanse the vision of my faith, lest it lose sight of you in the mist, O Most Radiant Star.

“What use will your prayer be to God?” asks the swarthy workers of the earth.

You speak rightly, sons of earth.  What use is the mariner’s telescope to the North Star, when it sees the mariner even without a telescope?  But do not ask me, since you already know what use a telescope is to a mariner.

Prayer is necessary for me, lest I lose sight of the salvation-bearing Star, but the Star does not need it to keep from losing me.”     (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers by the Lake, pg 70)

Prayer keeps us oriented toward and focused on the Triune God of love.

Next:  Why Pray?  (IV)