I thought I had a commitment tonight, but it turned out it was canceled, so I seized the opportunity to enjoy a warm summer evening outdoors. I went down to Centennial Park, the closest thing that Nashville has to a "city park", which is really quite lovely. It includes a reproduction of the Parthenon (random, but I am not kidding). But what I appreciate more are its pretty gardens, large winding pond, and weeping willows. There is a walking path that circles the circumference of the park, and I especially enjoy walking that path; it reminds me of one of my favorite spots in DC -- the Constitution Garden.
Today I brought a book with me to Centennial Park, and was filled with delight to find of of the wooden glider/swings overlooking a garden area open and calling my name. I spent a wonderful half an hour rocking on the swing, simultaneously reading Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts"
It's interesting, because today I ended up reading passages that book, as well as another book, which were uncannily similar. These sections both focused on the theme of relinquishing our own agendas, so that there is room for the joy that God seeks to give us. I wanted to share these passages here. Perhaps they will challenge and encourage you too.
"How is it that we can be so second-rate in the lives which we have chosen to lead, when in our calmest and truest moments we know that we are capable of the heights? Nearly always it is because we have chosen the lives we lead - or the way of leading them - and have not allowed God to do the choosing for us.
The mistake lies in refusing to look at the alternative that we do not want. We prefer to do our own will, even though it involves a second-rate performance, than to do the will of God which carries with it the promise of holiness and happiness. We know only our own desire: we know only our own desire: happiness and holiness can look after themselves." ~ Dom Hubert Van Zeller, O.S.B., The Inner Search
and then from Ann Voskamp:
"Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand....The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy - nothing else...Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life of material comfort? A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering? A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences? Are there times that a sense of entitlement - expectations - is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?
...All these years, all these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy's fragile flame from the blasts. But palms curled in protective fists fill with darkness, I feel that sharply, even in this...and this realization in all its full emptiness: My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy.
...Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks...Fullness of joy is only discovered through the emptying of the will." ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts