Do Saints Set Goals?

A couple of my favorite sayings come from Mary, the mother of God, from the book “The City of God” by Mary of Jesus of Agreda and from one that I attribute to Joseph Prince, a television evangelist. The one from Mary says, “Be taught by faith, but governed by inspiration” and the one from Joseph Prince says, “Let me step into your (God’s) abundant supply and ride the wave of your (God’s) anointing.” I often use these reflections in prayer to allow my mind to be lifted from the mundane to the celestial.

Recently I was reflecting on what I intend to do with my time when I start my retirement from teaching in June, so I thought I would do some goal setting to help me accomplish my intentions. I wrote these goals in my journal and have visited them several times since then, revising them as needed. I have always been a proponent of goal setting because it seems clear to me that once a realistic goal has been set, our conscious and unconscious decisions help us to strive to reach these goals. I have often taught my students the value of goal setting, especially for those students that had the opportunity to participate in skills competitions in carpentry, plumbing, brick and block masonry and various leadership contests. Many of these students were very successful and I attribute some of that success to setting realistic goals. And I’m sure many of you have seen examples or are examples of success partly due to goal setting.

I have been recently re-reading “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis and have reviewed or rethought the idea of putting on the mind of Christ, and the passages that say “I have come to give you a more abundant life,” and “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Or several other examples where Jesus has said we should be transformed into a son of God. We don’t do that for ourselves and as a matter of fact there is nothing we can do to merit such a transformation. It is only available to us if we say yes to God’s love and accept Jesus as our savior and Lord. He does the transforming when we totally surrender our will to Him.

If this is the case, which I believe it is, why would it be necessary for us to set goals when we have supposedly given away everything to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loves us more than we can love ourselves? When we submit our will to Him, He doesn’t just make some improvements, He transforms us 100% into sons and daughters of God. He finishes the transformation either in this life or the one to come, so that we can stand pure before our God the Father.

However, it’s one thing to say we submit our will to God and another, for it to be a reality in our lives. As a matter of fact, for me and many of us Christians the most difficult part of becoming Holy is to let go of our egoism and submit our will to God, even though we desire to do so. It is something that we have to work at every day, if not every moment to moment. Sometimes I think it would be great if God would in one swift blow, make that happen in our lives so we wouldn’t have to struggle with it so much. But again, we have to realize that is not what God has in mind for us. With His grace, He wants us to overcome ourselves, to struggle, to fall, to ask for forgiveness, to start again and persevere. It takes discipline and in my opinion, more discipline than any other successful activity. And even then, if we have developed a disciplined life, it’s because of His grace and it is God who transforms us, not we who transform ourselves. We have to remember the words of the priest on Ash Wednesday when he traces the sign of the cross on our foreheads, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Dust does not have transforming power.

Another analogy that Lewis uses to explain the process of becoming sons and daughters of God is pretense. Just like children, when in their play, they pretend they will be firemen, doctors, carpenters, priests, etc. when they grow up, we Christians hope to become what God is calling us to be and we pretend by our thoughts and actions to be sons of God. For example when we pray to God, we use the words Jesus taught us, “Our Father….” But more importantly, God Himself pretends that we are His sons long before we are, in fact, holy because of the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The perfect love sees Jesus, not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our brother, which makes us co-heir with Jesus as His adopted sons. When we understand our right relationship with God, it’s easy to reflect on,”Let me step into your abundant supply and ride the wave of your anointing.” It’s a powerful meditation.

So we recognize that we are called to be sons of God, God pretends we are, we pretend we are, and In our nothingness God transforms us overtime to be such, if we strive to submit our will to Him. I’m in, how about you?

Now how do we respond to the issue of goal setting? Even though in the end, God has our back, so to speak, He is expecting our best. Jesus was a man of action and the saints that have followed His way are likewise men of action. Our spiritual heroes didn’t become saints by sitting around and just praying, although I’m sure they did that as well. No, their lives reflected their commitment to God and their service to His people; building hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc. I don’t know any saints personally, but I have read biographies of more than a few and I bet that goal setting wrapped in prayer was a mainstay in their spirituality. I think we can look at goal setting as part of God’s plan for us to be better versions of ourselves, an inspiration. The discipline required of us to reach our goals can be a tool to help us further the larger discipline of living a life of faith. So the obvious answer for me is that saints and want to be saints set goals to live an extraordinary life and can be one response to Mary’s plea to “Be taught by faith and governed by inspiration.”

HIS and ours

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The idea for this carving has been on my mind for over a year and was inspired by a similar piece portraying hands by J. Christopher White. I chose a walnut log that was harvested from my son-in-law, Jake’s, dad’s place. It was approximately 18 inches in diameter and 24 inches tall. DSC02647I made a model using wire for a suspended ceiling and a couple of rubber kitchen gloves filled with play-dough. As you can see from the photo, it is rather crude, but it helps with the initial chain sawing process because there is so much negative wood that needs to be eliminated.

This carving, with God’s grace, is going to reflect Jesus’s hand extending down from a crown of thorns to our hand reaching up from the depths of our sins. DSC02654

In this photo you can begin to see the hands,(mittens at this point) emerging from the top and bottom of the log.

I’m always amazed that the initial phases of the carving are so crude for so long and how during the carving process I’ll find elation in how it’s progressing some days and on other days, I almost feel like I’m wasting my time because … well, for multiple reasons; the proportioning is not exactly right, a piece breaks off and needs to be glued, I break several inner shafts in my rotary tools, it is taking way too long, nobody is going to want it, I know I should be finishing my previous carving and the list goes on and on.DSC02656

From this list of negatives, you may say to yourself, how does he stay with the carving? The answer to that is ….the elation I feel on the good days goes a long way to overcoming the negatives. The thought of the possibility that I may, with God’s grace, create a sculpture that will give Him glory and that it may elicit in others, a positive emotion about God and His relationship with us, are the reasons that I persevere.

This carving experience is probably somewhat how God looks at us. God knows…. that we all have multiple defects when compared to His perfection. Yet, He never gives up on us. As a matter of fact He loves us more than we can fathom, in spite of our failings. He hungers for us and pursues us so that we might be in a personal relationship with Him; a communion similar to the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Can you imagine our God loving us in this way? Yet He does! And as we come to know Him, we reciprocate our love for Him. And I would imagine that these small inconsequential acts of love toward God are what keeps God hanging in there with us in a similar way as I persevere on my creations in spite of all the negative emotions and situations that occur during the carving process. And I’ve learned over time, that the finished carving will eventually perish, but the graces I received and the virtues that I practiced in the creation of this carving is what will prevail.DSC02682

Here you can see that I’ve been working on weaving the crown of thorns around the perimeter of the top of the log.

As you can see from the photos, I have a ways to go yet, but the piece is progressing because God has given me the patience and desire to overcome the difficulties. At one point during the process, the entire piece split into two separate pieces and I joined them together again with glue. This is one of the problems with using logs, like I do. But I’ve come to anticipate these difficulties and don’t get upset when they do occur.

So this sculpture is a reflection of God’s love for us. In spite of our sinfulness and brokenness, God reaches out to us with His Son’s hand, a hand that was nailed to a tree, to lift us up so that one day we can experience the fullness of His love in heaven for eternity.

The finished sculpture from the top downimg_1663

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