Imitation of Christ Book 1 Chapter 11

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Book 1 -Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life

Chapter 11 Of Seeking Peace of Mind and of Spiritual Progress

Summary

How do you get peace? That’s an age old question that is still being asked today.  Everyone wants peace.  Ironically, peace isn’t something that falls into your lap. It’s not something you deserve or something that is a shadow – always being chased but never actually obtained.

Peace, like much else in the world, requires effort.  You have to want it bad enough to work for it.

  1. Don’t worry about everyone else’s business.  It’s not your concern. Worry about yourself.
  2. Pray
  3. Don’t love the stuff in this world. Honestly, the time here on earth is so short – eternity is so long!
  4. Cling to God – think about Him often
  5. Don’t be content to be lukewarm. Conquer those sin habits.  Start today with one.
  6. When trouble comes, don’t run to the world (i.e. food, entertainment, drugs) for comfort.  Run to God.
  7. It’s not about doing the right things the right ways.  Right outward actions don’t bring peace.
  8. God is going to help you. Believe that. Stand firm
  9. Look back six months or a year ago – you should see growth in your life. Don’t be stagnate or worse.
  10. Begin today to break a bad habit or no to your will.  Start small.  It will make a difference.

If we really understood how great it would be to be peaceful and how much joy we would bring to those around us, we would embrace the effort necessary.

Head in the Sand

head-in-sandI’ve never written about this before, I just haven’t even really wanted to talk about it.  When something isn’t going well, I am

very ostrich-like; I prefer to stick my head in the sand and ignore the said problem.  That’s the approach I’ve taken for the last fifteen years since I was originally diagnosed with pathological myopia or myopic degeneration. Until three years ago, this approach worked fairly well for me. I knew I had an eye disease, but it didn’t affect me on a daily basis. Due to high myopia (-17.50 and –15.50) I needed glasses or contacts to function, but I had been wearing glasses since I was four. This was no big deal.  Other than the occasional blind or blank spot due to the retinal tearing – which would require an emergency visit to a retinal specialist -life was normal.

I developed visual disturbances in the peripheral vision of both eyes. It would look like a ceiling fan was spinning on the outside vision of both eyes. I began to develop floaters, which were a nuisance, but didn’t affect my daily life.  I was diagnosed with cataracts, but assured they were baby ones and wouldn’t need to be removed for years.

About seven years ago, I developed a complication called Choroidal neovascular membrane or CNVM for short.  Basically, the eye realizes it isn’t healthy and so it tries to grow new blood vessels to help the eye. This causes numerous complications which are treated with Avastin injections.

Now, when I would notice a blank or blind spot the appointments usually involved an additional step of torture. After the routine dilation and multiple doctors shining bright lights into my eyes and then pictures and more pictures of the retina, an off-label cancer drug would be injected into my eye. And, yes – it is very painful. It brought the term “stick a needle in my eye” to a whole new level.  I would lose the vision in the affected eye for up to four days, the eye would swell and turn red and hurt like crazy. The upside to the injection was that the sudden and permanent vision loss that would have been inevitable five years earlier, was being able to be treated.

To date, I’ve received three injections in my left eye and six in my right.   Even at this point, I still was functioning normally and I just didn’t want to be different or limited. So, I acted like all this was  normal. I knew and accepted that sometime in the distant future I may have low vision or blindness, but it felt like a distant concern – I was still in my 30’s and felt a degree of invincibility. Or maybe I felt like God was putting me through this trial – but He would heal me or not allow it to progress to those extremes.

Three years ago I noticed blurriness in my left eye when I was reading. Thinking I needed new contacts, I innocently made an appointment with a contact lens doctor and believed that this issue would be resolved in a few weeks. After a harrowing summer of at least ten appointments, this doctor couldn’t correct my eye. She tried – but I was left with contacts that made me feel like I was in the  county fair, looking at those funny mirrors.  Words would come in and out of focus when I tried to read, which was a nightmare for a teacher.  I began to wonder if this was the best I would ever see.  Lines became wavy and I began to learn I couldn’t trust what I saw.

A year later, I was referred to an excellent doctor who was able to correct some of the focus issues, but she still couldn’t correct the vision in the left eye. It was attributed to presbyopia or my eyes’ ability to not focus well up close.  And yes, at forty years old, that wasn’t too early for this to occur. I was convinced my lazy eye from my childhood had affected this.  I was patched from age 4 to age 12 when I refused to wear the patch anymore.  Here I was at 40 thinking it was my fault for not wearing the patch more. It wasn’t until just a month ago I learned the amblyopia I had as a child didn’t affect this at all.

In May of this year, I was driving home after dark at night and was struggling to make sense of the taillights in front of me.  Instead of seeing the usual two, I was seeing eight. The traffic light was four lights and not one.  I was concerned because fall was coming and I would need to see after dark to drive my children to various activities.  I quickly made an appointment with the retinal doctor who confirmed it was a contact lens problem.  I remember explaining to the receptionist at the contact lens doctor that I couldn’t wait two months for an appointment, I needed to get new contacts a.s.a.p. – so I could drive at night.

My denial had to stretch the patience of my kind doctor. She tried and tried and tried to eliminate the triple vision I was seeing when I looked at lights.  I was so persistent and with an hour drive each way to see her, I spent many summer days challenging her to fix my problem.  She graciously sent me back to the retinal specialist.

That appointment was the first I really understood what was going on.  The doctor showed me pictures of my retina and explained the left eye had some buckling due to the progress of the disease.  That was most likely causing the wavy lines I see.  The double/triple vision was due most likely to a bleed I had very close to my central vision.  The likelihood of my vision in my left eye being corrected to anything better than 20/50 with double/triple vision was slim to none.  I couldn’t believe my ears that day. Weren’t they going to fix this? Didn’t they understand I CAN’T SEE???  I wouldn’t be able to drive at night – didn’t they realize how this was an inconvenience for me – for my family? I needed to see at night to drive to lead Bible studies and take my kids to soccer and youth group. I didn’t want it for selfish reasons. This really wasn’t happening, was it?

The retinal specialist gave me a referral to another specialist to rule out muscle issues.  He felt the chances of it being that were slim, but at this point, they needed to leave no stone unturned.  He also mentioned the possibility of a laser surgery to see if that would correct some of the issues the contacts couldn’t.  Small bits of hope.  I’ll see the muscle specialist on Wednesday of this week.  I’m so scared because I don’t want to hear more bad news.  Remember the ostrich.  I think I’d rather not know.

Imitation of Christ Book 1 Chapter 10

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Book 1 -Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life

Chapter 10 Of the Danger of Superfluity of Words

 

Summary

We need to be careful with our words.  Gossip hurts others. These are very true truths.  Much of the remainder of the chapter had stoic overtones. Just as in chapter eight, I’d love for you to take a peak at it yourself and let me know what you think.

Here are my thoughts: God has given us friends to comfort us and refresh our spirit.  It is important that our conversations be focused on God and good things.  Here are some verses I found helpful.

Phil. 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

1 Tim. 6:17 “ Charge those who are rich in this world that they be not haughty, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy”

Prov 25:25 “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

James 3:3-6 “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Imitation of Christ Book 1 Chapter 8

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Book 1 -Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life

Chapter 8 Of the Danger of too Much Familiarity

 

Summary

I struggled with this chapter, and I’ll tell you why. I couldn’t think of any Scriptures to back up what he was saying.  I know this book was written in the 1300’s and stoicism was a common belief in that time. At any rate, I’d love for you to read the chapter yourself and let me know if I’m missing something.

I do think that we should always bring glory to God in all we do, including our conversations and relationships.  And, of course, you need to be careful who you share what with. If someone doesn’t have your best interest in mind, your words can cause you pain down the road.  Seek God’s approval – not man’s.

 

 

Imitation of Christ Book 1 Chapter 7

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Book 1 -Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life

Chapter 7  Of fleeing from vain hope and pride

 

Summary

It is so easy to do what comes natural to us – look out for #1. There are may reasons we think we should be treated as #1. Often we think we  have more power or influence, have more money, strength, knowledge, beauty or skill than someone else.  It is a very scary think to esteem ourselves based on the gifts God, our Creator and Sustainer, has bestowed upon us.  All of the earthly things that make us feel lofty are going to fade.

Hope in God – the one who gives every good gift.  We are created beings – we didn’t make ourselves.  Seriously, right? But, we act like it.  At least I do.  I prance around as if I own and deserve the next breath and the next one and the next one. When, if fact, each is a gracious gift from God.

Who am I to judge another? God knows the heart of each one. How much better to think of others more than yourself and have God pleased with you than to think of yourself first and have God not pleased. Kempis sums it up well. “It is no harm to thee if thou place thyself below all others; but it is great harm if thou place thyself above even one. Peace is ever with the humble man, but in the heart of the proud there is envy and continual wrath.” Crazy, isn’t it? I need to put others first and I will find peace. Doing what comes natural and looking out for #1 leads to envy and continual wrath.