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Donald Schell

Emily, I'd been thinking about God and choice and trusting that something bigger and loving wills our good and how that seems to interfere with our choices. And I had a corny moment of thinking of the film Groundhog Day. The news jerk, Bill Murray's character, is in a kind of purgatory of facing the same choice over and over and over. And he freely engages it in almost every possible way. And ultimately he decides on his own to move toward kinds of compassion that he would have scorned as he was. But he gets there freely. Might it give us a hint of Infinite Compassion meeting willful freedom again...and again...and again...as freedom finds it way to saying 'yes'?

Emily Scott


Would you believe that I've never seen Groundhog Day? This seems to me to be close to sinful, considering how holy so many of my friends hold that film! I'll have to get it...and from what you say I'm sure holds plenty of good comedic wisdom.

The funny thing about the lack of choice, is that I'd never have it any other way. Which is exactly why there isn't a choice, but is exactly why I sometimes feel choiceless. But that brings me right back to the beginning...this is how it needs to be.

Thank you for your comment.


Donald Schell

Another 'don't get to choose' circumstance that may be relevant is in improv theater. 'Never refuse an offer' is one of the principles of improv, so fully engaged in improv, whatever your stage partners make up, you take it and go forward. If it's someone running up to you and saying, 'aliens have just landed,' it doesn't move the improv forward to deny or correct the offer.

Day to day, we refuse offers all the time.

But maybe doing improv with God, God just keeps making the next offer, whether we've taken the one before or not. God makes an offer - an opportunity, an invitation, even something that moves or excites me, and maybe I want to say, 'no, not now, not this way, etc.' Maybe God makes the same offer again. Maybe another offer. No stop.

And then? Are we getting to choose or not? The 'not' part is that infinite love, infinite compassion, infinite patience may feel like a streamroller.

Your call certainly does make sense - now and in this just right context.


Emily Scott

Yes, and I think one of the most thrilling things about improvising is having the feeling that you're getting on a train with know choice and no clue about where it might go. It's that moment when you just have to give up control of the entire process, shrug your shoulders, ad see where you end up. Giving up control to God has been a huge theme for me the last year and a half. It's incredibly freeing, yet I still find myself resisting it all the time, because it has that feeling of being on a runaway train. Thrilling and scary.

Ivo Richaers

sorry to break in half a month later. I was reading your text and the comments. Firstly it is inspiring to see that we all struggle with the universality of life's challenges (to use your words). In a way I really understand you and in a way, my interpretation is different.
To me one always has a choice - to follow that inner voice or not -- and to respond with all your heart or not -- to listen and/or act upon the fear you feel with such an impuls etc.

In improv (great analogy!) I have always found that there is a certain point where you get into the "flow" -- something seems to take over. Or better yet, something deep inside you governs what you do - and it mostly turns out beautiful! It seems as if your subconscious or your instinct is much more powerful than your conscious, rational mind.
Though I have to say something similar can happen when you teach, or even in a meeting or presentation or just doing your desk job. No matter what you do in life, doing it will all your heart - with all that you are, means listening to that voice inside.
That doesn't mean you don't have a choice, I feel like you do. It means this is where you feel yourself to be at home. That's where you work best, where who you are blooms most powerful. And that automatically leads (in my mind) to a deep sense of compassion, to a form of love that is both of the earth and of the breath (to quote your other sermon) - a form of agape in all its universality...

I suppose it all depends on how you experience yourself and the notion of choosing...
to me God is not an external force governing everyone. Not someone out there who thinks about how to shape us or how to shape the world. That's why I never understood pre-destination (because that would count me out and turn me into one of those wind-up toys). To me it is important that Divinity lies in me (and in all of us). Reaching out to the divine is reaching inward deeper than I would dare to go normally.

The reaction of a theological amateur...I realise that, but still I felt like I wanted to react. Your text and comments did inspire - so thank you!


Emily Scott

Ivo, let me assure you, you're in no way a theological amateur! I love what you've written here, especially the line, "reaching out to the divine is reaching inward deeper than I would dare to go normally." There's something about God (or the divine) that's both located outside us and within us, both internal and external. I feel that all the time.

I just wonder if, when we don't follow that compass or voice, or start saying no and resisting instead of saying yes, if we begin to dig ourselves into a deep and difficult place. Maybe it's all part of the cycle and the spiral...interesting to think about...

Ivo Richaers

maybe we're not as far apart as I thought Emily.
And I suppose to a certain extent - having to listen to that internal voice is quite similar to not having a choice. But is liking vanilla ice cream similar as not having a choice when you're in the ice cream shop? Silly comparison maybe, but somehow, knowing what you want is an enourmous blessing. And not the same as not having a choice -- that is your choice. Maybe it's a matter of semantics.
Inspiring to think of though!

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