Posts Tagged ‘iCrucified’
Seasons Change and So Is Me
It’s a different season of devotion for me. It seems this is a continuing cycle, but I’m still trying to figure this “season” out… what it is and what it means to me and for me.
Self-awareness plays a big part in this figuring out. I have always been very “Type-A” the way I pursue life. I am goal and task driven. In my past, I’ve been almost fearless, sometimes a bit reckless, in the way I zealously engaged life. I’m a bit more tempered these days, but there are number of hold-over attributes that I tend to wrestle with as I navigate the life Jesus is leading me. One of those attributes is my tendency to lean into performance-based aspects of my devotional practices. Because I am goal and task driven, I like to have metrics to understand my progress. I have been taught that having real goals means they should be attainable and measurable, so I like to consider my devotional practices and spiritual exercises in this light. For the sake of clarity, when I mention spiritual exercises and devotions, I am referring to things like Bible reading, prayer, fasting, solitude, praise, worship, etc.
With my spiritual practices and my propensity to measure them, I am given pause from time to time and wonder what the basis of my measurement truly is… am I measuring my success in the discipline? Or, is the discipline drawing me closer to God, which I believe, is the desired intent. Perhaps an even greater question is, “How do I truly measure my closeness to God?” Is it a feeling or emotion that can be measured? Is my closeness and devotion to God measured by the manifestation of tangible acts? Is my devotion qualified and quantified by my confidence of relationship through faith?
I might mention that my soul “feels” good, but sometimes my measured devotional practices feel a tad abysmal. This feeling is in comparison or measured against some of my previous years “performances” or my numbered achievements in devotional acts (how much Bible I read and how often, how robust “I think” my prayer life is, how many personal retreats I’ve taken… you get the picture). Are these valid assessments? Maybe. Maybe not. I think it depends on a number of factors. What is the intent of the heat? What is the desired outcome? Who is my audience for the disciplines I pursue??? Me? Others? God alone?
“If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant…” (Gal. 1:10)
I was reading from the Letter to the Galatians while some of the aforementioned thoughts were flitting about in my mind. When I sensed the Holy Spirit ministering to me through the words I share from the Apostle Paul (above).
I felt my response rising within me that I should be careful to remember that I am “people” too (if pleasing people…), and I can easily be caught in the trap of pleasing myself or measuring myself against how I feel or measuring me alongside my expectations for me. This can become a form of narcissism and self-worship as I try to please me over pleasing my God. Lesson: Don’t please me – Please God alone.
The other side of this coin is also important for me to remember. While conviction through the internal witness and guidance of the Holy Spirit is real and necessary for my spiritual development, I can be persuaded to use this conviction and guidance in unhealthy ways. In doing this, I can become a slave to self. I want to remain a slave only to Christ. He alone is the fair and just Master and He alone can be trusted with my soul and my developing self.
“No one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law…” (Gal. 2:16)
While conviction to change and become more like Christ is one of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit, and as a soul in development, I should be ready, surrendered, and obedient to respond rightly to Him, “Being right with God” is found through faith in Christ—and not through the measurements of my spiritual exercises and/or devotional practices. Naturally, tangible fruit (love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, etc.) is born from this relationship of rightness. The opposite is not true and has a great potential to be my spiritual undoing when I pursue the path of works-based righteousness. So… I’m changing. God is making like Jesus through the coaching of the Holy Spirit. I should not cling relentlessly to other seasons I have received great enjoyment from during the life of my Christian journey. Instead, I should be more open to trust the work God is doing today and measure my development on how faithful I am to respond to Him in each successive moment. He leads me always and never leaves me alone. God is with me. God is within me. May Christ be glorified in my every moment in my every breath.
My goodness! It’s been over 3 months since my last post on my blog. That’s a little sad, but this blog is going on fourteen years old and the continuing evolution of my soul and relationship with the Godhead has taken me on a number of twists and turns with respect to life priorities. I’ll share more about this in the coming weeks as I make reentry to the blogosphere, but I thought I’d post this audio file of a sermon I shared yesterday with a sister congregation here in Washington.
This message was timely, in my opinion, especially with regard to the tensions currently felt in our great nation, and most certainly with regard to the political season we presently find ourselves.
The message of our Great God is GOOD! We are Good News People and we should live according to the good news (Gospel) we profess and proclaim. In this message taken from the text of Acts 17, I share how we can model what we learn from the Beroeans and the great Apostle Paul.
I hope you enjoy the message and would love to interact with your thoughts in the comments section here.
It’s Been Awhile
The ether of this world is affecting…
Were it not for the flesh-God, Jesus, I would certainly be lost.
I am thankful that he speaks to me through written words as well as through the pages of my life. God is near, God is here, and God is within me.
I have been absent from my blog for quite some time now. The seasons of life change, moods change, desires change…I could go on, but suffice it to say there has been an unrelenting shift in my psyche and psoule over the past couple years that I have struggled to understand. In fact, I still do not. Understand. There are some things that remain constant in the shifting sands of me, my love for my Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), my longing for His Kingdom Come, my love for my wife and children, and now their children…, my love for learning, my love for God’s Church. These passions and these ever-present foundations of my being are likely the anchors that keep me from coming apart at the seams. Sounds rather dramatic, right? Perhaps it is not dramatic at all, but a reality that reveals the tension I have experienced in my soul this past couple years.
Both are in exile.
The isolation, the alienation,
Create a tension that is real.
I long for my spirit to soar,
My soul eternally set free.
The tensions of my mortality
Contort my being and warp my perspective.
O Incarnate Christ, rescue me by your
Empowering Spirit as I await your return.
As I was writing this soulful expression of my being this morning (above), I was reminded of things I had been previously taught (further affirmation of God’s Spirit in me as this reminder is a promised ministry of the Holy Spirit to “filled” believers). The reminders consisted of the following three ideas:
- God has planted eternity in my soul (Ecc. 3:11 NLT). Because of this eternity in me, I long for eternal union with Him. Consequently, nothing else satisfies me…not even the things that give me the greatest satisfaction on this side of eternity (not life, not wife, not vocation, not anything…). These life-loves can be temporary satisfactions, but the longing of my soul always returns to that which it does not fully experience—Eternal Union with the Godhead. It is good to recognize the source of discontent. It helps me to make sense of my feelings, so I don’t drift into depression and discouragement. This is why spiritual exercises like the Ignatian Examen can be helpful. The examen teaches us to factor in our feelings and emotions as we process the state of our soul as we engage God’s Spirit in us.
- This side of life is tough and might not get easier… I don’t mean for my words to sound nihilistic of fatalistic, but they can be the reality for some people. Still, the reality of a “tough life” doesn’t mean that God is not with us, nor does it mean our hope for our promised Eternal Union with God is lessened by what we experience in our day-to-day living in the here and now. It helps to have an understanding of our circumstances and perspective that keeps us looking forward while faced with opposition that reeks turmoil in all our being. The Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Corinth these following words:
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Cor. 4:8-18 NLT)
- While faith and the real Presence of God through His indwelling Spirit are real and sustaining, I want more and this is okay. I was reminded of a passage that really ministered to my soul about a year and a half ago when my mind and spirit were discouraged. Like I said, this has been going on in me for awhile… The words came from the Book of Numbers (Numbers 24:17). I realize there is context that I am not including in this writing, but the relevance of the words were, I believe, a direct ministry from the Holy Spirit to the needs of my soul…both then and even now.
“I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future.” (Num. 24:17 NLT)
So I wait.
“Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress” –Mahatma Gandhi
“Discontent is the first necessity of progress…” –Thomas Edison
I endeavor with grace provided by the Spirit of God in me to endure the suffering of soul in tension awaiting its Eternal Lover. I am ever grateful for the blessings and gifts God has provided me today. I am deeply and desperately in love with my wife. I am ever blessed with the children God has provided me. I am surrounded by faithful friends who support, affirm, and encourage me always. I have the privilege of expressing my faith and the Word of God in my life’s vocation. On the one side, there is nothing more I could imagine to ask for in this life…and still, it is God himself who has ensured this life will never satisfy me. Tension. It is working through this that helps me to avoid the guilt the enemy of my soul would foist upon me. I am not ungrateful. My discontent is not born of sin. Quite the contrary. My discontent is a product of the Woo and Romance of a God who desires me far more than I’ll ever be able to comprehend during my mortal life. This, yes this, brings a smile of delight to my soul…and I feel it creeping all over my face as I end this entry. I say, “To God be the glory!” Maranatha. Amen.
I was gathered yesterday with my faith community. At one point during our worship, we were guided in prayer and I heard the words proclaimed, “In a world where nothing seems right…” And my heart and my mind were gripped in pause. Now, I should confess that I too have spoken those words and likely on more than one occasion, but this time my soul was arrested with these words ringing in my ears.
“Nothing seems right?”
The context of these words was in proclamation of a world disordered around us. It is true; all around us there are swaths of chaos, turbulent waves of discontent, poverty, famine, pestilence, pollution, dread, and dis-ease. All this is true, but even in the midst of this broad brushed generalization, can we say with certainty… should we say with certainty “nothing seems right?” I question if this is a true statement.
I think and believe there are many things, perhaps most things that are truly right. I’m afraid we miss the deep truth as a result of our blurry, self-absorbed, and shallow perspectives. When we view the world, the cosmos, and all of creation through the narrow experience of our own self-realized being, we inevitably see all things tarnished by our own frailty and brokenness. Does our brokenness though, translate to all things being broken? Does our inability to be what we were created to be translate to “nothing seems right?”
There are many things right; in fact, most things are right.
Rocks are right. Gravity is right. Osmosis is right. Photosynthesis is right. Stars, suns, planets, and galaxies are right. Plants, animals, insects, fish, and fowl, all express perfect being. They are all complete expressions of what they were created to be. Not one is outside of its origin as God intended. A rock rocks as a rock was created to rock. Birds bird as they were intended. And so on. None of these created entities are in rebellion to their created being. Counting all created things, only man rebels against his created essence. Because of this rebellion, nothing seems right…
I wonder…I contemplate the possibilities and consider, what if man submitted to the order of his creation—surrendered to the command to reflect his Creator—would it be possible for us to see and even realize how much is right? Amidst the chaos and dis-ease, might we see the hallelujahs sung by the waves, might we hear the crescendos of the rising and setting sun? Is it plausible that we might witness the incomprehensible Divinity that sustains each atom that binds this universe together? I think we might. I’m sure we can.
It was narcissistic coordinates that landed us on planet ME and self-centered perspective leads me to see the world through my own corrupt lens. Jesus Christ prescribes the course correction: “Pilot, adjust your coordinates 180° and set your course for Deny Self.” Herein we are privileged to take in scenery that assumes the likeness of its Creator and suddenly…everything seems and looks right.
Things that go plop (polyp) in the night… or silent, debilitating, cumulative scariness.
Anyone that follows my blog knows that my posting has been sporadic (at the very best) for the past year or so. I have had occasional bursts of regularity, especially posting around the high seasons of the Church Calendar during Advent and Lent in particular, but outside of those special times, my writing has been very sparse.
What’s been up?
I’ve been reluctant to write about myself these past months, mostly because I didn’t understand what was happening with me…and well, I just didn’t feel like it.
I first started to notice I was having some problems a little over three years ago. I think I really pinned it down to the time of my first visit to the Pecos Monastery in June of 2011. It was at that time I remember having a sinus infection that never really went away. Having a sinus infection is no new thing for me, I’ve been subject to sinus issues, infections, allergies, and the like for most of my life, but they’ve always cleared up and I’ve had seasons of respite. Like I said, this 2011 infection/allergy was a bit different. It never went away; of course, I didn’t and wouldn’t have known that at the time, but I digress.
So, 2011 turned to 2012 and I returned to the monastery again. This time I recognized that I could no longer sleep turned on my right side as my sinus passages would become completely blocked. My fix to this problem was learning to sleep on my left side, which was no small feat, but learn I did and my sleeping habits returned to a version of normal where I’d get a somewhat cumulative amount of nightly sleep, but interrupted over the course of the night with frequent wake ups.
2012 turned to 2013 and new health problems emerging in my life. Most of these I attributed to genetics and the aging process and a predominantly sedentary lifestyle. My sinus issues continued right alongside my new health headaches and my sleep patterns continued to worsen with time. At some point, I was asked by one of my physicians how my sleep was. I said with a nervous chuckle; “I don’t sleep, I nap throughout the night and during the day.” He asked me why that was and I responded, “I can’t breathe.” This was the first time I really opened a conversation about my sinus problems. I always thought it was just something one had to deal with… “Allergies were normal” and antihistamines never really did much for me, so I just learned to deal with it. My Doc took a scope of sorts and looked into my nose and said, “You have nasal polyps” very matter-of-factly. I asked what that meant and didn’t get much of an answer other than “it’s no big deal…”
This brings us up to the current year (2014) and my continued struggle with breathing, sleep, and a host of maladies that joined the party. I started doing some reading about my newly acquired health problems and found many (maybe most or all) were related to “Sleep deprivation, which has been shown to alter the balance of hormones such as leptin and ghrelin that regulate appetite, leading to overeating, higher glucose levels and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for type II diabetes. It is thought that, without enough sleep, our bodies may get ‘stuck’ in a state of alertness, leading to an increase in the production of stress hormones, which increases blood pressure.” I was experiencing these very problems along with lack of energy, loss of focus, and generally feeling tired most of the time. This brings us up to present day. It was about four months ago that things started to get so bad that I was unable to sleep much more than an hour at a stretch during the night. This progressed until a few weeks ago when my “sinus infection” hit new heights and my “nasal polyps” started commanding front stage attention. No longer was just my evening life affected, my daytime life was becoming intruded upon in a major way. My face and eyes were swelling with sinus congestion and infection, I couldn’t talk well at all, and my personal health seemed to be causing people to be noticeably uncomfortable when I would be in their presence. I had to do something.
In the span of two short weeks, I made the rounds from PCP to Specialist to Surgery. I’m still in recovery mode as my surgery was less than a week ago, but so far my outcome is nothing less than spectacular. The post-op discomfort is certainly present, but the ability to breathe again outweighs those irritations by far. I’m hoping for a big (if not full) comeback. I want to see my overall health rebound with the expectation that my sleep patterns will also return to something resembling normal. I don’t know if it’s just adrenaline or giddy hope, but I think I feel an increase in energy already…time will tell.
I’ve noticed something else during this frustrating chapter of life, this season of declining health and all that it has brought with it has been deceptive and patient in its attack on my physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual state of being. I think there is a deeper and much more sobering spiritual truth with this revelation and awareness. This temporal, physical, and broken existence we live in subjects each of us to the insidious onslaught of wave after wave of attacks upon our very being. Nothing that happens to us affects us in a void. Every action, every experience, every bite and breath of life contain inertia and energy that reverberates in us and through us, tickling and tumbling internal latches and locks that release doorways of life and/or windows of death. No one escapes, and everyone is subject. This is the nature of the world we inherited post-Adam. The scarier aspect of this reality is the stealthy and relentlessly cumulative nature of this attack upon us. Left unawares of how we are being affected, we wake up one day and realize something or many things are broken, some irreparably.
We are multi-faceted creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made…incredibly resilient, but dangerously fragile too. We are told to love our God with “all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.” This should be a clue to us that we are inextricably linked through all these aspects of our being. One doesn’t come under attack without the others becoming influenced or affected. Many times, because we are so wonderfully made, we don’t notice the auto compensating nature that our bodies function under. Something begins to fail or falter and another organ or aspect of our being jumps up to get “its back.” Amazing stuff we humans are. The wonderful nature I point to though, doesn’t come free, there is always a cumulative effect and left alone and unattended, it can be our demise. The spiritual truth here is rich and shouldn’t be glossed over. Paying attention to our souls is an important task and much more complex than what many of us might give deep thought to—there might be risks far greater than some of us are willing or capable of paying for this kind of neglect.
Jesus and the Church have left us a great legacy and means of taking good care of ourselves so we might be ready and “healthy” for the Bridal Feast of our Lord. None of us should be so foolish that a “sinus allergy” would be our eternal undoing.
Leaven, Stability, Patience, and Humility [Pt.1]
Readings: Psalm 119:105-112 ◊ Hebrews 12:25 ◊ Romans 8:1-11 ◊ Matt. 13:11-12
“I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments.” Psalm 119:106 NRsV
Leaven, stability, patience, and humility…these are big and deep words—packed with meaning—and they just keep bouncing around my thoughts and digging into my heart.
I actually started this journal entry about three days ago thinking I might be able to work through some of what God could be trying to speak to me through these words that have a long and storied history with me. I think I’m beginning to get something of a clearer picture of where they may be taking me, but I’m sure that I’m only beginning to mine the very surface tip of this iceberg of wisdom.
Leaven : to mingle or permeate with some modifying, alleviating, or vivifying element; An agency or influence that produces a gradual change; to pervade, causing a gradual change, esp with some moderating or enlivening influence. [from Latin levare to raise – via Old French ultimately from Latin levāmen relief (hence, raising agent, leaven) from levāre to raise. (see also lever)]
What does it take to be human leaven or a human leavening agent among people? Considering the definitions I found for leaven, especially in the context I think it applies, I believe it takes heavy portions and exercise of the other words I’m considering these days: Leaven requires—stability, patience, and humility. One of the definitions sounds as if it includes these action words in its description; “An agency of influence that produces a gradual change; to pervade…” I distinctly hear patience and stability in that definition. Whether it is obvious or not, I consider humility assumed when talking about interaction and change among people… where diversity, differing opinions, and competing worldviews are part of the mix.
I further think about leaven and its characteristics and it occurs to me that leaven itself is indifferent. Leaven is leaven and does what leaven does. It has no agenda and suffers no failure if its surrounding ingredients fail to rise. As I consider this very simple thought, a light turns on in my own brain and I remember the teachings of Ignatius in his exercises with the meditation of Principle and Foundation. Basically, the sum of the teaching of Principle and Foundation is this; “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”
Naturally, this ideology or spiritual philosophy may be expressed according to the uniqueness of each individual. My expression of praise, reverence, and service to God may not be the template that is right for another person, but when each person, specific to their uniquely created order, lives out their God-ordained vocation, joyful fulfillment can be the expected outcome. The underlying foundational attitude to live out this principle and foundation is known as holy indifference. In the Ignatian context we are using this word it does not mean lack of feeling or concern… or apathy. Instead, what we mean is that we hold with sacred trust that God is in control, guiding and gifting us as needed to bring us fully to the maturity of our created place in the image, likeness, and Body of Christ. Indifference in this context can be described as true spiritual freedom. We stand before God with a posture of humility, openness, and trust. We look to welcome Christ in each person we meet with Christ Himself guiding us in every situation we encounter. We are ultimately free to respond, serve, persevere, and love as God desires. We are free to be the person God has created us to be, exactly where we are, in the very present moment. Holy Indifference. “Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me” (SE 23).
I think, as an agent of human leaven, this shall be my attitude. Leaven is leaven; it is 100% as God created it to be and does 100% what God created it to do. In whatever environment I am in and whatever my surroundings I want to be all that God created me to be and do all the God has created me to do.
It is clear, then, that to love others well we must first love the truth. And since love is a matter of practical and concrete human relations, the truth we must love when we love our brothers is not mere abstract speculation: it is the moral truth that is to be embodied and given life in our own destiny and theirs. This truth is more than the cold perception of an obligation, flowing from moral precepts. The truth we must love in loving our brothers is the concrete destiny and sanctity that are willed for them by the love of God. One who really loves another is not merely moved by the desire to see him contented and healthy and prosperous in this world. Love cannot be satisfied with anything so incomplete. If I am to love my brother, I must somehow enter deep into the mystery of God’s love for him. I must be moved not only by human sympathy but by that divine sympathy which is revealed to us in Jesus and which enriches our own lives by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The truth I love in loving my brother cannot be something merely philosophical and abstract. It must be at the same time supernatural and concrete, practical and alive…and not in a metaphorical sense. The truth I must love in my brother is God Himself, living in him. I must seek the life of the Spirit of God breathing in him. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart. –No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton (pp4-5)
I feel like there is so much more to say about this posture of heart, but I fear I’ve run out of time and energy for this reflection. I plan to explore the meditation and reflection upon these words. I want to ponder them individually and ponder their interactions with one another. I will share these thoughts as time provides me the opportunity to record them.
Your Word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments. Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips, and teach me your judgments. Your decrees are my inheritance forever; truly, they are the joy of my heart. I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes for ever and to the end. -Psalm 119:105-112
Return to my Senses
Readings: Psalm 137, 144 ◊ Numbers 24:12-25 ◊ Romans 8:18-25 ◊ Matthew 22:23-40
It’s coming close to a full week that I’ve been back from my month away at the monastery in Pecos, NM. I have already experienced a range of emotions from ecstasy at being home with my family all the way to “emptiness” and “dryness” feeling hollow in my soul… and many points in-between those extremes. Yes, it hasn’t even been a week yet.
I think there is a reason for some of what I’m feeling and sensing. I’ve just come off a pretty incredible month. There were many highs and I was very active intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. All or much of my faculties were laser-focused on the presence and working of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… even the seeming mundane was flooded with the Divine. This is not to say that the same cannot be true here at home in my daily routine; it often is, but for now, and while getting readjusted to my normal routines, I am a little bit spiritually discombobulated.
I also have some unknowns in my immediate future that add to my discombobulation. These unknowns can be a source of confusion for me at times and are difficult to get a solid read. The unknowns can sometimes feel like “silence” and “emptiness” to me. These feelings and senses prompt me to inner questions and soul examinations…sometimes it is likely that I read too much into them. I am an introvert and can be prone to a lot of inner dialogue …and not all of it healthy I’m sure. Just this morning I was feeling a bit down in the swirl of all these thoughts and questions of the soul. I wrote the following in my journal as I was praying and preparing for my morning readings:
“Sometimes the quiet in my soul bothers me…”
Even as I was writing out this thought (above), I remembered a word from Fr Thomas Dubay in his book Seeking Spiritual Direction where he writes; “Healthy and apparent ’emptiness’ is a blessing…” (p.57). Of course, this assumes the “healthy” emptiness is discerned and distinguished from “real emptiness due to selfish clingings which is a cause for alarm.” So, I was awash in thoughts and questions attempting to discern my “emptiness” from the healthy or unhealthy variety. (sigh)
As I was considering these thoughts, I reminded myself to go back and read again some of the writings from St. John of the Cross and his teaching about the dark night of the senses. While I do not consider myself in this place, it might be helpful to read it again for perspective. I do have a sense of God’s nearness. I feel my challenge is something a bit different…something I find difficult to put into words. With these final thoughts, I began my morning readings from the Daily Office Year 2 in the Book of Common Prayer. And this happened.
“I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future.” (Numbers 24:17)
Lacking contextual application or not, I had some of the hairs raise on the back of my neck when I read these words. I felt as though this somewhat described what I was feeling in my spirit. Seriously, I walk by faith and not by sight. I know that my emotions are not the dictator or discerner of my spiritual state of well-being. I often ignore how I “feel” and bring doubts into submission to the order of Christ. I get this, but these words rang true and they uncovered a deeper emotion that had remained buried. I want the fullness of Jesus now. Sometimes I get tired of waiting. I know I’m supposed to practice faithfulness to the moment and feeling impatient sends me into guilt convulsions and spiritual embarrassment. I pushed my guilt aside and paged over to my next reading…
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
We believers groan,
Even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory…
For we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We wait with eager hope. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.” (Romans 8:18-19, 23, 25)
Wow. This was just the reminder that I needed. I’ve read this passage many, many times…even have it memorized, but it struck a chord in me in a very special way today.
It never ceases to amaze or surprise me when God steps into my small little world. No matter how often I confess and profess the things I “know” based on my intellectual knowledge, there are still those things my soul longs for experientially…those things that still exist only in our future eternal. The Apostle writes and reminds us this is a normal longing. The Teacher also reminds us that God Himself has seeded the soul of man with a taste of eternity (Ecc. 3:11), it is only normal then that man would long for it. I think God does not want us satisfied with the echoes and shadows of the eternal future… those things we experience today are mere facsimiles of the eternal realities God has waiting for those who will persevere to the end. And so we groan (Romans 8:23) and we wait… waiting for something we don’t understand and we cannot see. It is no wonder some people go mad. Without the direct and mysterious, intervening Voice of God who does speak to us, we might doubt to our own destruction and death. It is for this reason, I thank God with all my heart for His wonderful and life-giving Word to me today.
My prayer from Psalm 144
Praise the LORD, who is my rock.
He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my Rescuer.
He is my Shield, and I take refuge in him.
Open the heavens, LORD, and come down.
Reach down from heaven and rescue me;
Rescue me from deep waters.
I will sing a new song to you, O God!
Joyful are those whose God is the LORD.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Twilight and Beginning Again
Day 29 at the Pecos Monastery
Today is day twenty-nine of my teaching retreat at the Pecos Monastery and the 51st School of Spiritual Direction. I have a very settled spirit about me…a sense of peace and collectedness that has been with me for most of the past two weeks or more. I was hoping that my time here would afford me the opportunity to share my heart, my knowledge, and my passion; this was most definitely achieved in degrees that I could never have planned or imagined. I have been enormously blessed to give back to a community that has given me so much.
Another thing I was hoping to gain was a sense of peace and direction about how, where, and what God might be drawing us (me and Laurie) in our ministry calling. I’m not positive about how this will all resolve, but I have spiritual calm and confidence that is impossible to describe with words. I have had the benefit of a community of spiritual directors to converse with over the past month and I’ve been blessed with the sweet wisdom of my dear friend, Fr Bob, who I’ve met with on numerous occasions since my arrival. These many “conversations of the soul,” with all my new spiritual director friends, have reaped a bountiful harvest of fruit in my soul. I am equally sure that the harvest from my time here in Pecos isn’t over just yet and that God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will continue to minister to my spirit for weeks to come.
I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me.
You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
Your favor, O LORD, makes me as secure as a mountain.
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have clothed me with joy.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
I have taken time to reflect over the sum of my life and I am speechless as I consider the grace and blessing God has lavished upon me. There was a season of my life that I was a hollow shell of a man… seeking pleasure to numb the pain of my depravity, self-medicating myself to blur my Ouroborian nightmares and other memories of my “self-devouring” habits. Who would save me from myself? Thank God! The answer is and has been Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25).
Now, as I sit here in these last hours, contemplatively praising God for the gift of his merciful, grace-filled, salvation to me, I look forward with hopeful joy for what tomorrow will bring. I have walked in the Cloud of Unknowing for several years now. I am learning to trust my God who leads me in his holy fog. It is okay now, and it will okay tomorrow. I trust his guidance no matter how blurry the horizon is. I know there is coming a day when all things will be crystal clear and my wandering will cease for eternity. Until that time, all my heart belongs to the LORD who rescued me and to him, my answer will always and forever be… “Yes, and amen, Lord, your servant is waiting on your command. Where you lead, I will follow.” Amen.
Mind Full Expectations VS Soul Full Yearnings
Or Respite at Pecos: Finding a rhythm that brings rest and replenishment to the soul
This begins my third visit to the community that is the Pecos Monastery and with each return my heart feels more at home. My acquaintance with this wonderful oasis for the soul began with my enrollment in the school for spiritual direction.
There may be many expectations for a school, not the least of which is the gathering and gleaning of information…we call this learning, but there are many ways to learn and many types of learning.
Our modern world is full to the brim, even overflowing, with information. It is said we live in the “Information Age” and it seems data, media of all kinds and raw information are the elixir of this first-world Western culture. We have become information consumers…hoarders, and we call it learning, but there are other ways to learn.
The purpose for my visits to Pecos was to learn, but not in the sense of collecting more information. The world in which I live is surrounded by books and billions upon billions of bytes of information at my fingertips. I literally have more information than I can ever digest and put to use, almost no question goes without some degree of answer with the internet, online booksellers, or university and public libraries at my disposal. I am information-learning rich, but there are other ways to learn. Other ways of learning was my quest and reason for coming to Pecos.
What I have found in this community of Ora et Labora is the binding agent that holds prayer and work in a divine embrace, and that is respect for a Sabbath lifestyle and holy rhythms that nurture the whole of humanity: heart, soul, mind, and body.
The masses in a warp-speed world bombarded by infinite streams of information can no longer process the amount of data being hurled at them 24/7. The human brain, in self-defense, discards all but what it perceives as the most important of information, in effect, leaving us victim to the tyranny of the urgent. Whatever fire burns most brightly gets our attention, whoever screams the loudest gains our ear—all else goes to the inbox or on the “to do” list—so much for the “still small voice.”
My stays at Pecos have taught me the value of slowing down, simplifying my life, eliminating every distraction that I have control over, and limiting the streams of data and information society would force feed to me. I have learned the value of community and continue to seek it out where I can find it in its truest form. I have learned honesty, authenticity, and transparency are costly. I have learned that true love, agape’ love, can be the costliest of all things. I have learned that finding these kinds of relationships have been the most rewarding and enriching days of my life. I have found that no matter the books I’ve studied, lectures I’ve heard, or information I’ve hoarded from the internet could they teach me the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn by slowing down, quieting my soul, and waiting to listen to my God…whether he speaks in the silence, through the other, through the prayers of the Church, or in the rhythms of my work.
I have learned that information is helpful in the process of education, but there are other ways to learn.
Be Faithful to the Day
I’ve taken a little time off from the blog for the past few weeks. I have been realigning my focus and learning some new habits. This has caused no little amount of upset to my routines and even to some degree, my self-perceived identity. For the record, it’s all good though. Occasionally we need measures of reset, new goals, and a shift in routes we take as we pursue our destination. I’m in full pursuit, as determined, and passionate about the call and message of God as I have ever been. I am excited about what lies ahead even though what does lie ahead I cannot clearly make out. I know that God leads and never leaves. I know He is leading me and wherever we go… it will be right and it will be good.
I’ve been thinking about whole-heartedness and discernment for the past couple weeks. The two words are distinct thoughts in my head/heart, but they seem to overlap and blur from time to time. A couple weeks ago while reading from the Gospel of John, I was given pause to reflect when I read the words of Peter after Jesus questioned the loyalty of the disciples (John 6:60-69). Peter responds to Jesus’ question saying, “To whom shall we go?”
As I consider what it means to be whole-hearted, I was gripped by a stream of questions when I “heard” Peter’s “To whom shall we go?” The Gospels teach us that many of the disciples left all they had to follow Jesus. During the course of their time with Jesus, I believe they were given opportunities to realign themselves with their former lives or even separate themselves from following Jesus…similar to some of the other “followers” who went their own way from Jesus. I think as time went on, it became more and more difficult for them to choose any other path, but the one they were on. Even if they weren’t all in at the beginning, at some point they did become all in. Maybe I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there and maybe I’m projecting some of my own experience onto the gospel narrative, but there seems to be a parallel to Peter’s words and my own life. Sometimes I wake up and wonder what am I doing…I feel the closeness of God, the presence of Christ, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit within me, but I still feel like the murkiness of what lies ahead has not lifted. The way is cloudy and sometimes very unsure. I question my call and confess that I do not know what tomorrow brings, and I have nowhere else to go—only to sit at the feet of Jesus—for I have forsaken all other things. I only know that if I am to honor the God who loves me, I must be faithful to the day.
I do feel a sense of urgency about “tomorrow,” yet I do not know what to do about that urgent feeling. I say to myself; “Be faithful to the day and tomorrow will come.” This is how I can be (and remain) whole-hearted, by being faithful to the day. What does it mean to be faithful to the day? It can be a little tricky determining what that means or looks like.
As I was reading today (more from the Gospel of John), I was arrested again by more words from Jesus. Jesus was responding to a question from his disciples about sin and a blind man and he said to them; “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us” (John 9:4). While I realize the contextual application of this word, I believe the Holy Spirit was also guiding and teaching me with these words. I quieted my mind, focused my spirit on the person of God, and silently asked, “What do I do with this word, Lord?” I wonder what does tomorrow bring when there are so many uncertainties; I wonder what I am supposed to do about bringing tomorrow to bear or if I bear responsibility on bringing tomorrow at all… How do I “quickly carry out the tasks assigned to me?”
I think my answer is the same as I wrote earlier: Be faithful to the day.
I carry out my tasks quickly and clearly by remaining faithful and attentive, surrendered and obedient, humble, and loving with every interaction that comes my way. Day. By. Day. One day at a time. Be faithful to the day. This is where I do the work of God and this is “the what” of my calling and work of God. I teach. I preach. I live, with my life, the message and the task that God has given to me. I be faithful to the day.
And may the LORD my God show me his approval and make my efforts successful. Yes, make my efforts successful. (Psalm 90:17 NLT)