Thursday, July 07, 2016

You Are What You Love pt. 1


When I was young I had two great loves.. my Mom and music.  I spent many of my pre-teen and teenage years immersed in music.  My boombox (you young guys can Google that one), and my later enhanced sound system were playing tunes almost non-stop.  When we left the house I had my Walkman (again, you Millennials can Google that later) with me.. and yes, my ears were surgically attached to my headphones.

While I remember hearing my mom listen to Boston, Chicago, Journey and the like, the genre that first captured my imagination was hip hop and rap.  While I can’t now condone the lifestyle much of these artists promoted, I enjoyed the fat beats of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith), The Fat Boys and the legendary RUN DMC with classic collaborations like Walk This Way.  My love of the music these artists produced influenced not only my worldview, but the clothes I wore.  I donned the multi-colored (usually neon) high top sneakers, the vibrant graphic T’s, and yes, even parachute pants (those of you under 35 might not want to waste your time Googling that one).  Later when I entered the alt rock and grunge scene I donned 6 inch bleached hair spikes and earrings.

It’s often said, ‘You are what you eat.’, but it’s equally true that ‘You are what you love’.  One band formerly known as Earth Suit - now MUTEMATH - enshrined this reality beautifully in their song Osmosis Land.  The song begins:

Every night and every single day
The sun will rise, the moon it will fade
And in our web idols were spun
Caught up in oblivion 

So we come with the song, come with the sword
Come with the image of the Son
Come with the song, come with the sword
What we behold we become

‘What we behold we become’.  Oh, how true.  What we become immersed in - what our eyes and heart become fixated upon - is what has the greatest influence over who we become.  The Scriptures aptly encourage us to, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV).  Who we are and who we become flows from our center - our hearts.  It’s no wonder that the LORD is always after our hearts.. He desires our love and affection.  That’s why this faith-walk has always been about relationship.  Intimacy and trust are the track this relationship train run on.

Right from the start Our Father made it clear that what He desired with us was relationship.  Adam and Eve were invited to trust their Father’s provision and protection by enjoying everything in the Garden.. but this one tree.  It wasn’t for them, but they fixated on it instead of everything else and eventually broke trust with their Father, and therefore they broke relationship with Him.  Within the Bible, Father God has clearly issued the invitation to renewed relationship, getting to heart of the matter by addressing the issue of our hearts.  You see, outside of a trusting, whole-hearted embrace of Our Father, our hearts grow cold and calloused, entombed in a concrete-hard mix of pain, suspicion, scars and self-interest.

***


End Pt. 1.  Pt. 2 will be available in the coming week.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

A Heart in High Gear



What do you do when your heart is in retreat?

When you've been sidetracked, misinterpreted, hurt (either intentionally or unintentionally), lied to or believed lies from the enemy of your soul... 

What can you do when you know you're retreating to avoid furher pain, disappointment or fear? 

This isn't you.  You never were one to cave in and run, but somehow you now find yourself employing protectionary measures, erectinng walls, to ensure self-preservation.

You know somewhere deep inside that you were made to live from a full, unhindered heart.  You weren't made to cower or back down in fear.. you were born to take that hIil, brave the darkness and accomplish the dream! What do you do when you know you're not where you should be, and you have a direction for where you want to be?

First, you stop.  Just stop.  Stop running, stop retreating.  Stop living in the shadows, stop making excuses.  Let the pain of the moment / circumstances / situation wash over you.  Own all that's happened (ing).   Be clear about where you're at.. right now.  Don't worry, you're not alone.  

Jesus said to those He loves and calls friends, "It's me. Don't be afraid." and ".. I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  His nearness really does dispel darkness, His presence frees from fear.  What else would you expect from the Light that shines in the darkness and the Prince of Peace?  Have you invited Him to come near?

Second, get honest.  Real honest.. about where, and more importantly 'who', you've been lately.  You get honest with yourself.  You get honest with God the Father and you get honest with those closest to you.  Say what needs to be said (with humility and generosity), BUT don't forget to listen and listen well.  You're about to enter new territory and you'll need all the help you can get.

Third, choose your traveling companions wisely.  Find people you like to be around who call the best out of you.  Find those who have qualities you admire and watch them closely.. watch how they live out of their strengths and how they relate to their weaknesses.  Regularly ask them to speak openly and honestly with you about the stuff that matters, then offer the same for them.  If they take you up on both invitations they truly are a friend for all seasons.

Fourth, chart your course.  You're going somewhere, right?  You don't need a plan if you're headed nowhere.  So if you have a dream / desire / calling.. get to it.  Consider the cost both in material resources, relational treasures and what it will exact from you personally to live into this dream.  Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you and lead you, one day at a time. Once you've determined the cost, figure in a lot more.  It's going to hurt some to follow the call on your life.  But it's OK.  What you lose you didn't need anyway.  What you gain is priceless.

Be ready.  When Daddy-God descides to move, He can move quickly and mightily!

Now you're living from a heart in high gear and the best is yet to come!


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
- Ephesians 3:20-21, the Bible, NIV





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Eyes Don't Tell Lies - What We Can Learn from St. Patrick


video


"Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of a person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire."
- St.Patrick, 'Confession', 5th Century AD


So much is made of St. Patrick’s Day around the World.  So much splendor, celebration and . . hype.  It’s usually a brilliant day - exuding a real sense of communal spirit with many items of memorabilia stating, ‘Irish for a Day’ or ‘Irish-wannabe’.  Having lived in Ireland for 11 years, I’m sure many people around the world who care anything about the day would be utterly discouraged and shocked to realize that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t celebrated anywhere nearly as enthusiastically there as in the US.  Yep, it’s true!  Only in recent years has Ireland begun to celebrate the famous Saint Day with similar gusto to America.  From where I sit, America does have the edge on the St. Patrick’s Day market.  The last place I lived in America before rooting in Irish soil, goes as far as to dye the river green through the middle of the city (Chicago).  If that were done in Ireland it would be seen as being ‘corny’ or kitsch.  That said, the tiny island on the edge of Europe that, in many ways, I consider ‘home’ has begun to ‘big up’ festive celebrations, (purportedly) in honor of their patron saint.

St. Patrick is possibly one of the best known extra-biblical saints within the Christian community and second only to good 'ol St. Nick (Santa Claus) in the general public’s knowledge.  Although the day is supposedly held in honor of him, I suspect it’s become just another reason to party, and a general excuse for revelry for most.  That is to be somewhat expected outside of the Church, but sadly Christians (by and large) have also forgotten why we celebrate the mythic man known as Patrick.  We’d do well in our contemporary cultural climate to reflect on why this one man is remembered so fondly and has managed to remain in the imagination of people around the world.  If you’d like to Dive deep into St. Patrick’s life you can read his autobiography which is one of Europe’s oldest surviving manuscripts from the 5th century A.D.  His ‘Confession’ is very valuable historically in that it is an introspective account of one man’s thought processes, highlighting many unique cultural characteristics of that period.  It’s even more valuable to Christians today because it gives insight into an early Christian’s faith journey and his relationship to the Trinitarian God of Christian experience.  There is a second surviving document that Patrick wrote referred to as the ‘Letter to Coroticus’ in which he chastises a ruler in what is now England for abducting and killing some Irish people he led to Christ.  Both are worth a read!

If we were to return to celebrating the original intent of the day in question, it would lead us to a very different motivation (and practice of) for our festivities.  In essence, what we’re celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day is the coming of Christ to the Irish.  Patrick is identified as the one who first shared the message of Jesus Christ with the Irish, but most scholars believe this not to be true.  It is more commonly agreed that a previous ‘bishop’ was sent to the Irish who was known as Palladius.  Something occurred which led to Palladius’ disappearance from the historic record just a year after his arrival.  This may be linked to the reason Patrick arrived just a short time after.  A lesser known tidbit of legend is that St. Kieran, originally from Clear Island off the coast of West Cork, purportedly preceded both of the aforementioned gentlemen and introduced Christianity to this ever-green island  from his monastery near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains (where my office was!).  Regardless of the actual historical record, just like the head on a pint of Guinness, St. Patrick has risen to the top as the man who permeated Irish culture and saturated Irish imagination.  The Irish in turn have shared this same admiration for Patrick with the rest of the world - wherever they have made their home.

We can learn a lot from what Patrick left to posterity in his writings, was well as what has been transmitted through generations - spoken and unspoken.  Not enough can be said for following crazy, inspired, God-sized dreams.  Patrick was originally brought to Ireland as a sixteen year old slave boy from what is now Northern England, and he spent six years tending sheep for a Irish pagan landowner before escaping.  Years later, Patrick had a dream in which an angel read him letters from the people of Ireland who begged him to return and share Christ with them.  Knowing this was a prompting from God, he returned to the island of his captivity and served God by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ there til his last breath.  

Pain and hardship are seed beds for steely character and personal discipline.  During those six years of loneliness in the fields and on mountainsides tending sheep, one can imagine Patrick felt constant pangs of loss and intense yearnings to be reunited with his people and his family.  He himself states in the ‘Confession’ that he prayed hundreds of times a day while alone in the wild places where He came to know the God that is ‘I AM’.  To truly connect (reach) with someone, you must give up some of your own preferences for theirs.  There is a necessary process of inculturation that takes place when one enters a culture not their own.  I’m not referring to a cheap, cultural patronization which occurs by simply acting like the foreigners in the new place you call home.  It’s a love for those you live among that leads you to walk with them and to take on their patterns of living life.  Patrick in those early years learned Irish customs, language and folklore.  He learned how people ‘worked’ in Ireland and, in fact, became somewhat Irish himself, no doubt.  God took that process of assimilation and returned it to the Irish as a gift.  Because of this Patrick was able to effectively communicate who Jesus is in ways the Irish could receive.

Another reality learned from Patrick’s life is that boldness and graciousness go hand-in-hand.  From my readings of Patrick and the legends that accompany him, I get a sense of a boldness (not in the Irish use of the word today) that accompanied his direct and clear message . . a message seasoned with gentleness, while being gracious and appreciative of his hosts.  In this way, immoveable and immediately likable, Patrick won the hearts of the Irish - with a warm heart and a firm hand.  Patrick shows us that releasing responsibility and empowering others is key to continuity.  Wherever Patrick travelled around the island of Ireland (I followed many of the same paths he walked), he is known for having brought companions along with him to help establish new communities of faith in the places he visited.  The vibe he exuded in his relationships must have been joyful and extremely freeing.  After coming to know Christ, people who came into contact with Patrick must have seen an intense belief in what God was doing and what they could be a part of with the Spirit’s help. History reveals that many communities of faith sprang up within a few centuries after Patrick’s death, which led to Ireland entering ‘center stage’ as a place of learning, light and the love of God.  Thus it become known as ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’.

It’s long been true that vision and passion are catalysts which help birth new eras into being.  These two qualities alone are the means by which hearts are moved and minds are swayed.  I can imagine that because of the Holy Spirit’s work in the fabled saint, Patrick was likely very compelling, not necessarily due to smooth speech, but because of his unflinching belief in God’s ability.  Through a life being lived with authenticity among the pagan Irish people, many came to entrust themselves to this Jesus whom Patrick shared in word and deed.  Finally, humility is fundamental for a life of unimaginable richness.  As you read Patrick’s ‘Confession’, it soon becomes clear that in many ways this man, whom many hold in the highest regard, was very much like you and I.  He did, however, regard himself as one with nothing to show for his existence except what God had done for him.  Some may argue that his protestations were false acts of humility, but an honest heart will resonate with Patrick’s own words that point to the beauty, truth, goodness, light and love which can be known in intimate relationship with Daddy-God.  If pride is the seed of human rebellion (sin) against God, then humility (knowing who we are and are not) is part of its cure.

How will our world be brought closer to God’s design by you living in passionate pursuit of the One who is passionately pursuing you?  Don’t miss this unfolding dream.  Live into it and invite the Father to write His story with your life.  What wonders will He accomplish in and through you?


"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise."
-Romans 5:1-2, The Message



++++++++++

Respond

Will these revelations redefine how you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year? 

Have you come any closer to understanding the man with whom much of the world is acquainted but does not know? 

In Patrick’s own words do you see the events that led him to Ireland, the people that kept him in Ireland, and the God that fertilized that island with his obedient life? 

Whose life will God fertilize as you recklessly abandon yourself to Him?

++++++++++





Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Desire Which No Experience.. Can Satisfy
















For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to the Arts . . .

My early life consisted of drawing characters I had seen in Walt Disney films, comic books and movies.  I didn't create my own characters very often but reproduced well known characters, usually much larger than their source.  I derived a great sense of life, pleasure and joy in doing this.  It took an incredible amount of focus and discipline to be still long enough to churn out these drawings- two things that are still a challenge for me to enact as often as I'd like.  Still, the payoff outweighed the challenge and although these drawings came into existence for no other reason than to provide creative expression at the time I drew them, it was enough.  I've only recently unearthed these drawings for my children to see . . (the top three were drawn when I was 13, the other around 14/15).
















Around the same time I found music . . or music found me.  It was a form of art that gave an even stronger voice to my own feelings and thoughts as a pre-teen / teen.  My earliest memory of watching a music video was as a young boy around the age of 9 or 10.  I vividly remember Dire Straits' boxy animated video for their song 'Money for Nothing' being shown on MTV and I was transfixed.




My first real interest in music began in the rap and hip hop arena with artists like RUN DMC (my fav at the time), DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) and The Fat Boys.  I'd love to give a special mention to the song 'Walk This Way' which was a collaborative effort between Aerosmith and RUN DMC.  I trace some of my strongest musical tastes to its early fusion of rap and rock.  A classic, albeit lyrically deficient.  ;-)

All of these (and other) artistic expressions captured my heart in my formative years, compelling me to express more, and explore further, this human experience of journeying down life's path.  More than that, these works of art (mine or others) act as mile markers on that journey, helping me recall other related memories, feelings and sometimes even smells, that constituted my world as a young boy.  Many of those experiences were painful and many were pleasant, but the memories which these works of art carry bring back those distant experiences like a familiar landscape emerging from thick fog.

Art, and specifically the beauty it conveys, reaches us at a depth of our souls that is incomprehensible.  That beauty (whether visual, physical, intellectual, etc.) often bypasses our mental  blockades ('watchful dragons' as C.S. Lewis said) and goes straight for the heart.  Once our heart is warmed, we are won.  Since my earlier years there have been countless other works of art of various media which have captured my heart, my mind, and my imagination.  I have been challenged by them, inspired by them, moved by them and even, in some cases, changed by them.

Now more than ever, as I approach 40, my desire to create and curate beauty, truth and goodness through art grows by the day.  I'm making steps (actions) that both facilitate creativity and the creation of works which, I hope, will one day cause another searching soul to be found by the Author of Life itself.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born.  Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing?  The longing for home?  For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” 


++++++++++

Respond

What works of Art have inspired you - caused you to see life differently than before you became aware of it?
 
If you're called to be a 'Creative', what does your first step toward your next creative work look like?

++++++++++


[ read previous posts ]



Thursday, February 05, 2015

Not by (my own) Might



Not by (my own) Might

The beginning of 2015 has come with a lot of #clarity.  When God speaks, He know show to get our attention.  When God wanted to speak with Moses, He did so through a burning bush that did not burn up [Ardens Sed Virens] - most shepherds would see a bush on fire at some point, just not one that burned indefinitely.  With me, when I 'hear' a similar message from multiple sources (Bible, friend, book, movie, song, etc.) it's usually my Father trying to communicate something He doesn't want me to miss.

The beginning of this year has been a case in point.  Right before the New Year arrived God began to remind me to 'Be Still'.  This invitation often references verse ten from chapter forty six in the book of Psalms:

- ESV

This invitation from God is something I've been familiar with for longer than I can remember, but the practice of being still is like trying to slow a train by blowing on it in the opposite direction it's traveling.  Not going to happen.  Just because something is extremely hard does not mean it isn't worth doing . . in fact, I believe the the hardest things in life are usually the most worth doing.  Slowing down and even stopping is so critical and key to fulfilling our divine purpose on this planet.  Here's why . . 

We were made with limitations.  While most of humanity might act like it's unwanted and isn't true, it's actually a blessing.  We're often ruled by the 'tyranny of the urgent', which can send our personal Messianic complex into overdrive.  But when we're faced with our own limitations (God-imposed boundaries), we're forced to remember that He is God, and we are not.  It's called 'The Wall' and we all hit it at one point or another.  The past five years have felt like I've been living at the base of that wall.

When we first arrived back in America after an eleven year adventure in Europe, the first word I believed the Father spoke to me was 'Rest.'  I took it in my stride, thinking 'Yes, of course' I'll rest.'  But having returned to America with no job, no home and a wife and three kids to feed, I wrongly put a lot of confidence in my ability to 'make life work'.  I figured I'd get in front of somebody and get a job.  Then, I'd move my family into the right home for us, and eventually I'd get the non-profit we left Ireland to build off the ground and solvent.  - News Flash - it's been five years and I'm still hoping to see many of those desires come to fruition.  However, many unplanned, amazing blessings have emerged which we're grateful for.

God replied to my "I'll make life work." with "No you won't . . but I'll make it work for you."  You see, rest is not relegated to a state of complete inactivity, although there are appropriate times to be inactive.  It's possible to be sitting completely still and NOT be at rest.  Rest is more about a posture of the heart - it's the way we think about and live life because of the Father's words and actions.  We can't rest if we think our life - and it's worth - sits on our shoulders, carrying the weight of having to make something of ourselves.  That's not rest.  Rest (as a Christian) is all about remembering that we have a magnificent Heavenly Father who is always working with our best interests at heart.  He is Love incarnate, and Love works for the good of another.  Since He loves us without limit, we don't have to toil and drive ourselves to madness and soul numbness.  All we need is to sit, be still and listen.  That's the genesis of dreams that'll change the world- even as we're being changed!  He'll give us all we need in those quite moments.

So, back to the beginning of the year . . on a road trip our lead pastor, Brad Mathias, mentioned that the LORD spoke to him about Zechariah 4:6, revealing that a lot of the visions and dreams He seeded the hearts of people in our faith community would begin to come to fruition in 2015 as we allow Him to do it in/for/with us.  Zechariah 4:6 states,


- God's Word version

It became clear that the LORD was planning on doing something significant in 2015, and [at least] in our heads and hearts He wants us to stay out of the way so He can do it.  No trying to figure it all out ourselves, no manipulating circumstances event toward ends we believe are good, no self-important parades.  Then the invitation to 'Be Still' has been surfacing again and again as others at Four Winds Anglican Mission have shared - just recently affirmed through our Bishop Sandy Greene although he has been largely unaware of the Father's movements in our body.  The Message version of the Bible paints a vivid picture with these words:


- Psalm 46:10, MSG

If we practice this invitation to stillness, our focus will shift from our own efforts to make life work, and onto His loving kindness and His effortless care of us - the kids that He passionately loves.  We'll be reminded with vivid clarity that the universe does not revolve around us, nor do we 'make things happen' in our own ability.  Our lives and times are in His hands.  We observe the Sabbath to rest, remember and play in His presence and care.  We unplug from all of our devices and work, so we can piece back together (remember) that core truth that Our Father loves us, has proved it in the person of Jesus Christ, and takes care of all of our needs.

So, I'm listening . . and practicing #silence and #stillness more often.  As I do I grow in amazement, wonder and awe as I watch my Father and all that He's about in this great wild, wonderful world of His.  All confusion about how to hear His voice and receive clarity on life's purpose, will be neutralized as we're "lost in His wonderful embrace".  Then when we see Him move, we respond by moving too.  

What He's building, He's building to last.  
You have a part to play that begins with doing nothing but being still and silent with Him.


++++++++++

Respond

What are you seeking clarity from God about?
     - Are you slowing down enough to hear His voice?

Can you begin to give up being the master of your own ship in favor of our good Father proving to you that He can make your life better than you've imagined??
     - Begin by being still and silent, asking Him to speak.  Then quickly move onto being
       'intentionally unproductive' as you 'waste' time with God-of the-Angel-Armies on a Sabbath
       (rest). 

++++++++++


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Write This Down (4of4)



Write This Down
These inspired words from the Scriptures have often been an encouragement to me in welcoming whatever future God our Father has planned out.  It's certainly possible to trust Him completely (progressively) with yourself when you know His heart is good toward you and He is always working with your best interests in mind.

Ephesians 3  (MSG)

The God of Glory


Friends, I've jumped into fear before and so have many of you. Honestly, it can hurt and God’s invitation does not come with the assurance of a pleasant journey, but we're guaranteed to have our Father at our side the whole way. When we choose to act in belief and trust we become living poetry. The kind of poetry that invites a desperate world to pause and take a deeper look. I see another cliff coming into view just ahead and I don't want hesitation or fear to keep me from making another courageous leap. What about you? Who knows if The Lord will use these jumps of ours to do something great in His wild, wonderful world? Maybe someone else will find freedom for themselves, then pass it on to another in need of it?

The final installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy The Hobbit was recently released,
bringing to a close a truly epic storyline.  I’m reminded of a brief conversation between
Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey as they discussed the unfolding adventure ahead
of them:

Gandalf:   “You’re going to have a tale or two to tell when you come back.”
Bilbo:       “Can you promise that I will come back?”
Gandalf:   “No. And if you do . . you’ll not be the same.”


So . . are you ready? 3 - 2 - 1 . . JUMP!


++++++++++

Respond

Has He been inviting you to take part in an adventure that you’ve hesitated stepping
into?
     - It might be in an area that you fear (even success) and that you are passionate about.

What does your 'First Step' look like?

++++++++++


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Walk with Me, Work with Me (3of4)


Fear-less Living
One of my desires - not ‘resolutions’, because it smacks of my own strength and by now I know I can change nothing of significance on my own - is to live with far less fear in 2015.  Living without fear is not a neutral posture.  I can’t live without fear unless I live within an growing awareness of my Father’s heart for me, and His presence with me.  Living without fear is living with a greater awareness of the Father-always-with-me.  It’s His presence that puts everything in perspective and pushes fear out of the picture.  I’m constantly reminded of this reality by a verse from the book of Joshua which is on our
wall above the piano at home:

- Joshua 1:9, The Voice

It was a word given to Joshua at just the right moment. He was a young, brave man who had been serving at Moses’ side for many years.  When Moses died, the Lord commanded Joshua to “. . Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them. . “ (Joshua 1:2, ESV).  Joshua was thrust into a new place of leadership, following a legendary leader, and given the task of leading millions of people into battle after battle against all odds. That was a challenge if I ever knew one! The Lord says to Joshua “Be strong and courageous” three times within one conversation (pep talk!) Our Father even throws in a “Be very strong and courageous” at one point, all the while guaranteeing victory for His people . . IF they didn’t forsake their relationship with Him.

In verses seven and eight Father God says to Joshua,

- Joshua 1:7-8, ESV

The odds - massive. The guarantee - success. The requirement - live right, with your hearts open to His voice. As you always hear from me, you see played out in the beginning verses of the book of Joshua when God’s people were entering a new era of promises fulfilled and unparalleled blessing: our Father’s two invitations to us have always been ‘Walk with Me’ (in relationship) and ‘Work with Me’ (in re-building His Kingdom here).  I don’t say this over and over again because I think you’ve forgotten it.  I repeat it over and over because we need constant reminding.  Just like we need to be reminded over and over again that the heart of our Father is good toward us.  We need reminded so we’ll be encouraged to seek Him with all our hearts.  Once we’ve tasted and known His goodness, grace and generosity we need reminded so we keep seeking Him.  That’s why God's kids meet together every week of every year.  We want to encourage one another to continue to “recklessly abandon ourselves to God’s loving care” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).


++++++++++

Respond

Have you been leaning into the Father's love for you and His good words over you to combat fear?

What has the Father placed before you that seems so outrageously big you're afraid to take the first step?  Can you direct your attention away from your limitations and onto His ability to perform miracles?

++++++++++

To be continued . .


[ read previous posts ]
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fearing Life as it Could Be?? (2of4)




Masked Greatness
This theme of facing fear and doing something great has been coming up again and again lately . . which usually means the Spirit of God is trying to get my attention.  On many occasions I’ve heard the Spirit speak through the song 'Every Breaking Wave' on U2's most recent album Songs of Innocence. Bono sings, 

"Are we so helpless against the tide? / Baby every dog on the street / Knows that we're in love with defeat / Are we ready to be swept off our feet / And stop chasing / 
Every breaking wave".  

In essence, the fear that causes us to stay in our comfort zones is the same fear that keeps us chasing our tail, happily distracting ourselves (procrastinating) from jumping off the cliff of opportunity just ahead.  The exhilaration of freedom that we'll experience as we fly through the air is what will help us make the leap of faith . . not to mention the prospect of seeing that single act birth more light in the world.  Again, in the same blog post, Michael Hyatt offers some sound advice: 

"Whenever we have the potential to do something important or extraordinary, we’ll be tempted to stay inside our comfort zone.  But the truth is we never do anything of real significance in our comfort zone.  The base jumper who listens to his fears is just another hiker who walks down the mountain.  It’s when we’re stretched, face our fears, and reframe them that we can reach out and touch greatness."

The Spirit of God has been trying to get my attention.  I've heard and now I simply must act - in essence, I'm being called to 'poetry'.  The original Greek word from which we derive the English word 'poetry' is poiesis, which means "to make (or do)".  There is such depth of relationship between that word and the role the Spirit of God plays in our lives that I will have to reserve that topic for a future post.  For us, faith / belief / vocation only makes sense when it's acted upon.  There is no distinction between faith and action - they are one and the same.  We’re called to be a poetic community.  

Later in the same song 'Every Breaking Wave' Bono exclaims,

"We know that we fear to win / And so we end before we begin / Before we begin." 

The fear I've been facing the past four+ years has largely been the fear of failure.  Now that I've done that - failed - recently I've noticed that I'm facing a new type of fear, the fear of success.  Strange, right?  What happens once/if all that I've hoped for begins to happen, then what will my life look like?  What decisions will I be faced with?  When that happens there's no going back to life as it was!  Am I good with that?

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Respond

What themes / messages have you noticed coming up over and over again in different places of your life?

Have you ever experienced a fear of success?

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To be continued . .


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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Are We Ready to Be Swept Off Our Feet? (2015 redux- pt. 1of4)



Dispatching Fear
Early one morning a few months ago, I read a great blog post from prolific author, speaker and coach Michael Hyatt called 'How To Reframe Your Fear And Let It Work For You'.  First of all, if you don't know who Michael is, or don't read his posts - you're missing some caffeine for the soul.  Seriously, make the time to check in with him a few times a week online.  Michael's post was simply another quiet whisper in my ear over the past couple of months.

How many of you have experienced fear due to a relationship? . . due of finances? . . due to work? . . due to health?  Fear is a normal experience in our lives.  Some say Christians should live without fear.  If asked, each of us would certainly like to live life with less fear.  However, true faith isn’t the absence of fear but the decision to move forward in the face of it, knowing that our Father is right in front of us.  We often face fear on some level before we leap into something we perceive as significant or great.  Providing the opportunity before us is a good one, that fear we experience may be an indicator that what we've been inspired to do should be done posthaste.   

In 'How To Reframe Your Fear And Let It Work For You' Michael Hyatt offers us three steps to move through fear, "1) Notice the Feeling, 2) Objectify the Feeling and 3) Reframe the Feeling".  Good advice.  As a spiritual director and pastor, I would also encourage you to listen to what the Spirit of God might be speaking to you before, during and after moving through fear.  The prescription is the same however, God calls us to move through fear, giving us the assurance that He’s walking with us every step of the way.  

Escape to Egypt / Return to Galilee
One story that is often overshadowed during the Christmastide season is the account of the two dreams that Joseph, Jesus’ father, had during Jesus’ infancy.  Immediately following the departure of the Magi (wise men) who had traveled great distances to see the Christ child, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him, 

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 

Given, Joseph’s mission to provide for and protect the Son of God from those who would do him harm, was no small feat.  Can anyone say ‘responsibility’??  Place yourself in his sandals for a minute . . an angel appears to you - in a dream - and tells you to move your young family to Egypt (the formerly-oppressive-neighbor-to-the South) in an attempt to avoid a megalomaniac king who was on a rampage to dispose of any possible threat to his self-important power grab.  A carpenter against a king.  An army against a set of wood-working tools.  And if you were Joseph you’d feel how?? Joseph might have been tempted to be afraid- except for the fact that God-of-the-Angel-Armies would not allow one hair of His Son’s head to be harmed.  So off to Egypt you go!  

While living in Egypt, the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream a second time to tell him that Herod had died and it was time to return to Israel.  The angel said,

“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.”

Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus faced another major life change requiring a copious amount of trust to overshadow any threatening fears as they returned to the country they fled.


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Respond ~

Is there an area of your life in which the Father is inviting you to face fear and walk with Him through it?  (it might be in the places that you desire freedom and have seen recurring cycles.)


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To Be Continued . . .


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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Full Life in a Land that's Flowing . . (4of4)


When Jesus shows up things happen!  

Jesus claimed His mission was aphesis- (release, pardon, freedom):

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- Luke 4:18-19

Of the 17 times that the word ‘aphesis’  shows up in the Bible, 12 times refer to the forgiveness of sin.  The removal of sin via Our Father’s forgiveness and ‘chesed’ - faithful love - is the first step to knowing Him intimately and receiving all He has to give us.  Only those of us who admit our waywardness (sin) will receive pardon and freedom from it to live life to the full.

The River has long held a place of significance in our collective consciousness.  Specifically, the Jordan River marked a major change for Israel: 
+ Leaving their stubborn, willful disobedience behind in the wilderness
+ Moving into greater intimacy with God through obedience
+ Experiencing the fulfillment of the promises of God in the Promised Land, which waited for them on the other side of the River.

Ultimately, the Jordan River symbolized national renewal (via surrender to God’s faithful love).  The River still symbolizes these realities for us today, friends.  It’s a boundary marker signifying the parts of ourselves that need to die to make way for the newness and life Our Father has promised to give us.  There are many frauds that promise a safe crossing into the Promised Land by building a bridge or a ferry to cross into the promises of God, but the only way to enter into God’s blessing and brighter future is to go through the waters to the other side.  That symbolic death - as we now illustrate through the sacrament of baptism - is the rite of passage for all of the children God loves and calls to Himself in Jesus Christ.  

Will you leave the 'Wilderness of Doing Life Your Way' behind and go through the waters of the 'River of Repentance and Trust in the Father’s Faithful Love' to cross to the other side?  This is not simply an illustration of life’s journey to a heavenly home after  death, this victory of Jesus over death and hell is meant for us in the here end now.  The Promised Land is something we are meant to enter this side of physical death and it’s where His Kingdom is being built - together, right here.

The adventure begins on the other side of the Jordan River!


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What aspect of Jesus' mission of 'aphesis' (release, pardon, freedom) are you drawn to be a part of?

What must you leave behind in the Wilderness as you pass through the River into the Promises God has for you?


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Building Your Home Around the Hearth (3of4)



























Read and reflect on Psalm 85

Our Father’s chesed’ often translated as ‘loving-kindness’ or ‘faithful love’ is one of the main descriptors He’s chose to be known by through his actions among us, his people.  In the OT (Old Testament) the work appears 245 times, half of which feature in the Psalms.  It’s in the desert - the wilderness - and in our waiting that we most need the truth that Our Father is over-flowing with loving kindness and faithful love.  Building our lives around the loving kindness of the Father is like building a home around a hearth . . providing warmth and life at the center of our very existence.

Truth - God’s track record, His Word and His promises - are like seeds designed to be planted in the soil of our souls during our wilderness stints.  Here’s why . . Father-God is digging deep trenches in your soul during those times of darkness, of waiting and longing.  The soil of your soul is being overturned, exposing what you’d rather have kept hidden under the surface.  Then the Gardener/Farmer arrives and row by row He removes anything that will hinder real life - life to the full - from growing: old roots, weeds, rocks - all of it.  It’s all removed to make way for the new, specifically for the seed of the Word of God, so that when it’s planted it can take root and grow healthy and strong.  This is what is happening in the dark times . . this is what is happening in your wilderness.

Mark 1, like much of the Bible contains many levels worth mining.  In a way, we might say that John the Baptist represents what God does in our lives when we’re in the wilderness.  He specifically located himself in the wilderness, in the Jordan River, preparing the way - offering change - for the Israelites.  John (the wilderness) prepared the way (soil) for Jesus (the Word made flesh) so that when He arrived people were ready for Him, anticipating His arrival.


How did John prepare the way for the Lord to arrive?

A)  John shared God’s word with the people (that’s what prophets do)
B)  He challenged them to change the way they thought and the way they lived (repentance)
C) People demonstrated / illustrated this inner change by being baptized - a sign they let go of their way of doing life and embraced Jesus’ way of life as their 'Rabbi'.  When people made this choice and subsequent change, they received God’s forgiveness - the promised loving-kindness of the Father - which clears the way for the Spirit of God to move in mighty ways.


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What truth have you heard that you have yet to respond positively to?


How will your life look if you do?


Where do you most need your Father to show up in your life?



To Be Continued . . . 


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Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Voice in the Wilderness and a Loving Kindness that Leads (2of4)



No doubt there was more of this kind of longing in the desert of Sinai than anyone would have wanted to admit.  Much of the OT is marked by warnings, challenges and prophetic forth-telling d-detailing what The Lord said was coming to his people unless they changed their ways.  The prophet Isaiah is a prime example.  Although it’s punctuated by inspiring visions of redemption, the first 39 chapters of the book which bears his name he’s warning, pleading with the Israelites, even then promising what would happen if they did not repent - change their minds and change their ways.  Then in chapter 40 we begin to feel the change in the air.  It begins, 

“ ‘Comfort, comfort my people’, says your God.  ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service is completed.’ ”

They had be spent by their own willful rebellion, the Israelites now knew surrender - better than ever before.  God’s continual call to come home and receive His ‘chesed’ (loving kindness) would begin to be heeded.  Their repentance would make a way for the Lord to deliver them from their sin and waywardness.  It was the newly dug channel in the desert sand for the waters of the Father’s loves to rush down to greet them in their waiting.



Notice the similarity in the the quotations from Isaiah 40:3 and Mark 1:3:

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’ “
- Isaiah 40:3

“a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
- Mark 1:3

The difference is slight but significant.  There is some uncertainty about whether the voice is located in the wilderness or if the voice is speaking out these words, “In the wilderness . .“  Either way, these verses remind us that although The Lord is always calling us to Himself, it’s usually in the wilderness that we hear His voice more clearly and powerfully because the wilderness is where we recognize and own our own weakness.  It’s in the wilderness that we often cry out more whole-heartedly for our God to come to our rescue knowing our inability to rescue ourselves.  The Israelites knew this longing and waiting for rescue so well . . Wilk Tucker knew it too once the wild life he’d created for himself caught up with him.  We can often find ourselves in the same wilderness, wondering how we got there, longing for the The Lord to send His ‘loving kindness’ - His ‘chesed’ and bring us home.  Once we allow our hearts to own responsibility for finding ourselves in the wilderness, and we ask for help, everything changes.

Friends, it’s in those wild places, those deserts of our lives that ‘work’ is being done that preparations are being made for what’s about to happen.  The focus is meant to be on what’s ahead that is yet to be experienced, but oftentimes what’s about to happen is lost in what we presently feel.  

What is it we feel in those wild places of our life’s journey?

Pain, discomfort, confusion, despair, hopelessness, etc.  Unfortunately, it’s these emotions that become our primary confidants and close companions in the wilderness - not the Truth.


To Be Continued . . .


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Wilderness, Hillbillies and Christ's Return (1of4)

Arbuckle Creek Road


Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in the wilderness.  It was a gift to willfully disengage and head into the mountains.  The two key ingredients were solitude and beauty.  The two together - for me - can be a catalyst for significant experiences.  I believe that  both can mark any of us if we give them opportunity.

As I headed up to meet with the rest of my family for Thanksgiving in Ohio, I stopped in a small, somewhat preserved, town in Western West Virginia.  The reason I found myself in this place I had never set foot before is this is the town where my grandfather and great grandfather were  born and my great-great grandfather lived for sometime.  When I arrived I asked the librarian if there were many Tuckers’ still in town.  She said, “Are there?!  The whole place of full of them!”   As it turned out, she was right.  Since I was an outsider I asked her to speak freely and tell me what the local Tuckers’ were like.  She said they were “ornery”.  I said, in reply, “It sounds like you’re being kind.”  She said, “I am.”  I met a quite a few Tuckers during my few hours there - including the current mayor, Gary Tucker, working in the general store he owns and operates.  The previous mayor is a Tucker, too!

By far the most interesting conversation I had was with Wilk Tucker.  As I left town, I headed out to visit the Tucker Cemetery near the town - against the recommendations of some of those in town due to dear season and me wearing all black.  When I turned down Arbuckle Creek Road, I realized I was in the backwoods of West Virginia.  Littered along the little creek, were shacks, shanty homes, mobile homes and a workshop or two.  It was clear that many of these people were experiencing hard times.  Nearing the road I was supposed to take toward the Tucker cemetery, a man dressed in bright orange and camouflage driving an ATV pulled out in front of me and then into his driveway at the bottom of the muddy mountain pass up to the cemetery.

I shouted to him and asked if the dirt track across from his house led to the cemetery.  Eerily, as he approached I was immediately reminded of my grandfather - both of their facial features are uncannily similar.  As he approached, I introduced myself and I told him my family lived in this area generations ago, he then told me his name is Wilk Tucker.  After directing me to the cemetery, he suggested that he’d take me up to it and show me where his people (Tuckers) were buried.  After pointing out a few of the  graves, I thanked him and we said our goodbye.  As he walked away, this otherwise quiet mountain man in his 60’s shouted out, “Just remember, The Lord is coming back soon!”  This sparked a conversation, in which I found out Wilk had lived a wild, raucous life.  He said the Lord had called him when he was boy, but he went his own way which led him into many fights, being shot at and eventually prison.  He said, at 42 he finally gave his life to the Lord.  It was a very memorable, significant encounter which I’ll always remember.


Friends, Wilk is right, The Lord is coming back soon.  At this season of Advent, we remember His first arrival in this world, as a small baby in a manger on the edges of the Roman Empire.  At his arrival, the darkness which had long laid waste to this world was pierced through with a light unconquerable!  This year, as we inhabit this Story of stories again, we find ourselves in a time of waiting.  Symbolically waiting in that darkness before the Light had arrived.  Our souls are caught up in a kind of longing not known in much of life.  The kind of longing which feels unfinished, incomplete that only a deep groan seems to adequately express.  It’s often marked by tears, prayers and . . waiting - lots of waiting.  This is the wilderness experience.


To Be Continued . . .


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